Bloomberg: No Clergy, No FDNY -UPDATE

So, let me get this straight, just so we’re all on the same page, here.

When two hijacked, terrorist-piloted passenger jets were deliberately flown into the Twin Towers, in an act of war against our nation, the first recorded casualty was a Roman Catholic priest and NYFD chaplain — Fr. Mychal Judge — who had ridden to the burning towers, and blessed doomed firefighters, hearing last confessions on the way.

And while Judge’s body was being carried away from the catastrophe by the firefighters who loved him, and whom he loved, First Responders from all ranks, all units, all departments were heading toward that disaster area, not running away, intent on saving as many human lives as possible, even as they weighed the terrible odds. They went up the stairs, while office workers went down. Some of them were kissed by a blind man’s guide-dog, as they passed.

Of the First Responders, 343 members of the FDNY lost their lives.
The NYPD lost 23. The Port Authority Police lost 37. Of the 2998 killed at Ground Zero, 403 of them were First Responders, and one of them was a priest. That’s what, about 12% of the total?

In the days, weeks and months after 9/11, Rescue workers from all over the country showed up at Ground Zero to lend a hand, first at recovery, and then at debris removal. And, as Sr. Mary Ann Walsh details, here, lots of priests were there, too, from the first day, and for months afterward.

The city established a site for those looking for missing family members, a place with counselors and social workers. The line went on for blocks and priests walked alongside it and helped people accept the inevitable—a loss of someone only to be found again in heaven. A veteran psychiatrist told Cardinal Egan that he was amazed when he interviewed families and saw how deeply they had been touched by their sidewalk conversations with priests.

The church knows the importance of chaplains and designates priests to help emergency workers such as police, firefighters, and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. These public servants need one of their own in crises and at 9/11 their own priests responded.

9/11′s own, however, also turned out to be not just official chaplains but also priests in other ministries, like Msgr. Anthony Sherman, a Brooklyn pastor who counseled strangers and led funeral Masses for the dead from his parish—some whose bodies were never found—and Jesuit Father James Martin, an editor at America magazine, who worked with rescuers in the aftermath, and so many other unnamed and unrecognized priests who offered the sacraments, encouragement and human consolation.

And the clergy were not represented only by Catholic priests; there were Rabbis and Protestant ministers; Orthodox priests and Muslim clergy. And nuns, too, and everyday people of great faith, or no faith at all, who understood that something greater than opinions or ideology or theology or social theory or doubt was before them.

But now — understanding all of that — we read that New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not inviting First Responders to observe the tenth anniversary of this day of death and sacrifice, at Ground Zero.

And we read, also that Mayor Bloomberg’s guest list is empty of any clergy, as well.

There will be no prayers at his little shindig. Heaven, forbid.

Apparently, there’s just not enough room for all the First Responders who want to be there, because there are so many important people who must be there! They cannot be denied their photo-op, and their speechifying, and their postures and poses, even though most of them were not even in office on that dreadful day.

No, Michael Bloomberg’s Super Colossal, Low-Salt 9/11 Memorial
and Networking Event is a big-ticket item for the the ones who can be tapped, later, for their money or their influence — the most important sorts of people.

And of course, some of the families of the dead will be allowed in. One does need them for the pictures, after all.

First Responders and Clergyfolk are not very important to the powerful and the enlightened. They only protect us, rescue us, resuscitate us, console us, pray with us, bless us and bury us. And when they die doing it, well, one does feel terrible about it for a whole news cycle or two. And then one takes a private jet somewhere, and tries to forget…

I don’t know why I should be surprised. Priests and First Responders are, like our troops, front-line folk. They’re like heroes in the cowboy flicks; they ride in, shoulder the burden, help put things to rights, and then — while the elite get on with assuming their power and asserting their primacy –they recede into the background. Only the very few stick around to say ‘thank you’ and wave them off. Sometimes children ask them to come back, or to stay.

Bloomberg’s priorities are all wrong. He’s thinking like a Baron — or no, he’s not really thinking at all; he’s being pragmatic: mustn’t let the help get get too much recognition, get too full of themselves — they might start getting uppity and making demands on milords purse and time. Mustn’t let the damn clergy murmur their vulgar prayers, or next we’ll have tent-revivalists cluttering up the fairgrounds and making such spectacles of themselves.

