1. Pope gives bishops more decision-making options.

By Associated Press, September 18, 2018, 8:38 AM

Pope Francis is codifying ways of consulting ordinary Catholics about issues facing the Catholic Church and is giving more decision-making options to bishops to interpret and implement them.

Francis issued new rules Tuesday reforming the Synod of Bishops, the consultative body established 50 years ago to give popes an organized way of bringing bishops together to debate problems facing the church.

In the past, synods have merely made proposals to the pope to consider. The new rules say the bishops’ final document — if approved by the pope — becomes part of his official church teaching, or magisterium.

Francis also codified a process of consulting the faithful before a synod, as he has done informally for his 2014-2015 meetings on the family and the upcoming synod on youth.


2. Extremism Advances in the Largest Muslim Country, Indonesia’s president, once considered an ally of religious minorities, puts a radical cleric on his ticket.

By Benedict Rogers, Mr. Rogers is East Asia Team Leader at the international human-rights organization CSW, The Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2018, Pg. A19, Opinion

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, has long stood as a role model for religious pluralism. That’s changing. Political Islam and violent extremism have been taking root in society and may soon do so in the government. President Joko Widodo’s choice of Ma’ruf Amin, a 75-year-old cleric, as his running mate in next year’s election marks an ugly turn for Indonesian politics.

Religious minorities had regarded Mr. Widodo as their defender. His rival, retired general Prabowo Subianto, was expected to play the religion card, questioning the incumbent’s Islamic credentials and building a coalition supported by radical Islamists. By choosing Mr. Amin, the president’s defenders argue, he not only has neutralized the religion factor, but might have prevented it from spilling over into violence against minorities. In office, they believe, Mr. Amin will be contained.

Yet Mr. Subianto is unlikely to be deterred from playing identity politics, and rumors that Mr. Amin is reaching out to radical Islamists for support are troubling. Mr. Amin has a history of intolerance. 

President Trump’s administration has made the promotion of international religious freedom a priority. If it is serious, the U.S. should work to strengthen the voices of moderate Indonesian Muslims. At the same time, Indonesian politicians whose heart is with the defenders of pluralism must stop playing identity politics and stand up to the preachers of hate. If they don’t, Indonesia’s pluralism is in increasing peril, which will have grave consequences beyond Southeast Asia.


3. To Catholics, Junípero Serra is a saint. To Stanford University, he’s a mailing address worth eliminating.

By Meagan Flynn, The Washington Post, September 18, 2018, 7:19 AM

For decades, if you wanted to mail a letter to Stanford University, you’d send it to 450 Serra Mall. It was named after Junípero Serra, a Spanish colonist who built a network of Catholic missions in California in the 18th century. And for a long time, it was a noncontroversial mailing address.

Then, the Catholic Church made Serra a saint — and his mistreatment of Native Americans in the colonial era fell under harsh light.

Now, Stanford University is seeking permission from the U.S. Postal Service and Santa Clara County to wipe Serra from its mailing address. It’s seeking to change the street name to “Jane Stanford Way” in honor of the school’s co-founder, the university announced Thursday.

The announcement comes after a Stanford committee concluded that Serra’s contributions to the decimation and abuse of native people who lived — sometimes forcibly — on his Catholic settlements rendered Serra’s name unworthy of prominent display on campus. In addition to the address change, the university will remove Serra’s name from one dormitory and one academic building.


4. China’s Orwellian tools of high-tech repression.

By The Washington Post, September 18, 2018, Pg. A20, Editorial

THE TOTALITARIANISM of the 21st century is being pioneered in a vast but remote region of western China inaccessible to most outsiders and subject to a media blackout by China’s Communist authorities. In Xinjiang province, twice the size of Germany, an estimated 1 million people have been forcibly confined to political reeducation camps, where they are required to memorize and recite political songs and slogans in exchange for food. The rest of the region’s 23 million people are subjected to an extraordinary network of surveillance based in part on the collection of biometric data such as DNA and voice samples, and the use of artificial intelligence to identify, rate and track every person. Those rated as suspicious — possession of certain phone apps is sufficient — are sent to the camps without process, trial or even a fixed term.

Not only is the regime of Xi Jinping persecuting millions of people based on their ethnicity and religion, but also it is developing tools of high-tech repression that could be used by dictatorships around the world. Yet China, says the report, “does not foresee a significant political cost to its abusive Xinjiang campaign.” That must change.

