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I'm currently in California, giving a series of talks on the Year of Faith. I'll be speaking tonight in Sacramento, but am writing this post in Napa, where I spoke last night. Yesterday, I spent much of the day at the Ignatius Press offices; it was my first visit to the new-ish offices, not having been in San Francisco since 2006. It was a short but wonderful visit. I've been working on this edition of cuts for over a week, which means some of these links and stories are now ancient news, pehaps even pre-historic by the standards foisted on us by internet immediacy. That said, here goes!

• My essay, "What it means to call God 'Father'" was in last Sunday's edition of Our Sunday Visitornewspaper; it focuses on the Scriptural roots of calling God "Father". In related news, Pope Francis' homily this morning was on how to pray the "Our Father"

• Sister Teresita Barajuen recently died in the Buenafuente del Sistal monastery near Madrid. She was 105. Having entered the monastery at the age of nineteen, she spent 86 years as a nun. Which means she was a nun longer than the Soviet Union existed. Another interesting note: she entered the monastery on April 16, 1927—the same day that a boy named Joseph Ratzinger was born in Bavaria. 

• Fr. Henri Boulad, 82, is a Melkite Catholic and a Jesuit priest who runs the Jesuit Cultural Centre in Alexandria, Egypt. He is upset by the support shown by many western countries, including the United States, of the Muslim Brotherhood:

“How democratic countries can support such movements is disgusting,” Fr Boulad told a meeting of the Middle East Discussion Group at a luncheon hosted by Canadian Senator Ann Cools.

The Jesuit described Egypt as unstable and said the government was running out of money to provide basic services. Income from tourism had decreased because of strict restrictions on tourist activity and a dangerous lack of security, he said. ... “Grassroots people are more and more convinced these people are liars,” Fr Boulad said. Muslim opponents, he explained, “don’t want this kind of Islam”.

“I am speaking up and saying: ‘Don’t be intimidated by these people’,” he said. “Resist in the name of your principles.”

• In related news, the Washington Times reports the following story: "Members of an al Qaeda-linked group in Syria executed a 15-year-old boy in front of his parents after kidnapping and torturing him for making disrespectful statements about Islam's Prophet Muhammad, a human rights group in the region claimed." 

Around the same time, this story came out:

A spokesman for Egypt’s influential Al Azhar University has said that a restoration of friendly ties between the Islamic institution and the Vatican will come when Pope Francis proclaims that Islam is a peaceful religion. ... Gawad drew the line, however, at participation in Vatican-sponsored talks with leaders of the great monotheistic religions. He said that representatives of Al Azhar would not participate in any conference involving Israeli Jews.

It's just like the school yard bully we all remember with such fondness: "Hey, give me what I want, do what I say, and lie for me, and we'll get along just great! Got it?" Such stories bring to mind the acts of violence that took place after Benedict XVI's Regensburg Address, commited by Muslims angry that the pope supposedly said that Islam is violent. Which brings to me a simple conclusion: avoid humorless, illogical bullies. 

• President Obama has—how shall I put this?—an interesting way of looking at the world. The Scottish Catholic Observer reports:

President Barack Obama, repeated the oft disproved claim that Catholic education increases division in front of an audience of 2000 young people, including many Catholics, at Belfast’s Waterfront hall when he arrived in the country this morning.

“If towns remain divided—if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden—that too encourages division and discourages cooperation,” the US president said.

The POTUS apparently believes in the diversity of One—that is, the Oneness of his homogenous secularism, in which mediating institutions, such as schools and churches, are absorbed and dissipated through the all-good, all-knowing power of the co-opting State. For more on this decidedly lacking perspective, see CWR's recent interview with Benjamin Wiker, titled, "When the State Replaces God"

• Speaking of the shallowness and narrowmindedness of socialist beliefs and inclinations, Joseph Meaney has written an excellent piece, "The French Defy Socialists Over Gay Marriage", for Crisis. He writes:

When more than one million people repeatedly take to the streets and protest against a democratically elected government, something significant is happening, even if the mainstream media tries to minimize it. Few pundits thought that French President François Hollande would ignite a social firestorm simply by fulfilling his electoral promise to legalize homosexual “marriage.” Some of the questions for those witnessing the outrage in France over the issue are: Why have we not seen the same kind of societal rejection of same-sex “marriage” in the 13 other nations that have passed such legislation? Is the flame of moral conscience and family values more alive in France than elsewhere?

The answer to the latter question appears to be yes. The more interesting follow-up question is why? I think a large part of the reason is demographic. France has the highest fertility in Europe, better than practically every other industrialized country, with 2.08 children per woman. Drilling down into the societal average, however, one finds that not all groups are having the same number of children. As in the United States, social liberals in France have none to one child on average while social conservatives have two or more children. There is no doubt that immigrants and traditional Catholics are having larger families than the French average, and this is leading to practical social consequences.

• These same issues and lines of thought are at the heart of Mary Eberstadt's new book, How The West Really Lost God, which I started reading last week. In a recent interview with NRO, Eberstadt made the following remarks:

LOPEZ:  Why are you so interested in finding out why married people with children are more likely to go to church?

