1. Pope Francis Urges Reconciliation With China’s Catholics.

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2018, Pg. A11

Pope Francis called for unity among Chinese Catholics in the wake of a controversial deal between the Vatican and Beijing on the selection of bishops, acknowledging tensions between Catholics who accept state control of the church and those who have long resisted it.

“I now invite all Chinese Catholics to work toward reconciliation,” the pope wrote in a message released Wednesday by the Vatican, urging them to “overcome the divisions of the past that have caused, and continue to cause, great suffering in the hearts of many pastors and faithful.”

The Vatican and Beijing on Saturday signed an agreement ending a decadeslong struggle over who chooses the leaders of Catholicism in the world’s most populous country—and drawing sharply divided views about its implications for religious freedom.

China’s estimated 10 million Catholics legally are supposed to worship only in churches approved by the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, but many attend unregistered churches in so-called underground communities led by bishops loyal only to Rome. The Vatican and Beijing have cooperated informally to agree on most appointments of bishops in recent decades, but the government has periodically named bishops without the pope’s approval.


2. Pope Asks Chinese Catholics to Trust His Deal With Their Government.

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, September 27, 2018, Pg. A6

Responding to confusion about his agreement with the Chinese government, Pope Francis on Wednesday urged Chinese Catholics to trust in his decision to unify the Roman and state-run Catholic churches, assuring his often-persecuted flock that he appreciated their sacrifices but that China represented a “land of great opportunities” for the church.

Under the deal announced on Saturday, a historic breakthrough after 70 years of icy relations between the Vatican and Beijing, the pope recognized the legitimacy of seven bishops appointed by the Chinese government and lifted an order excommunicating them. Through three pontificates, the church had tried to reach an accord with China, but the fate of those seven bishops, and the question of who gets to appoint new bishops in the country, had been impassable barriers.

There were few details about the deal in the Saturday announcement, fueling questions about just how much autonomy Francis had given up to make greater inroads into China, the world’s most populous nation, where the growth of Protestantism is far outpacing the spread of Roman Catholicism. That lack of clarity prompted Francis to write a lengthy letter, released on Wednesday, to the estimated 10 to 12 million Catholics in China.

In the letter, he acknowledged “certain confusion” about the agreement, but did not divulge any new details. Instead, invoking his title as the successor of Peter, he asked Chinese Catholics to “place your trust ever more firmly in the Lord of history and in the church’s discernment of his will.”


3. A Religious Double Standard.

By Asma T. Uddin, The New York Times, September 27, 2018, Pg. A29

Religious liberty has become a particularly politicized topic in recent years, and recent months were no different. In a long-awaited June decision, the Supreme Court decided in favor of a Christian baker who refused to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple. In July, Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced a “religious liberty task force” that critics saw as a mere cover for anti-gay discrimination. And Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s record has been scoured for evidence of what his appointment to the Supreme Court would mean for future decisions in which Christian beliefs clash with law and policy.

But when it comes to religious liberty for Americans, there’s a disturbing trend that has drawn much less attention. In recent years, state lawmakers, lawyers and influential social commentators have been making the case that Muslims are not protected by the First Amendment.

Why? Because, they argue, Islam is not a religion.

It’s not hard to imagine what the reaction from these corners would be if Muslims sought other exemptions, including ones routinely sought by Christians — from performing certain medical procedures, providing certain medications or, say, from baking a wedding cake for a gay couple. A June poll by Morning Consult showed that white evangelicals are more likely to support religious business owners refusing services to L.G.B.T. individuals if the business owner is a Christian, Jew or Mormon — but less so if the business owner is a Muslim.

If Islamophobes are successful in their efforts to strip American Muslims of the same protections that Christians enjoy, it’s they — not the Muslims they irrationally fear — who will be responsible for curtailing religious liberty.


4. Francis defends Vatican’s compromise with China.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, September 27, 2018, Pg. A16

Pope Francis in a letter released Wednesday defended the Vatican’s recent deal with Beijing over the appointment of bishops, saying the agreement could help to unify China’s divided Catholic Church and “heal wounds of the past.”

In a passage directed at China’s leaders, Francis said the Communist country will work with the church to ensure “greater respect for the human person, also in the religious sphere.”

The letter — addressed to the “Catholics of China and to the Universal Church” — amounted to a six-page case for the most controversial diplomatic endeavor of Francis’s papacy. The pontiff touched on the deal’s long history, explaining some of its particulars and even making a biblical argument for compromising with an imperfect partner.

