I recommend the film WOMEN TALKING. More than a “movie,” it is a fine example of honest discourse on both intellectual and emotional levels to the many impulses operating in our responses to violence. Set in a contemporary Mennonite community, the characters engage in Christian concepts, but the issues are equally applicable to people of all faith traditions –to anyone who holds forgiveness and reconciliation a life-giving value.
Equally important, the dialogue and images elicit questions on how families, and social and religious institutions (especially patriarchal ones) educate boys in relation to girls. I think the film will prove a great resource for any discussion, class, or seminar on Forgiveness, as we continue to ask ourselves, “With faith’s compulsion to forgive, what choices do we have until, or if, we are ever ready?” and “How does forgiveness engage us in issues of accountability?”
As a response to the violence our nation is experiencing here and now, WOMEN TALKING is definitely worth your time.
I finally caught up with this latest Marvel endeavor, now in its 4th week of general release. The special effects are grand, the battle scenes exciting, but what struck me most about the movie was its unusual emphasis on character development and its strong thematic elements.
WAKANDA FOREVER gives us time to breathe, to think, to feel. It doesn’t rush into its action sequences, although there are plenty of those. At its essence, the film calls forth empathy with minorities of all backgrounds oppressed by the past and in the present, continually anticipating advances of deceitful and greedy imperialistic nations. In this scenario, these nations are incarnated in none other than our own United States Government. Time to address the sins of our past, indeed!
The minorities, however, represented by the African peoples of the Wakanda and the Latin peoples of an underwater world, are strong, valiant, advanced in science, technology, and wisdom, and refuse to become innocent victims. They have the willpower and the means to guard against American and European self-centered interests and aggression. Governments that put power, profit, and subjugation of peoples over common human decency are going to meet more than their match! Nevertheless, our Wakanda heroes and their potential allies under the sea, being fully human, are as prone to power’s temptations as much as anyone. Some confront the urge to adapt western annihilation techniques against their adversaries, others more freely embrace it. This conflict gives the movie its gravitas, as the Wakanda administration and its warriors wrestle between ethics and expediency, justice and revenge, future potential – or immediate gratification. As in a mirror, we, the audience, see the conflicts raging within our real 21st century world. Moreover, the screenwriters offer their characters and us the ultimate choice between two world visions. Which will we embrace? Transcendence through ritual, faith, and hope in a world comprised of all that is seen and unseen, or the existential views that insist on science and technology with no spiritual dimensions.
I found the film’s direction, acting, cinematography, score and the like well-presented, but leave assessment of those details to the professional reviewers online and in the papers. For my part, I simply wanted to share with you what I appreciated most: WAKANDA FOREVER has a good story, interesting characters, and vital and important themes. With so many children these days not grounded in any religious tradition, Marvel and Disney has offered a tale that may keep our teens and young adults engaged in thoughts that really matter. Who is up for more conversation?
On Thursday, November 10th, I attended the all-day symposium “NEVER IS NOW” sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) at New York City’s Javits Center. As I approached the building, Chassidim men and women held up protest signs on a variety of issues including Issues with Israel, Anti-Zionism, and “Keep ADL Out of Our High Schools.” You may know that ADL offers upper grade level programs addressing bullying, racism, and antisemitism in the schools – a program in which I have a great interest. It seems Chassidim have concerns that the ADL program defends LGBQT+ rights along with those of fellow Jews and other minorities. Others claim that ADL is too all-inclusive and neglects its emphasis on antisemitism.
Once inside, I was amazed at the substantial number of young adults at the event. Inspiring! Older adults, however, made up the largest percentage of the 2,000 plus attendees (my estimate). Attentive to the power of SYMBOLS in any religious context, I was struck by the small percentage of people wearing kippah or yarmulke (Yiddish for a special kind of “kippah). For my part, I wore my Roman Collar to show Catholic support in ADL’s efforts to counter the evils of racism and antisemitism. Interestingly, I did not encounter anyone wearing a clerical collar – Catholic, Protestant clergy or otherwise. Christian clergy may have been present, but none were identifiable, and I circulated widely within large and small groups. My collar, however, as it proved a great entrée for conversation.
Christopher Wray, FBI Director, spoke on the FBI’s vigilance to prevent hate crimes, noting the increase in violent speech and actions against synagogue communities and Jewish organizations since 2020
Among the keynote speakers, I gained the most from Albert Bourla as he shared his poignant experiences growing up in a Jewish household in Thessaloniki, Greece, among primarily Orthodox Christians.
In his role as Pfizer CEO, Dr. Bourla elaborated on the antisemitism that erupted throughout and beyond the Corona Virus pandemic, particularly among those who either claimed the pandemic a political plot and /or refuted the value of vaccines, or worse, that the vaccines introduced DNA modifiers into the vaccinated. Later I attended a session on QAnon (Internet Conspiracy Theory) and the MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) movement (one-and-the-same!) offering more details to that phenomenon. The emphasis there:
“In personal encounters, please do not argue with these folks. Invite them, instead, to identify their feelings of fear, of being marginalized, or whatever is going on in their personal lives. Try to address the feelings, not the issues, to open the door to sanity.”
Never share outrageous posts on internet platforms — even to ridicule them or offer opposing argument. You are helping disseminate the information and furthermore, add to the algorithms that prove the item is popular.
Another Keynote: Christopher Wray, FBI Director, highlighted the intensified security at synagogues and churches, particularly those with large first and second-generation immigrant populations. The corresponding break-out session I attended offered the following information:
Currently, most states in the US do not designate “Domestic Terrorism” as ‘Illegal.’ Nevertheless, the FBI identifies domestic terrorism according to the following criteria:
Racial or ethical based violence
Anarchist rhetoric and action
Vigilante propaganda and civilians acting as law enforcement officials
“Sovereign Citizens” who invent their own laws and attempt to impose them on others
Extremists among any group or organization
FBI continues to negotiate a balance between the 1st and 2nd Amendments to the US Constitution and finds it exceedingly challenging.
Always REPORT threats to personal and environmental safety to police.
Always REPORT Cyber threats, account hackings and takeovers – never treat them lightly. Keep an ongoing paper trail of all incidents (hard copies)
The FBI recommends the following organizations to increase awareness of potential threats to life and security in worship:
Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership Resources including:
Here are some points from a second break-out session I attended entitled “Cultivating Effective Alliances: How Partnerships Promote Positive Change.” Members of the following organizations spoke about their complimentary respective goals:
Jewish Federation of North America Home | The Jewish Federations of North America JFNA mission addresses hate by improving access to health care and addressing poverty for Jewish communities and their neighbors: “Economic Security guards against Hate”
Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Board of Deputies of British Jews – Board of Deputies of British Jews (bod.org.uk) In Ms. Van der Zyl’s experience, people who are Anti-Israel are, indeed, Antisemitic. Using these or similar words, she repeatedly asked the question: “Why would anyone deny sovereignty and a nation of their own to any race or ethnicity? To deny this to the Jewish people is genuine Antisemitism.” She also noted that international criticism of Israel is inordinate compared to critiques of conflicts in other nations.
The day concluded panel discussions for the entire assembly and an interview with Congresswoman Liz Cheney conducted by journalist Ruth Marcus, Associate Editor of the Washington Post. Among the panelists:
Michael Eric Dyson who affirmed a recommitment to solidarity among Black and Jewish Americans See: Michael Eric Dyson
Ruth Marcus’ interview with Congresswoman Liz Cheney closed the day-long event. Marcus focused on Cheney’s role as Chair for the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capital, applauding her for her witness to the value bipartisan cooperation. The women also addressed the link between QAnon and MAGA in growing antisemitism throughout the nation and these organizations influence worldwide.
I became reacquainted with a Biblical concept in my reading this evening – a concept worth repeating – especially to those who have given up on exploring God because of violence evidenced the Bible. Faith invites us to see all those passages highlighting the harm we humans cause ourselves and others, be it in the name of God or of our tribe, to make readers conscious of our own wrongdoings, especially in the ways we repeat the sins of our ancestors. The Bible invites us to read back into any section we encounter two central moments: The Ten Commandments (i.e., “oh, yes, I see the resulting tragedy when this or that Commandment is broken!”), and Christ’s Passion (i.e., “oh, yes, here’s another wound inflicted against God and humanity). Why would a Holy Book only give us “the good parts,” showing merely “exemplary behavior,” without honestly admitting human failures? Scripture offers “Good News” because it is honest, and because its goal is that we see all parts destined to contribute to a whole, holy, and majestic conclusion. What is this conclusion? A patient and forgiving God is ever-present to us, assisting us that we learn from the past and create a better future.
For more insight that supports “Love of God and Neighbor” as part of the Bible’s Ultimate Message, you may enjoy this article from Biblical Archeological Society. Reading the first half is more-than-enough as the second half gets very technical. If you don’t have time, know the answer is: NEIGHBOR MEANS EVERYONE! This is true in both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible.
Here I invite us to an Unofficial Dialogue so that we may share with one another:
Our understandings of what our Faith Traditions teach or Philosophies Uphold
(Please Provide Sources)
Our Personal thoughts and Feelings about what our traditions teach or Philosophies uphold
What We Personally Believe with Respect and Reverence for one another and respect for ourrespective institutions.
True Multi-Faith Dialogue invites us to clarify for one another our respective Tradition’s beliefs and moral codes and share our own responses to those doctrines and/or sensibilities — however, UNCOMFORTABLE this may be for each of us. But I trust all who are committed to multi-faith dialogue are willing to share our perspectives without rancor, but instead, respect the ways the human heart and brain function as infused with each person’s particular faith, culture, and perspectives on personal autonomy. Therefore, in response to the recent United States Supreme Court Decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, I invite you to offer your Faith or Denominations’ perspectives on Right to Life and Abortion. I have begun to compile a SAMPLE of the various religious institutions’ and their representatives’ statements on the Court’s decision, and I welcome you to add your statements in comments there as well. Here’s the link to the SAMPLE OF RELIGIOUS STATEMENTS I have collated thus far:
Are you ready for more? Let’s give a civil conversation a try!
I will start us off with my explanation of the Roman Catholic position on WHEN LIFE BEGINS contextualized with my personal understanding of why this topic remains a difficult one.
A Humble Attempt at a Catholic Explanation of The Right to Life from the Moment of Conception
Presented by Rev. James M. DiLuzio CSP (A Catholic priest –not a formal Catholic Theologian, Ethicist, or Official Spokesman)
The Catholic Church upholds the belief that human life begins at conception and therefore society must protect it. Not all Christian churches agree. Not all Faith Traditions agree. Part of the issue’s complexity is rooted in the different foundational premises people have as they enter the abortion debate. Generally, Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, and Pentecostal Christians start with life in the womb. Protestants, and other faiths often, but not always, start with each woman’s right to bodily integrity. While the former groups insist a woman’s “right to choose” begins and ends with her decision to engage in sexual intercourse along with her choices regarding family planning and contraception, the latter groups extend each woman’s rights of self-determination to any point including her pregnancy be it wanted or unwanted. Some traditions limit the designation of “the right to choose” as “a moral choice” to specific stages in pregnancy.
In the hope of maintaining focus, I invite us to take one premise at a time. Therefore, in this first piece I will offer my best expression of the Roman Catholic beliefs regarding the life in utero.
# 2270: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his (sic) existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. (Source: CDF — Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith document Donum vitae) 
Biblical References: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1: 5) “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.” (Psalm 139: 15) 
# 2271: Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed whether as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.”
“God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men (sic) the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”
Science classifies many stages in the conception process. Let us first look at the natural process of conception and growth along with Catholic catechetical statements printed in BOLD.
# 364: “The human body shares in the dignity of ‘the image of God’: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of theSpirit. 
# 365: “The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body:  i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body, spirit, and matter, in man (sic), are not two natures united, but rather their unionforms a single nature.”
This last statement that the soul and material body are inseparable, makes the Catholic sensibility that God, The Creator, infuses the immortal soul as sperm and ovum together create a zygote more tenable. Of course, the moment of ensoulment is unverifiable. As far as I know, neither the Roman Catholic Church nor any Christian denomination or Faith offers as an Institutional Body, any pronouncement, dogmatic or otherwise, as to exactly when God infuses the immortal soul in the human person in the womb. Truly there is mystery here.7 But, again, this fact does not mitigate the Catholic position that life begins at conception, and that humanity must respect every child’s right to develop and prosper.
For the complete Catholic position with reference to ensoulment, here is the statement from the Pontifical DECLARATION ON PROCURED ABORTION from Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on June 28, 1974
“It is not within the competence of science to decide between these views, because the existence of an immortal soul is not a question in its field. It is a philosophical problem from which our moral affirmation remains independent for two reasons:
supposing a belated animation, there is still nothing less than a human life, preparing for and calling for a soul in which the nature received from parents is completed,
on the other hand, it suffices that this presence of the soul be probable (and one can never prove the contrary) in order that the taking of life involve accepting the risk of killing a man, not only waiting for, but already in possession of his soul.”
Let us return to what information Science gives us:
“Within 24 hours after fertilization, the egg begins rapidly dividing into many cells. It remains in the fallopian tube for about three days after conception.
“Within 24 hours after fertilization, the egg begins rapidly dividing into many cells. It remains in the fallopian tube for about three days after conception.
The cell of thezygote continuously divides, eventually forming a hollow ball of cells called the blastocyst. . . . The blastocyte continues to divide as it passes slowly through the fallopian tube to the uterus. The blastocyst stays in their uterus for several days before it implants in the inner lining of their uterine wall (endometrium). It continues to make new cells, which separate into layers.” 
Now some proponents of abortion and abortive contraception (those that prevent a fertilized ova to attach to the uterus wall) is morally justifiable because, in the natural course of events, attachment of blastocyte to uterus occurs as infrequently as 30% of the time. However, Catholicism insists there is a marked difference between what occurs in nature and what the human person “wills.” Human “Will” is subject to moral and ethical evaluation, and these are based on Biblical and Church Tradition norms.
“In these first few weeks, a primitive face will take form with large dark circles for eyes. The mouth, lower jaw and throat are developing. Blood cells are taking shape, and circulation will begin. The tiny “heart” tube will beat sixty-five times a minute by the end of the fourth week.”
And so it is that the Roman Catholic Church finds support of its teachings on when human life begins in the way science documents each body’s distinctiveness at the onset of gestation and its evolving readiness to exist beyond the confines of the womb. Nevertheless, Roman and Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, Orthodox Christian Churches and other Christian denominations have failed to convince society of the validity of this belief. Therefore, the conversation on human life, abortion and all the related issues of human sexuality and responsibility, maternity and paternity, women’s and men’s health and dignity, remains open. Of course, for all of this, the health and safety of pregnant women remains paramount. See Appendix B as an introduction to that essential topic.
And, for all this, it is time to insist our nation provides greater resources for families, fathers, mothers, and children– far more than our government currently provides. We must also consider the number of single parent families, and of grandparents raising grandchildren, absent fathers, and all the realities of people not taking joint responsibility for their children.
If the choice for abortion is to become truly “rare,” Americans must reclaim our responsibility to form healthy families. Sure, this will mean government programs and higher taxes, but taxes put to this purpose will strengthen our society now and for the future. Time for a New “New Deal.” I invite you to read my MODEST PROPOSAL To Eliminate and/or Greatly Reduce the Need for Abortion. Go to: https://frjamesdiluzio.com/2022/07/05/a-modest-proposal/
As always, All Comments Welcome!
PS: I found this article presenting Islam’s view of When Does a Human Life Become Human by Hamza Yusuf is a leading proponent of classical learning in Islam. He cites “Do not sever the bonds of the womb.” – Qur’an 4:1 and. Do not kill your children from fear of poverty. – Qur’an 17:31. Go to: https://renovatio.zaytuna.edu/
Father James DiLuzio is a Paulist Father and Director of the Paulist Office for Ecumenical and Multi-Faith Relations centered in New York. APPENDICES to this article appear on the following pages.
Biblical QuotationsUsed in Pro-Life &Pro-Choice Debates
A Conflict in Christian Interpretations. (New American Bible, Revised Edition NABRE)
The Call of the Prophets:
These passages are open to debate: Were these conceptions a priori in the mind of God bestowed on the prophets alone or everyone? Is ensoulment the same as to “be filled with the holy Spirit?” The Roman Catholic position is that these passages refer to every human being (in part via Psalm 139 cited below); other denominations disagree.
1 Hear me, coastlands, listen, distant peoples. Before birth the LORD called me, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
Psalm 139: 13-16
13 You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. 15 My bones are not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.[e] 16 Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.
Deuterocanonical Book of Sirach 49: 7
(aka Ben Sira and Ecclesiasticus 49:7)
7 As foretold by Jeremiah. They mistreated him who even in the womb had been made a prophet . . .
Deuterocanonical Book of Sirach 50: 1, 22 ff. Simeon, Son of Jochanan
1 Greatest of his family, the glory of his people, was Simeon the priest, son of Jochanan,[a] In whose time the house of God was renovated, in whose days the temple was reinforced . . .
22 And now, bless the God of all,[b] who has done wonders on earth; Who fosters growth from the womb, fashioning it according to his will! 23 May he grant you a wise heart and abide with you in peace; 24 May his goodness toward Simeon last forever; may he fulfill for him the covenant with Phinehas So that it may not be abrogated for him or his descendants while the heavens last.
Luke 1: 13-15 The Announcement of the Conception of John the Baptist 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid,[e]Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.[f]He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,16and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
PURPOSEFULNESSPRIOR TO CONCEPTIONLuke 1: 30-33
30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,[k] and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
The Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians 1: 15-16
15 But when [God], who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles,
Ambiguity in Texts: Exodus 21: 12 – 15 and 22 -23
Personal Injury.12 [e]Whoever strikes someone a mortal blow must be put to death. 13 However, regarding the one who did not hunt another down, but God caused death to happen by his hand, I will set apart for you a place to which that one may flee. 14 But when someone kills a neighbor after maliciously scheming to do so, you must take him even from my altar and put him to death. 15 Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death
22 [h]When men have a fight and hurt a pregnant woman, so that she suffers a miscarriage, but no further injury, the guilty one shall be fined as much as the woman’s husband demands of him, and he shall pay in the presence of the judges. 23 But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Taken together, these passages imply that the biblical authors did not judge life in utero as equal to that of a human living beyond the womb. The penalty for a homicide was death, but the recompense for an injured pregnant woman who miscarried is merely a fine. Some people cite these texts to justify their belief that a child in utero is not yet a human being. However, note that the biblical text refers to an accident toward a bystander, not a willful attack on a person as in the case of the adversarial men. The Scriptures do not address a violent act against a pregnant woman who subsequently miscarries here or elsewhere. Therefore, the assumption of the lesser value of the child in utero is a false one.
“Saving the Life of a Mother in Crisis Pregnancies”
Here is a brief look at the Catholic understanding in assessing crisis situations in which both the life of a mother and the child in utero are in jeopardy.
Catholic Moral Teaching insists that all medical means are permissible in saving a woman’s life providing one does not willfully intend to terminate the life of a child in utero.
“The Principle of Double Effect in the Church’s moral tradition teaches that one may perform a good action even if it is foreseen that a bad effect will arise only if four conditions are met: 1) The act itself must be good. 2) The only thing that one can intend is the good act, not the foreseen but unintended bad effect. 3) The good effect cannot arise from the bad effect; otherwise, one would do evil to achieve good. 4) The unintended but foreseen bad effect cannot be disproportionate to the good being performed.
This principle has been applied to many cases in health care, always respecting the most fundamental moral principle of medical ethics,primum non nocere, “first, do no harm.”
Don’t have time to read the article? Here’s the essence of it cited from Fr. Sawyer’s closing remarks:
“The pro-life movement has frequently been co-opted for other political goals and often happily colluded in them; politicians have used the lives of the unborn as moral cover for ignoring other calls for justice and to protect the common good. Many defenders of Roe v. Wade, meanwhile, have obscured and evaded the moral question about when life begins and what duties we owe to unborn children. Our country has, as a consequence of all these failures, not offered women a better choice than abortion, while it has accepted the lie that autonomy and freedom can only be guaranteed by the option to destroy an innocent life. “
As Pope Francis asked ‘“I ask: ‘Is it licit, is it right, to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem?’ It’s a human life, that’s science,” the pope said. “The moral question is whether it is right to take a human life to solve a problem,
Here’s a bit of SEX EDUCATION available right now from the New York Times that can clarify facts to be used in the dialogue. .
What Society Owes its Citizens in Order to Eliminate or Greatly Reduce the Desire or Need for Abortion
NOW IS THE TIME for MORE Conversation and Debate on the Role of Religious and Educational Institutions, Behavioral Sciences, Businesses, and Society-at-Large Regarding:
Advancing SOCIETY’S RESPONSIBILITY toward Families including Universal Health Care that includes Subsidies for
Pre-Pregnancy, Pregnancy, and Post-partem Health Care for All Regardless of Economic and Marital Status and Sexual Orientation
Expanding WIC (Women, Infants and Children) programs for All Single Parents, Male and Female
Paid Maternity and Paternity Leave for all Parents. I suggest we follow the European Model of Six Months or MORE as bonding is an essential dynamic for raising healthy children.
Universal, Professional Child Day Care for infants and children of all Working Women and Men whether he or she works inside or outside of the home.
Greater Public Educational Offerings in Parenting, Child Care and Child Development especially in High Schools and GED Programs.
Expanding Education K through Twelve to offer
Age-Appropriate Classes in All Schools on HOW TO BE A HEALTHY FAMILY, including such items as
Healthy Expressions of Anger
Ways to address fears, insecurities
Age-appropriate forms of Affection
Ethics and in Health and Sexual Education including: The Psychology of Sexual drives, thought, feelings and decision-making
In-depth understanding of layers of social pressures regarding sexual expression
Clarity and Specificity in situations when individuals reject sexual overtures
Expanding After-School Programs in Visual Arts, Crafts, Music, Theatre, and Sciences, especially where local school systems cannot afford such essential needs to healthy human development
Sponsoring Ongoing Local, State, and National PUBLIC FORUMS to Develop a Consensus on Universal Guidelines (NOT LEGISLATION) for Promoting Co-Responsibility for Sexual Activity and its Consequences for both Men and Women. Special attention must be given to educate men in proper attitudes toward women as equals and co-partners in mutually agreed upon relationships including clarification of all of Men’s moral / social responsibilities toward their partners before, during and after their partners become pregnant.
These PUBLIC FORUMS should include representatives from all faith traditions, experts in Behavioral Sciences, Sociologists, Economics and more. Our nation needs to cultivate greater awareness of the consequences of our actions, the complex needs families have, and the family’s impact on society.
Compare and Contrast Various Religious, Humanist, Philosophical, and Psychological approaches regarding sexual activity in human relationships (Inviting Multi-faith and Secular Perspectives) Amplifying and/or modifying these norms for Teenagers and their parents. Teenagers need to be much better informed of the dynamics of their changing bodies and all the associated feelings and drives. Psychology reminds us the human brain does not have all of its full adult capacities until age 25! Teenagers and parents need lots more information! See https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/02/18/at-what-age-is-the-brain-fully-developed/
Commission and Popularize Psychological Studies of psychological and emotional impact on sexual activity and abstinenceInside and outside of Marriage for
Inside and Outside of Marriage
On College Students
New Dialogues with Medical Professionals and Behavioral Scientists with Religious Institutions on Sexual Behaviors and Psychology, including the mental and emotional dynamics of Access to, and use of Non-Abortive Forms of Contraception.
Special Attention to Conversations with Religious Institutions Opposed to All Forms of Artificial Contraception, especially those like the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, among many others,, that ask all single individuals to abstain from sexual activity until marriage. Everyone could benefit by exploring further the many spiritual, psychological, and emotional dynamics of this prescription.
Public Health and Safety Service Announcements as to the Best Non-Abortive Forms of Birth Control for those whose faith and ethics permit them. Churches and Other Religious Institutions could offer their exemptions / rejections such as “The Roman Catholic Church finds these forms of artificial birth control morally objectionable.”
Here’s a bit of SEX EDUCATION available right now from the New York Times.
The G20 Interfaith Forum urges international attentiveness to formal legal and commonplace practices in various nation’s policies that infringe upon or deny rights to their Jewish populations and those of other minorities. Russia is a prime example of labeling people of the Jewish faith as enemies of the state on no other basis than that of their religion.
One of the myths contributing to Antisemitism is an assertion that Jews do not have loyalty to the nation in which they live. This remains an affront to reality. It is unconscionable that anyone in the public center describe any ethnic group in such a wide generalization. Furthermore, evidence abounds as to the substantial numbers of Jewish people actively involved in politics and social agencies for their respective nation’s welfare, not to mention numerous International Jewish agencies devoted to human rights concerns.
The Economic Crisis of 2008 quickly awakened Antisemitism. Various governments and political parties have often scapegoated the Jewish community during economic turmoil by fostering medieval, pre-modern and post-modern superstitions and fallacious arguments against the Jewish race.
Although Mainstream Politicians and News Media strive to avoid Antisemitic rhetoric, evidence of blatant Antisemitism is legion in many Non-Democratic Nations.
Often the World Stage exemplifies Antisemitism by an exaggerated attentiveness to Israel’s internal affairs. For example, the United Nations’ 2001 World Conference Against Racism exclusively railed against the Nation of Israel, paying little or no attention to racism and tribal warfare in Africa, Asia, Syria, Middle Eastern, and Latin America Nations.
The accusation that Israel is an “apartheid” nation is an example of Antisemitism. Apartheid in South Africa consisted of formal, legislated policies against a race of people in defiance of International Law. No such laws exist in Israel. Using the term “apartheid” makes a false generalization about an entire people and its representative government. Furthermore, the term presents a grave obstacle to negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people. Israel needs collaboration and support from other nations in addressing complex, territorial disputes. Condemnations alone is counterproductive. Regarding the political sphere, Israel would appreciate more international understanding of the fact that the Palestinians representative, Mahmoud Abbas, is a genuine dictator. The very nature of his position and policies make him (and the Palestinians who work for and with him) an affront to the democratic values they pretend to want for the Palestinian people.
Antisemitism is present in the lack of outcry against human rights violations in contemporary Russia where its government does not afford Jews and other minorities equal opportunities on many social levels. Russia’s propaganda that calls UKRAINE a Nazi nation ripe with antisemitism, provides fodder to blame the Jewish people for the invasion of Ukraine — an invasion the Jewish community actively protests. We urge an international outcry against Russia’s lies and hypocrisies.
The loss of a critical sense of history, including Holocaust denial, not only contributes to Antisemitism but perpetuates growing Christian and Islamic phobias in many countries. Efforts to combat these prejudices are not internationally unified. Governments must acknowledge Antisemitism as more than a political problem. In fact, it is a racial, religious, moral, existential, as well as a political problem. Historically, Antisemitic events often jumpstart active prejudices and racism against minorities in various religious, social, political, and cultural contexts.
A worthy historical example of a nation and Church effectively combating Antisemitism: In 1943, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church widely condemned the Nazis and their policies against the Jewish people. At the same time, they boldly supported and accommodated the Bulgarian Jews’ emigration to the land that is now the State of Israel.
For more information on the G20 Interfaith Forum, go to:
Moderator: Asher Maoz is dean of the Peres Academic Center Law School in Rehovot. He holds a PhD. In Philosophy from Tel Aviv University, and a Master of Law from the University of Chicago. He is a member of the G20 Interfaith Forum Advisory Council and Anti-Racism Initiative.
Yuli-Yoel Edelstein: Member of the Israeli Knesset. Mr. Edelstein is one of the most prominent refuseniks in the former Soviet Union. From 1984 to 1987 the Soviet government imprisoned him at a Gulag in Siberia for teaching Hebrew and Pro-Israel commentary. Freed via international protests, Mr. Edelstein emigrated to Israel and remains active in Israel’s public and political spheres.
Natan Sharansky: received Israel’s highest award for promoting Aliyah and the ingathering of the exiles in 2018. He is the only non-American citizen to receive the American Presidential Medal of Freedom (2006) Congressional Medal of Honor (1986). He has served as minister in four Israeli governments; Chair of the Shlihut (Emissary) Institute and The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP).
Dr. Peter Petkoff: A Senior Law Lecturer at the Brunel Law School in London, Dr. Petkoff is also Director of Religion, Law, and International Relations Programme at Regent’s Park College, Oxford. He is currently authoring a book for Oxford University Press on Holy Sites Under International Law. See also:
FATHER STU, a film about a real-life-narcissistic-troubled soul’s transformation, explores and incarnates the adage: “God writes straight with crooked lines.” It is an engaging movie offering a high-quality performance by Mark Wahlberg as the real Stuart Long (1964-2014) a sort of Southern, Elvis-fed Hillbilly growing up in an exquisitely dysfunctional family who stumbles upon Catholic Christianity despite himself. Not saccharine, not preachy, this is a COMEDY-DRAMA with inspired casting, earthy expletives, and a strong pull to see just where this film-and where this man is going. Its dramatic component gently eases us into the nature of faith, and, especially, a theology of suffering. The script by Rosalind Ross puts more of a light, evangelical spin on the JOB dilemma than a more deeply nuanced Catholic one (Could no one have consulted ME?), but it makes sense based on the time frame and the locale. Bringing religious conversation into the secular movie world is always difficult, so when Stuart encounters parishioners at a local Catholic Church, there are times when we get all-too-typical Christian soundbites, instead of more profoundly intimate spiritual sharing. Still, as director, Ross highlights terrific, nuanced facial expressions from a solid cast, and I’m happy to report that in FATHER STU, the whole is always greater than some of its parts.
More about the casting: Mark Wahlberg is perfect. He winningly incarnates the character’s transition from “Somebody Love Me, Please” self-absorption to a person who finds God in loving others – the film’s essential, vital theme. As the father-from-hell Mel Gibson is alarmingly compelling. What is it about this actor/director and his wrestling with faith-on-film? God know where he is on the faith spectrum, but his work is always thought-provoking, and Gibson captivates the menace here very well. As Stuart’s mother, Jacki Weaver plays an excellent suffering soul. Along with her estranged husband, this mom offers the existential angst of a true cynic, yet her devotion to her son, and her hurt for the husband who abandoned her, is heart-wrenching. And Teresa Ruiz is radiant as Stuart’s love interest and the woman who instigates Stu’s faith journey. Indeed, these fascinating, well-crafted performances constitute the heart of this movie, even when the script and direction (also Rosalind Ross) don’t quite fulfill all the material’s potential. Many scenes, however, are truly excellent, from the broad comedy of Stuart’s early adult life from boxing to acting to supermarket clerk and his infatuation with Ruiz, through to his conversion, and his torment. The intimate moments shared by Stu and his mother, and one with Ruiz near the film’s conclusion, are beautiful.
Although the trailers for FATHER STU make more than evident the plot’s trajectory, know that there will be surprises you are bound to appreciate. Make-up and Special Effects are among them and first-rate. We haven’t had a major motion picture exploring faith in a positive vain for some time. FATHER STU fits the bill nicely, and like a good parable, there’s much here to chew on and discuss as you leave the theater. Please go!
Invite dinner guests with musical ability to bring their musical instruments
Have family members set DVR to pre-record Football Games; pre-record or purchase/rent CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, or other cartoons, or CHRISTMAS MOVIES. These will be handy for intervals such as between main meal and desert or as alternate After Meal Activities.
Community Games to Have on Hand: Charades, Pictionary, Balderdash
Music via CD, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube (See item VIII below)
POST-ITS with #s on them, coordinated to # of guests. Separate #s for Adults and # for Children. Have each guest take a #. (Children’s # on one color post-it; adults, another)
Display and have available a Bible & Children’s Bible opened to Luke, Chapter 2.
Christmas Carol Music Books or Song Sheet or PowerPoint copies displayable on TV (If your TV & computer are integrated, have the “tech” in the family work on this in the weeks prior to Christmas. Otherwise, make copies of Song Sheets or just the lyrics.)
