ISIS Terrorists Murder Beloved French Priest

via the NY Times:

Like many people who enjoy their work, the Rev. Jacques Hamel did not want to stop. At 85, he was well past retirement age, but he kept in shape and kept on going — baptizing infants, celebrating Mass and tending to parishioners in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, the working-class town in Normandy where he had spent much of his life.

“He could have retired at 75 years old, but seeing how few priests were around he decided to stay and work, to continue to be of service to people, up until it all ended, tragically,” the Rev. Auguste Moanda-Phuati, the parish priest of the Église St.-Étienne, where Father Hamel worked as an auxiliary priest, said in a phone interview. “He was loved by all. He was a little like a grandfather. We were happy when he was around and worried when we hadn’t seen him in a while.”

Father Hamel was celebrating Mass on Tuesday morning when two men with knives entered the small church and slit his throat, an attack that horrified people across France and the world. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the two assailants — who were shot dead by the police — were “soldiers” retaliating against the United States-led coalition fighting the group in Iraq and Syria.

The Fight for a Big Tent Democratic Party

QuotesCover-pic29Kristen Day and Charles Camosy write about the Democratic Party’s extreme abortion plank in the LA Times:

The abortion plank in the 2016 Democratic platform effectively marginalizes the voices of 21 million pro-life Democrats. It means the party that is supposedly on the side of justice for the vulnerable no longer welcomes those of us who #ChooseBoth; that is, those of us who want the government to protect and support prenatal children and their mothers.

Most significantly, the platform calls for the repeal of the Hyde and Helms amendments, which prevent taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortions. This would force those who object to abortion to contribute to what we believe would be government-funded killing, and it would eradicate policies that have already saved hundreds of thousands of lives….

The future of the Democratic Party depends on its diversity, its ability to remain inclusive. The 2016 platform language on abortion torpedoes those goals.

Russell Moore and Michael Wear in USA Today on the Democratic Party’s need to reverse this mistake:

For the past 25 years, the Democratic Party, at least rhetorically, acknowledged that compelling taxpayers to fund abortions was a step too far in the culture wars. If the call to repeal the Hyde Amendment remains in the Democratic platform, that era is officially over. A party that calls for government funding of abortion does not merely disagree with pro-life Americans, but wants to implicate them through their government of supporting what they believe is a moral evil….

As taxpayers, our money goes toward all kinds of things we do not personally support. It is part of living in a pluralistic society. Even so, for 40 years, our government and our people have decided to respect abortion as a unique moral issue. The Democrats should reverse course and remove opposition to Hyde from their platform. Wherever you stand on abortion, forcing people to pay for it can’t be good for Democrats, or for democracy.

Kristen Day in an interview with Aleteia:

Regarding abortion, we believe that the answer to a crisis pregnancy is to eliminate the crisis—not the child.

We don’t believe women should have to “choose” between motherhood and a decent, safe life.  We believe it is going to take emphasis on the support side, which Democrats are good on, to truly give women real choice. A livable wage, affordable children care, paid leave, and flexible hours all help families who are faced with an unplanned or planned pregnancy….

We are pro-life Democrats because we truly believe in protecting prenatal children and we believe that to reduce abortion we must address poverty in all its forms.

Since we believe the Democratic Party is more focused on addressing social needs, we are convinced that the pro-life position is a great fit for the party.  We plan to stay active and work to convince our party to embrace a consistent life position of protection—from womb to tomb. It is really the sensible position for Democrats.

And Crux:

During the debate on the Affordable Care Act, even those considered pro-choice were eager to support limits on abortion. This could have been a major turning point for the party. Two things happened. Republicans saw the danger of an inclusive, big-tent Democratic Party when the pro-life Democrats helped pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The abortion lobby saw this danger too. Neither liked to see the strength of the pro-life Democratic caucus.

