1. WikiLeaks releases Vatican documents about a familiar fight.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, January 31, 2019, Pg. A13

WikiLeaks, the tell-anything anti-secrecy organization, on Wednesday took aim at one of the world’s most secretive institutions, the Vatican, releasing a small collection of documents about a power struggle involving Pope Francis, a leading traditionalist cardinal and a medieval Catholic order of knights.

The documents stemmed from a knotty fight over leadership within the Knights of Malta, a sovereign Catholic order that in 2016 was found to have distributed contraceptives in some of the countries where it does charitable work. A power struggle ensued between the pope and the aristocratic order, and some observers said the tensions were exacerbated by Cardinal Raymond Burke, a papal adversary who was the group’s liaison to the Vatican.

But by the end, the pope had prevailed, forcing the resignation of the order’s grand master and installing his own apostolic delegate to the order.

WikiLeaks, describing some of the documents it released, recounted those events and said that the pope had “deeply undermined the Order’s independence and sovereignty.” Although it was unclear who shared the documents with WikiLeaks, that framing clearly echoed critics of the pope.


2. Abortion bill in Va. sparks a GOP furor far and wide.

By Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella, The Washington Post, January 31, 2019, Pg. A1

President Trump, Republican lawmakers in Virginia and conservatives across the country attacked Gov. Ralph Northam and other state Democrats on Wednesday after they defended a failed bill that sought to reduce restrictions on late-term abortions. 

The furor escalated quickly after Republicans circulated a video of Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) acknowledging that her bill, like current law, would allow abortions up to the point of delivery in cases when the mother’s life or health was at serious risk. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, was asked about the issue in a radio interview and gave an answer that was later used by Republicans to suggest he favored killing live babies.

But his comments about third-trimester abortions set off critics. The procedures, he said, are “done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s not viable. So in this particular example, if a mother’s in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

After which, Twitter erupted.


3. GOP defeats bill allowing abortions up until birth, Northam defends legislation by state Democrats.

By Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, January 31, 2019, Pg. A12

Virginia Republicans on Tuesday killed legislation that would have loosened abortion restrictions after the bill’s sponsor admitted it would allow the procedure even after a mother went into labor.

A House subcommittee voted 5-3 to table H.R. 2491, called the Repeal Act, with all Republicans voting to table it and all Democrats voting against.

“Virginia House Democrats proposed legislation to allow abortions up to just seconds before that precious child takes their first breath,” the Virginia House Republicans said on Facebook. “Watch for yourself. Thankfully, our strong conservative majority was able to defeat this bill.”

In a viral video, Democratic Delegate Kathy Tran acknowledged Tuesday that her bill would permit abortions at 40 weeks, the end of the third trimester, if deemed necessary to protect her mental or physical health.

During the subcommittee hearing, House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert asked Ms. Tran if it would be legal under her bill for a woman to receive an abortion after dilation begins.

“Mr. Chairman, you know, that would be a decision that the doctor — the physician — and the woman would make,” Ms. Tran said.

“I understand that. I’m asking if your bill allows that,” Mr. Gilbert said.

“My bill would allow that, yes,” Ms. Tran said.

Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, defended the bill in a Wednesday radio interview, saying “more than one physician” would make the determination, although the bill specifically would eliminate the state’s current three-doctor requirement.


4. Diverse, international flock awaits Pope Francis’ UAE trip. 

By Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press, January 31, 2019, 4:04 AM

Pope Francis’ visit from Feb. 3 through Feb. 5 marks the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam. The pontiff will visit Abu Dhabi, the headquarters of the Catholic Church’s Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, which covers the UAE, Oman and Yemen.

There are nine Catholic churches in this federation of seven sheikhdoms governed by hereditary rulers; four other Catholic churches are in Oman. The Catholic flock’s rapid growth followed the discovery of oil in what was previously known as the Trucial States. Officials consecrated the first Catholic church in Abu Dhabi in 1965.

In 2010, there were an estimated 940,000 Christians living in the UAE, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center report, including 750,000 Catholics. The report suggests the number of Christians in the UAE would rise to about 1.1 million by 2020, with Catholics making up the lion’s share. The Catholic Church itself believes there are some 1 million Catholics in the UAE today.

In recent years, militant attacks have only exacerbated a “long, slow decline” of Christianity in the wider Middle East that began with mass migrations of the 19th Century, said Robin Darling Young, a professor studying church history at the Washington-based Catholic University of America.

The growth of ultraconservative Islamic beliefs, like Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, coupled with the creation of independent states, further fueled that, she said. 


5. Vatican adviser says ‘real reform,’ not spin, key to recovery from abuse crisis.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, January 31, 2019

An adviser to the Vatican’s communication team said Sunday that recovery from the clerical sexual abuse scandals isn’t a matter of devising a better PR strategy, but of acknowledging that real people have been hurt and delivering “real reform.”

“As Pope Francis says, this is not about ‘marketing or strategizing’ but about ‘the beating heart of the Gospel’,” said Kim Daniels, a veteran leader with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and various Catholic organizations, who was appointed an adviser to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications in 2016.

“Over these past months many have been tempted to stay angry, and with good reason,” Daniels said. “Every week another shoe seems to drop: we hear of another person – a flesh and-blood person, someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s friend – who has suffered abuse at the hands of a priest. We hear another story of cover-up or malfeasance or failure of leadership on the part of a bishop.”

“We hear more talk from everyone, but see little action from anyone,” she said.

Daniel’s remarks came during the sixth annual lecture of the Cardinal John Foley Chair of Social Communications and Homiletics at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. It was the first time a woman was tasked with delivering the talk, with previous speakers including Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles and Crux editor-in-chief, John L. Allen, Jr.

A mother of six, Daniel’s is a former spokesperson for the USCCB and, among other things, associate director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life of Georgetown University.

In all these countries, lay Catholics are calling for effective safeguarding measures to protect children and hold bishops accountable for their attitudes and inaction which “allowed the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults to occur as prelates sought to protect the institution rather than the faithful.”


6. Pope’s allies bring fight against climate change to the big city. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, January 31, 2019

By the year 2050, according to the UN, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas, up from just 30 percent in 1950. In North America, including the United States, the urban share of the population is already a staggering 82 percent, and worldwide roughly 4.2 billion people are now city-dwellers.

By any measure, therefore, urbanization is among the mega-trends of the times. Among other things, that means the battle for stronger environmental protection will be won or lost in the big city.

That, in a nutshell, is the intuition behind a book presented on Wednesday at the headquarters of Vatican Radio titled Laudato Si’ and Big Cities, which is edited by Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach, the former archbishop of Barcelona in Spain.

Laudato Si’, of course, is Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical letter on the environment, the first a pope ever completely dedicated to the subject. The new book, issued by the Vatican’s publishing house, collects papers presented at a July 2017 conference on the encyclical’s relevance for urban areas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.