Acton Institute President and Co-Founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico was in Argentina last week for Acton’s conference in Buenos Aires on Christianity and the Foundations of a Free Society, which is part of a series of Acton conferences being held around the world on the relationship between religious and economic freedom. While he was there, he was interviewed on Infobae.tv and spoke about the problems of poverty that Argentina is struggling with, and also addressed the relationship between Pope Francis and the media and politicians, and the security arrangements that are in place to keep the pope safe.
There has been much speculation regarding Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on ecology. Will he side with those who raise the alarm on climate change? Is he going to choose a moderate approach? Will the encyclical call for changes to help the poor?
Commonweal’s Michael Peppard seems to think Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Ghanaian prelate and President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has lifted the curtain on the pope’s upcoming encyclical. Cardinal Turkson gave a lecture last week, entitled, “Integral ecology and the horizon of hope: concern for the poor and for creation in the ministry of Pope Francis” which seemed to do more than simply hint at the themes of the ecology encyclical. As Peppard said, Cardinal Turkson “might well have titled it, An outline of the Pope’s forthcoming encyclical.” (more…)
John Couretas’s link today to the recent Christianity Today article on how Russian evangelicals “thank God for Putin,” reminded me of this excellent post last month from Joseph Pearce on the complexities of religious tribalism in the Ukraine crisis. As ought to be expected, despite the Cold War posturing of both Western and Eastern media, the situation is not as simple as East vs. West or, for that matter, good vs. evil:
Regardless of the relative merits of each side’s claims in the Ukraine, it struck me as unfair to blame the Catholic Church for the actions of western Ukrainian forces. It is true, of course, that the people of western Ukraine are mainly Catholic whereas those in the east are mainly Orthodox. In this sense, it can be conceded that the war is “ethnic,” in the sense that two different cultures are struggling for dominance or for separation. It is, however, not fair to categorize the war as “religious.” It would be much more accurate to describe it as political in the sense that it is a clash of nationalities: ethnic Ukrainians in the west and ethnic Russians in the east. The western Ukrainians blame their eastern neighbors for their suffering under the Soviet system; the eastern Ukrainians blame their western neighbors for their collaboration with the Nazis and the hated SS during the second world war. There are communist “conservatives” in eastern Ukraine who long for the patriotic “glories” of Soviet imperialism, and there are many neo-Nazis in positions of power in the western Ukrainian government.
It is, however, not fair or accurate to describe the struggle between the two warring parties as religious, except in the decidedly irreligious sense of its being a sectarian struggle in which religious affiliation is little more than a badge worn in the service of tribalism.
I happen to be particularly sensitive to this crucial distinction between that which is genuinely religious and that which is merely tribal. Many years ago, back in the 1970s and 1980s, I was heavily involved in the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland between the so-called Catholics and the so-called Protestants. In those days, long before my conversion to Catholicism, I was on the side of the Protestants, even though I had no religion. I was technically, I suppose, an agnostic. I was not an atheist because God was not important enough to me. Frankly I did not care whether He existed or not. I was a Protestant, not because I cared about the way that Luther or Calvin differed from the Catholic Church but because I hated the IRA.
Jeff Gardner was frustrated. As a photo-journalist working primarily in the Middle East, he is witness to the violence towards Christians on a daily basis, but the rest of the world seems unconcerned. Gardner realized it wasn’t that people didn’t care, but that they just didn’t know. It truly was an “out of sight, out of mind” situation. Gardner set out to fix this.
In the fall of 2013, Gardner launched the Picture Christians Project. He hopes to a put a face on a particular group of persecuted Catholic Christians — the Assyrians, most of whom are members of the Syriac Catholic Church.
For more than a decade, these Christians have been driven out of their homeland in Iraq by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group by the hundreds of thousands.
Gardner told the National Catholic Register that he visited Jordan last year, and was struck by the situation for Christians in exile. (more…)
Sandra Fluke, the young woman who testified before Congress that she needed someone (you) to pay for her birth control, lost her bid for Senate in California. She was pushing for “progressive change,” which meant, in part, that someone (you) would be paying for lots of birth control. No one should be without. No questions asked.
Unless, of course, you want to have children – more than your fair share. Or if you’re poor. Or not American. In these cases, there’s a problem.
Nicholas Kristof, in The New York Times, is throwing around words like “bewildered” and “nuts” when it comes to keeping certain people from getting pregnant. We simply aren’t doing enough to stop them. Globally, he says, we’re under-investing in getting birth control to the developing world. Here in the U.S., Kristof says, we need to get long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) into young people, fast. (Never mind that LARCs are more expensive in the long run and have hideous side effects for many women.) (more…)
Today marks the feast day in the Catholic Church of St. John Paul II. His pontificate was extraordinary for many reasons, but one thing St. John Paul II understood well was the need for holiness and engagement of culture by and for the laity. In an address he made in 1987 while visiting the United States and Canada, he spoke of this very thing.
It is within the everyday world that you, the laity, must bear witness to God’s Kingdom; through you the Church’s mission is fulfilled by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Council taught that the specific task of the laity is precisely this: to “seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God” (Ibid. 31). You are called to live in the world, to engage in secular professions and occupations, to live in those ordinary circumstances of family life and life in society from which is woven the very web of your existence. You are called by God himself to exercise your proper functions according to the spirit of the Gospel and to work for the sanctification of the world from within, in the manner of leaven. In this way you can make Christ known to others, especially by the witness of your lives. It is for you as lay people to direct all temporal affairs to the praise of the Creator and Redeemer (Cfr. Lumen Gentium, 31).
I once read a fascinating book about the leper colony on Molokai. The Molokai lepers were literally cast out of society, sent as far away as possible, with almost no support systems. There was no health care for them, no houses beyond rudimentary shelter, no way to readily obtain clothing, school books for children…it was a frightful and frightening situation. A brave and gentle priest, Fr. Damien de Veuster from Belgium, accepted the assignment to go to Molokai and serve the 600 lepers there.
He arrived to chaos. Those suffering from leprosy were living in a lawless society. They fought over food, areas of land – it was survival of the fittest. In the 16 years that Damien lived on Molokai, he built a church, helped the people build houses that truly were homes, constructed needed buildings and roadways in the mountainous region, taught farming to the residents, and provided education. His greatest gift, however, was spiritual. (more…)