The big crowds for New Years Eve, or for the big parades, are alright, he thinks, but this is not for the riff-raff. Let’s just keep the invite list confined to those who know how to dress and how to behave, and which fork to use, and when.

You know…all those consequential (and so very, very smart) people who — ten years into this — have not managed to fill the still-exposed, gaping holes in the downtown ground.

Perhaps that’s because of the increasingly exposed, gaping holes in their own heads and hearts — from which pours out so much that is mediocre, bleak and unhelpful.

Giuliani, for all his faults, wouldn’t be doing this.

And if an 84 year-old pope can manage to function in crowds of a couple-million, it seems to me the mayor of what used to be the greatest city in the world should be able to figure out how to bring in some First Responders, and give a few minutes over to prayer.

But then, the Bishop of Rome is anything but mediocre, bleak or unhelpful. And I understand there is a salt shaker on his table, for those who like it.

UPDATE: Max Lindenman, while waxing eloquently in favor of clergy and responders in attendance, offers a possible excuse for Bloomberg’s decision:

“. . .nothing would demonstrate the strength that comes from American diversity — the whole E Pluribus Unum thing — better than a row of priests and scholars representing different faiths and denominations, praying in unison. New York has plenty of talent in that department. Since I haven’t lived there in many years, Archbishop Dolan’s name is the first that comes to mind, but I have a hunch a fairly competent rabbi can be laid hold of without anyone’s having to roam too far afield. Throw in an orthodox metropolitan or archimandrite, or whatever they call those guys, a Sikh guru, a brahman, a lama, and we’d have our own little Assisi summit.

But here’s the problem: we’d have to invite an imam, too.

As I wrote at his site, I don’t really agree. I think the vast majority of New Yorkers, and of Americans would be fine with seeing a Muslim clergyman at the memorial, along with representatives from all religions. After all, there were Muslims killed at GZ, also. I suspect this has much less to do with worries over an Imam, and Bloomberg simply being so insulated in his own secularist sphere that he really doesn’t see the value to or the point of, prayers. And too, I suspect the man — like so many currently in positions of power and consequence — is simply clueless.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • wewillneverforget.

    Dear Elizabeth,
    Thank you for penning this column..your words gave me spiritual solace and strength..On 9/11 I lost my best friend ..she died in the collapse of the South Tower. I am heartbroken that Mayor Bloomberg will not allow prayer to be raised over the sacred ground where those murdered souls rest..I remember watching the horrific scenes that morning and the clergy of all faiths and doctors and first responders and everyday citizens rushing in to offer aid and comfort..I do not remember seeing Michael Bloomberg.
    I pray your words reach him and cause him to change his heart.
    God bless you and again, thank you, Elizabeth.

  • Rand Careaga

    My eldest cousin remarked today that emergency personnel (and clergy) weren’t invited to the event ten years ago, but that they showed up anyway. A remarkably tone-deaf call on the mayor’s part.

  • http://none Fr. Roger

    I was one of those priests immediately put into service, as I live diagonally across the street from the also lamented St. Vincent’s Hospital (and the Mayor never said a word while that noble institution gave its death rattle, either); we worked through that first day, and later I and a fellow priest, among many other clergy of all faiths, took Police conveyances to “the pile.” We worked with body parts and counseled the firemen and wounded. Yes, and a lot more. And there were, as you so eloquently indicated, rabbis, imams and clergy of other Christian denominations. When I heard the mayor’s plans, I could hardly believe it. Then I thought about it some more. I believe it! God bless and help us all during this terrible anniversary.

  • Bob Ramsey

    Once to married to a beautiful woman from Long Island, NY I can’t believe this guy! So proud that I don’t associate with anyone who holds his view! Where does he get off telling America how they will remember that dreadful day? He shouldn’t have anything to do with how Americans remember this day. Bloomberg can go straight to HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mary’s hopefull

    For several years now, I’ve wanted a “First Responders’ Day” to add to our Memorial and Veterans holidays, to commemorate those who first on the line at home to help us in need. Certainly my continued memory of 9/11, and personal experience, brings me to wish to honor them; what can be done?
    Tomorrow, I’ll start locally; might others also? This outrageous decision in NYC needs a country-wide response! And a counter 9/11 event honoring first responders and clergy in NYC would be great! Could that be televised, please?!
    Elizabeth, thank you so much for commenting and posting this!

