Quick Hits: Catholicism in China and Germany; Cardinal Sarah’s intemperate critics; a demographic disaster
Catching up on must-read articles, after a whirlwind week of travel and interviews, punctuated by a snowstorm that knocked out our electricity for a day:
My friend Father Bernardo Cervellera, the director of the AsiaNews service, explains that skepticism about a proposed Vatican deal with China should not be interpreted as opposition to the Pope. Skepticism, he says, in this case is realism, “because we look at the events that are taking place,” and draw the obvious, prudent conclusions. He mentions the destruction of churches, the rules against prayer gatherings in private homes, the announcements that young people should not go to church. The Chinese Communist Party makes no secret of its desire to rid the nation of religious faith. So, Father Cervellera questions, “what motive could Beijing possibly have for this agreement if not that of suffocation of the vitality of the Church in China?”
In First Things, Msgr. Hans Feichtinger surveys the status of German Catholicism, and finds that despite its enormous financial strength, it “seems to become ever less resilient and less reliable, ever less willing to resist trends, even some that have already failed in the Christian communities that adopted them long ago.” The “church tax” assures an overflowing treasury, yet even with virtually unlimited resources the German bishops cannot save their parishes. (The Trier diocese, for example, recently announced plans to reduce the number of parishes by a whopping 80%—from 172 to only 35. That sort of severe contraction is, unfortunately, not atypical in German dioceses.) In light of this manifest pastoral failure, Msgr. Feichtinger suggests that “the time has come of bishops outside Germany to hold their brothers accountable, and for pastors in Germany simply to ignore episcopal guidelines and musings that are in stark contrast to the traditional wisdom, teaching, and discipline of the universal Church.” One might add that it is long past time for the Vatican to cease taking policy guidance from the German hierarchy.
Cardinal Robert Sarah has become the Vatican leading defender of those traditional Catholic teachings, particularly regarding the centrality of the Eucharist and the respect due for the Real Presence. He has therefore been pilloried by some liturgists, who mock his views without bothering to present them accurately. In Catholic World Report Conor Dugan takes those ill-mannered critics to task. He notes, for example, that after giving a distorted account of the cardinal’s views, Father Anthony Ruff voices his hope that the Pope will “swat [Sarah] down really hard.” Father Ruff passed along the false impression that the cardinal had said reception of the Eucharist in the hand is Satanic. Another critic, Rita Ferrone, conveyed the same impression even more forcefully, in an article that “through the creative use of ellipses excises 800 words” to reach that result. Dugan observes that the critics ignore Cardinal Sarah’s central point: that reverence for the Eucharist—the source and summit of the faith—has declined perceptibly in our lifetimes.
Finally, I call your attention to the deceptively quiet CWN headline this week, announcing that “Only half of US children live with married parents.” It is difficult to overstate the importance of this news. As I wrote in Lost Shepherd: “There is no more certain recipe for a dysfunctional society than a population dominated by the children of broken homes.” Alas, we’re almost there.
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