Instead of embracing the pro-life Democrats for unifying behind this crowning achievement for Democrats, the party treated them with disdain. Many of the Stupak 18 were ostracized by party leaders and party activists. At the same time, Republicans saw this opportunity to knock the pro-life Democrats out of the purple seats by claiming the ACA was the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.

This combined effort resulted in 88 percent of the seats once held by Democrats who opposed taxpayer funding of abortion becoming solid red seats….

It does seem that way. Many in the current leadership would rather be a minority party than include pro-life democrats and/or do not fully understand that pushing pro-life democrats away has caused us to lose numerous opportunities and majorities around the country….

We cannot legitimately claim the mantle of the “big tent’ party of diversity and inclusion when we openly say that we don’t want pro-life voters. People are celebrating that our party is more progressive, but fail to recognize that people didn’t change their opinions – the party is just smaller because we do not support, nor want to include, the voices of moderate and pro-life democrats.

Hey Coach, Immigrants Made America Great

Last Tuesday at the RNC, the Daily Beast reported that former University of Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz went on an anti-immigrant tirade. In his speech, Holtz lamented the “invasion” of immigrants into the United States, harped on the differences between the immigrant “you” and the American “me”, and demanded immigrants attempt to better assimilate. He also noted that he would not be cheering for their soccer teams, implying that in this country, there is only one type of “football” that matters.

Like anyone else in this country, Lou Holtz has a right to speak his mind, and as a proud alumnus of the University of Notre Dame, I listened with respect.

Nonetheless, I do wonder what would have happened to our shared loves—Notre Dame, football, and this country—if anyone listened to the rhetoric he presented on Tuesday 100 years ago.

In many ways, the University of Notre Dame can be seen as a microcosm of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Founded in 1842, immigrants, predominately of Irish, German and Italian origin, but also by a good number of settled American citizens, built the university. They hauled mud from the nearby lakes to create the iconic yellow brick buildings that speckle Notre Dame’s campus in the same way that the immigrants in the rest of the country built our roads and buildings.

In exchange for their work at Notre Dame, these immigrant laborers could send their sons to Notre Dame to receive an education. In this way, Notre Dame became more than an old boys’ club; it came to embody the promise of American opportunity. These dirty, oftentimes illiterate immigrants are the true founders of this university, and, indeed, of this country.

By the 1920s, Notre Dame’s football team began to gain national attention. Traditionally a gentleman’s game, athletic conferences across the country hesitated to let Notre Dame join them because of the school’s Catholic and immigrant identity.  As a result, Notre Dame traveled nationally, happily picking up misfit fans along the way.

Around this same time, Notre Dame took on a Norwegian immigrant coach named Knute Rockne, who assembled a bunch of “Fighting Irish”. Rockne embraced the name and refused to assimilate to the traditional game of football—he instead transformed the entire sport with the forward pass.

Rockne loved the idea of a fight (in fact he boxed on the side from time to time). After the death of a young promising star player, it was Rockne who demanded his team come back from a large deficit to “win one for the Gipper.” On that day, Rockne the immigrant taught all Americans how to fight.

In many ways, immigrants around the country were doing the same thing: inventing, innovating, contributing, building, fighting for their place and for a place for their children. They were making America the country it is today—making America great.

Therefore, I admit I shuddered when I heard a coach of the Fighting Irish critique the modern versions of the men and women who have done so much for the University of Notre Dame and this country.

Had these men and women assimilated by only playing by the pre-established rules, had they been prevented from “invading” our country, we might still be playing football without the forward pass and be missing out on countless other innovations that impact our lives far beyond the football field.

I’ll close with this: A poor Jew from Nazareth once reminded us to love the stranger, for we were once him. Today His statue sits squarely in the center of the University of Notre Dame’s campus with arms open. And another statue sits in welcome off the coast of New York City.

We must never forget our identity, as strangers, as Americans, as fighting Irish. “They” are not them—we are “they,” those who made this university and country great and who will make them greater still.

Madelyn Lugli is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

Where Were the Values at the Republican National Convention?

