1. Pope says priestly abuse scandals driving away Catholic faithful.

By Nicole Winfield and Jari Tanner, Associated Press, The Washington Times, September 26, 2018, Pg. A9

Pope Francis acknowledged Tuesday that the sex abuse scandals rocking the Catholic Church were driving people away and said the church must change its ways if it wants to keep future generations.

Francis referred directly to the crisis convulsing his papacy on the fourth and final day of his Baltic pilgrimage, which coincided with the release of a devastating new report into decades of sex abuse and cover-up in Germany.

Francis told a gathering of young people in Estonia, considered one of the least religious countries in the world, that he knew many young people felt the churchhad nothing to offer them and simply doesn’t understand their problems today.

Those complaints recently poured into the Vatican via surveys commissioned ahead of a big meeting of bishops starting next week on how to better minister to young Catholics.

“We know — and you have told us — that many young people do not turn to us for anything because they don’t feel we have anything meaningful to say to them,” Francis told a gathering of Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox young people. “They are upset by sexual and economic scandals that do not meet with clear condemnation, by our unpreparedness to really appreciate the lives and sensibilities of the young, and simply by the passive role we assign them.”
He said the church wants to respond to those complaints transparently and honestly.


2. Contract For Fetal Tissue Dropped.

By Stephanie Armour and Thomas M. Burton, The Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2018, Pg. A4

The Trump administration has canceled a contract to obtain fetal tissue for research and says it will review all federal studies using fetal tissue, a move long desired by antiabortion groups, who nonetheless said Tuesday the move didn’t go far enough.

The action rekindles a longstanding and emotional debate over the use of fetal tissue in research. Conservative evangelical voters, who are among the GOP’s strongest supporters, strongly oppose the use of such tissue when it comes from abortions.

Research groups, however, say the use of fetal tissue is vital to medical advances because it has qualities that adult tissue doesn’t have.

HHS said it “was not sufficiently assured that the contract included the appropriate protections applicable to tissue research or met all procurement requirements.”

The agency also said it would audit all acquisitions involving fetal tissue and would review all such research, as well as scrutinize whether adequate alternatives exist to the use of human fetal tissue in HHS-funded research.

Some antiabortion groups said the step was insufficient. “Unfortunately, HHS’s response does very little to alleviate the outrage,” Susan B. Anthony List, an antiabortion group, said. 

The organization called on Mr. Azar to issue an immediate moratorium on funding for fetal-tissue research procured from abortions.


3. Attorney general investigates sex abuse in Catholic churches.

By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, September 26, 2018, Pg, B5

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh is investigating the abuse of children in the state’s Catholic churches — the latest state prosecutor to look into crimes committed by priests following an explosive report on priests’ alleged crimes in Pennsylvania.

Frosh’s office has said that state prosecutors never comment publicly on investigations while they are in progress, but Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori said his archdiocese is cooperating with a state investigation that is underway.

“I have informed the attorney general that the archdiocese is supportive of the review and will be fully cooperative throughout the process,” Lori wrote in a letter to priests, according to the archdiocese. “Based on my conversations with people throughout the Archdiocese … it is clear that we are a church in crisis and that crisis is one of trust. It is my hope and prayer that this independent review and other acts of transparency by the Archdiocese will bring about greater trust in the Church among those who are understandably skeptical about the Church’s handling of allegations of abuse.”


4. An Orthodox Fracture With Serious Consequences.

By George Weigel, First Things, September 26, 2018

While Catholicism has been embroiled in a crisis of sexual abuse and episcopal malfeasance reaching to the highest levels of the Church, Eastern Orthodoxy may be on the verge of an epic crack-up with major ecumenical and geopolitical consequences.

There are three competing Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine today. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is in full communion with, and subordinate to, the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. Then there are two breakaways from Moscow: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. This tripartite fracture is a scandal, an obstacle to re-evangelizing a broken culture, and an impediment to ecumenism. 

The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople has indicated that it is considering a proposal to recognize the autocephaly, or independence from Moscow, of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, should the contending Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine restore unity. The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church has responded with fury, dropping references to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople from its liturgy. And its international mouthpiece, Metropolitan Hilarion, issued an overwrought statement contending that “the war of the Patriarchate of Constantinople against Moscow [has continued] for almost a hundred years.” Hilarion also charged that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is first-among-equals in Orthodox Christianity, had not supported the Moscow Patriarchate during decades of Soviet persecution—an ironic allegation, given that the man to whom Hilarion reports, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, was an old KGB hand back in the day. 


5. China’s Worst Western Import.

By William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2018, Pg. A17, Opinion

“By their fruits ye shall know them,” the Good Book tells us. The same holds for the deal the Vatican inked with China this past weekend. For the greatest fruit of this agreement, according to the church diplomats who negotiated it, is getting Beijing to acknowledge a fact even the most rabid Catholic-haters readily concede: The pope is head of the Catholic church.

Since Saturday’s signing of the “provisional agreement,” many have rightly wondered whether Pope Francis gave away the store by effectively allowing the Communist Party to decide who can be a Catholic bishop in China. As a Journal editorial put it, imagine if Donald Trump were to demand a similar say over the appointment of Catholic bishops in America.

We don’t know the full damage of the deal because the text has not been released and likely never will be. But it reflects a larger priority Chinese President Xi Jinping has been pushing these past few years. This is his campaign to “Sinicize” all religions in China by keeping them uninfected by Western ideas or values.

When China was opening up after Mao died, this columnist attended early-morning Mass at St. Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai. The congregation was no larger than half a dozen. About three pews ahead of me was a very old Chinese woman. When she knelt, she exposed the treads on the bottoms of her sandals, revealing they’d been fashioned from old tires.

A wave of pity came over me. And then I thought: I have it backwards. This woman has lived through horrendous persecution, times when all must have seemed hopeless. Yet here she was in her pew, unapologetic, unbowed and, in her own way, triumphant. 

No doubt the woman has long since left us. But there are many like her still. What these good people who have kept the faith will make of the deal their pope has now brokered with their persecutors is anyone’s guess.