Pope Francis surprises

It hasn’t yet been a week since he was elected, but the man announced as Cardinal Bergoglio/Pope Francis who first appeared to the world on the loggia of St. Peter’s and stood stiff and straight and speechless for what seemed a long time took only a few minutes to throw the world off balance. In a good way.

The ‘firsts’ are legendary now. First Jesuit pope, first Pope Francis, first pope to ask for the people’s prayers for him and bow to receive it in a moment of silence, before he blessed them. And so on. He is who he is, and so profoundly and historically weighty an elevation as this was not going to change him. Take a look at this brief video of the cardinals greeting him after the election. Many of them left laughing. And the account of the doorman at the Jesuit house in Rome who answered the phone when the pope called to thank the Father General for his gracious letter of congratulations.

Over the weekend Facebook was filled with photos of the new pope checking out at his hotel in Rome and paying his own bill from his own funds, in his white papal garments. Which were quickly followed by photos from inside the bus where cardinals were shuttled around Vatican grounds and there in one of the bus seats was a white-robed pope. He opted for that ride instead of a chauffered car. The Vatican is not used to this.

He greeted the credentialed journalists who covered the  conclave and his election – about 6,000 of them – and disarmed them with his ready wit and easy smile. And a message that was pointed and direct but warm.

The role of the mass media has expanded immensely in these years, so much so that they are an essential means of informing the world about the events of contemporary history. I would like, then, to thank you in a special way for the professional coverage which you provided during these days – you really worked, didn’t you? – when the eyes of the whole world, and not just those of Catholics, were turned to the Eternal City and particularly to this place which has as its heart the tomb of Saint Peter. Over the past few weeks, you have had to provide information about the Holy See and about the Church, her rituals and traditions, her faith and above all the role of the Pope and his ministry.

I am particularly grateful to those who viewed and presented these events of the Church’s history in a way which was sensitive to the right context in which they need to be read, namely that of faith.
Historical events almost always demand a nuanced interpretation which at times can also take into account the dimension of faith. Ecclesial events are certainly no more intricate than political or economic events! But they do have one particular underlying feature: they follow a pattern which does not readily correspond to the “worldly” categories which we are accustomed to use, and so it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wider and more varied public. The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual…

He also gave them a scoop.

Some people wanted to know why the Bishop of Rome wished to be called Francis. Some thought of Francis Xavier, Francis De Sales, and also Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story. During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes [OFM]: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: “Don’t forget the poor!” And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor! Afterwards, people were joking with me. “But you should call yourself Hadrian, because Hadrian VI was the reformer, we need a reform…” And someone else said to me: “No, no: your name should be Clement”. “But why?” “Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!” These were jokes. I love all of you very much, I thank you for everything you have done. I pray that your work will always be serene and fruitful, and that you will come to know ever better the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the rich reality of the Church’s life.

The next day, his first to celebrate Mass and deliver the traditional mid-day Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, Francis took to the streets near the Vatican in an impromptu outreach to the people. It must have given the papal security detail fits. But that’s how he sees the mission of helping people ‘to know ever better the Gospel’ and ‘rich reality of the Church’s life’ and it’s the way he did it in Argentina.

So what did papal biographer George Weigel, one of the top world experts on the Catholic Church and the papacy, chief Vatican analyst for NBC News, have to say about this pick, after all? After the beloved and legendary John Paul II. After Benedict XVI. Excellent philosopher succeeded by excellent theologian, both of whom had participated in Vatican II and the blueprint for the Church’s engagement with the modern world. After Weigel recently released his latest book ‘Evangelical Catholicism’ as a blueprint for ‘Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church’?

With great aplomb, Weigel called Francis ‘The First American Pope’, and pronounced him just the right pick.

The swift election of Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, S.J., as bishop of Rome is replete with good news — and not a little irony. To reverse the postmodern batting order, let’s begin with the good news.

