1. The Vatican’s Unholy China Deal: A Chinese cardinal accuses Rome of dangerous naiveté about communism.

By William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2020, Pg. A15, Opinion

The Catholic Church in China is being “murdered” while the Vatican stands idly by. So alleged Cardinal Joseph Zen in an appeal he sent to the world’s 223 cardinals in September but only recently made public.

Cardinal Zen has always spoken with a bluntness unusual for a prince of the church—and his hard words about the still-secret 2018 agreement between Beijing and Rome are plainly getting under the Vatican’s skin. Many are desperate to see him discredited.

But here’s the rub. The 2018 Vatican concordat with Beijing was not the work of Chinese Catholics. It was an almost exclusively European affair, led primarily by Pope Francis, Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli. Instead of fostering a “reconciliation of hearts” between the patriotic and underground wings of the church, Cardinal Zen says, the agreement is attempting to impose a false and destructive institutional unity.

Meanwhile, the price extracted has been high: the pope’s silence.

This silence comes at a particularly terrible moment, when Mr. Xi is busy persecuting everyone from Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs to house church Christians and Falun Gong practitioners. Nor is Beijing making any effort to hide its intentions: The same day Cardinal Zen was in Washington to collect his award, China named Xia Baolong as its new point man in Hong Kong. Mr. Xia is best known for tearing crosses off Chinese churches.

Yet the leader of the world’s largest religious denomination—a pope who rails against everything from air conditioning to Donald Trump —utters not a peep of protest against what is arguably the world’s largest persecutor of religion.

For his part, Cardinal Zen emphasizes that his own criticism is directed at “the Holy See and not the Holy Father.”


2. Border activists win with religion law on their side: Act used by conservatives now hits administration.

By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, February 18, 2020, Pg. A1

In two cases in recent months, activists who left water for illegal immigrants escaped punishment after judges ruled that they were motivated by their religious beliefs and were shielded by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

It’s the same law that conservative businesses used to defeat the all-encompassing Obamacare contraceptive mandate, and that Sikhs used to win the right to wear beards and religious head coverings while serving in the military.

No More Deaths is a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, and the activists said rendering aid is a fundamental practice of their faith. The judge agreed and said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act put the burden on the government to justify its prosecution — a burden it failed.

Religious freedom lawyers and anti-Trump immigration activists cheered the ruling.

“This was a foolish prosecution. Giving water to those who thirst is not a crime,” tweeted Luke Goodrich, a lawyer at Becket, a religious liberty law firm.


3. Will compulsion succeed where conversion has failed on Vatican financial reform?

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, February 18, 2020, Opinion

When Pope Francis recently addressed the ongoing financial reform of the Vatican, he couched the argument in largely spiritual, pastoral and moral terms.

Financial breakdowns recently brought to light, the pope said, “beyond their possible criminality, are hard to reconcile with the nature and purpose of the Church, and they’ve created confusion and worry within the community of the faithful.” He was speaking to Vatican judges on the occasion of the opening of their judicial year.

Though the pope avoided specifics, the reference almost certainly was to a recent contretemps involving a $220 million land deal in London (mostly financed by collections from Peter’s Pence) in which the Vatican’s Secretariat of State allegedly tried to skirt reporting requirements for a loan intended to buy up the remaining shares of the property.

So, what’s the threat the Vatican is facing today? In a word, here it is: Money.

Last October, Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi predicted that the Vatican would be bankrupt by the year 2023. Despite the reassuring tones of Bishop Nunzio Galantino, Francis’s handpicked chief of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), that there’s no risk of going broke and all that’s needed is a spending review that’s already underway, many insiders will tell you that Fittipaldi’s projection isn’t that far off unless something dramatic changes.

That threat of returning to semi-pariah status is hardly theoretical, since this spring the Vatican faces its next round of review by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering agency and the primary gatekeeper for European states to global “whitelists” of virtuous actors. In theory, should Moneyval conclude that the Vatican is backsliding on its stated commitment to reform, failing to enforce the ambitious new laws on transparency and accountability adopted under Pope Francis, it could lead to censure from the Financial Action Task Force, the global network of anti-money laundering evaluators.

If Pope Francis truly wants change on Vatican finances, in other words, perhaps he shouldn’t put all his eggs in the basket of metanoia and personal conversion, however desirable those things obviously are.

Maybe what he really needs right now is somebody to put a gun to the head of the system … and, as fate would have it, Moneyval may be ideally positioned to do just that very soon.


4. Pope says new Vatican finance laws, norms are working.

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, February 17, 2020

The decade-long process of updating the laws of Vatican City State is part of the Vatican’s support for international commitments to protect people and safeguard vulnerable groups, who are “frequently the victims of new, odious forms of illegality,” Pope Francis said.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have made major changes to Vatican City legislation to strengthen laws against money laundering, tax evasion, child sexual abuse and child pornography.

Meeting officials of the Vatican City State court Feb. 15, Pope Francis repeated his conviction that the latest financial scandal being investigated by the Vatican City police and tribunal is a sign of progress because the report of suspicious activity originated with the Vatican general auditor.


5. Leak from Xinjiang shows some Uyghurs are detained for family size.

By Catholic News Agency, February 17, 2020, 2:30 PM

A leaked document from a county in China’s northwest details the personal information of some 3,000 Uyghurs. It gives violation of birth control policies as the most common reason for their “re-education”, often alongside other reasons.

The “Karakax List” is a 137-page spreadsheet from the government in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where an estimated 1 million Uyghurs, members of a Muslim ethnoreligious group, have been detained in re-education camps. Inside the camps they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.


TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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