1. U.S. Bishops’ Deep Divisions Are Laid Bare, By Ian Lovett.

The Wall Street Journal, September 4, 2018, Pg. A3

The crisis engulfing the Roman Catholic Church and the papacy has exposed deep rifts in the U.S. church.

The latest trigger is a letter recently released by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò accusing Catholic officials, including Pope Francis, of covering up sexual abuse, allegedly by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick among others.

While U.S. bishops profess broad agreement about the need for new measures to address abuse, their responses to the letter have sharply diverged.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, struck a more neutral tone. In a statement, he said the questions raised by Archbishop Viganò “deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence,” and asked for an audience with the pope.


2. As accusations, Archbishop’s letter poses biggest challenge of Francis’s papacy.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, September 4, 2018, Pg. A8

For some, the accusations sending tremors through the Catholic Church are a concerted and dubious attack by ultraconservatives on Pope Francis. For others, the accusations are a credible attempt to expose the depths of the Vatican’s struggle to deal transparently with sexual abuse.
But at the center of the divided church is Francis, whose reputation is being challenged by the unverified accusations that he and other Vatican higher-ups had known for years about the sexual misconduct allegations against a now-resigned cardinal, Theodore McCarrick.

One week after the release of a scathing 7,000-word letter from Vatican ex-ambassador Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Vatican watchers say Francis — who has yet to directly address the veracity of the accusations — is facing the greatest challenge of his papacy.

“I think he’s aware that the wheels of history are turning,” said Austen Ivereigh, a Francis biographer. “This is a watershed moment, and how he responds — how the entire church responds — is crucial. We could easily go the Trump route where as Catholics we start tearing into one another with mutual allegations. This is what happens at times of tensions. I think he, as the church’s spiritual leader, is trying to guide this as a process — hold the church together.”

But some say Francis has not yet done enough. In a letter that had collected nearly 30,000 signatures, a group of Catholic women wrote that Francis’s earlier remarks about Viganò’s letter — when he’d said the document “speaks for itself” — were “inadequate.”


3. Pope Francis Embraces Silence as Calls Grow for Response to Allegations.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, September 4, 2018, Pg. A6

As a clamor builds for Pope Francis to respond to the stunning allegations by his former ambassador in Washington that he covered up abuse and lied about a meeting with a prominent opponent to same-sex marriage, the pontiff has extolled the virtues of silence.

Speaking in a Monday morning homily at the Vatican, Francis said, “With people who don’t have good will, who seek only scandal, who want only division, who seek only destruction — including within the family: silence, prayer.”

He added that “the truth is humble, the truth is silent” and concluded with the prayer, “May the Lord give us the grace to discern when we should speak and when we should stay silent.”

So far, Francis has stuck with silence since the allegations first shook the church on Aug. 26.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Vatican ambassador, accused the pope of knowing about sexual misconduct by an American cardinal, Theodore E. McCarrick, with adult seminarians years before the abuse became public. Archbishop Viganò also said that Francis lifted sanctions on the cardinal that he claimed had been imposed by his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Those allegations remain unproven.


4. Pope’s Accuser Sparks Deep Divisions Within Church, Some dispute former Vatican diplomat’s claim that Francis covered up sexual abuse, while others vouch for his integrity.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, September 4, 2018, 5:38 AM

The Vatican hasn’t issued a response more than a week after a former Vatican diplomat accused Pope Francis of covering up sexual misconduct, but former officials are disputing some his claims—while other churchmen have vouched for his integrity.

Several U.S. bishops have released statements praising Archbishop Viganò as a man of honesty, while others have accused him of ill will toward the pope.


5. By Defending Pope Francis, Allies May Strengthen a Chief Critic’s Hand.

By Jason Horowitz The New York Times, September 3, 2018, Pg. A8

Retaliating against a remarkable campaign from within the church to force the ouster of Pope Francis, the Vatican’s former spokesman issued a statement on Sunday night questioning the credibility of an archbishop who has accused Francis of covering up sexual misconduct.

But in seeking to defend the pope against the latest allegations, which relate not to abuse but to the pope’s own credibility, the former spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, seemed to confirm a key part of the archbishop’s claims. And the defense also offered a portrait of the pope and his top advisers as having been politically naïve.

In a letter released Friday, the archbishop, Carlo Maria Viganò, challenged the notion, put forward by Vatican officials and the pope, that he had ambushed Francis in 2015 by setting up a private meeting at the Vatican’s Washington embassy with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who became a conservative celebrity by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Archbishop Viganò said in the letter that he had fully briefed Francis and his top advisers, all of whom he named, about Ms. Davis and her “conscientious objection” to promoting same-sex marriage. He received approval from them all, he said.

On Sunday, Father Lombardi issued a joint statement with the Rev. Thomas Rosica, who has also spoken for the Vatican in the past, making note of “the fact that Viganò had spoken the night before the meeting (with Kim Davis) with the pope and his collaborators and had received a consensus.”

Father Lombardi and Father Rosica nevertheless said Francis had felt “deceived” by Archbishop Viganò. Contrary to the claims of the archbishop, they said, the pope was furious over the meeting, which threatened to eclipse the entire visit to the United States by derailing his message of inclusion.

