TIME Religion

Christian Right Attacks Planned Parenthood For Praying

Prayer gets political

Prayer is often one of the few acts that can cross religious and political divides, no matter how deep. But last week, the president of the Family Research Council criticized Planned Parenthood Federation of America for reaching out to women in the name of God. “Women are used to Planned Parenthood preying on them—but praying on them? That’s a new approach altogether,” Tony Perkins wrote on the FRC website. “Obviously, [Planned Parenthood] is always looking for new ways to justify abortion. But the Bible? That’s a step too far, even for them.”

Perkins was responding to a Planned Parenthood “Pastoral Letter to Patients” written by the group’s 15-member Clergy Advocacy Board and posted online. “Many people wrongly assume that all religious leaders disapprove of abortion,” the letter reads. “The truth is that abortion is not even mentioned in the Scriptures—Jewish or Christian—and there are clergy and people of faith from all denominations who support women making this complex decision.”

That message, Perkins felt, crosses a line. “Is Planned Parenthood so desperate for business that it has to spiritualize the murder of tiny children?” he wrote.

“We felt it was time to weigh in and make sure that our supporters were aware of Planned Parenthood’s latest tactics,” Perkins tells TIME.

Planned Parenthood’s pastoral letter, however, wasn’t actually new. It has been on the group’s website since October 2013, and it is part of a group of clergy’s longstanding efforts to support Planned Parenthood affiliates and patients. The group’s Clergy Advocacy Board spans a range of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, and while the religious groups have their own particular views about abortion, they share the view that God loves women no matter their decision about a pregnancy. “We believe that clergy have a special responsibility to bear witness in support of reproductive rights so that the public and their elected representatives may understand the theological and moral basis for reproductive rights,” says the Clergy Board’s statement of beliefs. “The decision about abortion is a matter between a woman, her conscience, and/or her God, and that those close to her should offer support in any way they can.”

Three clergy board members—the Board’s chair, Reform Jewish Rabbi Jon Adland of Canton, Ohio; vice-chair Rev. Susan Russell, of All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, Calif.; and Reform Jewish Rabbi Dennis Ross of Concerned Clergy for Choice in Albany, N.Y.—responded to Perkins’ criticism against their work in a statement to TIME. “Too often, the voices of negative religious discourse around abortion are those that loudly proclaim their teachings are the only ones that are valid,” they say. “They try to shame and judge women who are making deeply personal and often complex decisions about their pregnancies.”

For these Christian and Jewish leaders, their efforts far from spiritualize abortion–they defend a woman’s religious liberty. “As clergy members, we work every day to make clear that everyone is entitled to follow their own conscience and religious beliefs; what they don’t have the right to do is impose those beliefs on everyone else,” they say.

As ministers, they also believe they also have a spiritual responsibility to care for and counsel families in their communities. “As faith leaders, we recognize that women need to be supported and receive compassionate care while making deeply personal decisions based on faith and conscience,” they say. “It is important that women know that there are people of faith who respect a woman’s ability to make these deeply personal decisions in consultation with her family, her doctor, and her faith.”

The spat again revives the culture war debate over who can claim the Bible, and ultimately, who can claim that God endorses their cause. The majority of white evangelicals, Mormons, and Hispanic Catholics believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center, while the majority of white mainline Protestants, white Catholics, black Protestants, Jews, and unaffiliated believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Perkins, however, suggests that Christianity and Planned Parenthood are incompatible. “A straightforward reading of the Bible shows that since the beginning God held human life to be sacred, and values human life, no matter the stage,” Perkins says. “I imagine that Christians, supposed or true, who support Planned Parenthood either do not fully understand what abortion is, what its physical and emotional consequences are or what Planned Parenthood as an organization actually stands for and advocates.”

TIME faith

What Can Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ Tell Us About God?

Singer Pharrell Williams performs his hit song "Happy" at the Walmart annual shareholders meeting in Fayetteville
Rick Wilking / Reuters—REUTERS Singer Pharrell Williams performs his hit song "Happy" at the Walmart annual shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas June 6, 2014.

PatheosLogo_Blue

This article originally appeared on Patheos.

You like “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, don’t you? Of course you do. The song is catchy, plain and simple. Or maybe not so simple––new evidence suggests that “Happy” isn’t just catchy, but that when we hear it, we’re hardwired to get up and dance. And while it might seem crazy what I’m ‘bout to say, I think this study gives us a glimpse of how God has hardwired us to join in His “dance” on earth, too.

Hardwired to Dance

The “Happy” music video, currently sporting over two hundred and seventy-two million YouTube views, flips through shots of people dancing around the world. It’s spawned a worldwide imitation video phenomenon. So why does Happy make us want to dance?

In a study published last month, neuroscientists in Denmark explored this question. They created a survey asking people to rate a variety of drum patterns, selecting ones that made them want to dance the most. Some were simple rhythms with regular beats (think Drum Class 101), while others were complex, layered rhythmic patterns with lots of unexpected gaps where regular beats should go (think of Chad Smith in a drum-off).

Then there were beats that avoided both extremes, “patterns that had a sort of a balance between predictability and complexity,” explained the study’s leader, Maria Witek.

These were the beats that made people want to get up and dance, worldwide. And “Happy” is full of them.

So why do these beats affect us? Witek’s explanation is fascinating: “there’s enough regularity to sort of perceive the underlying beat, but also enough complexity to sort of invite participants to synchronize to the music.”

As NPR’s Michael Doucleff puts it, “it may be more about what’s missing from the song than what’s there.” Witek elaborates: “Gaps in the rhythmic structure…. provide us with an opportunity to physically inhabit those gaps and fill in those gaps with our own bodies.”

A Dancing God?

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis introduces the image of a God who is always dancing. Every member of the Trinity is ceaselessly adoring, serving, and “dancing with” every other member: “In Christianity God is not a static thing… but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life… a kind of dance….” God created us to live into this self-giving dance with Him, worshiping him, serving each other, and experiencing the joy of the Trinity. “The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us… [It’s] a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.”

When we become Christians, we realize how we’ve turned away from the Divine Dance. We demand that other people serve us and dance for us, but we don’t want to do any serving or dancing.

Then suddenly we sense, to mix Lewis and Witek’s words, “the underlying beat at the very center of reality.” And we find it so attractive that we can’t help but get up and dance. We realize that everyone, worldwide, is hardwired to join us.

Filling in the Gaps with Our Own Bodies

What’s fascinating about this study, of course, isn’t that we like to dance. It’s that we’re attracted to songs with missing beats.

As Christians, we sense the rhythm at the heart of reality, but we also see that beats are missing in our broken everyday lives. God’s song is perfect, but there are gaps in our earthly rhythms. We feel frustrations and longings: why doesn’t God fix the world now? Christ died so we can join the dance––so bring it on, all of it! Why the brokenness?!

But this attitude is, after all, not the attitude of a dancer. God wants us to join in the dance, not wait around for Him to perfect it. Instead, he gives us the power of Holy Spirit. He invites us to do what comes so naturally when we listen to “Happy”: physically inhabit these gaps with our own bodies! God inspires us synchronize the work of our hands, minds, and hearts to the Rhythm of Reality. And rhythm won’t be complete until we join in! As Ephesians 2:10 says, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Or, we might say, dance in them.

Nathan Roberts is an intern at Patheos.

Read more from Patheos.com:

TIME faith

Why Tea Party Catholicism Is a No Go

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Khalil Mazraawi—AFP/Getty Images Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, President of Caritas Internationalis, looks on during a visit to the Regina Pacis Centre (Our Lady of Peace Church) in Amman, Jordan on May 18, 2014.

Pope Francis and the Catholic Church increasingly have little patience with libertarian economic thought: this will clearly pose a problem to some lawmakers in Washington.

Is Tea Party Catholicism dead as a legitimate political stance within the Catholic Church? That’s what Pope Francis’s close Honduran cardinal-advisor Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga is arguing.

During his keynote address at a June 3rd forum hosted by The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, Rodriguez—defending Pope Francis’s economic teachings—derided the current economic system for being built on what he called the “new idol of libertarianism.” “The libertarianism de-regulation of the markets and financial market is much to the disadvantage of the poor,” he said. “This economy kills.”

Rodriguez’s blunt assessment of today’s economic system was echoed by American Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Washington. Speaking directly to “Catholics and believers in our country who are challenged by the pope’s words about income distribution, protection of worker’s rights, and the role of governments in regulating the economy both nationally and internationally,” Cupich reminded them that Francis’s teaching was not his alone, but was “tethered to a rich tradition.” In particular, Cupich referenced Benedict XVI’s 2009 groundbreaking social justice encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

Rodriguez and Cupich’s words are especially provocative within the United States, where the marriage between economic libertarianism and religious values have been hotly debated in recent times. Just last year, the Acton Institute’s Samuel Gregg published Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing. Drawing heavily on the writings of the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll, the controversial book argued that the faith’s social tradition has a deep respect for libertarian governing values. It was roundly rejected by Catholic progressives in the United States, most notably the National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters.

At time goes on, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Francis and the Church have little patience with libertarian economic thought. This will clearly pose a problem to lawmakers in Washington.

Catholic politician Paul Ryan first comes to mind. The Wisconsin Congressman had at one time been an ardent follower of Ayn Rand, the stalwart Libertarian author and activist. Ryan claimed to disavow her in 2012 because her philosophy was rooted in atheism. That didn’t seem to affect his politics though.

For four consecutive years the chairman of the House Budget Committee has proposed budgets that have been criticized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as morally deficient. Ryan’s budget cuts crucial programs that serve the poorest and most marginalized people in our nation, while providing unnecessary tax breaks for the wealthiest of Americans.

Paul Ryan pushed back in April 2012, arguing in a speech at Georgetown University that his budget and governing philosophy was rooted in Catholic teaching. Ryan came under criticism from a large number of Catholic academics for misrepresenting Catholic teaching in explaining his budgetary policies. The criticism peaked that summer, when Catholic women religious from across the nation under the leadership of Sister Simone Campbell toured the country to protest the Ryan budget. Since the “Nuns on the Bus” tour in 2012 and the election of Pope Francis in 2013, Ryan has increasingly struggled to argue that his budget is acceptable under Catholic social teaching.

Now is a great opportunity for the potential 2016 presidential candidate to pivot. In an essay last December, BuzzFeed’s McKay Robbins argued that Paul Ryan experienced a political conversion after the election of Pope Francis. The first half of 2014 suggests that such claims are either exaggerated or premature.

Fortunately it isn’t too late for the 44-year-old lawmaker to change course. But there is only one tenable way forward. It’s time for Paul Ryan to follow the Catholic Church and reject the carnival dance of the Tea Party. When the mask falls and the truth appears, we will see that this is a movement that twists reality and hurts the poor and suffering.

Let’s hope the words of Pope Francis will ring in his ears: “I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity.”

Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He helped lead national Catholic outreach for President Obama’s re-election campaign. You can follow him on Twitter @chrisjollyhale.

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Sacks Entire Board of Vatican’s Financial Watchdog

The pontiff has replaced the all-Italian board of the Financial Information Authority with an international group of new members — including Juan C. Zarate, a Harvard professor and former Bush Administration official

Pope Francis replaced the entire, all-Italian board of the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog Thursday amid clashes over the pace of reform, the Boston Globe reports.

The Financial Information Authority was created in 2010 to combat money laundering and bring the Vatican into compliance with international standards, and Pope Francis has brought a renewed focus on the agency since he was elected over a year ago and made financial reform a priority.

But the board has faced infighting since Swiss anti-money-laundering expert Rene Bruelhart became its director in 2012, capped by Italian Cardinal Attilio Nicora’s resignation as its head in January.

Pope Francis and Bruelhart have pushed for a more international board, with new members hailing from Italy, Singapore, Switzerland and the U.S., including Juan C. Zarate, a Harvard professor and a former official in the George W. Bush administration.

[Boston Globe]

TIME Religion

Most Americans Say the Bible Is God’s Word

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Bally Scanlon—Getty Images

The Bible, most Americans say, is the either the actual word of God or inspired by God's words

About 3 in 4 Americans believe the Bible is either inspired by or is the actual word of God, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

About 28% of Americans think the Bible should be taken literally—only slightly down from the all-time low reached in 2007. About half of Americans think the Bible is inspired by God, but should not be taken literally.

On the other end of the spectrum, about 20% of Americans say the Bible is nothing more than a “ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man.”

Among Christians, however, 58% of those interviewed said they believe the Bible is the actual word of God, though “multiple interpretations are possible.” Overall, 9 out of 10 Christians say the Bible is connected to God.

Gallup’s data are based on phone interviews of 1,028 randomly selected adults between May 8 and 11.

TIME faith

Elizabeth Wurtzel: The Pope Is Right—Kids Are the Point of Life

Pope Francis Child
Amel Pain—EPA Pope Francis blesses a child upon his arrival to lead a mass at Amman International Stadium in Amman, Jordan, May 24, 2014.

Whether you're Catholic—or religious at all—doesn't matter. As a human being, it's your scientific duty and destiny to procreate.

As a Jew, I am not much concerned with the Pope. It seems to me that he has a difficult job as the head of a corrupt organization run by men who do not have sex and claim to know God personally. But Pope Francis has charm galore. It is quite something. He wants everybody, including people he does not like, to like him, and he has kind words for gay people and murderers—not that they are comparable.

So it is surprising when the Pope comes out with statements suggesting that Catholics ought to, for Christ’s sake, be Catholic: reprimands are so unlike the Francis we have come to know. They’re somehow too Pope-ish. Just the other day Pope Francis said that people who think having a cat or two and a dog is as good as having kids are missing out. All the benefits of child-free life—the vacations and villas, the barefoot dancing, the sex on the kitchen floor—all that will come to naught. “Have you seen it?” Pope Francis asked. “Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”

As it happens, I’m with Francis.

When I see married people who don’t have kids, I wonder what’s wrong. Really. Because something is. Of course it is. I mean, if you aren’t going to have children, why bother with the rest? Why bother with the $30,000 bash and the white crinoline dress? And you can say that about everything. What do you think we are doing here, biding our time on this planet with our misspent years, justifying our days with our ridiculous schemes of leisure? Is anyone’s life so meaningful? Really? Really, really, really? Is yours?

The existential nightmare of the everyday is way more than even those of us with enormous egos who love what we do can possibly cope with. We are on this earth to keep on keeping on. We are here to reproduce. We are here to leave something behind that is more meaningful than a tech startup or a masterpiece of literature. Everybody knows this. The biggest idiot in the world who thinks he knows better—even he deep down knows this.

And I say this not as religious person but as someone who believes in science. I took human behavioral biology with the amazing Irv Devore my freshman year of college, and early on he taught us that human beings serve our genes—we are here only as temporary vessels to pass along their permanence. This made immediate sense to me because it explains everything: the desire to reproduce is so extreme, so innate, that even people who cannot (and some who really should not) have children at all cannot be stopped from doing so. Look at the abracadabra we do to create fertility when it fails. It seems crazy only if you don’t accept that it is a biological imperative in the absolute. Or as University of Washington psychologist and zoologist David P. Barash writes in the journal BioScience, “Living things are survival vehicles for their potentially immortal genes. Biologically speaking, this is what they are, and it is all they are.” He adds, “For most biologists, the promulgation of genes is neither good nor bad. It just is.”

I am 46 and I don’t have children, which is a bit of a problem, because I believe everything I am saying. I also was not married, but I recently got engaged, so I will be soon—and I hope to have a child. If I don’t, I will figure that out. I am very good at figuring things out. And science is even better at it. (Maybe the Pope should reconsider the Catholic Church’s stance on IVF, though.)

And I am not saying I want to have a kid because of something I learned in a college course when I was 18 years old. I am saying that we are all stuck with our humanity, and it is lovely. I don’t feel some awesome urge to have children and I don’t look at babies longingly at all, but I know if I missed out on that part of life, I would be missing a huge part of what makes us alive. It is just silly to argue otherwise, and I have lived it—happily—so I don’t need to hear it.

This is one of the many instances when science and religion dovetail in a conclusion about human behavior for different reasons. Surely the two reinforce each other so often because the urge to be spiritual and to love is also part of our cells and our chemistry. And when both agree, I don’t argue.

Elizabeth Wurtzel is the author of Prozac Nation, Bitch and More, Now, Again. She is a lawyer who works for David Boies in New York City. She lives with her dog, her cat and her fiancé.

TIME foreign affairs

How to Change Course in Central African Republic

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AFP—AFP/Getty Images A wounded man waits for assistance during a disarmament operation by French soldiers in Bangui, on December 9, 2013.

