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July 2005 Archives

July 5, 2005

Amidst Tragedy in Britain, an Impetus for Hope in Dealing with World Poverty and Environmental Destruction

Horrific bombings during London's morning rush hour serve to emphasize again how the innocents are victimized by those who seek to solve the world's problems with violence. To his credit, Mr. Tony Blair has been hosting a G8 Summit in Scotland dedicated to addressing two of the world's most compelling problems: poverty in Africa and global warming, man-made disasters that threaten the wellbeing of all humanity. Sadly, the headlines coming from Scotland emphasize how Mr. Bush has sought to thwart consensus on both these pressing issues.

The Bush Administration had made a good start in dealing with the AIDS disaster in Africa, budgeting up to $3 billion per year to help dull the suffering there. But if recent history is any indicator, this Administration will react to the bombings in London not by seeking constructive ways to move the world away from conflict, but by seeking to budget even more money for "military solutions." In the wake of the bombings, the New York Times quoted Mr. Bush as saying, "The contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill, those who have got such evil in their hearts that they will take the lives of innocent folks. The war on terror goes on." His answer to the killing is to carry on with more killing, and to do it in the name of human rights and human liberty.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a heroic champion of Christianity's central tenet of non-violent love for friends and enemies, spoke to this issue again last Sunday. Excerpts of his homily follow, taken from the website of the National Catholic Reporter (http://www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/peace).

Our scriptures today (Matthew 10:37-42) continue what we began to reflect on last week, that is, what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, what it means to be called to carry out the work, the mission of Jesus and to transform our world into as close an image of the reign of God as possible. It's very challenging to be a disciple, to be one of those Jesus calls to carry on his works.

I thought for our reflection today, I might use as a framework part of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops' pastoral letter from 1983, which you may remember was called "The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response." In the fourth section of that letter, which we called "The Pastoral Challenge and Response," there is a very clear description of what it means, or should mean at least, for any of us if we want to follow Jesus and be his disciple.

First of all, this passage reminds all of us who we are in the church. The church is not just an institution. It's not just a huge international organization. It's a community of people, a community of disciples. After describing the church this way the bishops say, "In the following pages we should like to spell out some of the implications of being a community of Jesus' disciples." Then they point out a special thing: "In a time when our nation is so heavily armed with nuclear weapons and is engaged in a continuing development of new weapons together with strategies for their use ..." So we're being asked to look at ourselves as disciples of Jesus at this moment in human history, as citizens of the United States, a nation heavily armed. The armaments of our nation get larger and larger all the time. What does it mean to be a disciple in that situation?

Then Jesus says -- and this can be very challenging -- "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than they love me isn't worthy of me. If you love your son or daughter more than me you're not worthy of me." What he's telling us is that for his disciples, Jesus has to come first. You know, in Luke's translation it even says you must "hate" your father or mother or you're not worthy. Well, that's really not correct. Matthew's translation is better: you must put Jesus first. When I think about this, especially in the context cited by the bishops in that pastoral letter -- here we are in a nation heavily armed with nuclear weapons and plans to develop more of them and plans to use them -- what have we put first? Do we really put Jesus first or do we love or nation, our fatherland, our motherland more than we love Jesus?

Think about the war we've been engaged in for, I would say, since 1991 because it has been all one violent attack against Iraq since January of 1991. Before this second Persian Gulf War the bishops of the United States, the pope in Rome, bishops in Europe, all said this war could not be just, can't be just if you preempt. You're not under attack. You choose to attack. What happens after the war starts? We don't hear that anymore. Now it's, "Get behind our troops. Get behind our government." Whom do we love more? Jesus? Or do we have an exaggerated sense of nationalism, loving our nation and our government more than we love Jesus?

This is a very challenging part of Jesus' call. We must put Jesus first -- his words, his teachings. Our president tells us we're going to wage a war against terrorism, and we're going to win that war, and it's going to go on indefinitely. Can we continue to follow that leadership when Jesus says so clearly if you want peace work for justice. "If you want peace," John Paul II said, "it has to be built on the pillars of justice and love." Not on violence and killing. Who are we going to follow? Are we going to listen to Jesus and be faithful disciples or do we love our nation and our government more and follow them?

Then Jesus tells us, "If you want to be my disciple you must take up your cross and follow me." And in the pastoral letter the bishops say, "To set out on the road to discipleship is to dispose one's self for a share in the cross, and we must regard as normal even the path of persecution and the possibility of martyrdom." Imagine! To be a disciple of Jesus you must set out on the path of Jesus picking up your cross and accept as normal the path of persecution and the possibility of martyrdom. Does that really happen?

