Is There Room for Pro-Life Feminists at the Women’s March on Washington?

Emma Green reports:

Pro-life women are headed to D.C. Yes, they’ll turn out for the annual March for Life, which is coming up on January 27. But one week earlier, as many as a few hundred pro-lifers are planning to attend the Women’s March on Washington, which has been billed as feminist counterprogramming to the inauguration….

Many pro-life women felt just as outraged as pro-choice women about Donald Trump’s conduct and comments, including the revelation that he once bragged about groping women without their permission. For their part, the organizers say pro-lifers will be welcome to march on January 21st. A pro-life group based in Texas, New Wave Feminists, was granted partnership status on Friday. “Intersectional feminism is the future of feminism and of this movement,” said Bob Bland, one of the event’s co-chairs. “We must not just talk about feminism as one issue, like access to reproductive care.”

But…

On Monday afternoon, after the publication of this article, the Women’s March organizers removed the New Wave Feminists from their website and list of partners. “The Women’s March’s platform is pro-choice and that has been our stance from day one,” the organizers said in a statement. “The anti-choice organization in question is not a partner of the Women’s March on Washington. We apologize for this error.”

Some pro-life feminists and progressives are going anyway. Aimee Murphy of Life Matters Journal, who we have interviewed here at Millennial, writes:

Note to the women’s movement: It is possible to be both pro-life and a feminist. In fact, it is possible to be pro-life and a feminist and opposed to President-elect Donald Trump. It’s too bad the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington refuse to accept this fact. This week march organizers indicated that women like me are not welcome in their ranks….

Like most feminists, we pro-life feminists at Life Matters Journal were troubled by Trump’s election. His hateful rhetoric, xenophobic policies and misogynistic behavior indicate a terrifying disregard for the inherent dignity of human beings — women especially. Our foundational philosophy is the intrinsic value of humanity, regardless of gender, circumstance, age, ability, sexuality, race, religion. We wanted to make clear that Trump doesn’t speak for us: He is not and should not be the face of the pro-life movement….

But we will go. We will march. Planned Parenthood does not own women’s rights. The first-wave feminists understood that abortion is killing and that it is a tool of the patriarchy. We stand by the example of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and many others who upheld the dignity of pre-born children and fought discrimination against women.

We will fight against the modern popular feminist paradigm that says that to support women’s rights, we must support the violent act that is abortion. We will fight against the culture that understands pregnancy as a disease condition and sees children not for their inherent dignity, but for how wanted and able they are. We will stand up against misogyny, rape culture, sexual assault, sexism, racism, ageism, ableism and all discrimination. And yes, because of that, we will stand up against abortion.

Another Washington Post op-ed also highlights the disconnect between the march’s organizers and first-wave feminists:

Those of us at the Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, Mass., are saddened that the museum honoring this American iconic heroine and tireless worker for women’s rights will not be among the organizations marching in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Some would, perhaps, think that Anthony family descendants and board members of the great suffragist birthplace would be leading the Women’s March, especially as the centennial marking the Susan B. Anthony Amendment for women’s suffrage has begun in some states. But they would be wrong: Anthony would never have joined a march in favor of abortion access.

The unifying theme of Susan Brownell Anthony’s life was to speak up for those without a voice. Anthony fought for temperance, the abolition of slavery and especially the enfranchisement of women. She also spoke up for the voiceless child in utero, opposing Restellism, the term that Anthony’s newspaper and others at that time used for abortion. It’s easy to chalk up Anthony’s (and other early feminists’) opposition to abortion as a relic of their day and age. But these women were progressive and independent; they did not oppose abortion because they were conditioned to, but because they believed every human life has inherent and equal value, no matter their age, skin color or sex….

Many women and women’s groups who will march next week have good reason to do so, and they should be respected. However, we ask that abortion rights not be misappropriated to Anthony and the critical work of the suffrage movement. Anthony and many of her fellow suffragists were anti-abortion feminists, the contemporary existence of which even Hillary Clinton has acknowledged. If the Women’s March truly wants to honor the suffragist legacy, they will acknowledge their existence, too.

