He’s right beside us.
Religious freedom and gay marriage have taken a couple of turns while we were looking at other things. Here are 3 Quick Takes.
1. Vampire Atheist Case Against 9/11 Cross Tossed by Judge
The bizarro case filed by American Atheists claiming that the sight of the 9/11 Cross caused them to experience “depression, headaches, anxiety and mental pain and anguish” was tossed out of court by a federal judge. The case had sought to have the cross removed from the 9/11 Museum in New York City.
2. Florida Atlantic University Drops Charges Against Student Who Refused to Stomp on Jesus’ Name
Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon student, refused to stomp on the name of Jesus as he was requested as part of a class exercise. After complaining to administrators, Rotela says he was suspended from the class. The university has now dropped all charges against Rotela and apologized.
New Zealand’s Parliament voted 77-44 to legalize gay marriage on April 17. Uruguay Chamber of Deputies voted to legalize gay marriage on April 10.
West, Texas is not a region of the State of Texas.
West is the name of a town that almost blew itself off the map this week through a combination of poor city planning and lax enforcement of safety laws.
Fertilizer makes plants grow. It also explodes. Remember the nitroglycerin in dynamite? The “nitro” part of that is the same “nitrates” found in the fertilizer you sprinkle on your rose plants. The difference is quantity and, hopefully, the stability of compound.
I won’t go into the sad history of fertilizer bombs. But I will say that the town of West, Texas played host to a humongous fertilizer bomb in the form of West Fertilizer plant.
There is nothing wrong with having a fertilizer plant as part of your town’s economy. People have to make a living, and fertilizer, if it’s used properly, allows us to grow the crops that feed our planet’s population. We need the stuff, and making it is an honest living.
But it can also be dangerous. That’s why government officials have a responsibility to plan how they allow a town to grow around plants like these. For reasons unknown, the town of West allowed a school and a nursing home, along with a number of private residences, to be situated near a fertilizer plant.
I know full well that the people of this little town are shattered over what has happened. They’ve lost people that, in a community of this size, they all knew and most of them probably loved. Many more were injured. Others have lost their homes. There is no reason for a janey-come-lately from Oklahoma to butt her nose into this and tell these people that they made some mistakes in how they situated this fertilizer plant.
I am not writing this post to chide or criticize the hurting folks of West. I want to use it to forewarn the rest of us. City planners in lots of places, including my own town, often seem to make their decisions in a sort of moral isolation tank where the preservation of communities and the safety and well-being of residents doesn’t enter into their deliberations.
Likewise, government inspectors are often either too lax or too punitive in their approach to businesses. I’ve read that the West Fertilizer plant had not been inspected since 1985.
We need a housecleaning at the local level about things like this.
If you are a Christian and you hold one of these jobs, you have a responsibility to do it honestly and with concern for the common good. I realize that a lot of people who hold these positions would lose their jobs if they tried this, but that doesn’t change what Jesus asks of us.
It also doesn’t ameliorate the responsibility of elected officials to oversee these processes and guarantee that the citizens’ needs are not overlooked. That is their job, even if it means going against the local Chamber of Commerce and getting beat in the next election. Whatever our job, we ultimately answer to God for how we do it.
I’m sure there will be recriminations and ugliness about the tragically wrong-headed city planning that took place in West, Texas. I am equally sure that after the news cycle has moved on, little will change in the future Wests around the country.
We really need to stop driving our government by looking in the rear view mirror and face forward. If you are in city government, you need to replay the videos of West, then give some serious thought to the potential Wests in your town.
We can’t undo things like this once they happen. We can’t bring the dead back to life. I also know that we will never be able to stop terrible things from happening altogether. From the Tower of Siloam to West, Texas, people die in tragedies like this.
But that does not excuse us from doing our best. It does not exempt government officials from careful thought and planning that places the welfare of the citizens it governs as its primary concern.
If you don’t understand that, then you shouldn’t be in government at all.
Cardinal Wuerl used his homily at George Washington University to make it clear that he stands behind the priest who is under fire on that campus, Father Greg Shaffer.