The Vatican has faced criticism for compromising with an officially atheist nation that restricts religious freedom. Some Catholics in China prefer to practice without government interference and say the Vatican’s deal pushes them into the state-sanctioned religious system.

In his letter, Francis acknowledged that some people feel “doubt and perplexity, while others sense themselves somehow abandoned by the Holy See.”


5. Migrant abortion issue back in court, Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh had role in initial appeal in 2017.

By Ann E. Marimow, The Washington Post, September 27, 2018, Pg. A2

The Trump administration’s policy blocking abortion access for pregnant teenagers in immigration custody returned to court on Wednesday in a case that has attracted broad attention because of the previous involvement of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh.

A federal judge in Washington issued a nationwide order in March that prevented the government from standing in the way of migrant teens seeking to end their pregnancies.
Justice Department lawyers asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to reverse the order, saying the government should not have to “facilitate the termination of life through abortion.”

Attorneys representing the migrant teens said the administration is imposing an unconstitutional abortion ban on hundreds of pregnant girls in federal custody each year. They want the policy struck down completely.


6. Lists of priests accused of abuse to be released.

By Mark Gillispie and John Seewer, Associated Press, The Washington Post, September 27, 2018, Pg. A3

Three of Ohio’s six Roman Catholic dioceses now say they will release new lists of priests who have been removed from parishes because of sexual abuse and misconduct allegations.

The Catholic Diocese of Columbus said Wednesday it would release a list in the next few months that will include the names of clergy who have been credibly accused of abuse, whether they are living or dead. The announcement comes a day after the Steubenville diocese said it will make public the names of abusive priests by the end of October and several weeks after the Youngstown diocese made a similar announcement.

This all comes in the wake of a lengthy Pennsylvania grand jury report that listed the names of more than 300 priests and outlined the details of sexual abuse allegations.
“The Diocese of Columbus understands this is an important step to restore the confidence of our faithful in their church and its clergy,” a diocese spokesman said.


7. Officials: Pregnant immigrants seeking abortion should leave, Court case testing limits of immigration, abortion laws.

By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, September 27, 2018, Pg. A4

Pregnant immigrants caught trying to cross the border illegally can leave the U.S. rather than force the federal government to facilitate an abortion, the Trump administration argued to a federal appeals court Wednesday.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, and at least one of the three judges on the panel hearing the cases, seemed skeptical, saying immigrants appear to have a right to abortion, and it’s unfair to give them a choice of either continuing their pregnancy against their wishes or accepting deportation.

The case is testing the limits of abortion and immigration law — and even invokes Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who ruled in an earlier iteration of the case, though his decision was later overturned by his colleagues on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

At issue are perhaps dozens of immigrant teens who attempted to sneak into the U.S. illegally and unaccompanied by their parents, and who are now in custody of the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The government says it’s searching for sponsors to take the children, but in the meantime, it is acting instead of their parents, has an interest in helping the teens make the best choices possible regarding abortion and has a general policy against facilitating the procedure.


8. Both on China and the abuse crisis, Pope Francis faces a trust deficit.

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

Five days after announcing a landmark deal with China over the appointment of bishops, Pope Francis released a letter to Chinese Catholics on Wednesday. The gist of it amounts to, “Trust me.”

Specifically, Francis asked the roughly 13 million Catholics in China to “place your trust ever more firmly in the Lord of history and in the church’s discernment of his will.” The idea is to ask for faith despite whatever uncertainty Chinese Catholics may be experiencing, especially those of the “underground” church who’s been tenacious in their opposition to the Communist government out of loyalty to Rome and now feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them.

One core reason the pope needed to appeal for trust is that while a deal has been announced, few details of what precisely it contains are known. Thus it’s impossible to say at this stage exactly how much freedom of movement the pope has sacrificed in order to get the Chinese authorities to sign on the dotted line, or what its implications may be for the future of the faith in China.
In some ways, the situation isn’t entirely dissimilar from the approach Francis has taken on the charges leveled a month ago by Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former papal ambassador in the US, that Francis knew of sexual misconduct charges against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2013 and failed to act.

Transparency, in other words, isn’t just a “best practice” in both avoiding and remedying scandals, though it certainly is that. It’s also a down payment on trust – a payment that can’t just be made once, but regularly, like gas and water, because otherwise the service gets turned off.
Both on China and on sex abuse, making that payment may be costly for Francis and his Vatican team, but experience may prove that doing is no longer a luxury but a necessity.