Is James Foley a Martyr?

Shawn St.Hilaire / Democrat Photo.

Bishop of Manchester, Peter Anthony Libasci, at a vigil on Aug. 23 for James Foley. Shawn St.Hilaire / Democrat Photo.

From the moment news broke that U.S. journalist James Foley had been beheaded by Islamic State extremists in the Middle East, many Christians, especially Foley’s fellow Catholics, began calling him a martyr, with some even saying he should be considered a saint.

Yet that characterization has left others uneasy, and the discussion is raising larger questions about what constitutes martyrdom.

Foley’s parents seemed to validate the martyrdom label when his father, John, spoke at an emotional news conference outside the family’s New Hampshire home and said he and his wife “believe he was a martyr.” Foley’s mother, Diane, added that her son “reminds us of Jesus. Jesus was goodness, love — and Jim was becoming more and more that.”

In an interview two days later with Katie Couric, Foley’s younger brother, Michael, recounted how Pope Francis had called the family to console them and in their conversation “referred to Jim’s act as, really, martyrdom.”

Numerous commentators had already picked up on that idea, holding Foley up not only as a witness to the Christian faith but as a spur for believers in the West to take more seriously the plight of Christians in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East who are being persecuted to a degree that some say is comparable to genocide.

But in the Catholic Church, determining whether someone is a martyr is not so easy. Historically, two conditions must be met.

James Foley’s Parents Draw on Faith After Journalist Son’s Execution

Video courtesy of USA Today.

They’ve done this before.

Once again, John and Diane Foley appeared on national television Wednesday to speak in clear and deliberate voices about their son, conflict journalist James Foley — only this time, it wasn’t to plead for his release from captors but to hail him as a hero who wanted to help people and to thank the public for the outpouring of support that has flooded in since officials confirmed a videotaped beheading of their son was authentic.

Standing in front of the family home in Rochester, N.H., John Foley told reporters in the kind of voice of strength he and his wife have displayed over the years, “We’ve been through this before. Let ‘er rip.”

In years past, the Foleys have taken to television to draw attention to the cause of their son, who was abducted in November 2012 in Syria and also held captive for 44 days in 2011 after being captured in Libya.

Account after account describes the Foleys as determined, faithful Roman Catholics. After their son disappeared in 2012, they launched the website to serve as a clearinghouse for information that might lead to his release. In October 2013, they joined Today’s Matt Lauer to wish their still-captive son a happy 40th birthday and to keep his cause alive. Even when interviewers noted that Foley’s career took him to many volatile places, his father was quick to defend him.

Anderson Cooper to Andrew Sullivan: "The Fact Is, I'm Gay."

In an email interview with his longtime friend and fellow journalism colleague, Andrew Sullivan, on The Daily Beast, CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke out publicly today for the first time about his sexual orientation.

"... [W]hile as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.

"The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.

"I have always been very open and honest about this part of my life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues. In a perfect world, I don't think it's anyone else's business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted. I’m not an activist, but I am a human being and I don't give that up by being a journalist."

Read the post in its entirety HERE.

Image: Anderson Cooper by Joe Seer/Shutterstock

Mike Wallace of '60 Minutes' Has Died

Veteran television newsman Mike Wallace died Saturday night, surrounded by family in a long-term care facility in New Haven, Conn., CBS News announced Sunday. Mr. Wallace was 93.

According to the Huffington Post:

Mr. Wallace had been ill for years. Bob Scheiffer revealed the circumstances of his death on "Face the Nation," after Charles Osgood broke the news of Wallace's death on "CBS News Sunday Morning."

Wallace was one of the original hosts and correspondents of "60 Minutes." He was a trailblazer, known for confronting his subjects and originating the newsmagazine format. His style became standard for television news.

On Sunday, Schieffer and Morley Safer paid tribute to Wallace on "Face the Nation." The show opened with a memorial piece about the newsman, in which Safer recalled Wallace's defiant spirit.

"There will never be another one quite like him," said Schieffer, who teared up when he introduced the segment. He called Wallace a "mentor," and recalled that he "even gave [him] a compliment, once."

KONY 2012: Who's Telling the Story?

Joseph Kony. Photo by Adam Pletts/Getty Images.

Joseph Kony, head of the Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, in a rare public appearance, 2006. Photo by Adam Pletts/Getty Images.

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

So begins the Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 video that recently went viral. And yet, I would perhaps change this opening quote to say something like, “Nothing is more powerful than the stories by which we construct our identities,” because these stories determine who you believe you are and how you believe you can engage in the world and with others.

Powerful. Potentially dangerous. Always in some way failing in it’s accuracy and exclusive to someone else. Even with our best intentions.

Anthony Shadid, 1968-2012

Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Anthony Shadid files a report by moonlinght in Iraq, 2003. Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Late last Thursday evening, getting one final fix of news before going to bed, I saw it. Anthony Shadid, the New York Times correspondent and Beirut bureau chief, had died from an asthma attack while ending a clandestine reporting trip into Syria. He apparently suffered the attack in a reaction to horses being used by smugglers helping him and a photographer leave the country.

When you read the news as much as I do, you learn which bylines to look for if you want the most comprehensive and well-written coverage of a story. Mr. Shadid was one of those correspondents.

In a career that included stints with the Associated Press, Boston Globe, Washington Post, and The Times; Mr. Shadid covered one of the most dangerous parts of the world — the Middle East. He was shot in the West Bank in 2002, kidnapped and beaten in Libya in 2011. He won two Pulitzer Prizes, in 2004 and 2010, for his reporting on the Iraq war; and has been nominated by The Times for a 2012 prize.

Troy Davis: Will Georgia Execute an Innocent Man Next Week?

So what makes the Troy Davis case stand out from most other death penalty cases?

Serious doubt.

Not about whether the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for Davis or has been correctly applied.

The doubt raised in Davis' case is whether he committed the crime at all. And those questions about his guilt have prompted hundreds of thousands of people to raise their voices in opposition to his execution, most recently former FBI Director William Sessions who, in an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday, called on the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Davis' sentence to life in prison.

Coming Home From Killing

The recent British film In Our Name is a returning-soldier drama featuring a married woman, Suzy, who leaves her husband and little girl to fight in Iraq. Because she's involved in the killing of a little girl during her tour-this part is based on a true story, but it happened to a man -- she returns home only to steadily fall apart under the stress of soul-destroying anxieties.