Weekly Rewind

The power of ‘thanks’ by Chuck Leddy (Harvard Gazette)

Chuck Leddy notes the findings of a book by Harvard Business School associate professor Francesca Gino, Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan, which (among other subjects) tackles gratitude and its motivating effect on others.  Based off of several studies, the book explores how people’s sense of self-worth and motivation are positively impacted by expressions of gratitude in both the workplace and in day-to-day life, showing the practical implications of doing something our parents always tried to teach us to do: say “thank you.”

Freed of a Secret’s Burden, a Soccer Player Looks Ahead by Sam Borden (The New York Times)

Sam Borden interviews former US national soccer team player Robbie Rogers, who recently retired from soccer after coming out.  Rogers describes himself saying, “I’m a Catholic, I’m a conservative, I’m a footballer and I’m gay.” Rogers expresses his relief that he could finally be honest to the people in his life and discusses the possibility of returning to professional sports, saying, “’Maybe I will go back. Right now, I’m just happy to be out and being honest with people. But just because I’m out doesn’t mean I’m 100 percent healthy. It’s been 25 years that I haven’t been myself. Twenty-five years of lying. That’s really, really hard.’”

Unfolding drama of Pope Francis’ new papacy is worth watching closely by John Gehring (National Catholic Reporter)

John Gehring is hopeful that Pope Francis will breathe new life into a church rocked by scandal and an ineffective bureaucracy, especially since he has already made himself known as a pope for the poor.  While some may be saddened that this pope is not likely to overturn the Church’s stances on birth control, homosexuality, and women’s ordination, there is also reason to believe that he will take a more moderate tone that will lead to more unity and less division.  Ultimately, it is an opportunity for the renewal of the Church as a whole.  As Gehring says: “One man alone can’t renew a global church of 1.2 billion Catholics. Pope Francis will need a stiff wind at his back stirred up by priests, nuns and lay Catholics who love our church and realize the treasures of a 2,000-year faith tradition must be held in creative tension with a modern, pluralistic world.”

For Catholics, a new kind of pro-creation by Christiana Z. Peppard (The Washington Post)

Christiana Peppard lauds Pope Francis for bringing renewed attention to two major right-to-life issues that go beyond the traditional ones – poverty and the environment.  As she points out, “In his Palm Sunday homily, Francis lamented the preponderance of ‘Greed for money, power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation!’ These exclamations nestle theology squarely into the thorny nexus of economic globalization, environmental degradation, and global poverty.”

Priest deplores ‘shameful’ Ryan budget, lauds Landrieu for her opposition by The Rev. Michael Jacques (The Lens)

The Rev. Michael Jacques is disgusted by the recently-passed House budget put forward by Paul Ryan, which includes drastic cuts to programs for the most vulnerable in our nation, and applauds an alternative budget proposal put forward by Senator Mary Landrieu.  Jacques believes that a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility need not exist independent of a strong commitment to the common good, saying “It may have taken a miracle for Jesus to feed a crowd of thousands with only a few pieces of bread and fish, but Congress doesn’t need divine intervention to make sure responsible deficit reduction spares the elderly, children and struggling families.”

In my twin sister’s rape, there were many victims by Christa Parravani (The Washington Post)

Christa Parravani opens up about how her twin sister’s rape really affected everyone who loved her sister, and ultimately everyone that loved Christa herself as the pain trickled down in waves and affected not only their lives but the lives of many around them.  As shocking as the statistics are (one in three women are assaulted worldwide), statistics don’t paint the full picture, as many, many more people who may not have been raped themselves have had to face repercussions of a loved one’s rape.  Parravani shows that rape ultimately affects us all, saying, “When you hear or see a story about rape or read a statistic about sexual violence against women, multiply the number of people harmed. Be conservative, if you must. Assume that two other women loved or depended on each woman or girl who was violated. So, for one rape, three are injured.”

