Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel

Embed this content in your HTML


Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels

Channel Catalog

    0 0

    As we gear up for a new year that promises to be fraught with uncertainty, challenges and perils for our country, I think it wise to recall some of the highlights, or lowlights, we have seen from our chief executive in 2017. A compilation of 125 of President Trump's most significant tweets provides a background for where we have been and where we may be going.

    There has been so much noise emanating from this administration that it is easy to forget some of the more egregious statements and actions we have experienced this year. I believe it is important not to forget, in order to have a context for examining and understanding what we may be subjected to in the coming year.

    Therefore, I want to just remind us of a few gems from the past year. You can fill in some of the blanks by reviewing the more detailed list of 125 tweets.

    Tweets against Hillary Clinton: "Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, 'bleached' emails"… "So many people are asking why isn't the A.G. or Special Counsel looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes. 33,000 e-mails deleted?" 

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Tweets against the media: ".@NBC News is bad but Saturday Night Live is the worst of NBC. Not funny, cast is terrible, always a complete hit job."…

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people!"

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Tweets about dictators: "Being nice to Rocket Man hasn't worked in 25 years, why would it work now?"… "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?'

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Tweets about politicians: "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart"…

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    "Watching Senator Richard Blumenthal speak of Comey is a joke. 'Richie' devised one of the greatest military frauds in U. S. history"… "Blumenthal would talk of his great bravery and conquests in Vietnam - except he was never there." 

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    "We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!"

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Tweet about the Judiciary: "The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!"

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Tweet about President Obama: "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Tweets on the Russian Investigation: "Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt"… "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations"… "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director! Witch Hunt"

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    … "There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given apology!"

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    "Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended"…

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Tweet on history: "Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry. Would never have let it happen!"

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Immigration tweet: "People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!"

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Tweet on presidential pardon power: … "I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joseph Arpaio."

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    Tweet on hurricane relief: "...Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan and others in Puerto Rico"…

    Embedded rich media on Twitter

    There is so much more to look at, and tweets represent only one aspect of the first year of the Trump presidency. Yet I believe what we see here provides a flavor of who the man is who occupies the Oval Office. He is unlike any president who has ever served in that capacity. He exhibits a strong tendency toward authoritarianism. His lack of truthfulness or consistency gives credence to suggestions regarding his mental stability.

    He needs to be watched very closely in the coming year. Foreign conflicts may well escalate. Erosion of civil liberties and long-held freedoms could continue. If the Russian investigation gets closer to the White House, desperate actions seem likely from this president.

    Strong American institutions have limited the damage from this president thus far. Continued vigilance will be needed in 2018 to preserve our democracy as we have known it.

    0 0

    CNS-Comey c.jpg

    James Comey
    Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington June 8, 2017. (CNS/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

    A New York Times article by Barry Berke, Noah Bookbinder and Norman L. Eisen provides strong evidence that President Donald Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice.

    Let me highlight a few of the developments they mention. The president took aggressive steps to prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation because he needed Sessions to protect him. The president drafted a letter to James Comey calling the investigation made up and politically motivated. The president worked on a statement on Air Force One to mislead the public concerning a meeting in Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., a Russian lawyer and others. One of Trump's spokesmen quit at this point because of his concern about possible obstruction of justice. There is also evidence that Special Counsel Robert Mueller can substantiate the memos of former FBI Director Comey concerning his interactions with the president and his subsequent firing. Finally, there is evidence of conspiracy with others in the White House who may have been cooperating with the president.

    Regardless, now we are seeing Republicans in Congress going to extraordinary lengths to protect this president. They have submitted their first referral for criminal charges, and it is Christopher Steele, the British spy who prepared the controversial Trump dossier. Steele is also the only person currently involved in this probe who, when he saw potential criminal acts, went directly to the FBI with this information.

    We are told that Hillary Clinton is now under investigation by the Justice Department. This investigation appears to be in direct response to the insistence of the president. So much for an independent judiciary.

    Is this now truly the Trump Justice Department and Trump FBI? Is he in control of the levers of power and even of the Republican Congress? He can now order investigations into his political rivals and enemies. I think we do well to wonder just how damaging these actions can be to the fabric of our democracy.

    Jason Sattler of USA Today elaborates on what Republicans are doing to protect the president. He notes that once Mueller was able to get the former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to cooperate in the investigation, everything changed. Republicans began rushing to Trump's defense. Sen. Lindsay Graham switched from being an outspoken critic of the president to a cheerleader. Sessions, after recusing himself, is now starting an investigation into Hillary Clinton. This is something he said he would not do. Rep. Devin Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee was not to be part of the investigation into Russia, but he has continued to obstruct the work of the committee and now seems bent on shutting the investigation down altogether.

    Sattler says unequivocally, "It's clear Republicans want this investigation crushed not because Mueller isn't finding any connections between the Trump campaign and the Putin regime, but because he is." He goes on to say he sees these connections involving Trump's inner circle and large sums of money.

    Greg Sargent of The Washington Post wonders how far Republicans will go to prevent a full accounting of Russian interference in our election and what recourse the Democrats have.

    Sargent focuses on Nunes: He was to have given up his leadership of the committee in the Russia investigation, but he hasn't. He has refused to issue subpoenas requested by Democrats though has issued some of his own. He has thwarted efforts to request necessary records and arrange for important interviews of relevant individuals.

    The Democrats' recourse is to issue a minority report. Far from ideal, it would primarily focus on illustrating the ways in which Republicans have impeded this investigation. It would focus on questions they were unable to examine due to Republican obstruction. It would show just how far Republicans went to protect Trump and his closest advisors from accountability.

    While this would be an important contribution to the ongoing discussion, it would continue to leave us a deeply divided country. Half of the country will believe the Republican report, while the other half will believe the minority report.

    There is too much darkness surrounding the activities of the 2016 Trump campaign. It appears that only a Democratic sweep in the 2018 elections and open Congressional hearings, to include impeachment hearings, can bring light to the darkness. 

    0 0

    CNS-TPS c.jpg

    Salvadoran TPS
    Salvadoran immigrant Mirna Portillo listens during a news conference Jan. 8 at the New York Immigration Coalition in Manhattan following U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement to end the Temporary Protected Status for Salvadoran immigrants. (CNS/Reuters/Andrew Kelly)

    President Donald Trump reportedly has used vulgar language to express his beliefs that people from poor countries and people of color should not be welcomed into the United States. He specifically said that he prefers immigrants from countries like Norway.

    Earlier he is said to have accused all Haitians of having AIDS. Further, he stated that Nigerians coming to this country will never want to go back to their "huts in Africa."

    We are talking about the president of the United States making such comments. He is not a guy sitting in a bar talking with his drinking buddies. While that would still be offensive, in this case we have a president determining immigration policy based on these racist ideas.

    The comments are outrageous, but what is most important are his actions. He has ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program to allow children who were brought into this country by their parents at an early age, to remain in this country (though a judge has blocked this for now). He has ended TPS (temporary protected status) for Salvadorans, Haitians and Nicaraguans. His administration has initiated aggressive deportation policies that separate families and go after law abiding residents who have lived here for years and contributed to this country.

    Trump is one man, but he won an election. We have to wonder who his supporters are, and how many of them are there. We may not know the real answers to these questions until November, but what do we do in the meantime?

    These remarks must be condemned by everyone. How about Republicans in Congress? We have heard little from them. Sen Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who was in the room, has confirmed the remarks but been uneasy about blatantly condemning the president. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan described the incident as unfortunate, which does not constitute a stirring denunciation.

    Two Republican senators who were also in the room have now flatly denied that the president used the offensive language. At first, they couldn't recall the remarks, and now they have moved to total denial. Frankly, their denials and confused memory are pathetic and are not believable.

    The Congress needs to censure the president for these words. This president should not be able to continue to escape accountability for his words and actions. An effort at censure is being made in Congress, but will Republicans sign on to make clear these words and ideas do not represent them or their party? It seems unlikely.

