Over time, she deepened her studies of the disorder, contributed to a book on treating schizophrenia, wrote a dissertation on stalkers, and became a clinical psychologist. But not since she became part of the lawsuit in 2000 against her uncle has she spoken in detail about what she sees as the disorders of Donald Trump.
Now her silence could be coming to an end. Her book about her uncle — “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” — is slated to be published next month. The book is so potentially explosive that the Trump family is seeking to block publication, citing a confidentiality agreement that Mary Trump signed as part of a settlement about her inheritance. Mary Trump’s lawyer, Theodore Boutrous Jr., said the president is trying to “suppress a book that will discuss matters of utmost public importance.”
The publisher has not revealed specifics, and Mary Trump, 55, declined an interview request. But clues to her dark view of her uncle can be seen in lawsuits, and interviews with former colleagues and teachers, academic papers and a series of now-deleted tweets, including one that said her uncle’s election was the “worst night of my life.”
A description of the book from publisher Simon & Schuster suggests it will draw heavily on her studies of family dysfunction, with Mary using her clinical background to dissect “a nightmare of traumas, destructive relationships and a tragic combination of neglect and abuse,” including “the strange and harmful relationship between” her late father and Donald Trump.
The tragedy to which the book description alludes probably is informed by an event that infused both her life and that of her uncle: the death of her father — President Trump’s older brother Fred Jr. — of alcoholism when she was 16 years old.
Friends of her father’s told The Washington Post last year that they blame his death in part on the way he was treated by Donald Trump, and the president said in an interview last year with The Post that he regrets how he dealt with his brother.
President Trump told Axios that he didn’t think his niece was allowed to write the book because she signed the confidentiality agreement. The White House declined further comment.
Donald Trump’s brother Robert, who filed the petition to stop the book, said in the filing that Mary had agreed after accepting an unspecified financial settlement from the inheritance fight that she “would not publish any account” of her relationship with Donald Trump or his siblings. In a statement, Robert Trump said Mary’s decision to “mischaracterize our family relationship after all these years for her own financial gain is a travesty and injustice” to her late father, Fred Jr., and grandfather, Fred Sr., saying the family feels that “Mary’s actions are truly a disgrace.”
A Queens County Surrogate’s Court on Thursday denied the petition on grounds of lack of jurisdiction, but Robert Trump’s attorney said it would be refiled with the New York State Supreme Court.
From birth, Mary Trump was supposed to be set for a gilded life, a grandchild of Fred Sr. and Mary. Her father, Fred Jr., was the eldest of Fred Trump Sr.’s children, and he was expected to follow his father as the leader of the family business.
Mary was featured in society columns as a fashionably dressed young girl, and she spent time at her grandparents’ palatial home in Queens, watching her father feud with Donald and Fred Sr., who ran a New York City real estate company.
Much to the family’s consternation, Fred Jr. was interested in becoming a pilot for TWA, not in renting New York City apartments. After graduating from Lehigh University in 1960, he married a flight attendant named Linda Lee Clapp in 1962. He went to flight school and the couple had two children, including Mary, who was born in 1965.
Fred Jr. was already drinking heavily by the time Mary was born, and his troubles with alcohol may have caused him to give up his dream of becoming a commercial airline pilot, according to three former TWA employees who trained with him. Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Fred Sr. continued to pressure him to join the family business.
By the time Mary was 6 years old, her mother divorced Fred Jr. A family friend, David Miller, said in an interview that while Fred Jr.’s drinking played a role in the divorce, there was also a lot of pressure from Fred Sr., who Miller said disliked Linda. “She wasn’t welcomed into the family,” Miller said of Linda. Linda could not be reached for comment.
Fred Trump Sr. agreed at the time of the divorce to support Linda and his grandchildren, providing rent and $100 per week for expenses, plus $25 per week for Mary and Fred III, according to court records. Fred Sr. agreed to pay for Mary to attend a private school during her early years as well as her college and medical expenses.
On Sept. 26, 1981, Fred Trump Jr. died at 42 years old of a heart attack, which the family has said stemmed from alcoholism. Mary was 16 years old.