A Special Vocation: To Show People How To Love by Paul Gondreau (Catholic Moral Theology)

Paul Gondreau writes, “Pope Francis bestowed an extraordinary Easter blessing upon my family when he performed such an act (a small act with great love) in embracing my son, Dominic, who has cerebral palsy.”  And this moment has touched countless people around the world.  Gondreau describes the lesson that can be drawn from this experience, saying, “The lesson my disabled son gives stands as a powerful testament to the dignity and infinite value of every human person, especially of those the world deems the weakest and most ‘useless.’ Through their sharing in the ‘folly’ of the Cross, the disabled are, in truth, the most powerful and the most productive among us.”  Why?  Because they move us to love and show us how to love.

Weekly Rewind (Triple edition)

Check out some of the most relevant articles and news stories for Millennial readers that hit the web over the past few weeks.

Cuomo’s big abortion mistake by Kristen Day (NY Daily News)

Kristen Day points out that although 50% of Americans identify as pro-life (with only 41% identifying as pro-choice and over 60% favoring greater restrictions on abortion), New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for legislation to allow greater access to abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy.  As Day argues, “As a high-profile Democrat, Cuomo ought to be working to reduce demand for abortions by increasing societal and economic support for pregnant women, particularly the poor and women of color. Instead, he seems bent on making abortion, which is already too common in New York, even more routine.”

Malala’s vital lesson for US foreign policy by John Kerry (London Evening Standard)

In response to International Women’s Day, US Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the stories of Malala, the young girl shot for trying to obtain and advocating for an education, and Nirbhaya, who was murdered on a bus for being a woman, to explain that huge strides still need to be made towards ensuring women’s rights around the globe.  Counties are better off economically, socially and politically when women enjoy full and equal participation in their societies, which makes women’s rights an issue of vital importance in foreign policy.  As Kerry states, “My predecessor, Hillary Clinton, elevated the empowerment of women and girls as a foreign policy issue, and I’m determined to keep it a cornerstone of US foreign policy during my time in office. The truth is that when women thrive, we all thrive, and our global commitment to that cause will not diminish.”

The Forgotten Malala by Seema Jilani (New York Times)

While we all know the story of Malala, Seema Jilani reminds us that two other young girls were injured in the same shooting, for trying to obtain what should be a guaranteed right – an education.  One of these girls, Kainat Riaz, has been largely forgotten, left under what is essentially house arrest (since her safety outside of her home cannot be guaranteed) and without access to PTSD treatment or physical therapy for her wounds.  As Jilani says, “Malala has now settled in England and remains the voice of young women striving for education.  Meanwhile, the world has abandoned Kainat, who is a vulnerable, unwavering young woman in a place that, at best, mutes her aspirations and at worst will kill her.”

In church and country, a crisis of governance by E.J. Dionne, Jr. (Washington Post)

EJ Dionne explains the divide between “Kingdom Catholics” and “Communion Catholics” (as expounded by Timothy Radcliffe in his book What is the Point of Being a Christian), showing that the divide began primarily as a result of differing viewpoints over the reforms of Vatican II: “The Kingdom side sees the Communion side abandoning the promise of Vatican II. The Communion Catholics see the Kingdom Catholics as too willing to undercut the specific markers of Catholic identity.”  Dionne believes that this tension should be celebrated.

Pope Benedict’s politics defied ideological categories by Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter)

Michael Sean Winters shows that Pope Benedict XVI did not fit neatly into a conservative or progressive box, even though the media often portrayed him as a staunch conservative. His positions on labor issues, capitalism, and the environment placed him to the left of the average Democrat in the US, while his positions on traditional values, including his opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception swings him back to the other side of the political aisle.  As MSW writes, “Benedict’s legacy in the political realm, then, is not as traditional as it might seem. In America, Catholics may focus on the conservative sexual ethics he defended and sought to see defended in law, but in the developing world, where the church is growing, his appeals on behalf of the poor rang both louder and truer to the Gospel.”

The Pope They Missed by John Carr (America Magazine)

John Carr reflects on the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI, commenting that the American media’s focus on the pope’s stance on sexual/social issues often ignored his continual push for increasing social justice.  He notes, “Benedict’s greatest disconnection from U.S. elites may not be about sex, but social and economic life: His advocacy for the life and dignity of the poorest and most vulnerable, his warnings to avoid military force in international disputes, his groundbreaking call for sacrifice to care for God’s creation and his warnings about ‘a selfish and individualistic mindset which finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism.’”

