1. Pope Francis orders investigation of W.Va. bishop on sexual harassment charges.

By William Branigin, The Washington Post, September 13, 2018, 7:58 AM

Pope Francis has ordered an investigation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., in connection with sexual harassment charges and accepted his resignation, church officials announced Thursday.

The pope instructed Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore to conduct a probe into allegations that Bransfield, 75, sexually harassed adults, the Archdiocese of Baltimore said in a statement. Lori was also appointed as apostolic administrator of Wheeling-Charleston.

The investigation and resignation were announced on the same day that Francis is meeting with a delegation of U.S. Catholic cardinals and bishops in the wake of allegations of sex abuse and coverups of wrongdoing.

The meeting was requested by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, after it was revealed that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick rose to his senior position despite known allegations of sexual misconduct.

The pope’s meeting Thursday with U.S. Catholic leaders, including DiNardo, was expected to deal with his request for a Vatican-led investigation to account for how McCarrick climbed the ranks, becoming one of the world’s most powerful cardinals, in the face of rumors about his sexual conduct. Although McCarrick resigned as a cardinal in July, some church leaders say it is critical to figure out who protected him. McCarrick became a cardinal in 2001 and served as archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006.


2. Time is running out, Pope Francis.

By Washington Post, September 13, 2018, Pg. A18, Editorial

IN NATION after nation, and diocese after diocese, the Roman Catholic Church’s clerical sex-abuse crisis has struck with devastating force, a decades-long scandal as pervasive as it is poisonous. Countless lives have been damaged and ruined, especially those of victims who were children when they were assaulted and molested by priests. Countless calls have been made for reforms that would subject the church to real accountability and provide authentic redress for its victims.

Sixteen years after the scandal burst onto the world stage, the Vatican, and Pope Francis, have failed to meet the challenge. So far, the church has failed to get it right — a massive shortcoming that threatens the legacy of a third consecutive pontiff and the authority of the institution itself.

Now it appears Pope Francis may have been forced to a reckoning by the drumbeat of new revelations, especially the devastating report by a Pennsylvania grand jury last month detailing seven decades of clerical sex abuse involving more than 300 priests who molested and assaulted more than 1,000 children. On Wednesday, the Vatican announced that the pope has summoned to Rome top bishops from virtually every country in the world with a significant Catholic population for an unprecedented four-day meeting in February to grapple with the scandal.

The convocations give the pope a new opportunity to act decisively. 

Those schisms are of little interest to many parishioners, let alone to victims of clerical abuse and institutional coverup. Far more convincing to them would be concrete and, yes, painful steps that the pope could take — and the time to take them is now.

In the United States, those steps would include an order — to every diocese and parish — to stop impeding state legislative efforts to lift and extend time limits that block child victims of sex crimes from pursuing criminal charges and lawsuits against their abusers. They would include the removal of more bishops irredeemably compromised by having done nothing, or too little, to stop pedophile priests from preying on children.

The cascading scandal has prompted suggestions that the church is beyond reform. The pope has had ample opportunity to disprove that. Time is running out.


3. Planned Parenthood taps Baltimore health commissioner as president.

By Lenny Bernstein, The Washington Post, September 13, 2018, Pg. B4

Planned Parenthood named Baltimore Health Commissioner Leana Wen its next president on Wednesday, placing a physician in charge of the reproductive-health organization for the first time in nearly half a century.

The decision to appoint her to lead one of the country’s most visible women’s health organizations signals, as Wen said in a video for the group, Planned Parenthood’s desire to emphasize the basic health-care services it provides beyond abortions.

An outspoken critic of President Trump, Wen has been appointed in an era when Planned Parenthood has fought administration attempts to cut off its taxpayer funding and faces deep concerns about the U.S. Supreme Court’s tilting increasingly against abortion rights.


4. Pope OKs probe into US bishop as he meets with US delegation.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, September 13, 2018, 8:54 AM

Pope Francis on Thursday accepted the resignation of a West Virginia bishop, Michael Bransfield, and at the same time authorized a fellow bishop to investigate allegations that Bransfield sexually harassed adults, Vatican officials said.

The development, announced just as a highly anticipated meeting between Francis and U.S. cardinals and bishops was getting under way, lent a dramatic twist to the emergency gathering, called to address another scandal involving an ex-U.S. cardinal.

