Pope Francis on the Throwaway Culture and the Path of Generous Solidarity

via the Vatican:

Rising levels of poverty on a global scale bear witness to the prevalence of inequality rather than a harmonious integration of persons and nations. An economic system that is fair, trustworthy and capable of addressing the most profound challenges facing humanity and our planet is urgently needed. I encourage you to persevere along the path of generous solidarity and to work for the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings

A glance at recent history, in particular the financial crisis of 2008, shows us that a healthy economic system cannot be based on short-term profit at the expense of long-term productive, sustainable and socially responsible development and investment….

An economic system detached from ethical concerns does not bring about a more just social order, but leads instead to a “throw away” culture of consumption and waste. On the other hand, when we recognize the moral dimension of economic life, which is one of the many aspects of social doctrine of the Church that must be integrally respected, we are able to act with fraternal charity, desiring, seeking and protecting the good of others and their integral development….

I express to you my heartfelt gratitude for your commitment to the promotion of a more just and humane economy, in line with the core principles of the social doctrine of the Church, always taking into account the whole person, both in the present generation and in the ones to come. An inclusive capitalism that leaves no one behind, that discards none of our brothers or sisters, is a noble aspiration, worthy of your best efforts.

Are The US Bishops Trying to Help Trump Win Reelection?

MSW writes:

Preeminent: Adj. surpassing all others; very distinguished in some way.

This adjective was the focus of two debates at the heart of last week’s bishops’ conference plenary. It was added to the text of a new letter that will supplement the bishops’ quadrennial, and apparently irrevocable, statement about elections, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The first had to do with U.S. politics and the second with Pope Francis….

The 143-69 vote not to include a longer quote from Francis that would have better balanced the preeminence of abortion indicates that abortion really is the top priority for the bishops — which is precisely why the change was wrong-headed….

The aim of the underlying document is to form consciences. Telling us what their priority is this election cycle does not help me form my conscience….

In explaining why he wanted the change to “preeminent,” Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, unwittingly gave the game away: “We are at a unique moment with the upcoming election cycle to make a real challenge to Roe v. Wade, given the possible changes to the Supreme Court,” he wrote. “We should not dilute our efforts to protect the unborn.”…

There are deeper problems with the document, problems that demand the bishops start from scratch next time, and not just the fact that the text does not reflect the papal magisterium on political issues of Francis or Pope Benedict XVI. The exclusive focus on issues, originally seen as a way of avoiding partisanship, has instead brought the ideological divisions of the politicians into the life of the church. Instead of recognizing the underlying thrust of Catholic social teaching — for example, its concern that a hyperindividualism, or erroneous autonomy, inevitably degrades important social bonds — the current listing of issues, and seeking to prioritize them, inevitably involves political calculations the bishops have no competence in making. It allows for the perception, and perhaps the reality, that the majority of bishops see the church as an extension of the Republican Party….

Voters do not get to vote on a particular issue. We select from a list of candidates. We need to consider not only where they stand on issues, but their character and their competence as well….

Apologists for Trump will be citing the word “preeminent” from now through election day. The bishops knew that and voted for it anyway. Francis famously wrote in Amoris Laetitia: “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.” The majority of the U.S. bishops seem more interested in getting Trump reelected than in forming consciences….

Which leads to the second focus of debate: The majority of bishops are perfectly willing to ignore Francis. They not only included this word, “preeminent,” that runs counter to the holistic approach to issues he advocates, they have barely done anything to implement “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” and have done even less on Amoris Laetitia….

My advice to Catholics next year? Reread Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, John Paul II’s Laborem Exercens, Benedict’sCaritas in Veritateand Francis’ Laudato Si’. If you are ambitious, include Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno. Although this last was issued in 1931, it strikes me as timelier than “Faithful Citizenship.”

Why “But, Abortion!” is No Excuse for Ignoring Moral Imperatives

Brian Fraga writes:

“But, abortion!” has become sort of a tongue-in-cheek retort in some Catholic circles to refer to arguments when the right to life is seemingly used by people to downplay or dismiss other important principles in the Church’s social teaching, such as the preferential option for the poor, caring for creation, welcoming the stranger or paying the worker a just wage.