    World leaders have been more forthcoming. Many are beginning to see this president as a danger to national security. American troops operating in Africa may wind up being placed in harm's way because of this president's outbursts.

    There has been some concern raised among Evangelical Christians, and there has been some slight erosion of support for Trump in some parts of the movement. Yet for the most part, we continue to see the religious right in lockstep with this president.

    That brings us to Catholics. Again, there has been some criticism of Trump from Catholic leaders, but there continues to be considerable support for the Trump agenda and the Trump presidency.

    I believe we need more from Catholics. Much more. Catholicism has a long history of support for social justice. Catholic priests and bishops marched in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and stood shoulder to shoulder with Dr. Martin Luther King, whom we celebrated this weekend.

    We need an energetic and widespread movement that rivals the right-to-life movement. We need to recall how priests and bishops responded to the injustices of Jim Crow and segregation.

    It wasn't easy then. Many in the pews were not in sync with the clergy, but efforts at consciousness raising bore fruit, and Catholics can claim an important role in the success of the civil rights movement.

    Today many Catholics are supporters of President Trump for a variety of reasons. What do we say in the pulpit? Just as in the '60s, we need to speak truth to power and to our people. We need to bring injustice to the fore. We need to remind people of the worth, value, and dignity of every human being. We need to speak to the plight of the refugee and the oppressed. Yes, we need to speak to the obligation of government to protect the poor, disadvantaged, discriminated against and devalued among us.

    Donald Trump represents the worst in America. He has brought into the public sphere: white nationalism, neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, not to mention a debasement in the whole area of sexual abuse.

    Unless I'm wrong, and the church sees itself as sharing the values of this current president, then it is time to preach our social Gospel and work to end this anomaly that afflicts us in the body politic. 

    0 0

    20180122T0933-14024-CNS-US-CAPITOL crop.jpg

    The U.S. Capitol in Washington is seen Jan. 19 ahead of the federal government shutdown at the stroke of midnight. The Senate was scheduled to have a key vote Jan. 22 on a bill to reopen the government and fund it for three weeks. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)
    The U.S. Capitol in Washington is seen Jan. 19 ahead of the federal government shutdown at the stroke of midnight. The Senate was scheduled to have a key vote Jan. 22 on a bill to reopen the government and fund it for three weeks. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

    I find it disingenuous that Republicans are talking about illegal immigration and amnesty in connection with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. How can you confer amnesty on those who have done nothing wrong? It is true they are undocumented, but they are guilty of no wrongdoing. They were brought to this country at a young age, when they were unable to make a decision for themselves. 

    I am also troubled that we keep hearing from Republicans that they are in favor of DACA and it can be fixed quickly. So, why has it not been fixed? Why does it keep being put off for later? When will it be the right time? How confident can anyone be that there is any intent to deal with this issue?

    The government shut down. By the time you read this, Congress may have passed a three-week extension to re-open the government while work on the budget, immigration and other issues takes place. We have to ask, however, why do we need such an extension when this should have all been fixed four months ago?

    What have Republicans done to avoid a shutdown? House Republicans passed a one-month continuing resolution that they knew could not pass in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to permit a vote on the measure until a shutdown was inevitable.

    No substantial negotiations took place after President Donald Trump blew up the deal crafted by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin. Despite a last-ditch meeting with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the president has remained outside the fray.

    Democrats decided to stand firm because nothing substantive was happening. We have seen one continuing resolution after another. But no meaningful efforts have been made during these extensions to resolve issues. When is the work of government going to be done? If nothing happens during the three-week extension, we will be right back to a possible shutdown again.

    What we have seen primarily is political posturing on both sides.  Extreme positions on immigration from conservative House members seem to be holding sway. There is little or no leadership from the White House. Democrats seem determined to hold firm. Will Mitch McConnell’s assurances that real work be done on these issues mean anything? We will have to see.

