Next to the Pope, the Vatican’s most quoted person is probably the papal spokesman. In an often thankless job, the spokesman makes official announcements, corrects misinformation, fields reporters’ queries and, generally, is the public face of a Church that is frequently misunderstood.

Earlier this month, we were driving to Minnesota to visit relatives on the night a black man was shot dead by police in a St. Paul suburb after being stopped for a broken tail light. That was a day after another black man was killed by police in Baton Rouge.

British bishops were quick to condemn a surge in racist and xenophobic incidents that followed the divisive vote that saw Great Britain bid adieu to the European Union. In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, police reported a 57-per-cent spike in verbal and physical assaults on visible minorities, immigrants and even on some long-time residents born abroad.

In the midst of all the bad news over the past month, especially the legalization of euthanasia, it is easy to forget there is a world of the spirit and prayer that rises above the grime and connects us to our true home where truth shines bright.

It’s become something of a routine now. Pope Francis delivers a spontaneous lambasting of priests who do this or that which he disapproves of, and priests get in touch to ask what we should make of it all.

Before a colleague mentioned the name of Cardinal Robert Sarah I had not heard of him. At the age of 34, the Guinea-born Sarah was made Archbishop of Conakry by Pope John Paul II. He was still a bambino (according to Pope Benedict XVI) when he was elevated to cardinal in 2010. 

Give credit to the federal government for recently acknowledging that the systematic murder, rape and enslavement of the Yazidi people of Iraq and Syria constitutes genocide. But why stop there? 

“Is it unusual for the Pope to make a comment on the environment?”

The prevailing legal vacuum around assisted suicide is unacceptable and begs a speedy end to the head-butting between the elected House of Commons and the unelected Senate — even if that means politicians forgoing summer vacations.

Change comes slowly at the Vatican. On the issue of clerical sexual abuse of children, Rome’s methodical approach has caused Pope Francis to endure barbs for dallying on a pledge to get tough on abusers within the Church.

Autonomy has evolved into a word of frightful power. Its meaning now goes beyond such independent actions as choosing a spouse, following a career path or adopting a style of fashion. It surpasses political views and for many has become a one-word mantra for a new religion called secularism, in which God is replaced by putting “me” at the centre of the universe. 

Much ado followed a recent impromptu promise by Pope Francis to study the role of women deacons in Church history. His  simple pledge to convene a commission to look into what Francis called an “obscure” historical question was widely — and wildly — interpreted as a thumbs up for a female diaconate.

Does anybody today believe men are intellectually superior to women because of their gender? The question is not about the intelligence of an individual man or woman, but collectively. Simply put: if you have the Y chromosome does it make you smarter?