Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This afternoon I taught my second fourth-grade faith formation class of the year. Sixteen kids, one hour, fire drill, church tour, anxious parents waiting to whisk their kids home for dinner, homework, soccer, dance. It's not an easy balancing act on anybody's part. I know I go into that class hoping that I not only cover all the pertinent information but that I connect on some real level with the kids, say something that strikes a chord. After a full day of school, I realize it's not easy for them to pay attention to one more teacher cramming a week's worth of information into less than an hour. But that's what we have to do, and I'm determined to make it more than just another class they have to survive. In the midst of those lessons, I want them to see faith come alive.
During our first class, as we gathered around our prayer table and talked about the cross and candle, Bible and altar cloth, I stopped to ask if anyone knew why the cloth was green. I didn't really expect an answer to that one. Without hesitation a little boy's hand shot up and he said, "Because it's Ordinary Time." And so it seems that even on an ordinary Wednesday during an ordinary class in Ordinary Time, extraordinary things can happen.
Even with those shining moments, however, it helps to have extra resources to give us ideas and encouragement. If you're a catechist, be sure to check out OSV's Teaching Catholic Kids by clicking HERE. It's chock full of suggestions, activities, links and more.
In mid-August I concelebrated the funeral Mass for a longtime friend. Among the other clergy present was the pastor of a Ukrainian Catholic parish.
Ukrainian Catholics are in every respect members of the Church, and the Church recognizes them as such. They fully acknowledge the pope as the successor of Peter and head of the Church. They believe all that the Catholic Church teaches.
However, their liturgy was never in Latin. And most incidentals, such as priestly vestments and the design of churches, are different from those with which Roman Catholics are familiar.
For many people, the most obvious difference is that priests of the Ukrainian Church may be married. So, married men function as priests for Ukrainian Catholics, and they do so with every blessing of the Church.
Essentially, the difference between them and Catholics of the Roman tradition lies in history. Their ancestors were not evangelized by missionaries from Rome, as were the first Christians in France, Germany and Ireland, among other places. History unfolded differently.
Centuries ago, the Church of the Roman tradition adopted the custom, and then the mandate, that priests do not marry, and, indeed, under long-standing Church law, they may not marry unless the pope dispenses them from this particular rule.
Recent popes have dispensed many priests from the obligation of celibacy. However, no priest of the Roman tradition may function if he has been dispensed and has married, even though he is otherwise in the good graces of the Church.
For the past 50 years or so, successive popes have allowed Protestant clergy who are married and who then convert to Catholicism to seek ordination as Catholic priests and to serve as priests. The number of these cases is not that many, but wherever it occurs, it inevitably brings the question of why these former Protestant clergy can act as priests despite being married, whereas Catholic priests who marry, even with Church permission, cannot act as priests.
To answer this question it helps to understand the essence of the priesthood and the obligation of celibacy.
As the priests of the Ukrainian and other Eastern-rite churches, Christian history and the former Protestant clergy who become Catholic priests show, celibacy is not essential to the priesthood, and the Church has never said that it is essential. (Because of this, popes dispense priests from celibacy.)
However, the Church has maintained that for a priest’s spirituality, celibacy is a great value. The reason for celibacy is not just pragmatic, in that an unmarried priest would have more time to give to his ministry.
In this discussion, the most compelling point is that priests of the Roman tradition freely choose celibacy, and they voluntarily and solemnly pledge themselves to lifelong celibacy.
Seminary training is long and intensive, partly so that no man approaches the decision to be celibate without fully understanding its implications for him.
The Church wants candidates for ordination to choose celibacy because they wish to be celibate. Indeed, in the ritual itself of ordaining deacons, the sacramental step just prior to priesthood, the bishop asks the candidate outright if celibacy is his free choice. Before the bishop and congregation, the candidate responds that indeed it is.
By dispensing priests from celibacy, popes allow them to withdraw this pledge.
What about marriage vows? The Church cannot undo marriage vows validly made, because marriage is of divine origin. So, the Church honors the marriage vows of Protestant clergy who convert and are ordained as priests. It cannot ignore this vow or allow, let alone urge, these men to forsake their marriage vows.
However, if they are ordained priests of the Roman tradition, they vow not to remarry should their spouse die, thereby choosing celibacy should their circumstances change.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is the associate publisher of Our Sunday Visitor. This column originally appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of OSV.
