1. Musk Says ‘Make More Italians’, A Harvard-educated economist and mother makes the case for having big families., By William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2023, Pg. A15 Elon Musk, listen up. I have a woman who not only knows what you want—she says she knows how to get it. At a recent conference in Rome, Mr. Musk brought up one of his hobby horses: the challenge to global prosperity posed by declining fertility rates. That’s the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime. At 1.24 Italy’s is among the lowest in Europe and well below the 2.1 rate a country needs to maintain its population. His answer? “Make more Italians.” Enter Catherine Pakaluk. She agrees with Mr. Musk about birthrates. But she notes that countries have learned that while it’s possible to drive birthrates down, it’s much more difficult to drive them back up once the decline has started.  The real issue, Mrs. Pakaluk says, is how moms regard opportunity costs. The women she interviewed are aware of the trade-offs involved in having more children. Like Mrs. Pakaluk, many have full-time careers. The difference is that they seek to accommodate their careers to motherhood—not the other way around. And she’s not calling for every woman to raise 14 children, as she has. “There’d be a big improvement if women who are open to more children just had a second or third.” Even so, the condescension toward women who choose more children remains. When President Emmanuel Macron five years ago mansplained that educated women don’t have large families, Mrs. Pakaluk led a Twitter campaign for moms to post photos of their families for the French president. Even Pope Francis once crudely said Catholic women don’t need to breed “like rabbits.” “What I’m interested in,” Mrs. Pakaluk says, “is challenging a rigid narrative about female success patterned on a male timeline. I’m interested in raising awareness about the very real possibility of prioritizing children in a modern economy.”  Many are not going to like Mrs. Pakaluk’s solution, which is a civil society thick with religious institutions that are the most likely to share the value these women place on motherhood. But she makes a powerful case that nothing else has worked or is likely to work. So the next time Mr. Musk talks about population decline, he might want to bring along this economist and mother. https://www.wsj.com/articles/musk-says-make-more-italians-fertility-rate-religion-feminism-c8fdf9ba__________________________________________________________ 2. The trials of Jimmy Lai, Answering to a power infinitely higher than the Chinese Communist Party, By Elisha Maldonado, The Washington Times, December 26, 2023, Pg. B3, Opinion After more than three years in a Hong Kong prison sans trial, Jimmy Lai, the legendary newspaperman, brave democracy champion, and a good man, began a trial last week under Beijing’s national security law. The 76-year-old, who has been spending his time in 23-hour solitary confinement, faces life imprisonment if convicted of “collusion with foreign forces.” Two things will become demonstrably clear at Mr. Lai’s sham trial, which is expected to last 80 days: Jimmy’s genuine grace and dignity — when he entered the courtroom, he smiled and waved at his family — and what a morally hollow regime the Chinese Communist Party truly is. To use the words of the United Kingdom’s Lord David Alton, this is “a show trial worthy of Stalin.”  He has lived his life by listening to his great and clear inner voice, by standing by his principles and ideals, and, as a devout Catholic, by his abundant faith, all of which compelled him to “suffer” it out, come what may.  Time and time again, the Chinese government has tried to take Jimmy Lai down. And while the regime might finally succeed in imprisoning him for the rest of his life — as his son said, “the result is already predetermined” — it won’t ever really win. Truth and justice will always prevail. What’s more, the Chinese Communist Party can imprison bodies all day long, but they can’t arrest the soul or the mind. We already know Jimmy answers to a power infinitely higher than the party. Elisha Maldonado is director of communications for the Human Rights Foundation. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2023/dec/25/trials-of-jimmy-lai/__________________________________________________________ 3. Discrimination on wheels: Washington Metro blocks Christian advertisements, By Jeremy Dys, The Washington Times, December 26, 2023, Pg. B4, Opinion On an average day in the D.C. area, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority‘s fleet of nearly 1,600 buses traverses 1,500 square miles of the nation’s capital. The visibility of these large vehicles to the more than 700,000 D.C. residents presents added revenue opportunities through paid advertisements on the sides of the buses. To WMATA’s credit, selling this ad space is a great way to increase its revenue. Unfortunately, however, WMATA accepts and rejects ads at the whim of its administrators and their notions of what is permissible or not. WMATA’s discriminatory ad policy is so bad that a diverse combination of legal groups — the ACLU, First Liberty Institute, and the law firm Steptoe — have joined together to file a federal lawsuit against the organization after it rejected ads from a Christian organization. WallBuilder Presentations provides resources detailing the history of Christianity in the founding of America. WallBuilders submitted ads for display on Metro buses featuring the iconic painting of George Washington kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge and the Founders in Philadelphia with the caption: “Christian?” The ads included a QR code and web address for those interested in learning more.  Rejecting a faith-based advertising banner by labeling it an “issue ad” while accepting others is clearly hypocritical, discriminatory and illegal. WMATA must support the freedoms provided in the First Amendment rather than silence Americans through censorship and end its blatant hostility and discrimination. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2023/dec/25/discrimination-on-wheels-washington-metro-blocks-c/__________________________________________________________ 4. Pope Francis denounces the weapons industry as he makes a Christmas appeal for peace in the world, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, December 25, 2023, 9:39 AM Pope Francis on Monday blasted the weapons industry and its “instruments of death” that fuel wars as he made a Christmas Day appeal for peace in the world and in particular between Israel and the Palestinians. Speaking from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica to the throngs of people below, Francis said he grieved the “abominable attack” of Hamas against southern Israel on Oct. 7 and called for the release of hostages. And he begged for an end to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and the “appalling harvest of innocent civilians” as he called for humanitarian aid to reach those in need.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/12/25/pope-vatican-christmas-israel-palestinians-ukraine-weapons/8c1dccae-a31a-11ee-aacb-6f873a65763e_story.html__________________________________________________________ 5. Pope says ‘our hearts are in Bethlehem’ as he presides over the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s, By Associated Press, December 24, 2023, 3:26 PM Recalling Jesus’ birth in a stable in Bethlehem, Pope Francis in a Christmas Eve homily said that “the clash of arms even today” prevents Jesus “from finding room in the world.” The pontiff presided Sunday over the evening Mass attended by about 6,500 faithful who took their place amid the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica behind rows of white-clad prelates. “Our hearts are in Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace is once more rejected by the futile logic of war, ” the pope said, referring to the war sparked by Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 rampage and hostage-taking in Israel.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/12/24/christmas-eve-mass-pope-vatican-war/ba3f5326-a29a-11ee-aacb-6f873a65763e_story.html__________________________________________________________ 6. This Is Why Jesus Wept, By Peter Wehner, The New York Times, December 24, 2023, Opinion Of all the qualities that the New Testament ascribes to God, compassion is among the most shocking. Compassion has nothing to do with power, with immortality or with immutability, which is what many people think of when they contemplate God’s qualities. The Greek gods of myth who lived on Mt. Olympus were defined by many things, but compassion was not high among them.  Compassion, on the other hand, is central to the Christian understanding of God. Compassion implies the capacity to enter into places of pain, to “weep with those who weep,” according to the Apostle Paul, who was central both to the early conception of Christianity and to the idea of its underpinning in compassion.  During times of sorrow and times of tears, when it feels like we’re “being broken on the wheels of living,” in the words of Thornton Wilder, there is great comfort in believing God empathizes with our suffering, having entered into suffering himself. But we also need his emissaries. We need people who see us and know us, who enter our stories. Through their compassion and love, we feel, I feel — even if only partly — God’s compassion and love. That doesn’t eliminate the storms from within or without. But it makes greater room for joy in the journey. Peter Wehner (@Peter_Wehner) — a senior fellow at the Trinity Forum who served in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — is a contributing Opinion writer and the author of “The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.” https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/24/opinion/christmas-jesus-wept-compassion.html __________________________________________________________ 7. Vatican to publish never-before-seen homilies by Pope Benedict XVI during his 10-year retirement, By Associated Press, December 23, 2023, 9:25 AM The Vatican next year will publish a collection of never-before-seen homilies delivered by the late Pope Benedict XVI during his private Sunday Masses, most of them penned during his 10-year retirement, officials said Saturday. The consecrated women who tended to Benedict during his pontificate and retirement recorded the homilies as he delivered them, and have now transcribed them for publication by the Vatican’s publishing house. Thirty of the homilies date from Benedict’s pontificate, while around 100 more are from his retirement, said a statement from the publisher, the Joseph Ratzinger Foundation and the Vatican’s communications office. All are in Italian, the German-born theologian’s adopted language. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, in conjunction with Germany’s Welt am Sonntag, published the first of the homilies Saturday. It is a meditation on the figure of Joseph that Benedict delivered on Dec. 22, 2013, just a few months after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/12/23/benedict-xvi-pope-homilies/1e9716bc-a19f-11ee-9e0f-972979a6c22b_story.html__________________________________________________________ 8. ‘Miracles and Machines’ Review: Mystery of the Clockwork Man, A 16th-century automaton in the shape of a friar is a reminder of the craft of Renaissance inventors. But who devised it?, By Edward Rothstein, The Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2023, Pg. C9, Book Review What kind of a book do we have in “Miracles and Machines: A Sixteenth-Century Automaton and Its Legend”? It includes an account of the 16th-century Spanish prince Don Carlos falling down a flight of stairs, analysis of a grooved metallic cone known as a fusee, citations from a 20th-century correspondence with a Franciscan friar, and meticulous descriptions of moving figures few of us will ever glimpse in their wood-and-metal flesh. The authors call the book a “clockwork”; its many disparate parts are joined in scrupulous devotion to a 16th-century automaton—an object, they write, which is at once “a sculpture, a machine, an icon, and a messenger.” The figure is of a Franciscan friar, about 16 inches tall, carved out of wood, cloaked in a modern replica of the garb he once wore. His 5-pound weight is due to an intricate iron mechanism that fits inside his wooden body; it is wound with a key.  Few clockmakers of the 16th century would have been expert enough to create the friar. Among them the book names Jakob Bulmann of Nuremberg, Germany, who died around 1535, and Juanelo Turriano (ca. 1500-85), who worked in Toledo, Spain. The authors lean toward ascribing the friar to Turriano. He may not have put his name to this figure, but his skill was so renowned that he inscribed one of his intricate astronomical clocks with a Latin declaration the book takes as its epigraph: “QVI. SIM. SCIES. SI. PAR. OPVS. FACERE. CONABERIS.” (“You Will Know Who I Am If You Try to Make This.”) A contemporary declared that Turriano was “a lowborn man, but gifted by God with such a sublime intelligence that he astounded the world, and was reputed by everyone to be a miracle of nature.” The Toledo street on which he lived is still called Calle del Hombre de Palo, the Street of the Wooden Man. And here the tale gets still more Baroque. Turriano, it turns out, also created automatons for King Philip II of Spain as his court mathematician. In seeking to learn more about the friar’s provenance, Ms. King contacted Servus Gieben, a Dutch-born Franciscan who served as the director of the Franciscan Museum in Rome. In his correspondence with Ms. King, Gieben, who died in 2014, reaffirmed his theory that it may have been commissioned by Philip for his son Carlos. In 1562, at the age of 17, Carlos fell down a flight of stairs and so gravely injured his skull that he was not expected to survive (either the injury or the era’s “treatments”). And here is where the miracle comes in. The corpse of a Franciscan friar, Diego de Alcalá (ca. 1400-63), had remained free of decay after his death that it was thought to have healing powers. And behold: Once it was laid upon the dying prince, Carlos soon began to recover. Philip II spent 26 years petitioning four consecutive popes to recognize the miracle and declare Diego a saint. (He ultimately was, as the city of San Diego now affirms.) Gieben suggested that the facial resemblance between the automaton and Diego was evident. And what better way, he thought, for Philip to honor Diego than by providing his often wayward son with an admonitory reminder in the form of the penitential friar himself, created by the most brilliant clockmaker in the empire. As Don Carlos was brought back to life, so an inanimate automaton would turn animate. Even today, the authors suggest, the friar remains “a small miracle. Or the image of a small miracle. Or the metaphor of a large miracle. Or an artificial miracle.” It stirs wonder as “a motionless thing that comes to life.” https://www.wsj.com/arts-culture/books/miracles-and-machines-review-mystery-of-the-clockwork-man-4b539186__________________________________________________________ 9. Cardinal Fernández: Same-sex blessing ‘does not validate or justify anything’, By Edgar Beltrán, The Pillar, December 23, 2023, 12:19 AM, Interview Church leaders have been in the grip of sharp debate this week, after the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith published on Monday Fiducia supplicans, a declaration which offered a framework for clerical blessings of same-sex couples, and others living in relationships outside of marriage.  Some bishops’ conferences and dioceses which had already given a green light to such blessings, in Belgium and Germany especially, saw in the document a validation of their approach to the issue, with some promising to defy the document by publishing guidelines for the liturgical blessings of same-sex couples — a step prohibited by the DDF’s declaration. But some bishops’ conferences in Africa and Asia pushed back on the document, with some prohibiting the implementation of Fiducia supplicans in their territory. One cardinal challenged the doctrinal orthodoxy of the document, while the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said the text does not apply to his congregation.  Amid a challenging week for the Church, The Pillar contacted Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, with questions about the document, and the reactions it has generated. This interview was conducted in Spanish, by email, and was translated by The Pillar.  https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/cardinal-fernandez-same-sex-blessing__________________________________________________________ 10. Vatican prosecutor appeals verdict that largely dismantled his fraud case but convicted cardinal, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, December 22, 2023, 9:40 AM The Vatican’s chief prosecutor has appealed a court verdict that largely dismantled his theory of a grand conspiracy to defraud the Holy See of millions of euros but found a cardinal guilty of embezzlement. Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi filed his appeal this week of the three-judge tribunal’s decision in a complicated financial trial that aired the Vatican’s dirty laundry and tested its peculiar legal system. While the headline from the Dec. 16 verdict focused on Cardinal Angelo Becciu’s 5½-year sentence for embezzlement, the meat of the ruling made clear that the judges rejected most of Diddi’s 487-page indictment.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/12/22/vatican-trial-fraud-becciu-pope-francis-money-laundering/a35a22ee-a0a1-11ee-9e0f-972979a6c22b_story.html __________________________________________________________ 11. No Better Time to Be a Catholic, By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, December 22, 2023, Opinion  “Who would choose to be a Catholic at a time like this?” To which I would submit, in perfect seriousness, that there is no better time to be a Catholic than this one. Not because the trouble in the church isn’t grave. Catholicism is clearly in the midst of one of its periodic convulsions and crises of authority. In my own book on the Francis pontificate, I drew analogies to the Arian controversies of the fourth century and the Jesuit-Jansenist struggles of the 1600s, but the Great Schism of the Middle Ages always looms as a more extreme possibility. But the crisis of Catholicism is inextricably bound up with the larger crises of the West and indeed the entire world. What is the relationship between a liberalism that controls the organs of authority and a reactionary and populist resistance? What kind of successful cultural settlement is possible on the far side of the sexual revolution? Can a liberal-individualist society avoid falling prey to despair, sterility, even extinction? Can a conservative alternative be something more than a truculent remnant, an anachronistic fringe? Does the future belong to the secular progressivism of an aging West, the supernaturalist Christianity of a youthful Africa, or to the collision of both with some sort of emergent post-Christian spirituality, the rise of techno-religion or the return of pagan magic? These are general questions, not just Catholic ones, but they are distilled in specific ways in the clash between Francis’s liberalization project and the conservative and traditionalist resistance. And how the world’s largest hierarchical religious institution passes through this crisis, how these questions are fought over and resolved inside a billion-member church, will play a central role in deciding what kind of civilization takes shape in the future — beyond the present era of acceleration and reaction, utopianism and despair.  As it has been from the beginning, from failed and feckless popes all the way back to failed and even treacherous disciples. If the story that Christians hold up for the world a few days hence is really the greatest and most important ever told, then Christianity will come through this crisis as it has come through past ones. And whether you’re a liberal, a conservative or just a believer trying to stay out of the crossfire, you should feel confident that what happens inside Roman Catholic Christianity will show some of those ways through. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/22/opinion/christmas-pope-francis.html__________________________________________________________ 12. Ukrainian archbishop says same-sex blessings document doesn’t apply to Eastern Churches, By Joe Bukuras, Catholic News Agency, December 22, 2023, 4:56 PM The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said Friday that the Vatican’s recent declaration on non-liturgical same-sex blessings does not apply to the Eastern Catholic Churches.  Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said that his statement was in response to numerous appeals from bishops, clergy, monastics, church movements, and individual laity of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church” regarding “Fiducia Supplicans,” a declaration from the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith published Dec. 18.   That declaration said that “Blessings are among the most widespread and evolving sacramentals” and that it is possible to give “blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex.”  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256363/ukrainian-archbishop-says-same-sex-blessings-document-doesn-t-apply-to-eastern-churches__________________________________________________________ 13. Polish bishops: Church does not have authority to ‘bless same-sex unions’, By Tyler Arnold, Catholic News Agency, December 22, 2023, 3:40 PM Catholic bishops in Poland have ruled out the possibility of blessing “same-sex unions,” but remain open to blessing individuals with homosexual tendencies, only if they are “living in complete abstinence” of sexual activities. The Polish Episcopal Conference released the statement on Dec. 21, just three days after the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a declaration that allowed non-liturgical blessings of “same-sex couples.” The Polish bishops’ statement did not expressly criticize the Vatican declaration but appeared to conflict with the guidance contained within it. “In response to the question: Does the Church have the authority to bless same-sex unions? the answer is: Negative,” the Polish bishops’ statement read, citing a March 2021 “responsum” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. “Since practicing sexual acts outside marriage, that is, outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open to the transmission of life, is always an offense against the will and wisdom of God expressed in the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, people who are in such a relationship cannot receive a blessing,” the statement added. “This applies in particular to people in same-sex relationships.”  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/256357/polish-bishops-church-does-not-have-authority-to-bless-same-sex-unions__________________________________________________________

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