1. Pope Francis Names New Finance Chief.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2019, Pg. A8

Pope Francis named a new head of the Vatican’s finance office, filling a long-vacant role as he presses officials to close a yawning budget deficit and bring order to the Holy See’s finances.

As prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, the Rev. Juan Antonio Guerrero will oversee preparation of budgets and financial statements and compliance with international financial standards in the Holy See and in Vatican City State, the sovereign territory inside Italy ruled by the pope. The Secretariat operates under the Council for the Economy, an oversight body composed of cardinals and laypeople.

The priest will succeed Australian Cardinal George Pell, who returned to Australia to face trial for sexual abuse in 2017.


2. Congress May Set Back Religious Freedom.

By Kristina Arriaga, The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2019, Pg. A13, Houses of Worship

Officials like this operate around the world, often in relative anonymity. But a small U.S. government organization, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, helps change that. When a Cuban Methodist pastor was detained in Havana last month, USCIRF called on the U.S. Embassy in Havana to ban Ms. Diego from visiting the U.S. until Cuban religious leaders can travel abroad to attend conferences. Pastors on the island tell me she was so rattled by USCIRF’s call for a visa ban that change may soon come.

This kind of direct action has been at the core of USCIRF’s mission since its creation in 1998. Its architects knew that the enemies of religious freedom aren’t only tyrants. They include simple bureaucrats who share their rulers’ desire for control. Believing that a bureaucracy can’t be defeated by creating another bureaucracy, Congress ensured the nine USCIRF commissioners were unpaid, independent volunteer voices selected from both political parties. They were to answer to no one, apart from the American people whose principles of liberty they represent abroad. This is part of why I accepted House Speaker Paul Ryan’s appointment to the commission in 2016.

 But now USCIRF may be changing. In September the Senate introduced a bill that would shift its stated purpose and burden commissioners with new bureaucratic hurdles. The bill was introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez, Cory Gardner, Dick Durbin and Chris Coons, who say the reforms are necessary for transparency and accountability. Whatever their intentions, the damage would be real.

Persecuted religious minorities still face great threats around the world, but it’s clear that the momentum is on the side of religious freedom. USCIRF can continue to play a critical role—but only as a fast-acting, independent watchdog. If it becomes the lap dog some in Congress envision, commissioners would be better off taking their talents elsewhere.

Ms. Arriaga served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2016-19.


3. Attorney General Barr and the Need to Fight for Religious Freedom and Values.

By Fr. Roger J. Landry, The Anchor, November 15, 2019

On October 11, Attorney General William Barr gave an impassioned speech to the students and faculty of Notre Dame Law School as well as to Notre Dames’ Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture on the state of religious freedom in the United States.

As such reactions show, Barr’s unabashed candor upset many of the proponents of the militant-secularist project he decries: those who preach the virtue of tolerance while being intolerant of those who disagree with what they want tolerated, who proclaim new rights and fundamental freedoms while trampling the long-established ones of those whom they think are in their way.

Militant secularists often wrap their advocacy and action in the American flag and frame what’s happening as a flourishing of the principles of the country’s founding fathers, while generally and snobbishly trying to disregard as un-American paranoia the concerns raised by religious leaders and people. When the Attorney General, however, exposed what is afoot as bluntly as he did, they knew they couldn’t ignore it. Rather than engaging the arguments, they resorted to high-class, old-fashioned, hyperbolic name-calling and fear-mongering.

Barr makes three major points in his address.

The first concerns the centrality of religious liberty in the history of the United States. He underlines that the founding fathers, especially Madison and Adams, were convinced that the only way the American experiment in ordered liberty would succeed would if the people governed were moral and religious, if they interiorly obeyed a higher law that restrained them from doing evil and moved them to work for the common good.

Second is to focus far more vigorously on the moral education of children: there can be no moral rebirth unless we do a better job in passing along faith and values to the newer generations — and not just particular religious values, but the general values that the founding fathers recognized make a free society possible to endure.

Third, lawyers must take greater leadership and responsibility for the way the courts are being used to bulldoze believers and their values. They must vigorously resist the secular desire to expel religious viewpoints from the public square and to limit the free exercise of faith.

Like a pre-exilic prophet, the Attorney General focuses far more on the analysis of the problem than on giving detailed steps toward a solution.

For Christian citizens, however, he describes a situation for which Jesus has prepared us. Jesus repeatedly emphasized that our religious freedom would be challenged, that we would be brought before governors and courts, mocked, persecuted and hated on account of his name. Such suffering, he said, would not only lead to our beatitude but to an opportunity to give more compelling witness. That’s why he told us not to fear … and to rejoice and be glad for our heavenly reward would be great.


4. New head of Vatican’s economy office needs pope’s strong backing to succeed.

By Charles Collins, Crux, November 15, 2019

When Father Juan Antonio Guerrero was announced as the new head of the Secretariat for the Economy, a collective ‘huh?’ could probably be heard across Rome.

