December 26, 2005

Lest We Forget ....

It has been a year full of natural disasters .... earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, affecting multiple continents, nations, and peoples.

One year ago was the first of these. Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs was visiting his brother, out for a morning swim when the tsunami hit, which has involved him in personally working to rebuild one of the fishing villages.

One year later, there is a bittersweet peace. The rebels have put their efforts into relief services, and a truce has been brokered. But, as one man said, "What's the point of peace if you don't have a family?" How does one move on from such tragedy?

The Post has photos and video of Aceh: One Year Later. Today's video addresses the 70,000 still living in tents.

A year ago, this thing was huge. A year ago, we thought we'd never seen anything like it; we thought we'd never forget.

How quickly "never" arrives.

[cross-posted to Narrow at the Outset]

December 25, 2005

"Wake Up, O Man!"

As Christmas wraps up, I wanted to share a couple of passages first from the last paragraph of Pope Benedict XVI's Midnight Mass Homily and then from the third and fifth paragraphs of his Urbi et Orbi Message with our readers, who we hope are having a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays:

Among Christians, the word "peace" has taken on a very particular meaning: it has become a name for the Eucharist. There Christ's peace is present. In all the places where the Eucharist is celebrated, a great network of peace spreads through the world. The communities gathered around the Eucharist make up a a kingdom of peace as wide as the world itself. When we celebrate the Eucharist we find ourselves in Bethlehem, in the "house of bread". Christ gives himself to us and, in doing so, gives us his peace. He gives it to us so that we can carry the light of peace within and give it to others. He gives it to us so that we can become peacemakers and builders of peace in the world. And so we pray: Lord, fulfill your promise! Where there is conflict, give birth to peace! Where there is hatred, make love spring up! Where darkness prevails, let light shine! Make us heralds of your peace! Amen.

"Wake up, O man! For your sake God became man" (St. Augustine, Sermo, 185). Wake up, O men and women of the third millennium! . . .

Men and women of today, humanity come of age yet often still so frail in mind and will, let the Child of Bethlehem take you by the hand! Do not fear; put your trust in him! The life-giving power of his light is an incentive for building a new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships. May his love guide every people on earth and strengthen their common consciousness of being a "family" called to foster relationships of trust and mutual support. A united humanity will be able to confront the many troubling problems of the present time: from the menace of terrorism to the humiliating poverty in which millions of human beings live, from the proliferation of weapons to the pandemics and the environmental destruction which threatens the future of our planet.

Pope Benedict XVI refuses to separate peace and social justice from the Christmas Gospel. May the Lord Jesus find the rest of his Church taking up this whole and complete Christmas Gospel as its heralds.

(Cross-posted to Sacramentum Minimum).

December 21, 2005

Some Good News

For those who will hear it...

For the grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men; instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works (Titus 2:11-14).

Merry Christmas to the Poor

Our elected scrooges in the Senate voted today to cut less than one-half of 1 percent from an estimated $14.3 trillion in federal spending over the next five years.

And who is paying for it? Surprise surprise, it's the poor.

Opponents said the poor would bear the brunt of the cuts -- especially to Medicaid, child support enforcement and foster care -- whereas original targets for belt-tightening, such as pharmaceutical companies and private insurers, largely escaped sanction. (Washington Post)

Hmm… I wonder why those cuts were eliminated? Lobbyists anyone?

So it's a very merry Christmas for rich. And as for the poor ... I guess the theory is they're used to it. Bah humbug.

44 Democrats, 1 Independent and 5 brave Republicans voted against the spending cuts. But the VP broke the tie. My Republican Senator (Gordon Smith) was one of the 5 "maverick" Republicans. Apparently voting your moral values makes you an outlaw. Go figure. Too bad there wasn't just ONE more brave renegade out there with the Christmas spirit.

Shame on the 50 Senators who voted for this. Shame on the VP who broke the tie. Shame shame shame.

Where are the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Future when you need them?

December 19, 2005

Keeping Us Safe?

