1. Vatican centralizes contracting to cut waste, corruption, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, June 1, 2020, 6:57 AM

The Vatican is centralizing its contracting and procurement procedures in a bid to cut waste, root out corruption and bring the Holy See’s finances into the 21st century.

Pope Francis approved new norms governing contract bids and purchasing in his latest effort to reform the Vatican’s finances, which have grown even more precarious amid the coronavirus pandemic and closure of the Holy See’s main cash cow, the Vatican Museums.

The new code calls for a centralized list of businesses that can bid for Vatican contracts, and lists the criteria of those that can be excluded: any company or individual in bankruptcy proceedings or under investigation or convicted of crimes such as fraud, mafia ties, tax evasion or corruption.

It also imposes norms to avoid conflicts of interest both among Vatican officials awarding contracts and in the companies bidding for them. It calls for transparency in the procedures and lays out how contested bids and contracts can be adjudicated in the Vatican criminal tribunal.


2. Pope launches direct frontal assault on Vatican nepotism, feudalism, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, June 1, 2020, Opinion

Some years ago, I was sitting over a beer with a fellow journo who’d covered the Vatican for a long time, discussing a new scandal in which a cardinal who ran a major Vatican department had been accused of making sweetheart deals for Italian politicians to rent apartments in exchange for their votes on funding the rehabbing of his properties under Italy’s “cultural goods” law.

“You know, what he did is obviously corrupt,” my friend said, “but I doubt it’d meet the classic Catholic test for sin.”

What he meant is that for something to be subjectively sinful, the sinner has to know he or she is doing something wrong. Yet a sort of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” traditionally has been so much a part of accepted Italian business practice that it’s entirely possible this prelate didn’t think there was anything amiss – perhaps explaining the “deer caught in the headlights” look he always got whenever you asked him about it.

That bit of background is helpful in thinking about a sweeping new law on procurement and contracts decreed by Pope Francis today, because it amounts to a direct frontal assault on two cornerstone aspects of Italian, and, by extension, Vatican business and political culture: Nepotism and feudalism.

One can make the case, actually, that nothing Pope Francis has done prior to Monday has greater potential to truly remake the Vatican’s conventional ways and means.

In summary form, the new procurement system is intended to accomplish two things:

First, it centralizes control over awarding contracts for goods and services in the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) for the Roman Curia, meaning the offices that administer the affairs of the global Church, and the Government of the Vatican City State for the pope’s physical territories and the personnel who run them.

Second, it creates an impartial competitive bidding process with a commission of officials empowered to review bids without any direct relationship to the bidding agents.

Both may seem like no-brainers in terms of normal corporate or government practice in at least some parts of the world, including the U.S., but they’ve rarely been practiced more in the observance than the breach here in Italy, and certainly not in the Vatican.

Up to this point, it would have been possible to argue that Pope Francis perhaps isn’t truly in earnest on financial reform, or perhaps simply has given up on it, because the trend seemed to be in favor of consolidating the status quo rather than shaking it up.

After today, that’s no longer a sustainable position, because this new law attacks the internal culture of the Vatican at its core. Whether it will work, of course, remains to be seen, but the pontiff and his advisers at least have to get high marks for hutzpah.


3. The Roberts Rule on Churches: The Chief Justice upholds a regulation on houses of worship, By The Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2020, 5:04 PM, Editorial

The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has been a stalwart protector of religious liberty, so it was disappointing to see the Chief late Friday join his liberal colleagues to uphold California’s discrimination against places of worship.

As Justice Kavanaugh writes, “the State cannot ‘assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work or go about the rest of their daily lives in permitted social settings.’” Amen.


4. Explaining the Vatican’s lingering ambivalence on “zero tolerance”, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 31, 2020, Opinion

“Zero tolerance” for sexual abuse has become one of those notoriously elastic phrases, such as “change,” “hope” and “progress,” which everyone claims to be for but no one seems to define in exactly the same way.

In American Catholic parlance, however, the term “zero tolerance” does have a fairly precise meaning, derived from the US bishops’ 2002 Dallas charter and norms: Permanent removal from ministry, and, in most cases, laicization, for even one justified allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.

In that sense, “zero tolerance” remains a contested point. To this day, a central plank in the indictment of many abuse survivors and their advocates is that the Vatican has not imposed a universal “zero tolerance” policy everywhere in the world, which is often taken as a sign of reluctance to reform.

In part, such perceptions are rooted in memory. When the abuse scandals broke out in the United States in 2002, several Vatican officials initially dismissed them as a uniquely “American problem” and described the “zero tolerance” policy as a legalistic and Puritanical American overreaction.

That knee-jerk response was entirely about deflection and denial, and so the association between opposition to zero tolerance and “not getting it” was forged.

In the almost two decades since, however, it’s become clear there are also grounds for ambivalence about “zero tolerance” policies which aren’t just rooted in defensiveness, protecting the clerical club or insensitivity to victims. Like everything else, debates over the next steps in Pope Francis’s reform efforts were temporarily put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic, but the questions remain and it’s far from obvious what may happen next.

The point comes to mind in light of a recent essay by Sister Anna Deodato, a member of the Diocesan Auxiliary Sisters of Milan, titled “There’s No Statute of Limitations for Pain: A Church Capable of Listening” and published in the Journal of Italian Clergy. She’s a veteran reformer on abuse, a member of a commission advising the Italian bishops on the issue and the author of a book last year on the sexual abuse of nuns that carried a preface by Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, perhaps Catholicism’s leading anti-abuse expert.

In the midst of an essay that amounted to a long plea for taking seriously the hurt experienced by victims, Deodato offered the following aside:

“We shouldn’t fail to offer a word about the commitment not to abandon those who have committed this crime,” she wrote. “We have to work to ensure they’re accompanied in the journey of becoming more responsible, their request for forgiveness and reconciliation, and their psychological care and spiritual support.”

Beyond such spiritual arguments, there are also a couple of longstanding practical objections to a “zero tolerance” approach.

One is illustrated by Father John Beal, a distinguished canon lawyer who teaches at the Catholic University of America. Ten years ago, Beal made a point at a seminar on Church law and the abuse crisis that remains a concern for some observers today: By automatically expelling offenders from the priesthood, the Church may serve the end of making itself look tough but it could also put other potential victims at risk by cutting the perpetrator loose without any further opportunity to exercise vigilance or influence.

None of this, of course, necessarily means the American understanding of “zero tolerance” isn’t entirely justified. It’s rooted in the conviction that, as St. John Paul II put it, “There’s no room in the priesthood for those who abuse children.”

Nonetheless, the recent Deodato essay is a reminder that decades into the arc of the crisis, even those most horrified by clerical sexual abuse remain divided about what the “zero” in “zero tolerance” should mean – which, among other things, may help explain why the Vatican hasn’t yet made the American approach global.


5. Pope: Pull together, avoid pessimism in this coronavirus era, By Associated Press, May 31, 2020, 5:50 AM

Pope Francis is cautioning against pessimism as many people emerge from coronavirus lockdowns to lament that nothing will ever be the same.

During Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark Pentecost Sunday, Francis noted a tendency to say “nothing will return as before.” That kind of thinking, Francis said, guarantees that “the one thing that certainly does not return is hope.”

He took to task his own church for its fragmentation, saying it must pull together.


6. US faith leaders lead congregations through tumultuous time, By Elana Schor, Associated Press, May 31, 2020, 4:14 PM

American religious leaders across faiths are grappling with the heavy burden of helping to heal two active traumas: rising civil unrest driven by the police killing of George Floyd and the coronavirus pandemic.

Seven senior members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement calling racism “not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue,” adding: “While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful non-violent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged.”


7. Supreme Court rejects challenge to limits on church services, By Mark Sherman, Associated Press, May 30, 2020, 12:36 AM

A divided Supreme Court on Friday rejected an emergency appeal by a California church that challenged state limits on attendance at worship services that have been imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Over the dissent of the four more conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals in turning away a request from the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, California, in the San Diego area.


8. Freezing Funding to the WHO Protects Taxpayers From Funding Abortion, By Grazie Pozo Christie, Town Hall, May 30, 2020, 12:01 AM, Opinion

Not all American taxpayers agree with the reasoning behind President Trump’s decision to freeze U.S. funding of the World Health Organization – that WHO’s overly deferential treatment of China’s communist government has resulted in global COVID-19 tragedy – but there are other excellent reasons to applaud the president’s action. One is the fact that U.S. taxpayer dollars will no longer bankroll WHO’s partner organizations like the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and scandal-plagued International Planned Parenthood (IPPF).

These two NGO’s (non-government organizations) cloak themselves in the language of altruism and concern for the poor, but function as a new and condescending form of cultural imperialism. How? In exchange for helping developing nations to “modernize,” they demand that donor nations accept current Western attitudes about the family, especially those that reduce the number of the world’s poor as a way to fight poverty.

President Trump already did Americans a great favor when he reinstated the so-called Mexico City Policy right after his inauguration. This policy required NGO’s to stop performing abortions as a condition for receiving American tax dollars. In fact, the IPPF was one of only four NGO’s that refused to go along with this condition. Now, by halting funding to the WHO, the president is expanding the favor.

It is a tragedy that our hard-earned dollars have been providing $400 to $500 million each year to the WHO and their ill-chosen partner NGOs. American taxpayers can take comfort in the fact that going forward the money will no longer be coming from our pockets.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a Policy Advisor for The Catholic Association and co-host of The Catholic Association’s podcast, Conversations with Consequences.


9. Pope presides over virus prayer in hint normalcy returning, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, May 30, 2020, 3:17 PM

Pope Francis prayed Saturday for an end to the coronavirus pandemic and the development of a vaccine as he presided over an outdoor gathering that signaled a semblance of normalcy returning to the Vatican after a coronavirus lockdown lasting more than two months.


10. UN and US trade criticism over abortion during coronavirus, By Catholic News Agency, May 30, 2020, 1:00 PM

United Nations Human Rights Council has criticized some U.S. states for using the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to restrict abortion.

The UN’s criticism of the abortion policies in the U.S. comes less than 10 days after acting USAID Administrator John Barsa sent a letter United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on May 18, criticizing the United Nations for putting abortion access and other sexual health issues on the same priority as other basic human needs, such as access to food and shelter.

“The U.N. should not use this crisis as an opportunity to advance access to abortion as an ‘essential service,’” wrote Barsa.

“To use the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification to pressure governments to change their laws is an affront to the autonomy of each society to determine its own national policies on health care,” said Barsa. “The United States stands with nations that have pledged to protect the unborn.”


11. Maryland county walks back on communion ban after Catholic backlash, By Caleb Parke, Fox News, May 29, 2020

A county in Maryland lifted a ban on consuming food or drink during religious services after backlash from the Catholic community.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball issued the coronavirus reopening order Tuesday to go into effect May 29.

“There shall be no consumption of food or beverage of any kind before, during, or after religious services, including food or beverage that would typically be consumed as part of a religious service,” that order stated, making Catholic Mass effectively illegal.

On Thursday, the Catholic Association, a national organization of lay Catholics, sent a letter to the county calling the order “an unacceptable and needless intrusion on the First Amendment rights of Howard County Catholics,” and urged him to amend it.

Howard County spokesperson Scott Peterson told CNA Thursday that the food consumption rule would be lifted. “We are currently working through the next wave of policy changes and are continually analyzing the criteria for re-opening and the need for temporary restrictions.”

Peterson said the county will work with faith leaders to “allow residents to worship safely and all religious leaders to resume practices safely.”

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, legal advisor for the Catholic Association, told Fox News that the group was “pleased that the order has been amended,” adding the county “overstepped” with the ban.


12. Ruling means Missouri’s last abortion clinic stays open, By Jim Salter and Summer Ballentine, Associated Press, May 29, 2020, 12:15 PM

Missouri’s only abortion clinic will be able to keep operating after a state government administrator decided Friday that the health department was wrong not to renew the license of the Planned Parenthood facility in St. Louis.

Missouri Administrative Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi’s decision means Missouri will not become the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since 1974, the year after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

“In over 4,000 abortions provided since 2018, the Department has only identified two causes to deny its license,” Dandamudi wrote, adding that Planned Parenthood has “substantially complied” with state law.


13. Papal ping-pong? Vatican opens summer camp amid virus, By Associated Press, May 29, 2020, 4:27 PM

The Vatican is getting into the summer camp business, with ping pong tables taking over the Vatican auditorium, a giant pool in the Vatican Gardens and team sports on the Vatican helipad.

The Holy See is offering a month of tennis, swimming, games and sports for the children of Vatican employees to help compensate for the lack of normal camp and travel options as a result of the coronavirus.


TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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