First Things RSS Feed - James D. Conley
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60Pray for Those Who Persecute Youhttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/07/pray-for-those-who-persecute-you
Tue, 21 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400Like most people, I was appalled by the exposé of Planned Parenthood released last week by the Center for Medical Progress. Caught on video, Planned Parenthood’s senior medical director callously discusses the harvest and transfer of tiny hearts, lungs, and livers. She discusses where and how to “crush” unborn bodies with forceps in order to leave the marketable organs intact, and she assesses the monetary value of those organs. She explains the best methods by which to decapitate a small human being. The footage is sickening; the transcript is even worse.
Ubi Amor, Ibi Oculushttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/03/ubi-amor-ibi-oculus
Sun, 15 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0400 The following essay is adapted from remarks given at NYU’s Catholic Center as part of the Thomistic Institute’s “The Art of the Beautiful” Lecture Series. The remarks in their entirety can be read here.
]]>Mary’s Most Loyal Childrenhttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/08/celebrating-the-assumption-with-christians-in-the-east
Fri, 15 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0400 The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a solemn feast day and a holy day of obligation that we celebrate each year on August 15th, is the Church’s most ancient Marian feast. Christians living in Jerusalem celebrated the “dormition of Mary” (Mary’s going to sleep) from at least the third centurygathering in Palestine to remember the Mother of God, and to honor her as queen of heaven and earth.
]]>Clearing the Watershttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/04/clearing-the-waters
Fri, 25 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0400
I had the privilege of working for Blessed John Paul II for nine years. As a young priest, I worked in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, and my boss, or perhaps my boss’s boss, was Pope John Paul II.
]]>Our Pop Culture Moment https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/02/our-pop-culture-moment
Mon, 03 Feb 2014 00:05:00 -0500On my coffee table, I have a book of classic rock
postersfrom The Who, to Led Zeppelin, to Nirvana, Metallica, and the Grateful
Dead. The book was given to me by a
brother bishop who knows that, in my earlier years, I listened to many of those
]]>Fulfilling Our Prophetic Missionhttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/10/fulfilling-our-prophetic-mission
Sat, 19 Oct 2013 00:00:00 -0400 The following remarks were delivered October 18, 2013 at the “Life, Dignity, and Disability: A Faith That Welcomes” conference, Omaha, Nebraska.
Mon, 04 Jul 2011 03:12:00 -0400 G. K. Chesterton said famously that America is a nation with the soul of a church. And he believed the Declaration of Independence formed the substance of our national soul.
But as we celebrate this Fourth of July, we need to recognize that some of the deepest problems in our public life can be traced to our collective neglect of Americas great founding document.
The Declaration establishes our common self-identity as Americans. It tells us that we are one nation under God, a people who believe that all men and women have God-given rights. It tells us that government exists for no other purpose than to defend and promote these rights. All this we find in the Declarations preamble, which still has the power to stir us.
Americas founders never intended to establish a religious government, let alone a theocracy.
In fact, just the opposite. They specifically disallowed any state-sanctioned religion. Yet the government they did establish was founded on theistic, if not explicitly Christian, principles.
Many observers have identified a deep Christian influence in Americas founding documents”including such luminaries as Chesterton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jacques Maritain, John Courtney Murray, Martin Luther King Jr., and Blessed John Paul II.
Others see more the hand of the Enlightenments philosophical Deism at work.
Whatever its precise Christian pedigree, it cannot be denied that our government was founded upon a belief that human rights come from God, not governments, and that the world is in the hands of what the Declaration called Natures God and the Supreme Judge of the World.
It is true: the Constitution that Americas founders would later draft makes no mention of God. It is also true that this Constitution denies full rights to slaves and women.
But the Declarations belief in the divine origin of the human person is everywhere presumed. And throughout American history, this belief has served as a goad to the conscience, inspiring reforms and renewal in almost every generation. It has ensured that injustice, cowardice, and political expediency do not have to have the final word in our public affairs.
The Constitution and Declaration together form the great wells of democracy that express the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, King wrote in his
Letter from the Birmingham Jail.
Americas founders also shared a belief that religion mattered”not only for the private welfare of individuals but also for the commonweal. Charles Carroll, the Declarations only Catholic signatory, put it succinctly in a letter to James McHenry, a signer of the Constitution:
]]>In Defense of the Popehttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2010/04/in-defense-of-the-pope
Thu, 08 Apr 2010 11:20:00 -0400 Over these past few weeks a flurry of stories have appeared in the media regarding clergy sexual abuse and its mishandling by Catholic bishops and even the pope himself. Much of this information is dated. The fact that these stories were triggered in part by an attorney with a long and lucrative financial history of litigating the Catholic community and were pressed with such enthusiasm by editors during Holy Week”and in particular on Good Friday”could hardly have been a coincidence.
Sexual abuse of children cries to heaven for justice. It violates everything that is good and holy. It mocks everything Christ said in the gospels. Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to the innocence of a little child. And for a Catholic priest to commit a crime and a sin like this is profoundly evil.
But sexual abuse is not uniquely or even predominantly a Catholic problem. It is a sickness widespread in our culture and also a global problem. Most studies indicate that in the United States as much as 60 percent of all sexual abuse of minors takes place within families.
It’s certainly true that some Catholic priests perpetrated this evil on the innocent in years past. And too many Catholic bishops ignored or failed to grasp the gravity of this crime in addressing the problem. These men are gravely accountable to God for their actions.
But no other community or institution has examined itself on this painful issue as rigorously as the Catholic Church. No other group has put into place zero tolerance policies for sexual abuse and created safe environment programs like the Catholic Church in America, to the point where the Church is one of the most secure environments anywhere for children and young people.
And no person has done more to rid the Church of the evil of sexual abuse than the current successor of St. Peter, Benedict XVI. As archbishop of Munich thirty years ago, then as the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and now as the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict has always been dedicated to his responsibilities of purifying the Church in this area.
I served as an official in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops for ten years. In that capacity, I worked alongside then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who was a member of our Congregation. During my last year in Rome I served under the same good man after his election as pope. I learned from direct, first-hand experience that Benedict XVI is truly a man of God, a gift to the Church and a shepherd after the heart of the Good Shepherd.
Benedict XVI named me a bishop in April 2008. As a brother bishop to the bishop of Rome, it pains my heart and should wound the heart of all Catholics, to see the vindictive way he has been treated in the media. The editorial cartoons, the opinion pieces, the vicious attacks on his person and reputation, the disinformation and twisting of facts”all these abuses against responsible press freedom have been repugnant.
No other world religious leader, Jewish, Muslim or other, would be treated in this way. Contempt for the Catholic Church”and don’t be fooled; the contempt is directed not just at Church leaders, but at ordinary believers as well”no matter how vulgar or bitter, is the last acceptable prejudice. Why? Because the Catholic Church is one of the few remaining voices that speaks effectively against the moral confusion of our day. The Catholic faith does not and will not bless the damaging moral path some people now seem to prefer.
Let me close with the words of Benedict from his Holy Thursday Chrism Mass in Rome: