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This Lent, share love

This Lent, share love

“That look on your face! The look on his!” A colleague stopped by my office at the end of a long day. He stopped, looked down and saw a photo he hadn’t seen before of me with Pope Benedict XVI. It was from October 2012 and was at the opening Mass for the Year of Faith. It also happened to be the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. I had gotten a call a week or so before asking if I’d go to Rome and accept a message from the pope on behalf of all the women of the world. I write a little about this in a chapter for a book coming out this spring called “When Women Pray.” Pope Benedict was reissuing a statement that Blessed Paul VI had offered to all the women of the world at the closing of the council. The message reads, in part: “At this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.” And it concludes with: “Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or nonbelieving, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.” I often think: What a different world we’d live in if people even knew this is what the Catholic Church thinks about women — and if we lived this. Impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel. But then, the same is true of Christianity itself. Living the Beatitudes, living the love we profess to believe in, would change things. The anger. The despair. The indifference. It would all look so different. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia makes this point in his new book, “Strangers in a Strange Land” (Henry Holt, $26). “There are no unhappy saints, and joy and hope are constant themes in the work of Pope Francis,” he writes. “Like St. Paul, he sees the source of Christian joy in the act of preaching the Gospel, in a passion for living the Good News and actively sharing the passion for living the Good News and actively sharing the person of Jesus Christ with others.” He adds, about Pope Francis: “This is why he has such urgent words for tepid Christians. This is why he can never seem so impatient with believers who let their hearts grow numb. If we don’t share the faith, we lose it.” It seems so simple, and yet we all know how hard it can be. That day with Pope Benedict, I was overjoyed. Not because I was meeting the pope, as much an honor as that was. It was the look of love on his face. The message he handed me that day was overflowing with love, and so were his eyes. I could see the message. He was the message. Love was the message. It was just a window into the beauty of the gaze of God the Father. Do we look at others with that gaze? Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . We all know “They will know we are Christians by our love.” So many people today do not know love, because they do not see it from us. Maybe this Lent, we could start smiling. Looking up from our phones and looking into people’s eyes. Those closest to us and those we would have otherwise overlooked. We’re made in the image and likeness of God. What if your gaze upon someone today is the only time they’ve seen that love? What if it’s the only time they could see if might be possible that they were loved into existence? We get busy. We get burdened. I know. But we can recover the joy that is the life we claim to lead. Love this Lent. Is there any doubt that’s what is needed? Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “ How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95). read on

Letters to the Editor for March 12-18, 2017

Letters to the Editor for March 12-18, 2017

First and foremost, we are members of the Body of Christ Re: “Onward Christian Stranger” (Book Review, Feb. 19-25). Your review of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s book, “Strangers in a Strange Land” (Henry Holt, $26), brings up important points. We are resident aliens in this world. Our true citizenship is in heaven. The Church, when it is healthy and strong, has always aroused enmity and opposition from the world. Only when it is weak is it accepted and celebrated by those who despise its head. What is surprising is our surprise at this. Somehow we expect the unbelieving world to bow to our moral authority and to give us seats of honor at their feasts. Jesus allowed his disciples no such illusion. Before his passion he told them plainly, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. … But because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (Jn 15:18-19). Unlike most Christians in history, we have not yet had to resist to the point of shedding our blood (see Heb 12:4). That may change. Opposition and persecution will serve us well if we allow them to sever attachments that compromise our loyalty to Christ. Then we will find in him more than the world can ever give. — Margret Meyer, Jacksonville, Florida Answering the ‘dubia’ Re: “Seeing the many rich facets” (Essay, Feb. 19-25). Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl’s essay mentions the word “confusion” in regards to Amoris Laetitia but does not address the crux of that problem. According to Cardinal Wuerl, in the document the pope and bishops “present the Church’s teaching on marriage in a way that it is inviting, compelling and faithful to the truth and, at the same time, able to engage people who live in a marriage that does not reflect perfectly and entirely the Church’s teaching.” These are people who “remarried,” whose first marriage is valid and who are not living as “brother and sister” in the second “marriage.” Cardinal Wuerl and the pope suggest it is merciful to allow certain individuals to receive absolution and reception of Communion. The confusion arises because this does not follow Church teaching. The clergy should accompany these individuals and help them form a proper conscience in accord with Christ’s teachings and to remedy their marital situations in a way consistent with those teachings. The pope and the bishops must answer the dubia presented by Cardinals Burke, Caffarra, Brandmuller and Meisner. — M.P. Smyth , Finksburg, Maryland Border wall Re: “Catholics respond to border wall, travel ban” (News Analysis, Feb. 12-18). Clearly the ban is unconstitutional and inhumane, if not immoral. It should be rejected by the Supreme Court. The border wall is a completely different situation. The picture accompanying the story depicts a “newly built section of the wall” in 2016 — during the Barack Obama administration. Where were the bishops then? Where were the media? It is regularly, widely, reported that during the eight years of the Obama administration this country deported some 2.9 million undocumented immigrants, a good many of them convicted felons. What happened to the families of those deported? In the last paragraph about the wall, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez said, “We will continue to engage the new administration, as well as we have all administrations for the duration of the current refugee program, now almost 40 years.” Where were the bishops and the media — where was the outrage — about the wall and the 2.9 million deportations for the past eight years? — Lawrence Berg , San Gabriel, California Catholic education Re: “8 ways parents can get the most out of their Catholic school investment” (In Focus, Jan. 29-Feb. 4). When reading the In Focus, we couldn’t help but wonder what the percentage of Catholic school graduates (who are Catholic) practice their Catholic faith. We would consider this to be more important than the percentage of those who go on to four-year colleges. — Ralph and Jeanne Morris , via … read on

Irish filmmaker with ALS shows power of choosing life

Irish filmmaker with ALS shows power of choosing life

The next phase of killing is en route to the West Coast. Oregon, which was the first state to legalize euthanasia in the country via its “Death with Dignity Act” in 1997, now is looking to take a new step with S.B. 494, a bill that could be used to withhold food and water from patients suffering from dementia and mental illness. These are men and women who are not necessarily at the point of death, but rather who are considered “incompetent” and no longer have the ability to communicate their wishes (see story on Page 4) . It’s a dangerous next step down the slippery slope misleadingly promoted as “death with dignity.” Increasingly, it seems individuals in the world in which we live seem to be looking for more reasons to die than to remain alive. Perhaps that’s why I was so inspired by the story of Simon Fitzmaurice, an Irish filmmaker behind the new film “My Name is Emily.” Fitzmaurice’s personal story is told in the documentary, “It’s Not Yet Dark,” which debuted earlier this year, and which is based on a 2015 memoir by the same name. In 2008, Fitzmaurice, who was married with three children and a promising career, was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Doctors gave the 33-year-old three or four years to live. Some advocated for him to consider not relying on artificial means to continue his life. Fitzmaurice, though, was having none of it. He didn’t want to placidly wait out life or to welcome an early death. He wanted to live. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . Eight years later, Fitzmaurice is no longer able to move his limbs. He cannot speak, swallow or breathe without assistance from a machine. But, boy, is he living. Not only did he pen the screenplay for “My Name is Emily,” but he directed it, too, sharing his thoughts via a computer that can track his eye movements to spell out words and phrases. Working with a supportive cast and crew, he developed a director’s shorthand — winking when he thought a take was satisfactory and it was time to move on. When all he had left of himself to communicate with were his eyes, that’s what he used. He told The New York Times: “I remember thinking, ‘I must do this to show my children to never give up.’” I would say he succeeded. In an interview with CBS, Fitzmaurice said he wanted to direct “My Name is Emily” in order “to spend this precious time I have doing something that fulfills me at the deepest level, that echoes in my soul. “A fire has been lit inside me — seriously, an energy I didn’t know I had. And it has not gone out,” he said. “It has been life-changing.” Life-changing for him, and dramatically inspirational for the rest of us. In a culture that promotes death as the palatable choice for people with illness or disabilities, Fitzmaurice’s story of perseverance and determination to live is a reminder of just how powerful it can be to instead choose life. feedback@osv.com . read on

