1. Pope meets father of British toddler at center of battle. 

By Associated Press, April 18, 2018, 7:43 AM

The father of a terminally ill British toddler met Wednesday with Pope Francis and begged him to make another bid for his son’s life, after an appeals court ruled that the child cannot be taken to Italy for further medical treatment.

Francis obliged, holding a minute of silent prayer for 23-month-old Alfie Evans during his weekly general audience and insisting that the only one who can give and take life is God.

“It’s our duty to do everything to care for life,” Francis told the crowd of thousands in St. Peter’s Square.

Alfie’s parents have been engaged in a protracted legal fight with doctors over his care.


2. Focus on witchcraft at exorcists’ summit signifies a paradigm shift. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, April 18, 2018

For most Americans and Europeans, the global north-south shift in the Church’s center of gravity over the last half-century truly comes home when they look around at priests and nuns these days, and see swelling numbers of Filipinos, Indians, Nigerians, Koreans, and multiple other nationalities.

However, the demographic transition that now sees two-thirds of a global Catholic population of almost 1.3 billion living in the southern hemisphere is also taking hold in other ways as well, including the Church’s perceived sense of pastoral and theological priorities. Oddly enough, a 13th annual course for exorcists being held this week at Rome’s Regina Apostolorum University offers one such sign of the times.

Launched in 2004, the course is designed to offer resources to priests who practice the formal ministry of exorcism as well as laity who engage in the more amorphous practice of “prayers of liberation,” though organizers are always at pains to insist it’s not a “school for exorcists,” since ultimately only a bishop can actually commission a priest to perform the rite.

Laying out this year’s edition on Monday, Professor Giuseppe Ferrari, who heads the “Group for Socio-Religious Research and Information” which sponsors the annual gathering, went over the history of the course and also what’s new in the 2018 edition.

One novelty, Ferrari said, is that for the first time, the course will feature a section on witchcraft in Africa.

“We will deal with the theme of the kidnapping and murder of children for ritual sacrifice, linked to witchcraft, in order to obtain favors for clients,” he said, calling it a “cruel and inhuman practice.”

The strong practical appeal of witchcraft and magic across much of the developing world also became clear on the opening day, after 89-year-old Cardinal Ernest Simoni gave a heartfelt talk about his decades of experience performing exorcisms (always in Latin, and always according to the 1884 formula issued under Pope Leo XIII.)

During the Q&A that followed, an Indian priest currently serving in Dubai rose to ask a question.

“Many Muslims come to our place, even highly educated ones,” he said. “They say, ‘Father, someone has done black magic on me, can you pray over me and remove the devil?’”

“What’s the best way,” the priest asked, “to help these people?” He added that “many come from Lebanon with similar problems.”

In substance, Simoni replied that exorcism is for everyone, without distinctions of religion: “The grace of the Holy Spirit will redeem us all.”

I used to say that we’ll know the global south has arrived in terms of setting the tone in Catholicism when popes and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith give us documents on the pastoral approach to polygamy, not divorce, whenever marriage is in the air. Perhaps another test will be when we get texts on witchcraft rather than women’s ordination or some other hot-button Western issue.

And that, in short, is what living through a paradigm shift feels like.


3. From the Heart of a Young Father. 

By Charles J. Chaput, Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the archbishop of Philadelphia, First Things, April 18, 2018

Last month, in preparation for the October 2018 synod, roughly 300 young adults from around the world gathered in Rome to discuss their views of faith and the Church. The result was a valuable experience of dialogue and learning—so valuable that I think that continuing the process of listening to a wide range of young adult experiences is important. In that spirit, I offer a letter below, which I received just after the March pre-synod gathering.

We young people crave the truth and clarity of good teaching. On a secular level this is evidenced by the meteoric rise in popularity of Jordan Peterson. We crave the truth, no matter how blunt or difficult it is for us to swallow or for the shepherds of our flock to teach.

Our culture is roiled in confusion concerning the basic tenets of human nature: From a very young age, we’re deluged with propaganda that distorts basic scientific truths about gender, paints virtue and chivalry as “toxic masculinity,” denigrates the family, and desecrates the nature of sex and its fruits, especially the unborn child.

We urgently need the Church’s clarity and authoritative guidance on issues like abortion, homosexuality, gender dysphoria, the indissolubility of matrimony, the four last things, and the consequences of contraception (moral, anthropological, and abortifacient). My generation has never, or rarely, heard these truths winsomely taught in the parishes. Instead, we hear most forcefully and frequently from our bishops’ conference and our dioceses regarding the federal budget, border policy, net neutrality, gun control, and the environment.

Young Catholics crave the beauty that guided and inspired previous generations for nearly two millennia.

In sum, many of us feel that we’re the rightful heirs of thousands of years of rich teaching, tradition, art, architecture, and music. We young Catholics increasingly recognize that these riches will be crucial for evangelizing our peers and passing on a thriving Church to our children. If the Church abandons her traditions of beauty and truth, she abandons us.

I can add little to that kind of witness. I’ll merely suggest the obvious: The future of the Catholic faith belongs to those who create it with their fidelity, their self-sacrifice, their commitment to bringing new life into the world and raising their children in truth, and their determination to walk Christ’s “narrow way” with joy. May God grant the 2018 synod fathers the grace and courage to lead young people on that path.


4. Roe V. Wade Derangement Syndrome. 

By George Weigel, George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, First Things, April 18, 2018

The defense of the indefensible often leads to a kind of derangement in otherwise rational people. That was the case with the defenders of slavery and legalized racial segregation; it has become the case with abortion.