This week, an article in The New York Times quoted a Chilean abuse survivor, Juan Carlos Cruz, as recounting that Francis had told him that Archbishop Viganò sneaked Ms. Davis into the Vatican Embassy in Washington for the private meeting. The pope told him he had not known who she was or why she was a contentious figure, Mr. Cruz said.

Mr. Cruz recalled the pope saying, “I was horrified and I fired that nuncio.”

Archbishop Viganò, in the letter published on Friday by LifeSiteNews, a conservative Catholic outlet, said Mr. Cruz’s account had prompted him to set the record straight.

“One of them is lying: either Cruz or the pope?” he wrote. “What is certain is that the pope knew very well who Davis was, and he and his close collaborators had approved the private audience.”

On Sunday, the pope’s allies seemed to confirm that.


6. Legal, safe but no longer rare.

By The Washington Times, September 3, 2018, Pg. B2, Editorial

Clever marketing is as important to selling a political candidate as selling a laxative or a Lexus. Bill Clinton and the Democrats insisted a generation ago they wanted abortion to be “legal, safe and rare?”

The unlucky child waiting to be born might have a strong difference of opinion about how one important abortion may be, and including “rare” in Bubba’s mantra strongly implies that abortion is something less than a public good. But even that has been edited out of the mantra.

Chelsea Clinton, the former first daughter who has inherited the family talent for monetizing everything, argues that Roe v. Wade has been good for business. …“It is not a disconnected fact,” she said, “that American women entering the labor force from 1973 to 2009 added [$3.5 trillion] to our economy. The net, new entrance of women [to the economy] is not disconnected from the fact that Roe became the law of the land in January of 1973.”

Two generations of economists somehow missed all that.

Feminists bridle at the conservative accusation that feminists want to elevate abortion to a rite of female passage… but O Magazine (as in O for Oprah Winfrey), gives the game away with an article headlined “How One Woman Became an Activist with the Hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion.”

Others are shouting their pride in taking innocent life. An ice cream parlor in Portland, Ore., is giving a whole new meaning to “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” Proceeds, or some of them, from the sale of its $9.50 a pint Rocky Roe flavor is meant to “help defend reproductive freedom”

Rocky Roe, which sounds like it’s something tasty with chocolate and nuts, took a licking from the president of Americans United for Life.

Given most Americans’ continued moral ambivalence on legal abortion 45 years after Roe v. Wade, the Democrats should send his “legal, safe and rare” description back to him for a little body-and-fender work.


7. U.S. Bishops Are Divided in a Way Rarely Seen in Public, Viganò letter exposes ideological rift that mirrors American politics.

By Ian Lovett, The Wall Street Journal, September 3, 2018, 3:37 PM

The crisis engulfing the Catholic Church and the papacy has exposed deep rifts in the U.S. church.

The latest trigger is a letter released last week by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganòaccusing Catholic officials, including Pope Francis, of covering up sexual abuse, allegedly by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick among others.

While U.S. bishops profess broad agreement about the need for new measures to address abuse, their responses to the letter have dramatically diverged.

Those who support the pope’s emphasis on issues like immigration and climate change have criticized the letter. San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said the letter displays a “hatred for Pope Francis” and that “Archbishop Viganò consistently subordinates the pursuit of comprehensive truth to partisanship, division and distortion.

Meanwhile, conservative U.S. bishops who disapprove of Pope Francis’ conciliatory tone on remarriage and homosexuality in the priesthood have openly defended Archbishop Viganò.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, struck a more neutral tone. In a statement, he said the questions raised by Archbishop Viganò “deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence,” and asked for an audience with the pope.

The Conference of Bishops’ statement stands in contrast to more supportive remarks in recent days from clergy in other parts of the world, said Mr. Schneck, formerly of The Catholic University of America. The conference of Latin American bishops, for example, said, “We want to reinforce in these moments the communion with your person and teaching.”

Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, said the upheaval in the U.S. church was forcing officials to openly debate issues that had been shrouded in secrecy for far too long, like attitudes toward gay men serving in the clergy. But he said it was regrettable that the debate broke along ideological lines.

“In the last few weeks, you’ve seen a hardening of the lines,” he said.


8. Pope’s Remedy to Those Seeking Scandal: Prayer and Silence.

By The Associated Press, September 3, 2018, 9:49 AM

Pope Francis recommends silence and prayer to react to those seeking scandal and division.

Francis offered the advice Monday in his homily at Mass in the Vatican hotel where he lives.

Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former papal envoy in Washington, stunned the faithful last month by claiming Francis allegedly lifted unconfirmed Vatican sanctions against disgraced U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick.

Francis has said he “won’t say a word” about Vigano’s allegations that Benedict XVI as pope had sanctioned McCarrick, including avoiding public life, but that Francis later allegedly lifted the sanctions.


9. Abuse crisis doesn’t mean other storylines have gone on holiday.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, September 3, 2018

Two tragedies from different parts of the world in recent days illustrate the point.

We’ll start in mid-August, when Father Michael Akawu was shot to death in a suburb of Abuja, the national capital of Nigeria, called Gwagwalada.

