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.”


A Hopeful Future Seen at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice 2013

If you want to get excited about the future of the Church, I recommend attending the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice next year, the annual event organized by the Ignatian Solidarity Network. This year’s event featured an array of interesting organizations, speakers, and break-out sessions. What impressed me most, however, was the remarkable group of students in attendance. Billy Kangas was also impressed:

These students were amazing! They were bright, passionate, engaged, informed, energetic and deeply committed to letting the love of Jesus spill out of them in both their personal lives and in our public policy. This weekend they inspired me, rejuvenated me, and showed me the face of Jesus over and over and over.

The students showed an exceptional passion for social justice. This surely must please those educators hoping to form men and women for others. Only at World Youth Day have I met so many inquisitive young people motivated by faith, searching for wisdom and truth, and dedicated to building a more just society.

Their passion for social justice was matched by a commitment to achieving real success and developing a thoughtful, sophisticated understanding of the issues that were being addressed. Not only the college students, but also the high school students, were asking incisive questions that showed they were not interested in simply regurgitating slogans and easy answers.

One asked about the impact of increasing the minimum wage on employment levels. Another asked about the efficacy of increased financial regulation at the state level, rather than the federal level, given the incentives associated with the “race to the bottom” phenomenon. They clearly were listening to the other side, determined to address the strongest arguments of those with whom they may have disagreed, instead of engaging in the type of behavior we too often see in DC: both sides talking past one another with closed minds rather than engaging in real dialogue (speaking from firm principles but with open minds).

The teach-in covered a wide range of issues including prison reform, peacebuilding, financial reform, environmental justice, human trafficking, racial justice, fair trade, and the death penalty. But the big issues that seemed to inspire the most energy and enthusiasm were immigration reform, workers’ rights, and food security.

I heard a young man from Brophy in Phoenix describe an idea for a video that would show how many unauthorized immigrants rely on those connected to the drug trade to get across the border and the dangerous consequences of this reliance. He wanted to show the human impact of various policies and explain reasonable measures that could be taken to fix some of these problems. He was hardly alone. Jesuit Refugee Service’s Mary Small delivered a speech on immigration reform that seemed to draw the largest reaction from the crowd. Students were aware that this is an issue at the forefront of the national agenda and that now is the time to really press for comprehensive immigration reform, which is exactly what they did on the day dedicated to advocacy efforts.

Another issue that captured the attention of many students was food security with cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) looming. Belief in the Catholic teaching that each person has a fundamental right to food was pervasive. Unrepresentative stories about corruption were not. Nor were students grossly overestimating the amount of foreign aid dedicated to ensuring food security and other essential needs, as is the case with the general population. They understood the issue and wanted to see how they could make a difference and help ensure that everyone has access to that most basic need.

Students also shared stories of the exploitation they had witnessed and experienced as workers in a country where employers are too often able to exploit their employees with impunity. They described workers being cheated out their wages and working extra hours without pay, the difficulties of living on a non-living wage, and the lack of security and consistency that exists in people’s lives when workers have schedules that fluctuate and require them to be on-call.

What was truly inspiring was the clear connection between their faith and this commitment to justice. There was a strong sense of community and joy as all joined together in communion for the mass. Their faith was real and vivifying, giving them meaning and purpose.

The fight for justice is long and hard, filled with inevitable setbacks and disappointments. We can only hope that these students’ educators help to equip them with not only a sense of justice that is durable but also a faith that is enduring, and that events like the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice will build a sense of community that will fortify their sense of the interdependency of faith and justice.

And from what I saw over a week ago, there is good reason to hope. While they gathered to “illuminate the horizon of hope” in a stormy world, beams of hope surely illuminated some of their own souls. In looking outside themselves, they saw a clearer picture of their authentic personalities as children of God, craving communion, experiencing joy, and finding meaning in helping to build the Kingdom of God. It is perhaps this hope that should make us the most hopeful about the future of the Church.


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

CCHD: Putting the Gospel into Practice by John Gehring: “At a time when 1 in 6 Americans live in poverty and extreme income inequality is growing, a contribution to C.C.H.D. is a powerful way to affirm Catholic identity and empower those struggling to lift themselves out of difficult situations.”

