1. Pope’s Handling of Sex-Abuse Case Shows Political Savvy, After drawing criticism for his approach, Pope Francis has assumed the role of reformer. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2018, 5:41 AM

Three months ago, Pope Francis was at the low point of his five-year pontificate in terms of public image and credibility. His top adviser on child protection, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, had publicly rebuked him for statements that the cardinal said “caused pain” to victims of clerical sex abuse. Even some of the pope’s strongest supporters voiced dismay or fell silent about his apparent lack of sensitivity.

Now, following Friday’s extraordinary news that all the bishops of Chile have collectively offered their resignations to the pope, citing their failings in dealing with sex abuse, the pope has assumed the role of reformer on the most scandalous issue besetting the contemporary Catholic Church.

The pope has displayed political acumen and a capacity for bold action in his handling of the situation. But he has yet to explain publicly his statements and actions that set off the controversy, nor has he made clear what if anything has changed in his approach to sex abuse.

Pope Francis “has played it very well in the sense that no one asks about the pope’s responsibility,” “said Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America. “The focus has now shifted from that trip, and the way [the pope] dealt with the victims, to the bishops and whatever their responsibility is.”

Mr. Martens said Pope Francis’ handling of the episode made it clear to the world’s bishops in general that, despite his frequent talk of decentralization and consultation, “when it really matters, he shows his power.”


2. Pope to Elevate 14 New Cardinals. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2018, Pg. A9

Pope Francis announced Sunday that he will elevate 14 men to the rank of cardinal on June 29, continuing his practice of conferring the honor on men from the less prominent corners of the Catholic world.

Eleven of the new appointments are under the age of 80, making them eligible to vote in a papal election. Pope Francis will have named almost half of the electors since he became pontiff in 2013. The remaining three, from Mexico, Bolivia and Spain, will become honorary cardinals in recognition of their service to the church.

Most of the new appointments are from countries or dioceses that have rarely been represented in the college of cardinals, including Iraq, Pakistan, Madagascar and Japan.

“Their origin expresses the universality of the church that continues to announce the merciful love of God to all men on earth,” Pope Francis said when announcing the names to a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

The new appointments—the fifth batch appointed by Pope Francis—will bring the number of cardinal electors to 125, five over the limit established by Pope Paul VI.

Fifty-nine of those, or 47%, will have been named by Pope Francis.

Previous popes have also exceeded the limit of 120 from time to time. If none of the current cardinal electors dies in the meantime, their number will fall back to 120 on April 27 of next year, when Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, a former archbishop of Krakow, Poland, reaches the retirement age of 80.


3. LGBT community cheers pope’s ‘God made you like this’ remark. 

By Associated Press, May 21, 2018, 8:38 AM

Pope Francis’ reported comments to a gay man that “God made you like this” have been embraced by the LGBT community as another sign of Francis’ desire to make gays feel welcomed and loved in the Catholic Church.

Juan Carlos Cruz said Monday he spoke to Francis about his homosexuality during their meetings at the Vatican.

The Vatican declined to comment.


4. Trump’s new rule: Title X isn’t welfare for Planned Parenthood. 

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, The Washington Examiner, May 21, 2018, 12:00 AM

In order to best serve the needs of low-income women and their families, the federal government earlier this year refined its criteria for Title X family planning grants.

The purpose of this reform was to attract community-based clinics by expanding the scope of funded services to help meet a broader range of needs.

Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood has been one of Title X’s largest grant recipients for years. Of the nearly $300 million dollars allocated yearly, Planned Parenthood regularly receives between $50-60 million dollars, making Title X funds the second largest source of income for the organization.

Planned Parenthood, unwilling to let go of its oversized share of these grants, ran to court early this month seeking to prevent the implementation of these new reforms. But women deserve more than Planned Parenthood.

By law, Title X funds cannot be used to pay for abortion services. But nothing prevents these funds from covering overhead and administrative expenses for the country’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. No matter how creative Planned Parenthood’s accounting is, the dirty business of abortion has greatly benefited from Title X.

For many American women, our choice for comprehensive family planning services involves support for naturally spacing pregnancies. Rather than receive family planning care at an abortion clinic, we want to be cared for at one of the many community-based healthcare centers offering supports and services consistent with our conscience.

