✣ Vatican bishop: China is model of Catholic social teaching
A Vatican official gushed over China’s virtues. Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, said: “Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.” He told Vatican Insider after a short visit to the country: “You do not have shantytowns, young people do not take drugs. [There is a] positive national conscience.” He added that China also showed “moral leadership” on climate change.
What the media are saying
Ai Jun, writing for Global Times, China’s state tabloid, said Bishop Sánchez might make “some Western media uncomfortable” but that he was right. The “overwhelming majority of Catholics in China have full access to freedom of religion,” Jun wrote, and it was “irresponsible” that some Catholics were lobbying against a deal between Beijing and the Holy See.
But Fr Bernardo Cervellera, editor of AsiaNews, said the bishop’s comments made a “laughing stock of the Church”. The bishop described a “wonderland” that did not exist, he said. China’s prisons are full of drug dealers, many of whom await execution. The government was “cleansing” poor areas outside big cities, destroying buildings and removing inhabitants.
George Weigel, writing at the National Review, pointed to compulsory abortions, the killing of political prisoners, forced organ harvesting and religious persecution. “To try to square them with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church,” he wrote, “requires something approaching a psychotic detachment from reality.” The bishop’s remarks “inevitably implicate the Pope and cast doubt … on the integrity of the Holy See.” Weigel noted that Bishop Sánchez had turned 75, the normal retirement age for bishops, and suggested his resignation be accepted as soon as possible.
At CatholicHerald.co.uk, Philip Booth said the bishop had a “reductionist” view of the Church’s social teaching that “boils down to climate change”. Beijing’s version of Catholic social teaching “would not have been recognisable to St Thomas Aquinas, Leo XIII or John Paul II”, he wrote.
✣Pope meets archbishop accused of abuse
Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Guam, whose trial for charges of sexual abuse is ongoing, has met Pope Francis at the Vatican. In images released by the Vatican, the Pope puts his right hand on the archbishop’s forehead in a paternal gesture. According to La Stampa, Francis offered some words of encouragement.
Why was it under-reported?
Archbishop Apuron’s case is much disputed. He emphatically denies the charges of abusing altar boys, but many of the island’s Catholics have marched for 50 consecutive Sundays to demand his removal from office.
Whatever the Pope thinks, he has certainly not assumed the archbishop’s guilt. The media might have drawn parallels with Francis’s support for Chile’s Bishop Barros, who is accused of turning a blind eye to abuse. But mainstream media sources have not yet turned their full scrutiny onto the Barros case.
What will happen next?
It is more than six months since Guam’s apostolic administrator, Bishop Michael Byrnes, said that the verdict had been decided, but could not yet be published. Archbishop Apuron says that people are trying to smear him, and are afraid that he will be exonerated – hence fresh recent allegations against him.
“All these events are helping me to direct my hope towards the only righteous judge, and for this I am very thankful,” the archbishop said. He has health problems and believes he may not have long to live.
✣The week ahead
On Sunday Pope Francis and key officials of the Roman Curia will go to Ariccia outside Rome for a six-day retreat. The Pope chose a 52-year-old Portuguese priest-poet to lead the retreat. Fr José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça, vice rector of the Catholic University of Lisbon and a biblical scholar, will give 10 talks. The theme will be “In Praise of Thirst”.
Next Saturday two Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy from Kraków, Poland, will lead a retreat at Sacred Heart in Morriston, Wales. The church, a Shrine of Divine Mercy, has a relic of St Faustina (pictured). For more details email [email protected]
Pope Francis has called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace next Friday. He asked that the day focus in particular on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. He made the appeal during his Angelus address on Italy’s Pro-Life Sunday. He said it worries him that so few people “fight on behalf of life” in a world where so many anti-life laws are made.