Top Quotes from the State of the Union

Last night’s State of the Union touched on many issues that are connected to achieving the common good. Check out some of the top quotes below.

On creating a more just economy:

“Average wages have barely budged.  Inequality has deepened.  Upward mobility has stalled.  The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead.  And too many still aren’t working at all.  Our job is to reverse these trends.”

“This Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.”

“Give America a raise.” (Encouraging Congress to lift the minimum wage to $10.10)

“I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt.” (A huge issue for millennials)

“Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

“Let’s work together to strengthen the [Earned Income Tax Credit], reward work, and help more Americans get ahead.”

“A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.” (Important pro-family policies and matters of justice.)

On the need for comprehensive immigration reform:

“It is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system.”

On the need for increased investment in early education:

“Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old.  As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight.”

On one of the great breakthroughs in recent decades:

“Because of [the Affordable Care Act], no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman.”

On the true nature of democracy:

“It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.”

On the need for action to end the epidemic of gun violence:

“Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day.”

On freedom and democracy in Ukraine:

“In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and have a say in their country’s future.”

And two quotes that would be great if they were accurate:

“We believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.” (Age is noticeably absent. Unborn children are human beings. It is a scientific fact.)

“We will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve – a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear.” (Now we just need a policy that matches this rhetoric.)


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Attacks on religion, liberty by Robert P. George  and Katrina Lantos Swett: “It is both ironic and tragic that in this season of universal goodwill the Christian communities of the ancient Biblical lands should find themselves in grave danger. Let us stand in solidarity with them today, and let us rededicate ourselves to the cause of protecting the religious liberty of men and women everywhere.”

Which Policies Reduce Income Inequality? by Laura Tyson: “President Obama has made significant progress combating income inequality. Under his leadership, the federal income tax system has become more progressive, and Obamacare is the most progressive social-insurance program since Medicare and Medicaid began in 1965. But there is far more to do. Raising the minimum wage is the right next step.”

The Church in 2014 by Michael Sean Winters: “The pope will continue his focus on the poor and challenge those of us in the affluent West to re-think our assumptions about economics and the good life, and he will continue to articulate this concern as key to evangelization. And, I suspect he will continue to tone down the culture wars. The difference in 2014 is that while last year we had symbolic and rhetorical steps in this direction, in 2014 we will see concrete acts and decisions, putting structural, organization flesh on his priorities.”

Changed, Not Ended by Julia Walsh: “I am not worried about changes in religious life; I am excited. I trust that God is up to something amazingly good. I believe that God is helping religious life evolve to meet the changing needs of society. I pray that we will have the courage and freedom to let go of anything that slows us from moving into God’s hope-filled future. I am glad I will be with sisters, strengthened by the legacies, traditions and prayers of our elders. Thank God, by grace, we are in this together.”

In China, one in five children live in rural villages without their parents by Washington Post: “More than 61 million children — about one-fifth of the kids in China — live in villages without their parents. Most are the offspring of peasants who have flocked to cities in one of the largest migrations in human history.”

Yes, You Should Talk Politics With Your Family by Anna Sutherland: “Family life is not always peaceful, but in a world of instant gratification and echo chambers, it’s a healthy check on our self-centeredness, our egos, and our confidence in our own ideas.”

Archbishop Kurtz on the new pope by Greg Hillis: “When it comes to the implications of Pope Francis’ message for himself, Archbishop Kurtz hears the pope saying to him and to all clergy: ‘Don’t become distant from the people you serve. Find ways to hear people, to visit people… The Holy Father is not asking us to see the person from a distance. He’s asking us to be close up.’ And indeed, the archbishop said, it is this accompanying of the person genuinely and lovingly that has to come before all else, because ‘if there is not that attempt to seek to accompany, then there will be no credibility.’”

Syria’s children suffer, and the world just shrugs by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: “The world has devoted a great deal of diplomatic energy to securing Syria’s chemical weapons. It has yet to do the same for securing Syria’s children.”

