Tag: purpose

The Gospel of Good Stewardship

The more I read and researched the faith community’s involvement as advocates for saving our planet, the more I was impressed, and encouraged by how much impact their commitment has had locally, nationally and internationally. It became apparent to me that scientists cannot make changes in global warming alone. They supply the empirical data that we base our judgments on as to whether or not our earth is in peril, and if we are responsible for its condition. The faith based leaders provide the theological underpinning based on a belief that we all are “stewards of creation”. 
Another surprise for me was that despite the diverse traditions and beliefs the major religious communities have, they are able to work together on their common concern for creation. Abortion, gay marriages etc. seemed to pale in comparison to their mutual concern for our responsibility for the future of mother earth. In this commentary, I will focus on the contributions of Popes John Paul and Benedict, and the catholic bishops in confronting the dangers of Global climate change. In a future commentary I’ll provide an ecumenical view of how the various faith communities are working together to preserve planet earth for future generations. 

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STEWARDS OF OUR PLANET

The hip movement is a shared sense of moral ; with roots that are in the beliefs of major faiths’ communities. All of our faith traditions call on us to serve the poor and vulnerable. In the case of global warming, the poor will be the ones who will suffer the most. In the Christian tradition, Jesus emphasized two great commandments, to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Most of us have the loving ourselves part down pretty well. It’s the love for God and his and our neighbors that we need to work on. The catch is, our values aren’t our values unless we act on them.  

The religious leaders provide the theological underpinning in their interpretation of our responsibility for maintaining God’s . I chose to first focus in this commentary on the theology of stewardship and sustainability of all creation, not because it’s my faith tradition, but mainly because when we think of the life that God has created, and the Church, we usually think of about things they are against, like abortion or same sex marriages. We don’t immediately associate the with promoting God’s love for the earth that he created. I believe that if the earth is to survive, it needs all faith traditions to prioritize sustainability as the sine qua non for mother earth’s continued existence.

STANDING IN SOLIDARITY

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – St. Francis Assisi

It seemed appropriate to include a prayer from St. Francis of Assisi, who in recent times has been declared The Patron Saint of the Environmental Movement because his life and teachings were models of living in harmony with nature and being at peace with the earth and all living creatures. The prayer, like St. Francis’ life is simple and direct. Also, many of us hope that the fact that the new pope chose Francis as his name, is a sign he was sending a message of how he intends to model his papacy on St. Francis’ life. At this early point Francis has made several positive statements about his position on our responsibility for the environment. His first homily as a pope at his inauguration on the feast of St. Joseph is a good example. In several paragraphs he makes an analogy of St. Joseph’s role as protector of the holy family to our role of protectors of God’s creation. Pope Francis reminds us that “…whenever we fail to care for creation, and for our brothers and sisters, the way is open to destruction and hearts are hardened….and later he continues…To protect creation, to protect every man and every women, to look upon them with the tenderness and love, is to open up the horizon of hope…” [LINK] It seems obvious, that if we are not protectors of mother earth, what else will there remain to protect. To paraphrase the Sermon on the Mount, Blessed are those who protect Mother Earth for they shall be the eternal children of God.

Up to this point, Pope Francis has continued to emphasize our role as protectors of the ecology. In an Audience he had with representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial communities of different religions, [LINK] He reminded the ecumenical group that, “The Church is likewise conscious of the responsibility which all of us have for our world, for the whole of creation, which we must love and protect.” In another part of his talk he pointed out that, “…men and woman, who although not identifying themselves as followers of any religious tradition, …are our valued allies in the commitment to defending human dignity, in building a peaceful coexistence between peoples, and in safeguarding and caring for creation.” Hopefully he will continue to prioritize in a ecumenical way the importance of supporting climate change and acknowledging the impact that our failure to act will have on future generations.

