1. In Private Letters, Benedict Rebukes Critics of Pope Francis.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, September 20, 2018

In private letters published on Thursday by the German newspaper Bild, Benedict, who in retirement has remained studiously quiet through the controversies over Francis’ fitness to lead the church, says that the “anger” expressed by some of his staunchest defenders risks tarnishing his own pontificate.

“I can well understand the deep-seated pain that the end of my pontificate caused you and many others. But for some — and it seems to me for you as well — the pain has turned to anger, which no longer just affects the abdication but my person and the entirety of my pontificate,” Benedict wrote in a Nov. 23, 2017, letter to Cardinal Walter Brandmüller of Germany. “In this way the pontificate itself is being devalued and conflated with the sadness about the situation of the church today.”

Requests to representatives of Benedict and Cardinal Brandmüller for comment and authentication were not returned early Thursday. Bild provided the letters in their entirety to The Times.

Cardinal Brandmüller is one of the few cardinals who signed a 2016 letter of “dubia” — from the Latin for “doubts” — demanding clarification from Francis about his apparent willingness to open the door for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion, which the signatories argue is against church law.


2. New Policies Set For Reporting Abuse.

By Ian Lovett and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2018, Pg. A2

Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S. announced a series of new policies Wednesday for dealing with sexual-abuse accusations, the first concrete change they have publicly made since a series of new allegations this year plunged the church into crisis.

While the church has had a system for dealing with complaints against priests since 2002, there was previously no formal method to address complaints against bishops, who oversaw that process.

Now the church will establish a new system, run by a third party, for people to confidentially report misconduct by bishops, the administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.

The complaints will be directed “to the appropriate ecclesiastical authority and, as required by applicable law, to civil authorities,” the committee said.

In addition, the committee is beginning to develop a “code of conduct” regarding sexual abuse and harassment by bishops or negligence of duties in dealing with such issues, as well as policies for bishops who have been accused.

The bishops also said they “support a full investigation the situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick.”


3. How obscure Italian hospital became the eye of a global storm.

By Claire Giangravè, Crux, September 20, 2018

In February 2013, in his last official act as pope, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI appointed a commissioner for a small, seemingly insignificant hospital in Rome, the Immaculate Dermatological Institute (IDI).

Two years later, that same hospital was at the center of a tug-of-war between Australian Cardinal George Pell and the Vatican’s Secretary of State. Today, IDI is deepening the rift that threatens to tear apart the Church in the U.S., and to poison its relationship with Rome.

To understand what makes this hospital such a lightning rod, one needs to look at the path that led what was once a symbol of excellence in Catholic healthcare to the brink of ruin and almost $1 billion in debt.

In just three years, IDI has received three major infusions of cash from the Vatican and the Italian government, amounting to well over $70 million, and each time opinions were split between those who wished to save the institution and those ready to pull the plug.

What was once a Roman story drew global attention when the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, charged with financing the pope’s charitable initiatives, was asked by Pope Francis to help IDI with a $25 million payment. The request divided the foundation, with mostly clerics on one side supporting the pope and mostly lay people on the other skeptical of an institute many see as a poor investment at best, corrupt at worst.

While $13 million of that payment has already been sent to IDI, the remaining $12 million, approved in April 2018, remains for the time being in the foundation’s own account, inside sources told Crux.

Meanwhile, outside changes may decide the future of the hospital. In a couple of months, a bankruptcy case under the extraordinary administration that took over the institute will be placed before an Italian court, which could result in a complete overhaul of the hospital and its management.

Francis’s nomination of Italian Cardinal Nunzio Galantino as head of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), the office that handles the Vatican’s investment portfolio and its real estate holdings, might also affect IDI’s future. Galantino is seen as a reformer but also a Francis loyalist, so it’s hard to know which way his sympathies on IDI may lean.

Oceans away in Australia, Pell is fighting off criminal charges for historic sexual offenses. If the cardinal is not convicted, it raises the question of whether he would return to his role as Prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy and pick up where he left off – including what had been his behind-the-scenes opposition to Vatican involvement with IDI.

A stellar clerical cast has been involved in IDI at one point or another, from U.S. Cardinal Donald Wuerl to the notorious ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, from Italian Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to wealthy American benefactors. The small Roman hospital has, for years, represented a cluster of questions and thorns for the global Church.

Starting on June 13, 2017, Italian layman Antonio Maria Leozappa was nominated by Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to head the foundation running IDI.