Protection on the ground must be enhanced sooner than the United Nations has mandated, and donors need to own up to their outstanding pledges

Recent outrages in Bangui, the war-torn capital of the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), lay bare that the world is dangerously close to failing the country once again.

On March 25, three Muslim boys went to play an interfaith football match in the city. Before they could reach the stadium, they were caught by fighters from the anti-balaka, the predominantly Christian militia. The boys were murdered and mutilated on the street, their chests cut open, their hearts ripped out and their penises cut off.

Just three days later, armed Muslim youths retaliated by attacking a church sheltering thousands of displaced persons. They used grenades and sprayed gunfire into helpless crowds, killing at least 15 and wounding 30. In response to the attack, youth pillaged and vandalized one of Bangui’s last mosques. The fear that the anti-balaka and mobs of civilians will unleash their fury on the remaining Muslims of C.A.R., of which 80 percent have been forced to flee or have been killed, is palpable.

These gruesome attacks are part of a long-simmering socio-political crisis that has mobilized religious and ethnic communities against one another since December 2012. A cycle of tit-for-tat violence between the Séléka, the predominantly Muslim rebel alliance that overthrew the government of former President François Bozizé in March 2013, and the anti-balaka, which surfaced in force in response to Séléka exactions against non-Muslims in C.A.R., has been devastating for civilians. Thousands of other lives have been lost, and there may be countless untold atrocities.

Warnings of the inadequacy of the response have been ringing for months. The 2,000 French troops and 5,800 African Union (A.U.) peacekeepers on the ground have been unable to quell rising violence and stem atrocities in C.A.R. They are overstretched and under-resourced. The response to the church attack is telling: A.U. troops were called, but arrived too late. While a 600- to 800-strong European Union force is currently deploying to patrol the airport and surrounding districts in Bangui, this is simply not enough.

With violence increasing in Bangui and the interior of C.A.R., drastic action must be taken. First, protection on the ground must be enhanced. Sites sheltering displaced persons, particularly churches and the few remaining mosques, must be permanently protected. A.U. and French forces have a mandate to use “all necessary means” to protect civilians; they should not hesitate to do so and disarm and neutralize armed groups threatening civilians.

The U.N. Security Council has mandated the deployment of a 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping operation to respond to the situation. But troops and police will only start deploying on Sept. 15, 2014, and only through April 2015. C.A.R. civilians can’t wait that long. The Security Council should consider amending the mandate of the mission to get U.N. forces on the ground before September. The Security Council favored a flexible mandate for the mission that adapted to the realities on the ground; it’s time to demonstrate that flexibility in the name of protecting civilians.

The U.N. Secretary-General’s call for an additional 3,500 troops to bolster the A.U. and French troops must also be answered. Sizeable troop and police contributions from a few Western governments would have an immense impact on the ground. Additional African countries should also join the A.U. force, and the U.S. and E.U. countries should continue to assist them.

But troops alone will not be enough. The interim government is struggling immensely and needs urgent support from donors to revive it. Targeted investment in building the judicial capacities of the state and supporting local justice mechanisms is needed to help break the cycle of impunity. International experts should also be swiftly dispatched to C.A.R. to assist the government in its mediation and reconciliation efforts. Finally, only 31% of the U.N.’s appeal for humanitarian aid has been funded—donors must own up to their outstanding pledges as the impending rainy season adds further misery to C.A.R.’s displaced.

The world has a track record of failure in C.A.R. Unless we quickly change course, 20 years from now we’ll be lamenting the insufficient response to yet another preventable tragedy in the heart of Africa. Conscience demands we write a new script in C.A.R.

Evan Cinq-Mars works with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

TIME celebrities

Brad Paisley Took a Very Unimpressed Selfie With the Westboro Baptist Church

Members of the extremist church was picketing his concert Sunday

Country singer Brad Paisley is an equal opportunity selfie-taker.

Before a Kansas concert Sunday, the country singer decided to take a picture with members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who happened to be protesting outside. Paisley, 41, posted the image to his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages along with the caption: “Westboro Baptist Selfie!! Or west-Burro(ass) selfie. Hopefully they can hear the show out here. We’ll play loud.”

The photo has almost 238,000 Facebook likes and counting two days later. Many fans have posted messages of support for Paisley and ridicule of the extremist group.

