1. The church, Duterte’s boldest foe.

By Sheila S. Coronel, The New York Times, August 5, 2017, Pg. A1

Mr. Villanueva’s action is but one gesture in a small yet growing resistance, aided and inspired by the Catholic Church, against Mr. Duterte’s  (President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines) draconian rule. Convents, novitiates, schools and parochial centers for the needy have become sites of refuge, support and civic education.

When the president perorates on crime and punishment, the clergy preaches empathy and compassion. To Mr. Duterte’s calls for vengeance and retribution, priests, nuns and religious leaders respond with Christianity’s narrative of redemption. By holding masses and processions with pointed political messages, or inviting testimonials from victims of the government’s drug policies, the Church is forging the bonds of opposition among the faithful.

As the number of drug-related extrajudicial killings has risen, protests have multiplied — some led by members of the clergy, others by citizens spurred on by the Church’s lessons in compassion. The Catholic clergy is providing both a language and a method of resistance against Mr. Duterte’s policies.


2. Vatican calls on Venezuela to suspend constitutional assembly. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux, August 4, 2017

In a statement released on Friday, the Vatican is asking for Venezuela’s constitutional assembly to be suspended, which President Nicolas Maduro was expected to confirm today, after a fraudulent election on Sunday allegedly gave him popular support to do so.

“The Holy See asks all the political actors, and particularly the Government, to guarantee the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the current Constitution,” the statement said, calling also for “the avoidance or suspension of ongoing initiatives such as the new constitutional assembly that, more than favoring reconciliation and peace, promote a climate of tension and confrontation and mortgage the future.”

Although the Vatican has recently spoken very strongly about the Venezuelan crisis, with Pope Francis’s top diplomat telling Crux back in May that elections are the only way out of the crisis, this is the first time the Holy See has openly challenged the constitutional assembly.

Traditionally, on such complex, local matters, the Vatican defers to the local Catholic hierarchy. In the case of Venezuela, the bishops have been openly against the assembly. If set into motion, it would allow Maduro to re-write the constitution and also govern through decrees.


3. Cardinal Lustiger: 10 years after death, Jewish convert still looms over Church in France. 

By Christopher White, Editorial Assistant, Crux, August 4, 2017

Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the Jewish convert who became Archbishop of Paris, died ten years ago. His epitaph, which he wrote, reads: “I was born a Jew. I received the name of my paternal grandfather Aaron. Christian by faith and by baptism, I remained a Jew, as did the Apostles.”

The Medium as Metaphor

Lustiger’s winsome personality and media savvy made him an instant favorite of journalists. He also made it clear that he considered it essential to engage the secular press and would go on to scandalize many traditional French Catholics by granting an interview with Libération, a prominent left-wing daily paper.

A decade later, as satellite and cable grew more popular, Lustiger argued – against the wishes of many of his brother bishops – that the Church should be a major player in the realm of television. In 1999, he founded KTO, France’s national Catholic television channel; its diverse programming, along with its professional broadcasting standards, represents Catholic television programming at its best. Philippine de Saint-Pierre, director general of KTO, told Crux that the ongoing success of the network is a result of Lustiger’s “prophetic intuition.”

Sowing the Seeds of World Youth Day

In 1980, John Paul II made his first apostolic visit to France and Lustiger had the idea that the Church should organize an event for young people. Members of the French hierarchy at the time were skeptical of any such effort, and were anticipating a small-scale event with one or two thousand young people.

Lustiger, not to be underestimated, booked what was then the largest stadium in Paris and managed to fill it to overflow capacity with 20,000 young people on hand to welcome the pope. The event would prove so successful that many have credited it as one of the inspirations for World Youth Day, which John Paul II would inaugurate in 1984 and has gone on to become the largest gathering of young people in the world.

Jewish-Christian Unity

Despite his success in the realm of communications and his championing of World Youth Day, it is certainly his work in the area of Jewish-Christian unity for which Lustiger will long be remembered.


A Lasting Legacy

After being named Archbishop of Paris, Lustiger wrote a report on his vision for priestly formation. He would go on to ordain over 250 priests for the archdiocese, an impressive number given global averages during that time, and arguably a vindication of his approach to vocations.  

The report was never made public and is held by Lustiger’s successor, Cardinal André Armand Vingt-Trois, but according to Rougé, it effectively calls for a priesthood rooted in the belief that “you don’t have to choose between theological progressivism or traditionalism. There is another path of being deeply rooted in Jesus Christ which frees you to announce Christ to the world.”

Anchored by ancient truths, yet aiming to chart a new course in a modern world, the unlikely legacy of Lustiger is at times one of contradiction-but also one of confidence that in Catholicism, there’s room for the fulfillment of it all.  


4. Pope ‘Loves China’, Vatican Official Says on Trip to China.

By Reuters, August 3, 2017, 11:00 PM

Pope Francis “loves China” and the Vatican hopes China has a great future, a Chinese state-run newspaper on Friday cited a visiting Vatican official as saying, in an expression of goodwill despite strained relations between the two.

Pope Francis would like to heal a decades-old rift with China, where Catholics are divided between those loyal to him and those who belong to a government-controlled official church.

One obstacle to better relations is the question of who should make senior clerical appointments in China.

China says bishops must be named by the Chinese Catholic community and refuses to accept the authority of the pope, whom it sees as the head of a foreign state that has no right to meddle in China’s affairs.

Another source of friction is the Vatican’s maintenance of official ties with self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a wayward province to be taken back by force if necessary.


5. Bishops need rebranding to get out of media pigeonhole.

By Thomas Reese, Columnist for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church, National Catholic Reporter, August 3, 2017

Last week, I wrote a column arguing that it is impossible to prove by looking at their press releases that the U.S. bishops are only concerned about abortion, gay marriage, and religious freedom and not about issues of justice and peace.

The last seven months of press releases from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops include more releases devoted to immigration and health care for the poor than those on abortion and religious freedom.

A review of these releases also found that the rhetoric in the press releases on abortion and gay marriage is relatively mild, while the releases devoted to immigration, refugees and health care are passionate. While the language surrounding environmental issues is rather mild, on most issues dealing with the poor, the bishops have been very strong in the last seven months.

True, the rhetoric on religious freedom has also been strong, but the image of the bishops as only being interested in the culture wars is not supported by an examination of the press releases coming out of the bishops’ conference.