U.S. in the Holy Land

U.S. in the Holy Land

Placing the United States embassy to Israel in Jerusalem seems natural ­— or at least unimportant — but it is unprecedented. Should it happen, it will please some but outrage others. It all goes back a long time, a really long time. Just 40 years after Christ, the Jews rebelled against the Roman empire, the very power that executed Jesus for alleged defiance of Rome. The Jews lost that fight, and Rome played for keeps when it came to suppressing opposition. Many Jews died. One legend has it that the land around Jerusalem looked like a forest, so many crosses were standing upon which hung Jewish rebels. Other Jews not sentenced to death were exiled, although some stayed in the Holy Land, but these survivors were few. Time passed. Arabs, some Christians, mostly Muslims, sponsored by the Ottoman Empire seated in what now is Turkey, eventually came in numbers. Their descendants constitute today’s Palestinians. More than a century ago, descendants of Jews exiled by the Romans almost 2,000 years earlier began to move to the Holy Land, and from them came most of today’s Jewish Israeli population. Harmony never reigned supreme. World leaders after World War II hoped that a solution would be to create two independent, adjoining nations — one for Jews, the other for Arabs. Acting on this plan, Jews formed the state of Israel. Arabs bitterly rejected the plan, however, insisting that the entire Holy Land belonged to them. Basically, this situation pertains today. Over the years, no reconciliation has been found. Bloodshed and hatred are the everlasting characteristics of this struggle between the Jews and the Arabs. Eventually, the Arabs formed something like a nation: Palestine. Israel has not made it easy for Palestine, to say the least, but many world powers, including the papacy, recognize Palestine as a sovereign entity. Regardless, feelings have not softened. Many Palestinians still argue that all the land is their land. Many Israelis argue the same. Peace between Israel and Palestine has been a priority for American presidents going back to Harry Truman. Governments have come and gone in Washington, and in other capitals, over the years, and all must have concluded that they could not win for losing. Our leaders, and governmental heads elsewhere, have tried never to aggravate one or the other side, but U.S. authorities always, rightly, have seen Israel as this country’s best friend, the only democracy, in the Middle East, believing that Israel’s diminishment would hurt America. Yet, as successive popes have pleaded, and as millions agree, including most major world powers, Palestinians also have their rights. Why the argument about Jerusalem? Both sides claim Jerusalem. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . To avoid taking sides, no world government presently keeps its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, so America’s embassy is in Tel Aviv, 40 miles west of Jerusalem. Every other sovereign nation also deliberately has its embassy outside Jerusalem. The Holy See maintains its nunciature, or embassy, to Israel in Jaffa, a Tel Aviv suburb. (The Vatican’s representative to Palestine resides in East Jerusalem, on recognized Palestinian territory.) What about the “settlements”? These are new communities built, maintained and protected by Israel specifically for Jews on land claimed by Palestine. Successive American governments, and the rest of the world, have opposed the settlements. It is enough to prompt despair. As Pope Francis prays, God give us peace — with justice. Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain. read on

Editorial: Dangerous territory

Editorial: Dangerous territory

President Donald Trump’s feud with the media reached new heights Feb. 17 when Trump tweeted that the media are “the enemy of the American people.” The tweet was liked 151,000 times, and retweeted 48,000 times. On one hand, the enthusiasm behind the president’s tweet is understandable. A conservative base is finally hearing a president challenge the bias that for too long has been dominant in the mainstream press. Many Catholics long have been frustrated with how members of the secular, mainstream media misconstrue Church teaching and often even fail to recognize that there is another side to an argument. It’s necessary, therefore, that the secular media, driven by a desire for stronger ratings and wider profit margins, and facing mounting competition, be challenged to represent all issues fairly and accurately. But, as many leaders on both sides of the aisle pointed out in the days following this tweet, it is one thing to take umbrage with a particular news story or the bias of a news organization, and quite another to state that the media, as an institution, is the enemy of the people. According to an annual report on media independence around the world produced by the nonpartisan group Freedom House in 2016, only 13 percent of the world’s population live in an environment that enjoys a free press — that is “where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.” In contrast, 46 percent live in media environments deemed “not free,” including North Korea, Cuba, China, Venezuela, Russia and the majority of the Middle East and Africa. There, members of the media who do not support the state may be suppressed or jailed on a good day, and beaten or killed on a bad one. The other 41 percent live in territory considered “partly free.” The lack of a free press leads to the creation of an environment that represses facts, restricts the free exchange of ideas and opinions, is subject to governmental or organizational overreach, and is vulnerable to corruption and totalitarian control. Two examples are relevant. First, because of our constitutional right to a free press, when anti-Catholic forces were attacking the Church, Father John F. Noll, founder of Our Sunday Visitor, was able to start his own newspaper to counter with the truth about the Faith in 1912. Through the press, OSV was able to defend the truth of the Church against aggressors. Second, it was intrepid reporting by journalists at the Boston Globe that exposed the extent of the clergy sex abuse crisis in 2002. Though this exposure has been difficult, few would deny that the Church is indebted to the media for shining a light on the sin and crime hiding within the institution. While the media is charged with spreading the truth, however, it is important to acknowledge that we live in a society that is allowing the principles of truth to change, with long-standing paradigms of human sexuality, identity, marriage and family life frequently shouted down — one symptom among many of the “dictatorship of relativism” warned of by Pope Benedict XVI. Too often, the media let their pursuit of facts be waylaid by this shifting sense of truth. These are serious problems that need to be addressed as a society. But attacking the press as an institution is not the answer. When such disparagement or, worse, vilification becomes commonplace, we find ourselves, and our democracy, in dangerous territory. Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor read on

