Police Arrest Suspect in Fatal Priest Shooting. Suspect had Been Out of Prison for Two Months.

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Gary Michael Moran. Photo Source: KTAR.com

Gary Michael Moran has been charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Father Kenneth Walker, Associate Pastor at Mother of Mercy Mission Catholic Church in Phoenix AZ.

Mr Moran has also been charged with first degree burglary and armed robber with a deadly weapon. He was arrested after DNA evidence linked him to a van which was stolen during the robbery/murder. It sounds as if Mr Moran may have confessed to the crime since an article from KTAR.com says that he told police that he “shot one of the priests after the man came to the aid of the priest struggling with Moran in a hallway.”

It appears that Father Walker attempted to help the parish’ Senior Pastor, Father Joseph Terra, when he was being attacked by Mr Moran. I’ve read that Father Terra gave last rites to Father Walker after he was shot. Father Terra called 911. He told the dispatcher that Father Walker was not breathing at that time.

From KTAR.com:

PHOENIX — Bail was set at $1 million Monday for the man accused of fatally shooting one priest and brutally beating another at a Phoenix church.

Gary Michael Moran, 54, was charged with the first-degree murder of Rev. Kenneth Walker at Mother of Mercy Mission Catholic church near 15th Avenue and Monroe Street last week.

Rev. Joseph Terra was also attacked, but survived. He is expected to recover.

Police arrested Moran late Sunday based on DNA evidence lifted from a van belonging to the church that was taken from the site but found several blocks away.

Moran also was charged with first-degree burglary and armed robbery with a deadly weapon. In court documents, Moran told police that he shot one of the priests after the man came to the aid of the priest struggling with Moran in a hallway.

Walker was shot with a gun that was inside a rectory bedroom.

According to the state’s Department of Corrections website, Moran had been in prison on aggravated assault charges from 2006 until late April.

Waters of the Deep?

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Underground ocean in 1950s movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth

This story has been knocking around since June 12. That’s when NewScientist published an article claiming that scientists have discover a huge reservoir of water — what they call an ocean — deep beneath the Earth’s surface.

The article says that this underground ocean is hidden inside a blue rock called ringwoodite. It is supposedly 700 kilometers (that’s about 471 miles) deep inside the Earth.

It’s all very interesting; makes me think of Jules Verne and the underground ocean in Journey to the Center of the Earth. It also, oddly enough, fits rather handily with Scriptural descriptions of what happened with The Flood.

… on that day all the fountains of the deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

From NewScientist:

A reservoir of water three times the volume of all the oceans has been discovered deep beneath the Earth’s surface. The finding could help explain where Earth’s seas came from.

The water is hidden inside a blue rock called ringwoodite that lies 700 kilometres underground in the mantle, the layer of hot rock between Earth’s surface and its core.

The huge size of the reservoir throws new light on the origin of Earth’s water. Some geologists think water arrived in comets as they struck the planet, but the new discovery supports an alternative idea that the oceans gradually oozed out of the interior of the early Earth.

“It’s good evidence the Earth’s water came from within,” says Steven Jacobsen of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The hidden water could also act as a buffer for the oceans on the surface, explaining why they have stayed the same size for millions of years.

Archbishop Carlson’s Deposition Reveals a Painful Truth: He’s Just Like Us

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It’s a bitter pill for Catholics, watching the videos of Archbishop Carlson’s testimony.

I understand and share the emotions it raises.

But we do not serve ourselves or our Church by pretending that it ain’t so. We’ve got to face this because it is reality. It doesn’t change in any way the simple fact that Jesus said “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

What it changes is the blind notion that many Catholics have — that we all want to have — that our religious leaders are sinless Christ figures themselves.

They’re just people, just like us. They are conduits of the graces of the sacraments. God can and does reach through them and into us when we go to them for support and help in our troubles.

But the miracle in that is all on God, not on them. They don’t create the miracle, they don’t control the grace. I know from personal experience that God can reach out and touch anyone, anytime. I believe that all that’s needed on our parts is a willing heart. All we have to do to receive God’s healing grace is say yes to it.

Why, then, a priesthood? If God can reach directly into us Himself then why do we need priests who are conduits of grace?

