It's official: 2014 was the hottest year on record

[WaPo] Planet Earth set an ominous record last year as global temperatures rose to the highest level since modern measurements began, scientists said Friday in a report that heightened concerns about humanity’s growing toll on the natural systems that sustain life. The year 2014 was declared the hottest year in a joint announcement by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, based on separate analyses of weather records dating back to 1880, when Rutherford B. Hayes occupied the White House.

Driven in part by steadily warming oceans, average temperatures edged past the previous records set in 2005 and 2010. The 10 hottest years in modern times have all come since 1997, NASA scientists said. Read on.

Science or Conscience on climate change?[dotCommonweal] The announcement that 2014 was Earth's warmest year on record prompted responses from some who accept the scientific evidence of climate change that this should finally convince those who don't. You'd think that with nine such records set and subsequently broken since 2000 alone, not much more convincing would be required, but there you have it.

The complexity of climate science has become the fig leaf for those reluctant to acknowledge the role of greenhouse gases to hide behind, and thus to rationalize inaction and obstruction. So if the scientific case is too hard, then what about the moral case? That's how Pope Francis's upcoming encyclical on climate change will couch it, perhaps in terms of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Read on.

Francis struggles to answer crying girl's question about suffering

[National Catholic Reporter] Tearfully recounting a young life as yet spent forced to forage for food from garbage and to sleep outside on cardboard mats, 12-year-old Glyzelle Palomar had a simple but profound question for Pope Francis."Why did God let this happen to us?" the young Filipino asked, covering her face with her hands as she sobbed.Speaking on a stage in front of some 30,000 young people as part of a meeting between Francis and Filipino youth Sunday, Palomar's intense query visibly affected the pontiff.  

Putting aside a text he had prepared for the occasion in order to respond directly to the young woman, Francis answered her with a 40-minute reflection on the nature of suffering, love, and service."The nucleus of your question almost doesn't have a reply," the pontiff said at first, pain clearly etched on his face as he mentioned that he had seen her tears."Only when we too can cry about the things that you said are we able to come close to replying to that question," Francis continued.

"Why did children suffer so much?" he asked. "Why do children suffer?" "Certain realties in life we only see through eyes that are cleansed through our tears," Francis said. Read on.

I love this pope, by Bill Lewellis

I love this Pope
Pope Francis engages with an atheist
Bill Lewellis
The Morning Call, October 12, 2013,0,4442500.story#tugs_story_display

Eugenio Scalfari, an outspoken atheist, is the founder of Rome’s La Repubblica newspaper. He recently sought an interview with Pope Francis.

Francis agreed, with an impromptu telephone call.

They joked during the interview about converting each other.

“Convert you?” Francis said. “Proselytism is solemn nonsense. You have to meet people and listen to them.”

I love this Pope. Eight popes have spanned my life in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches. I’ve given all appropriate respect. I loved three, and Francis is now at the top of that trinity. The other two are John XXIII and John Paul I.

A quote from the interview: “Those most affected by narcissism – actually a kind of mental disorder – are people who have a lot of power,” Francis said. “Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers.”

Don’t you love this Pope?

Thinking about Pope Francis and two remarkable interviews he gave over the past few weeks led me way back into my past.

Josef Fuchs, a German Jesuit who taught at the Gregorian University in Rome during the 1960s, informed my first experience of Christian moral theology. It was not what I was expecting.

I was expecting to study the law. God’s law, church law, case studies, morality and legality. Answers. I was primed for clear and sure answers. Rules for life.

Several years earlier, in college seminary, I had begun collecting answers. On 3x5 index cards.

On the upper right corner of each card, I wrote topical words and phrases. From my reading, I’d make notes on the cards. “The Catholic’s ready answer,” a quip used by a Roman Catholic bishop on whose staff I later worked. Answers for my ministry as a priest.

Only once did I question my system. Three-by-five cards did not accommodate complexity. I upgraded with 5x7 cards. Ya gotta love a linear thinker.

Armed with 5x7 index cards, I was ready for the clear answers I’d discover in Father Fuchs’ moral theology class.

During the first few days or weeks – I don’t remember – he read and talked about passages from St. Paul’s letters. “Hello,” I thought. Was this the moral theology class? Someone’s reading from the Bible. So at odds with my expectations, Josef Fuchs walked his students through passages where Paul says we have been changed, transformed, reborn. In Christ.

He suggested again and again that in this rebirth, we discover the defining moment for Christian living: that the answer to “What must I do?” is contained in the question, “Who am I?” and that the Christian moral imperative is rooted not in law but in Jesus Christ and in the person I have become in Christ. An early version of WWJD?

Paul soon follows “You are a new creation,” Fuchs pointed out, with “Therefore, BE (who you are)!” This sequence was Paul’s moral theology. You are a new creation in Christ. You are mystery. Let the mystery unfold. Let the secret be told. Be reconciled. Be glad. Be thankful. Be compassionate. Be a new creation.

That, Father Fuchs suggested, was the heart of Christian morality: Jesus Christ and the new creation we have become in Christ. He called it the Pauline Indicative-Imperative: You are a new creation in Christ. Therefore, be…

It’s crucial to recognize the priority of the Indicative. Reversing the order, putting the imperative before the indicative, can lead to frustration and despair, even some hypocrisy. That we are a new creation has to be first. Only then, can we be or do with integrity.

The Pauline Indicative-Imperative is the basis for the priority of prayer and worship in our lives.

I eventually tore up my index cards.

Pope Francis, it seems, is rewriting the papal user’s guide.

“From the way you talk and from what I understand,” Scalfari told Francis, “you are and will be a revolutionary pope.” 

I love this Pope.

[Canon Bill Lewellis,, a retired Episcopal priest, served on the Bishop’s staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years and on the Bishop’s staff of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown for 13 years before that.]