Our Lenten journey

Our Lenten journey

St. Athanasius wrote of Lent in the fourth century as if it was already an ancient tradition. The patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, described “the whole world” engaged in a 40-day Lenten fast in preparation for Easter. That was only about 60 years after the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) was held in the aftermath of the Age of Martyrs. The Council fathers agreed to the tradition that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after March 21. As it has ever after. And Ash Wednesday is always 46 days prior to Easter — 40 days of the traditional penitential period, plus six nonpenitential Sundays. We knelt in the evening 1,692 years after Nicea. The Hoosier church was crowded for Mass and the distribution of ashes. Ash Wednesday came late this year. Workers struggling in after a long day. Young fathers and mothers with the little guys. Even some of the oldsters — like me — who didn’t get up in the early morning. We’re all there after a day of fast and abstinence. As we will conclude in keeping Good Friday. The season has begun. Ash Wednesday was something to experience in downtown Pittsburgh when I lived there a few years back. A small congregation on the weekends, the downtown Catholic church — St. Mary of Mercy — had the whole working city for a parish that day. Ashes were distributed at the noon Mass and the diocesan pastoral center next door. Lines poured in and out of both. Pittsburgh is a Catholic town, and looking around on Ash Wednesday, ashes seemed to be on every forehead. We saw ashes outside of church this year, but in Indiana the weather seems to establish the mood of the Lenten season that will follow. The world looks penitential. Indiana is generally dark and overcast in the weeks before — and just after — the spring equinox. It might snow — a wet, messy slop that usually greets St. Patty’s Day — but it looks more gray than white. Everything novel about winter disappeared long ago, and there is rarely a hint in the landscape that greenery will ever come. We’ve been abstaining on Fridays, and just about everyone still has their own “give-ups” for the season. I’m reminded of the Lenten discipline that Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604) presented to Augustine of Canterbury for his consideration: “We abstain from flesh meat and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, eggs and butter.” Today, it’s more likely beer and chocolate. Fasting. Abstinence. Almsgiving. They are the triumvirate of the Lenten season and have been so since Gregory the Great. The monks would keep that strict fast and abstinence. Fish was often subject to it, as in many places it was considered “flesh meat.” Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . In his classic “Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs” (1952, with a 1958 imprimatur from Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston), Father Francis X. Weiser explains how people would donate what little they saved from the Lenten abstinence to “the building of churches and other pious endeavors. One of the steeples of the Cathedral of Rouen in France is still known for this reason as the ‘butter tower.’” Father Weiser’s book is long out of print. I’ve cribbed much of this from my battered copy, old when I was young. You can get a used edition on Amazon, but it costs a king’s ransom. I don’t know if the good souls of Rouen still call it the “butter tower.” Breaks my heart when the old knowledge slips away. Lent holds us. Beginning with a reminder of our own mortality, it’s a pilgrimage every year from “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” to the promise of the Resurrection. Lent heals the soul. In Pittsburgh. In Indiana. The whole world. Robert P. Lockwood writes from Indiana. Follow him on Twitter @BobPLockwood . read on