The church wasn’t as sure that Paisley was mocking them:

The Westboro Baptist Church has protested other country stars, including Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift.

 

TIME faith

Boehner’s Got a Catholic Problem on Immigration Reform

Catholic leaders are calling on House Speaker John Boehner to act swiftly on immigration reform

Three years ago Speaker of the House John Boehner received an honorary degree from the Catholic University of America, a prestigious religious institution that was founded and is still largely governed by the bishops of the United States. But the times have clearly changed.

Last week, the same bishops paid a visit to Capitol Hill to put more pressure on Speaker Boehner to pass comprehensive immigration reform this summer. This comes on the heels of a trip earlier this spring by the same bishops to the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

There Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that the bishops came on behalf of the Church in the United States “to be a neighbor and to find a neighbor in each of the suffering people who risk their lives and at times lose their lives in the desert.” Following his homily, Cardinal O’Malley and his brother bishops made a poignant gesture by reaching across the border fence to distribute communion to Mexicans on the other side.

Last week’s Mass and Capitol Hill visits were led by Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski. In his homily, Wenski had pointed words for lawmakers: “[o]ur immigration system is a stain on the soul of our nation. As a moral matter, it must be changed. We must pray that our elected officials recognize this and have the courage to reform it.”

Courage is exactly what the Speaker of the House needs right now. Nearly a year ago, the United States Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill. Boehner has said he won’t bring the bill to the House floor unless a majority of his Republican colleagues support it. But with nearly all Democrats supporting the bill, it’s clear that it would pass if it were brought to the floor for a vote. It’s widely known that Boehner personally supports immigration reform. In fact, earlier this year, he even went as far as to mock his fellow House Republicans who were afraid to take up the issues.

Make no mistake: Boehner’s opposition to the bill is purely political. He’s afraid that bringing up immigration reform will hurt his party in the fall elections and even hamper his own chances to be re-elected Speaker of the House. But recent polling suggests the former is unlikely.

If Speaker Boehner continues to balk on this crucial issue, he’ll face the uncomfortable reality of being in a public dispute with his Church. Educated by Jesuit and Marianist priests in Cincinnati, this is no small deal to the fifth Catholic elected United States Speaker of the House.

A national coalition of Catholic leaders calling on Speaker Boehner to act put it well: “[the current situation] is immoral and shameful. The eyes of our God — who hungers for justice and commands us to welcome the stranger and bind the wounds of those left by the side of the road — are on us. …As Catholics who share your commitment to the sanctity of life in the womb, we must not be complicit in the suffering of migrants dying in the shadows.

Speaker Boehner now must decide between the social teaching of his faith and the political agenda of a fringe element of his party. He doesn’t face this decision alone, however. If he stands up against the Tea Party and for the Gospel on this critical issue, he’ll find a Church who is willing to walk with him the entire way. That’s a team worth being on: after all, it is faith—not politics—that saves us in the end.

Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He helped lead national Catholic outreach for President Obama’s re-election campaign. You can follow him on Twitter @chrisjollyhale.

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Urges Couples to Raise Kids, Not Cats and Dogs

Pope Francis Holds Weekly Audience
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis

Pope Francis said that staying childless will ultimately bring married couples nothing but "the bitterness of loneliness"

Pope Francis had a message for married couples on Monday: four-legged friends don’t offer the same opportunities for love and godliness as raising a child.

The Pope addressed a group of 15 couples that have been married between 25 and 60 years during daily Mass on Monday, held in the chapel of the Santa Maria residence in the Vatican. The Pope stressed the importance of three qualities in a successful Christian marriage — faithfulness, perseverance and fruitfulness — during his remarks, according to Vatican Radio.

But the Pope also counseled childless couples to be fruitful and multiply, and not spend time raising pets when they could be raising children. Mentioning the “culture of well-being,” similar to one mentioned in the 2013 TIME cover story “The Childfree Life,” Pope Francis said that while a childless life offers better vacation opportunities, it will end in solitude:

This culture of well-being from 10 years ago convinced us: It’s better not to have children! It’s better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free … it might be better — more comfortable — to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or is this not? Have you seen it? Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness. It is not fruitful, it does not do what Jesus does with his Church: He makes His church fruitful.

In other words, all the effort you spend caring for your furry friends would be of better use if Fido or Fifi were children.

[Vatican Radio]

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