Catholic News Service presents part of the moral argument for raising the minimum wage.
FGM. Female Genital Mutilation.
This practice, which is widespread, involves holding down little girls while the women of a community hack away her external genitalia until they have cut all of it off. They then sew her vagina shut. They often also sew the labias shut, leaving only a small opening for urination.
Over time, the resulting scar tissue create in a permanent closure which must be forced open when the girl marries.
This terrible practice is almost universal in many parts of the Middle East, as well as Africa. it results in deaths from infection, blood loss and shock at the time of the mutilation, and deaths in childbirth later on. It also ensures horrifically painful sexual intercourse.
FGM is the ultimate chastity belt, designed to “prove” a girl’s “virtue” to her future husband. In areas where it is practiced, it is considered a necessary component of a girl’s marriageability.
Because people from the parts of the world where little girls are mutilated in this way are migrating in large numbers to the West, it is a growing problem here, as well. I passed a law banning Female Genital Mutilation in Oklahoma a few years back. The main obstacle to it was the ignorance of Okies about the practice and a disbelief that such a thing could happen here.
Added to that was the propensity to kill bills simply because they could by the paid staff which actually was making most of the decisions in both the Senate and the House. I almost lost the bill. The thing that allowed me to pass it was when the Oklahoma State Medical Association, with their massive lobbying clout, came on board and backed it.
Even though I was more than glad for the OSMA’s help, the fact that they could do this indicates the power of lobbies in our legislature, as well as the lack of concern for the content of the legislation itself. At that time, it was almost impossible to pass a bill without the imprimatur of a powerful lobbying organization.
I only mention that to make readers aware that we cannot sit back and feel superior about the barbarisms against women and girls in other parts of the world. Female Genital Mutilation is now happening in the West and we need to outlaw it and enforce those laws.
If it’s difficult to get through the blindness about FGM here in the West, it is even more difficult to step outside of cultural misogyny in the areas where FGM is considered a social requirement.
That’s why it’s gratifying to learn that the Catholic Church in Kenya has stepped out onto the cultural ice and taken a stand against FGM. No Christian, ever, should subject their daughter to this barbaric practice.
FGM is not required by any religion. Even though it is almost universally practiced in many Muslim countries, it is not a requirement of the Muslim faith.
In areas where it is the cultural and social norm, both Christians and Muslims “cut” their little girls and mutilate them this way.
This sort of mutilation of young girls is, of course, an extreme form of misogyny. It is also an expression of the grave moral injustice of the sexual double standard that has been used to terrorize and limit the lives of young girls in so many parts of the globe.
I am thrilled that the Catholic Church in Kenya has finally come out against FGM. I hope that all Christian leaders of every denomination in every part of the world will soon follow suit. Such actions are hundreds of years overdue. Silence about the barbarism of violence against women and girls is the single greatest blot on the history of Christianity.
Female Genital Mutilation is a deeply sinful cruelty against women and girls. No Christian should practice it, and no Christian should be silent about it.
The development office of the Catholic diocese of Maralal in Samburu has an active desk that is mandated to ensure that issues on gender based violence are addressed. The Church is on the frontline to fight the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation which is a harmful rite of passage, still practiced despite its negative side effects. It is one among the most common forms of gender based violence in Samburu.
Some 3 million women and girls face Female Genital Mutilation every year, while some 100 to 140 million have already undergone the practice. From a medical point of view it is unhealthy and causes adverse gynecological conditions. Some of the negative effects of the same include injury to adjacent tissues of the vagina, profuse bleeding, shock, acute urine retention, HIV/Aids infections and recurrent urinary tract Infections.
The diocese has facilitated awareness creation in Samburu County on the adverse effects of harmful cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation, early and forced marriages and sexual violence against women. The Justice and peace Department of the diocese deals with 4-5 cases of gender based violence every week.
The Catholic Church has a girl child education and Rescue Centre in Suguta Mar Mar Parish premises, located 42 kilometres away from Samburu County headquarters. The Centre accommodates girls who have escaped from their homes to find shelter there. The girls are victims of FGM, forced/early marriages and other forms of gender based violence. The sister in charge of the rescue centre Sister Fransisca Nzilani says “it is difficult to support these girls without funding. The girls depend on the rescue centre for most of their basic needs which include sanitary towels, education, stationery, food, clothing and shelter on a monthly basis”
Like everybody my age, I’ve got a lot of past.
Not all of my past is good.
In fact, a portion of it is seriously miserable.
I try to forget.
And forgive myself for the things I’ve done.
I try to forget.
And forgive others for the things that have been done to me.
