1. March for Life activists reveal ‘Pro-woman’ protest theme, Argue progressives have distorted message.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, October 16, 2019, Pg. A6

Organizers of the national March for Life announced Tuesday the theme of January’s gathering in Washington — “Pro-Life Is Pro-Woman” — signaling a shift in the messaging strategy for anti-abortion efforts.

 The 47th annual March for Life will be held Jan. 24 in the nation’s capital. It protests the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, told supporters that a conference linked to the march will feature a slate of speakers who tie abortion restrictions to women’s rights.

“Courageous suffragists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who fought for women’s right to vote also opposed abortion,” Ms. Mancini said in a statement. “Pro-lifers should be inspired by the early suffragists, who understood the true dignity of women and that every person, born and unborn, deserves equal rights and protections under the law.”


2. Pope on World Food Day laments paradox of hunger, obesity.

The Associated Press, October 16, 2019, 5:52 AM

Pope Francis is calling for lifestyle and dietary changes to address the paradox of a world in which people suffer from malnutrition in some areas and obesity in others.

In a message Wednesday for the U.N.’s World Food Day, Francis lamented the “distorted relationship between food and nutrition” that he blamed on the world economy’s profit-at-all-cost mentality.


3. Amazon prelate floats alternative to married clergy: Send some Roman priests home.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, October 16, 2019

One Venezuelan prelate taking part in the current Synod of Bishops on the Amazon says people back home have a creative alternative for coping with chronic priest shortages, beyond the much-discussed idea of married clergy to serve isolated rural communities.

Rather than ordaining married men, he said, their proposal is that he bring some of the surfeit of priests who clog the streets of the Eternal City back with him to the rainforest.

“All these priests and religious that we see on TV… It cannot be that they’re all studying in Rome,” said Bishop Johnny Eduardo Reyes, apostolic vicar of Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela, explaining that the idea of bringing Roman priests back to the Amazon was floated in the hall by another Venezuelan bishop.

“The distribution of priests and religious is not good,” he said.

Globally speaking, two-thirds of the 1.3 billion Catholics in the world today live in the southern hemisphere, but two-thirds of the world’s 415,000 Catholic priests currently reside in the northern hemisphere.

More basically, Reyes insisted that inventing new ministries, including a form of the priesthood for married men, isn’t the synod’s main challenge. More important, he argued, is the question of proclamation.

Talking about the ordination of married men of proven virtue – viri probati -to address shortages of priests in the Amazon, he said something that has been brought up is the need for communities that are also viri probati, meaning communities living and growing in their faith that ask for the ordination of one of their own.


4. Historical Clarity and Today’s Catholic Contentions.

By George Weigel, First Things, October 16, 2019

One of the curiosities of the 21st-century Catholic debate is that many Catholic traditionalists (especially integralists) and a high percentage of Catholic progressives make the same mistake in analyzing the cause of today’s contentions within the Church—or to vary the old fallacy taught in Logic 101, they think in terms of post Concilium ergo propter Concilium (everything that’s happened after the Council has happened because of the Council). And inside that fallacy is a common misreading of modern Catholic history. The traditionalists insist that everything was fine before the Council (which many of them therefore regard as a terrible mistake); the progressives agree that the pre-Vatican II Church was a stable institution but deplore that stability as rigidity and desiccation.

American Catholicism, heavily focused on institution-building, was largely unaware of the sharp-edged controversies (and ecclesiastical elbow-throwing) that followed Leo XIII’s death in 1903. Those controversies, plus the civilization-shattering experience of two world wars in Europe, plus a rapid secularization process in Old Europe that began in the 19th century, set the stage for John XXIII’s epic opening address to Vatican II. There, the pope explained what he envisioned Vatican II doing: gathering up the energies let loose by the Leonine Revolution and focusing them through the prism of an ecumenical council, which he hoped would be a Pentecostal experience energizing the Church with new evangelical zeal. 

Over the past six and a half years, it’s become abundantly clear that more than a few Catholics, some quite prominently placed, still don’t get this history. Nor do the more vociferous elements in the Catholic blogosphere. Which is why I hope The Irony of Modern Catholic History helps facilitate a more thoughtful debate on the Catholic present and future, through a better understanding of the Catholic past. 


5. Letters From the Synod–2019: #5.

Edited by Xavier Rynne II, First Things, October 16, 2019

What Would John Paul II Have Said?

Forty-one years ago today, the cardinal archbishop of Cracow, Karol Wojtyła, was elected Bishop of Rome, the first Slavic pope ever and the first non-Italian pope in four hundred fifty-five years. He brought to the papacy an abundance of supernatural as well as natural gifts, and the two worked together to give him a uniquely prescient view of what Vatican II had called, in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the “signs of the times.” His analysis of those signs and his times was always the by-product of prayer. But it was also the result of the wide-ranging consultations he conducted, often over meals, throughout his pontificate. He knew what he didn’t know, and he eagerly sought the company of men and women—including many who were not clerics—to help him fill the gaps in his knowledge.

One of the tell-tale signs of the historical ignorance that distorts the view of younger Catholics of a traditionalist bent is their claim that John Paul II is, somehow, passé, old hat, yesterday’s news: that looking to his social doctrine for insight into 21st-century contentions is akin (as one recently put it) to those Republicans who think everything would be just fine if only Ronald Reagan, or at least his policies, were somehow reincarnated.