When filmmaker Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland over the weekend, my immediate reaction was to post something here. But, as I read the testimony of his 13-year-old victim, the girl he plied with quaaludes and champagne before raping and sodomizing her, I realized I simply couldn't put anything so graphic and disgusting on this website. After several days now of listening to heads of state and Hollywood celebrities come to Polanski's defense, signing petitions and railing against the "judicial lynching" that they think has occurred, it became impossible not to write about it.
As a parent, I find the whole case revolting. From the things Polanski admitted to doing to a young girl 30 years ago to the things that people are saying on his behalf today. How is it possible that people can openly and passionately excuse a man for raping and sodomizing a little girl simply because he is a film-making genius? I didn't realize there were laws for all of us that don't apply to rich celebrities with lots of high-placed friends. How is it possible that the same people who have shown appropriate outrage for clergy abuse can turn a blind eye when the crime -- which is no less horrific than the worst of the priest abuse cases -- is committed by one of their own?
Whoppi Goldberg of The View brushed aside Polanski's crime saying that it was "not rape-rape." Would she look at it that way if the same crime had been committed by a Catholic priest? Based on Goldberg's past anti-Catholic rants about everything from Communion to abortion, I would have to say no.
Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, writing on the Washington Post's On Faith site, asks what would happen if the Knights of Columbus decided to give an award to a pedophile priest who had fled the country to avoid prison:
"The outcry would be universal. Victim groups would demand the award be withdrawn and that the organization apologize. Religion reporters would be on the case with the encouragement of their editors. Editorial writers and columnists would denounce the knights as another example of the insensitivity of the Catholic Church to sexual abuse.Father Reese goes on to talk about the double standard, not just in the Polanski case but in Hollywood in general:
"And they would all be correct. And I would join them.
"But why is there not similar outrage directed at the film industry for giving an award to Roman Polanski, who not only confessed to statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl but fled the country prior to sentencing? Why have film critics and the rest of the media ignored this case for 31 years? He even received an Academy award in 2003. Are the high priests of the entertainment industry immune to criticism?"
"It is not as if Polanski is the only Hollywood celebrity to be accused of child abuse. Woody Allen and Michael Jackson come to mind. I am sure that with a little research the media could come up with quite a list. The Catholic Church has rightly been put under a microscope when 4 percent of its priests were involved in abuse, but what about the film industry?A similar theme was taken up by Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who issued a statement yesterday saying: "The Catholic League has long suspected that, in many quarters, the outrage over priestly sexual abuse has had more to do with the status of the accused than the crime itself. Now the evidence is indisputable: a child can be drugged, penetrated and sodomized—and the guilty can cut and run—and still maintain hero status. Provided he is a celebrity."
"The world has truly changed. Entertainment is the new religion with sex, violence and money the new Trinity. The directors and stars are worshiped and quickly forgiven for any infraction as long as the PR agent is a skilled as a saintly confessor. Entertainment, not religion, is the new opiate of the people and we don't want our supply disturbed.
"Is there a double standard here? You bet."
UPDATE: Don't miss the OSV editorial on the matter, either. It appears in the Oct. 11 issue.
To read Father Reese's full essay, click HERE. To read Bill Donohue's full statement, click HERE. And, to watch Whoppi Goldberg make a fool of herself defending a rapist, watch the clip below.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Around the country Catholics are participating in the 40 Days for Life campaign -- praying, fasting, keeping vigil, reaching out on behalf of the unborn. What you'll see in this very brief video clip is just one example of the vitriolic opposition pro-lifers face as they quietly protest the greatest evil in our country. You will see the Sisters of Life, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and other participants praying the Rosary outside an abortion clinic in the Bronx as unseen protesters chant, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, 40 Days has got to go." Not very creative, but disturbing nonetheless.
The current 40 Days for Life campaign began Sept. 23 and runs through Nov. 1. As of today, the 40 Days website says: "Day 7 - 56 babies saved." It's not to late to join the effort and make a difference.
h/t Ed Mechmann at Varia.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Just this morning I was reading an article about pre-teens "coming out" in middle school, going to "gay" dances and beginning same-sex relationships when most kids their age are still trying to figure out how to say hello to the girl sitting at the next desk. As I read, one thing kept running through my mind: Society has done this to these kids. Through TV shows and movies and novels and in-school programs about "tolerance," today's kids are being force fed an agenda that teaches them that premarital sex, including homosexual sex, is the norm. And if they're not taking part in it, something is wrong with them.