“Getting” Pope Francis, or Not by Michael Sean Winters: “Here, too, we see the greatest point of continuity between Pope Francis and his two immediate predecessors, both of whom, in different ways, were rooted in the Communio school of theology we associate with the Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar. The Christian proclamation is first and foremost about God and His accomplishments and only consequently about us and our obligations, moral and otherwise.”

The Christian Intellectual by R.R. Reno: “Love and freedom. There’s nothing uniquely Christian about these qualities in an intellectual. Socrates had both. But grace perfects nature and helps us overcome our weaknesses. The Christian intellectual may not be welcome today as a Christian, but it’s as a Christian that he can be salt and light.”

TJP Sits Down with Coach John Beilein by Dennis Baker, SJ: “I do the Examen all the time during the season.  That helps me put things into perspective—how grateful I should be for the life I’ve been blessed with.  Sometimes I write my Examen down with my iPad.  I have pages and pages and pages during the season.  So I think it’s just the overall appreciation of understanding your purpose in life, understanding God’s will for you.”

The Triumph of C.S. Lewis By Fr. Robert Barron: “He was not someone to whom religious conviction came naturally or effortlessly; he had to work his way to it, in the face of often harsh opposition, both interior and exterior. This very personal struggle gives him credibility with the millions today who want to believe but who find ideological secularism and militant atheism enormously challenging.”

When Children Are Traded by Nicholas Kristof: “A first step to address this issue would be to make adoption agencies responsible for children they bring to America, including finding new homes when adoptions fail. If we have rules about recycling bottles, we should prevent children from being abandoned and recycled. The larger point is a more basic failing in America: inadequate child services. Kids don’t get the protection they need from predators, nor the nutrition they need, nor the books and reading programs they need for mental nutrition. The threat to the food stamp program, whose beneficiaries are 45 percent children, is emblematic of this broader problem. Children don’t have votes and are voiceless, so America’s most vulnerable become its most neglected.”

The GOP’s Cruel Crusade Against Food Stamps by Norm Ornstein: “I would love for all sides to find common ground here: Provide the kind of job training that will enable people to find work and move out of poverty while helping them with the basics of food, shelter, health care, and transportation. But to cut, slash, and burn that aid mindlessly without regard for the human cost is stupid, cruel, and reprehensible.”

Father Albert Foley: How one priest took on the KKK by Kristen Hannum: “Everything changed for Foley in 1943, when, as a young Jesuit, he was assigned to teach the class ‘Migration, Immigration, and Race’ at Spring Hill College in Mobile. His research—which included interviewing local black Catholics and wide-ranging reading—opened his eyes: Segregation was sinful. He looked to the church fathers and social justice teachings to better understand his new realization and to discern what should be done.”

The Habit of Gratitude and Hopefulness by Christopher C. Roberts: “We are praying that a good community of peers will be in place when they become teens. And we are trying, gently for now, to prepare our girls for being different from the surrounding culture in sometimes uncomfortable ways. I hope for the moment that we’re laying in the spiritual and psychological resources to see us through whatever’s coming.”

Now and Then I Feel It’s Working by J. Peter Nixon: “There is always a temptation as a parent to think that your children are clay that you are called to shape. The truth is that we are merely stewards of something precious that ultimately belongs to God. If he can call a prodigal like me back to him, he can certainly do the same for my children if he so chooses. In the end, faith is his gift to give, not mine.”

How Children Succeed: You Should Read This by Jason King: “We need grit to be able to confront sin—personal, social, and original sin—and keep going.  We need grit, but we also do not develop it by ourselves.  We need a community that is safe enough for us to develop trust and confidence in our decisions and actions.  We also need a community that fosters vulnerability, one not closed off to adversity, not closed off to others.  We need the Church to help us become disciples who perpetually pickup our crosses and follow Christ.”

The pope is forcing us to redefine ugliness by Benjamin W. Corn: “Because our aesthetic standards are arbitrary, our definitions of beauty have shifted slightly, over time, to encompass, for example, anorexic-appearing fashion models with little resemblance to the shapeliness of Botticelli’s Goddess of Beauty. There is one vital point in that dynamic: the arbitrary—including our ideas of what is beautiful, ugly, visually acceptable, or socially stigmatizing—can change. And each of us can contribute to that change.”

In Central African Republic, thousands turn to bishop for protection by Barb Fraze, CNS: “More than 35,000 people are living on the 40-acre diocesan compound in Bossangoa, Central African Republic, seeking protection from rebels who are targeting Christians, said the local bishop.”


