1. Huge crowd of Filipino Catholics gathers amid terror fears.

By Jim Gomez, The Associated Press, January 9, 2019, 6:17 AM

A mammoth crowd of mostly barefoot Filipino Catholics joined a raucous procession Wednesday of a centuries-old black statue of Jesus Christ despite terrorism fears and amid the president’s attacks on the Catholic faith.

Police said they have not monitored any specific threat but that they deployed more than 9,000 police and troops, including bomb squads backed by a surveillance helicopter, to secure the annual procession of the wooden Black Nazarene along Manila’s streets. Police were expecting up to 5 million people to join the dawn-to-midnight procession.

Such religious passion was under the spotlight amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s stepped up attacks on the Catholic church, faith and bishops, who have criticized the thousands of killings under his anti-drug crackdown. In June, Duterte sparked outrage among many Catholics when he called God “stupid” and later questioned the basic tenets of the Catholic faith. He offered to immediately resign if anybody can prove that God exists.


2. Lay Collaboration and Episcopal Authority.

By George Weigel, First Things, January 9, 2019

The Vatican is a hotbed of rumor, gossip, and speculation at the best of times—and these times are not those times. The Roman atmosphere at the beginning of 2019 is typically fetid and sometimes poisonous, with a lot of misinformation and disinformation floating around. That smog of fallacy and fiction could damage February’s global gathering of bishops, called by the pope to address the abuse crisis that is impeding the Church’s evangelical mission virtually everywhere. 

Great expectations surround that meeting; those expectations should be lowered. In four days, the presidents of over 100 bishops conferences and the leaders of a dysfunctional Roman Curia are not going to devise a universal template for the reform of the priesthood and the episcopate. What the February meeting can do is set a broad agenda for reform, beginning with a ringing affirmation of the Church’s perennial teaching on chastity as the integrity of love. In a diverse world Church, that teaching applies in every ecclesial situation. And it is the baseline of any authentically Catholic response to the abuse crisis. 

What the February meeting must not do is make matters worse by swallowing, and then propagating, some of the fairy tales circulating in Rome about the Church in the United States: like the noxious fiction that the U.S. bishops have overreacted to what is essentially a media-created crisis. 

Fictions about American Catholic life and American attempts to impose a universal solution to the abuse crisis on the world Church must be firmly rejected. An appropriate pastoral response to a genuine crisis, well-suited to the ecclesial situation of the U.S., should be vigorously defended.  And the Roman voices saying there are too many converts in the U.S. should be invited to read Matthew 28:19–20.


3. Small actors on global stage applaud pope’s paean to multilateralism.

By Elise Harris and John L. Allen Jr., Crux, January 9, 2019

While the concept of “multilateralism,” or cooperation among states in global affairs, may pack appeal as an ideal to virtually anybody, it’s doubtless especially attractive to smaller countries that otherwise wouldn’t really stand much of a chance of influencing the international agenda.

Perhaps that’s why Ambassador Barry Desker of Singapore seemed particularly enthusiastic about Pope Francis’s annual speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on Monday, in which the pontiff delivered a paean to multilateralism.

“What I think was significant in discussing this aspect is that Pope Francis made a critique of populism and nationalist demands, which were undermining the multilateral system,” he said.

“He highlighted that there were demands being made which were a recollection of the period in between the two world wars, which I think was a reflection of some concern to him,” Desker said.

The following is a transcript of Crux’s conversation with Desker, which came just ahead of a dinner for the diplomatic corps joined by Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.


4. In emotional interview, Opus Dei spokesman said he ‘hated’ how prominent priest’s sexual misconduct case was handled.

By Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post Online, January 8, 2019, 7:59 PM

A day after announcing that the global Catholic community Opus Dei had paid nearly $1 million to settle a 2005 sexual misconduct suit against a big-name D.C. priest, a spokesman for the ultraconservative institution Tuesday expressed regret that the Rev. C. John McCloskey had been allowed to remain in ministry after the allegations came to light.

“It’s an argument that is no longer tenable — this ‘Let’s quiet things over so priests can continue to do good,’ ” said Brian Finnerty, choking back tears as he spoke with unusual frankness.

The woman who reached the settlement with Opus Dei in 2005 told The Washington Post she began seeing McCloskey for spiritual direction at a time when her marriage was crumbling and she was experiencing serious depression. The priest groped her several times during tight hugs, she said. She said she expressed shame and guilt about it to him during confession and he absolved her.

Finnerty said Monday that Opus Dei knows of another woman who was made uncomfortable by McCloskey’s hugs and is investigating the possibility of a third woman who may have a “serious” complaint about the priest.

The woman, who was 40 at the time of the misconduct, said the episodes sent her into a tailspin and she suffered serious health and professional failings as a result.


5. Democrats double down on abortion rather than heed Claire McCaskill’s sage advice.

By Maureen Ferguson, January 08, 2019, 12:04 PM

Now that Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives and ushered Nancy Pelosi in as speaker, they would be wise to listen to the voice of another (once) powerful Democratic woman, former Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. 

