A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Our editors, and others, on 'the interview'

Now on the website, Commonweal’s editors on what the pope’s interview reveals:

[M]uch attention has been paid to the pope’s surprising admonition that the church has been too “obsessed” with abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage. As welcome as that observation is, however, the real importance of the interview is to be found in the pope’s clear-eyed evaluation of how the gospel should be preached in the modern world.

To be sure, many Catholics whole-heartedly embraced the change in tone and spirit in which the pope discussed difficult questions like abortion. Unfortunately, some deeply involved in the prolife movement have taken those remarks as a rebuke. That is an overreaction and misinterpretation of what the pope said. Obviously, Francis was objecting to the uncompromising and confrontational rhetoric of some Catholic activists. Why? Because that approach is simply not working. Worse, it is preventing the larger gospel message from being heard both within and beyond the Catholic community. With a third of all baptized Catholics abandoning the church, while those who remain are increasingly divided on ecclesial, cultural, and political questions, the pope’s diagnosis is hard to refute. Is it not time, as Francis urged, to “find a new balance” in presenting the church’s teaching to an often doubting flock and a sometimes hostile secular world?

Elsewhere, the analysis continues. R.R. Reno in First Things:

By my reading, Pope Francis was being a bit naïve and undisciplined in parts of this interview, which although reviewed by him before publication has an impromptu quality I imagine he wished to retain. This encourages a distorted reading of what he has in mind for the Church. This is a problem related, perhaps, to his Jesuit identity.

A key passage involves his image—a very helpful one—of the Church as “a field hospital after battle.” He observes that in such a circumstance we need to focus on healing as best we can. Some of the protocols and procedures fitting for a hospital operating in times of peace need to be set aside.

He then digresses into fairly extensive reflections on what the Church needs in the way of pastoral leadership in this situation: “pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.” We’re not to allow ourselves to fixate on “small things, in small-minded rules.” The Church needs to find “new roads,” “new paths,” and “to step outside itself,” something that requires “audacity and courage.”

These and other comments evoke assumptions that are very much favored by the Left, which is why the interview has been so warmly received, not only by the secular media, but also by Catholics who would like the Church to change her teachings on many issues.

At Room for Debate in the New York Times, Simone Campbell, Frances Kissling, Rod Dreher, Bill Donohue, and Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu offer their takes.

Campbell: “In 2012 U.S. Catholic sisters and my organization, Network, were criticized by the Vatican for not holding their narrow focus. Now we see that our pope knows that no one political party has control of the Gospel message.” Dreher: “As a Christian who worries about the future of religious liberty in America, I find the pope’s pastoral direction to his flock naïve and discouraging.”

John P. Judis at The New Republic draws a connection from Francis to King Juan Carlos of Spain and current Iran president Hassan Rouhani. Short form: Assumptions that existing conservative positions will be continued or even harden under successors don’t always pan out. Longer form:

What’s the link here? At the risk of obscurity, I would cite the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel’s conception of history as Spirit’s journey toward Freedom. Of course, Hegel’s conception of Spirit and Freedom may be a little different from ours, but it still makes some sense to call these different events in Spain, Rome, and Tehran part of Spirit’s journey toward Freedom. And what’s distinctive about each of them is that they were somewhat unexpected—especially by the critics of Franco, Papal conservatism, and Iran’s mullahs—and that they were not imposed but happened—to use a term favored by Edmund Burke—organically. Yes, there were outside pressures in each case, but the pressures could have easily had the opposite effect, as predicted at the time.

Music critic Alex Ross is struck by, among other things, Francis’s comments on Wagner: 

If I'm not mistaken, Pope Francis is comparing “decadent Thomist commentaries” to Klingsor's magic garden — a seductive illusion covering a wasteland. Could the Pope’s emergent philosophy of unadorned compassion have been influenced in some small way by Parsifal, that attempted renovation of religious thought through musical ritual? “Through pity, knowing”? “Redemption to the Redeemer”? Possibly, but there are limits to his aestheticism: “Our life is not given to us like an opera libretto, in which all is written down; but it means going, walking, doing, searching, seeing.” This is a remarkable man.

