1. The Oldest Hatred.

By The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2018, Opinion

The massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh is an awful reminder that there are human hatreds far more virulent and ancient than those that animate our current political divisions. The killer of 11 human beings on the Sabbath Saturday morning was an anti-Semite who was out to kill Jews.

This irrational hatred is one of humanity’s oldest and manifests itself in murder almost daily in the Middle East. Jews are killed simply because they are Jews, as they have been throughout history. This is why millions have sought refuge in a Jewish state, Israel, and also in the religious protections embedded in the Constitution of the United States.

The outpouring of support and grief for the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre is a reminder of America’s unique role as a refuge for the world’s religious. Muslim states often persecute non-Muslims as well as Muslims who do not share their brand of Islam. China persecutes people of all faiths. America protects them.

In America the most stalwart supporters of Israel and the Jewish people are evangelical Christians and orthodox Catholics. Perhaps this is because as people of faith themselves they know what it is like to be mocked and shunned in a popular culture that is increasingly secular, often aggressively so.

But the blame artists are distracting attention from the real sickness, which in this case is anti-Semitism, a hatred that goes back millennia. That is the toxin to banish as much as possible from American life, even if it can’t be purged entirely from human souls.


2. Pope Assails Church’s ‘Persecution’.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2018, Pg. A10

Pope Francis told a gathering of bishops from around the world that the Catholic Church is being persecuted through accusations—an apparent allusion to clerical sex-abuse scandals that have undermined the credibility of the papacy and church hierarchy over the course of this year.

Addressing the closing session of a synod of bishops at the Vatican on Saturday, the pope repeated warnings he has made in recent weeks against the “Great Accuser,” or the devil, who “in this moment is accusing us strongly, and this accusation becomes persecution,” and who seeks to “soil the church.”

The final document is “frankly inadequate and disappointing on the abuse matter,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, a member of the council that organized the synod, said in an email. “There’s very little sense of heartfelt apology in the text.”

The archbishop, who had previously called on the pope to cancel the gathering because of the sex-abuse crisis, said Saturday that “church leaders outside the United States and a few other countries dealing with the problem clearly don’t understand its scope and gravity.”


3. Irish Vote to Remove Law on Blasphemy.

By Paul Hannon, The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2018, Pg. A10

Ireland has voted to remove a reference to blasphemy as a punishable offense from the country’s constitution, paving the way for repeal of a law that criminalizes public utterances judged offensive to religious sensibilities.

The decision is the latest sign of the country’s weakening adherence to the Catholic Church, which had itself described the constitutional reference as “obsolete.” 


4. Synod 2018: Some Concluding Thoughts.

By Charles J. Chaput, First Things, October 29, 2018

Synods are important events in the life of the Church, but nearly four weeks of discussing any subject can become wearying.  It’s good to be home, and I’m grateful to all those who offered their prayers and support for the meeting’s success.  As in the past, the bishops’ vote on the final document took place paragraph by paragraph, and like most of the delegates, I voted “yes” on most of the paragraphs.

The synod did have its problems: most notably an ambiguity of rules and process, and a lack of needed translations.  But the final document, while not without its own flaws, is an improvement over the original instrumentum laborem text.  Delegates also elected some good men to the synod’s permanent council.  That has hopeful implications for the future.

Before we move on to more urgent matters as a local Church, though, I want to mention a few things as a matter of simple honesty.  On October 27, in an interview with Frank Rocca of the Wall Street Journal, I said the following, and I want to repeat it here.

In the months ahead, I hope all of us in the American Catholic community will pray especially for the Holy Father, and also for the mission of the Church as she navigates the future.

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the archbishop of Philadelphia and a member of the Synod of Bishops’ permanent council. His council term will conclude in October.


5. Letters From the Synod-2018: #19.

Edited By Xavier Rynne II, First Things, October 29, 2018

The fifteenth ordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, convened by Pope Francis to reflect on “Youth, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” is now history—unless you subscribe to an extreme notion of “synodality,” advanced by some bishops last week, which hints at an ongoing synodal process that will presumably include, in due course, the Parousia, the Last Judgment, and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Some good things happened in Rome this past month. Catholics from all over the world got to know each other’s stories and experiences, which helps shake all of us out of our comfort zones. Catholicism today is genuinely “catholic” in the sense of “universal” or “global,” and to live that, not just think or read about it, is a bracing and revivifying experience of solidarity. It can also be sobering, as when you’re told by an impressive African bishop that one of his seminarians was recently murdered and that he’s had to close several parishes because of the threat of massacres when large groups gather in his strife-torn country, Cameroon. Synods are also opportunities for catching up with friends in the great Catholic family. There was even some serious reflection on what makes for effective evangelization of young adults: in the Synod’s language-based discussion groups, in some eloquent interventions in the synodal general congregations, and in the Synod’s “Off Broadway” venues, including restaurants, coffee bars, and in more than one wonderful Roman gelateria. (I think it a safe bet that no one loses weight at a Synod, despite a lot of walking around.) 

These affairs always take time to digest, so what follows is a mosaic of impressions that I hope will give readers of these LETTERS a little more sense of what happened during Synod-2018 and what it might portend for the Church’s immediate future. 


6. In Document, Bishops Urge Further Input From Women.

By Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times, October 28, 2018, Pg. A14

After a nearly monthlong global assembly dedicated to youths, Roman Catholic bishops called Saturday for a more inclusive role for women in church decision-making and greater participation of young people.

The appeal was part of a new document that urged bishops to help renew the church through a more participatory approach, making greater use of the energies and capabilities of young lay Catholics.

The document given to Pope Francis for his consideration also called for urgent changes so that women could play a bigger role in church decisions at all levels.

“It is a duty of justice,” it said, adding, “The absence of women’s voices and viewpoint impoverishes discussion and the path of the church.”


7. Pope Francis grieves for Jewish victims in Pittsburgh.

By Associated Press, October 28, 2018, 8:12 AM

Pope Francis is grieving with Pittsburgh’s Jewish community following the massacre at a synagogue there, denouncing the “inhuman act of violence” and praying for an end to the “flames of hatred” that fueled it.

Francis led prayers for Pittsburgh on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, a day after a gunman who had expressed hatred of Jews opened fire in the synagogue during Sabbath services, killing 11 people.

Francis prayed for the dead, the injured and their families. He says “all of us are wounded by this inhuman act of violence.” He prayed for God “to help us to extinguish the flames of hatred that develop in our societies.”

Francis has frequently spoken out against religiously inspired violence and has denounced the easy availability of guns, calling arms manufacturers the “merchants of death.”


8. If bishops’ summit was ‘rigged’ on synodality, one question: So what?

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 28, 2018

Here’s the God’s honest truth: Since St. Pope Paul VI instituted the synod in 1965, there have now been 28, divided among ordinary, extraordinary and special gatherings. (A 29th will be held next year, when Francis convenes a special synod on the Pan-Amazon region.)

In all that time, there probably has never been a single synod held under four different popes that wasn’t “rigged” to some extent, in the sense that the pope calling it knew what he wanted on at least some fronts.

Granted, there was a special bit of irony that the biggest complaint in 2018 came over language in the final document adopted Saturday night on “synodality” as “a way of … promoting the participation of all the baptized and persons of good will” in Church governance.

Given that discussion of “synodality” didn’t loom large inside the assembly, several bishops wondered where exactly it came from – and some enjoyed a good laugh at the fact that a paean to participatory governance was being imposed in fairly top-down fashion.

So, was the 2018 synod rigged, at least as far as the discussion of synodality goes? Probably, at least a little bit.

Would it have materially altered anything if that weren’t the case, and does it mark any sort of dramatic change? Basically not, on both counts.


9. Justice Dept. Asks Catholic Dioceses to Preserve Internal Documents.

By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, October 27, 2018, Pg. A16

The Department of Justice has sent a sweeping request to every Roman Catholic diocese in the United States not to destroy documents related to the handling of child sexual abuse, a sign that the federal investigation into the church could grow far more extensive.

Catholic bishops have been asked by the federal government to retain their files on a broad array of internal matters, including sexual abuse investigations, and the transfer of priests across state or international borders, or to treatment centers. The request includes documents contained in “secret archives” — the confidential files that are kept by each diocese.

News reports last week revealed that the Justice Department had opened an investigation into all eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, and the diocese of Buffalo in New York. This marked the first time the federal government had undertaken an investigation of the church’s handling of abusive priests, a scandal that surfaced in the United States in the mid-1980s.

But this request to preserve files, first disclosed by Whispers in the Loggia, a site that closely follows the Catholic hierarchy, suggests that federal investigators are throwing a very wide net. The abuse scandal, long fueled by the shocking details in the church’s own personnel documents, may now grow like an uncontrolled wildfire.


10. Vatican meeting endorses women at decision-making table.

By Trisha Thomas and Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, October 27, 2018

A monthlong meeting of Catholic bishops marked by demands for women’s rights wrapped up Saturday with delegates saying a place for women at the church’s decision-making table was a “duty of justice” and that the church as a whole must recognize the urgency of “inescapable change.”

Pope Francis had called the summit of church leaders to debate ways to better minister to young people and help them find their vocations in life. But the synod was quickly taken over by debate about issues that are particularly dear to the young in many parts of the world: the clergy sex abuse scandal, respect for gays, and women’s rights.

