1. The Bishops of Xi Jinping: Pope Francis gives in to Beijing’s demands on the Catholic Church.

By The Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2018, Pg. A14, Review & Outlook

On Thursday news broke that the Vatican will accept the legitimacy of seven bishops chosen by the Chinese government. As head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of his own state, the pope is free to chart whatever course with China he wishes. Even so, it’s astounding that Rome would to defer to Beijing to dictate one of the most important duties of any pope: Choosing the bishops who will lead his flock.

Some suspect that this Vatican accommodation is about paving the way for a papal visit to China, or a historic deal normalizing relations between Rome and Beijing. If so the damage will carry an even higher price, because it is difficult to imagine such a rapprochement without the Vatican’s first agreeing to break relations with Taiwan and abandon its Catholics there. The history of China shows it is adept at exploiting foreigners too eager for a deal.


2. Pope Francis to Bow to China With Concession on Bishops: Vatican to move to end standoff and gain authority by recognizing seven excommunicated prelates.

By Francis X. Rocca and Eva Dou, The Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2018, Pg. A1

Pope Francis has decided to accept the legitimacy of seven Catholic bishops appointed by the Chinese government, a concession that the Holy See hopes will lead Beijing to recognize his authority as head of the Catholic Church in China, according to a person familiar with the plan.

For years, the Vatican didn’t recognize the bishops’ ordinations, which were carried out in defiance of the pope and considered illicit, part of a long-running standoff between the Catholic Church and China’s officially atheist Communist Party.

The pope will lift the excommunications of the seven prelates and recognize them as the leaders of their dioceses, according to the person familiar with the situation. A Vatican spokesman declined to comment.

The pope’s conciliatory approach stands out at a moment when China is tightening its grip on religious practice under the more assertive leadership of President Xi Jinping.


3. Five Things to Know About the Catholic Church in China: Vatican hopes concession will lead Beijing to sign an agreement that would give the pope veto power over bishops proposed by the government.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2018, Pg. A8

Pope Francis has decided to accept seven bishops who were appointed by Beijing without the permission of the Vatican. 

Here are five things to know about the Vatican’s relations with China:

1. What is the status of Catholics in China?

China requires all Catholics to worship in places and ways approved by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a state-controlled body that supervises the mainland Catholic community but isn’t recognized by the Vatican. The country’s Catholic population remains divided between approved and unregistered so-called underground communities.

2. How are relations between China and the Vatican?

Beijing severed diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1951. The Vatican and China have engaged in quiet negotiations since the late 1980s, and under St. John Paul II adopted an informal arrangement for the mutual recognition of bishops. But Chinese authorities have periodically violated that understanding by unilaterally ordaining bishops without Rome’s permission, including the seven bishops that Pope Francis is now expected to recognize.

3. Why is the question of bishops important?

The pope’s role as the highest and final authority in choosing bishops is a fundamental organizing principle of the Catholic Church. 

4. What happens next?

The Vatican hopes that the pope’s concession will lead Beijing to sign an agreement that would give the pope veto power over bishops proposed by the government. As part of the agreement, the pope would no longer appoint so-called underground bishops who operate without government permission.

5. Could they re-establish relations now?

Pope Francis has eagerly pursued an opening to China that eluded his predecessors. However, aside from the issue of the bishops, other serious problems remain, including the role of the Patriotic Association and the state-run bishops conference, as well as the status of more than 30 bishops recognized by Rome but not Beijing.


4. The Abortion Memo. 

By David Brooks, The New York Times, February 2, 2018, Pg. A23, Opinion

To: Democratic Party Leaders

From: Imaginary Democratic Consultant

Re: Late-Term Abortions

Dear Democratic Leaders,

Last week I watched as our senators voted down the Republican bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks. Our people hung together. Only three Democrats voted with the other side. Yet as I was watching I kept wondering: How much is our position on late-term abortions hurting us? How many progressive priorities are we giving up just so we can have our way on this one?

Let me start with some history. Before Roe. v. Wade, the abortion debate looked nothing like it does today. Many leading anti-abortion groups were on the left. 

In 1973, Roe v. Wade changed all this. At first, people didn’t understand what the decision meant. “Plainly,” Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote, “the court today rejects any claim that the Constitution requires abortion on demand.”

But then everything polarized. The pro-life movement grew on the right and withered on the left. Republicans introduced an anti-abortion plank into their platform in 1976. A new electoral coalition was born.

The G.O.P. became an alliance between its traditional pro-business wing and its burgeoning pro-life wing. Millions of Americans became single-issue voters. They consider the killing of the unborn the great moral issue of our time. 

I understand that our donors (though not necessarily our voters) want to preserve a woman’s right to choose through all nine months of her pregnancy. … Do we want it so much that we give up our chance at congressional majorities? Do we want it so much that we see our agendas on poverty, immigration, income equality and racial justice thwarted and defeated?

