1. As Vatican stays mum, three bishops in Chile hauled in over cover-up allegations.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, September 10, 2018

Pope Francis’s silence about allegations by his former ambassador to the United States that he knew of abuses against seminarians by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick is, for some, no more disconcerting than his silence regarding Chile, where three bishops have been subpoenaed by the prosecutor’s office to give testimony about possible abuse cover-ups.

Two of the three bishops are still in charge of their dioceses, despite having presented their resignations to the pope in May. One of them also heads the Chilean bishops’ conference.

The first one to be summoned was Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, scheduled to testify over charges of cover-up in August, but who, after requesting a delay, has now been rescheduled for the first half of October.

The second is Bishop Juan Barros, who recently resigned from Osorno and who was questioned late last week as part of an investigation into abuse allegations against a former Chilean military chaplain. He was summoned by a different prosecutor than the one who called the other two, and, according to the Chilean newspaper La Tercera, this is a sign of a “holy war” among those investigating the Church’s crimes.

According to victims in Chile, Barros is one of four bishops who were part of an “iron circle” around pedophile priest Fernando Karadima, who in 2011 was sentenced to a life of penitence and prayer after the Vatican found him guilty of not only sexual abuse of minors but also abuses of power and conscience.

A third bishop who’s been summoned by the prosecutor’s office is Barros’ successor in the military, Bishop Santiago Silva, who also serves as president of the Chilean bishops’ conference. The date for his testimony is being kept under wraps.


2. U.S. Congressman says religious diversity important for Iraq.

By Christopher White, Crux, September 10, 2018

When Congressman Jeff Fortenberry first visited Iraq in 2005 – just months after he had been elected to the House of Representatives – his focus was on defense and diplomacy after the U.S. invasion. Thirteen years later, the Catholic lawmaker from Nebraska has returned from his second trip to the country with a new focus: aiding its religious minorities.

While this new purpose is still connected to defense and diplomacy – as he believes a diverse, pluralistic Iraq is essential to the country’s stability – there’s a new sense of urgency, as the Nebraska representative believes there’s a real possibility of return for the country’s shrinking Christian population.

An estimated 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq in 2003. Today, that number is believed to be down to 300,000 following the Islamic State’s pillaging of the Nineveh Plains, a region in northeast Iraq that has historically been inhabited predominantly by Christian communities.

While ISIS has now been driven out and defeated, the situation remains fragile with many ethnic and religious minorities unsure whether they should risk returning.

For Fortenberry, he believes a safe return is possible, but that greater security and stability is desperately needed – hence, the Congressman’s recent visit on behalf of Vice President Mike Pence who has pledged that the United States would bypass the United Nations and the central government of the country in order to get U.S. aid directly in the hands of those who need it.


3. Group: Officials destroying crosses, burning bibles in China.

By Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, September 10, 2018, 3:23 AM

China’s government is ratcheting up a crackdown on Christian congregations in Beijing and several provinces, destroying crosses, burning bibles, shutting churches and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith, according to pastors and a group that monitors religion in China.

The campaign corresponds with a drive to “Sinicize” religion by demanding loyalty to the officially atheist Communist Party and eliminating any challenge to its power over people’s lives.

Bob Fu of the U.S.-based group China Aid said over the weekend that the closure of churches in central Henan province and a prominent house church in Beijing in recent weeks represents a “significant escalation” of the crackdown.

“The international community should be alarmed and outraged for this blatant violation of freedom of religion and belief,” he wrote in an email.


4. Cardinal Wuerl announces ‘Season of Healing’ over church abuse scandal, Archbishop’s letter to Catholic priests follows meeting with pope.

By Michelle Boorstein and Susan Svrluga, The Washington Post, September 9, 2018, Pg. C5

Facing criticism and questions about his handling of clergy sex abuse issues, Washington’s Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, has announced plans to launch a six-week-long “Season of Healing” beginning Friday.

Wuerl relayed the plan, for the region’s 139 parishes holding special prayer services, in a letter to his priests on Thursday. It was distributed via an Internet mailing list for priests of the archdiocese, and someone close to a priest provided a copy to The Washington Post.

The “Season of Healing” would begin Friday, with Wuerl leading a penitential Mass. He called it an invitation for parishioners to unite in prayer and give voice to the pain of survivors of clergy abuse “while recognizing the pain and wound of the whole Church.”