The issue of women was particularly acute given only seven nuns were invited to participate in the synod alongside 267 cardinals, bishops and priests. None of the women had the right to vote on the final document.

A petition launched on the sidelines of the synod demanding women religious superiors be allowed to vote garnered some 9,000 signatures, but reference in a draft to the gender disparity at future synods was scrapped in the final document.


11. Synod urges ‘rigorous measures’ on abuse but stops short of ‘zero tolerance’.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 27, 2018

Meeting against the backdrop of massive clerical sexual abuse scandals in various parts of the world, a month-long summit of Catholic bishops wrapped up Saturday affirming that sexual abuse by Church personnel inflicts “suffering that can last a lifetime” but pulled back from an explicit endorsement of a “zero tolerance” policy.

“Different types of abuse committed by some bishops, priests, religious and laity provoke in those who are victims, including many young people, suffering that can last a lifetime to which no repentance can bring remedy,” the bishops said in a final document adopted Saturday night.

“The synod reaffirms the firm commitment to the adoption of rigorous prevention measures that prevent [abuses] from being repeated, starting from the selection and training of those who will be entrusted with tasks of responsibility and education,” the document says.

The summit did not recommend any concrete new measures to fight the abuse crisis, presumably awaiting the results of a meeting of presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world called by Pope Francis for February on child protection.

The final document of an Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment also struck a delicate balance on matters of gender and sexuality, clearly affirming the “difference between masculine and feminine.” Notably, the terms “LGBT” and “gender” do not appear.

Yet the document also encourages pastoral programs of outreach to homosexual persons


12. The Synod Final Document: A Rush to Judgment.

By Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Catholic Register, October 27, 2018

The process employed to draft and approve the final document renders implausible any claim that it is the fruit of mature deliberation by the synod members.

It is not clear why the synod secretariat could not have had teams of Vatican priests from different countries, seminarians present in Rome, or even graduate students hired for the purpose, to work overnight on translations. But the refusal to provide translations of a text so prolix, coupled with the brief time allowed between recitation and voting, renders implausible any claim that the document is the fruit of mature deliberation by the synod members. All the more so considering that important parts of the text were not significantly discussed in the synod itself.

“One of the disadvantages is that many [bishops] do not know sufficient Italian, so I don’t know how they’ll respond, whether they’ll abstain, go with the group, I don’t know,” Cardinal Gracias said. “If we don’t understand it, how can we vote on it? Some have said, we don’t have sufficient Italian to be able to make a judgment. We’re saying yes to something we don’t know, and that’s not right.”

In his concluding address, Pope Francis said that the document now needs to be prayed over, studied and reflected upon, before proper decisions can be made. Prayer, study and reflection would have also been suitable before it was approved.


13. Expanding PA Probe, Feds Warn US Church: “All Your Files Are Belong To Us”.

Whispers in the Loggia, October 26, 2018

Originally slated for Wednesday of this week, house ops report that the first appearance of the Pennsylvania bishops before the Federal panel has been slightly delayed. 

Meanwhile, given the lack of civil or canonical jurisdiction the DC Mothership has over the local churches – an issue likewise relevant to the coming debates over prelates’ accountability apart from the oversight of the Holy See – it bears noting that legal disputes over the force of any request to the USCCB have already flared up anew in Chanceries and beyond. Nonetheless, as it’s the Feds calling, to an unprecedented degree, the warning is served.

Keeping with the Justice Department’s usual practice, the US Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia routinely refuses to “confirm or deny” the existence of the Pennsylvania investigation, its explicit communication on the case only to occur if and when indictments are produced.


14. Chinese authorities destroy two Marian shrines despite Vatican-China agreement.

By Mary Rezac, Catholic News Agency, October 26, 2018, 2:40 PM

As part of an ongoing crackdown on religious practice in the country, Chinese authorities demolished two Catholic Marian shrines this week. The move comes just one month after the Chinese government signed an agreement with the Vatican regarding the appointment of bishops.

According to reports from AsiaNews, government authorities destroyed the Marian shrines of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows in Dongergou (Shanxi), and Our Lady of Bliss, also known as Our Lady of the Mountain, in Anlong (Guizhou).

The shrines were pilgrimage sites for both the official Chinese Catholic Church and the “underground” Catholic Church in China.

Authorities claim that the shrine in Anlong was destroyed because it lacked the necessary building permits. Local Catholics told AsiaNews that they believe the demolitions were part of the so-called “Sinicization” efforts of the Communist Party to bring the Catholic Church more in-line with the government’s understanding of Chinese culture, society and politics.