Letters to the Editor for February 26-March 4, 2017

Letters to the Editor for February 26-March 4, 2017

Appreciation for Cardinal Wuerl’s essay on ‘Amoris Laetitia’  Re: “Seeing the many rich facets” (Essay, Feb. 19-25). I want to applaud Cardinal Donald Wuerl for seeking to help everyone — clergy and laity alike — to understand the beauty of Amoris Laetitia, how it is structured, what is does and does not state, and the truths and pastoral needs it proclaims. His gentle explanation of where and how “confusion” might occur is generous in its compassion. May we all continue to pray to the Holy Spirit for the truth to be revealed in each lay or ordained member’s conscience and understanding; for this is God’s Church, and he leads it through his chosen human beings. — Kathy Bitschenauer, via online comment Immigration Re: “Catholics respond to border wall, travel ban” (News Analysis, Feb. 12-18). As a cradle Catholic, I am disappointed in the quotes from the cardinals and the bishops on the immigration issue. They imply that Catholic Church teaching promotes open borders allowing immigrants in without restraint. This is not true. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 2241, speaks to the responsibility of government to protect its citizens, even while welcoming the stranger. St. Thomas Aquinas in “Summa Theologiae” also explains how immigration should be handled. When Church leaders use words like “not rational acts” and encourage people to misuse the idea of “sanctuary,” this is a problem. Sanctuary is for innocent persons, not for harboring criminals. How did we get so far from right reasoning? — Sandra A. Fischer , Broadview Heights, Ohio There seems to be a lot of misinformation about what President Trump is trying to do in regard to refugees. We are talking about a three-month pause, not an outright ban as some are suggesting. He is the president of the United States. He is trying to keep us safe. He has more information available to him than we do. I fought terror in Iraq. I did so for three years and couldn’t come home to my family. I tend to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt here. — Cassie Smith , Marshall, Michigan Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin was quoted as having said or written that building walls is “irrational.” I submit that the cardinal made a poor choice of words. Our homes are enclosed in walls to keep out intruders, vermin and inclement weather. Our doorways and windows are enclosed with screen wire to keep flies out of our soup. Our churches have not only walls but safes, tabernacles, to protect what is most sacred to us. Each of these is eminently rational use of walls or barriers. National walls, necessary to keep out those without citizenship rights who enter without appropriate permission, are not less rational. If the morality of walls is questioned, that is another topic, but one that must be proved and not simply assumed. — Edward A. Rohde , St. Louis ‘The Young Pope’ Re: “HBO’s foul stench” (Catholic Journal, Feb. 19-25). Glad I don’t have cable. I think we’ll stick with basic local family-based programs. Thanks for the warning! — Carolann Martinez , via online comment Death penalty Re: “A life and death issue” (God Lives, Feb. 5-11). Msgr. Owen F. Campion’s article concerning the death penalty was well presented. He states that, “executions are moral only if all else fails to protect the people.” This is consistent with the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “If, however, nonlethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means” (No. 2267). Capital punishment should be used only in rare cases and not for deterrence and not for revenge. Capital punishment should be available in the rare case, such as when an aggressor is in isolation (even extreme isolation) but is still able to trigger or cause the deaths of others. — M.P. Smyth , Finksburg, Maryland Top-Viewed Articles The most popular stories on OSV.com this week included: 1. HBO’s foul stench (Catholic Journal, Feb. 19-25) 2. 3 things we can do to mirror … read on