Out of jobs, out of benefits, out of luck by David Frum: “People who can’t work still must eat. Americans in distress have a claim on the rest of the nation. Extend unemployment insurance. Sustain food stamps. While we’re looking for a new deal, at least quit deluding ourselves that the old deal is still operable. It’s not. It has passed on, from everywhere except our increasingly outdated memories.”

The resurgent progressives by EJ Dionne: “You might summarize the revived left’s basic gripe with this question: Why was it so much easier to spend public money on rescuing financial institutions than on rescuing families caught in a cycle of unemployment, collapsing incomes and foreclosures?”

Listening to the Founding Fathers by Michael Gerson: “The broad purposes of the modern state — promoting equal opportunity, providing for the poor and elderly — are valid within our constitutional order. But these roles are often carried out in antiquated, failing systems. The conservative challenge is to accept a commitment to the public good while providing a distinctly conservative vision of effective, modest, modern government.”

States make moves toward paid family leave by Washington Post: “The moves on the state level, advocates say, are a sign that people are tired of waiting for Congress to act to bring workplace laws dating to the 1930s, when a majority of mothers were at home, in line with a modern workforce, in which a majority of mothers work.”

Rocky Mountain High? by CNS: “Denver Police Chief Robert White said in late December that his staff will not actively enforce bans on recreational smoking in public, adding to some parents’ fears that the murky situation will become a legal free-for-all.”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

The power of Christmas by Michael Gerson: “But Christian influence is not expressed in the grasping struggle for legal rights or political standing. It is found in demonstrating the radical values of the incarnation: Identifying with the vulnerable and dependent. Living for others. Trusting that hope, in the end, is more powerful than cunning or coercion.”

Can Muslim lands learn to tolerate Christianity? by Michael Gerson: “Securing institutional respect for minority rights is particularly difficult in transitioning societies, as we’ve recently seen. But clinging to authoritarianism further hollows out civil society, making the results even more chaotic and dangerous when a dictator falls.”

Holocaust History, as Told by a Survivor by NY Times: “Survivors’ stories, like the ones Mr. Schwartz recently told at the Martinum Gymnasium in Emsdetten, are especially important for younger generations who feel increasingly detached from the crimes of their forebears, educators say. Firsthand accounts provide an emotional link to the atrocities that other forms of memorialization simply cannot duplicate.”

Paternity Leave: Why Dads Going Home With Baby is Awesome for All by Hillary Crosley: “Lengthy dual maternity and paternity leave is also helpful to women in the workplace because if both genders are coming home for baby, it reverses the idea that women are expendable and the only ones that can ‘afford’ maternity leave. Paternity leave also puts women on more equal footing at home and in the office because the maternity/paternity leave is no longer gendered, but rather just something that ‘parents’ do.”

Central African Republic needs international help by Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Omar Kabine Layama: “We believe the most effective way to stop the killing is for the swift authorization of a U.N. peacekeeping force, which would have the resources to adequately protect our civilians. The United Nations should urgently move to approve and dispatch such a force. U.S. support for this force will be vital.”

Savings and Internal Lending Communities in Rwanda by Kerry Weber, America: “In the Rugango Parish in the Butare diocese of Rwanda, approximately 30 youth and young adults between the ages of 10 and 25 participate in a Savings and Internal Lending Community, a program introduced by Catholic Relief Services.”

Community Healing and Reconciliation in Rwanda by Kerry Weber, America: “Between 2008-2012, Catholic Relief Services worked with the people of the Rugango Parish and the diocese to create a Community Healing and Reconciliation Program, which fostered discussion and forgiveness among people of the community.”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Family values hypocrisy by EJ Dionne: “Politicians talk about family values but do almost nothing to help families. They talk about parental responsibility but do almost nothing to help parents. They talk about self-sufficiency but do precious little to make self-sufficiency a reality for those who must struggle hardest to achieve it.”

Ideas From a Manger By Ross Douthat: “The secular picture, meanwhile, seems to have the rigor of the scientific method behind it. But it actually suffers from a deeper intellectual incoherence than either of its rivals, because its cosmology does not harmonize at all with its moral picture.”

The Case for Accomodating Nursing Mothers by Beth Haile: “Women who want to nurse shouldn’t feel like they are sacrificing their careers or a robust feminism if they choose to do so.”