There are steps the United States and other democratic governments can take: Human Rights Watch recommends sanctioning those in charge of the Xinjiang campaign and restricting exports of equipment that could be used in it. At stake is not just the welfare of the Uighurs but also whether the technologies of the 21st century will be employed to smother human freedom.


5. Leaked NPR Emails: Don’t Call Kermit Gosnell an ‘Abortion Doctor’.

By Matt Lewis, Matt K. Lewis is a Senior Columnist at The Daily Beast, a CNN political commentator, and the author of Too Dumb to Fail, The Daily Beast, September 18, 2018, 5:09 AM, Opinion

Early last month, John Sullivan, executive producer of the new film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (in theaters Oct. 12), reached out to National Public Radio to purchase a sponsorship for the Peabody Award-winning interview show, Fresh Air.

Sullivan, who was prepared to spend as much as six figures, crafted his ad copy to answer the question you’re probably asking: Who is Gosnell? The proposed ad was as follows, “Support for this NPR program comes from the film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. The film is the true story of abortionist Kermit Gosnell. A story the mainstream media tried to cover up because it reveals the truth about abortion.”

No dice. According to e-mails provided to The Daily Beast, NPR’s representative ran it up the legal flagpole and came back with a disappointing answer. In addition to other minor tweaks to the wording, their response stated, “The word ‘abortionist’ will also need to be changed to the neutral word ‘doctor.’”

Seeking to find an acceptable compromise, Sullivan (who co-directed Dinesh D’Souza’s first two documentaries) next proposed simply using the term “abortion doctor.” This is a descriptive term that is morally neutral, he reasoned. Still, NPR refused to approve Sullivan’s compromise language. It was “Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell” or bust.

For the filmmakers, this was a deal-breaker. “Our movie isn’t about a podiatrist or a cardiologist or a proctologist,” said producer Phelim McAleer. “It’s specifically about a doctor who performs abortions.”

When asked to comment, NPR’s Senior Director of Media Relations Isabel Lara explained, “Sponsor credits that run on NPR are required to be value neutral to comply with FCC requirements and to avoid suggesting bias in NPR’s journalism.”


6. If there were secret sanctions on McCarrick, it wouldn’t be a first.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, September 18, 2018

Three weeks after a bombshell accusation of abuse cover-up against Pope Francis by an ex-papal ambassador, an element of that charge still remains an enigma: Were there, or were there not, secret restrictions on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick imposed under Pope emeritus Benedict XVI?

It’s been a tough claim for some to swallow, given that there’s abundant evidence that McCarrick hardly behaved like a man under a cloud during the Benedict papacy – he was often seen with the pope, and even with Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Francis’s accuser and, at the time, papal ambassador in the U.S.

While some are willing to confirm the sanctions sotto voce, no hard evidence has yet surfaced.

Whatever the truth turns out to be, reporting makes one point clear – that if there were indeed secret sanctions, it wouldn’t be the first time. In fact, for one reason or another, the Vatican occasionally imposes confidential restrictions on someone without much real follow-up or vigilance.

Crux has been able to identify at least three other situations in which a member of the hierarchy or a high-profile priest has been sanctioned, either in writing or verbally, and the Vatican has relied on “moral suasion” to enforce those decrees.

“If a man has a conscience, he abides by them, if he does not, he ignores them,” a source in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said.

Perhaps the most famous example is Father Marcial Maciel who, according to a former priest of the Legionaries of Christ, might have died with the sanctions against him private had it not been for the reporting of several journalists, including Crux’s editor, John L. Allen, Jr., who at the time covered the Vatican for the National Catholic Reporter.


7. Take-aways on the latest twists in the clerical abuse saga.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, September 18, 2018, Opinion

When a news cycle goes supernova, generally developments come far too fast and furious for anyone really to absorb them in anything other than bite-size, superficial form. Over just the last 72 hours, there have been at least three new twists to the clerical sexual abuse scandals once again rocking the global Church.

In Chile, the Archdiocese of Santiago announced that Cristian Precht Bañados, a onetime national hero for his role as a human rights advocate and voice of the people during the Pinochet years, has been expelled from the priesthood by Pope Francis.

In Germany, a new report commissioned by the Catholic Church and entrusted to three universities found that 3,677 people had been abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014.

In the Netherlands, a new report on sexual abuse claims over half of the bishops in the country from 1945-2010 were involved in either covering up abuse or abusing children themselves.

On the Precht situation in Chile, it’s striking that many people are comparing him to the figure who, heretofore anyway, had been considered the country’s most notorious predator priest, Father Fernando Karadima. Both were men who moved among the social elites, and both had vast influence on forming other priests and even some bishops within their circles of influence.