That is to do scant justice to the richness of John Paul II’s thought or its continuing salience. Of course the situation of the West today is not what it was in the decades immediately following the Cold War. But does that mean that the John Paul II template for thinking about social, cultural, economic, and political challenges is useless? That’s a rather queer view of “tradition” to come from self-identified traditionalists. John Paul’s insistence on the centrality of a vibrant public moral culture to the success of free politics and free economics—to the capacity of democracy and the market to contribute to genuine human flourishing—would seem even more salient in today’s contentious and self-destructive postmodern West than it did in 1991, when the Polish pope articulated a culture-first vision of the free and virtuous society of the post-Cold War future in the encyclical Centesimus Annus.

Something similar seems to be afoot at Synod-2019, in that a lot of the ideas dominating the synod’s first ten days seem to have been exported from western Europe—including an almost apocalyptic concern for “Mother/Sister Earth,” a deprecation of extractive industries and other forms of economic development, a celebration of indigenous religiosity, and a consequent squeamishness about proposing Jesus Christ as Lord and Redeemer. And it seems that a lot of the money behind the pre-Synod agitations in support of those ideological agendas (and the various Off-Broadway activism at Synod-2019) is coming from wealthy western NGOs, often using taxpayer money, but rather removed from the on-site experience of life in the complex region known as Amazonia. A new form of colonialism, perhaps? Another distraction from the Church’s primary task of evangelization?

What would John Paul II have said about those signs of the times?

He would have suggested that they be read very, very carefully indeed, “lest the Cross of Christ be deprived of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17).

—George Weigel     


6. U.S. bishops speak at synod for the Amazon.

By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, October 15, 2019

The Synod of Bishops for the Amazon is not a “referendum” on priestly celibacy; it is looking for ways to provide for the sacramental life and formation of the people there, U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston said.

“Because one of the themes is the terrible shortage of priests in the Amazonia region, I was trying to stress that, if we want to have priests in that area, we are going to have to make sacrifices to have people who can promote vocations and accompany and train seminarians in their own milieu and their own languages,” he said he told synod participants.

The cardinal and Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego both were appointed by Pope Francis to be voting members of the synod, which was being held Oct. 6-27 at the Vatican.

The cardinal, who also is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals, gave a summary on CardinalSeansBlog.org of what he told the synod in his talk to the general assembly and issues being brought up by the pope and others.


7. Evangelicals, Religious-Freedom Groups Criticize US Move to Pull Troops From Syria, Turkey’s military incursion into Syria one day later fueled their fears further.

By Lauretta Brown, National Catholic Register, October 15, 2019

Evangelical leaders and international religious-freedom groups broke with the Trump administration in a significant way last week after President Donald Trump’s Oct. 6 decision to remove U.S. troops from northern Syria along the border with Turkey.

The move was shortly followed by a Turkish military incursion into Syria. Many U.S. Christians, including longtime Trump supporters, believe the removal of the troops threatens Christians in Syria and betrays key Kurdish allies.

Trump’s decision was harshly denounced by some prominent leaders of the U.S. evangelical community, which has been a key constituency supporting him both during his presidency and during the 2016 election campaign.


8. Eberstadt on Eberstadt: Identity Politics’ Roots in Secularization.

By Angela Franks, The Public Discourse, October 15, 2019

Mary Eberstadt’s recent book, Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics offers important insights about identity politics. As Luma Simms’s review at Public Discourse noted, Eberstadt makes sense of the sheer emotionalism, a “chronic regression to preadolescent language and behavior,” that marks today’s identitarian struggles. Eberstadt argues that identity politics replaces the lost family, and those who take the identitarian path are wounded children seeking familial wholeness.

And yet, for all its insight, the book’s narrative is too truncated. If the sexual revolution causes identity politics, then we are talking about a story spanning the last sixty years or so, since the Pill was legalized in 1960. However, the modern concern with identity long predates this particular manifestation of identity politics.

Consider some of the following testimonies from before 1960. As I have treated elsewhere, the 1956 novel Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis is an extended portrait of a “faceless” narcissist, who does not know who she is or is meant to be. In 1963, Betty Friedan criticized 1950s suburban culture as leading to a loss of “a sense of human identity, the firm core of self or ‘I’. . . .” Likewise, Roberto Calasso has proposed, somewhat tongue in cheek, that the insubstantiality of secular man becomes widespread “around 1950 in the United States.” Eberstadt draws on Christopher Lasch’s treatment of cultural narcissism, which he correctly understands to be the loss of identity. But Lasch himself used the work of psychoanalysts who were witnessing a move from neuroses to personality disorders (such as narcissism) already in the 1940s. Eberstadt’s thesis does not lend itself to explaining these earlier manifestations of the “primal scream” of identity loss.

Primal Screams elides this larger history, but Eberstadt’s work on secularization, in particular her double helix, provides the missing piece: the breakdown of the family as both the cause and effect of larger social breakdown. After the most recent sexual revolution, this leads to the acute identity loss that screams primally around and within us.

The modern problem of identity long predates identity politics. Its beginning is simultaneous with the beginning of secularism, because secularism takes away the only sure basis for personal identity—the will of God for me as his creature. We are witnesses to the deterioration of secular self-construction, right down to contemporary narcissism. Receiving my identity from a transcendent source, on the other hand, escapes such futility and anchors my reality in eternity.


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