Century Marks

Century Marks

Mass appeal

During a mass last month with 1,000 bishops in the beehive-shaped modern cathedral in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis echoed the message he delivered to pilgrims at World Youth Day earlier—a radical call to renew the church, which has seen its numbers dwindle in Europe thanks to apathy and in Latin America because of competition from charismatic evangelicals. “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities when so many people are waiting for the gospel,” Francis said in his homily. It was a slightly more diplomatic expression of an off-the-cuff exhortation he delivered to young Argentine pilgrims, in which he urged the youngsters to make a “mess” in their dioceses and shake things up (AP).

Dirty laundry

The problem with much philanthropy is that it keeps in place a system that makes a few people wealthy and keeps many people in poverty, argues Peter Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett. The chairman of his own philanthropic foundation, he refers to “conscience laundering”: the very rich spread around a little of their wealth to help the poor and make themselves feel better (New York Times, July 26).

Veiled attack

A violent protest was sparked last month in a Parisian suburb when police checked the identity of a woman wearing Muslim garb, which is forbidden by French law. When the woman’s husband scuffled with the police, a larger battle with the police erupted, lasting two days. One teenager lost an eye in the conflict (The Week, August 2).

Hymn comeback?

“Our God,” a praise hymn by Matt Redman, is the most popular song sung in American churches, according to a chart that tracks such matters. Approaching the top ten list is a retro hymn, “In Christ Alone,” cowritten by Keith Getty. Getty represents a newer group of songwriters who try to get more content into their songs than the usual praise songs. Getty believes hymns should be singable without a band and should say something bold. “I think it’s to the church’s poverty that the average worship song now has so few words. . . . It is so focused on several commercial aspects of God, like the fact that he loves our praises,” Getty says (NPR, July 8).

Going gently

When Charlie, a highly regarded orthopedist, discovered he had pancreatic cancer, he refused all treatment. He ended his practice, never entered a hospital again, and spent time with his family until his death. This is not an unusual approach for doctors, according to Ken Murray, himself a physician. Doctors know what options they have at the end of life and how futile extreme efforts often are. While doctors often must use extreme measures to keep other people alive to meet relatives’ expectations, they refuse these measures themselves. Studies have shown that people in hospice care often live longer than people with the same disease who seek active treatment (Health Care Blog, August 6, 2012).