You’ll also remember that Francis touched on Caravaggio in the interview, which seems a good reason to look back on our multi-author symposium on the artist, “A Message from Caravaggio,” along with Robert P. Imbelli’s “Tortured Genius: The Miracle of Caravaggio’s Art.”



Commenting Guidelines

Thank you, Jim. I fervently hope you are saved as well. :) 

Just to be clear on an earlier point; I believe the LCWR responded to the charge that they have been "silent" on the right to life, by claiming that their support of life has been consistent, but that the greater focus of their time has been with the needy, etc. I suppose it is a judgment call as to whether the work of the sisters with the homeless and the hungry and children at risk and all that is what the pope would say is a gospel witness. I happen to know a lot of people who believe that it is, but perhaps you would disagree and think that the pope is calling them away from such tasks... ?

It would be a novel reading.

Hi, Rita, no, I don't think that the pope is calling sisters away from their orders' missions.  I also don't think that feeding the hungry in the US is particularly "pro-life witness".  There is virtually nobody in the US who starves to death involuntarily, but a million or more human beings in the womb are aborted, year after year after year.  The scandal of abortion calls for unequivocal, vocal opposition.  The CDF believes the LCWR hasn't mustered this sort of opposition.  I don't find that belief incredible.

Jim,  sometimes you agree with civil limits that have placed on religious freedom and sometimes you disagree with them.  

What, in your mind, makes the difference in whether or not the government has a right to restrict individual religious liberty in the private sector?

Why do you think that is it acceptable for the government to limit the religious liberty of some members of some religions but it is not acceptable to place restrictions on the religious liberty of individual Catholics who employ non-Catholics in their private sector businesses?

If you believe that there is no religious liberty "right" for employees in the private sector to have health care options that are mandated by law and that include contraceptive coverage  - denied this right because of the religious beliefs of their employer in the private sector, then perhaps consider another question

Is it right for individual employers in the private sector to be able to claim religious liberty exemptions under all circumstances whenever they don't like  a particular provision in the law? 

When and how can the government determine the legitimacy of the claims of individual employers that their religious freedom is being violated by a law? 

How should the government go about determining whether or not each case of an employer claiming a religious liberty exemption is truly a genuine case of religious liberty or simply an employer using the claim of a violation of religious beliefs in order to evade compliance with laws - such as the laws that have been passed to ensure equitable access to health care for employees of those with religious prohibitions against specific health care provisions or even against all medical care?

Do you believe that every religion/religious group in the United States has the right to have their own particular religious beliefs upheld as law for all - including those who do not share the beliefs of that particular religion? 

You indicated that you  are not sure if agree with the court decisions that deny (under certain circumstances)  the right of Muslim women  to cover their faces in accord with their religious laws? What about this example makes you not sure?  

Why do you think that it is not a denial of religious freedom for the government to force JH and CS parents to obtain traditional medical care for their children?

Why is it not a violation of religious freedom to deny polygamous marriage to those whose religions do not ban polygamy, and in some cases even encourage it ?

Should an individual private sector employer who is JH be legally entitled to eliminate insurance coverage for (often lifesaving) blood transfusions in policies for his company's employees?

In other words, when is it OK to restrict the religious liberty of individuals and when is it not OK?



 I read pope Francis: "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods"  and "Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance"  

I read your reply, Jim: "There is virtually nobody in the US who starves to death involuntarily, but a million or more human beings in the womb are aborted, year after year after year.  The scandal of abortion calls for unequivocal, vocal opposition.

I think that you are disagreeing with pope Francis. You don't want to fascinate and make the heart burn if that takes time away from condemning abortion. You refuse to consider the possibility that people fighting abortion have become obsessed with it. You think it is not possible that condemning abortion gets in the way of preaching the gospel. You cannot not be vocal against abortion. Fighting abortion is more important to you than proclaiming the good news. In that way, you are parting ways with pope Francis. Paul said over and over again: "Christ our redeemer is resurrected". You say over and over again: "Abortion is wrong."