THE GREEN POPE

Francis I is not the first pope who addressed the issue of climate change straight on. Although many of us will remember Pope Benedict XVI for his deep-rooted conservatism and, on many levels his efforts to keep the Church from embracing the 21st Century; others will blame him for how the ’s child abuse scandal was mishandled, and how his views on contraception have contributed to the spread of AIDS, but I suspect that relatively few know that he was named the Green Pope. Whether or not Benedict should be given the title of Green Pope is debatable and not all that important. As far as his position on the environment is concerned, I believe there is little doubt that the stance he took was a progressive one. Given the alternatives of either denying the dangers of global warming or taking a neutral position, he chose to be a prophet for God’s creation.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

What Mc Donald doesn’t take into account in his article is the impact the writings and actions of both popes have had on the response of the People of God from the bishops on down, or perhaps  from the faithful on up. I’d like to think of it as a shared interest. Since, I’m most familiar with the United States Conference of s (USCCB) and the Australian s Conference (ACBC), I’ll just focus on a very few of the many initiatives that were stimulated by John Paul II 1990 message referenced above. Here’s one from Australia—the website for the Earthcare Australia. It was established by ACBC in 2002 as an agency of the s Commission for Justice and Development.  It’s a good example of how John Paul II’s call to “stimulate and sustain the ecological conversion” was heard and responded to in Australia. If you haven’t already, check their website [LINK] it has dozens of projects where folks can become agents of for the planet.

Here’s one project that ACBC is currently piloting; an initiative for schools, parishes, organizations, and congregations to achieve ecological sustainability. It’s called ASSISI, an acronym for, A Strategic Systems-based Integrated Sustainable Initiative. Click here to find out more about ASSISI or here to check resources, references, and other projects. I have dozens of references but here’s one more from the 2002 Australian s Statement on the Environment entitled What Can We Do? [LINK] It has a number of suggestions that you and I can take as shareholders of planet earth.

This posting on the website of the USCCBs is a good example of the type of advocacy the s in the United States have taken. It’s under the title of U.S. s Call for Moral Focus on Global .[LINK] It includes a letter from the Chair of the s Committee, Thomas Wenski to the members of the United States Congress. The letter refers back to 2001 when the bishops’ statement Global A Plea for Dialogue Prudence and the Common Good, [LINK] which I believe is a classic statement that served as a basis for taking personal action. It’s a comprehensive resource for parishes, with information that can use to better understand the connection between faith and the environment, and the urgency of dealing with “…the moral and human dimensions of climate change.” Then there is the Faithful of God’s a book that the USCCBs developed which is also a resource for distribution to parishes, religious organizations, and schools that includes much of the information in the documents above, along with a DVD.

A section on USCCB’s website, A Resource for Environmental Justice and [LINK] provides dozens of resources. Just click on one of the sub-titles on the left hand side of the page. For example, What are s Doing provides description of programs in eight states and one region which received grants from the USCCBs. Now that’s faith in action!  Another sub-title What We Can Do has four topics: A Personal Reflection, Taking Action in My State; Taking Action Nationally; and Taking Action Globally. You can also join their mail list for up-dates.

This is a short story about St. Patrick’s Grammar School in Chatham, New Jersey and their Environment Club, whose president was fifth-grader, William Brockman. To make a long story short, I just wanted to quote President Brockman’s wise words,

“There’s so much we can do to save the planet. At St. Patrick’s, we are learning as much as possible. We are environmentally aware. We need to conserve energy and our non-renewable resources. God has gifted us with the earth. We must do something to protect it.”

Out of the mouths of children… If you’re interested in the whole story, here it is [LINK]

Until the next time when the topic will be on the interfaith environment initiatives. I’d like to leave you with The St. Francis’ Environmental Pledge, from the Climate Covenant, [LINK] with the hope it might motivate you to get involved with environmental movement.

I/We Pledge to:

  • PRAY and reflect on the duty to care for God’s and protect the poor and vulnerable.
  • LEARN about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change.
  • ASSESS how we-as individuals and in our families, parishes and other affiliations-contribute to climate change by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc.
  • ACT to change our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change.
  • ADVOCATE for principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact those who are poor and vulnerable

My Calling to the Clerical Culture

I’d like to share some anecdotal information that I personally experienced both as a seminarian and priest, who became part of the . There certainly were “benefits” but there was also a price to pay for being put on a pedestal by parishioners as well as people outside the , who had some unrealistic images of anyone who wore a Roman collar. I’m not suggesting that my experiences represent the majority of those who were ordained in pre- II, but I think my experiences can resonate with others who were ordained during that period of time, and for those who are interested, they can vicariously identify with the dynamics of becoming part of the .

In my next commentary, I will move from my personal experiences as a former “cleric”, and consider the concept of the from an institutional, sociological, and psychological perspective. I will first examine the abuse of—and—and addiction to power in the , from the on down. Second, how the perpetuation of has contributed to the sexual abuse of children. Finally, I will propose how I believe that we, the people of God can begin to change this elitist of ism.

Naïve and Immature

I have a section in my memoir entitled My Calling. It describes a casual conversation I had with Harry Hinds. He was the director of the Youth Program (CYO) for the diocese of Albany, NY. I worked in his office as his assistant during my last year in high school. One day while we were working on the spring baseball schedule, he asked me what I was going to do after I graduated. I told him I was thinking of going to Siena College to study social work. He asked if I ever thought about becoming a priest. I told him I thought about it, but I didn’t think I had a calling. The next thing I knew, he was on the phone talking to the Chancellor of the Diocese telling him he had a young man in his office who was thinking about a vocation to the priesthood. By the end of his phone call, he had made an appointment for me to talk to Monsignor Rooney about my vocation. I was a little surprised to say the least, but part of me was flattered that he thought I was worthy enough to join their club. I was also more than a little naïve and immature. To make a long story short, the next September, I was off to St. Thomas’ a minor Seminary in Connecticut to become part of the . My parents never questioned or pushed my decision, but being “good s”, I sensed that they were pleased with my “choice”.

Seminary Days

I took to the seminary like the proverbial “duck to water”. The sports, the camaraderie,  the feeling that I would have a in that would not only bring me closer to God, but would give me an opportunity to help others to know and serve God. In my puerile mind, I imagined myself as being like Bing Crosby in the two movies Going My Way, and The Bells of St. Mary’s, where he played Chuck O’Malley. For me, being a seminarian was like being a member of a Fraternity. We even had our own song, Ecce quam Bonum, the first line from Psalm 133, “Behold how good and how joyful it is for brethren to dwell together in unity”.  That was also our chosen class song at the major seminary, St. Mary’s Seminary and Pontifical University.

The Hot House

During the eight years I was in the seminary, we were required to spend eight weeks of our summer “vacation” at Camp Gibbons, the diocesan camp for seminarians on Schroon Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. The schedule was much more relaxed than the seminary’s. In the morning they bussed in children from parishes in several towns near the camp for religious instructions. It was a chance for us to teach catechism.  The rest of the day was time for swimming, playing tennis, sun bathing, and living a of luxury. Our colleague from other dioceses accused us of being put in a “hot house” for the summer to maintain our chastity by not being open to the temptations of the outside world. Looking back, I suspect that they were right. Especially, since we were under the watchful eye of our bishop, who spent his summer with us in what he called “his Villa”.  At the time I thought it was just another opportunity to bond with your brother seminarians, after all they would be my major support group after ordination.

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When I was getting close to ordination, one of our neighbors, a non-catholic woman wrote a poem that she dedicated to me. The title was, He Walks with the Hand of God. I just remember the first line or two, a little corny but it was her perception. “Not long ago a boy I met, who my kind of did not covet, for he walked with the hand of God. His air was so proud, and he so perfect, for he walked with the hand of God.” You see what I mean about it being a little corny? Thinking about it now, it’s a little scary—me, perfect?—years later I used to do a workshop entitled Be Ye Perfect: Mission Impossible! I must have intuitively known before my ordination that was not achievable, at least for me.

Here’s another example of the perfection that was expected of me. One of the meditations that I often used in the seminary was written by a Dominican priest, Jean Baptist-Lacordaire, who lived in the nineteenth century:

Thou Art a Priest Forever

To live in the midst of the world with no desire for its pleasure; to be a member of  every family, yet not belong to none; to share all sufferings; to penetrate all secrets, to heal all wounds; to go daily from men to God to offer Him their homage and petitions; to return from God to men to bring them His pardon and hope; to have a fire for charity and a heart of bronze for chastity; to bless and be blessed forever. O God, what a and it is yours, O Priest of Jesus Christ!

At the time it seemed like a very quixotic role to play. But even then, I used to wonder, why me? There were so many guys in my high school class who were: smarter than I, holier than I, more popular than I, why was I the chosen one? Looking back, Lacordarie’s description of the role and responsibilities of a priest was indeed a “mission impossible”. The expectations seem overwhelming.  When I expressed my doubts to my seminary confessor, he told me they were just goals and that no one could meet them all the time, and that no one is perfect, we just do the best we can. When I told him about my concern about having “a heart of bronze for chastity”, andthat I was struggling with impure thoughts and temptations, he reassured me that once I was ordained, God would give me the grace that I needed to overcome those temptations.
It was not until I read A.W.Richard Sipe’s book, A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy, published in 1990, I realized just how many other priests were struggling and often losing their battle to have a “heart of bronze for chastity.”  Sipe is a former priest, and now is a psychotherapist, who has been engaged in research on the institution of the church and priestly celibacy for over thirty years. The research for this book presented empirical evidence of sexual activity by almost 50% of the Roman priests. I wonderedif my seminary confessor knew that there were that many priests who were ordained and did not ipso facto receive the grace of celibacy. And if he did, would he have given me different advice.

Ordination

At my first mass there was a line of over 200 people waiting to receive my blessing. I realized that it was not Don Fausel they were waiting for, but Fausel—but it was still a rather spine-tingling feeling to have everyone from my long lost relatives to Erastus Corning II, the mayor of Albany kneeling at my feet as I pronounced in Latin, “May the blessing of Almighty God, Son and Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain forever.”

After I finished blessing everyone, my boyhood friend, Muggsy McGraw, pulled me aside, and brought me down to earth in his own inimical way, “Look Fausel, you got your butt in a tub of butter, three squares a day and no heavy lifting, don’t screw it up! You got instant status, instant security, and a job for . Yesterday you were nobody and today you’re Fausel. Ya get my drift? ” How right he was!

But I was elevated again when I got to my first parish. Like most parishes in those days, there was an older lady that acted as cook and housekeeper for the priests. We ate at a formal table with a white table cloth, the pastor sitting at the head carving the roast; solid silver eating utensils, expensive China dinnerware, and a little bell to summon the cook for dessert or coffee. I’d come a long way from the kitchen table where my family ate our meals and where I thought my mother ate the neck and wings of the chicken because she liked them.

I remember one morning I went into the kitchen after Mass to let the housekeeper know I was ready for breakfast.  I noticed a note scotch taped to the wall that said, Fausel, turned over easy.” My immediate thought was someone had been monitoring my sleeping habits, until she told me the note was a reminder of how I wanted my eggs. Sitting at that table alone for breakfast, I always felt like the “poor little rich boy.”

Then there was Mamma Leone’s Italian restaurant on West 48th Street off Eighth Avenue, one of the most popular eating places in New York City. When I was a student at Columbia, occasionally several of us cleric types would go there for dinner dressed in our clothes.  We’d be standing outside in a long line, when a Maitre D’ would spot us and rush out to say loud enough so others could hear him, s your reservations are ready”, and then usher us into the restaurant, leaving dozens of dinners waiting behind . Of course we didn’t have reservations. As I became more accustomed to similar privileged treatment, it was easy to assume it was an entitlement.

In my memoir I recalled an incident about the pastor of the church I was assigned to in the Schenectady, NY. It was in the early sixties, I was on duty at the rectory, when I received a phone call from the captain of a police precinct in New York City. He introduced himself and asked if we had a Mac (factious name) stationed at our parish. He went on to tell me that they picked him up at a local hotel down near the Bowery and he was “drunk as a skunk” and didn’t have money to pay for the hotel room. He told me they wouldn’t press charges, and asked if we could pick him up. I told him I’d be down the next day and thanked him.  Before hanging up he sheepishly gave me some advice, “Look , this poor guy needs some professional help. Our records show that this ain’t the first time we picked him up. You know what I mean?”  The next day I was off to NYC to pick up our pastor. It was a sad one hundred and fifty mile drive back to Schenectady. Mac was either apologizing profusely or crying, or both.

