1. Pope Sets New Rules for Investigating Bishops on Sex Abuse, Procedures demand protection for victims and whistleblowers but don’t address punishment for abusers.

By Francis X. Rocca, Wall Street Journal Online, May 9, 2019, 6:00 AM

Pope Francis is enacting new rules for investigating bishops over sexual abuse or its coverup, responding to mounting public pressure on the Catholic Church to improve accountability after a string of abuse scandals involving senior clergy.

The new church law, laid out on Thursday, requires all dioceses in the world to set up a “public, stable and easily accessible” process for reporting allegations of abuse, including by bishops and cardinals, that protects victims and whistleblowers. It says dioceses have to report allegations about bishops without delay to the Vatican, which must decide within a month whether to launch an investigation, take immediate disciplinary action or close the case.


2. Teaching Scripture in public schools, A conservative Christian group is pushing states to allow Bible classes — and succeeding.

By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, May 9, 2019, Pg. A1

Scenes of Bible classes in public school could become increasingly common across the United States if other states follow Kentucky’s lead in passing legislation that encourages high schools to teach the Bible.

Activists on the religious right, through their legislative effort Project Blitz, drafted a law that encourages Bible classes in public schools and persuaded at least 10 state legislatures to introduce versions of it this year. Georgia and Arkansas recently passed bills that are awaiting their governors’ signatures.

Among the powerful fans of these public-school Bible classes: President Trump.

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled in School District of Abington Township v. Schempp that school-led Bible reading is an unconstitutional religious practice. But the court noted that teaching the Bible was allowed: “Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

Advocates of these classes view the Bible as a key component of a well-rounded education, key to understanding Western literature and American history. Such classes have long been offered by some public schools across the nation, sometimes taught by public-school employees with textbooks paid for by school budgets. Other times, schools have adopted “released time” rules that let students use part of their school day attending church-taught classes. West Virginia is now embroiled in a legal battle over such a policy.

Even those opposed to Bible classes in public schools often agree that religious literacy can be valuable if it is incorporated into world-religions or history classes.


3. Alabama Seeks To Criminalize Most Abortions.

By Timothy Williams and Alan Blinder, The New York Times, May 9, 2019, Pg. A1

Amid a flurry of new limits on abortion being sought in states around the nation, Alabama is weighing a measure that would go further than all of them — outlawing most abortions almost entirely.

The effort in Alabama, where the State Senate could vote as soon as Thursday, is unfolding as Republicans, emboldened by President Trump and the shifting alignment of the Supreme Court, intensify a long-running campaign to curb abortion access.


4. Vatican law: Priests, nuns must report sex abuse, cover-up.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, May 9, 2019

Pope Francis issued a groundbreaking law Thursday requiring all Catholic priests and nuns around the world to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-up by their superiors to church authorities, in an important new effort to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for failing to protect their flocks.

The new church law provides whistle-blower protections for anyone making a report and requires all dioceses around the world to have a system in place to receive the claims confidentially. And it outlines procedures for conducting preliminary investigations when the accused is a bishop, cardinal or religious superior.


5. Pope issues global standards for reporting, investigating clergy abuse.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, May 9, 2019

Following February’s Vatican summit to address the Church’s fight against clerical sexual abuse, Pope Francis released a new law on Thursday making it mandatory for all clerics and members of religious orders to report cases of clerical sexual abuse to Church authorities, including when committed by bishops or cardinals.

The document regulates how Church representatives are to respond when dealing with any crimes against the sixth Commandment: forcing someone through violence or abuse of authority to perform sexual acts; performing sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person; and the production, exhibition, possession or distribution of child pornography.

Among other things, the new law stipulates that:

o   Every diocese in the world must have a “system for reporting” by June 1, 2020 and notify the Vatican’s representative on the country that the system has been put in place.

o   All priests and members of religious orders are to report cases of sexual abuse and cover up to Church authorities, but they must follow local law when it comes to reporting to civil authorities.

o   Lay experts may be involved in the Church’s investigation of any allegation made against a priest, male or female religious, deacons, bishops and cardinals.

o   Reporting of crimes and cover-ups follows the Church’s hierarchical structure.

o   Abuse or cover up by bishops must be brought to the attention of Metropolitan archbishops, but in case the Metropolitan is accused of abuse (as for instance would have been the case of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick), reporting can be done directly to the Holy See through the papal representative in the country. If the person accused is the nuncio, the allegation must be sent directly to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

o   The person who reports a case of abuse or cover-up must be protected, and they cannot be obliged to keep silent regarding the content of any report they file.

o   “The person under investigation enjoys the presumption of innocence.”

o   Bishops’ conferences are to create a “common fund” to help finance the investigation of allegations.

However, not every Vatican official is pleased. Some sources, speaking on background because they’re not authorized to address the document publicly, told Crux they worry it was “rushed” and lacks teeth, as several things are unclear, including which Vatican office is to handle an allegation if there are minors involved but no priests, and instead the abuse was perpetrated by a nun or religious brother.

Another element that has raised flags among those asked to give feedback on the document is the broadening of the definition of “vulnerable persons,” since, according to those sources, it’s not entirely clear how the term is now to be understood.


6. Papal overture in Lesbos may just be how a post-political papacy rolls.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, May 9, 2019

Perhaps by coincidence, or perhaps not, Pope Francis this week has delivered a gesture with clear significance for Europe’s future just as it seems most up for grabs.