Fresh off her election loss, McCaskill has some advice for her party: Back off on abortion. 

In an unusually candid New York Times podcast, she warns that the party’s over-emphasis on abortion is a “dumb” strategy and that they need to “shut up” on the issue: “It was not an issue that was going to bring me more votes.” 

Pelosi, however, has made abortion rights part of her battle cry right out of the gate. Day one of her speakership included a fierce abortion fight, as Democrats insisted on the inclusion of funds for the international abortion industry as a condition in their bill to end the government shutdown. Rather than “shutting up” on the divisive issue of abortion, Pelosi is promoting abortion in our foreign policy as a priority over funding our own government. 

Worse, this policy cannot even be reasonably described as “pro-choice” since it includes funding for the United Nations Population Fund, which supports coercive population control measures in China, including forced abortion and compulsory sterilization in some provinces. 

Later this month, the annual March for Life will draw thousands upon thousands to Washington to bear witness to what biology textbooks confirm: a new and unrepeatable human life comes into existence at the moment of sperm-egg fusion; and to what the human heart knows deep down – that every one of those human lives is precious, unique, and part of our human family.

Maureen Ferguson is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. She is a senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association.


6. What a US Troop Pullout Means for Syria’s Christians.

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, January 8, 2018

U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the partisan divide accused the president of quitting the fight to vanquish ISIS before it had been won, and betraying Syrian Kurds, a stalwart U.S. ally that would be left unprotected. And the White House was forced to extend the time frame for the drawdown of 2,000 U.S. troops to four-six months.

But what has yet to provoke an equal level of concern is the likely impact of the pullout for Syria’s embattled Christian community, whose numbers have dwindled amid seven years of civil war.

The vast majority of Christians in Syria live in the government-held cities of Aleppo, Damascus and Homs, and thus are expected to be relatively unaffected by the departure of U.S. troops from northeast Syria — territory controlled by the U.S.-backed Kurdish coalition. But there are also conflicting estimates on the number of Christians in this area, so troubling questions persist about the consequences of Trump’s decision.

And though he could not provide a detailed portrait of Christian communities in the northeast, he noted that  Archbishop Jacques Behnam Hindo of Al Hasakah-Nisibi, a prelate in the area, had recently attacked the Kurdish-majority local government for instituting policies that led in the closure of several church schools.

At the same time, Koopman emphasized that his agency “did not have an official position” on the U.S. troop drawdown.

“Our main objective is to create conditions that will allow Christians to stay and flourish in the Middle East,” he said, shifting the subject to express strong satisfaction at the passage of the U.S. aid package that is helping underserved religious minorities in Iraq rebuild their ancestral communities.


7. Pope Francis: Serve the sick with generosity. 

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, January 8, 2019, 04:58 AM

To serve the poor and sick in a generous manner is a powerful form of evangelization, Pope Francis said Tuesday in a message for the upcoming World Day of the Sick.

“The Church – as a Mother to all her children, especially the infirm – reminds us that generous gestures, like that of the Good Samaritan, are the most credible means of evangelization,” the pope wrote.

His message for the World Day of the Sick was published Jan. 8, in advance of the solemn celebration to be held Feb. 11, 2019, in Calcutta, India. The theme of this year’s message comes from Matthew 10:8: “You received without payment; give without payment.”

“Gift,” Francis said, is more than giving of physical property or objects as presents: “it involves the giving of oneself,” freely, and with the desire for relationship with others, “the basis of society.” 


8. Analysis: The non-trial of Theodore McCarrick.

By Ed Condon, Catholic News Agency, January 7, 2019, 12:30 PM

While recent media reports suggest that a trial of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick is underway, Vatican sources have told CNA that his case is not being handled by a full judicial process.

Sources at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have confirmed that allegations against McCarrick are being considered through an abbreviated approach called an “administrative penal process.”

That decision gives insight into the strength of evidence against McCarrick, and suggests that resolving sexual abuse allegations against the archbishop is a top priority for Pope Francis and other senior Vatican officials.

In previous sexual abuse cases against bishops, full and formal trials have taken years, and include the possibility of appeals by both the prosecution and defense. But this is not happening with McCarrick.

In McCarrick’s case, the use of an administrative process strongly suggests that the Vatican has clear evidence the archbishop has committed a delict, an ecclesiastical crime, especially because his position as an archbishop and former cardinal guarantee considerable scrutiny of the result.

Removing McCarrick from the newscycle – and possibly the clerical state – has been a major priority for both the pope and the American hierarchy.

If his case is resolved before the February summit, it could be seen a much-needed demonstration by Pope Francis that he is serious about punishing offending bishops.

But even if resolved, the McCarrick case will pose serious questions for the bishops to consider next month in Rome.

The long list of charges he faces includes many seminarians and other adults. While he may be convicted and laicized on the strength of the evidence he abused minors, his other victims will also look for justice.

If the Rome meeting next month sets out to narrowly treat the issue of minors, and seems to exclude other victims of coercive sexual abuse, the figure of Theodore McCarrick might still cast a shadow over anything it tries to achieve.