1. The Truth About Cardinal McCarrick, The Catholic Church needs an inquest into what the pederast cardinal’s colleagues knew, and when. 

By Ross Douthat, Columnist, The New York Times, July 25, 2018, Opinion

One of the best things that the bishops of the American Catholic Church did during the great wave of sex abuse revelations 16 years ago — and yes, there’s a low bar for “best” — was to establish a National Review Board, staffed by prominent layman, with the authority to commission an independent report on what exactly had happened in the church.

Now, unfortunately, it needs to happen again. But what needs to be commissioned this time, by Pope Francis himself if the American bishops can’t or won’t, isn’t a synthetic overview of a systemic problem. Rather, the church needs an inquest, a special prosecutor — you can even call it an inquisition if you want — into the very specific question of who knew what and when about the crimes of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and why exactly they were silent.

There are a few American bishops still with media platforms, a few with intellectual chops. But many of the notional leaders of the church are important only within the bureaucracies they manage and as invisible to the average churchgoer as a Target regional vice president would be to the average weekend shopper at the superstore. The lukewarm in their flock simply ignore them; the zealous build new institutions specifically designed to evade their oversight. Their political interventions go unheeded by Catholic Democrats and Catholic Republicans alike. In far too many cases an office that once bestrode entire cities now belongs to invisible company men, embarrassed phantoms materializing via videotape for the annual appeal.

Thus the great irony of the McCarrick moment — that the kind of crimes once covered up because of the power and influence of bishops might now be swept under quickly because of the episcopacy’s obscurity and irrelevance.

The question that the church’s leaders need to ask themselves, in America but especially in Rome, is whether they are happy with this settlement — happy to be ignored so long as they can also evade accountability for what’s still rotten in the church, happy to serve out their time as stewards of a declining institution rather than demanding the heads of the men whose culpable ignorance made the decline much steeper than it should have been.


2. Religious freedom summit highlights persecution, Global victims testify
of rights ‘under attack’. 

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, July 25, 2018, Pg. A1

Religious liberty advocates from around the world converged on Washington on Tuesday to shine a light on the plight of faith groups that are persecuted by their governments.

The opening day of the State Department’s three-day Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom was marked by testimonials from victims of religious persecution, who shared stories of false imprisonment, re-education camps, the confiscation of religious texts and the demolition of houses of worship.

Sam Brownback, ambassador at large for international religious freedom, said in opening remarks that the right to religious freedom is under attack.

Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute and an adviser to the State Department on the summit, said the ministerial signals America’s willingness to lead on the issue of religious freedom.

“This gathering represents a historic opportunity for the United States,” Mr. Farr said in a statement. “The time is now for our nation to lead a global effort in advancing this fundamental right, without which no human being, and no society, can flourish.”


3. Advancing freedom of religion globally, It’s the right thing to do, but not because it’s an ‘international norm’. 

By Clifford D. May, Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times, The Washington Times, July 25, 2018, Pg. B1

This week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is hosting the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The July 24-26 event brings together high-level officials, diplomats, religious leaders and activists from more than 40 countries “to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.”

As part of this week’s ministerial, I was asked to deliver remarks on “Religious Freedom and Countering Violent Extremism.” I enthusiastically support both. But the conventional wisdom of religious freedom proponents — that promoting the former is an effective means of achieving the latter — strikes me as unconvincing.

Repression may encourage extremism but it’s not the only or even primary cause of it. And reducing repression — praiseworthy as that is — does not necessarily diminish extremism.

America’s commitment to religious freedom is the product of intellectual and moral evolution. The popular notion that immigrants sailed to these shores to enjoy religious freedom is imprecise. Most fled persecutors but were not averse to persecuting others they deemed heretics. Over time, however, a live-and-let-live attitude came to seem sensible, and was encapsulated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

That’s the best model, but we should be tolerant of other approaches. Some countries with Roman Catholic and Muslim majorities have implemented policies intended to prevent the religious classes from becoming the ruling classes.

If freedom of religion is not really an “international norm,” and if we can’t prove that it’s an antidote for violent extremism, what is the best case for it?

We should state as objective truth that freedom is preferable to tyranny. Not for dictators, perhaps, but for the rest of us. And the most foundational freedom is the right to believe or disbelieve as one chooses, as one’s conscience dictates. So long as rulers persecute those they rule for thought crimes, all other rights — e.g. freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, representative government — will remain out of reach.

Regimes not progressing — however slowly and incrementally — away from tyranny and toward liberty should be disdained and disfavored by Americans and other free peoples. Am I being judgmental? If so, I offer no apologies.


