1. Is Metro waging war on Christmas? Archdiocese sues to post biblical-themed bus ads.

By Martine Powers, The Washington Post, November 29, 2017, Pg. B1

The Archdiocese of Washington is suing Metro after the transit agency rejected an ad for the organization’s annual “Find the Perfect Gift” charitable campaign, which features a biblical Christmas scene.

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, attorneys for the archdiocese argue that Metro’s ban on subway and bus ads that “promote . . . any religion, religious practice or belief” has infringed on the organization’s First Amendment rights.

“The rejected ad conveys a simple message of hope and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season,” archdiocese spokesman Ed McFadden said.


2. Archdiocese of Washington Challenges Metro System’s Advertising Guidelines.

By The Archdiocese of Washington, November 28, 2017

Today (November 28, 2017) the Archdiocese of Washington filed a legal action in federal court challenging the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) advertising guidelines and sought injunctive relief after WMATA rejected the advertisement (above) promoting the archdiocese’s annual “Find the Perfect Gift” initiative.

“The rejected ad conveys a simple message of hope, and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season. Yet citing its guidelines, WMATA’s legal counsel said the ad ‘depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion,’” said Ed McFadden, Secretary for Communications for the Archdiocese of Washington. “To borrow from a favorite Christmas story, under WMATA’s guidelines, if the ads are about packages, boxes or bags … if Christmas comes from a store … then it seems WMATA approves. But if Christmas means a little bit more, WMATA plays Grinch.”

“We believe rejection of this ad to be a clear violation of fundamental free speech and a limitation on the exercise of our faith,” said Kim Fiorentino, the Archdiocese of Washington’s Chancellor and General Counsel. “We look forward to presenting our case to affirm the right of all to express such viewpoints in the public square.”


3. Pope preaches forgiveness in first public Mass in Myanmar.

By Nicole Winfield and Esther Htusan, Associated Press, November 29, 2017, 5:34 AM

Pope Francis urged Myanmar’s long-suffering ethnic minorities to resist the temptation to exact revenge for the hurt they have endured, preaching a message of forgiveness Wednesday to a huge crowd in his first public Mass in the predominantly Buddhist nation.

Local authorities estimated that about 150,000 people turned out at Yangon’s Kyaikkasan Ground park for the Mass, but the crowd seemed far larger and included faithful bearing flags from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, among other places. Burmese Catholics had to apply to attend through their local churches to enter the park venue, and many dressed in matching outfits or with hats bearing the pope’s image.

Francis has said his aim in coming to Myanmar is to minister to its Catholic community, which numbers around 660,000 people, or just over 1 percent of the population of about 52 million.


4. What’s changed since Humanae Vitae.

By George Weigel, First Things, November 29, 2017

Throughout this academic year, Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University is hosting a series of lectures, billed as the “first interdisciplinary” study to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. The series promises to examine the “many problems” that have emerged in family life since Pope Paul wrote on the ethics of human love and the morally appropriate methods of family planning. And that could indeed be useful.

Yet the roster of series speakers is not replete with defenders of Paul VI’s teaching in Humanae Vitae, and at least one of the lecturers has telegraphed his revisionist theological punch by suggesting that today’s “new situation” is quite different from that addressed by Humanae Vitae.

On that, at least, he’s right: Today’s situation is far worse.

Paul VI has been thoroughly vindicated in his warnings, in Humanae Vitae, about the effects of a “contraceptive culture”: a culture in which love and reproduction are technologically sundered; a culture in which children become another lifestyle choice, like the choice of vacation (the Dalmatian coast or Majorca) or automobile (BMW or Mercedes-Benz); a culture in which the family is defined absent its most fundamental characteristic, the transmission of the gift of life and the nurturance of the young.

Now there’s something for our Gregorian social scientists to ponder with their theological colleagues over the next eight months. Yet the notable absence of Humanae Vitae proponents among the lecturers does not fill me with confidence that the causal linkage between the contraceptive mentality and Europe’s demographic suicide will be seriously examined in this series of lectures.

Neither does the absence from the roster of lecturers of one of the Church’s most brilliant analysts of the social and cultural impacts of contraception, my friend Mary Eberstadt. Eberstadt’s 2012 book, Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, analyzes the real-world effects of ignoring Paul VI on men, women, children, values, and culture with greater insight than anything produced at the Pontifical Gregorian University since Humanae Vitae was issued; of that, I am quite confident. Yet Mary Eberstadt was not invited to participate in an examination of the “new situation” after Humanae Vitae.

And that, in turn, suggests either that those who arranged this series of lectures are woefully ignorant of what’s happening outside their intellectual silos—or that the Gregorian conference organizers have more than their elbows up their sleeves.


5. With Buddhists in Myanmar, the meeting was the pope’s message.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, November 29, 2017

Pope Francis on Wednesday held an encounter with Myanmar’s Buddhist leadership, and it was a classic case in which the meeting was the message. It happened in a country where, as Francis said, dialogue between religious leaders represents an essential way to advance peace and justice.

In Myanmar and also around the world, Francis told the Supreme “Sangha” Council of Buddhist monks of Myanmar, people need a “common witness” by religious leaders.

“For when we speak with one voice in affirming the timeless values of justice, peace and the fundamental dignity of each human person, we offer a word of hope,” he said.

This witness, Francis said, is particularly needed at a time when, despite technological progress and a rising awareness in society of our common humanity, “the wounds of conflict, poverty and oppression persist, and create new divisions.

The overwhelming majority of the population in Myanmar is Buddhist, and religious and ethnic minorities often complain of oppression and second-class citizenship. In that context, Francis told the Buddhist monks that the whole of society is called to work to overcome conflict and injustice, adding that civil and religious leaders have a responsibility to ensure that every voice is heard.

The official name of the group Francis met with is State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, a government-appointed body of 47 high-ranking Buddhist monks that oversees and regulates the Buddhist clergy in Myanmar.

The pope also urged the monks to continue meeting with the local Catholic bishops, and also with leaders of other religions and civil authorities, saying that such gatherings are “essential if we are to deepen our understanding of one another.” This, he said, is necessary because “authentic justice and lasting peace can only be achieved when they are guaranteed for all.”


6. Collection chips away at ‘enormous’ tab for care of elderly religious.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, November 29, 2017

Today, many [religious] communities are aging rapidly, facing constantly escalating costs to provide decent care for retired and elderly members. By 2027, retired religious are projected to outnumber wage-earners in America by three to one, and a 2016 study predicted that by 2030, religious orders will be looking at a $10 billion deficit in terms of providing retirement care.

Already, the National Religious Retirement Office estimates that women’s and men’s communities in America are spending more than $1 billion every year to care for members over 70.

Why is the gap so steep? Some observers fault, in part, a failure of planning by many orders back in the 1970s and 80s, but underlying today’s unmet need is an even more basic reality: For most of American Catholic history, nuns, brothers and religious priests served dioceses, schools, hospitals, and other ministries for little more than a nominal stipend, which means they had no capacity to pay into a retirement fund even if their order had set one up.

Today that situation has changed, but nowhere near enough to make up for decades of unpaid service to the American Catholic church – suggesting, needless to say, an obligation on the part of the rest of the Church to help cover the bill.

The good news is that since 1988, an annual collection authorized and promoted by the U.S. bishops has brought in somewhere between $25 and $30 million every year to supplement resources generated by orders themselves to ensure a retirement that’s marked by “dignity, respect and compassion,” in the words of Sister Stephanie Still, a member of the Sisters of Presentation and executive director of the National Religious Retirement Office.

This year, that collection falls on the weekend of Dec. 9-10 in most American dioceses.
The bad news is that, according to Still and other experts, that $25 million, while a sign of deep American Catholic generosity, comes nowhere close to meeting the full need.

Crux: Tell us what the Retirement Fund for Religious is, and where it came from.

Still: In the 1970s and 80s, it started to become part of the national conversation, not just in the Church, that religious communities were under-funded for retirement. 

For the last 30 years, we’ve been taking up an annual collection called the “Retirement Fund for Religious” to help with the retirement needs of men and women religious, which means sisters, brothers and priests who belong to religious orders.

What’s the date of the annual collection?

[Still:] It’s the second weekend in December, so this year it’s the 9th and the 10th. It’s taken up in most dioceses on those dates … some do it at a different time, but that’s when most Catholics should be hearing about it in their parishes and getting the envelopes to contribute.


7. Pope Francis: God’s Love Is Like a ‘Spiritual GPS’: In the first of two homilies during his visit to Burma, the Holy Father urges the faithful to be guided by the Lord’s wisdom and love, which seeks not revenge but forgiveness and compassion.

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, November 28, 2017

The wisdom of the crucified Lord is a “sure compass,” and His love like a “spiritual GPS” that “unfailingly guides us towards the inner life of God and the heart of neighbor,” Pope Francis said today in his homily at Mass in Yangon.

Addressing an estimated 150,000 faithful at the Kyaikksasan sports ground this morning, the Holy Father encouraged those present to “keep sharing” the “priceless wisdom” of the love of God they have received.

“His message of forgiveness and mercy uses a logic that not all will want to understand, and which will encounter obstacles,” the Pope continued. “Yet His love, revealed on the cross is ultimately unstoppable. It is like a spiritual GPS that unfailingly guides us towards the inner life of God and the heart of our neighbor.”

The Pope began his homily by saying how much he had been looking forward to the Mass — his first of two during his apostolic voyage to Burma — saying he wished to “listen and to learn from you, as well as to offer you some words of hope and consolation.”

Referring to the first reading from the Book of Daniel which recounts the limited wisdom of King Belshazzar and his seers, the Pope said they did not have the wisdom to “praise God” whereas Daniel had the “wisdom of the Lord” and could “interpret his great mysteries.”

Recalling the long suffering and deep wounds endured by the Burmese people after six decades of military dictatorship, the Pope warned against responding to those injuries “with a worldly wisdom” like King Belshazzar, and think that healing “can come from anger and revenge.” The way of revenge is “not the way of Jesus,” the Pope said, but “radically different.”

“When hatred and rejection led him to his passion and death, he responded with forgiveness and compassion,” the Pope said. The gift of the Holy Spirit, he added, “enables us each to be signs of his wisdom, which triumphs over the wisdom of this world, and his mercy, which soothes even the most painful of injuries.”