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Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" – December 3, 2013

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on December 3

4:00 – ACLU lawsuit aims at Church ethical directives on hospital policies
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), claiming that the ethical directives issued by the American bishops are responsible for negligence in the care of a woman treated in a Michigan Catholic hospital. Tamesha Means, who reportedly suffered damaging infections during a troubled pregnancy that ended in miscarriage, should have been advised to abort the child, the ACLU argues. The lawsuit claims that officials at Mercy Health Muskegon, a Catholic hospital, failed to provide the woman with the best medical options because of restrictions imposed on Catholic hospitals by the USCCB’s ethical directives. The ACLU case has important implications for the American health-care system overall, since 13% of the hospitals in the US operate under the auspices of the Catholic Church.  We get analysis from Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

4:20 – Kresta Comments

5:00 – Study of 36 Chinese Abortion-Breast Cancer Studies a “Game Changer”
A systematic review and meta-analysis of 36 Chinese studies by Dr. Yubei Huang and his colleagues in the prestigious journal, Cancer Causes Control, last week reported a significant 44% increased breast cancer risk among women with at least one induced abortion, compared to women without induced abortions.  Huang's team cited and supports a 1996 review and meta-analysis, led by Joel Brind, Ph.D. and colleagues at Penn State, who found a 30% risk elevation for women with any history of induced abortions. We talk to Dr. Brind about his long-time fight to get the medical community to recognize the abortion – breast cancer link.

5:20 – More of the Holy Spirit: How to Keep the Fire Burning in Our Hearts
In the last forty years, many Catholics have experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives that resulted in a new passion for God and a zeal for spreading the gospel. In addition to a newfound love of prayer, Scripture, and the Eucharist, many have been blessed with the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues and healing. Yet as the years go by, many often experience a waning of the gifts of the Spirit as well as a luke-warmness creeping into their lives. What can we do to keep that fire for God, which may have been ignited many years ago, burning brightly in our hearts? Sr. Ann Shields is here to tell us.

Presidential Medal Should Have Gone to a Different Feminist

Radical feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who is among the most influential and controversial proponents of abortion in America, last week received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. 

