May We Pour Out Mercy to Those Most in Need

Preaching for Palm Sunday for Catholic Women Preach, Millennial writer Nichole Flores offers a reflection which names the words and feelings of woe and abandonment, but calls us to focus on words and actions of healing and mercy:

“As we approach this Holy Week, May we find comfort in the words of mercy poured out Even in the midst of trial. May we pour our mercy to those around us, especially as we all continue to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death of this pandemic. And may we pour out mercy to those most in need, doing all that we can to defend the lives and dignity of the children of God Crying out for God’s mercy.”

Fragile Democracy: Technocratic Takeover and Popular Renewal

via the Lumen Christi Institute:

A conversation with Charles Taylor (McGill University), Patrizia Nanz (German Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management), and Jason Blakely (Pepperdine University), moderated by Fr. Patrick Gilger, SJ.

We are experiencing a crisis of democracy more powerful than anything seen in a generation: inequality continues at a galloping pace; policing is increasingly racialized and militarized; political decision-making appears remote and divorced from the lives of ordinary people. This panel discussion…will consider sources and solutions to the present crisis of democracy by drawing on two recent books: Reconstructing Democracy by Charles Taylor, Patrizia Nanz, and Madeleine Beaubien Taylor and We Built Reality by Jason Blakely.  Both works identify within our political and cultural crisis the loss of democratic participation and the rise of top-down technocratic, managerial rule.

The US Bishops Criticized Obama More than Trump, and More Often by Name

Photo by Stephen Mayes on Unsplash

Sabrina Danielsen, Emily Burke, and Millennial writer Dan DiLeo write:

Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese observes that since inauguration day, U.S. bishops’ conference press releases about Biden’s policies have been notably positive. However, our research about the disparities in how the bishops’ conference publicly discussed Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama leads us to anticipate that church leaders may be more overtly critical and less overtly praising of Biden moving forward.

We suspect this will be the case out of the conference’s desire to preserve an informal alliance with the Republican Party especially based on shared legislative priorities and strategies around abortion, religious freedom, and same-sex marriage. If this occurs, it is likely to damage the relationship between the bishops’ conference and Biden and prevent fruitful collaboration on pressing issues.

Our research began after a series of viral tweets in 2019 claimed a bias in how the conference’s press releases criticized Trump and Obama. The tweets alleged the bishops’ conference was more likely to criticize Obama by name, whereas criticisms of Trump referred vaguely to “the administration” or “the federal government.”

We set out to test these claims in a more comprehensive, systematic and nuanced way, looking both at statements by individual bishops at the diocesan level as well as statements from the body of bishops….

The U.S. bishops’ conference was less willing to criticize Trump by name than Obama by name, it was less likely to praise Obama by name than Trump by name, and it had a higher percentage of unnamed criticism for Trump than Obama.

According to our research of USCCB statements:

    • 17% of sentences that criticized Trump did so by name while 36% of sentences that criticized Obama named him.
    • 15% of sentences praised Obama did so by name while 31% of sentences that praised Trump named him.
    • And 56% of sentences that criticized Obama did not do so by name while 80% of sentences that criticized Trump did not do so by name.

The U.S. bishops’ shift toward the Republican Party can also be attributed to several related dynamics: shared prioritization of abortion as the “preeminent” social problem and a corresponding judiciary-focused strategy to address this issue; “the rise of neoconservative Catholics” that current USCCB staff member Todd Scriber recognizes in A Partisan Church and who shape Catholic discourse; wealthy political conservatives who support bishops’ activities and advocate a “uniquely American version of Catholicism;” the influence of organizations like the Knights of Columbus that fund the bishops’ conference along with politically conservative initiatives; the increasing political partisanship of conservative Catholic media like EWTN that provide platforms for “neoconservative Catholics” and has been described as having become the ” ‘Fox News’ of religious broadcasting;” and increasing numbers of U.S. bishops’ conference staff coming from conservative colleges and institutions, as John Gehring — himself a former USCCB staffer — describes in The Francis Effect.

The idea that the U.S. bishops’ conference distanced their criticism of Trump compared to Obama to preserve an alliance with the Republican Party is further supported by our research into the most common topics addressed in the bishops’ sentences of praise and criticism.

