Monday, September 30, 2013

Pope Francis and The Disposable Garment

By Bishop John Wester

Pope John Paul II, to be canonized on April 27 by Pope Francis, was one of many people who've decried a "culture of death" in recent decades. The description was warranted, but Catholics also believe that natural death is a part of life and can be beautiful and dignified.

So Pope Francis offers an alternative view, in which the problem isn't so much death as it is "a culture of waste," in which everything, even human beings, are treated as disposable commodities when they are no longer "useful." Pope Francis tied this mentality to throwing away excess food at his June 5 general audience and later on Twitter, saying that "throwing food away is like stealing it from the poor and hungry." He revisited the "throwaway culture" July 22, en route to Brazil for World Youth Day, this time using the term in reference to society's treatment of young people. He invoked it yet again on September 20, regarding abortion.

The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago brought together disparate voices in the Church by showing how our teachings fit together in one "seamless garment." Pope Francis offers the flip side, how the Church's teachings fit together even when the world ignores them. "Pope says wasting food is a sin" may make for entertaining headlines, but it misses the genius of the cohesive Catholic vision Pope Francis offers the world, of how much Catholic teaching can be encapsulated in this "disposable garment."

It applies to how we relate to:
  • The poor, who have been a focus of Francis' pontificate, explicitly mentioned by the pope as those excluded from society at a local, national and global level.
  • The unborn, whether they are destroyed in the name of convenience or personal freedom with abortion or in the name of scientific progress with embryonic stem cell research.
  • The elderly, sick and disabled, when voices in our society suggest that physician assisted suicide ought to be the law of the land because some lives just aren't worth living.
  • Immigrants, who have been treated as a convenient source of menial labor, but have not been recognized by society or rewarded for their contributions.
  • Workers, who are not a means to an end, profit, but people deserving of a living wage and whose work deepens their sense of human worth.
  • The imprisoned, who are easier to write off and forget, or even dispose of altogether, than to rehabilitate and restore. Pope Francis showed us, through the gesture of washing feet, that these people are still to be loved and supported.
  • The environment, not a commodity to be used up as we please, but something precious, created by God and left in our care.
  • Young people: as Pope Francis has explicitly pointed out, young people are the future, and yet society perpetuates circumstances in which they cannot find jobs and face crushing educational debt.
  • Our relationships: Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has spoken frequently of a vocations crisis, not just in the priesthood, but in marriage. Many people treat their marriages as disposable, not as lifelong commitments. Fewer people are bothering to get married at all. News stories profile "hook-up culture" on college campuses in place of young people pursuing lasting relationships.
  • The Internet: Whether it's pornography, a news story or even a meme, the Internet provides endless opportunities to use people as disposable pleasure objects, laugh derisively at them, yell at them or otherwise dismiss them. Digital technology can build up human interconnectivity like never before. It also allows us to demean on a dizzying scale, whether by perpetuating the "rape culture" that trivializes violence toward women or through a political discourse built on demonizing people. Which brings us to...
  • People who are different from us: whether it's unrest in places like Syria and Egypt, conflict between countries or our own discourse, people of different cultures, countries, religions and points of view deserve our respect, not acts of intolerance and violence that degrade or even eliminate them.
  • Our vocations, both religious, personal and professional: Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told members of the Catholic Press in 2012 that a new problem exists in the world today: "people have forgotten how to dream." People have lost the sense that God has a plan for every person. We are not here to waste time, but to pursue the vocation that makes us ever more the person that God intends us to be.
Benedict XVI frequently emphasized all the Church says yes to, because Christianity ultimately is a positive proposition of God loving every person and drawing the entire world to himself through Jesus. For Pope Francis, this means saying yes to a "culture of encounter." To overcome a throwaway culture, every person must go out into the world, encounter other people as more than commodities, and learn to treat everyone with the dignity they deserve. For Catholics, this pervades the teachings of our Church and is fundamental to our ability to encounter Jesus Christ.

Bishop Wester is bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City and chairman of the Communications Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

Five Things to Remember September 30

1. Pope Francis announced that Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized April 27, 2014 in Rome. Learn more about the historic announcement.

2. Learn how the two soon-to-be-saints were alike and different on our blog.

3. In a statement marking Respect Life Month, October 2013, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston exhorted Catholics to “engage others and share the truth about human life.” Cardinal O’Malley, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the USCCB, addressed various threats to human life and the need to entrust pro-life efforts to prayer.

