Next week, the annual “Catholic Social Ministry Gathering” will take place in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by 19 Catholic organizations, it’s an important annual get-together for Catholics who, in one way or another, are involved in social action and political advocacy on behalf of human life, justice and peace.
All Things Catholic
Reporters who have served on assignment in another part of the world have a rule of thumb that after six months you want to write a book about the place, but after six years you're afraid even to write a sentence. By that point, you know all too well the dangers of generalization.
Though it's still eight months away, next October's Synod of Bishops on the Bible is already causing ferment. The gathering will be the 22nd synod since Pope Paul VI created it in September 1965 as a means of giving bishops a voice in governance of the universal church (though it will be just the 12th "ordinary" synod). It is keenly anticipated for at least three reasons:
Without a doubt, the push for robust assertion of traditional Catholic identity is the most consequential mega-trend in the life of the church today, and it is also the core of Benedict XVI's agenda as pope. Emboldened by the election of John Paul II in 1978, the identity wave hit the arena of liturgy first, then went on to engulf Catholic education, Catholic media, priestly identity and formation, religious orders, and virtually every other sphere of ecclesiastical life.
Today brings to a close the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and I'm in Rome watching an all-star ecumenical cast mark the occasion. Although there's been no historic breakthrough on the path to reunion, collectively the week's events have offered a more hopeful counter-point to perceptions of an ecumenical "big chill."
I was in Saint Augustine, Fla., this week, speaking at a national “Cathedral Ministry Conference.” For American Catholics, Saint Augustine is, in a sense, where it all began; it was here on Sept. 8, 1565, that a Spanish missionary priest celebrated the first Mass in what would eventually become the United States.
College football fans probably felt a bit deflated this Tuesday, since the Bowl Championship Series, always their favorite time of year, came to a close Monday night. For Vatican devotees, Tuesday likewise brought a twinge of melancholy, and for much the same reason: the annual "bowl championship series" of papal teaching, which begins in mid-December with a message for the World Day of Peace, ended Monday with the pope's address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.
Kenya's current slide into ethnic violence, which so far has generated 100,000 refugees and left more than 300 dead, ought to be a subject of grave concern for global Christianity, and not just for the obvious humanitarian and geostrategic reasons. In a real sense, nothing less than the destiny of Christianity in the 21st century is at stake.
It would probably be pushing things a bit far to suggest that Tuesday's vote in the General Assembly of the United Nations in favor of a global moratorium on the death penalty is a victory for the Catholic church. It is, however, a result difficult to imagine without the Catholic contribution.
When I’m on the lecture circuit, there’s a story I like to tell to illustrate the sometimes surprising diversity inside the Vatican. It’s set in the summer of 2002, when Pope John Paul II was in Mexico City to canonize Juan Diego, the Aztec visionary in the Our Lady of Guadalupe devotion.