A true man of God. The wheelchair-bound beggar at the corner of Via della Conciliazione and Via dell’Erba this morning had a keen insight into his new bishop: “Sono molto contento; e un profeta” (“I’m very happy; he’s a prophet”). That was certainly the overwhelming impression I took away from the hour I spent with the archbishop of Buenos Aires and future pope last May — here was a genuine man of God, who lives “out” from the richness and depth of his interior life; a bishop who approaches his responsibilities as a churchman and his decisions as the leader of a complex organization from a Gospel-centered perspective, in a spirit of discernment and prayer…

A pope for the New Evangelization. The election of Pope Francis completes the Church’s turn from the Counter-Reformation Catholicism that brought the Gospel to America — and eventually produced Catholicism’s first American pope — to the Evangelical Catholicism that must replant the Gospel in those parts of the world that have grown spiritually bored, while planting it afresh in new fields of mission around the globe.

Weigel nailed that, “parts of the world that have grown spiritually bored.” How to address the global culture today, and even find mission fields?

Here, in a statement that then-cardinal Bergoglio had a significant hand in drafting, is what John Paul II and Benedict XVI have called the “New Evangelization” in synthetic microcosm:

The Church of the 21st century cannot rely on the ambient public culture, or on folk memories of traditional Catholic culture, to transmit the Gospel in a way that transforms individual lives, cultures, and societies. Something more, something deeper, is needed.

Something much more, and much deeper, and much more accessible is needed.

That is the message that Pope Francis will take to the world: Gospel-centered Catholicism, which challenges the post-mod cynics, the metaphysically bored, and the spiritually dry to discover (or rediscover) the tremendous human adventure of living “inside” the Biblical narrative of history.

Judging from the boatload of other stories to cover, from Washington politics to Wall Street and Eurozone finances, Middle East flashpoints and middle America unrest, UN humanitarian relief missions to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, this is one to get right to get the rest at all. Because they are all centered on the dignity and humanity of the human person, and the right order of the way things ought to be, beautifully articulated in the Declaration of Independence, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other documents issued in between and since.

Pope Francis is officially installed at the Mass of Inauguration on Tuesday. It may be just another day to a lot of people. But it’s a new day for a lot of humanity.

To really honor Dr. King

First, respect the fact that he was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend first.

Everything he preached and said and wrote was based on the Gospel and the example of Christ. His niece Dr. Alveda King tells me that in every interview. But it’s self-evident in his writings and speeches.

Politicians and social activists who stand on his shoulders today and invoke his name and memory selectively skip over the most siginficant part of his identity.

Martin Luther King Day is a time to promote racial harmony in America and honor the slain civil rights leader who was “inspired by the teachings of Christ,” says the head of the Knights of Peter Claver.

“Considering that so many ‘church-going folks’ were supporting segregation and Jim Crow laws during the civil rights movement, it is wonderful that King dedicated his life to employing Christ’s teachings to resist and counter the very social sins of prejudice, racial discrimination and segregation,” Supreme Knight F. DeKarlos Blackmon told CNA Jan. 18.

He said Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. a Baptist minister, was “a man of faith and deep conviction” who studied Catholic theology and was “particularly impressed” with St. Augustine.

And St. Thomas Aquinas. Kathy Schiffer gives perspective here, starting with a snip from King’s ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail.’

How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

Schiffer continues:

Was Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. a Thomist?

Well, yes. Thomas Aquinas argued that laws bind the conscience—that is, obligate one to obey—only when the laws conform to “eternal law.”…

So Martin Luther King, Jr. is, in fact, a Thomist. In his famed Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he argued that a nonviolent campaign follows four stages:

1. collection of facts to determine whether injustice actually exists;
2. negotiation in order to resolve the matter peacefully;
3. self-purification, in which there is careful preparation for nonviolent direct action;
4. direct action through nonviolent means.

Were the civil rights protestors in 1963 offending God when they broke the law and sat at a lunch counter, or refused to give up their seat on the bus to a white person? No, said Dr. King; and to prove that, he cited Aquinas’ argument. “Any law that degrades human personality,” said King, “is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.”

What King did was skillfully apply Aquinas’ Third Objection—teaching that the South’s segregation laws were unjust because of the moral and physical injury they induced.

Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., continues his legacy of peaceful protest today—reminding us that her uncle was pro-life. Had King lived to see the dire consequences of Roe v. Wade, the innocent children torn apart in the womb, he would have applied Aquinas’ logic to this most pressing societal ill.

