Around the Web (Part 1)

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Jesus and the Bullied by Brian Pinter: “Jesus, by his own example and preaching, empowers us to move beyond being bystanders, to embrace and shield, through bold but loving action, those suffering under the yoke of bullying and taunting.”

New Philippines cardinal calls for church to turn toward poor by  Joshua McElwee, NCR: “The Catholic church must fundamentally reorient itself to place its institutions and financial resources at the service of the world’s poor, one of the 19 new members of the select and powerful group of church prelates known as the College of Cardinals said. ‘The origin of the church is poverty,’ said Philippine Cardinal Orlando Quevedo. ‘And the journey of Jesus Christ was the journey with poor people.’‘Today, the church has riches, institutions,’ Quevedo continued. ‘But I would like to think that the only way the church can redeem these resources as well as its institutions would be to place them at the service of justice and of the poor for the sake of the kingdom of God.’”

The Real Meaning of Marriage Preparation by Andy Otto: “So what makes for good marriage prep? Primarily, it’s a chance to communicate with each other about major topics like managing conflict, forgiveness, finances, intimacy, faith, communication and values.”

Bishop: Synod questionnaire shows most reject teaching on contraceptives by Jerry Filteau, NCR: “Even the ‘choir’ — the 78 percent of respondents who said they attend Mass at least every Sunday and holy day (including 9 percent who said they go to Mass every day) — overwhelmingly said that most Catholics they know do not accept church teaching on natural family planning and birth control. Of all respondents, only 13 percent agreed that Catholics they know accept church teaching in that area; 81 percent disagreed, and 6 percent said they were uncertain or declined to answer.”

Why I am Leaving My Other Full-Time Job by Beth Haile: “In the era of the ‘nones,’ how do we keep our kids Catholic, or even more generally just Christian? For many of us, passing on the faith becomes just another thing on the to-do list: RE classes, bake sales and parish raffles, youth group field trips. But I am convinced that the key to passing on the faith is living it ourselves. Passing on the faith means passing on a relationship with Christ that is central and life-giving. Such a relationship, like any relationship, takes time and effort.”

Understanding the Mechanics of the Incarnation: An Interview with Larry Chapp by Artur Rosman: “And it is in this deep level of existential intimacy that God interfaces with creation, not as a foreigner who comes to plunder, but as the very act of Being that makes nature, nature.”

Koch-hold at Catholic University by Morning’s Minion, Vox Nova: “Recently, the new business school at the Catholic University of America (CUA) received a decent donation from the Koch Brothers. In response to a barrage of justifiable criticism, university president John Garvey and business school dean Andrew Abela penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal declaring that they would keep the money and that their accusers could take a flying leap. If this is an exaggeration, it is only a slight one. The tone of the piece is petulant and hyper-defensive. Clearly, the critics have hit a nerve.”

Crisis grips a fragile new South Sudan by Chris Herlinger, NCR: “But in the two-years-plus since its July 2011 independence, South Sudan has found itself embroiled in internal political battles that have destabilized the young nation, weakening its already fragile social and humanitarian fabric.”

Uganda’s Anti-Gay Laws by Michael Sean Winters: “The Christian Church must learn how to promote family life without attacking the human dignity of gay men and women.”

Women Lose Most When Parenthood Isn’t Valued by Ashley McGuire, Family Studies: “All the can-women-have-it-all conversations in the world are futile until American society once again appreciates parenthood as the most important human work there is. Are millennials up to the task?”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

The Prodigal Sons by David Brooks: “The father also understands that the younger brothers of the world will not be reformed and re-bound if they feel they are being lectured to by unpleasant people who consider themselves models of rectitude.”

Human Rights Gold Medalists: Central African Republic’s Archbishop Nzapalainga and Imam Layama: “When the fighting broke out, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga’s church became a refuge. Not only for hundreds of Christian families but also for the most senior Muslim cleric in the Central African Republic, Imam Oumar Kobine Layama. Both men are making a strong statement for peace and unity — one that they believe is critical for the future of the Central African Republic.”

115 killed, 1,500 buildings razed in Nigerian town by AP: “The latest attack by suspected Islamic extremists in Nigeria’s northeast has left 115 people dead, more than 1,500 buildings razed and some 400 vehicles destroyed, witnesses said Thursday, as a traditional ruler accused the military of being scared to confront the militants.”

The Games Putin Plays by Ross Douthat: “But like Putinism, Chavismo lacks basic legitimacy absent the threat of violence and repression. The lesson in both cases is not that late-modern liberal civilization necessarily deserves uncontested dominance. But 25 years after the Cold War, from Kiev to Caracas, there is still no plausible alternative.”

Why Parenting Has Gotten More Difficult by Anna Sutherland: “My second theory about why raising kids seems so hard today is the proliferation of parenting philosophies, health guidelines, educational options, and more. Being a parent today doesn’t just mean having a baby and raising him or her to become a reasonably healthy, literate adult. From the positive pregnancy test onward, it means navigating a dizzying array of contradictory advice on just about everything…”

A More Widely Appealing Case for Paternity Leave by Anna Sutherland: “If they hope to appeal to skeptics and to Americans with more conservative views on parents’ roles, proponents of paternity leave should place less emphasis on its gender-role implications and more emphasis on the ways that babies and children stand to benefit from it.”

The Impact of a Minimum-Wage Increase by Jared Bernstein: “The most important finding is that on balance, low- and moderate-income Americans are big winners from a higher minimum wage, which would raise earnings and incomes, lower poverty and inequality, and do so at no net cost to the federal budget.”

Syria’s uncontainable threat by Michael Gerson: “The Obama administration is reexamining its failed Syria policy. At some point, it becomes hard to play down the worst refugee crisis since Rwanda and a death count approaching that of the Bosnian war.”

Syria’s refugees despair while the world is indifferent by Michael Gerson: “The killing of civilians in Syria is not the unfortunate byproduct of a civil war; it is a main objective of one side in that civil war. Some 40 districts, including about a quarter of a million people, are currently under siege by Bashar al-Assad’s forces. The goal is to surround these targets, lay them waste, kill everyone who poses a possible threat and prevent the return of suspect civilians. Both sides in the conflict commit atrocities. One side commits them on a massive scale as a matter of strategy.”

A Reply to Reno by Michael Sean Winters: “If an increasing number of Americans are secular, surely it has something to do with the fact that people came to identify themselves by the cars they drive rather than the churches they attend, or because at a very early age they were taught that Christmas was about being greedy not being holy, or because they were, understandably, revolted by the Moral Majority, or because their religious leaders proved themselves to be criminal or nearly criminal in their handling of child rape by clerics. And it is the market, the all powerful market, that has brought the forgetfulness of God to the masses.”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

A Raw Deal: Our Pain, Their Gain by Michael Stafford: “The great task that has been set before us in the coming years is simply this- to break the power of the wealthy and make America’s government one run by and for the people once again.”

China has not been able to hide Liu Xiaobo’s ideas by Dana Nemcova, Jiri Gruntorad and Jan Ruml: “Liu may be invisible outside his prison cell, but the values he spent a lifetime championing are acknowledged by a growing number of Chinese as a key element of China’s future politics. The Chinese government should bow to this reality and free Liu. He should be allowed to again take part in the conversation for democratic reform that he has done so much to foster.”

The New Cardinals by Michael Sean Winters: “Most of the names on the list are unknown to those outside their dioceses. We will get to know more about them in the weeks ahead. My guess is that all of them will, in some significant way, reflect Pope Francis’ own approach to ministry, a certain humility, a commitment to the poor, none of the ‘butterfly’ clerical qualities the pope denounced in a sermon last week.”

The Female Face of Poverty by Maria Shriver: “We have the power—not just to launch a new War on Poverty, but a new campaign for equity, for visibility, for fairness, for worth, for care.”

How Pope Francis Challenges the Right (and Left) by John Stoehr: “Perhaps Francis is challenging liberals to expand their moral horizons, too. He’s doing so by reminding us, though without saying it, that laissez-faire capitalism is the historical legacy of liberalism. Free markets, free trade, and globalization are the hallmarks of a liberalized world economy. So while contemporary liberals are gaga for Francis right now, maybe they should reconsider. He’s not only revealed that Rush Limbaugh isn’t a conservative. He’s revealed that Limbaugh is a champion of a certain kind of liberalism.”

Four new echoes in ‘Francis revolution’ by John Allen: “The pope made headlines by telling the mothers present they shouldn’t be embarrassed if they needed to breastfeed their infants, but the more substantive newsflash was that among those baptized by Francis was a little girl, Giulia, whose parents were married only civilly and thus not in the church.”

Pope Francis & Civil Marriage for Catholics by Michael Sean Winters: “He reminded us that God’s superabundant mercy is greater than any of our sins, His love is greater than any of our troubles, and that if the Church is to be truly the Church of Jesus Christ, this ‘rule’ of grace trumps all others in the pastoral care of the flock entrusted to the Church.”

BBC Newsday: Starvation in Syria leaves children eating grass to stay alive: “Activists say many are now starving in Syria, where one father reportedly tried to set fire to himself and his three children in a Damascus street rather than die slowly of hunger.”

Hunger, death in besieged Damascus area by AP: “Children, the elderly and others displaced by Syria’s civil war are starving to death in a besieged camp where women brave sniper fire to forage for food just minutes from the relative prosperity of Damascus. The dire conditions at the Yarmouk camp are a striking example of the catastrophe unfolding in rebel-held areas blockaded by the Syrian government.”

Thinking Church: Fueling our Fire by Adam Brown, Our Daily Thread: “The MCHM spill, which was only the latest in a century-long line of human and environmental disasters in the mountain state, occurred on a Thursday and affected 300,000 residents, 1/3 of the West Virginia’s population. Yet the Sunday talk shows on January 12 were busy discussing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s involvement in the closing of lanes of the George Washington Bridge. Getting to and from the Big Apple quickly is more important than the water and lives of those who extract and transport the cheap energy that powers New Jersey homes, New York commuter trains and high rise office buildings.”

Almost Everything You Read About Parenting On The Internet Is Wrong by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry: “The parenting stories that are all the rage have all the hallmarks of why our current bourgeoisie is insane.”

Does anybody care about human trafficking? by Phyllis Zagano: “The United Nations reports that at any given time, 2.5 million trafficking victims fuel a $32 billion industry. Half are children. Most are younger than 24. For every 800 persons trafficked, there is but one conviction. It is all over the world. It is not stopping. Small scale or large, the slave trade continues.”

Smoking Has Killed More Than 20 Million Americans Over The Past 50 Years by Tara Culp-Ressler: “Lushniak noted that smoking has contributed to the premature deaths of an estimated 20 million Americans since the publication of the groundbreaking report in 1964. 2.5 million of those deaths were related to secondhand smoke.”

Poll: Younger Christians less supportive of the death penalty by Jonathan Merritt: “It showed an even sharper difference in support for the death penalty among ‘practicing Christians,’ which Barna defined as those who say faith is very important to their lives and have attended church at least once in the last month. Nearly half of practicing Christian boomers support the government’s right to execute the worst criminals, while only 23 percent of practicing Christian millennials do.”

Ukraine warns Church over prayer services for protesters by Agence France-Presse: “The Ukrainian government has threatened to outlaw the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church for holding prayer services for opposition protesters occupying Kiev’s central square.”


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:

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.”


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.”