Because the priesthood is God’s instrument for bestowing this grace in an understandable, predictable and accessible way. I think that the emotionalism that is sometimes exhibited in some churches is an attempt to re-create that first transforming moment of grace when they originally said yes. It is an attempt to touch God and feel it again by using our own emotions to elevate ourselves to that level.

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The Eucharist gives us that healing moment of grace, that experience of touching God, of feeling Christ, without any effort on our part. All we have to do is say yes and partake. It is the same with confession. Confession bestows healing grace. So much so that there have been times, including long periods when I was feeling especially challenged, that I went to confession every week, even though my sins were not so grave, because I needed that encounter with Christ, that healing grace that confession gives.

Sacramental confession strengthens us in an almost unfelt way. The more often we go to confession, the stronger we are in resisting evil. In fact, my experience has been that if I confess something on a regular basis, I stop wanting to do it. It takes a bit of time, but that’s what happens.

These graces, as well as the graces of the other sacraments, flow through the priest in a way that is simple for those of us who receive it. We don’t have to understand theology. We don’t have to work ourselves into an emotional high. All we have to do is say yes and accept the grace that is freely given to us.

The crowning moment of grace is always the Eucharist, which is direct contact with Christ. So far as I’m concerned — and I’m not a theologian, so this applies only to me and my understanding — the Church is the Eucharist. And we are the eucharist. Because the Eucharist is Christ. The priesthood exists to bestow grace. Priests are conduits of grace, and it does not matter what kind of hooligan they are personally, the graces of the sacraments flow through them to us, regardless.

Which brings me back to Archbishop Carlson. I wouldn’t call him a hooligan. In fact, I’m not sure how to label him. I don’t want to label him and his faults. It is enough for me that this is the situation in which we find ourselves, him and us. Because at this point, that’s what it’s about: Him and us.

Not, Jesus and us, or even the Church and us. But poor, messed up Archbishop Carlson and us. We don’t have to decide what to do about Archbishop Carlson. What we are tasked with is determining how we are going to relate to our dear Church in the light of the obvious fact that our leaders are ordinary people.

They can be cowards. Just like us.

They can be craven. Just like us.

They can lie, cheat, steal and run away when they get in trouble. Just like us.

They can gossip and betray confidences, hold grudges and be spiteful. Just like us.

They are not Christ.

What they are is men who have consented to be the conduits of grace to Christ’s Church, which is us. There is a moment when heaven comes to earth and the Eucharist becomes His Body, His blood, in which the divine flows through them.

The fact that a few of them become callous about this and begin to devalue it and even start thinking that it is all about them and not Jesus, does not change the impact it has on us. The Eucharist is still real, even if the priest is a messed-up welter of confusion and sin.

Archbishop Carlson reveals himself to be a lawyered-up citizen who ducks and covers under oath in an act of self defense. I have no idea why he didn’t do the obvious thing and exercise his right to take the Fifth Amendment. It would have been far less damaging to his credibility than this performance.

You can find the full text of his deposition here. Many of the salient comments are highlighted to make them easy to find.

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There really isn’t any point in trying to find an “out” for Archbishop Carlson in this. The deposition speaks for itself. Besides, it’s not our job to judge Archbishop Carlson. Our job is the much tougher one of working out how to be a faithful Catholic in a world of fallen leaders, including our leaders in the Church.

How do we follow these men when they are so nothing special as this deposition reveals them to be? Not, mind you, worse than us. Most of us would duck and cover in a deposition like this one, just like the Archbishop. Any of us who have brains would get the best legal counsel we could and do exactly what that attorney told us to do.

Archbishop Carlson doesn’t reveal himself to be a fiend in this deposition. He reveals himself to be no better than the rest of us.

Which brings us back to the task that faces us. We are fallen people, served by a priesthood that is composed entirely of fallen people, living in a fallen world.

Yet we serve a risen Savior, Who is God Incarnate. We are called to be “perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

But we can’t do it. We. Can. Not. Do. It. We don’t get through a single day without at least one and usually many sins of one sort or another.

We want heroes who will give us the illusion of the possibility of human perfection. But human perfection is always just that; an illusion.

