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On the Vatican’s Reported Capitulation to Beijing

Negotiating with the Devil has never been the long suit of Vatican diplomacy.

he “examination of conscience” is an important part of Catholic spirituality, which always precedes confession but is ideally practiced at the end of each day: a review of what one got wrong, and what right, as preparation for an act of contrition and a prayer of thanksgiving for graces received. And while there are obvious and important differences between individual Catholics examining their conscience and Vatican diplomats reviewing the Church’s successes and failures in the thorny, dense thickets of world politics, one might have thought that this spiritual discipline would have some bearing on the diplomacy of the Holy See, if only as a reality check. But if you thought that, you’d be hard pressed to find evidence for it in the history of Vatican diplomacy’s dealing with totalitarian regimes.

As an integral part of the 1929 Lateran Accords (which also created an independent Vatican City State while recognizing the Holy See as a sovereign actor in world politics), Pope Pius XI made a concordat with Mussolini’s Italy — a treaty that was thought to guarantee the Catholic Church’s freedom of action in the fascist state. Two years later, with blackshirt thugs beating up Catholic youth groups and the state media conducting a viciously anticlerical propaganda campaign, Pius XI denounced Mussolini’s policies with the blistering 1931 encyclical Non abbiamo bisogno, in which he condemned fascism’s “pagan worship of the State.”

In 1933, as Hitler was consolidating Nazi power, Vatican diplomacy negotiated the Reich Concordat in another attempt to protect the Catholic Church from the totalitarian state through a web of legal guarantees. The strategy worked as poorly in Germany as it had in Italy, and in 1937, after many attacks on churchmen and Catholic organizations, Pius XI condemned Hitler’s race-ideology in another thunderbolt encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge, which had to be smuggled into Germany to be read from Catholic pulpits. Then came the Ostpolitik of the late 1960s and 1970s. Faced with what he once described as the “frozen swamp” of Communist repression behind the iron curtain, Pope Paul VI’s chief diplomatic agent, Archbishop Agostino Casaroli, began to negotiate a series of agreements with Communist governments. Those agreements were intended to provide for the sacramental life of the Church by facilitating the appointment of bishops, who could ordain priests, who could celebrate Mass and hear confessions, thereby preserving some minimal form of Catholic survival until Communism “changed.” And another disaster ensued.

The Catholic hierarchy in Hungary became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Hungarian Communist Party. In what was then Czechoslovakia, regime-friendly Catholics became prominent in the Church while the underground Czechoslovak Church of faithful Catholics struggled to survive under conditions exacerbated by what its leaders regarded as misguided Roman appeasement of a bloody-minded regime. In Poland, Holy See envoys tried to work around, rather than through, the heroic Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, in a vain attempt to regularize diplomatic relations with the Polish People’s Republic. And while all that was going on, the Vatican itself was being deeply penetrated by the KGB, the Polish SB, the East German Stasi, and other East Bloc intelligence services, as I documented from first-hand Communist secret-police sources in the second volume of my John Paul II biography, The End and the Beginning.

In light of this dismal track record, prudence and caution would seem to be the order of the day in Vatican negotiations with the totalitarians in charge in Beijing, at whose most recent party congress religion was once again declared an enemy of Communism. But there has been no discernible examination of conscience at the higher altitudes of Vatican diplomacy. And now it seems likely that an agreement between Rome and Beijing will be announced, in which the Chinese Communist government will be conceded a role in the nomination of bishops — another step toward what various older but still-key figures in the Vatican diplomatic service have long sought, namely, full diplomatic exchange between the Holy See and the PRC at the ambassadorial level. One such figure, speaking off the record, tried to justify the impending deal by saying that it was best to get at least some agreement now, because no one knows what the situation would be in ten or 20 years.

This is obtuse in the extreme. If the situation gets worse — if, through increasing repression, Xi Jinping manages to hold together a Maoist political system despite a rising middle class — then what reason is there to have any confidence that the Chinese Communist regime would not tighten the screws on Catholics who challenged the state on human-rights grounds? What reason is there to believe that the Chinese Communists would break the pattern set by Italian fascists, German Nazis, and Eastern and Central European Communists by honoring treaty obligations? Has nothing been learned from the past about the rather elastic view of legality taken by all totalitarian regimes of whatever ideological stripe?

If, on the other hand, things get better in a liberalizing China, with more and more social space being created for civil-society associations and organizations, why should those Chinese interested in exploring the possibility of religious faith be interested in a Catholicism that had kowtowed to the Communist regime? Why wouldn’t Evangelical Protestants who had defied the regime in the heroic house-church movement be the more attractive option?

Vatican diplomacy prides itself on its realism. But on any realistic assessment of China’s future — the bad news or the good news — the Catholic Church comes out the loser if it caves to Communist demands that the regime have a significant role in the appointment of Catholic bishops now. As described in press reports, the new deal between the Holy See and China also violates the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the embodiment of that teaching in the Church’s own canon law. For well over a century, Vatican diplomacy worked hard, and in this case effectively, to disentangle the Church from state interference in the appointment of Catholic bishops.