I don't think you will get any argument about the numbers of abortions from me, Jim, but you seem pretty dismissive about the life-saving that goes on in caring for the poor, and I think that's not right. I have to think that maybe you just don't run into these sorts of life-saving works in your daily routine, so let me mention a few that I know about, that sisters do.

Safe houses for abused women save lives. Drug rehabilitation and work with parolees saves lives. In neighborhoods where there are gangs, youth programs save lives. Work with the mentally ill saves lives. Work with migrants and refugees saves lives. Social work with poor families, and among the disabled and the elderly, saves lives. Honestly, don't you realize that people die of neglect, or gunfire, or are beaten to death by their husbands or boyfriends, or die of drug overdoses, or abuse in the home? I am not dramatizing this, I just want to give credit for life-saving in all its forms. Nutrition isn't negligable in the life department, either.

I think that you are disagreeing with pope Francis. You don't want to fascinate and make the heart burn if that takes time away from condemning abortion. You refuse to consider the possibility that people fighting abortion have become obsessed with it. You think it is not possible that condemning abortion gets in the way of preaching the gospel. You cannot not be vocal against abortion. Fighting abortion is more important to you than proclaiming the good news. In that way, you are parting ways with pope Francis. Paul said over and over again: "Christ our redeemer is resurrected". You say over and over again: "Abortion is wrong."

Well, perhaps we should clear away this brush immediately: I'm certainly not discounting the possiblity of disagreeing with Pope Francis at some point on some issue or other.  But I don't think I'm disagreeing with him in this instance.

As it happens, fascinating and making the heart burn is what my ministry (in my own conception, anyway, and to the best of my probably-pretty-average abilities) is all about.  But this sort of a  dichotomy - we can't preach the Gospel and oppose abortion; we must choose one or the other, because one will crowd out the other - surely is false.  We must do both.  And feed the hungry.  And bring people to baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.  And help people encounter the living God.   And live the "little way".   And do many, many other things besides.  Living as a Christian is a full life commitment.  And it's necessary to keep Christian lives in balance.  

Pope Francis probably is implicitly criticizing Christians who don't maintain the proper balance.  The CDF critique of the LCWR should be read as a criticism of a ministry that is out of balance.  If anti-abortion advocacy is missing, if advocacy for the true nature of marriage is missing, if advocacy for holy married sexual relations is missing, then we're not living fully Christian lives.  None of us can do everything, but most of us can do more, and for a prominent organization like the LCWR, I don't think it's asking too much to ask it to lend its voice to what is, after all, the most important issue in American political and cultural life.  


Mollie: I suspect that your comment was directed to Ann Olivier, but it is hard to tell.  The "reply" function here is basically useless as it does not attach the reply to the comment to which it was directed.  The reply function is no different from the comment function.

The day after "America" published its interview with Pope Francis, the pontiff addressed a group of Catholic gynecologists.  He told them that, as a matter of "reason and science", that life in all its "phases" is always "sacred." He called abortion a product of a "widespread mentality of profit." He said that every aborted child is "unjustly condemned" and has the "face of the Lord." These remarks are reported NCR and also by RSN -



Frank Gibbons, yes, Pope Francis did say that. The Associated Press (pace, Carl Anderson) reported it days ago. The pope was talking to gynecologists. That is about as in-context as it gets. He didn't repeat the same message to oilfield roustabouts, delicatessan owners, horticulturalists, lighting designers and used car salespeople, as some of our hierarchs would. Stay calm.

Frank, earlier today you passed along the totally dead canard about Congress being exempt from "Obamacare." Congress members and staff are treated exactlly like everybody else who is covered (as they are) by his or her employer. You asked for an explanation. That's it.


" We must do both.

Jim P. --

I agree. But prudence asks:  when?

But I think Frances' point (and I agree with it) is that sometimes you can overstate your case -- and understate it by merely repeating conclusions without giving solid premises)  and do more harm than good, at least in the long run.  