According to Church officials in Nigeria, there’s no suggestion that Akawu was specifically targeted or that the killing had any religious, sectarian or ethnic overtones. That’s important information in Nigeria, home of the radical Islamist “Boko Haram” movement, and also home to the largest mixed Christian/Muslim population anywhere in the world.

To repeat, no one in their right mind would suggest that Francis, or any local bishop anywhere in the world, has any excuse for not making the effort to enforce a “zero tolerance” policy on abuse anything less than an absolute priority.

However, it is to say that a legitimate fixation on that front should not obscure other truths about Catholicism in our time – because those truths aren’t going away, whether we choose to acknowledge them for the moment or not.


10. The Tears of a Grieving Church, By Kathryn Jean Lopez, September 3, 2018, 6:30 AM

These are some of the questions in the groans of the people of God right now. And I put it that way because it’s not just Catholics suffering from this news that will continue to unfold and be revealed. Some of the most heartening conversations lately involve ecumenical encounters. People want a healthy Catholic Church, which serves all.

Rather than words, at St. Joseph’s that night, Dominican friars who serve the parish and some from other posts in the city prostrated themselves down the main aisle of the Church, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, what Catholics believe is the Real Presence of God. There was the shame and the sorrow in front of God and man. In his homily just before, the pastor admitted to having had his faith “shaken” and he implored everyone in the Church to “choose a side.” In recent days, as is our typical bad habit, politics has taken center stage in some of the media coverage of the Church. That’s not what the pastor meant. God or evil are the choices. And if it’s God, you’ve got to be all in. Not walking away but loving more and leading the renewal where you are.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God” is the refrain during the singing of the searing Lamentations. That’s the only recourse. The Church isn’t any one person. It belongs to Jesus Christ, and the baptized are called to live the Gospel. And the reform and renewal will benefit from every witness to the reality of God’s grace in the face of evil — mothers, spiritual fathers, TV hosts, Uber drivers, and all.


12. Metro is trampling on First Amendment rights.

By Ashley McGuire and Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, The Washington Post, September 2, 2018, Pg. C4, Opinion

Ashley McGuire is senior fellow with the Catholic Association. Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal adviser with the Catholic Association Foundation

For years, WMATA accepted bus ads on all types of subjects. But WMATA changed its rules in 2015 and adopted a series of guidelines governing commercial advertising. Included is Guideline 12, which prohibits “advertisements that promote, or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief.”

Late last year, WMATA cited this new rule and refused to run the Archdiocese’s “Find the Perfect Gift” ad on the outside of its buses. The ad depicts a starry night and the silhouettes of three shepherds and sheep on a hill facing a bright shining star high in the sky. It also includes thecampaign’s website, which offers a range of information including Mass times at parishes across the District and opportunities to be involved in charitable activities through Catholic Charities DC. The archdiocese’s requests for emergency relief in court were dismissed, and residents went last year without the church’s reminder of the “reason for the season.”

Metro would allow any kind of Christmas-themed advertising, as long as it did not originate from the religious faith that gave us Christmas in the first place. The chilling message to the public? Faith-based speech is not welcome in the public forum.

The move to confine religious expression to the four walls of a church is hardly new. If the past few Supreme Court terms are any indication, the rights of religious people in the public square are constantly being undermined. In 2017, the Supreme Court said it was “odious to our Constitution” when Missouri excluded a church from participating in a generally available grant program for resurfacing outdoor playgrounds. And just this year, the court chastised the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for its blatant hostility toward a Christian baker. WMATA’s Guideline 12 is just another variation on this theme. Excluding religion entirely from commercial ads on government-owned buses is little more than polite persecution.

But Catholics are not easily silenced when it comes to publicly professing their faith. The archdiocese retained superstar appellate lawyer Paul Clement, who argued last spring before a panel of judges on the D.C. Circuit that the ban violated the First Amendment’s protections for religious exercise and free speech. Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who sat on the panel during oral argument but did not participate in the decision, called it “pure” rather than “polite” persecution. But the archdiocese lost and now wants the full Court of Appeals to consider the case.

Policies that muzzle religious speech chip away at the religious pluralism that makes America unique. Metro’s advertising guidelines aren’t just discriminatory, they also are unconstitutional. The D.C. Circuit has the chance to undo a policy that silences faith groups and remind the country what religious tolerance and freedom of expression really look like. That’s the kind of message that extends far beyond the side of a bus.


12. Incongruities In Accusation Against Pope, By Laurie Goodstein and Jason Horowitz.

The New York Times, September 2, 2018, Pg. A1

At a gala dinner in the luxury Pierre Hotel in Manhattan in 2012, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Pope Benedict’s top diplomat in the United States, bestowed an award for missionary service on Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and praised him as “very much loved from us all.”

But if Archbishop Viganò is to be believed, he was keeping a troubling secret — a claim that is at the heart of a new scandal that has thrown the church into upheaval and led some conservatives to call for Pope Francis to resign.

The archbishop now says he was aware at the time of the gala that Cardinal McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, was under orders from Pope Benedict XVI to stop appearing in public on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church because he had sexually abused adult seminary students.

Archbishop Viganò did not explain why he agreed to publicly laud a cardinal under sanctions. But LifeSiteNews — a website run by conservative Catholics — quoted the archbishop on Friday as saying that he could not back out of the event.

