1. Silencing the Voices of Faith.

By Cardinal Donald Wuerl, His Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl is Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, Real Clear Religion, November 20, 2017

Cultural and societal changes have gone through a quantum leap in the past 15 to 20 years. As an example, look at the secular tsunami that washes away cultural landmarks such as marriage, family, common good, and objective right and wrong. To sense just how far we have stumbled, one need only consider what passes for “breaking news” nowadays: a lack of fundamental respect for the dignity of life; a seemingly relentless campaign to redefine constitutional religious liberty to mean nothing more than freedom to worship in the sanctuary of your choice; the codification of politically correct redefinitions of marriage, family, abortion, and religious freedom into law; and criticism of those who fail to support these re-definitions as purveyors of “hate speech.” 

Even Catholic institutions are not immune. Just recently, on the campus of Georgetown University, a Catholic student group faced something that would have been unthinkable a couple of decades ago: being designated a hate group for professing the Catholic faith and its definition of marriage. 

“Love Saxa,” a group that advocates for marriage between a man and a woman, came under fire from campus LGBTQ groups, according to The Hoya, a Georgetown student publication. A member of the student government argued that Love Saxa’s definition of marriage and relationships violated university standards by fostering hatred or intolerance. 

Fortunately, the university administration upheld the student-run advisory board’s judgment that the public expression of the Catholic faith that marriage is between a man and a woman is neither hate speech nor discrimination. But what remains troubling is that we have come so close to allowing a few determined social engineers to silence the rest of us.

People of faith offer much to our society by way of helping to feed, clothe, and care for our most vulnerable neighbors; creating organizations that help share society’s blessings, financial and otherwise, with the less fortunate; running institutions that open their doors to those who wish to be welcomed and loved for who they are and the God-given gifts they wish to share. What we contribute to our culture and society are acts that bring to life for the world around us the values of the Gospel and the life-changing tenets of our faith: charity, love, and grace.

While such messages may not be popular in today’s culture, they are needed, especially in this season for giving thanks. Our voice will not be silenced just because we hold out the challenge to a better way of living.


2. ‘Pope devotes Mass to poor, calls indifference a ‘great sin’.

By Associated Press, November 19, 2017, 5:24 AM

Celebrating Mass with poor people, Pope Francis is denouncing “indifference” as a great sin.

St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday was filled with poor people as well as prelates as the Catholic church marked its first “World Day for the Poor.”

He told faithful that a lifetime of “doing nothing wrong isn’t enough” and called helping the world’s poor the “passport for Paradise.” He said people will enter Heaven “not for what you have, but for what you give” to the needy.


3. Pope Francis makes appeal for peace in Lebanon during new political crisis.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, November 19, 2017

Pope Francis prayed for an end to the “painful poverty caused by war and conflict,” particularly in the Middle East, naming Lebanon in particular, after the political crisis sparked by the sudden resignation of the country’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, on a visit to Saudi Arabia.

“Today, I would like to remember in a particular way the populations that live a painful poverty caused by war and conflict,” Francis said at the end of his weekly Angelus prayer. “I therefore renew an appeal to the international community to engage in every possible effort to foster peace, particularly in the Middle East.”

Going off the cuff, he said: “A special thought I give to the dear Lebanese people, and pray for the stability of the country, so that it can continue to be a ‘messenger’ of respect and coexistence for the entire region and for the whole world.”

Francis’s words came during a series of appeals he made after leading some 25,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square in the Sunday Angelus.


4. U.S. diplomat says religious freedom key to improving ties with Sudan.

By Crux, November 19, 2017

A leading U.S. diplomat visiting Sudan said the United States is willing to work with the Sudanese government to help it achieve the conditions necessary to remove its designation as a “Country of Particular Concern” in the U.S. State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report.

Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan was speaking on Nov. 17 at the Al-Neelain Mosque in Omdurman, located on the western bank of the Nile River, which separates it from the national capital.

Sullivan said “supporting human rights, including religious freedom, has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of the United States’ bilateral engagement with Sudan.”