Wuerl wrote that he would also send resources they could use, such as guidance from the Child Protection Advisory Board and other experts on  how best to respond to survivors who reach out and help with their healing. They will have a one-day healing retreat, with counselors on hand, for any survivors who wish to attend.


5. China Outlaws Large Underground Protestant Church in Beijing.

By Christian Shepherd, Reuters, September 9, 2018, 11:12 AM

Beijing city authorities have banned one of the largest unofficial Protestant churches in the city and confiscated “illegal promotional materials”, amid a deepening crackdown on China’s “underground” churches.

The Zion church had for years operated with relative freedoms, hosting hundreds of worshippers every weekend in an expansive specially renovated hall in north Beijing.

But since April, after they rejected requests from authorities to install closed-circuit television cameras in the building, the church has faced growing pressure from the authorities and has been threatened with eviction.

On Sunday, the Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau said that by organizing events without registering, the church was breaking rules forbidding mass gatherings and were now “legally banned” and its “illegal promotional material” had been confiscated, according to images of the notice sent to Reuters late on Sunday and confirmed by churchgoers.

Churches across China have faced new waves of harassment and pressure to register since a new set of regulations to govern religious affairs in China came into effect in February and heightened punishments for unofficial churches.


6. Shock of scandal Down Under revives debate over ‘Third Rite’ confession.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, September 9, 2018, Opinion

Great shocks to the system often can jar loose utterly new responses from institutions typically given to maintaining the status quo. Other times, the effect can be to reopen debates from the past which, not so long ago, seemed definitively closed.

That latter scenario may be unfolding in Australia right now, pivoting on once-intense debates over the so-called “Third Rite” of confession, meaning a form of the sacrament celebrated in group form rather than individually.

In the tempest that’s followed, some progressive-minded Aussie Catholics with long memories are suggesting that had their bishops not caved into the Vatican two decades ago over the “third rite,” we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

In general, the Church recognizes three forms the sacrament of confession, or reconciliation, can take:

-Individual confession, where the penintent approaches a priest individually, confesses his or her sins, and is absolved.

-A community gathering featuring an opening hymn, a greeting by the priest, and a prayer. The priest allows a brief time of personal reflection after the homily. Then each person confesses to a priest individually and receives absolution.

-A service in which there is no individual confession. The priest gives a general absolution of sins after the community have reflected privately and said a prayer expressing their repentance.

That “third rite” theoretically is only supposed to be used in emergency situations, such as soldiers heading off into battle or a disaster with eminent threat of death. (Think the deck of the Titanic.)

In Australia in the period after the Second Vatican Council, however, the third rite became widespread, in part as a pastoral response to rural areas where there simply weren’t enough priests to offer individual confessions on a regular basis. In part, too, it was justified by post-Vatican II understandings that sin isn’t just individual but also collective and structural. It was seen as a more effective way, for instance, of doing penance for the mistreatment of the country’s aboriginal people.

In the late 1990s, the Vatican clamped down aggressively on the use of third rite in Australia, which was part of a wider thrust back to more traditional modes of worship and sacramental practice known as the “Liturgy Wars” in the late Pope John Paul II years.

The rollback in Australia caused wide protest, but over time the third rite gradually became less and less common.

Now, however, some Australian Catholics who agree with the Royal Commission that there should be no space in the Church where a veil of secrecy applies to child abuse are floating the idea of bringing back the third rite.

I spoke to a veteran religious sister in Melbourne on Thursday, for instance, who told me that “if the Vatican had just left us alone, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Whatever the merits of that argument, it doesn’t cut much ice with Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, who’s the closest thing to a national leader the Church in Australia has. Overall he’s taken a tough line on the abuse scandals, demanding that the Church be committed to a policy of “no excuses, no cover-ups.”

A Dominican who still who wears the white habit of the Order of Preachers as archbishop, Fisher sees the conversation about the third rite as a non-starter.

The bottom line from Down Under seems to be this: Even if the shock of the abuse scandals and the Royal Commission have revived the third rite debate, under present management it likely doesn’t have any better chance of getting a green light than it did two decades ago.


