1. Catholic leadership group offers plan to fight abuse and cover-up.

By Christopher White, Crux, March 4, 2019

A new report by one of the nation’s leading organizations promoting best practices in leadership within the Catholic Church chronicles the “twin crises” within the Catholic Church, that of sexual abuse and its cover-up.

The report, released on Friday by Leadership Roundtable, comes just days after Pope Francis’s historic meeting with the heads of bishops’ conferences around the world in which he pledged an all out war on sexual abuse.

The forty-page report serves as a compilation of recommendations that emerged from the organization’s Catholic Partnership Summit, which took place in February in the nation’s capital, and brought together a mix of clergy and lay Catholic leaders, and seeks to promote a way forward with a “preferential option for abuse victims and families.”

“The twin crises have demonstrated to many that silence is no longer an option, and that the strategy most urgently needed today is transparency, to tell the truth freely and openly,” the report notes.

Of the February gathering, the report states that “despite the recognition that some proposals will take time to change, there was a widespread belief that some reforms could – and should – be instituted without delay.”


2. Senators should stop asking about judicial nominees’ religious beliefs, There are other ways to inquire about their fitness for office — that don’t violate the Constitution.

By Paul J. McNulty and John A. Sparks, Washington Post Online, March 4, 2019, 6:00 AM

Are religious convictions fair game in the confirmation process? Not according to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. Clause 3 reads as follows: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” According to the limited records of the Constitutional Convention, this provision was approved almost unanimously.

So where do the inquiries that Democrats have been aiming at Republican judicial nominees fall? Are they proper questions about character and fitness or do they exceed the boundaries set by Article VI? The questions exceed the limits of Article VI because of what they do and what they don’t do: They don’t tell the Judiciary Committee members anything about a nominee’s integrity, character or suitability for office. They do, however, aim at making a public issue of the nominee’s religious beliefs and how these convictions do not square with the questioner’s own political posture on current divisive issues such as capital punishment, abortion and gay rights. Often questioners persist even after the nominees maintain that they will be guided only by the existing law and the Constitution that they take a solemn oath to uphold.

An insightful Harvard Law Review note on Article VI in 2007 concludes: “The drafters and proponents of the No Religious Test Clause would be astonished to learn that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have questioned judicial nominees under oath about their religious beliefs and the extent of those beliefs. . . . Requiring a nominee under oath to profess a religious belief runs afoul of the clause [in Article VI].”

Nominees, presented with these types of questions, should firmly object to them, citing the wisdom of our Founders in adopting Article VI, clause 3, of the Constitution. At stake is nothing less than the freedom of conscience enshrined in our national charter.


3. Vatican to Open Secret Archives of Wartime Pontiff Pius XII: Pope.

By Reuters, March 4, 2019

Pope Francis announced on Monday that he has decided to open fully the Vatican’s secret archives on the wartime pontificate of Pope Pius XII.

The archives will open on March 2, 2020

The American Jewish Committee (AJC), one of the world’s leading Jewish groups, welcomed the move.


4. On ‘gay lobby’ debate, Pope again offers critics the sound of silence.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, March 3, 2019

Whenever there’s a big Vatican shindig, it’s never just one experience. It’s almost always a tale of multiple events, depending on one’s angle.

To offer just a partial list, there’s the event as it’s experienced by those actually taking part; the public face that the Vatican’s PR machinery tries to apply; the way the event is covered by the media; and the circus that unfolds around the event in protests, parallel meetings, news conferences, snarky tweets, polemical essays, and so on.

Analyzing how these differing perspectives coincide, and where they diverge, usually reveals a good deal about where things stand in terms of the politics of the Catholic Church at any given moment.

Such was again the case with the Feb. 21-24 summit on clerical sexual abuse convened by Pope Francis, and perhaps nowhere is that clearer than discussions of homosexuality, gay clergy, and whether a supposed “gay lobby” within the Church’s power structure has anything to do with the abuse scandals.


5. The Supreme Court and Religious Favoritism, The case of a 40-foot cross in Maryland offers the justices a chance to clarify the constitutionality of religious displays.

Washington Post Online, March 2, 2019, Editorial

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court once again took on a question that has long confounded it: What qualifies as an impermissible establishment of religion under the Constitution?

The court has over the years sent mixed signals about when the government may be playing favorites with a particular faith. For instance, in its ruling last year upholding President Trump’s executive order imposing an entry ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries, the Supreme Court insisted, in a 5-to-4 vote, that the restrictions were “facially neutral toward religion,” ignoring the president’s long history of antipathy toward Islam and its adherents. And weeks earlier, the justices ruled, in a narrow decision, for a Christian baker who had claimed mistreatment by Colorado’s civil rights commission, which penalized him for denying service to a gay couple.