    On another subject, Trump spoke to anti-abortion marchers on Friday. The tension between everything that is wrong with this president and his support for right-to-life policies continues. To my mind, there is no positive about this president speaking against abortion. In fact, I believe his presence and support taint the movement.

    Once again, we are forced to ask if support on abortion supersedes all the damage this president is doing on almost every other issue. In fact, it may be that we are more likely to overlook some areas of disagreement because he agrees with us on this one issue. Is that really a good thing?

    Finally, a few thoughts on Pope Francis and his latest trip to Chile. It is hard to know what to say about the pope blaming the victims of sexual abuse and suggesting their criticism may be slander.

    We all make mistakes, but this is so unlike Francis. His appointment of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno, Chile, has been highly divisive. He obviously felt the need to support Barros and the appointment. Is he just being defensive and refusing to admit a mistake?

    Whatever the case may be, he could have couched his support in a way that would be more in keeping with the Francis persona, instead of using such harsh language against the critics of Barros. This is truly a sad episode.

    Further, I would make the point that things are not all well with the Francis papacy. The unyielding criticism, I believe, has taken a toll on the pontiff. Except for this out-of-character incident, Francis remains warm, compassionate, and a loving pastor. Yet I sense his energy has waned. His willingness to push the envelope and work for change seems to be diminished.

    I fear his conservative critics are once again winning. They have thwarted this pope over even the most basic types of change.

    Although I hate to say it, I am not optimistic about the future direction of our church. Francis continues to appoint bishops and cardinals who are in tune with his thinking, and that is a hopeful sign. Yet, I’m not hearing any new ideas or meaningful efforts at change coming out of the Vatican.

    Instead, I see resistance at every turn. If the commission on female deacons comes back with a negative report, I am hard-pressed to see the kind of aggiornamento that is badly needed in our church.

    0 0

    20170519T1337-9705-CNS-GIVEN-INITIATIVES (1).jpg

    Women laugh as they listen to a keynote speaker during a leadership forum for young Catholic women in 2016 at The Catholic University of America in Washington. (CNS/Bob Roller)

    America magazine and Kerry Weber have provided us with an in-depth portrait of women in the church, both in the past and in the present.

    Not surprisingly we learn that women have historically had a powerful influence on the church. That influence was of course behind the scenes and did not involve any leadership roles. Women were the humble and indispensable foundation of the church, but when important decisions were being made it was time for women to leave the room. Just as was often the case with African-Americans in our country’s history, it was important that women knew and understood their place in the church.

    Now, the America article and its survey show that women in the church have had enough. They are choosing to no longer be the mainstay of keeping the church afloat. The issue is not that women are actually leaving. Women surveyed indicated that 82 percent of them had not considered leaving the church.

    Instead, they are disengaging and do not consider active involvement in the church important. Only 24 percent of women surveyed went to Mass weekly or more often. Less that half of respondents felt it very important or somewhat important to be involved in one’s parish.

    Specifically, millennial women have chosen to back off their involvement in the church. Their disengagement is even greater that that of their male counterparts. The article also indicates that this same phenomenon is not occurring in Protestant denominations.

    What does this data mean? How serious is the problem? Kathleen Sprows Cummings, associate professor at the University of Notre Dame, and director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, provides a pretty stark analysis. She states, “We are at a crisis point. . . . If you lose the women, you lose the children.” No one can doubt the formative role women have always played in the religious training of their children.

    It seems fair to say that a combination of the rise of women in every secular sphere of influence, along with a continued refusal to consider women for leadership roles in the church, is affecting the willingness of women to be engaged in the church. It is even more true for young women who are part of the current culture and have a different understanding of what the role of women should be in the world and in the church. Although not that many women have actually left the church, it may be instructive to note that of those who have considered it, 48 percent mentioned the lack of an appropriate place for women in the church, and 69 percent mention disagreement with church teaching.

    It is also likely true that many women are unaware of a number of leadership positions that are available to women in the church today. The article profiles a number of these women in important positions, including the chancellor of the diocese, pastoral associate, parish life director, etc. I certainly concur that there needs to be many more of such openings available, and the more people learn about these important opportunities the more it could sway the thinking of some women.