On November 20, the President presented the Medal of Freedom to sixteen individuals who had, he claimed, by their work enriched the lives of their fellow Americans.  The President stated,
"The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours.  This year's honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world.  It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation's gratitude."
Cathy Young, a columnist for RealClearPolitics and contributing editor at Reason magazine, noted that Steinem’s selection has gone largely unchallenged in the media, except for a few charges by far-right and pro-life blogs which focused on her advocacy and abortion rights positions.  Young pointed out that even pro-abortion supporters should have reservations about honoring Steinem.  Young wrote,
Despite her undeniable talent and charisma, Steinem is practically a poster girl for the gender-war paranoia and the ideological dogmatism that have led the women’s movement down such a destructive path.
Writing on RealClearPolitics, Young asserted that Gloria Steinem represents the worst of modern feminism.  To prove her point, Young cited seven features of Steinem’s worldview about which Christians and other conservatives should be concerned:
Dogmatic denial of sex differences.  Young acknowledges the argument that male/female differences are culturally influenced and less important than individual differences.   There is certainly widespread support for the loosening of traditional gender-based restrictions. But Steinem takes the anti-difference view to fanatical extremes of what dissident feminists Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge have dubbed “biodenial.” In 1997, interviewed for John Stossel’s ABC News special, “Boys and Girls Are Different: Men, Women and the Sex Difference,” Steinem derided scientific research on sex differences in brain functioning as “anti-American crazy thinking.” She also suggested that upper-body strength tests requiring firefighters to lift heavy loads were sexist. What about situations when firefighters have to carry injured or unconscious people out of burning buildings? Steinem insisted, with a straight face, that it was better to drag them, since “there’s less smoke down there.”
Fixation on male villainy. Like many in the sisterhood, Steinem does not let her belief in absolute equality interfere with a focus on men as perpetrators of violence and evil. In theory, she blames “the patriarchy,” asserting that it has robbed men as well as women of full humanity; she has even said (rightly) that we won’t have real equality until we recognize men’s capacity for care and nurture just as we have recognized women’s capacity for strength and achievement. Alas, actual, unreconstructed men usually appear in Steinem’s writings as dangerous brutes.
In her 1992 book, Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, Steinem writes, “The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home.” She has also touted the long-discredited notion of a long prehistoric period of peaceful, benevolent, egalitarian “gynocentric” societies later displaced by violent, oppressive male rule.
Junk scholarship. Steinem’s talk of peace-loving prehistoric matriarchies is just one example of her penchant for peddling pseudo-scholarly nonsense -- often on college campuses, where she is a popular speaker. Thus, in a 1993 speech at Salem State College, Steinem rehashed not only the matriarchy theory but the myth that the witch-hunts in Europe were an effort to exterminate still-existing pagan religion and killed as many as nine million women. She also spun a fanciful “revisionist” history of Joan of Arc as a pagan worshipper who led French armies to victory but was executed as a witch once the war was won because she had grown too powerful. (In fact, Joan, by all available evidence a devout Catholic, was executed for heresy after being taken prisoner in the still-ongoing war.) While Steinem is not an academic, equally shoddy pseudo-scholarship is all too common in women’s studies classrooms.
Misinformation. Steinem’s dissemination of faux facts is not limited to distant history. In Revolution from Within, she asserts that 150,000 women and girls in the United States die from anorexia every year -- multiplying the actual number by about 1,000. (As Christina Hoff Sommers documented in her 1994 book, Who Stole Feminism?, the claim of a 150,000 death toll was based on a feminist professor’s mangling of a statistic referring to anorexia sufferers.) The same book discusses an alleged crisis in girls’ self-esteem based on a single shoddy study from the American Association of University Women.
The victimhood cult. In Steinem’s case, the fixation on the sexual victimization of women and girls has led the activist into some strange places, such as the active promotion of “recovered memories” of sexual abuse. E. Sue Bloom’s 1990 book, Secret Survivors: Uncovering Incest and Its Aftereffects in Women, which prominent journalist Joan Acocella termed “one of the most outrageous [recovered memory] manuals,” bore a blurb from Steinem claiming that it could “set millions free” by encouraging them to explore hidden memories of molestation. She is also implicated in a particularly bizarre offshoot of the “recovered memory” movement, the panic over supposedly rampant satanic ritual abuse. In 1993, Ms., the magazine founded by and closely associated with Steinem, ran a lurid piece titled “Surviving the Unbelievable,” a supposed firsthand account by a woman who had grown up in a Satanic cult.) Left-wing critics such as Alexander Cockburn and Debbie Nathan have identified the radical feminist establishment, and Steinem in particular, as major contributors to the ritual abuse hysteria of the 1980s and ’90s.
Ironically, the sexual abuse craze not only pushed untold numbers of women into harmful quack therapies but led to the wrongful imprisonment of a number of female day care workers. Indeed, Steinem personally labored to aid one such persecution -- the notorious McMartin preschool case in Manhattan Beach, California in the 1980s. The famous feminist put up funds for an (unsuccessful) excavation effort to find tunnels underneath the school to corroborate the claims of some children -- made under the guidance of a rogue therapist -- that they had been taken to such tunnels for grotesque sexual rituals. 
Contempt for freedom of speech. Steinem was largely responsible for the women’s movement’s embrace of the divisive anti-pornography crusade; but her pro-censorship streak also extends to political expression. Last year, she joined fellow activists Robin Morgan and Jane Fonda (with whom she co-founded the Women’s Media Center) in penning a CNN.com op-ed calling on the FCC to yank the licenses of radio stations that carry Rush Limbaugh’s show, accusing Limbaugh of “toxic, hate-inciting speech” and lamenting that “for 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment.” While the trio hilarious claims that its stance “isn’t political,” UCLA constitutional scholar Eugene Volokh noted that they were urging the FCC to curb Limbaugh’s speech “based on the ideology that it expresses [which] is precisely what the Supreme Court has rightly said is impermissible.”
Knee-jerk partisanship. Steinem’s solidarity with women stops at the party line. In 1993, she flew to Texas to campaign against then-Senate candidate Kay Bailey Hutchison, a moderate pro-choice Republican, and slammed her as “a female impersonator.”
Steinem is an undeniably talented and charismatic woman; her message is often couched in appealing terms of female empowerment, freedom, and basic fairness. But in practice, her advocacy promotes far less positive values. This is a Medal of Freedom recipient who has backed attacks on free speech and colluded in the imprisonment of innocent people.
Cathy Young correctly labeled Gloria Steinem as a class war feminist.  The President, if he wanted to honor the feminist movement, should—according to Young—instead have posthumously honored Betty Friedan, author of the groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique.  While one might strongly disagree with Friedan on some issues (such as abortion), at least Betty Friedan—unlike the strident Steinem—warned against embracing anti-male, anti-family ideologies that treat relations between the sexes as class warfare. 

