Pope: The Lord is Absolute Tender Love and Sees the Beauty at the Core of Each Person

via the Vatican:

God does not love you because you think and act the right way. He loves you, plain and simple. His love is unconditional; it does not depend on you. You may have mistaken ideas, you may have made a complete mess of things, but the Lord continues to love you. How often do we think that God is good if we are good and punishes us if we are bad. Yet that is not how he is. For all our sins, he continues to love us. His love does not change. It is not fickle; it is faithful. It is patient. This is the gift we find at Christmas. We discover to our amazement that the Lord is absolute gratuity, absolute tender love. His glory does not overwhelm us; his presence does not terrify us. He is born in utter poverty in order to win our hearts by the wealth of his love.

The grace of God has appeared. Grace is a synonym of beauty. Tonight, in the beauty of God’s love, we also discover our own beauty, for we are beloved of God. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, whether happy or sad, in his eyes we are beautiful, not for what we do but for what we are. Deep within us, there is an indelible and intangible beauty, an irrepressible beauty, which is the core of our being. Today God reminds us of this. He lovingly takes upon himself our humanity and makes it his own, “espousing” it forever.

The “great joy” proclaimed tonight to the shepherds is indeed “for all the people”. We too, with all our weaknesses and failures, are among those shepherds, who were certainly not saints. And just as God called the shepherds, so too he calls us, for he loves us. In the dark night of life, he says to us as he did to them, “Be not afraid!” (Lk 2:10). Take courage, do not lose confidence, do not lose hope, do not think that to love is a waste of time! Tonight love has conquered fear, new hope has arrived, God’s kindly light has overcome the darkness of human arrogance. Mankind, God loves you; for your sake he became man. You are no longer alone!


Pope: Recognize in Every Person with Disabilities a Unique Contribution to the Common Good

Pope Francis states:

Great progress has been made towards people with disabilities in the medical and welfare fields, but still today we see the presence of the throwaway culture, and many of them feel that they exist without belonging and without participating. All this calls not only for the rights of people with disabilities and their families to be protected, but it also exhorts us to make the world more human by removing everything that prevents them from having full citizenship, the obstacles of prejudice, and by promoting the accessibility of places and quality of life, taking into account of all the dimensions of the human being.

It is necessary to care for and accompany persons with disabilities in every condition of life, also making use of current technologies but without regarding them as absolute; with strength and tenderness, to take on board situations of marginalization; and to make way alongside them and to “anoint” them with dignity for an active participation in the civil and ecclesial community. It is a demanding, even tiring journey, which will increasingly contribute to forming consciences capable of recognizing that each one of us is a unique and unrepeatable person….

We are called to recognize in every person with disabilities, even with complex and grave disabilities, a unique contribution to the common good through his or her own original life story. To acknowledge the dignity of each person, well aware that this does not depend on the functionality of the five senses (cf. Discussion with the participants in the Convention of the CEI on disability, 11 June 2016). This conversion is taught by the Gospel. It is necessary to develop antibodies against a culture that considers some lives to be “League A” and others “League B”: this is a social sin! To have the courage to give a voice to those who are discriminated against for their condition of disability, since unfortunately in some countries, still today, they are not recognized as persons of equal dignity, as brothers and sisters in humanity.

Indeed, making good laws and breaking down physical barriers is important, but it is not enough, if the mentality does not change, if we do not overcome a widespread culture that continues to produce inequalities, preventing people with disabilities from actively participating in ordinary life….

A person with disabilities, in order to build himself up, needs not only to exist but also to belong to a community.

I encourage all those who work with people with disabilities to continue with this important service and commitment, which determines the degree of civilization of a nation. And I pray that each person may feel the paternal gaze of God, who affirms his full dignity and the unconditional value of his life.


Charles Taylor: We Need To Reactivate Our Sense of Solidarity

Here are some quotes from a terrific new interview with the philosopher Charles Taylor in the NC Register:

  • I think in Benedict’s case, he was really one of those people who fully took on board the importance of Vatican II, and the freedom and the importance of our recognizing that we’re responsible for our faith and history, and that’s the standpoint from which we have to live the faith.
  • As for Pope Francis, he has gone a step further in his including that in his whole manner of acting, his whole stance to the gospel, which is reaching out, and not concerned above all about the prestige and not concerned above all about what people think of the Catholic Church, but acting out the Gospel by reaching out to people in need, and to causes in need like global warming and so on.
  • In the West, what we have is an immense growth in the number of people who are searching, who feel a real sense of spiritual need, though they wouldn’t define it by that term….And the opportunity is immense because there is a tremendous wealth of different spiritualities. We have in the Christian tradition and in particular in the Catholic tradition an immense wealth, if you look back at St. Teresa of Ávila, St. John of the Cross or Mary of the Incarnation in Quebec and so on. We have to put together this immense richness for these young people who are searching for this spiritual path, and that is a tremendous opportunity which is really being acted on in places like Taizé, but was not always being acted on by the Church at the parochial level for instance.
  • I would say that the really big need we see in many Western societies today is for a sense of solidarity. We have drifted into an epoch in which there has been a floating towards individualism, in which people think they are on their own, that they have earned whatever they have managed to achieve and they don’t owe anything to anyone else, and that the very efficient economy will somehow take care of things if they just somehow leave it to the market. These are all very dangerous illusions and somehow we need to reactivate a sense of our solidarity, solidarity with our fellow citizens, and solidarity with the whole of humanity, and a solidarity that goes beyond that, with the planet, which I think has been brilliantly presented by Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical on the care of creation, Laudato Si.
  • Christianity in order to be a solution has to return to the original impulse of the Gospel. All of that nitpicking about this or that rule and about your sexual behavior, which is a way of making people miss the point of the Gospel, and it’s getting back to that which I think is so wonderful in the pontificate of Francis.
  • Now it will also be the case that people will come from different ethical and spiritual traditions, but they surely can come to some agreement on the basic principles of a modern democratic free egalitarian republic that respects everyone’s spiritual path.
  • I see no opposition between universalism and multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is a form of saying that if you are different from us, you are not excluded from being a citizen. That is true universalism.
  • Well, I do not see how Christianity can be weakened if people really behave like Christians are supposed to behave — if there were more people like Francis. In our Church we would not be losing ground at all, on the contrary. And you can see the response to the Pope by people who weren’t Christians at all; it is tremendously positive. He is making the faith appear in a very strong and positive light. So that’s what makes the difference between the faith being strong and the faith being weak.
  • We should be out there seeing that people’s needs are met, we should be thinking seriously about rearranging our cities in order to help people that are lost, desperate or having a crisis, all sorts of interventions we should have for them. And a lot of Christians are acting this way.

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

How meritocracy harms everyone — even the winners by Sean Illing: “What makes Markovits’s book so interesting is that he doesn’t just condemn meritocracy as unfair for non-elites; he argues that it’s actually bad for the people benefiting from it. The “trap” of meritocracy ensnares all of us, he says, in ways that make life less satisfying for everyone.”

I’m a stay-at-home mom. Here’s what changed my mind about paid family leave. by Courtney Reissig: “I care about valuing life from the womb to the tomb. The maternal instinct that is so often talked about includes an innate impulse to care for the vulnerable. Many stay-at-home mothers have made specific sacrifices to care for their children. If anyone should stand up for policies that protect the vulnerable and value caregiving, it should be us.”

How America Ends by Yoni Appelbaum: “Whether the American political system today can endure without fracturing further, Daniel Ziblatt’s research suggests, may depend on the choices the center-right now makes. If the center-right decides to accept some electoral defeats and then seeks to gain adherents via argumentation and attraction—and, crucially, eschews making racial heritage its organizing principle—then the GOP can remain vibrant. Its fissures will heal and its prospects will improve, as did those of the Democratic Party in the 1920s, after Wilson. Democracy will be maintained. But if the center-right, surveying demographic upheaval and finding the prospect of electoral losses intolerable, casts its lot with Trumpism and a far right rooted in ethno-nationalism, then it is doomed to an ever smaller proportion of voters, and risks revisiting the ugliest chapters of our history.”

