1. Chinese Bishops to Attend Vatican Synod for First Time.

By Reuters, October 1, 2018

Catholic bishops from China will for the first time attend a major Vatican meeting starting this week, the Vatican said on Monday, following a landmark agreement between the Holy See and Beijing.

“There will be two bishops from continental China. They were invited by the pope,” Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri told a news conference. “I think they are already on their way to Rome.”

The bishops will take part in a month-long meeting, known as a synod, that starts on Wednesday to discuss the role of young people in the 1.2 billion-member Church.


2. Russia Wages a Religious War Against Ukraine.

By Michael Khodarkovsky, The Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2018, Pg. A17, Opinion

Russia’s assault on Ukraine unfolded along military, economic and diplomatic lines. Vladimir Putin’s Moscow also is waging a less-noticed war on Ukraine’s religious sovereignty. To understand this, look at the structure of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The church consists of 14 autocephalous, or self-governing, churches. Religious and national identities often overlap, as in the Orthodox Churches of Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia. Each national church falls under a particular patriarchate, and the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople is considered first among equals.

In recent centuries, Ukrainian believers had belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church. Shortly before the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, a council of bishops in Ukraine declared the church’s independence from Russia. In the ’90s, the new leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—Filaret, the metropolitan bishop of Kiev—came under pressure from Russian church and security officials to resign. He refused. In 1997 the patriarch of the Russian church excommunicated him and declared his followers schismatics.

Mr. Putin’s geopolitical goal of turning Ukraine into a satellite state instead has given Ukraine a renewed sense of its national identity. Russia’s spiritual imperialism has also diminished the Russian Orthodox Church. These expansionist policies, holy and worldly, are leading to Russia’s further isolation.


3. Settlement naming Wuerl adds questions, Cardinal denies knowledge of deal.

By Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, September 30, 2018, Pg. C1, Metro

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who has said repeatedly that he didn’t know about years of sexual misconduct complaints involving his predecessor in the District, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, was named in a 2005 settlement agreement that included allegations against McCarrick, according to the accuser in the case and documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Two of the three alleged abusers, including McCarrick, were not mentioned by name in the settlement.

Robert Ciolek, who left the priesthood and later became an attorney, spoke for the first time publicly this summer about the $80,000 settlement he reached in June 2005 with three New Jersey dioceses over his allegations against McCarrick and a teacher at his Catholic high school. McCarrick led the church in Newark and Metuchen before coming to the District in 2001; Ciolek’s high school was in New Jersey as well.

In an interview with The Post this month, Ciolek said for the first time publicly that the settlement included allegations against a third person, a Pittsburgh priest Ciolek says made unwanted sexual contact with him in seminary, where the priest was a professor. The first page of the settlement agreement lists the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Wuerl, who supervised the priest as bishop of Pittsburgh at the time, among the numerous parties to the settlement. The agreement was signed by Ciolek and the three New Jersey dioceses. The Pittsburgh priest was also not mentioned by name in the document. 


4. Appeals Court Weighs Migrant Teenagers’ Abortion Rights.

By Robert Pear, The New York Times, September 30, 2018, Pg. A21

The Trump administration is claiming broad new authority to block access to abortions sought by undocumented immigrants under age 18 who are in its custody.

In a case that brings together two of the most volatile issues in American society, immigration and abortion, the Justice Department argued this past week before a federal appeals court that the government “has a strong, legitimate and profound interest in the life of the child in the womb.”

But a lawyer for the young immigrants said that federal efforts to restrict their access to abortion were “blatantly unconstitutional,” and that Congress had never given the administration “statutory authority to veto a minor’s abortion decision.”

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is hearing the case after a district court judge ruled in March that the Trump administration policy was probably illegal because it violated Supreme Court precedents on abortion and nullified a young woman’s “right to make her own reproductive choices.” The judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, issued a preliminary injunction that prohibits the government from obstructing or interfering with a pregnant minor’s access to abortion services or counseling.


5. Christians Don’t Fit in Political Boxes.

By Timothy Keller, The New York Times, September 30, 2018, Pg. SR9, Opinion

What should the role of Christians in politics be? More people than ever are asking that question. Christians cannot pretend they can transcend politics and simply “preach the Gospel.” Those who avoid all political discussions and engagement are essentially casting a vote for the social status quo. American churches in the early 19th century that did not speak out against slavery because that was what we would now call “getting political” were actually supporting slavery by doing so. To not be political is to be political.

The Bible shows believers as holding important posts in pagan governments — think of Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament. Christians should be involved politically as a way of loving our neighbors, whether they believe as we do or not. To work for better public schools or for a justice system not weighted against the poor or to end racial segregation requires political engagement. Christians have done these things in the past and should continue to do so.

Nevertheless, while believers can register under a party affiliation and be active in politics, they should not identify the Christian church or faith with a political party as the only Christian one. There are a number of reasons to insist on this.

The Gospel gives us the resources to love people who reject both our beliefs and us personally. Christians should think of how God rescued them. He did it not by taking power but by coming to earth, losing glory and power, serving and dying on a cross. How did Jesus save? Not with a sword but with nails in his hands.


6. Vatican Deal With Beijing Leaves Some Key Questions Unresolved.

By Reuters, September 30, 2018

A landmark deal between China’s leaders and the Vatican over the appointment of bishops has been struck without Beijing taking action on long-held Church concerns over clerics in detention, Catholic Church sources familiar with the matter say.

The agreement, which gives the Vatican a long-desired say in the appointment of bishops in China, was signed last Saturday, but details have not been made public.

Three sources aware of the substance of the provisional deal say the plight of a dozen or so detained priests and bishops, some elderly, remains unresolved and will be subject to on-going Vatican efforts. Beijing has provided little clear information about their fate despite repeated Vatican requests in recent years, the sources said.

A senior Vatican source said the precise number still believed to be in detention was not clear. 

Hong Kong is one of the most important Catholic cities in Asia, home to an extensive network of aid agencies, missions, scholars and media that have supported Catholics in China and elsewhere.

While the Vatican instituted similar accords with Communist authorities in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, the situation in China differs because Beijing created a rival brand of Catholicism through the Patriotic Association.


7. After decades of left v. right, is it now bishops v. everybody else?

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, September 30, 2018

Moments of great crisis generally affect institutions in multiple ways, some of which are immediately evident and others that take longer to discern. Amid the clerical abuse scandals currently rocking Catholicism, it’s worth asking if one such long-term result is playing out before our eyes.

To wit, are we seeing a redefinition of the traditional left/right divides in the Church because the focus of popular complaint is no longer really teaching, one of the three traditional duties of a bishop, but rather governing?

Recently I sat down with a senior Church leader who was musing on criticism of the bishops of late, which he said at times seems reminiscent of Congregationalism – the idea that it’s the lay congregation, not the clerical caste, that exercises real power over Church affairs.

What seems to be at stake today, however, isn’t just management but governance – should the bishops be the ultimate authority in a diocese, or does that system need to be deconstructed in favor of checks and balances to prevent the sort of tragic, even criminal, failures brought to light by the abuse scandals?

For most bishops, governance is a red-line issue, and they can be expected to defend it. As the saying goes, now they may just find out who their real friends are.


8. Holy See-China agreement draws criticism from US religious freedom advocates.

By Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency, September 30, 2018

The Holy See’s provisional agreement with China on the appointment of bishops has drawn criticism from some U.S. religious freedom leaders, who contend that it concedes too much to power to the government and undermines efforts to protect other suffering religious groups.

“I confess that I am skeptical, both as a Catholic, and as an advocate for the religious freedom of all religious communities in China,” Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute, said Sept. 27.

“Earlier this year the Vatican quite properly expressed grave concerns about China’s comprehensive anti-religion policy, and its apparent goal of altering Catholicism itself.”
Farr is a former American diplomat who was the first director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, from 1999-2003. He spoke before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. His comments addressed the state of religious freedom in China, especially for Catholics; the potential for further action from Congress and American diplomacy; and the Vatican-China agreement.

But Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who has long been an opponent of rapprochement with the Chinese government, told Reuters just days before the agreement was reached that “they’re giving the flock into the mouths of the wolves. It’s an incredible betrayal.”

The Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong said the consequences of the deal “will be tragic and long lasting, not only for the Church in China but for the whole Church because it damages the credibility.”


9. Pontiff Defrocks Chilean Priest.

By Francis X. Rocca and Ryan Dube, The Wall Street Journal, September 29-30, 2018, Pg. A7

Pope Francis has defrocked a prominent Chilean priest at the center of a sexual-abuse scandal that has rocked the traditionally Catholic South American nation.

The Vatican said the pope had dismissed Fernando Karadima from the priesthood for the “good of the church” and notified the former priest on Friday. 

The defrocking, which prohibits Mr. Karadima from identifying as a priest, celebrating Mass or administering the sacraments, was the pope’s latest response to a backlash over the abuse scandal in Chile—part of a global crisis that threatens to engulf his pontificate and distract from his social and economic-justice agenda. 

“We were facing a very serious case of corruption and it was necessary to tear it out at the root,” said Greg Burke, the Vatican spokesman, in a statement. 

The decision was celebrated by victims of Mr. Karadima, an influential priest in Santiago who was accused in 2010 of having molested minors at his church in an upper-class neighborhood. A Vatican inquiry in 2011 concluded he was guilty of the abuse and ordered him to a life of prayer and penitence. Mr. Karadima has denied the abuse allegations.