The difference, however, is that Karadima was seen as socially and politically conservative, while Precht’s allegiances were on the left.

If nothing else, what that juxtaposition would appear to confirm is a truth that should already be blindingly clear: Clerical abuse is not an ideological issue. Being “orthodox” is no more of a guarantee against misconduct than being “progressive.”

Another take-away from the Precht case is the lesson that simply imposing punishment for the abuse, though obviously essential, doesn’t completely solve the problem. There’s still the nagging question of how in the world he was able to be reinstated after an initial finding of guilt, something that’s theoretically supposed to be impossible, and who might have been involved in that decision.

Justice, in other words, is a necessary element for healing, but not always sufficient – there’s also the matter of truth.

In terms of the German report, what most Americans will notice immediately is how reminiscent it is in some ways of the Pennsylvania grand jury report in August, which also cited a similar number of child victims over a comparable span of time.

Assuming there are no factors which would suggest clerical sexual abuse is any more pronounced in either Pennsylvania or Germany than anywhere else, the likely conclusion is that a detailed examination of the past in virtually any jurisdiction will produce the same sort of results. Given that several other American states already have announced plans for their own grand jury investigations, the great likelihood is that the Catholic Church will be living with these sorts of revelations for years to come.

Anyone in Church leadership today who isn’t readying their parish, diocese, organization or movement for this sort of exposure, in other words, arguably is committing managerial malfeasance.

Finally on the Netherlands, it’s a story that puts the accent where many observers believe it needs to be these days – the cover-up, every bit as much as the crime.

Most observers are not going to give the Church anything like a passing grade on recovery unless, and until, Pope Francis and his Vatican team issue a clear procedure for investigating accusations of episcopal negligence in handling abuse claims, and firm sanctions to be imposed when those accusations are found to have merit.

If nothing else, they certainly ought to draw the conclusion that this is indisputably a global problem to which no one is immune.


8. A Battle in Philadelphia over Who Gets to Help Foster Parents Serve Kids.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez and Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is a legal adviser for the Catholic Association Foundation, National Review, September 18, 2018, 6:30 AM, Interview

Meet some of the people who have stepped up to the plate in Philadelphia to be foster parents. They are currently being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in legal proceedings against the City of Philadelphia, which has severed ties with Catholic Social Services as an accrediting agency for foster parents. Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, a legal adviser for the Catholic Association Foundation, recently interviewed plaintiffs for an amicus brief in support of Catholic Social Services. She talks about the people behind the case with NationalReview.com.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Who is Sharonell Fulton and why should she be a household name?

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer: Sharonell Fulton exemplifies selflessness. For more than 26 years, she has been a trusted and certified foster mother for needy children in Philadelphia. Partnering with Catholic Social Services’ foster-care program, Fulton has welcomed 40 needy children into her home. These children, often abused or neglected, found a safe haven at the home of Sharonell Fulton, whom they lovingly call “Meme.” They found a place where they could thrive and grow.

Beyond all this, Fulton has joined CSS and two other CSS-certified foster mothers in suing the City of Philadelphia so she can take in more foster kids. You see, the city froze referrals of needy kids to CSS for foster placement because the agency — citing Catholic teaching on the family and human sexuality — refused to endorse same-sex couples as foster parents.

Lopez: What is most troubling to you about the situation in Philadelphia?

Picciotti-Bayer: Children need loving and stable homes. In Philadelphia and across the country, abuse, addiction, and neglect have left many children living in houses of horror. The opioid crisis has only made this problem worse. Much worse. … Foster homes certified and supported by CSS go “above and beyond” to care for the children referred to them so these kids know they are loved.

Lopez: What does the City of Philadelphia hope to gain by meddling with this system?

Picciotti-Bayer: The city wants all placement agencies to accept and promote same-sex households as foster homes. They have secured compliance from 29 of the 30 foster-care placement agencies in the city, but CSS cannot comply and remain consistent with Catholic teaching. CSS suggested it would refer any same-sex couples interested in fostering children to one of these 29 agencies. City officials, however, refuse to exempt CSS from the new policy.

Lopez: Why can’t Catholic Social Services simply agree to certify same-sex couples and be open to parents whose behaviors might challenge their religious beliefs?

