27 April 2016

Islamic State in West Africa (formerly Boko Haram) Ongoing Updates - April 2016

Previous Updates: March 2016 | February 2016 | January 2016 | December 2015 | November 2015 | October 2015 | September 2015 | August 2015 | July 2015  | June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015  March 2015 | February 2015

28 April 2016
26 April 2016
23 April 2016
22 April 2016
20 April 2016
18 April 2016
17 April 2016
14 April 2016
13 April 2016
12 April 2016
6 April 2016
4 April 2016
2 April 2016

Islamic State Ongoing Updates - April 2016

Previous Updates: March 2016 | February 2016 | January 2016 | December 2015 | November 2015 | October 2015 | September 2015 | August 2015 | July 2015 | June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015 | March 2015 | February 2015 | January 2015 | December 2014 | November 2014 | October 2014 | April - November 2014

28 April 2016
27 April 2016
26 April 2016
25 April 2016
24 April 2016
22 April 2016
21 April 2016
20 April 2016
19 April 2016
18 April 2016
17 April 2016
16 April 2016
15 April 2016
14 April 2016
13 April 2016
12 April 2016
11 April 2016
9 April 2016
8 April 2016
7 April 2016
6 April 2016
5 April 2016
4 April 2016
2 April 2016
1 April 2016

25 April 2016

Why do we need to be concerned about what happens in people's bedrooms?

The State Journal-Register printed a story two days ago titled "Local Catholics encouraged by pope's document" about area reactions to the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

From a journalistic standpoint, Steven Spearie does a good job in providing quotations expressing both support and disapproval of what Pope Francis has written and of the Church's constant teaching and has given sufficient time for people to have actually read Amoris Laetitia.

The article isn't by any means earth-shattering, but several of the quotations used provides a glimpse into a certain mindset that seeks to "pigeon hole" Jesus, if you will, especially this one:
"The church is never going to equate same-sex marriage with sacramental marriage," cautioned [Jerry] Bauman. "But as long as people are clothing the naked, feeding the hungry and visiting prisoners, like Jesus said, why do we need to be concerned about what happens in people's bedrooms?"
While Bauman is quite right that the Church will not - indeed, cannot - equate same-sex relationships with marriage and is right to emphasize the corporal works of mercy, he ignores another important aspect of Jesus' ministry. Bauman implies that Jesus is only concerned about our public actions and not what we do in the privacy of our homes and bedrooms. However, if one reads all of the Gospels, this claim is seen to be quite false. Why is the Church concerned about what happens in people's bedrooms? Because Jesus is concerned about what happens in people's bedrooms?

Consider the account of the woman caught in adultery:
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (John 8:3-11).
Two things should be noted here. First, adultery normally happens in someone's bedroom and, second, Jesus clearly calls adultery a sin. Clearly, then, Jesus is concerned about what happens in people's bedrooms he wouldn't have called adultery a sin and because Jesus is concerned about it, so is the Church.

Jesus also said, "But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). He also said, "whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32).

It cannot be denied that Jesus condemns the sin and calls the sinner to repentance. This is precisely what the Church - and Pope Francis - does, but not every sinner wants to repent.

Must the Church call saints and sinners alike to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to the visit prisoners? Yes, of course. But the Church must also call saints and sinners to instruct the ignorant, to admonish the sinner, and to forgive injuries.

In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis calls those living in objectively adulterous relationships because of the bond of a prior marriage to meet with "a pastor capable of acknowledging the seriousness of the matter before him" who can help "the responsible and tactful person" better understand their present relationship in light of the truth of Jesus Christ (300).

In this discussion, the man or woman in an irregular relationship must be reminded of the truth of marriage. Namely, that
Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church, is fully realized in the union between a man and a woman who give themselves to each other in a free, faithful and exclusive love, who belong to each other until death and are open to the transmission of life, and are consecrated by the sacrament, which grants them the grace to become a domestic church and a leaven of new life for society (292).
The capable pastor will help them see how their present relationship relates to this reflection of the love of Christ for his Church and will call them to realize this reflection insofar as it is possible through a call to conversion. This is why Pope Francis says,
I encourage the faithful who find themselves in complicated situations to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay people whose lives are committed to the Lord. They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth (312).
In the midst of his discussion of all of this in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetita, Pope Francis reminds us something that is of great importance, which most people seem to simply skipped over in the reading and discussion of Amoris Laetitia:
Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Matthew 18:17). Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion (297).

24 April 2016

130 years ago today the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton was ordained a priest

One hundred and thirty years ago today, His Eminence Giovanni Cardinal Parocchi, at the time Cardinal Vicar of the Diocese of Rome and former Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, ordained the Servant of God Augustus Tolton to the order of priests in the Lateran Archbasilica of Saint John. Liturgically, the day was Holy Saturday.

The former slave from Brush Creek, Missouri who grew up in my beloved hometown Quincy, Illinois was then thirty-two years old and had expected to be sent by the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith as a missionary to the continent of Africa. 

Indeed, this was the intention of the Sacred Congregation and was known to then-Deacon Tolton. He had already written to Father Richardt, O.F.M., saying, "My seminary studies are about over now and I will go on to Africa right after my ordination in April." 

Even on the eve of his ordination to the priesthood, as he took the Propaganda Oath and promised his obedience to the Sacred Congregation, he said to Cardinal Parocchi, "I know I am going to Africa, Your Eminence, but can you tell me to which diocese of province I will be assigned?" Africa, after all, is a rather large place.

The words with which Cardinal Parocchi answered him must have struck as a reminder of the admonition of the Apostles Peter and Paul, that "it is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

In his answer, Cardinal Parocci explained that the Sacred Congregation had altered its intentions and would not send Father Tolton to Africa:
It was our intention all along, Gus. Even in our last meeting most of the members thought that you would not go back to your diocese in America. It seems we have no contact with your American bishop. We all agreed that since you are the only priest of your race in that country, you would perhaps not succeed very well. Then just before the meeting closed Cardinal Simeoni had this idea: "America needs Negro priests. America has been called the most enlightened nation. We will see whether it deserves that honor. If the United States has never seen a Black priest it must see one now." Then we all felt that Cardinal Simeoni was right. Cone now, Gus, and sign the oath that you will spend the rest of your life in the United States of America, in the [Alton] Illinois diocese.
Father Tolton celebrated his first Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter and then began his preparations to return to the United States of America.

He served in Quincy for three and a half years where he said "the white people here like me very much." Even so, the persecution and prejudice he suffered from Father Michael Weiss proved to much for him and, with the consent of the Sacred Congregation, he left Quincy for Chicago, where he served until his death in 1897. Father Gus always spoke well of Quincy and her citizen and desired to be buried in Quincy. His request was honored and know my fellow Quincyans and I, together with a great many of the faithful, pray for his beatification and canonization.

Photograph taken 22 June 2015

In his "Report for the Theological Commission in the Cause of Father Augustus Tolton," Father Martin Zielinski provides a brief summary of Father Gus' ministry and highlights the sanctity of this Servant of God:
By the time of his ordination in 1886 and return to his home in Quincy, he face new challenges. As the only African-American priest in the United States, he faced numerous questions as to his abilities, talents, and chances for success. At a time when racial prejudice, overt and subtle, was rampant in American society, Father Tolton began his priestly ministry with enthusiasm, energy, and dedication. Non-Catholics and African-American Protestants were suspicious of his efforts to educate their children and to evangelize that African-American community. Instead of finding support and encouragement from the fraternity of other priests, Father Tolton was harassed by Father Weiss in Quincy. Although Father Tolton's frustration with Father Weiss is evident in letters to Propaganda Fide and others, he never sought revenge. Father Tolton's patience was tested to the full during his years as a priest in Quincy. Never did Father Tolton question his decision to become a priest, or the importance of serving the African-American community. It is during these few years that his heroic qualities take on a new meaning.

The transfer to the Archdiocese of Chicago opened a new door for Father Tolton's priestly ministry. Although race relations in Chicago were not better than in Quincy, Father Tolton served whoever sought his assistance. The steadiness in his fidelity to his priestly ministry clearly is evident in both Quincy and Chicago. He understood the demands being placed upon him as the only African-American priest in the United States of America. He would labor in the vineyards of the Lord as long as needed. Unfortunately, his labors were cut short in 1897.

In considering the life of Augustus Tolton, discouragement, disappointment, and dejection were possible at any number of points. These may have been his feelings and thoughts for brief moments in his life, but his fortitude, courage, perseverance, and strong faith were more notable. To have some understanding and appreciation of the social and cultural situation of African Americans in the United States of America from the mid-19th century to almost the start of the 20th is important in seeing the holiness of Augustus Tolton. Holiness was the undercurrent of his life in trying and challenging times.
This afternoon I will visit the Lateran Basilica to give thanks to God for the gift of Father Gus' priesthood and tomorrow I will offer the Holy Mass in the Vatican Basilica to again express this same gratitude.

Why a new commandment?

The Lord Jesus today says to us, "I give you a new commandment" (John 13:34)? It is curious that he calls it "new" and does not simply give the command. Why does he call it "new"?

In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, Saint Bonaventure provides an explanation that is both beautiful and profound in its simplicity:
So it is "new," because it must always be fresh in one's heart and because love must always be owed and never grow old (13.47).
We know that the Lord Jesus "makes all things new" (Revelation 21:5). As we receive the Eucharistic Lord today, let us, then, implore him to make our love new, to make it fresh and as strong as a first love, so that all that might know that we are his disciples (cf. John 13:35).

22 April 2016

15 quotes from Laudato Si for Earth Day

Given that many people throughout the world today are observing Earth Day in one way or another (while others are doing nothing at all to observe it), I thought it might be good to return to Laudato Si, the encyclical letter of Pope Francis on care for our common home.

I thought today, in the interest of time, that I might simply pull from the text - in the order in which they are written - what I think are the best statements of Pope Francis on the environment: 
  1. "[Saint Francis of Assisi] shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace" (10).
  2. "The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth" (21).
  3. "It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential 'resources' to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right" (33).
  4. "Nowadays, for example, we are conscious of the disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities, which have become unhealthy to live in, not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution and noise. Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water. Neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature" (44).
  5. "To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption ... Still, attention needs to be paid to imbalances in population density, on both national and global levels, since a rise in consumption would lead to complex regional situations, as a result of the interplay between problems linked to environmental pollution, transport, waste treatment, loss of resources and quality of life" (50).
  6. "The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations" (66).
  7. "Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth. When all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tells us that life itself is endangered" (70).
  8. " At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure. Certainly, we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights" (90).
  9. "When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble" (117).
  10. "Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence" (119).
  11. "Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties" (120)?
  12. "We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature" (139).
  13. "Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention" (190).
  14. "The mindset which leaves no room for sincere concern for the environment is the same mindset which lacks concern for the inclusion of the most vulnerable members of society" (196).
  15. "Nature is filled with words of love, but how can we listen to them amid constant noise, interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearances" (225)?
 If you have not yet read Laudato Si, you might consider doing so this weekend.