Preparing a generation of ‘Francis bishops’ by John Allen, NCR: “If those postulates are correct, we can draw some early conclusions about what a ‘Francis bishop’ looks like — ideological moderates with the broad support of their fellow bishops and a real commitment to the social Gospel.”

Love my neighbour as myself? I don’t think so by Mathew Block, First Things: “The idea that poverty is someone else’s concern—that I bear no personal responsibility in caring for my neighbours—is a regrettable consequence of self-centered North American individualism: If it doesn’t impact me directly, then it’s not my problem.”

New Delhi: archbishop, priests and nuns arrested during peaceful demonstration by Asia News: “Police in New Delhi arrested Archbishop Anil JT Couto, as well as priests and nuns from his diocese, during a peaceful march for the rights of Dalit Christians and Muslims.”

The Bipartisan Pre-K Push by Conor Williams: “The debate over public early childhood programs isn’t going away anytime soon, so we owe it to ourselves to make sure that expansions of these programs are designed with both kids and their parents in mind.”

In Remembrance: Reading the Christmas Letters of Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941-2013) by John D. Carlson, Religion & Politics: “Elshtain’s Augustinian preoccupation with the limits of politics necessarily implies that there are other heights and hopes, other surges and swells, of human life that no polity can create—and that only morally deficient polities seek to destroy. What is so theologically revealing about the limits of politics is the capacious room left open for so much else: for life’s abundant ‘goodness that overflows the boundaries of the self and invites all to join in.’”

Eating Salt Together: The Real Life of a Home by John A. Cuddeback, Family Studies: “Home—the very word should resonate with feelings of warmth, belonging, togetherness. It should be the most reliable place of real personal intimacy, the surest antidote to the great bane of human existence: loneliness. But more and more, it is not.”

Capitol Exhortations by John Carr: “House Republicans are seeking major cuts in food stamps over reductions in agricultural subsidies, practicing priority for the rich and well-connected. Until the pope’s challenge, Washington had been silent about pervasive poverty and its structural causes, with apparent acceptance of high joblessness, stagnant wages and destructive pressures on families.”

Catholic education reflects shift from North to South by John Allen: “Of the 1.2 billion baptized Roman Catholics on the planet today, two-thirds live outside the West, a share that’s expected to reach three-quarters by mid-century. While Catholic populations in Europe decline, sub-Saharan Africa’s Catholics shot up by almost 7,000 percent in the 20th century and continue to grow. According to Vatican statistics released Thursday, the same broad trajectory runs through the enterprise of Catholic education.”

Political Strife in South Sudan Sets Off Ethnic Violence by NY Times: “After President Salva Kiir announced that his government had headed off a coup attempt by his former vice president last week, South Sudan was tossed into uncertainty and upheaval. Hundreds are believed to have been killed in the capital, Juba, with thousands more fleeing into the bush to escape the violence.”

Response to Samuel Gregg’s criticism of Evangelii Gaudium by Morning’s Minion, Vox Nova: “A whole political movement continues push for tax cuts for the rich combined with a weaker social safety net for the poor. The only justification for these policies is that they will “trickle down” in the form of growth and jobs. They have not. They never will. They lead to an economy of exclusion. The pope understands all of this, but I’m not sure Samuel Gregg does.”

Advent, Counterculture, and Prayer by Jennifer Owens, Daily Theology: “As a culture, we suffer from this consumerism, this compulsive desire to acquire more than we need that leaves the economically poor without enough and, ironically, leaves us feeling empty, the more we acquire.  It comes from a place of insecurity, of fear that we will not be seen as ‘good enough’ in the eyes of the world if we don’t have the right ‘stuff’ in life.”


The Pope and the President Tackle Inequality and How We Should Respond

President Obama spoke at length about the economy last Wednesday, focusing in particular on the disturbing economic inequality that exists today in the United States. He described:

“a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead. I believe this is the defining challenge of our time: making sure our economy works for every working American. That’s why I ran for president. It was the center of last year’s campaign. It drives everything I do in this office.”