Picciotti-Bayer: There is nothing unwelcoming about CSS’s commitment to maintain its over-100-year-old foster-care program. On the contrary, CSS wants to remain the welcoming agency it has always been and continue to meet the ever-growing needs of children. It simply wants to remain faithful to Catholic teaching on the family and human sexuality. Although no sex-same couple has ever approached CSS to become a foster parent, the agency has offered to refer any who might come to another placement agency. After all, foster-care agencies already refer couples to other agencies for all kinds of reasons.

What really is unwelcoming is the city’s refusal to accommodate faith-based organizations seeking to lend a helping hand consistent with their religious teachings. The city has effectively hung up a sign at the entrance of the Department of Human Services that reads, “Catholics need not apply.”

Lopez:  Don’t Catholics need to get with the times? Goodness knows Church institutions aren’t exactly impressing people with their credibility right about now.

Picciotti-Bayer: Although the times change, Catholic beliefs do not. Many foster-care and adoption programs run by Catholic organizations have closed their doors instead of violating their religious conscience. CSS has chosen to stand up in defense of children consistent with the Church’s longstanding teaching. There is an urgent need for experienced and trusted foster care, and CSS doesn’t want to go down quietly. Kids in need deserve an organization willing to fight for them.

Lopez: Why was it important for you to file this brief?

Picciotti-Bayer: Many Catholic foster-care or adoption programs have shut down rather than contradict Church teaching on the family and human sexuality. We filed this brief to support religious freedom in this country. Requiring Catholic and other faith-based social-service agencies to abandon their religious teaching as the price to serve others is at odds with our country’s rich religious pluralism and takes successful supports away from the most needy among us. We chose to share the experiences of CSS-supported foster parents and former foster children so that the judges considering this case understand what is at stake. CSS has made a real and significant impact in the lives of children whose biological parents denied them the love and support they deserved. The Catholic Church stepped up, providing these orphaned children with loving foster homes and has benefitted countless other Philadelphia children like them. It would be tragic if CSS couldn’t continue to help kids because they refuse to conform to popular ideas.


9. Penn. class action lawsuit seeks release of all sex abuse allegation records.

By Catholic News Agency, September 17, 2018, 1:22 PM

A class action lawsuit filed Sept. 17 is seeking to require the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania to release all records involving allegations of child sexual abuse in the last 70 years.

The lawsuit, filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, claims that the dioceses failed to meet their mandatory reporting obligations, the Tribune Review reports.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of abuse survivors and Catholic school students and parents, according to Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.

Monday’s suit comes after last month’s release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report which found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials.


10. Archbishop Lori assures diocese he’s with them in journey toward healing.

By Colleen Rowan, Catholic News Service, September 17, 2018

In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said he will be with the Catholics of West Virginia on the journey to “healing and reconciliation.”

The Mass was streamed live on the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s website and televised the next morning to many parts of the state. Concelebrating the Mass were area priests.

The Mass culminated the archbishop’s visit to Wheeling during which he met with diocesan staff after Pope Francis accepted Bishop Michael J. Bransfield’s resignation as bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and then appointed Lori apostolic administrator of the diocese.

The pope also instructed the archbishop to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bransfield.


11. Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says.

By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, September 17, 2018

Inviting presidents of the world’s bishops’ conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that “lovely” words and promises are not enough – concrete, concerted action by the whole church is needed, said Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta.

Pope Francis’ convocation of the gathering, to be held Feb. 21-24, sends “a very strong signal of a hearty commitment to defend dignity, to safeguard minors in the church,” Scicluna said Sept. 14, on the sidelines of the plenary assembly of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe. The annual gathering of presidents of the European conferences took place in Poznan, Poland, Sept. 13-16.

Scicluna, who is also president of a board of review handling abuse cases within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters that the pope’s decision to hold the meeting in February reflects a fundamental point: “that the issue of prevention of abuse and safeguarding minors requires the whole church and requires everyone in the church” to take part. Vatican News made public the archbishop’s remarks Sept. 14.

The February meeting, which was announced by the pope’s international Council of Cardinals Sept. 12, “is also a response to the expectations of the people that (after) documents and words, we now want action,” the archbishop said.

People need to know that “lovely words and promises are not enough,” he said. What is needed is “an extensive commitment that concerns everyone, it involves the whole church and everyone in the church.”


12. Catholic dioceses sued over disclosure of abuse allegations.

By Claudia Lauer, Associated Press, September 17, 2018, Pg. A14, 4:10 PM

Parents of children in the Roman Catholic Church and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy filed a lawsuit Monday against Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses and their bishops asking a judge to compel them to release information about abuse allegations.