Correct. Dr. Alveda King affirmed that, eloquently, in our discussion today, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. “Uncle Martin was pro-life and would be in the pro-life movement today,” she said. “If you read or listen to his words, you can see that he promoted and respected the life of all God’s children.”

Work and leisure in the right order

Many people overdo their work life and many people mishandle their leisure time and many are probably the same people. Labor Day is a good time to consider what we’re celebrating and how.

The best writings I know of on these subjects are from Pope John Paul II and scholar Josef Pieper.

Laborem Exercens, On Human Work, is one of JPII’s fine writings on the meaning and dignity of labor.

Through work man must earn his daily bread and contribute to the continual advance of science and technology and, above all, to elevating unceasingly the cultural and moral level of the society within which he lives in community with those who belong to the same family. And work means any activity by man, whether manual or intellectual, whatever its nature or circumstances; it means any human activity that can and must be recognized as work, in the midst of all the many activities of which man is capable and to which he is predisposed by his very nature, by virtue of humanity itself.

That’s the first paragraph of a must-read and inspiring work of the pope who understood labor, labor movements, politics and human rights well. Considering how central those issues are in the US elections and news cycles right now, I’m re-reading it and recommending it to others. The origins of Labor Day as a holiday derive from this thinking and teaching.

How we spend it is another matter, given all the mattress sale ads I’ve seen and the traditional end of summer ‘last blast’ parties and all. Considering work and a break from it, I always benefit from reading or even looking over my highlighting of Josef Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture.

Leisure, then, as a condition of the soul – (and we must firmly keep to this assumption, since leisure is not necessarily present in all the external things like “breaks,” “time off,” “weekend,” “vacation,” and so on – it is a condition of the soul) – leisure is precisely the counterpoise to the image of the “worker,”…

Against the exclusiveness of the paradigm of work as activity, first of all, there is leisure as “non-activity” – an inner absence of preoccupation, a calm, an ability to let things to, to be quiet.

Which many or maybe most of us not only lack, but don’t even know how to do that or get there.

Leisure is only possible in the assumption that man is not only in harmony with himself…but also that he is in agreement with the world and its meaning. Leisure lives on affirmation. It is not the same as the absence of activity.

A lot of us just don’t have this concept down. Pieper says the “break” is there for the sake of work, to provide new strength for new work.  But leisure is not, “no matter how much new strength the one who resumes working may gain from it.”

What?

…so leisure is of a higher rank than the active life.

He says here, and this is keenly perceptive and interesting, that leisure doesn’t just make the worker “trouble-free” with some “downtime,” but rather keeps the worker human.

…and this means that the human being does not disappear into the parceled-out world of his limited work-a-day world as a whole, and thereby to realize himself as a being who is oriented toward the whole of existence.

This is why the ability to be “at leisure” is one of the basic powers of the human soul. Like the gift of contemplative self-immersion in Being, and the ability to uplift one’s spirits in festivity, the power to be at leisure is the power to step beyond the working world and win contact with those superhuman, life-giving forces that can send us, renewed and alive again, into the busy world of work.

Happy Labor Day, folks. May all who seek work find it, do it well, and enjoy the fruits of labor and leisure in balance every day. I’m working on that myself.

Letter to the hotel industry

Dear CEOs: Please respect human dignity and the common good of society, and rid your hotels of pornography.

Will it get their attention?

Robert George and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf strongly believe it’s worth a try, so they wrote and sent this letter last week expressing a very basic call to fundamental morality.

We write to ask you to stop offering pornographic movies in your company’s hotels. We make no proposal here to limit your legal freedom, nor do we threaten protests, boycotts, or anything of the sort. We simply ask you to do what is right as a matter of conscience.

We are, respectively, a Christian and a Muslim, but we appeal to you not on the basis of truths revealed in our scriptures but on the basis of a commitment that should be shared by all people of reason and goodwill: a commitment to human dignity and the common good. As teachers and as parents, we seek a society in which young people are encouraged to respect others and themselves—treating no one as an impersonal object or thing. We hope that you share our desire to build such a society.