President Obama turned many Catholic heads by quoting another world leader who has decried the injustice of deep economic inequality, Pope Francis:

“Some of you may have seen just last week, the pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length. How could it be, he wrote, that it’s not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country, and it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.”

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis addressed economic inequality in the strongest of terms, saying, “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality.” This language directly confronts those who downplay the morally binding nature of Church teaching on social and economic justice, often to support economically libertarian political candidates and movements.

The pope attacked economic systems that are built on social Darwinism, where human persons are objectified and used instrumentally. Pope Francis said, “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.” He warned, “Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘throw away’ culture which is now spreading.” He cautioned, “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market.”

This unjust foundation creates economic conditions that are dehumanizing and depersonalizing, including long-term unemployment, a lack of social mobility, an inadequate social safety net, and a pervasive nihilism among those who are powerless in the system. The US is facing many of the problems Pope Francis is describing, in part because of how many American politicians and citizens have accepted trickle-down economics and maintain a “crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system,” just as Pope Francis describes.

Their deification of the market has led them to reject the proper role of the government in regulating the market and redistributing wealth in order to promote the common good and human flourishing. They have come to believe that the market determines human rights, instead of human dignity and our common  identity as children of God, rejecting the universal destination of goods which demands that each person must have access to the level of well-being necessary to his or her full development (which Pope Francis reminds us comes before private property). As Pope Francis notes, “Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God.” And this rejection often comes from those who proudly tout their membership in the Church. They wrongly think that charitable donations are a substitute for justice.

We can only hope that other American politicians, especially Catholic politicians, will listen to the wisdom the pope has to offer on economic justice. It is encouraging to hear President Obama praise the pope’s wisdom on economic inequality and see him focus on increasing economic justice in our country. But President Obama too should reflect on all that the pope is describing, particularly what it means to address global economic injustice, and even on issues where the two disagree, such as abortion. The program outlined by President Obama would be a good start toward alleviating some of the injustices described by Pope Francis, but far more is needed to achieve real progress toward the global common good. Both Republicans and Democrats who are authentically driven by Catholic teaching and motivated by Pope Francis’ vision have a great deal of work to do in reshaping the agenda of each of their political parties to more closely reflect a commitment to the common good.

Yet the initial reactions to both President Obama’s speech and Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation have not been promising. Congressional Republicans have not only rejected President Obama’s proposals, as we might expect in this era of hyperpartisanship, they have also failed to accept the basic economic realities that the President is hoping to address and that the pope has described. This is not surprising, since libertarianism has increasingly infected the party’s approach to governance.

What may have surprised some (though neither me, nor my wife, who predicted it) is the strong backlash against the pope’s words from the political right in the United States. Some have offered modest critiques, arguing the pope underestimates the benefits of capitalism and free markets and overestimates the efficacy of government action. Others have tried to twist the pope’s words to match their ideological agenda or have simply ignored the heart of his message, engaging in a more covert form of resistance.

Others, however, have harshly attacked Pope Francis, accusing him of Marxism and “ripping America.” The pope, like President Obama, is a threat to their delusions and designs—to their imagined vision of what America was, distorted vision of what it is, and disturbing vision of what is should be.

While these free market absolutists are incorrectly describing the pope’s mentality and message, they are right to recognize the fundamental incompatibility of economic libertarianism and the pope’s vision. Catholic teaching cannot be reconciled with a utopian faith in the market (or even a partial faith in the deifying myths of the market). The critics’ indifference to disturbing levels of economic inequality and injustice cannot coexist with an informed conscience. There is a fundamental divide that exists.

Some criticisms of the pope have exposed the myths that prevent far too many on the right, including many Catholic politicians, from embracing huge segments of Catholic teaching, particularly when it comes to economic and social justice.

Some critics of the pope have described a fanciful fairy tale in which unfettered capitalism in the US produced robust economic growth and falling levels of poverty, all thanks to the free market’s freedom from government. In his speech, President Obama described the various government actions throughout American history—from Abraham Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson—that actually allowed for progress in creating a larger middle class and increased opportunity and security for more Americans while reducing poverty.

