News Analysis

Week in review

The big story of the past seven days

✣ Cardinal Müller issues ‘manifesto’ on Church teaching

What happened?

Cardinal Gerhard Müller has published a “manifesto” attempting to set out Church teachings. The cardinal, until 2017 the Vatican’s top doctrinal official, said there was “growing confusion about the doctrine of the Faith”. He affirmed that the Catholic Church is the “instrument of salvation”, that heaven and hell are eternal, and that moral teaching is essential to the path of salvation. He also said that the divorced and remarried cannot receive Communion if in a sexual relationship.

What commentators said

The statement was seen in some quarters as disrespectful to the Pope. John Thavis wrote on his blog: “The implicit accusation is that when it comes to defence of doctrine, Müller is filling a leadership void left by Pope Francis.” But others observed that Cardinal Müller has repeatedly defended Francis against criticism.

At The Catholic Thing, Robert Royal said that the manifesto was a kind of response to the Pope: for instance, Francis had signed an ambiguous statement last week which some thought claimed “that God wills a plurality of religions”. Whether or not the Pope had meant that, Müller had clarified that Christianity is the true religion, and that the Catholic Church is integral to the Gospel. “Kudos to Mueller for his sturdy clarity,” Royal wrote.

What bishops said

Perhaps because of the controversy, bishops seemed hesitant to comment – but there were some exceptions. One was Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, who tweeted in praise of Müller’s statement: “Let us embrace this joyful challenge with new vigour.” Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, tweeted: “I really appreciate his clear, concise, and ordered approach. Highly quotable, and an excellent summary of the faith.” And Bishop Marian Eleganti of Chur, Switzerland, told LifeSiteNews that Müller had made “prophetic statements… at a time of confusion and of bewilderment among many faithful”.

However, Cardinal Walter Kasper said it could lead to “division”, and asked whether there was “a Luther redivivus [reborn] behind the manifesto”.

The most overlooked story of the week

✣ China requires sacrifices, says Vatican chief

What happened?

The Vatican’s top official for missionary work has said that the situation in China needs “sacrifices from everyone”. Last year’s Vatican-Beijing agreement has been criticised, especially after recent crackdowns on Catholic communities. But Cardinal Fernando Filoni told L’Osservatore Romano that he hoped it would bring unity.

Why was it under-reported?

The interview with the official Vatican paper, L’Osservatore Romano, was long, meaning that its most noteworthy statements were hard to pick out. Moreover, there has been so much news from China that publications may have wearied of the subject. Much of that news has been bad: there are reports of Chinese Catholics being told they must join the state-supervised Patriotic Association – thus allowing the fiercely anti-religious state to monitor them more closely. Cardinal Filoni said he “hoped not to read or hear” about such demands.

What will happen next?

Cardinal Filoni trusts there will be a process of reconciliation, and there are signs of this taking place: last month, a bishop from the “underground” Church was installed at a government-approved ceremony. But the bishop had to promise to uphold “the Sinicisation of the Catholic Church in China”, which – however the bishop interpreted it – is seen by the Chinese government as making Catholicism an adjunct to socialist ideology. The question is whether China will be able to enforce such a goal. It is certainly trying to.

✣ The week ahead

Bishops from around the world meet at the Vatican next Thursday for the abuse prevention summit announced by Pope Francis last September. The Pope said it was essential that when the bishops return home “they understand the laws to be applied and that they take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims, and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried”.

National Gallery director Dr Gabriele Finaldi is speaking on art and faith at the launch of Catholic Creators UK, a new platform for artists, at 7pm on Thursday, February 21 at Farm Street Church, London. Tickets are £5 from Eventbrite.

This Sunday is Racial Justice Sunday, focusing on the experiences of ethnic communities in England and Wales. This year’s theme is “Dignity for all workers”, recognising the problems faced by people due to racism and ethnic discrimination in the workplace. Migrant communities and those suffering from racial abuse are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

The best of the web

✣ Highlights from the week online

Remembering a priest and family man

At Father Ed’s blog, Fr Ed Tomlinson saluted his fellow ordinariate priest Mgr Edwin Barnes, who died on Wednesday, February 6, his 83rd birthday. Fr Tomlinson asked for prayers for Mgr Barnes, his widow Jane and their children.