You can read more about pro-life feminism here and watch America Media’s video on millennial pro-life women, which includes pro-life feminists, here.


Pope Francis the Feminist?

For a candidate who is often criticized for dodging controversial topics, Hillary Clinton gave a clear verdict on a thorny topic this week: “of course you can be a feminist and be pro-life,” she said on ABC’s The View on Monday.

The statement might have sent chills up the back of Hillary’s supporters at Emily’s List and NARAL, but such a full-throated defense of the pro-life feminist tradition was welcomed by many.

If Hillary Clinton thinks pro-lifers can be feminists, one has to wonder if the Democratic frontrunner would be willing to say the same about the Pope Francis, the dynamic Argentinian leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

It’s hard to argue otherwise after Pope Francis’ latest groundbreaking document, Amoris Laetitia (Latin for Joy of Love) was released yesterday. In the roughly 260-page exhortation, Francis called on the Church take up a new way of relating to modern men and women, particularly in regards to family life, love, and human sexuality.

The headlines zeroed in on the pope’s statements regarding divorced and remarried couples and his latest commentary regarding the LGBT community. Below the radar, however, were Francis’ words on the progress of women’s rights:

Even though significant advances have been made in the recognition of women’s rights and their participation in public life, in some countries much remains to be done to promote these rights. Unacceptable customs still need to be eliminated.

However, even bolder were Francis’ strong condemnations of those who blame today’s societal woes on the women’s liberation movement:

There are those who believe that many of today’s problems have arisen because of feminine emancipation. This argument, however, is not valid, “it is false, untrue, a form of male chauvinism.” The equal dignity of men and women makes us rejoice to see old forms of discrimination disappear, and within families there is a growing reciprocity. If certain forms of feminism have arisen which we must consider inadequate, we must nonetheless see in the women’s movement the working of the Spirit for a clearer recognition of the dignity and rights of women.

Ironically, some of the strongest criticisms of the feminist movement have come from Catholic leaders. As theologian Megan McCabe notes:

Catholic teaching on gender upholds gender complementarity, which maintains that men and women have distinct roles, even characteristics, grounded in their biological sex. For example, St. John Paul II’s “Mulieris Dignitatem” framed femininity as linked to motherhood, which is necessarily compassionate and nurturing, regardless of whether or not an individual woman is actually a mother. One consequence has been that mainstream feminism has often been viewed as suspect in Catholic circles because it seeks to modify gendered roles in families and is seen at the popular level to be synonymous with sexual liberation. While Pope Francis does not reject complementarity, he begins to move this conversation in a new direction.

While Francis rejects that idea that gender is the result of social construction alone, he doesn’t mince his words against gender stereotypes and their limiting nature, writing, “masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories.”

He continues:

It is possible, for example, that a husband’s way of being masculine can be flexibly adapted to the wife’s work schedule. Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make him any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or cause for shame. Children have to be helped to accept as normal such healthy “exchanges” which do not diminish the dignity of the father figure. A rigid approach turns into an overaccentuation of the masculine or feminine, and does not help children and young people to appreciate the genuine reciprocity incarnate in the real conditions of matrimony. Such rigidity, in turn, can hinder the development of an individual’s abilities, to the point of leading him or her to think, for example, that it is not really masculine to cultivate art or dance, or not very feminine to exercise leadership. This, thank God, has changed, but in some places deficient notions still condition the legitimate freedom and hamper the authentic development.

It’s hard to overstate what a monumental shift this is for the Catholic Church on issues on sex and gender identity. This is altogether different in kind from what Church leaders were teaching just a few years ago.

But this too is a remarkable shift for Pope Francis. Though he’s considered a pioneer on many issues regarding faith and morality, Francis has faced harsh criticism for some of his clumsy statements on women.

