March 17, 2014
There are few experiences more devastating than being accused of a crime of which one is not guilty. It is even worse when the accusation could lead to the death penalty. A society likes to think of its judicial system as fair and just, yet evidence has been mounting in recent years that innocent men and women are tried, sent to prison and even executed for crimes they did not commit. Various databases spell out the evidence.
March 10, 2014
With five now-famous words, “Who am I to judge?” Pope Francis offered a fresh embodiment of the Catholic teaching that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Tragically, we live in a world where people are not only judged harshly for their sexual orientation but are also targeted and punished for it. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni recently signed a bill that criminalizes and punishes “the promotion or recognition”...
March 3, 2014
In “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis proclaims that the church must be a place “where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” In a world troubled by violence, the church, of all places, must serve as a sanctuary for children, the most vulnerable members of the human family. Yet a...
February 24, 2014
Much of the East Coast groaned under the weight of yet another winter storm in early February that disrupted transportation and commerce and wore down even the hardiest snowbound souls. But in the meteorological West, the opposite dilemma continued to grind down California residents. A third winter of drought has produced the driest conditions in California since before the appearance of the first Spanish missions. In fact, California is well on its way...
February 17, 2014
When Pope Francis remarked last month that the Internet was “a gift from God,” his comments may have seemed a little tardy. After all, the Internet has been with us in one form or another for decades, and it is such a ubiquitous part of our lives that pronouncements pro or con seem moot. No matter what you may think of it, the Internet is here to stay.
February 10, 2014
The Treaty of Westphalia, signed in 1648, signaled the beginning of the end of more than a century of conflict between Europe’s Catholics and Protestants. While it did not create a complete peace, much less produce broad religious harmony, it at least began an accommodation that allowed Europe’s Christians—and the nation-states that emerged from the treaty—to coexist more or less without open conflict.
February 3, 2014
From Juba, the capital city of South Sudan, the Catholic bishops of that republic proclaimed on Nov. 15 a pastoral message of “hope and encouragement,” marking the conclusion of the church’s Year of Faith and celebrating this young state’s independence from Sudan in 2011. The civil war in Sudan from 1983 to 2005 had cost an estimated two million lives. Independence was a special joy for Christians, who had suffered greatly under the regime of President...
January 20-27, 2014
Two of the most stirring images of the papacy of Pope Francis center on a person with a disability. In the first, featured on the cover of America (4/29/13), the pope embraces young Dominic Gondreau, a boy with cerebral palsy. In the second Pope Francis is shown kissing a man disfigured by severe tumors. Pope Francis’ outreach to these two...
January 6-13, 2014
Pope Francis demonstrated his collegial style in the first moments of his papacy. Speaking from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on March 13, 2013, he made five references to himself as a bishop instead of invoking titles like pope or supreme pontiff, and he asked for the assembled people to bless him and pray for him. He said: “Now let’s begin this journey, bishop and people, this journey of the church of Rome, which is the one that presides in...
December 23-30, 2013
Wend your way through the streets of any large city, teeming with Christmas shoppers, where store windows glisten with expensive watches and handbags, and it is all too easy to avert your eyes from those dehumanized shapes in doorways or sprawled on the steps or stretched out in the pews of open churches. Swathed in blankets, they peer out with blank eyes from between scarves and wool hats as they display their cardboard manifestos: House burned down....