Bransfield had been implicated in 2012 in an infamous Philadelphia priestly sex abuse case, but he denied ever abusing anyone and claimed vindication years ago. He continued with his ministry until he offered to retire, as required, when he turned 75 last week.

The Vatican said Francis accepted his resignation Thursday, announcing the decision at the exact moment that the U.S. delegation was arriving at the Apostolic Palace for the meeting with the pope.

Francis appointed Baltimore Bishop William Lori to take over Bransfield’s Wheeling-Charleston diocese temporarily. Lori said in a statement that Francis had also instructed him to “conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bishop Bransfield.”


5. ‘Vulnerable adults’ also to be discussed at Vatican meeting in February.

By JD Flynn, Catholic News Agency, September 13, 2018

A Vatican summit on abuse prevention next February will gather the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world. While a Sept. 12 statement from the Vatican said the gathering’s theme would be the “protection of minors,” a Vatican spokesperson clarified that the meeting would discuss “prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.”

Wednesday’s announcement of the meeting has raised questions about who the Church considers to be a “vulnerable adult.”

The USCCB’s “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” does not use the term “vulnerable adult.”


6. Why Francis’s child protection summit may be highest-stakes gamble of his papacy.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, September 13, 2018, Opinion

Wednesday’s big Vatican story was clearly the announcement that Pope Francis has summoned all the presidents of national conferences of Catholic bishops from around the world, more than 100 prelates in all, to Rome Feb. 21-24 for a session on “the protection of minors.”

The immediate reaction was to assume this was a Vatican effort to reshape the narrative about Francis and the Church’s clerical sexual abuse scandals, after what has been an exceptionally brutal month.

What the pope and his advisors may have had in mind going this route is the example of Chile. 

By way of analogy, Francis and his team may be thinking that summoning presidents of bishops’ conferences could have the same tonic effect on the current atmosphere, projecting images of a pope resolved to get this right.

What they may not fully realize, however, is how much bigger this is than Chile. In fact, this may well be the highest-stakes gamble of Francis’s papacy, because if this goes wrong, the consequences could be crippling on a global scale.

Over the last five and a half years, dozens of times I have found myself in conversations – sometimes with Church people, sometimes with colleagues in the media, sometimes on the lecture circuit – the subject of which is, “Can anything end the public love affair with this pope?”

Francis is such a compelling, inspirational figure, it’s always been a tough question to answer. Usually, I would say something like the following: “If the pope came to be perceived as dirty on the abuse mess, that might be the only thing that could do it.”

Now, that’s precisely the point we seem to be at: People are asking if the pope really means what he says about reform, and if he personally is culpable for covering up abuse.

The only way out would seem to be two-fold.

First, the Vatican is going to have to disclose what it knew, and when it knew it, beginning with the McCarrick case. 

Second, the Vatican will also have to address what most observers regard as the Church’s glaring piece of unfinished business, which is creating and enforcing the same strong accountability for the cover-up as for the crime.

Today, it’s clear that if a Catholic cleric is accused of abuse of a child, an investigation is automatic and punishment, if the accusation is found to be credible, swift and severe. It remains far less clear, however, what happens when a bishop or other Church superior is accused of covering up the crime – who would investigate, what process would be followed, and what punishment might be imposed remain great unknowns.

That gap in accountability is an open secret, and it’s the most prominent single point that advocacy groups and other critics make when they want to argue that the Church still hasn’t cleaned up its act.

Is it reasonable to believe the Vatican could deliver significant steps forward on these two fronts by the end of February?

Maybe, maybe not, but it’s probably not the most encouraging sign to observe that neither of those words – “transparency” or “accountability” – even appears in Wednesday’s brief Vatican statement. It refers only to Francis summing the bishops to discuss “protection of minors.”

On the other hand, imagine if the summit really does deliver. All of a sudden, a reform pope who’s increasingly seen as having failed to deliver on several fronts, such as Vatican finances, would have accomplished what two previous popes didn’t, and would be seen as facing down the most serious crisis in Catholicism probably since the Protestant Reformation.

In other words, Francis has a great deal to lose if this goes wrong, and a great deal to gain if it goes right – the dictionary definition, therefore, of a high-stakes move.


