I found this on the fine blog, iCatholicSalmon. Check them out.
I found this on the fine blog, iCatholicSalmon. Check them out.
Years ago, I had a conversation with a nice woman who held a responsible position in the Episcopalian (or Anglican, as it is called in most countries) missions agency. She kindly agreed to introduce me to several African Anglican bishops. In the course of our conversation, she told me that none of the Christians in the countries where these bishops presided were suffering “pure” persecution, since what they were going through did not come by direct government order. Her contention was that “persecution” could only happen if a government ordered it.
She introduced me to a number of bishops, despite the fact that I did not agree with her on this. They gave me an entirely different story. They had no doubt that what they and their people were undergoing was persecution, many times to the death, for their Christian faith.
One bishop from Northern Nigeria told me that five of his churches had been burned to the ground, that his daughter had been seized, and that a member of one of his parishes was murdered by a mob that put the man over a sawhorse and cut off his head. I can still hear the pain and horror in his voice as he described this to me.
Yet, by the definition I had heard none of this would qualify as persecution.
I had an interesting conversation earlier today with a sophisticated and knowledgeable Catholic who holds the same view. If I understood him correctly, the only persecution that can be officially accepted as such is that which comes as an official action by an official government of the type that occurs in North Korea, Saudi Arabia and China.
I’ve been chewing on this all afternoon. I understand — or at least I think I do — the difference between government-enforced persecution and that which comes from groups of people in a society. There are few things more draconian that government-enforced persecution. However, to label everything that is not government-enforced as “not persecution” just doesn’t jibe with me; not if the horror stories I’ve read and been told are true.
I’ve spent a fair lifetime in the world of political jargoneering, and I have an admittedly cynical view of it. When people parse the meanings of words to avoid the obvious fact that other people are being murdered, it triggers enormous emotional and mental resistance in me.
I tried to find the United Nations definition of persecution by looking online, and all I found were definitions related to refugees. I’ll quote the salient parts as I discuss them.
The first definition, which is a definition of persecution itself, says:
51. … From Article 33 of the 1951 Convention, it may be inferred that a threat to life or freedom on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group is always persecution. Other serious violations of human rights – for the same reasons – would also constitute persecution. (Emphasis mine.)
I’m not versed in International law, but taken on its face, that seems to say that what the bishop from Nigeria described to me, as well as most of the other things I’ve heard and read, fit this definition of persecution.
The second part of the definition goes to what both the two people who think persecution only occurs at the behest of a government are probably referring to:
65. Persecution is normally related to action by the authorities of a country.
However, the same definition goes on to say:
It may also emanate from sections of the population that do not respect the standards established by the laws of the country concerned. A case in point may be religious intolerance, amounting to persecution, in a country otherwise secular, but where sizeable fractions of the population do not respect the religious beliefs of their neighbours. Where serious discriminatory or other offensive acts are committed by the local populace, they can be considered as persecution if they are knowingly tolerated by the authorities, or if the authorities refuse, or prove unable, to offer effective protection.
The violent persecution I’ve described on this blog and heard about in my discussions with people from these countries seems to fit this definition to me.
All this came from a Google search. I may have the wrong definitions. However, it does show that at least part of the United Nations definitions of persecution include situations such as those I have been writing about.
The reason I’m going over this is because I believe that people are being murdered, imprisoned and otherwise mistreated in large parts of the world today because they are Christians. If I am wrong about this, I want to know it.
If, on the other hand, I am right, I intend to persist in calling it out so long as it continues and I am able to say anything about it.
My thoughts run along these lines:
This was not a government action.
But it was persecution.
This is not a government action either.
But it also is persecution.
I am trying to understand how we can work around the intractability of legal definitions which narrow the meaning of persecution to the point that it allows things like these and does not call them by name.
According to CNA/EWTN news, the College of Cardinals has voted to begin the Papal Conclave which will elect the next pope next Tuesday, March 12.
The CNA/EWTN story describing this says in part:
Vatican City, Mar 8, 2013 / 09:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After five days of meetings, the College of Cardinals has voted to hold a conclave to elect the next Pope on Tuesday, March 12.
“The eighth General Congregation of the College of Cardinals has decided that the Conclave will begin on Tuesday, 12 March 2013,” Father Federico Lombardi said in a March 8 message to reporters.
The cardinals will celebrate a Mass For the Election of a New Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning and “in the afternoon the cardinals will enter into the Conclave,” he confirmed.
Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam arrived in Rome on Thursday afternoon and with his presence the College of Cardinals reached its full number.
The cardinals were able to choose an earlier date than was previously allowed under Church regulations because Benedict XVI issued a declaration to make that possible. (Read the rest here.)
I admit it.
I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the three priests and one former priest who torpedoed Cardinal Keith O’Brien.
For those who don’t know, Cardinal O’Brien was an outspoken opponent of the move to redefine traditional marriage. In what appears to at least some people to be a hit job, three priests and one former priest came forward recently with accusations that the Cardinal had made passes at them 30 years ago. All of these men were adults when this is supposed to have happened. One of them even admits that the passes occurred after “late-night drinking.”
They also admit that this occurred over 30 years ago in 1980.
So, other than indicating that Cardinal O’Brien attempted to commit sexual sin with another adult in 1980, when he was not a cardinal or even a bishop, what does all this mean?
It means that a vigorous voice in support of traditional marriage has been silenced at a critical point in the debate. It also means that the British Isles will have no representative in the upcoming election of the next pope.
I do not want to give the impression that I think that what then Father O’Brien did was right.
However, as I have said in other posts, just about any woman in public life could make similar accusations against numerous powerful men. If you want to go back 30 years for these things, I doubt very much that there is a man in public life who could emerge from that kind of open season on their past unscathed. I also don’t think that many women would be in such good shape if you drug out every stupid thing we ever did or said in the name of sexual attraction and then declaimed it as unforgivable.
The last thing I feel like doing is to go into a faint and start fanning myself like Aunt Pittypat from Gone With the Wind over news that priests, bishops and, yes, cardinals, have committed sins at some time in their lives. My basic reaction to all this is, “where’s the beef?” Or, maybe I should say, “What’s the beef?”
I am not dismayed or scandalized to learn that leaders in the Church have committed sins. I expect that this is true of every single person on this planet.
There is a world of difference between a drunken priest making a pass at another adult and a bishop or cardinal transferring child molesters around, thereby enabling them to continue molesting children. If you don’t see that, then I don’t think I’m going to try to explain it to you.
One of the more predictable bits of commentary about Cardinal O’brien’s very public disgrace has been that he is a “hypocrite,” since it appears that he is gay and at least somewhat actively so, while he speaks against gay marriage.
This raises a question that has bemused me for a while. The whole basis of this contention about the Cardinal’s “hypocrisy” seems to be founded on the idea that if a person is homosexual, then they must be in favor of gay marriage and if they say otherwise, they are lying. I think this contention is inaccurate.
Christians often have to chose between what members of “their” group want and following the Gospel. These choices are painful. They frequently result in bitter accusations of betrayal and hypocrisy directed at the Christian by their former friends.
I don’t know Cardinal O’brien, but I do know many gay people, some of whom are deeply committed followers of Christ. At this point in history homosexuals’ standing under the law is in flux. When the question concerns things like civil rights, there is no conflict for a homosexual and their Christian beliefs. In fact, Christianity is, or should be, their strongest advocate.
But the question of gay marriage puts homosexual Christians to the test. If they are a priest or someone else in Christian leadership, the conflict will be even sharper for them simply because they can not sidestep it. They will have to chose between following Christ in matters such as the legal definition of marriage and following the gay community, and they will have to do it publicly.
Before anyone goes off and throws a pity party for homosexual Christians, I would like you to consider the challenges that women face in their fealty to Christ. The whole question of abortion balances on the shoulders of young women, many of whom are in desperate situations and who were brought to this pass by brutality and misogyny which is often ignored and allowed by various religious leaders. Yet women who follow Christ may not, can not, advocate for the killing of innocents. We are forced instead to advocate for an end to the brutality of abortion and at the same time work for an end to the brutality of misogyny.
That can be difficult, but it is our call as Christian women.
In a similar fashion, Christians who are also homosexuals are called to live out their Christian walk as people who have been the objects of discrimination but who may not take the easy route of following the crowd as they work against this discrimination. They must, like all the rest of us, chose Christ.
It just doesn’t jibe with me that every person who experiences same-sex sexual attraction must, by definition, think and behave exactly like every other person who experiences same-sex sexual attraction. It certainly does not apply to Christians, who must, by definition, be the change agents for the Gospel in a fallen world.
The way that fits Cardinal O’brien’s situation, as well as every other priest, is that whether or they are homosexual or heterosexual, they must be priests and Christians first. It is not hypocrisy for a priest to follow the teachings of his Church. I think it would be hypocrisy for him to do otherwise.
I am not defending Cardinal O’brien. I don’t know him. I don’t know his accusers. I am aware that, as often happens, there may be other charges that come to the fore that change my evaluation of him.
However, as of now, I do not see him as a hypocrite. I see him as a human being who has sinned, but who has also remained faithful to his charge as an officer of the Church.