The right to life is a foundational issue, and I would argue that all the other rights we have, including those that are enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, really don’t mean anything if we don’t have the right to be born. As I see it, abortion is a social justice issue….

the way we Catholics often talk about abortion has become sadly myopic, especially in our American political context where neither of the two major political parties offer platforms that are fully consistent with Catholic Social Teaching principles….

Democrats have solid ideas on consumer and worker protections, the environment, firearm regulations, immigration reform and healthcare. But they have become increasingly liberal on some social issues, especially abortion. The leading Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 want to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal tax dollars from being used for most abortions.

Republicans are staunchly against abortion….

But the Trump presidency has also become synonymous with nativist and divisive political rhetoric, heavy-handed immigration policies such as child separation, not to mention racist dog whistle politics, chronic dishonesty, a disrespect for democratic norms, even an alleged disregard for the rule of law that has resulted in an impeachment inquiry.

That is a vexing political picture for Catholics in the United States. But to hear some tell it, any legitimate concern one may have about a politician who claims to be pro-life automatically takes a backseat if the opposing candidate supports legal abortion. It’s akin to a get-out-of-jail-free card for a politician who steals from taxpayers but promises them that they’ll make abortion illegal.

That kind of thinking makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to have honest, straightforward and respectful conversations about politics, especially abortion….

I think that is what the “preeminent” abortion language debate was really all about last week at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting in Baltimore….

Welcoming the stranger, caring for creation, advocating to abolish the death penalty, taking care of the poor and standing up for the vulnerable who are already alive are moral imperatives, not “prudential matters” as some would suggest out of ignorance or cynicism. Implementing those imperatives into public policy and legislation is where prudence comes into play.

The current state of our politics does not always make it easy to make prudential decisions, especially in the voting booth….

So it’s unfair to assume that criticizing Donald Trump for his immigration policies means someone is pro-abortion, just as it is to say that someone who voted for Trump because of his promises to appoint pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court must be a racist or hate immigrants.

Pope Francis on the Throwaway Culture of Selfish Nationalism, Inequality, Environmental Degradation, Structural Poverty

Embed from Getty Images
via CNS:

At a time when “situations of injustice and human pain” seem to be growing around the globe, Christians are called to “accompany the victims, to see in their faces the face of our crucified Lord,” Pope Francis said….

Listing examples of places where Catholics are called to work for justice and for the safeguarding of creation, Francis spoke about “a Third World War being fought in pieces,” human trafficking, the growing “expressions of xenophobia and the selfish search for national interests,” and the inequality between and within nations, which seem to be “growing without finding a remedy.”

Then there is the fact that “never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years,” he said, and that environmental destruction impacts the world’s poorest people most of all….

For Arrupe and for Catholics today, attention to society’s “discarded ones” and the struggle against the “throwaway culture” must be born of prayer and fortified by it, Francis said. “Fr. Pedro always believed that the service of faith and the promotion of justice could not be separated: they were radically united. For him, all the ministries of the society had to respond, at the same time, to the challenge of proclaiming the faith and promoting justice. What until then had been a commission for some Jesuits should become everyone’s concern.”…

“This active contemplation of God, of God excluded, helps us discover the beauty of every marginalized person,” the pope said. “In the poor, you have found a privileged place of encounter with Christ. That is a precious gift in the life of the follower of Jesus: to receive the gift of meeting him among the victims and the impoverished.”…

While individual care for the poor is essential, a Christian cannot overlook structural “social evils” that create suffering and keep people poor, he said. “Hence the importance of the slow work of transforming structures through participation in public dialogue where decisions are made.”

Pope Hosts Meal with 1,500 Needy People on World Day of the Poor

Embed from Getty Images
via Reuters:

Pope Francis hosted 1,500 homeless and needy people for lunch on Sunday as the Roman Catholic Church marked its World Day of the Poor.

The menu for all in the Vatican’s large audience hall, including the pope, was lasagna, chicken in cream of mushroom sauce, potatoes, sweets, fruit, and coffee…

Francis established the yearly worldwide Catholic observance of the day in 2016.

