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Of Many Things This year has been quite a journey for America, an unprecedented period of growth and change. I am very proud of the editors and staff who continue to bring you this smart Catholic take
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Of Many Things This year has been quite a journey for America, an unprecedented period of growth and change. I am very proud of the editors and staff who continue to bring you this smart Catholic take on faith and culture, not just each week in print, but every day online and every hour through social media. The datelines tell part of the tale: In just 12 months, America s contributors have filed reports from Rome, London, Honduras, Seoul, Istanbul, Johannesburg, the Central African Republic, the Syrian-Turkish border and, with Kevin Clarke s report in this issue, we now add Vienna to the list of more than two dozen cities. In 2014 America also hired a new engagement and community editor, a full-time Vatican correspondent and a U.S. Church correspondent. We launched America This Week, a new weekly show on Sirius Satellite Radio, and we co-produced a new series of lectures and events with the American Bible Society and Saint Joseph s Seminary in New York. Last month we launched a new literary prize named for George W. Hunt, S.J., which has been generously funded by Fay Vincent, the former commissioner of Major League Baseball. We also joined with NBC News and other media outlets to co-produce coverage of the church in the United States and throughout the world. And last spring, America had its best year ever at the Catholic Press Association Awards. We couldn t have done it, however, without the support of people like you. Nor would we want to. America is more than a journal of opinion. We are a community, a resource for spiritual renewal and social analysis, guided by the Jesuit ideal of finding God in all things. Everywhere I travel, I am reminded that America has the most loyal readers and supporters in publishing. Many of you have supported us for decades, through fair and foul, changing editors, changing times and a changing church. Christmas is the time for thanks, so on behalf of all of us at America: Thank you. You are warmly remembered in our Masses and prayers each and every week. In past years, America s readers have been particularly generous contributors to our annual Christmas appeal. Without the support we receive each holiday season, we would not be able to sustain our commitment to excellence. A contribution to our Christmas appeal will go directly toward our most immediate and pressing financial needs and will enable us to continue and broaden our efforts to lead the conversation about faith and culture in the United States. A strong financial base is also essential in order for America to be able to fulfill its vision for the future. By now you should have received the direct appeal that was sent to our singularly generous group of associates and to our active and involved readership. Regardless of the size of your contribution, we greatly appreciate whatever level of participation you can manage. Please respond by sending your check to America s offices at 106 West 56th St., New York, NY 10019, or use our donation page online at If you have already sent a donation, we thank you for your lovely Christmas present. We also thank you who have given America subscriptions as Christmas gifts. You would be surprised at the number of readers who became regular subscribers after receiving a gift subscription. As I finish this column, night is falling and horns are honking as rush hour hits its peak in Manhattan. I am sure everyone heading home is quite happy that it is not snowing. Normal gridlock is bad enough without snow. But there may be another reason for their smiles: Christmas is coming. Hope and expectation are in the air. We have much to be thankful for and much to hope for. Merry Christmas! Matt Malone, S.J. 106 West 56th Street New York, NY Ph: ; Fax: Subscriptions: facebook.com/americamag twitter.com/americamag President and Editor in Chief Matt Malone, S.J. Executive Editors Robert C. Collins, S.J., Maurice Timothy Reidy Managing Editor Kerry Weber Literary Editor Raymond A. Schroth, S.J. Senior Editor and Chief Correspondent Kevin Clarke Editor at Large James Martin, S.J. Poetry Editor Joseph Hoover, S.J. Associate Editor and Vatican Correspondent Gerard O Connell Senior Editor Edward W. Schmidt, S.J. Engagement and Community Editor Elizabeth Tenety Associate Editors Ashley McKinless, Olga Segura Assistant Editors Francis W. Turnbull, S.J., Joseph McAuley Art Director Sonja Kodiak Wilder Columnists Helen Alvaré, John J. Conley, S.J., Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M., James T. Keane, John W. Martens, Bill McGarvey, Angela Alaimo O Donnell, Margot Patterson, Nathan Schneider, Robert David Sullivan Correspondents John Carr (Washington), Anthony Egan, S.J. (Johannesburg), Jim McDermott, S.J. (Los Angeles), Timothy Padgett (Miami), Steven Schwankert (Beijing), David Stewart, S.J. (London), Judith