Even beyond the gala dinner, however, a review of Cardinal McCarrick’s activities during the years he was supposedly restricted under Benedict showed that he visited seminaries and ordained new priests, officiated at Masses and traveled the world representing the church.

A week ago, Archbishop Viganò released an explosive letter saying that Benedict had ordered Cardinal McCarrick to retire to a life of prayer and penance and had barred him from celebrating Mass in public, traveling for church business, giving lectures and participating in public meetings.

But after Francis became pope, in 2013, he lifted the sanctions and made the cardinal a trusted adviser, the letter claimed. That accusation has stunned the faithful, leaving many clamoring to know whether Pope Francis — who has vowed to rid the church of sexual abuse — had covered up for an abuser or whether Archbishop Viganò, a conservative detractor of Francis’ who was removed from his American post, was lying.

What still remains unclear a week after these accusations surfaced is whether Benedict ever imposed sanctions on the cardinal. And if he was sanctioned but permitted to flout the restrictions so boldly and for so long, it raises questions of how tough the Vatican really is on bishops implicated in sexual abuse.

The Viganò letter has pitted Francis against Benedict XVI, the emeritus pope, who stepped down in 2013 — confirming the worst fears of Catholics who warned that having two popes living as neighbors in the small, intrigue-laden footprint of Vatican City would be dangerous to the church.

Both popes could clear up the confusion created by the letter. Neither one has.

The silence has left a vacuum into which speculation, gossip and ideological combat have now poured, consuming the Vatican and Francis’ pontificate and drowning out the issue of child sexual abuse, a scourge that is devouring his church from within.

Archbishop Viganò has filled the vacuum with fresh allegations that contradict the Vatican’s account of Pope Francis’ 2015 meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

The truth has been difficult to discern. If Cardinal McCarrick was the target of sanctions by Benedict in 2009 or 2010, as Archbishop Viganò claimed, then he openly disobeyed the orders for years.

There is a long and public record showing that the cardinal did not behave like a man forced to retreat to contemplate any possible sins.

Following the pope’s lead, the Vatican has gone on lockdown.

The Times reached out to every cardinal and bishop said by Archbishop Viganò to have known about the alleged sanctions on Cardinal McCarrick by Benedict. More than a dozen of them declined or did not answer requests for comment.


13. Archbishop Makes Public More Claims About Francis.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, September 2, 2018, Pg. A4

The archbishop who accused Pope Francis of covering up a cardinal’s sexual misconduct has escalated his offensive with new, detailed accusations that put increasing pressure on a pontiff who the archbishop and his supporters say has misled the faithful and should resign.

In a new letter published late Friday by the conservative website LifeSiteNews, the archbishop gave his version of events leading up to the pope’s controversial September 2015 meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses. His description contradicted the Vatican’s own account of that private meeting, maintaining that Francis’ lieutenants lied to the public about the encounter, which threatened to eclipse the pope’s entire trip to the United States that month.

The archbishop writes that he was spurred to weigh in again by a New York Times article this past week quoting a Chilean abuse survivor, Juan Carlos Cruz. Mr. Cruz said Francis had told him that Archbishop Viganò sneaked Ms. Davis into the Vatican Embassy in Washington for a private meeting in 2015 and that the pope did not know who she was or why she was controversial.

Archbishop Viganò writes in the new letter: “One of them is lying: either Cruz or the pope? What is certain is that the pope knew very well who Davis was, and he and his close collaborators had approved the private audience.”

Archbishop Viganò did not return a request for comment on Saturday. But in the new letter, he lays out in detail his version of events in which he says he personally briefed the pope on Sept. 23, 2015, giving him a memo, which he also provided to LifeSiteNews, summarizing the case of Ms. Davis.


14. Nebraska Catholic diocese rocked by old abuse allegations.

By Grant Schulte, Associated Press, September 2, 2018, 9:08 PM

For more than a decade, a conservative Catholic diocese in Nebraska was the only church in the U.S. that refused to participate in annual reviews of sexual misconduct that were a key reform enacted in the wake of the 2002 Boston clergy abuse scandal.

As a new wave of abuse scandals rock the Roman Catholic church, critics say the Diocese of Lincoln is now paying the price for its unwillingness to change and lack of transparency.

Accusers have been coming forward in recent weeks with allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by clergy in Nebraska, and the diocese is facing a potential criminal investigation and criticism that it mishandled abusive priests even as it should have been subjected to increased scrutiny after the Boston scandal.

Many of the new allegations in Lincoln focus on the actions of the Rev. James Benton, a 71-year-old priest who retired last year despite church leaders knowing about abuse allegations against him for at least 15 years.


15. Archbishop asks pope to cancel conference on youth.

By Associated Press, September 2, 2018

The archbishop of Philadelphia has asked Pope Francis to cancel a bishops’ conference focusing on youth in the wake of the child sex abuse crisis roiling the Catholic Church.

A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed Saturday that Archbishop Charles Chaput made the request by letter, but he declined further comment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The Youth Synod, which would include bishops from the around the world, has been planned for two years and its website says it is to be focused on “young people, the faith and vocational discernment.” An international panel of young people is expected to join the council of bishops for the event.

