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:

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.”



Syrian Refugees and the Costs of Non-Intervention

Conditions in Syria remain heartbreaking for anyone with a modicum of human sympathy, and the future looks dark, perhaps as dark as it has since Bashar Assad started murdering peaceful protesters. Over 7 million people have been displaced and perhaps 150,000 have been killed, according to National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Assad’s forces have been gaining strength, as have rebels who are affiliated with al Qaeda. The moderate rebels have seen their strength and support collapse since the US struck a deal with Assad on chemical weapons (and having never received adequate assistance from the United States).

As the Geneva II peace conference approaches, few believe that a resolution to end this brutal civil war will be reached. The possibility of a tolerable outcome (with a government that is not run by mass murderers) seems to have disappeared. ‘Last resort’ was clearly tens of thousands of deaths ago (no one with any prudence should have mistaken Assad’s intentions after the Houla Massacre of May 2012), yet we now seem to have reached the point where it is impossible to enforce the responsibility to protect. If a tolerable outcome seems unachievable, a just peace seems inconceivable.

Many Catholic commentators who irresponsibly weighed the best-case scenario of non-intervention against the worst conceivable outcome of intervention are now seeing that there are ‘unintended consequences’ to non-intervention, not just intervention. Sectarian violence is spilling across Syria’s borders, Assad’s forces continue to perpetrate crimes against humanity, and the opposition is growing more extreme and brutal. Their hopes of a negotiated settlement with a reasonably just outcome (somehow to be achieved without providing any assistance to those with some commitment to democracy and human rights) have proved as unrealistic as some Iraq War enthusiasts’ belief that American troops would be greeted as liberators and that a transition to democracy would be relatively quick, smooth, and painless. Yet few admit that they were dangerously naïve or that conditions have deteriorated badly. Actually, few seem to be aware that Syria still exists, now that the possibility of American intervention appears very unlikely.

Now with winter looming, aid organizations are deeply concerned that many Syrian refugees in makeshift shelters will lose their lives. The UN has appealed for $6.5 billion in humanitarian aid to address the situation, its largest appeal ever. The gravity of the threat seems clear when one considers the conditions many face:

Often fleeing Syria destitute, with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, they have made a home out of whatever they can find including plastic bags, wood panels or potato sacks.

These constructions do little to protect against freezing temperatures and often collapse in the snow. When it rains the mud patches of land often turn into swamp lands, the crudely dug canals spilling raw sewage.

The Washington Post has a new series of articles that highlight the personal stories of 18 refugees from a wide-range of backgrounds. Kevin Sullivan explains:

Linda and I interviewed and photographed widows and orphans, the wealthy, the wounded, children and the elderly, those surviving in camps, and those suffering in urban slums. To capture the full range of refugee life, we witnessed a birth and a wedding, classrooms and operating rooms, and we visited a cemetery where families mourned not just for their dead, but for the fact that they are buried in foreign soil.

We saw terrible misery and inspiring stories of resilience and survival. We hope the portraits of these refugees, and the nations struggling to help them, will further an understanding of one of the most daunting human crises in recent memory.

These people, and these countries, will never be the same.

The stories highlight the devastation created by Assad’s lust for power and the costs of the international community’s failure to act on its responsibility to protect civilians from repressive, murderous regimes. These refugees were lucky enough to have escaped being killed in their own beds, gassed by chemical weapons, or intentionally starved to death, yet the suffering they face is hard to imagine for those of us living securely in the West.

While we have failed to protect these people and the loved ones they have lost, we can still help to provide them with humanitarian assistance, both as a nation and as individual persons, to help them survive the immanent threats they face from winter conditions. It’s the least we can do.



Time to Shake the World and End Hunger

Today Pope Francis launched a wave of prayer, as part of a global campaign against hunger. He is calling us to prayer and action on behalf of “the God-given right of everyone to have access to adequate food.”

From CRS:

At noon local time, a global wave of prayer will begin on the island of Samoa and will progress around the world until it reaches the same island some 24 hours and more than 164 countries later.

Please join us wherever you are by reciting (the prayer below) at noon your local time, and please invite others to join you.

Pope Francis, who seems to be making food security a top priority, said:

“We are in front of a global scandal of around one billion people…one billion people who still suffer from hunger today. We cannot look the other way and pretend that this does not exist. The food available in the world is enough to feed everyone.”

He continued:

“I invite all of the institutions of the world, the Church, each of us, as one single human family, to give a voice to all of those who suffer silently from hunger, so that this voice becomes a roar which can shake the world.”

We encourage you to join us at noon in prayer. You can also connect to others on social media using #Food4All. The scandal of people suffering and dying from hunger must come to an end. Let’s do whatever we can to make that happen. I don’t think it’s too naive to suggest we can make a real difference if we come together on this critical issue.

1499587_562529453831832_2046582432_n

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Official Prayer:

O God, you entrusted to us the fruits of all creation so that we might care for the earth and be nourished with its bounty.

You sent us your Son to share our very flesh and blood and to teach us your Law of Love. Through His death and resurrection, we have been formed into one human family.

Jesus showed great concern for those who had no food — even transforming five loaves and two fish into a banquet that served five thousand and many more.

We come before you, O God, conscious of our faults and failures, but full of hope, to share food with all members in this global family.

Through your wisdom, inspire leaders of government and of business, as well as all the world’s citizens, to find just, and charitable solutions to end hunger by assuring that all people enjoy the right to food.

Thus we pray, O God, that when we present ourselves for Divine Judgment, we can proclaim ourselves as “One Human Family” with “Food for All”. Amen.