The Baha’i Fast… Slowly by Rainn Wilson (Huffington Post)

Rainn Wilson discusses the practice of fasting as part of his Baha’i faith, a practice that is also a part of every major religion and that many Catholics are taking part in now during Lent.  He fasts for 19 days in March during daylight hours (gorging during the pre-dawn and post-sunset hours to recover and battling some serious gooey-tounged “fast mouth” during the day).  And for what?  As he says, “In all the worlds’ major faiths there is an essential paradox: we are spiritual beings having a human experience through our corporeal bodies. Our reality is dual in nature, and fasting, as an act of physical renunciation, reminds us of our greater reality — the reality of our spirit and our heart.”

We, The (not so) Prodigal Sons by Daniel P. Horan, OFM (Dating God)

Dan Horan contemplates the well-known story of the Prodigal Son and suggests that we shift our focus from what seems to be the main characters (the irresponsible, selfish son and the forgiving, loving father) to the older son of the story, the one who is upset at all the attention his younger, deviant brother is receiving when all along he has been there faithfully being good and responsible.  He points out that many of us have the same reaction – we are troubled when the prodigal sons in our lives reap undeserved blessings and suggests, “This Lent is a time for us to recognize where we stand in the darkness of judgment and condemnation so as to move into the light with the father.”

Does the Holy Spirit Choose the Pope? by Rev. James Martin S.J. (Time)

Fr. Martin points to the instances of truly wretched popes in the history of the Church as evidence that the Holy Spirit does not hand-pick the pope.  What then is the Holy Spirit’s role within the Conclave?  He explains how the Holy Spirit moves in our everyday lives and how we develop our sense of discernment, of listening to what the spirit says – but at the same time we are human, with human considerations and our own free will sometimes getting in the way.  As Fr. Martin concludes, “So does the Spirit choose the next pope?  The best answer may be: Yes, No and It Depends. As the Benedict said, the Spirit guides us, but leaves us free. As in any part of life, we are free to listen or not, and human considerations will always get in the way.”

Pope, Outgoing and Incoming by Morning’s Minion (Vox Nova)

Blogger Morning’s Minion remembers with fondness the papacy of Benedict XVI and expresses his hopes that the next pope will bring greater accountability to the Church.  As he says, “But I think that, above all, we need a pope who can address the area where Benedict was weakest – internal Church governance. It has become clear that parts of the Church have been tainted by cronyism and even corruption. I realize that this is not new, but the modern world demands greater accountability and transparency, and to be seen as credible and effective in its mission, the Vatican must deliver.”

My Thoughts on a New Pope by Mike Hayes (Googling God)

GodGoogler Mike Hayes continues the trend of announcing hopes for the next pope, highlighting eleven qualities that the potential pope should possess—from vitality and enthusiasm to media-savvy, intelligence and a prayerful nature.

Reforms We Need by Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter)

Michael Sean Winters took a break from all the speculation surrounding who the next pope would be and instead suggested some structural reforms that would make the Vatican Curia function more effectively in the modern world, from the way meetings and personnel decisions are conducted, to introducing laity and religious men and women into the Curia, to stopping the practice of promoting bishops to larger or more prestigious diocese.  As MSW notes about these suggested reforms, “They have nothing to do with ordaining women or the sex abuse crisis or any of the hot button issues that tend to dominate discussions of reform, but they would make it more likely those hot button issues would be addressed more effectively. “

Living La Vida Justicia: Reconsidering Pope Francis and Liberation Theology by Dan Horan (Dating God)

Dan Horan calls into question the claim that Pope Francis was opposed to liberation theology, which has many offshoots and manifestations.  The life of Pope Francis, he argues, reveals “a man whose heart was imbued with the evangelical poverty that Francis of Assisi always strove to preach: in word and deed.  Pope Francis’s explanation about his choice of the name ‘Francis’ to the world media…highlights this truth most succinctly and illustrates how the pope sees social justice, solidarity with the poor, and the work of liberation from injustice at the heart of his ministry and at the core of the church.”

Pope With a Purpose: Helping the poor has been his life mission. But can he reform the Church? by Michael Sean Winters (New Repulic)

In another article touching on the theme of Pope Francis’ response to liberation theology, Michael Sean Winters, using a more narrow definition of liberation theology says, “…liberation theologians strangely mimicked the neo-con capitalists they criticized, exercising an economic reductionism that equated the achievement of social progress with salvation.”  Conversely, he argues that Pope Francis was “relentless in questioning and criticizing those who exercise power in ways that marginalize the poor,” but that he “was never seduced by the promises of the liberation theologians.”

For every Francis, a Clare by Maureen O’Connell (Washington Post)

Maureen O’Connell looks with renewed hope for the chance of leadership for women within the Church based on the Pope’s choice of the name Francis.  After all, Francis of Assisi is intimately connected with St. Clare, the two having formed a revolutionary partnership of love and charity that continues to influence the world around us today.  As she says, “Finally, Francis and Clare are radical; they return us to our roots by reminding us of the hallmarks of Jesus’ own ministry—simple living, a care for the poor, and a pivotal place for women at the heart of it all.”

How Movements Recover by David Brooks (New York Times)

David Brooks looks back to the 4th century’s reaction to a Church in crisis and sees two alternate approaches that can inform the way Catholics approach the crisis in the Church today – to either “close ranks and return defensively to first principles” like the Donatists, or to take a more dynamic approach, the path followed by St. Augustine.   Brooks notes, “The natural instinct is to turn Donatist, to build an ark and defend what’s precious. The counterintuitive but more successful strategy is to follow Augustine, to exploit a moment of weakness by making yourself even more vulnerable, by striking outward into complexity, swallowing the pure and impure, counterattacking crisis with an evangelical assault.”

What the Church Needs Now by Ross Douthat (New York Times)

Ross Douthat believes that the Pope’s ability to restore credibility and moral authority to the Church will be what makes or breaks his papacy.  After all, the culture at large cannot take the Church seriously if they cannot see that those within the Church are capable of living up to their own moral ideals.  As Douthat says, “The Vatican needs purgation at the top, to enable real renewal from below. And the church as a whole needs to offer and embody proof — in Rome, the local parish and everywhere in between — that the alternative Catholicism preaches can actually be lived.”

Weekly Rewind

Check out some of the most relevant articles and news stories for Millennial readers that hit the web over the past couple of weeks.

An awful loss, a beautiful life, a daunting task by Tim Carney (The Examiner)

Tim Carney gleans hope and insight from the tragedy of the death of his 14-month old nephew, who was born with a fatal case of spinal muscular atrophy.  Through the daily struggle of his parents trying to keep their baby alive, to the loving support of the community who stepped in to help where they could, to the loving sweet smiles of a baby boy, people were changed to love more, be more virtuous, and to reach a clear understanding of the dignity of life.  Quoting the homilist at the funeral, Carney says, “You saw so clearly that John Paul’s life possessed a dignity that was radically equal to that of everybody else. His medical condition was simply the battlefield upon which this young warrior-prince would carry out his campaign.”

The Special Olympics of joy by Michael Gerson (Washington Post)

Michael Gerson comments on his experience watching the Special Olympics, reflecting on the huge improvements in human rights that we’ve seen in the past several decades and how far we still have to go.  He says, “But in dealing with struggles we would not envy, children with disabilities and their parents have created a form of community we should honor: one where worth is not contingent on accomplishment, where people strive without fear of failure, and affection is freely given, and some get a few extra shots, and bravery is common.”

Three Global Priorities for Women and Girls by Jim Yong Kim (The Huffington Post)

In anticipation of this Friday’s International Women’s Day, the President of the World Bank Group acknowledges, “In recent decades, the status of women and girls has improved around the world, but much more needs to be done.”  He highlights three issues that need to be spotlighted in order for continued progress to be made on improving their status, including ensuring women’s basic freedoms, enforcing laws that punish those who perpetrate violence against women, and focusing on increasing women’s political representation and activity.

Can This Marriage Be Saved? by Mark Shields (Creators.com)

Mark Shields comments on the squabbling in Washington over money and the failure on both sides of the political aisle to try and reach bipartisan agreements that would bring the country together.  While Republicans look considerably worse in the polls right now, Democrats are not escaping the frustration, with a 15% drop in favorable ratings since 2009.  As Shields notes, “Disappointment and discouragement with Washington is followed by continued loss of confidence in the national government and its ability to be wise in policy, practical in action and prudent with the public purse.”

US, Holy See cooperation often guided by pope’s vision of just world by Dennis Sadowski (Catholic News Service)

Dennis  Sadowski  sets out to review the positive diplomatic relationship between the Vatican and the United States over the past 30 years, noting,  “While the Holy See during Pope Benedict’s eight years of service and the U.S. did not always agree on every policy matter (such as abortion, peace in the Holy Land or the Iraq War), both recognized the importance of addressing common concerns to bring about a more just world.”  Disagreements on many social issues have been downplayed, while the focus has been on the United States’ unique role as a leading power on matters of global social justice.  The author explains, “In areas such as economic development to ease poverty and religious freedom around the world, the U.S. and the Holy See found common ground.”

What we need in a pope by the Editors (Los Angeles Times)

Prominent Catholics speak up to discuss their hopes for a new pope after Benedict’s unexpected resignation – hopes for a courageous, inclusive, transformative, humble, inspirational figure that can unify the Church and be open to dialogue with the laity, clergy, and those of other faiths alike.  Some hope for change and some hope for continuity.  All hope for a leader that can help bring about the best of the church, which, as respondent Douglas Kmiec notes, means a church that “…inspires within each practicing Catholic a greater understanding of the love and mercy of God.”

Now is a good time to be reading everything that John Allen of NCR writes, especially his profiles of the papabile:

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga
Cardinal Robert Sarah
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn
Cardinal Péter Erdõ
Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer
Cardinal Luis Tagle
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri
Cardinal Marc Ouellet
Cardinal Peter Turkson
Cardinal Angelo Scola

Weekly Rewind

Check out some of the most relevant articles and news stories for Millennial readers that hit the web last week!

What George W. Bush Did Right by Christian Caryl (Foreign Policy)

Christian Caryl lauds President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was announced in his 2003 inaugural address and has provided $44 billion in aid to help combat this pernicious, deadly disease.  Many millions of lives have been saved since the creation of PEPFAR, and the program has earned the respect and support of many in Africa.  Unfortunately cuts to the program loom large.  As Caryl notes, “…the Obama administration is aiming to slash our commitment to this most potent form of smart diplomacy just at the moment when the possibility of wiping out this horrific disease is finally in sight.”

The future of love: The erotic politics of Benedict XVI by John Milbank (ABC)

Pope Benedict XVI was a prolific author, and his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, was about love.  The Pope made it clear in this encyclical that “not only is the Catholic Church not opposed to sexual love, to the contrary it alone truly understands it and fully promotes it.”  Milbank goes on to state, “the Pope has proved himself capable of linking the personal with the political. What humans yearn for is inter-personal love. But the extension of this through tempered measures of organisation committed to social justice and fraternity is the key to the arrival of a global loving community.”

Don’t Rule Out Having Children Because You Want to Have a Career by Anne-Marie Slaughter (The Atlantic)

Anne-Marie Slaughter highlights a study undertaken at the University of Pennsylvania that shows that graduates in their business school were “significantly less likely to expect to have children” than the graduates of 1992.  Much of this stems from financial considerations, where people feel they must choose between a rich family life and a successful career.  As Slaughter acknowledges, “In countries like France and Scandinavia, where governments bend over backwards to make it as easy as possible to have both careers and families, with generous leaves, affordable daycare, and financial incentives, the birthrate has been moving back upward. In countries where governments make it difficult, the birthrates are falling precipitously.”  However, she notes that this study doesn’t capture changing perspectives as people age and hopes that people understand not only the challenges but the incredible joy of raising children.

The End of a Catholic Moment by Ross Douthat (New York Times)

Ross Douthat writes about how American politics has shifted from the use of language intended to attract Catholic voters by both the right and the left during JP2’s papacy to Randian economic attacks from the right and “strident social liberalism” from the left.  Part of this, he believes, is due to the Church sexual abuse scandal, and part of this is due to the elite political class.  He states, “Even in a more unchurched America, a synthesis of social conservatism and more egalitarian-minded economic policies could have a great deal of mass appeal. But our elites seem mostly relieved to stop paying lip service to the Catholic synthesis: professional Republicans are more libertarian than their constituents, professional Democrats are more secular than their party’s rank-and-file, and professional centrists get their encyclicals from Michael Bloomberg rather than the Vatican.”

Catholic Moment RIP by Peter Lawler (First Things)

Lawler draws from Douthat’s article above and further breaks down the reason for the decline of Catholic influence in American politics.  He argues it is due to increased libertarianism in both parties.  As he explains, “The Republican party embraces a too-oligarchic or ‘individualistic’ view of human liberty. Catholic thought in America has been friendly to unions, the family wage, and indispensable social (including governmental) safety nets. And Catholics have never said the New Deal is unconstitutional. Too many Republican theorists and donors, at least, think that the Catholic idea of ‘social justice’ is simply an oxymoron. The Democratic party embraces a too-permissive or ‘individualistic’ view of personal liberty on issues such as marriage, the family, abortion, children, and the place of relational virtue in general in the public square. The Democratic party, until the mid-Sixties, was, I can remember, actually the more pro-family or pro-‘solidarity’ party.”

Weekly Rewind (Post-B16 Announcement)

Learning to Fail Well by Dan Horan (Dating God)

Dan Horan explores both anecdotal and experiential examples of the modern phenomenon of parents trying to protect their children through adulthood from any experience of failure, which often results in children living with an abject fear of failure and an inability to stretch themselves creatively.  As he notes, “It’s not so much that one’s inability to cope with the disproportionate anxiety from fear of failure makes somebody unintelligent or stupid, it’s that it makes them uncreative because they can never take the risk that comes with creativity.”  He goes on to challenge parents to let their children fail – which ultimately allows them to grow and “to become the beautiful creation intended from the beginning.”

The church needs to decide if it is all in or all out politically by Morna Murray (NCR Today)

Morna Murray takes on the disproportionate focus on the HHS mandate in the Bishops’ reaction to the Affordable Care Act: “In short, the adversity, distraction, rhetoric and polarization created by this issue has dramatically outweighed its importance in the overall effort to implement healthcare reform and improve the quality and access to affordable health care in this country.”  Healthcare reform was badly needed and it is essential that it remains in place and truly meets the needs of all.  And this must go hand-in-hand with efforts to reduce federal deficits while protecting the social safety net for the most vulnerable – all of which the Church could significantly impact if it would use the pulpit to cry out for the most vulnerable and confront those who hope to ignore them.

Who Needs to Win to Win by Jonathan Chait (New York Magazine)

In this lengthy but worthwhile article, Jonathan Chait examines how Republicans are trying to recoup their political losses by playing games — and changing the rules — within the American political system.  Partisan redistricting, efforts to change the way the Electoral College works, attempts to require voter identification, increasing restrictions on early balloting and registering new voters, employing the Senate filibuster in new and unprecedented ways, and turning the court system into a resource for political activism for laissez-faire economic policies have been strategies used to undermine the majority and manipulate the system to gain wins that undermine the majority will.  As Chait notes, “The tradition of expanding the scope of American democracy commands all the retrospective historical glory. But the counter-democratic tradition—a concerted advocacy not of dictatorship but of restraints to prevent the majority of citizens from exercising political power—runs just as long and deep.”

Give it Up by the Editors (America Magazine)

As we prepare for the season of Lent, this article reminds us of the three standard practices that should be our focus during this holy time: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  As the editors note, these practices are closely intertwined: “A deeper relationship with God leads to growing solidarity with the poor, a desire to imitate Christ in his poverty and a hope to be freed from the snares of our consumerist culture.”  They go on to further suggest creative ways to approach these three pillars as we strive to “awaken a deeper reliance on God.”

And a few bonus articles to check out in the wake of Pope Benedict’s surprise announcement:

What Is Pope Benedict’s Legacy in America? by MSW (The New Republic)

Practicing the Self-Gift of Lent: The Resignation of Benedict XVI by Timothy P. O’Malley (Oblation)

The Pope’s Legacy by James Martin, SJ (America Magazine)

Pope Benedict leaves behind legacy full of ups and downs by John Allen (National Catholic Reporter)

Benedict’s Legacy by Drew Christiansen (America Magazine)

Why Benedict Resigned By John Garvey (National Review Online)

Weekly Rewind

The politics of Downton Abbey: Down with the patriarchy! by Melinda Henneberger (The Washington Post)

Melinda Henneberger muses over the success of the television show Downton Abbey and takes issue with some who claim that its popularity is due to a nostalgic yearning for the “classy” job creators of the aristocracy.  As Henneberger points out, “…by that logic, I guess we also revere the Baltimore drug dealers, New Jersey mobsters and Albuquerque meth cooks who have been big hits, too, with American TV audiences.”  If you take even a glancing look at the show’s writing, it is clear that the heroes of Downton are not really the rich patriarchs (who often mismanage money, make appallingly bad judges of character, and fall in love with the maids), and that they certainly should not be idealized as a warped right-wing example of the good old days.

Pope Benedict XVI says lack of ‘faith’ could be used in marriage annulments by Alessandro Speciale (The Washington Post)

Alessandro Speciale reports on the Pope’s recent statement suggesting that a marriage can be recognized as void by the Church due to the lack of faith of one or both of the marriage partners.  The article notes, “According to Miguel Angel Ortiz, a professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, Benedict wasn’t so much addressing the specific issue of remarried divorcees but addressing the relation between the spouses’ personal faith and the validity of marriage, including its commitment to fidelity.”

The Why of Catholic Schools By Sister Dale McDonald (USCCBlog)

During last week’s Catholic Schools Week, Sister Dale McDonald reflected on the purpose and ongoing importance of Catholic schools in today’s world on the family, Church, and society as a whole.  She states, “Catholic schools make a significant contribution to society by educating millions of students who will advance the nation’s fundamental goal of developing a ‘good society’ that values the worth and dignity of the human person.”

Guest opinion: Gospel teaching moves Catholics to provide for the poor and infirm  by Sister Simone Campbell  (The News-Press)

Sister Simone Campbell, of Nuns on the Bus fame, recalls spending time with poor families and seeing how the assistance they received from federal programs providing food stamps helped not only the individual families but the greater community.  In that vein, she wonders how some (notably Paul Ryan with his infamous budget proposals) can align cutting services to the poor with following the Gospel.  She says, “I question how anyone can link a Catholic pro-life agenda with a budget plan that takes food from hungry families, denies lifesaving health care to sick people, and pushes vulnerable families further into poverty. It’s simply not possible, especially when that plan further enriches the wealthy with tax cuts while supporting military spending not even requested by the Pentagon.”

Gomez Breaks the Omerta by Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter)

Michael Sean Winters applauds Archbishop Gomez’s decision to remove church leaders from their public positions for their failure to adequately stand up for children during the sex abuse scandals, while simultaneously calling for the Church to follow the bishop’s lead and do more. MSW argues that “leadership in the Church requires in every age a commitment to protect the vulnerable, a commitment to candor and a willingness to be subject not only to the judgment of God but to a reasonable degree of accountability for one’s exercise of leadership.”

Weekly Rewind

49ers head coach describes joy of Peru mission work by Kate Veik and Marianne Medlin  (Catholic News Agency)

Jim Harbaugh, the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, describes the joy he feels when he joins fellow parishioners from his Menlo Park, California parish on their trips to Peru.  They visit to aid a growing ministry to the poor provided by The Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in the small town of Piura.  “’The doors that God will open for you by the people you meet or by the circumstances you’re in (allow) your character to be shaped and your spirit to grow,’ he said. ‘Those kinds of doors are opened for (me) here.’”

