1. A stain on the Catholic Church: Charges against a Vatican official are a reminder of the church’s failure to atone for clergy sexual abuse.

By The Washington Post, July 3, 2017, Pg. C10, Editorial

POPE FRANCIS, who pledged a policy of “zero tolerance” for sexually abusive clergy in the Catholic Church, has turned out to be all too tolerant. On Thursday, Australian police brought criminal charges against Cardinal George Pell, a top Vatican official and kitchen- cabinet adviser to the pope, for multiple alleged incidents of sexual assault.

Church officials continue to fight laws in the United States that would enable victims of clergy abuse to seek justice in court. And prelates and other senior church figures continue implicitly to minimize overwhelming evidence of systematic abuse by characterizing the church as no better or worse on the issue than society at large — a morally bankrupt position unsupported by evidence.

Again and again, the pope’s deeds on clergy sex abuse have not matched his words, and real accountability throughout the church has been lacking. By his tolerance, Pope Francis ensures that the disgrace of clergy sex abuse will continue to be a stain on the Catholic Church.


2. Was Müller’s exit really a ‘night of the long knives’ move?

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, July 2, 2017

Given the way German Cardinal Gerhard Müller has become identified as the Vatican’s leading in-house skeptic about Pope Francis’s cautious opening to Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried in Amoris Laetitia, it was written in the stars that when and if Müller was ever replaced as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it would be seen as a papal smackdown.

In some quarters, that’s precisely how news has been received that Francis has appointed Spanish Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, a fellow Jesuit, to take Müller’s place.

Before we get too carried away in the “night of the long knives” way of seeing things, however, there are a few points worth taking into account.

First, as of July 2, Müller reached the end of the five-year term to which he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. Granted, such terms can be extended at a pope’s discretion, but the point is that it’s not really as if Müller has been “fired”. His service was up, and the pope decided to name someone else.

Second, while Müller undeniably has a more restrictive take on the implications of Amoris than many others, it’s hardly as if he’s an implacable foe of the pontiff.

Third, it’s not as if Ladaria is anybody’s idea of a flaming liberal.

Müller told the German newspaper, however, that Francis told him that from now on all Vatican heads of departments won’t be renewed after five years, and his was simply the first case to come up.

No doubt the guessing game about what Francis is up to will continue. One factor that may shift the analysis in one direction or the other will be if other personnel moves follow in short order – and if those on their way out are perceived, one way or another, as not quite fully “Francis men.”


3. Francis dismisses German hard-liner.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, The Washington Post, July 2, 2017, Pg. A16

Pope Francis has pushed out the Vatican’s conservative doctrine chief, tapping a deputy instead to lead the powerful congregation that handles sex abuse cases and guarantees Catholic orthodoxy around the world.

Francis and German Cardinal Gerhard Müller had clashed, most recently over the pope’s cautious opening to letting civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion. Müller had insisted they cannot, given church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

In a short statement released Saturday, the Vatican said Francis had thanked Müller for his service. Müller’s five-year term ends this weekend, and he turns 70 in December. The normal retirement age for bishops is 75.

Francis could have kept him on but declined to do so. The Jesuit pontiff instead tapped the No. 2 in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Jesuit Monsignor Luis Ladaria Ferrer, to succeed Müller.


4. Pope Francis Ousts Powerful Conservative Cardinal. 

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, July 2, 2017, Pg. A10

Pope Francis earlier this year ordered Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the top doctrinal watchdog in the Roman Catholic Church, to fire three priests from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the keeper of the church’s orthodoxy and presides over investigations into sexual abuse.

Cardinal Müller, an ideological conservative often at odds with the pontiff, was vexed by the order, and, in a recent interview, said he had made a case, in vain, for the priests to stay in Rome.

“I’m not able to understand all,” Cardinal Müller said when asked why Francis sent them away. He added, “He’s the pope.”

On Saturday, it was Cardinal Mueller’s turn to leave. The Vatican announced that Francis had declined to renew the German cardinal’s mandate and had replaced him with his deputy, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, 73, a Spanish Jesuit theologian.

The appointment also potentially removed the most powerful ideological brake on the pope’s agenda to emphasize pastoral inclusion over issues of doctrine.


5. Pope reverses Vatican stand on British sick baby case.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, July 2, 2017, 2:52 PM

Pope Francis called Sunday for the parents of a terminally ill British baby to be allowed to do everything possible to treat their 10-month-old son, amending the Vatican’s previous position after conservatives complained.

In a statement, the Vatican press office said Francis “is following with affection and sadness the case of little Charlie Gard and expresses his closeness to his parents. For this he prays that their wish to accompany and treat their child until the end is not neglected.”

