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Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s daily newsletter.

I’m Luke Coppen and I seek to guide you each weekday morning to the most interesting Catholic news and comment.

😇 Today’s saints:  Sts. Perpetua and Felicity (optional memorial).

📜 Today’s readings:  Is 1:10, 16-20 ▪  Ps 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23 ▪  Mt 23:1-12.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Theodore McCarrick denied abuse allegations in a telephone interview the day after his lawyers filed a motion saying the former cardinal was unfit to stand trial due to dementia.

2:  A Catholic woman has been arrested for a second time after praying silently near an abortion facility ahead of a parliamentary vote that would criminalize the practice across England and Wales.

3:  The heads of two U.S. bishops’ committees have expressed support for the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023.

4:  Paul Fahey argues that Cardinal Robert McElroy is invoking “Pope Francis to propose something foreign to Francis’s teaching” in his response to critics of his “radical inclusion” essay (Alexandre Grenier, Robert Royal, Tommaso Scandroglio).

5:  Elise Ann Allen, Paul Baumann, Juan Carlos Cruz, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, Fr. José María Di Paola, Brian Fraga, Richard Gaillardetz, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Christopher Lamb, Jonathan Liedl, Kate McElwee, Alver Metalli, Fr. Thomas Reese, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, Michael Swan, and Michael Sean Winters reflect on the upcoming 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election.

6:  Russell Shaw asks why the largest U.S. archdiocese has so few auxiliary bishops.

7:  And Bishop Erik Varden discusses “belonging in an age of isolation” (video).

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

The battle over John Paul II  The debate surrounding John Paul II’s handling of abuse cases before his election as pope has once again hit the international headlines. English-language news outlets reported Monday the claims of a documentary broadcast March 4 in Poland, with some headlines seeming to present the program’s assertions as indubitable facts.

The documentary was aired by TVN, a channel known for its critical coverage of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, and presented by the journalist Marcin Gutowski, who previously fronted a documentary accusing Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, the Polish pope’s longtime secretary, of mishandling abuse cases.

Ending the discussion?  In his latest broadcast, “Franciszkańska 3” (named after the address of the Bishop’s Palace in Kraków), Gutowski accused the future pope of transferring clerical abusers to other dioceses, including in Austria, while serving as the archbishop of Kraków from 1964 to 1978.

According to the program’s notes, Gutowski worked for two and a half years to establish what the then Karol Wojtyła — who was canonized in 2014 — knew about abuse cases in the Kraków archdiocese. The journalist spoke with abuse survivors and their relatives, and former diocesan employees, and pored over Church documents and the files of the communist-era secret police. But he was not granted access to Kraków archdiocese’s archives.

  • Gutowski was eager to present his findings as definitive, saying: “I hope that this report will end the discussion and the festival of blurring reality, pretending that John Paul II might not have known. After this production, we will no longer have any doubt that he knew, and long before he became pope. Now, to put it bluntly, the ball is in the Church’s court.”

Contrasting conclusions  But others have also scrutinized John Paul II’s tenure in Kraków and come to different conclusions. Tomasz Krzyżak, a journalist for Poland’s daily Rzeczpospolita, investigated the future pope’s responses to two perpetrators of abuse, Fr. Eugeniusz Surgent and Fr. Józef Loranca.

  • “My conclusions from the two stories I have followed are generally that we cannot say that Cardinal Wojtyla covered up pedophilia,” he said last month.

The documentary “Szklany dom” (“Glass House”), broadcast on Poland’s TVP channel last year, drew a similar conclusion. Other commentators have highlighted the unreliability of documents produced by a communist secret police engaged in a covert war with the Church.

What’s the context? There is a wider picture behind the debate, sometimes not appreciated outside Poland. John Paul II helped to shape the nation’s post-communist destiny. His legacy is therefore a proxy for arguments about whether the country should hew to its Catholic traditions or fully embrace Western secular modernity.

Those debates — like the current one about John Paul’s record in Kraków — are far from resolved. The reluctance of Polish bishops to open Church archives seems likely to prolong the present intense discussion.

What's Starting Seven? Here's what you're reading, and how to get must-read morning news in your inbox, each day.

🔍 Stories to watch

🇺🇸  Bishops and theologians have met under the Chatham House Rule for a second year running to discuss Pope Francis’ push for synodality (Thomas Pauloz).

🇧🇷  Almost 200 people have gathered in Brasília for Latin America’s fourth and final regional assembly during the continental stage of the global synodal process (Spanish report).

🇻🇦  The findings of what is billed as “most extensive global survey of Catholic women ever undertaken” are due to be presented at the Vatican on Wednesday.

🇵🇱  Polish bishops’ conference president Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki has highlighted the “need for cooperation between lawful state power and ecclesiastical authority” in a lecture in Warsaw.

🇮🇶  A delegation of French bishops is visiting Iraq on the anniversary of Pope Francis’ historic 2021 trip (French report).

🇯🇵  The Japanese Catholic migrants’ commission has called for protests against proposed changes to the country’s immigration laws (Japanese report).

🇪🇹  Members of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) promised to “engender new forms of leadership” at the end of their plenary assembly in Addis Ababa.

📅  Coming soon

March 9 The fifth and final synodal assembly of Germany’s synodal way begins; Cardinal Michael Czerny speaks at Gonzaga University.

March 10  Members of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) celebrate Masses for peace in Ukraine; The research project “More Women’s Leadership for a Better World: Care as a Driver for our Common Home” is presented in Rome, with a preface by Pope Francis.

March 13  10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election; Polish bishops’ plenary meeting begins.

March 17  Pope Francis presides at a “24 Hours for the Lord” event at Rome’s parish of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale, at 4:30 p.m. local time.

March 19  10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ inauguration.

March 31  Episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Anthony C. Celino at St. Patrick Cathedral in El Paso, Texas.

Have a happy feast of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity.
-- Luke

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