1. The end of two-wing parties. 

By Michael Gerson, Columnist, The Washington Post, March 2, 2018, Pg. A15, Opinion

On the evidence of an October 2017 vote — concerning legislation that would have restricted abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation — there are three pro-life Democrats in the House. On the evidence of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s decision not to endorse one of those representatives — Daniel Lipinski of Illinois — many Democrats wish the count were zero.

According to a January count by Vice News, there isn’t a single serious pro-life Democrat running competitively in the 91 House districts that Democrats hope to flip to their column this year. The 2016 Democratic platform called for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funds from paying for most abortions.

The Democrats’ solidification as a pro-choice party is, in the end, a function of the ideological polarization of both parties. At one point, the GOP and the Democratic Party both had liberal and conservative wings. Now they generally each flap wildly with one.

This trend also narrows the ideological range of American politics. The absence of a pro-life option in the Democratic Party leaves some compassionate and reform conservatives utterly homeless as they wait on the recovery of GOP sanity. And it leaves no place for many Catholics wishing to be consistently faithful to their church’s social teaching — pro-life and pro-poor, against euthanasia and against the dehumanization of migrants. It is not a small thing that neither party cares to accommodate the social agenda of Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis.


2. Law, politics and media make abuse scandals different in U.S. than Chile. 

By Christopher White, National Correspondent, Crux March 2, 2018

Following the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team’s devastating coverage in 2002 of years of sexual abuse and cover-up, the U.S. Catholic bishops adopted their Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in June of that year to standardize guidelines for reporting and responding to sexual abuse allegations within the U.S. Church.

Since that time, the American Church’s “zero tolerance” policy for sexual abusers has been considered by many as the standard for other countries to model their own programs. Given the recent controversies of the Barros affair, however, more than a few Catholics have wondered how a similar situation would play out in the United States today-both within the Church and outside of it.

In essence, the answer would seem to be that speaking strictly in terms of internal ecclesiastical procedures, it’s not clear there would be a major contrast between America and anywhere else in a case in which the accusation against a bishop is not abuse itself, but cover-up.

However, fundamental differences between the U.S. and much of the rest of the world in terms of legal, political, and media pressures suggest that something like the Barros saga would, nevertheless, play out differently.

According to Martin Nussbaum, an attorney who has represented multiple dioceses throughout the United States in sexual abuse cases and served as a consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the U.S. civil law and the threat of tort-based liability claims is a system that both helps keep the Church accountable-but at times can be subject to abuse.

He told Crux that he’s worked with “scores of bishops” and it was their dogged determination after the early revelations of abuse in the late eighties following the case of serial abuser Father Gilbert Gauthe that led most bishops to began to implement policies of zero tolerance within their dioceses, leading to the 2002 codification the USCCB’s Charter.

“What the bishops learned is to forget the idea that mental health professionals can fix ephebophiles and pedophiles,” said Nussbuam. “Zero tolerance has been the most preventive thing the Church has done.”

Yet Nussbuam also cautioned against what he described as the “big business” of abusing the system for the sake of payouts.

Mario Paredes, who has advised both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops on Latin American issues for decades and is Chilean born-himself, told Crux that the legal situation in the U.S. does often influence the way sexual abuse cases are handled and that the Chilean system is qualitatively different.

Paredes attributed the public outcry over sexual abuse in Chile not to the threat of legal pressure, but a growing distrust among the people of the institutional Church.

“In Chile, what happened is because the institutions of the Church – the episcopal conference of bishops and the local diocesan bishops – did not pay attention as they should have,” said Paredes. “The public began to feel that the Church was covering up in a very abusive manner and that’s what really exploded the anger of the people.”

Yet despite the promise of accountability, transparency, and reform – either perceived or enacted – the shadow of the Barros case looms large not only in Chile, but in the United States, and throughout the global Church.

As Francis approaches his five-year anniversary, Paredes told Crux that until the issue of sexual abuse is properly addressed, it will upstage any other forward motion for the Francis papacy, regardless of location.

“It is so obvious that it will continue to dominate the conversation until the Vatican really draws a line very clearly in the case of Chile,” said Paredes. “With the lessons of Chile, I can dream and envision that much more drastic measures will be taken.”


3. Vatican confirms Pope to visit Geneva to mark World Council of Churches milestone.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, March 2, 2018

Making official what the Swiss government had already announced, the Vatican confirmed on Friday that Pope Francis will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, on June 21 to mark the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches in one of the traditional centers of the Protestant Reformation.

“His Holiness has in mind to visit the World Council of Churches in Geneva on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of its foundation,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke announced on Friday in the Vatican’s daily news bulletin.

“The visit will take place Thursday, June 21, 2018,” Burke said. “The program of the trip will be published soon.”

With 348 member churches in 110 nations, the World Council of Churches (WCC), founded in 1948, is the largest umbrella group of Christian denominations in the world. It includes most Eastern Orthodox churches, the Anglican Communion, most mainline Protestant churches and several Evangelical denominations.

The Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC, although it does send observers to meetings and events.


4. Australian prosecutor drops a sex charge against cardinal.

By Associated Press, March 1, 2018, 9:45 PM

An Australian prosecutor on Friday withdrew a single charge against Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic cleric to face a sex prosecution.

The 76-year-old Australian cardinal will appear on Monday in a court in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city where Pell was once archbishop, for the start of a month long preliminary hearing to determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to warrant a jury trial.