4. How Pope Francis could get back into the game on sex abuse reform. 

By Charles Collins, Managing Editor, Crux, July 25, 2018

For many victims of clerical sexual abuse and their advocates, last week offered a stark reminder of how far the Church has to go in cleaning house. Not only did Cardinal Theodore McCarrick face further accusations of abuse, including minors, but the right-hand man of one of Pope Francis’s chief advisers also resigned after accusations he had targeted seminarians for sexual favors in Honduras.

That’s not to say, however, there aren’t plausible first steps that could be taken. If one were to survey the Church’s leading experts on child protection right now, you’d probably hear a set of recommendations fairly close to the following.

1. Rules and standards need to be public and accessible

Francis could publish an Apostolic Constitution on clerical sexual abuse, bringing together all of the existing legislation and covering everyone, including cardinals and bishops to avoid impressions of double standards. It could also encompass the sprawling galaxy of lay movements and organizations, which some observers consider among the new frontiers of the abuse scandals.

2. Justice belongs in a courtroom, not an administrative office.

Currently, clerical abuse cases are handled by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, mostly because it was decided under St. Pope John Paul II that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, should handle the issue. Now, Francis could establish a tribunal at the Vatican that exclusively deals with sexual abuse and is staffed with experts in its investigation and prosecution.

3. Do more to keep “bad apples” out.

The pope could also install new procedures to properly vet candidates to higher office in the Church, even if that means a public “nomination process” which allows time for those with objections to bring them forward. The crisis means this vetting should be much more aggressive than it is now (generally, forms are sent out, which usually come back with glowing reviews).

4. If there is a fire, make sure you smother the embers.

What PR gurus would likely tell the Catholic Church right now is not to assume that removing a high-ranking official is necessarily the end of the story. A bishop with an eye for the seminarians may have advanced the career of his accomplices; there’s a good bet a child molester who likes to vacation in Thailand didn’t travel alone.

Corruption investigations of this sort are also ones that require investigators to have special expertise and significant professional experience. The Church could announce its intention to work together with INTERPOL and other competent agencies (The FBI and Scotland Yard often assist other countries in complex criminal investigations, for example).

5. Update the code on bishop resignations.

Canon 401 of the Code of Canon gives two reasons a bishop can resign: He’s reached the age of 75 or is stricken by “ill health or other grave cause.” A new paragraph could be added for malfeasance, recognizing people’s right to know if their shepherds have committed offenses so drastic it requires their removal. Similarly, bishops resigning due to ill health or other just cause have the right not to be suspected of wrong-doing.

No one would contend that these reforms, by themselves, will end sexual abuse in the Church, nor heal the physical, psychological, or spiritual damage caused by abusive priests. Arguably, however, they would at least acknowledge a series of long-standing roadblocks to true reform.


5. In China, government-aligned bishops release ‘Sinicization’ plan. 

By Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency, July 25, 2018

Continuing a controversial plan, Chinese bishops allied with the government have told dioceses to prepare local versions of a “Sinicization” program to bring the Catholic Church more in-line with the government’s understanding of Chinese culture, society and politics.

“It is to complete the Chinese-style socialist road within five years,” a source in Hibei province told ucanews.com. “Even if they do not get approval from the Holy See, they will still get trust from the government.”

The Sinicization program could be a factor in ongoing Chinese-Vatican relations, the source said: “China and the Vatican can establish diplomatic relations regardless of the conditions, and the mainland can still tighten its grip on the Church with its plan.”

The Catholic Church in China has been split between the government-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the underground Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities.

The underground churches are monitored by local officials but generally tolerated. However, many underground priests, bishops, and laity have faced persecution and harassment.


6. Affirming and Celebrating Humanae Vitae. 

By George Weigel, George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, First Things, July 25, 2018, Opinion

July 25 is the fiftieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical on the integrity of love and the appropriate means of family planning. Issued during the cultural meltdown of the 1960s, and in a year when irrationality stalked the entire Western world, Humanae Vitae instantly became the most vilified act of the papal magisterium in history. And to what should have been their shame, entire national episcopates distanced themselves from Pope Paul’s teaching by a variety of stratagems, many of which exhibited some degree of theological confusion and some of which were downright cowardly.

Paul VI came to the judgment he did in Humanae Vitae for two reasons.

First, because he was convinced that using the natural rhythms of fertility to regulate births was the most humanistic means of family planning, and the method most congruent with the dignity of the human person—and especially the unique dignity of women.

And second, because he came to understand that many of those advocating a change in Catholic teaching on the morally acceptable means of family planning were in fact promoting a fundamental change in the Church’s way of moral reasoning: They denied that some acts are simply wrong because of their nature, and they argued that moral judgment is really a calculus of intentions, acts, and consequences. Had that “proportionalism,” as it’s technically known, been enshrined as the official Catholic method of making moral judgments, Catholicism would soon have found itself in the sad condition of liberal Protestantism—another Christian community with utterly porous moral boundaries.

