Author: Tobias Winright

To Serve and Protect

In Pope Francis’ brief homily for the inaugural Mass of his papal ministry, he emphasized something that should be familiar to American Catholics who have seen a certain motto sometimes displayed on police cars: to serve and protect. Pope Francis highlighted how he views his calling as well as the vocation of all of us, Christian or not, as: “respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!” It looks like Pope Francis will be, like Pope Benedict XVI, a green pope. Perhaps Pope Francis will be even greener, given his namesake from Assisi, and with the presence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, “the Green Patriarch,” also notably present at this inaugural Mass. Not only that, but Pope Francis may even be, as Charlie Camosy has noted,...

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Catholic Theologians, Clergy, & Activists Statement on “Reasonable Measures to Regulate the Sale and Use of Lethal Weapons”

 Earlier today, a statement was issued by more than 60 Catholic theologians, priests, Catholic sisters, justice advocates and retired officials from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to Catholic lawmakers concerning public safety and the need for “reasonable measures to regulate the sale and use of lethal weapons.” The Vatican’s chief spokesperson Rev. Federico Lombardi recently expressed his approval of the direction the Obama administration is taking on this issue. Bishop Stephen Blaire also stated, “The bishops hope that the steps taken by the administration will help to build a culture of life.” Of course, while addressing violence in U.S. society entails many other efforts (by churches, families, community groups, as well as government), requiring better background checks when purchasing firearms and restricting access to things such as high capacity magazines are a reasonable first step. As a former law enforcement officer, I worry about heavily armed citizens who do not have the constant training (and, hopefully, the habits of justice, prudence, courage, and moderation that come from such repeated exercises) needed to discern when to shoot or don’t shoot in split-second situations on the street (or in the movie theaters or schools), and I also worry for police officers who face heavily armed criminals. As a theologian, moreover, I believe there are serious theological issues that need to be considered carefully in connection with our current gun culture, such as the sort raised...

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Benedict, Scalia, and Yoder on the Growing International Opposition to Capital Punishment

The Colosseum in Rome was lit up on November 29, 2012 in honor of Connecticut’s repeal of the death penalty back in April.  Former California death row inmate Shujaa Graham, who was a featured speaker at the annual conference of the College Theology Society two years ago at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, was also in Rome to see the illuminated Colosseum and to attend what John Allen over at National Catholic Reporter refers to as a “high-profile international conference in Rome on Tuesday promoting global abolition of the death penalty, which was organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio.” The conference’s title was “A World without the Death Penalty: No Justice without Life.” Allen notes that a dossier compiled for the conference asserted the existence of a “clear global trend toward abolition of the death penalty.”As of October, more than two-thirds of the planet’s nations have eliminated capital punishment either by law or in practice. Ninety-six nations have legally abolished the death penalty entirely; nine have eliminated it except for exceptional crimes committed during wartime; and thirty-five nations have not executed anyone in at least ten years. This growing opposition to capital punishment was evident also on November 19 when 110 countries voted for a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions. This was a record number of votes in...

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After the Troubles

Originally posted on this date at the Christian Century blog: My family and I are on a three-week vacation in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. As we planned our trip, my wife and I felt somewhat nervous upon realizing that we and our two young daughters would be staying in the resort coastal town of Portrush, near Giant’s Causeway and the Old Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim, on the 12th of July. The 12th is the annual commemoration by Protestants in Northern Ireland of William of Orange’s victory over James II. Tension and conflict have accompanied the marches, especially during the 30-year-long Troubles. After the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the violence decreased significantly. But after centuries of mutual fear and antipathy, change takes time. They say that everyone has an Ian Paisley story. My own memorable encounter with the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party occurred in 2000 at Storemont in Belfast. Gordon Shea and I were there with 20 students from Simpson College, and we had a private audience with Paisley to hear his perspective on the Troubles. Before the meeting, a number of scholars rightly informed us that the violence in Northern Ireland was as much about economics and politics as religion. When one of the students asked Paisley why he refused at that time to negotiate with Sinn Féin, however, his animated...

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