Finding Inspiration with the Ignatian Family

After spending a weekend at #IFTJ13 all I can say is “wow!” The Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice 2013 was an inspiring event. I hadn’t heard of it until recently, so I’ll assume many of you don’t know about it either. It’s a gathering of mostly young college and high school students from Jesuit institutions that happens every year. During the Teach-in, these young people pray together and learn together about how to work for justice in the world. The speakers were inspiring, but the students were even more so!

These students were amazing! They were bright, passionate, engaged, informed, energetic and deeply committed to letting the love of Jesus spill out of them in both their personal lives and in our public policy. This weekend they inspired me, rejuvenated me, and showed me the face of Jesus over and over and over.

As Bread for the World’s resident Catholic conspirator, I was given the opportunity to put a team together to hang out with hundreds of these amazing young people who are looking to explore what it means to be an active Catholic with a public voice. We were able to do a number of sessions, covering how to create a “Circle of Protection” around essential safety net programs here in the United States, and on how providing proper nutrition for children and mothers from the beginning of pregnancy until a child’s second birthday is essential for preventing disease, improving education and overall health, and ultimately saving lives. These 1000 days are key! On Monday, we gathered at the Capitol building for prayer, praise, and advocacy meetings with our congressional representatives, where students went out and challenged policy makers to pass comprehensive immigration reform, protect food security programs, and establish a living wage.

Here are the five takeaways I received from the conference:

  1. They gave me three great questions to ask myself every day: 1) With whom do you cast your lot? 2) From whom do you draw your strength? 3) Whose are you? If I could ask myself those questions FIRST before I face any challenge I think I would be a much stronger person.
  2. They helped me understand justice better. One thing that really stuck out to me was the idea that justice is God’s public love. As a person whose faith is the foundation of my work for justice, I found that this definition resonated strongly with my own experience of working for justice as a person of faith.
  3. They taught me that some Catholics actually CAN sing. Let me be honest for a second. I love being a Catholic, I really do… but I miss the singing of my Protestant background. I can’t tell you how sad it is to go to mass and see some of the greatest examples of the Church’s hymnody butchered by the typical throng of Catholics that seems to feels put upon to mumble or hum through songs that demonstrate the great work of redemption we now participate in Christ. This group was different. They sang, they clapped, they cheered– it was wonderful!
  4. They made me wish there was a third order for Jesuits. This group was awesome… and I felt SO at home with them. Conference speaker Fr. Jim Martin articulated what it meant to be a Jesuit powerfully as someone who knows deeply how loved they are by God, and wants to share that love with others. That is who I want to be.
  5. The most important thing I walked away with was hope. The media is filled with stories that condemn this young generation as lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to speak up to change the systems that keep people hungry and poor. This group, and those like it, are proof that their generation is not only engaged but immensely creative with their activism. Take a look at some of the messages these students posted on their representative’s twitter pages as part of our social media campaign!

It was great to be there.


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Elite Politics by RR Reno: “Thus our current political culture, which is dominated by upper-middle-class concerns even as various political figures protest otherwise. On the Left we have a wide range of views about economic issues, but primary candidates can’t deviate from the dictates of Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, and the Human Rights Campaign, all of which represent upper-middle-class preoccupations. On the Right we have a wide range of views about social issues, but candidates can’t deviate from tax-cutting dogma, another upper-middle-class issue.”

Pope’s ambassador: US bishops should act warmly toward Catholics, not follow ideology by AP: “The Vatican ambassador to the U.S., addressing American bishops at their first national meeting since Pope Francis was elected, said Monday they should not ‘follow a particular ideology’ and should make Roman Catholics feel more welcome in church.”

Sit down and be quiet: How to practice contemplative meditation by US Catholic: “One day in 1974 Meninger dusted off an old book in the monastery library, a book that would set him and some of his fellow monks on a whole new path. The book was The Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous 14th-century manual on contemplative meditation.”

The Francis Era: Synthesis or Civil War? by Ross Douthat: “And for my generation of Catholics, wherever our specific sympathies lie, this inheritance of conflict has created a hunger for synthesis – for a way forward that doesn’t compromise Catholic doctrine or Catholic moral teaching or transform the Church into a secular N.G.O. with fancy vestments, but also succeeds in making it clear that the Catholic message is much bigger than the culture war, that theological correctness is not the only test of Christian faith, and that the church is not just an adjunct (or, worse, a needy client, seeking protection) of American right-wing politics.”

