Hang on for Wisdom Wednesday, as a winter storm’s worth of issues piles up on our home page! We have collected some strong commentaries and opinions to share from writers expressing their own views. The past few days include the “sainthood” of Martin Luther King Jr., Pope Francis’ comments that modern war is itself a crime against humanity, Donald Trump’s hold on Iowa evangelicals, the urgency of the 2024 Synodal preparation, a new Vatican document expected on sex change and surrogacy, Catholics in high places calling for priests to marry and graphically describing orgasms. And a Catholic bishop acknowledging that “Too many of us want to be famous.” How’s that for topics in the new year? We begin this week with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and we will end with St. Oscar Romero who offers hope to a troubled world.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Monday was a day to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr – and to answer a call to service. In Black Catholic Messenger, Ralph Moore highlights the enduring message of Dr. King, linking his fight for justice to Black Catholics’ struggle for the same—even unto sainthood.
The Jan. 15 federal holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a time to “pause and reflect” on his “indelible legacy” and “his rallying cry in the pursuit of justice and peace,” the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement. The story from Our Sunday Visitor.
Israel – Gaza
With massive civilian deaths and the destruction of cities and their infrastructure, modern “war is in itself a crime against humanity,” Pope Francis said. A story from Our Sunday Visitor.
Meanwhile, an opinion writer for Religion News Service says “Israel’s crimes in Gaza may be condemned at the Hague, but “The real victory is already won.” After nearly 80 years, Israel is a defendant at the Hague.
The Church, homosexuality and African exceptionalism are what is behind the African bishops’ refusal to follow the Vatican declaration that allows priests to bless same-sex couples, concludes a recent report in La Croix International.
Pope Francis defends the Vatican document allowing blessings for same-sex couples. He made his first public comments on “Fiducia supplicans,” telling a popular Italian TV talk show that the Catholic Church should welcome as many people as possible.
The Vatican’s Doctrinal Office is preparing a “Very Important Document on Human Dignity,” Cardinal Fernández says. The prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith said in a new interview that the document would address “moral questions such as sex-change surgery, surrogacy, and gender ideology.”
Pope Francis is calling for a universal ban on surrogacy. He says it exploits mother and child He said the life of the unborn child must be protected and not “suppressed or turned into an object of trafficking.”
Politics, Religion and Boredom
Donald Trump notched a commanding win in the Iowa caucuses as DeSantis edges Haley for second place. The AP reports.
Donald Trump’s closing message in Iowa before the first votes of the 2024 presidential election was a familiar one. He’s convinced his supporters that his legal problems are their own, and that he’s the only one who can stop them, while stringing along a fake narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from them.
In Iowa and beyond, evangelical Christian voters follow their party more than their faith, according to a pre-caucus report from Religion News Service.
Untethered from partisan politics and uninterested in keeping up with political news, here is how some Americans view the current state of U.S. politics, according to Pew Research.
U.S. Bishops worried about religious liberty
A new US Bishops’ report identifies five top areas of religious liberty concerns, in the USCCB’s first annual “State of Religious Liberty in the United States,” published Jan. 16. It said potential threats largely come in the form of federal regulations or cultural trends – including gender transition procedures, abortion, and suppression of religious speech.
Clothing and Climate Concerns
A “Mountain of Used Clothes Appeared in Chile’s Desert. Then It Went Up in Flames,” said an in-depth report from WIRED Magazine. “The fashion industry has created a sprawling informal disposal network across the world—that brings with it money, conflict, and environmental destruction.”
Writing for Religion News Service, Jesuit Thomas Reese — one of AUSCP keynoters in our June 2024 Assembly– reports that diocesan consultations for the October 2024 session of the synod must be completed by April 8. (Have you heard anything from your diocese?)
Bishop: ‘Too many of us want to be famous’
In the brave new world of online communication, are some bishops distracted from their pastoral duties and the needs of their flocks by the desire for online fame? Katie Prejean McGrady answers her own question in La Croix International.
Also in the news
Nearly a thousand people, some in traditional attire, gathered in front of the Parliament of Morocco in Rabat on January 14, proudly displaying their identity. The Amazighs (“free men”) came to celebrate Yennayer, the New Year of their calendar which started 950 BCE and 2352 years before the Hegira.
Southern Baptists do not believe that women can be pastors or that churches should baptize infants – but they are willing to sell insurance to people who disagree. The Global Methodist Church says that Dallas-based GuideStone Financial Resources “will administer its retirement, health insurance, and ancillary benefit programs” for the denomination starting in July. The SBC will sell insurance to women pastors — if they aren’t Southern Baptists
Wheaton College, a flagship evangelical school in Wheaton, Illinois, recently updated its student and employee handbooks to restrict employees’ ability to designate personal pronouns and to elaborate on the school’s position on trans/nonbinary students and faculty. More from RNS.
Vatican launches a massive restoration effort of baldachin in St. Peter’s Basilica. Restorers plan to complete the work in time for the start of the Jubilee of 2025.
A record-high share of 40-year-olds in the U.S. have never been married, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data. A recent report looks back at 2023.
Catholics and higher education
Catholic universities need a new kind of affirmative action—for students aligned with their mission, says America magazine. The Supreme Court has limited the consideration of race in admissions, but Catholic schools may still pursue diversity by selecting students likely to advance social justice after they graduate.
Pope Francis has changed the mission for Catholic colleges and universities, opines theologian and columnist Massimo Faggioli in a keynote address at the University of San Diego. “Pope Francis’ papacy has captured with great depth the value of the crossroads in which Catholic higher education finds itself.”
Pope hopes hell is empty
Pope Francis appeared on Italy’s most popular prime-time talk show on Sunday night where the pontiff shared how he hopes that hell is “empty.” Three million people in Italy tuned in to watch the nearly hour-long television interview with Pope Francis on January 14
Spirituality, Sensuality and the “O” word
The Vatican’s doctrine chief is raising eyebrows over his 1998 book that graphically describes orgasms. “The Mystical Passion,” published in Mexico, is a short expose about mystical-sensual experiences with God. The Associated Press reports on the current controversy, while John Allen Jr at Crux magazine offers a surprising take on another Vatican official, saying “Titillation aside, this fight isn’t actually about orgasms.”
Finding hope with St. Oscar Romero
It seems like every week there’s something new—an outbreak of violence, a report that puts climate change further and further into apocalyptic territory. . . . We feel called to action, but even that feels diffuse and strange.” “When I am troubled by the times in which we live, I turn to Óscar Romero,” says Alejandra Oliva, in the January 24 edition of the Christian Century.