Read the rest of Cathy Young’s analysis here.

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" – December 2, 2013

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on December 2

4:00 – Poverty in Evangelii Gaudium
“If there is anyone in the world today who embodies the joy of the Christian Gospel, it is Jorge Mario Bergoglio. And the happiness offered by embracing and living true faith in Christ and His Church (rather than the vapid sentimentalism that often passes for love these days) permeates Pope Francis’s new (and rather long) apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, from beginning to end. Reading the text, one does experience a profound sense of just how life-transforming belief in Christ should be.” That’s how Sam Gregg begins his piece the Pope’s exhortation. Sam joins us to discuss poverty, the Pope and Evangelii Gaudium.

4:20 – Kresta Comments - Evangelii Gaudium

5:00 – Evangelii Gaudium: Pope Francis the Revolutionary
According to George Weigel, the first nine months of the pontificate of Pope Francis have often resembled a gigantic Rorschach test in which various commentators inside and outside the Catholic Church have “seen” their dreams and fears realized. Alas, what has been “seen” has often had little to do with the record of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as priest and bishop or with his most consequential decisions as Pope. Those projections reached fever pitch with the publication on Tuesday of Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), which was celebrated, or lamented, as if it were an Occupy Whatever position paper for a G-8 summit. Instead, the papal document should be read and appreciated for what it manifestly is: a clarion call for a decisive shift in the Catholic Church’s self-understanding, in full continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. George joins us to make his case. 

5:20 – Former Ambassadors: Obama’s call to close Vatican embassy is ‘slap in the face’ to Roman Catholics
Plans to move the U.S. embassy to the Vatican onto the grounds of the larger American embassy to Italy, though in a separate building and with a distinct entrance, are drawing fire from five former American envoys despite the tacit consent of the Vatican itself. Justified primarily on the grounds of enhanced security, the move is drawing fire from former Vatican Ambassadors James Nicholson, Francis Rooney, Mary Ann Glendon, Raymond Flynn, and Thomas Melady. Ambassador Flynn is here to explain his objections.

5:30 – U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Hobby Lobby Case
The U.S. Supreme Court last week agreed to take up two challenges to the HHS Mandate, one of which is Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark case addressing the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions. We talk to Lori Windham, an attorney with the Beckett Fund which filed this case. 

5:40 – The Philosophy of “The Hunger Games”
With the amazing success of the film The Hunger Games: The Girl on Fire over the last week, we talk about the Philosophy of the books – and now the movies. Katniss Everdeen is "the girl who was on fire," but she is also the girl who made us think, dream, question authority, and rebel. The post-apocalyptic world of Panem's twelve districts is a divided society on the brink of war and struggling to survive, while the Capitol lives in the lap of luxury and pure contentment. At every turn in the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and their many allies wrestle with harrowing choices and ethical dilemmas that push them to the brink. Co-editor of The Hunger Games and Philosophy, George Dunn, joins us.

You Could Be the Proud Owner of Sauron’s “The One” Ring

By Kathy Schiffer

If you have an extra $80,000 in your pocket, you could buy the One Ring to Rule Them All. 

The gold-plated ring was made famous on the big screen in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  The greatest of the rings of power, the One Ring was created by the Dark Lord Sauron in the fires of Orodruin (Mount Doom) during the Second Age.  Sauron intended to increase his own power, and in time rule over all of Middle-Earth. 

The One Ring was, indeed, an extension of the Dark Lord himself.  Sauron had cut through his own hand, allowing his evil to bind with the molten gold.

    *     *     *     *     *     *

If you are a “Lord of the Rings” aficionado with cash to burn, you might like to bid on this master production prototype by designer Jens Hansen.  From this prototype ring (which bears the inscription inside out), the on-screen rings used in the movie were created. 

On Thursday, December 5, Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, California will auction the One Ring and other props, costumes and memorabilia from “Lord of the Rings.”  The One Ring is expected to sell for $50,000 to $80,000.  

CBS News offers a photo gallery of items available for sale—check it out here.

