1. Chinese Cardinal Says Vatican Must Stand Up to Beijing, By Reuters, December 8, 2016, 8:39 AM.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most senior Chinese Catholic cleric, says the participation of an excommunicated prelate at two bishop ordinations in China was a “slap in the face” for Pope Francis just as Rome seeks a historic deal with Beijing.

Bishop Lei Shiyin, who was excommunicated by the Vatican in 2011 for accepting his appointment without papal approval, took part in the ordinations of new bishops in the cities of Chengdu and Xichang, in southwestern China, last week.

While the Catholic priests selected to be bishops enjoyed the backing of both Rome and Beijing, the active participation of the excommunicated Lei was an act of defiance by Beijing, Zen said in an interview with Reuters.

Under Pope Francis, the Vatican is making a push to heal the rift with Beijing by seeking an agreement on how to choose bishops in China.

But the Vatican should speak up when Catholic norms are openly violated, said Zen, who added he was surprised that the church hierarchy had remained silent.

“The big mistake is that to please the Beijing government, the Vatican abstains from doing many things they are supposed to do,” said Zen. “When you see such an excommunicated bishop come to the ceremony, you must shout. You must tell the good bishops to stop the ceremony!”

A senior Vatican prelate familiar with the negotiations told Reuters that, while the Holy See appreciated Zen’s concerns about dialogue with government, the situation in China “is not black and white and the alternative (to an agreement) is a deeper schism in the Church”.


2. France Prepares to Criminalize Pro-Life Advocacy, By Daniel Payne, National Review, December 8, 2016, 4:00 AM, Opinion.

Last month a French court upheld a ban on a video that advocated on behalf of children with Down syndrome. The court declared that the work might “disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices.” In France, in other words, it is illegal to promote a video for disabled children because it might offend some women who killed their disabled children in utero.

Not to be outdone by the judicial system, the lower house of the French parliament recently adopted a measure that would forbid French websites to exert “psychological or moral pressure to discourage recourse to abortion.” The bill now goes to the senate. The evident purpose of the proposed law is to ban most French pro-life advocacy from the Internet.


 3. Ohio lawmakers revive ‘heartbeat abortion’ ban, By CNA/EWTN News, December 7, 2016, 4:15 PM.

Citing the prospect of a more favorable Supreme Court, Ohio legislators have passed a ban on abortions once an unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected.
The bill was previously defeated twice in the Republican-controlled legislature. However, State Senate President Keith Faber said the bill was revived given the prospect that President-elect Donald Trump will appoint justices more likely to uphold restrictions on abortion.

The ban on abortions after the baby’s heart begins to beat would apply as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The bill allows exceptions if the mother’s life is deemed to be in danger.


4. Cardinal Stella on New Vatican Seminary Document: Avoid ‘Rigidity’, By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, December 7, 2016.

Coinciding with publication of new and updated guidelines on priestly formation, Cardinal Beniamino Stella says that seminaries should focus on pastoral discernment and form priests to be “without rigidity, hypocrisy.”
The Congregation for Clergy is about to issue a new document on basic norms for priestly formation which aim to move away from “rigidity” in the interests of fostering greater pastoral discernment and accompaniment, according to the Congregation’s cardinal prefect.

Entitled The Gift of the Priestly Vocation, the guidelines, otherwise known as Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, will be promulgated tomorrow, December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Cardinal Stella, a Vatican diplomat and one of the Pope’s most trusted aides, says the decision to issue the new document is in view of “the effect of the rapid evolution the world is subjected to today” as well as changing “historical, socio-cultural and ecclesial contexts in which the priest is called to embody the mission of Christ and of the Church.”

He stresses the document should reflect those realities “without causing significant changes relating to other aspects: the image or vision of the priest, the spiritual needs of God’s people, the challenges of the new evangelization, the languages of communication, and more.”

“We felt that the formation of priests needed to be revived, renewed and put back at the center,” he says, adding: “We have been encouraged and enlightened by the Magisterium of Pope Francis.”

He goes on to say that “novelties in the Church are never separate from the tradition”, rather they “integrate and deepen” but it’s important to “listen to the Holy Spirit.”

The cardinal says three words encapsulate the overall vision of the document — humanity, spirituality and discernment.

The new guidelines are intended to be implemented across the board, including by bishops’ conferences, religious orders and personal prelatures, although each country is expected to produce its own national guidelines based on the Ratio’s text.


5. Pope Warns About Fake News-From Experience, By the Associated Press, December 7, 2016, 12:22 PM.

Pope Francis is warning about the dangers of fake news, and he should know: Earlier this year, he was reported — falsely — to have endorsed Donald Trump for U.S. president.

In an interview published Wednesday with the Belgian Catholic weekly Tertio, Francis repeated a frequent warning of his that the media can fall prey to spreading slander, scandal, defamation and disinformation.

He said: “Disinformation is probably the greatest damage that the media can do, as opinion is guided in one direction, neglecting the other part of the truth.”

Francis was a victim of fake news spread on social media, including the false claim that he had endorsed Trump. Popes do not endorse political candidates, though he urged Catholic voters to “study the proposals well, pray and choose in conscience.”