The pope has dispatched Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, his almoner, meaning the official responsible for running the pope’s personal charitable activity, to the Greek island of Lesbos to present 100,000 Euro in aid for refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as to broadcast a message of what the Vatican described Wednesday as “reviving feelings of solidarity in Europe”.

Francis visited Lesbos in 2016, largely because it’s home to a massive refugee population composed of people from the Middle East and Africa seeking to enter Europe. He spent five hours on the island in the company of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, and, in an unscripted coda, he brought 12 Syrian refugees back to Rome aboard the papal plane.


7. Theologians, cardinals defend pope’s theology in wake of heresy charge.

By Claire Giangravè, Crux, May 9, 2019

In the wake of an April 30 open letter accusing Pope Francis of heresy signed by 19 clergymen and scholars, demanding the pontiff’s resignation, theologians and cardinals at a conference in Rome on Wednesday instead praised Francis’s theology and magisterium.

“Pope Francis is the pope, and when he speaks it’s magisterium,” Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, told Crux after the event.

The symposium, called “Theology and Magisterium in the Church with Pope Francis,” took place May 8 in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University to present a new collection of books titled The Theological Seeds of Francis.

The series of 11 books touches on some of the recurring themes, or “seeds”, present throughout Pope Francis’ pontificate from discernment and reform to neo-gnosticim and integration.


8. Pope’s new app for fighting abuse is glitzy, but what about the OS?

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, May 9, 2019

Let’s be clear that a new set of norms governing clerical sexual abuse cases authorized by Pope Francis and released Thursday by the Vatican are, by Roman standards anyway, a big deal. As a Vatican editorialist put it, the norms represent “a further and incisive step in the prevention and fight against abuse.”

For the first time, every diocese in the world is now required to have a public and accessible system for reporting both the crime of sexual abuse and the cover-up of that crime, which must be in place by June 1, 2020. All clerics and religious are required to report abuse or cover-up, and they’re to be protected when they do so.

Metropolitan archbishops (or whoever else is designated by the Vatican) are required to conduct a preliminary investigation when a report is made, and the Vatican departments to whom the results are submitted are required to act in a timely fashion. Participation by lay experts in those preliminary investigations is provided for.


9. The Seal of the Confessional Is Under Attack in California.

By Patti Armstrong, National Catholic Register, May 8, 2019

California state Sen. Jerry Hill introduced a bill to the state Legislature on Feb. 20 that would require Catholic priests to report child sex abuse learned about in the confessional. The clergy and more than 40 other professions are already mandatory reporters there, but crimes disclosed during confession have been exempt. According to Hill, “The exemption for clergy only protects the abuser and places children at further risk.” The bill is currently awaiting a hearing.

The bill is “counterproductive,” according to Father Roger Landry, an author, national chaplain of Catholic Voices USA, and a priest in the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, as well as a regular Register contributor. “No abuser, not to mention others guilty of serious crimes, would come to confession if he knew that the confessor was basically a state informant who would betray his confidence,” he said.

“In an age where there is rampant mistrust due to high-tech surveillance techniques, the hacking of computers and phones, tabloid journalists and paparazzi photographers, knowing that there is someone with whom one can talk about one’s most shameful secrets is an enormous relief,” Father Landry said. “I’ve seen this not only among prisoners, who are ordinarily so grateful to be able to have a real conversation about God, sin and conversion, but also among so many ordinary people who need forgiveness and guidance because of mistakes they’ve made; mortified that they might become public.”

And if a penitent went behind the screen, Father Landry asks what would the expectation be for the priest — restrain him, lock him in, or hit an alarm to notify the police? “The only way it could ever be enforced would be by trying to entrap priests by sending in faux penitents confessing to abuse to see what the priest would do,” he said, “or interrogating Catholic abusers as to whether they ever confessed their sins to a priest perhaps in exchange for a plea deal.” In such cases, he pointed out that because of the seal of confession, a priest would not be able to defend himself against false claims so this could be used against him.


10. Papal Heresy Open Letter: Was It a Bridge Too Far?

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, May 8, 2019

Last week, a 20-page letter accused Pope Francis of “the canonical delict of heresy” and urged the “bishops of the world” to take all necessary action “to deal with the grave situation of a heretical pope.”

The letter can’t be dismissed as uninformed grumbling, as its 19 original signatories include several prominent figures, including Dominican Father Aidan Nichols, a noted theologian, and philosopher John Rist, a research professor at The Catholic University of America.

A central difference between the open letter and the filial correction, as well as the dubia that were submitted to Pope Francis by four cardinals in 2016, requesting the clarification of five doctrinal questions generated by Amoris Laetitia, is that neither of those earlier expressions of concern directly accused the Pope of heresy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines heresy as “the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same” (2089).

The immediate reaction to this public accusation of papal heresy suggests it is a bridge too far, even for those who agree on the need for unambiguous papal teaching.


11. Chaput: Rep. Brian Sims’ harassment of pro-lifers ‘unbecoming of an elected official’.

Catholic News Agency, May 8, 2019, 5:15 PM

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia called for broad participation in a pro-life rally this week, scheduled in response to a Penslyvania state representative’s livestreamed harassment of a woman praying outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic.

“These videos, which Representative Sims took himself, have rightly sparked broad outrage … His actions were unbecoming of an elected official,” Archbishop Chaput said in a statement released May 8.

“I’m calling on all people of good will to channel their indignation into right action and prayerful witness,” he said.

The archbishop invited prayerful participation in a rally May 10 at 11am outside of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood, the same clinic at which state Rep. Brian Sims filmed himself aggressively questioning a woman praying the rosary across the street from a Planned Parenthood May 2.


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