1. Pope’s cardinal picks could make the next conclave a wild ride.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, June 29, 2017

Since the most important thing cardinals ever do typically is elect a pope, one time-honored way of assessing consistories, the events in which new cardinals are created, is to ask what they mean for the politics of the next conclave. In the case of Pope Francis’s consistories, however, probably the only honest answer to that question is, “Who knows?”

[A] healthy share of these new “Francis cardinals” come from outside the West, and thus from outside the usual analytical framework observers apply to Church affairs.

Generally speaking, what Westerners are most interested in is whether a given pope is appointing more “liberal” or “conservative” cardinals, and thus men inclined to steer the Church, should they become pope themselves one day, in a more progressive or traditional direction. Those categories, however, often don’t apply to non-Western cultures, where the issues that matter often don’t break along the fault lines of left v. right.

In very broad strokes, there probably are at least a couple of generalizations one can make about the psychology of the next conclave in light of Francis’s picks.

First, the increasingly global character of the College of Cardinals probably helps take geography off the table as a “voting issue” for the next pope. 

Second, the increasingly diverse mix in the college also probably means the next pope will need to be someone who has a reasonably broad view of the world. 


2. George Pell, Vatican Finance Chief, Charged With Sexual Abuse: Cardinal is highest-ranking official to be charged in church sex-abuse scandals.

By Robb M. Stewart and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, June 29, 2017, 5:10 AM

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’s finance chief and one of the most senior officials in the Vatican, was charged Thursday with multiple counts of sexual abuse alleged to have occurred in Australia decades ago.

The 76-year-old is the highest-level Vatican official to face charges in the sexual-abuse scandals that have beset the Catholic Church in the past two decades.

Cardinal Pell told reporters in Rome on Thursday morning that he was “innocent of these charges” and would be returning to Australia to clear his name in court.

Details of the charges, which involve multiple complainants, weren’t disclosed.

In a statement Thursday, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart said he is aware of the significance of the decision to charge Cardinal Pell, who he added has been a friend and fellow priest for more than 50 years.

“It is a matter of public record that Cardinal Pell addressed the evil of sexual abuse in the Church on becoming Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996,” Archbishop Hart said. He said the cardinal’s work had been acknowledged nationally and internally.


3. Abuse charges against Pell not good news for Vatican financial reform. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, June 29, 2017

With criminal charges of sexual abuse having been filed against Cardinal George Pell in his home country of Australia, many questions will be asked, most about the accusations and Pell’s defense. From a Vatican point of view, however, a key question is what all this means for the prospects of financial reform, and the best answer probably is, “Nothing good.”

The fact that Pell has polarized opinion in the Vatican will come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed his career, since he’s long been a lightning rod for controversy – plain-spoken, unafraid of a fight, and never one to turn the other cheek.

Whatever one makes of that background, the plain fact of the matter is this: Pell was, and remains, a key figure in the pope’s plans for a financial clean-up, and with him hobbled, the prospects for that clean-up may well take a turn for the worse.

For one thing, for as long as he’s on a leave of absence defending himself, the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy which he leads will be essentially rudderless, trapped in a sort of limbo until his long-term status is clarified. Since the secretariat is responsible for implementing new financial management policies, including rational and standardized accounting procedures across all departments, that’s not an encouraging prospect.

For another, Francis has already lost one supposedly key figure in the reform effort, Italian businessman and auditing expert Libero Milone, who was hired in 2015 as the Vatican’s Auditor General. Milone recently resigned just two years in to a five-year term, with no explanation offered, feeding suspicions that he was either suspected of misconduct himself or perhaps simply not to the job.

That, however, was a spring shower compared to the tempest of sexual abuse charges against the pope’s handpicked architect of reform, and a cardinal to boot. If the perception becomes that Pope Francis has repeatedly entrusted the central posts in his new financial structures to the wrong people, then the conclusion may be that the reform itself is doomed.


4. Pope to new cardinals: You’re not called to be ‘Princes of the Church.

By Crux, June 28, 2017

Speaking to five new cardinals he created on Wednesday, Pope Francis pointedly told them they have not been called to become “Princes of the Church” but rather to serve, with their eyes open to the realities of the “sin of the world.”

Widely considered a surprise when it was announced by Francis during his Regina Coeli address on May 21, today’s consistory included five prelates representing vastly different parts of the world:

Archbishop Jean Zerbo, of Bamako, Mali.

Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, Spain.

Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden.

Bishop José Gregorio Rosa Chávez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador.

Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Apostolic Vicar of Pakse, Laos, and Apostolic Administrator of Vientiane.


5. Young people: Tell the pope what you think.

By Elise Italiano and Christopher White, Catholic News Service, June 27, 2017

Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes of last year’s World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, was Pope Francis sharing a meal with a dozen young people. His guests peppered him with questions, both pastoral and personal, and the pope used the occasion to ask them questions too.

Now, in preparation for the upcoming Synod of Bishops in October 2018, he’s extending that conversation to youth from the entire world.

On June 14, the Vatican launched an anonymous online survey for young people between ages 16-29 to complete. The hope is to provide a platform for a range of voices to express their hopes, fears and challenges of living in light of faith. These responses will form the basis of the working document that will be used for the synod.

This type of digital outreach is also happening at home. The Archdiocese of Washington, for example, is swapping out its “Walk with Francis” evangelization campaign launched during the pope’s 2015 visit to the United States with “Share with Francis,” a digital campaign meant to re-engage its youth and young adults ahead of the synod. Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl issued a personal invitation — in both English and Spanish — to his young flock through video.

As important as digital media is in this venture, in-person communication is still essential for knowing the minds and hearts of the church’s youth. Anyone engaged in youth ministry knows that the most important moments of conversion happen from one-on-one conversation and in the context of a relationship built on trust. That’s why it’s good to hear of dioceses complementing the digital outreach with listening sessions.