A Spotlight on Abuse: Healing the Wounds of the World through Truth, Justice, and Solidarity

Spotlight is not, at its heart, a movie about the Church. It is a movie about people doing their jobs for the sake of honesty and justice. The reporters at the Boston Globe, committed to truth and bringing that truth into the light, are doing the practical work of the Word without knowing it.

The parable of the light under the bushel gets brushed into a children’s song most of the time, but in the gospels, Jesus is clear: the work of God is meant to illuminate the world. When the Church is engaged in secrecy, cover-ups, and darkness, She turns away from Her call to be the light of the world, the city set on a mountain.

Institutional corruption decays trust in the Church and harms the integrity of our shared mission. Pharisaical attitudes prioritizing hierarchy over justice diminish the Body of Christ for the sake of earthly systems. By failing to care for the vulnerable in our community, we fail to recognize the Eucharistic truth of unity and dignity. We need to remember that our work begins at home — in our own communities — with honesty, vulnerability, and transparency. Read More

Don’t Be an Observer: Our Generation’s Call to Defend Life

“Continue to overcome apathy, offering a Christian response to the social and political anxieties, which are arising in various parts of the world. I ask you to be builders of the world, to work for a better world. Dear young people, please, don’t be observers of life, but get involved. Jesus did not remain an observer, but he immersed himself. Don’t be observers, but immerse yourself in the reality of life, as Jesus did.” –Pope Francis July 27, 2013

Last week, despite the threat and arrival of Snowzilla, thousands of Americans took to the streets of Washington DC to take a stand against the lethal Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade and to raise their voices in support of women and unborn children. A majority of those who marched for life were millennials. I was among them and as I marched, Pope Francis’ words to young people came to mind. The Holy Father reminded us in a 2013 homily that Jesus was not an observer, but rather he immersed himself in the reality of life. We too are called to immerse ourselves, to be advocates, and to stand up and offer “a Christian response to the social and political anxieties” which we face in our civilization.

The greatest civil rights abuse of our time is abortion. If we are to follow Jesus’ example, we must, as Pope Francis exhorts us, face this reality of life. We know the statistics—around a million children lose their lives to abortion each year. Each number included in this statistic is a child that has lost his or her life. And with each child that has lost his or her life to abortion, there is a mother and a father that is hurting. Grandparents, friends, and extended family suffer as well.

In addition to being a horrific reality at a human level, abortion is also one of the most controversial political issues of our day. It can be difficult to engage with others on such a heated topic. Trust me, as someone who works in the pro-life movement, it isn’t always easy to tell the person next to me on the plane what I do for a living. Yet God has chosen us to live in this time and so we must trust in Christ’s invitation to “be not afraid.” We, the JPII Generation, have been given incredible leaders to guide us as we strive to answer Pope Francis’ call “to be builders of the world, to work for a better world.” We look to saints, civil rights leaders, and Christ himself as models of those who engage and do not merely observe. Read More

“I Wasn’t Home for Christmas”: Reconciling Family and the Kingdom

The suggestion that we should hate our families seems repellent, like smelling food you intuitively know has passed. Even in my most wrathful moments of adolescence, in the midst of injustice at the hands of the oppressive regime of Mom and Dad, I would never, truly, hate my parents. I came closer with my twin brothers, but since I exercised power as the oldest, I showed mercy and still rarely would engage hatred.

But can Jesus be clearer? “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” I’ve never been able to find a way around this passage. And hating my own life…forget it!

I have taught the gospels to adolescent girls for four years. This is one of those passages that I cunningly sidestep; I’m afraid it will turn the girls off Jesus. I would wimp out and opt for the let’s-not-take-Jesus-too-literally getaway car:

Student: “So, does Jesus really want us to hate our parents?”

Me: “Well, maybe not hate…

But it says hate. The Greek verb is μισέω, (miseo), to hate or detest, from the noun μῖσος, (misos) which means hatred. It’s hard to make a case for a softer translation. Some biblical concordances suggest that in application it can mean to love less, relative to something else. It’s still a challenge, though: “Love me more than your family or turn around and go home.” Read More

Poverty, Capitalism, and Pope Francis

“The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes.” Pope Francis

Poverty is linked to some of the most pressing issues of modern times, from climate change to gun violence. Yet all too often, how we view poverty reflects societal misconceptions and prejudices and is disconnected from our moral and spiritual beliefs about the dignity and worth of every life. We can only hope that Pope Francis’ moral and spiritual call to serve the poor, sick, and marginalized, a major focus during his trip to the United States, will inspire our elected officials to address the plight of the poorest among us.