Millennial editor Robert Christian is quoted extensively in a recent CNA article by Matt Hadro and Adelaide Mena, sharing his reaction to the Republican National Convention as a millennial Catholic and pro-life activist:

“For a party that portrays itself as the party of religious values, the approach they are outlining this week has little connection to the most important moral issues facing this country,” said Robert Christian, editor of Millennial magazine and a graduate fellow at the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America.

He identified these critical moral issues as: “addressing poverty, defending life, finding policies to strengthen the family, welcoming those fleeing violence, overcoming racial divisions, protecting God’s creation, and supporting human rights and human dignity.”…

“As someone who is both Catholic and a pro-life activist, I’m seeing little to no enthusiasm for Donald Trump,” Christian stated to CNA, noting Trump’s “past positions on abortion,” and the a campaign that has largely steered clear of the life issue. “His past positions on abortion and clear lack of interest in the subject, which seems to be reflected in how little the issue has come up at the Convention, is making it difficult for even single issue voters to trust that he is the real deal,” Christian said….

This week’s speeches also ran in the face of the message and policy supported by the U.S. bishops on immigration, Christian warned. “Tied in with this is the disturbing portrayal of Muslims. Syrian refugees were booed – people fleeing the barrel bombs of a murderous dictator and the totalitarian terror of ISIS,” he said. “How can a Christian boo people who are desperately seeking refuge?”

“Both parties are deeply flawed and problematic for Catholics who reject excessive individualism and the libertarianism it inspires,” Christian said, but he was particularly concerned about Trump’s rhetoric and positions. He offered his hope that moving forward from the convention, the Republican Party would “embrace a more ‘whole life’ approach to defending life, support measures to concretely strengthen families, defend free democracy at home and abroad, and move toward a more communitarian approach to economics that is rooted in human dignity rather than market morality.”…

“I hope that Catholic Republicans will work to push their party away from extremism and toward a greater commitment to human life and dignity,” he added. “This entire convention should serve as a call to action and motivate them to build a better Republican Party.”

You can read the full article here.

Divisive Partisan Prayer and a Better Role for Faith in the Public Square

Millennial writer Daniel DiLeo has a new article at Political Theology Today. He writes:

“Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, that you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united.” These are the words that Pastor Mark Burns used in his benediction to open the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Following his prayer, Pastor Burns was excoriated by politicians, pundits, and citizens from across the political spectrum for his ideological and divisive use of religion. Yahoo News senior editor Amy Sullivan described Pastor Burns’s benediction as “the most explicitly partisan prayer heard at a major party convention in modern times,” and as a person of faith I echo the condemnations of Pastor Burns’s perverse invocation of religion….

The case that religion should be kept out of the public square is inconsistent with the Catholic, Christian vocation of “scrutinizing the signs of the times and interpreting them in the light of the Gospel,” as the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes describes (#4). In particular, the case against religion in public is averse to public theology which, as advocated by figures like David Hollenbach and Michael J. and Kenneth R. Himes, is the discipline by which believers seek to shape public discourse and policy through appeals to Christian texts and teachings.

In light of the legal and theological justifications for the presence of religion in public, what might Christians do to appropriately bring their faith into the public square? In my opinion, Christians should take at least four steps.

First, Christians should avoid what H.R. Niebuhr calls the “Christ of Culture” type of social engagement and instead employ the “Christ the Transformer of Culture” model. The former works to demonstrate how Christianity is wholly harmonious with popular culture, and in so doing employs a shape-shifting theology which makes unorthodox adaptations as necessary and fails to prophetically challenge society (on my reading, Pastor Burns’s benediction was implicitly animated by the “Christ of Culture” model). In contrast, “Christ the Transformer of Culture” seeks to help shape society into an entity that enables God’s love to flourish for all, and is arguably the mode of social action for which Gaudium et Spes calls.

You can read the the full article here.