Turn on the TV and it's likely that if you see a character who shuns the pro-sex message, a boy or girl who chooses chastity over hooking up, he or she will be cast as the unthinking moron, or, more likely, the hypocrite. I'm thinking now of the new show Glee. It's about a high school singing group where one particularly nasty member is president of the chastity club, pregnant, and lying about who the father is. In this show, as in so many others, the kids -- or adults -- who wear the crosses and talk about their faith are the opposite of what they seem. In other words, it's Hollywood as usual.
Well, some teens aren't taking that message sitting down. Project Chaste is a new campaign that tells the Hollywood crowd to open their eyes to the many teens and young adults who aren't buying the free love propaganda. Check out the video and help spread the word:
h/t to Lisa Hendey at Faith & Family blog and Ed Mechmann at Varia.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Mary Ellen Barrett, who writes a homeschooling blog at Tales From the Bonny Blue House, recently suffered through every parent's worst nightmare. In August, her 14-year-old son Ryan, who was autistic, wandered over to a nearby creek during an annual father-son camping trip and was gone before anyone knew what happened. He was found dead in a lake the next morning.
In a post earlier this month, Mary Ellen, who is also a columnist for the Long Island Catholic, shared glimpses of her suffering but also powerful witnesses of her faith. In her words, we are reminded of our challenge -- to trust in God's plan even when we cannot imagine why certain things happen, why particular sufferings are visited upon us.
"To sit at the foot of the cross in the real way that Dave and I have this past month, it is necessary to surrender to God and to just trust that His plan is for our ultimate salvation. I confess to having my moments of bewilderment/anger at why God called Ryan home but I pray through that and ask Ryan to pray for me. I know that Ryan is happy in heaven, that he is doing good there. There have been several little intercessions he has accomplished for his mom and dad and I'm told others have had little prayer requests granted. I am so comforted by the knowledge that he is home with Our Lady, helping his family and friends.In some places, her words pour out like a modern-day Psalm:
"I still want him home with me. That is me, my fallen, broken nature. To be aware of his joy and yet want him here. I can't help it. I don't think I ever will be able to feel differently."
"So the grief crashes over us in waves. Mind numbingly, over-powering waves and then we gasp and stick our heads up and catch our breath. We see the world around us and the love being bestowed on us and we know it is good."Please go to Mary Ellen's blog and read her full post by clicking HERE.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., has signed his name to an open letter urging President Obama to become involved in the country's nuclear policy review and to work toward a reduction in the number of nuclear arms in the country's arsenal. Bishop Hubbard is chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The letter, which will run as an ad and is being sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, states in part:
"The end of the Cold War changed the world. September 11, 2001 changed it again. As you said in your April speech in Prague, 'In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up.'According to a post on the CNSblog today, the ad will run Sept. 22 and 23 in the Washington Times, Politico, Congress Daily, Roll Call and The Hill. The National Review published the ad Sept. 19 and will run it again Sept. 26, CNSblog reports.
"U.S. nuclear weapons policy must change as well. We cannot rely on old approaches and old thinking to meet these new threats. As president, your most profound responsibility is to keep us safe and prevent the use or spread of these frighteningly powerful weapons.
"Today, representing diverse walks of life, we speak with one voice to urge you to chart a new, common-sense, step-by-step approach that will reduce the threats that nuclear weapons pose."
Read the full letter HERE. Read the CNSblog post HERE.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Steven Waldman, editor in chief of beliefnet.com posts today about why the U.S bishops in particular and the Catholic population in general matter so much to the current health care debate. In an analysis of the bishops' pro-reform, pro-life position, Waldman observes what many Catholics already know: Catholics -- especially Catholic bishops -- often venture into territory that is foreign to many others, to that unusual place where liberal and conservative labels drop away to reveal a position that stands in defiance of politics as usual.
From Waldman's post:
"The Catholic Bishops are the only major pro-life group that wants health care reform. As a result, they have no interest in using the abortion issue to block health care. So when they raise objections about abortion provisions, members of congress may perceive them to be substantively rather than politically motivated."
He ends by concluding that, given the importance of the Catholic vote, it's "better to have the Bishops on board than to not have them." Read his full analysis HERE.
He begins by noting that although people on both the left and the right have been free in their criticism of the pope's document, "nobody is much interested in debating the crucial argument…the fundamental claim that economic exchange requires love." Perhaps, he speculates, that's because religious believers see "the economic relevance of God's love" as "self-evident" while non-believers consider it "absurd." In both cases, there is a tendency to dismiss the idea as a platitude.
Yet from Plato to Marx, Nirenberg points out, the competing claims of self-interest and forgetfulness of self to be the guiding principle of economic activity have been debated. Only in modern times, and preeminently in the West, has self-interest triumphed. "It is this victory that Benedict XVI is questioning," he says.
Nor is Benedict the first pope to do that; the questioning extends back at least to Leo XIII and his classic social encyclical of 1890, Rerum Novarum, and can be found also in major teaching documents of pontiffs like Pius XI, Paul VI, and, most recently before Benedict, John Paul II, whom Nirenberg quotes at length.
The professor speaks respectfully of what he calls "the scope of Benedict's ambition," which, as set out in Caritas in Veritate, he describes this way: "His idea is that every act of exchange should approximate the gratuitous gift of divine love. Every coin should approximate a Eucharist."
Nirenberg does not embrace this idea, but neither does he reject it out of hand. He holds that it should be taken seriously—far more so than it has to date—in order truly to grasp what Benedict's encyclical fundamentally is saying.
But he does have a bone to pick with the pope. It is that in Benedict's estimation only Catholicism possesses intellectual and spiritual resources capable of sustaining an approach to economic life grounded in selflessness. According to Nirenberg, this is unacceptable religious exclusivism that creates an insuperable obstacle to persons of other faiths who otherwise might wish to draw upon the Pope's thinking.
Whether this is or isn't an accurate critique of Benedict can be left to another day. Nirenberg's unexceptionable point is that religious teachings in these pluralistic times must be presented in "a way that seeks to transcend the boundaries of the traditions that produced them." If "transcend" here means "reach out beyond," his point is well taken. But if it instead means "put aside" or "abandon," he is making an ecclesiological assertion that no self-respecting religious tradition could possibly accept.
At the very least, it seems to me, if persons of other faiths do not accept papal claims for the Catholic Church (and pretty clearly they do not, for otherwise they would become Catholics), it doesn't follow that they are thereby prevented from drawing whatever they do find true and helpful from the thought of Benedict or any pope. In the present instance, Professor Nirenberg (whose religious affiliation I do not know) appears to have done that with success, and for that we owe him thanks.
Friday, September 18, 2009
"But let's be realistic. On the whole, the polarization of American Catholics isn't a split among practicing members of the Church.
"According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, only 23 percent of Catholic adults in the United States now attend Mass every Sunday -- which is to say 77 percent do not. Moreover, reports CARA, 75 percent receive the Sacrament of Penance -- confess their sins, that is -- less than once a year or never.Read the entire article by clicking HERE.
"This isn't American Catholicism at some point in an imagined future -- it's a snapshot of where we are now: three out of four adults seldom or never participating in the central religious acts of their Church, while only one in four does. Here's the real polarization of American Catholics.
"In the Notre Dame dust-up, 56 percent of Catholics who don't attend weekly Mass thought the university did the right thing by honoring Obama, but only 37 percent of the weekly Mass-attenders agreed. More polarization. Instead of criticizing the university's critics, bishops would do well to address this pervasive crisis at its roots, while at the same time considering the possibility that the views of people who go to Mass every week are the sensus fidelium at work."
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Gerard V. Bradley over at National Review Online puts a different spin on what's happening -- or not happening -- at Catholic colleges and universities in the United States and what needs to happen to help young Catholic adults take the faith of their childhood to a new and more mature level.