Carried a burden
Mary eventually attended Tufts University, where she studied the Southern novelist William Faulkner. In a seminar with English professor Alan Lebowitz, Mary and her 15 or so fellow students analyzed the Compson family portrayed in novels such as “The Sound and the Fury.
The Compsons bore some similarities to her own family: Like the Trumps, the Compsons migrated to the United States from Scotland, and the family was riven by dysfunction. At the time, Donald Trump was running his Atlantic City casinos, which went into bankruptcy, and preparing to divorce his first wife, Ivana, and marry Marla Maples.
Lebowitz said in a telephone interview that he has rarely had a student as exceptional as Mary Trump, who was featured in the Tufts commencement program as having won the award for top English student.
“She was just as smart and accomplished as any I’ve taught in 40 years,” Lebowitz said. “She took a seminar on William Faulkner with me and she wrote two absolutely stunning papers, long, deep and elegant. We studied an enormously complex, interesting writer and she got deeply into it because she is a deep thinker.”
Lebowitz, who is retired, recalled that when she entered his classroom more than 30 years ago, he learned of the weight she carried.
“I knew that her father had been a very sad story and that she was carrying the burden of that story,” he said.
Mary and her brother Fred III had received some financial support over the years from the Trump family, and they expected to receive a significant inheritance from their grandfather, Fred Sr., who died in 1999. Mary and her brother had hoped they would get an amount close to what would have gone to their father, if he had lived, but they learned they were due to receive a lesser amount, and a probate fight ensued, court records show.
Mary and Fred III alleged that an unnamed person associated with the Trump family improperly engineered a change in the will of their grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s disease during his last years. Mary and her brother said the changes in the will were “procured by fraud and undue influence.”
Donald said at the time that he supported a cutoff of medical coverage that had been provided by a family company for Fred III’s son, William, who had cerebral palsy. Donald Trump told the New York Daily News that when he and his siblings were sued by Fred III and Mary, he felt, “Why should we give [William] medical coverage?”
Donald’s brother Robert said in a deposition that the family had given Mary annual gifts of $20,000, in addition to income from family ventures, estimating that Mary and Fred III annually received “close to $200,000 without either one lifting a finger at any time.”
Mary was livid about the family’s decision to cut off medical coverage for her nephew William. She told the Daily News at the time, “Given this family, it would be utterly naive to say it has nothing to do with money. But for both me and my brother, it has much more to do with that our father be recognized. He existed, he lived, he was their oldest son. And William is my father’s grandson. He is as much a part of that family as anybody else. He desperately needs extra care.”
In the 2000 lawsuit, Mary did not directly address her uncle Robert’s assertion that she was “not gainfully employed.” But it was around this time, after working on a master’s degree in English at Columbia University, that she served in a voluntary role in the study of schizophrenia patients, assisting senior social worker Rachel Miller at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y.
Miller said Mary Trump showed an intense interest in understanding what drove people into psychological dysfunction. “She went into a situation that is hard to see. Many doctors and social workers couldn’t go there, it was so frightening to see somebody losing their mind,” Miller said.
Mary Trump accompanied her in visits with patients who were typically 16 to 25 years old and experiencing their first episodes of schizophrenia. “She had her life set on doing what she wanted to do, which was to be a psychologist,” Miller said.
Later, when Miller needed help on a book she co-wrote, “Diagnosis: Schizophrenia,” about the study, she said Mary worked long hours to help her research and write the manual, which became popular in the field and with families of people with the disease.
‘Worst night of my life’
Mary Trump continued her studies at Adelphi University, where she earned a master’s degree in psychology in 2001, a master’s in clinical psychology in 2003, and a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 2010, a school official said.
In her 205-page dissertation, “A Characterological Evaluation of the Victims of Stalking,” she examined whether there were certain personality characteristics that made some people “more vulnerable to being victims of stalking by an intimate partner.”
A few years later, Mary founded a company called Trump Coaching Group, which provided wellness and fitness services on Long Island.
An archived version of the now-deleted company website said the company focused on nurturing relationships. It said Mary’s interest stemmed “from her own struggles as an athlete with asthma which have given her a true appreciation for the extent to which physical well-being is vital to psychological and emotional well-being.”
