Pope Francis’ Tweetstorm on Holiness

After releasing Gaudete et Exultate, Pope Francis used his twitter account to highlight some key points on holiness:


Good Intentions Are Not Enough for Good Citizenship

Millennial editor Robert Christian has a new article at the Messenger of Saint Anthony. He writes:

At civil rights museums, you will see pictures and clips of angry, hateful bigots that spew bile and threaten violence. But you will also see people that, in their tone and word choice, sound very measured and reasonable, as they explain why the evil of segregation is actually benevolent. They will insist that those most harmed by segregation actually benefit from it. They will announce their devotion to justice for all, but justify inaction by contending that order is more important at that time. They may announce that they believe it is God’s will.

Did they sincerely believe all of this? Some very likely did. Human beings can rationalize anything. People of bad will supply excuses for injustice to perpetuate their interests and desires. They tailor their arguments to the values of the ambient culture so that others will find such arguments compelling. In their ignorance, often their willful ignorance, others embrace and repeat the lies.

This is a reminder that having good intentions on social and political issues is not enough to be a good person or a good citizen. If one perpetuates evil by unthinkingly repeating reasonable-sounding, but ultimately foolish distortions and lies, one is complicit in such evil. Slavery was defended as a social good. And today, we hear similar ‘humanitarian’ and supposedly Christian rationales for banning refugees, disregarding climate change, ignoring mass atrocities and ethnic cleansing, perpetuating plutocracy, justifying widespread abortion, and completely ignoring racial injustice. These justifications are swirling all around us. Watching moderate, middle-of-the-road white Americans defend segregation as a positive good serves as an important reminder for all of us to examine our beliefs and arguments to ensure that neither prejudice nor laziness has led us to embrace that which is intellectually incoherent and incompatible with authentic Christianity.

The full article (subscribers only) is available here:


Pope Urges Economic Leaders to Support Integral Human Development

via Vatican News:

Pope Francis expressed hope that the upcoming World Bank Meeting may yield positive results that favor “an authentic integral development that is respectful of human dignity.”

Speaking on Wednesday at the conclusion of the General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope mentioned Saturday’s World Bank Spring Meeting in Washington and encouraged participants to make “efforts for financial inclusion that aim to promote the life of the poor.”


Practical Holiness

In his new apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis offers a vision of holiness that is both deeply spiritual and deeply practical. I expected the former. In fact, when I first heard that the document would be about holiness, I wondered if it would have any practical resonance. A reflection on holiness could be inspiring, certainly, but would it speak directly to the challenges of faith in modern life?

I realize now that I did not give the Holy Father enough credit. Throughout the five years of his papacy, he has been consistently concerned with how the rubber meets the road for our Catholic faith. Gaudete et Exsultate is no different. This practical focus is yet another example of Francis the pastor responding to the needs of his flock.

Holiness often seems irrelevant or unachievable in our oversaturated, hyperconnected, postmodern world. Our lives are cacophonous, far from the cloistered silence that we imagine when we think of holiness. We divide our time between jobs, school, family, friends, hobbies, fitness, civic engagement, entertainment, and those rare moments that we can carve out for ourselves. Email, texting, and social media mean that others have access to us at every hour of the day. Silence is a foreign concept.

With all of these competing, urgent demands on our time and energy, faith becomes just one more responsibility to compartmentalize. It has its place in our lives (often, for forty-five minutes on the weekend) but that is where it remains.

Gaudete et Exsultate calls us to resist that compartmentalization, in favor of seeing our entire lives as a journey towards holiness. For Pope Francis, holiness is something we do. It has as much to do with how we carry ourselves through our lives as it does the amount of time that we spend in prayer: “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves” (14).

There are times when the document reads less like a spiritual reflection and more like a collection of best practices. Take, for instance, his discussion of the Beatitudes (65-94), which examines how each one can be put into practice today. Or, immediately after, read his treatment of Matthew 25, where he connects Christ’s great criterion for Judgment with the current plight of migrants and refugees (102-3). He even talks about how Christians should treat each other online (115). Holiness is active.

At the same time, Francis realizes that our world desperately needs silence. “We are overwhelmed by words, by superficial pleasures and by an increasing din,” he says. “How can we fail to realize the need to stop this rat race and to recover the personal space needed to carry on a heartfelt dialogue with God?” (29). Contemplation and action go hand in hand. Carving out time for silent prayer may be countercultural, but not because it rejects culture. To the contrary, “It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, to seek prayer while disdaining service…. We are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action, and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission” (26).

This is the vision of holiness that we need today: deeply spiritual, active, challenging, and real. Instead of fleeing the world to find God, Pope Francis calls us to a greater mindfulness of God’s presence in our everyday lives and how responding to God’s call sanctifies our daily activity.  In his own words: “We need a spirit of holiness capable of filling both our solitude and our service, our personal life and our evangelizing efforts, so that every moment can be an expression of self-sacrificing love in the Lord’s eyes. In this way, every minute of our lives can be a step along the path to growth in holiness” (31).

John Dougherty is the director of campus ministry at Saint Peter’s Prep in NJ, and you can follow him on Twitter @johndoc23.


Democrats Must Not Forget About the Importance of Economic Justice

On Christmas Eve, I was in a coffee shop in my hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. While there, I overheard a group of women discussing a newspaper article about transgender issues.