Not all government action has had a positive impact, but it is nevertheless essential, as Pope Francis made perfectly clear. For some critics, economic redistribution is theft, but for Francis, as his predecessor stated even more explicitly, it is an ethical obligation. These two views cannot be reconciled. American Catholics must choose: the Catholic position or the free market fundamentalist position. Only one is the correct moral view. (And for those who accept the Catholic view, a just redistribution is required, not a minimal redistribution that leaves many behind.)

President Obama recognizes the duties that governments have in reducing unjust inequalities and other obstacles to economic justice, which is why he said that “government can’t stand on the sidelines in our efforts, because government is us. It can and should reflect our deepest values and commitments.” President Obama spoke about “building an economy that grows for everybody.” Here we see a commitment to what Pope Francis has described as “the primacy of the human person.”

Many right-wing American politicians and pundits do not just distort the past, but are also blind to the reality of the present. They cling to the myth that the US is the most economically mobile society on the planet. President Obama described the reality:

“We’ve seen diminished levels of upward mobility in recent years. A child born in the top 20 percent has about a 2-in-3 chance of staying at or near the top. A child born into the bottom 20 percent has a less than 1-in-20 shot at making it to the top. He’s 10 times likelier to stay where he is.”

Here we see those unjust conditions the pope has condemned. Real opportunity is absent. Hopelessness and nihilism are far too common, the results of a broken economic system. We are called to change this status quo. Fixing it requires creativity and for all of us to examine our assumptions and look beyond tired old formulas. But it all starts with admitting that there is a problem.

President Obama criticized the notion that the social safety net is acting more like a hammock. This cuts to the heart of the major political debate dividing the country. The reference is to free market fundamentalist Paul Ryan, the Ayn Rand-inspired budget point man for the GOP, who has led the Republican Party’s efforts to slash essential government programs that assist the most vulnerable. President Obama explained the importance of the safety net that Ryan, who is Catholic, mocked:

“Without Social Security nearly half of seniors would be living in poverty — half. Today fewer than 1 in 10 do. Before Medicare, only half of all seniors had some form of health insurance. Today virtually all do. And because we’ve strengthened that safety net and expanded pro-work and pro- family tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit, a recent study found that the poverty rate has fallen by 40 percent since the 1960s.”

Paul Ryan is hoping to repair his image, which was badly damaged in the 2012 campaign by his serial dishonesty and plutocratic mentality. His well-cultivated image of seriousness and sincerity evaporated, as the real Paul Ryan was exposed.

Instead of pushing his old preferences and trying to repackage these once again, as he did when adopted the language of subsidiarity (a concept he completely distorted) and cherry-picked statements from previous popes, Paul Ryan would be well served to look at the facts described by President Obama and the vision outlined by Pope Francis. He can side with the pope’s critics or accept the teachings of the Catholic Church. He can’t do both.

This is the choice faced by countless Catholic Republicans and conservatives. We can only hope that some will read Evangelli Gaudium and side with the pope over Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps then we might see the beginning of an extraordinary change in American politics—the emergence of a compassionate conservatism that rejects free market fundamentalism and anti-government libertarianism in favor of a commitment to government action to reduce economic inequality, increase social mobility, and achieve greater economic justice and the common good.

We need a better Republican party for the sake of the common good. We need one that is serious about addressing poverty and economic injustice. We need to see one that more closely resembles the Christian Democratic parties of the center-right that have been influenced by the Church’s personalism.

Will this change occur among those elected in Congress today? It will not. It may require changes to the way campaigns are financed, districts are drawn, and who can vote in party primaries. But ultimately it requires an emerging grassroots of Catholics (and others) who are committed to the common good and transforming their party. I hope that some millennials will embrace Pope Francis’ message and take up this challenge.

Those of us in the Democratic Party too must make sure that we have not been seduced by the status quo assumptions of our party or the libertarianism of the left. Catholics in the Democratic Party must make sure that the party’s focus on the middle class does not mean a neglect of the poor. It’s not enough to just oppose draconian cuts to essential programs; a positive agenda that allows everyone to reach their full potential as persons is also required. Both the government and civil society need to find ways to empower those who have been excluded from authentic participation in our economy and society by structural injustice. Spending more on programs that already exist will not be enough; an innovative, progressive agenda is required.