4. The USCCB believes better understanding comes when we can see the world as others do. Paulist Father Ron Roberson, associate director of the USCCB's Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs addresses this subject in the video below.

5. God loves you.

Journal of a Soul

By Father John Crossin, OSFS

Rereading Pope John XXIII’s Journal of a Soul decades after its initial appearance in 1965 can be a transforming experience. One encounter with a saint can change us. But reading the saint’s personal reflections from his earliest days as a teenage ‘seminarist’ until a few months before his death presents numerous opportunities to pause, pray and compare our own spiritual journey to his.

Angelo Roncalli’s early daily entries in his spiritual journal show his lifelong dedication to the pursuit of holiness. They also show that he was a beginner, as much concerned with accomplishing the spiritual exercises as with their content. Extended spiritual reflections on the Scriptures and on the points made at his yearly retreat come later. This is exactly what we might expect. Most likely we have experienced these steps on the spiritual journey ourselves.

I should note that Pope John was very dedicated to his spiritual exercises, to having a structure of prayer. This is an important discipline he pursued throughout his life. He celebrated the Eucharist and was devoted to Christ; he examined his conscience daily; he liked to pray the rosary; and he made a yearly retreat. His piety was deeply rooted in the Catholicism of his times. I believe that these deep spiritual roots enabled him to see the contemporary situation clearly and to become an agent of necessary renewal in the church.

A number of constants stand out:

· He was a man who lived the joy characteristic of the Christian.

· He practiced humility throughout his life, for example as he persevered in difficult diplomatic assignments.

· He believed in “waiting on God” rather than acting impulsively.

· He sought to imitate the saints and often called upon their assistance.

· One of his ongoing favorites was the patron of my religious community, St. Francis de Sales. “I have read his life so many times. ....By the light of his example, I feel more inclined towards humility, gentleness and calm,” he said.

I find some of Pope John’s difficulties consoling as well. He was distracted in prayer; he was disquieted in not being able to keep up on all he had to do; he kept falling into the same faults. He saw himself, even towards the end of his life, as a sinner. But he also saw himself as a person who asks for forgiveness regularly, relies on God‘s mercy, and is preparing for eternity.

I found that in working my way through John XXIII’s writing that his tranquility of spirit was transferring to me. “He who is always in a hurry, even in the business of the church, never gets very far,” he said. I am praying that this peaceful spirit remain with me.

After reading Journal of a Soul, I realize why I never finished reading it the first time. I stopped at the point where I could not relate to his reflections. I didn’t have enough experience and understanding to grasp what he was talking about. Now I can compare my experience to his—and learn from his wisdom.

His wise judgment, rooted in his deep faith, prepared the way for the Second Vatican Council. Through this joyful and humble man, the Holy Spirit set the Church on a new path.


Father John W. Crossin is an Oblate of St. Francis DeSales and executive director of the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

John Paul II and the Culture of Life

By Kim Daniels

“Be not afraid!” were Karol Wojtyla’s first words as Pope John Paul II, a fitting opening to a papacy that would confidently engage the world, unafraid to proclaim the Gospel even at its most countercultural.

And perhaps nothing was more countercultural than Blessed John Paul’s consistent efforts to promote a culture of life. He reminded us that we aren’t called to accommodate ourselves to our tired and often isolating culture, but to bring that culture the good news that there’s a life-affirming alternative. He challenged us to witness to the fullness of our faith, as in these words in 1998 to American bishops visiting Rome:

“Today I believe the Lord is saying to us all: do not hesitate, do not be afraid to engage the good fight of the faith (cf. I Tim 6:12). When we preach the liberating message of Jesus Christ we are offering the words of life to the world. Our prophetic witness is an urgent and essential service not just to the Catholic community but to the whole human family.”

Amidst a culture that valorizes the powerful, the wealthy, and the “successful,” John Paul called on us to stand with the voiceless and vulnerable wherever we encounter them. And he reminded us that no one is more voiceless and vulnerable than the unborn and the elderly, and that in our culture, "the right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death" (Evangelium Vitae,18). Because “human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable,” “procured abortion and euthanasia are absolutely unacceptable. Not only must human life not be taken, but it must be protected with loving concern.” (EV, 81).