One woman said, “You know—I would care more about this and want to learn more if the only thing I didn’t focus on every day was making a living for me and family.”

She wasn’t a deplorable person. She struck me as a decent woman trying to move forward in life.

Democrats speak eloquently about social justice and civil rights. But as surely as safeguarding human dignity depends on both those things, it depends on people being able to simply secure their livelihoods—the ability to face the day without a series of unjust and impossible choices: the mortgage or medication, lunch money or groceries, visiting a loved one in the hospital or keeping your job.

We must never underestimate what it means to be able to provide for you and your family and how deeply it destroys you when you can’t.

In this illusory contest between social inclusion and economic opportunity, Democrats must reject the false choices that divide us against each other.

We choose both.

You can watch me discuss this and more in my latest Fox News appearance:


Paul Ryan Never Stopped Being Paul Ryan, Unfortunately

EJ Dionne writes:

Ryan has been driven by two priorities throughout his career: slashing taxes on the best-off Americans, and eviscerating social-welfare and safety-net programs in the name of “entitlement reform.” Whatever advanced these objectives was worth doing….

Although Ryan gave warm speeches about compassion, his biggest fear was not that the poor might go without food or health care but, as he once said, that the “safety net” might “become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.”

He later backed away from Rand and acknowledged that the hammock was “the wrong analogy.” But his policies suggested he never abandoned his core faith: If the wealthy did best when given positive incentives in the form of more money, the less fortunate needed to be prodded by less generous social policies into taking responsibility for their own fate.

Given where Ryan’s passions lie, it is unsurprising that he would prop Trump up as long as the president was willing to embrace a modern-day social Darwinism that married efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act with reductions in government’s impositions on the managers and owners of capital. The retiring speaker really does believe that this is the path to the good society. To pursue it, he’ll take help wherever he can get it.

Jonathan Chait writes:

Ryan submitted himself fully to the president. As House Speaker, Ryan has played an indispensable role in insulating Trump from public and legal accountability. Ryan has buried votes that would compel the release of Trump’s tax returns, and unleashed Devin Nunes to run a counter-investigation designed to discredit the Department of Justice and ultimately clear the way for Trump to halt the probe of Russian interference on his behalf.

This has not gone the exact way Ryan would have liked. In his perfect world, Republicans would run on tax cuts, carry out deep cuts to social insurance programs, and everyone in America would be devouring editorials from The Wall Street Journal. But political reality demands compromises. And those constraints have forced Ryan to choose what really matters to him: the protection of the makers from the predations of the takers.

The critics who flay Ryan as a coward have never understood that his actions are a form of idealism. To Ryan, the greatest danger to liberty lies not in a president who defies the rule of law but in high tax rates and a functioning social safety net. When Ryan speaks with pride about the policy accomplishments he helped carry out with Trump, he is not spinning. In Ryan’s worldview, he has struck a powerful blow for liberty against the socialist hordes. Ryan leaves his endangered majority convinced he has done his job well. It is a triumph of his own propaganda that so few people believe he is actually sincere about this.

Jonathan Cohn and Arthur Delaney write:

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has spent the better part of his political career trying to shred America’s social safety net, so that literally tens of millions of Americans would lose supports they use to get food, health care and pay their most basic bills.

Ryan, who announced Wednesday that he won’t seek re-election this fall, mostly hasn’t succeeded in this effort. But he has left an indelible impact on the Republican Party’s identity.

As an architect of the GOP’s budget blueprints, its vice presidential nominee in 2012 and the leader of the House’s majority caucus since 2015, Ryan has laid out a detailed, sweeping agenda of lower taxes and government spending. If ever fully enacted, it would arguably amount to the most radical domestic policy overhaul since the mid-1960s.

Ryan’s one big victory was on taxes ― he was instrumental in writing and passing the bill that President Donald Trump signed late last year. It will dramatically reduce what the wealthiest Americans pay, realizing one of Ryan’s long-held dreams.

But so far, at least, Republicans haven’t privatized Medicare, repealed the Affordable Care Act, or transformed programs like food stamps into smaller, state-run initiatives. And while most Republicans still endorse these proposals, the public does not.

Ultimately, that could be Ryan’s true legacy: Tethering his party to an extreme, deeply conservative agenda that the public rejects, starting with the November midterm elections….

After the 2012 presidential election, Ryan made a concerted effort to put the makers-and-takers rhetoric behind. He traveled the country visiting private-sector charities that rehabilitated drug addicts and helped them find jobs.

But his agenda never really changed.

The poverty tour resulted in a book and a new policy pitch that simply applied the “welfare reform” playbook to all federal poverty programs, albeit with a greater emphasis on case management for poor people.

And just last year, during a public discussion of Medicaid with National Review editor Rich Lowry, he remarked that “we’ve been dreaming” about cuts to such social programs “since you and I were drinking out of a keg.”


Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for April 2018: For a Just Economy

The economy cannot attempt only to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded. It must follow the path marked out by business leaders, politicians, thinkers, and leaders in society who place the human person in first place, and do everything possible to ensure that there are opportunities of dignified work.

Let us say “no” to an economy of exclusion, an economy that kills. And let us fight to achieve a “yes” to an economy that lets live because it shares, includes the poor, and uses profits to create communion. Let us raise our voices together, asking that economists may have the courage to reject an economy of exclusion and know how to open new paths.