7. Catholic donor denies he consulted on Viganò allegations against Pope Francis.

By Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service, September 9, 2018

Timothy Busch, a conservative Catholic lawyer and donor, is denying claims he was consulted on a letter written last month by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò alleging, among other things, that Pope Francis ignored accusations of sexual abuse by a prominent cleric in Washington, D.C.

An Aug. 27 report by The New York Times claimed that Viganò “privately shared his plan to speak out with” Busch, a Californian known in Catholic circles as a prominent funder. He is a co-founder of the Napa Institute, a group described by National Catholic Reporter as embracing “a mix of conservative theology and libertarian economics.”

But in an email obtained by Religion News Service and addressed to “constituents” of the Napa Institute, Busch refuted reports he personally consulted Viganò on his letter.

Busch did not repeat that claim in his email. Instead, he argued that “although I cannot validate any of Archbishop Vigano’s personal experiences recited in his testimony, I can confirm that, in my interactions with him, I have found him to be an honest man.”

He also expressed strong support for an investigation and discussed a proposed laity-led commission to probe sexual abuse in the Church.


8. Companion letters ask pope for answers on abuse crisis.

By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service, September 9, 2018

A pair of open letters to Pope Francis asking him for answers to charges of cover-ups by him and others over abuse allegations against retired Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington were sponsored by the Catholic Women’s Forum, a project of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank.

The prologue to one of the letters declares, “This letter reflects the personal initiative of the individual Catholic women signing this letter, and is not sponsored by any group or organization.” The letter and invitations to sign it, though, are posted on the Catholic Women’s Forum’s website.

The first letter, titled “Letter to Pope Francis from Catholic Women,” is dated Aug. 30, four days after publication of an 11-page letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican nuncio to the United States, making charges against Francis and other Church leaders.

The second letter, from a group called Catholic Men United for Christ, is dated Sept. 5. “Specifically,” the second letter said, “we request that you answer the questions posed by our sisters in their letter to you.”

As of early Sept. 7, the women’s letter had 39,051 signers. Among those signers on the letter’s homepage are author and speaker Mary Beth Bonacci, National Review Institute senior fellow Kathryn Jean Lopez, talk show host Teresa Tomeo, and Janet Smith, a professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

The men’s letter, which had 6,381 signers since it was posted, said, “We plead for justice for the victims of abuse. We add our voices to those of the bishops who have called for an investigation of the church hierarchy, both in our own country and in the Vatican. This investigation should be carried out by faithful laymen and women. Further, we encourage other groups to make their voices heard by writing more letters of this nature.”


9. Pope tells bishops to fight abuse, culture behind it.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, September 8, 2018, 11:06 AM

Pope Francis told newly ordained bishops Saturday that they must reject all forms of abuse and work in communion to fight the clerical culture that has fueled the sex abuse and cover-up scandal rocking his papacy.

Francis cited his recent letter about combatting abuse during an audience with 74 new bishops from 34 developing countries. The bishops were in Rome for training this week.

Their seminar took place during a crisis for the pope: a lone archbishop has alleged Francis covered up for a now-former U.S. cardinal who was accused of sexually molesting children and adult seminarians.

Francis also told the new bishops they are there to serve their flocks, and must work in communion with the church, not as lone actors.

“The bishop can’t have all the gifts — the complete set of charisms — even though some think they do, poor things,” Francis said. The church, he said, needs unity of bishops “not lone actors working outside the chorus, conducting their own personal battles.”

It was perhaps an indirect swipe at Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who broke with centuries of Vatican protocol and pontifical secret to name names and denounce two decades of cover-up by top Vatican bishops, cardinals and popes of the misconduct by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.


10. What’s good for workers is good for business, pope tells financial paper.

By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, September 8, 2018

The blind pursuit of profit cannot guarantee a company’s viability, which depends on the fair treatment of workers and a vast array of other ethical and social factors, Pope Francis told Italy’s top financial newspaper.

“People are the most important resource of every company, (as it) works toward building the common good, being attentive toward the poor,” he said in an interview with Il Sole 24 Ore published Sept. 7.

The undated interview conducted by Guido Gentili, the paper’s editor-in-chief, only touched on issues related to jobs, money, migration and Europe.

The pope underlined the “communal” aspect of businesses that put families and people first with “the distribution and taking part in the wealth that has been produced; the integration of businesses in a local area; corporate social responsibility; employee benefit plans; equal pay for men and women; proper work-life balance; respecting the environment; recognizing people are more important than machines; acknowledging a just salary; and the ability to innovate.”


