ROME — Ireland's resounding approval of same-sex marriage in last month's referendum has obviously rankled the Catholic Church. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who acts as "prime minister" to Pope Francis, went so far as to characterize the outcome as "a defeat for humanity."
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told La Stampa that the result represented a "cultural revolution," explaining that "the Church must ask itself when exactly this revolution began — because some on the inside have refused to see this change."
In an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), spoke of the need for "serene dialogue, without ideologies" on such issues as same-sex marriage.
Bagnasco said the Irish vote "raises questions about our ability to pass on the values we believe in to new generations, and whether we are capable of a dialogue that takes into account real people's situations."
Viewpoints on the question of gay marriage come in many different shades, but everyone wants to know the thoughts of one person in particular: Pope Francis. After all, he said last summer, "If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and goodwill, who am I to judge?"
Ideological interpretations on both sides forget that the pope's welcoming of gay people in line with the Catechism of the Catholic Church is one thing, and that the approval of gay marriage is another.
Letters from the past
When he was the Archbishop in Buenos Aires, the man then known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio avoided public statements on the issue, but wrote two letters in 2010 that offered clues about his thinking. In the first, which he sent to cloistered nuns, he wrote that the issue wasn't "a mere political struggle," but that gay marriage represented "an alleged destruction of God's plan."
In the second, sent to the layman board chairman in the diocese, he encouraged the laity to stand up for Christian values. This letter was published with his consent, but the first letter was leaked, causing a sensation. The pope wrote repeatedly of "ideological colonization," and in light of the letter's contents, it seems difficult to present Pope Francis as a supporter of gay marriage.
But it's clear that the Pope wants to present the wonder of families created by men and women in a positive way, and to stress the need to sustain and protect them. He will aim to evangelize with positive examples, rather than simply repeating convictions the way many Catholic leaders do when oppose something.
Of course, the "cultural revolution" that the Irish referendum represents testifies to the difficulties the Church is facing even in countries that were considered "very Catholic" just a few short years ago.
'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.
BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.
The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.
Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."
Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!
Communist curriculum replaces global subjects
This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.
Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.
But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?
The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.
Targeting pop culture
The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.
What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.
A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.
Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.
Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.
"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."
Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.
Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.
From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."
- In China's Crackdown On Religions, Buddhism Gets A Pass ... ›
- Strait Talk: China Invading Taiwan Is Mostly Just A Matter Of Time ... ›
- Why Hong Kong Means So Much To Xi Jinping - Worldcrunch ›