One of the coaches listed as a team member said the company didn’t develop much beyond the creation of the website. Paige Crosby, who said she participated in a year-long training program with Mary Trump to become a life coach, recalled her talking about her “hurt feelings” from her “sour relationship” with Donald.
As Donald Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, Mary Trump does not appear to have said anything publicly about him.
But when it became clear that her uncle had won the presidency, she took to Twitter. “Worst night of my life,” she wrote at least 12 times in tweets that have been deleted recently. She wrote that “We should be judged harshly. . . . I grieve for our country.”
Mary Trump’s publicist, asked to verify that Mary wrote the tweets, declined to comment.
Last year, according to corporate filings, Mary created a company that echoed the name of the tragic family in Faulkner’s novels: Compson Enterprises. In an initial listing for her book, designed to keep the project a secret, her name was given as Mary Compson.
Now Mary Trump appears to hope that, with an assist from the publication of her book, the next presidential election will turn out differently from the last. She foreshadowed it at 4:07 a.m. on Nov. 9, 2016, shortly after her uncle was declared the president-elect, when she tweeted simply: “2020.”
Filling out college financial-aid forms can be confusing for anyone. They may become even more confusing for families where parents are divorced or unwed, or for blended families.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa, generally requires personal and financial information from dependent students and their parents in order to determine eligibility for federal financial aid. It’s particularly important to fill out the Fafsa correctly since it “can make a huge difference in the possibility of aid,” says Carrie Fellon, a certified financial planner and financial strategist at Agili, a registered investment advisory firm in Richmond, Va.
Here, then, are answers to some of the biggest questions blended families and those with divorced or unmarried parents have about filing for financial aid:
Who is a parent?
For Fafsa purposes, a “parent” refers to a biological or adoptive parent or a person determined by the state to be a parent. Grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older siblings, uncles or aunts and widowed stepparents aren’t considered parents on the Fafsa unless they have legally adopted the student, according to the U.S. Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office.
Insights from The Experts
Read more at WSJ.com/WealthReport
MORE IN WEALTH MANAGEMENT
Expenses People Forget When Planning for Retirement
The Pitfalls of Controlling Your Heirs’ Behavior From the Grave
What’s an Experience Worth?
In the case of divorce, which parent is required to provide financial information on the Fafsa?
In a divorce or separation where the parents don’t live together, only one parent needs to provide his or her information. This parent, deemed the custodial parent for Fafsa purposes, is the parent the student lived with more during the past 12 months. If the student lived the same amount of time with both parents, then the parent who provides the information should be the one who provided the most financial support during the past 12 months.
Keep in mind that nearly 400 colleges, universities, professional or graduate schools, and scholarship programs also require families to file the College Board’s CSS Profile to be considered for institutional aid. Many of the reporting requirements for the CSS Profile are different from Fafsa requirements.
What if the custodial parent has remarried?
How first-year college applicants selected their parents’ marital status for the 2018-19 academic year
Widowed | 2.2
Civil union/domestic partners
Source: The Common Application
Custodial parents who have remarried are required to include their spouse’s financial information on the Fafsa. This often comes as a surprise to stepparents, especially if they have no intention of providing support to the student, says Valerie Tocci, a divorce litigator and partner at Stutman Stutman & Lichtenstein, a law firm with offices in New York City and Mineola, N.Y.
A caveat: A stepparent’s financial information should be included on the Fafsa only if he or she is married to the custodial parent as of the date the Fafsa is filed or has adopted the student as of that date, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research at Savingforcollege.com, an information and resource site.
What happens if a divorced or separated couple is still living together?
As long as the student’s parents are living together, both incomes generally need to be reported, even if they consider themselves separated. Living on separate floors of the same house, for example, doesn’t count as maintaining separate residences, Mr. Kantrowitz says. If spouses are separated but living together, they should select “Married or remarried” on the Fafsa, and not “Divorced or separated,” according to Federal Student Aid.