Two gay activists attacked Father Shaffer recently because the priest teaches that chastity for homosexual people means that they are called to celibacy. The stated purpose of the attacks on the priest was to have him removed from campus ministry and to either force the Newman Center where he is assigned to stop teaching Catholic morality.
Cardinal Wuerl’s homily seems to indicate that Father Shaffer has the confidence of his Cardinal. This takes the possibility of him losing his assignment off the table.
Now it’s up to the university to decide if they are going to jump into this and try to close the Newman Center or if they will allow freedom of thought and speech on their campus as they have up to now.
Cardinal Wuerl’s homily, excerpted from CNA.
“I want to offer a word of support and encouragement to your chaplain, Father Greg Shaffer…and to stand in solidarity with a good priest,” the archbishop of Washington said April 14.
His remarks come as two gay students said the Newman Center chaplain had told individuals who came to him for counseling that if they experience same-sex attraction, they should remain celibate.
Asserting that this was anti-gay behavior, the two students have launched a campaign to force Fr. Shaffer off the campus of the private university.
Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the duty of bishops and priests to “feed Jesus’ flock,” and considered to whom “Jesus’ flock” refers.
Christ’s flock are those who freely choose to follow Christ and be a part of his Church, the cardinal said, and that those who choose not to follow Christ are not forced to do so.
“We propose the ways of the kingdom of God in terms that the world can understand and examine, in terms they may freely accept or reject.”
When Christ himself was faced with those who would not follow his teachings, he “did not respond by changing the teaching,” Cardinal Wuerl noted.
“Even when they said to him you need to be current, you need to be contemporary, you need to be politically correct, you need to be with the times, Jesus did not say, ‘Oh, then, I will change my teaching.’”
Christ continues to offer unchanging truths today, which cannot be changed to “conform with any particular cultural demand,” he said.
“Yet, there are those who claim that voices for the Gospel should be silenced, that we should be silenced. There are those who say there is no room for any other view but their own.”
Cardinal Wuerl said that this experience is not new to the Church, and she has always bore the brunt of “narrow-minded discrimination and blind bigotry.”
He urged a need to preserve and protect religious liberty in the face of attempts to silence priests lest they “be allowed to engage in dialogue with our culture.”
Just because there are forces in society wishing to change marriage and to deny the dignity of human life and natural law, that “does not mean that the rest of us no longer have a place in this society,” the archbishop stated.
I know people who were grievously injured in the Oklahoma City bombing. They have lost their homes and jobs because of the injuries. Some of the survivors will require care from their families for the rest of their lives.
America reached out to us during the days after that horrible event. Huge amounts of money were donated. Despite this, families of the injured have been forced into bankruptcy and ultimately been left to deal with the after affects themselves.
We are going to have to get used to these tragedies.
They appear to be coming at us Wham! Wham! Wham! We need to learn how to maintain an even strain in the face of them and still take care of the victims and their families.
We also need to go after the perpetrators, which, I believe, we will. I’ll save the conversation concerning our society’s overwhelming need for conversion for a later post.
Today, I want to talk about what “maintaining an even strain” in the face of repetitive atrocity means in real life. I’m going to link to a video showing how the people on the ground in Boston responded to the bombing. They swung into action immediately. They went to the aid of the injured and they did it calmly, cooperatively and, in my opinion, the way that Americans have always done it.
We do this every time, don’t we? Americans don’t run away from each other when we’re in trouble. We reach out and help each other. Boston was no exception.
I’m also going to put a link to at least one place where you can donate money. The owner of the Boston Patriots has set up a matching program for donations for the survivors. Go to this link and donate a few dollars. If you don’t have much, just give $5 or $10. If enough of us do that, it will add up, fast.
If you learn of other legitimate links, feel free to post them in the combox. But please do your best to make sure they are reputable.
Another suggestion I’m going to make is that we consider forming support groups for specific survivors of these atrocities in our Altar Societies, parish Knights of Columbus, etc. The reason I described the hardship survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing have been through is because genuine caring doesn’t end when the ratings go down and the news media skips on to the next big thing.
There are people who survived the shooting in Aurora who will probably need help for a long time. That is almost certainly the same in Boston. The rescue workers are also going to suffer from this for a long time.
All these people need both financial and emotional support that is on-going and long-lasting.
Here are things you can do that will make a difference:
1. Pray for them — by name, if you know their names. Pray for them every day. Include them — again by name, if you know their names — in your group prayers, your family bed time prayers, etc. Take the trouble to learn about at least one of these people and adopt them for prayer intercession on an on-going basis.
2. Send them a card. Not a card “to the victims,” but a card addressed to them using their own name. Tell them that you are praying for them and that you care about them. Then, in a couple of months, send another card. Next Christmas, send them a Christmas card. Lift them up as long as they are down.
3. Consider doing an altar society bake sale or a Knights candy sale and using the proceeds to help pay the medical expenses of this one person you have adopted.
4. Write corporations such as Nike who have an interest in the Marathon and ask them to also start a matching donation fund for the victims’ on-going medical expenses.
5. Put activities in place that we will follow after each one of these tragedies. We may need to set up atrocity prayer chains that we activate every time another one of these things happens.
The important thing is to stop wringing our hands and asking “How could this happen?” We need to get on with the business of taking care of each other in the aftermath.
Here is the video I spoke of earlier. Notice that the person holding the camera is in shock, but he keeps on filming. I would guess that the people who were moving barricades were in shock, too. But they didn’t flinch and they didn’t run away. That’s what Americans do when the going gets tough.
You can donate to the survivors here. Be sure to indicate that you want your donation to go to the Boston Marathon bombing survivors.
I needed this.
I’ve been affected by the events of this week like everyone else. In addition to that, there’s been death and sadness closer in at my parish. Everything bugs me this week.
Right in the midst of my anomie comes this conversion story. Conversion to Christ is birth, re-birth, being born again. It is a person stepping in one move from death to life.
This particular conversion story describes something a little bit like the conversion I experienced in that it was instantaneous. God does that with some people. It’s as if He points His finger and says “You.”
When that happens, there is no denying the reality of it. I guess you could ignore it and say no, but you’d have to lie to yourself in a big way to do it.
This particular conversion story, is titled “The Story of how a New York Jew wrestled with Christ and became Catholic”. It describes the instantaneous and unbidden conversion of Roger Dubin. God said “You” to Mr Dubin in an airport while he was watching the announcement of Pope Benedict’s election as pope in 2005.
I won’t tell you more because it would spoil the story. I’ll put an excerpt below with a link to the rest. I hope it cheers your day as it did mine.
On April 2, 2005, there came the news of the death of Pope John Paul II. I’d always admired the pope for his courage in confronting the horrors of communism, and for aligning with President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher in a united front that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Yet as a spiritual leader he meant nothing to me.
Nevertheless, Barbara and I found ourselves becoming involved in the events and the funeral as they unfolded on television. Even the typically skewed commercial coverage couldn’t disguise the tributes from all corners of the globe, and the love for the pope and grief at losing him from Catholics and people of every faith. At some point in the two weeks following, Barbara—a long-lapsed Protestant who’d never lost her regard for Christianity—turned to me and said, “You’ve got to get religion, Roger. You’ve been drifting way too long.”
Early on the morning of April 19, I left on a business trip, first taking the commuter flight from Prescott, our home since 2001, to the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. There was a wait before my next flight to the west coast, so I stopped for coffee, and soon after I arrived at the gate, the white smoke appeared over the roof of the Sistine Chapel on the television monitor. Sipping my cappuccino, I watched with a large group of travelers, interested—as a news hound mostly—in who’d been chosen. From my casual observation, however, quite a few in the crowd were Catholics, and far more invested in the outcome than I.
