Wisdom Wednesday | September 13th

AUSCP NewsRoundupSeptember 13

Welcome to Wisdom Wednesday for September 13, 2023. We find a bubbling up of items regarding the difference between facts and how facts are perceived. But first, a surgeon who was at Ground Zero reflects on 9/11 and believes that the social fabric of the United States was strengthened in the years following the 2001 attacks, but he thinks the same fabric has weakened over the past several years. He is particularly concerned about the feeling of mistrust that hangs over a society of people who live together. It is a personal reflection.

Wisdom Wednesday is a weekly collection of news items and topical views drawn from faith and religion, justice issues, culture and arts, science, politics, and theology. Articles may focus on issues of concern – not agreement – to AUSCP friends and members.

Opinions expressed by writers in our selected articles are the views of the writers, and not the views of the AUSCP. Their selection in Wisdom Wednesday is the synodal request – not to agree – but to listen. A viewpoint this week, for example, suggests that Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville is Heaven. A big city mayor believes compassion is good public policy. Jesuit Father Thomas Reese opines that we may miss the revolution Pope Francis is calling for.

Some surprises: Post-COVID Protestants are coming back to church, but their ministers are thinking about leaving; Atheists are ministering to believers in U.S. hospitals; Pope Francis is way more popular among American Catholics than what conservative media is reporting. (And EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo might just be one of the Americans Pope Francis did not name as backward or reactionary.)

Clergy Sex Abuse

Fr. Bryan Massingale is a theologian at Fordham University in New York who is conducting the first in-depth study on clergy sexual abuse in African American communities. He says there are important differences in the experiences of African American, Indigenous, Asian and Latino survivors, but they share a common reality — “all historically have been neglected in this conversation.”

Perception and Reality

The “Great De-Churching” in America continues, but some Protestant churches are reporting more members and more contributions. Those thinking of leaving the church are the ministers. And despite what you may hear from conservative media, a 2021 survey found that a whopping 83 percent of American Catholics had a favorable view of Pope Francis. (And Catholics are more liberal than many other religious groups, and even more liberal than Americans in general.)

Speculation: Strickland, Arroyo et al

What is the basis for U.S. opposition to Pope Francis? “Some of this is about the faith, and what is true and how do you share it,” John Carr, founder of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, told Religion News Service. “Some of it is about power — ecclesial, political and economic power. Pope Francis is a threat to the status quo in all those areas.”

If current trends continue . . .

Christians could make up less than half of the population — and as little as a third— in 50 years. Meanwhile, the so-called nones — or the religiously unaffiliated — could make up close to half of the population. And the percentage of Americans who identify as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and other non-Christian faiths could double.

Religious identity in China

Based on formal religious identity, China is the least religious country in the world, but religion seems to play a much bigger role in Chinese life when its definition is widened to include spiritual practices and traditional beliefs.

Leaving their denomination

United Methodists across the country are mired in a messy divorce over theological differences, mostly regarding ordination and marriage of LGBTQ Christians. Three dozen North Carolina churches plan to leave the denomination in November.

A paradox?

Religious leaders without religion — humanist, atheist and spiritual-but-not-religious chaplains are tending to patients’ needs.

Synod: What is not a priority

The synod’s priorities are communion, participation, mission — not who can be priests, Thomas Reese says.“If we continued as usual with just different people in charge, then we missed the revolution Pope Francis is calling for.”

Who do Hispanics say they are?

There were roughly 63.7 million Hispanics in the U.S. in 2022, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. But how do the federal government and other survey organizations determine who belongs in this group? And what terms do people use to describe their own Hispanic identity?

Mexican Supreme Court’s abortion decision

The ruling means that government health providers now need not worry about federal penalties for abortion, because the court ruled that they were an unconstitutional violation of women’s human rights. The ruling stands in contrast to the US. It was a dramatic change in this predominantly Catholic nation.

Compassion as public policy

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s mission is to heal U.S. cities with compassion. Good public policy, the mayor says, happens when we’re standing on compassion.

Creation Care and the Climate Crisis

We are in the middle of the Season of Creation which began on September 1 and continues through October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Need some ideas? Here is a guide to celebrating the season.

Meanwhile, sad to say, The Guardian reports that the World Bank poured billions of dollars into fossil fuels around the world last year despite repeated promises to refocus on shifting to a low-carbon economy, research has suggested.


  • A few Words to avoid at church. They are not what you think.
  • The Catholic Jimmy Buffet: “In the end, none of us can speak to Jimmy Buffett’s spiritual state at the end of his life. We can only see the spirituality that ran through his music and the world he tried to create: one with less noise and stress, more peace and attentiveness; less hurt and grudges, more celebration and sunsets; and at least the occasional cheeseburger in paradise.”

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We hope you have enjoyed this roundup of recent news about faith, politics, and culture. We will return next week with another edition of Wisdom Wednesday.

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