    I believe these are genuine signs of progress in the church, and I do not want to downplay their importance. It is also true that the church needs to start making progress somewhere. Yet, many in the clergy and hierarchy remain strongly opposed to even these limited steps.

    It is my sense, moreover, that sacramental change is really the whole ball game. As long as this men’s club of priesthood is off limits to women, there is no way women can consider themselves anything other than second class citizens. Barriers to women are breaking down in every sphere outside the church, which puts the church in the category of continuing to depict women as containing some kind of fatal flaw that removes them from consideration for making the Eucharist present for the faithful. What is worse, so much of the opposition is not theologically based, but based on a cadre of celibate old men being uncomfortable with allowing women into their private club.

    Mary brought the Lord Jesus into the world. Mary Magdalene was the "Apostle to the Apostles," being the first witness to the Resurrection. Surely, it is time women be considered worthy to preside at the Eucharistic table.

    0 0


    (Unsplash/Ke Atlas)

    The Feb. 5 issue of Time magazine has some powerful articles that demonstrate the concerns we as Americans should have about the Trump administration. These concerns have nothing to do with the Russia investigation, but everything to do with foreign policy, a global vision, and domestic issues.

    Karl Vick writes about how the United States created a global structure that has remained in place for around 70 years. It has made this country the indispensable nation around the world. Even the Soviet Union nominally embraced American principles like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    Yet President Trump sees this world as our enemy. He sees our allies as ungrateful, immigrants as terrorists, and others as taking advantage of us. His global vision is predicated on fear of just about everyone. He wants to go it alone. We are not only the indispensable nation, it is as if no other nation exists, no other nation matters.

    Globalism is not without its problems. As Vick notes, "The British charity Oxfam calculates that 4 out of 5 dollars generated in 2017 went to the wealthiest 1%." It is also true, however, that in 1981, 44 percent of the world's population lived in severe poverty, while today that figure is down to 10 percent, Vick writes.

    The results of Trump's shortsighted vision have been disturbing. Vick's article recounts how Trump has denigrated the NATO alliance, pulled out of the Paris climate change agreement, pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and then traveled to China to congratulate President Xi on winning trade battles with the United States.

    In the meantime, China has forged ahead in Asia and beyond in replacing the United States as the country that matters. The United States under Trump has chosen to withdraw or pull back from world leadership and China has stepped into our place.

    The United States has the strongest economy in the world. We have well connected networks throughout the world. In his article, Vick writes that, previously, the most important diplomat in almost any country was the U.S. ambassador; he notes that, of course, now many countries don't even have an ambassador because Trump has chosen to decimate the State Department.

    Vick's article also highlights the damage has been done by Trump's repeated characterization of the news media as "fake news." Trump's rhetoric has encouraged authoritarian rulers to crackdown on journalists in such countries as Russia, the Philippines, Turkey, Venezuela, and China. How proud the president must be of this achievement.

    Finally, in September, at the United Nations, Trump turned away from all the ideals and promise that have been the hallmarks of this country since its founding. He sounded as any other authoritarian regime in emphasizing what Vick called"the primacy of sovereignty." It was almost a complete abandonment of any interest or responsibility for the world we live in. The core virtues of tolerance, liberty, progress, and reason were not in evidence. 

    Juxtaposed to this foreign policy depiction is a sobering treatise on poverty in America. We are confronted with a startling failure to acknowledge, recognize or make any effort to address the continued poverty that exists in our country. We are forced to admit that our government continues to actively pursue policies that wittingly or unwittingly serve to make life worse for those who are struggling to care for their families.

    Wes Moore begins his analysis by citing Baltimore City Schools that had no heat and children were freezing in classrooms. He then notes how much poverty there is in communities across the country. In Montgomery, Alabama, "24.1% live below the poverty level." In Balfour, North Dakota, 44.4 percent. In Homestead, Florida, 28.8 percent, and in St. Louis, Missouri, 27.1 percent.