That achievement was recognized by Vatican II in its decree Christus Dominus, “On the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church.” There, the Council fathers said this about the imperative that the Church be free to choose its own ordained leaders: “In order to safeguard the liberty of the Church and more effectively to promote the good of the faithful, it is the desire of the sacred Council that for the future no rights or privileges be conceded to the civil authorities in regard to the election, nomination, or presentation to bishoprics.” That conciliar desire was then given legislative effect in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, where canon 377.5 flatly states that “for the future, no rights or privileges of election, appointment, presentation, or designation of Bishops are conceded to civil authorities.”

In theory, of course, Pope Francis, as the Church’s supreme legislator, could suspend or even abrogate canon 377.5 in the case of the People’s Republic of China. But to do so would not only make something of a mockery of Church law (a temptation too often indulged by some in recent years, in a campaign against “legalism”). It would also be to deny the truth that Vatican II taught: The libertas ecclesiae, the freedom of the Church to conduct its evangelical and charitable mission by its own criteria and thereby remain true to its Lord, is not easily squared with state involvement in episcopal appointments. Vatican diplomats, primarily Italians, have been obsessed with achieving full diplomatic exchange with the PRC for decades. It is argued, by these men and their defenders in the media, that China is the rising world power and that for the Holy See to be a player on the world stage requires that it be in formal diplomatic contact with Beijing. But this is a fantasy indulged by Italian papal diplomats for whom “the Vatican” is still the Papal States, a third-tier European power that craves recognition of its status by superior powers.

That world ended, however, at the Congress of Vienna. The truth of the matter is that, today, the only power the Holy See wields is moral power, the slow accretion of moral authority that has come to Catholicism, as embodied by the pope, through the Church’s sometimes sacrificial defense of the human rights of all. How playing Let’s Make a Deal with totalitarians in Beijing who at this very moment are imprisoning and torturing Christians adds to the sum total of Catholicism’s moral authority, or the papacy’s, is, to put it gently, unclear. The same might be said for the de facto betrayal of Rome-loyal bishops in China who are now, it seems, being asked to step aside so that they can be replaced by bishops essentially chosen by the Chinese Communist Party apparatus. This is far less realism than a species of cynicism that ill befits a diplomacy presumably based on the premise that “the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). According to a (sometimes dubious) source, Pope Pius XI once said that he would deal with the Devil himself if doing so would accomplish something good and help the Church in its mission.

I imagine that if he did say that, it was during one of that crusty pontiff’s crustier moments, and an expression of his own willingness to face down the powers of Hell if necessary. But as strategy in the gray twilight zone of world politics, dealing with the Devil — at least as Vatican diplomacy has done in dealing with totalitarianisms — has never worked out. Consorting with the Devil’s agents is a ticklish business; assuming their willingness to abide by agreements (much less their goodwill) is folly; and carrying the sulfurous odor of too much contact with the Devil’s legions does absolutely nothing to advance the evangelical mission of the Church. In fact, it does just the opposite.

Source: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/456107/vatican-china-dispute-church-capitulates-naming-bishops?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NR%20Daily%20Monday%20through%20Friday%202018-02-05&utm_term=NR5PM%20Actives

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Lord & Taylor Sells NYC Flagship Store for $850 Million

Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in New York City. PHOTO: RICHARD B. LEVINE/ZUMA PRESS

Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in New York City. PHOTO: RICHARD B. LEVINE/ZUMA PRESS

Lord & Taylor is selling its flagship New York City store for $850 million, a move that will convert most of the landmark building into office space and the headquarters of real estate startup WeWork Cos.

The transaction, part of an effort by Lord & Taylor parent Hudson’s Bay Co. to reduce its debt, is the most dramatic sign of how even grand stores are giving way to more profitable uses. As more shopping shifts online and fewer people visit stores, retailers from Macy’s Inc. to Sears Holdings Corp. are trying to sell or redevelop hundreds of locations; mall owners are increasingly turning anchor store spaces into grocery stores or gyms.

Lord & Taylor has operated its store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue since 1914. The limestone structure, in an Italian Renaissance style, was designed by the same architects who built the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship further uptown. Both are owned by Hudson’s Bay, a Canadian retailer that acquired the two U.S. chains in recent years.

Lord & Taylor will continue to operate a smaller store at the location, but most of the 12-floor building will become WeWork’s headquarters and other office space. The Lord & Taylor site was appraised at $655 million in 2016 when Hudson’s Bay refinanced the mortgage on the property.

For WeWork, which positions itself as real estate for the millennial generation, the deal gives it a visible position amid the changing winds of real estate. The seven-year-old company is one of the world’s richest startups, with a valuation of more than $20 billion. It generally takes on long-term leases for raw office space and builds out the interior with modern design and flexible spaces, which it subleases for terms of as short as a month.

winds of real estate. The seven-year-old company is one of the world’s richest startups, with a valuation of more than $20 billion. It generally takes on long-term leases for raw office space and builds out the interior with modern design and flexible spaces, which it subleases for terms of as short as a month.

