TCA Radio Podcast – “Conversations With Consequences”

Episode 19: Everything you need to know about the Cardinal Pell case, with Phil Lawler

The abuse crisis has rocked the Church. Should we assume that any priest accused is guilty? The conviction of Australian Cardinal George Pell should give any Catholic and defender of the rule of law pause. An incredible allegation of abuse formed the basis of Pell’s conviction and his accuser’s perceived credibility was recently cited in dismissing his appeal. What about the overwhelming evidence of the improbability— and perhaps even impossibility— of the abuse even occurring? Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, joins TCA’s Dr. Grazie Christie and Andrea Picciotti-Bayer for a lively discussion of the case crafted against Cardinal Pell, the basis for his appeal to Australia’s highest court and what this means for the Church.

1. Pope Takes Fresh Focus On Key Issues to Africa.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, September 4, 2019, Pg. A5

For a pope pulled against his will into his church’s sexual abuse maelstrom and tussles with conservative clergy, a trip to Africa that begins on Wednesday may offer Francis a chance to be the pope he wanted to be.

On his return to sub-Saharan Africa, his 31st trip abroad, he will find himself on the front lines of poverty, climate change and migration — his signature issues — while emphasizing Africa’s centrality to the future of the church.

His arrival in Mozambique, followed by stops in two island nations off its coast — Madagascar and Mauritius — will provide a sort of thematic homecoming for a pope who has prioritized what his Jesuit religious order calls the global “peripheries.”

2. Pope Orders Fix to Finances at Holy See, Francis tells officials to get budget under control after deficit doubled in 2018.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, September 4, 2019, Pg. A7

Pope Francis ordered Vatican officials to close a widening budget deficit at the Holy See and stop poorly managed spending and investments from undermining the operations of the Catholic Church’s global headquarters.

The Holy See’s deficit doubled in 2018 to roughly €70 million ($76.7 million) on a budget of about €300 million, reflecting persistent inefficiencies and hits to investment income, according to senior Vatican officials.

 The gap is a measure of how the pope has fallen short of his mandate when elected six years ago to overhaul the Vatican’s management and finances. The Vatican remains without a finance chief more than two years after the last one, Cardinal George Pell, left to face sex-abuse charges in Australia.

3. In interview, McCarrick denies charge of sex abuse, Defrocked cleric, living in Kansas, says he didn’t molest a family friend.

By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, September 4, 2019, Pg. B1

Theodore McCarrick, one of the U.S. Catholic Church’s most influential clerics until he was accused a year ago of abusing boys and young men, denied in an interview published Tuesday that he abused someone in the confessional — a charge for which the Vatican defrocked him.

 McCarrick spoke briefly to Ruth Graham of Slate for the piece, which profiles the toppled church leader now that he’s been relegated to living in a friary in the small, western Kansas town of Victoria.

McCarrick served as archbishop of Washington until 2006, then became a globe-trotting fundraiser and diplomat. He has been almost silent publicly since the Vatican made global, shocking headlines in June 2018 by announcing he’d been suspended for a credible charge of fondling an altar boy decades ago.

4. Pope makes strategic visit to Mozambique after peace deal.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, September 4, 2019

Pope Francis is opening a three-nation pilgrimage to southern Africa with a strategic visit to Mozambique, just weeks after the country’s ruling party and armed opposition signed a new peace deal and weeks before national elections.

Thirty years after St. John Paul II begged Mozambicans to end their civil war, Francis is expected to endorse the new Aug. 1 accord and urge its full implementation when he meets with government authorities on Thursday, his first full day in the region. He arrives Wednesday evening but has no public events scheduled after his brief airport welcome ceremony.

5. Mozambique begins Pope Francis’s three-nation trip to Africa.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, September 4, 2019

Pope Francis lands today in Mozambique, the first of the 3 Ms of the Indian Ocean he will visit Sept. 4-10 during the 31st international trip of his pontificate.

He’s going to deliver a total of 15 speeches during his tour: Five in Mozambique, eight in Madagascar and two in Mauritius.

The Mauritius leg will be only 8 hours, but the pontiff will still have time to celebrate Mass; have lunch with members of the bishops’ conference of the Indian Ocean; visit the Shrine of Blessed Jacques-Desire Laval, the “apostle of Mauritius”; and visit the presidential palace, meet with government authorities and deliver a speech to the diplomatic corps.

This will be Francis’s fourth visit to Africa, and second visit to sub-Saharan Africa, and Francis will shine a light on the open wounds of this region: Wars, extreme poverty, the impact of the climate crisis, and economic exploitation. But he will also shine a light on a unique multicultural environment and the Church’s ongoing missionary efforts.

6. The paradox of persecution.

By Fr. Benedict Kiely, Crisis Magazine, September 4, 2019

The persecution of Christians throughout the world is one of the great evils of our time. The twentieth century saw the death of more Christians under the atheistic Nazi and Communist regimes than all the previous centuries combined. The first decades of the 21st century have seen ancient persecutors of the Faith reemerge—something Belloc predicted after the defeat of the Ottoman empire at the end of World War I.

The threat is posed, not only radical Islam (certainly the most deadly and widespread cause of Christian persecution today), but also radical Hinduism and Buddhism. Although not yet experiencing persecution to the point of death, the new and ugly phenomenon of aggressive secularism in the West brings persecution of a different sort.

