Tag Archives: National Catholic Reporter

REFLECTION: Dysfunctional partisan politics

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by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

Thanks to Tuesday’s election, the Republicans now control both the House and Senate, giving them a strong hand in Washington. Simply controlling the House allowed them to block any Democratic initiative without having to take responsibility for governing. Now with both houses in their control, they will be judged not by what they stop, but by what they do.

v4Will they fulfill promises to the pro-life community and put restrictions on abortion? Will they cut federal programs and balance the budget? Will they cut back on government regulations? Will they repeal Obamacare? Will the business community respond to their victory by creating more jobs?

Republicans did well by blaming President Barack Obama for all the country’s problems and linking Democratic candidates to him. Like almost all presidents after six years in office, Obama has lost his appeal, and we see his poll numbers as low as President George W. Bush’s at the same time in his presidency. Obama no longer inspires hope and enthusiasm among Hispanics and the young. Democrats also faced an uphill battle with so many of the Senate seats in red states that voted for Mitt Romney.

It was not surprising that Democrats lost the Senate, but the loss of purple-state Senate seats and blue-state governorships should teach Democrats that they need a new game plan. If their only strategy is to scare women by painting Republicans as opposed to abortion, they will continue to lose. That might have worked in 2010, but not today, especially when Republican candidates avoid saying stupid things. Young people and women are worried about jobs, not abortion. It is worth noting that while Democrats lost badly, ballot initiatives favoring a rise in the minimum wage did well, even in four red states…..

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PAX CHRISTI INTERNATIONAL: Pax Christi marks 70 years of pursuing peace

By Tom Roberts, NCR

Jose Henriquez gestures during an interview in Washington Sept. 23. Looking on are Bishop Kevin Dowling and Marie Dennis. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Jose Henriquez gestures during an interview in Washington Sept. 23. Looking on are Bishop Kevin Dowling and Marie Dennis. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Pax Christi International was born 70 years ago of two people, one a bishop, the other a laywoman, who advanced ideas that were jarringly dissonant in the context of that time.

The bishop, Pierre-Marie Théas, of Montauban in the south of France, was a rare member of the hierarchy to both publicly protest the deportation of Jews from France and urge prayers for the enemy, Germany. Marthe Dortel-Claudot, who lived in the south of France with her husband and children, found herself thinking about praying for the enemy. Pondering the suffering of the German people, she wrote in her journal, “Jesus died for everyone. Nobody should be excluded from one’s prayer.”

The two, sharing a vision of reconciliation, went on to form the organization Pax Christi. Germany and France live in peace today; Europe has achieved union and nonviolent means of settling differences. Pax Christi, however, has not gone out of business. The purveyors of violence are endlessly inventive. From child soldiers to the utter detachment of drones, from crude IEDs to sophisticated bombs, from oil wars to the formation of caliphates, those who use violent means no longer observe rules or boundaries.

Perhaps the reality that most solidly links the decades of Pax Christi’s existence is the understanding that confronting violence is a complex and difficult undertaking and involves advancing ideas that are at odds with the prevailing thinking of the day.

Pax Christi has grown increasingly global in its reach, and that is reflected in its three principal leaders: co-presidents Marie Dennis, a laywoman from Washington, D.C., and Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa; and General Secretary José Henríquez, a native of El Salvador who now lives in Brussels, where Pax Christi is headquartered. The co-president arrangement, reflective of the founders, was instituted in 2007…

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REFLECTION: Beatitudes, Matthew 25 key in following the Lord

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

As I mentioned in introducing the Gospel today, it seems to me that Jesus is quite frustrated. After all, he has been preaching the good news, proclaiming the message of God’s love. He’s been working signs, healing people, driving out spirits — evil spirits — going about everywhere doing good, and the scribes and the Pharisees, the religious leaders, demand of him a sign. “Prove who you are,” in a sense they are saying.

Jesus tells them, “Look back in your own history.” Jonah, that great prophet who went to Nineveh, preached for three days, even though he was very opposed to this mission that God had given to him, and discovered that the people would follow him, which they did, and they were converted. And Jesus says, “Someone” — talking about himself, of course — “greater than Jonah is here, and you won’t listen. You’re demanding more signs.”

Then Matthew goes on to cite how the queen of the south, the queen of Sheba, came to Solomon because he was world-renowned for his wisdom. These Jewish leaders knew this; they knew about Jonah, they knew about Solomon, and Jesus says, “There’s someone greater than Solomon here. Why can’t you listen?”…

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INTERVIEW: Jesuit death row chaplain says that we allow revenge to ruin many lives

Interview by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo, NCR

Fr. George Williams, S.J. at San Quentin State Prison in California.

Fr. George Williams, S.J. at San Quentin State Prison in California.

Sr. Camille: Jesuits are admired for their intelligence, learning and leadership qualities. Some readers might wonder if you’re wasting your time, your life, ministering to men on San Quentin’s death row.

Fr. George Williams: I’ve been asked that question many times by colleagues who are correction officers. Two groups have never asked me that: Jesuits and my friends who know me well. Jesuits know that St. Ignatius spent time ministering to prisoners and other outcasts, and he even mentioned prisoners in the founding documents of the Society of Jesus.

In the “Formula of the Institute,” which defines what Jesuits are, Ignatius wrote: “Moreover, he should show himself ready to reconcile the estranged, compassionately assist and serve those who are in prisons or hospitals, and indeed, to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good.”

Ignatius’ vision of what it means to be a Jesuit included serving those in prisons. The educational institutions came later…

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REFLECTION: New ‘religious’ group just as deadly as the ones that preceded it

Joan Chittister, osbby Joan Chittister, OSB
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Here’s the problem with religion. You never know which religion you’re going to meet: the “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” kind or the “Get thee behind me, Satan” kind.
You have to be very careful not to confuse one with the other. Your very life could depend on it.

The golden-rule types take people into the center of the community; the get-out-of-my-sight kind keep people out of it. One kind of religion embraces those who are different from themselves; the other excludes those who are different, the ones who are not like them: blacks if they’re white; Jews if they’re Christian; women if they’re men.

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Some people have lived restricted lives and even died at the hands of those who sought to restrict them — some for trying to eat at white lunch counters or sitting down on buses; some for having ancestors in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago; some for serving soup that was cold or not ironing the shirts right.

The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t really matter how the transgressions were defined. What matters is that the arguments in defense of doing it were always the same: God didn’t want mixed races, or God wanted women to obey men, or God wanted Jews punished because the Romans crucified Jesus. Go figure

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REFLECTION: How will Obama’s visit with Pope Francis go?

reeseHeadshotWebby Thomas Reese, S.J. in NCR

The leaders of two of the world’s superpowers, one political and the other spiritual, will meet in Rome on Thursday. As with any important international meeting, the media will focus on areas of conflict, and liberals and conservatives will try to spin the results to support their causes.

Obama and Pope Francis

Conservatives will predict that President Barack Obama will get a tongue-lashing from Pope Francis on abortion and on the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Liberals will have Obama and Francis singing a duet.

What is likely to happen when Obama visits Pope Francis? Two earlier visits give us a good indication.

Obama and Pope Benedict XVI

This will not be Obama’s first visit to the Vatican. He met with Pope Benedict XVI in July 2009, and the visit went smoothly. Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi told reporters after the audience that “great serenity and great cordiality” characterized the meeting. The pope “seemed extremely satisfied with how the meeting went.” He said the pope found Obama to be “attentive and ready to listen.”…

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