To put it bluntly, we are all — priest and parishioner alike — down here in the pits together. As Jesus said, “There is none good except God.”

So how do we solve this conundrum of answering a call to be “perfect” while we are certain that there is “none good” among humankind?

We solve it by getting up every morning and giving our day to Jesus and His Mother. We solve it by availing ourselves of the certain graces of the sacraments. We solve it by forgiving each other and sustaining one another in our weakness.

How does this apply to the Archbishop Carlsons in our clerical leadership? More to the point, how does it apply to us and our response to the Archbishop Carlsons in our leadership?

My answer — and this is just me, talking about me — is that we need to cherish these men and help them as we can. At the same time, we need to stop pretending that they are anything other than fallen human beings. When they stand behind that altar and lift up the host, they are conduits of God’s grace. When they come down from behind the altar and scald us with a fit of rage or lie in a deposition, they are just people, wallowing around in the pit of failed good intentions along with the rest of us.

This is difficult for Catholics. It’s difficult for me. I am still working out how to deal with wounds inflicted by clergy. Some days I don’t do so well with it. Protestants can just dismiss their clergy as fallen people and be done with it. But Catholics are part of a hierarchical Church whose entire governance is built on the administration of these fallen men.

How do we, as Catholics, remain faithful when we see by their actions that we must be judicious about how and when we follow our clergy?

This is a tough one. It’s not always or even mostly about big public dilemmas like Archbishop Carlson’s dipping and dodging deposition. It is usually more personal, and because of that, far more damaging to us as Christians and Catholics.

How do we, say, disregard things a priest or spiritual director says to us in a fit of rage? How do we decide what to believe and what not to believe about the things they say to us? How do we overcome the sense of betrayal when a priest gossips about our deepest hurts? These are more the kinds of things that most Catholics must overcome in their walk of faith. The big public falls from grace seem easy to me compared to those much deeper personal dilemmas. How do we live together as Catholics in this fallen world?

These are hard questions with no easy answers. I’m going to leave it open for discussion and see what the rest of you think. In the meantime, take a look at Archbishop Carlson’s deposition. It’s clearly not a case of dementia or anything like it. He’s dipping and dodging and doing it quite well. Just like us.

Where I’m From, We Call Our Fathers Daddy

This is a re-run of a post I wrote about my Daddy. Happy Father’s Day to every Daddy out there. You are irreplaceable.

Where I’m from, we call our fathers “Daddy.”

It’s not unusual to see 60-year-old cowboys, complete with the hat, the cattle and the big belt buckle, addressing their 80-year-old fathers as “Daddy.” It’s just the way we talk.

My Daddy was what pundits condescendingly refer to as “blue collar” or “working class.” What that means is that he was a highly skilled person who could pull an engine out of a car, take it apart, rebuild it like new, put it back in the car, test drive the car to see if all was right and still be home in time for eight hours sleep before he had to get up for work the next day.

The men I grew up around never worried about being man enough. The very notion of worrying about a thing like that was as foreign to them as worrying about being American or Oklahoman enough. They worked hard as mechanics, truck drivers, machinists, butchers and carpenters. Then they came home and put in gardens and maintained their houses. No one in my neighborhood would have considered calling a plumber, roofer or any other handyman to repair their homes. If the plumbing was broke (things were never “broken”; they were “broke”) they fixed it. If the roof leaked, they would get together with the rest of the boys from thereabouts and put on a new one.

My Daddy thought nothing of  getting together with my uncle and putting up a wall, complete with texture and paint, in one day. They could turn around and take it down the same way. They built their own garages, added rooms to their houses and dug their own tornado shelters.

Not one of the men I knew as a child would consider raising a hand to a woman. A man who would hit a woman was a coward, not a man, a nothing, in their eyes. Any man stupid enough to do a thing like that was very likely to have the other men thereabouts take them out some night and “knock some sense into him.”

It never entered my mind to be afraid of anything when I was little. Whatever bad was out there, I believed my daddy would make sure it never touched me. I can not remember a time when he didn’t seem as big and safe as a fort.

I also can’t remember the first time he lifted me astride a horse. I do remember sitting behind him on his horse as we rode for hours. I was maybe four or so when he got me my first horse, a gentle fellow named Shorty.