As journalist David Gibson noted in December 2014, “When he speaks about women, Francis can sound a lot like the (almost) 78-year-old Argentine churchman that he is, using analogies that sound alternately condescending and impolitic, even if well-intentioned.” One of his worst moments was earlier that month, when he tried to compliment leading female theologians by calling them “strawberries on the cake.”

Francis has said the Church must enter a period of discernment regarding how it relates to issues of family life, love, and sex. Clearly Francis has learned a lot in his discernment.

Thank God for that.


The Case for a Catholic Feminism

Millennial editor Robert Christian has a new article in Church Life Journal. He writes:

For some Catholics, feminism is the other f-word. It is seen as an ideology that is antithetical to the core values of the Catholic faith. Certainly among those who are more traditional, there are a myriad of reasons for this aversion, including a commitment to traditional gender roles and a general skepticism toward egalitarianism. But even among progressives, there is sometimes discomfort with the word. In speaking with some leading Catholic women in the pro-life progressive movement, I have seen a reticence to embrace the word and articulate a pro-life feminist vision. It was seen as inextricably linked to the movement for “abortion on demand and without apology.”

But in many ways, the divide over the term is generational. For Millennial Catholics, there is no shortage of young women (and men) who freely and happily identify as feminists. The reason is perhaps that they are neither bogged down by the baggage of past skirmishes, nor inclined to define feminism narrowly and associate it with a particular strand of feminism. Instead, feminism is seen as a belief in the fundamental equality of men and women and a commitment to ensuring that this belief shapes our society and its social structures—politically, culturally, and personally.

Millennial Catholics are poised to embrace a feminism that reflects an authentic commitment to both this belief in equality and the core values of the Catholic faith….

What might this Catholic feminism look like?

It would be personalist. It would be premised on a belief in the fundamental dignity, worth, and equality of every single person…It would be focused on human flourishing. It would be centered on fostering an authentic freedom, in which each person can reach their full intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual development….It would be shaped by a commitment to the common good. Social justice would be the goal and solidarity the driving force.

 


AltFem: Reconciling Faith and Feminism

Last Wednesday, a new online magazine that seeks to reconcile religious faith with feminism had its launch party, featuring three eclectic panels of speakers who offered their own thoughts on the subject. The discussions were fascinating and showed the value of the periodical if it can live up to the potential displayed at the event.

The aim of the magazine, altFem, is to foster a more inclusive feminism that is open to the contributions of women of faith. The launch event featured co-founders Asma Uddin and Ashley McGuire, along with a diverse set of speakers. The discussions were too wide-ranging for me to touch upon everything that was covered. Instead, I will focus on some of the highlights and most interesting points from my own perspective, as a devout Catholic who identifies as a feminist and is deeply interested in the subject.

One of the most interesting points of discussion centered on the idea of empowerment. Author and blogger Eve Tushnet argued that worldly power is problematic for Christians and called for positive conceptions of submission and obedience. She argued that the problem might be not that women lack power but that men lack humility.

Many men do lack humility, but many women are also powerless to use the gifts God has given them to reach their potentials as persons—something that is both unjust and that undermines efforts to promote the common good. This is particularly true of women in countries where girls and women lack access to education and basic legal rights. Feminism necessarily must be about giving these girls and women greater power—in the sense of more control over their lives and their societies, greater economic opportunity and access to education, and, overall, greater support for their basic rights as persons.

In advanced liberal democracies like the United States, there are reasons to be skeptical of an approach to feminism that focuses excessively on power rather than human flourishing, for instance. The first panel was asked if the feminist focus on empowerment is buying into a patriarchal norm. If patriarchy has fostered the radical individualism that prioritizes autonomy, control, consumeristic desires, momentary pleasure, and superficial standards of success over virtue, solidarity, joy, and the common good, then feminists whose views are shaped by radical individualism are perpetuating negative aspects of patriarchy. As someone who sees these bourgeois values as ultimately leading to a vapid, meaningless existence that cannot possibly satisfy the deepest aspirations of men or women, I see far greater value in an alternative or radical feminist approach rather than a liberal one of this nature.