And Democrats must recognize that increasing social mobility and opportunity, along with reducing poverty and economic inequality, require not only changes in our government’s economic policies, but also changes in our personal behavior and the strength of our nation’s families. Economic injustice leads to family breakdown, but family breakdown also brings economic maladies in its wake. What is needed is a pro-family agenda, which includes efforts to reduce the economic burden on struggling families.

Finally, Catholic Democrats need to press the party to commit to protecting the most vulnerable people on the planet, from unborn children to those living in desperate poverty abroad to those threatened by the specter of mass atrocities. Increasing American efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals would be an excellent step.

Pope Francis challenges all of us to examine ourselves as persons, and this requires each and every one of us to examine ourselves as citizens and political actors. It is time to take up that challenge.


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Can savage capitalism be humanized? Taking up the challenge of Pope Francis by Michael Stafford, ABC Religion and Ethics: “If we do not make the moral and ethical case against savage capitalism, no one will. If we do not put forward an alternative vision of an ethical economy that meets the legitimate desires and aspirations of human beings, and a politics that is representative of and responsive to our interests, no one will. If we do not remind everyone that government exists to further the common good, then it will be forgotten, or ignored. Pope Francis’s critique of savage capitalism and the dictatorship of money have created an opening for us. It is an opportunity that must be seized.”

Pope Francis and Economic Inequality: Five Essential Quotes by Bishop Robert McElroy: “Too much money is in the hands of too few, while the vast majority struggle to get by. This is a direct result of ideologies that put the free market before everything else, including the duty of the government to ensure that people’s basic needs are met. The Holy Father says that money must serve, not rule.”

The Culture of Death in Oklahoma by Michael Sean Winters, NCR: “All violence is rooted in indifference, and all violence can only be overcome, finally, by encounter.”

Crushed by the Cost of Child Care By Alissa Quart, NY Times: “The difficulty of obtaining good, affordable day care is well known as a problem afflicting the working poor. But increasingly, middle- and upper-middle-class parents are finding that day care is hard to find or access and that even when it is available it is startlingly costly.”

Homeboy Industries’ business model: A way out of gang life by Cindy Rodriguez and Jaqueline Hurtado, CNN: “There are few people who can say their job saved them, but former gang member Rafael Jimenez says he’s one of them…The 44-year-old works as a baker at Homeboy Bakery, part of Homeboy Industries in East Los Angeles, the largest gang rehabilitation program in the country. The program was founded in 1992 by Father Greg Boyle, who has counseled and mentored thousands of gang members.”

Samantha Power on the Duty to Intervene by Jeffrey Goldberg: “…the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria must be driving Power mad with frustration — frustration, of course, with Bashar al-Assad’s killer regime and frustration with the international community (so-called), in particular the Russians, who will do almost anything to protect the regime from censure, but also frustration with those in the administration who have spent the past two years looking for ways to distance the U.S. from the horror.”

Pope Francis’ guide to avoiding a ‘throwaway culture’ by Mary DeTurris Poust: “Since the start of his papacy, Pope Francis has focused on the many different facets of this throwaway perspective, challenging Catholics and the larger world to shun the pop-culture quest for more, more, more in favor of solidarity — with creation, with our poorer brothers and sisters, with the weak, the elderly and the most vulnerable.”

Pope Francis: neither a liberal nor a conservative, but a radical Christian with a heroic gospel by Tim Stanley: “But not only do I see a correlation between Bloy’s theology and Francis’ but I see in both the key to renewal of the Church’s mission. Benedict was always asking us to turn to Christ, whereas Bloy and Francis are asking us to imitate him.”

