More Than 100,000 Have Entered Assad’s Prisons — And Never Returned

via PBS NewsHour:

While one phrase of Syria’s brutal nine-year civil war may be concluding, the systemic forced disappearance, torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of Syrians has not ceased. Amna Nawaz talks to Anne Barnard of the Council on Foreign Relations and formerly The New York Times about the staggering inhumanity of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and what accountability, if any, it will face.


The Whole Life Pledge

A new pledge from the Whole Life Movement that many Millennial readers may be interested in exploring and signing (via Whole Life: Pro-life Democrats, Progressives, and Feminists):

The Whole Life Movement is committed to:

    • A comprehensive approach to abortion that includes legal protections for unborn children and adequate support for pregnant women and families so that no women feel compelled to procure an abortion for financial reasons.
    • Economic justice for all Americans, including robust government action to ensure that the social safety net is complete and everyone has access to their most basic needs (including food, water, healthcare, housing, education)
    • Efforts to reduce global poverty and preventable deaths worldwide
    • The empowerment of women and girls and their full inclusion in social, economic, political, and other spheres, confronting the grave threats far too many women and girls face, such as human trafficking, physical and sexual abuse, and various forms of discrimination and repression.
    • Pro-family policies that create a culture of life, such as paid family leave and access to quality, affordable childcare for all those who need it
    • The abolition of the death penalty
    • Concrete action to prevent and halt genocide and mass atrocities, ensure accountability for the perpetrators of such crimes against humanity, and assist those displaced by such violence
    • The protection of the environment for current and future generations
    • Free democracy, which allows for the peaceful resolution of conflict, against attempts to deny people their basic human rights and the right to participate in their government
    • Prudent measures to protect human life and dignity from all other grave threats, such as gun violence, crime, all forms of suicide, unjust migration policies, substance abuse, racism and other forms of bigotry and unfair discrimination, the unjust use of military force, and the denial of rights for people with disabilities

Those in the whole life movement will not agree on the means to achieve each of these goals, but we recognize these threats to human dignity and human life as serious and demanding concrete action. While these issues are not all equal in their gravity, a principled, consistent approach is necessary for ensuring the credibility of the movement and building an authentic culture of life. Rather than defining pro-life in a way to affirm our own purity or moral excellence, we believe in building a broad, effective coalition of people from all backgrounds that is committed to the fundamental worth of every single human being. Join us and take the following pledge!

As a member of the whole life movement, I pledge to advocate for the protection of every innocent human being at every stage of life from direct and indirect threats to life and to support policies that reflect the dignity of every single human being and the flourishing of all.

You can take the Whole Life Pledge here.


Millennial Catholics on Christus Vivit

Kelly Sankowski writes:

“In my life, Christus Vivit affirms that the dreams and desires I have as a young adult Catholic are the ways in which God is calling me to deeper relationship with Him – my vocation and my holiness are not just things that unfold outside of myself and my experience, but are rooted in the desires of my heart,” said Colleen Campbell, a 25 year-old doctoral student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C….

“My initial reaction [to Christus Vivit] was excitement at the amount of care that the Holy Father put into a letter to young people, which was a unique style for a post-synodal exhortation,” said Jonathan Lewis, the assistant secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, who participated in the synod as an auditor. “It seemed to be written from the perspective of a parish priest to people he cared deeply about, and that was really touching. It didn’t read like some theological treatise or textbook, but as an encouraging letter.”

Lewis called Christus Vivit “the most kerygmatic papal document I’ve ever read,” meaning it teaches us “that we have to go back to that fundamental joy of the gospel, which is that Christ died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again,” and reminds us “that Christ is not some historical figure or someone to be read about in a newspaper or dusty textbook, but Christ is fully alive and calls each of us to be fully alive,” Lewis said….

“The vicar of Christ chooses to leave space within his own magisterial teaching for the voices of young people, and I found that very inspiring,” said Lewis….

In section 143 of Christus Vivit, Pope Francis writes, “Dear young people, make the most of these years of your youth. Don’t observe life from a balcony. Don’t confuse happiness with an armchair, or live your life behind a screen. Whatever you do, do not become the sorry sight of an abandoned vehicle! Don’t be parked cars, but dream freely and make good decisions. Take risks, even if it means making mistakes. Don’t go through life anaesthetized or approach the world like tourists. Make a ruckus!”

Campbell said that section “inspires me to be fearless in the pursuit of my vocation and encourages me not to give a second thought to the anxiety that can so often hold a young person back from becoming who God destined her to be.” Lewis said the section reminds him of the way that Jesus spoke in the Gospels, where He communicated through images from the culture of the people who He was speaking to, which was situated in the agriculture of first century Judea. But in Christus Vivit, Pope Francis “is really trying to inculturate Jesus now,” said Lewis.


Is There a Political Home for Those Who Seek Solidarity Not Sectarian Supremacy?

Michael Gerson writes:

Donald Trump’s reelection would entrench a particularly vicious brand of know-nothingism, advocated with tireless arrogance, combined with resolute ignorance, enabled by steadfast sycophancy….

