1. Once again, bishops around the world differ on ‘Amoris’.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, February 1, 2018

Almost two years after the publication of Pope Francis’s document on the family, Amoris Laetitia, and especially its cautious opening to Communion for divorced and civilly remarried believers, it continues to make waves in Catholic circles, with more bishops releasing guidelines on how to interpret it and others demanding the pontiff explain its definitive meaning.

Recent voices against Communion for the divorced and remarried

On Dec. 31 three bishops of Kazakhstan – Tomash Peta, Archbishop of Saint Mary in Astana; Jan Pawel Lenga, Archbishop-Bishop of Karaganda; and Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Saint Mary in Astana – released a statement titled “Profession of the Immutable Truths about Sacramental Marriage.”

Published by several news sites, it was later supported by two Italian prelates, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, former papal representative to the United States, and Archbishop Emeritus Luigi Negri.

“It’s not licit (non licet) to justify, approve, or legitimize either directly or indirectly divorce and a non-conjugal stable sexual relationship through the sacramental discipline of the admission of so-called ‘divorced and remarried’ to Holy Communion, in this case a discipline alien to the entire Tradition of the Catholic and Apostolic faith,” the statement from the Kazakh bishops says.

This month, Cardinal Wim Eijk of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, called on Francis to issue a document stating that marriage is “one and unbreakable,” and that the pontiff should also clarify if divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion or not, because “people are confused, and that is not good.”

The prelate also regretted the fact that there are many guidelines explaining the document, and that some are in conflict with each other.

Two set of guidelines open the doors to the sacraments

Eijk is referring, for instance, to the latest guideline to be released, that of the bishops of the Italian Piedmont region, made public on Jan. 29, that sees the matter as a “case by case situation.”

Titled “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34). Accompanying, discerning and integrating,” the Piedmont document works on the basis of the Argentine one, and those three concrete elements “accompanying, discerning and integrating” are taken from Amoris Laetitia.


2. Conference addresses Catholic journalism, fake news, and a ‘post-truth’ era.

By Elise Harris, Catholic News Agency, February 1, 2018, 12:08 AM

Last week, hundreds of Catholic media experts from all over the world gathered to discuss the problem of “fake news” and the challenge of reporting in what has been dubbed by some as the “post-truth” era.

An analysis of this malady and proposals for a possible remedy were precisely the topic of discussion during this year’s Saint Francis de Sales Days conference, which took place Jan. 24-26 in Lourdes.

The conference, titled “Media and Truth,” was co-organized by the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications and French organization the Federation of Catholic Media (FMC). Other entities, including nonprofit media organization SIGNIS and the French bishops conference, also participated.

Speakers at the conference, who hold various positions in Catholic media, discussed the topic from philosophical, theological, political, economic and journalistic points of view.


3. Pope’s Briefing System Under Scrutiny After Chile Gaffe.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 31, 2018, 4:52 PM

Some Vatican observers now wonder if Francis is getting enough of the high-quality briefings one needs to be a world leader, or whether Francis is relying more on his own instincts and informants who slip him unofficial information on the side.

In his five years as pope, Francis has created an informal, parallel information structure that often rubs up against official Vatican channels. That includes a papal kitchen cabinet of nine cardinal advisers who meet every three months at the Vatican and have the pope’s ear, plus the regular briefings he receives from top Vatican brass.

The Vatican this week issued a remarkable defense of Francis’ information flow and his grasp of the delicate China dossier. The Holy See press office insisted that Francis followed the China negotiations closely, was being “faithfully” briefed by his advisers and was in complete agreement with his secretary of state on the topic.

Francis lives at the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel rather than the Apostolic Palace, where he can more easily keep his door open at all hours, and where a network of friends, informants and advisers provide back channels of information to him.

“The problem is he’s the victim of the Santa Marta syndrome,” said Massimo Franco, columnist for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. “The pope wanted to live there because he didn’t want any filter from the secretary of state. But the other side of the coin is that he’s condemned to receive quite casual information, and not always very accurate.”

Sometimes popes suffer when their gatekeepers fail them

But more than his immediate predecessor Benedict, Francis still relies on a close circle of friends from his days in Argentina and as a high-ranking Jesuit to give him the pulse of what’s going on.

And he can be fiercely stubborn once he has made up his mind based on information that does reach him, such as his recent dismissal of the respected No. 2 at the Vatican bank, Giulio Mattietti, who was fired without explanation at the end of the year.

In his subsequent Christmas address to the Vatican bureaucracy, Francis blasted Vatican staff who have been sidelined, saying “they wrongly declare themselves martyrs of the system, of a ‘pope kept in the dark.'”

But with Chile’s priest sex abuse scandal, Francis was forced to admit he had not only made a mistake, but maybe he was the one in the dark.


4. Millennials have a surprising view on later-term abortions. 

By Eugene Scott, The Washington Post, January 31, 2018, 3:28 PM

When the Senate voted Monday to block a proposed federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks, one of the constituent groups they may have offended is one that both parties are highly interested in winning: millennial voters.

A January 2017 Quinnipiac poll asked Americans whether they would support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy if it were enacted in their state. Nearly half — 49 percent — of 18- to 34-year-olds said they would support it. The poll found that 35- to 49-year-olds were the only age group that supported the ban more.

But the poll indicates millennials may view later-term abortions differently than abortions overall. The survey found that 35 percent of millennials think abortion should be legal in all cases, while 9 percent of millennials think abortion should be illegal in all cases.

After the ban was shot down Monday, some of the loudest criticism among antiabortion advocates came from younger Americans.