Last week: The extraordinary call of Pope Francis for prayer and fasting to avert the folly of U.S. military intervention in Syria. He called for a political — not a military solution to the humanitarian crisis that is Syria today, with two million refugees in bordering nations and four million internally displaced people. It would seem — with the announced “pause” of Pres. Obama and Pres. Putin's offer to help Syria remove chemical weapons — that prayers were heard. Let's keep storming heaven!
Looking ahead: The humanitarian crisis that is war-torn Syria: Two million refugees from Syria have fled to neighboring countries and some four million Syrians are refugees within Syria (internally displaced persons) with more than 100,000 dead. Untold story in whole crisis is the increasing dangers faced by Syria's Christian minorities — especially from Islamist rebel groups.
Last week: Pope Francis' efforts through a Day of Prayer and Fasting (Sept 7th) to restrain hand of U.S. military might in Syria urging not a military response but rather a renewed effort by international community for a political solution - achieving peace not through further violence but through dialogue and negotiation. A U.S. military strike would only make a bad and deplorable situation worse – and bring devastating consequences to Christian minorities in Syria and Middle-East.
Looking ahead: Continued attempts of Obama Administration to subvert the will of Congress through regulation - A case in point: the proposed regulation of OPM (Office of Personnel Management) to cover elective abortions for federal employees. Such coverage has been prohibited by Congress for years through Smith amendment.
Last week: In the face of the various scandals concerning local mayors and politicians, as well those scandals that have beset the church and the corporate world, we must continue to resist what the bishops at the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago called: “one of the gravest errors of our time… the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and their day-to-day conduct. We must remind ourselves of the connection between our work and holiness — between what most people do for a living: i.e., our employment; and, fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives: i.e. our call to holiness.
Looking ahead: Because of unemployment or underemployment, millions here in America are still denied the honor and respect that comes from decent work. Many low-wage earners do not have the decent work that would afford them the means of meeting their families’ basic needs. Our economy still is not creating an adequate number of jobs and Obamacare has made "full time employment" an unattainable goal for thousands of workers. Without a rational and humane immigration reform, millions of irregular immigrant workers remain vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Half of working Americans earn less than $27,000 a year.
Last week: In Nashville, Egyptian Copts protested, "Obama, Obama, don't you care that Christian blood is everywhere." Last week, 58 churches and Christian institutions (of those 14 Catholic) were attacked and set on fire in Egypt by Muslim Brotherhood or their sympathizers. To be noted, Muslims living in vicinity of affected churches have helped their Christian co-nationals put out the fires. Strife in Egypt is not about a civil war between Christians and Muslims; it is about struggle between majority of people and forces of terrorism and religious extremism.
Next week: The ongoing negotiations between the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) bear watching. The talks now taking place in Havana have made some progress - with both sides accepting responsibility for some history of human rights violations. The prospect of a peaceful resolution of this 50-year-old conflict will bring great benefits to Colombia and the entire region.
Last week: Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement to relax sentencing requirements for some offenders. This is welcome news. The U.S. incarcerates too many — at present almost 2 million in U.S. jails, a figure that rivals incarceration rates in old USSR. Our present practice is costly in terms of lives wasted, families disrupted and public monies expended. Prison has become a default option for drug abusers and the mentally ill. Mandatory sentencing requirements need to be revisited and more discretion needs to be returned to judges.
Looking ahead: The increasing success of Pro-lifers to influence incremental legislation at State level that helps to reduce the numbers of abortions in the U.S. This represents a significant and welcome shift in attitudes — e.g. young people are increasingly defining themselves as pro-life, even while at the same time are generally tolerant of "gay marriage. The questionable business practices of Planned Parenthood and their often-poor medical care afforded clients seeking abortion is yet to be fully exposed.
Last week: Monday, August 6th's execution of John Errol Ferguson by State of Florida. Capital punishment is an anachronism in a society that is capable of punishing wrongdoers and protecting itself from them by a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. For years, Ferguson incoherently babbled about being a "Prince of God” — how does executing him for crimes committed 30 years ago advance the cause of justice or serve as a deterrent to crime?
Looking ahead: The increasing tension in our nation between a perceived need for security and the protection of our individual freedoms. Revelations as to the scope of government intrusion — with little oversight by Congress or any other authority — is troubling. Can democracy survive in a "national security state"? This is a question that needs to be debated, and will be in coming weeks and months.
Last week: Pope Frances in Rio! A million-plus young people from over the world gather to hear the successor of St. Peter challenge them to embrace hope by committing themselves to building a world that makes room for the poor and the marginalized. In a world in which globalization has made all of us neighbors, we have to learn to live as brothers and sisters. In the face of the globalization of indifference, Pope Francis is calling for the globalization of solidarity.
Looking ahead: Religious freedom will continue to be debated — as HHS mandate obliging coverage of contraceptives and abortafacients still contain provisions that violate the conscience and religious rights of many individuals and faith-based organizations. The lawsuits challenging the HHS mandates will begin to gain traction as the harm inflicted by the mandate becomes more apparent to the courts.