“One ring to rule them all,
One ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them.”
                --Inscription, translated

Archdiocese of Chicago Reaches Settlement in Abuse Case, Issues Corrections Following SNAP Press Conference

Cardinal Francis George
Archbishop of Chicago

The Archdiocese of Chicago has reached a settlement in a sexual abuse survivor case involving a former priest.  The Archdiocese agreed to pay $2.3 million to the victim.  The settlement also calls for the Archdiocese to release on January 15 their confidential files regarding allegations of sexual abuse against a total of 30 priests. The files will reveal how well Church officials responded to the allegations. 

The Chicago Sun-Times has the story:
A $2.3 million settlement in a sexual abuse survivor case involving a former priest and filed against the Archdiocese of Chicago and Cardinal Francis George was announced by attorneys Tuesday.
The victim, identified only as John Doe, is now in his early 20s, and was sexually abused in his pre-teen and early teen years by Daniel McCormack between 2004 and 2006, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged “McCormack would invite the plaintiff inside the rectory of St. Agatha Catholic Church, where he would sit plaintiff on his lap, unzip his pants and fondle” the plaintiff.
It also alleged that the defendants “knew or should have known of McCormack’s dangerous and exploitative propensities as a child molester.”
Read the rest here.  

Barbara Blaine
President of SNAP
Following the announcement of the settlement, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) held a press conference on November 26.  Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, made a number of charges against the Archdiocese of Chicago for its handling of the case.  

The Archdiocese of Chicago issued a statement on November 27, correcting many of the errors which Ms. Blaine had made in talking with the press.  The Archdiocesan statement is included here in its entirety.  

Response of the Archdiocese of Chicago to statements
made during Jeff Anderson's November 26, 2013 press conference November 27, 2013
The Archdiocese of Chicago would  like to respond to several statements made during the November 26, 2013 press conference held by attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, and founder and president of SNAP Barbara Blaine.

§  Statement by Barbara Blaine: “We believe the Archdiocese has a responsibility to disclose the whereabouts of these individuals. … We believe that they [the Archdiocese] have the resources to identify and find that out, and most of them are still receiving payments from the Archdiocese and are on the payroll, and their whereabouts should be made known.
§  Correction: No priests who have resigned from the priesthood or have been laicized are still on the payroll of the Archdiocese. Some may have pensions that have vested and therefore receive benefits from their pension. The Archdiocese has identified and listed on its website for many years the names of priests with substantiated allegations of abuse.

§  Statement by Barbara Blaine: “We hear from survivors all the time, and I think that a question that should be asked of the Archdiocese, because they know. … I know there are victims who are hurting, and they allege that they were abused and they have told the Archdiocese officials and, are they still in ministry? I think that it’s fair to say that we should assume there are … I can’t give a number and a name, but…”
§  Correction: No priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago with even one substantiated allegation of abuse is currently in ministry.  It is immoral to keep all Catholic priests under a cloud of suspicion.  In recent years, our personnel files have been checked three times by the civil authorities. Every allegation that is brought forward is reported immediately to the civil authorities, and each priest has received mandated reporter training.  Each priest has undergone a criminal background check. All have received special VIRTUS training to recognize the signs of possible sexual abuse in minor children.  Priests are not permitted to be alone with a child, or to drive a car with a child without another adult being present.  They have received, both while in the seminary and since, extensive training on boundary violations.

If Barbara Blaine has information about abuse of which the Archdiocese is unaware, the Archdiocese requests that she inform civil authorities and the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth immediately so that an investigation can be conducted.

§  Statement by Barbara Blaine: “No such [grand jury] investigation has happened in Illinois, the only information that has been disclosed has been voluntarily disclosed and so we don’t know the extent of the problem. I think it would be naïve to think that it’s any different here than any of those places…” [Philadelphia, Minnesota] “so I believe that if such an investigation [grand jury] were to occur here, similar results would be found.
§  Correction: There was a grand jury investigation in Illinois in 1992. The protocols that were put in place by the Archdiocese in 1992, including the formation of the Review Board which hears allegations against living priests, were the foundation of the Dallas Charter in 2002, so the Archdiocese of Chicago was a decade ahead of the rest of the country in terms of dealing with clergy sex abuse. Again, no priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago with even one substantiated allegation of abuse is currently in ministry.

The Archdiocese of Chicago is in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the U.S. Bishops in Dallas in June, 2002. The Charter requires that no priest with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor can serve in public ministry. The Archdiocese of Chicago refers all reports of sexual abuse immediately to civil authorities. The Archdiocese’s independent Review Board examines the findings of all investigations and ensures that all perpetrators are permanently removed from ministry or service.