It’s high time that Planned Parenthood’s monopoly over federal funding for family planning programs come to an end. Women should have the choice to find support and services for family planning in their community that is consistent with their needs and desires. Women deserve more.


5. The Irish Exception. 

By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, May 20, 2018, Pg. SR8

There’s a cliché that the politics of Ireland have a way of lagging 30 or so years behind the Western times. The island nation’s version of the American 1960s, for instance, only really arrived in earnest in the 1990s, when divorce was finally legalized and the sexual revolution and secularization began to reshape Irish life in earnest.

If the cliché holds, Ireland will vote “Yes” next Friday on a ballot measure that would overturn the Eighth Amendment to its Constitution, and allow the government to legalize abortion well beyond narrow cases involving threats to the mother’s life.

At the same time, it would put an end to an all-but-unique experiment in Western public policy: an attempt to combine explicitly pro-life laws and generally pro-family policy making with a liberalized modern economy and the encouragement of female independence and advancement.

This combination is widely assumed to be impossible. Female equality depends on abortion rights, the common pro-choice argument goes, and the post-1960s achievements of women in the professional arena are impossible without it. Likewise female health, since abortion restrictions are said to lead inexorably to countless illegal-abortion-related deaths.

In sum, with its restrictive abortion laws, generous family policy and otherwise modern economy, Ireland seems to have achieved or maintained some notable pro-life and pro-family goals without compromising women’s health or female opportunities relative to countries with abortion on demand. By being “behind the times” in some ways and more up-the-minute in others, the island’s experience suggests possibilities outside the normal lines of feminist-versus-social conservative, right-versus-left debate.

But however they vote Friday, the Irish experience up till now will remain an example of how history’s direction is never morally straightforward, and how sometimes in what seems like anachronism there may be a model for a better society than ours.


6. The Missing Link in Sex-Abuse Reform, All of Chile’s Catholic bishops offered to resign. Why didn’t America’s? 

By James Martin, Father Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of America magazine, is author of “Building a Bridge”, The Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2018, 2:30 PM, Opinion

Thirty-four Chilean Catholic bishops, including two cardinals, participated last week in a three-day summit with Pope Francis to discuss coverups of sexual abuse committed by their nation’s clergy. Then something unprecedented happened: Together they handed in their resignations to the pope, “so that he can freely decide for each one of us” what their futures would be.

This isn’t the first time a group of bishops has been called to the Vatican to answer for mishandling sexual abuse. In 2002 Pope John Paul II summoned every U.S. cardinal to Rome after revelations of clergy abuse, starting in the Archdiocese of Boston, convulsed the American church. But the resignation of every active bishop in one country is unprecedented in recent history.

The missing link in the church’s response to the sex-abuse crisis has been the accountability of bishops. Since 2002, Catholic leaders around the world have taken dramatic steps to prevent any priest credibly accused of sexual abuse from serving in active ministry. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops set up the Office of Child and Youth Protection. The U.S. bishops also put into place a zero-tolerance policy toward abusers and required immediate reporting to civic authorities in the event of criminal activity.

Despite the anguish suffered by so many Catholics, only a few bishops resigned in the wake of the abuse crisis in this country.

Group resignations also would have shown that the church understood the systemic nature of the problem.

While en masse resignations are insufficient in themselves, they are a powerful symbol. … Those who rightly demanded practical changes could also see these resignations as another important step toward healing.


7. Vatican: Martyred archbishop, Pope Paul VI to be canonized. 

By Associated Press, May 19, 2018

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will elevate to sainthood martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero alongside Pope Paul VI in a ceremony on Oct. 14.

Pope Francis approved miracles attributed to Romero and Paul VI earlier this year, paving the way to sainthood. The canonization ceremony will coincide with a big Vatican meeting on youth that is meant to energize the church.

Romero was gunned down by right-wing death squads on March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass. El Salvador’s military dictatorship had vehemently opposed his preaching against the repression of the poor by the army at the start of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war.

Paul is best remembered for having presided over the close of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that reformed the church.


8. Pope Francis to invest 14 new cardinals in June.

By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, May 20, 2018, 11:48 AM

Pope Francis on Sunday revealed his latest picks to be cardinals in the Catholic Church, including his chief aide for helping the poor in Rome and prelates based in Iraq and Pakistan, where Christians are a vulnerable minority.