The Spanish Jesuit is not a Vatican veteran and has only been in Rome for about two years, where he oversaw the various Jesuit institutions located in and around the Italian capital.

Even before Pell left the scene, Vatican watchers felt the cardinal was being increasingly side-lined, and that the Australian’s efforts to strongarm other Vatican offices into transparency and cost-cutting had failed.

For Guerrero to be able to do his job, he will need strong signs of papal backing – including frequent mentions in the Bulletino, which lists the pope’s meetings.

More importantly, the Spanish Jesuit needs a “win.”

Nothing will tell the world – and the Roman Curia – that the Secretariat for the Economy is once a gain a force to be reckoned with more than if it comes up on top on an issue of transparency or accountability, especially if it shows it can exert its authority over the seemingly all-powerful Vatican Secretariat of State.


5. Pope’s point man on abuse to U.S. Church: Be prepared for new revelations.

By Christopher White, Crux, November 15, 2019

One of Pope Francis’s closest allies in fighting clergy sex abuse praised the American church for going “a step further” than the Vatican’s new global guidelines for bishop accountability by requiring a third-party reporting system, which is set to take effect next year.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who serves as the adjunct secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), said the U.S. Church had been “prophetic” in its response to the clergy abuse scandals nearly two decades ago in requiring all deacons, priests, and anyone who works with minors to undergo background checks and requiring independent diocesan audits.

He also said, however, the said the decision to exclude bishops from the same oversight in the Dallas Charter in 2002 was a “lacuna.”

At the same time, in remarks at the University of Notre Dame on Wednesday, Scicluna warned that Americans must be prepared for further revelations similar to those in the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, which chronicled decades of past abuse of minors at the hands of clergy, particularly as numerous states are undergoing their own similar investigations.

“People need to be prepared for this narrative,” he cautioned.

The Maltese archbishop participated in the university’s “‘Rebuild My Church’: Crisis and Response” forum, organized by Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins and moderated by Crux’s editor-in-chief John Allen, where he engaged in a town hall style forum with students on the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

Throughout the 90-minute event, Scicluna returned to the theme of putting victims at the center of the Church’s response.


6. Long Island Catholic diocese challenges NY Child Victims Act.

By Karen Matthews, The Associated Press, November 14, 2019

Catholic officials on Long Island have filed a legal challenge arguing that the Child Victims Act that loosened statutes of limitations on molestation cases violates the New York state constitution.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville said in a court filing Tuesday that a provision of the law enacted this year violates the due process clause of the state constitution.

“A basic tenet of every legal system, including New York’s, is that statutes of limitations protect a fundamental right of repose that benefits both potential defendants and society at large by ensuring that individual rights are protected and the courts can function properly,” the motion filed in Nassau County state Supreme Court says.


7. Japan’s ageing ‘Hidden Christians’ fear they may be their religion’s last generation.

By Linda Sieg, Reuters, November 14, 2019, 6:29 PM

Kawasaki, 69, is one of a dwindling number of Japan’s “Kakure Kirishitan,” or “Hidden Christians,” descendants of those who preserved their faith in secret during centuries of persecution.

His unique faith blends Buddhist, Christian and Shinto practices, and its ritual chants combine Latin, Portuguese and Japanese.

The Hidden Christians have garnered fresh attention ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to Japan on Nov. 23-26, with domestic media and a French broadcaster heading to Nagasaki to report on them. Last year, 12 Hidden Christian-related locations were designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.

But their religion may be on the verge of extinction as youth leave rural areas, where the faith has persisted.

Jesuits brought Christianity to Japan in 1549, but it was banned in 1614. Missionaries were expelled and the faithful were forced to choose between martyrdom or hiding their religion.

When Japan’s ban on Christianity was lifted in 1873, some Hidden Christians joined the Catholic Church; others opted to maintain what they saw as the true faith of their ancestors.


8. Who Speaks for the US Bishops?

By Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Catholic Register, November 14, 2019

“Who speaks for the American bishops?”

That question was put to me by a senior member of the inner circle of Pope Francis when I was in Rome in October. The plenary meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week in Baltimore did not clarify that, and in fact, may have made the question more obscure.

The U.S. bishops elected their president and vice president: Archbishops José Gomez of Los Angeles and Allen Vigneron of Detroit. But who speaks for bishops is not determined by official office.

It was widely reported among the bishops that the address was received as both caustic and patronizing, and more than a few wondered if they would get the same treatment. In the event, the address to the bishops was more diplomatic and left the insults aside.

There is an irony here, too. The U.S. bishops, noting the nuncio’s address, evidently considered that they knew best how to interpret the pastoral needs of their own flock. For much of the past few months, dominant voices in Rome have been suggesting that decentralized pastoral priorities are exactly what is needed, whether in Germany or the Amazon.

Baltimore provided a new USCCB executive. But who the leader of the U.S. bishops will be remains an outstanding question. During the ongoing ad limina visits, it might be a question to which Pope Francis will seek an answer: Why aren’t the bishops following Cardinal Cupich as they did Cardinal O’Connor 35 years ago?


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