From "The Other Catholic Higher Education" column by Bradley:
"Today’s young people are not much to blame. They see that Wall Street philosophy firms are not paying much these days (or any days), and they do not want to be unemployed poets. Of course the benefits of a genuine Catholic education lie elsewhere than in the job market, but they are largely invisible and long-term. Furthermore, acquiring a real education of any sort is very hard work. Who would be such a chump as to pay a premium for the privilege? When all you can get at a “Catholic” school is some pious platitudes wrapped around the same product that is discounted elsewhere, a savvy shopper makes the easy call.Read the full column by clicking HERE, and then tell us what you think needs to happen to reach Catholics on campus.
"...We need a new paradigm for delivering Catholic higher education. It is time to go where the Catholic students are. More than 80 percent of them attend non-Catholic institutions, where the Church’s mission has long been limited to pastoral care: On campus or at nearby Newman Centers students attend Mass, go to confession, and meet other Catholics. We must ratchet this menu of options up — way up — to include serious and sustained intellectual formation. The goal should be to establish, at or near every college with a substantial Catholic student population, a free-standing center devoted to intellectual formation, to the cultivation of the Catholic mind."
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
This may be one of the most charitable and civilized yet critical commentaries to date on Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's funeral. Father Roger Landry, the executive editor of the diocesan newspaper of Fall River, Mass., which was Kennedy's home diocese and where his funeral was celebrated, writes an editorial that defends the fact that Kennedy was afforded a Catholic funeral — but says it could have been done differently. Here's the kicker:
The overall tone of the funeral liturgy — from the three eulogies, to the prayers of the faithful, to the homily, to the celebrity musicians, to the guest list, and to the nationally-televised gushing color commentaries — seemed to communicate that it was more a public, political apotheosis of Senator Kennedy than a humble, insistent prayer of the Church his mother for the forgiveness of his sins and the repose of his soul. This was probably not helpful to the Senator eschatologically, obviously scandalous to devout pro-lifers spiritually, and likely injurious to the Church both doctrinally and practically.
Read the whole thing here. It's worth the time. Then discuss.
h/t New Advent
We live in a world where we are more connected than ever to the people we know -- through email and social networking sites and Twitter -- and yet we are more isolated than ever. Studies show that Americans have fewer and fewer real friends they can talk to and trust. Brian Caulfield at Fathers For Good takes on this topic of loneliness in a four-part series of blog posts.
In the third part of the series, Brian writes:
"To fully realize his or her potential, a person must be in relationship with others. We do not fully know ourselves or our capacities without feedback from others. This is evident in the cooing love between a mother and her child, and it holds true in various ways at different stages of our lives.I recently heard those same sentiments echoed by a newly retired Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As we were talking about this new phase in her vocation and ministry, she stressed the continued importance of friendship in her life. Real friendship. As she said, "I'm not talking about the people you play Bridge with."
"Rugged individualists we may be, yet we cannot escape what I call the 'interpersonal imperative.' We care what other people think, know and say about us and to us. I need you to become fully me."
"I don't know God unless I know God in you. I have to learn about God through you," she said.
Both Brian and the good Sister are onto something. We need friends, not just to keep loneliness at bay but to move us forward on our spiritual path. Click HERE to read Brian's posts on Fathers for Good.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Mike Potemra over at The Corner posts an interesting excerpt from Ted Kennedy's recently released book, True Compass. It is the late senator's reflections on receiving his First Communion from Pope Pius XII:
"I wore a blue suit and had a white rosette on my left arm. As he blessed me, [the Pope] said, 'I hope you always be good and pious as you are today.' It caused a great deal of a stir in some circles – a seven-year-old American boy given his First Communion by the Pope, who himself was giving that honor for the first time as Pope and to a non-Italian to boot. [Pius had been elected just 13 days earlier.] But it was among the greatest moments of my life."Potemra goes on to explain that this was not the first meeting between the young Kennedy and the pope. From Potemra's post:
"Three years earlier, Joseph Kennedy had escorted then-Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli on a tour of the United States. 'One of his last stops was at our house. I remember crawling up onto his lap. I was fascinated by his long robe and scarlet skullcap, and his long aristocratic nose. We still have the couch where he sat, and the plaque that Mother put on it.' A remarkably domestic encounter between two men who would be each be the subject of more than his share of controversy, during his life and even after his death."
Sunday, September 13, 2009
By Russell Shaw
Does the bishops' conference know something about health care and abortion that the rest of us don't? Otherwise it's difficult to say what to make of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' response to President Obama's speech to Congress last week. Even as the rest of the prolife community was continuing its criticism of abortion coverage in the plan, USCCB issued a news release welcoming Obama's claim that publicly funded abortion won't be part of it.
Particularly interesting from this point of view were remarks by Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the bishops' prolife office. Doerflinger, an old hand on these things, said: "We especially welcome the president's commitment to exclude federal funding of abortion, and to maintain existing federal laws protecting conscience rights in health care. ... We will work with Congress and the administration to ensure that these protections are clearly reflected in the new legislation, so no one is required to pay for or take part in abortion as a result of health care reform."
It's hard to say exactly what that means, but it could mean the bishops won't fight very hard to keep abortion out of the health care plan provided it includes some sort of conscience clause they can live with. It may also mean that the bishops have received private assurances from the White House that if they play ball on health care, that's what they'll get. If this is what's going on, however, it's a risky game at best.
Significantly, USCCB didn't roll out any bishops to react to Obama's remarks. Instead that job was given to staff — Doerflinger and Kathy Saile, director of the conference's domestic social development office. This suggests the organization is hopeful of getting what it considers a satisfactory deal on abortion from the White House but isn’t really sure. With good reason perhaps.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I remember exactly where I was eight years ago this morning, as we watched our world change forever. Standing in my bedroom, putting away laundry as my son, Noah, played in the next room, I received a phone call from my father-in-law telling me to turn on the TV. That moment is as vivid to me now as it was then, as are the events that followed. I had a cousin on a train caught in "the tubes" under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York, although none of us knew at the time if he was safe or already under the towers and in the station. I had family living in Manhattan.
Moments of panic were wrapped around normal events of the day. I dropped Noah at art class and came home to find one tower gone. By the time I was ready to pick him up, the second had fallen and I was on my knees in tears in our family room. In the days that followed, I wrote one of my very first Life Lines columns about that terrible time in our country's history. I thought today I would share that original column, which captures those early feelings of fear, and reminds us of how far we have come. Here is the column that ran in Catholic New York:
Noah plopped down on the floor next to me the other day and asked me to read one of his favorite books, “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed,” by Mercer Mayer. As we turned the pages and followed the little boy on his quest to capture the elusive alligator that kept him up at night, I had an eerie feeling that the story was an allegory for what I’d been feeling since that terrible morning a few days before.
The night after the World Trade Center attack, I lay awake in my bed staring at the ceiling, filled with a sense of dread that I could not quite put my finger on. I was scared, but not by the images of horror that had flashed before my eyes for hours that day. Instead my fears seemed frivolous, not at all unlike the little boy’s alligator: Had I left the dryer on in the basement? Was the window over the kitchen sink still open? Were the kids’ pajamas warm enough? I felt a childlike fear of the dark, of things no one else can see, things we parents usually try to hush with a goodnight kiss and a night-light.
When morning finally arrived, I realized that my sleeplessness wasn’t really about what might go wrong within my four walls. It was about what had gone wrong in our world. Long after I had wiped away the tears of sadness that fell as I watched the World Trade Center collapse over and over again on television’s seemingly endless loop of horror, I fought back tears of a different kind -- as I rocked Olivia to sleep for her nap, as I kissed Noah good-bye at preschool, as I hugged my husband, Dennis, at the end of a long day. Those were tears borne of fear, tears for tomorrow, tears for a world we don’t yet know. And I didn’t like how they felt.
Despite the fact that I have spent almost two years writing a book on how to help children deal with grief, the events of the past weeks left me in the unusual position of struggling for words. On the day of the attack, when Noah, asked if “bad people” might knock down our house, I reassured him that they would not. When he made a logical leap – at least for a 4-year-old – and worried that they might knock down his grandmother’s apartment building in New York City, I told him he was safe, that no one was going to hurt him or the people he loved. All the while I found myself wondering if I was telling him a lie.
But that kind of thinking leads to hopelessness, and when we lose hope, we leave a void just waiting to be filled by fear and despair and alligators of every kind. Through stories on television and in newspapers, I had seen unbelievable hopefulness in the face of utter destruction. How could I not believe in the power of the human spirit and the ultimate goodness of humanity and a better world for our children?
