Cardinal Cupich on Virtue, Solidarity, and the Common Good

Here are some highlights from Cardinal Blase Cupich’s address, “A Consistent Ethic of Solidarity: Transcending Self, Transforming the World,” at the Capstone Conference for the project Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life:

  • The ultimate measure of one’s virtue is not only how one personally improves, but how the common good is fostered and furthered by virtuous individuals as a whole.
  • Our era is plagued by global terrorism. It irresponsibly tolerates the exploitation of limited resources and is threatened by climate change, which by its own inertia will imperil future food security as a result of decreased crop yields and result in the abandonment of populated areas due to rising sea levels. As a result of these unchecked forces of economic exploitation and globalization, many people feel excluded, while others are literally excluded as they are left homeless, or forced to migrate, by wars and privation. This has left us fearful of one another in a world marked by great divisions over race, ethnicity, religion and place of origin.
  • In our understanding of solidarity, the human person seeks and claims an integral development, morally, spiritually and emotionally, which is joined intrinsically to the communities that sustain him or her. For libertarians, the human person is the autonomous individual, man the producer and man the consumer.
  • For advocates of solidarity, in this age of growing globalization, inclusion and economic security for all are measures of economic health, requiring global structures that help mold the forces of market capitalism to advance solidarity and dignity for all; while in contrast the libertarian has a one-dimensional measure of economic growth proposed for decision making, advocating that market forces left to themselves are the best arbiters of economic progress. It is for this reason that when it comes to politics, while solidarity seeks the common good, the libertarian advances a politics that seeks to maximize the freedom of markets and individual choice.
  • While it is true that many in our era have been lifted out of poverty, the numbers of people, especially children not just poor but trapped in poverty and exclusion, who are migrants, living in exile from their homes because of wars and famine, are staggering.

You can watch the full address here:

Our Broken Understanding of Freedom Fuels Gun Violence

Millennial writer Elizabeth Bruenig writes:

After the mass shooting before last, conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly articulated what anti-gun-control politics seem to presume but rarely admit: that blood is the cost of the right to bear arms. “This is the price of freedom,” O’Reilly wrote on his blog, referring to the dozens killed in Las Vegas. “Violent nuts are allowed to roam free until they do damage, no matter how threatening they are.” He went on: “The Second Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection. Even the loons.”

This is a special, even radical, type of freedom — the kind that entitles a person to own the means of mass killing and the kind that compels society to grant that right….

Older readings of freedom may feel dark and alien to us now. And we probably wouldn’t trade our world for theirs. But it’s helpful to ask of our freedoms the same questions our forbearers asked of theirs: What are they really for? It’s hard for us now to see how the right to purchase a lethal object might damage our freedom in the classical sense, by serving as a temptation easily aggravated by fear or anger. But perhaps it’s easier to see how we seem less free operating on the modern view of the Second Amendment: Parents are buying bulletproof panels for children’s backpacks, and people are visiting psychiatrists complaining of fear, anxiety and dread sparked by random mass killings. The freedom advocated by people like O’Reilly certainly isn’t subordinate to the good, and it no longer even appears to reliably add to our overall freedom.

If we’re trying to build a free society for the sake of being free, or so each person can pursue their own tastes, no matter how evil, then we’re doing an excellent job where firearms are concerned — and reaping the results in ghastly headlines. But if we’re trying to build a society in which people are free specifically to flourish and live long and well, to be virtuous and educated citizens engaged in the task of creating lasting peace and greater understanding, then we’re stumbling, and we’ll keep tripping along a bloody path until we can decide what our freedom is for.

US Bishops Oppose Trump’s Termination of Central American Minors (CAM) Program

via USCCB:

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, expresses his opposition to the Administration’s decision to end refugee processing for individuals in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who apply to enter the U.S. through the Central American Minors (CAM) program. Bishop Vasquez notes that the elimination of this program puts the lives of vulnerable children at risk for greater harm and represents a step backwards in the prevention of irregular migration.

“Pope Francis has called on us to protect migrant children, noting that ‘among migrants, children constitute the most vulnerable group.’ The CAM program, which included both refugee and parole options, should have been maintained precisely because it provided a legal and organized way for children to migrate to the United States and reunify with families. Terminating the entire CAM program will neither promote safety for these children nor help our government regulate migration.

We continue to pray and express our support for parents who endure anxiety and emotional hardship knowing their children will continue to languish in violence; and to the children themselves, who will not be able to reunite and embrace their parents.”

Before Roe, New Deal Democrats Led the Pro-Life Movement

Millennial editor Robert Christian writes:

What was the pro-life movement like before the Supreme Court transformed American politics with its ruling in Roe v. Wade? This question would stump most people, including many pro-life activists.

Generally, most people associate the pro-life movement with the rise of the religious right and the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. But ignoring the history of the movement before that era obscures how the movement changed over time; whether those changes were positive, negative or a mixture; and what lessons pro-life activists can draw on to build a stronger movement that delivers genuine, sustainable results.

Daniel K. Williams’ book “Defenders of the Unborn” (Oxford University Press, $31.95) thus is essential reading. It is one of the most valuable books written on the pro-life movement, and its focus is on the movement before Roe v. Wade.

In an interview on the book, Williams explained that the roots of the movement are on the left rather than the right: “The modern American pro-life movement, which originated in the mid-20th century, was the creation of Catholic Democrats, most of whom subscribed to the social ethic and liberal political philosophy of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. They believed that the government had a responsibility to protect the rights of minorities and provide a social safety net for the poor. They viewed the unborn as a minority deserving of legal protection, but many of them also believed that the federal government had a responsibility to provide maternity health care for women facing crisis pregnancies. In their view, the pro-life movement was a social justice and human rights cause.”…

Is there hope for a bigger, stronger movement going forward? Williams says, “Many pro-lifers of the late 1960s and early 1970s argued that the legalization of abortion would lead middle-class people to devalue the poor.” Poverty and abortion were linked in the minds of these pro-lifers. Williams states, “Pro-life advocates wanted to help the poor by providing them with the material assistance to care for their children, not by encouraging them to terminate their pregnancies.” Will more people come to see how these issues are linked and believe that abortion is no substitute for real social and economic justice?

If any religious figure can change the status quo, it is Pope Francis, who has denounced both poverty and abortion as part of a throwaway culture. If Catholics and people of good will recognize the integral unity of Francis’ message, perhaps a new generation of pro-life activists can revive some of the movement’s strongest arguments and lead it to a brighter future that transcends partisanship.

Pope Francis: Our Indifference to the Poor is a Great Sin of Omission

via Vatican Radio:

Omission is also the great sin where the poor are concerned. Here it has a specific name: indifference. It is when we say, “That doesn’t regard me; it’s not my business; it’s society’s problem”. It is when we turn away from a brother or sister in need, when we change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it. God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good.

How, in practice can we please God? When we want to please someone dear to us, for example by giving a gift, we need first to know that person’s tastes, lest the gift prove more pleasing to the giver than to the recipient. When we want to offer something to the Lord, we can find his tastes in the Gospel. Immediately following the passage that we heard today, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you that, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These least of our brethren, whom he loves dearly, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned, the suffering who receive no help, the needy who are cast aside. On their faces we can imagine seeing Jesus’ own face; on their lips, even if pursed in pain, we can hear his words: “This is my body” (Mt 26:26).

There, in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). For this reason, in them, in their weakness, a “saving power” is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our “passport to paradise”. For us it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them. To love the poor means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.

And it will also do us good. Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbor. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away. What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.