The Measure of Being Pro-Life

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN friend and former board member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our January 13th newsletter


During this week when we mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling which legalized abortion in all 50 states, our readings remind us that the Lord has formed each human being “to be his servant from the womb.” (Is. 49:5) Like St. Paul, every child, woman, and man “is called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” (1 Cor. 1:1)

We believe that each human being is made in the image and likeness of God. In The Violence of Love, Saint Oscar Romero writes, we “believe that in each person is the Creator’s image and that everyone who tramples it offends God.” How we treat the child in the womb, the new immigrant to our country, the lonely and the lost, the homeless on the street, people suffering from addictions, the handicapped, the elderly, the vulnerable, is how we treat our God. Recently, a woman, who each time I am blessed to spend time with her teaches me how to live the Gospel, cried “I know I am not smart. I know I am slow. But I am a human being and I have feelings. I hurt when someone bullies me. I hurt when someone takes advantage of me. I hurt when someone hates me and does not even try, or want, to know me.” The way anyone treats this beautiful “apostle of Christ Jesus” is how they treat our God; our God who came to live among us on earth as a vulnerable child and who died as a vulnerable adult. The way anyone treats this beautiful person of God is a gauge to how they value the sanctity of any life.

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis addresses the importance of concern for all vulnerable beings however “different”, “troublesome” or “inconvenient” they may be. The measure for being pro-life is what we do each day to respect the dignity of each human being we encounter. The measure for being pro-life is also what we do each day to systematically and tirelessly oppose anything that will destroy or diminish the life of any person. The Franciscan Action Network is a good example of working tirelessly and consistently to support a consistent ethic of life.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Friend and Former Board Member

Published in: on January 14, 2020 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Just Peace…

By FAN Executive Director, Stephen Schneck, PhD


This morning, National Catholic Reporter, published my assessment of the Trump administration assassination of Qassem Suliemani, along with similar assessments by noted Catholic theologians. For reasons of space, the focus of analysis in the piece was whether military action could be called “just” according the church’s so-called just war teachings. My conclusion was that not only was the assassination unjustifiable, it was immoral.

Focusing on just war teachings, though, can lead us to overlook something much more important – peace.

Since St. John XXIII’s papacy, just war teachings have been de-emphasized in Church teachings. Emerging is a Christlike emphasis on peace, replacing the casuistry justifying any military actions. St. Paul VI at the United Nations in 1965 cried “No more war, war never again.” St. John Paul II not only repeated Paul VI’s cry for peace many times, he admonished President George W. Bush in a message ahead of that administration’s pre-emptive attack on Iraq, advising that God was not on the side of the United States. Pope Benedict XVI, even questioned if it was “still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war?'” Pope Francis at Hiroshima in November, 2019, argued that “Violence is not the cure for our broken world” and, just this week warned after the Suleimani assassination that “War brings only death and destruction.”

As these recent pontiffs signal, the Catholic Church is increasingly a peace church – a church which never justifies war. This should give us pause. If peace is the only justification, then surely we must look at military forces in a different way.

If you’ve not had a chance to see the recent movie A Hidden Life, I recommend it. The movie traces the heroic martyrdom of Bl. Franz Jägerstätter. An Austrian and a Secular Franciscan, Jägerstätter refused military service when called up to serve in a war he thought was unjust. For that conscientious objection he was guillotined by the Nazis in 1943. In 2007, he was declared a martyr for his faith by Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified. His feast day is May 21st.

Published in: on January 13, 2020 at 11:41 am  Comments (1)  
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War with Iran – not a Catholic option

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Just think how much better each one of us and the world would be, if we held fast to this morally correct common sense proverb. But unfortunately, common sense and morality are often not considered when we feel we have been wronged.

Instead, and often tragically so, the unholy act of retaliation is a frequent response. And even when considering retaliation from just a logical perspective, it doesn’t make sense. Historically, as well as currently, it is clearly observed that retaliation, instead of deterring further aggression, nearly always perpetuates it, creating an ongoing cycle of violence.
Retaliation is especially illogical and immoral when doing so could lead to war. President Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani is a case in point – notwithstanding Soleimani’s murderous reputation.

As reported in The Atlantic (see: https://bit.ly/2FDYgYk), Elissa Slotkin, a Democratic representative and former CIA analyst focused on Shia militias, said in a statement that she’d seen friends and colleagues killed or hurt by Iranian weapons under Soleimani’s guidance when she served in Iraq. She said she was involved in discussions during both the Bush and Obama administrations about how to respond to his violence. Neither opted for assassination.

“What always kept both Democratic and Republican presidents from targeting Soleimani himself was the simple question: Was the strike worth the likely retaliation, and the potential to pull us into protracted conflict?” she said. “The two administrations I worked for both determined that the ultimate ends didn’t justify the means. The Trump Administration has made a different calculation.”

In addition to considering the added harm retaliation would bring, Slotkin’s pointing out “that the ultimate ends didn’t justify the means” is a step in the direction of the ironclad Catholic moral principle which insists that even a good end does not justify an evil means. That is, the means used to accomplish a good end must also be good. No exceptions! And in light of the Gospel, violence is always an evil means.

In his new year’s address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited by the Holy See, Pope Francis expressed deep concern regarding tensions between Iran and the United States which risks “setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert.” He appealed that escalation of the conflict be avoided and to “keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-restraint” (see: https://bit.ly/2QEXbWQ).

In his 2003 address to the Diplomatic Corps, St. John Paul II emphatically proclaimed that war “is always a defeat for humanity.”

Here’s a link to excellent resources provided by the U.S. Catholic peace movement Pax Christi to help us avoid war with Iran https://paxchristiusa.org/iran/.

As the U.S. approaches the federal holiday honoring Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is especially appropriate to reflect on his thoughts regarding such matters: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

“Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. … Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Two wrongs don’t make a right. It takes strong moral courage to break the violent cycle of giving back hurt for hurt. For it takes love to make a right.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.

Published in: on January 10, 2020 at 4:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

FAN Works to Celebrate Refugees

On January 8, 2020, in a Greenbelt, MD district court house, a hearing was held on the lawsuit filed by three refugee settlement organizations against Executive Order 13.888 issued in September, 2019.

FAN’s Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF spoke at a rally in front of the court with partner faith and human rights groups who gathered to celebrate, welcome, and uplift refugee contributions to our country. Here is her speech.


Franciscan Action Network, a longtime advocate for refugees, sees the timing of this court hearing as particularly significant. In the Christian calendar it is still the Christmas Season, when we remember that the Holy Family sought refuge in Egypt to escape threats of a jealous king. It comes during National Migration Week 2020, celebrated annually in the Catholic church in the United States for almost 50 years. This year’s theme, “Promoting a Church and World for All,” emphasizes the need for Catholics to be inclusive and welcoming to all our sisters and brothers. Welcoming refugees counters what Pope Francis has referred to as “a globalization of indifference,” which has led many to turn their backs on those living in poverty and/or violence and seeking to find a better life of safety and hope for their families. We are reminded that refugees are people, with names, faces, and heart-wrenching stories of why their lives became so unbearable that they fled their countries to seek welcome and safety elsewhere.

Until recent years, the United States has offered this hope to refugees, and has benefited economically and culturally from the many contributions of refugees from around the world. Under this administration, the welcome sign has been removed. The Trump administration has shown not only indifference, but outright hostility to refugees by dramatically decreasing the number of admissions each year, and in September, 2019, issuing an executive order that would give localities and states the ability to deny entry of refugees into their areas, even if they have been approved for resettlement. Welcoming refugees is not a partisan issue. To date, governors of 41 states, both Democrats and Republicans, including the Republican governor of this state of Maryland, have declared that refugees are welcome in their states and municipalities.

The scripture readings this week in my Catholic tradition repeat the theme of love in the First Letter of John: because God is love we must love our brothers and sisters—not an invitation but a requirement of faith. According to Matthew’s account of the judgement of the nations, we will be judged not on how many times we went to church or how much money we gave in the collection basket, but whether we fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, cared for those who are ill, visited prisoners. Franciscans applaud the lawsuit filed by partners in faith in opposition to executive order 13.888 which is clearly immoral, threatens unification of families, and is seen by many as unlawful. We stand with our faith partners as they present their case, and we demand that our country’s Welcome sign be restored for refugee sisters and brothers.

Published in: on January 9, 2020 at 9:45 am  Leave a Comment  

An End and A Beginning

Reflection for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF.

This reflection was originally posted in our January 6th newsletter


Image courtesy of Gerd Altman from Pixabay

On the liturgical calendar, the Baptism of Jesus marks the end of the Christmas Season, time to move on, perhaps reluctantly, from the manger, angels, shepherds, Magi guided by a star, the young holy family. In biblical times, this is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry as he is baptized with water by John and by “the Spirit of God,” the “beloved Son,” prophesied by Isaiah to “establish justice on the earth.” In our personal lives, what endings and beginnings will the year 2020 hold for us? How will each of us live our baptismal commitment?

We, too, are God’s beloved. Conscious of our weaknesses, failures, and sins, or because we realize the challenges that being God’s beloved holds, we may be slow to accept this reality, to put boundaries on God’s extravagant love. But we, too, have been baptized with water and the Spirit of God. Like it or not, we are called to live our baptismal commitment each day, to work for “the victory of justice,” to go about “doing good and healing all those oppressed. . .”

On some days, we will feel overwhelmed or fatigued or discouraged in our efforts to live as baptized people. It is on those days especially that I must remind myself that I am God’s beloved. God’s love is so much larger than my limitations, failures, and vulnerabilities, that with me, too, God “is well pleased.” Believe it, baptized child of God!

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on January 7, 2020 at 9:34 am  Comments (1)  

The Gifts of the Magi

A Reflection on the Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany by incoming Executive Director of Franciscan Action Network, Stephen Schneck


Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Matthew 2:12

The Magi followed the star looking for a king, “the newborn king of the Jews.” Yet, what are we to understand the baby’s kingship to mean? Were the Magi’s gifts meant to symbolize earthly authority – with gold for wealth, incense for beauty, and myrrh for anointed power?

Surely not… All faiths reject mundane ideals like wealth, glamour, and power. Christians, in particular, are called to look to the poor, the ugly and leprous, the marginalized, oppressed, meek, and those without power for the face of God to inspire their lives in the world and to find hope for the world to come. The Gospel of Matthew speaks pointedly to this, reporting that with the departure of the Magi, the tiny newborn, Mary, and Joseph found themselves fleeing desperately as migrants to Egypt, refugees from the power of a violent king in Judea.

The question of the gifts of the Magi returns several times in the Gospels, often as parables to reflect on wealth, fame, and power. Poignantly, for example, at the beginning of His public ministry, after forty days of fasting in the desert, perversions of the Magi’s gifts are held out as three temptations to Christ – the last of which is utter power over all the kingdoms of this world.

That last temptation, the temptation of power, is surely the most poignant for those of us who feel called to serve in public life. Imagine how Christ – acutely feeling the vulnerability of his human life after fasting to the brink of death in the desert – was sorely tested with the offer of utter power to enforce goodness on the kingdoms of the world. Yet, he chooses powerlessness, not power. He chooses humbly to serve, not rule.

So it is, then, that I believe we must understand the gifts of the Magi, in light of Christ’s choice humbly to serve the poor, the ugly and marginalized, and the powerless. Gold for those in poverty, frankincense for those marginalized or forgotten, and myrrh to anoint the meek and powerless.

An ancient story about the Magi has it that the gifts of the Magi were stolen by two thieves, but the thieves were vexed in conscience about them throughout their troubled lives, only to return the gifts on the steps to Golgotha. Christ, on the day of His crucifixion, standing in judgment before the then global power of Rome, answered Pilate’s interrogation about power and kingship saying, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And, mocking what seemed to them to be the powerlessness of any king not of this world, but echoing the description of whom the Magi sought, the Romans inscribed Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum upon His cross.

Published in: on January 4, 2020 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bringing Light to All People

Reflection for the Feast of the Epiphany by FAN Board Member, David Seitz, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our December 30th newsletter


Photo courtesy of Gerd Altmann at Pixabay

The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the discovery of Jesus. A discovery of Jesus by the ruling class with mixed reaction. For the Magi, it is an occasion of Joy and Wonder. They have seen the light! They wish to follow that light and encounter the new king, God’s incarnation and their savior. While they did not have the understanding we have today, following the light of a star, finding a babe, and perhaps not fully aware of His significance, it is an example for all of us to seek and follow the light to Jesus.

