Welcome to our last pre-Christmas Wednesday, in a week filled with news and reaction as a “doctrinal declaration opens possibility to bless couples in irregular situations.” Caution is advised as reports say it will be possible to bless same-sex couples but without any type of ritualization or offering the impression of a marriage. The doctrine regarding marriage does not change, and the blessing does not signify approval of the union. (What is changing is American views of marriage and children; they’re not important for happiness, compared with job and career.)
2023 continues to provide news of war, migration, surveys and sex scandals, politics and public life. Several articles and opinion pieces examine the year’s events. (Opinion writers always present their views, not the positions of the AUSCP.)
We begin, however with some Advent and Christmas articles and a story with a modernized Magnificat: “He has taken away the houses of the renovators and the knockdown builders and stripped the landlords of their titles, and to the apartment renters and the couch surfers and the homeless he has given shelter and dignity.”
God with us
First, at Christmas, God remains with us through war and poverty, Pope Francis said. He spoke about God’s closeness with a group of children and the organizers of a concert for people in need.
From the Christian Century comes an exploration of “A rich woman who took the Magnificat seriously.” Vida Dutton Scudder was an early 20th-century radical, who points Christians to solidarity and martyrdom – and prompts the quotation, “He has taken away the houses of the renovators and the knockdown builders . . . .”
With the Declaration “Fiducia supplicans” issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by Pope Francis, it will be possible to bless same-sex couples but without any type of ritualization or offering the impression of a marriage. The doctrine regarding marriage does not change, and the blessing does not signify approval of the union. This report from Vatican News, along with a report on the reaction of Cardinal Cupich: It is “a step forward.”
From La Croix International, an analysis of the blessings authorization. The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith explicitly gives its green light for the blessing of “couples in irregular situations,” including divorced, remarried and same-sex couples.
The 10-page document, distributed in five languages, insists the blessing of homosexual couples “should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union.” Couples must also not wear clothing “that are proper to a wedding.” This is a way of avoiding any form of “scandal.”
Pope Francis launches a heartfelt appeal for an end to the “terrorism” of war, and condemns an Israeli military attack on Gaza’s Holy Family Catholic Parish, which killed two Christian women and destroyed a convent of the Missionaries of Charity. Reports from Vatican News and Religion News Service.
Meanwhile, Catholic universities in the United States struggle with reaction to the Israel-Hamas war. For La Croix International Massimo Faggioli examines the politics of higher education and the future of dialogue among Christians, Jews, and Muslims
Pope’s birthday – and the inevitable
As well-wishes poured in for his birthday, Pope Francis encouraged Christians to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Pope Francis turned 87 years old on Sunday, December 17. Vatican News is the source of the birthday story, followed with a Bob Mickens “Letter from Rome” on the pope’s plans for his end-of-life celebration of his life.
Shame and scandal
The pastor of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church — an influential Presbyterian Church in America congregation — resigned after a past arrest for improper conduct along with another church leader was made public.
Mike Bickle, the founder of an international around-the-clock prayer movement and charismatic minister, apologized Tuesday (Dec. 12) for past misconduct that caused “pain, confusion, and division in the body of Christ.”
Cardinal Angelo Becciu was sentenced by the Vatican court to five years and six months imprisonment, perpetual disqualification from public office, and an eight thousand euro fine. Penalty fines were also given to defendants Di Ruzza and Brülhart, while Monsignor Carlino was acquitted.
Mounting evidence of Russia’s mass deportation of Ukrainian children is stoking outrage, not least in Ukraine’s Catholic Church. “Alongside the occupation, repression and injustice, this has inflicted yet another painful wound,” one bishop told NCR.
Refugees and migrants
Opinion article: They are not looking for “more” or “bigger” or “newer” anything. The displaced people who roam the globe are looking for food and freedom, and most of all for peace. The United Nations estimates some 35.3 million refugees are among the 108 million displaced persons in the world, and those numbers are more than 1 year old.
The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has signed a bill giving all police in the state sweeping new powers to arrest migrants deemed to have entered the US illegally as well as empowering local judges to order their expulsion back across the US-Mexico border. The hard-right Republican’s actions represent a brazen challenge to the federal government’s authority over the enforcement of US immigration law.
36 days at sea: How castaways survived hallucinations, thirst and desperation. As the number of people leaving Senegal for Spain surged to record levels this year, The Associated Press pieced together the story of 101 men and boys who tried to make the voyage but were lost at sea for over a month. Their fuel was finished. The hunger and thirst were overwhelming. Dozens died, including the captain. By the time they were rescued, only 38 were still alive.
Opinion article from U.S. Catholic: When discussing immigration, we sometimes fall into the trap of “othering” people who find themselves directly affected by these situations of displacement. Sometimes, such othering results from ignorance, or it may be fueled by the fear of perceived differences, whether cultural, racial, ethnic, or religious. Often we filter our beliefs through whatever political lens we’ve opted to use, yet politics and the laws that govern our current political landscape always take shape in the concrete realities of human lives. Real lives are always at stake.
Personal opinion article: There are plenty of voices out there telling those of us who are queer Catholics that we should discount our visions of God or our roles in the church. How can we imagine ourselves as disciples, when we’re constantly faced with our community’s question of whether we’re terrible sinners?
Abilene Christian University in Texas is revisiting its sexuality policy after over 2,000 students, alumni and friends of the university voiced concerns about Holy Sexuality Week, a school event on relationships and sexuality some claimed included one-sided, exclusionary messages about LGBTQ people.
Surveys and striking findings from 2023
Relatively few Americans see marriage as essential for people to live a fulfilling life. Jobs, careers, friends are more important than having children. Pew Research find that having children (42%) or being married (44%) are not too important or not at all important.
The New Globalization is not Christian
A world view from Black Catholic Messenger. Ronald E. Smith, Ed.D is a lifelong Catholic who enjoys writing. He is a parishioner at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Dana Point, California and also at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Rubuguri, Uganda. Dr. Smith grapples with the realities of rapid globalization led by Asia and Russia in an age of religious pluralism. As Christian nations back away, China has quietly steps in as banker, builder, and humanitarian aid provider.