That night, as a soft rain fell, our house seemed wrapped in a comforting quiet that was interrupted only by the reassuring hum of the dishwasher. With Noah and Olivia asleep in their rooms, I lay down and looked up. For the first time in days I didn’t notice the enveloping darkness but saw instead the tiny glowing stars that dot our bedroom ceiling, a “gift” left behind by the previous owners. As I finally closed my eyes to sleep, I whispered a prayer of hope, a prayer for a world where the only thing our children have to fear are the imaginary monsters hiding under their beds.
Copyright 2001, Mary DeTurris Poust
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
By Russell Shaw
By Russell Shaw
When the United States and its allies went into Afghanistan almost eight years ago, they had the support — quiet but real — of Pope John Paul II and the Holy See. But when, not long after,
and its friends attacked Iraq, the pope and his people were strongly and publicly opposed.
and its friends attacked Iraq, the pope and his people were strongly and publicly opposed.
These contrasting reactions by Rome to American military ventures struck me then and strike me now as reflecting eminently sound moral judgments. In light of recent events, it's useful to consider why that is so.
Afghanistan was and is a just war. In early 2002, the U.S. had lately suffered the vicious 9/11 terrorist attacks plotted by al-Qaeda from the sanctuary provided by its Taliban protectors. Without a prompt American military response, there surely would have been more of the same.
In Iraq, however, the puzzle from the start has centered on why we were going to war there. Saddam Hussein was a bloody tyrant and no friend of America, but he hadn't attacked the U.S. or its allies, and despite the dire warnings of the Bush administration there was no compelling evidence that he meant to do so, with weapons of mass destruction or without them.
So why invade Iraq? Six-going-on-seven years later, many explanations have been offered but none of them has had staying power — beyond the embarrassingly obvious one of bad judgment.
Here, then, is the heart of the situation: legitimate self-defense in Afghanistan and a big question mark in Iraq. But there's more to the story than that.
Once the allies had the Taliban on the run in 2002, a terrible mistake was made. Instead of pushing ahead to win a solid, lasting victory, America turned its attention and the bulk of its military resources to Iraq, leaving the wrapping-up in Afghanistan — as was supposed — to undermanned NATO forces and the CIA.
The results as we see them now were predictable. In Iraq, a shaky semi-peace, with the U.S. anxious to pack up and leave. Soon it will be up to the Iraqis to work things out — or fight them out — for themselves. This is exactly the outcome that was probable all along. Does it really justify all the killing and maiming, along with the destabilization of a crucial sector of the Middle East?
In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the fighting drags on in what even American military commanders have taken to calling a deteriorating situation. President Obama has begun increasing the troop levels, and the generals are asking for even more. Whether they will get it, in the face of growing unhappiness with the war back home, is anybody's guess.
Morally speaking, what should one make of all this? I reason as follows.
Afghanistan was a just war at the start, and nothing has happened to change that today. The same overriding consideration applies now that applied in early 2002 — the need to spike the terrorist threat in its heartland. American failure would be a calamitous setback for the U.S. and a godsend for al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
But for America to succeed in Afghanistan, the war must be waged seriously. The one thing the Obama administration mustn't do — because it would be a military and moral disaster — is to carry out a token military buildup that would be sure to fail. Fighting a just war halfheartedly isn't the way of moral sensitivity but the way of national cowardice. If we are going to fight this war at all — and unfortunately we must — we need to fight to win.
Photo: Army Times
In a post last week, I reported on inaccuracies in a New York Times story on the U.S. bishops' position on health care reform. The Times has corrected that story twice, and also published a clarification letter on Sunday from Bishop William Murphy and Cardinal Justin Rigali. Today Don Clemmer on the USCCB Media Blog further takes the paper to task for the article.
Here's a portion of the post:
"The New York Times article was also the first in a succession of news stories and other coverage that depicted the U.S. bishops as divided on, or simply opposed to health care. These stories also quote subsequent statements from Fargo Bishop Samuel Aquila, Rockford, Ill. Bishop Thomas Doran, Kansas City, Kan. Archbishop Joseph Naumann and Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo. Bishop Robert Finn.
"Rather than get into a point-by-point analysis of the arguments of each bishop, I'd much rather do some oversimplication of my own and say that this is ultimately about the richness of Catholic teaching. All of the bishops' statements, including such examples listed above that raise serious red flags about current health care proposals, government intervention in health care, etc., speak to the value of health care and the worthiness of the goal of reforming it."