Donald Trump is a Threat to Free Democracy

The prospect of Donald Trump as President of the United States is the greatest threat to free democracy on the planet today. His consistent praise of dictators and refusal to condemn anti-democratic crackdowns should be troubling to anyone who supports the norms and institutions of American democracy. Would he curtail the freedom of the press? Would he respect constitutional limits on his power? Would he punish enemies extra-constitutionally? These are disturbing questions to ponder, but his rhetoric should place these concerns at the center of this election.

But the global impact of a potential Trump presidency is even more frightening. If Trump is elected president, the US will no longer be the leader of the free world (a role that it has played, albeit imperfectly, since WWII). Trump is open to abandoning NATO partners if they are attacked. This is essentially an invitation to further Russian aggression. The entire architecture of the postwar order is threatened by this position and this man. The possibility of massive global unrest, from land-grabbing invasions to nuclear proliferation to even a third world war, would rise precipitously with his election. His ‘America First’ approach marks a return to the dangerous approach of 1930s isolationists. There is a reason this man has widespread support from brutal dictators and neo-fascists; he would greatly strengthen the forces of authoritarianism and totalitarianism around the world.

If one believes in freedom, democracy, and human rights; if one values human security, international order, and peace through strength and unity; and if one acknowledges the responsibility of the United States to work for these aims, one must see this presidency-seeking reality TV star as an absolute menace.

Trump is not an ordinary candidate for the presidency. He is (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime threat to American ideals and the critical commitments we have to people around the world. Those who are committed to the global common good should be clear: we need a commander-in-chief who will not coddle dictators, invite unjust aggression, and open the door to global chaos.


Pro-life Democrats Hit Back at Democratic Platform’s Extremism on Abortion

13599899_1144580945562241_64976429325294662_nvia Jacob Lupfer:

The platform Democratic convention delegates will adopt in Philadelphia later this month will be more pro-choice than ever before, ceding even less to Americans who oppose abortion rights or have moral concerns about the procedure.

Upon learning that the Platform Committee called for eliminating the Hyde Amendment, a legislative procedure that generally prohibits Medicaid from funding elective abortions, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said, “That’s crazy.” Manchin cited the fact that most Democrats in West Virginia disagree with federal funding for abortions, as do most Americans.

Via The Hill:

Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat from Pennsylvania who opposes abortion, was concerned enough about the change to write a letter to the platform committee urging members to reconsider.

“This is a consensus-based policy that has, for many years, prohibited the use of federal funds to pay for abortion,” Casey wrote in a letter sent Friday to the platform committee and obtained by The Hill.

He said the Hyde Amendment recognizes “that many Americans remain morally opposed to abortion, and do not wish to see their tax dollars go to pay for abortion.”…

Representatives for two other prominent anti-abortion Democratic senators confirmed to The Hill on Monday that they were opposed to their party platform’s proposal to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

“Senator Donnelly has long supported and continues to support the Hyde Amendment, and as a pro-life Senator believes all life is sacred,” said Sarah Rothschild, spokeswoman for Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

Via Michael O’Loughlin:

After an unsuccessful effort to get delegates to amend the platform language on abortion before it goes to a full vote in Philadelphia, which included an online petition, Day said she will urge party leaders to look beyond winning the White House.

“You can’t rely on the White House to pass things like paid leave, or Medicaid for all, or increased access to health care, or a minimum wage increase,” she told America, referring to other issues she believes are important to the pro-life cause. “You can’t pass any of those things when you have Republican majorities in the rest of the country. You can’t just rely on the White House, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

Day pointed to substantial Democratic losses at the state and national levels following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which contained provisions to increase access to contraception, including methods church leaders consider abortifacients. “We can’t pass more laws to support pregnant women and working families and protect this ‘Whole Life’ point of view if we’re in the minority,” she said. “In swing districts, the pro-life vote can make a difference.”

During the convention, Day’s group will unveil a report that she said shows that the party’s extreme views on abortion are out of touch with most of the U.S. electorate and is thus harming progressive goals.