This episode demonstrates several things about the : the deference the police captain had for priesthood, and the willingness he had to cover up for a drunken priest. Plus my congenital condition of being an enabler and coming to Fr. Mac’s rescue, so he wouldn’t be embarrassed for having been charged with a crime and the parishioners wouldn’t be scandalized by his behavior. The good news is that the other associate pastor in the parish and I arranged a quasi-intervention to persuade Mac to get professional help. Which he did!

Priests Need Priests

There were number of us relatively newly minted priests stationed in Schenectady. A few of us decided we’d like to get together on a regular basis to go out for lunch. The group grew to about eight or ten. We would meet at different restaurant each week, have lunch and chat mostly about what was going on in our parishes, complain about our pastors, gossip about who might be made a pastor, etc. Some of us would play golf together, maybe go to an occasional movie, or go to NYC for a Broadway musical, and several of us when to Cape Cod for a week’s vacation. Our mantra was Priests need Priests. There’s certainly no question about that, who else were we going to relax with or enjoy our free time with? It only occurred to me recently, even though we might talk occasionally about theological issues or the up-coming Council, it was always on an intellectual level. Even if we discussed mandatory celibacy it was not about our getting married if they changed the rules, it was as if we depersonalized it. As I remember we never talked about feeling or personal problems that we might be struggling with. At least that I was struggling with. Being able to share feelings should have been one of the major reasons the Priests need Priests group were meeting for.

Fast Forward to 2002

On June 12, 2002, my friend John Rusnak and I boarded a plane to Dallas Texas to attend the meeting of the United States Conference of Bishops (USCCB). We were not invited quests of the bishops but where members of Call to Action (CTA). John was the president of the Arizona Chapter and I was a card carrying member. We had been reading the news papers accounts about the out- break of the scandal of pedophile priests in the Boston Globe, and we were a tad cynical that the bishops would have the integrity to put the best interests of the victims and their families ahead of their history of secrecy of protecting the church. As we buckled ourselves into our seats and the cabin door slammed shut, I looked at John and said, “What the hell are we doing going to Dallas?” Neither of us had a rational answer, but our plane was taxing down the runway as we both shrugged our shoulders as if to say—beats me!

Well, here we are ten years later! Little did we think that the sexual abuse of minors would be worldwide.  In the United States most are still not satisfied with the bishops’ negligible response to the sexual abuse debacle, or with the fact that the bishops refuse to acknowledge, and take responsibility for their part in covering up for the perpetrators.

So contrast those experiences I described above, when I was wearing a Roman collar to about forty some years later to the USCCB 2002 meeting in Dallas. In addition to attending some very stimulating workshops, one of the other activities our CTA group participated in was a protest march from a local parish to the luxurious Freemont Hotel where the bishops were holding their meetings. The closest we could get to their hotel was across the street, where we set up our signs of protest and peacefully demonstrated. At one point I had to go to the men’s room. When I tried to cross the yellow tape police markers, I was informed by a policeman, that I wasn’t allowed in the hotel unless I was a guest. When I explained my urgency, he accompanied me into the hotel, turned me over to another officer who told me I would have to give him my driver’s license before I could take care of business. The men’s room that I used was not even close to the room where the bishops were holding their meeting. I guess they weren’t taking any chances.  Since the media was out in full force, the thought briefly went through my mind to make a scene, but nature’s call prevailed.

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The few experiences I described about my as a seminarian and priest (I have a million of them) might seem rather trivial, but they’re typical of the unearned deference and distinction made between priests and “ordinary folks” that underlies ism. It’s the same distance that the movement brought to our attention when they pointed out the disparity of the 1% of the top of the economy to the 99% at the bottom. As priests we definitely were part of a privileged class, not just in those little acts of reverence we were given, but more significant was always right. After all, at that time priests had more education than most of our parishioners. We had spent four years after college studying theology; we had the power to administer all the sacraments; we were always in a place of honor at any parish event. The only ones in the Church that were above us were the bishops and the pope.

Remember as priests we were at the bottom rung of the latter.  Although there was often a gap between priests and people, I don’t believe that gap was the same for every priest, or that most priests had ambitions to climb up that latter. Nor do I believe that every bishop is equally addicted to the power that corrupts to the point that he loses sight of the children he is suppose to protect from predator priests, or the disenfranchise in society, and puts his own or the church’s interest first. But given the structure of governance of the church, its current , its process of how clerics are groomed, and given the psychosocial up-bringing that many clerics bring to the table, major changes are essential for the future of the Church. Please join me on my next blog, where I will discuss solutions to these issues.

Onward, Christian Soldiers, Marching As To War…

My contemporary fantasy of Christian soldiers marching onward as to war, is a combination of the hierarchy in their medieval regalia, led by Cardinal Dolan, and whatever of his flock he can gather, hand-in-hand with their political partners the .

Unfortunately that army of Christian soldiers is growing and becoming more vociferous. What I wish to question in this commentary is the increasing militaristic tone of the United States Conference of s (USCCB) and the unsuitable lines of attack, which I believe cross over the boundary of conveying their beliefs, and are tantamount to telling their constituents who they should vote for. If I’m correct, their conduct could backfire and put their tax exemption status in jeopardy.

A New Campaign

In my commentary of March 8, 2012 in the Australian website Catholica, I expressed my concern for how the (USCCB) had been abusing its power of the political pulpit to defeat Obama’s re-election in November.  But since then the bishops have ratcheted-up the tenor of their attacks, and have initiated a new campaign to convince their constituency to get out there and prove their power at the ballot box.

In order to put the bishops’ strategy for change in perspective, I will go back to the mid-sixties, when I was director of Charities in Schenectady, New York. One of my assignments was to be a member of The New York State Catholic Conference, which was and is, “The Official Voice of the Church in the Empire State.” The purpose of the Conference as stated:

The New York State Conference represents the s of the state in working with government to shape laws and policies that pursue social justice, respect for and the common good. We provide a unified voice for the eight dioceses of the state to speak on such issues as education, marriage, health care, poverty, abortion, euthanasia, social services, criminal justice and the environment. We apply the principles of social teaching to critical issues of the day and encourage citizen involvement in the legislative process.

During the time the state legislature was in session, we met on a regular basis to discuss any proposed legislation under the categories listed above. Each of the eight New York dioceses was represented by their bishops or assistant bishops, and the directors of Charities from each diocese. There were no women members of the conference, and the only lay person was a lawyer, hiredas a strategist/lobbyist to represent us with the legislators. It never occurred to me that I was part of the “good old boys club”

Our policy was to dialogue with legislators rather than use other approaches such as putting pressure on them by demonstrating or mounting campaigns to mobilize parish members, or other more aggressive methods. It wasn’t because we didn’t believe in ; remember this was the 1960ies. I was a member of several groups that demonstrated against the war in Vietnam. To put it in perspective, here is a speech that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave in 1967 to one of the groups I was active in, the Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam; his speech was entitled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Dr. King supported our goals, and shared his own views on the war in Vietnam. I also had the privilege to demonstrate with Fathers Dan and Philip Berrigan; marched with the local civil rights groups; was a card carrying member of the NAACP; became involved with the abortive War on Poverty and was active in the Schenectady Community Action Program (SCAP) etc. My participation was as a person who happened to be a . I did not use the power of the political pulpit to tell parishioners whom to vote for or whom not to vote for.

That’s far from what is happening today. I mentioned in my first commentary in this series that, I was shocked when I read in our parish bulletin that the pastor actually compared the Obama administration to the Nazi regime under Hitler. Who is going to vote for a Nazi?  Well, I’m still shocked! In our parish bulletin for May 6, the pastor’s usual letter to the parishioners (often promoting such issues as the Tridentine Latin Mass that goes back to the Council of Trent in 1507 or Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, that also dates back to the fifteenth century) was replaced by the USCCB Nationwide Bulletin Insert for April-May, 2012.  After giving a little history of their version of separation of and state, which I believe is debatable, the bulletin goes on to claim, “It is a matter of whether religious people and institutions may be forced by government to provide coverage for contraception and sterilization, even when it violates our religious beliefs.” As Frank Brennan points out in his article in the Australian website Eureka Street on-line, US Bishops’ Toxic Tussle with Obamacare,

There is a risk that the US bishops are escalating a campaign of civil disobedience in the name of conscience when they are not willing to allow members of their own to act according to a rightly formed conscience on matters relating to their own faith and  morals but to civil entitlements of others in a pluralistic democratic society.  