7. Universities claim to be interested in diversity and inclusion. Are they?

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy advisor for The Catholic Association, Des Moines Register, September 12, 2018, 2:45 PM

Parents sending their children off to the University of Iowa this month will be glad to hear the school has thought better of its discriminatory decision to eliminate religious student groups from campus.

By purging faith-based organizations, the university demonstrated it was willing to sacrifice the philosophical and religious growth of students on the altar of ideological conformity, as well as the students’ First Amendment right to religious liberty.  

The Iowa school deregistered groups that included Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, and Mormons who had the temerity to insist that their leaders agree with the tenets of their various faiths.

One of these groups, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, fought back with a lawsuit accusing the school of viewpoint discrimination and anti-religious bias. The university has temporarily backed down, but a permanent fix will have to wait for a court decision, likely in the spring.

The clash began in 2016 when a Christian student organization, Business Leaders in Christ, refused to name as its leader a gay member who openly disagreed with the organization’s views regarding sexual morality, and refused to sign a statement of faith rejecting sexual relations outside of marriage.

The University of Iowa kicked the group off campus, sparking accusations of anti-Christian discrimination. The university reacted by extending the ban to groups of all denominations and faith traditions. In all, they purged more than 30 religious student organizations that failed to show adherence to the school’s human rights policy, which demands equal treatment for all students regardless of their views regarding sexual morality.

The excluded groups found themselves in an awkward but now familiar position of dissonance with the wider modern culture on matters of sex. Most major world religions include a position regarding the propriety of sexual expression, which is very often the belief that sex is only honorable and dignified within a committed, permanent, and exclusive marriage of one man and one woman.

The proper ordering of sexual relations is a central tenet of these major faiths, dictating the way adherents interact with the opposite sex, affecting the shape of their families, and proscribing certain sexual relationships like incest and polygamy. 

The secular elites that run college administrations claim to be vitally interested in diversity and inclusion.  Let them prove it — by showing tolerance for ideas and world-views that don’t perfectly align with their own.  


8. Abuse scandal hits diocese of cardinal set to meet with pope.

By Nomaan Merchant, Associated Press, September 12, 2018, 6:55 PM

As U.S. Catholic leaders head to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis about a growing church abuse crisis, the cardinal leading the delegation has been accused by two people of not doing enough to stop a priest who was arrested this week on sexual abuse charges.

The two people told The Associated Press that they reported the priest and met with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. One of them says she was promised in a meeting with DiNardo, several years after she first reported abuse, that the priest would be removed from any contact with children, only to discover that the priest remained in active ministry at another parish 70 miles away.

The priest, Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, was arrested Tuesday by police in Conroe, Texas. Both people who spoke to the AP are cooperating with police.

The priest’s arrest and allegations that DiNardo kept an abusive priest around children cast a shadow over a Thursday summit at the Vatican between Pope Francis and American bishops and cardinals. DiNardo is leading the delegation, putting him in the position of having to fend off abuse allegations in his own diocese while at the same time calling on the pope to get tougher on clergy abuse.


9. Vatican probing alleged funds misuse by Sistine Choir heads.

By Associated Press, September 12, 2018, 6:31 PM

The Vatican has opened an investigation into alleged diversion of funds by the directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir, the world’s oldest choir.

A Vatican press statement Wednesday confirmed that Pope Francis had authorized the probe a few months ago “into some economic-financial aspects” of the choir.

Italian daily La Stampa, which covers the Vatican closely, said the investigation concerned an Italian bank account allegedly opened by the two choir directors into which concert proceeds were deposited, but were then allegedly used to pay personal expenses.


10. Pope removes Brazil bishop accused of stealing church funds.

By Associated Press, September 12, 2018, 12:29 PM

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Brazilian bishop who was arrested earlier this year along with other church officials on accusations they stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in church funds.

Francis replaced Formosa Bishop Jose Ronaldo Ribeiro with a temporary administrator, a maneuver he has been using in places where he needs to get rid of bishops quickly and doesn’t have a permanent successor lined up.

The Argentine pope had named Ribeiro to the post in 2014. But in March, Ribeiro and several other priests were arrested and accused of diverting about $600,000 from church collections, according to Brazilian media reports.