Marilyn Ponti, director of financial aid at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., encourages families who have special circumstances to reach out to the financial-aid office with a letter of explanation about what’s going on in the family. Financial-aid officers have some discretion when it comes to considering the use of only one parent’s income on the Fafsa and can use professional judgment in some of these special circumstances, she says.
What about legal parents who are unmarried but living together?
Biological or adoptive parents who are unmarried but living together should choose the option on the Fafsa that states: “Unmarried and both legal parents living together.” In these circumstances, it’s advisable to call Federal Student Aid for assistance with answering income-related questions.
Average assistance per undergraduate student*
Breakdown of grant money awarded and loans taken out for the 2017-18 academic year
Private and employer grants
Federal grants 32%
Grad PLUS loans
Perkins loans | 1%
Federal unsubsidized loans
Parent PLUS loans
Federal subsidized loans
*Per full-time equivalent student for the 2017-18 academic year, the latest data available
Source: College Board Trends in Student Aid 2018
What happens in the case of a same-sex marriage?
A couple in a same-sex marriage is considered to be married on the Fafsa, if they were legally married.
Who should be included in the Fafsa’s size of household question?
The household size should include the student, the parent or parents living in the household, the number of other children (even if they don’t live in the household) who will receive more than half of their financial support from the parents or parents for the period specified by the Fafsa, and the number of people who aren’t the parent’s or parents’ children but who live with them, receive more than half of their support from them and will continue to do so for the specified period.
What happens if the student’s parents are now divorced but were married and filing jointly on the tax return used for Fafsa?
Where possible, the financial information should be separated and only the custodial parent’s information should be reported, even if tax information may say otherwise, says Charlie Javice, founder and chief executive of Frank, which provides families with free help filling out the Fafsa.
The reverse is also true: A parent who is remarried should include the new spouse’s financial information when filling out the Fafsa, even if the tax information indicates single status, she says.
These types of situations are highly likely to be flagged for verification because of the inconsistencies, Ms. Javice says. This could require additional paperwork such as proof of divorce and bank statements. She advises families in these types of situations to contact the financial-aid office immediately after the student is admitted.
AND THEN THERE’S THE CSS PROFILE…
For some schools, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa, isn’t enough. To be considered for institutional aid and grants at nearly 400 colleges, universities, professional or graduate schools, and scholarship programs, families must also fill out the College Board’s CSS Profile. And the requirements for the CSS Profile can differ from the Fafsa’s, especially for blended families and those with divorced or unwed parents. Here are answers to questions those families might have about the CSS Profile.
Who is considered a parent for the purposes of the College Board’s CSS Profile?
The CSS Profile requests information about the various familial relationships students may have, including their biological or adoptive parents, stepparents, partner of a biological or adoptive parent and legal guardians, according to the College Board.
In the case of divorce or separation, which parent is required to provide financial information on the CSS Profile?
All dependent students completing a CSS Profile are asked for financial information from the custodial parent. This is the parent with whom the student lived most during the past year, or if the same amount of time was spent with each parent, the one who provided more financial support.
Some colleges require information from both of the biological or adoptive parents, even if they are separated or divorced, says Blaine Blontz, founder of Financial Aid Coach, which helps families navigate the college-planning process. Students should ask each school about its particular requirements. They can also find relevant information from the College Board’s list of colleges that require a CSS Profile.
If both parents are required to complete an application, they will begin at the same website and will be asked similar questions in an online application that will be customized for each of them, according to the College Board.
What happens if either of the parents is remarried?
If a parent has remarried or has a new partner, the applicant must report information from both on the CSS Profile.
What happens if either parent is not remarried but is living with someone and providing financial support?
The student must report the parent’s partner’s information on the CSS Profile. The applicant must identify the current marital status of the parent and partner.
What happens in the case of a same-sex marriage?
Parents in same-sex marriages are considered married.
How should a student who comes from a blended family answer questions pertaining to household size?
In the CSS Profile, the custodial parent is asked to report information for everyone who lives in his or her household and receives more than half of their financial support from that parent. The noncustodial parent is asked to provide information for everyone who lives in his or her household and receives more than half of their support from the noncustodial parent. The noncustodial parent is also asked to report any children under age 24 who are shared with the student’s parent, no matter where they live, according to the College Board.