Elite police force spreads terror in the barrios of Venezuela by Angus Berwick and Sarah Kinosian: “The new reporting provides the deepest insight yet into the methods used by the force to snuff out perceived threats to Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian rule. This portrait of the FAES, a force of some 1,500 officers, complements earlier reports in which Reuters examined other blunt instruments used by the leftist leader to control his hungry and impoverished populace – from a multitudinous and loyal cadre of senior military officers to a special intelligence service created with the help of imported security advisors from Cuba. “

The End of Babies by Anna Louie Sussman: “Decades of survey data show that people’s stated preferences have shifted toward smaller families. But they also show that in country after country, actual fertility has fallen faster than notions of ideal family size. In the United States, the gap between how many children people want and how many they have has widened to a 40-year high.”

How Juul Hooked a Generation on Nicotine by Julie Creswell and Sheila Kaplan: “The company planted the seeds of a public health crisis by marketing to millennials, who had low smoking rates, and it ignored evidence that teenagers were using its products.”

Here’s how Russia will attack the 2020 election. We’re still not ready. by Renee DiResta, Michael McFaul and Alex Stamos: “Most of the attention in the battle against foreign disinformation has focused on bots, trolls and other digital actors on social media, but it must also include traditional media organizations. Editors and reporters should consider how they will react to these situations now, rather than improvising reactions to the wave of disinformation we know is on the way. Newsrooms should carefully consider how the volume of their coverage might be manipulated by strategic leaks.”

Which is worse, bigotry or cowardice in the face of bigotry? by Michael Gerson: “The racism, misogyny and dehumanization — the assault on migrants, Muslims and refugees — have only begun. And those who enable it are equally responsible for it.”

The Miseducation of the American Boy by Peggy Orenstein: “Then, during the second half of the 20th century, traditional paths to manhood—early marriage, breadwinning—began to close, along with the positive traits associated with them. Today many parents are unsure of how to raise a boy, what sort of masculinity to encourage in their sons. But as I learned from talking with boys themselves, the culture of adolescence, which fuses hyperrationality with domination, sexual conquest, and a glorification of male violence, fills the void.”

The Tax Break for Children, Except the Ones Who Need It Most by Jason DeParle: “The credit now costs the federal government $127 billion a year — far more than better-known programs like the earned-income tax credit ($65 billion) and food stamps ($60 billion). But children with the greatest economic needs are least likely to benefit.”


Bishop Robert McElroy Denounces Judgmentalism, Clericalism, Tribalism

Highlights from Bishop Robert McElroy’s 2019 MacTaggart lecture:

It is my reluctant conclusion that the church in the United States is now adrift on many levels, and that a fundamental moment of renewal is needed. A synodal pathway would an opportunity to set that type of renewal in motion.

If the church in the United States were to embark on such a synodal renewal, it would need to make hard choices. The Catholic community could not hold back from difficult and piercing questions or searing dialogues. It would have to include a process of consultation that reaches into the heart and the soul of the Catholic community at all levels, asking men and women how they have found salvation in Jesus Christ, what graces the church has brought into their lives, how the church has hurt them….

Two major elements of the culture of the church in the United States are particularly burdensome today, and cause us to turn inward, rather than outward toward the evangelization of the world.

The first is the bunker mentality that suffuses the life of the church, especially for those of us who are bishops or Catholic lay, priestly, and religious leaders in the United States. We are frequently paralyzed by the constancy and substance of attacks launched upon the community of faith which we love so deeply and to which we have given our lives. In great part, this bunker mentality has arisen because of the pervasive failure of the church and its leaders to recognize the enormity of the crime of clergy sexual abuse, particularly against minors. But this bunker mentality within the church is also the result of secularizing trends in society that have led to drift and alienation from the church, especially among the young, as well as the disaffection of mainstream Catholics from elements of Catholic teaching on sexuality and the moral life. There is a palpable sense of siege among the leadership of the church in the United States. It saps our ability to engage constructively with the world, to find the energy and the hope-filled zeal to undertake new initiatives and our ability to clearly discern where the call of Christ is truly leading us.

The second element of the culture in the church in the United States which is crippling is the “culture of maintenance” that pervades our decision making. We are the inheritors of vast institutions, structures, buildings and financial commitments that were established in a prior age. We are also the inheritors of patterns of decision making that place enormous value on how decisions were made in the past as a guide as to how they should be made today. These two realities create in the church a powerful force of inertia that often makes maintaining the status quo a higher imperative than constantly renewing the priorities of the church in the light of the Gospel as applied to today’s ecclesial and societal situation….