“I have written the Holy Father and called on him to cancel the forthcoming synod on young people,” Chaput said at a conference Thursday at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, according to LifeSite News, a conservative Catholic website. “Right now, the bishops would have absolutely no credibility in addressing this topic.”

Instead, Chaput asked that the synod be refocused on the life of bishops.


16. Pope Benedict, in retired seclusion, looms in the opposition to Pope Francis.

By Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli, The Washington Post, September 2, 2018, 12:39 PM

Ever since Pope Benedict XVI became the first pontiff in six centuries to abdicate the papacy, transitioning to a life of near seclusion in a Vatican City monastery, there have been questions about how the notion of two living popes would impact the Roman Catholic Church.

The events of last week offer something of an answer.

Although many people hoped to hear from Benedict amid new allegations that a coverup of sexual misconduct reached the highest levels of the church, he has established that an ex-pope should maintain a vow of silence about church matters — even during crises and even though he is particularly well positioned to affirm or knock down the accusations.

Some Vatican watchers and insiders say the mere fact of Benedict’s 2013 abdication has made the modern papacy more vulnerable, emboldening voices of dissent. They say it’s hard to imagine a letter like the one released last week by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, provoking Pope Francis with a call to resign, without Benedict having created the possibility that modern popes might give up their seats before death.

Try as he might to stay out of the fray, Benedict has been used as a symbol of resistance for a segment of traditionalists who oppose elements of Francis’s reformist papacy and see Benedict’s vision of Catholicism as more aligned with theirs.

“He won’t stop the [Francis] revolution, but his presence reminds you — me, everyone — that another way is possible,” said Marcello Pera, a friend of Benedict and former president of the Italian Senate.

Once known as “God’s Rottweiler,” Benedict was not embraced by Catholics worldwide during his eight-year pontificate. But he won admiration among those who respected the depth of his academic work and his conviction that church teachings shouldn’t bend with the times.

At 91, Benedict still largely resembles the firm theologian who stepped down five years ago, when he leaned into a microphone, offered a brief message in Latin and shocked the Roman Catholic Church.

Benedict’s silence in this case has been in keeping with his effort to maintain a low profile. But it’s also noteworthy because the letter specifically cites Benedict and Francis as knowing for years about the sexual misconduct of a now-disgraced prelate, Theodore McCarrick.

Some elements of the account do not seem to hold up. The sanctions Viganò describes supposedly banned McCarrick from travel and public meetings, but McCarrick continued to speak regularly and travel overseas.

Two acquaintances of Benedict said that he was a feeble manager as pontiff and that even if he had imposed the sanctions, he might not have had the wherewithal to enforce them.

“It would be very easy for Pope Benedict to say, ‘There is an attack on the Holy Father, and I want to condemn this attack,’ ” said Roberto de Mattei, president of the conservative Lepanto Foundation, a critic of Francis and an acquaintance of Viganò. “Right now, one pope can speak to defend the other. But he hasn’t.”


17. Coptic diocese says group attacked Christian homes in Egypt.

By Associated Press, September 1, 2018

A group of Muslims attacked several Christian homes in a village in Upper Egypt, injuring three people, officials with a Coptic Christian diocese said on Friday.

The assailants objected to the presence of a church in the area, the Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said in a statement. Plans to attack Copts in the village had circulated days before the incident and were reported to authorities but security only arrived after the attacks, it said. The wounded, including two Copts and a firefighter, were all hospitalized.

A similar assault for the same reason had taken place in a neighboring village weeks earlier, the diocese said, blaming authorities for a lack of deterrence for Friday’s attacks and calling on them to take punitive measures against the assailants.

Local authorities often refuse to issue building permits for new churches, fearing protests by hard-line Muslims. Christians sometimes build churches illegally or set up churches in other buildings.


18. Pope decries “emergency” of plastics blighting world’s seas.

By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, September 1, 2018

Pope Francis on Saturday called for concrete action to combat the “emergency” of plastics littering seas and oceans, lamenting the lack of effective regulation to protect the world’s waters.

He also denounced as “unacceptable” the privatization of water resources at the expense of the “human right to have access to this good.”

With countries from Italy to Australia promoting policies to thwart migrants from arriving by sea, Francis prayed that “waters may not be a sign of separation of peoples, but of encounter for the human community.”


19. Chinese state media denies imminent plans to end two-child policy.

By Courtney Grogan, Catholic News Agency, September 1, 2018

An official Chinese state media outlet has denied any imminent change to the country’s national two-child policy. The announcement follows media speculation that such a change was being considered in response to China’s rapidly aging population.

On Aug. 27, family-planning related clauses were removed from China’s marriage and adoption laws leading many major media outlets to report that this could signal an upcoming change for the two-child policy.

Chinese authorities responded on Aug. 28 with two explanatory articles in the China Daily, the state-sponsored English-language newspaper, which provided explanations from legislators that these “family planning-related clauses” were only removed to eliminate redundancy; the Population and Family Planning Law that stipulates that couples can have only two children still remains on the books.

China has strictly controlled its population for nearly four decades through a government policy of contraception, abortion, and sterilization.

There have been at least 336 million abortions and 196 million sterilizations in China since the government first implemented population control measures, according to 2013 statistics from its national health ministry.