I CHRISTMAS EVE (or Morning) – Replace the colored Advent Candles from your Advent Wreathe with White Candles, and add a fifth White Candle at the center of the Wreathe.
Prayers for the Occasion available in Catholic Book of Blessings and online at
II CHRISTMAS MORNING: A Short Prayer before Opening Gifts: “Thank you God for the Gift of Christ in our lives. May the beauty of his birth bring new life to our faith and help us to appreciate all life, all children throughout the world. Thank you for the gifts before us. Fill us with Gratitude for you and for one another. Keep us young at heart. Amen.”
If young children are patient, read Luke 2: 1- 21 and Matthew 2: 1-13, Sing “Silent Night” or “We, Three Kings,” otherwise read and sing AFTER Presents are opened.
Sing “God Bless Ye, Merry Gentleman” if all are receptive for another carol.
III CHRISTMAS DINNER PRAYER:“Dear God, Here We Are–Our family and friends–and these are the feelings we bring to this Christmas Day. Helps us understand the beautiful way You accept each us as we are. Make us confident in your love so that we may be at peace and feel your presence among us. Help us to make the most of this meal, this day, and our time together.” Then invite everyone to join in the Traditional Grace before Meals, OR if your company is of mixed religions, substitute the Christian Grace with this: “Blessed are YOU, Source of Life, God known by so many names, help us to experience Joy this Christmas Day and lead all peoples on to the pathway of peace. Bless all our family and guests. Bless our Meal and our Conversation. Amen.”
IV FIRST COURSE ACTIVITY (soup/salad), and /or Hors D’oeuvres:
Ask: What do you remember about the First Christmas Story? Include both the Biblical, Legend and Folk tales if you wish. Begin with the children by number, then adults by number. Everyone gets “help” sharing the Christmas Story as needed.
Conclude First Course by having someone Read Luke 2: 1- 21 and Matthew 2: 1-13
V MAIN COURSE:
ASK: What event or circumstance are most significant for me about Jesus’ story today?
Invite each Guest to share his or her memories of the best Christmas that they have ever experienced and why it is an important memory for him or her. TRY TO KEEP THE MEAL AS LEASURELY AND UN-RUSHED AS POSSILBE.
Any Similarities between Jesus’ story and the Christmas memories shared?
VI AFTER MEAL BREAK ACTIVITY: Share Birth Stories during walks & pre-dessert clean ups:
During the break, have all guests recall the story of the day each of them was born. Allow time for the elders to inform youngsters if they haven’t already. Everyone will be invited to share his or her birth story during desert.
VII DURING AND AFTER DESERT: Share Birth Stories
After each person shares say “As the Angels Sang for Jesus, the Angels Sang for you, too! Everyone’s part of the story! Everyone’s part of God’s plan!”
Invite Spontaneous Prayer: “For Whom and for What Shall We Pray for this Christmas Day?”
Sing “Angels We Have Heard on High –Gloria in Excelsis Deo!”
VIIIAFTER DINNER ACTIVITY: Have everyone participate in Clean-Up:
Two Teams: The Kitchen Team verses those who go for walks and/or play in the living room memorizing THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS OR THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS OR LUKE’S GOSPEL CHAPTER 2: 1-20.
IX AFTER DINNER & CLEAN-UP:
Together recall all 12 Days of Christmas or ALL the Verses of The Night Before Christmas OR Luke 2: 1-20; Share the story or song together. Which Team Wins?
Read one of the many stories and legends about Saint Nicholas
X MORE AFTER DINNER ACTIVITIVITES
Gather ‘round a piano and Sing Carols Together
Guess each person’s favorite Christmas Album / Cd and Favorite version and vocalist of any Christmas song
Have Christmas CDs (Vocalists/ Choirs) and have people sing-a-long.
Conclude with Christmas Caroling in the Neighborhood
XI CHRISTMAS FAREWELL BLESSINGS
Before Farewells or before the first person must leave:
BLESS EACH GUEST individually or collectively: “May the Spirit of Christmas remain in your heart—the joy of life, the gift of family, and angels singing your song as you continue to compose it all the days of your life. May your song(s) give God glory!”
INVITE ALL TO SING “WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS”
PLEASE & THANK YOU GAME with OPTIONAL CHARITABLE COMPONENT TO CHRISTMAS: INVTIE GUESTS TO BRING A SINGLE $ 1. BILL for each member of his or her family or party to participated in a PLEASE & THANK YOU GAME. Designate a charity and let them know what the dollars are for in advance OR have everyone vote on one of two or three choices before Grace (E.G, Catholic Charities for Puerto Rico Relief or Catholic Relief Services or Unicef.) Have some extra $1. bills around for those who forget.). The FIRST TIME anyone forgets to say Please” or “Thank You,” from the beginning of the Meal (after Grace) to end of dinner (i.e. “please pass the potatoes; thank you), he or she gets a WARNING. The SECOND TIME he or she must surrender their dollar into a basket. Proceeds go to the previously announced charity. At the end of the day, people may contribute the Remaining Dollars or additional $ if they wish to the cause.
Catholic Book of Household Blessings
To Dance with God by Gertrude Mueller Nelson features Great Ideas for Family Rituals & Prayers for Feast Days and Holidays throughout the Year
THE BAKER’S DOZEN story of Saint Nicholas by Aaron Shepherd
People of the Covenants – Jews and Christians thought the end of the world was upon them when Rome decimated the Great Temple of Jerusalem. Yet, disappointed that Messiah did not arrive, Judaism and Christianity persevered by the grace of God. Jews were saved because of their confidence in God’s faithfulness; Christians, because they believed that through all the turmoil, their Redemption was at hand.