Preaching an empty message of tolerance, the smiling agents of freedom find it intolerable to allow Christians to live their faith and, increasingly, to be employed in certain occupations. This will only get worse. From Iraq to Indonesia, from Syria to Nigeria, in Pakistan, Egypt and Mali, Christians are being martyred for their faith on a daily basis. Europe is not immune; one only has to think of the elderly Fr. Jacques Hamel, martyred in Normandy while celebrating Mass. There is little reason to doubt such assaults are likely to increase.

Yet, despite the tsunami of persecution flooding across so much of the world, there are very few prophetic voices addressing this evil. The mainstream mediais remarkably silent about attacks on Christians. In the same week as the awful attack on the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand—a heinous and unconscionable crime—more than two hundred Christians were killed in Nigeria. There was hardly any mention of the latter in the news. There were no marches for martyred Christians, no tolling of church bells ordered by governments, no “Je suis Charlie” t-shirts… no public outrage at all.

It’s a scandal that those who proclaim the religion of human rights do not raise their voices in defense of persecuted Christians. The scandal is even graver for those who are meant to speak for their fellow believers. Defending the persecuted, whatever the cost to ourselves, isn’t an option for those who call themselves Christians: it’s the only path available to us. Yet the paradox of persecution means that, without those martyrs and confessors, we may forget what true witness looks like.

Fr. Benedict Kiely is a contributing editor to Crisis and the magazine’s Middle-Eastern correspondent. He’s the founder of, a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to relieving the persecution of Christians in the Mideast.

7. Former Foster Kids Show What Philadelphia Loses By Defenestrating Catholics Over Gay Marriage.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer and Dave Reinhard, The Federalist, September 3, 2019
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, and Dave Reinhard is former columnist and Associate Editor at the Oregonian. 

Around the country, the goal of ideological conformity appears to be far more important than helping desperate children. What will the Supreme Court say about this anti-religious discrimination?

More than 25 years ago, three-year-old Brittany prayed for someone to play with as she watched the children at the Our Lady of Victory Catholic School playground across from her grandmother’s house in Philadelphia. Brittany’s grandmother is Sharonell Fulton, one of the foster parents now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up their case against the City of Philadelphia for freezing foster care referrals through Catholic Social Services because CSS refuses the city’s demand that it violate church teaching and certify same-sex couples as foster parents.

While Brittany was praying for a playmate, Wayne Thomas and his brother Sean were living in a dilapidated house with a drug-addicted uncle and aunt who fought viciously. During one fight, the boys’ uncle mistakenly threw boiling water on them. Wayne thinks a neighbor called the police after hearing their cries. An ambulance was soon rushing the boys (age 5 and 7) to the hospital for medical treatment. Upon their discharge, CSS placed Wayne and Sean in foster care with Fulton.

It turns out Wayne Thomas was the answer to Brittany’s playmate prayers, but Wayne’s prayers were answered too, through Fulton. Wayne stayed with Brittany and her younger siblings in the Fulton home until he was 19. Wayne and his brother consider Brittany and Fulton’s other two grandchildren their siblings. And Fulton? Wayne calls her “Meme.”

Following graduation from middle school, Wayne went on to study at Mercy Career and Technical School, a private, Catholic vocational training high school. After this, he accepted a job as an HVAC technician. He has worked at the same company for the past 12 years. “I look at my life and the lives of my other siblings who did not go to foster care,” he says. “I think that my life is better because of what foster care gave me.”

When the City of Philadelphia assumed exclusive control over foster care 50 years ago, CSS, a part of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, and other private agencies partnered with the city’s foster care program. Since then, CSS has certified and supported countless foster care parents opening their homes to children. The archdiocese considers CSS’s work part of its ministry, just as many of the CSS-certified foster parents, Meme among them, see fostering children as an expression of their faith.

In early 2018, however, the city demanded that CSS agree to endorse same-sex couples as foster parents. CSS refused, citing centuries-old Catholic teaching on marriage and the family. It proposed referring same-sex couples to one of the other 29 foster care agencies partnering with the city. But the city’s commitment to longtime foster parents such as Meme Fulton and foster children such as Wayne was less important than political grandstanding.

CSS is now asking the Supreme Court to review the case and clarify how courts should review government interference with the free exercise of religion. Wayne Thomas joined Philadelphia foster care parents and children in The Catholic Association’s amicus brief in support of this petition. What will happen if CSS is forced to close its doors? Mothers who want to foster will lose a great agency, Thomas says. An agency whose workers were positive and respectful and gave him so much hope.

Philadelphia’s gratuitous intolerance, and the gratuitous intolerance afoot elsewhere, is keeping CSS and its foster care parents from helping more of the city’s most vulnerable children to dream. More Wayne Thomases. More Thomas Pauls. The Supreme Court, it seems, may now be the only answer to their prayers.

8. Healing at Knock shrine was miraculous, Irish Church confirms.

By Sarah MacDonald, The Catholic Herald (UK), September 3, 2019

The Catholic Church in Ireland has confirmed that a woman who was seriously ill with multiple sclerosis experienced a complete healing of all her symptoms at Knock shrine in September 1989.

The cure of Marion Carroll 30 years ago is the first officially recognized healing associated with Ireland’s national Marian shrine since an apparition witnessed by 15 people occurred there in August 1879.

On September 1, Bishop Francis Duffy of Ardagh announced to a packed basilica that the church had officially recognized 68-year-old Carroll’s healing.

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