Let’s try to imagine what would happen if Roe v. Wade was overturned. The abortion issue would go back to the states. The Center for Reproductive Rights estimates that roughly 21 states would outlaw abortion. Abortion would remain legal in probably 20 others. There’s a good chance that a lot of states would hammer out the sort of compromise the European nations have — legal in the first months, difficult after that. That’s what most Americans support.

The pro-life movement would turn its attention away from national elections. Single-issue anti-abortion voters would no longer be automatic Republicans. The abortion debate would no longer be an absolutist position on one side against an absolutist position on the other.

We need to acknowledge our vulnerability here. Democrats support the right to choose throughout the 40 weeks of pregnancy. But babies are now viable outside the womb at 22 weeks. As Emma Green wrote in The Atlantic, scientific advances “fundamentally shift the moral intuition around abortion.” Parents can see their babies’ faces earlier and earlier.

I’m asking us to rethink our priorities. What does America need most right now? One of our talking points is that late-term abortions are extremely rare. If they are extremely rare, why are we giving them priority over all of our other issues combined?


Your Imaginary Consultant


5. In Washington state, Democrats OK bill that requires insurance to cover abortion. 

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, February 2, 2018, Pg. A7

Democrats in the Washington state Senate has passed a bill requiring health insurance providers to cover abortions if they also cover maternity care.

The Reproductive Parity Act passed nearly along party lines by a 26 to 22 vote. If a health care plan covers maternity care, it must also include “equivalent coverage to permit the abortion of a pregnancy.”

Joseph Backholm, president of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, called the legislation “Orwellian” because it morally and legally equates birth and abortion.

“The idea is, if you’re going to pay for a child to be born, you must also pay for it to be killed,” Mr. Backholm said. “The way they’re trying to do that is to run roughshod over the very sincere differences of opinion that there are on the issue. If you’re providing insurance for your employees, which is obviously a very good thing, then you must provide insurance for something that many, many people believe is immoral.”

Senate Republicans proposed several amendments to the legislation, including exemptions for employers with religious or moral objections to abortion and prohibitions on abortions motivated by a child’s biological sex or Down syndrome diagnosis.

All the amendments were rejected.


6. Alex Azar, a ‘Deep-in-the-Bones Social Conservative,’ Is Trump’s New HHS Secretary: The president’s new point man on health care could shape the debate on conscience protections and the contraception mandate, drug prices and opioid abuse. 

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, February 2, 2018

During his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Donald Trump vowed to make health insurance more affordable, bring down prescription drug prices and tackle the opioid addiction crisis.

One man will hold primary responsibility for executing these sweeping goals, and many others, the president enumerated during his hourlong address: Alex Azar II, the new secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS), who was sworn into office Monday, after a divided Senate confirmed his nomination, 55-43.

Azar is also expected to defend Trump’s broad religious exemption from the HHS contraceptive mandate. “We have to balance a woman’s choice of insurance with the conscience of their employers,” he said during a Senate hearing.

Likewise, those with knowledge of his moral beliefs say he will back conscience protections for health care workers who oppose abortion and assisted suicide on moral or religious grounds.

“He is a deep-in-the-bones social conservative, and that becomes relevant around” policy issues that deal “with abortion and scientific research,” Yuval Levin, the vice president of the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center and the editor of National Affairs magazine, told the Register.

“He is pro-life and a big believer in the importance of bringing that to bear in agency decisions” that reflect current laws, Levin added. “That kind of leadership makes a difference.”

Indeed, Levin predicted that HHS’ newly established Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, which will investigate claims by health care workers who face pressure to perform abortions or prescribe life-ending drugs for assisted suicide, will also get a boost from Azar.


7. China-Vatican deal on bishops ready for signing. 

By Philip Pullella, Reuters, February 1, 2018, 1:35 PM

A framework accord between the Vatican and China on the appointment of bishops is ready and could be signed in a few months in what would be an historic breakthrough in relations, a senior Vatican source said.

An even partial resolution of the thorny issue of who gets to appoint bishops could open the way for a resumption of diplomatic relations nearly 70 years after they were cut during the Communist takeover of China.

Full relations would give the Church a legal framework to look after all of China’s estimated 12 million Catholics and move on to focus on Catholic growth in a country where Protestant churches are already growing fast.

Catholics in China are split between those in “underground” communities that recognize the pope and those belonging to a state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association where bishops are appointed by the government in collaboration with local Church communities.

Under the formal deal, the Vatican will have a say in negotiations for the appointment of future bishops, the source told Reuters, declining to give details.

“It is not a great agreement but we don’t know what the situation will be like in 10 or 20 years. It could even be worse,” the source said on Thursday.