1. Speak for Venezuela, Pope Francis: The first Latin American pontiff is harder on Trump than on Caracas’s despot.

By William McGurn, Columnist, The Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2017, Pg. A13

When Pope Francis wants to make the objects of his disfavor feel his sting, he’s never lacked for words—especially when it involves the U.S.

But when it comes to the brutality of Venezuela’s government against its own people, Pope Francis and the Vatican have mostly avoided calling out Nicolás Maduro by name. Until Friday, that is. That’s when a popular uprising in Venezuela finally pushed the Vatican to oppose the regime’s bid to tighten its grip by imposing an illegitimate super-assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Even this late in the day, the Vatican’s expression of “profound concern” is better than nothing.

How different the tone is when the subject is Donald Trump or Uncle Sam. Whether suggesting that Mr. Trump is not Christian, warning on Mr. Trump’s inaugural day that populism can lead to Hitler, or implying that ours is an economy that “kills,” Pope Francis has an argot of displeasure all his own.

It’s absence here is particularly striking.


The events of the past week have shattered any silly pretense about some master Vatican plan. But the roots of Pope Francis’ misreadings run deeper than Venezuela. In some ways, it is but the latest reflection of a historic misunderstanding that has often led a poor and Catholic Latin America to blame its wealthy and Protestant neighbor to the north for all its woes.

Just last month, for example, Pope Francis fed this trope by accusing the United States of having a “distorted view of the world.”… On top of it all rests the old idea, still popular on the religious left, that socialism represents the Gospel ideal.

The Acton Institute’s Samuel Gregg was probably closer to the mark when he recently put it this way: “Venezuela’s crisis doesn’t fit into Pope Francis’s standard way of explaining contemporary political and economic problems. It’s very hard for the pope to blame Venezuela’s problems on the tyranny of Mammon, financial speculation, free trade agreements, arms-dealers, nefarious ‘neoliberals,’ or any of his usual list of suspects.”

Today Catholic priests and bishops are courageously defying a Venezuelan regime that has hijacked what was once the richest nation in Latin America and driven it to poverty and despotism. At this dark hour, don’t the struggling people of Venezuela deserve some public inspiration from the first Latin American pope?


2. Immigration Anxieties, Then and Now: Circumstances today resemble those in 1924, when Congress curtailed legal entry.

By Walter Russell Mead, fellow at the Hudson Institute and a professor of foreign affairs at Bard College, The Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2017, Pg. A13

It should come as no surprise that the Trump administration has endorsed the Raise Act, a bill by Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue to reduce the number of legal immigrants to the U.S. while giving greater priority to highly skilled workers. Immigration reform drove President Trump to victory in 2016, and he is unlikely to drop it now.

Yet immigration has been—and remains—a key to America’s success.

But the public doesn’t always support a welcoming immigration policy. In 1924 the Johnson-Reed Act reduced legal immigration from the Old World by about 80%.

Four factors turned the U.S. restrictionist in the 1920s. First, the numbers felt overwhelming. In 1910, almost 15% of American adults—3 in every 20—were foreign-born.

Second, the immigrants arriving in the early 20th century were overwhelmingly from Eastern and Southern Europe, rather than the traditional source countries in Northern Europe and the British Isles. This wave of migrants was seen as culturally alien and thus a challenge to American values and coherence.

Third, economic uncertainty was already high.

Fourth, a small proportion of immigrants brought violent ideologies with them.

Do these factors sound familiar today?… A fifth and serious additional factor, not paralleled in the early 20th century, is the presence of millions of illegal immigrants. As Mr. Trump understood, illegal immigration corrodes public sympathy for high levels of legal immigration.

Yet history suggests that when public opinion sours on immigration, policy eventually follows.

America’s ability to welcome and integrate immigrants remains one of its strengths, but history suggests that a dogmatic insistence on the current policy may well stoke an anti-immigrant backlash. It is more prudent to accommodate these concerns than to defy them.


3. Pope Francis’ pull in politics weighs on Macri’s future.

By Frederic Puglie, The Washington Times, August 8, 2017, Pg. A1

Francis’ less-than-cordial relationship with center-right [Argentinian] President Mauricio Macri has long fueled rumors of a “Peronist pope,” and weeks before the first phase of a critical midterm vote that could make or break Mr. Macri’s future, the pontiff’s every call and comment is being scrutinized here for its electoral value.

One Macri critic and close personal friend of the pope’s, meanwhile, has seemingly eliminated the middleman and, in effect, turned Francis’ writings — which he says call for “societies that guarantee land, housing and work for all” — into the campaign platform for his “Peronism for the Common Good” coalition.

“We carry the banner of ‘Laudato si,’ Francis’ social and environmental encyclical, which clearly lays out that it’s time to rethink and move away from savage capitalism, trickle-down economics [and] untamed consumerism,” Gustavo Vera told The Washington Times.

