The New York Times’s Jason Horowitz reports, “With his moral authority in question and his papal legacy in the balance, Pope Francis opened a historic summit meeting at the Vatican on Thursday devoted to clerical child sexual abuse, an issue that has for decades devastated some corners of his vast church while being utterly ignored and denied in others.” The four-day conference aims to educate nearly 200 Catholic leaders on the severity of the crisis, and how to address it going forward. The pope said, “We hear the cry of the little ones asking for justice.” Horowitz adds, “After the pope spoke on Thursday, the Holy See said the assembled bishops privately watched prerecorded video presentations of testimonials from victims, who were not identified to the news media.”
The New York Time’s Elizabeth Dias profiles gay priests and seminarians who discuss the challenges of being leaders in a church that is critical of homosexuality, despite there being thousands of gay priests. Dias writes, “The fall of Theodore E. McCarrick, the once-powerful cardinal who was defrocked last week for sexual abuse of boys and young men, has inflamed accusations that homosexuality is to blame for the church’s resurgent abuse crisis.” She notes there are studies that find no connection between sexual abuse and homosexuality. Father Bob Bussen of Park City, Utah, who was outed around 12 years ago, said, “Life in the closet is worse than scapegoating. It is not a closet. It is a cage.”
CNN’s Ray Sanchez and Carma Hassan report, “An investigation into an encounter between Kentucky high school students and Native American activists has found ‘no evidence of offensive or racist statements’ by the students, according to a report posted on the Diocese of Covington website. Video of last month’s encounter between Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips and Covington Catholic High students at Washington’s Lincoln Memorial stirred debate over whether the teenagers were mocking Phillips or whether Phillips was interfering with them.” The diocese at first apologized to Phillips and condemned the students’ actions, but it now says that apology was premature.
The Atlantic’s Emma Green profiles Cardinal Seán O’Malley, and writes about his struggles to institute reforms to address the sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church. O’Malley, a close advisor to the pope and the leader of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said of the upcoming summit on sexual abuse at the Vatican: “My worry is that the expectations in the United States are that this meeting is going to address all of our local concerns here, which is not necessarily the case.” Green writes, “O’Malley’s career, with all of its successes and frustrations, illuminates why the sex-abuse crisis has once again subsumed the Catholic Church—and why this institution, one of the world’s great moral authorities, has been incapable of solving one of the most morally straightforward problems of our time.”
For The Atlantic, Wajahat Ali criticizes the Supreme Court’s refusal to allow a Muslim inmate to have an imam by his side during his execution. The state argued that Domineque Ray waited too long to request an imam, and, for security reasons, his request could not be filled in time. Ali writes, “Whatever the legal merits of these individual decisions, the lasting impression they create for Americans is undeniable: Islam is a faith tradition that is not only inferior to Christianity but also inherently hostile to America.”
The Associated Press’s Laurie Kellman reports, “Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar has apologized for tweets suggesting that members of Congress support Israel because they are being paid to do so. But President Donald Trump on Tuesday called her apology ‘lame’ and said she should resign from Congress or at least not be allowed to serve on committees.” The Minnesota Democrat, who is one of the first Muslim woman to serve in Congress, has also received criticism from her own party. Kellman adds, “Omar’s statement on Monday was the latest reckoning among Democrats of intense differences in their ranks over the U.S.-Israeli relationship, highlighted by criticism from Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.”
NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Dana Cronin, and Monika Evstatieva report on a Catholic diocese in Mission, Texas, which is in a legal battle with the U.S. government over plans to construct a 30-foot wall on the church’s property. They write that La Lomita is a historic landmark built in the mid-nineteenth century. “It’s part of a series of missions established by the Catholic Church to maintain a presence on the U.S. side of the new border.” Mary McCord, a lawyer representing the diocese, said that the wall is inconsistent with Catholic teachings: “Whether it’s food and shelter … and according to the teachings of the pope migration is an important piece of this.”
The Atlantic’s Ross Andersen writes about how devotees of Jainism are informing the belief that animals are conscious beings that experience emotions analogous to humans. Andersen visits a bird hospital in India that was built by Jains, whose highest commandment forbids violence against animals. Dheeraj Kumar Singh, the youngest vet in the hospital, said of treated birds that he released, “We are here to serve them.” Andersen adds that Jainism and its belief about the complexity of animals calls into question the ethics of modern science’s use of animals as test subjects.
Houston Chronicle’s Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco report on a pattern of sex abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) over the last several decades. The churches have repeatedly failed to address the abuse: “At least 35 church pastors, employees and volunteers who exhibited predatory behavior were still able to find jobs at churches during the past two decades.” David Pittman, who alleges he was first molested in 1981 by a minister who still works at an SBC church, said, “So many people’s faith is murdered. I mean, their faith is slaughtered by these predators.”
The Associated Press’s Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller report on Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast, in which President Donald Trump underscored the importance of anti-abortion policies in an appeal to conservative, Christian voters. Trump said, “As part of our commitment to building a just and loving society, we must build a culture that cherishes the dignity and sanctity of innocent human life.” Colvin and Miller write, “That pledge, two days after Trump in his State of the Union address denounced late-term abortion, is part of his effort to re-energize evangelical voters, who have been among his most loyal supporters and will be vital to his re-election prospects.”