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Prayers for China

While the situation of the Catholic Church in China has not been normal for many decades, in very recent times it appeared that the lot of Chinese Catholics was improving. It became known that many bishops of the official Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association were, in fact, also in communion with the pope, a link that is of crucial importance to the faithful. There have been unofficial contacts between the Chinese government in Beijing and the Vatican.

In the last month, however, some deliberate roadblocks to improved relations have been put upnot, it seems, by the Chinese government as such, but by some in the leadership of the Patriotic Association. Two bishops were ordained without papal approval, an action that drew the strongest condemnation from a Vatican spokesman.


A week after these irregular ordinations, another bishop was ordained with the sponsorship of the Patriotic Association and with the full approval of the Vatican. The elevation of the Rev. Paul Pei Junmin as coadjutor bishop of Shenyang took place with a large foreign delegation present, during which the papal bull of appointment was read.

Much remains unclear about the true relationship between the Beijing government and its official church leadership. With many dioceses still without bishops, the time ahead could be a tense one for Vatican-China relations. Mindful of that, the bishops of the underground church are appealing to Catholics throughout China to pray for the priests of the official church that they may be strengthened in their faithfulness to the pope.

Death Penalty Worldwide

Over 20,000 men and women are on death rows around the world, according to a report from Amnesty International in April. Last year almost 22,000 people were executed. Most were put to death in just four countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Among the more glaring anomalies is the fact that the United Stateswith its claimed commitment to human rightsis among the few countries that make extensive use of the death penalty.

It is China, however, that leads the world in applying the death penalty. China accounts for 80 percent of executions worldwide. There an offender can be put to death for any one of 68 crimes, including nonviolent crimes like tax fraud and embezzlement. The penalty’s extensive use in China may also hide an economic factor: the high profits behind organ transplants from those executed might act as an incentive to maintain the death penalty. Iran was the sole country to execute juveniles last year. It was only in March 2005 that the U.S. Supreme Court finally banned the execution of juveniles in this country. Until then, the United States had been among the world’s leaders in this practice.

Support around the world for the death penalty has been gradually falling over the past two decades. Mexico and Liberia are the two nations that have most recently abolished it. Even in the United States, where its useespecially in southern statesgoes forward, fear of executing the innocent has caused public approval to drop, and challenges to the methods employed, particularly lethal injection, continue to be brought forward.

The Perils of Plagiarism

Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard sophomore and the author of a novel about the travails of the college acceptance ordeal, made a kind of appeal to the theory of suppressed memories when The Harvard Crimson reported that passages in her novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, were identical with passages from two novels by another author, Megan McCafferty. Miss Viswanathan said that she had read the McCafferty novels and so absorbed their content that the repetition of certain passages was unintentional and unconscious. This explanation was not persuasive to Miss McCafferty’s publisher (Random House) nor to Miss Viswanathan’s publisher (Little, Brown and Company) who withdrew the Opal Mehta story from bookstores at considerable expense to both publisher and author.

No such defense was offered by William Swanson, the C.E.O. of Raytheon Company, the U.S. military contractor, when a similar challenge arose concerning his own hugely successful primer on good management, Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management.

The book had been praised by such management gurus as Jack Welch and Warren Buffet, and Raytheon had promoted the book on its Web site and given away more than 300,000 copies to interested parties. One of the recipients of Raytheon’s largesse found the book oddly familiar and retrieved a similar text published in 1944 on successful engineering practices. Passages in both texts appeared to be identical, and Raytheon’s board of directors reduced Mr. Swanson’s 2006 compensation by almost $1 million.

College sophomores and corporate C.E.O.’s: Be warned about the limits of literary license.

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