1. Pope Offers an Apology to the Roma and Urges European Unity.

By Kit Gillet and Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, June 3, 2019, Pg. A4

Pope Francis, on the last day of his trip to Romania, on Sunday asked for forgiveness on behalf of his church for the suffering endured by the Roma people, saying his heart was “weighed down by the many experiences of discrimination, segregation and mistreatment” they have experienced.

Francis implored Catholics to pray for the future of European unity, and for nonbelievers to desire it “from the bottom of your hearts.”

“If Europe does not look carefully to future challenges, Europe will dry up,” he warned, saying that the European Union “has aged” and that “someone could ask under their breath ‘Is this perhaps the end of a 70-year adventure?’”


2. Missouri’s clinic squeeze.

The Washington Post, June 3, 2019, Pg. A16, Editorial

For several days last week, it looked as though Missouri might become the only state in which there was no operating abortion clinic — until a St. Louis judge issued a last-minute temporary restraining order Friday, preventing the state from revoking the license of a Planned Parenthood facility operating in the city. The dispute that led to the near-closure is a scandal — but so is the fact that there was only one remaining clinic in all of Missouri, a function of a state government determined to end access to legal abortion.

And despite a slew of new laws in red states designed to give the court’s new conservative majority an opportunity to squash the precedent, Roe should remain intact, in substance and in spirit, if the current justices take seriously their public insistence that
longestablished precedents deserve ample deference. 


3. Catholic charity fights family policy, Argues city’s LBGTQ rule at odds with faith.

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, June 3, 2019, Pg. A4

Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services says it wants to keep working with foster care families — but it will take intervention by the Supreme Court to make it happen.

The Catholic charity will ask the justices to block a city policy requiring foster care organizations to be willing to place children with LGBTQ individuals or couples, saying the city shouldn’t be allowed to force the organization to choose between its mission and its religious beliefs.

After losing a previous bid to have the high court take the case in 2018, the group is more hopeful now, with Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on the court.


4. Pope Seeks to Mend Ties With Romania’s Orthodox.

By Jason Horowitz and Kit Gillet, The New York Times, June 2, 2019, Pg. A12

When Pope John Paul II made history in Romania 20 years ago by becoming the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to visit a predominantly Orthodox nation since the schism of 1054, he was welcomed as the global figure who helped bring down Communism.

Now, Pope Francis has returned to a more vibrant and internationally connected Romania, with permission to roam northeast from Bucharest to Iasi, on the border with Moldova, and then northwest to Blaj, in Transylvania. In Miercurea Ciuc on Saturday, he celebrated an open-air Mass at an important Catholic pilgrimage site, where large crowds, many from Romania’s Hungarian-speaking minority, gathered in the mud and rain to hear the pope deliver a homily.


5. Pope warns EU risks future if it doesn’t confront challenges.

By The Associated Press, June 2, 2019

Pope Francis warned that the European Union risks losing its influence and essence as a unified bloc if political leaders don’t reawaken the dreams of its founding fathers.

The pope appealed for prayers and hope that Europe not be “beaten by pessimism and ideologies.” He said: “If Europe is not careful about the future challenges, Europe will dry up.”

In the news conference, Francis also criticized fundamentalist, traditionalist Catholics who he said are stuck in the past, saying true tradition “is always in movement.”


6. Francis says Benedict ‘makes me strong,’ summons ‘sap of our roots’.

By Claire Giangravè, Crux, June 2, 2019

While aboard a return flight to Rome from Romania, Pope Francis said Pope emeritus Benedict XVI gives him strength and reinvigorates him with the roots of tradition, which are legacies he wishes a polarized Europe would keep in mind.

“Every time I go to [Benedict XVI] to visit him, I take his hand and I let him speak,” the pope told reporters aboard the papal plane June 2. “He doesn’t speak a lot, and he speaks slowly, but with the same depth as always, because Benedict’s problem is his knees, not his head.”

