Gunty is associate publisher/editor of the Catholic Review.

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Behind the Headlines

Role of faithful addressed at National Catholic Prayer Breakfast




Sister Constance Veit, communications director for her religious congregation, the Little Sisters of the Poor, speaks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast May 17 in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON – I would not have imagined a 10-minute speech to introduce the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s only 31 words, albeit a set of words packed with meaning.

The meaning became even more poignant when the Pledge was introduced at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., May 17 by Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr.

A member of the Navy SEALs, Byers noted that he led prayer groups and rosaries with other members of his unit. He received the Medal of Honor this year for rescuing a civilian hostage in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan in December 2012.

Byers said he wore a patch of St. Michael the Archangel on his uniform every time he went into battle.

As he stood, hand over his heart, Byers led a crowd of almost 1,300 people in reciting the Pledge at the 12th annual breakfast.

The role of the faithful in the public square was addressed by several other speakers.

Little Sister of the Poor Constance Veit reflected on news from the day before that the Supreme Court of the United States had returned the Little Sisters’ case against the U.S. government to the lower courts so that a resolution could be found between the parties. The sisters, who run homes for the aged poor around the country, including St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in Catonsville, object to the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that they provide contraception services to their employees. They also object to the workaround offered by the government because they believe that it would still make them complicit in what the sisters believe is an immoral practice.

Sister Constance said many people ask her what they would do if they lost the suit. She tells them they don’t have a fallback plan, because they firmly believe that God will never abandon them.

She recounted three pieces of advice she received from various people as the sisters fought this case: Dare to be of good cheer, see everyone as Christ would and trust in God.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) addressed the topic of religious liberty, especially in light of the Little Sisters case and others pending before the courts.

“These days religious liberty is under assault. A lot of people think faith is just an odd, colorful mask for the ugly face of intolerance,” Ryan said. “I am not saying we should feel put upon. I mean, saints were thrown to the lions. By that standard, we have it easy.

“What I am saying is, we have to advocate for our faith. And we should defend religious liberty not just on material grounds – that is, because people of faith do good things, like give to charity or volunteer. We should also defend it on spiritual grounds—that is, because living out our faith gives us joy.”

Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah told the crowd that what happens in the United States has repercussions around the world. “The globe is waiting for your response on major questions.”

He reminded the audience that Pope St. John Paul II said, “The future of the church and the world passes through the family.”

He noted that as archbishop of Conackry, Guinea, he dedicated all the pastoral letters in his first five years as archbishop to the topic of the family. It is important, he said, to protect the life of the family as the first cell of the church and society.

He encouraged those gathered to do three things: Be prophetic, to be faithful and to pray.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori closed the event with an invocation and blessing. He prayed especially for millions of people the world over who suffer religious persecution and discrimination.



May 18, 2016 01:22
By Christopher Gunty


How many lives will be further ruined by the lack of mental health care screening, treatment?


Five children were injured in May in two separate incidents involving bounce houses, those huge inflatable amusement devices often rented for carnivals and parties. Sure, parents should be concerned about allowing their children to play on a potentially dangerous device. The Consumer Product Safety Commission will open an investigation, according to USA Today, in light of the fact that at least 10 inflatables collapsed or blew away in 2011, and injuries more than doubled from 2008 to 2010.

It’s great that a trend was identified, and action taken fairly quickly to look into the aspects of inflatables that might cause harm.

But that doesn’t happen every time someone is injured or killed. Some we get used to.

When two students created a massacre at Columbine School in 1999 – 15 years ago now – killing 13 and injuring at least 24, one would have reasonably expected that Americans – politicians and citizens; parents and children; law enforcement, gun advocates and gun critics – would have all come together to take action to stem such senseless violence. But in the intervening years, names and places such as Tucson, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and the Columbia Mall have added more faces to the tragic stories. Add Isla Vista, Calif., to that list, where 22-year-old Elliott Rodger allegedly stabbed his roommates and then shot three more people while injuring 13 in the area around the University of California Santa Barbara, before killing himself May 23. The ready availability of guns and other weapons, combined with inadequate mental health screening and treatment results in tragedy after tragedy after tragedy.

The evident pain expressed by Michael Martinez, the father of Isla Vista victim Christopher Michaels-Martinez, might have been prevented had the law-enforcement authorities who did a “wellness check” on Rodger had done a better background check. Rodger’s parents expressed concern over videos their son had made and posted on YouTube, prompting the visit to the young man’s home. The authorities apparently didn’t watch the videos for themselves, or check a database that showed that Rodger had recently (and legally) purchased several weapons and ammunition. Rodger eventually admitted before his rampage that had they entered his home and seen his weapons, they would have foiled his plans to wreak havoc.

How much more outrage will it take for Congress to act to plug the holes in the universal background check system to eliminate the shield for private sales? When even an attack on a federal congresswoman – doing her job, listening to constituents at a public forum at a grocery store – cannot prompt action, then Congress must be stalemated indeed.

How many lives will be further ruined by the lack of mental health care screening and treatment programs? Life is tough for all of us; for some those challenges can become crippling. And for some, when their disease is not under control, they become dangerous, to themselves and to others.

“When will this insanity stop?” Richard Martinez asked after his son was shot. “When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this’? Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: Not one more.”

According to Catholic News Service, since the May 23 shooting in California, the state’s lawmakers have been busy re-examining the state’s gun-control laws. A new bill was introduced May 28 in the state Legislature that would allow friends or family members concerned that someone may commit a violent act to notify law enforcement officials. The bill also would allow police to investigate the threat and request a restraining order from a judge preventing the person from purchasing a firearm or keeping one they already own.

Will such laws be enough, without addition public support for enhanced mental health treatment? Who needs to be convinced that this problem begs for a solution? Can we begin today?

June 06, 2014 10:54
By Christopher Gunty


Chick-fil-A CEO gets caught in free-speech double standard

Melinda Gates can say all she wants about how wonderful contraception is for helping people in developing countries limit the size of their families and the mainstream media doesn’t bat an eye. I don’t hear the mayors of Chicago, or Boston or Washington, D.C., accusing the wife of Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation of eugenics and saying that Microsoft doesn’t share their cities values, so Microsoft’s products are not welcome within the city.
Melinda Gates is entitled to her opinions. She admits that she is a practicing Catholic who disagrees with the church on the issue of contraception, according to an interview in the Guardian, a newspaper in Great Britain. She says that contraception prevents women and children in countries in Africa and other parts of the world alive – not because it protects them from AIDS or other STDs, but simply because it allows them to space the births of their children.
In an article in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Giulia Galeotti, a frequent LOR contributor on life issues, wrote, “The American philanthropist is off the mark,” the victim of “bad information and persistent stereotypes on this theme. To still believe that by opposing the use of condoms, the Catholic Church leaves women and children to die because of misogynist intransigence is a baseless and shoddy reading” of reality, she wrote, according to Catholic News Service.
So how come people such as Melinda Gates or George Soros or Warren Buffet can say whatever they want to, and most of the media and many politicians across America are OK with that, but when Dan Cathy, CEO of the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, makes some comments about the traditional definition of marriage, he is blasted? It can’t be because they don’t agree with free speech, can it? If that were the case, then Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, would have to say of the man convicted of insider trading, that “George Soros’ values aren’t our values.” But instead, as a principal adviser and chief of staff to Barrack Obama, Emanuel certainly welcomed all the help he could get from MoveOn.org, which got loads and loads of support from Soros.
But Emanuel did say, “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values. They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members.” And the mayors of Boston and D.C. also say the restaurant is not welcome in their town. How ridiculous.
It’s a little crazy to say, however, that you’re surprised by the viewpoint of the leader of a privately-held restaurant that is so unabashed about its Christian underpinnings that it is closed on Sundays. And if those are the kind of values that are unwelcome in our major cities, then God save us all.
Agree with Dan Cathy or don’t. Agree with Melinda and Bill Gates or don’t. Support their companies based on what their leaders say, or boycott them. Many folks across the country have chosen today, Aug. 1, as the day to show their support for Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A by making a point of eating at the chain, some multiple times throughout the day. The friendly cows urging, “Eat mor chikin” may have a lot of company today.
Either way, let’s give free speech a fair shake. Everyone is entitled to free speech, not just the media darlings.

August 01, 2012 12:07
By Christopher Gunty


Behind the headlines at TCR

I’ve been in the Catholic news business since I got out of college, and been writing and working for newspapers even longer than that if you count high school and college days, too. When I came to The Catholic Review in July 2009, I knew that I was joining a great group of journalism and publishing professionals serving the Archdiocese of Baltimore. But every newsroom is different.

We've had our hands full in the past year and a half, and it's only going to get more exciting as we face the changing landscape of American journalism.

That’s what I love about this business – you never know what will come up from one day to the next. A lot of people think that a Catholic newspaper must, by definition, have such a limited scope of coverage, but there is a great variety of news within the church. Over the years, I have covered not only lots of liturgies and ministries but also tons of meetings, sports, business, schools, social services, disasters, and government hearings (which can sometimes be disastrous). I’ve covered popes and priests and lay people. The Catholic press is at its best when we’re telling the stories of the people of God, and The Review does that well.

We're in the midst of a strategic planning process that is looking at the present and the future, looking at who are readers are and who we're missing – and how we can deliver the news and information all of them need on whatever platform they want to read it, printed paper or pixels.

This blog started in its new format in order to provide daily coverage of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It will now evolve to provide news analysis and musings from my perspective as a Catholic journalist. I hope that you’ll continue to read and comment on this blog and others, including those from staff writers George Matysek Jr. and Matt Palmer, giving you a look at what happens “behind the headlines.”

[This blog entry adapted and updated from a blog post from July 2009.]

November 23, 2010 11:54
By Christopher Gunty