Every single human being sins. Sexual sin, simply because the temptations are so powerful and universal, are the downfall of many people. However, in my opinion (and this is just my opinion, not any Church teaching) sexual sin like this, which involves adults in a consenting situation, is perhaps one of the most understandable of sins, coming as it does from our longing to love and be loved.
Is a homosexual priest who follows the teachings of the Church concerning marriage a hypocrite who deserves to be pilloried and disgraced? Absolutely not.
If the men who made these accusations against Cardinal O’brien were, indeed, politically motivated, they were successful. They have done much harm to the cause of traditional marriage in Britain. They have also made certain that someone who supports Church teaching will not take part in the election of the next pope.
If that was their motivation, they need to look at themselves as people. I am appalled by the tactics the gay rights movement sometimes uses in their fight to redefine marriage. If that is what they did, then I would say that Cardinal O’brien is something of a social martyr for the Church.
A Telegraph news article about Cardinal O’brien’s situation says in part:
The Cardinal Keith O’Brien Downfall video had been ready to run for ages. The story of three priests and one ex-priest complaining of inappropriate behaviour was timed to break when the Scottish prelate retired at 75 next month. The aim was to expose his alleged hypocrisy. To quote our blogger Stephen Hough, responding in the comments to his blog post yesterday, “I’m convinced that what he did (if he did it) was harmless enough, but he may not have thought it harmless if he’d caught other priests doing it … at least until this week.” If the scandal had come to light next month, that would have been nicely timed to ruin the Cardinal’s reputation just when the media would be running retrospective pieces about him. And, of course, it would throw a spotlight on O’Brien’s passionate opposition to gay marriage, effectively silencing the Scottish Catholic Church on this subject, and probably the Church in the rest of Britain, too.
What no one could have guessed is that Pope Benedict would resign, meaning that Cardinal O’Brien would be the only Briton with a vote in the next conclave. The Observer story was brought forward, with devastating results. The four complainants had the good sense – and, arguably, the courage – to inform the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Mennini, of their claims. (Mennini, it should be noted, is not in the pocket of the British bishops to the extent that previous ambassadors have been.) So the Vatican already had a file on Britain’s senior Catholic churchman, and Pope Benedict, on being informed of its contents, decided to bring forward O’Brien’s resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. In other words, the alleged victims of these inappropriate acts were helped by something that the Church’s critics have often refused to recognise: Joseph Ratzinger’s determination to purify the Church of sex abuse, right up until the last week of his pontificate. (Read more here.)
Supporters of traditional marriage are showing up to march all over the world.
Paris saw two enormous marches for marriage this past year. The last one drew close to a million people. Puerto Ricans joined in February 18 when more what media experts estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people marched for marriage. This is an enormous showing on an island with a population of only 3.5 million.
Despite this, the news coverage outside the religious press was scanty to non-existent.
It’s time for Americans to join in and do our part. The March for Marriage will be March 26, in Washington DC. Be there, or be square.
A CNA article describing the march says in part:
The president of the United Ministry for the Family, Dr. Cesar Vasquez Muniz, said the demonstration came about “in response to threats against marriage and the family.”
The march “is an act to defend our rights and protect children,” he said.
Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres of Arecibo, who took part in the pro-family march, said that when a society dismantles the traditional family, it is destined for ruin and destruction.
A parallel march organized by gay advocates attracted just hundreds of attendees, according to local media reports.
Puerto Rico’s Senate and House of Representatives are currently debating measures that would legalize gay unions, allow same-sex couples to adopt and change the curriculum relating to gender that is taught in schools.
Organizers of the march said the proposals constitute “a legislative attack against our freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and of religion.”
The passage of these measures would lay the foundation for legal discrimination against the Church and Christians, they said, and would lead to the marginalization of Christian values from the laws that govern the island.
It’s time for Americans to join in and do our part. The March for Marriage will be March 26, in Washington DC. For more information, go here.
Be there, or be square.
Nuns and brothers who took their perpetual vows in 2012 are mature adults with work experience who come from Catholic families.
That’s the basic result of a survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
The survey shows that today’s newly professed religious are well-educated, individuals who have had to overcome discouragement from others in seeking a vocation to religious life.
One thing that interested me is that age appears to be no impediment for many of these people, since the oldest woman was 66 at the time she professed her perpetual vows and two of the men were over 60. I had always heard that no one who was over 40 could enter religious life. It appears I was wrong.
I think this is great news for people who have come to know Jesus later in life and who feel the call to live out their days as vowed members of a religious community. It is particularly important for women.
In a world where the enslavement and trafficking of women and children is growing apace with rape as an instrument of war and the use of child soldiers, the voice of strong Christian women is badly needed.
The Church needs nuns.
There is a female viewpoint that must be present when dealing with crimes against women and children. Also, many times, women are the only ones who can gain the trust and cooperation of severely victimized people.
I pray for women religious to step up to this challenge. They are so needed.
Here are a few facts from the survey that stood out to me. You can read the entire survey here.
The average age of newly professed women is 40, while the average of men is 39. Eighty-give percent of the respondents are cradle Catholics. Seventy-eight percent come from families in which both parents are Catholic. Ninety-six percent of them have at least one brother or sister; 45% have four or more siblings.
This is a highly educated group of people. Twenty-two percent have a graduate level degree with 60% having a bachelor’s degree. Eight-two percent of them had worked before entering religious life. Eighty-eight percent had participated in ministry activities before entering and 95% had regularly participated in private prayer activity. Sixty-nine percent had participated in Eucharistic Adoration.
Seventy-four percent of the respondents said that they were discouraged from entering religious life by one of more persons. Women were more likely than men to report that they had encountered discouragement about considering a vocation. Men were more likely than the women to be encouraged by their parish priests to think of religious life as a life’s vocation.
The youngest sister or nun was 23 at the time of her profession, while the oldest was 66 years of age. Eight women professed perpetual vows at age 60 or older. The youngest brother was 25 and the oldest is 62. Two of the men are age 60 or older.
Deacon Greg Kandra, who always has the story, published a recent post about a priest in San Francisco who removed the portrait of Pope Benedict XVI because members of the parish complained that they felt hurt by things the Holy Father had said about LGBTQ people.
The priest said he was “saddened” by this, but removed the portrait. In his letter to the parish, he wrote about people who “will not accept us as we are” and what we should do about them. His letter asked parishioners to “forgive” the pope, as if the pope had sinned by refusing to back down on Church teachings.
While I have not read every word Pope Benedict wrote, I have read quite a few of his statements on the question of gay marriage and the responsibilities of political office holders. None of the things I read said anything condemning homosexual people. So far as I know, the Holy Father has always supported the simple truth that homosexuals are human beings, made in the image and likeness of God and that they are precious in His sight.
Despite this, I admit that some of what I read was hard for me to accept. I had gay friends who meant a lot to me and I did not want to disappoint them by failing to support gay marriage. I wrestled with this, prayed about it and engaged in lots of long talks with my pastor over it. It was a tough one for me.
I ultimately decided that I have proven to myself by my past actions that I can not be the arbiter of what is morally right. I do not have the wisdom. I have made egregious mistakes that resulted in great harm to other people by assuming that I knew more about right and wrong than 2,000 years of Christian teaching.
It was not an easy step for me, but I realized that the only way to follow Jesus is to “trust and obey.” What that means for me, as well as for any other Catholic, is that I follow the teachings of the Church. What has happened since I made the decision to bow my head and stop trying to be my own pope is that I have found that the Church proves itself right in the long run. I may have difficulty with a particular teaching at first. I may be so deeply embedded in the world’s reasoning that what the Church says seems upside down to me at first. But I have learned that this is the nature of following Christ.
Jesus’ teachings have always seemed upside down to the world. I believe that is a natural outgrowth of seeing things through eternal eyes versus seeing them with our temporal, fallen vision. It you follow Jesus, you will often be at odds with the world. If you follow Jesus, you will often find yourself practicing one kind of self-denial or another. It may be that you find yourself denying your own selfish impulses to take the easy way out to instead follow Jesus through the narrow way. It may be that you have to go against the popular reasoning and place yourself at odds with the people around you.
This can cost you a great deal. It can cost you your friends, your comfort level with other people, even your job or livelihood. But if you persist in denying Christ with the words you say and the things you do you will inevitably come to a point where you have denied Him in total. You will no longer be His follower. You will be the world’s thingy person. The cost of that is your soul.
The priest in Deacon Greg’s post missed an incredible opportunity to stand for Christ. He side-stepped a chance to express his vows to the Church in living action in front of the people of his parish. I am sure there would have been painful consequences if he had done this. But I am equally certain that he would have been a much better priest and a much better witness for Christ if he had.
We are not called to duck and cover when the going gets tough for Christians. We are called to persist in following Him, come what may, until the end.
A priest who sidesteps this responsibility and in essence gives people support in their sins is not functioning as their shepherd. Instead of protecting them from the wolves of a culture that tells them their sins are not sins and they can do whatever they want and God Himself is wrong if He disagrees with them, this priest joined that culture and supported it in its contentions.
Gay people are human beings. There is nothing wrong with being a homosexual person. Nothing. Homosexuals are just people who are slightly different from heterosexuals, and that difference is not something that interferes with their functioning as productive people. However, some of the things that homosexual people do are wrong. I’m not going to be specific here, because I am not their priest and it is not my job.
But if it was my job, I would hope that I did not fail them by encouraging them to think that their sins don’t matter. That is not tolerance. It is, in fact the ultimate cruelty. It leads people away from God in the name of God. It is clerical malpractice.
For a Catholic priest to take down the portrait of the pope because parishioners don’t like things the pope has said concerning their sins, is weak in the extreme. Poor, sad priest. Poor, sad parishioners who have such a shepherd.
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who is chair of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, has voiced support for the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, authored by Representative Diane Black (R-TN).
Archbishop Lori issued the following statement:
“I am grateful to Congresswoman Black and other sponsors for their leadership today. I welcome the Health Care Conscience Rights Act and call for its swift passage into law. While federal laws are on the books protecting conscience rights in health care, this Act would make such protection truly effective. This overdue measure is especially needed in light of new challenges to conscience rights arising from the federal health care reform act.”
Representative Black’s legislation comes after she and 13 other members of Congress sent a letter to the House leadership requesting that the issue of freedom of conscience be included in the upcoming budget bill. This letter opened the doorway for the Republican leadership to make their stand-off with the President over budget concerns about something noble instead of using it to stop tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.
Hopefully, they will see it that way and take the action that the signers of the letter asked of them.
Meanwhile, Representative Black announced at a press conference today that she is authoring a separate statute to guarantee the right of conscience to health care workers.
If you wish to contact your Congressional delegation to ask them to support both Representative Black’s bill and putting the issue of religious freedom into the budget bill, you can find their emails and phone numbers here.
Representative Diane Black (R-TN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and John Fleming, MD (R-LA) announced that they will introduce the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HCCRA.)
It is bill number HR 940.
According to Rep Black’s website, HR 940, “offers reprieve from ongoing violations of our First Amendment, including full exemption from the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate and conscience protection for individuals and health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer patients to abortion providers because of their deeply-held, reasoned beliefs. HCCRA has 50 original co-sponsors.”
Representative Black allowed individuals who have been harmed by the government’s attacks on freedom of religion to speak at the press conference announcing this bill. They were:
Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN – New York State nurse who filed suit after her freedom to serve patients according to her conscience was violated. For more information, click here.
· Susan Elliott, PhD, Director and Professor at Biola University Nursing Department. For more information, click here.
· Christine Ketterhagen, Co-Owner/Board Member of Hercules Industries, Inc.; Andy Newland, President of Hercules Industries; Bill Newland, Chairman of the Board of Hercules Industries. For more information, click here
· Sister Jane Marie Klein, OSF, Chairperson of the Board of Franciscan Alliance, Inc. (in Mishawaka, IN). Franciscan Alliance is a co-plaintiff with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Representative Black’s website included the following provisions in the Health Care Conscience Act:
Under the health care coverage mandate issued on August 3, 2011, widely known as the HHS mandate, organizations and their managers are now facing potentially ruinous financial penalties for exercising their First Amendment rights, as protected by law. Hobby Lobby, a family business that was denied injunctive relief from the mandate and faces fines of up to $1.3 million dollars a day, unless its owners agree to fund potentially abortion-inducing drugs. If Hobby Lobby is forced to close its doors, some 25,000 jobs nationwide may disappear. The Obama Administration’s HHS mandate exemption only includes houses of worship and does not account for the thousands of religious and non-religious affiliated employers that find it a moral hazard to cover sterilization, contraception and potentially abortion-inducing drugs on their employer-based health insurance. Ultimately, the so-called “accommodation” does not protect anyone’s religious rights, because all companies and organizations will still be forced to provide insurance coverage that includes services which conflict with their religious convictions. The HCCRA would address this violation of our First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the Administration’s HHS mandate.
The HCCRA also protects institutions and individuals from forced or coerced participation in abortion. In recent years there have been several examples of nurses being told they must participate in abortions. There have also been efforts to require Catholic Hospitals to do abortions, and a Catholic social service provider was denied a grant to assist victims of human trafficking on the basis of their pro-life convictions. The HCCRA codifies and clarifies the appropriations provision known as the Hyde‐Weldon conscience clause. This is accomplished by adding the protections for health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion to the section of the Public Health Service Act known as the Coats Amendment. It also adds the option of judicial recourse for victims whose rights have been violated under the HCCRA, Coats, or the conscience clauses known as the Church amendments.
You can call your Congresspeople at 202-224-3121. Or you can find their email addresses here.