20. Journalist behind both ‘Vatileaks’ affairs says papal accuser is credible.

By Elise Harris, Crux, September 1, 2018

As aftershocks of the explosive charge by a former papal ambassador that Pope Francis ignored sexual misconduct allegations against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick continue, many observers are struggling to make sense of the situation and its multiple unanswered questions.

As part of that sifting, doubts have arisen about the credibility of the man making the charge, Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who served as secretary general of the Government of Vatican City State from 2009-2011 and papal ambassador to the United States from 2011-2016.

Yet Viganò’s history as a would-be Vatican whistleblower didn’t begin with last Saturday’s statement. He was also a key player in the 2011-2012 “Vatileaks” scandal, when confidential documents were taken from then-Pope Benedict XVI’s desk by his personal butler, Paolo Gabriele, and leaked to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who later published a book on the documents titled “His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI.”

Among those documents were two letters from Viganò to Benedict and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s then-Secretary of State, alleging various forms of financial and personal corruption.

In terms of how credible Viganò’s claims were back then, Nuzzi, the journalist who broke the story, told Crux he found the Italian prelate to be “a man of the Church, he is informed, and he is someone who has made precise accusations.”

Granted, Nuzzi’s own credibility has been questioned in some quarters. He was indicted by the Vatican for stealing confidential documents again in the second round of “Vatileaks”in 2015-2016, though he was eventually acquitted for lack of jurisdiction, and critics say Nuzzi’s reporting tends to be sensationalistic.

Still, probably no journalist has spent more time assessing the merits of Viganò’s first round of claims, and Nuzzi insists they were largely reliable.


21. The government must investigate the Catholic Church.

By Hugh Hewitt, Hugh Hewitt, a Post contributing columnist, hosts a nationally syndicated radio show and is author of “The Fourth Way: The Conservative Playbook for a Lasting GOP Majority”, The Washington Post, August 31, 2018, Opinion

I believed, earnestly, that the American Church at least had cleaned house in the beginning of the new century. I thought, as did millions of other Catholics, that all of the bishops had actually come forward to the National Review Board that made its report almost 15 years ago. As a Catholic layman, I didn’t need to ask too many questions about follow-up because, well, a new generation had arisen in the hierarchy and they were hell on wheels on the criminals. Super-lawyer Bob Bennett, a board member, wouldn’t let them get away.

Except it turns out Bennett seems to have believed all the bishops, and the best of the coverup artists weren’t testifying to the Board. The disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick did. Wouldn’t we love to see that transcript now.

Many bishops kept on keeping secrets, and a few, like Donald Wuerl, the now-disgraced archbishop of Washington, was even so brazen as to hold himself out as a reformer even as he allegedly hid stories as shocking as that of a child porn ring run by priests in his diocese.

This controversy is about criminals and their accomplices and most especially their victims. Wuerl shouldn’t expect to wait it out. Not with this record. Not with this grand jury report. Not with judgment eventually coming in this life or the next.

“The pope has a bigger agenda,” Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich told interviewer Mary Ann Ahern when asked about Francis declining to discuss claims about McCarrick made by the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States. “He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church.”

Last time I wrote about this, I was hoping for 49 other state attorneys general to follow the Shapiro example. Now I think the number should be 50, including U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions; so shocking is Cupich’s indifference to child rape that it seems time for the Justice Department to move in. Cupich’s brazen diversion seems a signal that he and many others will refuse to cooperate with any civil authorities, would refuse to investigate themselves and will continue to conspire to keep criminals from justice and victims from knowledge and recompense.

We are not going to get the truth about the abuse of the past 30 years from this Church hierarchy, so there is no other choice but to ask the government to go forth and find it. That doesn’t mean giving up. It means refusing to be fooled again.


22. Seal of the confessional a tough sell in atmosphere of crisis.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, September 1, 2018, Opinion

Among non-Catholics – and, for that matter, among some Catholics too – an announcement by the Australian bishops on Friday that the seal of the confessional is “non-negotiable,” even in cases of child sexual abuse, elicited incomprehension, outrage, and borderline disbelief.

For those folks, what they heard boils down to this: The Church is saying that its archaic traditions and rules trump both the law of the land and child safety.

Given the overheated atmosphere of the moment after a sensational charge by a former papal ambassador to the U.S. that Pope Francis himself is guilty of a cover-up in the case of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, as well as the passionate reactions discussions of child abuse understandably always stir up, it’s difficult to get a patient hearing for why the integrity of the confessional matters so much to the Church – and any attempt to provide one easily ends up looking like obfuscation, or trying to defend the indefensible.

Yet for anyone trying to understand the situation, here’s a recap of the basics.

First, to state the obvious, confession is one of the holiest rites of the Catholic Church. The belief is that in the space, a person is able to unburden himself or herself of sins before God, and that, through the priest, the believer encounters God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Second, even the most ardent reformers in the Catholic Church – people who’ve been working tirelessly for years now, often at great personal sacrifice and risk, to cajole the Church to clean up its act, including reporting the crime of abuse and cooperating with civil authorities – often say that eroding the seal of the confessional arguably would harm victims’ welfare rather than serve it.