Pornography is degrading, dehumanizing, and corrupting. It undermines self-respect and respect for others. It reduces persons—creatures bearing profound, inherent, and equal dignity—to the status of objects. It robs a central aspect of our humanity—our sexuality—of its dignity and beauty. It ensnares some in addiction. It deprives others of their sense of self-worth. It teaches our young people to settle for the cheap satisfactions of lust, rather than to do the hard, yet ultimately liberating and fulfilling, work of love.

This is so well written, so plain but eloquently spoken, so concise.

We recognize that we are asking you to abandon a profitable aspect of your business, but we hope that you will muster the conviction and strength of will to make that sacrifice and to explain it to your stockholders. We urge you to do away with pornography in your hotels because it is morally wrong to seek to profit from the suffering, degradation, or corruption of others. Some might say that you are simply honoring the free choices of your customers. However, you are doing much more than that. You are placing temptation in their path—temptation for the sake of profit. That is unjust. Moreover, the fact that something is chosen freely does not make it right; nor does it ensure that the choice will not be damaging to those who make it or to the larger community where degrading practices and materials flourish.

So why can’t more of us do this? Make a direct and simple appeal to higher sensibilities, to deeper moral convictions? Prof. George was on my radio show Monday and made it sound so fundamental (though he has that gift of eloquence about both the sacred and the profane). “People used to rise to the occasion when they were challenged morally,” he said with a hint of amazement that we’ve got to somehow recall such a time when we knew that.

He said he and Shaykh Hamza appealed to these men to consider what they would want for their own daughters, sisters, wives and mothers, which makes great sense because who could disagree in that respect?

We beg you to consider the young woman who is depicted as a sexual object in these movies, as nothing but a bundle of raw animal appetites whose sex organs are displayed to the voyeurs of the world and whose body is used in loveless and utterly depersonalized sex acts. Surely we should regard that young woman as we would regard a sister, daughter, or mother. She is a precious member of the human family. You may say that she freely chooses to compromise her dignity in this way, and in some cases that would be true, but that gives you no right to avail yourself of her self-degradation for the sake of financial gain. Would you be willing to profit from her self-degradation if she were your sister? Would you be willing to profit from her self-degradation if she were your own beloved daughter?

Furthermore, we trust that you need no reminding of the fact that something’s being legal does not make it right. For example, denying black men and women and their families access to hotel rooms—and tables in restaurants, as well as other amenities and opportunities—was, for countless shameful years, perfectly legal. In some circumstances, it even made financial sense for hotel owners and operators in racist cultures to engage in segregationist practices even when not compelled by law to do so. However, this was deeply morally wrong. Shame on those who denied their brothers and sisters of color the equal treatment to which they were morally entitled. Shame on you if you hide behind legality to peddle immorality in the pursuit of money.

Well then. What to say?

The authors conclude with another appeal to their dignity and humanity.

Our purpose is not to condemn you and your company but to call you to your highest and best self. We have no desire to hurt your business. On the contrary, we want you and your business to succeed financially—for your sake; for the sake of your stockholders, employees, and contract partners; and for the sake of the communities that your hotels serve. We believe that the properly regulated market economy serves the good of all by providing products and services at reasonable prices and by generating prosperity and social mobility. But the market itself cannot provide the moral values that make it a truly humane and just institution. We—owners, managers, employees, customers—must bring those values to the market. There are some things—inhuman things, unjust things, de-humanizing things—that should not be sold. There must be some things that, for the sake of human dignity and the common good, we must refuse to sell—even it if means forgoing profit.

This is necessary and ennobling. The template has been written and delivered. Let’s help bring it home.

Seeing the human face in mass media

We are a cynical lot these days. News people feed into that and drive us deeper into identity politics and divisive culture battles and snarky social media communications, and we are willingly complicit. It takes a startling reality check to make us even think about what we’re doing to ourselves and each other.

I had that recently when Immaculee Ilibagiza was my guest on radio, in a powerfully moving hour of testimony to human dignity amidst the drama of war, hatred, violence and brutality. Although it was set in the Rwandan genocide, the story has plenty of similiarities in our so-called civilized, developed, advanced culture.