The event at the mosque included leading Muslim and Christian clergy. Sudan is 97 percent Muslim, and the small Christian community has faced harassment, especially since the predominantly Christian and animist south of the country became the independent state of South Sudan in 2011.

The State Department’s 2016 International Religious Freedom Report cited reports of government arresting, detaining, or intimidating Christian clergy and church members, denying permits for the construction of new churches, closing or demolishing existing churches and attempting to close church schools, restricting non-Muslim religious groups and missionaries from operating in or entering the country, and censoring religious materials and leaders.


5. In Mass for the poor, Pope says everyone is a ‘beggar,’ calls indifference a ‘great sin’.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, November 19, 2017

Pope Francis told a St. Peter’s Basilica full of marginalized, poor, homeless and needy people that when it comes to God’s love, everyone is a beggar. He also said that indifference is a “great sin,” decrying those who claim the poor are not their problem but society’s.

“In the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor,” Francis said on Sunday. “In their weakness, a saving power is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our passport to paradise.”

The pope opened his homily saying that everyone is a beggar “when it comes to what is essential: God’s love, which gives meaning to our lives and a life without end.”

Francis’s words came as he was celebrating the first ever World Day of the Poor, an event he called for at the closing of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which ended last November.


6. Despite law, State Department misses deadline to name religious freedom violators. 

By Emily McFarlan Miller, Crux, November 18, 2017

The U.S. State Department often misses its deadline to release a list of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom – or doesn’t release a list at all. This year, Congress had hoped to break it of the habit.

In December, lawmakers passed a law mandating that the department name those “Countries of Particular Concern” within 90 days of releasing its International Religious Freedom report.

That report came out on Aug. 15, making Monday (Nov. 13) the deadline for the State Department. But there is still no list of CPCs, even though Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said religious freedom is a “human rights priority” for the Trump administration.

The delay bothers some religious freedom watchdogs, including members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan body set up by Congress in 1998 to monitor the issue.

A State Department official told RNS in an email Friday that those designations would be released soon and reiterated that religious freedom is a priority to the Trump administration. The official did not comment on why the list was delayed.


7. Busy Saturday: Pope talks healthcare, his predecessor and morality of technology. 

By Inés San Martín, Vatican Correspondent, Crux, November 18, 2017

There’s no such thing as a dull Saturday in Rome these days, with Pope Francis and the rest of the Vatican offices working at full steam, perhaps energized by the autumnal spring that the Eternal City is living this November.

Among other things, Francis delivered a speech praising his predecessor, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI; sent a message to a conference on healthcare being held in Rome, reminding pharmaceutical companies of the right of access to basic or necessary treatment; and appointed the secretary for the upcoming synod of bishops on the youth.

He also had private meetings with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops; Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, ahead of the upcoming papal visit to the country; and Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, emeritus of Havana, Cuba.

Technically possible vs. morally acceptable

Addressing the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Pope Francis praised the achievements of scientific and technological advancements, but cautioned that developments in the field, as in any human activity, must have limits, inspired by a sense of ethical responsibility.

“It remains always valid the principle that not everything that is technically possible or feasible is therefore ethically acceptable,” Francis said.

The Nov. 15-18 plenary, titled “The Future of Humanity: New Challenges to Anthropology,” took place in the Vatican’s old synod hall. Among the 54 participants were Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who heads the office, and the members and consultors of the council.

The magisterium of Emeritus pope Benedict XVI, “alive and precious”

On the occasion of the presentation of the Ratzinger Prize by the Vatican Foundation Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI, awarded every year, Francis said that the work and magisterium of his predecessor “continue to be a living and precious heritage for the Church and for our service.”

This year’s recipients of the award are Lutheran theologian Theodor Dieter, the Catholic priest Karl-Heinz Menke, and the musician Arvo Pärt.

Compassion at the heart of healthcare

The right to healthcare is a question of justice, and it must be guaranteed, Francis said in a message he sent to the XXXII International Conference “Addressing Global Health Inequalities.”

Seeing the global inequalities in the access to healthcare, and the factors underlining it, “the Church cannot remain indifferent to this issue,” Francis said. “Conscious of her mission at the service of human beings created in the image of God, she is bound to promote their dignity and fundamental rights.”

The pope also praised the launch of an online platform that is projected to connect the Church’s estimated 116,000 hospitals, clinics and dispensaries around the world.

On the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the youth

Among several appointments made by Francis and announced on Saturday, were the naming of Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha, of Brazil, as Relator General of the XVI General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

Da Rocha is the Archbishop of Brasilia and president of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference. He was created a cardinal by Francis last year.

The synod on the theme “Young people, faith and vocational discernment,” will take place in Rome, Oct. 3-28, 2018.


8. New book looks at intellectual history of Francis, and why he is ‘pope of polarity’.

By Austen Ivereigh, Contributing Editor, Crux, November 18, 2017

A number of people close to Francis have been looking forward eagerly to a book out this week in Italy that is sure to lay to rest the myth that somehow, he lacks the philosophical and theological ballast to be pope.

Massimo Borghesi’s dazzling ‘intellectual biography’ of Jorge Mario Bergoglio shows that this criticism – born of a mixture of snobbery and ignorance, as he wrote in a recent article in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano – is, whatever your view of Francis, simply wrong.

The pope’s dialectical thinking is at the core of Jorge Mario Bergoglio: Una biografia intellettuale. Borghesi uncovers a huge canvas filled with many influences, from the Lyons Jesuits in the 1950s via Podetti and Methol Ferré and Guardini, through to, more recently, Hans Urs Von Balthasar and Luigi Giussani. Yet he rightly gives the major space to the development of Bergoglio’s dialectics, which he describes as the filo rosso, or “golden thread,” that holds it all together, forming an “original conceptual nucleus.”

Borghesi shows that “Bergoglio’s whole thinking is a reconciliation thinking” – not in an irenic, optimistic, naively progressive way but systematically. At the heart of his method is the notion of a synthesis, or fusion, of polar opposites, in a higher, or transcendent plane.

This is not, to be clear, Hegel’s model, in which on a philosophical plane two rival ideas battle it out and a third idea emerges that destroys both. It draws, rather, on the critique of Hegelian dialectics by the nineteenth-century Tubingen scholar Adam Möhler, later developed in the twentieth century by Guardini and two Jesuits in particular, Erich Przywara and Henri de Lubac.

In this, anti-Hegelian or Catholic dialectics, the Church is a coincidentia oppositorum, a place of reconciled diversity in which the Holy Spirit forges a synthesis on a transcendent plane of coexisting elements that pull in opposite directions. Such dynamic polarities are intrinsic to creation, and reflect a divine grammar.

To understand Francis’s dialectical thinking is really to grasp the key to almost everything that is happening in this pontificate: the importance of mercy, the integration of pastoral practice into theology, his concern for concreteness and closeness, his horror of the technocratic paradigm, and so on.


9. ‘Faithful’ Detroit priest beatified by Catholic church.

By Ed White, Associated Press, November 18, 2017, 9:02 PM

A priest known for his steadfast devotion to the needy cleared a threshold on the way to possible sainthood Saturday as the Roman Catholic Church beatified Solanus Casey, who is credited with the miraculous cure of a woman with a chronic skin disease.

More than 60,000 people attended a Mass in Detroit where Father Solanus, as he was known, has an extraordinary following, decades after his death in 1957. Many insist their prayers to him have led to remarkable changes in their lives. Some of their stories were told on the scoreboard screens at Ford Field.

Pope Francis said Father Solanus met the requirements to earn the rank of “blessed,” especially after Paula Medina Zarate of Panama was instantly cured while she prayed at his tomb in 2012.

Father Solanus can be made a saint in the years ahead if a second miracle is attributed to him. He’s only the second U.S.-born man to be beatified by the church, joining the Rev. Stanley Rother, a priest killed in Guatemala’s civil war, who was beatified in Oklahoma in September. One U.S.-born woman has been beatified and two others have been declared saints.