11. Russians hacked Catholic, Orthodox clergy amid Ukrainian push for autocephaly.

By Courtney Grogan, Catholic News Agency, September 8, 2018

Russian hackers infiltrated the email inboxes of Orthodox, Catholic, and other religious leaders connected to Ukraine amid conflict between Kyiv and Moscow over Ukraine’s political and religious independence.

Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, was among the 4,700 global targets of the “Fancy Bear” cyber espionage group, the same Russian hackers who were indicted in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to the Associated Press.

Gugerotti and unnamed Ukrainian Greek-Catholic clergy were hacked by this group, along with other foreign diplomats, journalists, intelligence personnel, and Hillary Clinton.

The Russian Orthodox Church has strongly opposed the proposal of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent from Moscow’s control. One representative for Kirill told AP that Ukrainian Orthodox independence would lead to the biggest Christian schism since 1054.


12. Prelates in Austria, Germany offer support to Pope Francis.

By Zita Ballinger Fletcher, Catholic News Service, September 8, 2018

Prelates in Germany and Austria have united to support Pope Francis in response to a former papal nuncio’s demand for his resignation.

In Austria, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna published a column Sept. 7 in the weekly newspaper Heute with a strong message backing the pope, calling the pontiff a “fighter against injustice and exploitation” who “stands against sexual abuse in theCchurch with great determination.”

“This criticism comes from circles in the Church who want to get rid of this pope as soon as possible,” said Schonborn, leveling criticism at unnamed Vatican officials.

He said the pontiff’s opponents are exploiting the opportunity to criticize him during a time when he is experiencing difficult days.

In Germany, four bishops previously at odds in the debate over communion for civilly divorced and remarried Catholics were unanimous in their call for Catholics to remain loyal to the pope.


13. Archbishop Viganò’s Claims Urgently Demand a Full Investigation, If access to key McCarrick-related documents and witnesses is restricted, the faithful have the capacity to draw their own conclusion.

By National Catholic Register, September 7, 2018, Editorial

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s bombshell “testimony” claiming that Pope Francis knew about allegations of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct but still chose to make him a trusted adviser has placed the Holy See squarely in the spotlight of the widening Church crisis over the mishandling of clergy sexual abuse.

Archbishop Viganò’s testimony has been framed by some as an unwarranted act of aggression on a sitting pope. No doubt, the very public nature of Archbishop Viganò’s unsubstantiated allegations against Francis and other Vatican officials, whom he identifies by name and claims were complicit in suppressing accusations against McCarrick, is unprecedented in Church history.

Yet the author of the testimony is a retired senior Vatican official with detailed inside knowledge of Rome’s internal workings and an experienced diplomat who served as U.S. papal nuncio from 2011 to 2016.

Now, he has taken the irrevocable step of indicting an ecclesial culture that, until recently, accorded him enormous standing.

Thus far, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with more than 30 other bishops, has recognized that the charges leveled in the extraordinary letter of the former apostolic nuncio to the United States must be taken seriously and investigated promptly. 

An official investigation is urgently needed in order to provide a comprehensive review of all the complicated facts in the story of Archbishop McCarrick’s rise and fall. The investigators must be charged with authority to review the Vatican and U.S. nunciature’s archives, where the critical documents validating these claims can be found, according to Archbishop Viganò. The investigators also must be given permission to interview every senior Church leader with knowledge of Archbishop McCarrick’s misconduct and Pope Benedict’s response to it.

Only with the Vatican’s cooperation will we see the documents that can prove or disprove Archbishop Viganò’s accusations. And only then will other Church authorities come forward and tell what they know.

Catholics, in the U.S. and in the universal Church, need to know the full truth. And until it is provided, the process of healing the wounds from the clerical crimes of the past and instituting the measures required to prevent their recurrence will be unacceptably impaired.


14. Letter confirms Vatican received McCarrick complaint in 2000.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, September 7, 2018, 5:51 PM

A 2006 letter from a top Vatican official confirms that the Holy See received information in 2000 about the sexual misconduct of now-resigned U.S. cardinal, lending credibility to bombshell accusations of a cover-up at the highest echelons of the Roman Catholic Church.