This week’s hearing, in American Legion v. American Humanist Association, involved a 40-foot cross in Bladensburg, Md., that was erected 93 years ago to honor fallen World War I soldiers. The question before the court: Is Maryland in violation of the First Amendment because the memorial is on public property and maintained with public funds?

Alas, such clarity doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. After Wednesday’s hearing, the court seems poised to allow the cross — which otherwise bears no religious inscriptions — to stay. But the justices don’t appear to be any closer to consensus on this issue than they’ve ever been.

“I mean, it is the foremost symbol of Christianity, isn’t it?” Justice Elena Kaganasked at Wednesday’s session. “It invokes the central theological claim of Christianity, that Jesus Christ, the son of God, died on the cross for humanity’s sins and that he rose from the dead. This is why Christians use crosses as a way to memorialize the dead.”

But with its recent rulings, the Supreme Court has only muddied the separation between church and state by taking seriously religious objections to contraceptioncivil rights laws and the allocation of public funds. It is hard to fathom the justices being nearly as accommodating with a publicly funded monument to atheism or a Wiccan pentagram. And last month, the court couldn’t even agree that a Muslim death-row prisoner from Alabama deserved the same rights as Christians in his final moments.

However the justices resolve this the dispute, they would be wise to not sow more confusion in this area of the law and feed the perception that only certain religions and practices get a fair shake in public life.


6. An infanticide question awaits the Democratic nominee in 2020.

By Maureen Ferguson, The Hill Online, Opinion, March 2, 2019, 5:00 PM
Maureen Ferguson is a senior policy advisor of The Catholic Association.

Most abortions are successful in achieving their end. Women become un-pregnant. Occasionally, though, a complication can occur in which a woman becomes un-pregnant, but the baby is unexpectedly born alive. What then?

Abortion survivors, like Melissa Ohden, were on Capitol Hill this week asking Congress to pass legislation that would protect babies who came into the world as they did, as accidental survivors of abortion. Melissa and others like her, were rescued by nurses who were surprised to find these tiny newborns alive and gasping for air.

Senate Democrats blocked the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors bill (S. 311), sponsored by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), but the debate is far from over. On the House side of the Capitol, pro-life Members of Congress go to the floor each legislative day to ask for unanimous consent for a vote in their chamber as they garner signatures on a discharge petition. President Trump continues to tweet about it and advocacy groups are sure to educate voters in the 2020 election on where candidates stand on this issue.

The Senate debate this week on the Sasse bill highlighted some glaring tangles of logic. Democrats said we mustn’t restrict abortion rights, yet the bill places zero restrictions on abortion. It only applies in cases where an abortion has already been completed, the right to abortion already exercised.

The baby is completely born and is separate from the mother. The bill simply requires that the baby be given the same medical care as would be given any baby born at the same stage of development. That sounds like simple equal treatment under the law.


7. Why I am staying Catholic, In a way, it’s hard to blame people who pack up and quit. But quit the Church? No. Here are some reasons why not.

By Russell Shaw, Catholic World Report, February 28, 2019

A couple of weeks ago my parish’s weekly bulletin plugged a session titled “Why Stay Catholic?” Very likely many parishes around the country are having similar sessions as reports of Catholics leaving the Church multiply.

In a way, it’s hard to blame people who pack up and quit. The media pummeling over sex abuse that the Church has received for months—years, in fact—has taken its toll on morale, and the widely held perception that the authorities are dragging their feet on reforms certainly doesn’t help.

Yes, bishops of an earlier generation were calamitously slow in responding to the evil as it spread in the 1960s and 1970s. And yes, it took devastating mediacoverage of abuse and coverup to galvanize the hierarchy into adopting mandatory reforms 17 years ago. And yes again, the bishops have yet to adopt a system for holding bishops accountable. (They tried last November, but the Vatican said not yet.)

But the fact is that the system put in place in 2002 has worked. The names of abusers currently being released by dioceses throughout the country are ancient history, not current offenders. The 12 months ending June 30, 2017 brought only six verified allegations of newly occurring sexual abuse of a minor by a Catholic priest in the United States. Since four of these situations concerned the same individual, that means only three priests overall were involved.

In short, despite real progress in the United States in providing significant safeguards against future abuse of minors, the Church—in America, at the Vatican, and many other places—now faces an urgent challenge: to find fact-based answers to several pressing questions involving sex and the clergy and to adopt whatever new reforms the facts may dictate.

For some Catholics, this may be a reason to quit the Church. For others it is a reason to stay—and, in staying, to be part of the growing body of concerned, loyal Catholics lobbying for reform. My vote is with the latter group.

Russell Shaw was secretary for public affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference from 1969 to 1987.