The lawsuit filed Monday in Pittsburgh comes a month after a statewide grand jury report detailed sexual abuse allegations against more than 300 priests over decades in six of the state’s dioceses. The lawsuit alleges the dioceses haven’t met their obligations to report child sexual abusers under state law.

Benjamin Sweet, an attorney for the lead plaintiffs in the case said they are not seeking money, but instead are asking for public transparency about allegations. Many victims who came forward to talk to the grand jury fall outside the statute of limitations to file a civil personal injury lawsuit. The lawsuit filed Monday doesn’t seek damages and doesn’t represent solely victims of abuse, so Sweet said it isn’t prohibited by any statute of limitations.

Spokesmen for the Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Allentown dioceses reiterated their written responses to the grand jury report, saying all allegations of abuse of minors are reported to law enforcement.

“At the Diocese of Greensburg, any and every allegation, regardless of credibility, is immediately called in to Pennsylvania ChildLine and reported to the appropriate district attorney, whether the allegation is minutes old or 70 years old,” Greensburg Dioceses spokesman Jerry Zufelt said.


13. Vatican suspends priest in Spain over child sex abuse claims.

By Associated Press, September 17, 2018, 10:38 AM

Church officials in northern Spain say the Vatican has suspended a priest for 10 years over allegations that he abused schoolchildren more than three decades ago.

The priest, Jose Manuel Ramos, is required to serve out his suspension in a monastery outside of his Astorga diocese, according to bishop Juan Antonio Menendez.

Menendez said Monday that the Holy See’s orthodoxy watchdog decided the punishment following an internal investigation concluding that Ramos “had committed a serious crime of sexual abuse of minors” between 1981 and 1984.

The bishop said the disciplinary measures apply because the statute of limitations has expired and the case can’t be taken to court.

He said that he ordered the investigation last year soon after hearing the allegations from one victim.


14. Judge rules lawsuit against faith-based adoption agencies can continue.

By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency, September 17, 2018, 4:15 PM

A lawsuit seeking to end state support for faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan will continue, a judge ruled on Friday.

Federal Judge Paul D. Borman of the Eastern District Court of Michigan denied a motion to dismiss the case Dumont v. Lyon, which challenges state funding for religious agencies which will not work with same-sex couples.

The case was filed in September of 2017 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two lesbian couples who were turned away by a faith-based agency, as well as a former foster child. The ACLU argues that the state is violating the First Amendment’s establishment clause by providing funding to faith-based agencies who do place children with same-sex couples.

Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund, which is providing counsel for the state in this case, said that “Friday’s court ruling allows the ACLU’s lawsuit to proceed—a lawsuit aimed at forbidding the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies to help children in need.”

Rienzi warned that if this were to happen, it would be “much harder for thousands of children to find the loving home they each deserve.”


15. Congressmen object to FDA’s ‘barbaric’ research method using human fetal tissue.

By Catholic News Agency, September 17, 2018, 4:56 PM

The purchasing of aborted fetal tissue for use in research is ‘abhorrent’ and must stop, said 85 members of the United States House of Representatives in a letter to the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA in July gave a $15,900 contract to Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR) for “fresh human fetal tissue,” which would be transplanted into mice in order to create human-like immune systems for research purposes. It is the eighth contract between the FDA and the company since 2012, and seven of the contracts appear to relate to the same or similar programs.

Federal law prohibits the sale of human fetal tissue for “valuable consideration.” Furthermore, the letter states, Congress investigated ABR in 2016 as a part of their investigation into the fetal tissue procurement and late term abortion industries, and found ABR’s practices to be unethical and possibly illegal.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said Sept. 17 that the FDA is using taxpayer dollars “to fund a barbaric research method that treats babies like research guinea pigs.”


16. Victims of abuse by Pennsylvania priests file class action lawsuit.

By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, September 17, 2018, 9:04 PM

Pennsylvania Catholics are suing all eight dioceses in the state, claiming that Catholic leaders there systematically covered up ongoing sexual abuse by priests.

A massive grand jury report released last month in the state has prompted a nationwide reckoning with the staggering scale of sexual abuse in the history of the Catholic Church and has brought Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl to the brink of resignation.

As evidence, they say that at least 20 names in the grand jury report remain redacted because the church has fought to preserve the anonymity of some people accused in the report. And the grand jury report remains incomplete, they argue, because the church failed to document numerous reports of abuse over the years and because church leaders discouraged victims from reporting their sexual abuse at all.