For a culture of life to take root, in other words, we must work towards a culture of love as well. We’re called to stand up for the dignity of all, especially the weakest among us: for unborn children and for their mothers; for the elderly and the sick; for all those without a voice. John Paul appealed to us “to work to ensure that justice and solidarity will increase and that a new culture of human life will be affirmed, for the building of an authentic civilization of truth and love.” (EV, 6)

This message is taking root. Young people, having seen their own sonogram pictures, are increasingly pro-life. The March for Life attracts hundreds of thousands to Washington each year, and it’s becoming widely recognized that those who stand for life are winning hearts and minds. Networks of pregnancy care centers offer material, emotional, and spiritual support to women in need, standing with them when too often no one else will.

Pope Francis has offered his own powerful witness to building a culture of life. Here’s then-Cardinal Bergoglio on standing with unborn children and their mothers:

"In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptize the children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the sanctity of marriage," Cardinal Bergoglio told his priests. "These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it's baptized!"

This is a model for answering Blessed John Paul’s call to build a culture of life today: by offering the love of Jesus to all those we encounter, welcoming and caring for each and every one, especially the voiceless and vulnerable.


Kim Daniels is spokesperson for Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

John XXIII and JPII: Two Saintly Points on the Church's Trajectory

It's easy to note the distinctions between John XXIII (1958-1963) and John Paul II (1978-2005), two popes we now know will be canonized on April 27, 2014.
John XXIII was the good-humored roly poly son of Italian peasants; John Paul II was the handsome, sturdy Polish athlete and actor. John XXIII's brief pontificate "opened the windows" and sparked the most sweeping reforms in the modern history of the Church; John Paul II's quarter century on Peter's chair saw a highly visible pontiff playing a part in the fall of Communism and calling for a strident defense of Catholic teaching in the face of secular culture.

But these aren't so much differences as a reflection on how God gives us different gifts for different times. And what unites these two popes is how they both played critical roles at two different points on one trajectory: the Church in the modern world. We can see this is numerous areas:

Travel: John Paul II will always be remembered for his record-shattering
globetrotting, going on nearly 200 trips over 26 years, pioneering World Youth Day and bringing the papacy to nearly every corner of the globe. But it was John XXIII who first broke the practice of the pope as "prisoner of the Vatican," which had endured for decades. While he never traveled outside Italy as pope, John rode the rails from Rome to Assisi to pray for the success of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis has already followed the lead of JPII with his memorable time in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day. He's also traveling to Assisi in early October to pray for the success of a new round of Church reforms.

Laws and teachings: When John XXIII made his surprise announcement on January 25, 1959, at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, he not only called for an ecumenical, but also for a synod for the Diocese of Rome and a revision to the 1917 Code of Canon Law. John would live to open the Council on October 11, 1962, but the revised Code of Canon Law would not be promulgated till nearly 20 years after his death, on January 25, 1983. In both cases, the Council and the Code, John and John Paul fit the respective roles of instigator and codifier.

Other Christians: Well before Vatican II issued its degree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, in 1964, John XXIII had begun the thaw between the Catholic Church and other Christians. His jovial manner made him a natural at this, and in terms of rhetoric, he replaced "heretics and schismatics" with "our separated brethren" when referring to Christians who'd been divided from the Catholic Church for centuries or, in the case of the Eastern Orthodox, a millennium. Representatives of these groups were invited as official observers to the Council, and one of the long range goals of Vatican II was to promote Christian unity. John Paul II made a major contribution to the cause with his 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint, in which he invited non-Catholic Christians to dialogue with him about how the ministry of the pope could be exercised in a way that promoted unity between them.

Other religions: The good will surrounding the Council didn't stop with other Christians, of course. Its final document, Nostra Aetate (1965), affirmed the good of numerous world religions, including the Catholic Church's special relationship with the Jewish people. John XXIII had pushed for such a declaration. In his short pontificate, he had stunned a Jewish delegation by telling them, "I am Joseph, your brother," and removed language offensive to Jews from the Good Friday prayers. John Paul II made the first official papal visit to a synagogue in 1986 and, the same year, led a historic interfaith day of prayer in Assisi for world peace.

Communications and Charisma: Finally, both John XXIII and John Paul II exemplified how the personality of a pope can work wonders in spreading the Gospel in the mass communications age, whether at the dawn of the television era or spanning a time from the rise of cable news to the advent of the Internet and social media. Both men showed the world the face of a loving universal pastor. Now, in canonizing both men, Pope Francis is affirming the journey the Church has taken over the last 50 years and holding up two distinct, yet complementary models of holiness as we journey into the future.