In his address to Congress, Pope Francis stated, “Every life is sacred.” In just a few words, Francis challenged the traditional political, economic, and social norms of the United States. The pope made it clear that we all have a moral and spiritual obligation to look past our individual wants and desires and instead strive to provide for the protection of the common good. And American capitalism, with its long-standing tradition of rugged individualism, aggressive competition, and mass consumption, appears to conflict with the pope’s call to seek out social justice and promote the common good.

Because of this conflict, Pope Francis and many Catholics correctly ask the question: can today’s version of capitalism properly address the structural causes of poverty? Read More

Millennial Catholics and the Fight against Extremism

Young, motivated believers find themselves in a precarious position, balancing between the extreme tendencies of any faith and the secular millennial world of material idolization, substance abuse, and mutual sexual objectification. Examining how different people and groups become radicalized provides a lens into this special position, how orthodox Catholicism in particular, but any faithful traditionally-rooted religious tradition, can testify to a more loving, more peaceful, and more fulfilling life. In other words, although our religions are different, millennial Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, and other traditionally-rooted religious groups are in a unique position to simultaneously combat the excesses of Western secular life and the violent religious and ideological radicalization rising across the West and Middle East.

Secular depictions of radicalization are often confused and find the roots of violent discontent solely in racism, sexism, or xenophobia. These issues are undoubtedly factors, but are not the complete picture. If we want to combat radicalism and propose healthy alternatives to contemporary cultural discontent, we must understand why people turn to violence. A recent New York Times piece addresses the xenophobia supposedly experienced by three British teenagers who fled to join ISIS: “A lot of young Muslims…feel that Islamophobia is a very prevalent thing…And then a group comes to them and says, like, ‘This is where you come,’ this is where they will be complete. ‘It’s a home for you.’ That appeals to them.” Feelings of alienation cut across religious, political, and racial lines, so that some ex-neo-Nazis report feeling their culture under attack. As another Times article notes of Swedish ex-radical Robert Orell, “The immigrants who had bullied him at his school were now, in his view, bullying his culture as liberal politicians stood by.” Clearly, a feeling of persecution or “otherness” motivates a retreat into religious or ideological seclusion, often culminating in a desire to do violence to one’s persecutors. Read More

In Defense of the Human Rights of Emigration and Asylum

When the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed ashore near a Turkish resort, the world was horrified.  The image sparked a debate worldwide about countries’ immigration policies and led to a swelling demand to accept Syrian refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War.  The sentiment is clear: Alan should have been allowed to go somewhere safe, in a safe vessel – not in the vain hope of reaching Greece and, eventually, Canada, in a flimsy, inflatable raft that capsized five minutes after leaving shore.

Alan’s body reflected the gruesome reality of the global refugee crisis.  The number of displaced persons is at the highest level ever recorded by the United Nations, a staggering 59.5 million as of June 2015. To cope with the growing number of families fleeing to Europe, the international community has called for a reform in asylum practices.  Pope Francis called on European families to accept Syrian refugees into their homes.  His words, consistent with his pastoral approach of acceptance and kindness, were a loving implementation of a longstanding social and pastoral tradition of the Church. Read More

5 Ways to Be Good Stewards of Our Money

“Everything has been entrusted to our protection,” says Pope Francis. I believe this includes our finances.

We’ve all heard of money-related horror stories. Personally, my dad lost several thousand dollars dabbling in mining stocks. I have friends who lost their house during the financial crisis. Many of us feel the crushing load of student loan debt.

“Do not bury your talents! Set your stakes on great ideals,” says Pope Francis. But money remains a leading cause of stress and often puts a serious strain on relationships. It can prevent us from living our lives to the fullest.

If we are able to take control of our finances and make prudent financial decisions, we can more easily set our hearts on things that matter most to us –our family, our health, our highest aspirations. Read More