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December 23 2013

02:24

Fresh Air on Pope Francis's first year.

Who am I to judge?" With those five words, Pope Francis "stepped away from the disapproving tone, the explicit moralizing typical of popes and bishops," writes columnist James Carroll. Francis made that statement in July, in response to a reporter's question about the status of gay priests in the Church. In a new article about Francis in The New Yorker, Carroll describes the pope as having "unilaterally declared a kind of truce in the culture wars that have divided the Vatican and much of the world."

December 17 2013

07:22

A Humanist Take On Jesus’ Life And Meaning

Novelist and biographer Jay Parini takes on the still-unfolding story of Jesus.

An image of a young Jesus in the workshop of St. Joseph in a 1640s painting by Georges de La Tour. (Creative Commons)

An image of a young Jesus in the workshop of St. Joseph, from a 1640s-era painting by Georges de La Tour. (Creative Commons)

Guest

Jay Parini, professor of English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College in Vermont. Author of “Jesus: The Human Face Of God.” Also author of “The Passages of Herman Melville,” “The Apprentice Lover” and ‘The Last Station: A Novel Of Tolstoy’s Final Year.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The Daily Beast: Who Was Jesus, Anyway? – “Who was Jesus anyway? After twenty centuries, there is not much anyone can agree on. The four canonical gospels don’t measure up to modern standards of biographical writing, and—outside of this material—there is precious little contemporary evidence, apart from a few glancing mentions of Jesus or the movement centered on him. In truth, Jesus did not, in his own time, attract much notice.”

The New Yorker: Who Am I To Judge? – “‘Who am I to judge?’ With those five words, spoken in late July in reply to a reporter’s question about the status of gay priests in the Church, Pope Francis stepped away from the disapproving tone, the explicit moralizing typical of Popes and bishops. This gesture of openness, which startled the Catholic world, would prove not to be an isolated event. In a series of interviews and speeches in the first few months after his election, in March, the Pope unilaterally declared a kind of truce in the culture wars that have divided the Vatican and much of the world. Repeatedly, he argued that the Church’s purpose was more to proclaim God’s merciful love for all people than to condemn sinners for having fallen short of strictures, especially those having to do with gender and sexual orientation.”

CNN: Seeking The Truth About Jesus — “There are probably as many visions of Jesus, and versions, as there are Christians. Many regard him as their savior, the Son of God sent to Earth to save human beings from themselves. Others see him as a great teacher, a healer or rabbi of extraordinary power, a holy man or prophet who proposed a new covenant between heaven and earth. To some, he represents a new world order, an egalitarian society, a preacher of nonviolence who asked us to turn the other cheek.”

Read An Excerpt From “Jesus: The Human Face Of God” By Jay Parini

December 03 2013

22:25

Eric Lyman: ‘I Don't Think There's Anything Boilerplate About Pope Francis’

At the end of our Dec. 3 hour on poverty wages in America, we turned to Rome for a quick check-in on Pope Francisradical new apostolic exhortation that criticized the capitalist system, among other things. Freelance reporter Eric Lyman let us know that this statement is drawing attention from many quarters of the international media — ourselves included — for its unique take on economic issues.

“It’s the kind of document that most of the time doesn’t get a lot of attention because it deals with fairly esoteric or canonical or spiritual issues and in the mainstream press most folks don’t talk about it. But because there was this aspect, this sort of biting critique of capitalism, this one sure turned a lot of heads.”

The apostolic exhortation was long — more than 84 pages — and is almost a road map for the next steps of Pope Francis’ young papacy. But it wasn’t necessarily meant to change the global economic system, Lyman cautions.

“I don’t think that it was meant to be a kind of an economic treatise. A lot of the criticism of the Pope’s point of view in the European press has been to make an equivalence between him and Karl Marx, and I don’t think it was sort of meant to be a sort policy initiative that a minister of finance or central bank governor would adopt but I think he did want to cast some light on the growing disparity between the rich and poor, and point out some of the hypocrisy that’s involved in some religious institutions and people who claim to be religious, fostering this widening gap.”

Still, the Pope has made a lot of headline-generating moves in his eight-month tenure. It’s all part of the pope’s larger view on his role in the world, Lyman says.

“Well this pope — it’s a short papacy so far, only eight and a half months — but he hasn’t shied away from stating his point of view on a wide variety of issues, and certainly not just on economics, but on homosexuality within in the church, on women’s rights, on social justice,  on politics, on inter-religious dialogue with other faiths, and so on. I think that that this statement that he’s made here is attracting attention from a new corner, bit this fits into a wider point of view that the pope has, which is that he needs to be a kind of moral guidance for the world and for Christians and that touches on a lot of areas, including on economics.”

Pope Francis’ way of going about things makes him unique, however, Lyman says. His almost populist resonance echoes some pope’s from earlier in the 20th Century.

I don’t think there’s anything boilerplate about Pope Francis. I think he’s very original in the way he’s doing things. I don’t think he’s  doing anything for effect. I think he’s stating the things he believes. It’s true that in the recent past we haven’t thing anything like this before. Pope Benedict XVI, who was pope from 2005 to 2008, said nothing like this and it would have been as hypocritical if he had, because he was seen as very much in the old mold of the papacy, with a lot of opulence and so on. And John Paul in his waning years also was  unlikely to delve into such an area. But I think for a lot of people he recalls the early years of John Paul II’s papacy and even more so the very brief 33 day papacy of John Paul I in 1978. These were both natural populists as well as John XXIII in the 1960s, and this kind of resonance that those men had, and speaking of John Paul II, only in the early years of his papacy when he was much healthier.  I think Francis is tapping into some of that. But of course with a Latin American accent and his own personality stamp on it as well.”