I’ve long thought that the most callous, coldhearted contribution to the national debate on abortion was penned by the feminist ideologue Barbara Ehrenreich in a 1985 column for the New York Times. There, Ms. Ehrenreich deplored the “lasting … damage” done by the pro-life movement:

[“]I cannot speak for other women, of course, but the one regret I have about my own abortions is that they cost money that might otherwise have been spent on something more pleasurable, like taking the kids to movies and theme parks.[”]

Ms. Ehrenreich remains in a class, so to speak, of her own. But now comes Ruth Marcus, op-ed columnist and deputy editorial page director of the Washington Post, who … went on to announce: “I can say without hesitation” that, had pre-natal testing shown her carrying children with Down syndrome, “I would have terminated those pregnancies … grieved the loss and moved on.” Ms. Marcus went on to praise “families that knowingly welcome a baby with Down syndrome into their lives,” but candidly confessed that such a baby was “not the child I wanted.”

“Not the child I wanted.” There, in a single phrase, is the moral dereliction at the center of Roe v. Wade Derangement Syndrome: If a pregnancy is inconvenient for career purposes, or the child to be born seems unlikely to tick all the boxes of one’s expectations, one makes the choice—“tragic,” as Ms. Marcus admits, or No Big Deal, on the Ehrenreich scale of values—to destroy the indisputably human life one has procreated. Lebensunwertes leben, “life unworthy of life,” German eugenicists and legal scholars called it in the 1920s. And we all know, or should know, where that lethal logic led when the definition of the “unworthy” was extended beyond the mentally handicapped to include certain ethnic groups, thought not to be the kind of people other people wanted as neighbors and fellow-citizens.

The refusal to recognize that lethal logic is another facet of Roe v. Wade Derangement Syndrome. There can be no denial that the object of an abortion is a human being; elementary genetics teaches us that. What is at issue—what has always been at issue—is what is owed, morally and legally, to that human being. And if the lethal logic of Lebensunwertes leben prevails, where will the proponents of an unrestricted abortion license stop, when it comes to eliminating the inconvenient? Will the fourteen self-identified Catholic U.S. senators who voted recently against a late-term abortion ban stand firm against euthanasia? Will they defend the conscience rights of Catholic medical professionals who refuse to participate in those euphemisms known as “pregnancy termination” or “death with dignity”? Don’t hold your breath.

Which brings us to the recent Democratic primary in Illinois’s 3rd congressional district. There, the heroic Dan Lipinski, a stalwart pro-lifer, survived a vicious challenge from another victim of Roe v. Wade Derangement Syndrome, Maria Newman, who got serious financial and ground-game support from Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Emily’s List. A few weeks before the primary, Ms. Newman told a rally of her supporters, “I know what’s in his heart, and it’s called hate. This guy is dangerous. His views are dangerous.”

That is what Roe v. Wade Derangement Syndrome has done to our politics: It’s made it possible to say that what’s in the heart of a mild-mannered gentleman like Dan Lipinski is “hate”—and get away with it. The defense of the indefensible leads to rage, and rage becomes a form of madness.


5. The Vatican’s China Game: Deal or No Deal With Beijing?: China’s Communist government still wants an agreement over bishops’ appointments, but the Vatican appears more ambivalent in the face of criticism and recent problematic developments. 

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, April 17, 2018

The Holy See needs to be humble and willing to end talks until they obtain “anything real” from the Chinese government, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun has said.

In April 5 comments to the Register — made in the wake of a range of recent actions by the communist government that appear hostile to the free practice of religion — the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong said if Rome “cannot get anything real from the negotiations, they should acknowledge the objective impossibility and failure and say goodbye to the other side till they have anything new to talk about.”

A major sticking point in re-establishing relations has been over the appointment of bishops. Most bishops are now recognized by the Holy See and the Patriotic Association. Occasionally, however, Beijing has ordained its own bishops in the face of Vatican opposition, which has led to excommunications.

Cardinal Zen’s remarks also come after the Chinese government placed religious affairs under the ruling atheist Communist Party at the end of March — a move widely seen as a means of exerting greater control over the Church and other religions. The decision followed the introduction of revised “Religious Affairs Regulations,” introducing new restrictions on religious practices.

But the Vatican has already taken highly contentious steps along the path of the agreement: In December, it made the decision to order 88-year-old Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian of Shantou of the underground Church to step aside for a state-backed bishop to succeed him and be reconciled with the Holy See and to give Bishop Zhuang the title “emeritus.”

At the same time, a government-appointed bishop, Zhan Silu, was allowed to take the place of a Vatican-recognized bishop, Guo Xijin of Mindong. Bishop Guo was made an auxiliary and granted official recognition in return.

Police arrested Bishop Guo in March, after he refused to concelebrate with Bishop Zhan at a chrism Mass, as Bishop Zhan is still excommunicated due to his membership of the state-controlled church. Following Bishop Guo’s release, the authorities banned him from celebrating any Mass as a bishop, as he is not recognized by the government.

Others drawing on historical precedent, such as George Weigel, distinguished senior fellow at Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, see this approach as doomed to failure and reminiscent of Ostpolitik — the controversial strategy pursued by the Vatican in the 1960s and 1970s to appease and make agreements with Soviet Communism.

Weigel told the Register April 11 that, for almost 30 years, he has been in contact with “the people who kept Catholicism alive behind the Iron Curtain,” and they would answer: “No, there is nothing to be said for that approach.” He also said the Ostpolitik approach allowed the Vatican to be “severely penetrated by East bloc secret intelligence agencies.”