In Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear, author and reporter Michael O'Loughlin draws us into the mystery of the faith by resurrecting, through storytelling, the lives of those lost during the AIDS/HIV crisis and flooding a light of hope into the chasm of despair.
Hidden Mercy, published by Broadleaf Books in time for World AIDS Day, reframes history as not rote and binary — with the LGBTQ community suffering on the one hand and the Catholic Church welcoming the plague on the other. "Instead it provides a dynamic look at how Catholic faithful, including LGBTQ Catholics, struggled, as they do today, to carry out the Catholic mission to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with God, while overshadowed by a hierarchy with a much different agenda," says Michael Vasquez in a review of the book.
"Hidden Mercy is healing not in that it attempts to say 'not all Catholics!' but instead by the way it shows that Catholicism, in its truest self as the manifest love of God, still lives, in spite of itself," Vasquez writes. "And it is in this healing that O'Loughlin conjures hope."
Two decades ago, the U.S. took the lead in bringing AIDS treatments to poorer countries. NCR political columnist Michael Sean Winters wonders if we have the compassion and the courage to mount such an effort again.
In a letter, Pope Francis praised the work of Catholic priests, nuns and lay people who ministered to HIV and AIDS victims at a time when much of the church hierarchy was at odds with the LGBTQ community during the height of the AIDS epidemic.
Jaqueline de Oliveira, a single mother in Itamaraju, in the northeastern state of Bahia, has been cooking over a wood or charcoal fire during the past six months. Unemployed and raising four children ranging in age from 6 to 13, she can no longer afford to buy bottled liquefied petroleum gas, which is the most commonly used cooking fuel in Brazil.
De Oliveira's body bears the marks of that change. She has burned her hands and arms several times while feeding the fire with wood sticks. Although she cooks in the backyard, she suspects that inhaling the smoke is affecting her health.
De Oliveira's situation is becoming more and more common in Brazil, as the combination of high unemployment, rising inflation and higher prices for oil-based fuels has led millions of people to switch from gas to wood and other solid fuel for cooking. More than one-fourth of Brazilian households use wood for cooking, with consequences for air quality and families' health.
In an email interview with NCR, Cyprus' ambassador to the Holy See, George Poulides, described Pope Francis' "solidarity" with the island nation as "politically, diplomatically, religiously and morally important." Pope Francis travels to Cyprus and Greece Dec. 2-6.
ICYMI: Myanmar's military continues to target churches in predominantly Christian regions in the Buddhist-majority country, ignoring appeals by the Catholic Church and world leaders.
ICYMI: The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled last week that an Indiana trial court "committed reversible error" when it dismissed a former teacher's lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis earlier this year.