1. What caused the clergy sex abuse crisis? Catholic universities are pushing for debate on the answer.

By Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post Online, March 27, 2019, 12:38 PM

U.S. Catholics know they are in the thick of a clergy sexual abuse crisis, but that’s where agreement ends. When the abuse topic exploded in the church in the early 2000s, everyone knew the focus was stopping the shuffling around and cover-up of priests abusing children.

Some Catholic universities are plunging into that space with new abuse-related academic credentialing programs, million-dollar research grants and conferences — all related to exploring clergy abuse.

Georgetown University has had four different public dialogues — organized by an abuse survivor — on the crisis, with names like “Confronting a Moral Catastrophe.” 

 Ave Maria University is publishing a book of papers on spiritual responses to the crisis and giving copies to the bishops.

John Garvey, Catholic University’s president, said he’s raised nearly $400,000 in recent months to start an effort called the Catholic Project, which aims to tackle the abuse issue in different ways. In addition to conferences like the one Tuesday, the school has started running management series for bishops (on topics including crisis management) and this fall will begin an interdisciplinary training for people who work in child protection. The training will include facets of social work, civil law and church law.

The University of Notre Dame, another prominent Catholic school, is making the abuse crisis the highlighted focus of the coming academic year, and will feature two campuswide events on it.


2. Organizer of pope’s anti-abuse summit terms it ‘partly a success’.

By Christopher White, Crux, March 28, 2019

A member of the organizing committee for February’s Vatican sex abuse summit has dubbed the meeting “partly a success,” saying it achieved his main goal of bringing about “unity for the whole church leadership that was present.”

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, head of Rome’s Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University, said that 2018 was a “year of change” in the Church’s understanding of the global sex abuse crisis and that “we are at another level of awareness.”

In reference to cardinals now under scrutiny for mishandling abuse cases, or for abuse itself, Zollner said “untouchables have become touchable and are facing prison sentences,” adding that the Church has been greatly influenced by the “Me Too” movement,” which has caused a cultural awakening on issues of abuse of power and sexual misconduct.

Zollner’s remarks were delivered Tuesday during a discussion on “Reckoning and Reform: New Frontiers on the Clergy Abuse Crisis,” hosted by Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture, which also included a presentation by John Jay College researchers Karen Terry and Margaret Smith on new developments and data in their efforts to study the roots and extent of the abuse crisis.

The German Jesuit priest, appointed by Pope Francis as one of the organizers of the summit which brought together the heads of every bishops’ conference around the globe, said that in surveying the U.S. Catholic Church, the country is “in some state of what Saint Ignatius termed ‘spiritual desolation’ – a decrease of faith, hope, and love,” suffering a severe loss of trust in the Church over the issue of abuse.


3. In Morocco, pope to make statements about Islam, peripheries and migrants.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, March 28, 2019

Pope Francis hits the road this weekend for an overnight trip to Morocco, where he will once again have the opportunity to shine a light on issues close to his heart such as interreligious dialogue, immigration and a church that not only occasionally goes to the peripheries, but that has its center in them.

With an estimated 99 percent of Morocco’s population being Muslim, the local Catholic Church is small, numbering just around 40,000 faithful, a majority of whom are immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa either working or studying in the country.

“Pope Francis has insisted that the Church today has to be one that goes out towards the peripheries,” said Brother Manuel Corullon, a Spanish Franciscan who’s been in Morocco since 2001 and serves as head of the Franciscan Custody there.

“In this sense, I believe our church is one of peripheries, that lives in interreligious dialogue with Islam, as a minority, made up mostly of foreigners,” Corullon said.

This will be the second-ever papal visit to Morocco, as the Argentine is following in the footsteps of St. John Paul II, who stopped there during his visit to the Maghreb region in 1985. A New York Times report at the time quoted a Vatican official describing that trip as “an experiment.”


4. Court orders church to compensate victims.

By Associated Press, The Washington Post, March 28, 2019, Pg. A8

An appeals court in Chile ruled Wednesday that the Roman Catholic Church must pay compensation to three victims of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a notorious pedophile priest. 

The court in Santiago, the capital, said the church must pay about $150,000 each to Juan Carlos Cruz, José Andrés Murillo and James Hamilton for “moral damage.” It also overturned a lower-court ruling that found no proof of a church coverup. 

The ruling could prompt hundreds of other people who have reported clerical sexual abuses or coverups by the Chilean Catholic Church to seek compensation. 

The ruling, which can be appealed, said church officials had harmed victims by dismissing their complaints of abuse rather than investigating them. 

The Vatican in 2011 sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of penance and prayer for his crimes, and Pope Francis defrocked him last year.


5. Vatican says pope will visit 3 African nations in September.

By The Associated Press, March 27, 2019, 8:38 AM

Pope Francis will visit the African countries of Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius in early September, the Vatican announced on Wednesday.

The Vatican said that during the Sept. 4-10 visit Francis will visit the capitals: Maputo in Mozambique, Antananarivo in Madagascar and Port Louis in Mauritius.

In a national address, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said his country invited Francis last year and that the pontiff accepted “in principle, as long as his health allowed.”

This will be the second papal visit to the southern African nation since John Paul II visited 30 years ago, helping the country on a path to peace and reconciliation, Nyusi said.


6. More Reasons to Question the Holy See’s Accord with China, Despite the brutal reality of life on the ground in China, Rome’s serenity remains undisturbed.

By Joan Desmond, National Catholic Register, March 26, 2019

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the Vatican diplomat who helped secure the September 2018 provisional accord between the Holy See and China that formalized rules for appointing bishops, was asked yesterday if he had second thoughts about the controversial deal.

The question posed by AP reporter Nicole Winfield was well-timed: China’s latest clampdown on human rights has provoked condemnation of President Xi Jinping’s totalitarian policies. And this flood of outrage raises an uncomfortable question for Pope Francis and Vatican diplomats: Why should they trust the word of a regime that routinely violates basic human rights and civil liberties?

On Monday, Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom and a Catholic, told the Washington Times that he spoke out “against state-sponsored religious persecution carried out by China’s ruling Communist Party.” During a recent trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong, Brownback warned that Beijing would employ new surveillance technology, like enhanced facial recognition, to target perceived opponents of the regime.

Critics of the Vatican accord, like Cardinal Zen, would surely point to the latest news from China and conclude that Rome’s eager overtures to Beijing defy the brutal reality of life on the ground in China.