Missionary discipleship by its very nature faces outward and refuses to become entrapped by long-standing patterns of ecclesial action and decision making. It demands a willingness to leave behind treasured practices that have served the church well in past ages, but now imprison the Gospel. It proclaims that believers and church leaders must find joy in their understanding of and commitment to the spread of the salvation that we find in Jesus Christ. The ethic of missionary discipleship refuses to adopt a bunker mentality not because it is blind to the failures of the church or the antagonism that so many have toward Catholicism in today’s world, but because it proclaims that precisely in times of hardship and sin in the life of the church, God stands steadfast in our midst.

Missionary discipleship also categorically rejects that strain of defeatism in the life of the church which proclaims that the Catholic community today must decline in numbers in order to maintain fidelity to the gospel. This vision of a smaller and purer church is diametrically opposed to the missionary impulse which has been at the center of the Christian life since the first apostles….

The issue of clericalism stands as a rupture within the life of the church in the United States today. It is a poison that protects abusers of children from detection and justice. It is a cultural pattern in parish life that permits the mistreatment of lay men and women and excuses words and actions that have no place within a Christian community. It distorts effective patterns of decision making in ecclesial communities at all levels. It warps the souls of priests and bishops, and alienates them from Christ.

The only effective corrective to clericalism is a theological vision and ecclesial reality that powerfully frame the ordained priesthood within a participatory and co-responsible church where lay women and men are empowered, respected, well-formed and cherished. For this reason, any process of synodal discernment in the church in the United States must confront forcefully the avenues through which lay ministry and empowerment are enhanced in the concrete life of the church, and how they are frustrated….

The call of God to a priest or bishop is not a possession, a source of a collection of rights, or a bestowal of status. It is a call to service, prayer and compassion…..

If the church in the United States were to undertake a robust and piercing synodal process regarding our efforts to become a participative and co-responsible church, two major issues would have to be dealt with creatively, substantively and prayerfully.

The first of these issues is the role of women in the church. It is time that the Catholic community had a substantive discussion on how the church in the United States can maximize the co-responsibility and participation of women The process of discernment which led to the Amazon synod created a profound consensus about the essential role of women’s existing and potential ministries, both in the church and in the world. It led to a conviction among the Amazonian bishops who gathered in Rome that women should be included at every level in every ministry which is not precluded by Catholic doctrine.

The second question within the Catholic community that must be a focus of any synodal process touching upon the themes of participation and co-responsibility is the role of young adults in the church and in the world. The recent universal synod in Rome has provided new pathways for us to embrace at every level in the church in the United States. If we do not take up this challenge inspirationally and systematically in the life of the American church, we will see the drift away from Catholicism cascade into the type of exodus that has emptied the churches of Europe and produced a generation of non-believers….

Instead of showing the patient dialogue of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, instead of showing the joy which Christ did in his encounter with Zacchaeus, instead of rejecting the judgmentalism of the crowd like Jesus in defending the woman accused of adultery, the church so frequently is indifferent to those who are seeking, inhospitable to those who want to find a place in God’s church, judgmental to those who carry failure in their lives as all of us do.

If we are to build a more welcoming church in the United States, the searing issue of judgmentalism must be faced. There is no sin that Jesus condemns in the gospels more often than that of judgmentalism. Probably, this results from Jesus’ recognition that this is a sin that virtually all of us fall into easily and frequently. It is a mystery of the human soul why men so often find satisfaction in pointing to the sins, rather than the goodness in others. It is a mystery of the human soul why we feel better about ourselves because someone else has failed.

But this mystery of the human soul has imprinted itself deeply within the life of our church….

The great danger is that our ecclesial life is becoming like our political life — polarized, distorted and tribal. That is why a deep and broad process of synodal dialogue within the Catholic community in the United States could empower an alternative pathway forward.


How did Jesus…

How did Jesus ascend into heaven (logistically)? How did he choose his disciples? In the latest Jesuit Autocomplete, Fr. Eric Sundrup and Fr. Paddy Gilger answer some of the Internet’s most searched questions about Jesus: