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After Orlando terror attack, some point to pope’s ‘prophetic’ words

The nation awoke Monday morning still reeling from the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. At least 50 were killed after Omar Mateen stormed a crowded gay nightclub early Sunday morning, officials said.

Within a few hours, some Catholics on Twitter were sharing part of Pope Francis’ September 2015 address to Congress, with one person calling his words “prophetic.”

Pope Francis:

“Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

In the midst of a particularly heated election year, the country is going to quickly move from mourning to debate. Liberals are sure to argue for more strident gun control measures to keep people who intend to harm others from obtaining weapons. Conservatives will surely argue that guns can act as a deterrence to save lives when used responsibly.

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church mostly talks about arms in broader terms, especially in reference to war, but it does briefly cover the use of arms in self defense. The Church of course is morally opposed to violence and killing, making that clear throughout many texts. But the Catechism as a whole also seems to be pragmatic, acknowledging that we don’t live in a perfect and harmonious world.

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It’s important to note that the Church is absolutely in favor of legitimate self defense as long as certain conditions are met (using no more force than necessary, innocent bystanders remaining unharmed, etc.)

“Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow…”

Again, the Catechism mostly references weapons in relation to conflicts between nations, but some could argued that the passages can be interpreted more broadly. Here’s one part that might see more interest (and moral debate) this week:

“… ‘As long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.’

“The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

“- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

“- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

“- there must be serious prospects of success;

“- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. the power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.”

Ultimately, the gun-control debate from a Catholic perspective can be broken down into one question: Do citizens with concealed carry permits “legitimately hold authority” to use guns?

Political battles over sex abuse bills just turned really nasty

Daily Tip Sheet

As Catholics continue to grapple with the horrific sex abuse scandal that was exposed to the public more than 14 years ago, the debate over reform — and ultimately, compensation — has taken a decisively nasty tone.

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It’s as much a moral question as it is a financial question, but perhaps both issues are closely intertwined. The crisis has already cost the Church billions of dollars, and there are fears that proposed legislation could inevitably bankrupt Catholic parishes and schools.

At the heart of the debate is the question of fairness.

In Pennsylvania, lawmakers are weighing a bill that would give victims until the age of 50 to sue their alleged abusers “or the institutions that employed or supervised them.” Supporters of the bill point to the heart-wrenching despair that victims face and say it’s a matter of justice. Critics charge that it’s unconstitutional to let accusers retroactively file civil claims. They say the bill unfairly targets private institutions like the Catholic Church while exempting state institutions and public schools.

Catholic state legislators claim to have been “singled out by the church or its advocates,” with one lawmaker saying he was targeted in his parish’s weekly bulletin and another claiming to have been called out by name at Mass.

“I would much rather be chastised from the altar than to be damned for not allowing justice to be done,” said one lawmaker.

A similar situation is playing out in New York, where a bill that would lift the statue of limitations on sex abuse crimes is being debated. Opponents of the measure say it’s nearly impossible to fairly judge a decades-old case. Like the Pennsylvania law, critics say it unfairly exempts public institutions.

“In other words, the state is saying, ‘we care about victims, as long as they’re not our victims,'” writes Deacon Philip Franco.

Like in the Keystone state, the atmosphere in Albany has been intense. A state politician recently accused a prominent Brooklyn bishop of trying to bribe her.

Basically, this has become a situation where no one really wins. The New York Daily News even went as far to claim that “Everyone hates N.Y. Assembly’s sex abuse reform bill,” writing that lawmakers “may have inadvertently done the unthinkable — getting sexual abuse survivors and the Catholic Church to agree.”

Are we witnessing the Great Catholic Fire Sale? Maybe, but that’s okay.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia plans to sell the 76-acre St. Charles Borromeo Seminary complex. (Photo: Montgomery County Planning Commission/Flickr)

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia plans to sell the 76-acre St. Charles Borromeo Seminary complex. (Photo: Montgomery County Planning Commission/Flickr)

Daily Tip Sheet

It’s easy to feel nostalgic when reading about a historic convent or seminary heading to the auction block. It may be great for wealthy folks like Katy Perry, but sometimes it almost feels like we’re living during the Great Catholic Fire Sale.

Some recent events:

– St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia plans to relocate to a college campus, and the archdiocese will sell the 76-acre complex.

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-Nuns in Manhattan are cashing out on their prime real estate. Their convent, or “sisterhood home” as the New York Times likes to call it, could fetch $20 million.

-In New York City, some closed church buildings were sold for millions in the past few years.

But dioceses and religious institutions are being practical when assessing their property assets, and the practical should outweigh the emotional in many of these situations.

So why is the Church selling off these historic properties? Here’s three practical reasons:

1. Numbers. It’s no secret that the Catholic share of the U.S. population has declined, and number of Catholics who attend Mass weekly is pretty low. But the number of nuns, monks and seminarians has also declined compared to previous decades. Heating a half-empty convent or seminary is money wasted.

2. Location. In the early 20th century, European immigrants were pouring into cities and the Church was growing — sometimes enough to build a beautiful urban sanctuary every few blocks. Then Catholics started moving to the suburbs, building more modern churches but leaving some historic, urban parishes behind.

Now, young people are moving to cities again — and property values are way up, so it’s a good time to cash in on these architectural marvels. But this also means that Catholic immigrants these days are likely to be displaced outside of expensive cities, so it makes more sense for the Church to use its resources where it’s most needed.

3. Financial health. It’s obvious, but it’s important not to understate. Legal battles from the sex abuse crisis have cost the Church billions of dollars, so it makes more sense to sell a bishop’s mansion instead of closing a family center.

It’s also extremely important to remember that the Church provides many social services that are very expensive. U.S. Catholic Charities alone provided $3.696 billion worth of services in 2014. — and that’s just one arm of the Church’s charity reach.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, this is also a trend among other denominations. In 2015 alone, “there were 1,506 sales of religious facilities” in the United States.

It may be heartbreaking to see some of these properties go (especially churches), but it’s important to add some important context: Compared to historic churches and convents in Europe and the Middle East, many of these buildings in the United States are not very historic.

Troubling attacks on Christians hit closer to home

Daily tip sheet

While the harrowing plight of Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities that are being massacred in ISIS-controlled areas is well documented, some less-noticed attacks on churches and clergy in the United States, Europe and elsewhere give observers reason to be anxious.

The news media has done a phenomenal job highlighting the plight of refugees (and given the little resources available in militant controlled areas, a pretty astonishing job of documenting the suffering in Syria.) But it’s easy to overlook some troubling incidents outside of war zones.

Let’s consider some recent events:

-In Germany, Catholic bishops have warned that Christian refugees face “intimidation and discrimination” as well as “violence.” This comes amid growing anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe and the United States.

-In France and Belgium, churches have come under attack. An altar was set on fire, a tabernacle desecrated and a priest assaulted. At the same time, growing anti-Semitism in France is leaving many Jews debating whether to flee. The Atlantic has even asked: Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?

-In Staten Island, a vandal “hurled a Molotov cocktail” through the window of an Episcopal church. Elsewhere in the United States, black churches in particular have come under assault.

-In the Philippines — where Pope Benedict praised the country a decade ago for abolishing the death penalty — an incoming president has encouraged the public to shoot drug dealers. He has gone so far as to try and muzzle the Catholic Church from speaking out there, calling the bishops “sons of whores” and threatening to bring down the church.

All this happens as advocates and observers warn that religious freedom is under “serious and sustained assault” around the globe.

To be clear, genocide and a church fire cannot be compared on the same level. Human life is always more sacred than a building, no matter how holy.

But what’s particularly concerning is that this is happening in parts of the world that pride itself on being more tolerant of different beliefs. This is 2016, after all.

Christians at Jesus’ tomb couldn’t agree to move a ladder for hundreds of years. Now, some major repairs are happening.

THE BIG STORY

The site of Christ’s tomb is finally undergoing some “dire” repairs.

What’s fascinating is that several Christian factions in the Holy Land came together and actually agreed to move forward on something.

After all, Christians at the holy site couldn’t even agree on whether to move a ladder for hundreds of years. (It’s a fascinating and bizarre story if you have time.)

Now, the tomb is undergoing its first renovations in 200 years. This comes after Israeli police had to shut down the church last year when experts deemed it unsafe.

Holy sites in Jerusalem — for any religion — are surrounded by political strife, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is no exception. It’s essentially one of Christianity’s holiest sites in Jerusalem — where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, buried and resurrected — and is divided into certain quarters for Catholics, Orthodox, Armenians and others.

All sides have gotten along by observing the status quo, but as the Associated Press reports, each “jealously guard their domains.” There’s been some violent outbreaks in the past few years. So it’s truly incredible that this work is getting done now.