Mgr Barnes would be remembered fondly, Fr Tomlinson wrote. “He was incredibly supportive of me personally and always asked, with genuine interest, after my family.” A strong supporter of orthodoxy and “a formidable opponent” of modernism, he was also a loving husband and father. “The closeness between Jane and Edwin merits a mention because it was a thing both obvious and palpable,” Fr Tomlinson wrote. “Family meant so very much to him and whenever he visited he would speak with warmth about his children and their families.

“He was, therefore, a fine family man and a fine priest. Managing both so well is no easy feat as any clergy family will tell you.” Another priest-blogger, Fr John Hunwicke, paid his own tribute to this “dear, kind, clever man”. Fr Hunwicke, who like Mgr Barnes converted from Anglicanism, remembered meetings of Anglo-Catholics where “some people tried to devise ways of staying in the Church of England”. Mgr Barnes “repeatedly said, with charming faux naïvety, ‘But the game is up!’”

Why a just-published John Paul text matters

The debate over St John Paul II’s politics has been reignited by a new publication. Katolicka Etyka Spoleczna (“The Catholic Social Ethic”), a 120,000-word textbook intended for students, has only been published in full this year. It was written by the then Fr Karol Wojtyła in the mid-1950s. The future pope wrote in the book that “In the contemporary communist movement, the Church sees and acknowledges an expression of largely ethical goals.”

Fr Wojtyła continued: “Pius XI has written that criticism of capitalism, and protest against the system of human exploitation of human work, is undoubtedly ‘the part of the truth’ which Marxism contains.”

In the Tablet, Jonathan Luxmoore argued that commentators such as John Paul’s official biographer George Weigel had downplayed the text: there was “fierce resistance in some powerful quarters to any discussion of Wojtyła’s anti-capitalist outlook,” Luxmoore said.

A response from the pope’s biographer

At First Things, Weigel himself responded. John Paul’s encyclical Centesimus Annus contained “a guarded endorsement of regulated markets”. That was Weigel’s interpretation – as John Paul well knew from reading Weigel’s articles. “During our subsequent meetings, over meals at Castel Gandolfo or in the Apostolic Palace,” the Pope offered “not a word” of correction. More than once, he thanked Weigel for helping to publicise Centesimus Annus.

With many opportunities to criticise Weigel’s reading, John Paul had not done so, Weigel said. Today, St John Paul’s thought is more important than ever – and “Conspiracy theories about non-existent networks of influence” are not helping.

✣ Meanwhile…

✣ Pope Francis is being offered $1m (£775,000) to go vegan for Lent.

Million Dollar Vegan, a campaign group, will give the money to a charity of the Pope’s choice if he abstains from meat and dairy products – or, as the campaigners put it, helps “fight climate change with diet change”. The suggestion was partly inspired by the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’, which urged Catholics to care for creation – though it did not specifically address plant-based diets.

The Holy See has not yet commented on the offer, though Francis has received indignant – and perhaps unwanted – support from the TV presenter Piers Morgan. “I will pay a million dollars if every vegan shuts up for a calendar year,” Morgan told viewers of ITV’s This Morning, adding: “As a Catholic, I’m defending the Holy Father against this ridiculous taunting from radical vegans.”

✣ An actor playing JRR Tolkien has said it’s an “honour” and that he hopes Tolkien would be proud of the film.

Nicholas Hoult plays the Lord of the Rings author in a biopic, scheduled for release on May 3, which covers Tolkien’s early life.

Hoult said he was “blown away” by reading about “everything he endured”. It is not known how the film will present Tolkien’s ardent and lifelong Catholicism.

The week in quotations

“Let us ask the Lord to let us know how great the gift of the Catholic Faith is”
Cardinal Gerhard Müller
‘Manifesto of Faith’

“I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like”
European Council president Donald Tusk predicts the damnation of Brexiteer politicians

“Mr Tusk’s theology is not very good … I should send them the catechism to remind them of the teaching of Holy Mother Church”
Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg responds to Tusk
The Sun

Statistic of the week

16-to-25-year-olds in the UK who disagree with the statement ‘life is really worth living’
Source: YouGov