Origins of Memorial Day. My friend Bill Federer, an historian, reminds me that the origin of Memorial Day was the practice of "Southern women scattering spring flowers on the graves of both the Northern and Southern soldiers who died during the Civil War." By 1868, the practice of remembering our war dead was made a national holiday: May 30. In 1968, the 100th anniversary of the holiday, it was moved to the last Monday in May. Last week, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment placed flags at more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They remained at Arlington throughout the weekend to ensure that the flags remain upright.
Last resort. After months of trying to negotiate with the federal government, the Catholic Church let loose with both barrels last week. The Church launched 12 lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A total of 43 entities-including Catholic powerhouses like Notre Dame, Catholic University, Catholic Charities, the entire archdiocese of New York and Washington, D.C.-are participating in the lawsuits. The mainstream media has mostly spiked the story, but WORLD and a few other outlets gave it the coverage it deserves. What is not so explicit in the coverage is this melancholy fact: No one relishes this fight. It was forced upon these religious groups. Cardinal Timothy Dolan made this point when he said the lawsuits are necessary because contraceptive mandates and other restrictions on religious organizations will begin on Aug. 1. "Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance," he said. "We have to resort to the courts now."
Income inequality. We often hear that the income gap between the rich and poor is a bad thing, and that the gap is getting worse. Not so fast, said Anne Bradley, vice president of economic initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics: "Income inequality is a hot topic, yet many do not understand the true economic picture or some of the biblical reasons why it exists." She argued that "diversity is a biblical premise of Creation. We are born with different gifts." Bradley further said that "in a free society, absent cronyism, disparity of wages is not a sign of injustice," adding that a just society should concern itself with "income mobility," not "income inequality." In other words, the presence of poor people is not a sign of an unjust society. Even Jesus said the "poor will always be with us." What is unjust is a society that does not provide opportunities for the poor to escape poverty. According to Bradley, "An opportunity society is the best way to unleash the creativity and dignity with which we are created and serve others with our gifts."
In prayer. The Rev. Keith A. Ratliff Sr. said he is "in prayer" about his relationship with the NAACP following its endorsement of same-sex marriage on May 19. Ratliff is NAACP state conference president for Iowa and Nebraska and one of 64 members of the NAACP's national board of directors. He is also pastor the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa. "I'm against same-sex marriage," he told CitizenLink. "There are a number of issues that the NAACP has to address and deal with, and I certainly don't think same-sex marriage should be a top priority." Ratliff added that the gay rights movement should not be compared with the civil rights movement: "There is not a parallel between the homosexual community and the struggles of African-Americans in our country. I haven't seen any signs on any restrooms that say 'For Homosexuals Only.' Homosexuals do not have to sit on the back of the bus, as African-Americans had to."