From the Francis Moment to the Francis Movement: Mercy is the Way Forward

Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for President and Hillary Clinton has math firmly on her side to win the Democratic nomination, the next six months of politics is going to be contentious if not outright ugly.  Not just because we’re heading into an election that no one wants, but quite simply because Trump and Clinton are the two leading candidates Americans describe as potentially “terrible” presidents: 44% of Americans think Trump would be terrible (as opposed to 10% who’d argue he’d be “great”) while 30% in the US say Clinton would be terrible (compared with 11% contending she’d be “great”).  By the evening of November 8th (or in the early hours of November 9th), a large portion of our country will be disgusted with the election results.

This is beyond the typical political polarization we keep hearing about, including the latest figures from the Pew Research Center.  A few examples: 61% of Republicans think defense spending should be increased, compared with only 20% of Democrats; 74% of Republicans are seriously concerned about the threats posed to national security by refugees from Syrian and the Middle East, while only 40% of Democrats concur; when it comes to global warming, only 26% of Republicans worry about the impact to the US,  a fraction of the 77% of Democrats; on the issue of increasing foreign aid, only 32% of Republicans offer their support, compared to 62% of Democrats.

To be sure, ideological differences are to be expected between rival political parties.  But as illustrated by these striking images, a divided Congress can bring politics to a standstill.  And I don’t just mean the Republican stonewalling of President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.  As Trent Lott and Tom Daschle have argued, the lack of compromise, chemistry, leadership, and shared vision can bring our political system to a crisis point.  The anger of the American populace has been palpable in this election cycle and certainly some of the appeal to candidates like Trump is the old “throw the bums out” angst.  As philosopher Martha Nussbaum has observed, underneath this anger lurks fear and helplessness, and if this continues to go unaddressed, there’s potential to unleash a “dangerous rage in a way that might do great damage to the American people in the long run.”

So what is to be done?  If so many Americans consider our political system to be so dysfunctional and find the presidential nominees so repugnant, what is the way forward? Read More


Commentary on Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love)


Here are a number of articles from millennial Catholics on Pope Francis’ recent post-synodal apostolic exhortation:

Look to the Margins by Meghan Clark: “Pope Francis offers what we have come to expect from him—a thoughtful, nuanced and substantial text that defies easy interpretation. It is also a text that looks to the margins, something else that is a clear Pope Francis trademark. He is attentive to the pressures and struggles of families living in poverty, but he also highlights another group on the margins: victims of domestic violence.”

Pope Francis’ new ‘Joy of Love’ precept offers no major overhaul of church doctrine, but urges a warmer approach toward ‘irregular’ couples by Christopher White: “This street level focus is why Francis dedicates the majority of this sweeping document not just to the issue of communion but the practical and concrete realities that often serve as an impediment to family life today. Within the document, he calls for the improvement of education for children as a primary means for passing on the faith, greater access to affordable housing, noting that “families and homes go together,” a rejection of pornography and “the commercialization of the body,” and pleas for us to show greater attention toward the elderly, the disabled, and migrants, as “they serve as a test of our commitment to show mercy in welcoming others and to help the vulnerable to be fully a part of our communities.”

Throughout his papacy, mercy has been the primary theme that has motivated Francis. Mercy, as understood by Francis does not come in the form of doctrinal change, but in greater pastoral care to the needs of those seeking to live out the faith in their everyday lives. The release of Amoris Laetitia reminds us that Francis is, indeed, asking that the Church reform its attitude toward modern family life. But his reform takes us back to the roots and serves as an invitation for us to recover the true meaning of marriage and family that is in danger of being lost.” Read More


Pope Francis’ Tweetstorm on the Family

Since the release of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis has tweeted frequently on the family. Check out his tweets:


Pope Francis is Returning to Rome with 3 Refugee Families

via the Washington Post:

Pope Francis on Saturday took three refugee families back with him on his plane to Rome following an emotional and provocative visit to the Greek island of Lesbos that seemed designed to prick Europe’s conscience over its treatment of refugees.

The pope boarded his Alitalia jet along with 12 Syrians from three families, all of whom had had their houses bombed and are seeking refuge in Europe, according to Vatican spokesman the Rev. Thomas Rosica. There were six children among them. Rosica said the families, all of whom are Muslim, would be cared for at the Vatican.


Pope Francis Will Travel to Lesbos, Express Solidarity with Refugees

via Vatican Insider:

“On Saturday I am going to Lesbos, where numerous refugees have passed through over the months. I am going along with my brothers the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos”, “to express sympathy and solidarity with refugees and the citizens of Lesbos and all the Greek people who are so generous in their welcome. Accompany me with your prayer please, invoking the light and strength of the Holy Spirit and the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary.”



The Joy of Love

Marriage seems to be losing popularity. According to the Pew Research Center, only 51% of adults in the United States are married, versus 72% in 1960. Still, a majority of women and men do want to be married (61%). As a couple who’s been married nearly two years, and as people who love telling others how awesome marriage is, my wife and I have wondered why the many in media or comedy are so negative about marriage. Even though the divorce rate has decreased, it seems so engrained in our psyches that marriage is seen as a burden rather than a grace that is freely embraced. Images of good marriages are hard to find on TV, yet each time Sarah and I do find marriage being shown in a positive light we fall in love with the show (Madam Secretary and Parenthood are two examples).

This past week Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). Many were expecting much to be said about divorced and remarried Catholics being able to receive communion or about same-sex marriages. Yet the document focused little on those issues. While important issues, the pope chose to focus on the heartbreaking state of broken heterosexual marriages, something we don’t often address in our current marriage debates. Amoris Laetitia is a beautiful and poetic writing on the gift of love and marriage. It’s comprehensive. It addresses families and marriages at practically every stage and situation. It’s a long overdue exhortation on marriage rooted in the real situations families have to deal with and as I read through its 264 pages, I could relate it well to my own marriage. As Thomas D. Williams says in his Crux article, “I suddenly found a letter that was written to me and for me, and I cannot help but think that many others will have a similar experience.”

The Challenges of Marriage
The pope has a clear view of the reality of marriages that are superficial or based on a lack of freedom. Marriage, he says, “can come to be seen as a way station, helpful when convenient, or a setting in which rights can be asserted while relationships are left to the changing winds of personal desire and circumstances.” Yet at the same time he acknowledges the challenges of marriage, especially in their early years. Sarah and I found our first months especially challenging. The fantasy weddings from the movies and even the Church’s “almost artificial theological ideal of marriage”, Pope Francis says, can become an “excessive idealization … [that] has not helped to make marriage more desirable and attractive, but quite the opposite.” So the pope instead founds his discussion in practical realities. He calls marriage a process and a path to personal development, together. The couple journeys with and through their imperfections. “We have to realize that all of us are a complex mixture of light and shadows.” Read More