1. Church Becomes Target in Nicaragua Crisis, Priests ‘fear for their lives’ as violence spreads to institution that sought to broker peace. 

By José de Córdoba, The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2018, Pg. A16

The Rev. César Augusto Gutiérrez delivered an impassioned plea to a Spanish radio station last week as hundreds of elite police and paramilitary forces stormed his parish here in a hail of bullets.

“They are defiling the churches,” Father Gutierrez said before breaking down in tears as he pleaded for international support. “The government is killing us.”

For more than three months, Mr. Ortega has set loose his forces on Nicaraguans who have rebelled against his government, after what started as local protests against a tax increase turned into a national movement. More than 300 people have been killed, most of them opponents of Mr. Ortega, human-rights groups say.

In 2014, the Nicaraguan Bishop’s Conference called for democratization as Mr. Ortega, who has been president since 2007 and previously held the office from 1985-90, took control of congress, courts and electoral authorities. The president has since abolished term limits and used state institutions to destroy any serious political opposition.


2. Rubio slams Ortega regime for attacks on Catholic Church. 

By Dan Boylan, The Washington Times, July 24, 2018, Pg. A8

Sen. Marco Rubio on Monday lashed out at the government of leftist Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega for increasing attacks on the Catholic Church amid a wave of anti-government protests. 

The Ortega government “has in essence declared war on the church & its clergy,” the Florida Republican tweeted Monday, adding the crisis “direct implications on our national security and interests.”


3. Recalling the Belgian cardinal who truly shaped Francis’s destiny. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, July 24, 2018

Fans of Vatican-themed intrigue undoubtedly would say that the Belgian cardinal with the greatest direct influence on Pope Francis has to be Godfried Danneels of Brussels.

More sober observers, however, probably would insist that the real answer actually is Belgian Cardinal Joseph Leo Cardijn, the famed pioneer of the “See-Judge-Act” method in applying Catholic social teaching, the 51st anniversary of whose death falls today.

Two cornerstones of Cardijn’s vision, which would be picked up in Latin America both through the “base communities” movement and in the teaching of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America (CELAM), seem to resonate especially well with Francis.

The first is his famed “See-Judge-Act” method for discerning pastoral priorities, meaning to look around at the social reality, reach conclusions about what the Gospel has to say about it, and then put those conclusions into practice.

For Francis, who constantly warns of the dangers of intellectual “rigidity” and being cut off from the lives of ordinary people, the appeal is obvious – which is undoubtedly why “See-Judge-Act” is the basic structure of the 2007 Aparecida document of the Latin American bishops, of which then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a primary drafter.

The second pillar of Cardijn’s thought involves the primacy of the laity in terms of evangelizing the working classes.

In a very literal sense, he realized, if the Gospel was to be brought to the factory, it would have to be the workers themselves who did it.

That instinct, too, clearly tracks with the outlook of Francis, who has repeatedly called for greater lay empowerment in Catholicism, especially concerning women. (It’s worth noting, by the way, that the original group of workers Cardijn organized were young female needle-sewers, probably reflecting an intuition that women were especially vulnerable in a male-dominated economy.)

Granted, one can’t draw a straight line between Cardijn’s legacy and Francis’s papacy – history is too complicated for that, and there are too many intermediary points along the way between a 20th century Belgian prelate and the 21st century’s first pope from the developing world.

Still, the Cardijn story is a reminder that neither did Francis fall out of a clear blue sky. More realistically, his papacy can be seen as the confluence of a series of energies and impulses that have been building in Catholicism for more than a century – contested and, at times, choked back, for sure, but also never fully arrested.


4. Chile announces wide probe into Catholic Church sex abuse. 

By Associated Press, July 23, 2018, 8: 50 PM

Chile has investigated 158 members of the country’s Roman Catholic Church for committing or covering up sexual abuse against minors and adults, the national prosecutor’s office said Monday.

The investigations include reports of abuse by bishops, clerics and lay workers filed since 2000. Some of the cases date as far back as 1960.

The nationwide figures follow an avalanche of sex abuse and cover-up cases that have recently embattled Chile’s Catholic Church and prompted Pope Francis earlier this year to publicly denounce a “culture of abuse and cover-up.”

The pope also said he was ashamed that neither he nor Chilean church leaders truly ever listened to victims as the country’s abuse scandal spiraled.


5. Apostolic visitor to Medjugorje begins pastoral mandate. 

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, July 23, 2018

The Vatican’s apostolic visitor to Medjugorje, appointed by the pope to oversee the pastoral needs at the site of alleged Marian apparitions, began his mandate Sunday.

Archbishop Henryk Hoser, retired archbishop of Warszawa-Praga, celebrated Mass at St. James church in Medjugorje July 22 to mark the beginning of the directive, which follows his service as papal envoy to the site in 2017.

According to the Vatican’s press release May 31, the assignment is to ensure “a stable and continuous accompaniment” of the parish community and of pilgrims who visit the shrine “whose needs require special attention.” Hoser stressed that he was not tasked with anything beyond this scope.


6. Pope Francis approves USCCB delegates for October’s Synod of Bishops. 

By Catholic News Service, July 23, 2018

Pope Francis has ratified the members elected by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to represent the United States at Synod of Bishops Oct. 3-28.

The synod will meet at the Vatican to discuss “young people, faith and vocational discernment.”

The USCCB announced July 23 that the U.S. Church’s delegates will be:

– Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

– Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB.

– Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

– Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a member of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

– Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.


7. U.S. Secretary of State says Catholic Church has “central role” in fight for religious freedom. 

By Crux, July 23, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Pope Francis and the Catholic Church have a “central role” in promoting religious liberty.

Pompeo was speaking to Vatican News – the official news service of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication – ahead of the first Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, taking place in Washington, D.C., from July 24-26.

The state department has invited foreign ministers from over 40 countries, international organization representatives, religious leaders, and civil society representatives “to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.”