Immaculee’s family was brutally murdered in the Rwandan genocide and she had to hide out for 91 days in a cramped bathroom of a pastor’s residence with a group of other women while men with machetes hunted her. But the breathtaking story got worse. She eventually had to face one of those men, she told me, who wielded the murderous weapon with blood-red eyes blazing in a surreal face-off which by any other account would have ended her life instantly.

But by her account, she clutched the rosary her father gave her before he was taken, praying as she had for weeks on end, and stared him in the eyes, unblinking. She had hope and faith and compassion and humanity. He had nothing but rage and hatred and a machete. And he blinked first.

The fact that she’s here to share that account firsthand is a witness to human triumph and divine intervention, and her book has one of the most aptly named titles I have ever heard.

She reminded listeners that when we say harsh or angry things to people online or in print or in any form of comments, when we demean or belittle with nasty words, we deny the humanity of the other person and diminish ourselves in the process.

I was reminded of the interview I saw on CNN of the New York Times journalists kidnapped in Libya who lived to tell about it.

Especially the core message that they saved their lives by maintaining fundamental human dignity. Their captors ordered them to lie face down on the ground, and they refused, knowing it would be easier to shoot them in the back than having to face them. One said he knelt, but maintained eye contact with the captors, which made it harder to shoot him because looking a man in the eyes humanized him.

I’ve been thinking about these interviews lately, and the reminder they serve to put a human face on everyone in and behind the stories of daily life. And show everyone the face of dignity ourselves.

National Day of Prayer and ever present politics

This is a dicey year for the president threatening religious liberty to be issuing a proclamation to honor the day called for national prayer. He chose his words carefully.

Let’s look at President Obama’s proclamation:

Prayer has always been a part of the American story, and today countless Americans rely on prayer for comfort, direction, and strength, praying not only for themselves, but for their communities, their country, and the world.

On this National Day of Prayer, we give thanks for our democracy that respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience.

Hold on. Right there. That wording reveals a narrow view of what constitutes religious freedom, specifically that it means people can pray or worship, or not, according to…what?…their conscience. So there it is again, another example of this administration morphing freedom of religion into freedom of worship. Which views the participation of religiously informed people in the public and political arena as something to be defined and restricted by government. While those people are welcome to go behind the doors of their home or worship space and do whatever prayers or services they wish.

And “according to the dictates of their conscience” is peculiar wording for a president whose administration is, through the HHS mandate, requiring individuals and religious institutions to do something that violates their conscience.

Back to the proclamation:

Let us pray for all the citizens of our great Nation, particularly those who are sick, mourning, or without hope, and ask God for the sustenance to meet the challenges we face as a Nation. May we embrace the responsibility we have to each other, and rely on the better angels of our nature in service to one another.

May we embrace the responsibility we have to each other? Who constitutes each other? Who is excluded from the class of those worthy of such protection or provision of care? Of course, it’s the unborn, every human being already in existence but not yet completely through the birth canal at delivery. Who in the abortion industry or among its supporters is listening to ‘the better angels’ that by human nature, we all surely have?

Let us be humble in our convictions, and courageous in our virtue.

Yes, let’s.

Let us pray for those who are suffering around the world, and let us be open to opportunities to ease that suffering.

Without attaching to such relief the condition that contraception and abortion be part of the package of aid.

Let us also pay tribute to the men and women of our Armed Forces who have answered our country’s call to serve with honor in the pursuit of peace. Our grateful Nation is humbled by the sacrifices made to protect and defend our security and freedom. Let us pray for the continued strength and safety of our service members and their families. While we pause to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending liberty, let us remember and lend our voices to the principles for which they fought — unity, human dignity, and the pursuit of justice.

Yes, let us remember and honor human dignity. And the pursuit of justice. And be unified in our defense of the liberty to do so in private and in public.

Amen to that.

UPDATE: Religious freedom expert interprets Obama’s prayer proclamation.

So Rick Santorum wins Iowa

The truth is, virtually no one saw that coming. Media have largely overlooked or discounted the conservative Republican candidate whose values were easier to marginalize than engage. “You ask me what motivates me,” he said late in his remarks onstage at the end of the night. “It’s the dignity of each and every human life.”