Owning a horse meant I had to learn to brush him down before saddling him, then brush him down again after the ride. I had to make sure he had water, hay and grain and that his hooves were free of rocks and other things that might harm him. I was responsible for soft-soaping my saddle and bridle, for cleaning the bits.

I didn’t know how to do all this at four, but I learned how from my daddy who taught me by doing it with me. He also taught me to never let the horse get the best of me by getting angry with the animal, jerking him around or failing to get back up and get on when I was tossed off.

He had a contempt that he imparted to me for the kind of man who would get panicky on a horse and then take it out on the horse by yanking the bits, yelling at the animal or digging his heels into the horse’s sides.

Shorty was a kindly horse with a lot of patience for little girls but not a lot of gas in his tank. As I grew from a tiny girl into a little girl, I became increasingly impatient with his lack of go. One day when I was about seven I decided I wanted to see if I could get a rise out of him.

I saddled up and climbed on Shorty, armed with a water pistol. I rode him for a while, then stood in the stirrups, leaned forward, and squirted. Sweet, gentle Shorty broke in half. I managed to ride it out, but I certainly did get a rise out of him. It was more than I bargained for, but it was fun. I finally got Shorty quieted and looked around to see my daddy standing across the lot, staring at me.

The word we use today is “busted.” I had been caught red-handed, abusing my horse. I had no idea what Daddy was going to do, but I expected something massive. What he did instead was much more effective.

“Becky Ann, you know better than that.” he said. That was all. He didn’t yell or threaten. He didn’t even ground me from riding; just, “you know better than that.” But it was enough. I have never abused an animal again.

Years before that, when I was a pre-schooler, I stole a pack of chewing gum from a store and got caught. Daddy didn’t yell at me. He took me back to the store and made me hand the gum to the clerk and say “I stole this.” That was a long time ago, but I can still feel the humiliation of that moment. Then, to add insult to injury, he bought the gum and gave it to me.

Another lesson learned. The temptation to steal left me that day and has never returned.

Daddy was teaching more than how to ride and care for a horse, more even than not to steal. He was teaching me a whole set of values. He was also, though neither of us was aware of it, teaching me about men. There wasn’t a plan in this. I feel confident that my daddy never read a single book on how to raise kids. He didn’t make dates to “have a talk” with me or attempt to manipulate me. He just talked to me as part of our daily interactions. Like I was a person. He spent time with me. That’s how he caught me with the stolen gum, how he saw me shoot water into Shorty’s ear; he was there.

Woody Allen has said that 90% of life is showing up. I think that more than 90% of being a father is being there. You don’t have to ride horses with your kids or break down engines to be a good dad, but you do need to be there. Share the one thing that is completely yours with your children: Share yourself. Teach them about men by being a safe and reliable man in their lives. Give them the gift of security by always being the dad on the beat, ready to protect and rescue them when they need it.

My father had a lot of faults. But he was there and he loved me without question. He used to embarrass me, bragging on me to people, but I realize now that having your very own Daddy think you are the greatest thing since sliced bread is loft to your wings for your whole life. Children, boys or girls, it doesn’t matter, need their Daddys. They need them home, with their Mamas, taking care of things.

My Daddy was there. And he loved me unconditionally. I’ve never read a child-rearing advice book that just plainly said that this is what children need, but it IS what children need. Nothing else will substitute.

You Made Your Choice Mr Archbishop. It’s a Done Deal.

Deacon Greg, as usual, has the story.

So, there’s this Archbishop in St Louis who is accused of the same old enabling of child sex abuse by a priest stuff we’ve gotten to know too well. Mr Archbishop gave a deposition about these accusations.

In that deposition, he did the lawyered-up, don’t-give-them-anything di-doh. It was a masterful performance of I don’t know nothin, sung to the tune of I Can’t Remember.

The all-time show-stopper was when the attorney asked Mr Archbishop if he knew that the act of an adult having sex with a child was a crime back when all this was going on. “I’m not sure if I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it was a crime,” Mr Archbishop answered. The look on his face while he said it was classic the-dog-ate-my-homework.

The attorney pursued it, and the Archbishop kept right on lying.

If you’ve got the stomach for it, have a look.

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I didn’t write about this when I first saw it because, to be honest, it made me sick. I felt so sad. Bereft, almost. I had nothing to say. I just wanted to go away from this and not deal with it.

Then, just to make sure that nobody ever believes him again, the Archbishop started the second quadrille to his little dance. Deacon Greg covered it. Mr Archbishop had the St Louis Archdiocese release another the-dog-ate-my-homework statement.

This time, it was a totally idiotic accusation that inaccurate and misleading reporting “has impugned Archbishop Carlson’s good name and reputation.” This was so daft it made me question if they knew that there was a video of the deposition out there on YouTube.

The letter goes on. But it doesn’t matter. We have the video.

Now Mr Archbishop has released a letter over his own signature. He also put up a video of himself, reading the letter. I see no point in going over what he said, since he essentially didn’t say anything. It was just typical I-wuz-robbed boilerplate.

The reason I’m finally writing about this today is simple. I want to tell the Archbishop something that he doesn’t seem to get: You made your choice.

I understand that the wise person takes their attorney’s advice when they testify. I also understand that we have a thing called the Fifth Amendment to protect people in situations like this. I further understand that an attorney who deliberately counseled a client to lie under oath would be guilty of subornation of perjury.

So, I rather doubt that your attorney, Mr Archbishop, told you to do this. Not in so many words. They may have said something like, don’t conjecture unless you remember precisely. It’s best to say, “I don’t know” unless you are absolutely certain. But I doubt very much that your attorney counseled you to go out there and lie under oath.

Testifying under oath is a scary deal for most of us and testifying on something like this, where you flat out know your are wrong, must be a real horror.

Fair enough.

But you jumped the shark on this one. And there’s no turning back. It’s a done deal. And you — and every other Catholic in the world — is going to have to live with it.

It all began with enabling priests to sexually abuse children, you know. That is so egregious that nobody, and I mean nobody except maybe your mother, is going to buy the idea that it was anything but an absolute violation of your priesthood.

That’s what got this started. And it wasn’t just you, Mr Archbishop. It was a lot of your colleagues. It was rife. It was what might be called a practice.

Fortunately, I personally know a bishop who called the authorities at the first step. I am grateful to him beyond words for having done that. It gives me hope about our leadership.

But it appears that you, Mr Archbishop, did not make that stand-up choice. Which leads to the point.

It was, is and always has been, on you.

You made your choice then. You made your choice at that deposition.

When, if ever, are you going to stop trying to deny it?

You. Did. Wrong.

As a wrong-doer myself, I can forgive that. I also understand that no matter what any of us has done, we still don’t want to pay the price. There is nothing so terrifying as getting caught in your own dirt. We all want to run. I know. I’ve done my share of running away in my life.

Forgiveness comes easy from someone like me. I’ve done so much, had so much done to me, and been forgiven so much, how could it be otherwise?

I think I can forgive just about anything. All you’ve gotta do is tell me you’re sorry. But you, Mr Archbishop, are not asking for forgiveness. If you’re sorry, it looks like what you’re sorry about is getting caught.

As a Catholic who is trying to follow her Church, who actually wants to believe you, I am beaten.

I can’t believe you. I don’t. I can’t follow you. I won’t.

You made your choice, Mr Archbishop. It’s a done deal.

 

For another take on this, check out Frank Weathers.

Book Review: The Cross and Gendercide

To join the discussion on The Cross and Gendercide, or to order a copy, go here

It is not often that I read a book that I could have written.

It’s even more rare when I read a book that is somewhat similar to one that I intend to write.

But that is what happened when I read The Cross and Gendercide, A Theological Response to the Global Violence Against Women and Girls.

I have devoted much of my adult life, beginning when I was barely out of my teens and going right through to this afternoon, to two majors issues: The way we treat our elderly, and a search for an end to violence against women.

Elizabeth Gerhardt, the author of The Cross and Gendercide, sounds like my sister from another mother. The differences between us are obvious, of course. She’s an academician/theologian and an administrator of shelters to protect and help women who are victims of violence. I have worked almost exclusively through the political arena.

She evidently has clung to her Christian faith throughout her career. I, on the other hand, left Christianity and God altogether for most of my early adulthood. My reason, ironically enough, was violence against women.

That leads me directly to the subject of Dr Gerhard’s book. I walked out of Christianity and spent around 17 years seething with anger toward Christ and his followers precisely because of the indifference and often the hostility I witnessed within the church toward women who were victims of violence. In particular, I was almost destroyed spiritually by the response I saw in one church toward a rape victim.

Dr Gerhard approaches this topic from a more scholarly perspective than I can muster. Even today, that old rage kicks off when I think about these things.

I think Dr Gerhard’s more measured approach is needed. But I also know from experience that my take-no-prisoners way of doing things has its place is this fight, as well. We are agreed on the topic of her book. The Church does not have an adequate theological response to violence against women. And that adequate theology is not difficult to find. It is right in front of every Christian in the cross of Calvary.

There is a reason why victims of human trafficking cry for hours after seeing The Passion of the Christ. The God they encounter in that movie is a God Who can understand them.

Watching Jesus being reduced to an object and then beaten, tortured and murdered resonates with them in a way that it does not with people who have never experience these things themselves. The cross changes God from a frowning figurehead off in the distance into a brother God Who understands and shares their anguish in a way that goes beyond words and does not need them.

Through the miracle of salvation, Christ dignifies their own dehumanization and lifts them out of the shame and loss of self that scars them.

That is the miracle of the cross. It is the message of Christianity.

The other miracle, and one which the Church ignores at its peril, is that these women from all over the world, including our own neighborhoods, who are victims of savage violence are our Jesus. They are Christ crucified, right in front of us. If we ignore them, we ignore Him.

That also is the miracle of the cross. It also is the message of Christianity.

I didn’t see this for a long time, for two reasons. First, I sought solutions in creating social responses such as rape crisis centers, and in changing laws. Second, I had x-ed both God and the church off my list of possible allies. I believed they did not care about violence against women, that in many circumstances, they promoted it.

My conversion experience was mostly an encounter with the living God. It was not intellectual. But it forced me to reconsider almost everything in my life, which was, many times, a deeply thoughtful and prayerful process. The first thing I had to learn is that my understanding of the nature of God and especially my understanding of His reaction to violence against women was wrong.

I learned, through prayer mostly, the depths of God’s love for womankind. I also learned the degree of depravity that violence against women really is. To call it a human rights violation does not touch it. Our God is Jesus Christ, Who was born of a woman. Everything that is human about Him came from His mother. She is the only human being who has ever or who ever will be elevated to the status of Queen of Heaven.

Violence against women is a direct sin against Our Lady.

After decades of starting organizations and passing laws and still encountering violence against women and indifference to that violence at every turn, I had a sort of epiphany. I had been too angry to see it before. In fact, it took me a long time to be able to think about it at all. And that epiphany was simply that the Church owes Jesus and Mary more than they have given where violence against women is concerned.

The victims of egregious denial of their basic human rights change from clime to clime. The group of people singled out to suffer varies from one location to the next. But no matter where you go, the one group who always has a firm grip on second place, and who is always subjected to violence and degradation of many sorts, is girls and women.

Women are bought and sold, marketed like chattel, all over the globe. With the crime against humanity that is egg harvesting, their bodies are harvested to be sold on the internet. With surrogacy, their bodies are rented out as incubators. With prostitution, trafficking and porn, they are sold and used as if they were appliances.

Women are subject to the most brutal violence imaginable in every country in the world. Women must fear being attacked for no reason wherever they go.

This is not random violence. It is a universal, global, culturally-sanctioned human rights violation that in terms of scale, persistence and ubiquity outweighs all others.

Where is the Christian outrage over violence against women? I’m not talking about a few seminars and a couple of tut-tut speeches scattered around. Where is the Christian response to this degradation of half the human race that the Cross demands?

The Church cannot sit idly by while Christ is crucified over and over again in His sisters all around this globe of ours. The Church does not dare be silent when Our Lady is degraded by this degradation of the female.

The Church needs to stand up on the whole issue of violence against women. Violence against women is a historic, endemic, universal human rights violation that spans humanity from dateline to dateline, pole to pole. It is the universal human rights violation of humanity.

The Cross and Gendercide raises the serious question of how we should develop a theology against violence against women. The author correctly points us to the cross in our search for this theology.

The Cross and Gendercide is is well worth reading. I recommend it.

 

 

President Bush’ Jump. Video.

Thanks to Public Catholic reader Fredx for telling me about these videos.

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Pope Francis on Child Labor, Fear of God, Love of Money, and Arms Dealing

Pope Francis is first of all a priest. The world is his parish and every single one of us is in the crosshairs of his admonitions to follow Jesus without reservations.

Following Jesus all the way, without holding anything back, is a revolutionary act. People who do it, even the most placid and low-key of them, become revolutionaries themselves. They are God’s change agents in a fallen world.

Those who try to follow Jesus part way, who stop when it gets difficult or conflicts with other things they hold dear, are pretty much useless to God. He cannot change the world with partially converted Christians. We are called to follow Him. There are no qualifiers to that command. It is absolute and all-encompassing.

When Pope Francis exhorts us to do just exactly that, he invariably becomes the target of half-converted Christians who have been using a selective view of the Gospels to condemn others and deify themselves. Everybody gets a kick out of it when the Holy Father calls out somebody else about sins we find appalling. But when he does it to us, well, that’s, as we say in these parts, meddling.

There has grown up here in America a false theology based on the idea that only a couple of sins — abortion and homosexuality — are truly sinful and anything and everything that has to do with money is outside the concerns of morality. In other words, if you oppose abortion, then you can rob all the banks you want.

This has grown to the point that there is a whole movement of fallen Christians out there who will lecture and hector anyone who has concern about the poor and helpless. They justify themselves and attack others with what are blatantly selective and anti-Christ interpretations of Scripture.

They use this obviously false and self-serving bogus theology to justify helping the rich get richer by transferring the wealth of our nation to them. They take prosperity that belongs to everyone and give it to a few and then proclaim that what they are doing is righteousness before God.

I’ve lived with this blasphemy for years on my job as a legislator. I’ve listened as the distorted, self-serving, anti-Christ interpretations of Scripture are flung in people’s faces. It is evil right down to the ground.

The idea that opposing abortion and gay marriage politically is the sum total of the Gospels is a sick, sad, anti-Christ interpretation of Scripture invented by political activists for their own purposes. It is, in itself, deeply sinful.

When Pope Francis tells us that we are bound to follow the whole Gospel of Christ, he is telling us the same thing that Dietrich Bonhoeffer said with his famous comments about cheap grace.

Of course Pope Francis is being attacked for speaking out for the poor. Of course he is being reviled for teaching the whole Gospel.

That’s what happens to people who stand for Christ and Him crucified. It. Happens. Every. Time.

I’ve chosen this particular video because it contains excerpts from three of Pope Francis’ recent audiences in which he addressed what is the moral plague that is destroying the witness of a good many Christians today. He talks about child labor, the love of money, arms dealing and fear of God.

In my opinion, these things are just a few of the manifestations of one thing: A false Gospel that says that economics cannot be judged by moral beliefs. If that isn’t a lack of fear of God in action, I don’t know what is.

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Told Ya This was Gonna Happen

Whenever Oklahoma gets on the national news, it’s always something bad. We pretty much get ignored unless we are hit with a massive tragedy or some Okie manages to make a real mess of one sort of the other.

Our latest foray into national attention is no exception.

Oklahoma has developed real problems executing people. Between lawsuits and botched executions, we’ve shown ourselves to be downright incompetent in the area of administering the death penalty. All this led to the second kind of national attention we usually get, which is to say a derisive critique.

This situation came about because of the zealous fight put up by attorneys for the two men slated for execution by the State of Oklahoma this year. After exhausting years of appeals, the attorneys switched from defense to offense. The object of their attack was the method of execution itself. They managed to intimidate the drug companies that supply drugs that are used in executions to the point that the state had problems getting enough drugs to kill someone.

When it came time to execute one of the two men, the prisoner — who had a history of assaulting and trying to kill people while in prison, particularly guards — resisted being moved from his cell. The guards had to taser him. Maybe the aftereffects of that hit with electricity was why things went so awry later.