40 Years Ago an All-Male Supreme Court Decided Roe, Today More Women than Men Think Abortion is Wrong by Charles Camosy  (Catholic Moral Theology)

During the week of the March for Life, Charles Camosy points to statistics showing that more women are opposed to abortion rights today than men, and these women are leading the charge to provide equal rights under the law to the unborn.  He argues that “pro-life feminists have been fighting for women by presenting evidence that–contrary to conventional wisdom–broad abortion rights serve the financial and sexual interests of men.  And, tragically, hurt the flourishing of women.”

When Jesus Broke the Rules by Daniel P. Horan, OFM (Dating God: Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century)

Daniel P. Horan reflects on the Gospel story of Jesus healing a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath – considered a form of work on the Holy Day, which was proscribed by Jewish law, and considers what this example of holy rule-breaking means for people of faith today.  He warns that we shouldn’t take this as a sort of free-for-all allowance to ignore man-made rules and interpretations of God’s law, but rather as an opportunity to examine our priorities.  As he notes, “Marginalization, discrimination, violence, hatred, and so forth, even dressed up in the sheep’s clothing of legal righteousness and religious zeal, are nevertheless indications that the priorities of God are being supplanted by the personal or collective interests of human beings.”

The Millennial Divide by Daniel Allott (The American Spectator)

There is a growing divergence in the way Millennials approach the issues of abortion and homosexuality.  They are simultaneously becoming more pro-life and accepting of same-sex marriage, and they are helping to shift the national dialogue on both issues.  As Daniel notes, “Both gay rights and pro-life advocates have adopted the language of civil rights. And both have convinced many Americans that their causes aim to extend natural rights to more people, a goal that speaks to young Americans’ sense of social justice.”

Girl Rising: A Better Life Begins in School by Gordon Brown (Huffington Post)

200,000 youths showed up in the Burmese capital to protest child slavery; child marriage-free zones are cropping up in Bangladesh; and demonstrations against violence towards women have been taking place in Nepal.  More and more, women and girls are responding to the lethargic response of the global community by taking the struggle for justice into their own hands and mobilizing for their rights, as well as demanding access to education.  As Gordon Brown says, “The new self-conscious assertion by girls of their collective rights is the shape of the year to come. Given that so many female rights in so many countries have been promised and yet have still to be established — the right to a childhood free of marriage, the right to go to school, the right to be protected against violence — then the Bangladeshi movement is one that is likely to spread to the rest of the continent.”

Forty Years Later: It’s Time for a New Feminism by  Elise Italiano (The Public Discourse)

Elise Italiano argues that a focus on maintaining abortion rights is not the feminist solution that will allow women to flourish.  Arguments that abortion allows women to complete their education, achieve professional success, escape from poverty, and move on from the trauma of rape and sexual violence distract from and undercut real solutions to problems that women face in our culture today.  “A society that is poised to overturn Roe must put in place the structures and support for pregnant women so that the ‘choice’ between life and abortion is no longer difficult because life is the natural choice.”

Has Roe Been Good For Women? by Kristen Day (Red Letter Christians)

Kristen Day seeks to point out that the Roe v. Wade decision made 40 years ago did not have quite the impact that both abortion-rights activists and opponents claim it has – it neither legalized abortion (just moved it to a federal level instead of state-by-state) nor did it catapult women to equal-rights status.  It has given both sides political talking points that often distract from progress being made for women’s rights, or, as Kristen puts it, “In this polarized environment, we have lost sight of the women in the cross-fire who are facing crisis pregnancies or wondering whether to bring a special-needs child into the world. Compassion has given way to one-upmanship.  As a result, the women and their children whom both sides claim as their motivation are neglected by both sides.”  She then goes on to laud the Pregnancy Assistance Fund, created under the Affordable Care Act, which has not received nearly the attention it deserves.

Child of the 90s Commercial for Microsoft Internet Explorer

Just for fun, I had to include a great new ad out for Microsoft Internet Explorer which is making at least a few of us Millennials more than a little nostalgic for times past.  Please note, this is not an endorsement of IE or Microsoft, but it is definitely an endorsement of Hungy Hungry Hippos, pogs, and chili bowl haircuts.