But there are days when that load of past can get heavy. Especially in church. My miserable past includes a couple of bad times with church. I’ve experienced the rejection of unforgiveness. Even though I forgive as best I can, the memory still comes back from time to time, like an ache in an old break in a bone when the weather changes.
The two greatest challenges this poses are a loss of trust and a deep feeling of unworthiness. The bad opinions of others can imprint on a person and leave their ugly image. Trust, once it’s cut away, doesn’t re-grow. It callouses over, but the nerves are dead.
I have periods of time in my life when the hardest thing I have to do is go to mass. Not because of any latent anger, but because of the deep sense of unworthiness. I have no right to be there in the presence of the Presence, and I know it.
I had an exceptionally rough bout with this recently. I actually left the church during mass, left my husband there, holding the hymnal and looking at me with uncomprehending eyes as I left, driven away by the unworthiness that is branded into me.
I used those moments away to gather myself to myself and then I went back in. But it wasn’t easy. I got through that mass by looking at the tabernacle and talking to Him.
Because it’s true, you know. I have no right to be there, in the presence of the Presence. I am unworthy, as John the Baptist said, to untie His sandal. Yet the reason, the only reason, that I am there is that He invited me.
In the final analysis, the Presence does not belong to any priest, or even to the Church itself. They are its guardians, and the conduit by which God graciously consents to dwell among us in the Eucharist. But the Presence is God Himself, and as such, that Presence belongs to no human being. It is It’s Own Self.
I came to the Catholic Church and asked to come into full communion because Christ in the Eucharist called me to Himself. It was a call that was so clear, persistent and patient, that, in the end, it worked its way past all the obstacles to what was at the time a rather bold step of faith.
Jesus called me to Himself in the Eucharist. That is why I am Catholic.
And on that day when my own unworthiness flared into a blistering flame inside me, when I wanted to run away, to paraphrase St Peter, because I am a sinful woman, He was there, not to call, but to strengthen me past my focus on me and bring me into a fresh focus on Him.
I kept looking at the tabernacle, at Jesus, present in our midst. I don’t know if it was a prayer, or a conversation, or a vow of a sort. I only know I spoke directly to Him and He heard me.
“You are my Lord,” I told Him. “You are the reason I am here. You are the One I trust. You and only You.”
There was more. But that’s the gist of it. Shattered trust is like an amputation. It can’t grow back. We can never undo the things we’ve done or forget the lessons of the things that are done to us. Forgive, yes. But forgetfulness would be to unlearn the life lessons and forego the spiritual depth these things give us.
If you live long enough and do enough hard things, you will lose your trust in people, in fate, in your own good luck. The illusions of personal invincibility die a hard death, but Christ can and will raise up a new trust and a new invincibility from the ashes on that pyre of self-sufficiency.
“You are my Lord,” I told Him, and it was as much vow as prayer; an open acknowledgement of the truth of things, bound up in a promise. “You — and You only — are my Lord.”
“You are the reason I am here.” I said, not because I enjoy the liturgy or find affirmation in the friendships, but “You — and You only — are the reason I am here.”
“You are the One I trust,” because You have proven Yourself trustworthy time and time again, because You loved me first and because You forgave me and walk with me and endure me and keep forgiving me over and over again.
“You and only You,” because people, even the most lovable and precious of people, will let you down. Because, I, you and everyone, will let ourselves down. We will betray one another and we will also betray ourselves. Only Christ will never fail us.
I was not the only wounded person in the church that day. I am never am. We are all wounded, in one way or another. We shatter our self-righteousness by the things we do, and we face the terrible isolation and aloneness of the things that are done to us.
The many cruelties people practice against one another — our gossip and slanders, violence, lies, betrayals and deliberate degradations — are all at base an isolation of the other person, a way of putting them outside while we remain inside.
We draw lines around ourselves and our group, whoever that group may be, and then we push everyone outside that line into a sub-class of one sort or another. This hurts and maims all of us.
So many times on this blog I see angry, harsh comments, coming from people who at base are just trying to express their sense of isolation and rejection. The truth is, no one of us, not a single person of us, has the right to stand before God.
But He is our Lord. And He has invited all of us — ALL of us — to His table. No one of us has a right to be there. But, by the miracle of His love, no one of us is too wounded, too sin-sick, too disreputable, too female, too gay, too poor, too fat, too ugly, stupid or lost to be refused a place at that table. We are all welcome.
He is always with us, even when others fail us or turn us away. He is always ready to accept us and forgive us. We don’t have to stop sinning and get perfect to come to Him. He accepts us just, as the old hymn says, as we are.
We may have to jump through more hoops that we can manage to find surcease and acceptance from other people. But all we ever have to be or will ever have to do with Him is put our hand in His and say “Yes.”
“You are my Lord,” I told him. It is as simple as that.
This statement was issued by my religious leader, Archbishop Paul Coakley, regarding yesterday’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett.
Archbishop Coakley on execution of Clayton Lockett: “The brutality of the death penalty disregards human dignity”
OKLAHOMA CITY (April 30, 2014) – On April 29, in McAlester, Okla., the planned execution of convicted killer Clayton Lockett utilizing a new three-drug lethal injection protocol failed, leaving Lockett evincing unexpected signs of pain and leading Oklahoma prison officials to halt the proceedings. Lockett later died of a heart attack.
Today, the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, said the unprecedented execution underscores the brutality of the death penalty and urged Oklahomans to weigh carefully the demands of justice and mercy.
“How we treat criminals says a lot about us as a society,” the archbishop said. “We certainly need to administer justice with due consideration for the victims of crime, but we must find a way of doing so that does not contribute to the culture of death, which threatens to completely erode our sense of the innate dignity of the human person and of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.”
“Once we recover our understanding that life is a gift from our Creator, wholly unearned and wholly unmerited by any of us, we will begin to recognize that there are and ought to be very strict limits to the legitimate use of the death penalty. It should never be used, for example, to exact vengeance, nor should it be allowed simply as a deterrent. In general, there are others ways to administer just punishment without resorting to lethal measures,” he continued.
“The execution of Clayton Lockett really highlights the brutality of the death penalty, and I hope it leads us to consider whether we should adopt a moratorium on the death penalty or even abolish it altogether,” he added.
“In the meantime, let us pray for peace for all those affected by or involved in last night’s execution in any way – including Lockett himself, his family, prison officials and others who witnessed the event. My compassion and prayers go out especially to the family of Stephanie Neiman, whom Lockett was convicted of killing.”
John Paul II, the Polish pope who brought down Communism.
Now, he’s a saint, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t soon become the new patron saint for Poland. I imagine he already is the patron Saint of most polish households.
From what I’ve read, Pope John Paul II retained a deep love and constant connections with his homeland to the day of his death. He had a Polish cook at the Vatican who prepared Polish meals for him, and he had friends from Poland nearby throughout his papacy.
Saint John Paul was so completely a pope for the whole world that we tend to forget that he came from a particular place and time and that this history shaped him in profound ways. The sufferings of Poland taught Saint John Paul about the cruelty and weaknesses of fallen humanity, the dangers of unjust governments and the sanctity of human life.
In this way, the whole world owes Poland a debt. The painful experiences of Poland, as the country was overrun from the West and then the East, were not in vain. They imbued this son of Poland with the great heart of a saint. He became the light of Christ for people everywhere. His teachings will echo down the generations.
It is no wonder that the good people of Poland wanted to do something special for the canonization of Saint John Paul II. I think their idea to run the 1,200 miles from Poland to Rome for the event is especially apt. It is a difficult thing to take on such a long run. It requires unselfish love of others, courage and perseverance in the face of difficulties to endure to the end of the race.
How can anything be more emblematic of Saint John Paul II than that?
From Catholic News Agency:
Vatican City, Apr 27, 2014 / 09:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A group of Polish friends decided to run the whole way to Rome to be present for the canonizations of Saints John Paul II and John XXIII, explaining that their key motivation was to give “thanks.”
“We don’t have any (official) group. We are friends,” Tomasz Pietnerzak told CNA April 27, explaining that when another friend suggested “why don’t we run to Vatican? I said ok, we run. Let’s go!”
Having run a grand total of about 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) in order to be present at the Vatican on Divine Mercy Sunday for the papal canonizations, the group consists of 22 men of varying ages, who collectively ran about 185 miles (300 kilometers) a day.
When asked about the primary motivation driving the initiative, Pietnerzak simply stated that they “Run for thanks,” pointing to the word “Thanks” printed on the back of the matching athletic jerseys they wore.
“We run because we can’t do anything else,” the pilgrim explained, emphasizing their gratitude for John Paul II first of all because he is “from Poland,” but also because “he changed world, and Poland.”
“He’s a good man, good man,” they reflected, “he changed Europe.”
Despite the group’s fondness of the sport, they replied with a firm “No, no!” when asked if they would run on the way back, stating that they would most likely return by car – a “come back car,” they jested.
The Mass for the canonization of now-Saints John Paul II and John XXIII was held April 27 at 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, where huge numbers of pilgrims gathered, spilling out onto the main road and overflowing into the surrounding squares.
Thanks to television, we were all pilgrims at the canonization. But what was it like to actually be there?
These videos reveal that it was exhausting, beautiful, joyous and hopeful.
Cardinal Sandri reflects on John Paul II’s courage as he followed Our Lord through to the end of his pontificate.
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