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Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Hard questions we’re not asking Pope Francis by John Allen: “To date, the only concrete diplomatic success to which Francis can point is helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cling to power by opposing Western strikes. The pope had his reasons, including fear for Syria’s Christians in the aftermath of regime change. Yet assuming that Assad reasserts control, the question is whether Francis will use the Church’s resources to promote greater respect for human rights and democracy. If not, his major political accomplishment could go down as propping up a thug.”

The Changing U.S. Labor Force by Anna Sutherland: “Whatever the cause of unions’ decline, however, the future of work in America may be one of low wages and erratic schedules (both of which are hard on families) unless policy-makers find some other way to bolster the power of labor.”

The Neo-Conservative Imagination: An Interview with Patrick Deneen, Part III by Artur Rosman: “I don’t want to paint a picture of utopian bliss in Germany—of course, that’s far from the case—but we ought to look at specific practices in countries such as Germany to begin to think about how better to avoid some of our wrenching instability and how we might better conceive an economy to support family and community.”

Selfie esteem: Body image in a digital age by Meghan Murphy-Gill: “The Catholic Church has a counterpoint to this seemingly superficial approach to image: Humans are the imago Dei, created in the image of God. This alone is the source of a person’s value, not how well she applies eyeshadow or whether her selfies show a glowing girl with a great smile.”

Synod on the Family, Part I by Michael Sean Winters: “The Francis effect is only possible because people are truly hungry for the Gospel and a more humane civilization. No civilization can long remain healthy if its families are not healthy, and the remedy must be found, first and foremost, by placing the bonds of family and society – and the bond of faith, that binds us to Jesus Christ – in their true, liberating promise and pointing out that the autonomy the modern world promises is actually a grim form of self-chosen slavery.”

Everyday saints by Kira Dault: “Those who have come before us—not just the great men and women with their huge footprints, but the mothers and fathers, the children, the friends lost to us—mark the course. In their examples they leave breadcrumbs to follow, clues for how to become the kind of people we want to be.”

The Message of Mercy by Walter Kasper: “So, canon law is not against the Gospel, but the Gospel is against a legalistic understanding of canon law. Canon law should be interpreted and applied in the light of mercy because mercy opens our eyes to the concrete situation of the other.”

Monument Seeks to End Silence on Killings of the Disabled by the Nazis by Melissa Eddy: “The first to be singled out for systematic murder by the Nazis were the mentally ill and intellectually disabled. By the end of World War II, an estimated 300,000 of them had been gassed or starved, their fates hidden by phony death certificates and then largely overlooked among the many atrocities that were to be perpetrated in Nazi Germany in the years to follow. Now, they are among the last to have their suffering publicly acknowledged. On Tuesday, the victims of the direct medical killings by the Nazis were given their own memorial in the heart of Berlin.”

An unspoken truth about teens who flee the Catholic church by Jennifer Mertens: “Young people must be valued as active, respected and fully engaged members of our faith communities. Teens long to be taken seriously, to be heard, considered and included. As adults, we do not possess or control the living revelation of Christ. We journey together with our youth.”

Encounters with a drinking culture in college by Carlos Mesquita: “I asked some of my friends why they drank to excess, and while some just said they enjoyed it, many responded that they were drinking to forget something or to relieve stress. They described trying to avoid or escape some part of themselves.”

The Greatest Threat to Our Liberty Is Local Governments Run Amok by Franklin Foer: “Only a strong federal government can curb the autocratic tendencies burbling across the country. Libertarians worry about the threat of local tyrants, too, but only abstractly. In practice, they remain so fixated on the perils of Washington that they rigidly insist on devolving power down to states, cities, and towns—the very places where their nightmares are springing to life.”

The Catholic casino conundrum by Mathew Schmalz: “The message was simple: You can gamble, but take it easy. Do so temperately — within appropriate limits….But given Pope Francis’ strong stand on our obligations to those in need, it is difficult to see how to justify gambling of any kind, since the money that we might so cavalierly wager does not belong to us alone.”