Those paying attention knew that. Like the National Review Online editors who ran Santorum’s commentary explaining his worldview. Late in the piece he summarizes:

I have become a radical believer in every person’s human dignity. It is the driver of my worldview, and therefore in conclusion I believe:

Every person, whether the baby in utero, my little girl Bella with her challenges, or the AIDS orphan in the inner city, has inherent dignity, and we must do all we can to preserve and respect that dignity.

Government has to be strong enough to protect human life, but limited enough to never exploit it.

As our founders recognized religion as an “indispensable support” to the health of society and necessary for the understanding of human life, government should never inhibit or discourage its role in the public square.

My greatest concern is that we are at a crossroads of deep consequence regarding the role of government in the lives of the American people. Without correcting course, the road we are on will lead to the further devaluation of the inherent dignity of our citizens and their ability to live in freedom and safety. I am committed to doing everything possible to respect and protect that dignity, and opposing and reversing any policies and programs that undermine it.

NRO editor Kathryn Jean Lopez knows Santorum well, interviewed him before and posted this just before the Iowa caucuses, saying voters there “see in him something of what they’d like to see (again) in Washington.”

He’s on the road to New Hampshire now, and we’ll be hearing plenty more about him in the immediate days ahead. Which means attention, one way or another, on the guiding principle of human dignity. This should be good.

The global village priest

From the moment he passed away, he was called John Paul the Great. Now, he can be called Blessed John Paul II. Which is acknowledging what he was.

Detractors notwithstanding, I submit that this is fitting and appropriate. As Peggy Noonan did in her weekend column for WSJ. There are so many facets to his priesthood, episcopacy and papacy, but mostly how he was a witness to faith and a servant to the people of God. And people who didn”t know or accept God. ‘If the world was a global village, he was the village priest,’ notes the now familiar tribute.

On radio lately, I’ve focused particularly on the ‘nine days that changed the world,’ as Noonan does here.

This is so key to his service to humanity, I’ve been riveted by it for years. Partly it comes from having family from eastern Europe who suffered under the Soviet regime. Mostly it comes from realizing the power of the message is in facing evil by asking God what your role is, as JPII did as a young man who never imagined being a priest, and going where that answer leads.

And then going into the heart of oppression and taking the opportunity providence gives you to speak truth to darkness. He reminded millions of people in one country that they were not who the regime said they were. Their human dignity was noble and invincible and imprinted by God.

“After the proclamation of the Gospel, a deep silence fell over the tremendous crowd. Polish Communist Party leader Edward Gierek watched nervously from a window in a hotel adjacent to the square. He, and millions of others, wondered: What would he say? What could he say?

“Karol Wojtyla looked out at a sea of expectant faces, paused–and then gave what may have been the greatest sermon of his life.”

Theses and texts have been written about that homily, brief but tremendously powerful.

Today, he began, he wanted to “sing a hymn of praise to divine Providence” which had enabled him to come home “as a pilgrim”…

The Poles, he insisted, had a right to think…”with singular humility but also with conviction” that it was to Poland, today, that “one must come…to read again the witness of His cross and His resurrection.” This was no cause for boasting, however. “If we accept all that I have dared to affirm in this moment, how many great duties and obligations arise? Are we capable of them?”

The crowd began rhythmic chant, “We want God, we want God…”

Somewhere around that moment, communism lost its grip.

And so will any repressive ideology that reduces citizens to workers under the ultimate authority of the state.

Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude of geography. The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man.

He said that everywhere he went, and he went further across the globe than any pope in history. Countless members of humanity have been ennobled and encouraged and blessed because of his witness. It is only fitting that he be blessed as well.

This crucial moment in Egypt

The cross-section of different…and wildly different…views on the Egyptian revolution coming in from around the world boggles the mind. But then, the revolution flummoxed the world.

Whatever got published on Thursday night was already at least a bit outdated by Friday morning. But many still had salient points to consider.

The interest of the United States in Egypt is to avoid the worst case — chaos, or a takeover of the state by the Muslim Brotherhood. That means we should want a very deliberate process of transformation, playing out over an extended period rather than all in a rush in the coming weeks or months. The best way to buy time for careful change shepherded by the Egyptian military is to do as much as possible now to meet the protesters’ reasonable demands, beginning with Mubarak’s resignation.

Now that that first piece is in place, what next?

The former prime minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar, asks that question more pointedly in this compelling analyis.

What can we do to turn the year 2011 into the Arab world’s version of 1989, which brought freedom to the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe? And what can we do to prevent 2011 from becoming another 1979, when in Iran an autocracy was replaced with a theocracy? What role are free societies to play at this crucial moment for the world?

Whatever is necessary for the preservation of human dignity at the core of a free society.

There are no cultural or religious exceptions to man’s desire to live in freedom.

However…

Organizing for freedom is always harder than organizing against oppression.

So…

those of us who believe in open societies, in democracy and in freedom, have the obligation to help see that the changes unfolding in the region head in the right direction. In the direction that leads to the rejection of jihad as a political instrument. In the direction that leads to religious freedom, to pluralist democracy, to the acceptance of international law, to an opening to the world, and to respect for universal human rights.

And the lede of the commentary actually concludes it well.

In crises, the old is dying and the new has not been born. Hence, the revolts we are witnessing in Egypt and Tunisia, which may yet extend to other countries in the region, are full of uncertainties. But we in the West should stand by our core principles. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently said in Munich, “When it comes to human dignity, we cannot make compromises.”

Grieving Parents Act

When a pregnant woman goes to the doctor, he is treating two patients. When he aborts one, it’s called ‘the product of conception’ or ‘fetal tissue’. When miscarriage ends the life of the child….what to say on the records may depend on which state they’re in.

This case in West Virginia points out the problem.

Cassandra Meador was delighted to learn that she and her husband Jason were expecting their second son. But at about the midway point of her pregnancy, this Beckley native rushed to the hospital. Around 20 weeks into her pregnancy, she discovered the baby’s umbilical cord hanging out.
 
The doctors worked quickly to save Cassandra’s pregnancy – and the life of her son, Bobby James. But, despite their best efforts, they could not hold back Bobby’s early arrival into this world.
 
Her son had been born, 20 weeks before he was supposed to. Though fully formed, he was too weak to survive.
 
Faced with an agonizing loss, Cassandra and her family began making plans for mourning little Bobby James. But, due to a loophole in West Virginia’s law, they were stuck.
 
Because Bobby did not weigh enough, the law did not allow for the hospital to issue a birth certificate. Because they could not get a birth certificate, they could not get a death certificate. Without a death certificate, Cassandra and Jason would not be able to bury their son.

It’s a jarring thought, but the reality is they’ve  appealed to state lawmakers to recognize that their son was a human being who died. The Family Policy Council of West Virginia drafted the “Grieving Parents Act,” otherwise known as Bobby’s Law.

The Grieving Parent’s Act gives parents the option of requesting formal recognition by the state of their children who are stillborn, miscarried, or suffer spontaneous fetal death. Not only does this legislation support the notion that all human life is worthy of respect and recognition, it also allows parents the legal means they need in order to properly bury, and grieve for, their children.

This is unreal, and sad. But more and more, parents grieving the loss of unborn human lives are speaking out and being heard. That dialogue is clarifying.

At the end of UnPlanned, former abortion clinic director Abby Johnson tells the tale of counseling a young woman, from the other side of the fence when she turned pro-life, as the woman walked back out the clinic to learn more before getting the abortion.

As we walked, I asked her “So what’s your situation?”

“Well, I went for a checkup. They told me I’m eighteen weeks pregnant.”

“Is that what they gave you?” I asked, pointing to the brochure in her hand. I recognized it as a flyer from the National Abortion Federation. On the front was a sticky note with their 1-800 hotline, which refers callers to clinics that do late-term abortions.

“Yes.” She looked down.

“Is that what you are going to do?” I asked her gently.

“I already have six children,” she answered. “How can I have another baby?”

“I smiled. “You just called this newest child a baby, so I can see you already know you’re his or her mother.”

She smiled in acknowledgement.