As always, the Archdiocese of Chicago is concerned first and foremost with the healing of abuse victims and has maintained a victim assistance ministry for more than 25 years. In addition, the Archdiocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, charged with serving victims and preventing abuse, has trained and processed background checks on more than 160,000 priests, deacons, religious, lay employees and volunteers; conducted more than 3,000 training sessions; and trained more than 200,000 children to protect themselves from sexual predators.

The abuse of any child is a crime and a sin. The Archdiocese encourages anyone who believes they have been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious or lay employee, to come forward. Complete information about reporting sexual abuse can be found on the Archdiocesan website at www.archchicago.org.

Argentina Considers Pope Francis Commemorative Coin

Argentinian lawmakers, proud of the first pope to hail from their country, may soon honor Pope Francis by putting his face on a coin.
Argentina’s 480 million Catholics were thrilled by the announcement in March 2013 that then-Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who served as archbishop of Buenos Aires, would become the new Pontiff.
The tribute coin was first proposed in April by Rep. Oscar Cachi Martinez, and quickly gained support from congressional committees.  The Argentinian congressman announced the successful vote yesterday on his Facebook page:
The bill will now go to the South American country’s Senate for consideration.
One of many commemorative coins which honor the election of Pope Francis
According to the text of the proposed law, the goal of the coins is
“…to commemorate an event of global dimensions, so our present and future generations remember this splendid act in the history of humanity, in which the principal actor is an Argentine.”
Beneath the Pope’s image would be inscribed,
“Tribute from the Argentine People to Pope Francis.”

Pope Francis Announces the Year for Consecrated Life

Pope Francis, speaking this morning to Superiors of religious orders from around the world, announced that the coming year will be dedicated to Consecrated Life. 

Auditorium in the Salesianum
The occasion was the 82nd General Assembly of the Union of Superiors General, which is meeting in the Salesianum, a hotel and conference center in Rome, on November 27-29.  The Holy Father had been expected to speak for just a few minutes; instead, he chose to meet with the Superiors for three hours, engaging in a “long, colloquial and fraternal discussion…composed of questions and answers.”

 The Vatican Information Service provided a detailed report of the meeting:

The first group of questions related to the identity and mission of consecrated life. A radical approach is required of all Christians, the Pope stated, but religious persons are called upon to follow the Lord in a special way: “They are men and woman who can awaken the world. Consecrated life is prophecy. God asks us to fly the nest and to be sent to the frontiers of the world, avoiding the temptation to 'domesticate' them. This is the most concrete way of imitating the Lord”.
When asked about the situation of vocations, the Pope emphasised that there are young Churches which are bearing new fruit. This naturally gives rise to a re-evaluation of the inculturation of charism. The Church must follow the example of Matteo Ricci in asking forgiveness for and looking with shame upon apostolic failures caused by misunderstandings in this field. Intercultural dialogue must press for the introduction persons of various cultures, expressing different ways of living charism, in the governance of religious institutes.
The Pope insisted upon the importance of formation, which he presented as founded upon four fundamental pillars: spiritual, intellectual, communitarian and apostolic. It is indispensable to avoid every form of hypocrisy and clericalism by means of a frank and open dialogue on all aspects of life: “formation is an artisanal craft, not a form of policing”, he commented; “its aim is to form religious persons with a tender heart, not acid, not like vinegar. We are all sinners, but not corrupt. Sinners are to be accepted, but not the corrupt”.
When asked about brotherhood, the Pope said that this has a great force of attraction, and presupposes the acceptance of differences and conflicts. At time it is difficult to live in fraternity, but without it no fruit may be borne. In any case, “we must never act like managers when faced with a brother's conflict: conflict instead must be caressed”, said the Pope. 
A number of questions were asked regarding the relationships between religious persons and the particular Churches to which they belong. The Pope confirmed that he had experience of the possible problems: “We bishops must understand that consecrated persons are not helpers, but rather charisms which enrich dioceses”.
The final questions regarded the frontiers of the mission of consecrated persons. “They must be sought on the basis of the charisms”, answered the Pope. Situations of exclusion remain the first priorities. Alongside these challenges he mentioned the cultural and educational mission in schools and universities. For the Pope, the pillars of education are “transmitting knowledge, transmitting methods, transmitting values. By these means, faith is communicated. The educator must measure up to those he educates, and must give careful thought to how to proclaim Jesus Christ to a changing generation”.
Before taking leave of the 120 Superiors General present, the Pope announced that 2015 would be a year dedicated to consecrated life. He added, “Thank you for what you do and for your spirit of faith and your service. Thank you for your witness and also for the humiliations through which you have had to pass”.

How to Think About Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation: Two Views

Press Conference to Introduce
Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium

Just a day after the release of Pope Francis’s first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of Faith), there have been many critics:  conservatives who fear the theme of change which permeates the document, liberals who fret that he has ruled out the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood, those who worry about the Holy Father’s view of capitalism, and more. 

Analysts will find much to discuss in the 84-page document.  Among the first responders to Evangelii Gaudium are Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online and a nationally syndicated journalist, and Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute and author of, among other books, Becoming Europe and Tea Party Catholic

Kathryn Jean Lopez takes a positive approach, offering some helpful insights into its broad range of topic areas and showing us how to think about the Pope’s wide-ranging exhortation.  Samuel Gregg, on the other hand, worries that the Pope does not fully understand a free-market economy.

Lopez writes:
As with interviews of months past, reactions vary to Pope Francis’ first teaching document, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), as you’ve no doubt noticed. It’s over 40,000 words in length, and we who comment — whether on op-ed pages or on Facebook or at the dinner table — each focus on different aspects. As with the America interview that appeared earlier this fall — and as with so many of his messages of God’s mercy, our responsibilities, a loving Father’s radical call for us to live selfless lives in transformative surrender to Him — we can too easily miss the heart of the matter amid a flurry of headlines that affirm or inflame our ideological comfort zones. When we do, we also miss much of the point of the Gospel — the joy, the exhortation, the call, the Christian difference. The point is that we must be challenged. The point is that we must encounter Christ, and daily, and if we do, we must be changed.
In Evangelii Gaudium, in fact, Pope Francis writes:
The word of God constantly shows us how God challenges those who believe in him “to go forth”. Abraham received the call to set out for a new land (cf. Gen 12:1-3). Moses heard God’s call: “Go, I send you” (Ex 3:10) and led the people towards the promised land (cf. Ex 3:17). To Jeremiah, God says: “To all whom I send you, you shall go” (Jer 1:7). In our day Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth”. Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.
This was so much of the focus of our encuentro in Mexico City, to use a word favored by our three most recent popes. During sessions, we talked about the work of making disciples, communicating with love beyond the audiences — and congregations — bishops, priests, religious, and lay people at the sessions might have most ready access to. In front of the image of herself the Blessed Mother left a Mexican layman, we prayed that we might truly be disciples of her Son, bringing her son to those in pain, in desperation, stuck in routines — that we might be truly apostolic in all our words and works. That we might let Christ be seen through the instruments of our lives.
Back home, in light of exhortations, we jump to clarify and highlight, helping people to feel comfortable or be challenged politically and economically, often overly depending on our political persuasions. Politics is crucial. As Pope Francis points out in the exhortation and elsewhere, it’s noble work, it’s necessary work. Christians may not opt out from politics. We must bring real wisdom to it. We must discern our contributions. We must live examined lives that inform policy debates and keep justice, mercy, and charity all in deliberations.
(In his long texts and interviews, this Jesuit pope keeps dropping practical Ignatian guidance about the inevitable spiritual warfare, about how to let the Satan be conquered. That’s something else to be thankful for — the cornucopia of concrete spiritual guides and witnesses we have as Catholics.)
God is “unpredictable,” our current Holy Father writes in Evangelii Gaudium.
“The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking,” he continues. We must humble ourselves because God’s will may not be ours and His ways tend not to be as well. We are called to follow and to “patience and disregard for constraints of time” as we evangelize.
Make no mistake about faith, he warns us — it’s not just a safe harbor in a storm, a harmless prayer before a holiday meal. “The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed,” Pope Francis writes.
Pope Francis is clear on life and marriage. He is challenging on politics and economics without fighting against Republicans or Democrats specifically. His position is more transcendent and fundamental. His ardent opposition is to a disposable culture that poisons all debates and is an assault on human dignity, piercing the very heart of God. It’s a culture of death and dismissal, of denial and destruction. It’s beneath us. It’s poisoning us.
The Good News is not only the Good News but that there are laborers; we must labor in prayer, sanctified by sacramental lives of union with the Trinity. As Pope Francis points out early on in Evangelii Gaudium — this fruit of last year’s synod on the New Evangelization in Rome — he means for this to offer guidance and encouragement as Catholics seek to live lives in Divine surrender, drawing the world to His mercy.
In Mexico City, pilgrims are gearing up for the December 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They were doing this even as we met in conference there, weeks before the feast. They show up at the shrine with foot-high (and sometimes two-foot high and larger) statues of Our Blessed Mother. They carry their St. Jude medals and flowers. They leave an offering. They bring home blessed trinkets of remembrance. Some of them, frequently older women (many joined by a son who watches out for them), approach the Blessed Virgin’s image on their knees. Our Lady of Guadalupe roots them to Divine Mercy, to Christian hope, to the salvation and redemption that has been won for us.
She who said “yes” to God’s will helps us say “yes” in our lives. She brings us to her Son. Do we go to her as did the poor of Mexico City or as Catholic leaders — cardinals, bishops, a mother superior, university presidents, journalists, businessmen, the faithful — discussing the New Evangelization? Do we begin and end in prayer and thanksgiving for her intercession? We did there — given the geographic realities of conferencing among pilgrims, as the bishops of the Caribbean and Latin America did when preparing the Aparecida document in which the former Cardinal Bergoglio took a leading role. Do we do this every day?
In his exhortation, Pope Francis offers a brutally cold image in his alerting us to the scandal of our lives, our routinized “discipleship,” our practical atheism. He writes of many pastoral challenges, including “obsession with immediate results makes it hard for pastoral workers to tolerate anything that smacks of disagreement, possible failure, criticism, the cross.”
He warns of dangers that creep into our Christian and supposedly apostolic lives:
…the biggest threat of all gradually takes shape: “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness”. A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope, which seizes the heart like “the most precious of the devil’s potions”. Called to radiate light and communicate life, in the end they are caught up in things that generate only darkness and inner weariness, and slowly consume all zeal for the apostolate. For all this, I repeat: Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization!
There’s much more.  Read the rest here

Meanwhile over at The Corner, Samuel Gregg celebrates what he likes in the new document (the emphasis upon the Holy Spirit, and the practical insights into how to breathe new life into the Church).  He is candid, too, about his concerns (i.e., the conviction that Islam is a religion of peace, which stands against evidence).  

Gregg writes:
Evangelii Gaudium is in many ways a beautiful document. The emphasis upon the Trinity’s most neglected member — the Holy Spirit — in the Church’s life is especially inspiring. Then there are the practical insights about how to breathe life into aspects of the Church’s evangelical outreach that have long been moribund (as in the content-free homilies routinely endured by many Catholics in Western countries). Also helpful for theological reflection, as well as an outline for an agenda of internal reform, are Francis’s comments on how to develop greater collegiality between Rome and what Catholics call the local churches.
For all that, however, important sections of Evangelii Gaudium will strike many Catholics as less than convincing. To be very frank (which Francis himself is always encouraging us to be), a number of claims made by this document and some of the assumptions underlying those statements are rather questionable.
Most importantly, though, Gregg disagrees with the pope’s reflections on economic matters and his apparent criticism of capitalism and of “trickle-down economics”, and his hint of support for redistribution.
My purpose, however, is to focus upon some of the many economic reflections that loom large throughout Evangelii Gaudium and which are, I’m afraid, very hard to defend. In some cases, they reflect the straw-man arguments about the economy that one encounters far too often in some Catholic circles, especially in Western Europe but also in Latin America.
Prominent among these is the pope’s condemnation of the “absolute autonomy of markets” (202). This, he firmly believes, is at the root of many of our contemporary problems, not least because it helps rationalize an unwillingness to assist those in need.
If, however, we follow Evangelii Gaudium’s injunction (231–233) to look at the realities of the world today, we will soon discover that there is literally no country in which markets operate with “absolute autonomy.” 
Gregg ends with a sharp criticism of the scope of the document, and points to what he believes should have been said:
…as Francis himself writes, “Ideas disconnected from realities give rise to ineffectual forms of idealism” (232). And attention to particular realities about economic life is precisely what’s missing from parts of Evangelii Gaudium’s analysis of wealth and poverty. If we want “the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good” to be more than what the pope calls a “mere addendum” to the pursuit of “true and integral development” (203), then engaging more seriously the economic part of the truth that sets us free would be a good start.
There's much more.  Here are Dr. Gregg's full reflections on Pope Francis and poverty.  

This Thanksgiving, Don’t Let Retailers Steal Your Family Time!

By Kathy Schiffer
Ave Maria Radio

The annual Christmas Commercialization Controversy is kicking in a day early in 2013.
That’s because this year retailers across the country, clamoring for bigger profits, have extended the shopping season by one day—announcing that they will remain open on Thanksgiving Day.  That means that Thanksgiving Day, many dinners will be eaten on the fly, as mothers and their working teenage children head to the mall to shop or, conversely, to work at their retail jobs in stores where the shoppers will spend their holiday.
The competition for holiday shoppers is nothing new.  In the old days, though, I remember stores wooing my mother and enticing shoppers to open their wallets in other ways:  with twinkly Christmas lights, hymns and carols on the store’s loudspeakers, Santa ho-ho-ho-ing in the toy department.  Sears Roebuck, J.C. Penney, J.L. Hudson, smaller shops—all followed the same family-friendly schedule, and all shared a commitment to retaining “family time” around the holidays.
In fact, in those days Sundays were also family days.  In my neighborhood, stores had a sign on the door which read,

“Closed Sundays.  See you in church.”

*     *     *     *     *
This year, most of the big chain retailers have announced that they’ll be open for at least a few hours on Thanksgiving Day. Getting a head start on “Black Friday” craziness, Kmart, Walmart, Target, Sears, and Toys “R” Us will remain open for business on the holiday.  Most Macy’s locations across the nation will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening.
Why the new trend toward early-bird shopping?  As the economy has waned, more and more retailers are seeking new strategies to attract market share.  Tom Scott from the Michigan Retailers Association explains:  “A little bit earlier, a little bit earlier. Come up with a little bit more of a promotion to catch people’s attention, and now yank them away from the Thanksgiving table in order to go shopping.”
*     *     *     *     *
In our area there is one retail chainwhich has decided to keep store doors closed on Thanksgiving Day:  Menard’s.
Menard’s released the following statement on Tuesday:
As a family-owned company, Menards believes that Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness, which should be celebrated with all those we hold dear.  With this in mind, we decided to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day so you, as well as our Team Members, can celebrate this joyous time with family and friends.  We will open our doors bright and early at 6 a.m. on Friday morning, November 29th, so you can SAVE BIG with our 6 Hour After Thanksgiving Sale!
*     *     *     *     *
My advice:  Enjoy Thanksgiving with your young’uns and your family.  Eat turkey.  Watch the parade.  Watch football with Dad.  Play Mexican Train dominoes with Grandma.  Work puzzles with the kids.
And on Friday, get up early and go shopping.  My personal preference, when my children were young and home from school for a long holiday weekend, was to extend our shopping fast and enjoy our Friday, as well.  If you must shop, though, plan to hit the sales early on Black Friday.  Shop at Menard’s, even if you’ve never been there before, to show your support for their family-friendly policy.
And don’t forget that on-line shopping is increasingly popular, and is a good solution for harried mothers and fathers!
And on Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful!

New Documentary Offers an Inside Look at Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Man Who Would Be Pope

Francis: The Pope from the New World, the Knights of Columbus’ new documentary, is coming to television screens in Canada and in some American cities, courtesy of Salt + Light TV.
The hour-long documentary will air on Wednesday, November 27 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  At the same time, it will be live-streamed at the Salt+LightTV website.  The DVD is available for purchase at Amazon. 
Following is the description from the film’s website:

On March 13, 2013 the world was introduced to Pope Francis.  He was the first Pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit, and the first to take the name Francis.  Within days he had captured the hearts of the world through his gestures of humility and care for the common man.  Yet he remained largely unknown.
Francis: The Pope from the New World unveils the personality, passion and extraordinary faith of the new Pope.  Shot on location in Buenos Aires, and featuring interviews with close friends, collaborators, and his official biographer, this documentary film traces the remarkable rise of Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
From growing up surrounded by soccer games and tango music, to his defense of the poor and marginalized of Buenos Aires during his time as Archbishop, this film explores the abiding compassion and unwavering resolve of a priest, a bishop, and now a Pope seeking to bring the Church to the frontiers of society.  From overcoming the challenges of the day including Argentina’s Dirty War, to his tireless advocacy for the poor and marginalized, Francis: The Pope from the New World paints an indelible  portrait of a towering figure of our time.
Here is the trailer, which gives you an idea what you can look forward to.
If you can’t watch Wednesday evening, or if you’d like to see it again and again, order Francis: The Pope from the New World for your own film library.
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