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Posts tagged ‘Pope Francis’

One Year Later, Pope Remains a Mystery.


Image: One Year Later, Pope Remains a Mystery

Friday, 14 Mar 2014 10:01 AM

By Robert Royal

This week marks the first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. It’s one of the great paradoxes of his papacy that this man, hailed from the first for his simplicity and humility, has generated more puzzlement than any pope in modern memory.

Quite apart from the usual media ineptness, which almost always reads religious questions in crude terms of left and right, in some ways that’s no surprise. Simplicity is never as simple as it looks. In fact, simplicity is so rare that it’s hard to follow for most of us, whose heads typically buzz with half-formed theories and distorting pre-conceptions. And that’s when we’re even trying to pay attention. It takes real work to get to clarity or simplicity – about anything.

Editor’s Note: Do You Approve of Pope Francis? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

I was in St. Peter’s Square last year when Francis stepped out on the balcony. His first words as pope, “Buona sera,” marked him out as strongly as John Paul II’s famous “Be not afraid!” in the same situation. When he bowed and asked the crowd to pray for him – often misreported as asking for “the blessing” of the people – his image in the media, rightly or wrongly, was settled: a humble man, trying to reform the Church, eliminate harsh rules, and welcome the whole world.

Subsequent interviews, of course, have raised questions about just how his whole vision fits together. Whatever the answer to those questions – and they cannot simply be wished away, as some would like – it’s not “simple.”

He’s repeatedly said he’s a “man of the Church” and, of course, believes all that the Church teaches. But we’ve also had the unfortunate static introduced by stray remarks such as: “Who am I to judge?” about gays; last week’s “civil unions” comment; mounting pressure in the Vatican itself, it appears, to change teaching about divorced and remarried people being able to receive Communion. His real positions are more nuanced and different than the wishful thanking of many reporters and dissenters, and attract wide attention because of the pope’s palpable spontaneity and infectious charisma. Still, they’re not always easy to parse out.

Just this week, a clever article appeared comparing the pope’s American and practical bent to the pragmatism of William James and Charles Saunders Pierce, contemporary philosophers Alasdair MacIntyre and Slavoj Zizek, and other anti-theoretical theorists. I don’t know if that’s the case – no one can. And it’s more than a little odd to invoke these heavyweights to explain Jorge Bergoglio. But if true, it would mean that the pope resembles President Obama when he claims that he’s “not very ideological” and is only interested in “what works.” There’s a lot of complex theory packed into that seemingly simple goal.

For instance, he’s miles beyond movements like the old Liberation Theology with its limping Marxist praxis. Some American conservatives claimed, absurdly, that Francis is a Marxist merely for saying the global economic system must be re-ordered to help the poor and marginalized.

We should give the pope – and Karl Marx – a little more credit than that. Marxism offered itself as “scientific” socialism that would inevitably replace false economic and political systems. An engineer who built a bridge on a “science” that failed so spectacularly would be in jail.

Francis is nobody’s fool and quite aware of all that. Like all modern popes, he knows that he doesn’t know how to get to where he’d like us to be. That’s a job for others – he’s merely pointing the way. Besides, as we see every day, no one is really in charge of the global economy or the international political order. We muddle around trying to respond to economic crises, smooth out regional conflicts, and give some semblance of international law to the world. But the world is fallen, as are we ourselves. Maybe that’s why Francis’ description of the Church as a kind of “field hospital” during a battle made such an impression.

The world likes him to talk about politics and justice – and who, by the way, is against improvements in either realm? Talking about poverty and inclusion, which John Paul II and Benedict XVI did as well (but received little credit for), helps the journalistic narrative that the pope wants to turn away from neuralgic sexual and life issues.

But Francis has also often denounced the throwaway culture that thinks children in the womb are disposable. And he’s even called Pope Paul VI “prophetic” for holding onto the ancient Christian teaching on contraception, not that long ago the common understanding in all Christian churches. You didn’t hear about that? Maybe you should send a letter to the editor. But don’t get your hopes up.

Still, to be frank, it didn’t help when, early in his papacy, Francis spoke of Catholics not always “insisting” and “obsessing” about abortion and similar questions – perhaps a beginner’s stumble. More recently, he’s said to interviewers that he wishes to be careful because his every word is scrutinized and, he fears, sometimes misunderstood.

So, at least for now, we are left with an enigma. We have a remarkable pope, a man who has an uncanny ability to reach out and electrify the whole world with an uncommon touch. John Paul II did the same, though in a more public, less personal way. We also have a pope with a deep appreciation of our moment, and therefore is not reluctant to put his name to Lumen fidei, the brilliant analysis of the state of things, largely written by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, with whom – pace the troublemakers in the media – he has warm relations.

And yet, after this first year, we remain puzzled about how, exactly, all these different parts of him fit together. The workings of the Holy Spirit are often a mystery. And that, for the time being, may be the best answer, while we follow this singular shepherd, to all our queries.

Editor’s Note: Do You Approve of Pope Francis? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is ”The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West,” now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Santorum: GOP Should Follow Pope’s Example to Gain Followers.


It’s possible to believe in your principles and still gain public support, former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says.

Santorum told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that both Pope Francis and conservative Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott have won over followers without changing their position on social issues, and Republicans can do the same.

“We’ve done a very bad job of connecting with working Americans, and we’re out there in a very stressful time in American history,” Santorum said during a round table during the news program. “People are full of fear and anxiety about their future, and we’re out there talking about cutting things.”

Story continues below video.

And while Santorum favors reducing the size of government and taxes, he said the issue is not simply about what’s going to be cut.

“When your whole answer is, ‘I’m going to cut your benefits, I’m going to cut taxes for rich people,’ you’re not cutting it with average people. And that to me is the real missing link here.”

But if Republicans would talk more like Pope Francis, maybe they would be more successful in attracting the followers they need to win races, argued Santorum, a devout Roman Catholic.

“Pope Francis hasn’t changed one doctrine of the Catholic Church, but he’s getting four times the crowds,” he said. “Why? Because of the way he’s communicating to the average person out there. We need to learn some lessons of who is out there actually trying to reach average folks . . . because average working Americans feel disconnected to this president.”

Santorum, who placed fifth in a straw poll of potential presidential candidates at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, went on to tell Wallace that he’s refusing to comment on whether he’s planning to run for president again. He said he’s holding off on answering that question until after this year’s midterm elections.

However, he admitted, “I will be in Iowa and New Hampshire this month.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Poll: Pope Very Popular in United States, but No ‘Francis Effect’.


Image: Poll: Pope Very Popular in United States, but No 'Francis Effect'Pope Francis blesses the altar during Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina Basilica in Rome on March 5.

One year after his election, Pope Francis is “immensely popular among American Catholics,” a survey said on Thursday, but there is no sign of a “Francis effect” inspiring more to attend Mass or do volunteer work.The Washington-based Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Catholics in the United States viewed the Argentine-born pontiff favourably, with 51 percent reporting a “very favourable” view of him, while only 4 percent expressed a negative opinion.

Among Catholics, 68 percent thought he represented “a major change for the better,” a view shared by 51 percent of the non-Catholics responding to the poll in telephone interviews of 1,340 Americans from Feb. 14 to 23.

Francis:Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.
But the poll also found the rock-star status of the pope, whose simple style has attracted record crowds to the Vatican and won Time magazine’s Man of the Year title for 2013, has not clearly translated into greater lay participation in the church since his surprise election on March 13, 2013.

“There has been no measurable rise in the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholic,” the survey said. “Nor has there been a statistically significant change in how often Catholics say they go to Mass.”

Forty percent of Catholics said they were now praying more often and 26 percent were “more excited” about their faith, but their frequency of going to confession or volunteering at church has not changed.

RISING EXPECTATIONS

“If there has been a ‘Francis effect’, it has been most pronounced among Catholics who already were highly committed to the practice of their faith,” the survey concluded.

Francis’s 85 percent favourable rating lags behind the 93 percent the late Pope John Paul scored in 1990 and 1996. Pope Emeritus Benedict’s rating reached 83 percent in 2008, just after his only visit to the United States, but it was mostly in the 70s.

The survey said women were slight more favourable to Francis than men and Catholics aged 40 and older were more likely to have a very favourable view than younger believers who came of age under the more dogmatic popes John Paul and Benedict.

Pope Francis’s openness to reforming some Church doctrines seems to have raised U.S. Catholics’ expectations of fundamental changes in coming decades, judging by responses to the poll.

The biggest jump concerned allowing the now celibate clergy to marry. Some 51 percent thought priests would be able to marry by 2050, compared to 39 percent who thought that a year ago.

Some 56 percent expect artificial birth control to be allowed by 2050, a slight rise from 53 percent last year, and 42 percent expected to see women priests, up from 37 percent.

“Regardless of their expectations about what the Church will do, large majorities of Catholics say the Church should allow Catholics to use birth control (77 percent), allow priests to get married (72 percent) and ordain women as priests (68 percent),” the survey wrote.

“Half of Catholics say the Church should recognise the marriages of gay and lesbian couples,” it added.

These responses were roughly in line with results reported in Germany and several other European countries last month to a Vatican survey on sexual morality being taken for a major synod of world bishops on family policy due in October.

Most national bishops conferences have not published their results for the Vatican survey, but the few reports released in Europe indicated a wide gap between Church teaching on sex and the views that many Catholics actually hold.

Some disappointment rang through in comments on how Francis is doing his job. In his lowest rating, only 54 percent said he was addressing the clerical sexual abuse scandal well.

U.S. Catholics rated the abuse scandal the most important issue for the new pope in a Pew survey in March 2013.

Francis:Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.
By contrast, 81 percent thought he was spreading the faith well and standing up for traditional moral values. Some 76 percent credited him with addressing the needs of the poor.

The survey said 22 percent of Americans identify as Catholics and 40 percent of them reported they attended Mass weekly or more often. Another 42 percent of self-identified Catholics went to church only occasionally and 18 percent never.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

False Teacher Kenneth Copeland Wants To Unite With The Catholic Church.


WARNING: The video you are about to see is shocking. It is a blatant, full-frontal assault by the Vatican to, once again, attempt to swallow up the professing Christian church like they did back in 325 AD when the Catholic Church was invented. What you will hear Kenneth Copeland and Anglican priest Tony Palmer – a personal friend and confidant of Pope Francis – say is that “if you are born again, then you are a Catholic” among a host of other outright lies.

Revelation 17 and 18 tells you that, in the end times, the Catholic Church who the bible calls the “whore of Babylon”, is alive and well and ruling the spiritual world in the Tribulation after the Rapture. If you are ablood-bought child of Jesus Christ you are not a Catholic, and never will be.

kenneth-copeland-tony-palmer-pope-francis-one-world-religion-catholic-church

Kenneth Copeland is a false teacher of the prosperity gospel, and is to be avoided at all costs. Christians are not Catholics, and never will be. The Catholic Church is an invention of the Devil, and is the one that has spilled the blood of the martyrs. Share this video with every one you know.

by NTEB News Desk

Pope’s Simple Style Influencing Cardinal Fashion.


Image: Pope's Simple Style Influencing Cardinal Fashion

No glitzy gold, no rich velvet, no regal fur. Pope Francis’ pared down papal wardrobe of sensible black shoes and a white cassock so thin you can see his black trousers through it is a perfect fit for his call for simplicity and humility among his clergy.

The pope’s personal style — which earned him Esquire magazine’s “Best Dressed Man of 2013” award — and his broader message of sobriety will be put to the test Saturday when he inducts 19 prelates into the College of Cardinals, placing the three-cornered red silk biretta on the heads of the new “princes of the church.”

Francis: Who Is Pope Francis? Book Reveals the Man
For the festive occasion, cardinals are traditionally outfitted in scarlet from head to toe, from the silk skull cap to bright red socks, with a white lace embroidered surplice known as a rochet worn over the red cassock and underneath the mozzetta, or shoulder cape.

But with the “slum pope” now calling the sartorial shots, fashionistas and Vaticanistas are wondering how his new cardinals — who hail from some of the poorest places on Earth, including Haiti, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast — will dress themselves for their new role.

“What will make the difference at the consistory is how the cardinals interpret this traditional outfit,” said Raniero Mancinelli who has dressed cardinals and even popes since the early 1960’s from his tiny shop right outside the Vatican walls.

Will they splurge for the fancy, optional red silk cape favored by some first-world cardinals? Or will they go the route of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who according to clerical legend wore an altered hand-me-down cassock inherited from his predecessor for his 2001 consistory?

“The cardinals and priests are much more careful of shining and spend less on their clothes,” Mancinelli told The Associated Press. “The gilded miters are only in shop windows. This is a consequence of Francis. They want to show they are on the same pastoral page.”

Mancinelli, who is getting little sleep these days putting the finishing touches on outfits commissioned by several of the new cardinals, has some tips of what to watch out for on Saturday, when Francis will preside over the consistory formally welcoming the new cardinals.

Immediately noticeable will be how much lace is on the rochet, once sewn by hand — with a price-tag to match — but now often machine made. “This is the Francis effect,” he said of the cheaper version as he ran his fingers over a prototype.

Back in 2001 when the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II, he wore a simple rochet with only two thin bands of embroidered lace.

Another saving can come in the material used for the cassock itself. Once made out of precious silk and cashmere, the cassocks are now often synthetic: polyester for the red lining and territal, a synthetic wool blend.

“It costs less and also lasts longer, that’s for sure,” Macinelli said.

Once handmade, the 33 red buttons (representing the years of Christ’s life) are now more often than not machine made.

The cardinals’ red, it should be noted, isn’t just a fabulous fashion statement: As Francis will recite when he places the biretta on each prelate’s head, red symbolizes a cardinal’s readiness to sacrifice his life for the church and “to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood.”

Altogether, a cardinal’s outfit runs in the “few hundreds of euros, not few thousands,” Mancinelli said. One relatively reasonable add-on: a pair of red socks at 12 euros a pop.

Cardinal watchers might also want to keep their eyes on the pectoral crosses worn by the churchmen: When the Jesuit Bergoglio became a bishop in 1992, a friend bought him the simple metal pectoral cross he continues to wear as pope (having eschewed the gold-plated one offered to him the night of his election). Bergoglio’s metal cross was purchased in Mancinelli’s shop and identical versions are on sale for about 330 euros today.

And of course, there are the parties that follow the consistory. In the past, new cardinals have been known to have sumptuous receptions thrown on their behalf by donors, friendly religious orders or church institutions. They are meant to entertain the parishioners, friends and family who may have travelled long distances for the occasion. It should be recalled that when Francis was installed as pope, he asked his sister to stay home in Argentina and for his other countrymen to donate to charity the money they would have spent to travel to Rome.

In a personal letter sent to his new cardinals in early January, Francis asked them to accept his nomination with joy, but to “do so in a way that this avoids any expression of worldliness, or any celebration alien to the evangelical spirit of austerity, simplicity and poverty.”

Mancinelli said that ever since Francis became pope a year ago, there has been a bit of “belt-tightening” all around in clerical garb, due also to the global economic crisis.

But there will always be exceptions. Across the Tiber river from the Vatican and Mancinelli’s small shop is Gammarelli, tailors by papal appointment and founded in 1798. Gammarelli famously prepares the three white outfits — small, medium and large — that a newly elected pope picks according to his size to wear out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s after his election.

Sixth generation Lorenzo Gammarelli said Francis’ call for sobriety — which Esquire credited with subtly signaling “a new era (and for many, renewed hope) for the Catholic Church” — hadn’t really affected business at all.

“Those who were simple before remain simple today,” he said. And vice versa. Speaking in front of the old world shop window decorated with the finest of scarlet cardinal garb, including that fancy red cape, he acknowledged: “Simplicity is not here.”

Francis: Who Is Pope Francis? Book Reveals the Man

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Pope Opens Critical Week for Reform, Family Issues.


Image: Pope Opens Critical Week for Reform, Family IssuesPope Francis celebrates a mass during his visit to the San Tommaso Apostolo parish church on the outskirts of Rome on Feb. 16.

Pope Francis is opening the most critical week of his year-old papacy: Two commissions of inquiry on Vatican finance will report their recommendations for reform and preparations get under way for a summit on family issues that will deal with the widespread rejection by Catholics of church teaching on contraception, divorce and gay unions.

In between, Francis will preside over his first ceremony to formally welcome 19 new cardinals into the elite club of churchmen who will eventually elect his successor. In typical Francis style, the new cardinals hail from some of the poorest places on earth, including Haiti, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.

The first half of Francis’ busy week will be devoted to the third meeting of his “Group of Eight” advisers, the senior cardinals representing every continent who Francis appointed to help him govern the church and overhaul the antiquated and inefficient Vatican bureaucracy. They are due to hear recommendations from two panels of experts on reforming the troubled Vatican bank and rationalizing the Holy See’s overall financial and administrative structures.

Francis was elected with a mandate to reform the Roman Curia, as the Holy See administration is known, to make it more responsive to the needs of the 21st century Catholic Church. He wants to make the curia more of a support to bishops trying to spread the faith rather than an obstacle. He has made bureaucratic reform his first-year priority, paying special attention to the scandal-marred Vatican bank, long accused by Italian authorities as being an off-shore tax haven for well-connected Italians and, more recently, a place where money could be laundered.

On the eve of the G8 meeting, the head of the Vatican bank pleaded his case to Francis’ hometown newspaper, telling Argentina’s La Nacion daily that his process of reform hadn’t yielded any “systematic violations” of the Vatican’s anti-money laundering laws but just some “black sheep.”

One of those black sheep is Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, an accountant in the Vatican’s finance ministry who is currently on trial for allegedly trying to smuggle 20,000 euro ($26,000) from Switzerland to Italy, and is also accused in another case of using his Vatican bank accounts to launder money. The bank’s top two managers resigned in July after Scarano was arrested.

“We’re in a crucial moment,” the bank president, Ernst Von Freyberg, told La Nacion. “The (bank) commission will hand in its report in the coming days, as will the commission on the economic affairs, and then the Holy Father will decide what to do.”

While Von Freyberg said he didn’t know if outright closure was an option, doing so would certainly deprive Francis of the 50 million euros a year the bank gives the pope for his works of charity.

Von Freyberg, Benedict XVI’s last major appointment before resigning, outsourced his reform to the U.S. consulting firm Promontory Group. The other commission of inquiry, tasked with advising the Holy See on more structural reforms in its overall financial and administrative sphere, also brought in outside experts, tapping McKinsey & Co. to help modernize its communications operations and KPMG to bring its accounting up to international standards.

One of Francis’ top advisers and a member of the G8, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, cautioned against any quick decisions being made by the pope after the commissions present their recommendations.

“Things of the Lord take time,” Maradiaga told private TGCom24.

On a slightly more accelerated timetable are plans for the October meeting of bishops at the Vatican on family issues. A broader group of cardinals are expected to discuss the summit, or synod, in the second half of the week and then the main planning group gets down to work early next week.

Francis called the synod late last year and took the unusual step of commissioning surveys from ordinary Catholics about how they understand and practice church teaching relating to marriage, sex and other issues related to the family.

The results, at least those reported by bishops in Europe and the United States, have been an eye-opener: The church’s core teachings on sexual morals, birth control, homosexuality, marriage and divorce were rejected as unrealistic and outdated by the vast majority of Catholics, who nevertheless said they were active in parish life and considered their faith vitally important.

Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida recently summarized the results of his survey, to which some 6,800 people responded. Most were older, married Catholics and regular churchgoers. But even they found church teaching out of synch with today’s world.

“On the matter of artificial contraception the responses might be characterized by the saying, ‘that train left the station long ago,'” he recently wrote. “Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful) suggests the rejection of church teaching on this subject.”
© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

UN Panel Says Vatican Enables Sex Predators to Repeat Crimes.


A United Nations committee decried the Vatican’s response to sexual abuse of children by its clergy, saying the Holy See has allowed alleged predators to strike again because it was more concerned about itself than the victims.

“In dealing with child victims of different forms of abuse, the Holy See has systematically placed preservation of the reputation of the church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims,” the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said in a report released today. The Vatican in response reiterated “its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child” according to church teaching.

The committee’s report increases expectations on Pope Francis, who has won praise in his first 11 months in office for encouraging dialogue on social issues. The Roman Catholic leader was urged to break what the panel characterized as church practice of harboring sex offenders, retaliating against witnesses and condoning ritualized beatings.

“The committee notes as positive the willingness expressed by the delegation of the Holy See to change attitudes and practices,” the panel said. It “looks forward to the adoption of prompt and firm measures for the concrete implementation of its commitments.”

Benedict XVI

The findings take into account a Vatican report presented to the panel in January 2013, when the church was led by Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Francis, 77, has been hailed as a potential reformer after the final years of Benedict’s reign, which ended a year ago with his resignation. The Argentine pontiff has taken on money laundering at the Vatican bank, signaled an easing of the church’s traditional stance against homosexuality and repeatedly spoken up about the injustice of income inequality.

The church’s decades-long struggle with child molestation, which the UN panel said has claimed tens of thousands of victims worldwide, may be the biggest problem inherited by Francis. The Vatican, while saying it would submit the UN panel’s report to “thorough study,” signaled it will contest at least some of the findings.

‘Gravely Concerned’

“The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed,” the UN panel said. The church “has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators,” it said.

A “code of silence” has been imposed on clergy in cases of child sex abuse, and nuns and priests have been demoted and let go for stepping out of line, the committee said. It called for transparency and cooperation with law enforcement and victims organizations.

The UN panel called for the Holy See to provide family planning information to minors and make HIV and AIDS a mandatory part of Catholic school curriculum, the panel said. Corporal punishment, which it said has “reached endemic levels in certain countries,” must be banned.

Vatican Response

The Holy See does “regret to see in some points of the concluding observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom,” the Vatican said in its e- mailed response. It didn’t specify which points it objected to.

Mothers who bear the children of priests should no longer be required to sign confidentiality agreements in exchange for financial support, the UN panel said.

The church may be moving in the right direction as it reviews withdrawing references to “illegitimate children” from its law, the panel said. Francis was also recognized for his “progressive statement” in July, when the pontiff addressed the issue of homosexuality.

Still, the committee said past church comments on homosexuality contribute to stigmatization and violence against gay, bisexual and transgender adolescents.

The panel recommended the Vatican “promptly abolish the discriminatory classification of children born out of wedlock as illegitimate children,” it said. “The committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation.”

Catholic Voices

Catholic Voices, a U.K.-based blog that comments on media coverage of the church, criticized the report and said dozens of incarcerated priests and millions of dollars in compensation paid to victims undermine the findings. It also argued that the decentralized nature of the church renders the systematic training recommended by the committee impracticable.

“The committee has shown itself to be a kangaroo court,” according to the blog. The findings were produced “by adopting the mythical framework peddled by victims’ advocacy groups and lawyers, and ignoring the evidence put to it by the Holy See.”

 

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

 

Pope Francis Equates Unemployment With Impending Suicide, Says Wealth Must Be Redistributed.


VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis extolled the benefits of sharing wealth with the poor on Tuesday, warning that “unjust” social conditions like unemployment can lead to sin, financial ruin and even suicide.

pope-francis-declares-vatican-to-be-church-mother-whore-revelation-17

Do YOU know of any other city that sits on 7 hills, wears purple and scarlet and is drunk on the blood of all the saints they killed?

The Jesuit pope has frequently railed about the excesses of capitalism and income disparity in a globalized world, and his message for Lent issued Tuesday echoed those same concerns.

Lent is the solemn period leading up to Holy Week and Easter, when the faithful recall Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s a time when Christians often fast, and Francis urged the faithful to deny themselves certain things this Lent “to help and enrich others by our own poverty.”

“When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth,” he said in the short message. “Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.”

He said it’s not enough to just make charitable offerings. “Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt,” he wrote.

While calling for Christians to actually touch poverty and make it their own, Francis distinguished material poverty or destitution from moral destitution, which he said “consists of slavery to vice and sin.”

“How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling and pornography!” he lamented. Sometimes “unjust social conditions” like unemployment lead to this type of destitution by depriving people of the dignity of work and access to education and health care, he said.

“In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide.”

Francis has riled some conservative Americans for his denunciation of capitalism and trickle-down economic theory, which is says is based on a survival of the fittest mentality “where the powerful feed upon the powerless” with no regard for ethics, the environment or even God.

His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, however, espoused the exact same concerns, writing an entire encyclical in 2009 in which he denounced the profit-at-all-cost mentality blamed for bringing about the global financial meltdown and called for a new world financial order guided by ethics and the search for the common good. source – AP

by NTEB News Desk

Paul Ryan: Obama Presidency ‘Increasingly Lawless’.


Image: Paul Ryan: Obama Presidency 'Increasingly Lawless'

By Greg Richter

President Barack Obama’s presidency is becoming ‘increasingly lawless’ as he signs executive orders contradicting existing law or proposing new ones, says Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.

“Presidents don’t write laws, Congress does,” Ryan said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” 

Obama, in his State of the Union address last week, promised to go it alone by issuingeven more executive orders if Congress fails to pass laws he deems necessary.

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos noted that the number of executive orders issued by Obama at this point in his presidency is fewer than those of the most recent two-term presidents, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan.

Ryan argued that the issue isn’t numbers, but scope.

“Executive orders are one thing, but executive orders that actually change the statute, that’s totally different,” Ryan said. He gave as an example Obama’s unilateral delay of some parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Still, Ryan doesn’t see impeachment proceedings over the issue, which he labeled a “dangerous trend.” Instead, he predicted court battles over individual incidents.

On others issues, Ryan:

  • Predicted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will continue to lead the Republican Governors Association despite his deepening troubles over the Bridge-gate scandal.
  • Said that despite internal GOP disagreement on immigration, the party does agree that it doesn’t trust Obama to enforce the law. He said Congress is unlikely to pass a bill this year to send to the president. Republicans want a secure border, interior security (a worker verification system and a visa tracking program), before the rest of law can take effect.
  • Said attaching policy to a debt limit bill is not a new approach, and that Congress should stop rubber stamping debt limit increases.
  • Defended comments he made that Pope Francis isn’t familiar with American capitalism because he is from Argentina, where “crony capitalism” is practiced. Francis is starting the debate on helping the poor, not ending, it, Ryan said. He admitted Francis wouldn’t back his budget proposal because “Popes don’t endorse budgets.”

Obamacare Alert: Massive Rule Changes to Affect Your Medicare 

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The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, 2013: A Call For Dialogue For The Sake Of Those On The Margins By Stan Chu Ilo.


I wish to argue in this short discourse why I think the signing into law of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2013 by President Jonathan on 30th December, 2013 is very precipitate and ill-advised. Making this argument in itself is risky: it is nearly impossible in our environment to have a reasoned discourse on sensitive issues like this one, but I believe a dialogue is needed for the sake of those on the margins, the homosexuals of today and tomorrow.

Secondly, traditional cultural values autochthonous to Nigeria reject homosexuality in its entirety; there seems to be no place for a homosexual person in traditional Nigerian society; it is nearly impossible for people to shift their position on this especially when they see things in black and white. However, I will appeal to people not to draw quick conclusions on this piece without attending to the arguments which I shall put forward. I am calling for conversion on the part of all Nigerians in order to make some needed intellectual, spiritual, religious, psychological, moral and cultural transition needed in finding a way to address the reality of the presence of people with homosexual orientation in our country and in the world.

Cultural and religious systems being historical are constantly challenged not to use old answers to meet new questions, and to stretch themselves in the face of new questions which were not often clearly understood and interpreted in the past. Such a shift in the center of value is not something that happens overnight because social changes are gradual, dialectical, tension-filled, and crisis-generating and sometimes may lead to a death of aspects of a society in order for something new to arise.  In order to make it possible for a civilized debate, I wish to summarize my arguments in three propositions:

1. Banning same-sex marriage in Nigeria is unnecessary, the customary, Canonical, and Sharia laws operating in Nigeria and our statutes are clear that marriage in Nigeria is between a man and a woman. No one has challenged this law. My argument is that we do not need another law. The question is: Who is breaking this law and who is posing a threat to this law? The people who are posing a threat to our family life in Nigeria are people who are cheating on their wives or husbands; people who are breeding children who they cannot take care of, people who are committing all kinds of child abuse and neglect; people who take their family members to cities as maids and treat them like slaves and sometimes send the female ones home when they get pregnant; absentee fathers and some mothers who know how to ‘beget’ children and not how ‘to bring up’ children. Homosexuals in Nigeria pose no threat to family life and values in Nigeria today, hence this law is of no use.

2. Being a homosexual from research available to me is not a choice ( I am open to being helped with research that argues for the contrary); there may be some people who may have chosen to ‘experiment’ with a gay life style, but being someone, and acting like you are someone are two different things. We must, therefore, separate being and acting in this discourse; who you are is a gift from God like St Francis of Assisi once said: Who I am before God that I am indeed! If I was born a homosexual, that is who I am; it is not my choice; how I act according to who I am is my choice which is open to moral evaluation; if you condemn me for being who God made me, you are condemning God who made me the way I am; so we must separate the reality that someone was born a homosexual from the fact that someone is committing a homosexual act. If a homosexual person is fornicating, his or her action of breaking the moral law is open to moral judgment because every human act is to be judged to the extent to which they conform to the ultimate moral demand.

Homosexuality is a human reality, so it is not simply a Western reality; there are some Nigerian brothers and sisters we know who are homosexuals, they deserve our love. Human realities are mysteries which we must embrace with openness, respect, sensitivity and love in order to understand what they reveal to us about God and human nature especially about the diversity and complexities of human nature which can never be understood through a single narrative. I marvel at the rich tapestry of human diversity, which reflects the diverse relations of the three-person God.

3. We need greater internal cultural, religious and spiritual conversation and discernment in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world as to how to appropriately integrate homosexual persons into society without violating their human dignity and their rights to live abundant life and without doing harm to the common good. Such a conversation I am proposing cannot be had if either in Nigeria or in the West people propose laws which ban or allow a reality which we have not fully understood. We need more evidence about why homosexuality has been with us since human history and why there is a changing attitude and changing understanding of homosexuality and acts associated with it across different cultural, religious, and spiritual settings. In a more concrete sense for example, why will Desmond Tutu, Mandela, Soyinka and a few others have a more tolerant attitude to this issue than some other African spiritual, political, and academic leaders?

It means that this issue has no straight forward answers and no law will put paid to the issue whether in Nigeria or Canada or USA. However, the answer to this human reality of homosexuality is not through any juridical positivism or legislative activism for or against same sex marriage. These polarized positions are often ideological driven or couched as in Nigeria’s case in  appeals to one or more aspect of a misleading claim of a pristine common and unchanging cultural traditions against homosexuality.

Many Nigerians will like our country to play a leading role as the moral beacon of Africa and the world. Many of us agonize that the promise of this great land has not been realized and that our land has been taken over time and again by those who abuse the high privilege of political office, and manipulate our rich cultural, economic and spiritual values for cheap political gains. The idea that signing the prohibition of same sex law sends a clear message to Western nations that Nigeria cannot be dictated to by them and that Nigeria will not kowtow to the social experimentations in the West with regard to marriage seems to me a less than ideal justification for a law that is not well thought out.

Furthermore, if the prohibition of same-sex marriage is the express goal of this law, some of us will not be worried. But to go ahead and legislate and criminalize against free association by people of same-sex orientation (section 7, a-i) and deny them the freedom to live together seems to me to be an invasion of people’s privacy and an affront against their rights. Why should the Nigerian state arrogate to herself the right to determine what goes on in people’s private homes? How can this law presuppose that two same sex people living together must be involved in an ‘amorous relation’ as if to say two people who love each other deeply whether homosexual or heterosexual cannot live together without being intimate? In making same-sex association a crime, and asserting or implying prima facie that same-sex persons when they gather may be doing so for ‘amorous reasons’, this law goes beyond the dictates of natural law and leaves a big hole for all kinds of discrimination and prejudice against same-sex people.

I have attended gatherings of same-sex Christians who come together to pray and seek for divine illumination in their search for identity and for a place in a very hostile and judgmental world. I have an ongoing pastoral relation with a Lutheran pastor who has a ministry to LBGTs here in Toronto and I have attended some of their social functions and did not see any ‘amorous acts’, but a feeling of joy, friendship and peace and a search on how they can experience God’s love through association with the church and society at large. The greatest threat to our moral health in Nigeria is not homosexuality or acts associated with homosexuality. Even in Jerusalem and Rome—the holy lands of Christianity and Judaism—while same-sex marriages are not allowed, people with same-sex attraction are not criminalized for being who they are, hence they are allowed to self-identity their sexual orientation and to freely seek political position, to join the Israeli military, to attend religious rites, go to clubs, and to freely choose who they want to be with.

I am afraid that this law is only a political distraction and a populist act by President Jonathan. It is very troubling to use homosexuality—something which concerns the wellbeing of some Nigerians—as a tool in an increasingly confused moral platform of our stinking and sinking political leadership.
In coming out with this poor and unjust legislation without much deliberation and conversation, Nigeria has lost yet another golden opportunity as it has lost in many instances in the past of helping Africans and the rest of the world to come to a fuller and better understanding of the issues and dimensions of the debate on the rights of same sex persons. My argument here is the same which I have advanced in conversation with Westerners: the rush to legalize same-sex marriage as in the West or to criminalize same-sex marriage as in Nigeria is a waste of time.

Homosexuality or acts associated with it will not go away simply because you have a law against it, because it is has remained as a part of human nature and human reality since our human evolution. People with homosexual orientation will not be fully accepted in society because you have a law which allows same-sex marriage nor will same-sex persons and acts associated with such alternate sexuality disappear in Nigeria because we now have a law that takes care of the people whom we consider as abnormal in our limited world of reality and perception.

I am looking forward to a day when one nation or religion can set up a commission of moralists, psychologists, geneticists, spiritual masters and socio-cultural anthropologists to look at the evidence on homosexuality and come out with a conclusion on what is going on within the biological, spiritual, genetic, and psychological set up of the homosexual person so that we can make our laws and judgments based on evidence not from our uncritical and biased locus of enunciation. This was how people in the past were able to understand the issues associated with Ogbanje, abiku, sickle cell, stroke, high bp, the killing of twins etc. Without scientific evidence, it is hard to draw any conclusion that homosexuality is a choice; my own reading of research available to me tells me that it is genetic in most cases.

We cannot make judgment in charity about homosexuality if we have not fully and deeply entered into the world of the person, walked in the person’s shoes so as to journey with the person in finding answers to how he or she can live fully the life God has given.  When in doubt do not act is an ancient axiom and that was why Pope Francis asked the world when it comes to the question of homosexuality that we should not rush to judgment; we should get sufficient facts and evidence before making our judgment.

What is my own conclusion? At the personal level, I am calling for more dialogue on this issue. My tentative conclusion after many years of ongoing research, ministering to and associating with homosexual persons, and after prayerful reflection is that there are some homosexuals who have not chosen to be homosexuals; they deserve our love, understanding, support, and compassion. Let me also add that this was not something I embraced simply because I moved to Europe or North America. When one of my friends was dismissed from the seminary in Owerri because he admitted that he had homosexual orientation in 1994, I was very sad and confused. I felt then as I feel today that we (Nigerian society) have not understood homosexuality hence the quick judgment that they are ‘abnormal’ and do ‘unnatural acts.’ In many cases we suspect them of being evil and judge them even before they act as we have done in the law signed by President Jonathan.

Have we stopped for a moment to put ourselves in the shoes of someone struggling with his or her sexuality and how we can embrace this person in his or her journey? I believe that we can do better for homosexuals and the marginalized of our world by first immersing ourselves in their world, understanding that world and being with them in the places of pain, emptiness and confusion. This is the only way we can accompany them in making the moral choices which will fulfill their deepest desire for God, for healthy relationships with people so as to ‘make heaven.’

I try to separate the homosexual person who like any of us is genuinely searching for a relationship with God, a desire for self-acceptance, and a true and respectful relationship and friendship with people, from a gay activist. If we examined what goes on in some of our high schools and universities and among some highly placed men and women in Nigeria, there is a burgeoning homosexual culture which should be condemned in unmistakable terms. The reprehensible immoral exploitation of little girls and boys by ‘senior’ boys and girls in high schools and universities and colleges; and the abuse of our young people either heterosexually or by aberrant homosexual ‘ogas’,  ‘madams’, and men and women of God should be seen for what they are: unmitigated evils which cry to heaven for vengeance.