Everything You Need To Know About Batkid by Ryan Broderick, Buzzfeed: “Five-year-old Miles spent the day keeping the streets of Gotham/San Francisco safe from ne’er-do-wells.”

Prudence or Cruelty? by Nicholas Kristof: “So slashing food stamp benefits — overwhelmingly for children, the disabled and the elderly — wouldn’t be a sign of prudent fiscal management by Congress. It would be a mark of shortsighted cruelty.”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Pot and Jackpots by Ross Douthat: “There are significant differences in the ways gambling and pot have won America….But both have been made possible by the same trend in American attitudes: the rise of a live-and-let-live social libertarianism, the weakening influence of both religious conservatism and liberal communitarianism, the growing suspicion of moralism in public policy. And both, in different ways, illustrate the potential problems facing a culture pervaded by what the late sociologist Robert Bellah called ‘expressive individualism’ and allergic to any restrictions on what individuals choose to do.”

The Downside of Playing Hard to Get by Anna Sutherland: “So it would seem that playing hard-to-get has its rewards in the relationship market. But that doesn’t mean we should all adopt it as a strategy: deceit and manipulation seem an unlikely path to a happy relationship characterized by honesty and openness on both sides.”

My Favorite Jesuit? by Paul Brian Campbell SJ, People for Others: “We are, I’m sure, all familiar with Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier, but how many of you know another founder of the Jesuits: Pierre Favre?”

Look to Disraeli, Conservatives by R. R. Reno: “Right now liberalism seems to have the upper hand, especially in culture. Most people want what they’re offering, which is greater space to be a free actor in our personal inventions of sexual identity, marriage, and family. But by my reading of the signs of the times people want more than that. They want freedom, yes, but they also want solidarity, which in the cultural politics of our time means an enduring marriage and functional family.”

Whittaker Chambers Versus Ayn Rand by Cass R. Sunstein: “Chambers goes so far as to link Rand with Karl Marx. Both, he says, are motivated by a kind of materialism, in which people’s happiness lies not with God or with anything spiritual, and much less with an appreciation of human limitations, but only with the use of their ‘own workaday hands and ingenious brain.’”

Syria Goes Hungry by New York Times: “The experts warn that if the crisis continues into the winter, deaths from hunger and illness could begin to dwarf deaths from violence, which has already killed well over 100,000 people, and if the deprivation lasts longer, a generation of Syrians risks stunted development.”

Make room for young people by Michael O’Loughlin: “The way to prevent that crisis from happening is to bring a bit of Silicon Valley into the church, inviting young people — especially those in their teens and 20s — into meaningful positions of leadership and responsibility. For both the church and young people, it would be a ‘win-win,’ at once evangelizing and strengthening the faith of young leaders and increasing the vitality, creativity and energy of the church.”

Slavery Isn’t a Thing of the Past by Nicholas Kristof: “The United States is home to about 60,000 people who can fairly be called modern versions of slaves, according to a new Global Slavery Index released last month by the Walk Free Foundation, which fights human trafficking.”

The high prices of living in poverty By Kevin Clarke: “This ‘poverty tax’ extends to virtually all aspects of the lives of America’s low-income families. Financial services and mortgages cost more for poor people. Check-cashing, rent-to-own, and payday loan operations skim vast sums from the poor. And a new study reports that the physical and psychological costs of being poor are surprisingly high.”

What You Can Do by John Carr: “Sacrifice for others and priority for the poor may be politically incorrect, but they are religious obligations.”

$10 Minimum Wage Proposal Has Growing Support From White House by NY Times: “President Obama, the official continued, supports the Harkin-Miller bill, also known as the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, from its current $7.25.”

The world must unite to save Central African Republic from catastrophe by NY Times: “We are in a delicate situation in the Central African Republic, and the tension is mounting. There is a terrifying, real threat of sectarian conflict.”


Quote of the Day

Cardinal Peter Turkson: “Malnutrition of mind and body – lack of food and lack of learning – is a horrendous double helix. It must be addressed with great urgency, but not only by sound scientific research and solid social policies in order to achieve real improvements in education, food production and distribution, sustainable agriculture and nutrition security. As a coefficient of development or under-development, it must be addressed, above all, with a rediscovered sense of Christian humanism, characterised by solidarity and brotherhood.”