FaithWorld

from The Great Debate:

Tackling inequality: Where a president meets a pope

There has been much speculation about President Barack Obama’s meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday. One Catholic church authority asserted, “it is not the task of the pope to offer a detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality.” The pope got that message -- he wrote it himself in his first official “Papal Exhortation” last year.

Yet Francis has also asserted that his papacy has a “grave responsibility” to  “exhort all the communities to an ever watchful scrutiny of the signs of the times” -- particularly to know the face of the poor and outcast.

For the pope, this scrutiny must take in the fierce public debate about government cuts that now overshadows U.S. politics. The left and the right are battling over sharp reductions in foods stamps and unemployment benefits, denial of healthcare to those least able to afford it and cuts in many programs designed to help the poor and needy.

Francis has dedicated his papacy to helping those marginalized by harsh economic policies and personal setbacks. He advocates for a “poor church,” one that can give a voice to the voiceless. So poverty of all kinds will likely be an urgent topic when the pope and the president sit down.

Francis, of course, directly addresses only the 1.2 billion humans who are in the Catholic orbit, and Obama was elected to serve only one nation. Both, however, have “gone global” -- their words and actions affect “present realities” around the world.

U.S. Catholic CEO responds to Benedict’s economic encyclical

charity-in-truthPope Benedict’s encyclical “Charity in Truth” proposed a sweeping reform of the world economic system from one based on the profit motive to one based on solidarity and concern for the common good. Like other such documents in the Roman Catholic Church’s social teaching tradition, the encyclical delivers a strong critique of unbridled capitalism. This can be uncomfortable for Catholics who champion free enterprise and some conservative Catholic writers reacted quickly and critically. One of them, George Weigel, wrote the encyclical “resembles a duck-billed platypus.” (Image: Charity in Truth/Ignatius Press)

We wanted to hear the views of a Catholic executive, one who’s involved in business rather than reacting from the sidelines. So I called Frank Keating, president and chief executive officer of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). The former Republican governor of Oklahoma (1995-2003) is a former chairman of the National Catholic Review Board, which he said “sought to identify and correct the horror of sexual abuse on the part of the clergy.” He is a Knight of Malta and a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

DB: What’s your overall reaction to the encyclical?

keatingFK:“I haven’t read the 30,000 words but I think what the pope is proposing is not inconsistent with other papal messages. The common denominator to all of them is the worth of the individual, the dignity of every human person. So Benedict XVI focuses on the right to life, he speaks against euthanasia, he speaks against the evil of abortion, he speaks against cloning. But at the same time he talks about duties and responsibilities to the vulnerable because the vulnerable are dignified human beings as well as those who are rich and powerful.

Paraguay’s opposition slams ex-bishop president over love child

URUGUAYParaguay’s political opposition whipped out the heavy artillery on Tuesday, taking President Fernando Lugo to task for having fathered a child while he still served as a Roman Catholic bishop.

A 57-year-old leftist, Lugo admitted on Monday he is the father of a toddler, confirming his relationship with a woman who is now 26 years old.

Lugo was known as the “bishop of the poor” during the 10 years he labored in a forlorn rural area of landlocked Paraguay. The president campaigned on pledges to ease crushing poverty in the South American nation, but opposition lawmaker Carlos Maria Soler said: “I hope the poverty vows the bishop took do not go the way of his chastity vows, because then we’d really be in trouble.”

Another day, another faith coalition

Is it my imagination, or are there lots of new faith coalitions and initiatives sprouting up these days?

The newest one, launched on Wednesday, is The Mobilization to End Poverty. Its main driver is Sojourners, which claims to be the biggest group of self-styled “progressive” Christians in the United States.

The coalition will hold a conference in Washington from April 26-29. The organizers describe it as a “a historic gathering where thousands of Christians and antipoverty leaders will engage in a transformative experience of education, worship, community, and activism in Washington, D.C. Together, this powerful group will call on President Obama and the new Congress to make overcoming poverty a political priority and to develop a national plan that addresses this moral and spiritual crisis.”makeshift

from Raw Japan:

Beating poverty, literally

In the depths of what may be Japan's worst recession ever, more than a few people feel like they have been kicked hard.

At Bimbogami Shrine, in the mountains about four hour's drive from Tokyo, the downtrodden can hit back -- literally.

 

I travelled to the shrine where male and female pilgrims were beating the hell out of the God of Poverty, in an age old ritual.