What else might students from divorced, separated or blended families need to know about the CSS Profile?
Each college or program has its own requirements for who is required to complete the CSS Profile; families with questions or concerns should contact the college’s financial-aid office.
Families should also be sure to contact schools that require noncustodial information as soon as possible if they believe it will be difficult to obtain the financial information and general cooperation from the noncustodial parent, says Mr. Blontz, the college consultant.
“While schools can waive the requirement of noncustodial information, it’s not a given if the noncustodial parent is simply being uncooperative,” he says. “These cases can hold up financial aid for the student until either the noncustodial parent information is received or the requirement is waived.”
More information to help divorced and separated parents complete the CSS Profile is available at cssprofile.collegeboard.org.
OKLAHOMA CITY — It was 1962 in Oklahoma City and Liz Herring, a new student at Northwest Classen High School, was feeling insecure. She was good at school, had skipped a grade, and now, as a skinny freshman with glasses and crooked teeth who had grown up in a town south of the capital, she was hungry to fit in.
She joined the Cygnet Pep Club to show her school spirit and the Courtesy Club to help visitors find their way around the school. She became a member of the Announcers Club, reading messages over the school’s central sound system. But it was the debate club where she really found herself. At a time when Home Ec and preparing for marriage were priorities for young women, debate was a place where they could compete on equal ground.
She loved learning about the big topics of the day — Medicare, unions, nuclear disarmament. She began carrying around a large metal box with hundreds of index cards with quotes and facts written on them.
She was competitive and had extraordinary focus and self-discipline, spending hours after school each day practicing. Joe Pryor, a high school friend and debate teammate, remembers her “ruthlessness in preparation.” By the time they were juniors, he said, “she was just flat out better than me.”
In some ways, Obama’s desires for a stable home and family are quite conventional, and she uses the conventionally feminine, domestic metaphor of knitting to describe them. “We were learning to adapt, to knit ourselves into a solid and forever form of us,” she writes of the first months of her marriage to Barack. It isn’t easy: in the Robinson-Obama union, the South Side power-walker meets the Hawaii-born ambler; the meticulous planner and striver with an “instinctive love of a crowd” and a desire for family must adapt to the messy, cerebral dreamer who loves solitude and books at least as much as he loves people. Later, the woman who loathes politics must throw her life into her husband’s pursuit of the Presidency.
Things are complicated long before the campaign, as children both complete and unsettle the Obamas’ carefully cultivated “us.” Once Obama gets pregnant, through I.V.F., her resentment at Barack’s distance from the pain of miscarriage and needles gives way to feelings of maternal pride. Upon Malia’s arrival, she writes, “motherhood became my motivator”—yet, three years (and almost twenty pages) later, she is most galvanized by her new full-time job, at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Although she considers staying home when Sasha is born, she instead takes the job, which “[gets her] out of bed in the morning,” though Barack’s comparative absence, as a commuting state and U.S. senator, gets her home in time for dinner. Then, just as Sasha is about to start elementary school and Obama is “on the brink of . . . [firing] up my ambition again and [considering] a new set of goals,” it is decided that Barack should run for President.
Michelle is still driven, but now by a desire not to fail Barack’s growing base of supporters. In an effort to “earn” public approval, she talks a lot about her kids while campaigning—a safe subject for a black woman who was framed in negative contemporary press accounts as an unpatriotic shrew. As the Obamas near the Iowa primaries, Michelle’s growing commitment to Barack’s cause is reflected in her language. Her pronouns shift from “him” to “we”—“Our hopes were pinned on Iowa. We had to win it or otherwise stand down”—and she adopts Barack’s own sermonic listing mode, describing meetings with voters “in Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs . . . in bookstores, union halls, a home for aging military veterans, and, as the weather warmed up, on front porches and in public parks.” Her rhetoric itself knits her and Barack into a “we.”