Remembering the UCA Martyrs: The Costliness of Jesuit Education

I’ll never forget standing in the rose garden at the UCA—the Jesuit university of El Salvador—and being hit with the costliness of Jesuit education. On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper Elba, and her teenage daughter Celina, were dragged out of bed in the middle of the night, taken into the courtyard of the Jesuit residence, and murdered. This barbaric event followed fifteen years of death threats issued against the Jesuit community plus countless letters, phone calls, and radio announcements calling for the expulsion or murder of the Jesuits. Bombs had been placed around the UCA campus more than a dozen times in the preceding fifteen years—in the library, printing press, and computer center—to discourage and destabilize the Jesuits’ approach to education. The Jesuits’ call to end the civil war through dialogue and a commitment to peace was perceived as a betrayal and a threat to those in power. The Jesuits refused to be silenced. They paid the price with their lives. And this week, we remember them.

I return to El Salvador this week to commemorate the life and death of Joaquin Lòpez y Lòpez (age 70), Ignacio Ellacuría (age 59), Segundo Montes (age 56), Juan Ramón Moreno (age 56), Amando Lòpez (age 53), Ignacio Martín-Baró (age 47), Elba (age 42) and Celina (age 15) Ramos (the women stayed the night in the Jesuit residence because they thought it was safer than venturing home and they were killed following a military directive to “leave no witnesses”). This week delegates from several AJCU institutions will learn what these eight people lived and died for. We will reflect and pray with photographs of their bloodied bodies, wincing at the brain matter strewn over the grass, an intentional act to warn against the “danger” of being “subversive” like these scholars, teachers, and pastors. We will gather in silence in the rose garden, where bushes covered in blooms signal new life and hope: resurrection triumphs over violence and death. I am in awe of what the Jesuits sacrificed in love for the people they taught and served.

The Jesuits died in solidarity with 75,000 Salvadorans who were threatened, tortured, and killed during the civil war lasting from 1979 to 1992. This war was propped up by $4.5 billion in aid from the United States, with many soldiers trained at Ft. Benning in Georgia. Some analysts suggest the Jesuits’ death helped spur the end of the civil war, since it garnered international attention and a Congressional investigation led by Rep. Jim McGovern. The Stations of the Cross in the UCA chapel depict the crucified people of El Salvador enduring a brutality that Jesus unmasked and intended to end by his own suffering and death. In reflecting on the death of his Jesuit brothers, Jon Sobrino explains that the Jesuits were killed because they challenged the idols of wealth and power, interfering “with the idols by telling the truth about the situation [of the ordinary Salvadorans, the poor and oppressed], analyzing its causes, and proposing better solutions.” Sobrino adds, “This is essential work for a university and central to our faith. If I have learned anything during these years in El Salvador, it is that the world in which we live is simultaneously a world of death and a world of lies.…These Jesuits wanted to free the truth from the slavery imposed on it by oppressors, cast light on lies, bring justice in the midst of oppression, hope in the midst of discouragement, love in the midst of indifference, repression, and hatred. That is why they were killed.”

As a professor at a Jesuit university, I wonder how well we honor the legacy of the UCA martyrs. What are the idols in our cultural context that we need to unmask and destroy? What lies keep people from embracing their inherent dignity and freedom? What are the chief obstacles to hope, love, and justice? Are we living up to the “higher standards” for Jesuit higher education, as articulated by Dean Brackley, a Jesuit who volunteered to serve in El Salvador as a successor to the Jesuits who were killed? Do our Jesuit schools and universities put prestige above solidarity? Are our college budgets driven more by basketball operations or a robust bottom line than by making our institutions accessible to all, especially those who may not be able to afford tuition? Are we more focused on national rankings and reputations than social analysis and social (and ecological) responsibility? Do our goals and strategies focus more on currying favor among parents and alumni (to secure donations) than the unending conversion to ever more transformational love? Yes, Jesuit education should aim for excellence (academic excellence is needed to solve complex social problems, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach would remind us), but Jesuit education is about much more than ensuring rigor or assessing outcomes; it is about humanization, reconciliation, and liberation. The Jesuit value of magis is not about doing or having more, but creating a world that more closely reflects God’s hope for the fullness of life for all, aspiring toward a truly global common good. As Dean Brackley proposed, the measure of our success lies in who our students become, evidenced by their “downward mobility” in showing up to the marginalized and excluded, taking responsibility for healing a broken and sinful world.