What is well documented, however, are cases of bishops and other superiors who became aware of abuse allegations in other ways – phone calls, letters, personal conversations, and so on – that enjoyed no sacramental protection at all, who nevertheless turned a blind eye and failed to act.

For that reason, many experts say that rather than debating the seal of the confessional, a much better use of time would be to build a system of accountability with teeth not for the crime, but for the cover-up. Right now, anyone who believes a bishop is covering up abuse doesn’t really know where to direct that concern, how or by whom it would be investigated, and what sort of punishment might be imposed if it’s true.

Offering answers to those questions, these experts say, would go much farther towards reform than tinkering with a sacrament.

Given everything else breaking at the moment, however, it may be a tough sell to the outside world – which is why, if the bishops and the Vatican are truly serious about defending the integrity of the sacrament, this might be a great time to demonstrate progress in the fight against child abuse on some other front.


23. Pope Francis and McCarrick: where does the evidence lead?

By Dan Hitchens, Columnist, Catholic Herald, August 31, 2018, Opinion

Archbishop Viganò made four major claims. But do the facts support them?

Claim 1: Pope Benedict XVI imposed sanctions on McCarrick

Do the facts support the claim? Mostly – but there are complications.

The most plausible conclusion, based on what we know, is that Benedict did indeed impose sanctions, but wasn’t willing and/or able to make them comprehensive.

Claim 2: Pope Francis was told about McCarrick’s depravity

Do the facts support the claim? Inevitably, it’s hard to say – nobody can read the Pope’s mind. Francis is famously well-informed about Vatican goings-on, and several close observers have said that “everyone knew” about the charges against McCarrick. But that is circumstantial. Again, it is strange that Francis has refused to comment on Viganò’s claim, but silence is not an admission. So the question is – could Viganò really invent such a spectacular libel?

Claim 3: Francis abandoned Benedict’s sanctions

Do the facts support the claim? The facts are, at least, not inconsistent with Viganò’s allegation. It has been widely observed that McCarrick had a new lease of life under Francis.

It does seem, then, that whatever sanctions had been in place under Benedict evaporated under Francis. But, as observed above, the nature of those sanctions is fuzzy. How official were they? Did Francis knowingly lift the sanctions, or did they just cease to function because Benedict was no longer around?

The Associated Press, in a report which has never been denied, said that Pope Francis reduced sanctions against some abuser priests. But that doesn’t mean he would have done the same with McCarrick.

Again, Viganò’s testimony fits well with the facts. But we still have to assume that Viganò is not a liar.

Claim 4: Francis made McCarrick an important adviser

Do the facts support the claim? Broadly, yes, though not every detail can be confirmed.

Such matters will always be relatively mysterious. But Viganò’s claim, in this instance, seems plausible enough.

What, then, does all this add up to? Everyone will draw their own conclusions. My own is that, while a position of agnosticism can be justified – especially at this early stage – it’s not unreasonable to believe Viganò’s central claims.

A more difficult position, I think, is to dismiss what Viganò is saying.

The first is to say that Viganò is a liar, even a fantasist, on a truly epic scale – a sort of Catholic Mark Hofmann. It’s not enough to argue that Viganò is an ambiguous figure with an axe to grind. He would have to be much more than that: someone capable of defaming the Holy Father, while calling “on God as my witness”, and to do so with such diabolical cunning that the Pope and his closest allies are unable to immediately discredit his claims.

The second possible argument is that we just don’t know enough: that, as in a detective story, some key evidence can turn everything on its head. That if the files of the Vatican and the US nunciature were opened, or if the churchmen accused by Viganò came out to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the picture would change dramatically.

But then the person who is most loudly calling for the files to be examined, and for the protagonists to tell their story, is Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.


24. Pennsylvania bishop punishes predecessor over clergy abuse.

By Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press, August 31, 2018

A Roman Catholic bishop in Pennsylvania says he has barred one of his predecessors from representing the diocese in public, citing his failure to protect children from abusive priests.

Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera made the announcement Friday.

Bambera says former Bishop James Timlin is permanently barred from representing the diocese “at all public events, liturgical or otherwise.” He’s also referred Timlin’s case to the Vatican for possible further action.


25. Pennsylvania Governor: Courts, not church fund, better for abuse victims.

By Associated Press, August 31, 2018

Pennsylvania’s governor said Friday he was against a proposal to compensate victims of child sexual abuse by priests through a church-established fund, saying that lawmakers instead should amend state law to let victims sue over decades-old events.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said changes to the state’s statute of limitations and other proposals in a recent grand jury report “would deliver what victims deserve,” but a fund outside the court system would not.

Wolf said the Legislature should pass reforms proposed in the jury’s 900-page report issued earlier this month. The jurors said the state should eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, give otherwise time-barred victims a two-year window to file lawsuits, clarify penalties for failing to properly report abuse and ban agreements that prohibit victims from cooperating with police.

The jury’s investigation found that hundreds of “predator priests” in six dioceses sexually abused at least 1,000 children going back seven decades, and senior figures in the church hierarchy systematically covered up complaints.

Earlier this week, the top-ranking Republican in the state Senate, President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, floated the idea of a church-established victim fund, and some church officials have reacted positively.