When the announcement was made that Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected, people around me seemed to register either shock or joy. I had a pretty good sense of the reason for the split. In the days following Pope John Paul’s passing, I’d noted the avuncular and, to all appearances, mild-mannered cardinal playing a high-profile role in the funeral and related proceedings. I’d also heard quite a bit of commentary about his staunchly conservative stance as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, set in contrast to the “modernization” and “progress” many were hoping for and demanding. That hoary theme, complete with groan-inducing code words and liberal shibboleths straight out of American politics, brought on a depressing sense of déjÀ vu. “God’s Rottweiler,” some even called him, a denigration that struck me as both outrageous and naïve, though I knew almost nothing about him.
I’d been a senior corporate executive for many years, I’ve had my own consulting business since 1996, and I understood that the cardinal, like the centurion in Matthew 8:9, was “ a man under authority.” Which meant that whatever he’d done to garner his reputation had been undertaken with the guidance and approval of his boss. Yet the criticism fell on him, which also told me he was a loyal lieutenant, willing to do his superior’s will and take the hit himself without complaint. People who viewed it otherwise, I grumbled, likely had an axe to grind, or were reluctant to criticize Pope John Paul, or were simply fools.
That’s not very charitable, I admit. But remember, I was nowhere near being “Christian” in my judgments at the time. (Actually, I’m still nowhere near where I should be, yet I’m trying.) How often I’ve marveled since then at Pope Benedict’s kindness to everyone,even as he took on the agonizing work of expunging the “filth” from the Church and laying the foundation for renewal. How often I’ve wished I could feel his Christian charity towards the enemies within. But the rockiest rise on the road to becoming Christian, at least for someone like me, is learning to love as Pope Benedict loves—especially those whom you’d much rather smack upside the head and who richly deserve far worse. I suspect I’ll be wrestling with that one for a long time.
So there I was at the gate—standing now, with just a few minutes left before I’d need to board my flight. If I had to miss the introduction of the new pope, it was no big deal, though I was vaguely hoping I wouldn’t. And then Pope Benedict XVI walked onto the balcony. The camera zoomed in, his eyes seemed to look right at me and through me, and that’s the exact instant my conversion happened. (Read the rest here.)
We have to learn to live with this.
Aurora, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon.
The names are like a slow beat sounding out grief and sorrow.
They don’t cover the “smaller” tragedies and the near tragedies. They also don’t speak of the Amish girls, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City.
We talk about gun control, but gun control is no defense against pressure cookers loaded with ball bearings or rental trucks filled with fertilizer mixed with jet fuel.
In truth, we can not seal ourselves in a room small enough, we can not pass laws limiting enough to be safe. We are dealing with murderous humans. Humans are too smart for us to ever stop them with our prohibitions, metal detectors and regulations. We are like dogs, chasing our own tails with that approach.
Our society, our world, needs conversion.
But before we can even begin that basic task we have to face a single reality: We are going to have to learn to live with this.
The “this” we must learn to live with is the steady beat of the murderous metronome of casual killing that has become part of the fabric of our lives. Whether the killer of the day is a mass murdering young man with a high-powered weapon, a terrorist with a recipe for mayhem or a serial killer hiding in the shadows, the thing that drives them is always the same. It is, as a reader of this blog said in an unconnected quote, an ability to “not consider the person” who will die.
Murder is made possible by a disconnect from the suffering of others. It is, in the final analysis, the most extreme failure of empathy. Not, notice, as we like to say, a “failure of love.” It is not necessary to love someone to refrain from killing them. But it is necessary to separate from their humanity, to objectify them and to not “consider” them and what you are about to do to them.
This nation has been raising up psychopaths the way we once raised up artists and inventors. At the same time, we live in a world of directed psychopathy that creates terrorism, which is nothing more than the murder of innocent civilians.
If we are ever going to change any of this, we will have to face the fact that we need to do more than reach for another quick fix through regulation, safety protocols and prohibitions. We can not give up enough of our freedoms to make ourselves safe from one another.
The only way to become safe from other people is to structure our society in such a way that we end the continuous abuse and disregard of our children. We must stop raising up psychopaths. To do that, we’ve first got to admit that we are doing something wrong. I see a complete refusal to acknowledge that running throughout our public discourse.
Even if we woke up tomorrow, resolved to re-shape our homes, families, schools and institutions along healthy, nurturing lines, it would take time to turn this vast ship of disintegration away from its current path toward the rocks of social dissolution. Since there is very little hope that we will do this, we are out of alternatives.
We are going to have to learn to live with this.
If we are going to stay sane as individual people, we must accept the reality of our lives for what they are. That means accepting that Boston, Sandy Hook, Aurora, the Amish school girls, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Oklahoma City and even 9/11 are not isolated events. They are part of our national life. They are what happens. We have to face the horror of their having happened and add the certainty that they will happen again on top of it, then learn to live with this bitter knowledge.
I am not preaching and teaching a course in despair with this post. I am trying to bring us down to the hard cold reality of our situation.
We are going to have to learn to live with this.
That does not mean that we have to learn to accept it. It means that we have to stop viewing each horror as a separate event and realize that they are all connected in the psyches of those who commit them. This indifference of killers to the people they kill is not new. The blood of innocents has cried out from the ground since people left the garden.
God gave us the only answer to this. Those of us who are Christians have it, if we will just use it.
We are going to have to get used to this, this blood-soaked world in which we live. But we do not need to dive into despair and hopelessness because of it. We must, for the sake of our sanity, stop letting these horrible events take us over and cast us down. We have to get used to it and live with it and move on past it.
We need to focus on the message that we as Christians are the only ones equipped to bring: There is no death. Life has meaning. Everything we do in this life matters in eternity.
Get up off your bed of grief and despair and Catholic on. Turn off the tv and go to work. Take care of your family, clean your house, do your job and live. Pray for the injured, the dead and those who love them. If you are able to help them directly, do it. If not, you can help them best by maintaining the order and stability of the society in which they live.
We are going to have to learn to live with this. The time to begin is now.
Catholic education cannot be Catholic unless it is also faithful to the Church and its teachings.
Trendy Jesus is not the Lord of all Creation who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
The Catholic Church, with its 2,000 year witness of absolute fealty to Christian teaching, is irreplaceable. It has handed the Gospels, the creeds and the sacraments forward through the millennia to us and it will send them forward again to our children and grandchildren.
Catholic education is part of that handing forward of an unblemished faith. When Catholic universities start spinning off into their own trendy little orbits around the moral fashions of the day, they cease to be legitimately Catholic and they fail in their mission.
Catholic schools are pressured to forego their first mission of upholding and teaching the faith, even here in the Oklahoma backwaters. In my town, it’s the schools in the wealthier areas who get the most pressure and who most often accede to it.
This pressure does not usually come from Catholic parents. It comes from non-Catholics, including a surprising number of atheists, who send their children to these schools for the excellent education outside the troubled public school system. I’ve listened to these parents decry the “backwardness” of the Catholic schools they send their children to. They can sneer and belittle with the best of them.
The schools often bend to this nonsense and shear themselves clean of large parts of their reason for existing in the first place.
It appears that this process of mission betrayal is far advanced in a number of the elite Catholic Universities in this nation. I’ve written before about “elite” Catholic Universities that have become expensive funnels for tracking their students from wealthy zip codes back into those same zip codes. Rather than being the leaven of society that Americans have long thought education to be, they are becoming markers of a new and isolated ruling class. I’ll go back to that aspect of this scandal in other posts.
Today I want to talk about the loss of Catholic identity in some of our most well-known Catholic Universities. This ranges from Georgetown University and its willingness to cover the cross so that it wouldn’t be photographed with President Obama, to Gonzaga University and its refusal to give official status to the Knights of Columbus.
If Catholic Universities do not offer anything different than secular universities, then why do they matter? If all they give the Church is bragging rights about their famous graduates — many of whom appear to go out and fight against Church teaching in their careers — then why are we, the faithful — supporting them?
Gonzaga University is not alone in its mission drift. But its refusal to give the Knights of Columbus official status has certainly spotlighted what is happening there.
Dr Eric Cunningham, faculty adviser of the Knights of Columus council at Gonzaga, gave an interview to the National Catholic Register that speaks for itself in this regard. I’m going to pull quotes from the article, then link to it so you can read it all.
A professor at Gonzaga University has countered claims by the school that it supports the campus’ Knights of Columbus Council after the group’s application to be a student organization was denied.
“Honestly I don’t see that they’re supported in any way,” Dr. Eric Cunningham, assistant director of Catholic Studies and faculty adviser to the university’s Knights council, told CNA April 15.
“If they’ve been denied club status, the only way they exist here is that the members of the Knights of Columbus council are enrolled here,” Cunningham stated.
This year the council has met at a seminary attached to the university, but has not been affiliated with the university, according to university paper The Gonzaga Bulletin.
Cunningham has noticed that the council is “listed in our advertising materials,” specifically in a brochure “that goes out to parents” showing the group listed as a student organization. “So in other words, we’re kind of using them as recruiting tool, telling parents that we have a Knights of Columbus council that their sons can certainly join if they come here.”
Cunningham understands that roughly $1,000 of the council’s funds had been frozen by the Gonzaga student body association, and he said that “what I hear from the membership, is that hasn’t been returned yet.”
“Not only are they not being supported, they haven’t had their money returned to them. There’s no official support.” Cunningham has been associated with the council since 2006, and noted that he has made available to them the Catholic studies house, after “they were asked by the director of university ministry to stop meeting there.”
“They don’t have a chapter house, they were actually asked to stop meeting in the house they had been using. So I’d really love to know what Gonzaga is defining as support for the campus council.”
Cunningham lamented that this is typical of numerous Catholic universities, saying that “there’s nothing new about this” and that it “goes on I’m sure at every Catholic college campus in America, that hasn’t made its decision to reform itself as a more ‘Magisterial’ school.”
“Catholic universities are leading the way in turning Catholicism into a purely secular discourse and are restricting a serious intellectual engagement with what it means to be Catholic.” (Read more here.)
I have no words.
It’s really as simple as that. These tragedies that keep pounding our nation’s heart, one after the dreadful next, leave me speechless. It happens that way every time. I learn of it, and, confronted by such senseless evil, I have no words.
Fortunately, the Holy Father was able to find words for all of us. Pope Francis sent a telegram to Cardinal O’Malley of Boston in which he gave the only advice Christians need at these times — “resolve not to be overcome by evil.”
How do we “not be overcome by evil.” What good does a “resolve” of this kind do us?
The truth is we can’t fail to be overcome by evil if all we do is try to handle it under our on strength. Evil is stronger than we are. It can and will shatter us like crystal if we try to resist its destructive force by our own power, through our own understanding and our own will. Evil will break you every time if you fight it alone. It will leave you bitter, angry, hate-filled and self-righteous. Evil, of itself, has no redeeming qualities.
It is only when evil is filtered through the prism of the cross that it becomes light instead of darkness. Evil, suffering, senseless cruelty and death take on a new dimension when we view them through the light of eternity. In truth, there is no death. There is nothing so senseless that the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ does not give it meaning.
“Resolve not to be overcome by evil,” the Holy Father tells us and I would guess by “resolve” he means to give our fear, anger, hate, rage, and in many cases, our blinded numbness to the One Who has defeated evil once and for all. We are not chained to our grief. All we have to do is realize that and walk forward from it.
Pray for the people of Boston, and for this country. Pray and trust God. Know that the dead did not die and that Jesus is Lord always, and everywhere.
From Vatican Radio:
The full text of the telegram is below
His Eminence Cardinal Sean O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston
Deeply grieved by news of the loss of life and grave injuries caused by the act of violence perpetrated last evening in Boston, His Holiness Pope Francis wishes me to assure you of his sympathy and closeness in prayer. In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, His Holiness invokes God’s peace upon the dead, his consolation upon the suffering and his strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response. At this time of mourning the Holy Father prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State