Pope Francis and the Dictatorship of Relativism

The central focus of Pope Francis’ papacy has been the poor. Over and over again, his words and his actions show that he wants a poor Church for the poor. His focus is sometimes contrasted with Pope Benedict’s focus on “the dictatorship of relativism” and the collapse of the Church in Europe.

Of course, Pope Benedict also displayed a profound commitment to social justice and the poor. What might be more overlooked is that Francis has not ignored the dangers of relativism. In both Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si, which is addressed to all of the people in the world, Pope Francis sees relativism behind a great deal of injustice: Read More

The Global War on Christians

The protection of religious freedom is fundamental to the protection of human rights. Franklin Roosevelt rightly included it in his “four freedoms”—freedom from fear and want, freedom of speech and religion. It is integral to the common good and fostering conditions that are compatible with human dignity. If we care about human flourishing, we must be conscious of threats to this cornerstone of human rights and freedom.

We should therefore be grateful that one of our finest journalists, John Allen, has written a book that highlights a myriad of grave threats to religious freedom around the world, The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution. Allen shows that in the real “war on religion,” Christians are facing beatings, starvation, and even murder. This book is essential reading for Christians who are concerned about their coreligionists’ plight and for every person on the planet who cares about human rights. It addresses an issue that is grossly underreported and too often ignored. And it is an exceptionally balanced account. In sectarian hands, focusing on the plight of Christians in particular would almost certainly be an absolute trainwreck, an abandonment of the universal values at the heart of the Christian faith and an authentic commitment to human rights. In the hands of Allen, the book is excellent, engrossing, and extremely valuable. Read More

The Wisdom of Donald Trump

This is obviously a short post. Somewhere between Donald Trump’s hilarious and horrifying moments in the GOP presidential primary debate last night, Donald Trump actually touched upon the structural injustice that is undermining the democratic nature of American government, creating tremendous obstacles to achieving policies that would promote the common good. This should be one of the central issues of the presidential campaign:

I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give.

And do you know what?

When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.

Economic elites have an extraordinary amount of power and influence in American politics because of our disastrous campaign finance system. We need policy changes to promote the common good, but we desperately need political reform to actually achieve these policy changes. The Donald is right about this: the system is broken.


Pope Francis’ Small Request

Pope Francis’ recent encyclical outlined profound challenges that humanity must face if we value human dignity, the common good, and our relationship with God and one another. But it also contained a lot of short, insightful bits of wisdom from the Holy Father. Among these, one of my favorites is when Pope Francis asks that believers return to the “beautiful and meaningful custom” of stopping to give thanks to God before and after meals. He explains:

That moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labors provide us with these goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need. (227)

To approach each meal as the pope describes is to reject the myth of the autonomous individual who is able to provide all that he needs for himself. To thank God and experience true gratitude reminds us of our dependence on God and others. It humbles us. And it reminds us that we have responsibilities to others, generating that sense of solidarity that the pope describes.

We benefit from this prayer by living in reality, rather than being deluded by myths surrounding our own power and control. We benefit by responding to this gratitude in our personal lives—in our treatment of others and the way we consume food and other goods. And finally, we benefit by receiving a constant reminder that we are called to support measures that ensure that everyone in our society has access to the basic needs that we no longer take for granted. Short prayers can be one of the little things that transform our lives and the world around us.

“You Should Have Had an Abortion” vs. Every Life Matters

“You should have had an abortion.” These are the words KJ Harmon’s mom, Tasha, heard when an ultrasound technician informed her that her not-yet-born son’s kidney was full of cysts. This is the ultimate expression of the throwaway culture, where the imperfect are supposed to be discarded as worthless. It is part of a long history of dehumanization, bigotry toward those with disabilities, and eugenics-based reasoning by those who often consider themselves enlightened humanitarians. Read More

Millennial Catholics and the Church

Timothy O’Malley, the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, has an outstanding article at Patheos on millennial Catholics and the Church. He writes:

“They eschew a form of clericalism in which ordination bestows every human gift possible; yet, they love priests, seeing them as signs of an alternative way of happiness in the world, of radical self-gift. They are frustrated and even angered by approaches to catechesis that did not treat them as thinking Catholics. They are tired of tepid preaching, bad liturgical music, and churches that are modeled off of the latest shopping mall. They read John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis — at the very same time. They are philosophers, scientists, engineers, lawyers, and those who give themselves over to full ecclesial ministry as priest or lay person. They get married and have families, offering their particular talents in the context of parishes throughout the United States. They have encountered a Catholicism that is not reducible to party politics but offers an integral vision of human life.

Yet the problem in today’s Church is a reticence to invite these very millennials into positions of leadership. National ministry organizations, as well as the USCCB, continue to bemoan the absence of millennials in the Church only to pass over the remarkable millennials already in the Church….Parishes often see these millennial Catholics as passive recipients for the reception of sacramental grace, rather than active disciples, who could be catalysts for parish life — preachers and teachers for the present generation.”

I highly recommend reading the full article, which is very thoughtful and nuanced and can be found here.