Valente (Chicago), Mary Ann Walsh, R.S.M. (U.S. Church) Moderator, Catholic Book Club Kevin Spinale, S.J. Editorial Publisher and Chief Financial Officer Edward Spallone. Deputy Publisher Rosa Del Saz. Vice President/Advancement Daniel Pawlus. Development Coordinator Kerry Goleski. Operations Staff Chris Keller, Glenda Castro. Advertising contact Subscription contact/additional copies America Press, Inc. Cover: Pope Francis leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter s Square at the Vatican on Dec. 22, CNS photo/paul Haring. Contents Vol. 211 No. 19, Whole No December 22-29, articles 14 Becoming Human The Incarnation calls us to a new life. Leo J. O Donovan 17 Solid Foundations Grounding social justice in our common humanity Meghan J. Clark 20 Signs of That Peace Peacemaking is everybody s business Gerald W. Schlabach COLUMNS & DEPARTMENTS 4 Current Comment 5 Editorial Crossing Borders 6 Reply All 8 Signs of the Times 12 Column A More Perfect Union Helen Alvaré 25 Vatican Dispatch Rome in Review Gerard O Connell 27 Faith in Focus Faith Amid Flowers B. G. Kelley Philosopher s Notebook Has Natural Law Died? John J. Conley 38 The Word Children of Hope; Journey of Hope John W. Martens BOOKS & CULTURE 30 film Wild and Exodus: Gods and Kings BOOKS Scalia; Goliath; Musings on Mortality 30 ON THE WEB Take an Advent journey with Pope Francis, featuring quotes from Scripture and questions for reflection. Plus, reviews of The Imitation Game and other winter films. Full digital highlights on page 26 and at americamagazine.org/ webfeatures. CURRENT COMMENT One of Us Our faith calls us to see Christ in others not always an easy task. But seeing ourselves as made in Christ s image can also be a challenge. Some young Catholics may find help in a newly released Bible. The African-American Youth Bible depicts Jesus as an African-American man and offers commentary and artwork that are meant to put Scripture into relevant context for young black Catholics. The project, developed over four years, was spearheaded by Bishop John H. Ricard of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., president of the National Black Catholic Congress, and St. Mary s Press, which published the Bible. In the Bible, it speaks of slavery and it seeks to explain more fully what it means to the history of African-Americans in the United States, Bishop Ricard told Catholic News Service. Today many young people struggle to understand the relevance of Scripture, and this Bible may help them to make meaningful connections between faith and real life. The Eucharist calls us to see everyone as our brothers and sisters, Pope Francis reminded us during a general audience, and to see in them the face of Christ. As the United States continues to grapple with its legacy of racial injustice and persistent inequality in our society, this new Bible may prove a valuable learning tool and jumping-off point for discussion of race and faith among all Catholics, regardless of background, ethnicity or age. During the Advent season, the project serves as an important reminder that, even as we wait for the birth of Christ, he is already present in each of us every day. Bipartisan Child Care On Nov. 19 President Obama signed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act, a new law meant to improve the current $5.2 billion federal child care program, which was last updated in Over 1.5 million children under the age of 13 received help through this program last year. According to the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee, however, weaknesses in the program have raised the need for reform, and because of patchwork licensing and oversight children are not always as protected as they should be. The law addresses these shortcomings, first by providing additional resources to better educate parents on what child care options are available. Changes will also be made to caregiving facilities and staff. Facilities will face yearly inspections, while staff will receive additional training in ageappropriate techniques for fostering the brain development of each child. Funds will be allocated to enhance the ability 4 America December 22-29, 2014 of states to train providers and develop safer and more effective child care services. These measures are important first steps in revamping the U.S. child care system, though more action is needed to expand access to affordable, quality services for working families. The act also represents a rare legislative victory in a historically unproductive session of Congress. The bill was met with almost unanimous support in both the Senate and the House. In a time when government gridlock seems to be the norm, bipartisanship in service of the nation s children is welcome. Israel s Referendum After weeks of unrest and a rising sense of widespread insecurity and pessimism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel broke up his government on Dec. 2 and called for early elections. His decision may prove yet another stroke of cunning by a political survivor or a poor gamble that leads to the electoral overthrow of Netanyahu s