The book as a whole, however, represents a different moment, and announces her ambition to tell her story in her own way. A long memoir by any measure, “Becoming” not only matches the length of Barack’s first book, “Dreams from My Father,” but it also shows Michelle to be a better storyteller than her husband—funnier, and able to generate a surprising degree of suspense about events whose outcomes are a given (the results of Barack’s first run for President, for instance). Having devoted herself to strategically remaking the office of First Lady, through such initiatives as the White House garden and Let Girls Learn, she now reflects on what she has done and who else she might want to become.
Of course, the choices she makes throughout—to focus more and less on work, more and less on family—are a function of privilege. It is a privilege to decide how much or whether to work, and a privilege to have children, whether through I.V.F. or otherwise. The ability to steer one’s own ship also relies on the sheer luck of evading any number of American disasters: layoffs, mass shootings, prison, domestic violence, lack of health care. Then there are the disasters perpetrated by the U.S. surveillance state, which can undo black women, such as Sandra Bland, or their children, such as Kalief Browder. Under these conditions of hypervisibility, no amount of strategic maneuvering can guarantee one’s safety. And, in light of this, the Obamas’ faith in the American system, and in electoral politics, can seem woefully insufficient.
It comes as something of a relief, then, that, even as Michelle seeks to bind her own story to that of her husband and, through him, to that of the nation, the story of her mother, Marian Robinson, hints at an exit. Robinson is a willfully marginal figure in the text, as she was in the White House—famously reluctant to move in, and evasive of its basic security protocols. She gave everything to her kids (“We were their investment,” Michelle writes of her parents’ devotion to their two children) and stood by her husband, Fraser Robinson III, while multiple sclerosis drained him of strength. And yet, it turns out, she harbored fantasies of leaving. It is here that Obama’s portrait of her mother grows most vivid: “Much later, my mother would tell me that every year when spring came and the air warmed up in Chicago, she entertained thoughts about leaving my father. I don’t know if these thoughts were actually serious or not. . . . But for her it was an active fantasy, something that felt healthy and maybe even energizing to ponder, almost as ritual.” Obama sees this ritual as an internal renewal of vows for Marian, akin to how doubts about God might be said to bolster one’s faith. But the fantasy also represents a wholly other possibility: not a knitting-together but an unfurling, a quiet dream of escape.
the great achievement of Pope Francis’ five years on the papal throne. He leads a church that spent the prior decade embroiled in a grisly sex abuse scandal, occupies an office often regarded as a medieval relic, and operates in a media environment in which traditional religion generally, and Roman Catholicism especially, are often covered with a mix of cluelessness and malice.
And yet in a remarkably short amount of time — from the first days after his election, really — the former Jorge Bergoglio has made his pontificate a vessel for religious hopes that many of his admirers didn’t realize or remember that they had.
.. the theological risks he’s taken in pushing for changes that liberal Westerners tend to assume Catholicism must eventually accept — shifts on sexual morality above all, plus a general liberalization in the hierarchy and the church.
.. But when people say, “He makes me want to believe again,” as a lapsed-Catholic journalist said to me
.. What my friends and acquaintances respond to from this pope, rather, is the iconography of his papacy — the vivid images of humility and Christian love he has created, from the foot-washing of prisoners to the embrace of the disfigured to the children toddling up to him in public events.
.. Like his namesake of Assisi, the present pope has a great gift for gestures that offer a public imitatio Christi, an imitation of Christ.
.. And the response from so many otherwise jaded observers is a sign of how much appeal there might yet be in Catholic Christianity, if it found a way to slip the knots that the modern world has tied around its message.
.. we — are always at risk of finding in the mirror the self-righteous elder brother in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, who resents his father’s liberality, the welcome given to the younger brother coming home at last.
.. The cardinals who chose Jorge Bergoglio envisioned him as the austere outsider.
.. Vatican life is more unsettled than under Benedict XVI, the threat of firings or purges ever present, the power of certain offices reduced, the likelihood of a papal tongue-lashing increased.
.. the blueprints for reorganization have been put off; many ecclesial princes have found more power under Francis; and even the pope’s admirers joke about the “next year, next year …” attitude that informs discussions of reform.