    Moore reminds us that the greatness of America has been its promise. Everyone has a right to freedom and opportunity. Yet clearly, those born into poverty today are likely to die in poverty. The upward path out of poverty for themselves and their children barely exists.

    Moreover, millions of other Americans are living just above the poverty line where one illness, one lost job, or major expense could put them into poverty. When the issue arises, the rhetoric from politicians is disturbing. Moore writes, "We're told people in poverty somehow deserve it." We failed to admit just how severely technology and changing industries have damaged the labor market for millions of would-be workers. We have encouraged Americans to blame immigrants for their lack of success. Worst of all, we have implemented government policies that have helped perpetuate poverty in our country and then blamed the victims.

    The picture is bleak. We have an administration now that is incompetent, ignorant, lacking historical memory, uncaring, and on a path that diverges from everything we have worked for in this country since World War II. As Christians, Catholics and Americans, we need to stand up for the values we hold dear, and advocate for those who are being hurt and forgotten by our country's leaders.

    0 0

    On Wednesday, Feb. 14 (Valentine’s Day), a school shooting occurred at a Florida high school. At least 17 individuals were killed in the shooting.

    This shooting was the third mass shooting at a school in our country this year.

    Most Americans view these events and feel a need for us and our leaders to find a way to prevent this violence and protect our children.

    A small segment of our society looks at the same event and considers it a challenge to make sure no one does anything to interfere with what they see as an unlimited right to purchase and possess guns of any kind.

    It is this small group that holds the power and makes the rules in our democracy. They are winning over and over again.

    That does not seem like democracy. Those who are supposed to represent us are instead following the dictates of this small but powerful group. Congress is paralyzed in the face of what is happening in our schools and beyond. They will not permit debate on the topic.

    The only solution is to elect a different Congress. We need to make clear we want our children to be protected. We will not vote for anyone, Democrat or Republican, unless they pledge to address this issue.

    Enhanced background checks are a first step that is required.

    A ban on military style assault weapons is also necessary. The AR-15 rifle has proven to be the weapon of choice used in school shootings and other mass shootings.

    No one on a terrorist watch list should be allowed to purchase a gun.

    Long-term, there needs to be a study of guns and the gun culture in America to determine what is going on and what can be done to improve things. Yet the federal government and its agencies, such as the Center for Disease Control, are not permitted to study the issue of gun violence. How is this possible? What is the gun lobby afraid of finding?

    None of these measures infringe on the rights of gun owners to have access to guns and to continue to purchase guns for protection and hunting.

    None of these measures will make America 100 percent safe from gun violence.

    However, these measures will make a difference.

    They need to be enacted.  We need to demonstrate that we care about our children. We must be outraged by these senseless acts of violence, and we must refuse to normalize them.

    The extreme arguments of the gun rights advocates are becoming increasingly hollow and without merit each passing day.

    We cannot allow small but powerful voices to tell us nothing can be done. When it comes to our children, we as a people need to do everything we can to make sure they can go to school each day with a reasonable sense that they will be safe to go home at the end of the school day.

    0 0


    The Rev. Billy Graham is pictured in 2000 addressing a crowd of more than 70,000 on the youth night of his crusade at Adelphia Coliseum, now Nissan Stadium, in Nashville, Tennesee. (CNS/Tennessee Register/Rick Musacchio)

    Evangelical Christianity was an important part of life in the West Virginia of the 1950s where I grew up. Regular tent revivals were a part of the scene. Everyone at school was talking about the latest preacher, and all those who had stepped up to the altar to be saved the night before. There was an evangelical preacher who held services in a building right behind our house. Many a night I went to sleep listening to the singing and preaching.

    Other than in the Rev. Billy Graham, I find it hard to recognize the evangelical Christianity I grew up with so many years ago. Randall Balmer provides some very specific reasons why Graham was different. He explains why Graham did not fall victim to the scandals of so many other well-known televangelists and itinerant preachers.

