1. Deal Permits China to Vet Catholic Bishops, Critics see risk to religious freedoms, while defenders see pact as breakthrough.

By Francis X. Rocca and Eva Dou, The Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2018, Pg. A6

The Vatican and the Chinese government signed the “provisional agreement” on Saturday, ending a decades long struggle over who chooses the leaders of Catholicism in the world’s most populous country.

Details of the agreement weren’t made public, but people familiar with the matter ahead of the signing said that it allows the pope to veto new nominees for bishops proposed by the Chinese government.

The agreement also means that the Vatican will no longer approve the ordination of bishops in China without Beijing’s permission, meaning that all new leaders of the Catholic hierarchy there will be men acceptable to an avowedly atheist government.

Critics have cast the pact as a capitulation by Pope Francis to Beijing at a time of intensifying government crackdown on Christians and other religious groups.

“How can the Vatican do a deal with a regime at a time when it is destroying churches and crosses, prohibiting children from attending services and tightening restrictions?” said Benedict Rogers of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a U.K.-based human-rights group.

But defenders of the move have described it as a breakthrough, since it involves official recognition of the pope’s authority by a government that broke off diplomatic relations with the Holy See almost 70 years ago.

“Today the pope’s representative enters Peking [sic] through the front door. No more secret negotiations, but an official agreement that recognizes the dignity of the Holy See and Chinese Catholicism,” wrote Andrea Riccardi, a former Italian cabinet minister and prominent Catholic layman with close ties to the Vatican.


2. In Lithuania, Pope Warns of Revived Anti-Semitism.

By The Associated Press, The New York Times, September 24, 2018, Pg. A8

Pope Francis on Sunday warned against revisionism and any rebirth of the anti-Semitism that fueled the Holocaust, as he marked the annual remembrance for Lithuania’s centuries-old Jewish community that was nearly wiped out during World War II.

Francis began his second day in the Baltics in Lithuania’s second city, Kaunas, where an estimated 3,000 Jews survived out of 37,000 during the 1941-44 Nazi occupation. He ended it back in the capital, Vilnius, to pay his respects to Lithuanians who were deported to Siberian gulags or were tortured, killed and oppressed at home during five decades of Soviet occupation.

Francis also honored freedom fighters at the former KGB headquarters where anti-Soviet partisans were detained and executed, solemnly touring the chambers that have now been turned into a haunting museum of the occupation.

Francis also recalled that Sunday was the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the ghetto in Vilnius, which had been known for centuries as the “Jerusalem of the North” for its importance to Jewish thought and politics. Each year, the Sept. 23 anniversary is commemorated with readings of the names of Jews who were killed by Nazis or Lithuanian partisans or were deported to concentration camps.


3. O’Malley: Pope Francis is ‘anxious’ to help Church in the U.S.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, September 24, 2018

When it comes to addressing the abuse crisis currently engulfing the Church in various parts of the world, no prelate knows Pope Francis as well as Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.

This summer has been especially difficult in the United States, with the revelations of abuse committed by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, and a Pennsylvania Grand Jury report detailing the alleged abuse of over 1,000 minors by over 300 clergymen of the past 75 years.

“I think the Holy Father is anxious to help the Church in the United States,” O’Malley told Crux on Saturday afternoon. “Right now, the Holy See has to respond to the questions about McCarrick’s advancement, and that will help the United States, and I think the Holy Father wants that to happen.”

The prelate, who heads the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, spoke to Crux as the V Encuentro, a gathering of some 3,500 Hispanic Catholics attended by some 120 American bishops, was coming to an end in Fort Worth, Texas.


4. A China-Vatican deal, Agreement on recognizing bishops could be a milestone.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, September 23, 2018, Pg A14

The Vatican said on Saturday that it had reached a “provisional agreement” with China on the process used to appoint bishops, a breakthrough after years of contentious negotiations on the management of Catholic leadership in the communist country. 

The deal paves the way for bishops to be recognized by the Vatican and the Chinese government, a step toward ending the current system — one that has divided followers — in which some bishops are backed by only one side or the other.

