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Quick Hits: Pope's impact on SC primary, Ukrainian Catholics nervous about summit, trends behind priest shortage

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Feb 11, 2016

  • Prediction: Pope Francis will be a major factor in the South Carolina presidential primary. The Pope heads for Mexico tomorrow (stopping in Cuba—more on that below), and his last scheduled appearance in that country is at Ciudad Juarez, where he will visit the US border and speak about immigration. It’s a dead cinch that the Pope’s words and actions during that highly symbolic visit will have ripple effects on the Republican presidential contest, in which immigration is a very hot issue. It’s safe to say that the Pontiff will not endorse Donald Trump’s views on the subject. It’s not so easy to say whether his words will help or hurt Trump’s political prospects.

  • Even before he reaches Mexico, Pope Francis will hold his historic meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. The main topics for discussion at that meeting, according to the Moscow patriarchate, will be the persecution of Christians and the worldwide assault on the family. But it’s likely that Patriarch Kirill will also raise the familiar complaints of the Russian Orthodox leadership about the Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church. The Crux news site has an excellent backgrounder on that complicated conflict, written by Father Andriy Chirovsky, a Ukrainian Catholic priest in Canada. As he explains, Ukrainian Catholics—members of the largest Eastern Church in communion with the Holy See—have reason to be nervous about the meeting. The Moscow patriarchate has very close ties to the Kremlin, and Vladimir Putin has his own reasons for wanting Russia to be seen as a bulwark of Christianity (and not an invader of Ukraine). Father Chirovsky trusts Pope Francis, “But my confidence in the Vatican’s ability to outdo the Kremlin’s propaganda machine is much shakier.”

  • Closer to home, journalist Terry Mattingly connects the dots between parish closings in the Chicago archdiocese, caused by a shortage of priests, and the steady decline in the number of Catholic marriages there and the number of children born to the couples who do marry. There’s a mathematical issue here: if there are fewer boys, there are fewer potential priests. But Mattingly goes deeper, suggesting that the lack of interest in marriage, and the lack of interest among married couples in having children, points toward a lack of formation in the Catholic faith. Which, needless to say, would be another major reason why there aren’t enough priests to keep the parishes open.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: FredC - Feb. 12, 2016 6:13 PM ET USA

    Lack of formation in the Catholic faith is the problem. Does the USCCB recognize the problem? What is being done to solve the problem?