Mr. Macri, he said, was to blame for job losses, high prices and “brutal” austerity measures. And though he conceded he could not quite claim a papal endorsement, he argued the political preferences of the pope — who as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was the very politically engaged archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998 to 2013 — were not that hard to discern.

“Of course, the pope doesn’t back any ticket; of course, he doesn’t take part in any election,” Mr. Vera said. “[But] you need only compare what the encyclical says with the policies that certain sectors of [Mr. Macri’s] national government push to notice that, clearly, they move in quite a different direction from what the pope lays out.”

The pontiff’s huge popularity in Argentina makes such comments tricky terrain for the president, who, during his time as Buenos Aires mayor, clashed with Francis and earned a very public rebuke from the future pontiff over his refusal to appeal a ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the Argentine capital.

Through his network of local interlocutors like Mr. Vera, though, Francis has been able to needle the government even in his new post as bishop of Rome and spiritual leader to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.


4. Reflections on ‘Tettamanzi lesson’ for handicapping papal elections.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, August 8, 2017

Italian Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, who died on Saturday at 83, was an important figure in Catholicism for most of his adult life, for a variety of reasons, and you can read all about it in the obituary published on Crux by our own Claire Giangravé.

For those of us periodically called upon to handicap papal elections, however, Tettamanzi is significant in yet another sense: He’s a permanent reminder that candidates who seem slam-dunk obvious, who check all the boxes and meet all the conventional criteria, can nevertheless basically vanish from consideration when the time comes.

Looking back over recent experience, the conclusion would seem to be that conclaves really aren’t all that different from other electoral exercises – sometimes front-runners win, and sometimes they don’t.

Although there’s absolutely no sign today that a papal transition is imminent, it’s easy enough to identify who the obvious candidates would be should one become necessary soon.

If you’re inclined to vote “continuity” with Pope Francis, you’d probably be looking at Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope’s Secretary of State; Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of his “C-9” council of advisers; Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a member of the C-9 and a prelate with a reputation as a reformer, especially on the sexual abuse scandals; and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manilla in the Philippines, more or less the “Asian Francis.”

If you think a slight course correction is in order in a more traditional direction, you’d be looking at Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, currently the Vatican’s top liturgical official; Cardinal Péter Erdő of Hungary, former President of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe; Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka, a former Vatican liturgy czar; and, perhaps, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops.

If you think a compromise between those two currents is just what the doctor ordered, you’d probably be inclined to look at Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria, who was once Ratzinger’s dauphin, and is today a key intellectual defender of the Pope Francis agenda.

The Tettamanzi lesson is this: Sure, take those guys seriously, because sometimes the obvious choice comes through. On the other hand, also take them with a grain of salt, because other times the obvious can become the implausible awfully quickly.


5. Trump’s evangelical advisers want a meeting with Pope Francis over controversial article. 

By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, August 7, 2017, 10:14 AM

President Trump’s evangelical advisory board is asking Pope Francis for meetings with him and other high-level Vatican officials to discuss “efforts to divide evangelicals and Catholics.”

The request, which was first reported in Time, comes a few weeks after two of Francis’s closest allies published an extremely critical article about the shared political activism of conservative evangelicals and Catholics, saying it has “an ideology of conquest.”

The piece attracted wide attention because of the connection that the authors — an Italian Catholic priest and an Argentine Presbyterian pastor — have to the pope and because of its range: It disparaged everything from conservative evangelicalism and prosperity gospel to the popular idea that the United States is blessed by God. It was published mid-July in the influential Rome-based Jesuit publication La Civilta Cattolica.

The letter, dated Aug. 3, was signed by Johnnie Moore, a former vice president of Liberty University who now serves as a spokesman for a few dozen evangelicals who informally advise Trump and who represent the faith group seen as having the most regular access to the White House since the election.


6. Pope names Academy for Life governing council.

By Catholic News Service, August 7, 2017

Completing the reorganization of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis named four scholars to serve on the academy’s governing council.

The Vatican announced August 5 the scholars who would comprise the council: Etsuko Akiba, a professor of law in the faculty of economics at the University of Toyama, Japan, and a specialist in Catholic bioethics and bioethics law; Monica Lopez Barahona, general director of Spain’s Biosanitary Studies Center and president of the Spanish delegation of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation; Auxiliary Bishop Alberto German Bochatey of La Plata, Argentina, professor of bioethics and vice chancellor of the Catholic University of La Plata; and Adriano Pessina, professor of moral philosophy and director of the Center for Bioethics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan.

Msgr. Carlos Simon Vazquez, delegate for the Family and Life Section of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, and Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, head of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for the Study of Marriage and Family in Rome, also serve on the council by virtue of their positions.

The academy’s president is Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia.

Founded in 1994 by St. John Paul II, the Pontifical Academy for Life is charged with defending and promoting “the value of human life and the dignity of the person.”