HBO's foul stench

HBO’s foul stench

HBO’s “The Young Pope” stinks. I should add that I haven’t seen it. “But you can’t say something stinks that you haven’t seen!” Nonsense. I have never seen a whale slaughtered and did not watch this year’s Pro Bowl game, but I can safely say both stink. Specifically in regard to “The Young Pope,” people I know and trust tell me it stinks. That’s more than good enough for me. But descriptions of the show also help push that judgment along. According to a January review by Chris Byrd from Catholic News Service, behind the beginning credits of the opener, a naked baby “crawls over a sea of infant mannequins, and a man dressed as the Roman pontiff emerges from the other end.” How’s that for artsy, and more likely a solid indicator that we are on the anti-Catholic stink assembly line? The 10-part HBO series is scheduled to conclude about now, before it goes into the black hole of endless streaming. Jude Law stars as American Lenny Belardo, archbishop of New York, who is elected pope and takes the name Pius XIII. He brings Diane Keaton as Sister Mary to Rome as his faithful companion, who raised him as her own (along with another future cardinal) after he was orphaned. OK, so far just normally stupid. But it gets worse. Much worse. Pope Lenny is, as Byrd describes him, a “jerk.” Addicted to Diet Cherry Coke, cigarettes and coffee, Pope Lenny makes a point of insulting the faithful (“I don’t know if you deserve me!” he warns in his first address as the new pope), and dismisses confession, though he does force a priest to break the seal of the confessional so he can get the goods on his fellow cardinals. In another artsy moment, Lenny ends up in a staring contest with a kangaroo that he had received as a gift and released into the Vatican Gardens. In a drawn-out scene, he dons his papal vestments as the song “Sexy and I Know It” provides the background noise. Great. In the words of a New York Times review, “The Young Pope” is a “pulpy, disjointed” art-house flop that is “slap-dash and underdeveloped.” According to Byrd, “The Young Pope” contains “strong, often gratuitous sexual content, nudity and profanity.” Of course it does. The Italian director, Paolo Sorrentino, is the source and key writer of this stuff. The series makes clear that while Pope Lenny has his flaws, the real enemy is the Church as a whole. An atheist, Sorrentino creates a pope that probably doesn’t believe in God. He does believe, however, in power, manipulation and self-absorption, which makes him a perfect pope for Sorrentino’s church. Enough of that. The question is: Why? I don’t mean why some artiste-type would want to make such a series based on anti-Catholic rubbish. My “why” is to HBO. Why did HBO think there would be an audience for such slop? Who did they think would want to invest time from their lives to watch such pretentious drivel? “The Young Pope” wins this classic assessment from “The Simpsons” Comic Book Guy: “Worst show ever!” Again: Who does HBO think will watch this? Maybe the same people that picked up a book by Robert Harris released a few months back. Called “Conclave,” it’s about a fictional papal election. SPOILER ALERT. I’m giving away here and now the big secret revealed in the last few pages of “Conclave.” The newly elected pope is a female who has lived as a male — thus being both a woman ordained as a priest and a transgender pope. Habemus papam, indeed. Maybe not the worst book ever. But close. Robert P. Lockwood writes from Indiana. Follow him on Twitter @BobPLockwood . read on

Religion on the bench

Religion on the bench

If Judge Neil Gorsuch is confirmed, he will be the first Protestant U.S. Supreme Court justice since 2010. An Episcopalian, he attended a Catholic secondary school. Of the current eight justices, five identify themselves as Catholics: Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonya Sotomayor. Identifying themselves as Jewish are Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. For 50 years after the court’s foundation, only Protestants served as justices. President Andrew Jackson broke the ice when in 1835 he nominated a Maryland Catholic, Roger Brooke Taney, as associate justice. Anti-Catholicism was loud and strong at the time. Taney was not confirmed. Jackson never gave up on anything and did not forget Taney. Soon after the Taney nomination failed, the chief justice died. Jackson immediately resubmitted Taney’s name. Taney was confirmed, becoming the first Catholic justice — and chief justice. Taney himself died in 1864. Thirty years after Taney, President Grover Cleveland wished to solidify his political base in the South, so he chose a former Confederate soldier, Edward Douglass White, from Louisiana, to be a justice. Confirmed without much anti-Catholic criticism, White became the second Catholic on the high court in history. Highly regarded, Justice White was nominated and confirmed as chief justice in 1910. He died in office in 1921. Since that time, with a few interludes, Catholics always have been on the court, but for many years it was conventional political wisdom that only one Catholic should be a justice at a time. People spoke of “the Catholic seat” on the court, not the “Catholic seats.” President Ronald Reagan ended that tradition in 1986 by nominating Catholic Antonin Scalia to the bench to serve alongside Justice William Brennan, a Catholic named in 1957 by President Dwight Eisenhower. In 1988, Reagan named Anthony Kennedy, another Catholic. In 1991 President George H.W. Bush appointed Clarence Thomas, a Catholic. President George W. Bush nominated Catholics John Roberts in 2005 and Samuel Alito in 2006. President Barack Obama chose Sonya Sotomayor, another Catholic, in 2009. It took more time for custom to accept a Jewish justice. No president risked appointing a Jew to the court until 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis, a lawyer in Louisville, Kentucky. Brandeis had two strikes against him: his Judaism, and he was an immigrant. His confirmation was not the best moment for religious tolerance in America, but he was seated. Justice Brandeis became one of the legal giants in Supreme Court history. After him, it was hard to argue that a Jew could not be wise or loyal to the Constitution. When Brandeis died in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt chose another Jew, and another immigrant, Felix Frankfurter, to succeed him. People referred to “the Jewish seat,” but it was one Jew at a time. President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsberg, a Jew, to the court in 1993. She still serves. A year later, Clinton named Breyer, another Jew, to the court. The “one-Jew-at-a-time” unwritten law died. Breyer still is in office. The third Jewish justice presently serving is Kagan, appointed in 2010 by Obama. When Andrew Jackson nominated Catholic Roger Brooke Taney 181 years ago, nobody dreamed that one day the high court would be a Catholic-Jewish monopoly. It no longer will be if Gorsuch is seated. Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain. read on