The accord marks a potentially transformative step in relations between the world’s most populous country and one of the most powerful religious institutions. Some outside experts say the agreement could end seven decades of strain between the sides, opening the door for the possible resumption of diplomatic ties, which were severed in 1951.


5. The Faithful Are Crying Out for Action. Will Church Leaders Listen?

By The Editors, National Catholic Register, September 23, 2018

Since the news of sex-abuse allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and accusations of cover-up broke early this summer, laity across the United States — victims, angry parishioners who felt they were kept in the dark about predators in their midst, and parents worried for their children — have spoken out loudly. They have begged the bishops for action, for transparency and for clarity.

The most concrete and official response demonstrating that the bishops have heard the pleas of the laity came Sept. 19, when the administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement outlining a plan of action that included four key points: a third-party reporting system for complaints of sexual abuse by bishops; policies for restricting bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations; a “Code of Conduct” for bishops regarding sexual abuse; and support for a full investigation into disgraced Archbishop McCarrick.

Pope Francis, who met with U.S. Church leaders in Rome a week before their statement, has stressed his desire for the Church to engage in deeper listening. On Sept. 12, he announced that he has convened a meeting at the Vatican for all the presidents of the Catholic bishops’ conferences worldwide to discuss the issue of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. Days later, he issued a new apostolic constitution on the Synod of Bishops, Episcopalis Communio(Episcopal Communion), dated Sept. 15, revising the way synods function.


6. May Lithuania become model of fight for human rights, Pope prays at former KGB headquarters.

Catholic News Agency, September 23, 2018

Pope Francis prayed that Lithuania become an example of defense of human rights in a gathering Sunday with former 20th-century freedom fighters, political prisoners, exiles and their families.

“May Lithuania become a beacon of hope,” the pope prayed. “May it become a land of memory and action, constantly committed to fighting all forms of injustice. May it promote creative efforts to defend the rights of all persons, especially the most defenseless and vulnerable.”
“And may Lithuania be for all a teacher in the way to reconcile and harmonize diversity.” 

Sunday’s gathering took place at the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fighters, a former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, where Soviets detained and executed hundreds of people. The event mourned victims of Nazi and Soviet oppression in Lithuania and honored those who fought for human rights.

“Lithuanians and those from other nations paid in their own flesh the price of the thirst for absolute power on the part of those who sought complete domination.”

The pope urged Lithuanians to remember their history, and to continue to fight against violations of human rights today. 


7. Thoughts on the Instrumentum Laboris.

By Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., First Things, September 21, 2018

Over the past several months, I’ve received scores of emails and letters from laypeople, clergy, theologians, and other scholars, young and old, with their thoughts regarding the October synod of bishops in Rome focused on young people. Nearly all note the importance of the subject matter. Nearly all praise the synod’s intent. And nearly all raise concerns of one sort or another about the synod’s timing and possible content. The critique below, received from a respected North American theologian, is one person’s analysis; others may disagree. But it is substantive enough to warrant much wider consideration and discussion as bishop-delegates prepare to engage the synod’s theme. Thus, I offer it here:

 Principal theological difficulties in the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) for the 2018 synod: 
I.  Naturalism 
The IL displays a pervasive focus on socio-cultural elements, to the exclusion of deeper religious and moral issues. Though the document expresses the desire to “re-read” “concrete realities” “in the light of the faith and the experience of the Church (§4),” the IL regrettably fails to do so.

II.  An inadequate grasp of the Church’s spiritual authority 
The IL upends the respective roles of the ecclesia docens and the ecclesia discens. The entire document is premised on the belief that the principal role of the magisterial Church is “listening.” Most problematic is §140: “The Church will have to opt for dialogue as her style and method, fostering an awareness of the existence of bonds and connections in a complex reality. . . . No vocation, especially within the Church, can be placed outside this outgoing dynamism of dialogue . . . . [emphasis added].” In other words, the Church does not possess the truth but must take its place alongside other voices. Those who have held the role of teacher and preacher in the Church must replace their authority with dialogue. (In this regard, see also §67-70).