Well, I remind you of a woman in Brazil, who on Feb. 12 this year was shot to death. Do you know why? Because she was proclaiming God's word and as the pastoral says, "to become true disciples we have to be doers of the words as well as proclaimers of the words." And that's what she was. Sr. Dorothy Stang was her name. She was working in one of the poorest parts of Brazil. She was helping people to get titles for their land. She was helping them to form cooperatives. She was helping them to do farming that enhances the environment rather than destroy it. But there were people who were opposed to her. They were the loggers and the cattlemen. They wanted that land for themselves, a few people. She kept standing up to them, against them, so she was shot to death on Feb. 12. To be a disciple of Jesus, it's necessary to take up your cross, follow him, even if it means on the path of persecution and martyrdom. Probably not many of us are going to go that far on the path, but we have to really be committed to proclaiming the word of Jesus, living the word of Jesus, doing the word of Jesus no matter what the cost. That's what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

So this morning as we reflect on this missionary discourse of Jesus, I hope -- and the pastoral letter of the bishops suggests this too -- that the call of Jesus is something very personal. You hear Jesus say, deep in your own heart, "Follow me." It has to be a personal call from Jesus. We have to open our hearts and our spirit to hear that call from Jesus and I'm sure each of us will hear it, if we open ourselves in prayer and listen. You will hear Jesus saying, "Follow me." But then I hope also that we will have the courage and conviction to say, "Yes, I will follow Jesus whatever the cost. I will carry on his work to change our world into the reign of God." In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

July 12, 2005

An eye for an eye until the whole world is blind, says Bush to the FBI about the London bombings

The bombings in London have revealed once again how far removed the Rove/Cheney/Bush Administration is philosophically from the Christian creed to which so many of their supporters want to be devoted. Mr. Bush made remarks the beginning of this week in Quantico, Virginia that made clear how little he respects Jesus' message of love for friends and enemies. Mr. Bush said, "These kind of people who blow up subways and buses are not people you can negotiate with, or reason with, or appease. In the face of such adversaries there is only one course of action: We will continue to take the fight to the enemy, and we will fight until this enemy is defeated."

In other words, there is no use trying to reach out to aggrieved peoples in the Middle East and beyond, who have had their petroleum resources excavated by companies and governments that provide so little to the common people in those parts of the world. The words of Mr. Bush's speech writers are meant to reinforce a perception of insanity and total evil on the part of the adversary, thus supporting the Administration's policy of pursuing more killing in more countries rather than understanding and responding to root causes.

Mr. Bush added, "The terrorists remain dangerous, but from the mountains of Afghanistan to the border regions of Pakistan, to the Horn of Africa, and to the islands of the Philippines, our coalition is bringing our enemies to justice, and bringing justice to our enemies. We will keep the terrorists on the run until they have no place left to hide." The problem is evident in the words written for him: violence in all these places, which seems to be spreading further every year, represents the most predictable of human responses. Violence begets violence. The United States is far less safe now than it was before the invasion of Iraq. As widely reported, Iraq has become a training ground for those who hate the US, in a way it never was prior to the invasion.

Jesus got this one right. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said, "It is not those who say ‘Lord, Lord' that enter into the Kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father." (Matthew 7:21). And what is the Father's will? "Love one another as I have loved you." (John 13:34). Even the pragmatists among us must now accede that Jesus' advice is also the practical solution to our problems in the Middle East. Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged as much in his remarks to Parliament contemporaneous to Mr. Bush's speech to the FBI. Mr. Blair sought conciliation with the Muslim world. He recognized that bombings like those in the London transport system cannot be stopped with intimidation and more killing in Iraq.

As Catholic Christians, we have a duty to tell the truth and to remind the world that one cannot claim to be a Christian while denying the central tenet of our faith. But even at a practical level, as long as the cycle of hatred is fueled by Manichean extremists like Rove, Cheney and Bush, the suffering will not only continue but will expand.

July 14, 2005

Senator Santorum equates ideology with morality, and demonstrates how far some Republicans will go to exploit our Church

Catholic Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, responding to questions from a reporter, repeated remarks he made three years ago attacking the people of Boston, and its universities in particular, for a supposed role in the national child abuse crisis that came to wide attention in 2002. A fellow Catholic, Senator Edward Kennedy, responded on the floor of the Senate by stating the obvious, namely that the aggressiveness of the people of Massachusetts in responding to this problem was, if anything, a tribute to their moral rectitude.

Senator Santorum responded to these remarks somewhat immaturely, saying, "I am for proper formation, something I would challenge Sen. Kennedy to be for. Proper orthodox formation within the teachings of the Vatican. I don't think Sen. Kennedy would follow that very closely." Ignoring what Senator Kennedy had actually said, Mr. Santorum added, "I don't think Ted Kennedy lecturing me on the teachings of the church and how the church should handle these problems is something I'm going to take particularly seriously."

The sum total of Senator Santorum's claim to fealty to the Vatican lies in his repeated assertion that overturning Roe v. Wade is the only moral response to abortion. Few people yet realize how demonstrably false this assertion is, given that the national abortion rate has now declined (primarily during the Clinton Administration) to levels at or below those prevalent prior to the Roe v. Wade decision. On virtually every other issue that has been addressed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Senator Santorum is hostile to Catholic teaching--on the death penalty, on our obligation to care for the sick, on the war in Iraq, on world poverty, and on the subject of personal greed in American tax policy. Senator Kennedy, in contrast, has been a lifelong champion on behalf of Catholics and all Americans with regard to these crucial life issues.

Below are Senator Kennedy's remarks in response to the comments of Senator Santorum and his spokesman:

Rick Santorum owes an immediate apology to the tragic, long-suffering victims of sexual abuse and their families in Boston, in Massachusetts, in Pennsylvania and around this country. His outrageous and offensive comments – which he had the indecency to repeat yesterday – blamed the people of Boston for the depraved behavior of sick individuals who stole the innocence of children in the most horrible way imaginable.

Senator Santorum has shown a deep and callous insensitivity to the victims and their suffering in an apparent attempt to score political points with some of the most extreme members of the fringe right wing of his Party. Boston bashing might be in vogue with some Republicans, but Rick Santorum's statements are beyond the pale.

Three years ago, Senator Santorum said "While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm." When given an opportunity to apologize yesterday, he refused and instead restated these outrageous statements. The people of Boston are to blame for the clergy sexual abuse? That statement is irresponsible, insensitive and inexcusable. Rick Santorum should join all Americans in celebrating the accomplishments of the people of Boston.

Apparently Senator Santorum has never heard of the enormous contributions of our universities and industries to our quality of life, our economic strength, and our national security.

Harvard and MIT have produced 98 Nobel laureates whose work has made an enormous difference to America's strength.

Their graduates contribute to industries, to government, to our communities throughout the nation and the world. In fact, only a quarter of MIT's graduates remain in New England.

Their research keeps our nation secure. The Pentagon, the CIA, the military, the Energy Department, the Veterans Administration, all turn to MIT and Harvard for the technologies and strategies to protect our nation from those who would hurt us.

And their research into cancer, children's health, housing, community development, and so many issues continues to make an enormous difference to the well-being and health of our children and families.

More than a dozen current U.S. Senators were educated in Boston. Senator Frist was trained as a heart surgeon at Harvard Medical School. Senator Dole went to Harvard Law. Senator Alexander went to Harvard's School of Government. Surely, my honorable colleagues wouldn't go to a school that is somehow contributing to the downfall of America? No. They went to a worldwide leading institution to prepare them for incredible careers of service and leadership.

Senator Santorum's self righteousness also fails to take into account the enormous amount of good will the people of Boston demonstrate for the less fortunate.

They started the Massachusetts Childhood Hunger Initiative, working with leaders in 20 low-income communities to end hunger among our children.

Boston's Children's Hospital has been ranked first in the nation every year for the past decade in its care and concern for sick children.

The quality of life for Boston and its families is rated third in America. Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the nation.

Massachusetts ranks in the top ten states in the nation when it comes to addressing the needs of at risk and vulnerable children, including our efforts to address low birth weight babies, teen homicides, high school dropout rates, and other challenges to our children. Pennsylvania does not rank in the top ten.

Boston gave birth to America's liberty. The values that sparked our Revolution continue to inspire Bostonians today - love of freedom, dedication to country, and concern for our fellow citizens.

The men and women of Boston have served honorably in our armed forces. They have fought and died for our country, so that their children might live in freedom and opportunity.

The abuse of children is a horrible perversion and a tragic crime, and I am proud that the good people of Boston and Massachusetts were leaders in coming forward, shedding light and demanding accountability for this devastating violation of children. Sadly, the sexual abuse of children is a problem throughout the world, and it is not confined in any way to members of the clergy or to one city or one town. Every state in the country has reported child sexual abuse, including Pennsylvania.

On behalf of all of the victims of abuse and the people of Boston and Massachusetts, I ask that he retract his unfounded statements and apologize. I think the families of Massachusetts were hurt just as much by this terrible tragedy as the families of Pennsylvania. Abuse against children is not a liberal or conservative issue. It's a horrific and unspeakable tragedy. Sadly, it happens in every state of this great nation – red states and blue states, in the north and in the south, in big cities and small. The victims of child sexual abuse have suffered enough already, and Senator Santorum should stop
making a bad and very tragic situation worse.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

First Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama



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