For the first time ever, victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priest were invited to the Vatican to meet with the pope. In addition to asking for forgiveness directly for the “sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you,” Pope Francis also acknowledged that the church leadership structure, which has been widely criticized for how they handled abuse cases, was also in the wrong. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made.” Though some have praised Pope Francis’ willingness to meet with victims, the outreach director of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priest (SNAP), told The Daily Beast that if the Vatican does not punish the abusive priests and do more to prevent abuse (along with their list of demands), than they aren’t going far enough. “If it’s not preventing abuse, it’s probably meaningless or almost meaningless" ... Discuss
Lifeway Research has put together a sobering look at how often America's pastors address domestic abuse from the pulpit. While the research found that most Protestant pastors say they know victims of domestic abuse, they very rarely discuss it in sermons. When asked how often they preach on domestic violence, 42 percent of pastors answered "rarely/never" while less than a quarter speak about it once a year. When asked if they considered domestic violence to be a problem in their community, 72 percent answered "yes" and a full quarter said they believed it was a problem in their church.
Perhaps just as troubling is how ill-equipped pastors feel to address domestic violence. Slightly over half of senior pastors don't have training to address physical or sexual abuse, but 62 percent of pastors have attempted to counsel couples experiencing domestic abuse—a practice experts say can actually lead to more violence. Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research Division, said"When two-thirds of pastors address the issue of domestic violence in church one time a year or less, we have a serious disconnect with the realities of American life. Pastors cannot ignore or downplay the issue, when lives are being ruined—and sometimes lost—through sexual and domestic violence right in their own communities and churches" ... Discuss
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is estimating that as many as 10,000 Christians have been forced to flee their homes in northern Iraq since ISIS' takeover of the region. Many of them are taking up refuge in schools, most of which have no air conditioning or showers. The UNHCR is partnering with local charities to provide food, water and hygiene kits, but in a region where temperatures often soar over 104 degrees F, resources are stretched thin. Many of the refugees are in dire need of medical attention.
These refugees join the some 1.2 million who have fled Iraq due to escalating violence. The UNHCR estimates that the cost of caring for them will be about $64.2 million. So far, they have raised about eight percent. You can help by donating here ... Discuss
While driving through a rural Italian village, Pope Francis shocked locals standing on the side of the road, by stopping his motorcade to meet a young disabled woman. The family of the woman—who was connected to a breathing machine on a stretcher—had placed signs near the highway, reading, “Please Pope stop here to see an angel who has been waiting for you. Please come and bless little Roberta." Pope Francis kissed the woman on the forehead, before shaking hands and greeting her friends and family who were their waiting with her. As the Catholic News Agency notes, a friend of Roberta’s, who witnessed the Pope’s interaction with the woman, posted on Facebook, “It was very emotional to see how Pope Francis greeted Roberta … there are gestures in life that are worth more than speeches, much more than you would think … Pope Francis is unique” ... Discuss
Last year, Frank Schaefer, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania was suspended by the Methodist Church for officiating the wedding of his gay son. He was later defrocked for refusing to promise that he would never preside over another same sex wedding. Schaefer appealed the decision, on the grounds that the church made the decision based on an assumption. Today, a nine-person United Methodist Church panel overturned the decision to defrock Schaefer, though they upheld his 30-day suspension. Schaefer will receive backpay dating back to when his suspension ended, last year ... Discuss
Since he has assumed the papacy, Pope Francis has made no secret of his disdain for organized crime. This weekend, he informed members of the Italian mafia that they were being formerly thrown out of the church. During a service on Saturday, the pope said, “Those who in their life have gone along the evil ways, as in the case of the mafia, they are not with God, they are excommunicated.” Up to now, no pope has ever excommunicated any members of the mafia. As CNN notes however, his strong anti-crime stances may actually make him a target for mafia leaders. A prosecutor from southern Italy told the news agency, "The strong will of Pope Francis, aiming to disrupt the gangrene power centers, puts him at risk. He disturbs the Mafia very much” ... Discuss