His abandonment by a lot of the world episcopate deeply wounded Paul VI, a sensitive soul who had supported the Second Vatican Council’s affirmation that bishops are something more than local branch managers of Catholic Church, Inc., and who probably thought he was owed a little loyalty in return. So as the Church and the world mark the golden jubilee of Humanae Vitae, and as Catholics around the world prepare to celebrate the canonization of Paul VI in October, perhaps those bishops who understand that a serious breach in episcopal collegiality took place in 1968, when so many of their predecessors failed to defend the Bishop of Rome against his often vicious critics, might consider making these affirmations about the encyclical, in one form or another:

1. I am deeply grateful to Pope Paul VI for his courageous witness to the truth about love in the encyclical Humanae Vitae. With Pope Francis, I believe that Paul VI “had the courage to stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a ‘brake’ on culture, [and] to oppose [both] present and future neo-Malthusianism,” which treats the gift of children as a societal and economic burden.

2. I believe that the truths taught by Humanae Vitae on the appropriate means to plan a family are important for human well-being today; that conscious use of artificial means of regulating fertility distorts the truth about human love inscribed into Creation by the Creator; and that conscience must respect these intrinsic truths in family planning.

3. I believe that the truths taught by Humanae Vitae about natural family planning have proven themselves in pastoral situations around the world; that those truths have made significant contributions to family ministry and marriage preparation in various cultures; and that those who deny the human capacity to understand and live the disciplines of natural family planning often engage in racism, new forms of colonialism, or both.

4. I believe that the “contraceptive culture” of which Paul VI prophetically warned in Humanae Vitae, and the related abortion license, are major factors in the sexual abuse of women that has come to public attention through the #MeToo movement; and I invite feminists to rethink their celebration of artificial contraception and abortion on this fiftieth anniversary.

5. I believe that St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” has given the Catholic Church a compelling tool for explaining both the truths taught by Humanae Vitae and the unhappiness caused by the sexual revolution.

6. I pledge to make this anniversary year an occasion to celebrate the gift of Humanae Vitae and to use my pastoral office to deepen understandings of the Catholic sexual ethic as a celebration of human dignity and the gift of life.


7. The Catholic Church has ‘a major gap’ when the accused sex abuser is a high-ranking cleric, says top U.S. cardinal. 

By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, July 24, 2018, 6:08 PM

The Catholic archbishop of Boston, one of the country’s most prominent Catholic clerics and Pope Francis’s chief adviser on child sex abuse, said Tuesday that while the church now has a strong policy and procedures regarding abuse by priests, “a major gap” exists when the accused is a bishop or cardinal — the highest positions in the church — and that it must be corrected.

O’Malley released the statement as the church reels from the suspension a month ago of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a popular former D.C. archbishop who served as a global diplomat for the Vatican. The Vatican says McCarrick has been credibly accused of groping an altar boy decades ago in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and allegations have surfaced that McCarrick sexually harassed and groped several seminarians and a young priest, and abused a family friend starting when the boy was 11.


8. Bishop deletes Twitter account, calls it ‘occasion of sin’. 

By Associated Press, July 24, 2018, 12:17 PM

The leader of Rhode Island’s Roman Catholics has deleted his Twitter account, calling it a major distraction, an obstacle to his spiritual life and an “occasion of sin” for himself and others.

Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin wrote on Twitter on Monday it was his final tweet. A WPRI-TV reporter posted a screenshot.


9. Chile summons Roman Catholic cardinal in sex abuse case. 

By Associated Press, July 24, 2018, 10:28 PM

A cardinal has been summoned to appear in a Chilean court as the scandal over sex abuse by priests and others tied to the country’s Roman Catholic Church widens.

The archbishop’s office said in a statement Tuesday that Santiago Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati had been called to answer questions about his role in an alleged cover-up of abuse by Rev. Oscar Munoz, former chancellor of Santiago.

Munoz has admitted to abusing at least one minor. Prosecutors, however, uncovered reports of at least four more victims abused by Munoz that were documented by the Santiago archdiocese.

Chilean prosecutors have expanded their investigations into alleged abuse, saying Monday that they had looked into accusations of abuse or cover-up by 158 members of the church. The cases involved a total of 266 alleged victims.


10. Will Brett Kavanaugh Protect Religious Freedom?, Analysts expect Trump’s second pick for the U.S. Supreme Court to broadly support free-exercise rights, but some conservatives are ‘troubled’ by his record. 

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, July 24, 2018

Days after District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh, 53, was presented to the nation as President Donald Trump’s second pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, liberal activists launched a campaign to frame the jurist as a defender of hidebound Christian churches, and thus a threat to the rights of women.

That prospect has galvanized liberal opposition to his confirmation, but it has also inspired a slew of Christian leaders to endorse Trump’s pick to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat.

With so much at stake, Kavanaugh’s profile as an active Catholic and his early pro bono work for religious plaintiffs while in private practice have further raised expectation that he will help sweep aside legal hurdles to tax-payer-funded school vouchers, building on the high court’s 2017 decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, which found that a state program that provided grants for playground construction could not exclude a Lutheran preschool solely because of its religious status.

Past Religious-Liberty Record

The jurist’s record of support for religious liberty dates back to the 1990s, and his involvement with the Federalist Society, an influential professional network of lawyers who adhere to originalist jurisprudence and follow the Framers’ intent in their interpretation of constitutional questions. Kavanaugh chaired the organization’s religious-liberty practice group and worked pro bono on related cases before the Supreme Court.

That legacy has provided a measure of reassurance to Christian leaders and activists, and that’s important because Kavanaugh has issued few opinions on religious-liberty cases during his 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The D.C. Circuit sees a critical mass of cases on administrative law and the functioning of the government, so the controversial cases that come to other appellate judges didn’t often cross his desk,” said Sarah Pitlyk, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, a public interest group that handles abortion and religious-liberty cases.

A Catholic, Pitlyk clerked for Kavanaugh during the D.C. Circuit’s 2010-2011 term.

Pitlyk cited Judge Kavanaugh’s 2015 dissent from the D.C. Circuit’s refusal to rehear Priests for Life’s legal challenge to the HHS contraceptive mandate — an opinion that has drawn applause from originalist scholars, though a handful of conservative analysts say Kavanaugh’s dissent didn’t go far enough.

In his dissent, Kavanaugh applied the high court’s opinion in Hobby Lobby and concluded that the appellate court should have approved Priests for Life’s petition.

“It is not our job to relitigate or trim or expand Supreme Court decisions,” read Kavanaugh’s dissent. He made clear that the mandate violated the rights of religious organizations protected under RFRA’s exacting standard.

Douglas Laycock, a leading authority on religious freedom at the University of Virginia Law School, described Kavanaugh’s dissent in Priests for Life as a “strongly pro-religion view of RFRA.”

“On religious liberty, the crucial issue going forward is the complex of things around sexuality,” said [Gerard Bradley, a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School], referencing the clash between newly established sexual rights and Christian teaching on marriage and sexual ethics.

Before long, legal specialists expect the justices to hear another case that features a Christian vendor who has refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding that could have broader impact than the recent narrowly tailored opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop.

Down the road, specialists anticipate challenges to laws that force Catholic adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples or anti-discrimination statutes that have been used to pressure church-affiliated hospitals to provide sex-reassignment surgery for patients who identity as “transgender.”

“On these issues we cannot say for sure what Kavanaugh will do,” said Bradley, “but there are good grounds to expect sound decisions from him.”


11. The Problem of Sexually Active Priests. 

By Rev. Thomas V. Berg, Fr. Thomas Berg is professor of moral theology, vice rector, and director of admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie), First Things, July 23, 2018, Opinion

A “credible and substantiated” allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, new details of his emotional and sexual exploitation of Catholic seminarians, and an allegation of a years-long abusive relationship with another young man have led many to ask how sexual abuse committed by a high-ranking cleric could go undetected for so many years. 

Many answers can be offered, but one fact that has been overlooked for too long is the connection between priests who abuse minors and priests who are sexually active with adults. Toleration of the latter sin has made it harder to detect, criticize, and root out the former.

If bishops are serious about being vigilant on behalf of ecclesiastical discipline, they will take a serious look at how they handle allegations of sexual relations of priests with adults. Here are five things faithful bishops can do.

1. Be unambiguous in your embrace of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality—and teach it.

2. Create a culture in which laity and clergy can come to you personally with concerns—without fear of reprisal.

3. Foster priestly fraternity.

4. Be transparent, vulnerable, and accountable.

5. Establish an independent watchdog to monitor the public and private behavior of clergy.

This idea comes from a former prosecutor and seasoned diocesan lawyer who says he has been suggesting it for years, but to no avail. The bishop would establish a confidential advisor, authorized to act as an independent watchdog to monitor priests and permanent deacons, as well as those serving in positions of leadership in the diocesan curia. This person—a non-cleric with background in law and ideally law enforcement—would have full access and independence to receive and investigate anonymous concerns about any member of the clergy, including by retaining private investigators as the case may warrant.

A greater focus from the nation’s bishops on the problem of sexually active clerics could encourage those victims of clerical sexual abuse and exploitation who have so far remained silent to come forward and be heard. It would contribute to recovering the moral stature of the office of bishop, which has been so disastrously eroded in the decade and a half since the crisis of clergy sexual abuse came to light. It would help to restore the Church’s credibility.