He goes on to suggest that calling upon conscience against Obama, while enforcing an unyielding will on all organizations raises questions, not just with secularist public square. Fr. Brennan also expresses his gratitude that none of the bishops in Australia has had cause to sound as shrill as the bishops in the United States.  

 At the bottom of the Insert the bishops asked, “What can you do to ensure the protection of religious freedom?” The question is rhetorical, since they answered their own question. which they expect the faithful to follow in , “…send your message to HHS and congress telling them to stand up for religious liberty and conscience rights…”

This nationwide Insert for all parish bulletins is just one of the devices designed to defeat the democrats in November. On April 12, 2012 the USCCB issued a statement, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty.  The bishops’ statement starts with their reminding us that, “We are s. We are Americans. We are proud to be both…” It’s as if they were trying to convince everyone that s are just as patriotic as any other religious organization. It reminded me of the lyrics of the satirical song Motherhood from the Broadway musical Hello Dolly when Dolly and the cast sang, “I stand for motherhood, America, and a hot lunch for orphans, take off your hat boys while your country’s flag is passing …” Listening to that song again, I was almost inspired to stand up and sing, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which I thought of using as a marching song when I wrote a letter to the editors of our local newspaper to tell them I was planning to start the Apple Pie Party to challenge the Tea Party. They never published it. Sorry, I digress!

After sharing their little history lession about catholic patriotism, the bishops list a number of examples of what they believe are threats to religious freedom, to convince catholics and other fellow travelers to join their campaign of political and legal resistance. An Editorial in Commonweal Magazine on-line,Religious Freedom & the U.S. Catholic Bishops doesn’t agree. It states that,

The USCCB’s statement vastly exaggerates the extent to which American freedoms of all sorts and of religious freedom in particular are threatened. Church-state relations are complicated, requiring the careful weighing of competing moral claims. The USCCB’s statement fails to acknowledge that fact. Worse, strangely absent from the list of examples provided by the bishops is the best-documented case of growing hostility to religious presence in the United States: hostility to Islam.

The article goes on to point out that the bishops can’t have it both ways. If they don’t correct the oversight of the animosity against Muslims, their campaign for religious freedom will be seen as being a “political tailored” event. The editorial’s position is that, “This silence is especially striking in view of the parallels between anti-Muslim sentiment today and the prejudice encountered by immigrants in the nineteenth century.”

I find the editorial’s line of reasoning very persuasive, mainly because I believe the bishops are so intransitive in their positions (my way or the highway!) that in their efforts to protect their religious freedoms, they would impose their beliefs on peoples of other religions or no-religions that don’t hold the same beliefs, eg. contraception. This is not surprising, since the bishops get their marching orders from the , whose monarchial government still follows the Latin dictum, Roma locuta est-causa finita est! (Rome has spoken-the case is closed!) That doesn’t work in a pluralistic society.

Another line of attack the bishops have planned is what they call a Fortnight for Freedom (FFF). I suspect they’ve hired some super-expensive Public Relation firm to come up with that catchy title. If it wasn’t for my grandfather using the word fortnight, when he would tell us that he and my grandmother were “going on a fortnight vacation”, (two weeks), I would have had to look it up in a dictionary. The section on the FFF in their Religious Freedom document, starts by the USCCB urging that, “…we focus all the energies the community can muster…” in supporting the FFF’s agenda. It will basically be an opportunity for urging s and others to participate in fourteen days of study, prayer and resistance against the alleged efforts of the government to curtail the free expression of religion, leading up to the Fourth of July holiday.  If you want to learn more about the FFF, you can scroll down to the section on the webpage above, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty.

PS: I couldn’t help but wonder why the bishops didn’t muster all those energies to attack the problem of pedophile s? And how about those bishops who covered up for the pedophiles?    

