Alaskan bishops offer clarity on moral issues

Watching the Academy Awards recently, I was reminded just how out of place Catholics can feel in today’s world. I’m not going to comment on any of the movies that won (or didn’t win) because I have a 10-month-old and haven’t seen the inside of a movie theater in at least as long. But I watched the awards show itself long enough to feel, culturally, like a fish out of water (really, no pun intended).

I suppose that’s one of the reasons I like working in the Catholic press. It helps ground me when our culture is beating its very loud — and very anti-religious — drums.

Two items out of Alaska in recent weeks have grabbed my attention, though, for their countercultural nature and for their clarity when it comes to teaching the Faith.

The first was the Fairbanks Catholic Family Conference, Families Fully Alive, from Feb. 9-11, which welcomed more than 600 people (despite sub-zero temperatures and snowy roads), according to the Catholic Anchor, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage. The theme was “Strengthening Marriages and Families,” and topics ranged from marriage, to family life and parenting, to gender ideology, to openness to children, to vocations. In addition to talks, there was daily Mass, confession and opportunities for prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The event, which included many high-profile speakers, was open to people of all ages, with a vacation Bible school program to keep young children engaged and separate conference tracks for middle and high school students. If you’re going to do a conference on strengthening marriage and family life, that’s how.

The second item of note out of Alaska was on a similar theme: a pastoral letter from the four bishops (three active and one retired) of the state called “Living in the Image and Likeness of God: Human Dignity and Divine Designs.” The letter, which was released on Ash Wednesday, is particularly effective at using reason to show how all the Church’s moral teachings flow from the Faith’s core teaching of the dignity and sanctity of life.

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“There are a growing number of social issues today that need to be addressed from a faith perspective, and yet require more than a sound bite to adequately outline the theological principles which underpin our beliefs and teachings,” Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage wrote on the day the letter was published. “If we wish to make a serious contribution to the numerous social conversations of our time, it is important to be properly grounded in our Christian understanding of the human person as created in the image and likeness of God.”

Bravo to the bishops in Alaska for their clarity of teaching and for their willingness to help lead the national conversation on these important moral issues.

For more on both topics, go to

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