But it seems clear that many women in the United States still would benefit from what we can legitimately call empowerment. This is particularly true of poor and working class women, but it doesn’t end with them. There are still glass ceilings. Women are still underrepresented in positions of power. Too many women are still underpaid for the work they do. From sexual violence to the objectification of women to countless other issues, conditions exist that do not reflect the inherent dignity of women and the fundamental equality of men and women. Part of the solution is certainly to find ways to make men more virtuous and just in their actions. But empowerment remains essential, as it is necessary for greater justice, not simply to satisfy the bourgeois desires of radical individualists.

I must say that I was left deeply uncomfortable with the idea of seeing “submission and obedience” to one’s spouse in a positive light, particularly when talking about wives submitting to their husbands. In some sense, I can understand talk about mutual submission if it is about mutual sacrifice and the sharing of responsibilities (with one spouse deferring to the other on certain matters), but overall I believe the term is too interconnected to unjust gender relations to justify its rehabilitation. If it doesn’t rely on hierarchical notions that (I believe) are incompatible with the fundamental equality of men and women, it can be conveyed using terminology that offers greater clarity. I agreed with Christy Vines and Salma Abugideiri, who described marriage as a partnership. Abugideiri explained that marriage is a mutually loving relationship, with our primary submission being to God.

An important point of discussion was the reality that men and women are delaying marriage. There can be material benefits connected to this, but it also creates challenges for people of faith. One of these challenges is the matter of premarital sex, given the growing distance between puberty and marriage in our society. On this question, Salma Abugideiri, columnist and founding board member of the Peaceful Families Project, framed her response by noting that as people of faith, we teach beliefs that contradict mainstream culture, where instant gratification and self-indulgence are viewed differently. For Muslims, she noted, sex is just one part of the equation, along with other things like praying 5 times a day and avoiding alcohol. She noted that these are challenging norms to pass on, but stressed that it is essential to find ways to navigate these challenges. One thing that helps is to have friends who share those values.

An interesting topic that came up in the second panel, which was moderated by Crystal Corman of World Faiths Development Dialogue, was the inadequacies of faith communities when it comes to speaking to single women. This is a concern that I have seen expressed on a number of occasions by young Catholic women on social media and blogs. Author Susan Katz Miller argued that marriage is neither necessary nor inevitable. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, senior editor at the Federalist, argued that there is a tendency to denigrate the work of single people. Salma Abugideiri spoke about the need for values that show respect for people whether they are married or not and to ensure that people are not alienated either way.

One of my favorite parts of the event was hearing the speakers highlight the importance of women in their respective faith traditions. Christy Vines talked about how important it was for her to hear about the profoundly powerful women at the formation of the Church. Shahed Amanullah, CEO and co-founder of LaunchPosse and former state department senior advisor, talked about Mohammed’s first wife, noting that he worked for her and didn’t have a problem with it. Neylan McBaine, Founder of the Women Project, cited the witness of Mary Magdalene to the resurrection, seeing it as an example of Jesus’ trust in women. Eve Tushnet, meanwhile, cited the Magnificat.

The speakers also highlighted numerous scriptural references that show the compatibility of faith and feminism. Aisha Rahman, executive director of Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, noted the Koranic passage that says that God has given dignity to all the children of Adam. Christy Vines, Executive Director of the Center for Women, Faith, and Leadership with the Institute for Global Engagement, cited St. Paul calling women co-heirs and co-laborers, noting that we all share equally in the rights and benefits of this. She also cited the important passage from St. Paul that defines the universalism at the heart of Christianity: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The final panel, which was moderated by Sarah Pulliam Bailey of Religion News Service, focused on motherhood. Scholar Jamillah Karim stated that in our society, motherhood is not given the respect it should be, while in her faith it is. Writer Melissa Langsam Braunstein also noted that Judaism makes motherhood central, citing the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, rightly noted that feminism should not be framed in terms of man vs. woman or woman vs. child. There was also a critique of consumerism and similar mentalities that can cause parents to value work outside the home and career advancement over parenting.