Skating on Thin Ice

Apparently there are some bishops and Public Relation folks who got a head start on the campaign. One such bishop, Daniel R. Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois appears to be on the very far right of most of his colleagues, at least I hope so. Here is the full April 12th text of Jenky’s “homily” (seems more like a call to battle than a homily) as it appears on the Diocese’s website. The title of his “homily” is A Call to Catholic Men of Faith.  He first challenges the men, (I’m not sure if there were any women in the congregation), by saying, “We must be a fearless army of men, ready to give everything we have to the Lord, who gave us our salvation.” Sounds like another Onward Christian Soldiers battle cry to me. He goes on to talk about Bismarck closing down catholic schools in Germany, Clemenceau the “ eater” in France, and Hitler and Stalin of unhappy memory. All geared to scare the hell out of the men of faith. And for a real clincher he reminds them,

This fall, every practicing must vote, and must vote their conscience, or by the following fall our schools, our hospitals, our Newman Centers, all our public ministries—only excepting our buildings—could easily be shut down.

There’s much more fear mongering language in his homily, but towards the end he offers some solace, “We have nothing to fear,…St. Michael the Archangel, and  all the hosts of heaven, fight on our behalf.” I wondered if that’s the same St. Michael that the has been praying to for peace since I was in grammar school?

One thing that Jenky might need to fear is the charges in a letter that the Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) filed against him on April 19, 2012 with the director of the Exempt Organization Division of the IRS. The complete letter is available above and can be enlarged to a more readable size. The author of the letter Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the Executive Director of Americans United, and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, presents a clear case to the IRS of how the bishop has violated the IRS publication “Election Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for Section 501(c)(3)Organizations” (FS-2006-17, February 2006), which reminds tax-exempt entities not to engage in any that “functions as political campaign intervention”. Rev. Lynn goes on to remind the readers that “Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to vote for or against a specific candidate…(they are) at risk of violating the political campaign intervention prohibition if there is any message favoring or opposing a candidate.”

Lynn closed by summing up his case to the IRS with a reminder that Jenky  “…compared Obama to Hitler and Stalin and accused Obama of pursuing policies that will close institutions.”  Not only that, but in Jenky’s homily “…he exhorted members of his flock not to vote for candidates who fail to uphold values.”  I’m sure the USCCB has gaggle of high priced lawyer who will try to punch holes in the Lynn’s arguments, but if you’re interested in supporting AU’s position against Jenky, there is a page on AU’s website where you can take actionIRS Should Investigate Catholic Diocese For Illegal Election Intervention .

Final Example of Abuse of Power

This example is one of the most provocative, offensive, seditious, political ads I’ve ever seen. It outdoes even the most obscene commercial that both political parties have been using during this election season, mainly because it appeals to catholic voters’ quilt and fear.

The commercial below was prepared by Creative-Lab. Among their other productions are:  1) Obama Admits He is a Muslim;  2) 53 Seconds that Should End a Presidency, which is a series of snippets of President Obama struggling with getting the right words out in a number of unrelated interviews; 3) Confirmed: Obama’s Birth Certificate Not Confirmed (2012). So, now that you have an idea of the type of the commercials they produce, here’s the commercial created for the USCCBs’ campaign, titled Test of Fire: Election 2012 (Catholic Version).  But before you view it let me give you a synopsis of the plot.

The setting is a blacksmith’s shop. The room is dark and dismal. The only light is from the flickering fire in the hearth that the smithy is using to forge metal letters, which eventually will become three key words: MARRIAGE—LIFE—FREEDOM! The whole scene and background music create a spooky setting.

As the screens scroll on, each scene has a different message. One of the first messages is:

“This November—s across the nation will be put to the test…s across the nation—will have an opportunity to share the future—for our generation and generations to come…”

Skipping to the end of the commercial. At this point the screen shows a women coming out of a voting booth, she looks rather downcast the text continues “…Your vote will affect the future and will recorded in eternity!” Recorded in eternity! Shades of fire and brimstones!  

I’m not a lawyer, ladies and gentlemen, but I rest my case!