True Power as Service


At the special Mass celebrated for the beginning of his new pontificate, Pope Francis focused his homily on the protection of the weak, the poor, and the environment.  Some passages from the homily make it possible to understand what Pope Francis has in mind when he speaks of a renovated way of understanding the nature of power and its use.

In the homily, Pope Francis stated, “I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men  and women of goodwill: Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” And he added: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service … . Only those who serve with love  are able to protect.”

The election of Pope Francis comes at a time of profound changes in the Church and also in the wider society. The invitation I have quoted from his homily probably should be read as an appeal to both realities. The changes in the governance of the Church will be an important issue on the new Pope’s agenda and Francis probably wanted to signal the necessity of understanding and making use of power in a reinvigorated way. In this regard, it is noteworthy that he will hold Mass on Holy Thursday at Casal del Marmo Detention Center in  Rome and will wash the feet of the young inmates detained there.

The coherence between words and actions seems to be what Pope Francis is asking of the Church and society’s leaders, political and non-political.

The full text of the homily is available here.


Conference on Pacem in terris

The Lumen Christi Institute in Chicago will host a symposium on April 4, “Pacem in terris After 50 Years,” on the important Vatican II document:

On April 11, 1963, amid the global tensions of the Cold War, and shortly after the erection of the Berlin Wall, Pope John XXIII addressed his famous encyclical Pacem in terris to all people of good will. He invites them to consider the conditions for establishing universal peace on earth in truth, justice, charity, and liberty. On the 50th Anniversary of this event, this symposium will examine the affirmations of Pacem in terris as they bear on human rights, religious freedom, and the international political and economic order today.

Speakers include Mary Ann Glendon, Russ Hittinger, and Joseph Weiler. Details are here.

The Top Five New Law & Religion Papers on SSRN

From SSRN’s list of most frequently downloaded law and religion papers posted in the last 60 days, here are the current top five:

1. Suffer the Teenage Children: Child Sexual Abuse in Church Communities by Patrick Parkinson (U. of Sydney – Faculty of Law) [219 downloads]

2. God and the Profits: Is There Religious Liberty for Money-Makers? by Mark Rienzi (Catholic U. of America – Columbus School of Law) [206 downloads]

3. Rethinking Religious Reasons in Public Justification by Andrew F. March (Yale U.) [188 downloads]

4. The Causes and Cures of Unethical Business Practices – A Jewish Perspective by Steven H. Resnicoff  (DePaul U. College of Law) [145 downloads]

5. Bankrupting the Faith by Pamela Foohey (U. of Illinois College of Law) [131 downloads]

Lipez on The Judaism of Louis Brandeis

Hon. Kermit Lipez (US Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit) has posted Doing Justice: The Judaism of Louis Brandeis. The abstract follows.

There are many ways to think about justice, some philosophical, others more pragmatic. My own leanings are pragmatic. I have never been embarrassed to say that “justice means doing the right thing,” understanding that some elaboration may be necessary. Nonetheless, it was reassuring to discover that the great Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis had a similar pragmatic bent. I made this discovery when I was preparing a Yom Kippur sermon about Justice Brandeis. I had been puzzled for some time by Justice Brandeis famous statement, “Justice is but truth in action.” What exactly did he mean? Although the answer to that question, set forth in my sermon, includes a discussion of Justice Brandeis attitude toward his Judaism, I think that discussion has relevance for lawyers and judges of all religions. That relevance should not be surprising. There is a commonality between law and religion. They both teach us to do the right thing.

Bernardini on Religious Liberty in the Catholic-Muslim Dialogue

Paola Bernardini (Pontifical U. St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome) has posted Religious Liberty: A Common Challenge for Catholic-Muslim Dialogue. The abstract follows.

Comparing the struggles of the Church on the subject of religious liberty with those in course of progress within Islam may be conducive to greater interreligious understanding. It is not by chance that Muslim and Christian scholars have adopted this approach on more than one occasion. Even Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to the Roman Curia at the end of 2006, seemed to implicitly acknowledge this fact when he stated that “the Muslim world today finds itself facing an extremely urgent task . . . very similar to the one . . . imposed upon Christians beginning in the age of the Enlightenment”: namely the task of recognizing the freedom of faith and finding appropriate solutions in this regard. Starting from this presumption, the present paper will be divided mainly into two parts. Part I will briefly illustrate the positions of the Church before and after the Second Vatican Council. Part II will delve into the positions of some modern Islamic Organizations, countries, and scholars on the civil right to religious freedom.