Following Pope Francis’ Lead: Authentic Inclusion for Disabled People

For those of us living with disability or chronic illness, Christ’s wounds are a remarkable reminder that we, too, bear the image of God. Yet the inclusion of people with disabilities in society – and even in the life of the Church – has hardly been historically constant. In the fifth century, for instance, Augustine was at pains to confirm to his readers that people with bodies we might now identify as disabled were even human:

At Hippo-Diarrhytus there is a man whose hands are crescent-shaped, and have only two fingers each, and his feet similarly formed. If there were a race like him, it would be added to the history of the curious and wonderful. Shall we therefore deny that this man is descended from that one man who was first created?…Some years ago, quite within my own memory, there was a man born in the East, double in his upper, but single in his lower half – having two heads, two chests, four hands, but one body and two feet like an ordinary man; and he lived so long that many had an opportunity of seeing him. But who could enumerate all the human births that have differed widely from their ascertained parents? As, therefore, no one will deny that these are all descended from that one man, so all the races which are reported to have diverged in bodily appearance from the usual course…unquestionably trace their pedigree to that one first father of all. [City of God, XVI.8]

Augustine’s theological purpose here – to confirm that all rumored monstrous races in fact trace their lineages to Adam – is of less interest to the modern reader than the sociological implications of his treatment of the two people he mentions. While he is right to affirm the humanity of people whose bodies differ from the ‘usual course,’ it is questionable how thoroughly their human dignity could have been affirmed so long as they were viewed as objects of curiosity and fascination. The inclusion of people with disabilities in the life of the community as dignified members is therefore only one part of Christian social obligation; the second part is hinted at by the melancholy note Augustine strikes when he mentions the short life of the second man discussed – that is, for genuine inclusion to take place, people with disabilities must also have adequate care.

On both of these levels, Pope Francis is shaping up to be an extraordinarily exemplary figure. Again and again, Pope Francis has placed just the right amount of emphasis on his willingness to reach out physically – as Christ did – to those experiencing illness or other forms of disability. This gesture of touch embodies visually what communities should undertake in a more general sense; that is, the welcoming of persons at all levels of physical ability into the fold of social life. But Pope Francis’ embrace of people with disabilities doesn’t end at sympathy and pathos. In Evangelii Gaudium, he writes:

I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.

The weight of the expectation that states should ensue that all citizens have healthcare shouldn’t be underestimated. Like his predecessor, Pope Francis appears to be calling for universal healthcare access – which would benefit none more than people with disabilities.

After all, employer-based healthcare approaches are unfavorable to people with disabilities, as they engage in part-time work at higher rates than people without disabilities and also experience unemployment at higher rates than their non-disabled counterparts. It should therefore come as no surprise that people with disabilities are also particularly likely to suffer the effects of poverty, with over 1 in 5 disabled people in the United States currently living under the federal poverty line. Without the steady employment necessary to benefit from employer-based healthcare or the means to purchase their own, people with disabilities in the United States often rely on a piecemeal set of benefits programs which, while well-intentioned, do not amount to universal, free-upon-delivery care.

It may at first seem curious, given the specific and often unique needs of people with disabilities, that Pope Francis has not addressed this population directly with any regularity; yet by repeatedly addressing the exclusive nature of economies that produce inequality and poverty, he has nonetheless addressed the structural weaknesses that result in the ongoing suffering and isolation of many people with disabilities. It will always be incumbent upon the Church to include all members in her corporate life, but for that inclusion to bear its fullest fruits, people with disabilities also require the support of the broader institutions of society. Pope Francis’ approach therefore seems especially primed to serve as an ongoing example of inclusion and embrace, underpinned by a serious commitment to policies – like universal healthcare – that clear the way for the authentic inclusion of people with disabilities in the lives of their communities.

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

A Year Later, the Pope Benedict Most People Forget by John Gehring: “The Benedict legacy often forgotten today amid the understandable euphoria over Pope Francis is a significant contribution to the Church’s social justice tradition.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict by Michael Sean Winters: “Benedict’s pontificate was seminal in critical ways. His theological writings on the environment were more profound, and more urgent, than those of any other world leader, and surely the environmental crisis we continue to invite will be one of the most challenging crises humanity has ever faced.”

An economic school has led to gridlock in Washington by EJ Dionne: “When it comes to government policy, the Austrian economists paved the road to paralysis.”