“I am happy to announce that on June 29, I will hold a consistory to make 14 new cardinals,” Francis said in surprise remarks to pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s weekly greetings from a Vatican palace window.

Eleven of the men tapped for the honor would be eligible to cast ballots in the secret conclave that would someday select Francis’ successor, assuming they don’t exceed the voting age limit of 80 by the time a new pope must be elected.

Two top Vatican officials also are among the new crop of cardinals.

One, Monsignor Luis Ladaria, 74, a Spanish dogmatic theology professor, heads the Holy See’s powerful office in charge of ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy. Like the pope, Ladaria is a Jesuit.


9. Pope: Holy Land needs “gestures of dialogue, reconciliation”. 

By Associated Press, May 20, 2018, 9:00 AM

Pope Francis says “gestures of dialogue and reconciliation” are needed for the Holy Land and all the Middle East.

He told faithful in St. Peter’s Square Sunday he had “united himself spiritually” to a prayer vigil held Saturday in Jerusalem, which, he noted, is holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Earlier, during Mass Sunday, Francis, citing the “heartrending’ situation in Gaza and prayed that hearts be changed so peace arrives.


10. Seven quick take-aways on the creation of 14 new cardinals. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, May 20, 2018, Opinion

On Sunday, Pope Francis announced that he’ll create 14 new cardinals, including 11 under 80 and thus eligible to vote for the next pope. He explained the choices in terms of promoting a spirit of universality in the Church, with new cardinals hailing from Iraq, Pakistan, Peru, Madagascar and Japan.

Here are seven quick take-aways about what Sunday’s choices mean.

1. Sako makes a statement

In his 2016 consistory, Francis made a strong statement of solidarity with the suffering Church in Syria by naming his ambassador in the country, Mario Zennari, as a cardinal while leaving him in place, virtually an unprecedented step in terms of the customs of papal diplomacy.

On Sunday he delivered basically the same gesture for Iraq, naming Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, as a cardinal and an elector. In both cases, the move shines a spotlight not only on the individuals but on the Christian communities they serve, which have been devastated by the rise of the Islamic State and the bloody civil conflict in Syria.

2. The significance of Becciu

One of the new cardinals is Angelo Becciu, currently the substitute, or number two official, in the Vatican’s all-powerful Secretariat of State. The appointment confirms the profile of Becciu, who’ll turn 70 on June 2, as a real power center in the Francis papacy, playing a key role from the course of financial reform to policy on China. It’s highly unusual for one cardinal to serve under another, suggesting that in the near future Becciu will be assigned another Vatican post. What will be fascinating to watch is whether he’ll continue to exercise the same level of influence from that perch, or whether this is actually a case of promoveatur ut amoveatur – promoting to remove.

3. So much for “de-cardinalizing” the Curia

For a while, it seemed that one way Francis would defang the bureaucracy in the Vatican would be by breaking the traditional link between heading a Vatican office and getting a cardinal’s red hat. Francis seemed to think that it wasn’t all that important that these offices be headed by Princes of the Church, since they’re supposed to be about service rather than power.

In the end, however, it turns out that at least in some cases, the tug of tradition is simply too strong, as Francis returned to form by making both the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the Vatican’s historically powerful doctrinal watchdog, known as la suprema, or “the supreme” office – and the Vicar of Rome, who governs the diocese in the pope’s name, cardinals.

4. Eyes on De Donatis

April this year brought an anomaly, in that when time came to present Francis’s new apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate to the world, the choice fell not to any of the usual heavyweights of the Curia, but rather the Vicar of Rome, 64-year-old Angelo De Donatis. It appeared to cement De Donatis’s reputation as a key Francis ally, someone who enjoys the pope’s favor and trust.

5. A deeply personal consistory

Popes don’t always know their new cardinals personally, and that’s probably the case with several of the picks Francis announced Sunday, such as the new Princes of the Church from Madagascar and Japan.

On the other hand, this is also a deeply personal crop for Francis, in that three of the key figures of his papacy are on the list: In addition to Becciu and De Donatis, there’s also Archbishop Konrad Krajewski of Poland, who administers the pope’s personal charitable activity in Rome, and who’s long been a close ally to the pope. At just 54 years old, Krajewski is now positioned to be a key point of reference in Catholicism for a long time to come.

