The phrase “a consistent ethic of life” — also known as the “seamless garment” approach to ethics — won widespread currency during the episcopate of another Chicago archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Gregg observes that in approximately 15 addresses delivered between 1983 and 1986, Bernardin “called for the development of such an ethic and outlined how it might inform the way in which Catholics—lay and clerical—approached public policy issues.” Gregg goes on to outline the theological framework for this approach and how it has been applied, or misapplied, in recent decades: (more…)
What’s going on in Nigeria?
During an attack that started January 3 and continued through this past weekend, the African Islamic militant group Boko Haram opened fire on 16 northern Nigerian villages. The death toll estimates range from 200 to as many 2,000 people.
Another 10,000 people who managed to escape have fled to neighboring Chad. Many Nigerians drowned in an attempt to cross Lake Chad to escape what is now described as the “deadliest massacre” in the history of Boko Haram.
Over the past six months, Boko Haram has taken control of more than two dozen towns in northeast Nigeria, most of them in Borno State, and launched attacks into Chad and Cameroon. As Alexis Okeowo notes, their territory now nearly equals the Islamic State’s in Iraq and Syria.
What happened this weekend?
A girl believed to have been no more than 10 years old detonated a bomb concealed under her veil at a crowded northern Nigeria market on Saturday, killing as many as 20 people and wounding many more.
The explosion is believed to be a new tactic in the Islamists’ campaign with Boko Haram’s decision to use perhaps their youngest-ever suicide bomber.
What was the recent criticism by the Catholic archbishop?
There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In fact, there are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in human history, with an estimated 21 million in bondage across the globe. In an effort to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking across the world by 2020, Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby have personally given their backing to the newly-formed Global Freedom Network. The Global Freedom Network is an open association and other faith leaders will be invited to join and support this initiative.
In their joint statement, the signatories underscored the need for urgent action:
While Christians in the West are often faced with moral temptations and dilemmas regarding our faith life, we do not – for the most part – know the persecution faced by our brothers and sisters in places such as Syria, Iran, Pakistan and other countries where Christians are openly persecuted. Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona heads the Chaldean Catholic eparchy of Mosul, Iraq, and knows just this type of persecution. He writes at National Review Online that there is a way for Christians to face these very difficult times: (more…)
Surprise was the reaction in Rome on hearing of the elevation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, to the Papacy. My colleagues in Rome told me that the Plaza was unusually quiet as the people tried to figure out what was going on. I guess the Cardinals showed that they elect the pope on their own terms, and now everyone is wondering who Pope Francis is, how he will lead, and what will characterize his pontificate.
Intra and Extra: Challenges for the Pope in the Church and the World
The Pope’s main role is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his first homily as Holy Father he asserted just this. “We can walk as much as we want,” he said “we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a compassionate NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ.” He also has a Church to govern—and he’ll face serious challenges on both fronts. On the inside, the Church continues to reel from scandals and abuse. The curia needs to be reformed and the bureaucracy cleaned up. On the outside, Pope Francis faces a growing and hostile secularism, religious persecution from a number of fronts, dwindling number of believers in traditionally Catholic lands, including Latin America, and increasing ignorance of the basic tenets of Christianity. But there are also some real positives. The Church continues to grow in the Global South—especially in Africa and Asia. Belief is still high in Latin America, though many Catholics are leaving for the Pentecostals or evangelicals. Among U.S. Catholics, Hispanics are now the majority. And while the Church in the West may be getting smaller, it is also more vibrant and serious. Younger Catholics are orthodox and evangelical, and dissenters like Hans Kung are aging and less influential each day. Pope Francis also has the advantage of following Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI, whose interpretation of Vatican II and whose intellectual and spiritual guidance set out a framework for the New Evangelization.
Francis brings several important things to his papacy. The most obvious are that he is a Latin American, and not a member of the Roman Curia. The Curia needs reform, and being an outsider with experience of diocesan dysfunction will serve him well. Further, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he not only dealt with extreme poverty, corruption, lack of rule of law, and social and economic volatility that is common in the developing world, he also has had to contend with virulent and aggressive secularism that is common in the West. He has been a fearless defender of human life and family, has called abortion the “death penalty for the unborn,” and has been unafraid to clash with political leaders over corruption, reminding them that social corruption is rooted in personal sin.
He also brings a long record of engagement with the poorest of the poor. (more…)