In his 1982 commencement address at Santa Clara University, Ignacio Ellacuría, the president of the UCA and primary target in the November 1989 attack, proclaimed:

We as an intellectual community must analyze causes; use imagination and creativity together to discover the remedies to our problems; communicate to our constituencies a consciousness that inspires the freedom of self-determination; educate professionals with a conscience, who will be the immediate instruments of such a transformation; and constantly hone an educational institution that is both academically excellent and ethically oriented … A Christian university must take into account the gospel preference for the poor … the university should be present intellectually where it is needed: to provide science for those without science; to provide skills for those without skills; to be a voice for those without voices; to give intellectual support for those who do not possess the academic qualifications to make their rights legitimate.

This vision of Jesuit education is what the world needs today. Too many people think that college is a commodity, reducing it to preparation for a profession, a hoop to jump through to land a job. Some people are more interested in “return on investment” than the process of education that sparks and shapes personal development, critical and creative thinking, and social transformation. In a time of rising social fragility and fragmentation, we need people living as witnesses to Jesuit values like cura personalis, “women and men for and with others,” and serving a “faith that does justice.” We need people who do more than look for faith, hope, and love; we need people who become sources of faith, hope, and love in their everyday lives.

This is why it is so important to remember the UCA martyrs, who were not simply fated to suffer a cruel death. They were people like you and me who put love in action. Sobrino describes his Jesuit brothers as men of spirit, men of service, and men of courage. The Jesuits worked tirelessly to meet the needs of the Salvadorans because they genuinely loved the Salvadoran people. He reflects, “they believed in a God of life, who favored the poor.” True to the Jesuit charism of “seeking God in all things,” they found God everywhere, and especially “hidden in the suffering face of the poor…in the crucified people.” He adds, “They also found God in those acts of resurrection, great and small, by the poor. And in this God of the lowly—God ever littler—they found the God who is ever greater, the true inexhaustible mystery, which impelled them along untrodden ways and to ask what had to be done.” Sobrino recounts, “They saw the poor from God’s point of view and walked with them toward God.” For this reason, they were not only “contemplatives in action” in the typical sense, but “contemplatives in action for justice” so that those deprived dignity, rights, and the fullness of life would not continue to be ignored, silenced, and trampled. The Jesuits were killed “because they had become the critical conscience in a society of sin.” They could not be intimidated or threatened into conformity, silence, or inaction.

Thirty years later, we remember the legacy of the Jesuits’ fidelity, love, and commitment to peace. But it is not enough to remember how they lived or died; we should emulate their spirit, service, and courage. We should join their fight for truth, justice, and freedom. We should share in their willingness to endure persecution. We should be partners in mission as agents of humanization, reconciliation, and liberation. We should settle for nothing less than personal and social transformation. This is what it means to embrace the costliness of love.


* Quoted material is from: Jon Sobrino, Witnesses to the Kingdom: The Martyrs of El Salvador and the Crucified Peoples (Orbis, 2003), 58-97.

Seeing Mary and Christ in Those on the Margins of Society

Millennial writer Meghan Clark writes:

A Mary who radically accompanies the oppressed, marginalized, and vulnerable is most clearly represented in the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. “Guadalupe,” as theologian Nichole Flores notes, “comforts those on the margins of society even as she equips them for action.”

This tradition has also led to many contextualized icons of Mary, Jesus, and the Holy Family. In Mother of God: Protectress of the Oppressed, artist Kelly Latimore offers a powerful Madonna and Child as Central American migrants clad in a silver mylar blanket behind a chain fence. In September I processed behind this icon with several hundred fellow Catholics in prayerful protest of ICE policies in Newark.

Resistance to enculturated images of Mary, Mary with Jesus, the Holy Family, or simply Jesus is often a symptom of underlying racism or ethnocentrism. Resistance to the sacred image is a proxy for resistance to encountering our brothers and sisters.

“Beauty unites us,” reminds Pope Francis. “It invites us to live human brotherhood, countering the culture of resentment, racism and nationalism which is always lurking.” When we let go of our expectations, we open ourselves to our neighbor, to a deeper relationship with Miriam of Nazareth and to her Son.