There are many sexual aberrations and misdemeanors in our country today, but whether they are homosexual or not, we need to elevate our sexual morality to a higher tenor to clean our society of the scourge of adultery, sexual exploitation of our women by powerful men in high places; sexual exploitation and harassment of our young girls by our politicians and the ‘ogas on the top’ and sexual abuse of vulnerable people by the powerful in our families, religious institutions, and public places.

Thus the affront on marriage by gay activists which promotes any and all kinds of sexual behavior in the name of procuring rights for the homosexual persons as we see in the gay pride parades in Western cities may not be the answer we can give in Nigeria to meeting the cries of our homosexual brothers and sisters for recognition and a healthy space to live fully the lives God has given them. Every society must seek from within its religious and cultural resources the transformation and transition needed in order to meet the inevitable complexity which comes with social changes and the diversity of modern life. Religious and cultural traditions are never frozen in time, but constantly make fundamental shifts to meet the demands of progress and change.

In addressing the perceived inadequacies of this Nigerian law, the international community must understand that one cannot push away people’s cultures and traditions in order to support and advance their cultural and human development and the modernization of their societies.  The challenge today for Nigerians is for us to engage in a critical and open dialogue on how the common good of all people especially gays and other marginalized minorities could be protected and promoted. We need a national dialogue on how to develop more openness and honesty in addressing issues of sexual morality and sexual identity in our country, and how to develop a healthier sexual morality across the board from the top to bottom. The gay marriage right discourse tends often to paper over the needed dialogue within communities on the dignity, nobility, and inestimable value of every human person irrespective of his or her sexual orientation, color, sex or creed. Enforced rights do not often change entrenched attitudes.

Rights are not tokens from one person to another but are claims which arise from who we are as equal persons before God. These rights also come with duties and obligations. Rights emerge from natural law discoverable through reason and from a community’s identity and appropriation of the ultimate good through the ordination of the acts of members to laws which promote, preserve and protect the common good. Time has come for African societies to mine the inner and dynamic resources of their cultural and religious traditions in order to find a new openness to dialogue about how to love, respect, and tolerate our brothers and sisters whose sexuality being an intrinsic part of their personality is the gift which they offer to our world. There should be a place in our society for those who do not think like we do, who do not act like we do and who do not look like us; this is the path to a better and more tolerant society.

The mentality in Nigeria that because I am Igbo I have to prefer only Igbo people or because I am Catholic I should consider Pentecostals inferior or because I am heterosexual I am better than a homosexual person should be changed if we can move forward as a nation otherwise we will be enjoying the false bliss of those who live in the innocent and commonsensical cave world of undifferentiated consciousness, enslaved in our own national bias and presumed superior cultural hubris which will only blight our perception of higher consciousness against insight and against progress.

I wish to conclude this discourse with a short reference to what Aquinas who is often cited in this argument thought of about natural law.

For Aquinas (Summa Theologie, 1a-11ab, q. 94, a. 2) natural law is an inclination towards the good which is discerned through reason and which conduces towards the common good. These inclinations are common to all human beings and include the inclination to preserve and develop one’s existence; the inclination to procreate in order to survive and sustain the species through reproduction; and the inclination which is specific to human beings as rational and spiritual beings to desire the truth, to embrace the truth and to enter into relationships with God, fellow human beings and the world of nature. Linked to this is the inclination to live in a healthy and well functioning society where everyone has equal opportunity and where everyone is accepted as a person no matter the person’s race, sex, sexuality, religion etc. It is because of this precept of the natural law which is written into the very fabric of our soul that we feel a sense of anger when we see or hear of injustice in our world, or when we see human sufferings or experience betrayal or injustice.

The duty of working for justice and making the necessary sacrifices to make this world with all its ambiguities and complexities to conform to God’s will of the coming of God’s kingdom is one which all human beings embrace each in his or her own way. This is because there is an inclination in us towards promoting the good of order because we all wish to live in a well ordered and functioning society where we can flourish with others. Is the homosexual inclination against this order?

What Aquinas calls an inclination is what Augustine referred to as desire when he said for instance that the desire I have for God is deeper and closer to me than I am to myself. The paradox of our human existence is our desire; it is the root of all good or evil in the world because most human acts begin with desire. But Augustine and Thomas after him argue that the true human desire is the one that leads to God and the realization of these four inclinations which I have indicated above. This is where the matter lies: we all desire to procreate, to love God, to love one another, to preserve and protect our lives and that of our communities and our world. Not all of us will fulfill that desire through our acts either because we are incapable of doing so or because we have chosen to fulfill that desire through other means (Matthew 19:12).

There are many women and men who desire to have children but they cannot, I am sure that they are contributing to the good of our human species through other means. There are people like me who can make babies but have chosen to live a celibate life so that we can freely give of ourselves in total and unrestricted service to our brothers and sisters, I am sure no one will accuse me and other Catholic priests of warring against procreation.

Understanding the deeper meaning of Aquinas’ natural inclination and nature as that which is essential to who I am helped me to see homosexuality in a different light. I see homosexual persons as a gift not because of what they cannot do or what gay activist want them to embrace as rights, but rather because of what they can do and who they can become if we supported them to channel their desires to the greater good of society which begins for me by falling in Love with God who is that Absolute Unconditioned Love in whom all our differences melt away.

Stan Chu Ilo, is a Catholic priest from Adu Achi, Enugu State, Nigeria.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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