While I share those concerns about consumerism, the truth is that choosing to place motherhood ahead of career goals is often a luxury that belongs to the wealthy or upper middle class, an angle that I thought merited greater attention (and was raised by a question from the audience). If you are highly intelligent and well-educated, it is easier to “lean in” and “lean out” at different stages than it is for working class parents who want to spend more time with their kids but can’t. Seriously addressing this means supporting government policies that will strengthen families and give parents more flexibility and time with their kids. This means fighting for a living wage; access to quality, affordable childcare; paid leave; and other pro-family policies. Faithful feminists, who are particularly concerned about family life, should be the ones most forcefully pushing for such changes.

The questions from the audience were truly outstanding throughout the event, which I think shows how interested people are in talking about this subject. One of the best asked about feeling a sense of tension between being a good mom and pursuing career goals. The demands and pressures on working mothers are intense and many feel pulled in too many directions. The blurring of lines between the office and home with the internet and smart phones can make working from home easier, but also can create guilt, as working parents often feel like they should be focusing on their children when they are working and vice versa. Some of these dilemmas may be inevitable given the modern economy and contemporary technology, but greater support for parents can help. And men stepping up as real partners in the home would also make a big difference. My impression is that more men are thinking about how to reconcile career goals with the desire to be good dads. This is good and necessary. Millennials seem to have a healthier, less materialistic understanding of work. Perhaps this will translate into marriages that are real partnerships, with dads playing a bigger role as caretakers, something that would advance the feminist cause and strengthen the common good.


Countering the Toxicity of Princess Culture

I used to ask my students what they wanted to be when they grew up and why. The answers were often very revelatory, illuminating what motivated them, what inspired their hopes, and not just what they wanted to be, but who they wanted to be. It often reflected their values or insecurities, sometimes both.

If you ask little girls what they want to be when they grow up, far too many would say “princess.” Peggy Orenstein, the author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, contrasts this with her childhood, when being called a princess “conjured up images of a spoiled, self-centered brat.” The defenders of “princess culture” contend that it is merely a phase that girls will outgrow, but the values this culture promotes are often enduring. And they are toxic.

As Orenstein explains, “What was the first thing that culture told her (daughter) about being a girl? Not that she was competent, strong, creative, or smart but that every girls wants—or should want—to be the Fairest of Them All.” She found this confusing, as “girl power” messages and success stories abound, but the push to make the physical appearance of girls the “epicenter of their identities” has intensified and extended to younger and younger girls. In a study of 3- to 6-year-old girls, nearly half said they worried about being fat, while a third wanted to change a physical attribute.

What are the costs of this connection between identity and physical appearance? Citing the American Psychological Association, Orenstein notes that the focus on appearance and ‘play-sexiness’ can make girls more vulnerable to depression, eating disorders, having a distorted body image, and risky sexual behavior. From a Catholic point of view, we see that these girls become detached from their authentic identity as a unique, invaluable child of God, who is made in God’s image, through a degrading process of self-objectification.

While our culture often celebrates authenticity and “being who you are,” this message is often distorted by consumerist, materialist, sexist, and individualist filters. The result is the glorification of narcissism and individual choice, rather than achieving worthy ends with that liberty. Expressing who you are then centers around the construction, maintenance, and manipulation of one’s superficial identity. Girls (and boys) become alienated from their authentic personalities and distracted from their potential as persons and how they can go about realizing that potential. They define themselves not by their character, but by their shoes, their hair, their popularity, or personal tastes that have little to do with who they are at their core.

Princess culture is the starting point in this process of self-alienation and depersonalization for millions of American girls. What traits do cartoon princesses have that contribute to this? Orenstein writes, “Princesses avoid female bonding. Their goals are to be a saved by a prince, get married, and be taken care of for the rest of their lives. Their value derives largely from their appearance. They are rabid materialists.” Are these the values that parents want to inculcate in their girls? Do they want to teach them that happiness is found in things or the way they look? Do they want them to aspire to a life of idleness? Do they want their girls to treat other girls like rivals rather than persons made in the image of God? Do they want them to believe that a handsome, charming man will suddenly appear and make everything perfect?