EBERSTADT: You can scroll through the works of great modern thinkers who had plenty to say about religion — Durkheim, Marx, Comte, Freud, and more — and find little attention given to this very interesting question.

The reason that’s such an interesting question is this: We do know, indisputably and thanks to social science, that strong correlations are there. See the work of sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, among others, who’s really gotten under the hood of those relationships, or the late sociologist Steven L. Nock. Men who are married are more likely to go to church. Men and women who are married with children are far more likely to go than are singles. And so on. More marriage and more children add up to more God.

The conventional way of explaining that connection — to the extent that anyone’s tried to explain it — is to say that it’s a one-way street: Religious decline causes family decline; religious belief comes first and affects the family.

That’s only part of the story, though. There’s also evidence for reversing that causality, and for concluding that family decline also breeds religious decline. That evidence is at the heart of the book. If it’s right, then we need to revisit the accepted wisdom about secularization from Nietzsche on down.

Read the entire interview. And look for a CWR review of the book in the near future.

• You've probably heard of the CBS report that "the State Department may have covered up allegations of illegal and inappropriate behavior within their ranks." One such accusation, Jonathan Tobin noted on theCommentary site, "involves Howard Gutman, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium who was accused of routinely ditching his security detail and then soliciting prostitutes, including minors." Which raises, I think, a most obvious and pressing question: why doesn't the State Department allow U.S. ambassodors to be married? Actually, Gutman is married. Which suggests, of course, that the real issue in matters of sexual abuse and impropriety, including the cover-ups that so often accompany such actions, is not one of repression, but moral laxity and corruption. As Tobin writes:

Taken in total, the reports present a picture of a Clinton State Department lacking in accountability and mired in a culture of cronyism in which anyone connected to either Clinton or President Obama had a permanent “get out of jail free” card. ...  There is no way to avoid the conclusion that if she did not take part in the ordering of these cover-ups, she was completely out of touch with what was happening under her nose.

Which sounds very much like more than a few Catholic bishops of the past few decades. It turns out that human nature is shared by all humans. Go figure. 

• And while we're on this unpleasant topic, The Media Report has the exclusive story of the double standards employed by "Barbara Blaine, the founder and president of the anti-Catholic group SNAP, [who] has admitted that she wrote a letter on behalf of a Louisiana psychologist, Dr. Steve Taylor, who was arrested and jailed on charges of possessing over 100 images of kiddie porn." 

• The latest edition of the journal Communio is dedicated to the topic of Catholicity and education, and some of the articles are available online.  

• Most readers, I'm sure, are familiar with this week-old story, recounted here by The Weekly Standard:

At a Thursday press conference, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi condemned a bill that would prohibit abortions during the final four months of pregnancy with an exception for when the life and physical health of the mother is at risk.

Asked what the moral difference is between what Dr. Kermit Gosnell did to babies born alive and aborting those same infants moments before birth, Pelosi refused to answer.

"As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this," Pelosi said. "I don't think it should have anything to do with politics."

Which doesn't really explain why Pelosi, who often makes known the serious nature of her particular brand of Catholicism, has spent some much time, effort, and power in supporting abortion through political means. TheWashington Times reported:

She said while Democrats are pushing for spending to boost jobs, Republicans this week passed a bill through committee that would restrict abortions beyond 20 weeks in a pregnancy.

“For them to decide to disrespect a judgment a woman makes about her reproductive health is reprehensible,” she said.

In other words, some actions are beyond moral judgment and logical analysis. Which is, of course, both stupid and completely contrary to Catholic teaching, never mind common sense. The fact is, Pelosi is the proverbial train wreck; her comments about abortion and related matters used to be outrageous, but they are now simply unhinged. While her support for abortion is as obvious as her misuse of terms such as "practicing" and "sacred", she doesn't seem to be even trying to provide any sort of reason or basis for her positions. She's like a truck deeply mired in a deep pit, wildly spitting out foam-flecked mud while the battery loses power. 

• As someone who has attended a Ukrainian Catholic church for many years, I thought this was notable, from a week ago:

Speaking of Argentina, Francis' lead concelebrant this morning was an old friend from home who's likewise been shot into the stratosphere: Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev (left), now the de factopatriarch of the 6 million-member Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC), global Catholicism's largest Eastern fold.

On his shock election to the post in 2011, Shevchuk – at 43 today, still the youngest bishop in the worldwide Ukrainian Synod – was serving in Argentina as head of the eparchy for the growing diaspora there. As the archbishop of Buenos Aires doubles as ordinary to all the country's Eastern faithful whose churches lack their own leadership on the ground, the now-Pope quickly took the young hierarch under his wing,forming what by all accounts became a close bond.

By virtue of his place as the UGCC's head, even before his mentor's election, Shevchuk – a Gregorian summa cum laude proficient in six languages – already stood in line to become the youngest cardinal to enter the College since a certain Karol Wojtyla of Krakow was given the red hat at age 47 in 1967. (After years of failing health, the major-archbishop's predecessor, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, took the rare step of retiring in early 2011.)

Read more at Whispers in the Loggia

• I'm running out of time, so one last piece, my recent review of a new album by John Elefante, the former lead singer of Kansas. 

 
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Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight.
 
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