(Photo of John XXIII CNS File Photo, photo of John Paul II CNS Photo/Joe Rinkus Jr.)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 27

1.Pope Francis says, "You cannot know Jesus in first class."

2. Invoking Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, released September 24, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, called upon members of the U.S. House of Representatives to begin consideration of comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

3. Because "engagement will do more than isolation to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering," the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace reiterated a call to lift the U.S. embargo against Cuba. In a September 26 letter to National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, said the move would allow support and assistance to flow to ordinary Cubans.

4. Why are Catholics are encouraged to work with other faiths? Father Crossin explains why in this video.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 26

1. Catholic News Service takes you inside the life a mother and family in need and how Catholic outreach services have aided them during tough times. Read their story and watch the video below.

2. During the next few weeks we will be sharing videos about why the Catholic Church reaches out to other faiths. You can watch all of those videos on our Youtube channel.

3. To honor the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, for the third year in a row, we’ll post a photo album of people's pets on October 4 on our English and Spanish Facebook pages. St. Francis is the patron of animals, and parishes across the country celebrate his feast with animal blessings. Send a picture of your pet to by September 30 with the subject line “pet photo.” We've received many photos already.

4. Pope Francis seems to be keeping to a Rule of Three when he speaks.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 25

1. The Pope continued his trend of talking about the ills of gossip today in a General Audience address in Rome.

2. The USCCB Committee on Divine Worship is marking the fiftieth anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, with a reflection on the liturgical reform of the last half century.

3. Like anyone else, a priest has to work at making time to work out and exercise.

4. October is Respect Life Month and you can see the many USCCB materials available for the month's efforts in English and Spanish.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 24

1. Pope Francis has named Bishop Bernard Hebda of Gaylord, Michigan, 54, coadjutor archbishop for the Archdiocese of Newark. As coadjutor archbishop, he is in line to succeed Archbishop John Myers of Newark, who is 72, upon his retirement.

2. Catholic News Service says, "Pope Francis likes to boil most of his talks down to three bullet points." Learn how and why this happens in a great informative blog.

3. The USCCB continues to encourage Catholics in the U.S. to call for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.

4. CNS also looks at the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council of Social Communications and the state of church communications today in the video below.

5.God loves you.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 23

1. Cardinal O'Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston will be one of eight Cardinals selected to help Pope Francis reform the curia in the Vatican next month. Catholic News Service asked Cardinal O'Malley his expectations. He reportedly smiled and said: "I don't know. Obviously, there's been many surprises in the last few months, and I think there'll be more of the same."

2. Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Sam Jacobs, 75, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, and named Auxiliary Bishop Shelton Fabre of New Orleans, 49, to succeed him.

3. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, gave their strong support for the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 3133) introduced Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Raúl Labrador.

4. Catholics are heeding the call to be evangelizers online. Have you seen this video?

5. God loves you.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 20

1. America Magazine's interview with Pope Francis lead to international discussion. USCCB president Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in his capacity as Archbishop of New York, reacted with a statement Thursday. 

2. The Catholic Church and the USCCB continue to push for a peaceful resolution in Syria. See all our of resources on the current crisis. 

3. If you're wondering who the reporter was behind America Magazine's interview with Pope Francis, you can see him and Pope Francis together, thanks to News,va.

4. The HHS mandate has many complicated issues and Cardinal Timothy Dolan spoke with reporters last week to provide the latest updates.

5. God loves you.

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 19

1. People around the world are talking about Pope Francis' revealing interview in America Magazine, where he speaks about the Church, prayer and many issues.

2. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, media relations director for the USCCB, says the interview is, "An extraordinary moment in journalism."

3. Catholics are offering their thoughts on what Pope Francis said in the interview on the USCCB Facebook page.

4. Father Matt Malone, SJ, editor of America Magazine, explains how the Pope Francis interview came together.

5. God loves you.

Pope Francis: An Exclusive, America Magazine’s Coup

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

An extraordinary moment in journalism. That’s the only way to describe the September 30 issue of America Magazine, completely given over to an interview with Pope Francis. It can be accessed online at

How the Jesuits sat on this interview, done over three days in August, is amazing in the nothing’s-a-secret-world of Wikileaks. As I read the interview, I kept saying, “Wow! This is incredible.” I wanted to call someone to tell them what I was reading. I saw an ad for the National Religious Retirement Collection in the pages and thought, “Lucky them. Here’s an issue to advertise in!” This is a best seller and award-winner. I hope America editor Father Matt Malone, SJ, and his colleagues did a serious print overrun.

Today’s leaders often say they want to speak without a filter. Well, Pope Francis has done it in this 12,000-word interview. We read the questions posed by the editor of “Civiltá Cattolica,” an Italian Jesuit publication that carries Vatican approval. The interview is a joint venture by the two periodical

A palpable profundity and humanness come through the interview. It also is comprehensible, especially for something that borders on a papal document. We glimpse the man Jorge Bergolio – who likes writers we’ve also read: Dostoevsky and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and seen movies we’ve seen like Fellini’s “La Strada.”

He needs community, being with people. It’s why he joined the Jesuits and why he lives in a Vatican residence instead of the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis describes himself as a sinner loved by a merciful God. He thinks he might be naïve. He’s made mistakes: said he was too autocratic as a Jesuit provincial superior when he was only 36 and when he couldn’t be bothered to consult. People thought he was right-wing. He’s not, he says. He’s learned. “It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that caused problems.” Now he wants to change the way consistories of cardinals and synods bishops work.

He uses metaphor to present the church’s mission of mercy and healing. “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.”

He shows the passion of pastor. “I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else – God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

And there’s more.

“Pope Francis: The Exclusive Interview” is a journalistic gold mine. It may stand as “America Magazine’s greatest moment in its 104 years of publishing, a tribute to the Jesuits and the Catholic press and journalism overall.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 18

1. During a Mass for Consolation and Healing in Washington a day after the Navy Yard shooting, Cardinal Donald Wuerl said, "Somehow we need, once again, in our country, in our land, in our nation, to foster that healing that comes only when we recognize there is a right and a wrong, that we are not free to kill."

2. Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert H. Brom, 75, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of San Diego, and named Co-Adjutor Bishop Cirilo B. Flores, 65, to assume pastoral governance of the diocese.

3. The USCCB is leading the effort to raise awareness for conscience rights in the workplace. For Catholics who participate in vital services for the poor and sick, but don't want to violate tenets of their faith in order to do their job.

4. Have you visited It's a great resource and digital safety guide for families as they work with their children online.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 17

1. The U.S. bishops continue to study the legal and moral implications of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate in the Affordable Care Act, and to “develop avenues of response that would both preserve our strong unity and protect our consciences,” Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said in a September 17 letter to bishops. His letter followed the September 10-11 meeting of the USCCB Administrative Committee, the top ranking USCCB body outside a plenary session.

2. Catholic leaders in Washington and the Archdiocese for the Military Services mourned the tragedy at the Navy Yard Monday. Archbishop Brologio of the Military Services said, "Somehow we must restore the notion of respect for life into the fabric of the nation. When the uniqueness of the human person created in the image and likeness of God is universally recognized, the possibility of a mass shooting is more remote."

3. #PrayforPeace has been big during the last two weeks on social media. Does praying for peace actually work? One expert says yes.

4. Flags flew at half-staff here at the USCCB to mark the Navy Yard tragedy, just as they did throughout Washington.

5. God loves you.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 16

1.The Texas-Mexico border bishops are planning on a pastoral letter on family immigration.

2. In light of events in Washington today, many Catholics are using the familiar #PrayforPeace on social media. #PrayforPeace has been used recently with the Syrian crisis as well.

3. Last week we shared this video about our Call to Prayer:

It's also available in Spanish, which you can view here:

4. Friday was the sixth-month anniversary of Pope Francis' election and we posted this blog reflecting on his early pontificate and his reliance on the eighth commandment.

5. God loves you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Six Months and an Eighth Commandment Pope

Six months ago today the Holy Spirit swooped down and showed us all what "doing your job" really looks like. Since that time, Pope Francis has taken the world by storm with gestures as big as a peace vigil in St. Peter's Square and as small as a compact car. He's preached to millions gathered on Copacabana Beach and to Vatican employees at daily Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse where he lives.

The daily forum of the Domus Mass, recently restarted after a summer hiatus, has carried some especially vivid soundbites from Pope Francis. This morning he tackled gossip, calling it cowardice and saying it "kills the image of God" in other people.

This isn't the first time Pope Francis took on the damaging power of words. On June 13, he memorably noted, in reference to slander, that "the tongue can also kill." On April 15, he said calumny is more than mere sin and is, in fact, the work of Satan. And on March 27, a mere two weeks after his election, Pope Francis cautioned Christians against engaging in the "dark joy" of gossip.

It's probably safe to say that no one imagined the Eighth Commandment would get such a workout under the new pope. But here's Pope Francis, consistently sounding off throughout his short pontificate, warning of the dangers of a hierarchy of speech-driven sins:

1. Calumny -- deliberately lying about a person to destroy his or her reputation
2. Detraction -- saying something true about someone, but for the purpose of destroying his or her reputation
3. Gossip -- more petty trash talk about a person behind his or her back

Even the least of these, according to the pope, is at odds with the "Culture of Encounter" he seeks to promote, in which every person sees every other person they encounter as a human being, loved by God. If gossip "kills the image of God" in others, then we really are less inclined to encounter them as real human beings.

Stepping back against the backdrop of U.S. culture with voices on TV, radio, print and the Internet spouting endless accounts of the failures of other people, the vision and standard Pope Francis holds for society suddenly becomes jarring and daunting. Even more so the value that he suggests people use in place of trash talk: mercy.

With the election of Cardinal Bergoglio, someone predicted by almost none of the pundits and experts, the thought occurred: "Well, kudos to the Holy Spirit for pulling off the relatively mild trick of outsmarting cable news." With his call for an end to gossip, badmouthing and endless attacks on other people, it would seem the election of Pope Francis calls the cable news worldview into serious question in other ways too.

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 13

1. It's been six months to the day since Pope Francis became pope. His tweet today was about the faith: "Jesus is the sun and Mary is the dawn announcing his rising."

2. Each Friday this year, Catholics have been called to Fast and Pray for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty. Learn more in this video below:

3. The upcoming 25th anniversary of the U.S. Catholic China Bureau Conference and the recent publication of the first parallel translation of the Old Testament in English and Chinese are signs of the strengthening evangelization efforts in the Chinese American community, said the chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian andPacific Island Affairs of the USCCB.

4. They were in elementary school at the time, but college students today were impacted by the 9/11 attacks. In this video, some Catholic University of America students remember that day.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 12

1. The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development urged the U.S. House of Representatives not to accept a proposed $40 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, called the program "one of the most effective and important federalprograms to combat hunger in the nation" in his September 11 letter.

2. The U.S. Bishops continue to be vocal in their support for a peaceful resolution in Syria. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop Richard Pates and Bishop John Wester addressed the issue in a press conference yesterday, which you can listen to here:

3. The Bishops strongly endorsed the work of Catholic Relief Services yesterday in a statement. Some groups have questioned the actions of CRS, but you can also hear why Cardinal Dolan says the organization helps millions of vulnerable people across the globe.

4. Atlanta's Archbishop Wilton Gregory wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about why the Catholic Church continues to support comprehensive immigration reform.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 11

1.Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas humanitarian aid agency, is deeply committed "to Church teaching in fulfilling its mission of mercy," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee said in a September 11 statement the first day of its annual fall meeting in Washington.

The bishops strongly endorsed the 70-year-old agency after critics "raised allegations about CRS' adherence to Church teaching and its identity as a Catholic institution" and questioned its pro-life credentials, the statement said.

2. To mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in 2011, we gathered reflections and remembrances from clergy who ministered to victims and their families, and others who were impacted by the tragedy. You can see more on our Patriot Day page.

3. Pope Benedict XVI visited the site of the 9/11 New York attacks in 2008. CNS has uncovered an interested story behind the candle Pope Benedict used when he prayed there that day.

4. Pope Francis met with refugees in Rome and you can see his message to Catholics below.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 10

1. The Administrative Committee of the USCCB issued an urgent call for a political solution to the crisis in Syria. The bishops issued the statement on the first day of their September 10-11 Administrative Committee meeting at the USCCB headquarters in Washington.
"We ask the United States to work with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities," the bishops wrote.

2. Catechetical Sunday is Sept. 15 in the U.S. Catholic Church. Some people might wonder what catechesis is, however. It is the act of resounding or bringing the Church's teachings to the world. A catechist is one who teaches in the name of the Church. Learn more at our Catechetical Sunday page.

3. #PrayforPeace was trending on Saturday on Twitter. Retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, formerly of the Archdiocese of Washington, just returned from Jordan and has some words of advice on attaining peace.

4. Pope Francis continues to keep peace as a central part of his own tweets, saying, "The only war that we must all fight is the one against evil #prayforpeace"

5. God loves you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 9

1. The Catholic Church gathered over the weekend throughout the world to Pray for Peace, particularly in the midst of the Syria. Leading the effort was Pope Francis, who spoke to an estimated 100,000 people Saturday. 

2. Catholics throughout the U.S. also are concerned with immigration reform and this past weekend many dioceses addressed the issue at the parish level.

3. The Archdiocese of Chicago will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Cardinal Francis George's priestly ministry this weekend.

4. Lay people are an important part of the teaching of the faith and dioceses across the country will celebrate catechists this week at Catechetical Sunday Masses.

5. God loves you.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 6

1. USCCB leaders have written to every member of Congress to urge them to push for a peaceful resolution in Syria.

2. Catholics will make a nationwide push for comprehensive immigration reform, including with events Sept. 8. Learn more about this extensive effort.

3. Have you seen our #Fast4Syria image around social media?

4. If you're looking to watch all of Sunday's events praying for peace in Syria, visit our resource page, which has been updated throughout the week.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 4

1. Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Bishop Richard E. Pates wrote President Obama to urge a political, peaceful solution in Syria.

2. Earlier today, the USCCB also urged the Office of Personnel Management  to comply with a Federal ban on funding health care plans that cover abortions.

3. Pope Francis remains a vocal advocate of peace in Syria and around the world, as you can see in the latest Catholic News Service video.

4. Again, you can follow the Catholic response to the Syrian crisis with the hashtag #Fast4Syria

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Five things to Remember On Sept. 3

1. The USCCB has joined with Pope Francis to ask for a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria, the Middle East and the world Sept. 7.

2. Pope Francis made headlines throughout the weekend for his calls for peace on his @Pontifex Twitter account. One of his tweets read, "War never again! Never again war!"

3. You can follow the social media push for peace in Syria with the hashtag #Fast4Syria.

4. Have you ever heard of the "Just War" principle? Learn more about it from the USCCB.

5. God loves you.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Rural poverty calls us to remember who feeds us

By Bishop Paul D. Etienne

When many think of poverty, they imagine crumbling, boarded up buildings, unsafe streets and failing schools with metal detectors at the entryways. Movies and television shows perpetuate these images. Meanwhile, rural life conjures up images of rolling hills, fields of grain and a simple life. Yet, when Robert Kennedy went on his “poverty tour” in 1968 he found the most extreme poverty in rural America. Unfortunately, that reality is still true today.

According to the Department of Agriculture, rural poverty is over two percentage points higher than urban poverty. This poverty is more pervasive and persistent: of all the counties that experienced deep spells of poverty over a 20-year span, over 88 percent are rural. The consequences of this poverty are devastating. Over 3 million rural households are hungry. Many of these families were recently or still are the agricultural backbone of our country. Sadly, this means many of the very people who plant, harvest and prepare our food cannot afford to feed themselves and their families.

At the root of this problem is human labor. As John Paul II pointed out, work is “probably the essential key, to the whole social question” (Laborem Exercens, no. 20). In the case of rural communities, the decline of agriculture has led to a lack of decent work. Today, about two percent of all jobs are agricultural, a significant decline from only a few decades ago, when the bounty of thriving American farms was the envy of the world.

The jobs vacuum in rural communities has been filled, in many instances, with low-paying or dangerous jobs that do not pay enough to support a family. Some industries have taken advantage of the economic desperation of rural communities by exploiting workers. For instance, many poultry and slaughterhouse workers face unsanitary working conditions, prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals and substances, and long shifts away from their families. Circumstances like these are beneath their human dignity.

In this year’s Labor Day statement, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, challenges everyone to work together to build a just economy that truly honors and respects all. One of the vital ways we can do this is supporting the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which ensures vulnerable people and families do not go hungry. For rural communities, SNAP plays a crucial economic development role as well. While ensuring that families are able to go out and buy the food they need, SNAP becomes a source of revenue for local businesses in time of economic strain.

Jesus calls us to feed “these least brothers of mine” (Mt 25). Individuals and churches donate time and money to combating hunger across the country, but the need is great. The government, through nutrition assistance like SNAP, has a role to play in meeting this basic need for food. In the overall effort to combat the scandal of poverty, rural communities need to be remembered. Not only should we help them meet their basic needs through charity and a sense of appreciation for who produces our food, but we must also demand justice and seek to rebuild our economy so that people have access to living wages and good jobs in every community.

The author is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming and president of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.