Since September 11, President Bush has justified all manner of foul policies by saying that he is keeping us safe, keeping terrorists off our shores. The latest has been his justification of the spy program his administration has engaged in.

And don't forget that we invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was supposedly developing weapons of mass destruction.

So I submit for your (in)digestion the news that Dr. Germ and Mrs. Anthrax have been freed. They apparently no longer pose a security threat. I feel safer. Don't you?

December 16, 2005

Put which Christ back into Christmas?

Every Christmas there are those stories about city councils that have decided to rename their Christmas celebrations "Holiday" celebrations or to forgo a creche on city property as it might be offensive to other faiths. And of course, there is the subsequent outrage and demand that we put Christ back into Christmas.

However, Jonathan Bartley in Ekklesia suggests that putting Christ back into Christmas involves far more than demanding a "Christmas" title in place of "Holiday."

The Christmas story is offensive - even scandalous. It has a tough message for us all, and in particular for those in positions of power. If it is time to put Christ back into Christmas, it should not be the Jesus of the Christmas lights. Nor should the one who comes back be the sanitised, meek and mild baby in the manger, devoid of challenge and political implication. Rather, it must be the Christ who, from the time of his birth, frightened the political leaders of his day. It should be the Christ whose incarnation drew attention to the most vulnerable, was an advocate on their behalf, and invited us all to stand alongside them.

December 15, 2005

peace is the way

Pope Benedict XVI - or the Vatican at the very least - is continuing the tradition started by Paul VI of celebrating a World Day of Peace on January 1. You can read the Pope's message for the 39th World Peace Day here. Glad to see peace is staying on the Vatican radar, especially these days. It's a pretty good message too.

Aside from some quite beautiful words about our human family and peace not being merely the absence of war, the message touches on some substantive issues that should be of concern to us all. One big one is the cost of war and military spending:

"In this regard, one can only note with dismay the evidence of a
continuing growth in military expenditures and the flourishing ams trade … How can there ever be a future of peace when investments are still made in the production of arms and in research aimed at developing new ones? It can only be hoped that the international community will find the wisdom and courage to take up once more … the process of disarmament, and thus concretely ensure the right to peace enjoyed by every individual and every people."
-Pope Benedict XVI, 2006 World Peace Day Message

I did some research at the Center of Concern Education for Justice website. Just what is the price tag on military expenditures these days? How about a whopping $1 trillion, 34 billion dollars toward military expenditures world wide in 2004. US military spending totaled $455.3 billion dollars, or 47% of the global total.

Shocking? Wait till you see some examples of what else this money could do:

  • Universal access to water AND universal primary education AND reducing infant mortality by two-thirds by 2015 would ALL be possible with just a 7.5% reduction in world military expenditure.
  • Every girl and boy in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America could go to primary school with $11 billion – half the amount spent on arms purchases by countries in those regions.
  • For the estimated cost of war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan as of June 2005 ($230 billion), more than 3 years worth of basic food, HIV/AIDS medication, childhood immunization and clean water and sanitation could be provided for the world’s neediest.

No wonder Benedict says in his message: "The resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor."

Yup. Glad to find myself agreeing with the man in Rome.

Now let's see if we can do something about it.

Peace. It's good for us all.

December 14, 2005

Give Me An A-D H-O-M-I-N-E-M

What's that spell? Ad hominem. As in, attack.

As some of our longtime readers have probably noticed, many of our comments end up being a one-on-one dialogue with one or more of the bloggers from Catholics in the Public Square, usually David Schrader (Catholics for Bush). Although the Catholics in the Public Square folks and I disagree on just about everything when it comes to politics and social justice, I like to think that we have nevertheless formed at the very least a civil relationship with one another. Sometimes this relationship does degenerate into something that's less-than-civil, and usually it's my fault. But by and large, I think we keep it pretty civil and stick to the issues.

It's a shame, then, that some others can't do that.

I'm referring to an article that will appear soon in Culture Wars, partially quoted by Stephen Hand on his weblog, TCRNews Musings. Part of the article reads:

These days there is a clique of young Catholic conservatives who like to talk about Catholics in the Public Square. In fact that is the name of one of their web sites although it really is little-more than cheer-leading for another vengeful warmongering Texan in the White House and his Catholic servants in Congress like Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum.

This is not the first time that the editors of Catholics in the Public Square have been attacked by Culture Wars. Christopher Blosser (Against the Grain) and his family were accused of being "rabid supporters of the current occupation of Iraq," followed by some reference to "the Jewish 'tribe'," insisting that our own "Catholic 'tribe'" is somehow at war with the Jewish tribe. Go figure.

But let's take some of this apart, shall we?

First, we have the accusation that Catholics in the Public Square is participating in "cheer-leading for another vengeful warmongering Texan in the White House." I assume this is supposed to be President Bush, but Culture Wars can feel free to correct me if they're talking about Laura. Does this accusation have any basis in reality? As of this writing, there are fifteen posts on the main page of Catholics in the Public Square, and none of the bloggers there even mention President Bush, except for once in passing. The closest they come to even discussing anything having to do with President Bush is their discussion of his nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Samuel Alito. This is not surprising given that Judge Alito is... a Catholic... in the public square. How about the war? How often is that discussed? There is one very brief post dedicated to the war, written a month ago by Oswald Sobrino, discussing Sen. Joseph Lieberman's (D-CT) support for the Iraq War. Perhaps Sen. Lieberman is part of that "Jewish 'tribe'" we're supposed to be at war with? It seems that this particular accusation doesn't have much of a basis in reality.

Of course, discussion of President Bush was a bit more elevated during the election year of 2004. That's to be expected, especially when one considers that President Bush's opponent was Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)... a Catholic... in the public square. In order to thoroughly discuss Sen. Kerry's candidacy, it would have been impossible for the editors of Catholics in the Public Square to simply ignore the views of his opponent. And so what does Catholics in the Public Square stand accused of? Participating in an election, as is their right and duty as American citizens? Gosh, I suppose they are guilty as charged.

What about the other charge, made earlier, that Christopher Blosser and his family are guilty of being "rabid supporters of the current American occupation of Iraq"? First of all, as Christopher pointed out, he and his father (and perhaps his brother Jamie?) are the only ones on record as supporting the Iraq War, so it is somewhat disingenuous to accuse his whole family of this "rabid" support. But what about that "rabid" support? Is Christopher himself guilty?

It is true that Christopher Blosser has blogged in support of the Iraq War, and that he maintains a section of his Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club website dedicated to the just war debate. Is this support "rabid"? You be the judge. Yes, it is true that Christopher provides a forum for the voices of conservatives such as Dan Darling, Robert George, Stephen Hayes, Deal Hudson, James Johnson, Fr. Richard Neuhaus, Michael Novak, Fr. James Schall, Russel Shaw, and George Weigel, all of whom were supportive of the war. But it is also true that he provides a forum for the voices of progressives like the late Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI (then-Cardinal Ratzinger), Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Archbishop Renato Martino, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, Cardinal Pio Laghi, and Mark and Louise Zwick, all of whom were opposed to the war. Does Christopher Blosser support the war? Yah! You betcha! And I disagree with him profoundly. But is his support rabid? Only if by "rabid" you mean giving equal time to both sides of the debate, and presenting his view only after weighing both. And we all know that such a balanced approach is the antithesis of rabid.

To conclude, both Stephen Hand, who has also launched attack after attack against Blosser and other Catholic conservatives, and Culture Wars, have done a disservice to the Catholic Church in general and the Catholic liberal movement in particular. The weakest arguments are always those characterized by ad hominem attacks, and it seems that such attacks are all that Mr. Hand and the folks at Culture Wars have left. And they make it seem as if that's all the entire Catholic liberal movement has left. As Catholic liberals, let us feel free to disagree with the Iraq War and continue to oppose it. We have the support of this pope and his predecessor in that. But let us do so with charity and civility, now sorely lacking, and let us do so from rational arguments which tackle the issues rather than irrational arguments which attack our opponents. And let us remember the ancient Christian axiom: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."

December 13, 2005

Vengence Is Mine, saith the Lord.

Vengence is mine, saith the Lord.

Not ours.

We are not a nation of vengence. We do not kill criminals merely to "get back at them." We do it as a deterrent. So that other potentially violent criminals will consider the consequences and rethink their actions.

Yeah, right.

It's not about our wanting to kill them .... and yet we put them on suicide watch during those final days so that they won't steal our opportunity to watch them die. God forbid they die of a heart attack three days before their scheduled execution!

It's not about our wanting to get back at them .... and yet when an Indiana man asks for a 90-day delay in his execution date (note that he was not asking to have the execution commuted, but just to have the date shifted) so that he could donate his liver to his dying sister (a 48-year-old mother and grandmother), his request was denied. It was to be a split liver transplant, because of the unique nature of the situation. As Eric Meslin, director of Indiana University's Center for Bioethics, explained: "You can't donate a liver before you die, because that would kill you and that gets in the way of the state killing you. And you can't donate organs after you die, because the method of execution would render the organs unusable." The split-liver technique takes just a piece of the liver, allowing both the donor and recipient to regenerate a healthy liver.

The best part of that story? The quote, that I remember from over six months ago when this story was news: Johnson could recover in the two week to two month period typically required to recuperate from the procedure, and eventually be "healthy enough to be put to death."

The whole concept of being "healthy enough to be put to death." How absurd. It makes me think of The Princess Bride, when Westley wakes up in the Pit of Despair:

He begins tending Westley's wounds. Westley winces.
ALBINO: Don't even think -- (A hack, sputter, cough - now his voice seems normal again) -- don't even think about trying to escape. The chains are far too thick. And don't dream of being rescued either. The only way in is secret. And only the Prince, the Count, and I know how to get in and out.
WESTLEY: Then I'm here till I die?
ALBINO (working away): Till they kill you. Yeah.
WESTLEY: Then why
bother curing me?
ALBINO: The Prince and the Count always insist on everyone being healthy before they're broken.
WESTLEY: So it's to be torture.
From the Albino: a nod.
But we don't torture, right? I mean, that's why we fought so hard to keep that provision out of the amendment, right? We would never dream of torturing anyone, but just in case ....

Oh, and about Gregory Johnson, the Indiana inmate? No extension granted, no transplant allowed. [I remember a relative of the victim saying that "My [sister?] didn't get another chance at life, why should his sister?" Yes, because, of course, it's all his sister's fault and she should be the one punished.]

{As an aside ... In Googling for information, I discovered "Dead Man Eating – Chronicling the Culinary Cravings of the Condemned," a weblog listing of last meals, with the subtitle of "Looking for a killer meal?" It's got everything from audio of the meal request to a Dining Guide. You can even buy t-shirts and thongs with the logo of a hung stick person with a dripping ice cream cone in one hand. (In case you didn't realize, hanging is still an option in three states, if the inmate so chooses, or if the "normal" methods are impractical.) Mmmmm, classy. [Not sure if having the link is the right thing to do, but after much internal back-and-forth, I figure I'll let you make your own call on this site.]}

But really, it's all about deterrence. Not revenge, or "eye for an eye," or paybacks, or anything barbaric and uncivilized like that.

That's fine. You want it to be all about deterrence, that's great.

But is that really what it's all about?

This summer I was at the public library, poking around the Young Adult section for some of the cool books I remember loving not too long ago. I came across this book called Life in Prison and, knowing that I'd be teaching Social Justice in the fall, pulled it off the shelf, took it home, and read it.

I knew nothing of the book or its author until I read it, and I remember being struck at the heartfelt honesty of this former gangbanger and his efforts to keep kids from making the same mistakes he made. He could speak to the appeal that life in prison has to kids, and he dispelled each one of the myths that made it "the cool place to go." From his undisputed first-hand experience, he presented a compelling image of what prison was really about.

I know some question the "validity" of his redemption, and I can't speak at all to what's in the man's heart. What I can speak to is the fact that his writing destroyed much of the "glamour" of prison life. And I can only guess that his presentation of prison would have a far greater impact on some kid than would any lecture that I could ever give them.

After all, who knows more about gangs? The co-founder of one of the most notorious street gang rivalries, or Sister Stephanie, the suburban white girl?

Who are the kids gonna hear as "the expert"?

But it's all about deterrence, right? Of course it is. Why would you think any differently?

So basically ... killing a man who allegedly killed four other people is the best way to show kids not to join gangs? Obviously.

That is, unless you consider the fact that we have just silenced one of the most credible authorities on the dangers of life on the street.

Whether you believe that he truly reformed or you think it was just an act to make him look good, even if you think everything he wrote was "just words, saying the right thing" – whatever his reason for writing those words, the fact of the matter is, the words were written. Those words, written by the founder of the Crips, are what the kids will read. Not all the grown-up skepticism and distrust. No matter what his motive, the message is out there.

Deter: To prevent or discourage from acting, as by means of fear or doubt

So, basically, we execute people to teach everyone else a lesson.

Two ways to view this event of 3:38 EST this morning:
»»»» We killed a man who killed a man, or
»»»» we took away his ability to say, "I screwed up. Big time. Please, learn from my mistakes."

Yeah, that's pretty great pedogogical technique. I should try that in my classroom. "Girls, whatever you do, please do NOT get assistance from someone who took this class before unless they got a perfect score on absolutely everything. There is nothing to be gained by hearing what their trouble spots were." Of course, where would that put my attempts to clear up for them the points that tripped me up when I studied?

Rest in peace, Tookie.
May the message outlive the man.

December 07, 2005

Our Relaunch

As our readers may recall from an earlier post of mine, today is the official relaunch of Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, the renewal of our commitment to work for social and political justice from the perspective of Catholic social teaching and thought. We scheduled this official relaunch to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. We continue to be inspired by the principles of the Council's social teaching, and we hope to contribute to a recommitment to those principles by the whole Universal Church.

We are happy to announce that we have two new contributing writers who have joined us for our relaunch: Sr. Stephanie Youstra, OSB (Narrow at the Outset) and Sr. Christine Wilcox, OP (Sister Christer). We're also glad to announce that Todd from Catholic Sensibility will publish his reflections on Gaudium et Spes with us sometime after the new year, and that he may also be joining us on a more regular basis as a contributing writer sometime in the future.

As we continue to work for social and political justice in our nation and in our world, we ask for our readers' prayers, that the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire us to work for the common good of all humanity. Thank you for staying with us and thank you for doing whatever it is you do, however big or small, to make the Kingdom of God inaugurated by Christ more present in our world and in the lives of every woman and man.

December 06, 2005

2 takes on the instruction

From the Leadership Council of Women Religious:

“The Leadership Conference of Women Religious agrees with the document’s claim that candidates for ordination to the priesthood need to have reached an appropriate level of ‘affective maturity.’ The conference, however, also believes that this standard must be applied to all candidates for ordination, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, and that persons of either orientation can minister effectively within the church as ordained priests.

LCWR thanks the men and women of homosexual orientation who have served and who continue to serve the church faithfully as members of religious communities and as ordained priests. Their presence in the church is a blessing and a witness of God’s mysterious gift of sexuality.”

From the Religious Formation Conference:

“What is of utmost importance in the letter is the call for sexual maturity and the ability of the candidate to priesthood (or religious life) to be able to be a mature human being, capable of living celibately; in fact, to become affectively mature through celibate living.”

What Next?

As a brief introduction to my first post, I want to explain that I spent 2.5 years as an engineering major and often tend to think through the logical aspects of things. Also, I love playing the role of Devil's Advocate, which only gets encouraged by the fact that I spend my days surrounded by 15-17 year-old girls, who decide that the nun that teaches their religion class should be able to answer all their questions such as "Wait a second -- if Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, then doesn't that mean that he was married? I thought that's why priests couldn't get married" or "If Joseph didn't have relations with Mary until after Jesus was born, then doesn't that mean that they had 'relations'?" And then, of course, there are all the questions wherein they try to reconcile Jesus' idea of God as a "passionately caring parent with untiring, unlimited, unconditional love and forgiveness" with these ideas that only some are good enough to come to the table. "After all, didn't Jesus hang out with the sinners and tax collectors?" So, if I come across as smart-alecky, it's most likely intended to draw out what would happen if things proceed to their "logical" conclusion.

All that being said ... Last Friday I blogged about the letter that accompanied the Vatican document, which instructs bishops that gay priests should not teach in seminaries. Knowing that this "dedicated day" was coming up (that I then subsequently missed!), I figured I'd hold it until today. So, without further ado ....

Let the Slippery Slope Begin

Just saw this in a buried headline ...

Letter Advises Against Gay Seminary Teachers

"Priests still struggling with homoerotic desires are perhaps not the best-placed to act as evaluators or counselors of candidates for the priesthood who are working through similar issues," said papal biographer George Weigel.

I can understand that point. Just as I can understand that someone who is truly struggling with whether she should be in community is probably not the best candidate for vocation director. But, if they're not struggling? If they have been able to integrate that aspect of themselves into their understanding of a celibate lifestyle?

Even if we disregard the fact that this comes "on the heels of so many people assuring us that this document does not relate to priests already ordained," (Rev. James Martin, SJ) , it still can be problematic.

The Rev. Donald B. Cozzens, a Catholic author and former seminary rector, points out: "I think it could also raise questions about people working in chanceries and about bishops who happen to be gay. And why stop there? I see it as a logical extension of the instruction, but it underscores the problematic nature of the instruction."

The question I would ask is much along the lines of Fr. Cozzens. What about the lay faculty of seminaries? Many seminaries are also colleges or universities -- what about the faculty not directly involved in the priestly formation? What if there's a gay priest who teaches English? Or a lesbian lay woman who teaches English? What's the line between "priestly formation" and "non-formation classes"? Would it be just the theology and homelitics and liturgical courses? What about philosophy? Can a gay man teach Western Civilization but not Church History?

Many of these schools also have lay students in attendance. If I went to Saint Whosits University to get a BS in Math Education, how does my professor's "priestly vocation" affect my knowledge of derivatives and integrations (pun intended, once realized!). What if I were a gay student? Would I still be able to be a math major? Would I be allowed in a theology class?

You can't tell me that there is not a single professor in a seminary (since there are many lay people employed by seminaries) that has not had an affair, or been divorced and remarried without getting an annulment, or practiced birth control, or any of the other ways to live "a life in conformance with the Catholic faith."

And yet these are the guys five years from now who will be sent off on their own to run three parishes by themselves, where they'll have to minister to all sorts of these "unmentionables" and deal wtih their sexual orientation to the women of the Knitting Guild.

You know, all these foreign priests we have these days? It's really hard to understand a lot of them because of their accents. Maybe we should stop letting people with accents into the seminary. Or guys who limp, because I really worry about them walking up and down the steps of the altar, especially when they're carrying the Eucharist -- they might trip and drop it.

Reminds me of an excellent sermon by cats that I discovered a couple weeks ago entitled People I Don't Like.

Is fear and exclusion really the answer?

And yet Jesus chose a hated tax collector to be part of his inner circle.

There's the Theresa of Avila prayer that says that "Christ has no hands on Earth but yours; no feet on Earth but yours."

Are we truly being Christ's body?

Sometimes I wonder....

[cross-posted at Narrow at the Outset]

On the Vatican Document

As you can see, our blog day for the Vatican document on banning gay men from the seminary and the priesthood, which was scheduled for yesterday, has become a blog week. It's difficult to schedule these things.

I've said so much on the topic already, that I'm not sure I really have anything significant to add. So rather than restating what's already been said, I've decided to post links to entries posted elsewhere for our readers' convenience.

  • "Mindful of Him: Responding to the Vatican." Published with the Christian Alliance for Progress, this is a sermon for the First Sunday of Advent which also served as a stirring call to action for Catholics opposed to the discrimination of the new Vatican document. Alternatively, this same entry can be found here on my own blog.

  • I have thrice explained why the more lenient interpretation of the document seems to me to be incorrect: "The Vatican Document: A Clarification," "Clarifying the Vatican Document, Again," and "Shall We Dance."

  • Finally, in "Imagine," I pointed out that the part of the Church's teaching on homosexuality which condemns homosexuality as objectively disordered and homosexual affection as intrinsically evil is strictly enforced, whereas the latter half of the Church's teaching on homosexuality which upholds the dignity of homosexual persons and condemns unjust discrimination against us receives very little, if any, attention from either the Church's leadership or the lay faithful, especially the conservative lay faithful.

Do I have anything to add here? I do. I believe that we have a few readers who might be wondering, even if they don't voice their question, what this document has to do with social justice and political responsibility. Here is my answer: Tomorrow, we will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. In that pastoral constitution, the bishops made a groundbreaking opening statement:

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of human persons. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every person. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with humanity and its history by the deepest of bonds.

Hence this Second Vatican Council, having probed more profoundly into the mystery of the Church, now addresses itself without hesitation, not only to the sons and daughters of the Church and to all who invoke the name of Christ, but to the whole of humanity. For the council yearns to explain to everyone how it conceives of the presence and activity of the Church in the world of today.

Therefore, the council focuses its attention on the world of humanity, the whole human family along with the sum of those realities in the midst of which it lives; that world which is the theater of humanity's history, and the heir of its energies, its tragedies and its triumphs; that world which the Christian sees as created and sustained by its Maker's love, fallen indeed into the bondage of sin, yet emancipated now by Christ, Who was crucified and rose again to break the strangle hold of personified evil, so that the world might be fashioned anew according to God's design and reach its fulfillment (Gaudium et Spes, #1-2).

The Second Vatican Council revealed that the context in which the Church's teaching on social justice is to be received and lived is in solidarity with all human beings, no matter their fidelity to the Church's teaching authority. Inasmuch as the new Vatican document refuses to allow the Catholic Church to live in solidarity with gays and lesbians, it is another nail in the coffin for the Church's social teaching. How can we expect others to respect our social principles when we do not respect them? The hypocrisy of calling for solidarity with all human beings while refusing to live in solidarity with some human beings is a grave scandal, one which undermines the Church's mission to live as a reflection of Christ, Lumen Gentium, Light of the Nations.

Inasmuch as the Church still refuses to live in solidarity with some women and men, it still refuses to obediently listen to the Holy Spirit who spoke through the Council, and it still refuses to be what Christ created it to be. The entire mission of the Church, including its social mission, is undermined when the Church lives apart from any man or woman. If that is not relevant to Catholic social justice, I don't know what is.

December 05, 2005

the human element

Michelle, Nathan & I discussed having a "blog day" today here at SRS around a common theme … the recent Vatican statement on gay seminarians and priests. I had grand visions of doing some serious research and pondering and coming up with a brilliantly logical piece that would shed some light on the justice issues involved. Instead, I find myself too close to the human elements at play.

As I was thinking about this post, I watched a TV drama. One of the characters was a young man who is struggling with his own sexual identity and with his relationship with his mother. Turns out his mother told him he was going to hell if he was gay, and so she sent him away to a camp to make him not be gay. To the teenager, this amounted to his mother telling him she did not love him as God created him. And so he was determined not to love her. An unhealthy scenario all around.

This fictional story is all too real I think in families across the globe. And in the drama of the recent Vatican statement, I think we are seeing it play out in the family that is our institutional Church.

I have been privileged to know a number of wonderful priests in my 33 years. And I suspect that a few of them, some of the brightest and most pastoral, are gay. Celibate, but gay. Working through my own vocation discernment process to become a Sister, I am in awe of the strength, courage, trust and faith it takes for anyone to answer Jesus' call. Come. Follow me. And I will make you fishers of people.

Thinking back to the fictional scenario between mother and son, how much harder would it be to continue to answer that call when it seems the Church is telling you in word and deed that it doesn't love you. That God made you "intrinsically disordered." That you are called to chastity, regardless of any vocational call. Ok you think, I will live chastely and I will also take the risk to answer this call to follow Jesus and serve God's people. Years go by. You embrace chastity and obedience. Day in and day out you serve Christ in others. And then the Vatican essentially tells you, thanks but no thanks. No recognition of sacrifice and service. Instead, the Vatican wants to make sure no others like you get in the door. You can stay, if you're quiet and behave, but we don't want any more of your kind. It probably feels a bit like the boy's mother telling him he's going to hell because he's gay.

Were I a priest, gay or straight, I'd probably be doing some serious thinking these days. "Should I stay or should I go" would be the soundtrack running through my head. I admire those who can stay. Who can be a witness. Who can continue to answer Jesus' call. But I also respect those who come to the prayerful conclusion that enough is enough and look for other ways to minister.

Back to the family analogy. It's not just the mother and the son. Vatican and priest. We are part of the picture too. We're not off the hook. After all, we are the body of Christ, the church. We can and should prayerfully consider this situation. Read the scriptures. Read the church position. Read the catechism. Reflect on our lived realities as God's people. Do what we can to foster open and honest dialogue in our own circles. Most importantly, I think we need to make a special effort to show our love and appreciation to our priests, gay or straight. It's easy to take them for granted at times, but is that any way to be a family?

December 01, 2005

Costly peacemaking

I've been a huge admirer of Christian Peacemaker Teams since nearly a decade ago when, as a senior in college, I considered joining their Hebron team after hearing Cliff Kindy speak at my university. Unfortunately, my health hasn't been strong enough for me to do so. And I have to admit, I suck at confrontation, which is a lot of what CPT does in their effort to "get in the way."

But though my gifts and calling have not been in that direction, I have sought to keep them in my prayers throughout the years of email updates, listservs, and calendars with artwork focusing on the various people for whom CPTers have helped provide non-violent protection in places such as Haiti, Columbia, Palestine, and now even East Congo.

It hasn't been easy. They have faced deportation, harassment, arrest, and physical violence. Several in the Hebron team have been attacked by Israeli settlers while accompanying Palestinian children to school. We're talking broken bones, being whipped with chains.

And now Iraq.

When I heard that some peacemakers had been kidnapped by "insurgents" in Iraq, visions of Margaret Hassan immediately came to mind, as well as fear that they would be CPTers -- not that any other peacemaker groups would somehow be less valuable, but I've always felt close to CPT. Yesterday CPT confirmed that indeed the four people paraded on al-Jazeera were from CPT.

Sojourners today had an article from a friend of Norman Kember in which he talks about how Kember wrote before leaving for Iraq that he was afraid of being a "cheap peacemaker."

"Talking, writing, demonstrating" in Britain about peace was not taking risks like young servicemen in Iraq, he said.

CPT started with the goal of taking up Ron Sider's call to make peace with as much effort as goes into war. Today somewhere in Iraq, Norman Kember, Tom Fox, James Loney, and Harmeet Singh Sooden are doing just that.

Please pray for them. Pray that those holding them will feel the love of Christ that their captives have for them.

O Lord, how many are our foes who battle against us and say: there is no help for them from God or man. O Lord, stretch forth Thy hands that we may remain Thy people in both faith and works. If we must suffer, let it be in the ways of Thy justice and Thy truth — let it not be because of our injustice or hatred against anyone. Let us all fervently say: Lord have mercy.

(From a special petition to add to the Augmented Litany in the Divine Liturgy found at InCommunion: the website of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship -- do remember that I'm the quirky Byzantine-rite Catholic here and my liturgical tradition is different than that of the Roman rite. )