All I know for sure is that the doctor couldn’t find a vein to use to administer the drugs and finally had to put the needle in the prisoner’s groin. According to news reports, the needle “blew” the vein, which led to a thoroughly botched execution. The prisoner ultimately died, but it was 45 minutes later, after the doctor stopped the execution.

The governor has issued a stay until next November for the other prisoner.

I wrote at the time that the attorneys for these two men needed to consider carefully what they were doing. I knew that Oklahoma has the laws on the books to use a firing squad as a means of execution. I also knew that the legislative will was to do exactly that.

Now, my colleague, Representative Mike Christian, wants to conduct hearings on what process would be necessary to switch to death by firing squad as the preferred method of execution in Oklahoma. Representative Christian, who is a retired Highway Patrolman and fellow Southsider, has said that he would be fine with beheading or feeding prisoners to the lions as methods of execution. In my opinion, that pretty much sums up the prevailing attitude among the people I worked with.

I guess I get to say I told you so.

I don’t want to behave like a seeress, but with me gone, the number of legislators who will be voting against the death penalty next year just dropped by one. Not that we had enough votes between us to matter. Legislators who oppose the death penalty in Oklahoma are a tiny group. If it comes to a vote, the chances of legislation passing that would enable the use of firing squads in Oklahoma is just about 100%. And that’s assuming that legislation is even necessary. Oklahoma already has this means of execution on the books.

I understand that the attorney for a death row inmate operates from the idea that any delay is a good delay. If they can buy their client one day, they’ll do it. But this particular delay may not play out to be all that pleasant for those who will be executed.

I’ve never seen an execution, and hope sincerely that I never have to. But people who have seen executions by lethal injection tell me that it looks painless for the prisoner. No one can say that for other means of execution. They may be quick, but they don’t look painless.

Killing people is grisly business. Lethal injection is certainly the most painless way we’ve found to do it. As I’ve said repeatedly, I do not favor the death penalty except in rare situations that almost never, and shouldn’t ever, arise in America. However, I am aware that I am an outlier on this.

Most people in this country, and certainly most people in Oklahoma, favor the death penalty. The feeling runs so strong that even the Supreme Court had to overturn itself back in the 1970s when it ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. Of course, the Supreme Court didn’t say it was overturning itself. But that’s what it did.

Americans want the death penalty. Not many elected officials are going to argue with them about it. As it turns out, not many judges will, either.

If death row inmates had the wherewithal to donate millions to political campaigns, that would change in a heartbeat. You’d suddenly see elected officials all over this country developing a tender conscience about the death penalty. But people on death row are almost always poor, which eliminates that possibility.

So that’s where we stand. All I can do is repeat one more time: I told ya this was gonna happen.

Former President George H W Bush Celebrates His 90th Birthday by Jumping Out of a Plane

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Former President and First Lady Bush after the sky-dive he made on his 85th birthday. 

He was a much better president than we knew at the time.

He was a genuine war hero, the president who fought in World War II, an oil man and a former member of Congress/head of the CIA/Vice President.

He was President George H W Bush, and today’s he’s 90 years young.

Former President Bush (or Bush I, as we call him around our house) celebrated his birthday by jumping out of an airplane. Literally.

That ground can get awful hard when it’s coming up at you from a few thousand feet. I don’t know many 90-year-olds who could take the lick involved in a jump like this. But I also know from my elderly relatives that those who live long are tough in way that us wimps can’t fathom. They all have a get-on-with-it, it is what is toughness that allows them to cycle through the infirmities and limitations of advancing age without being vanquished by them.

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That toughness gets put on display every time one of former President Bush’s birthdays rolls around. He’s been celebrating the passing years by jumping out of planes for quite some time now. Former First Lady Barbara Bush is pretty tough herself, to let him do it.

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Former President George H W Bush is rescued after his plane was shot down in combat. 

I would expect no less from the man who survived the getting shot down in combat, losing a child to leukemia and decades of America’s political wars. You’ve got to be made out of cast iron to do all that.

Happy Birthday former President Bush. I hope you have many more.

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