1. Understanding why the Synod of Bishops blinked on ‘zero tolerance’.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 30, 2018

If you’re an American Catholic, or an Australian, Irish, German, Chilean, or from pretty much anyplace else scarred by clerical sexual abuse scandals, news that a global summit of Catholic bishops in 2018 could walk up to the brink of endorsing a “zero tolerance” policy, only to pull back at the last minute, may seem almost incomprehensible.

One key to understanding how it happened is grasping that many Catholic bishops don’t hail from such places – actually, a strong majority don’t – and they bring widely differing perspectives and sensitivities to the table.

Here’s the tick-tock of how we got here.


2. Drafter says ‘zero tolerance’ didn’t belong in a synod doc on young people.

By John L. Allen Jr. and Ines San Martin, Crux, October 30, 2018

As the dust settles after an Oct. 3-28 summit of bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment, many questions remain. Most are focused on the final document adopted by the bishops by an overwhelming margin last Saturday night – including who shaped it, what some of its language means, and the fact that it doesn’t contain an endorsement of a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse.

Mexican Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, appointed by Pope Francis to lead the Archdiocese of Mexico City at the end of last year, was on the 12-member drafting committee responsible for producing the 60-page document.

Speaking with Crux on Monday, Aguiar Retes said that even though he agrees with the policy of “zero tolerance” when it comes to priests or church personnel who abuse minors, the document, addressed to young adults, touches on many forms of abuse, including “authoritarianism, abuse of power, imposition, lack of empathy,” and others, for which the Church “doesn’t have a zero tolerance attitude.”

Aguiar Reyes says the phrase “zero tolerance” was also eliminated from this text because Francis has called a meeting for the presidents of bishops’ conferences around the world Feb. 21-24, and it will be up to that meeting to address it.


3. Aussie prelate says synod shows anti-abuse push still a ‘work in progress’.

By Elise Harris and John L. Allen Jr., Crux, October 30, 2018

For Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, Australia, the clerical sexual abuse crisis unfolding throughout global Catholicism hits especially close to home given the drama that’s unfolded in his country in recent years, including a Royal Commission report on the Church’s failures and criminal charges of “historic sexual offenses” against Cardinal George Pell.

A member of the 12-member committee charged with drafting that document, Comensoli said part of the reason was because not all areas of the world are on the same page about the severity of the abuse issue.

“Certain parts of the Church in the world are [just] coming to understand what it means to take a position of zero tolerance, and the synod is a reflection of the Church throughout the world,” Comensoli told Crux.

“It’s not just Australia, it’s not just the United States, it’s not just Germany, or Chile or where the manifestations of abuse have been most intensely felt,” so the final document had to take this into consideration, he said.

Other priorities, he said, will be an increased focus on ministry to families and helping local parishes to adopt concrete ways of reaching out to young people, leading them to a relationship with Christ and welcoming them into parish communities.


4. Liberal Icon Jerry Brown Retires.

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, October 29, 2018

As the former Jesuit seminarian completes an astonishing fourth term as governor of the Golden State, Catholic and pro-life Californians take stock of his legacy.

The Old Testament language might surprise Americans who remember Brown as “Governor Moonbeam” — the cerebral first-time California governor in the 1970s who promoted environmental sustainability, slept on the floor of his modest apartment and embraced a “woman’s right to choose.”

But the former Jesuit seminarian is now 80, and completing his second two-term governorship, he has offered an idiosyncratic blend of left-wing politics leavened with a very personal code of ethics, and an almost apocalyptic visionof the Golden State collapsing from unrestrained carbon emissions and budget deficits.  

The governor wrote that good law must “responsibly balance the interests of the victims to address harm with the need for the third party, in this case the employers of the accused, to be able to defend themselves,” added Dolejsi, especially in cases that date back 30 years or more.

This year, Brown vetoed a similar bill; and now, if the polls are correct, it will be up to Newsom, his expected successor, to make his own decision about this matter, as Catholic dioceses across the nation face fresh demands for accountability on their handling of historic abuse cases.

Whether or not the next attempt to lift the statute of limitations succeeds, the intense concern about Church leaders’ failure to remove predatory clerics parallels a steady decline in the Church’s influence on social norms and public policy in this progressive, increasingly secularized state.


5. A mother’s reflections on the youth synod.

By Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, Catholic News Agency, October 29, 2018

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.

As a Catholic mother of five young people, I have been watching the Youth Synod with great interest and praying for its success. My husband and I have experienced just how difficult it is to transmit a joyful and living faith to our offspring in the midst of a hostile culture.  A Catholic Church that is capable of listening to and understanding today’s youth is critical.  But that is not enough.  Even more critical is a Church that is able to credibly and attractively propose to them a way of life that allows them to both spiritually and humanly flourish.

Two of the “interventions,” or written statements from a synod father about what he’d like considered in the synod, have struck me as particularly wise and en pointe when it comes to the ways the Church must become an evangelical force among the young: Archbishop Charles Chaput’s, which focuses on credibility and Bishop Robert Barron’s, which focuses on attractiveness.

Archbishop Chaput connects credibility to confidence: “If we lack the confidence to preach Jesus Christ without hesitation or excuses to every generation, especially the young, then the Church is just another purveyor of ethical pieties the world doesn’t need.” Reading over the Instrumentum Laboris (the working document) myself, I also felt that this is exactly where the Synod could shipwreck. Sociologically sensitive attitudes of “meeting youth where they are” seem to propose accommodation when what is needed is what has always been needed: a radiant faith in the radical hope of the Gospel. While the current cultural moment is in many ways unique in the annals of history (never has the world known the internet, or modern globalization), men of every age have resisted the call to holiness and perfection. They have always, and will always, find it scandalous and ridiculous by worldly standards, which are shaped around power, wealth, and pleasure. 

Bishop Barron focused his intervention on how beauty must be the matrix of the evangelization of youth. Young people are especially attracted to the beautiful. They are not jaded and cynical like older people often are, but have fresh hearts that can be surprised and enchanted by the beauty of a song, a sculpture or a poem. The Catholic Church has always known the power of beauty, and over its 2000-year history has probably been mankind’s greatest producer and purveyor. Its architecture has enabled the souls of the faithful to fly upwards and its paintings have filled hearts with a deep certainty of the transcendent. Bishop Barron reminds us that “the most compelling beauty is that of the saints.” I have certainly found this to be true and over the years, each of my children have been thrilled and deeply attracted by the loveliness of one particular saint or another.

I pray that the Synod fathers will carefully address these two wise interventions on credibility and the sure attraction of beauty. The earthly happiness of young people (and their eternal joy) depends upon them learning the eternal truths that belong to the Church and only she can communicate.