6. Americans have to wait

In his 2016 consistory, Francis delivered a surprise by naming three Americans as Princes of the Church: Kevin Farrell, formerly of Dallas and now head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Family, Laity and Life; Blase Cupich of Chicago; and Joseph Tobin, then of Indianapolis but soon transferred to Newark. So far, however, that’s been the lone Francis consistory in which there were any Americans on the list, and once again this time the Church in the U.S. came up empty.

7. Bypassing centers of power

One sense in which Francis maintained his own personal customs in this crop of cardinals is by bypassing the usual centers of ecclesiastical power in a country and creating a new Prince of the Church in an unlikely spot. The clearest example is Italy, where Francis skipped Archbishop Mario Enrico Delpini of Milan, one of the world’s “super-dioceses” where taking over the top job once meant an automatic red hat, and instead lifting up Archbishop Giuseppe Petrocchi of L’Aquila, which was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2009 that left 308 people dead, and where the city and region are still struggling to recover.

On the other hand, those traditional centers of power weren’t completely dismissed. Despite the clear universality of Francis’s picks on Sunday, by including three Italians among the 11 new cardinal-electors, Francis has also ensured that no matter what happens in his next few consistories, the Italians will hardly be under-represented in the College of Cardinals.


11. Trump Proposal Aimed at Abortions. 

By Stephanie Armour, The Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2018, Pg. A3

Health centers and programs that provide on-site abortions, or refer women for the procedure, could lose millions of dollars in federal family-planning funds under a new plan advanced by the Trump administration Friday.

The proposal targets grants given out under a program known as Title X. The agency would require a separation—both financial and physical—between the grants and any facility or program where abortions are performed, supported or referred as a method of family planning.

Centers and programs that receive Title X funding would no longer be required to counsel women about abortion as an option and could no longer refer patients for the procedure. The proposal hasn’t been finalized, and it isn’t clear when it would take effect.

Among the groups most affected by the rule would be Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a longtime target and foe of social conservatives.


12. After biggest gaffe, pope demands accountability for abuse. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, May 18, 2018

Four months ago, Pope Francis dug himself into the biggest hole of his papacy by strongly defending a Chilean bishop accused by sex abuse victims of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.

On Friday, he emerged from that debacle after strong-arming the entire Chilean bishops conference to resign for what he said were their “grave defects” in handling abuse cases. He accused them of destroying evidence of sex crimes, interfering with investigations and negligently placing children at risk of being raped by pedophiles.

By repenting for his original sin with what amounts to an ecclesial nuclear option, Francis has quite possibly ushered in the game-changer in the Catholic Church’s long-running sex abuse crisis.

The mass resignations marked the first time the Vatican has initiated decisive action to hold bishops accountable for covering up sex abuse by priests. And it forced complicit bishops to atone for their misdeeds in the most publicly humiliating way possible.


13. Pope’s Beef With CDS Market Is a Beef With All Markets. 

By Stephen Gandel, Bloomberg, May 18, 2018

On Thursday, Pope Francis delivered a wide-ranging speech about financial markets. General thesis: Modern finance is exacerbating global inequality by subjugating the value of actual work to the work of speculation. It’s not a positive Wall Street review.

Credit default swaps get a particularly harsh rebuke from the Holy Father, who calls the debt derivative market “deplorable from the moral perspective,” a form of gambling that is “unacceptable from the ethical point of view,” as well as a “ticking time bomb” that is “poisoning the health of the market.”

Worse are all forms of securitization, with the logic that the moral corruptness of a financial activity can precisely be measured by the distance it is from the actual asset.

The Pope seems to hate CDS contracts because he says they are nothing more than a bet on someone else’s demise. But the problem with the Pope’s financial market moral hierarchy is that pretty much all of investing, no matter how you do it, is a bet.

Yes, CDS contracts are used by speculators, but the derivatives also lower borrowing costs and allow some companies, and countries, to get credit they wouldn’t have been able to in the past.

For better or worse, there have to be buyers and sellers. There can’t be people willing to risk their money to improve someone else’s chances of success, without those who are also betting on failure – just like, in Catholicism, you can’t have a heaven without a hell. Pope Francis may not fully understand financial markets. But that’s one thing you would think he of all people would get.