Raising the minimum wage is the right idea for the right by EJ Dionne: “Conservative politicians really need to ask themselves: If they refuse to raise the minimum wage and at the same time insist on cutting health care and wage-support programs, are they not consigning millions more of their fellow citizens to lives of poverty? Most Americans reject this view, and that includes most conservatives who believe in work, family and personal responsibility.”

A Srebrenica moment in Syria? by Nicholas Burns: “Putin will never reach a ‘Srebrenica moment’ on Syria. That leaves the rest of us to consider once more — how many more lives will be claimed by Syria’s ceaseless civil war before we are finally shamed to stop the killings?”

Front Left Corner of Heaven by Terrance Klein, America: “Because heaven is all about love, nothing but love can lead us there.”

Praise these Special Olympians by Michael Gerson: “People with intellectual disabilities are largely invisible in the global development agenda, but they should be its cutting edge.”

Beware of Pope Francis by Timothy Shriver: “When he embraced the young man with severe disabilities, he was calling on the world to change its approach to how we value human life by putting the most vulnerable at the center. To do so, each of us needs to become more vulnerable ourselves. That’s not easy or  comfortable.”

The Tea Party and the Hammock Theory of Poverty by Greg Sargent: “Some Republican lawmakers do seem sincere about charting a new course on poverty. But the party agenda remains in thrall to a set of ideas that remain largely the province of a small tea party minority, and are not nearly as widely held among Republicans overall.”

Yes, progressives can embrace Downton Abbey!  by Morning’s Minion: “The old order—unequal and unjust as it might have been—was nevertheless based on the notion that we are not simply autonomous individuals following our own destinies and our own desires. Rather, it was based on the firm principle that we are bound to society and to each other by reciprocal rights, duties, and responsibilities.”

What liberals can learn from the author of The Culture of Narcissism by Damon Linker: “Perhaps the most controversial element of Lasch’s argument, then no less than now, was his assertion that the Left’s advocacy of the sexual revolution was in fact a betrayal of both women and the working class. Whereas the family was once a ‘haven in a heartless world’ (to cite the title of the book in which Lasch first advanced the claim), the sexual revolution encouraged its near-total assimilation into the capitalist order of consumption and exchange.”

Michael Argenyi’s Victory and How Universities Should Respond

Twenty years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, some exceptionally talented people are still not able to use their talents to heal. Frequently it is the attitude of “normal” people that prevents this, not the actual condition of the people these laws seek to protect. As the Supreme Court put it, “Society’s accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment.” Catholic professional schools have a unique opportunity to combat this discrimination and thereby serve the core of their mission. They are in a position to recognize that by welcoming deaf and hard of hearing people and people with disabilities, they can contribute to a more vibrant and humanizing society for all.

The recent victory of deaf medical student Michael Argenyi is a game-changer for medical schools and other professional schools. These schools have been some of the most resistant to opening up their programs to people who are deaf and hard of hearing or have disabilities. Until now, the courts have done little to address anti-discrimination laws within these schools, focusing their efforts on K-12 schools and undergraduate programs. Argenyi v. Creighton should make every professional school question their policies.

Michael Argenyi was born deaf and from a young age learned to find very effective ways to communicate, including the use of a cochlear implant and cued speech, culminating in his graduation from Seattle University with a 3.87 GPA. After being admitted to Creighton University Medical School, another Jesuit institution, he was surprised when he was refused the accommodations that had permitted him to succeed throughout his life. Because Creighton denied them, he felt he had no choice but to withdraw; however, he did not give up on his dream of becoming a pediatrician. He filed a lawsuit against the school, and after many years of contentious litigation, finally prevailed, with a federal grand jury finding that Creighton had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This past December, the judge ordered Creighton to readmit Argenyi and pay for the necessary accommodations, so he should be well on his way to becoming a doctor as he had dreamed.

Medical schools often argue that doctors must be able to hear and speak to their patients. However, the essential function a doctor must be able to perform is to communicate effectively, with or without reasonable accommodations. This hit home when I was in Mexico with my mother recently. She injured herself and needed to obtain an emergency minor surgery. We were fortunate to be treated by a wonderful local doctor who didn’t speak English, to complement my mother’s complete lack of Spanish. I stepped in as an interpreter and was able to ensure that there was excellent communication between the doctor and patient. My mother commented afterwards that the communication with the doctor was some of the best she had ever had because of his attentiveness, patience, and willingness to answer her questions. His skills as a doctor—not as a speaker of English—came through in a critical time.

The number of doctors who themselves are members of the deaf and hard of hearing community or have disabilities is vanishingly small. While medical interpreters can provide a wonderful service, the widespread absence of doctors who themselves are fluent in sign language and other methods of communication also cuts down on the quality of care that the deaf and hard of hearing receive. A doctor who knows from life experience what it means to be deaf can be a profound gift at these times of struggle for families. They can also help advocate for patients who are not provided the services that they need.

Patients who are deaf and hard of hearing are frequently denied any way of communicating with their doctors and nurses. At one of the most critical times in life, deaf and hard of hearing patients find themselves with no way to communicate with the people who hold their life in their hands. Despite being required to provide “effective communications,” health care providers frequently choose not to do much to meet such a basic obligation. To cite one example, the Henry Ford Health System failed to provide sign language interpretation for seven weeks to a patient in one of its residential facilities. Medical errors caused by failures such as these claim the lives of deaf patients every year.

One of the most unfortunate things about this particular situation was how Creighton University—which, on the whole, is a wonderful school—fought tooth and nail against this young student. Rather than seeing a talented person who is full of compassion and a has a proven track record of success, some faculty members and officials only saw perceived burdens. Instead of trying to avoid serving this student, the university could have reflected on how educating this young man was fully consonant with its Jesuit identity and mission.

As schools across the country consider how to proceed in the wake of Argenyi, I hope that this is not a conversation confined to the general counsel’s office about new tactics of abdicating responsibility under civil rights laws. Instead, administrations should sit down with their student services, strategic planning, and general counsel’s offices to determine how best to open up their schools to people in the deaf and hard of hearing community and those with a wide range of disabilities.

Jesuit institutions in particular should engage their offices on Jesuit mission and identity, recognizing that, fundamentally, this isn’t about complying with rules and regulations but about educating and respecting the dignity of the whole person, allowing more people to use their skills and talents to heal the world. Jesuit institutions can use the words of Superior General of the Jesuits Fr. Adolfo Nicolás as their guide:

In the understanding of St. Ignatius, the principal function of a leader is to help the members of a community grow to become the living presence of God in the world. In the Ignatian concept of service, there is always the very important fact that growth leads to transformation. If there is no transformation, the process has failed.

How will they transform themselves in order to promote the inclusion of people with all types of differences and disabilities in the ministry to serve the world?

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

McDonalds’ suggested budget for employees shows just how impossible it is to get by on minimum wage by Robyn Pennacchia: “I don’t want to live in any kind of dog-eat-dog Ayn Rand erotic fantasy. Human beings are worth more than that. Anyone who works 40 hours a week (nevermind 74 hours) ought be able to take care of all the basic necessities in life. Corporations shouldn’t be able to pay their workers nothing, keep all of the profits to themselves, and expect taxpayers to make up the difference with social programs. It’s not fair to the workers, and it’s not fair to any of us.”

The Number One Thing we Need to Stop Doing in the Gay Debate by Sacred Tension: “Until we stop invalidating each other’s integrity, we will never have a productive, life-affirming, and Christ centered dialogue about homosexuality. As long as we create a moral caste system and put our supposed opponents one step below us, the gay debate will never be anything more than a war that destroys the church.”

Teens chase kidnapping suspect on bikes, save 5-year-old girl  by CNN: “Two teenage boys are being hailed as heroes after they chased a car carrying a kidnapped girl — on their bicycles.”

Hazel Hammersley, 2-Year-Old Cancer Patient, Gets The Sweetest Pizza Party Of All Time by Huffington Post: “More Reddit users sent pizzas — over 20 pies arrived! Lauren rushed back to the hospital, and the family invited Hazel’s friends to join the SWEETEST PIZZA PARTY EVER.”

America’s One-Child Policy by Brandy Zadrozny, The Daily Beast: “Right here in the U.S., many working-class women are being forced to give up their larger domestic ambitions due to the crippling costs associated with raising a family with more than one child.”

Tobacco Free College Campuses by Dr. Howard K. Koh: “The Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative, a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the University of Michigan and the American College Health Association, encourages the voluntary adoption of tobacco-free policies at institutions of higher learning across the nation. These policies not only support the many people on college campuses who are trying to quit but also dissuade young adults from starting.”