Department stores have been struggling with falling sales as shoppers buy more online, shift their preferences to small specialty stores and spend more on travel and entertainment. Hudson’s Bay, which also owns a namesake Canadian chain and German department stores, isn’t immune. Losses at Hudson’s Bay’s nearly doubled to 422 million Canadian dollars (US$333 million) in the first six months of this fiscal year. Sales fell 0.9% to 6.49 billion Canadian dollars.

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Bush’s ‘Team 43’ and Our Wounded Heroes, Healing Together

During the annual veterans’ bike ride at the former president’s ranch, warriors show us what bravery means.

President Bush (second from right) and fellow riders at Prairie Chapel Ranch in Texas, October 7, 2017. (Photo: Grant Miller/George W. Bush Presidential Center)

President Bush (second from right) and fellow riders at Prairie Chapel Ranch in Texas, October 7, 2017. (Photo: Grant Miller/George W. Bush Presidential Center)

his past weekend, in Waco, Texas, more than 200 guests — wounded war heroes and their supporters – attended a dinner in their honor, sponsored by Robert Agostinelli, chairman of the board of the National Review Institute. These warriors came to Texas to participate in the yearly mountain-bike ride at the ranch of their former commander in chief, George W. Bush, a president who is deeply involved with their healing process as they recover from war wounds both visible and invisible. Agostinelli spoke directly to our war heroes:

After 9/11, each of you had a choice, and your choice was to defend this nation and our values and right to freedom. And you did so with your heart, your mind, and your soul, putting yourselves at daily mortal risk. Many have suffered great physical and emotional trauma and you’ve come back from a dark place to now become leaders in our nation. Finance and business leaders, community representatives.

Then he spoke to the rest of us:

We have a choice as well. We choose to be there for you. We are here to support you. We are family. Shoulder to shoulder forever. We will never forget you.

The healing goes on. The Bush Institute’s Warrior Wellness Alliance is focused on building a network of providers and veterans who suffer from the invisible wounds that are too often ignored — brain damage and psychological damage that can have more of an impact than physical wounds. The first step for a veteran is to admit he or she has a problem. Second, he or she gets involved with other warriors who have been through similar experiences and can relate. Caregivers including spouses are very important in this healing process.

Several of the inspiring vets whom President Bush painted in his book Portraits of Courage attended the event. Marine Corporal Dave Smith spoke to me about how he’s grown as he’s recovered from trauma. Smith accidentally shot a fellow Marine in the leg in Iraq — and almost committed suicide as a result. He put a gun in his mouth but reconsidered at the last minute when he thought of a fellow soldier who had succumbed to suicide. Smith’s motto now is “never give up,” and he is stronger. He proudly remembers “the ink on the hands of Iraqi civilians the first time they got to vote,” while Smith and other military personnel stood by to ensure the vote happened. He loves the Iraqi people and prays for them every day. He also loves his fellow warriors and says they are helping one another to heal.

Army Sergeant Michael Rodriguez (Rod) sustained multiple concussions in Iraq, which led to traumatic brain injury and double vision. He found corrective implantable lens that helped, but he needed to wear dark sunglasses for years until one day they were no longer necessary, and he was able to take them off. “I saw my son’s face light up,” Rod told me.

And he said, “Daddy, I can see your eyes!” And for me, I got that emotional connection back, which the sunglasses were preventing. I was hiding behind the sunglasses and wasn’t really facing what was going on with me. But taking that step, even just taking the sunglasses off, was probably one of the most healing moments of my life.

Retired Army Major Peter Way had his leg injured by shrapnel in Afghanistan and later amputated because of infection. He rides a hand cycle but this year switched to an E-bike (providing pedal assist), which he uses with a specially designed leg prosthesis. He treasures the experience that the E-bike allows him:

Out on the trail, that’s where the post-traumatic-stress, phantom leg pain and physical discomfort all goes away. It’s just me and nature and the bike and the trail.

Way echoed the sentiment expressed by Agostinelli the night before: “Everywhere I go, I appreciate the support I do have — Americans coming together.” During the first day of the mountain-bike ride this year, Way hurt his back and was hospitalized overnight. Bush’s “Team 43” came to check on him en masse: “There is never a doubt that someone has my back. Figuratively and literally. Team 43 will get me through these times. Like a secret handshake.”

Way came back the next day for the last part of the ride. His courage and determination in the face of intense pain was inspirational and contagious.

We can be sympathetic to the problems our vets face, “but we can’t possibly relate to what it’s like to see a friend killed in combat,” President Bush told me. “And yet, there are others who can. . . . Vets helping vets is the best way to help people transition from the military to civilian life.”

Every warrior I spoke to said the same thing about President Bush: that his caring and ability to relate to the vets is genuine. Said Way: “President Bush is one of us, he’s not an outsider. Everything I’ve been through and lost, he relates to. We love him.”

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/452468/wounded-warriors-texas-bike-ride-george-bush-veterans-get-support-love

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