You have teen-agers.  Surely you know that after you've made your viewpoint clear it does little if any good to repeat your point, especially not loudly, and sometimes it just closes their ears and turns them away from you.  That's human nature.  If you want to change minds, you must persuade, and that requires 1) not making your opponent angry at you, 2) listening to what he/she says with real respect, 3) presenting data that is relevant, and 4) reasoning from that data.  Just repeating conclusions over and over just turns people off. 

I think that what Francis is saying is that first we have to really contact the other person *respectfully* and must convince them that the Church is concerned with the welfare of all God's children, not just the unborn. The unborn are not the only people involved in this debate, as Rita has pointed out so clearly.  First, voices need to be lowered and that is done by preaching the love of God for all His creatures.  Then the other side will start to listen -- but only if our arguments are persuasive.  (I happen to think that so far the arguments have not been articulated well enough for non-philosophers and non-theologians to understand them.  So that needs doing even before the persuasion can begin.)

Ann @ 8:22 -- Brava.

"...convince them that the Church is concerned with the welfare of all God's children, not just the unborn..."

This is essential. 

Tom Blackburn,

My "totally dead  canard" was a sincere question. The thread had moved to a discussion of the Affordable Care Act. I personally assign no perjorative connotation to the term "Obamacare". I was hoping for a sincere, reasoned response. I should have known that everything here is perceived through a jaded, cyncical and adversarial prism. By the way, I'd like a more detailed explanation than the one you gave.

As far as the pope's remarks on abortion are concered, I provided a link, not pace Carl Anderson, but from the Religious News Service, hardly a right-wing organ. 

The pope said that every aborted child is "unjustly condemned".  He's stating a reality.  I don't care where or to whom he said it, he said it and everyone needs to reflect on his words.  



"The pope said that every aborted child is "unjustly condemned".

Frank --

That's a conclusion.  It's not an argument.  Yes, it makes his conclusion clear, but mere conclusions do not pesuade.  He must do better, and get the moral theologians to do better.

Ann, I agree with you. I think pope Francis is a brilliant communicator and gives a wonderful example of applying the principles laid out in "Fulfilled in your hearing":


"First of all we can point to the great emphasis which communication theorists place on an accurate understanding of the audience if communication is to be effective. Unless a preacher knows what a congregation needs, wants, or is able to hear, there is every possibility that the message offered in the homily will not meet the needs of the people who hear it. To say this is by no means to imply that preachers are only to preach what their congregations want to hear. Only when preachers know what their congregations want to hear will they be able to communicate what a congregation needs to hear. Homilists may indeed preach on what they understand to be the real issues, but if they are not in touch with what the people think are the real issues, they will very likely be misunderstood or not heard at all. What is communicated is not what is said but it is what is heard, and what is heard is determined in large measure by what the header needs or wants to hear."

Frank, Here is a link that explains in detail why your concern about Congress and "Obamacare" is a canard. (Since 2010.)

My prism is probably jaded after all these years, but not cynical. When I see the Congressional Exception, I immediately stand by for the Death Panels from the same poisoned well. That is experience, not cynicism.

I think -- and I know Pope Francis agrees because he said so -- that everyone within sound of the Church's voice has had a chance to reflect on abortion, but maybe not so many have had it convincingly brought to their attention that Jesus died for them. In yesterday's Gospel, Jesus send the disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal the sick. Not a word specifically about abortion or defunding the Roman Empire.

Ann - I agree with everything you said at 9/25, 7:22 pm (may read as 8:22 for folks in the Eastern time zone?)

Rita - I hope to pick up our conversation later today or tomorrow, but don't have time at the moment.  On a personal note, though, next time you are in Chicago area and have some free time, email me and I'd be very pleased to have you accompany me on some of the things I do to help the poor.

Anne Chapman - very interesting questions which I haven't time to think about or respond to at the moment.  I'm sure religious liberty will pop up again at dotCom, probably soon :-).  Perhaps we can continue then?


Jim P - two other points about the current obsession by certain elements of the USCCB (versus what the LCWR does):

- to reinforce Rita's points:

(click on the Lazarus at the Gate document from the Australian Bishops Conference)

Some higlights:

         -  By 2015 almost a billion people will be living on an income of less than $1.25 per day.

         -  Over a quarter of a million women in our time die in childbirth.

  • Eight million children die every year from malnutrition and preventable disease.

And from the article published in NCR by Hans Kung:

"But he [Pope Francis] has not yet passed the decisive test of his will to reform. It is understandable and pleasing that a Latin American bishop puts the poor in the favelas of the great metropolises first. But the pope of the Catholic church cannot lose sight the fact that other groups of people in other countries suffer from other kinds of "poverty," and also yearn for the improvement of their situation. And these are people whom the pope can support even more directly than he can those in the favelas, for whom state organizations and society in general are primarily responsible."

Kung went on to enumerate three groups:  women, divorced, and former priests.

Finally, here is an example today from your good Cardinal in terms of focusing on one issue to the exclusion of a broader attempt to address societal issues (and based upon a misapplication of the old manualist moral theology)

Key passage:  "George responded that the board of the immigrant and refugee coalition, not he, cut the funding by endorsing same-sex marriage and said the church continues to support immigrants and immigration reform through other organizations."

One commenter sums it up well (my reference to manualist moral theology):

"It would seem from the article that the groups losing their CHD funding are working with the inner city poor and have an association with an immigration reform group that is presumably also working with the poor, ie immigrants. Several degrees of separation. The immigration reform group publically stated that, "a full respect for our State's and nation's diversity demands that we do not discriminate" (on same sex marriage laws in local, state and federal laws"...)

I wonder what Pope Francis would say about cutting off funding to groups that are protecting and assisting the poor because they had an association with a group that is also helping the poor (immigration reform which the bishops support) but had the temerity to also be supportive (not their working agenda) of gay civil and legal rights.

Somehow the degrees of separation from the actual poverty work of all these organizations would suggest to me that it is this poverty work that needs to be assisted and if one associated group has offered a statement of support that the bishops don't like....that is not sufficient reason to cut their funds.

This feels very political and not at all in the spirit of Francis's recent remarks...Francis, who very clearly supports the poor, and assistance to them."

This same reasoning applies to the Forenight for Freedom bishops - they are hung up on contraception (and abortion based upon their misread or lack of medical knowledge) and they justify this by citing religious liberty.  Yet, the Catholic Hospital Association (after ACA revisions) felt that there were enough degrees of separation that no business or owner would be forced into providing contraceptives against their religious beliefs.  You really have to stretch things to find that small business owners' religious liberty needs to be protected.

Safe houses for abused women save lives. Drug rehabilitation and work with parolees saves lives. In neighborhoods where there are gangs, youth programs save lives. Work with the mentally ill saves lives. Work with migrants and refugees saves lives. Social work with poor families, and among the disabled and the elderly, saves lives.

Rita - LCWR does all those things?  I assume you're referring to religious orders here, not the LCWR.  My understanding of the LCWR is that it is a forum for cooperation and coordination among leaders of religious orders, and a provider of training to leaders and officers, i.e. it's essentially an administrative organization (all of which is necessary and even holy work, to be sure).  The CDF's assessment states that the LCWR (not the religious orders that are members) is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death.  The reference to abortion and euthanasia in that particular statement is unmistakable.  Pope Francis doesn't say to be silent on those topics - he says to position them properly and talk about them in a context that modern people won't tune out.  Apparently, the LCWR can't find the words to talk about those things at all.  Shame on it.  

Pope Francis also has some direct and harsh words against what he calls ecclesiastical narcissism. "When the church does not come out of itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and then becomes sick".  At what and whom would that rebuke be directed?  Surely, among other things, at the sort of navel-gazing, rights-talk rhetoric that the CDF assessment terms "radical feminism".  

My overall point in this conversation is that Pope Francis is challenging Catholics from all over the spectrum to focus on what is truly important.  We know with certainty that the LCWR is not exempt from this program, as Francis has explicitly reaffirmed  that the reform process outlined in the CDF assessment is to continue on.

