Happy Friday Friends,
This week marks a month since JD and I launched The Pillar. And we’re still here. So thank you, sincerely, for that.
When we went live on Jan. 4, I had no real expectations for how well we’d do, or how many people would want to read our work. It has been something of a shock to get so much generous feedback from you all.
Since we got started, we have broken some news, raised a few eyebrows, and we’ve heard from readers from all over the place - bishops, pastors, chancery and parish staff. One cardinal had his lawyer write two very nice letters threatening to sue us. (Our lawyer said we probably should not say which cardinal. But I bet you can guess.)
But most important to us, we’ve heard from lots of Catholics, from all walks of life, who understand what we are trying to do: create a space for the kind of serious, independent, long form reporting that we think is a service to the Church, and to Catholics everywhere. So really, thank you again for your support.
To keep doing the work that matters, we have a lot of growing yet to do. So, if you have subscribed, thank you, really.
And if you would consider subscribing The Pillar, please and thank you, too.
Since last you heard from us, JD and I took a look at a significant birthday that happened over last weekend: Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. turned 75, the age at which Vatican diplomats are supposed to submit their resignations. What Pope Francis does with that resignation, and who he appoints next, could be one of the most significant decisions he makes for the Church in the U.S. this year.
We also learned that Australian Federal Police have closed their investigation into wire transfers sent from the Vatican during the trial of Cardinal Pell, concluding that there is “no criminal misconduct.”
On Thursday, the Associated Press published a breathless and heroically ignorant piece of good, old fashioned, Know Nothing journalism, accusing the Church of hoarding assets during the pandemic while hoovering up covid relief funds through the Paycheck Protection Program.
The premise of the article is, basically, that every individual Catholic organization is part of one big, sinister cartoon octopus wrapping its tentacles around the public purse. We wrote an explainer to help the AP (and anyone else interested) understand how the Church and Catholic institutions actually function, and maybe to help them do better next time.
And finally, JD turned his attention to the case of Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas. Despite the Vatican’s pronouncements on the subject, the bishop has become something of a leading voice among those opposing the various coronavirus vaccines.
It’s just anthropology, man
I’m increasingly convinced that the coming “trans rights” assault on conscience protections in medicine, education, and a host of other sectors is going to be far more brutal and damaging than many are expecting.
Opposing that onslaught is going to be hard, and the Church is going to have to take a leading role - whether it wants to or not. JD and I wrote last week that relying on traditional religious freedom arguments will simply not be enough. If we allow scientific facts, like a person’s sex, to be classified as matters of religious belief, the fight for truth seems already over.
This morning, I spoke to Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, Australia. The Australian state of Victoria has just banned what legislators are calling LGBT “conversion and suppression” practices. The way the law is written, it is now potentially a crime there to help a person who wants to detransition after gender reassignment.
Comensoli told me that he opposes harmful and coercive “therapeutic” practices, and tried to work with lawmakers to ban them in ways that wouldn’t have far-reaching consequences for doctors, ministers, and families. But he didn’t get much interest in collaboration on the legislation.
He also said that Catholics have to hold up the truth of human nature for the good of society, not just guard it for ourselves through religious liberty exemptions.
“This is about the basics of our humanity and the living well of it, and the allowing of the flourishing of the human person, these are the key questions.”
“This is well and truly beyond just a religious liberty question, but it shows up in religious liberty cases particularly because we are the ones saying this is undermining a certain way of understanding the human person, and wanting to hold forth a particular vision of that, and allow it to be part of [public] life.”
This week brought a fresh round of revelations about what is happening to the more than a million Uighurs in Chinese concentration camps in Xinjiang Province.
In addition to the forced labor, indoctrination, torture, forced abortions and sterilizations we already knew were happening, former inmates are now sharing accounts of sadistic programs of sexual torture and rape in the camps.
As the slow motion genocide rolls on the Chinese mainland, the crackdown on Hong Kong continues apace. Today we learned of new measures to tighten up regulations on local schools, and ensure that there will not be another generation formed with minds for human dignity and freedom.
Yesterday, we spoke to Sen. Marco Rubio about the deteriorating situation in China, and the future of the U.S. relationship with Beijing.
Rubio was optimistic about cross-party consensus for treating the situation on the mainland for what it is - a genocide. He also warned that the defining geopolitical divide of the next century will be over human dignity, not economic models. I think he’s right. You can read the whole thing here.
This week’s last word is… soccer.
I do not like this word, or this game, if I am honest. But I am man enough to admit that is cultural snobbery on my part. Where I went to school in England, football (properly called) was for fops who couldn’t hack it at playing a real sport - rugby.
Anyway, this week on the podcast, I was trying, as I so often do, to get JD to recognize some of life’s little absurdities. I started by pointing out the utter lunacy of calling American high school sports “varsity,” which is a slang pronunciation of the word “university” and refers to the university teams of Oxford and Cambridge (the original “varsities”).
I went on to say that “soccer,” apart from being a silly word, was another piece of posh English slang which had made its way into daily American usage without a thought for its origins. I credited the term to Eton, and a reference to the players’ long socks.
Well, friends, pride cometh before the fall.
Two listeners have already written in to correct me, one self-described “red-blooded American,” and an old Etonian who wrote from the valleys of Pembrokeshire. The old boy writes:
“There are four games of football played at the Royal College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windsor, namely The Field Game, The Wall Game, Association Football, and Rugby Football, all of which I have played.
The Rules for Association Football were codified in another place (in the Fens) in 1863 to provide a single alternative to the various local rules, so that one game could be played with a common set of rules. Soccer is derived from Association or Assoc…and began not at School, but at the University. It has nothing to do with socks, I’m afraid.”
The American was kind enough to affirm that soccer is, indeed, a silly word.
That’s me told, so apologies for the error and please accept the correction. I can only offer the excuse that I did not, JD’s constant insinuations to the contrary notwithstanding, go to Eton. I played rugby, you know.
See you next week, and Floreat Etonia.