On Friday, Scarnati’s top aide, Drew Crompton, said compensation funds have worked effectively in several states and argued a fund in Pennsylvania, administered by a third party, will compensate victims quickly. Crompton called the proposed two-year “window” for lawsuits “constitutionally questionable.”


26. Chilean prosecutors say Church abuse investigations triple.

By Aislinn Laing, Reuters, August 31, 2018, 5:05 PM

The number of cases of abuse in Chile’s Roman Catholic Church under investigation by prosecutors has more than tripled to 119 in the past month, the national prosecuting authority said on Friday.

Among the 167 people under investigation are seven bishops and 96 priests, accused of unspecified abuses of 178 alleged victims, including 79 minors, the authority said.


27. International religious freedom report cites 28 nations falling short.

By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service, August 31, 2018

The U.S. International Commission on Religious Freedom singled out 28 countries for their repression of religious liberty in its annual report, issued Aug. 29.

Sixteen countries were designated in the 228-page report as Tier 1 – the harshest level of repression: Myanmar, Central African Republic, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

A Tier 1 country, the report said, is “any country whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe religious freedom violations, meaning those that are systematic, ongoing, and egregious. The State Dept. most recently made CPC (country of particular concern) designations in December 2017.”

Another 12 were listed as Tier 2 countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia and Turkey. Tier 2 is defined by USCIRF as “nations in which the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government during 2017 are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing and egregious’ CPC standard.”

These countries, USCIRF said, “represent the most pressing religious freedom concerns worldwide and the most promising avenues for addressing them through U.S. foreign policy.”

Among the policy options the report recommended for the U.S. government was to “press the country’s government to bring national laws and regulations, including registration requirements for religious communities, into compliance with international human rights standards” and to “press the country’s government to conduct professional and thorough investigations – and to prosecute perpetrators – of incidents of sectarian violence, terrorism, and other violations of religious freedom.”

A third category, Entities of Particular Concern, was reserved for Islamic State, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al-Shabaab in Somalia as non-state actors.


28. Separating Facts About Clergy Abuse From Fiction.

Quality research data and industry best practices will solve clerical abuse, By Thomas G. Plante Ph.D., ABPP, Psychology Today, August 23, 2018, Opinion

As someone who has been conducting research in this area, evaluates and treats both victims and perpetrators, conducts psychological evaluations and screenings of applicants to Catholic seminaries, and has served on child protection committees for the Church at national, regional, and local levels for 30+ years, it is important, in my view, to separate fact from fiction concerning this explosive and highly emotional topic…. Separating fact from fiction is critically needed if we are truly interested in keeping children safe from possible sex offenders inside and outside of the Catholic Church.

Four Important Facts to Keep in Mind

1. No empirical data exists that suggests that Catholic clerics sexually abuse minors at a level higher than clerics from other religious traditions or from other groups of men who have ready access and power over children (e.g., school teachers, coaches).

The best available data reports that 4 percent of Catholic priests sexually violated a minor child during the last half of the 20th century with the peak level of abuse being in the 1970s and dropping off dramatically by the early 1980s…. Putting clergy abuse in context, research from the US Department of Education found that about 5-7 percent of public school teachers engaged in similar sexually abusive behavior with their students during a similar time frame.

2. Clerical celibacy doesn’t cause pedophilia and sexual crimes against minors.

Think about it. If you can’t or don’t have sex with a consenting partner would children become the object of your desire? Of course not. If anything, other consenting adults would. Additionally, if public school teachers have levels of sexual victimization of their students at levels higher than Catholic clerics during the same time frame then one can’t simply blame celibacy for the sexual abuse problem in the Catholic Church.

3. Homosexual clerics aren’t the cause of pedophilia in the Church.

Sexual orientation isn’t a risk factor for pedophilia. Pedophilia and sex offending behavior is not predicted by sexual orientation but by other known risk factors such as a history of child abuse, impulse control problems, alcohol problems, head injuries, and an inability to manage and maintain satisfying adult and peer relationships.

4. The Church has used best practices to deal with this issue since 2002.

The incidents of clerical abuse in recent years (i.e., since 2002) are down to a trickle.

The Catholic Church in 2002 put in place best practices in child protection that are clearly working. All accusations of abuse are reported to law enforcement, a team of qualified lay people review all reports of problem behavior, all church personnel including volunteers receive safe environment training, a zero-tolerance policy is in place so that no one with credible accusations are allowed in ministry, and an independent auditing firm conducts yearly audits to keep everyone focused, honest, and on target with these best practices.

Keeping children safe from abuse should be everyone’s top priority. Tragically, data suggests that whenever men have access to and power over children and teens, clerics or not, a certain small percentage of them will violate that trust and sexually abuse these minors under their supervision. This is true for Catholic and non-Catholic clerics as well as lay teachers, coaches, tutors, choir directors, scout leaders, and so forth. The best way to deal with this reality is to develop evidence based best practices that create environments where children are safe and where you carefully screen for those who wish to work with young people. Doing this has been very successful with many organizations during the past decade or so including with the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Club of America, US Olympic Committee, public and private schools, and so forth (and all of these organizations have consulted with each other to ensure that best practices are known and followed).