I don't disagree that some pro-life advocates were chided in the America interview.  I don't know that any bishops talk too much about abortion and contraception (nor that all of them don't), but I'd guess that many of us can think of homilists - priests and deacons - who seem to talk about those or similar topics virtually every time they get up to preach.  Even people who are quite sympathetic with that point of view, get tired of hearing that and only that all the time.  People hunger for the Gospel and the faith in its vast, intricate, comprehensive, interwoven beauty and integrity.  There are many ways to be a johnny one note.  Yammering about abortion all the time is one way.  Yammering about women priests all the time is another.  I view Francis' message as, "Stop yammering and preach the Gospel."


Though my Italian is somwhat uncertain, I made an effort to read "the original," as published in Civilta' Cattolica. I found this exercise more rewarding than my initial reading of the English text. Especially helpful was Father Spadaro's full interspersed commentary.

In his summation, Father Spadaro prefers to call his three meetings with Pope Francis "conversations" rather than an interview, and he mentions that the conversations as they occurred were at times a mix of Italian and Spanish.

I was struck on this second reading by how much this is a conversation between two Jesuits, steeped in and formed by Ignatian spirituality. Despite long experience, in graduate work, in the parish where I have been a member for many years, in a number of rewarding friendships with Jesuits, I have never been greatly attracted to the Ignatian method. If I have a spirituality at all, I would term it "Benedictine," or, even more, "liturgical." All of this to say that at times I didn't feel completely at home listening in on the "conversations." Not a major obstacle, but an occasional hindrance.  I do, however, think that Blessed Pierre Favre should be canonized. Soon.

--- --- ---

There have been many comments above on service to those in need. Today we celebrate a saint who  spent his life in such service, Vincent de Paul, and left as his continuing legacy the Congregation of the Mission and, with St. Louise de Marillac, the Daughters of Charity. The (Emmitsburg) Daughters have had a special place in our family's life since 1943. A blessed feast!


line 1: "somewhat" My eyes are too weary to find more.

Rev. Mr. Pauwels, where is your evidence that LCWR is "yammering about women priests all the time"?

It is undeniable that LCWR has a history of raising this issue --especially during an earlier period of the Church when the hierarchy did not expressly forbid it.  But even then, these faithful women of the Church were consistently outward focused, going to the margins, taking on the smell of the sheep, preaching the gospel.  They are models for the type of Church Francis is calling us to.  They were never and are not now "johnny on notes." (I will leave the discordant use of a male name because of my heroes from my youth was Sr. Patricia John )  They are especially not johnny one notes on woman's ordination. 

Jim, you ask me above, incredulously: "LCWR does all these things?"

Here is what I said: "...let me mention a few that I know about, that sisters do." These sisters belong to communities whose leadership participates in the LCWR. They stand together on this.

It's disingenuous to suggest that the censure of LCWR is unrelated to the sisters themselves.

Finally, after what seems forever, a plea from a pope to put ideology aside and focus on Jesus and the Good News.  We have been obsessed, with narrow vision, on abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage.  What about Jesus?  Who do we say he is?  As he asked us in today's Gospel.  This personal relationship with him is hindered by obsessions that seem like a worst-sin theology rather than a focus on our own personal sins and how they keep us from seeing and knowing Jesus.  Pope Francis acknowledged his sins.


Now with many "pro-life" Catholic Republicans in congress seeking to cut food for the poor (food stamps) certainly we can see the wisdom of the pope's words.  How can you be pro-life by literally taking food from the mouths of babies and nourishment from umbilical cords sustaining embryos and fetuses? A narrow focus on abortion can lead to just this type of thinking.     

That should be "his sinfulness."  He didn't confess his sins. 