Some European newspapers have taken offense at the Pope’s message, Lyman says (some American news-makers, too, it would seem).

“There was a serious piece that came in one of the Italian newspapers, Il Sole 24 Ore, the Italian equivalent of The Wall Street Journal, that criticized him for weighing in on things he didn’t understand and drawing parallels to Marxism.”

And there’s been debate over the place of more conservative Catholics in the changing church. Where could they fit in Pope Francis’ new way? Lyman says those Catholics still can see their views represented.

“I don’t know exactly what’s gonna happen because in many ways Pope Francis is still a conservative Catholic. He’s a Jesuit, he’s not any kind of a theological liberal on issues related to the church, such as the role of women. He’s not budged an inch on whether women would ever be ordained. You know he did famously say about gay Christians, ‘Who am I to judge?’ But he gave no indication that the church was gonna change its rules on that kind of thing. So I think that they have something to hold on to.”

What do you make of Pope Francis’ latest statement, and the future fo the Catholic Church? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook, Tumblr and @OnPointRadio.

15:00

Poverty Wages In America

Solving America’s low wage conundrum. Looking for a way up and out of the poverty wage trap. Plus

Low-wage America is a big country, and it’s not an easy place to live.  The nation’s grown a lot richer over the decades, but retail wages have fallen by almost a third. America’s minimum wage, as a percent of average pay, is now the lowest of any OECD country but Mexico.  We all know the stories of McDonalds and WalMart workers on food stamps.  It can make you feel guilty just buying a burger.  But what to do about it?  There’s a new push on to raise the minimum wage, even if just locally.  And then what? This hour On Point:  America’s low wage crisis, and what to do about it.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Reid Wilson, senior political policy blogger for The Washington Post. (@PostReid)

Jason Fichtner, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. (@JJFichtner)

David Cooper, economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. (@metaCoop)

Tiffany Beroid, 29-year-old married mother of two who works at a Wal-Mart in Laurel, MD.

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: Push for minimum wage hike led by localities, Democrats — ‘Efforts in Congress to raise the national minimum wage above $7.25 an hour have stalled. But numerous local governments — including those of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and the District — are forging ahead, in some cases voting to dramatically increase the pay of low-wage workers. The efforts, while supported by many unions, threaten to create a patchwork of wage rates that could mean workers in some areas will be entitled to vastly less than those working similar jobs nearby. The campaigns reach from coast to coast.’

Bloomberg Businessweek: What a Higher Minimum Wage Does for Workers and the Economy – “Raising the minimum wage is neither as wonderful as its advocates claim nor as dangerous as its detractors warn. On the upside, it would increase pay for millions of Americans, not only those earning the minimum but also those at fixed increments above it. These are people who could really use a raise. Contrary to what generations of students were taught in freshman econ, new research finds that minimum-wage increases at the state level have caused little, if any, harm to employment. ‘Outside of the simple Econ 101-type environment, increasing workers’ pay can improve the functioning of the low-wage labor market,’ Arindrajit Dube, a University of Massachusetts economist, testified before Congress in March.”

America: Francis’ Multi-faceted Reflection – “As has been amply reported and commented upon, Francis sees the need for a more diverse and less centralized and clericalized Church. He dreams of a poor Church living a fundamental option for the poor. He also critiques an economic system in which profit prevails over persons, violating their dignity and legitimate aspirations. Pope Francis has derived important elements of this pastoral vision from the writings of his predecessors mentioned above, upon which he gratefully and extensively draws. However, the powerful and personal synthesis and program is unmistakably his own.”

Pope Francis’ Anti-Capitalist Creedo

Eric LymanRome-based freelance writer who covers the Vatican for USA Today and the Religion News Service. (@EricJLyman)

The Washington Post: Pope Francis lays out a blueprint for his papacy in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ — “Francis blasted the ‘idolatry of money’ in the world financial system, which he called ‘an economy of exclusion and inequality.’ He also called on the church itself to work from the trenches: ‘I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confirmed and from clinging to its own security.’”

September 23 2013

04:38

Pope Francis Pushes For A Bigger Catholic Tent

A new kind of Pope. Pope Francis says let’s not obsess on gays and abortion. We look at where he may be taking the Catholic Church.

Guests

Manya Brachear-Pashman, religion reporter for the Chicago Tribune. (@tribseeker)

Damon Linker, contributing editor at The New Republic. Author of “The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege” and “The Religious Test: Why We Must Question the Beliefs of Our Leaders.” (@damonlinker)

R.R. Reno, editor of First Things magazine, a monthly journal of religion, culture and public life. He is a Catholic and a theological and political conservative. (@rr_reno)

From Tom’s Reading List

National Catholic Review: A Big Heart Open To God — “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be.”

Washington Post: In Interview, Pope Sets A New Direction For the Church — “While Francis spoke with remarkable openness about religious doubt and uncertainty (‘If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him.’), he said nothing that altered church teaching. Nonetheless, it was clear that he was setting a new direction for the church.  “He has not changed anything doctrinal,’ said Father James Martin, editor-at-large of America, the Jesuit magazine that published the interview in English. ‘But he is encouraging us to shift our priorities from hot button issues to God’s mercy.’”

The Dish: The Rebirth of Catholicism – “Faith is not in the head; it is in the soul and heart and body. It is our acting in the world, not our debating the finer parts of infallible doctrine in an ‘inverted funnel’. And look how Francis uses the term ‘infallible.’ He uses it not to refer to the papacy, but to the people of God, you and me, and not in terms of possession of the truth, but rather the open search for it.”

 

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