The pope emeritus, Francis continued, “has a great lucidity. When I hear him, he makes me strong and I feel the sap of our roots come to me so I can go forward.”


7. ‘Bible literacy’ is constitutionally illiterate, The classes proliferating in public schools violate separation of church and state.

The Washington Post, June 1, 2019, Pg. A18, Editorial

As one of the most consequential books of all time, the Bible is certainly worthy of study for its literary and historic importance. Indeed, the Supreme Court asserted that in its landmark 1963 Abington ruling, which outlawed the practice of public schools reading the Bible as part of morning prayers. Academic study, though, is clearly not the aim of conservative Christian activists who have undertaken a nationwide push for Bible classes in public schools. That they have been emboldened by Donald Trump’s presidency and seem to be succeeding should be of concern to anyone who values the separation of church and state enshrined in the Constitution.

The United States is a wonderfully diverse country, and its founders were wise in deciding against a government-approved religion. That’s what should be learned in the classroom — and also, apparently, at the White House.


8. US Catholic Church reports big rise in sex-abuse allegations.

By David Crary, The Associated Press, May 31, 2019, 3:38 PM

Quantifying its vast sex-abuse crisis, the U.S. Roman Catholic Church said Friday that allegations of child sex abuse by clerics more than doubled in its latest 12-month reporting period, and that its spending on victim compensation and child protection surged above $300 million.

During the period from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, 1,385 adults came forward with 1,455 allegations of abuse, according to the annual report of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection. That was up from 693 allegations in the previous year. The report attributed much of the increase to a victim compensation program implemented in five dioceses in New York state.

According to a survey included in the new annual report, more than 90% of the alleged abusers were already dead or removed from the ministry. Most of the reported abuse occurred between 1960 and 1990, with a peak in the 1970s.


9. In war-torn South Sudan, two Spanish priests build a shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary.

By Alejandro Bermudez, Catholic News Agency, May 31, 2019, 4:00 AM

Ave Maria, the parish church outside Mupoi, South Sudan, fell into disrepair decades ago. It was abandoned at the beginning of Sudan’s civil war, and then ransacked. It is dilapidated and practically unusable.

But two strong-willed Spanish missionaries in South Sudan are working to change that. They have a vision for the church, which they hope to turn in a continental Marian Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary.

“Fr. Bassols does not hide his enthusiasm when he explains: “We are located at the very heart of Africa. If you draw a cross from North to South and from East to West in an African map., Ave Maria is almost at the exact center.”

“In the state of Tombura, 84% of the population is Catholic, and I mean, truly Catholic. We need schools, drinking water, a healthcare facility, issues we are addressing with the help of the Sudan Relief Fund. But what we have in abundance here is a deep faith. Our people have survived persecutions, the expulsion of the missionaries, many decades without priests… but their deep faith remains,” Fr. Bassols told CNA.

“Is wonderful to devote one’s life to the people that need, the most and to preach them the Gospel. Catholics, especially the young, should remember that our baptismal call to be missionaries is not only fulfilled by being evangelizers to  our neighbors, but also to respond to Jesus’ call to ‘go to all the nations’ and therefore, become missionaries Ad Gentes… we invite young people to seriously consider becoming missionaries here,” Fr. Salvans added.

Bassols and Salvans are hopeful that in 2023, the centenary of the foundation of Ave Maria, the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary will be completely restored, and will attract Catholics from all over the world.”


10. “Uncle Ted” and Me…and several matters of considerably more importance.

By George Weigel, Catholic World Report, May 29, 2019

The dossier of correspondence between Theodore McCarrick and various officials of the Holy See, including Pope Francis, recently released by Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, sheds light down the dark alleys of McCarrick’s career, highlighting his relentless self-promotion, even in retirement; his sycophancy with many superiors; his interference in Vatican diplomacy; and his brazen defiance of the orders of Pope Benedict XVI that he cease and desist from public activity. These are matters of considerable gravity, far more so than the cameo appearance I make in the letters.