For those of us who care about human equality and the common good—who want to see all girls have the chance to reach their full intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual potential as persons—the answer to all of these questions is emphatically no. No to the materialism, no to the helpless mindset, no to the superficiality and self-objectification, and no to a life without meaning and purpose.

Now is it possible to totally inoculate your child from princess culture? No, it’s too endemic. She will be exposed to princesses at some point. But that’s not the end of the world; overzealousness might backfire anyway. The key is to minimize its influence by exposing her to different values and consistently reinforcing these alternative values in the way you treat her and how you talk her (and others). The key is to make sure princess stories remain just that—stories  (even stories that entertain her), rather than something that shapes her identity and her aspirations.

Since kids inevitably look to others for inspiration, it’s important to find better role models for girls than princesses. And it is important to find heroes that spark imaginations and fuel creativity. These role models should display the values you wish to impart.  From Doc McStuffins to Malala, there are hard-working, creative, passionate, generous, loving, thoughtful, kind, resilient, courageous, and joyful role models out there. And some are men. Girls are more than their sex or gender; they should have male role models, just as boys should admire and wish to emulate female role models.

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Other steps can be taken to discourage a princess mentality. We can encourage girls to read and to read things that are worth their time. We can teach them the importance of community service. We can encourage them to play sports. Statistics show that participation in team sports is linked to lower pregnancy rates, higher self-esteem, and superior academic performance, among other benefits. Get them started early.

We can stop buying shirts that say “I’m pretty popular,” “the princess has arrived,” or “it’s all about me.” Even if they are supposed to be ironic, they undermine efforts to teach that narcissism and superficiality are unethical and lead to unhappiness. And if parents refuse to buy them for their girls, perhaps companies will make more “brave one” shirts for girls, like they do for boys.

It was great to see Mercy Academy’s anti-princess advertisements, which included the line: “Be more than just the fairest of them all.” Schools should be explicit about not only what girls can do to reach their potential and promote the common good, but also about the obstacles that stand in their way and can divert them from achieving what they hope to accomplish with their lives.

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Finally, it’s critical to explain the connection between authentic beauty and genuine love and to dispel the myth of objective attractiveness. Vigilance is required to tear down the societal prejudices surrounding notions of attraction that she is likely to absorb and that are the foundation of incalculable miseries. We must teach our girls to reject these irrational prejudices and to understand the importance of character rather than fleeting standards of what is hot, sexy, cute, and trendy.

If we do things, each girl stands a better chance of recognizing her own infinite worth. She is more likely to reach her full potential as a person. And our society is more likely to move closer to real equality, greater human flourishing, and the realization of the common good. We all have a stake in overturning the poisonous effects of princess culture. Let’s make sure every girl knows she can be more than a princess.


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.”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Evaluating the status of the Millennium Development Goals by Kevin Clarke, US Catholic: “There will be much more to do after 2015, but for the first time in human history a serious case can be made that extreme poverty and the degradations and suffering which accompany it may be eliminated in our lifetime. And with a prophet like Pope Francis urging us on, much that had seemed implausible suddenly appears joyfully attainable— even inevitable.”

‘Massive evidence’ links Syrian regime to war crimes, U.N. official says by CNN Staff: “A United Nations fact-finding team has found “massive evidence” that the highest levels of the Syrian government are responsible for war crimes in the nation’s long-running civil war, the U.N.’s human rights chief said Monday.”

Mexican bishop takes on cultish cartel in drug war battleground state by Joshua Partlow: “This has been the bloodiest year since 1998 when it comes to drug violence here in the state of Michoacan. For Miguel Patiño Velazquez, a 75-year-old bishop with a white frock and dark circles under his eyes, it is time to speak out.”

How to debate the ‘undebatable’ falsehoods about Social Security by Michael Hiltzik: “But for all their chattering about Social Security’s insolvency, it’s their arguments that were bankrupt.”