Onward Christian stranger

Onward Christian stranger

In his latest book, “Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World” (Henry Holt and Company, $26), Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput assesses with his typical clarity the bewildering situation for committed American Catholics living in the world created by the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, legalizing same-sex marriage. As a biting analysis of the current culture, what makes Archbishop Chaput’s book unique is his approach as a pastor and teacher of the Faith. Stranger things Archbishop Chaput traces the evolution of “a moral hole in our culture created by the collapse of a Protestant consensus.” While that consensus generally pushed Catholics to the margins, it also provided a moral environment in which Catholic values were able to flourish. The sad irony, according to Archbishop Chaput, is that because of their fixation on “fitting in,” Catholics have found themselves unable to fill the vacuum. This has been devastating both for the Church and the country. Also by Archbishop Chaput ◗ “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life” — 2009 (Image, $14) ◗ “Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics” — 2001 (Servant, $13.99) He writes, “The reason the Christian faith doesn’t matter to so many of our young people is that — too often — it didn’t really matter to us. Not enough to shape our lives. Not enough for us to suffer for it. As Catholic Christians, we may have come to a point today where we feel like foreigners in our own country — ‘strangers in a strange land,’ in the beautiful English of the King James Bible (Ex 2:22). But the deeper problem in America isn’t that we believers are ‘foreigners.’ It’s that our children and grandchildren aren’t.” The chapters dealing with specific cultural concerns form the center of the book. They are brutally honest in describing the ruins of a culture. “Love among the Eloi,” “Nothing but the Truth,” “Darkness at Noon,” — these chapters are powerful analyses of the hypocrisy, idolatry and desperate need for sensual gratification which characterize the United States today. Cultural diagnosis While some may accuse Archbishop Chaput of being too pessimistic, they cannot claim that this book is without hope. St. Augustine stands out as a major example of hope in “Strangers.” As someone who lived in the waning days of antiquity, Augustine resonates powerfully today. The grandeur of Rome had been corroding for so long that by the time the barbarians arrived there was almost nothing left to destroy. And yet, Augustine can speak confidently about the victory of what he calls the City of God without demonizing the City of Man. In Book II of “The City of God,” Augustine reflects on the work of Cicero. Cicero quotes an old maxim: “Ancient morality and the men of old fixed firm the Roman state.” Cicero goes on to say that the morality of that society has passed away, such that “we retain the name of a commonwealth, but we have lost the reality long ago: and this was not through any misfortune, but through our own misdemeanors.” Cicero’s remark — and what Augustine says in response — may just as well have been written yesterday: “Those who praise the state of Rome in the time of ‘ancient morality and the men of old’ should ask themselves whether real justice flourished in that city, or whether, it may be, it was not even then a living reality in men’s behavior, but merely a fancy picture.” Augustine’s diagnosis of Rome is similar to Archbishop Chaput’s description of America. Like Rome, the United States has contributed much to humanity. At its best, America is a great country. But without the leaven of the Gospel, it cannot support the weight of its citizens’ collective appetites. The anonymous second-century Letter to Diognetus is a guide for living the Gospel in a society that scoffs at it. It describes what Pope Francis calls “missionary discipleship.” “They live in their own … read on