.. Francis just spent a recent visit to Chile vehemently defending a bishop accused of turning a blind eye to sex abuse, while one of his chief advisers, the Honduran Cardinal Óscar Maradiaga, is accused of protecting a bishop charged with abusing seminarians even as the cardinal himself faces accusations of financial chicanery.
.. the idea of this pope as a “great reformer,” to borrow the title of the English journalist Austen Ivereigh’s fine 2014 biography, can’t really be justified by any kind of Roman housekeeping.
.. Instead Francis’ reforming energies have been directed elsewhere, toward two dramatic truces that would radically reshape the church’s relationship with the great powers of the modern world.
.. The first truce this pope seeks is in the culture war
.. the conflict between the church’s moral teachings and the way that we live now, the struggle over whether the sexual ethics of the New Testament need to be revised or abandoned in the face of post-sexual revolution realities.
.. Instead of formally changing the church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage, euthanasia — changes that are officially impossible, beyond the powers of his office — the Vatican under Francis is making a twofold move.
.. First, a distinction is being drawn between doctrine and pastoral practice that claims that merely pastoral change can leave doctrinal truth untouched. So a remarried Catholic might take communion without having his first union declared null, a Catholic planning assisted suicide might still receive last rites beforehand, and perhaps eventually a gay Catholic can have her same-sex union blessed — and yet supposedly none of this changes the church’s teaching that marriage is indissoluble and suicide a mortal sin and same-sex wedlock an impossibility, so long as it’s always treated as an exception rather than a rule.
.. At the same time, Francis has allowed a tacit decentralization of doctrinal authority, in which different countries and dioceses can take different approaches
.. In effect he is experimenting with a much more Anglican model for how the Catholic Church might operate — in which the church’s traditional teachings are available for use but not required
.. different countries may gradually develop away from each other theologically and otherwise.
.. seeking a truce not with a culture but with a regime: the Communist government in China
.. Such a reconciliation, if accomplished, would require the church to explicitly cede a share of its authority to appoint bishops to the Politburo — a concession familiar from medieval church-state tangles, but something the modern church has tried to leave behind.
.. A truce with Beijing would differ from the truce with the sexual revolution in that no specific doctrinal issue is at stake, and no one doubts that the pope has authority to conclude a concordat with a heretofore hostile and persecuting regime.
.. the two truces are similar in that both would accelerate Catholicism’s transformation into a confederation of national churches — liberal and semi-Protestantized in northern Europe, conservative in sub-Saharan Africa, Communist-supervised in China.
.. both treat the concerns of many faithful Catholics — conservative believers in the West, underground churchgoers in China — as roadblocks to the pope’s grand strategy.
.. they both risk a great deal — in one case, the consistency of Catholic doctrine and its fidelity to Jesus; in another, the clarity of Catholic witness for human dignity — for the sake of reconciling the church with earthly powers.
.. they take this risk at a time when neither Chinese Communism nor Western liberalism seem exactly like confident, resilient models for the human future — the former sliding back toward totalitarianism, the latter anxious and decadent and beset by populist revolts.
.. the “Francis effect.”
.. If current trends continue, China could have one of the world’s largest Christian populations by this century’s end, and this population is already heavily evangelical
.. Francis will have ceded the moral authority earned by persecuted generations, and ceded the Chinese future to those Christian churches, evangelical especially, that are less eager to flatter and cajole their persecutors.
.. The gamble on an Anglican approach to faith and morals is even more high-risk — as Anglicanism’s own schisms well attest.
.. it will ensure that the church’s factions, already polarized and feuding, grow ever more apart.
.. it implies a rupture (or, if you favor it, a breakthrough) in the church’s understanding of how its teachings can and cannot change
.. Francis’ inner circle is convinced that such a revolution is what the Holy Spirit wants — that the attempts by John Paul II and Benedict to maintain continuity between the church before and after Vatican II ended up choking off renewal.
.. this pope has not just exposed tensions; he has heightened them, encouraging sweeping ambitions among his allies and pushing disillusioned conservatives toward traditionalism.
.. here is no sign as yet that Francis’s liberalization is bringing his lapsed-Catholic admirers back to the pews;
.. Whereas accelerating division when your office is charged with maintaining unity and continuity is a serious business