1. Catholics warn of church schism if Vatican makes a deal with China. 

By Simon Denyer, The Washington Post, February 12, 2018, 4:05 AM

A group of influential Catholics published an open letter Monday express their shock and disappointment at report that the Vatican could soon reach a deal with the Chinese government, warning that it could create a schism in the church in China.

The 15 Catholics include university professors, lecturers, researchers, human rights activists and lawyers, mostly from Hong Kong. They warned a deal with the Chinese government could do irreparable harm, and that recent regulations put into effect this month allow for even greater government scrutiny over religion in China.

The Communist Party in China, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, has repeatedly destroyed crosses and churches, while the state-backed China Patriotic Catholic Association maintains its heavy-handed control over the Church, they said.


2. An Open Letter to Conferences of Catholic Bishops Across the World Regarding the Possible Agreement Between the Holy See and the Government of the People’s Republic of China. 

By Free Catholics in China, February 12, 2018

Your Eminence and Most Reverend,

We are a group of Catholics. Recently there has been news reports indicating that the Holy See and the government of the People’s Republic of China will soon reach an agreement over the issue of bishop appointment, as well as recognition of seven illicit “bishops”. We are deeply shocked and disappointed. With our love and allegiance to the Holy Mother Church, we hope you and the bishops conferences would pay attention to such development.

We fully understand that the Holy See is eager to be able to evangelize in China more effectively. However, we are deeply worried that the deal would create damages that cannot be remedied. The Communist Party in China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has repeatedly destroyed crosses and churches, and the Patriotic Association maintains its heavy-handed control over the Church. Religious persecution has never stopped. Xi has also made it clear that the Party will strengthen its control over religions. So there is no possibility that the Church can enjoy more freedom. In addition, the Communist Party has a long history of breaking promises. We are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the Church, but also damage the Church’s holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, and deal a blow to the Church’s moral power. The Church would no longer be able to have the trust of people, and “serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society as it is to be renewed in Christ and transformed into God’s family.” (Gaudium et Spes, 40)

Your Eminence and Most Reverend, we earnestly hope that, you, your brothers and your flock continue to pray for the communion of the Church in China, as well as her pastoral ministry. We earnestly ask you, with the love on the people of God, appeal to the Holy See: Please rethink the current agreement, and stop making an irreversible and regrettable mistake.

May the Almighty God bless the Church in China!

Martyr Saints of China, pray for us!


3. Congress’ budget deal affirms church access to FEMA disaster aid. 

By S.A. Miller, The Washington Times, February 12, 2018, Pg. A4

Churches for decades have had to fend for themselves when hurricane winds ripped off the chapel roof while the nonprofit YMCA next door — because it’s not religious — pocketed Federal Emergency Management Agency payments to repair similar damage to its building.

That treatment of houses of worship was written out of U.S. law last week.

A provision tucked into the budget deal that President Trump signed into law Friday put churches on equal footing with YMCA, senior centers and other nonprofit groups when it comes to FEMA disaster relief.

The Bipartisan Budget Act made churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship permanently eligible for FEMA’s Public Assistance Program grants, which can pay for the removal of debris and repairs to buildings, parks and recreational facilities owned by nonprofits.


4. Open letter calls on Vatican to rethink China deal, calling it a “regrettable mistake”. 

By Charles Collins, Crux, February 12, 2018

A group of mostly Hong Kong-based academics, lawyers and human rights activists has warned that regularizing seven illicitly ordained bishops in mainland China would cause Catholics in the country to “be plunged into confusion and pain, and schism would be created in the Church in China.”

The signatories said they are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the Church, “but also damage the Church’s holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, and deal a blow to the Church’s moral power.”

The letter acknowledges Pope Francis is “pained” by the suffering experienced by Christians in China but said the proposed agreement will not put an end to religious persecution, pointing to the new government regulations which “allows for stricter scrutiny over religions.”

“We cannot see any possibility that the coming agreement can result in the Chinese government stopping its persecution of the Church, and ceasing its violations of religious freedom,” the letter said.


5. Catholic Bishop Says He’s Willing to Step Down for Vatican Deal With Beijing. 

By Ian Johnson and Adam Wu, The New York Times, February 11, 2018

A Chinese Catholic bishop at the center of a dispute between the Vatican and China said on Sunday that he would respect any deal worked out between the two powers. But he cautioned that the Chinese authorities still had a hard time accepting the idea that Catholics should not be completely under their control.