In order to set the historical record straight, however, and to draw some salient lessons for this Catholic moment from my personal experience of McCarrick’s mendacity, I offer the following.

On my possible nomination by President Trump as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See

 My friends at the Crux website report the following in a staff-written article dated May 28:

In a January 27, 2017, letter to [Pope] Francis, McCarrick mentions rumors that the Trump administration might be considering naming George Weigel, a noted Catholic commentator and biographer of St. Pope John Paul II, to the ambassador’s role.

“There were rumors here in Washington that the new U.S. government had submitted a request for an agrement for a new U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See,” McCarrick wrote, using the formal French term in international diplomacy for an understanding between two parties.

“One of the names that was mentioned was that of George Weigel,” McCarrick wrote. “A prominent Catholic voice in the United States and one of the biographers of St. John Paul II. He is very much a leader of the ultra-conservative wing of the Catholic Church in the United States and has been publicly critical of Your Holiness in the past,” he wrote.

“Many of us American bishops would have great concerns about his being named to such a position in which he would have an official voice, in opposition to your teaching,” McCarrick told the pope.

“I would be happy to discuss this with you and also with the high officials of the Curia,” he wrote.

It seems likely that McCarrick picked up this driblet of fake news from an article in the English edition of La Stampa’s “Vatican Insider,” at the tail end of which British journalist Christopher Lamb suggested that, under about-to-be-inaugurated President Donald Trump, I was a “wild card” candidate for the U.S. ambassadorship to the Holy See (along with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill O’Reilly, no less). Having had cordial exchanges with Mr. Lamb prior to this, I sent him this e-mail on January 13, 2017:

Dear Christopher: I could have saved you some trouble with this [article] if you’d called or e-mailed. Not only am I not a “wild card” possibility for the U.S. ambassadorship to the Holy See, I’m not even in the pack. I’m not interested in the job and wouldn’t accept it if offered, as there are better ways for me to serve the country. Moreover, the very idea of such an offer is rather beyond the realm of the plausible, given my public opposition to Mr. Trump’s nomination and the position I took publicly during the election.

Feel free to get in touch in the future. It’s always good to speak with you. GW

A few hours later, Mr. Lamb replied:

Dear George: You are right – I should have contacted you, but I thought you were an obvious possible candidate given your standing as one of the most prominent Catholic commentators in the U.S….also, I’m not sure previous criticism of the president-elect precludes being considered….anyway, let’s keep in touch. Best – Chris

Mr. Lamb’s sense of Mr. Trump’s magnanimity towards critics surely erred on the side of charity here. It was simply not in the cards for the new president to offer anything, save perhaps a tweet-smack, to someone who had begun his post- election column in these terms: “The good news is, she lost. The bad news is, he won.” But was Theodore McCarrick so out of touch with Washington reality that he imagined me a plausible candidate for the Holy See embassy? That seems unlikely – although perhaps not impossible, given the narrow band of (left-wing) “information” and conversation within which McCarrick typically operated. Still, it seems far more likely that he saw in this squib of a story an opportunity to trash me with Pope Francis (with whom I had already met twice in private audience, at the Holy Father’s invitation), and to sow further seeds of disinformation about the state of Catholicism in the United States.

There is more, though. McCarrick’s January 2017 letter not only took fake news seriously, for whatever purpose. McCarrick also lied about my being “publicly critical” of Pope Francis, and about my alleged intention to use an official U.S government post to criticize the Pope’s governance and teaching.

To the first: While I had questioned aspects of Pope Francis’s activity between his election in 2013 and early 2017, those questions were always raised in the respectful terms I believe appropriate for anyone with a sense of churchmanship. Moreover, I had never criticized the Pope personally and had in fact written a new foreword to the 2014 paperback edition of my Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church, in which I praised Francis’s apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. Had I been such a publicly prominent papal critic, I doubt that my private audiences in 2013 and 2014 would have occurred. And if the Pope invited back a known public critic for a third private audience in late 2017 – an audience that was conducted in entirely cordial terms – one can only wonder why.