The statement marked a shift from the views expressed by the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, the pope’s bioethics advisory panel. In a June 30 statement, the academy president Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia said the parents’ wishes should be respected, but that they must also be helped to understand the “unique difficulty of their situation.”


6. Pope urges end to Venezuela violence, prays for victims.

By Associated Press, July 2, 2017

Pope Francis is calling for an end to the violence at Venezuela’s anti-government protests and is expressing solidarity with families of those killed.

Francis led thousands in prayer Sunday for Venezuela as he noted the country is to mark its independence on Wednesday.

He said: “I assure this dear nation of my prayers and express my closeness to the families who have lost their children in the street protests. I appeal for an end to the violence and for a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis.”


7. Pope Francis Ousts Conservative Doctrine Chief at Vatican: Pope’s refusal to renew Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s mandate marked his latest move to remake the Holy See’s hierarchy.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2017, 6:45 PM

Pope Francis named a new head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, sidelining a leading opponent of his efforts to liberalize the Catholic Church and further diminishing a body already much weakened under his pontificate.

Pope Francis ousted Cardinal Gerhard Müller as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican body responsible for defining and defending Catholic doctrine. The pope declined to renew the cardinal’s five-year term, which ended Saturday.

Cardinal Müller, a conservative German prelate appointed to head the congregation by Pope Benedict XVI, has been conspicuously out of step with the pope’s liberalizing push, particularly on the issue of divorce. Pope Francis has replaced him with Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, 73, opting for a low-profile theologian with a record of doctrinal orthodoxy but little history of engagement in public debates.


8. Parents of Brain-Damaged Baby Lose Fight to Keep Him on Life Support: European court declined to overturn ruling that prolonging 11-month-old’s life not in his best interests. 

By Joanna Sugden, The Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2017, Pg. A8

The parents of a brain-damaged baby boy spent Friday at his bedside after losing a months long legal battle that has focused attention on the role of British and European courts in end-of-life decisions for the very young.

Doctors caring for the child, 11-month-old Charlie Gard, have won judges’ permission to discontinue life support despite his parents’ objections, saying his rare genetic disorder can’t be effectively treated and that keeping him on a ventilator could be causing him pain.

Britain’s Supreme Court decided earlier this month that prolonging Charlie’s life would be “not in his best interests.” His parents asked the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the ruling. The court this week said the case raised “sensitive moral and ethical issues” but declined to intervene.


9. Beyond Harry Potter — how the Vatican approaches pop culture. 

By Melinda Henneberger, The Kansas City Star, July 1, 2017, 3:30

Harry Potter, who as you may have heard about a thousand times by now turned 20 last week, is among the rare fictional heroes whose unofficial condemnation by Vatican officials did not result in a big boost in sales.

Of course, that’s only because J.K. Rowling’s work was selling like gelato in July well before the Vatican’s longtime chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, told reporters that “Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness.” And before the future Pope Benedict XVI himself called the Potter books one of the “subtle seductions” that can corrupt the young.

Though the Catholic Church will never make peace with much of popular culture, the Vatican’s current approach is more “dialogical” than condemnatory. That’s not because Pope Francis is any less orthodox than his predecessor or more open to the world. But the dialogue is easier these days because the world is undeniably more open to him.

The outfit that kept Western civilization alive during the Dark Ages, commissioned the most important art of the Renaissance and decided that the tartest answer to the Protestant Reformation was Bernini and Titian hasn’t survived this long by failing to adapt and, eventually, adopt.

Which is how Bishop Paul Tighe, the 59-year-old Irish prelate who first got Pope Benedict on Twitter in 2012, has in the last year wound up speaking in Lisbon at the Burning Man arts festival and in Austin, Texas, at the South by Southwest Festival, where he discussed the “disruptive mercy” in our wildly competitive culture of a God who loves us even when we fail.

“Being able to see goodness, beauty and truth in places that might surprise us maybe earns us the right to express question marks” later, says Tighe, a moral theologian who’s now adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture. “The thing people expect is, ‘Vatican condemns.’ But if you want to dialogue, start with what you can speak well of.”

Of course the church remains in tension with, as Tighe puts it, a culture in which sex is seen as a pleasant form of recreation that’s “perhaps more pleasant if you know the person.” Yet you don’t win the day, the argument or the internet by retreating from the culture. And it’s worth noting, as Francis has, that his own favorite movie, the 1987 Danish film “Babette’s Feast,” is a meditation on the transformative power of art in everyday life.