A deacon of the Lexington diocese of the Roman Catholic Church has sent a letter to all bishops in the United States protesting the lack of clarity about how to deal with the most prominent Roman Catholic in America, the President of the United States. The deacon is Lane W. Marshall, and he writes: “The Christian Faithful need clarity” with that word “clarity” emphasized. He quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church describing the evils of abortion and mandating excommunication for those who practice or promote it. President Biden advances policies that support and extend abortion, here and around the world, he contends, without repercussion from Catholic leaders. He concludes, “Let us demand that politicians who claim the name of Catholic hold fast to this truth.”
Noted lawyer and publisher Hershel Shanks died at the age of 90. Born of immigrants, Shanks earned a law degree from Harvard and practiced law for 25 years until he found his passion: biblical archeology. He launched and edited the Biblical Archeology Review from 1975 to 2017, a magazine I have valued and read off and on throughout those years. The magazine is largely responsible for the popularity of archeology in America, with its focus on sensational discoveries such as the James Ossuary, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Hezekiah’s tunnel. He also founded the Bible Archeology Society. Cause of death? COVID
The automobile company Jeep aired the most talked about television ad of the 2021 Super Bowl. The two-minute promotion for the return of unity in the United States featured famed singer Bruce Springsteen driving a Jeep to a remote chapel in Kansas, purported to occupy the exact geographic center of the lower 48 states. In the simple wooded chapel adorned by a cross on the steeple are rows of wooded pews facing a flag shaped as the United States with another cross affixed atop it. “We need the middle,” says the Boss in his narration. “We can make it to the mountaintop…. There is hope on the road up ahead.” The final printed text states, “The Re-United States of America.”
The Supreme Court addressed the COVID restrictions in California that limited indoor worship. In a decision that will please neither side, the Court overturned the ban on such services, asserting forcefully the freedom of religion. But it allowed authorities to implement strict conditions, such as limiting attendance to 25% of capacity and banning singing and chanting. The cases involved three evangelical or Pentecostal churches in southern California with the defendant being the governor of the state. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion with three justices dissenting. It remains to be seen whether the churches will abide by even these restrictions.
The National Catholic Education Association announced that Catholic schools around the country suffered the worst enrollment decline in five decades, falling another 6.4 percent. Between the 2019-2020 school year and the current year, nationwide enrollment dropped by 110,000 to about 1.6 million students. Back in the 1960s, enrollment was more than 5 million. There are now 5,981 Catholic schools in the United States, compared with more than 11,000 in 1970. John Reyes, the Association’s executive director for operational vitality, said the pandemic has been an “accelerant” for long-standing challenges facing Catholic education. Much of this decline, he said, came in urban areas with significant black student populations.