“Do African Christians Not Matter?”

You really must read this. Yesterday, June 29, the Feast of S. Peter and Paul, at a prayer service for Christian Martyrs in Africa, Cardinal Dolan read out loud an exchange of letters between himself and His Excellency, Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria.

“My dear brother Timothy:  Thank you for your recent expression of concern for my safety.  It is in daily peril, especially on Sundays, but my people and I remain together and strong in faith.

As I send you these lines, I watch millions march in Paris and throughout Europe at the horror of the slaughter of journalists by Islamic extremists.  I am glad this outrage is causing such worldwide protest, and we here in Africa are spiritual and moral unity with them.

But understand, please, how this only increases our sense of abandonment and isolation here in Africa.  Europe and North America rightly abhor the massacre of writers for Charlie Hebdo, but we hear hardly a whimper about our 276 Christian girls, kidnapped, raped, disfigured, and probably soon to be murdered by Boko Haram here in Nigeria, or the ongoing religious cleansing in Sudan, or the continued harassment, injustice, and persecution of Christians in Egypt.  Africa is the new coliseum, where we are thrown to the beasts, and the world seems deaf, blind, mute.  Please do not abandon us!  Do African Christians not matter?”

Cardinal Dolan’s reply;

“My brother, Ignatius:  At least in this corner of New York City, in the shadow of the United Nations, in the parish where leaders and ambassadors worship, in the city proud to claim as neighbors your good people from Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Chad, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Eritrea and French speaking Africa; in company with our Jewish friends who, too, are still hounded, and who have been full-throated in condemnation of your persecution; in company with our Islamic neighbors, eager for the protection of Christians, Jews, and their own peace-loving people who are victims of radicals as well; we Christians – – Catholics, Orthodox, Evangelical, Anglican, Lutheran, Armenian — are not deaf, blind, or mute.  We hear you!  We see what they are doing!  We this evening speak up to God, to the unconcerned world, for you and your people.

We are in tears as well for the venom against Christians in the Mideast, where Christian families trace their roots back to the apostles, seven centuries before the arrival of Islam, a religion of peace, that, sadly, in the words of Pope Francis, has been “perverted” by hate by those whose extremism makes their appeal to God murderously illogical and an abomination;

We are conscious as well of attacks against followers of Jesus in India, Indonesia, and Pakistan;

We worry that hatred of Jews hardly lets up, and seems on the rise internationally, and that, as you tell us, Ignatius, your Islamic neighbors are under attack as well by radicals.  The bishop in Aleppo, Syria, told me recently, that when their churches are torched and his people wounded, it is often their Islamic neighbors who help them rebuild and heal.

My brother Ignatius:  you are aptly named after a martyr literally thrown to the lions in Rome nineteen centuries ago.  We gather on the Feast of the Princes of the Apostles, the patrons of the Eternal City, one, St. Peter crucified upside down on a hill called the Vatican across the Tiber of Nero’s Rome; the other, St. Paul beheaded at the opposite side of the city.  So we realize, Ignatius, as do you, that such persecution of believers is as old as the wood of the cross, forecast by the prophets of Israel, a warning given us by the Savior Himself.

We know, with you, Ignatius, that God can bring good out of evil, life from death, light from darkness, as we already witness such fruits, seeing all the children of Abraham – – Jews, Christians, Islam – – close in a bond of sorrow and solidarity Pope Francis calls an “Ecumenism of Martyrdom.”

We admit, with you and Africa, Ignatius, that, as the ancient African Church Father, Tertullian, assured us, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of faith,” and that your African soil, so purpled by massacred Christians, will produce an even greater harvest of faithful Christians.

You can read the whole thing here. Note that Cardinal Dolan has a new blog!

“Just Who Do We Think we Are?”

More eloquence on The Supreme Court gay marriage decision, from the dissenting opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts.

The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent. The majority expressly disclaims judicial “caution” and omits even a pretense of humility, openly relying on its desire to remake society according to its own “new insight” into the “nature of injustice.” Ante, at 11, 23. As a result, the Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthagin- ians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?
It can be tempting for judges to confuse our own preferences with the requirements of the law. But as this Court has been reminded throughout our history, the Constitution “is made for people of fundamentally differing views.” Lochner v. New York, 198 U. S. 45, 76 (1905) (Holmes, J., dissenting). Accordingly, “courts are not concerned withthe wisdom or policy of legislation.” Id., at 69 (Harlan, J.,dissenting). The majority today neglects that restrained conception of the judicial role. It seizes for itself a question the Constitution leaves to the people, at a time when the people are engaged in a vibrant debate on that question. And it answers that question based not on neutralprinciples of constitutional law, but on its own “understanding of what freedom is and must become.” Ante, at 19. I have no choice but to dissent.
Understand well what this dissent is about: It is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through theirelected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legaldisputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.

“A Tragic Error”

Here is a reaction to today’s Supreme Court decision more eloquent than I could ever be:

June 26, 2015

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The full statement follows:

Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.

Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.

I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.

Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.

Let’s all pray for our nation.

“May You Be Praised, My Lord, For Our Sister, Mother Earth”: Pope Francis’ Global Vision

I am always totally jazzed when our Jesuit Pope shows his Franciscan side (As he did here, for instance). This is certainly one of those times. By now, everyone knows that Pope Francis has released his encyclical Laudato Si, on the environment. Or rather, in Christian terms, on creation. Nothing could be more natural for him than to lead off with St. Francis’ Canticle of Creation — and to take Francis himself as his model for understanding of the subject:

I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace. Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human.(nos 10-11).

The publication date coincided with my efforts to get my latest book out, so I haven’t read the whole thing yet. But I have read the first part and skimmed a lot of the rest. Pope Francis’ spiritual view of our created world is something everyone should read.

And yes, the Franciscans are enthused! Father Michael A. Perry, OFM, Minister General of the Friars Minor commented that

Pope Francis’ commitment to the poor and marginalized, peace and reconciliation, and care for the planet demonstrates the prophetic qualities that flow from being in communion with God, with one’s neighbor, with one’s self and with the created universe. It is for this reason Pope Francis dared to embrace and carry forward the mandate of Christian discipleship modeled after St. Francis of Assisi. His Encyclical challenges us to simplify our lives, to strip away all that is not necessary in order to rediscover the beauty that God has placed within us, within all human persons, and within all created things. Our vocation is to live in unbounded solidarity with all that God has created.

I plan to continue commenting over the next few days, taking the encyclical in sections and dealing with the objections. I hope you’ll read along with me.

Tau Cross Books and Media — Special Announcement!

MargaretCoverJune 18, 2015

Hello everyone,

Great news! I am happy to announce at last the publication of the first of our Franciscan Classics: the e-book version of A Tuscan Penitent: The Life and Legend of St. Margaret of Cortona. It’s available here in E-pub and Kindle/Mobi versions.

And now here is the special deal I mentioned: You can get the e-book by itself for $3.99, but put it in your cart with any other item and you will get it free! I planned this from the beginning as a more or less permament deal for the Franciscan Classics (only the e-books, not the print version). The discount will be visible as soon as you put the items in your cart.
I hope to release the print version of this book before too long. But first comes the long-promised re-publication of The Voice of a Medieval Woman: St. Elizabeth of Hungary. I have been done a great deal of work on this in the last couple of weeks as well, and it is almost ready. I’m also making available agin The Smiling Pope, which contains a biogrraphy of Pope John Paul I and more of my translations of his writings. This is published by Our Sunday Visitor, and will be available as soon as the books arrive.

Stay tuned for more developments soon, including the anouncement of more Franciscan classics.

Thanks again for your support,

Lori Pieper, OFS