Dear Jezebel: Real friends don’t count chromosomes by Secular Pro-life: “The solution to people being mistreated is to fight against the mistreatment, not to kill off the people being mistreated.”

Samantha Power, at confirmation hearing, faults U.N. for ‘disgrace’ in Syria by Washington Post: “Samantha Power, the Obama administration’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told a Senate panel Wednesday that the U.N.’s failure to halt mass killing in Syria is a ‘disgrace that history will judge harshly.’”

When profiling is “reasonable,” injustice becomes excusable by Fr. Bryan Massingale, US Catholic: “You don’t have to wear a hoodie or sagging pants to be perceived as a threat. The very presence of a black man in any space that violates the expectations of those in authority can constitute sufficient probable cause for suspicion and danger.  This is why the verdict of ‘not guilty’ has touched a deep well of resentment, sadness, and horror in many African American men (and in those who love us). For I not only know that if I had a son he could look like Trayvon; I know that I could be Trayvon.”

Interesting Conversation with an Atheist about the Moral Law and You Know Who  by Mark Shea, National Catholic Register: “I and others have been attempting to point out that insofar as her moral commitments have any hope of being universal and transcendent moral imperatives binding all human consciences, and not mere expressions of her subjective preference for cheddar over swiss, she will have to abandon her atheism as wholly incapable of accounting for such transcendent moral imperatives.”

Darfur in 2013 Sounds Awfully Familiar by Nicholas Kristof: “The resumption of mass atrocities in Darfur, after a bit of a lull, has led villagers to flee to this refugee camp, Abgadam, in southeast Chad. It is full of Darfuris who have arrived in recent months after Sudanese government-sponsored militias began a new spasm of murder, rape and pillage against two minority ethnic groups.”

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Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Why Paid Family Leave Is Good for Everyone (Even People Who Don’t Use It) by Nanette Fondas: “The impact of family leave legislation, whether state or federal, is felt well beyond the direct benefit an individual worker receives. Parental leave and similar policies hold potential to reduce workplace bias and stigma faced by all women and men with caregiving responsibilities.”

Does Being Joyful Mean I Can’t be Sad? by Fr. James Martin, SJ: “Sadness is a natural response to pain, suffering and tragedy in life.  It is human, natural and even, in a way, desirable: sadness in response to a tragic event shows that you are emotionally alive.  If you weren’t sad from time to time, you would be something less than human.”

Sex abuse scandal keeps priests from healthy relationships with young people by Gerald Kleba: “The clergy abuse, the scandal of the cover-ups, and the subsequent ‘Protecting God’s Children’ program, which decrees that a priest can never be alone with young people, had made that impossible. No young priest today has a chance for the quality intimacy that makes celibacy worthwhile and compelling, because his life will have to be spent at arm’s length from the very youngsters who are the most in need.”

Everything I Can Do by Joey Kane: “God loves me because God made me. He made me just the way I am, and he loves me just the way I am. Because I have a good sense of humor, people feel more comfortable around me. Sometimes someone in my class says that he feels embarrassed to be around me. On the other hand, this same person asked me to sit at his table. This is a good example of the way it should be. I should be treated as if I don’t have Down syndrome. In fact, I do not even think of Down syndrome as being a disability, but many people think it is.”

A Better Life by Matt Kane: “Without diversity our world would be stagnant and our thoughts without purpose, for it is often through our differences that we are able to enrich the lives of those around us. While it is true that my parents’ act of social justice saved the life of only one person, it served to transform the lives of countless people in my community, whose world would be a little less bright, less full, were it not for Joey.”

Food stamps work, so why are we cutting them? by Melinda Henneberger: “Responding to poverty by paring back nutrition programs is like answering a rise in diabetes by slashing insulin production. And as Pete Gallego (D-Tex.) argued, almost all of the recipients are either children or elderly.”

A Free Miracle Food! by Nicholas Kristof: “The latest nutritional survey from The Lancet estimates that suboptimal breast-feeding claims the lives of 804,000 children annually. That’s more than the World Health Organization’s estimate of malaria deaths each year…if we want to save hundreds of thousands of lives, maybe a step forward is to offer more support to moms in poor counties trying to nurse their babies. ”