“Until this administration, I saw a lot of immobility,” said a source within the hospital. “The latest administration shows signs of wanting to bring the organization back on track.”

Leozappa has attempted to make some improvements within IDI, and even offered to cut his salary to pay for a grant for distinguished staff. But not everyone is optimistic.

“Giving money to IDI means that between now and the near future, they will not exist anymore,” a former employee told Crux. “It’s a lost investment.”

The source expressed doubt about the new leadership at the Dermatological Institute, many of whom lack a degree or professional experience in the healthcare sector.

He also marveled at the continued involvement of the friars and the Vatican within the hospital, adding that the only hope would be a private investor – but predicts any such investor would be thrown off by the current situation.

“As long as the Vatican is involved, and the same governance remains, the hospital has no future,” the source said.


4. U.S. Catholic Church creates new process for reporting misconduct by its bishops.

By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, September 19, 2018, 8:01 PM

Minors or adults can now confidentially report abuse or harassment by a bishop through a third-party phone and online complaint line not run by the church, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced Wednesday.

The announcement came one week after leaders of the U.S. church met with Pope Francis on the matter and soon after a cardinal and a bishop left their roles following allegations of sexual harassment.

Francis had met with three bishops last week at the Vatican to discuss the sexual abuse crisis that the leading U.S. bishop said has “lacerated” the church. Bishops are the leaders of the church across the United States.

The confidential third-party reporting system will direct complaints of sexual abuse of minors or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop to “the appropriate ecclesiastical authority and, as required by applicable law, to civil authorities,” the announcement said.

The U.S. Catholic bishops’ statement called for a “full investigation” of retired Washington Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and said the inquiry should use lay experts in fields such as law enforcement and social services. But the statement, in a notable shift, did not mention the Vatican’s role in such a probe.


5. U2’s Bono says pope’s “aghast” about church sex abuse.

By Associated Press, September 19, 2018, 5:12 PM

U2 frontman Bono has described Pope Francis as being “aghast” about sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

The Irish singer met privately with Francis on Wednesday at the Vatican hotel where the pope lives, to discuss themes that Bono told reporters included “the wild beast that is capitalism” and sustainable development.

Bono said that because Francis visited Ireland recently, they spoke about the pontiff’s “feelings about what has happened in the church.” The Irish church’s reputation is stained by cases of pedophile priests and systematic abuse cover-ups.

Bono said he told Francis how it looks to some that abusers are more protected than victims and “you can see the pain in his face, and I felt he was sincere.”

Francis is under pressure to reveal what he knew about abusers.


6. Paraguay suspends judges over sentence for abusive priest.

By Associated Press, September 19, 2018, 4:35 PM

Three Paraguayan judges who gave a Roman Catholic priest convicted of abusing a 14-year-old a minor sentence have been suspended, authorities said Wednesday.

A report by a special jury in charge of the prosecution of magistrates said judges Fabian Iglesias, Nelio Prieto and Blas Zorrilla will not be able to continue in their posts while their decision is investigated.

The judges last month found the Rev. Felix Miranda guilty of the sexual abuse of a minor in the southern Paraguayan city of Encarnacion. But they gave the priest only a suspended two-year jail sentence and a $800 fine, saying the evidence was thin.

A prosecutor filed a complaint against the judges.


7. Church officials: Victims with pre-2002 deals free to speak.

By Mike Catalini, Associated Press, September 19, 2018, 12:42 PM

Sex abuse victims required to keep quiet by settlement agreements can speak publicly about their ordeals, New Jersey Catholic Church officials said Tuesday.

The New Jersey Catholic Conference said earlier this week the church has no objection if victims want to speak out. The group, which represents the state’s bishops on policy matters, came after Democratic state Sen. Joe Vitale called on the church to release abuse victims from confidentiality agreements.

“Some victims have requested confidentiality and the dioceses have honored those requests. Settlements were intended solely to compensate victims, not silence them,” the statement said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has barred such agreements under a 2002 charter unless a victim requests confidentiality, but the New Jersey conference is waiving any confidentiality requirement predating those rules.

The conference said Newark Archbishop Cardinal Joseph Tobin and the state’s bishops won’t object if victims with such deals from before 2002 come forward.

Catholic dioceses in other states have also said victims are free to speak.


8. US bishops voice support for ‘full investigation’ of McCarrick scandal.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, September 19, 2018

After a meeting between Pope Francis and the leadership of the US bishops’ conference last Thursday following which no plans for a probe of the case of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick were announced, the bishops on Wednesday announced their support for a “full investigation.”

A statement from the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also announced various plans for establishing reporting systems and codes of conduct with regard to bishops and the sexual abuse of minors.

The Administrative Committee is the main governing organism of the bishops’ conference in between full meetings of all the US bishops, generally held twice a year in the fall and the spring.

The Sept. 13 session with Pope Francis featured Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the USCCB, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president, as well as Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston in his role as president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the main advisory body to the pope on issues involving clerical abuse.

Also present in the meeting was Monsignor Brian Bransfield, secretary of the USCCB.

On Aug. 16, DiNardo said that the aim of the meeting was to secure the pope’s approval for an Apostolic Visitation, a standard Vatican investigative tool, of the McCarrick scandal, which led to his resignation from the College of Cardinals after a charge of having sexually abused a minor altar boy.

Although there has been no official comment from either the Vatican or the USCCB, it’s widely understood that no agreement on an Apostolic Visitation resulted from the meeting, which lends the Administrative Committee statement with special significance.


9. Scicluna: On Abuse Crisis, Church Must ‘Move From Documents to Actions’
Archbishop who helped establish first responses to the 2002 sex-abuse crisis says Church needs to ‘renew our commitment to child protection.’

By Andrea Gagliarducci, Catholic News Agnecy, September 19, 2018

According to Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Pope’s recent decision to call to Rome the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world is a sign that prevention of abuse and protection of minors must be a concern for the entire Church.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of La Valletta, Malta, served 2002-2012 as promoter of justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He helped establish the Church’s first responses to the 2002 sex-abuse crisis, and his work in the field is still a landmark.

Pope Francis twice sent Archbishop Scicluna to Chile to investigate allegations that Bishop Juan Barros Madrid had covered up crimes against minors.

Speaking from Poznan, Poland, where he took part in the annual gathering of the Council of the European Bishops’ Conferences, Archbishop Scicluna stressed that the Pope’s decision to call to Rome presidents of the different bishops’ conferences around the world “is a clear sign that protection of minors and prevention of abuse are a top priority for the whole Church.”

“The commitment of the Church as a safe place for minors should be for the whole Church and should be the concern of everybody in the Church,” he added.

Archbishop Scicluna also stressed that “protection of minors is something that has to be an ongoing process in the Church, and, therefore, it only begins with the good screening of future priests, as St. John Paul II asked for in 1992.”


10. USCCB Announces New Abuse-Prevention Measures, Calls for McCarrick Investigation, U.S. bishops’ reforms include the establishment of an independent reporting mechanism to receive complaints against bishops and the development of a ‘Code of Conduct’ for bishops.

By Catholic News Agency, September 19, 2018

The U.S. bishops’ conference has announced new accountability measures in response to recent clerical sex-abuse scandals. The reforms include the establishment of an independent reporting mechanism to receive complaints against bishops and the development of a “Code of Conduct” for bishops.

A statement released Sept. 19 by the USCCB’s Administrative Committee said that the new steps being taken to combat abuse are “only the beginning” and that consultations were underway with laity, clergy and religious on how better to “repair the scandal and restore justice.”

The statement announced four key policies.

The first is the creation of a confidential, third-party reporting mechanism to handle “complaints of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop and sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop.” This system, the statement said, will direct those complaints to the appropriate civil and ecclesiastical authorities.

The statement also said that the USCCB’s Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance had been instructed to develop proposals for policies to address restrictions on bishops who have either resigned or been removed following “allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexual harassment of or misconduct with adults, including seminarians and priests.”

The Administrative Committee also announced it has begun a process for developing a Code of Conduct for bishops regarding the “sexual abuse of a minor; sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with an adult; or negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.”

Finally, the statement said, the committee supported a full investigation into the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, including the allegations made against him concerning the sexual assault of minors, adults, seminarians and priests, and the Church’s response to those allegations.

“Such an investigation should rely upon lay experts in relevant fields, such as law enforcement and social services,” the statement said.


11. China says has ‘effective’ contacts with the Vatican.

By Reuters, September 19, 2018, 5:20 AM

China and the Vatican have “effective” contacts, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, after a newspaper report that the Vatican might send a delegation to Beijing before the end of this month, to clinch a deal on the appointment of bishops.