1. Abide in Darkness: China’s War on Religion Stalls Vatican Deal, Beijing is wary of setting a precedent by granting a foreign religious leader authority, scholars say. 

By Eva Dou and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2018, 5:34 AM

A landmark agreement aimed at healing a nearly 70-year rift between Beijing and the Vatican is in limbo as the Chinese government tightens control over religion.

The Vatican had hoped to clear the biggest hurdle to the deal—intended to bring together China’s state-backed and unauthorized Catholic communities—at a meeting this month, people familiar with the talks said, but it has yet to be scheduled.

At that meeting, the people said, Vatican officials had planned to accede to China’s main precondition for a deal: the formal recognition of seven excommunicated Chinese bishops appointed by the government without the approval of the pope. That would clear the way for Beijing to give Pope Francis the right to veto its future bishop candidates.

The deal’s prospects have been complicated by China’s crackdown on religious institutions and activities, which began with the implementation of strict new regulations in February. President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are promoting Marxism and “socialist” values as a state-approved system of belief.

Local officials across the country have toed the line by shutting down unregistered churches and Sunday schools for children, taking down crosses and restricting other practices that are technically illegal in China but generally tolerated, despite periodic crackdowns.

One person familiar with the Vatican’s thinking voiced anger that China had continued to put restrictions on underground clerics—detaining some for several days during Holy Week in March. This person said the Vatican is unenthusiastic about the agreement but resigned to it as the best possibility on the table, and that Beijing is holding up the process for unknown reasons.


2. Make Catholicism Weird Again. 

By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, May 8, 2018

It was the church’s own leadership that decided, in the years following the Second Vatican Council, that the attachment to the church as culture had become an impediment to the mission of preaching the gospel in the modern world. It was the leadership that embraced a different approach, in which Catholic Christianity would seek to enter more fully into modern culture, adopting its styles and habits.

The secular culture welcomed the church’s Protestantization and demystification and even secularization, praised the bishops and theologians who pursued it, and then simply pocketed the concessions and ignored the religious ideas those concessions were supposed to advance. Meanwhile, that same secular world maintained a consistent fascination, from “The Exorcist” down to, well, the Met Gala, with all the weirder parts of Catholicism that were supposedly a stumbling block to modernity’s conversion.

Thus the only plausible approach for Catholicism is to offer itself, not as a chaplaincy within modern liberalism, but as a full alternative culture in its own right — one that reclaims the inheritance on display at the Met, glories in its own weirdness and supernaturalism, and spurns both accommodations and entangling alliances.

The other view is that in fact inculturation has not gone far enough, that the church may have changed its liturgy and costumes, but it’s still held back by its abstract dogmas and arid legalisms, and that one final great leap into modernity, a renewed commitment to accompaniment and understanding and adaptation, is necessary for the church to gain what it sought when it began its great demystification project 50 years ago.

Instead, the quest for accommodation seems to encourage moderns to divide their sense of what Catholicism represents in two — into an Old Church that’s frightening and fascinating in equal measure, and a New Church that’s a little more liked but much more easily ignored.

Here the Met Gala should offer the faith from which it took its theme a little bit of inspiration. The path forward for the Catholic Church in the modern world is extraordinarily uncertain. But there is no plausible path that does not involve more of what was displayed and appropriated and blasphemed against in New York City Monday night, more of what once made Catholicism both great and weird, and could yet make it both again.


3. Pope assigns Vatican office to promote women’s participation. 

By Associated Press, May 8, 2018, 12:56 PM

Pope Francis on Tuesday assigned a Vatican office to concern itself with the role of women in the Catholic Church and their “equal dignity” — his latest effort to address longstanding complaints of women’s second-class status in the church.

Francis approved new statutes for the Vatican’s laity and family office, one of the big new departments he created as part of his reform of the Vatican bureaucracy. The original statutes made no specific mention of women.

The new ones say the office should contribute to a reflection “on the identity and mission of women in the church and in society, promoting their participation.”

Francis recently appointed three women as consultants for the Vatican doctrine office, the first time in its history. At Francis’ request, the Vatican’s commission for the Latin American church also dedicated its recent assembly to women, and proposed the Vatican convene a whole church meeting of bishops on women.


4. New statutes for Vatican laity, family, life office cement links with JPII Institute. 

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, May 8, 2018, 11:15 AM

The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life published updated statutes Tuesday, reconfirming their connection with the re-formed Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute, established by Pope Francis in September 2017.

The statutes say the dicastery “is directly linked to the ‘Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences,’ both with headquarters and affiliated institutes, to promote a common direction in marriage, family and life studies.”

An additional update is the dicastery’s work to “deepen the reflection on the relationship between men and women in their respective specificity, reciprocity, complementarity and equal dignity” and to promote the participation of women in the Church and society, through valuing the “feminine genius.”

Regarding youth, the dicastery also highlighted the “particular concern of the Church for the young… in the midst of the challenges of today’s world” and stated its support for the pope’s initiatives in the area of youth ministry.

Pope Francis approved the statutes ad experimentum, which could possibly be until the completion of a new apostolic constitution outlining the structure and duties of the Roman Curia, which is being drafted by the Council of Cardinals.


5. Pope calls dicastery to promote reflection on role of women. 

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, May 8, 2018

Pope Francis has updated the statutes of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, adding among other things a specific reference to the office’s responsibility for promoting a deeper reflection on the role of women in the Church and society.

“The dicastery works to deepen the reflection on the relationship between men and women in their respective specificity, reciprocity, complementarity and equal dignity,” the new statutes said. “Valuing the feminine ‘genius,’ it offers a contribution to ecclesial reflection on the identity and mission of women in the Church and in society, promoting their participation.”

The new statutes, approved by the pope on an experimental basis, were released by the Vatican May 8 and were to go into force May 13. They replace statutes issued in June 2016, just before the new office began functioning under the leadership of U.S. Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell.

The statutes also gave the dicastery added responsibility for expressing “the pastoral care of the Church also in relation to so-called ‘irregular’ situations,” which include cohabiting couples and couples who are divorced and civilly remarried.