To read the full USCCB post, click HERE.
Monday, September 7, 2009
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat takes on assisted suicide and euthanasia in a column that uses the words of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, to make a case against the slippery slope that begins with physician-assisted suicide.
This month the state of Montana will decide whether to endorse physician-assisted suicide, as has been done in neighboring Oregon and Washington.
"What’s at stake is the right to voluntary euthanasia, not the sort of involuntary plug-pulling that some Republicans have claimed is concealed in the finer print of the current health care reform proposals. But you don’t have to share Sarah Palin’s death panel fears to see perils lurking at the intersection of physician-assisted suicide and health care reform."
What I think is the most telling paragraph of this column, however, is an observation by Douthat that explains the mindset behind the push for assisted suicide:
"In each case, the goal is perfect autonomy, perfect control, and absolute freedom of choice. And in each case, the alternative approach — one that emphasizes the limits of human agency, and the importance of humility in the face of death’s mysteries — doesn’t mesh with our national DNA."
I think that's the crux of this issue. In a country and a time where we believe we have a right to just about everything, people do not want to imagine being out of control. They want to know they can end their own suffering, prevent the "indignities" that sometimes come with illness and age. Our faith, however, reminds us that suffering on the road to death is sometimes part of the journey, a mysterious part but a part nonetheless. No one wants to suffer, but we have learned from those who have gone before us that times of suffering are also often times of grace. The answer is not an injection. The answer is trust in God's plan, even when we don't understand the plan.
Read Douthat's full column HERE.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
2. Ruling: College discriminated against women by not Belmont Abbey College order to provide employees contraception coverage.
3. U.S. bishops, factcheckers contradict Obama… Story, cited on the front page of The New York Times, about the problem of abortion coverage in the health care reform bills.
4. 10 reasons you should become a catechist Self explanatory.
5. St. Vincent de Paul copes with spike in requests News story about recession's impact on charity.
6. Should people be allowed to sell their organs… The morality of organ donation, and commerce.
7. In Focus: New feminism shines light on true genius… Everything — and everyone — you need to know regarding the new feminism.
8. The right and wrong way to ration health care… There's no way around rationing. But what's the ethical way?
9. Catholic efforts to generate an authentic feminism… Norton's column on raising (new) feminist Catholic daughters.
10. Reforming reform Story of Catholic nurse forced to participate in New York hospital abortion a cautionary tale for health care reform.
I have known people who have gone through 12-Step programs of various kinds -- Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous. And I have seen how those programs change lives, or, in many cases, save lives.
Participants in 12-Step programs cannot begin down the difficult path of recovery without turning their lives over to a Higher Power, which is somewhat miraculous in and of itself when you consider the fact that the founder of the program had been an "irreligious man who venerated science and disbelieved in a personal God." That's according to columnist Bill Reel, who reflects back on the humble beginnings of a program that is now in place in 150 countries.
AA Founder Bill Wilson was 39 when he hit bottom and finally turned to God in utter desperation.
From Reel's column in Catholic New York:
"The divine response was immediate, overwhelming and life-changing. Suddenly the hospital room seemed to fill with a blazing light. Wilson felt ecstatic. He was at peace and free. God was real and present. In a new world of consciousness, he thought, "So this is the God of the preachers!"Sometimes out of desperation comes hope. We don't have to be an alcoholic or a drug addict to benefit from Wilson's insights and the program that constantly reminds people that we are powerless without God.
"The episode might have been a hallucination, of course, yet Wilson always remained convinced of God's merciful intervention. 'We have found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek him,' he later wrote."
Read the full column by clicking HERE.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I knew I would be in for a good cry when I clicked on the link to a video about one couple's decision to have their baby boy despite the diagnosis of trisomy 13. What I got was not only a dose of tears but a dose of faith and inspiration and awe. The video, which traces the pregnancy, birth and short life of Thomas should be required viewing because it is a reminder of the power of one small life, no matter how brief, no matter how seemingly "flawed."
Watch the video. Please. Share the video. This is the kind of thing that can change hearts and minds. Click HERE to watching "Choosing Thomas." To read the mom's diary of her baby's life, click HERE. Thank you to Ed Mechmann at Varia for highlighting this gem.