9 Reasons ‘Hookup Culture’ Hurts Boys Too by Ryan Sager: “As Wiseman writes, we assume that boys are the perpetrators and beneficiaries of hookup culture — and thus we tend to ignore its effects on them. But those effects, it turns out, can be rather rough.”

Cuts to SNAP devastating to Miss. families by Greg Patin of Catholic Charities: “Recent federal cuts to nutrition support programs such as SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, have worsened the suffering of the hundreds of struggling Mississippi families we help each day. On Nov. 1, the average SNAP benefit fell to just $1.40 per meal, spurring more demand for our services and stretching us to capacity.”

Photos show scale of North Korea’s repressive prison camps by CNN: “North Korea is showing no signs of scaling back its fearsome labor camp system, with torture, starvation, rape and death a fact of life for tens of thousand of inmates, according to human rights group Amnesty International.”

What President Obama Missed in His Inequality Speech by Anna Sutherland: “At the end of his speech yesterday, President Obama mentioned the role of parents, civic organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in rebuilding an economy of open opportunity. Next time, he should also mention marriage.”

Protests Nationwide Seek Living Wage by Kevin Clarke, America: “Today’s fast-food worker, according to a report by the University of Illinois and the University of California, Berkeley, is typically over 20, often raising a child, and just under 70 percent are the primary wage earners in their families. According to the study, 52 percent of full-time fast food workers qualify for federal assistance at a cost to taxpayers of $7 billion a year.”

Does Your New Health Plan Cover Abortion? by Grant Gallicho, Commonweal: “Before the president signed the ACA, he devoted a lot of energy to addressing the concerns of prolife Democrats. Without their votes, the Affordable Care Act might not have passed. Supporters of Obamacare owe them a debt of gratitude. So does Obama. It’s time for the president to settle that debt.”

Marcel as Prophet by Fr. John J. Conley, S.J.: “The author who most impressed the students was Marcel. What struck them were not so much his famous theories of creative fidelity or of the difference between problem and mystery. Rather, it was his prescience as a social critic. In Man Against Mass Society (1955), Marcel took the measure of the culture of death that was incipient in postwar France but has since become part of our daily routine.”

Currency Crisis by Fr. Paul D. McNelis, S.J., America: “Although a breakup of the euro area is not out of the question, the better strategy would be to move forward and maintain the euro with a system of greater fiscal centralization. Clearly the European Central Bank has to harmonize bank accounting and regulatory standards across the system. For the euro to work, national governments will have to yield some—though by no means all—of their fiscal autonomy to a centralized Ministry of Finance in the euro system, much the way state governments have citizens paying direct and indirect taxes to the federal government.”

Hunger in America is a moral crisis that government must help solve by Nancy K. Kaufman and Gradye Parsons: “And it is precisely because the faith community is so involved in alleviating hunger that we support SNAP and other government solutions that reduce need and protect vulnerable people. Indeed, our faith traditions require a commitment, not only to personal charity, but also to systemic and communal justice.”

My shameful military pregnancy by Bethany Saros, Salon: “One of the stigmas attached to a female getting pregnant on a deployment is the assumption that she did it on purpose. It’s whispered about any time the word “pregnancy” comes up right before and during a combat tour. The unspoken code is that a good soldier will have an abortion, continue the mission, and get some sympathy because she chose duty over motherhood. But for the woman who chooses motherhood over duty, well, she must have been trying to get out of deployment.”

Responding to “Feminism at Fifty” by Sidney Callahan: “I think the present feminist movements are more diverse, since religious and ethnic women have taken more of a self-conscious part. There is also more awareness of the economic dimension of women’s need for work. Among educated women there is also a revaluing of marriage and family as important to their fulfillment. Many men are more feminist and cooperative. However, the sexual revolution and so-called hook up culture are bad news for men and women. Yet it is hard to tell the media hype from the real situation. I also think that the feminist pro-life movement has made some progress in the culture in changing women’s ideas about abortion.”