Republicans Rightly Love Joe Biden’s Covid Relief Bill

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

Christopher Hale writes:

The American Rescue Plan that Biden signed into law last week is perhaps the most popular piece of major legislation in modern American history. A poll released earlier this month suggested that even 59% of Republicans support the legislation.

While the bill didn’t receive a single Republican vote, Republicans are already touting the benefits of the bill to their constituents. Much to the dismay of many on my side of the aisle, Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi)—who voted against the bill—tweeted out about his advocacy and support for the plan’s $29 billion in direct relief to restaurants whose sales have plummeted in the past year….

It’s a conservative principle at play: the government (rightly) told businesses to shut down their operations, so the government should foot the bill. This isn’t welfare. It’s basic fairness.

Justice as Participation: Building Back Better by Supporting Workers and Rebuilding Democracy

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Meghan Clark writes:

On February 28, President Joe Biden released an unprecedented pro-union video message unequivocally supporting workers’ right to unionize and collectively bargain. “The choice to join a union is up to the workers—full stop,” Biden reiterated that the law guarantees this without interference from employers. It is not the first time that the president has vocally supported unions, but the vocal support for an ongoing labor organizing effort is noteworthy. As a Catholic moral theologian, for me it represented a moment of hope, that Catholic social thought’s commitment to economic justice might more strongly influence domestic U.S. policy, especially on the dignity of work and workers.

From its beginning in 1891, modern Catholic social thought (CST) has been crystal clear in the support of workers’ rights to associate, to form unions, and to collectively bargain. CST bases its support for unions on two fundamental insights. First, that workers are at a structural disadvantage compared to capital or management within capitalism. And second, work is inextricably tied to human dignity, as Gaudium et Spes notes: “For when people work, they not only alter things and society, they develop themselves as well. They learn much, they cultivate their resources, they go outside of themselves and beyond themselves” (no. 35). It is the combination of dignity and justice that undergirds what John Paul II called “the priority of labor over capital” (Laborem Exercens, no. 12). While everyone plays an important role in building a healthy economy, Catholicism calls for evaluating economic policies or systems from the perspective of workers not “job creators.” This is deeply counter to the dominant political rhetoric in American politics for the last 40 years….

 In Catholic social thought, unions and worker associations are a positive good, not just a tool to oppose unjust discrimination and oppression. The right of workers to participate in the decision-making process concerning their workplace is important even when such workers are well paid. If when talking about his faith, Biden included his support for the dignity of work, that might help other Catholics see the connection….

Incorporating Catholic social thought’s emphasis on justice as participation into his domestic policy agenda would allow Biden to focus policy priorities on the dignity of work, voting rights, and  building a more inclusive economy and democracy. If this happens, Joe Biden would certainly be acting upon his Catholic faith. Recently, Pope Francis extended this call even further, urging, “To help our society to ‘build back better,’ inclusion of the vulnerable must also entail efforts to promote their active participation.” From worker rights to voting rights and beyond, justice as participation can provide a strong but challenging foundation for building our post-COVID civil, political, and economic society in which no one is excluded.

US Holocaust Museum on the Ten Year Anniversary of the Syrian Uprising

via United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

What began as a peaceful protest calling for a democratic government has led to a decade of crimes against humanity and profound suffering for the Syrian people, primarily at the hands of the Assad government. More than 500,000 Syrian civilians have been killed, and more than 12 million—half the country’s population—have been forced to flee their homes. The extraordinary human and societal destruction is a harsh reminder that 76 years after the Holocaust, the world has failed to fulfill the promise of “Never Again.”

“We continue to stand in solidarity with the Syrian people at this somber moment—they have not been forgotten,” said Naomi Kikoler, director of the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. “We honor the brave Syrians who have risked so much to come forward, bear witness to these horrific crimes, provide life-saving care, and advocate tirelessly for justice, accountability and an end to the killing. Their heroism has tragically been met with the abject failure of the international community to protect them, contributing to the devastating consequences that continue today.”

Syrian civilians still face a risk of crimes against humanity in Idlib, western Aleppo, the northeast, and in Syrian government detention centers. Since December 2019, attacks by the Syrian and Russian governments, supported by militias, including Iranian, on the ground, have killed and maimed hundreds of Syrian civilians, including children. Approximately one million people have been newly displaced, fleeing en masse deeper into northwest Syria, and stalked by aerial bombardments. Tens of thousands languish in makeshift detention centers enduring torture.