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Hong Kong, 'Vos estis', and parish phishing

Hey everybody-

Here’s what we’ve been working on at The Pillar:

Phishers of Men?

Your pastor emails you with some strange excuse, asking you to buy gift cards that will somehow help the parish. It’s a scam called phishing, and it’s both annoying and against the law.

We bring you this week a delightful story in screenshots, about one man who replied to a parish scam email with a couple of curveballs of his own.

While it’s hard to find data about how many people are tricked, parish phishing scams must work or con artists wouldn’t bother with them. So if you have parishioners, I hope you’ll share this story with them — it might be helpful.

Don’t miss it.

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Will Hong Kong get a bishop anytime soon?

Probably not.

The Diocese of Hong Kong has been without a diocesan bishop for the last two years, and it looks like it will probably be a while longer before Hong Kong gets a new bishop.


Politics. The first appointment planned for the vacant post was withdrawn because the candidate was seen to be too close to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrators. The second candidate was withdrawn because local Catholic leaders thought he was too close to Beijing.

The Holy See seems to be looking for a candidate who won’t tick off Communist Party leaders in Beijing or pro-democracy Catholics in Hong Kong. That’s a tall order, and a sign of the challenges presented by the Holy See’s strategy for a diplomatic relationship with Beijing. It also means that even if a new candidate is selected, his appointment might not be announced while Hong Kong’s politics remain so volatile.

Read about the situation for the Church in Hong Kong here.

(By the way, we use a good number of anonymous sources when reporting on Hong Kong, because many of our sources in HK are concerned about going to jail. That concern has merit, and we take it seriously. But because of that, we make it a point to double and triple confirm our work, so we can be sure we’re getting you the best information available. Pray, please, for Christians and other religious minorities across China - they need our prayers.)

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Crookston questioning continues

But when will it end?

Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minnesota was the first U.S. bishop to be investigated under the Vos estis lux mundi provisions established by Pope Francis in 2019.

Hoeppner is accused of coercing a man into recanting an abuse allegation, and of mishandling several other serious cases of misconduct and grooming. He’s talked at length about those cases in publicly released depositions.

Still, the investigation is now in its 15th month - more than a year - and while some local Catholics say they’re glad the investigation is thorough, they are also wondering when it will end, and how much information the Apostolic See really needs before it acts.

In the words of one Crookston abuse victim: “My fear is the Vatican is going to just pooh-pooh it. Not enough evidence or whatever. How long did it take them to get something out with McCarrick?”

By the way, Hoeppner’s Vos estis investigation is not the only one lasting more than year. Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has been under investigation since Jan. 7, 2020.

Read The Pillar’s report.


Vatican finance lawsuit

Raffaele Mincione, the businessman who managed Vatican investments and sold the Secretariat of State a London building, is suing the publisher of Italian newspaper La Repubblica for alleged libel.

Mincione is already suing the Secretariat of State in a UK court over the property deal, which is worth hundreds of millions of euros. Depositions in both lawsuits could provide details of the London property deal at the heart of the unfolding Vatican financial scandal.

This lawsuit could be a big deal in unraveling the tangled knot of side deals and shady players surrounding the Vatican’s London investment. Read all about it.

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Ed Condon, Gwen Stefanie Superfan

On Friday’s episode of The Pillar Podcast, Ed and I talked for a while about Gwen Stefani, but there’s a reason. The pop superstar recently announced she’d gotten an annulment, which allowed us to talk some about what a declaration of nullity is all about, and what is necessary to validly contract marriage.

Ed and I also talked about Pope Francis’ new provisions allowing women to be instituted as lectors and acolytes, and about the synodal process of the Church in Germany.

We also discussed a canonical mystery in Oklahoma, and I’ve got an update here. Guess what? We solved the mystery, everybody. Boom.

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—The second Catholic president of the United States will be inaugurated Wednesday, and at a moment of extraordinary political tension and difficulty.

Here’s a prayer written by Archbishop John Carroll, the first bishop of the United States, for the inauguration of George Washington. My family will pray it together on Wednesday, and you might consider doing the same.

Pray for the soul of Father John Gbakaan Yaji, a Nigerian priest who was kidnapped and killed by terrorists Jan. 15. The priest’s brother was abducted at the same time and remains missing. Kidnappings of Catholic clerics — who are often held for ransom by terrorist groups — are dramatically on the rise in Nigeria, and the Buhari government has faced growing accusations of negligence or toleration of the problem.

—Like all parents, I love those rare moments when my kids are completely getting along. Here are my cute kids doing some painting together.

—Love him or loathe him, Patrick Mahomes is crazy good at football. Watch this highlights video if you don’t believe me. Crazy good. And here’s a wonky analysis on what makes Mahomes so good. If you don’t know much about football, but want to sound smart at a Super Bowl party next month, well…this guy will probably be playing in it.

—I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on last week’s podcast, from people who think “Don’t Speak” is a more iconic No Doubt song than “Just a Girl.” Sorry everybody, I like a song you can dance to. You’re wrong about this.

Finally, these are challenging times for America, and a lot of people are feeling the stress. Let’s be merciful to one another.

Please pray for us, and be assured of our prayers.

Yours in Christ,

JD Flynn


The Pillar