Right now we’re featuring three new stories on the website.
First is Robert Mickens’s latest Letter from Rome, in which he looks at Francis’s decision on streamlining annulments, which did not “just drop out of the sky”:
Bishops and priests from almost every part of the world have been calling for such a reform for a number of years. The Synod of Bishops even took up the issue in 2005 at the assembly on the Eucharist, when the fathers made a veiled reference to annulment reform in their final list of suggestions or propositions to Benedict XVI (Prop. 40). The former pope, even for many years before becoming Bishop of Rome, had expressed interest in actually broadening the valid reasons for an annulment to include “lack of a solid Christian formation” (or faith) necessary for receiving the sacrament of matrimony. But other than pondering this out loud, he did nothing to make it a reality. Pope Francis has now moved the ball forward.
Also featured, an interview with Carmen Fariña, chancellor of the New York City public school system, the largest in the United States. Fariña discusses Common Core, student testing, and what she’s learned in the course of her fifty years in education—some of which she picked up as a student in Catholic elementary and high schools.
For high school I went to St. Michael’s Academy in Manhattan, and that was transformational. It was an all-girls school, and I had some of the brightest nuns…. One of them, Sr. Leonard, is the reason I’m here today. She understood that because my parents were immigrants, we didn’t know the process for going to college. In those days, in my culture in particular, you didn’t aspire to go to college. You’d like to go if you wanted to be a teacher, but my parents didn’t know how to fill out applications and they didn’t know about scholarships. Sr. Leonard in my sophomore year saw I wasn’t on the right track to be able to apply to college. So she made it her business to change my trajectory. … You know, there’s something about paying that back. That’s one of the things about immigrant kids, they pay it back. As a regional superintendent I did a poll of my 150 principals and asked how many were first in their families to go to college as I was, and it was more than 70 percent. There’s something to be said for that. When families care about education and you’re the first in your family to go to college, you pay it back in a different way.
And, with the European Union deciding how best to address the refugee crisis, the editors write on the special responsibility of the United States:
The United States has accepted only fifteen hundred Syrian asylum-seekers since 2011. In May, fourteen Democratic senators proposed that the United States take in sixty-five thousand Syrian refugees, only to be rebuffed by the Republicans. Fair-minded people can disagree about conventional immigration policy, but why have we essentially closed our doors to people fleeing one of the most brutal wars imaginable? Surely, whatever potential threat a tiny minority of these refugees might pose can be easily managed. This country has refused asylum to those fleeing persecution and death in the past, and later deeply regretted doing so. Opening our doors to Syrian refugees is both just the right thing to do and a necessary acknowledgement of the responsibility the United States bears for the current chaos and slaughter in the Middle East. We went to war in Iraq in 2003 convinced that we knew best how to rearrange the political, economic, and social lives of those in the Arab world. That was a catastrophic folly, and our responsibility to those left behind in the bloodlands did not end when the United States withdrew its forces.