In every age there are signs for us to interpret that engage our faith. In the Great Religious Revivals of the 19th century, many Americans thought an eclipse of the sun would inaugurate a Messianic Age. By the “Third Great Awakening” from 1850 onward new forms of Christianity emerged: Christian Science, the Mormon Church, Pentecostal Christianity. Within the main line churches, Methodism flourished, and, within Catholicism, the Paulist Fathers were formed. All were trying their best to address the turmoil of their times: industrial revolutions, workers’ rights, and a host of other things. Through it all, the people were determined to stand tall because of their faith in Jesus. The legacies of their contributions are still with us, especially in a widely held Christian principle: that Christ will return once humanity has reformed the earth, when our surrender to God is complete and the biblical design of peace and harmony are accomplished. Indeed, Jesus made it very clear that our heavenly goals will not be reached unless we cooperate with Grace to experience a little bit of heaven on earth. The KINGDOM must be inaugurated before Messiah returns. Why else would Jesus say “build my kingdom!”
That vision is for every time and place, but it must be rooted. We must always acknowledge the reality of sin—the human proclivity to cause harm. There is an inherent selfishness in humanity. Jesus always acknowledged that. One of my favorite biblical phrases comes from the Gospel of John, chapter 2, vs 25: “Jesus did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.” Knowing this, He came to SAVE. Amazing how his grace is offered to all who choose to hold steadfast to Him.
ADVENT begins a new year, and the signs of our times are offering new opportunities for renewal, for re-commitment to Christ. Humility is key. We must humbly acknowledge we need a Savior! Keeping our sights on Jesus, let us examine some of our most recent trials and see how we can witness to others that this new Church year is a year of grace.
In September we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11. Back then, most of us thought that, after the shock, and hurt, and cries for vengeance, and, after the wars (has any war ever settled all the issues for which it was declared?), we would have settled down, and taken up the cross of peace-making. Instead, in this 21st century, our nation and much of the globe remains infected with hate mongering, scapegoating, and intolerance. Did you know that sociologists have recorded that although wars unite people against a common enemy, when wars are over, domestic violence, gangs, and scapegoating minorities and others increase at alarming rates in peace time economies? Obviously, the revenge against Al-Qaeda and Osama Ben Laden did not satisfy. That is a sign for our times worthy of our consideration.
And now, we have lived with almost two years of the Covid epidemic. People of good will prayed and hoped that international cooperation would have been exemplary; that remedies and established protocols would have assured all humanity access to vaccines — a gift of inspiration from our God to the medical community and the world. But that is not the totality of our experience. Although great progress is being made, sin still erupts; controversy ensues. Except for those who because of health issues could not and should not be vaccinated (a small percentage of the population), there were and are people in every nation boycotting wearing masks and refusing vaccines as an expression of their individuality. A very self-serving defiance rooted in a hostile ideology that cares not for neighbors, or elderly, or apparently the young and future generations. Worse, today’s news highlights new covid mutations and pockets of pandemic spread. Add denial of the human imprint on climate change, and it is clear the mess we are in.
Indeed, one of the worst sins of our age is denial of the sins of the past, which, in a sense, is like saying “We don’t need a Savior. We’re doing perfectly fine for ourselves.” HA!
To those who say “Stop telling us about the sins of our past. We’re tired of hearing of the rape of the land, violence against the natives, the terrors of slavery, the abuse of children in church and homes, and poverty and all the rest.” To those people, we must ask, “Do you or do you not value the Bible as Divine Revelation? If you do, take note: the Bible offers more examples of sin than of glory. Most of the Bible’s inspiration comes from naming and learning from sin and selfishness, from very human mistakes to outright denial of God and Covenant.
Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel—shall we expurgate their stories from the text? The Golden Calf and the rebellion of the Israelites –forget it? Jesus reprimanding James and John for wanting to get special favors; arguments among the Apostles as to which among them shall be treated the greatest – immediately following the Last Supper and the First Eucharist? Yes, better to delete all of that. Is there nothing to learn from Jesus calling Peter “Satan,” or from Peter’s threefold denial, or the lukewarm, nausea-inducing mediocre seven churches of Revelation?
WISDOM comes from Truth –not half-truths. Conversion comes from humility. Yet, for all this, the Bible’s most foundational message is how much we are loved. It takes humility to accept that God’s Covenant comes from care; God’s forgiveness reveals loving patience. Jesus’ humanity reveals we are not only fully known, but we are never alone. Jesus understands that most of our sins are rooted in desperation, fears, and ignorance. With love, patience, and understanding –the gifts of faith—Jesus says, follow me, sin no more, and assist others in accepting love.
Advent prepares us to take stock again as to where we have been and where we are going. Don’t we want to gaze upon the Infant Jesus in the manger and say, “Dear Jesus, I’m learning, I’m growing. Your love is reaching me, teaching me, transforming me.”
Today, all our readings insist that, no matter the era we live in, no matter the strife in our lives, that love is hope for sinful people. Yes, our Christian faith offers tremendous redress to all that ails us. This Eucharist, this very day, is yet another opportunity for us to surrender to LOVE. That is God’s will. To accept it, is to accept Jesus, to follow Jesus, who, as Scripture says, “shall do what is right and just in the land” and take us in that same pursuit.
Advent. Don’t wait! Surrender! Our world is waiting to be loved.