Catholic News Service, the news agency of the U.S. bishops’ conference, published the letter Friday from then-Archbishop Leonardo Sandri to the Rev. Boniface Ramsay, a New York priest who made the initial allegation.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, at the center of a storm rocking Pope Francis’ papacy, cited Ramsay’s 2000 letter in his own expose of a cover-up about the McCarrick affair. He named Sandri among a long list of Vatican officials who knew about McCarrick’s penchant for seminarians. Vigano also accused Francis of knowing in 2013 of McCarrick’s misconduct but of rehabilitating him from sanctions purportedly imposed by Pope Benedict XVI.

Sandri’s letter is significant because it corroborates Ramsay’s story as well as Vigano’s claims. It shows the Vatican knew about allegations against McCarrick in 2000, a year before St. John Paul II made him a cardinal. And it further implicates the Benedict’s papacy for failing to take action against McCarrick for years even as more allegations against him arrived.


15. Letter confirms Vatican officials knew of McCarrick allegations in 2000.

By Robert Duncan and Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, September 7, 2018, 2:47 PM

A top official from the Vatican Secretariat of State acknowledged allegations made by a New York priest in 2000 concerning Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, according to a letter obtained by Catholic News Service.

Father Boniface Ramsey, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church Yorkville in New York City, told CNS Sept. 7 that he received the letter dated Oct. 11, 2006, from then-Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the former Vatican substitute for general affairs, asking for information regarding a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark who studied at Immaculate Conception Seminary and was being vetted for a post at a Vatican office. He made the letter available to CNS.

Then-Archbishop Sandri wrote to Father Ramsey, “I ask with particular reference to the serious matters involving some of the students of the Immaculate Conception Seminary, which in November 2000 you were good enough to bring confidentially to the attention of the then Apostolic Nuncio in the United States, the late Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.”

Father Ramsey had been on the faculty of the seminary from 1986 to 1996 and had sent a letter in 2000 to Archbishop Montalvo informing him of complaints he heard from seminarians studying at the seminary, located in South Orange, New Jersey.

In the letter, Father Ramsey told CNS, “I complained about McCarrick’s relationships with seminarians and the whole business with sleeping with seminarians and all of that; the whole business that everyone knows about,” Father Ramsey said.

Father Ramsey said he assumed the reason the letter from then-Archbishop Sandri, who is now a cardinal and prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, only mentioned “serious matters involving ” seminarians and not Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior was because accusations against the former cardinal were “too sensitive.”

“My letter November 22, 2000, was about McCarrick and it wasn’t accusing seminarians of anything; it was accusing McCarrick.”

While Father Ramsey has said he never received a formal response to the letter he sent in 2000, he told CNS he was certain the letter had been received because of the note he got from then-Archbishop Sandri in 2006 acknowledging the allegations he had raised in 2000.

The 2006 letter not only confirms past remarks made by Father Ramsey, but also elements of a document written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who served as nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016.


16. NY clergy sex abuse may be sweeping but legal cases few.

By Jennifer Peltz and David Klepper, Associated Press, September 7, 2018

The New York attorney general’s new investigation into clergy sex abuse allegations in the Roman Catholic Church could be massive, delving into confidential church files in a state where hundreds of people have already made claims through programs run by the church itself.

But few criminal cases or lawsuits may come out of the inquiry, whatever its findings. New York has some of the nation’s strictest time limits on taking child sex abuse claims to civil or criminal courts. A yearslong campaign to extend the timeframe hasn’t passed the Legislature.

And even if it succeeds, at least 375 people who have settled abuse claims through church-run compensation programs waived any right to sue.


17. Ex-Catholic bishop named suspect in alleged Chilean abuse cover-ups.

By Aislinn Laing, Reuters, September 7, 2018, 1:06 PM

A former Chilean bishop staunchly defended by Pope Francis after being accused of helping to conceal sexual abuse has been named a suspect in two criminal investigations into alleged cover-ups, a prosecutor and another legal source said on Friday.

Juan Barros, whose resignation as bishop of Osorno was accepted by the Pope in June alongside those of four other bishops, was interrogated as a suspect for more than three hours on Thursday in Santiago, city prosecutor Raul Guzman said.

Separately, prosecutor Emiliano Arias has named Barros as a suspect in the cover-up of several sex abuse cases in Rancagua, a city just south of the Chilean capital, the legal source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.