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

Building a Whole Life Culture: The Culture of Death Includes Poverty, Hunger, Oppression, Exploitation, and Abortion

Recently, the Center for Medical Progress has shed an interrogating light on the “culture of death” by exposing Planned Parenthood for what may very well be the sale of fetal tissue and body parts for research and other scientific purposes. There isn’t much I can add to the myriad of Catholic voices that have spoken on the issue. I believe, no matter what stance you take on the legality of their actions, the behavior in the videos is heinous and disturbing. Not just the ones of Planned Parenthood executives’ flippant attitudes when negotiating over compensation for these tissues and parts, but also the ones that document doctors sifting through aborted fetuses and picking out body parts from a large glass dish. I believe this is one situation that epitomizes what Pope Francis means when he talks about the throwaway culture in his encyclical Laudato Si.

While these videos were making the rounds, I read an article that reported an African-American senator from Ohio (Democrat Bill Patmon) had called out the #BlackLivesMatter movement for not protesting outside of Planned Parenthood because a high number of mothers who came in for abortions at Planned Parenthood in his district were African-American. His point is valid. Abortion takes away a life – since black lives matter, these black lives in the womb also matter. However, the Senator’s stance doesn’t address the bigger issue at hand. The question that sits with me is, “What in our society leads women in these circumstances to believe it’s necessary or desirable to terminate a pregnancy?”

I believe that “the culture of death” viciously permeates all aspects of our culture. Saint John Paul II used this term throughout his encyclical Evangelium Vitae in reference to a culture that values efficiency and the subjugation of the vulnerable of society through structures of sin created by the powerful (12). He uses this idea to focus on the plight of aborted children and euthanized elders, but it applies to other structures of sin that deprive human beings of a right to live happy and healthy and holy and free, such as poverty, hunger, and political oppression. Pope Francis also touches on this idea in Laudato Si by advocating a holistic understanding of ecology that not only protects the environment, but also unborn children, the poor, and the marginalized of our world. Francis writes, “Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society” (91).

We must understand that the culture of death is a pervasive aspect of our society. The culture of death is found in a society that believes poor people who work multiple jobs need to “stop being lazy” and just work harder. The culture of death is found in a society where organizations believe that the best way to stop or prevent someone from perpetrating violence is inevitably through more violence. The culture of death is found in a society where black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men. It is a gross misunderstanding of the “culture of death” to focus our efforts solely on defunding an organization like Planned Parenthood, while completely ignoring the judicial, economic, and social systems that also perpetuate this culture.

We must ensure that every action that disrespects human life, such as abortion, racism, poverty, and euthanasia, is addressed. It’s been great to see so many peers take a stance on social media and create awareness about abortion and Planned Parenthood. I stand with them, and I hope we can right this injustice. However, I’m writing to challenge everyone who is adamant on this issue not to stop there. Be just as vocal about poverty, total war, capital punishment, education issues, and the unequal distribution of wealth in this country and around the world. Post videos about the arrest and death of Sandra Bland, the recent murder of Sam Dubose, Foxconn Technology Group, Nike, human trafficking of children in the United States, and other situations where the culture of death manifests itself in the world. We will not bring about a “culture of life” if we do not work to change the underlying structures that lead to a culture of death.

Jeff Wallace is a campus minister at Merrimack College and regular contributor to God in All Things.

Philadelphia Inmates Craft Chair for Pope Francis’ Upcoming Visit

“I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life.” – Pope Francis

Philadelphia inmates have carved a beautiful chair for Pope Francis’s prison visit next month:

PHILACOR is one of several vocational programs to help inmates learn skills that can be transferred to the community after their release. Five inmates carved the chair, and several others are working on upholstery and decoration.

Many of the workers will be in the audience of 100 inmates and their families when Francis visits Curran-Fromhold on Sept. 27, the morning of the day of the afternoon papal Mass.

“It really gives you joy knowing you’re making something for someone so big that’s coming to the city,” another inmate, Michael Green of Chester, said. “And that everyone’s going to get a chance to see the craft we’re learning here.”

Green said he knows he and other inmates had “made bad decisions to be in jail, but by doing this right here, it gives me a sense of gratitude that I can give something back to my community and be a better person when I come home.”

Check out the rest of this great story at Philly.com.


The Pope Wants Concrete Action on Climate Change and Protecting Creation

Millennial editor Robert Christian has a new article at Crux. He writes:

While Laudato Si’ builds upon decades of Catholic social teaching, the duty to care for creation that is rooted in Biblical commands, and the strong statements of his most immediate predecessors, Pope Francis provides, via his encyclical, real urgency on the need to care for creation and support an integral ecology….

Seeing certain bishops often associated with the conservative, pro-life wing of the Church embrace the pope’s call to act on the environment by enacting “green policies” has been very encouraging. In fact, this is the type of unity we should always see within the Church.

There should not be separate “social justice” and “pro-life” wings of the Church — concern for the unborn is a social justice issue and care for creation is essential to protecting human life and dignity. Church teaching is pro-life and pro-social justice; we need a unified Church that stands strong on all of these issues.

Addressing climate change and environmental degradation as part of an effort to promote the common good and integral human development is a serious, complex challenge. Dialogue is necessary. It should include Catholics and non-Catholics, politicians and citizens, scientific experts and faith leaders, and people from across the political spectrum. But dialogue must not turn into an excuse for inaction or a tactic for undermining the clarity of Church teaching on the need to care for creation.

Pope Francis, of course, supports dialogue, but he is also calling for concrete action.

The full article can be read here.


The Curse of Looking Young

I look young. I’ve always looked young and it’s always been a major insecurity for me. I remember being 13 and getting so frustrated if the host at a restaurant instinctively grabbed the kids’ menu and a box of crayons. “I don’t need crayons,” I’d say snootily. But as someone who is 30, this is not always a helpful physical trait. A couple weeks ago someone asked if I moved to Chico, CA for school. “No, my wife and I moved here for work,” I respond. There was an awkward silence. In the last two days, I can count five people who have commented on my “youthful appearance.” They have a hard time believing I’m married, that I’m a high school teacher, that I myself graduated high school 13 years ago. Some will even be bold enough to tell me what age they think I look: 19, 18, 16? The kind ones say early 20s. Read More

The Enduring Wisdom of Emmanuel Mounier

Millennial editor Robert Christian has a new article in Church Life. He writes:

Mounier articulated a clear, powerful, and accurate defense of the human person, one that remains relevant today. Mounier became a principal architect of the philosophy of personalism and the personalist communitarian approach to politics. These contributions remain valuable as we live in an age in which hyperindividualism remains a serious obstacle to progress toward the common good….

Mounier recognized that the person does not reach their potential as an impersonal cog in the machinery of the state or in some imagined splendid isolation from society, but by living freely and virtuously, by choosing to freely participate in the building of the Kingdom of God. The meaning of life is rooted in this participation to which each person is called, as children of the same personal God, made in God’s own image. Each person is entirely unique; he or she is irreplaceable in the position they occupy in the world of persons. It is for this reason that everyday lives can have extraordinary meaning and value….

If freedom and justice, as well as human flourishing and joy, are to gain ground, we must regain our commitment to virtue. The very word seems antiquated to contemporary ears, just as the word duty often elicits giggles rather than a sense of purpose.

But perhaps Pope Francis can change this. His worldview is deeply rooted in personalism and a profound commitment to community and solidarity. In many ways, he lives what Mounier encouraged in his writing. Perhaps his model will inspire a new generation of Catholics and religious humanists to turn from lives and values infected by individualism toward a personalist commitment to virtue, solidarity, and the common good.

The full article can be read here.