    Cliff Barrows, Graham's choirmaster, describes what he called the Modesto Manifesto. Graham and his associates met in Modesto, California, early in his ministry and established four important rules:

    • Graham would receive a set salary. He would not take a percentage of the take from revival meetings.
    • Secondly, he would never engage in criticism of other religious leaders.
    • He also chose to never provide estimates of crowd sizes to avoid the appearance of competition with other preachers.
    • Most importantly, he determined that he would never be with a woman other than his wife alone.

    In commenting on these rules Graham said, "From that day on I did not travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than my wife."

    Evangelical preachers today would do well to take to heart these operational procedures that Graham established, and that he followed through with throughout his life. Catholic clergy as well could learn from some of the elements of the Graham menu.

    Of course, Graham had his failings. He became too close to too many presidents. Balmer reminds us that he was on tape with Richard Nixon failing to condemn some anti-Semitic remarks. He later gave a full-throated apology for such remarks.

    Clearly the steps Graham took early in his ministry went a long way to preserving his legacy. For me, however, what I will remember about him is his fidelity to preaching the Gospel. His was a traditional Gospel. I find much to disagree with in his interpretation of the Gospel today, but, it was an authentic message. Even though he chose to pray and associate with presidents his message was not political.

    Graham was a man of faith. He lived and shared his faith with millions. He stayed true to his message. It is difficult to see what more one could ask of any man.

    [Pat Perriello, a retired educator from the Baltimore City Public Schools, served as the coordinator of Guidance and Counseling Services and an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University.]

    0 0

    CNS-Ash c.jpg

    Ash Wednesday
    A priest marks a cross on the forehead of a clergyman during Ash Wednesday Mass Feb. 14 at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Abuja, Nigeria. (CNS/Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

    I once wrote a paper on the Pelagian Heresy while I was in the seminary. I received a D-minus on the paper. Somehow, I was intrigued by Pelagius' notion that grace helped one to successfully exercise free will to earn one's salvation. It made sense to me at the time that if one had even a tiny role in effecting one's salvation, then it was true to say that you were responsible for your own salvation. Needless to say, my professor was not amused.

    I think it is also fair to say, however, that the proliferation of 300 days' indulgence and plenary indulgences of that time period seemed to encourage the notion that we did have a role to play in our own salvation.

    I have since become much more enamored of Paul's concept of justification by faith. Of course, we cannot earn our own salvation. It is God's free gift to us earned through the salvific work of Jesus and not our own actions. 

    Yet, as in so many things when it comes to God, we make a mistake if we believe we can explain or understand the actions of God. This is why it became necessary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to issue a new document on modern forms of old heresies. The letter, Placuit Deo, addresses the issue, and my old friend Pelagius is included in the discussion. Gnosticism, which claims a special knowledge, or gnosis, not available to others is also considered.

    Gerard O'Connell in America provides an analysis of this new document as well as its relationship to an earlier document by Pope Benedict XVI

    As Christians, it is clear to us that salvation comes through Jesus Christ. How that reality gets interpreted is critical. Vatican II began the process of recognizing the value that exists in other Christian denominations, other religions, and all people of good will. The language and categories of Vatican II were limited by what had been in use for centuries, but the intent was to recognize that the Catholic Church was not the only institution that possessed truth.

    Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2000 declaration Dominus Iesus, allowed the use of language to limit the document's expression of the value other people and institutions had. He did not use the word church for other institutions. He focused on what was deficient in each group he mentioned. The document did little to foster efforts at ecumenism.

    The new CDF document wisely tackles the subject from an entirely different angle. It focuses on what it sees as the reappearance of old heresies in new forms. The message of the letter is that salvation comes in community, specifically in the church. An individual needs the sacramental structure of the church to obtain the salvation available in Jesus. The gnostic failure to see the importance of our bodies, and thus the incarnation, misses the material aspect of Christ's salvific work, and thus fails in its understanding of salvation in the church.

