Archives October 2014

Pope Francis Creates Commission to Help Divorced Catholics

couple getting divorcedFrom his first days as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has consistently presented himself as a more forgiving figure than many of his predecessors. Beginning with a Holy Thursday ritual in 2013, in which Francis bathed the feet of 12 prison inmates (including two women), the former Argentinian cardinal has come to be seen as a refreshing influence by many liberal Catholics. Now, he seems to be turning this spirit of mercy to a controversial topic: divorce.

While it is often overshadowed by hot-button issues like gay rights, abortion and child abuse, divorce has long been considered a contentious subject within the Catholic church. Although there are an estimated 46,523 divorces filed each week in the United States alone, the Vatican and many parishes adhere to a strict Biblical interpretation: unless a marriage is annulled by the church, divorcees are unable to receive Communion or have a religious ceremony if they remarry. In some cases, the spouses of remarried Catholics are also denied Communion, as the Vatican does not recognize their marriages as legitimate.

The controversy of the issue was made clear in February 2014, when a German cardinal, Walter Kasper, delivered a speech at a closed meeting of his peers, suggesting that divorced Catholics be given the right to receive Communion after a period of penance. In response, five prominent cardinals, including the Vatican’s supreme court chief justice, published a book refuting his position. Francis’s top economic adviser also refuted his position in another book.

However, Francis’s response was far more accepting. In his first Sunday blessing as pontiff, the pope praised Kasper by name and mentioned his book, “Mercy,” which argues that mercy is at the theological center of Christianity. Francis also spoke repeatedly of the importance of mercy when he was questioned about his position on divorce. Finally, on September 21, he ordered a group of theologians and papal lawyers to find a way to simplify the annulment process, which is often time-consuming and expensive. By annulling a marriage, the Church essentially states that the partnership was never valid, for reasons such as a spouse not wanting to have children.

While some might find Francis’s 11-member commission a hollow approach, particularly given the popularity of divorce in secular society, theologians say that streamlining the annulment process avoids issues caused by Kasper’s suggestion of penance and mercy. For example, some have called his plan an act of “pseudo-mercy” in which divorcees are told their second marriages are tolerated but not approved, as they remain married to their first spouse in the eyes of Christ. Though an improved annulment process has yet to be unveiled, Francis’s support of such a measure is typically seen as a continuation of his forgiving papacy. While it is unlikely that being granted annulment will ever be as easy as obtaining a legal divorce, this venture offers new hope to Catholic divorcees around the world, who may eventually be able to take Communion with the rest of their parish.

Advertisers Largely Ignoring Baby Boomer Generation, Study Shows

word cloud - advertising

The “Baby Boomer” generation of adults born in the years following World War II is widely regarded as the largest generation in terms of population.

And since their generation is so populous, wouldn’t Baby Boomers have the most buying power as consumers as well? Today’s advertisers don’t seem to think so.

Commercials featuring Baby Boomers often depict negative stereotypes — such as one Esurance commercial that implies seniors are technologically inept, even though 28 million people aged 55 and older have a Facebook account, and senior citizens buy twice as much online as younger Americans, according to Most advertisers simply ignore members of this generation altogether, rendering them invisible and unrepresented.

In numerical terms, one recently published Nielsen study discovered that less than 5% of all advertising dollars go toward ads that target the 35 to 64 age group.

And advertisers’ ignorance comes with a hefty price. The Nielsen study found that the Baby Boomer generation will wield an astonishing 70% of disposable income in America by 2017. When an advertisement portrays a boomer in a negative light — or erases them from the picture altogether — it makes seniors less likely to try out the product or service being advertised.

Baby Boomers themselves are noticing their lack of representation. One UK survey of 1,200 boomers found that 39% of Baby Boomers believe people their age aren’t being represented in today’s advertising; a mere 26% said they thought their age group was adequately represented, the Retail Times reports.

The good news is that companies hoping to cater their products or services to this age group have little competition.

And one of the most effective ways to reach out to Baby Boomers could be through car wrap advertising. In a typical day, a car wrap advertisement will be seen by 30,000 to 70,000 people. Seniors spend plenty of time in their cars each day, which is the prime time for being impacted by a car wrap advertisement. These advertisements are non-invasive yet eye-catching, and are an easy way to get a Boomer’s attention.

Tapping into the spending power of the Baby Boomer generation carries countless upsides.

“(Boomers) were born into a post-war culture of affluence and optimism,” the Nielsen study concluded, stating that these adults spend more freely because they didn’t live through the Great Depression. “Boomers make the most money and spend what they make.”