To the second: I have been privileged to know every U.S. ambassador to the Holy See since the post was established by President Reagan and the Congress in 1984, and I have worked with several of them on various matters. In each of these interactions, and in conversations I had in early 2017 with two serious candidates for the Holy See ambassadorship, I stressed the imperative of the U.S. embassy (whose relationship to the Holy See is of a diplomatic, state-to-[micro]state character) rigorously refraining from any involvement in internal Church affairs – which would most certainly include an absolute proscription on public criticism of the Pope by the ambassador. Having insisted on this for over thirty years, is it likely that I would have taken a different path under different circumstances? If the suggestion that I would was not a lie, then it was certainly a calumny.

The Catholic Spectrum

As to my being, by McCarrick’s account, “very much a leader of the ultra-conservative wing of the Catholic Church in the United States,” this has caused considerable angst among self-identified “traditional Catholics,” one of whom was pleased to describe me in a May 28 tweet as “a rather potted plant neocon kind of guy.” This and similar comments say rather more about soi-disant “traditional Catholics” than about me, however, as McCarrick’s caricature clarifies more about McCarrick than about the target of his deprecation. I defy any serious person to browse through my twenty-five books, or the thousands of my articles and columns, and find credible evidence of “ultra-conservatism.” Such charges only come from real ideologues. And therein lies another lesson from the McCarrick affair: in this instance, his mendacious and quite relentless campaign to define anyone to his starboard as a conservative nut.

For more than twenty years, McCarrick continually regaled audiences with his recollections of John Paul II’s entrance into Newark cathedral in October 1995, often telling his seminarians and priests that he wanted them to be just like the Pope on that occasion, “walking right down the center, touching both sides.” A review of the video indicates that John Paul II did do some handshaking of those who reached out to him; he also did a lot of blessing. (The two members of that congregation who really worked the crowd on their way out of the cathedral that evening were President and Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton, who shook far more hands than John Paul had done at his entrance – and the Clintons did their shtick while the Pope was immersed in prayer in the cathedral’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel.) This tall tale and its putative “lesson” were classic McCarrick, though, and two comments on them are in order.

First, McCarrick’s implicit suggestion that John Paul II was some kind of fifty-yard-line pontiff who straddled the key issues of Church and society during his pontificate doesn’t bear a moment’s serious scrutiny. The Pope who boldly challenged tyranny at the United Nations in 1979 and who played a pivotal role in the collapse of European communism was not a fifty-yard-line guy. (Unlike, I might note, those Vatican diplomats, often among McCarrick’s Roman interlocutors, who thought that the Cold War would end at some mythical “center” where a gradually liberalizing Warsaw Pact would meet an increasingly social-democratic West.) The Pope who wrote Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae was not a straddler. Nor was the Pope who commissioned the Catechism of the Catholic Church. To present him as such was, and is, a lie.

It was a lie, moreover, in service to another McCarrick falsehood: that he defined the sought-for “common ground” in U.S. Catholicism, mediating between those of his liberal friends who were in more of a rush than he was, and those awful conservatives (not to mention “ultra-conservatives”) whom he loathed, but with whom he pretended to be friendly. This game led McCarrick deeper and deeper into the slough of ecclesiastical despond during the latter years of John Paul II’s pontificate and the entirety of Benedict XVI’s, as he saw the liberal dominance of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops dismantled by a generation of bishops who took their lead from John Paul, Benedict, and their authoritative interpretation of Vatican II.

Like his mucking about in Vatican diplomacy, though, McCarrick’s fretting about the bishops’ conference continued long past his (forced) retirement. At the November 2010 meeting that eventually elected then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan as conference president over the liberal-establishment candidate, conference vice-president Bishop Gerald Kicanas, McCarrick buttonholed Dolan and, in his inimitable and gratingly avuncular way, demanded that “Timmy” not allow himself to be used by a “right-wing plot” to deny “Gerry” the conference presidency. So much for McCarrick’s vaunted moderation. (Which is further contradicted by a story the late Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, archbishop of Westminster, told me in late 2005. Over tea in the cardinal’s residence, Murphy-O’Connor asked me, “How’s Ted doing?” When I asked why he asked, the English cardinal replied, “Well, on the way out of the Sistina [i.e., right after the election of Benedict XVI], he said to me, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to explain this at home.’”)