    So, we just can't divorce the subject of salvation from the church. It seems then, we are stuck with the old Catholic dictum of "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus". But not so fast. The most important line of Placuit Deo is: "God can lead all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way towards salvation in Christ."

    Once again, we are reminded that all things are possible with God. We look with confidence at God's love and mercy, the good news of the Gospel, and the saving work of Jesus for us. We know with certainty that he desires all to be saved. We don't know how, but we know he is not limited nor constrained by our primitive formulations of truth.

    Maybe that's why it seems so wrong in the new Mass translation to speak of Christ's blood being poured out for many in the words of consecration. Can there be any doubt that Christ suffered and died not just for many, but for all?

    0 0


    (RNS/Matt Johnson, Flickr)

    As a member of the "never Trump" contingent, it is so easy to see all the reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States. It is, in fact, difficult to see why everyone else does not recognize this reality as well.

    I might just mention a few of these reasons: President Trump has coarsened the presidency and level of civil discourse.

    He endangers our country on the national stage through his lack of knowledge of foreign policy issues and his bizarre attachment to the president of Russia.

    He espouses an extremist immigration policy that includes separating parents from their children.

    His anti-Muslim policy is not only immoral, but it endangers our safety by diminishing our ability to work with the American Muslim community to ferret out extremists in their midst.

    His elimination of large numbers of governmental regulations has damaged the environment, worker safety and the stability of banks and financial institutions.

    He has hollowed out the State Department and other agencies to the detriment of our ability to conduct government business.

    Finally, he continues to manifest authoritarian tendencies that have included joking about becoming president for life. 

    I am only scratching the surface and could easily go on and on. Yet, in a recent Marist Poll, 42 percent of the country believes President Donald Trump is doing a good job. Why? 

    Obviously, the economy is strong. One could argue how much credit is due to Donald Trump, but certainly every president claims credit when the economy does well. If anything, Trump may not be getting sufficient credit in the polls for the strong economy.

    The new tax bill is growing in popularity. A few extra dollars in one’s pocket is meaningful to those struggling to make ends meet. There are many, long-term reasons why the tax cut may have been a bad idea, but it is difficult to make this case to the voters.

    Beyond these policy issues, I believe it is his style that continues to endear him to his base. His ability to distract the public from damaging news is a significant strength. He can change the subject from the Russia investigation to a gun policy debate, and the media rushes to cover the story.

    He not only distracts us, but he controls the media coverage. His savvy on media matters makes him the subject of 24/7 coverage. Even negative coverage keeps him constantly in the public eye.

    He has a remarkable ability to connect with his supporters. He pushes all the right buttons. His speech in western Pennsylvania on Saturday night is a case in point. If you watch him deliver the speech, you will see his skill at connecting with the crowd. It was masterful. The danger of his demagoguery is real. 

    His populist message to the coal miners and steel workers of America resonates, even when his policies fail to address the issue. Never mind that Trump can't bring steel or coal mining back. People want to believe him, so they do.

    He successfully plays into our fears. He exacerbates our fear of the other — immigrants, Muslims and minorities. His attacks on government overreach and fake news from the mainstream media strike responsive chords, as his followers see themselves as victims of forces they can't control.

    It is time to acknowledge that Trump is good at what he does. Now, the future will truly be up to the American people. They will decide who we are as a people and what kind of country we choose to live in. The November Congressional elections will go a long way to answering those questions.

    We may have received a clue from Tuesday's special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District. It is difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from a special election that ended in a virtual tie. Yet, the district is a Republican stronghold that Trump won by 20 points in the 2016 election. Even Trump's vintage stump speech on Saturday does not appear to have been enough to eke out a victory for the Republican candidate, Rick Saccone.

    This is not good news for Trump and the Republicans. Voters came out in large numbers to voice their opposition to where Trump wants to take this country. While Republican voters also turned out in large numbers, it does not appear to have been enough.

    There is no guarantee where this country will be after the midterm elections. This week's results do seem to show, however, that if voters stay engaged and continue to turn out in large numbers, they can dramatically alter the course of history in this country in November.