Rita, I admit I've thought it is disingenuous of the LCWR and its supporters to defend LCWR by referring, not to LCWR properly (which really is the subject of the CDF assessment), but to the good works that individual sisters and their orders do.  So what say we call a truce on mutual accusations of disingenuity and agree that many sisters do important, critical, Gospel-driven work that models Christian living to all of us; that any organization, whether it is the Holy See or a collection of religious orders in the US, needs an administrative layer to function effectively; and the administrative layer should not be immune from criticism or reform when it is just and necessary.

I am sure my comments here betray that I am at least somewhat sympathetic to the findings of the assessment, i.e. that at least some aspects of the assessment are just, and that some reform on the part of the LCWR is necessary.  I know that many people here disagree vehemently.  I don't wish to push my point of view here too hard on this matter.  I read and think about all of the things that are said in defense of the LCWR here, and concede that many of these points are good and valid ones.  In the wake of the assessment's publication, I was pretty pessimistic that things could be patched up between the LCWR and church authorities; I was quite worried that we were headed for a crack-up.  I have seen one or two signs, of which the election of Francis is an important one, that this may still be averted.  It would be bad for everyone involved - and all of us are stakeholders - if the split between the church and the sisters becomes wider than it is.  I don't wish to contribute to widening that split, nor to avoid the truths that are at the root of the current division.  Keeping those two goals in healthy tension is not easy in public comments, and I'm sure I haven't done an exemplary job on this score.

The bottom line on all this is that, in my view, the LCWR needs to accept that some reform is necessary.  Without that acceptance, I don't really see a way for tensions to de-escalate.  But there is always more time for wisdom and humility to prevail, and religious sisters in the US are very strong in those two virtues.


Jim, you seem to have missed my point entirely. But let's let it go. This thread is getting old.

Jim P,  if you would like some time to think about the implications of the bishops push to have Catholic teaching enshrined by law, then please do so.  Because it is important.  The Catholic church is not the only church that has had to realize that religious liberty has limits when it involves the private sector.

Where do the religious liberty rights of any single individual in the private sector end? 

What of the religious liberty of those who disagree with  laws that are passed that reflect the specific teachings of one particular group within any given religion?  

What of those who don't believe the laws should apply to them personally because of their religious beliefs(such as laws requiring that faces be uncovered for official IDs)? 

Religious liberty does not simply apply to Roman Catholics - it must apply to all.

The provisions in the Affordable Care Act that the bishops object to are probably the best compromise available in order to be fair to all and to respect the rights of all. Specifically religious institutions are exempt, as they should be. But applying these exemptions to every single private sector employer in the United States who can claim any kind of "religious" beliefs he or she wants to claim could open the door to a lot of undesirable consequences and abuse.

The common good in a religiously pluralistic society sometimes means that private individuals may not havea right to absolute religious liberty - from the Muslim woman who must remove the veil for her driver's license photo to the owner of a hobby store that serves the general public.

Whatever might be said by or of Pope Francis, what gives me the greatest hope is the interest of those who have felt the church out of touch.  My oldest son of nine children reported to me that three of his fellow graduates from both Seattle Prep and University, all Catholics, for the first time since graduation while playing golf together actually discussed their faith and what it means to them in response to their joy in the renewed emphasis of our new Holy Father about what Jesus gave as his message: "Love one another as I have loved you."  That in essence is what is frustrating about the overemphasized condemnatory pre-occupation of "no no" that has so taken the current church.  We need the renewed emphasis on what Jesus said about the least of these: "I was hungry and you gave me to eat; thirsty and you gave me to drink; etc."   They finally have some hope that the emphsis of our Catholic Church message might become Christian in deed again, and they are responding.

Frank Gibbons, you asked, "Why is Congress being granted an exemption from having to enroll in Obamacare?  "

... and I believe Grant referred you to a article.  Here is another explanatio, this time in National Review, that I found more clear than the factcheck explanation.  The situation is more complicated than the politically-fueled rhetoric would lead one to think.


I also am inclined to agree with anything that Alex Ross says.  I didn't realize he had commented on the pope.  I have his book.  And I do read his column in the New Yorker. I don't think he actually knew Wagner or Mahler, but he does know their music.  He also seems to know the pontiff.  A treat to get his perspective.