Theodore McCarrick signed the 1967 Land O’ Lakes statement, which sought to divorce Catholic universities from the authority of the local bishop and the Church’s magisterium (an act that, unrepudiated, should have been a definitive black ball against his becoming a bishop). Theodore McCarrick was a left-liberal Democrat in his politics and, while no theologian, a Walter Kasper-like liberal Catholic in his ecclesiology. Did he ever defend, much less attempt to explicate, Humanae Vitae? As for the defining abortion issue, McCarrick was never regarded as a serious pro-life leader by serious pro-life leaders, and his advocacy of behalf of the unborn was typically wrapped in a seamless garment of other issues (not least when he presided over the burial of Senator Edward M. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery).

Theodore McCarrick fooled a lot of people over the course of his career. And the greatest of his false-flag operations was to successfully sell the notion that he was another fifty-yard-line guy, when in fact his feet were firmly planted on the ten-yard-line, just outside the goal line marking the field’s left end zone. That he was allowed to get away with this for so long is, I imagine, a source of regret to the more honest of his friends and colleagues on the Catholic Left, as it ought to be to the bishops who didn’t forcefully challenge the charade while it went on, year after tiresome year.

But however nonsensical it is, the notion that Theodore McCarrick was some sort of moderating centrist whose analysis of the condition of the Church in the United States was both correct and important has now leapt the Atlantic. And it is doing grave damage in Rome, and beyond.

The false narrative of the moment

It was beginning to be evident at the Synod of 2015; it was becoming uncomfortably unmistakable at the Synod of 2018; and it was deployed in a sinister way at the abuse summit this past February: the notion that opposition to Pope Francis is the result of a cabal of hard-right, wealthy Americans who hate the Pope because of his criticisms of markets, capitalism, and restrictive immigration policies. This is utter nonsense, and those who have been hawking such shoddy goods do little justice to the putative intelligence of those they have been trying to persuade. But that this fairy tale is believed as dogma by many of the most influential personalities in the present pontificate is certain (recall Fr. Anthony Spadaro’s bizarre disquisition on American Catholicism in La Civiltà Cattolica). That these men have assiduously worked to convince leading churchmen around the world of it is certain, as I know from personal experience at the Synod in October 2018. And that they will try to deploy this fake story to shape the terms of the next conclave is equally certain.

Where any notion of “collegiality,” “synodality,” or simple honesty is to be found in this is unclear. But the new ultramontanists of the Catholic Left, who describe the range of Francis’s infallibility (or at least indefectibility) in terms that would make the hard ultramontanists at Vatican I blush, have found a supportive, parallel narrative in the notion of an “ultraconservative” American conspiracy to resist and undermine this Pope. Some will dismiss this by noting, correctly, that there has always been anti-Americanism in Rome. But this is different.

It is different because of its virulence and its tenacity. It is different because of its strategic purpose. And who introduced this new, more toxic anti-American storyline into the Vatican conversation – or, at the very least, softened up the ground for it, virtually from the moment Pope Francis was elected? Theodore McCarrick: now convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of sacrilege and child sexual abuse, and laicized for his ecclesiastical crimes.

One might think that this fact would cause at least a moment of reconsideration among defenders of the pontificate who have been trafficking in untruths about the Church in the United States, who have been sliming their perceived enemies for some five years now, and who have continued to do so in the wake of Msgr. Figueiredo’s revelations. But the calumnies and lies seem likely to continue. That, unfortunately, is how those who know they’re losing an argument usually behave – especially ideologues and those fearful of losing their grip on power.


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