Pope Francis portrait, DeepGreen / Shutterstock.com
Next week, Pope Francis is scheduled to release “Laudato Sii” (“Praised be You”), his eagerly anticipated encyclical (authoritative teaching document) on the environment.
I have never seen such excitement – and controversy – surrounding an encyclical. It speaks to the extraordinary global presence Francis has achieved in a relatively short period of time. This feels to me like one of those rare moments when the Message and the Messenger can combine to change the world in a very significant way.
It was a devastating weekend for black people in America.
On Friday, a white police officer pulled his gun at a pool party and assaulted a 15-year old black girl who cried for her mom in McKinney, Texas. On Saturday, a young black man committed suicide in his parents’ home in the Bronx after being held without trial at Rikers Island for three years (nearly two in solitary confinement), accused of stealing a backpack — a charge that prosecutors ultimately dropped. On Sunday evening, hotel security officers profiled four young black organizers from Baltimore in the lobby of the Congress Plaza Hotel at the conclusion of The Justice Conference.
Pope Francis speaks with young people in Sarajevo, on June 6, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / RNS
Pope Francis has approved the first-ever system for judging, and possibly deposing, bishops who fail to protect children from abusive clerics, a major step in responding to Catholics who have been furious that guilty priests have been defrocked while bishops have largely escaped punishment.
The five-point plan on accountability for bishops originated with the special sex abuse commission that Francis set up to deal with the ongoing crisis, and after some modifications, his nine–member Council of Cardinals signed off on it and Francis gave his final blessing to it on June 10.
Pope Francis greets Ken Hackett, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. Photo by Paul Haring / Catholic News Service / RNS
In the wake of international criticism over Moscow’s role in ongoing violence in Ukraine, the U.S. on June 10 called on Pope Francis to take a stronger stance on the conflict in his meeting with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.
“We think they could say something more about concern on territorial integrity, those type of issues,” U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth F. Hackett, told journalists in Rome ahead of Putin’s arrival.
The fight for the preservation of black and brown lives, that took unexpectedly deep roots in Ferguson and has now spread across nations, was a fight many of our students quickly came to lead, and folks like me have followed.
But many of these young people are not Christian, and frankly, the perception that local congregations lackadaisically approached this movement before it became a national headline — and brought a healthy, condescending dose of respectability politics and patriarchy along with their eventual involvement — is not making most of the millennial set excited about the prospects of salvation.
But local faith leaders like Rev. Traci Blackmon and Rev. Starsky Wilson, and others raised in faith like my friend Rich McClure and me, have clung to the radical example of Christ that guides our collective and individual action.
President Kgalema Motlanthe, Jim Wallis, and Denis Goldberg. Photo by Tom Getman
I was privileged to co-host with former colleagues the visit of former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, an ex-convict from the apartheid era. He served 10 years in prison for the “treasonous” act of standing against the Afrikaans Nationalist regime, along with Nelson Mandela and 1000s of others who spent many years on Robben Island or in Pretoria Central Prison. Many died in the process. President Motlanthe was accompanied by Denis Goldberg, who was convicted along with Mandela and served 22 years. Nicholas Wolpe, the facilitator of the trip, is a cousin of the late Congressman Howard Wolpe. Nic’s father would have been one of the Rivonia accused at the trial in 1963-4 but for having made a daring famous escape with several other comrades.
Essentially, when Voices members go to Kabul, our “work” is to listen to and learn from our hosts and take back their stories of war to the relatively peaceful lands whose actions had brought that war down upon them. Before we'd even departed, the news from Afghanistan was already quite grim. Several dozen people were dead in fighting between armed groups. There was a Kabul hotel attack on international businessmen the week before. We earnestly wrote our friends with a last-minute offer to stay away, in hopes that we wouldn't make them targets of the violence. “Please come,” our friends wrote us. So we're here.
McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley at a June 7 news conference. Via McKinney PD Facebook page.
McKinney, Texas police officer Eric Casebolt — whose recorded response to a disturbance call at a community pool party on Friday went viral, sparking national outrage about the force used against black teens — resigned from the police force on Tuesday. Police Chief Greg Conley said Tuesday evening that Casebolt was “out of control” and his actions were “indefensible.”
“He came into the call out of control and as the video shows was out of control during the incident,” Conley said, adding, “I had 12 officers on scene and 11 of them performed according to their training. They did an excellent job.”
The 10-year veteran of the McKinney Police Department was placed on administrative leave Sunday after a 7-minute video of the incident at a Craig Ranch community pool gained traction on the Internet. That clip has now been viewed almost 9.5 million times.
The footage shows Cpl. Casebolt, who is white, aggressively responding to the disturbance call, using profane language with black teenagers, unholstering his service weapon and pointing it toward the unarmed teens, and restraining a 15-year-old girl in a swimsuit by forcing her to the ground and placing his knee on her back.
The sixth annual Blessing of the Bikes at Toronto’s Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church on June 7, 2015. Photo via Ron Csillag/RNS
It was the sixth annual Blessing of the Bikes at the downtown church — a type of local event that has become more common as a growing number of churches consider the idea that protecting the environment is not just a scientific or political debate, but a spiritual one.
The movement has grown in the past decade and crosses denominations. An “Evangelical Climate Initiative” issued in 2006 has been signed by hundreds of religious leaders, and the Vatican held a one-day summit in late April to “elevate the debate on the moral dimensions of protecting the environment.” Pope Francis is preparing this summer to issue an encyclical — one of the most authoritative church documents — framing climate change action as a moral and religious imperative.