administration. The Likud-led coalition currently in power may be remembered as the government that put an end to the two-state solution. In doing so, however, its members have been unable to offer an alternative vision of the future of the State of Israel except as custodian of its grim status quo or, worse, a separate and unequal society. In November tension over a possible change of the status quo at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem led to deplorable acts of terror by Palestinians. In response the Netanyahu government returned to practices of collective punishment that have been condemned by the world and abandoned by previous Israeli governments as counterproductive. Instead of seeking a way to de-escalate the crisis, the prime minister ratcheted it up by introducing new legislation meant to cement the Jewish identity of Israel and further isolate Israel s increasingly restive Arab population. Those proposals were denounced by centrist members of his coalition, prompting the prime minister s call for elections in March. It is hard to imagine that political conditions in the region could turn any gloomier than they are at the moment, but the possibility exists that after the elections Prime Minister Netanyahu could be returned to office in a government that will have no coalition members to restrain its worst impulses. That will mean more settlements and more power for Zionist radicals in all aspects of Israeli life. At the very least, the results of the election should make clear whether any partners for peace remain in Israel, so that the United States can power ahead with negotiations toward a two-state solution or put an end to a peace process that has become a political mockery. EDITORIAL Crossing Borders In some sense the Christmas story is one of borders. The Gospel of Luke tells us that the Holy Family s journey begins with a population divided, a census of the whole world...each to his own town (2:1-3). And, in the Gospel of Matthew, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, then flee to Egypt, then settle in Nazareth crossing border after border so that the Son of God might one day break them down. The birth of Christ upends our earthly sense of order. He is both a child and a savior; he is visited by shepherds and kings alike. He disperses the arrogant, throws down rulers from their thrones; he lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry with good things. Later, Christ s Passion blurs the neat borders we so often construct between life and death, between the human and the divine. He is one who gives drink to the thirsty, and who, himself, thirsts. We know that our lives are meant to mirror Christ s. Yet we still struggle to live out God s call to reconsider the lines our world is so eager to draw. Conflicts over political and religious divides result in ongoing suffering and tragic deaths for Israelis and Palestinians. Violence continues between Ukrainians and Russian separatists long after cease-fires have been called. Individuals from West African nations affected by Ebola have been quarantined and separated from their communities, often in a worthy effort to halt the spread of the deadly disease. But stigmas and continued fear of contagions have resulted in the abandonment or isolation of many who have survived. In the United States, the deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers have spurred nationwide anger and protests and drawn renewed attention to the many tensions and injustices that remain around issues of race in our country. Such episodes seed increased mistrust of authority, and Gallup polls show that our confidence in all branches of government is falling, with confidence in Congress at a record low. Poverty, too, divides the American experience. In the United States alone, an estimated one in seven households are food insecure, even as Americans waste an estimated $165 billion of food each year. Families in the United States continue to seek stability, especially those with members who are undocumented. These families are described by President Obama as part of American life and by Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago as people reaching out in hope ; yet discussions about the best way to assist such families has produced greater divisions between our political parties rather than greater empathy for the families that are struggling. In the midst of uncertain times, it is all too easy to cry each to his own town and then settle into our own ways, to hole up in our own corners of the church or society. But Christ s birth calls us to more carefully consider our place in this world, where we have come from and where we are headed. What borders are we called to cross or erase in our lives? In what ways are we being asked to move beyond the boundaries we have set for ourselves? We must begin to rebuild our trust in one another. We must not allow differences around faith, race, nationality or income to keep us from truly seeing one another as neighbors, as children of God. Often it is fear of the other or even of our own inadequacies that keeps us from crossing those lines. And yet we must cross them. Over and over the Gospels remind us in the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary, of the host of angels to the shepherds and of Jesus to the women who discover the empty tomb Do not be afraid. We must take these words to heart. Christ entered fully into our humanity; he crossed from death into new life on our behalf. He understood what it meant to feel alone, cold, afraid, other. He understood the consequences of welcoming people who were considered outcasts. He understood that doing God s will sometimes means experiencing pain and sorrow. We must let go of our fears and allow ourselves to be as vulnerable as that infant child born into his own uncertain times, and in doing so to become signs of good news. Christ s birth sends a message that cannot be contained by a single country or ideology and that must be lived, let out, set free. Through his birth, death and resurrection, and through our own lives by seeking peace, by welcoming the stranger we continually break down those obstacles that separate us from each other and from God. In each of us Christ is reborn. The Christmas season reminds us that we are invited to return to God s love, to that place from which we have come, so that together we might build a reign of God that has no borders, one that has always existed and that remains to be seen, one that even as we help create it is already here. December 22-29, 2014 America 5 REPLY ALL Not A Choice The Loneliest Choice (12/1), by the Rev. Rhonda Mawhood Lee, disappointed me greatly. While pastoral reflection on suicide remains a crucial topic, the article seems to hark back to pre-enlightenment days, when there was little understanding of grave mental illness. For example, if a documented kleptomaniac steals, he certainly commits a crime; but does he sin if his mental illness compelled him to do it? Has not the church always taught that for sin to happen the actor must freely choose to break the fundamental option to remain with God? The Rev. Lee quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church: When someone takes his/her own life, however, grave psychological disturbances or other mitigating factors can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. Can grave mental illness not only diminish responsibility but even extinguish it altogether? If we believe in a God who holds us accountable for things we cannot stop doing, do we really write about a merciful God? (Rev.) Robert Vitaglione Brooklyn, N.Y. Climate Control Re Renew This World, by Gary Gardner (12/1): Surely the environmental crisis is a reason for re-examining the church s stand on artificial birth control, on which participants of the Second Vatican Council were divided, as is well known. The prohibition of birth control extends and deepens poverty, threatens the earth s carrying capacity and puts stress on marriages. Natural Family Planning not only fails frequently but also strains marriages, while large numbers of Catholics, following their consciences, find themselves alienated from the church. I pray that this uncompleted task of Vatican II will be addressed with open and generous minds at next year s Synod on the Family. Mary Catherine Bateson Online Comment Climate Commitment The Catholic Climate Covenant is trying to help make a difference in many of the areas mentioned in Gary Gardner s excellent piece. I agree that it was astounding how the top minds from science and social science made a plea to the church to help shape minds and hearts and generate a new vision for our covenant on the earth. We must learn to be a part of God s gift of creation, not apart from it. Readers can take the St. Francis Pledge and commit to prayer, education, assessment, action and advocacy at catholicclimatecovenant.org. Daniel Misleh Online Comment The writer is the executive director of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. Knowing Nuns In Living on the Edge (12/1), a review of five books on the past, present and future of women religious, Carol K. Coburn states, Whether the Vatican acknowledges it or not, women religious are leading the church into the future. This strikes me as wishful thinking. Few American Catholics have any contact with women religious. Nuns taught me long ago in elementary school. Since then, though I went to Catholic high school and college and have belonged to a local parish wherever I ve lived, I haven t even spoken with a nun. My grown children have never met a nun. Is this unusual, or is it the common experience of today s Catholics? I think the latter. I would like to know whether the situation is substantially different in other countries. Thomas Farrelly Online Comment Stevens s Shift Democracy in Danger (11/17), Daniel J. Morrissey s review of Six Amendments, by Justice John Paul Stevens, implies that other than on the death penalty, it was the court that moved from 1975 to 2011, not Justice Stevens. But this is clearly false. In the most iconic affirmative action case in court histor
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