For Herod and the rulers of Judea, the birth of the newborn king of the Jews is met with fear, jealousy and perceived as a threat to the status quo. Herod, a cunning king, sends the Magi on a mission. “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” (Mt 2:8) In hindsight, we know Herod’s intentions. His homage to the newborn king is to have him killed and removed as an obstacle or threat to his earthly kingly power.

In our world today, the light of the newborn king is still met by many who hold power with fear, jealousy and tighten their grip against perceived threats. Those seeking to follow the light, the light of the Gospel, seeking the newborn king, Jesus, and shining that light into the “darkness that covers the earth” (Is 6:2) reveal to the world institutions of greed, deception, injustice, abuse of power, discrimination and exploitation of human persons and creation. The reading from Isaiah gives us hope. “Upon you the Lord will dawn, and over you his glory will be seen. Nations shall walk by your light, kings by the radiance of your dawning.” As Christians, and as Franciscans, we are called to follow the light to Jesus and shine that light into the dark places of the world. Admittedly, this is often met with resistance by those in power.

We are called to take the light to the people and their leaders. Psalm 72 from this week’s readings is labeled as a prayer for the king. It sums up a leader’s mission. “O God, give your judgment to the king; your justice to the king’s son; That he may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment, that the mountains may yield their bounty for the people, and the hills great abundance, that he may defend the oppressed among the people, save the children of the poor and crush the oppressor.” (Ps 72: 2-4) The psalm calls out one of the duties of the rulers, “show pity to the needy and the poor and save the lives of the poor. From extortion and violence he redeems them.” (Ps 72:13-14)

Sisters and brothers, it is our duty to remind our leaders of their obligation to be servants and not exploiters. Let us pray for our leaders using the words of Psalm 72 and recommit ourselves to shining the light into the darkness of the world.

David Seitz, OFS
FAN Board Member

Published in: on December 31, 2019 at 10:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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Reflecting on Pope Francis’ 2020 World Day of Peace message

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


This new year, this new decade, begins much like the past year, the past decade: wars between countries, wars within countries, nations around the globe preparing for future wars and astronomical military budgets cemented in place to ensure all this unholy madness continues.

As an elixir to this seemingly hopeless trap the world finds itself in, Pope Francis offers us a hopeful path forward away from the blood and tears of war.

In his Jan. 1, 2020 World Day of Peace message “Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion,” the Holy Father writes “Hope is thus the virtue that inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem insurmountable.”

But fully aware that in order for us to move forward we must first honestly look at what is holding us back, and why we foolishly hold onto it, Francis says, “Entire nations find it difficult to break free of the chains of exploitation and corruption that fuel hatred and violence.”

So following the pope’s line of thought here, we must ask ourselves, who are the people being exploited? Where is the corruption coming from? And to what degree is national and individual selfishness, indifference and moral blindness contributing to exploitation and corruption?

Francis explains that “War is fueled by a perversion of relationships, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuses of power, by fear of others and by seeing diversity as an obstacle. And these, in turn, are aggravated by the experience of war.”

Reflecting on his recent pastoral visit to Japan, the Holy Father insightfully declares that “ ‘our world is paradoxically marked by a perverse dichotomy that tries to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust, one that ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any form of dialogue.’ ”

He adds, “The Hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are among those who currently keep alive the flame of collective conscience, bearing witness to succeeding generations to the horror of what happened in August 1945 and the unspeakable sufferings that have continued to the present time.”

The pope teaches that “Social and economic decisions are being made that lead to tragic situations where human beings and creation itself are discarded rather than protected and preserved.”

He adds, “There can be no true peace unless we show ourselves capable of developing a more just economic system.”

Francis says, “The world does not need empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion or manipulation. In fact, we cannot truly achieve peace without a convinced dialogue between men and women who seek the truth beyond ideologies and differing opinions.”

He adds, “Listening to one another can lead to mutual understanding and esteem, and even to seeing in an enemy the face of a brother or sister.”

Pope Francis prophetically challenges us to admit our unfaithfulness here: “If a mistaken understanding of our own principles has at times led us to justify mistreating nature, to exercise tyranny over creation, to engage in war, injustice and acts of violence, we believers should acknowledge that by so doing we were not faithful to the treasures of wisdom which we have been called to protect and preserve”

There is much more in Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message for us to sink our moral teeth into. So, please read and prayerfully reflect on how we can put it into practice in 2020 (see: https://bit.ly/2MpfE73).


Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.

Published in: on December 30, 2019 at 10:18 am  Leave a Comment  

See How They Love One Another

Reflection for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph by FAN board member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our December 23rd newsletter


Our concept and understanding of ‘family’ changes over the years due to many factors, one example being our cultural background. The older I’ve gotten, the more my memories and feelings have changed or perhaps a better way of saying that would be, they ‘have evolved.’ To many of us, our understanding comes from comparing our family to the family that American Culture shows us in and through our media and social connections. Living and working with a cross cultural parish and people from different and various financial conditions has brought me to a point of understanding. My family might have some flaws, but not as much as other families. Family life can be challenging and family is an invitation from God that can bring us to many places we would rather not go.

So, to all of us in the pews this week, our understanding of family is a little different from each other. So, let’s now see through this week’s readings how God intended it to be.

Sunday’s Gospel tells us about Joseph having a dream and hearing that he must take his family and flee. Can you imagine having a dream like this and responding right away by taking those who you want to protect to a safe place? For some of us, this story reflects our family’s journey to where we are today. We might not be fleeing from a King, but we did travel for a better place, or a better opportunity.

So, hang on because the invitation or challenge from God that we find in the second reading from the Letter to the Colossians is even more difficult to hear and to do. God is speaking to us to put aside our old selves and to live as a new person by submitting and changing how we speak and react to one another. God’s call is to do this as a member of a family as well as a member of our Faith Community and even, (I know this is a real challenge) in our political and civic dialogues.

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM says it so well, that in community there is friction. But it is a fact that friction is the foundation of the community, or the family. We grow together as a people when we can listen and understand our differences because then we can agree on common ground, common purpose, and a common place that is safe, secure and understanding. Love above all makes us of one mind and heart. It surely makes us into a holier family and community and offers us the chance to hear once again, “See how they love one another.”

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on December 24, 2019 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Prepare for a New Heaven

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our December 16th newsletter


We continue our journey through the Advent season this week, hearing the story of how the birth of Jesus came about. Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Incarnation. It is a time of renewal. Or as it says in the musical Gospel, “prepare ye the way of the Lord.” In today’s world it is hard to imagine what we have spent 2000 years preparing for. With all the hatred and violence around us it is difficult to believe that we are preparing for the “Prince of Peace.” In the second reading from Romans: 1: 1-7 we are told: “Through him we have received the grace of apostleship.” We have some political and religious leaders who promote a gospel of fear and hatred, a gospel of racism and sexism, a gospel of separation. Is this the apostleship we have received as a result of the Incarnation? These same people will stand up and scream about how we have lost the true meaning of Christmas. I guess they are fine with separating children from their parents, not welcoming the strangers, not feeding the hungry or destroying God’s awesome creation as long as we wish each other a Merry Christmas.

What really is the meaning of Christmas? As a child I was taught that the birth of Jesus was part of an elaborate plan created by God whereby the Son of God would be born and later crucified because of original sin committed by Adam and Eve. Or as it is sometimes described, ‘substitutionary atonement’, that Jesus had to be crucified so we can go to Heaven. This theology is completely dependent on the concept of Original Sin and Adam and Eve. This was our belief for most of Christianity. A hundred years or so ago the Jesuit Theologian and scientist Telihard de Chardin argued that traditional teachings about the fall of Adam and Eve into sin were difficult to reconcile with science. By examining fossils scientists now know that the human species emerged out of several different evolutionary branches, not from a single pair of ancestors. Teilhard was certainly not the first to argue this. The 13th century Franciscan theologian Blessed John Duns Scotus said “The Incarnation of the Son of God is the very reason for the whole Creation. To think that God would have given up such a task had Adam not sinned would be quite unreasonable! I say, therefore, that the fall was not the cause of Christ’s predestination and that if no one had fallen, neither the angel nor man in this hypothesis, Christ would still have been predestined in the same way.”

Maybe, when we think about “prepare ye the way of the Lord” this Advent, we should spend less time preparing ourselves to go somewhere else and more time preparing our Earth for the return of the new Heaven.

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on December 17, 2019 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment