Just weeks before Pope Francis sets foot on U.S. soil, he’s all ready a sell-out in many places he’ll be visiting. And the media is trying to get a handle on just what the pontiff will be talking about while he’s here.
Guests of Michigan’s 16-member delegation for the Sept. 24 address include Paul Long, head of the Michigan Catholic Conference; Martin Manna, an advocate for Iraqi Christian refugees and president of the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce in Southfield; the Rev. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids; and Karl Kiser, president of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy — a guest of Sen. Gary Peters.
“It is obviously a great honor to have Pope Francis address Congress,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing.
While on a lecture tour of El Salvador about a year ago, I asked my hosts if it were possible to visit the church where Oscar Romero celebrated his last Mass in 1980.
The Salvadorian archbishop was assassinated by a government hit squad at the point in the Mass known as the Offertory.
Here, the priest slightly raises first the host and then the chalice in a re-enactment of Christ’s institution of the Eucharist, which Catholics believe to be the self-offering of Christ for the salvation of the world.
Sirico calls Romero “a man of deep prayer and spirituality” whose life had been co-opted by liberation theologians.
In 2013, the State of Michigan published its Report on Human Trafficking. In anticipation of the publication of the Acton Institute’s monograph, A Vulnerable World: The High Price of Human Trafficking, I interviewed Attorney General Bill Schuette last month.
Schuette (who served as co-chair for the Commission) explained that he realized upon his election that Michigan had a great deal of work to do in this area. As he prepared to attend the National Conference of Attorneys General, he
became aware that our state of Michigan was behind the curve and that we were low in the rankings of tools and law enforcement and assistance to victims and acknowledgement that this is a problem.
I asked Mr. Schuette this: I ask every teacher I meet, every first responder I meet, every medical personnel I meet, “Have you ever received any training on human trafficking?” And I’ve never had a yes. What do you say about that? He responded:
[U]nfortunately, the past has been that not enough people have been trained to spot, deal with, observe, try to stop human trafficking. And that’s one of the features that I think law enforcement in Michigan will move towards now, and that is having training sessions and training seminars, whether you’re EMS or sheriff patrol or a local police organization, where you learn about human trafficking. That’s an area that we have to improve. I’m not surprised by [your informal survey] because that was one of these glaring issues that came out in our 5 subgroups or working groups that wanted to, in essence, attack in the state of Michigan. That’s one of the proposals that’s high on my agenda.
Writing in The Detroit News, Rev. Robert A. Sirico looks at Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, the “much talked about, but little-read” document titled “The Joy of the Gospel” with a special emphasis on how the pontiff understands the problem of poverty. The president and co-founder of the Acton Institute notes how Francis “speaks boldly through effective and moving gestures.” Excerpt:
It is no surprise that the man who took as his model and name the model of il poverello of Assisi would place the poor as a central concern of his pontificate: their dignity, their rights and their sustenance. Yet, the spontaneous gestures and the impromptu manner in which they are displayed ought not to beguile us into thinking this pope is offering a superficial dichotomy between left and right; between capitalism and socialism. To think that any pope, but especially this pope, is animated in his concern for the poor and vulnerable by a particular political ideology is to miss him completely.
While renouncing the notion that the market alone is sufficient to meet all human needs, Francis is also prepared to denounce a “welfare mentality” that creates a dependency on the part of the poor and reduces the Church to the role of being just another bureaucratic NGO. The complexity of his thought surprises some, on both the Right (some of whom worry, needlessly, that he is a liberation theologian) and the Left (who are already using his words to foment a political “Francis Revolution” in his name). Such tendencies reveal a rather anemic understanding of this man but also of Catholicism, which has historically been comfortable balancing the tensions of apparent paradoxes (Divine/human; Virgin/Mother; etc.). It is too facile a temptation to collapse 2,000 years of tradition, commentary and lived experience into four or five politically-correct hot button sound bites that are the priority, not of the Church, but of propagandists with an agenda.
Before we begin weeping about the death of the Motor City, there are bright spots. Fast Company did a piece in April highlighting entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of low-rent and housing prices and the need for creative work to boost Detroit’s economy. Dan Gilbert is a real estate broker working on filling office space downtown. Andy Didorosi has created a bus service that takes patrons from night-spot to night-spot in safe, fun and comfortable buses. Alicia George has opened a coffee house, and is optimistic that several new businesses have opened near-by.
Now for the bad news. The city of Detroit is paying a farrier (that’s a person who shoes horses) $56,000 in pay and benefits. Right now, in 2013. Let’s just say that he’s not really earning his pay in today’s downtown Detroit. The Detroit Water & Sewer Department is telling the cash-strapped city they need more employees – union employees. And the city’s unionized teachers? They want to cash in unused sick days for over $14 million. (more…)
In today’s The Detroit News, the Rev. Robert Sirico seeks to set aside some of the rumors, skewered Hollywood depictions, and media predictions that swirl around any papal conclave. Of course, this time is decidedly different, as the cardinals are coming together not after the death of a pope, but one’s retirement.
There is much talk throughout all the Church as to whom the next pope will be, and as Fr. Sirico points out, “[n]o one, not even the most well-informed Cardinal or Vatican journalist, has a clear answer to that question. Anyone telling you otherwise is dreaming.” Given the unusual circumstances of this conclave, Sirico believes this will not be a quick process.
…there is no obvious front-runner, no single cardinal that universally stands out as an obvious successor.
What does all this mean for the days ahead? Time. Time for the sifting process to allow the cardinals to get to know one another in this new light; time to get to the bottom of the problems related to the spirituality and governance of the Roman Curia (the bureaucracy that is supposed to help formulate, administer and communicate the decisions of the pope), which, even before the “Vatileaks” exposure, was well-known for its rivalries and cronyism; and time for the actual election process itself, due to procedural changes introduced since the last conclave, now requiring a two-thirds vote of the cardinals to elect a pope for up to 33 ballots.
Detroit News reporter Oralandar Brand-Williams interviewed Kishore Jayabalan, director of Acton’s Rome office, about preparations at the Vatican to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI. A date for the conclave, the assembly of cardinals that will elect the next pope, has not yet been set. Jayabalan said that there is no cause for concern. “They need to wait for all the voting cardinals to arrive before deciding on the date,” he told The News. “There’s a sense it’s better to take some time rather than rush it.”
The Italian news agency ANSA is reporting that “Hong Kong bishop John Tong Hon, one of the last cardinal electors set to come to Rome for the conclave, arrived in the Italian capital early on Wednesday.”
The Detroit News editorial page today features Kishore Jayabalan’s commentary regarding the pro-business statement made by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP). Jayabalan, Director of Istituto Acton in Rome, says this:
It may be easier to describe the contents of the PCJP statement by saying what it is explicitly not. It is not a policy statement on the merits of financial regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley or the Tobin Tax. It is not a call-to-action to storm the barricades and “expropriate the expropriators,” the old Marxist term for an overthrow of the capitalists. And it is not a statement intended to discourage faithful Christians from engaging in the buying and selling of goods and services, as if these are grubby, disreputable but sometimes necessary ways to make a living.
It’s not quite a how-to manual for busy executives and managers who are struggling to live their faith in the workplace either, yet The Vocation of the Business Leader wants to encourage and inspire us to “see, judge, and act” wisely and prudently.
Writing in the Detroit News about the latest rash of shootings in the city (nine dead and 20 injured), Luther Keith asks, “Haven’t we been around this track before?” Yes, actually. He lays out a list of measures to address the crime problem including some predictable (police, gun buybacks, recreational programs) and, refreshingly, something more promising, more powerful: “Emphasize personal responsibility. It all comes down to choices — right ones and wrong ones, good ones and bad ones and the willingness not just to say “no more,” but the willingness to do something about it.”
Keith’s opinion piece appears on a day when the Drudge Report has linked stories about widespread gun mayhem in New York and Chicago over the Labor Day weekend. For decades, often after a tragic shooting involving the death or deaths of children, church leaders and community activists have taken to the streets to demand that something be done about crime and public disorder. Yet there are no quick fixes. This is the hard work of cultural change that takes years and years and cannot be accomplished with snap solutions from politicians. That’s because, as Anthony Bradley wrote in his Acton commentary on flash mob violence, the rot has gone deep:
An ailing American culture is responsible for this spectacle. In a society that does not value forming young people in the way of prudence, justice, courage, self-control, and the like, why should we be surprised that convenience stores are being robbed by youthful mobs? In a society that does not value private property and fosters a spirit of envy and class warfare through wealth redistribution, why should we be surprised that young people don’t value someone else’s property? Radical individualism and moral relativism define the ethics of our era and criminal flash mobs expose our progressive failure.
The Church does have an important role to play in effecting this cultural change, as an institution still at work in big cities dedicated to the shaping of a rightly ordered moral conscience and public virtue. Here’s a new video from FOCUS North America, the Orthodox Christian ministry to the poor. Its ReEngage program has created the “The Man Class” to help men understand what exactly it means to be a man, something not so obvious as it turns out. Here’s “Man Class” facilitator Rodney Knott:
In the absence of men that has occurred over the last 30 years, the definition of manhood has slowly eroded and been perverted. Let us be clear, this is not an indictment against the many single mothers who struggle mightily to raise their sons. But what we are expecting them to do is impossible.
There have never been any cultures, tribes or societies that have allowed or expected its women to train up their men. But that is exactly what is taking place in our society today. We are created male and female. We learn to be men and women. In the absence of teachers, how will we learn these lessons? It takes a man to teach a boy how to be a man.
Medicare beneficiaries will be “assigned” to 5,000 patient-minimum organizations to coordinate their care. While HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius talks about improvement in care, the politically poisonous truth is that Medicare is going broke and ACOs are designed to save money.
The words “rationing” or “treatment denial” or “withholding care” are not part of her press release, but reading the regulations reveals intentions to “share savings” with those who fulfill, or “penalize” others who fall short of, the administration’s objectives. The administration’s talking points include politically palatable words that emphasize quality improvement and care enhancement when the real objective is cost control by a utilitarian calculus.
Physicians and other health care providers will find themselves in conflict with the traditional ethos of duty to patient within ACOs. Doctors will face agency conflicts between the time honored primary duty to patient. Medical care providers will receive incentives for controlling spending, and penalties if they do not. “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24); not even physicians.