In most of Europe (and Latin America), an alternative would be obvious: a movement known as “Christian democracy.” This approach emerged under mainly Catholic influence in the 19th century. It combined center-right views on most social issues with center-left approaches to economic justice based on solidarity with the poor and vulnerable. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a Christian Democrat. In the United States, compassionate conservatives might be placed in this ideological space. So would pro-life Democrats such as the late governor Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

If you look at the Democracy Fund’s chart of the ideological distribution of U.S. voters, there are a significant number who fall into the quadrant of socially conservative and economically liberal — far more than are found in the libertarian quadrant of socially liberal and economically conservative.

Yet there has never been the (more pluralistic) U.S. equivalent of a Christian Democratic party….

“The Democratic Party of the New Deal and the mid-20th century was a compatible home offering economic progress and a safety net without undermining basic institutions,” says John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University. In the 1970s, Democrats such as Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden had pro-life records. But this changed quickly and dramatically as the Democratic Party become more monolithically pro-choice….

Pro-life Democrats such as Carr, and Protestants influenced by Catholic social thought like me, and Jewish, Mormon and non-religious people who view social solidarity as a central commitment have been left homeless. “This is the missing option in American politics,” Carr told me.

American politics will be improved and humanized when some party gives this solidarity movement — rather than Christian supremacy — a comfortable political home.


Bishop Fabre: Louisiana Should End the Death Penalty

Bishop Shelton Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the US Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, writes:

Two leading Louisiana legislators, one Democrat and one Republican, have sponsored bipartisan legislation to repeal the death penalty in Louisiana. The Legislature should pass this measure, and the governor should sign it.

For Catholics and many people of good will, the death penalty is inadmissible in today’s world because it offends the dignity of the human person without actually helping to promote the common good. Every faith tradition teaches that each of us is made in the image of God and that all human life has value. A person does not lose his humanity — even after committing a serious crime….

Nationwide, more than 70 percent of the people executed in 2018 showed evidence of serious mental illness, brain damage, intellectual disabilities, or severe childhood abuse and trauma. A few years ago, a man who was executed in Missouri had no criminal history until he suffered a brain injury while working at a lumberyard. There are better ways to keep the public safe….

For as long as humans are making the decisions, the system will be imperfect. Since 1973, 165 people have been exonerated and freed from death row with evidence of their innocence, including 11 people in Louisiana….

Just as the risk of executing an innocent person is unacceptable, so too is the racial prejudice that infects every aspect of our death penalty process. Nearly 70 percent of the people on Louisiana’s death row are people of color, the highest percentage of any state with more than three people on death row. In one study of Louisiana’s system, the chances of a death sentence were 97 percent higher for defendants whose victim was white than for defendants whose victim was black. Louisianans should not stand for this prejudice….

In nearly a decade, we have seen that we can do without the death penalty. It’s time for Louisiana to bring our public policies in line with our values, to embrace a culture of life, to choose mercy, and to end capital punishment once and for all.


The ‘Pope’s Robin Hood’ Illegally Restores Electricity for the Homeless

via Reuters:

A close aide to Pope Francis has drawn the ire of Italy’s anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini by climbing down a manhole to restore electricity to hundreds of homeless people living in an occupied building.

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, 55, whose job is to distribute the pope’s charity funds, went to the disused state-owned building near a Rome cathedral on Saturday night and broke a police seal to re-connect electrical circuit breakers.

To some, he was a hero of sorts by Monday morning as the news went viral. Rome’s left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper ran a banner headline calling him “The Pope’s Robin Hood” and praising him for doing the right thing under the circumstances.

“What can I say? It was a particularly desperate situation. I repeat: I assume all the responsibility. If a fine arrives, I’ll pay it,” Krajewski said in an interview in Corriere della Sera newspaper on Monday.

The building has been occupied since 2013 by Italians who had lost their homes and migrants. It houses some 450 people, including about 100 children.


Pope Francis Denounces Voracious, Shortsighted Economic Model Premised on Unlimited Growth

Here are some highlights from Pope Francis’ speech earlier this month on the prevailing economic model:

The precarious condition of our common home has been the result largely of a fallacious economic model that has been followed for too long. It is a voracious model, profit-oriented, shortsighted, and based on the misconception of unlimited economic growth. Although we frequently see its disastrous impacts on the natural world and in the lives of people, we are still resistant to change….

Each and every person is precious before God’s eyes and his or her fundamental human rights are sacred and inalienable, irrespective of one’s social or economic status. Attention for the safety and wellbeing of the people involved in mining operations as well as the respect for fundamental human rights of the members of local communities and those who champion their causes are indeed non-negotiable principles. Mere corporate social responsibility is not sufficient. We need to ensure that mining activities lead to the integral human development of each and every person and of the entire community….

The promotion of a circular economy and the “reduce, reuse, recycle” approach are also very much in consonance with the Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns promoted by the 12th Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations. Moreover, religious traditions have always presented temperance as a key component of responsible and ethical life style. Moderation is also vital to save our common home.