The bishop, Guo Xijin, 59, is one of at least two “underground” bishops — those recognized by the Roman Catholic Church but not by the Chinese authorities — who have been asked by the Vatican to step down in favor of Communist-approved bishops.

Bishop Guo has spent numerous stints in detention and currently lives under police surveillance.

Last year, a Vatican delegation visited Bishop Guo and asked him to serve under the government-appointed bishop, Zhan Silu, in this diocese of southeastern China. The Vatican had condemned Bishop Zhan’s installation as bishop because it had not been approved by Rome.


6. Let’s Ban Porn, By Ross Douthat, The New York Times.

February 11, 2018, Pg. SR11

In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine there is a long profile of a new kind of pedagogy unique to our particular stage of civilization. It’s called “porn literacy,” and it involves explaining to young people whose sexual coming-of-age is being mediated by watching online gangbangs that actually hard-core pornography is not an appropriate guide to how the sexes should relate.

For anyone who grew up with the ideals of post-sexual revolution liberalism, there is a striking pathos to these educators’ efforts. The sex education programs in my mostly liberal schools featured a touching faith from the adults in charge that they were engaged in a great work of enlightenment, that with the right curricula they could roll back the forces of repression and make sexuality a place of egalitarian pleasure and safety for us all.

Compared to those idealists, the people teaching “porn literacy” have accepted a sweeping pedagogical defeat. They take for granted that the most important sex education may take place on Pornhub, that the purpose of their work is essentially remedial, and that there is no escape from the world that porn has made.

So if you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle — and to suspect that between virtual reality and creepy forms of customization, its influence is only likely to get worse.

But unlike many structural forces with which moralists of the left and right contend, porn is also just a product — something made and distributed and sold, and therefore subject to regulation and restriction if we so desire.

The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition. Law and jurisprudence changed once and can change again, and while you can find anything somewhere on the internet, making hard-core porn something to be quested after in dark corners would dramatically reduce its pedagogical role, its cultural normalcy, its power over libidos everywhere.

But in this sense porn also presents an opportunity to reconsider the tendency to just drift along with technological immersion, a chance where the moral stakes are sharpened to prove we don’t have to accept enslavement to our screens.

Feminists should take it. We should all take it. It is not only decency but eros itself that waits to be regained.


7. Despite Olympics diplomacy, North Korea relentless in persecution of Christians. 

By Charles Collins, Crux, February 11, 2018

Millions of people cheered when the North and South Korean Olympic teams marched together at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, which Pope Francis said “gives hope for a world in which conflicts can be resolved peacefully through dialogue and mutual respect, as sports also teaches us to do.”

Despite these efforts at peacebuilding, “nothing will come from it” unless more freedom is given to the North’s oppressed Christian community, according to one leading Christian human rights organization.

“We do know the situation of the Christians in North Korea, and it is abysmal. They are given no religious freedom, and no rights,” said Esther Spencer, a communications officer at Open Doors UK, which helps persecuted Christians around the world.

Open Doors estimates there are over 300,000 Christians in North Korea, which has state-enforced atheism, although in reality worships the ruling Kim family.

The organization says tens of thousands of Christians are incarcerated in forced-labor camps, and thousands more must practice their faith in complete secrecy.

According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, North Korea ranks as “one of the world’s most repressive regimes.”


8. Abortion funding limits get priorities right, bishops say.

By Catholic News Agency, February 10, 2018, 5:00 AM

The U.S. bishops have praised signs of progress against ‘abortion ideology,’ in response to a State Department report on new limits to U.S. funding for groups involved in abortion.

“Abortion undermines basic human rights, certainly for the child, and it also can wound the mother emotionally and physically,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said Feb. 8. “U.S. tax dollars have no business going to organizations that are unwilling to pursue health outcomes for every person and instead insist on promoting and imposing their abortion ideology on women and children.”

Cardinal Dolan, speaking in his role as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said “I again applaud this administration for restoring our foreign assistance to its rightful goals of promoting health and human rights.”

The Feb. 6 report from the U.S. State Department’s Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources is a six-month review of the implementation of the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, an expanded version of the Mexico City Policy. The original policy, first instituted under President Ronald Reagan in 1984, directs U.S. overseas family planning funding away from organizations that perform or support abortions overseas.