Pope Francis & Encounter by Michael Sean Winters, NCR: “An emerging, dominant theme of this pontificate is the word “encounter.” Pope Francis uses it repeatedly, urging Catholics to go out to the peripheries, especially to the poor and the marginalized, and encounter other persons. Among other things, this emphasis on encounter shows the new pope’s deep indebtedness to Don Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communione e Liberazione. Encounter is a central theme of his writings and a central charism of the movement he started.”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

A Policy of Rape Continues by Nicholas Kristof: “We’re at the 10-year-anniversary of the beginning of the genocide in Darfur, yet, instead of subsiding, it has been amplified this year. Just in the first five months of 2013, according to the United Nations, another 300,000 people in Darfur have been driven from their homes — and untold numbers killed or raped.”

Pro-Baby, but Stingy With Money to Support Them by Eduardo Porter: “But though American families may have adapted better than others to women’s march into the labor force, the United States lags far behind in providing the government support that makes it easier for many couples to start a family.”

Pope decries ‘dealers of death,’ opposes drug legalization by John Allen: “In his most pointed bit of political commentary since arriving in Brazil two days ago, Pope Francis this afternoon blasted narco-traffickers as ‘dealers of death’ and came out against trends in Latin America towards the legalization of drugs.”

Vatican Radio: Homily at Marian Shrine at Aparecida: “It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure. Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols.”

What Will Happen to the Other 367,000 Babies Born Monday?  by Amanda Marcotte: “Of the nonroyal 367,000 babies born Monday, UNICEF estimates that 24,000 will probably not live to see their fifth birthday. Most of the 24,000 children under  5 we lose a day around the world die from preventable causes: diarrhea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth.”

Pope Francis & Springtime by Michael Sean Winters: “It is this quality of Pope Francis, his simplicity, his ability to sense what ordinary people are thinking and feeling and to speak to them in ways that they understand, this is what has created the sense that it is springtime for the Church again. It is his awareness that if you are going to speak about poverty, it is best not to be spotted in a Mercedes, sit on a golden throne, and dress up in Baroque, jewel-laden attire.”

Reweaving the circle of protection by Kathy Saile and Galen Carey: “It’s been more than 140 days since sequestration went into effect, cutting $84 billion across the board from government programs this year. It may be difficult to comprehend the effects of that number. However, it is not difficult to comprehend that a child who is undernourished this year could have learning difficulties for the rest of her life—which will hurt her ability to earn enough money to provide for herself and her future children. It is not difficult to comprehend that a father in South Sudan who needlessly dies from AIDS this year because of reduced access to treatments will leave his family in dire straits. It is not difficult to comprehend that an elderly person on a fixed income in the Midwest will sit hungry and cold in a dingy apartment next winter because of cuts to essential assistance.”

Pope Francis: Arrival Speech in Rio, Vatican Radio: “Our generation will show that it can realize the promise found in each young person when we know how to give them space; how to create the material and spiritual conditions for their full development; how to give them a solid basis on which to build their lives; how to guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be; how to pass on to them lasting values that make life worth living; how to give them a transcendent horizon for their thirst for authentic happiness and their creativity for the good; how to give them the legacy of a world worthy of human life; and how to awaken in them their greatest potential as builders of their own destiny, sharing responsibility for the future of everyone.”

Pope Francis to Brazilian Bishops: Are we still a Church capable of warming hearts?: “A relentless process of globalization, an often uncontrolled process of urbanization, have promised great things. Many people have been captivated by the potential of globalization, which of course does contain positive elements. But many also completely overlook its darker side: the loss of a sense of life’s meaning, personal dissolution, a loss of the experience of belonging to any “nest” whatsoever, subtle but relentless violence, the inner fragmentation and breakup of families, loneliness and abandonment, divisions, and the inability to love, to forgive, to understand, the inner poison which makes life a hell, the need for affection because of feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness, the failed attempt to find an answer in drugs, alcohol, and sex, which only become further prisons.”

State Department seeks to broaden religious reach by Elizabeth Tenety, Washington Post: “The State Department announced this week the creation of its first office dedicated to outreach to the global faith community and religious leaders. The project, born in part of recommendations by its working group on religion and foreign policy, will be headed by Shaun Casey, a United Methodist member and professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington.”

Why millennials are leaving the church by Rachel Held Evans, CNN Belief Blog: “Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances. In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church…”

Pope Francis: “Go, do not be afraid, and serve”: “Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.”