  • Sue from Buffalo

    Cathy from NY, are you telling us that you voted for a candidate (Obama) who was against all of the 5 non-negotiables of the Catholic Church? Really?

    And that we as Catholics, should limit our praying to the inside of church?

    Honey, you really need to go back and learn your faith.

    I can hardly believe what you said.

  • Carlos G. Gonzales

    Should we lay ALL the blame on Mayor Bloomberg and his purse strings or should the MAJORITY of the blame be on the people of New York City for electing him? Come on people, his controversial antics have been going on for years, but they still put him in power. I don’t hear anyone stepping up to recall him…not even after he announced that he would allow a mosque to be built on such sacred American soil. Open your eyes and realize that it not only takes money to win an election…it takes votes…and WE THE PEOPLE have the power. Stand up for America! May God bless us all…

  • Judith

    Good comments on this good article. I am not a Catholic but close, an Episcopalian and can’t believe how fast our Christian beliefs, traditions, and practices are becoming at risk. We need to hold fast and hard, God will help. As for Bloomburg, pssssft! Everyone of the everyday people should stay home or go to a church service. There will be plenty to choose from, I bet. Alway remember 9/11.

  • Richard Johnson

    Interesting that so many here mention that they would not mind a Muslim cleric offering prayers at this service, which will take place on Ground Zero, and then turn around and condemn the building of the “ground zero mosque” which is several blocks away.

    Cognitive dissonance, perhaps? Or maybe this is exactly why the Mayor decided (unwisely, in my opinion) to not have any official religious presence at the memorial. Rather than risk an over-zealous speaker condemning the entirety of the Islamic faith (Franklin Graham, perhaps) the mayor tossed the baby out with the bath water.

    Manny (#48), if you truly hold that the building of Park51 in that neighborhood is offensive, how can we accept at face value your statement that you would have no problem with Muslim prayers being offered at Ground Zero itself?

  • MarkU

    Now don’t pick on Cathy from NY. She was giving our hostess the highest compliment she could; of course the Anchoress voted for the bestest candidate from the bestest party ever – she’s so smart how could she otherwise. Cathy was just giving a gentle reminder not to give ammunition to the true evil enemy of the world. No silly, not satan, not even our sinful selves. It’s those, y’know, republicans. If not for them, we’d still be in eden.

    [and before anyone points it out to me, yes, I am aware of the failings of both parties]

  • Maria

    Marilyn H #27, “…we can just ignore them”. Is this alternative service for Father Judge really occurring? If so, it’s brilliant in it’s simplicity.
    Everyone that matters SHOULD go to that one. BE SURE THAT MEMBERS OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA are invited! As not all can cover the Bloomberg event, it shouldn’t be hard to get coverage. I think most regular folks will want to hear about it.

  • joan

    This comment on the diluting of the very important 9/11 10th memorial is perfect. It is appalling and am disgusted that ‘political correctness’ on the part of prayer and probably logistics on the part of 1st responders take precedence over the reality of who we were that day. As to the mosque on park place (pass it everyday to and from work) and an imam at the memorial: apples and oranges. People of every faith and no faith were slaughtered on that horrible day. An imam would be a healing presence at the memorial. The mosque on the other hand is an aggressive political statement using religion in the most disrespectful way. Body parts were found in the building adjacent to the corner of the same block very recently during the demolition and new construction of Fiterman Hall at Park and West Broadway. To be so disrespectful and insensitive as the muslims connected with the mosque, especially with such a high level of opposition from the people, is unholy. It reminds me of the convent that was ‘near’ Auschwitz years back. The sisters felt called to pray for the victims and the world but packed up and left when the Jewish community was

  • Manny

    @Richard Johnson #58

    “Manny (#48), if you truly hold that the building of Park51 in that neighborhood is offensive, how can we accept at face value your statement that you would have no problem with Muslim prayers being offered at Ground Zero itself?”

    What do you mean, that I’m lying? What do you want me to do swear it on a bible? I said it. Accept it. There would be nothing wrong for an Iman to speak. Anchoress herself said it in the blog. In fact I would welcome it. We’ve been saying all along that we want more moslims to speak out against terrorism. The mosque at ground zero becomes a symbol of conquest given the historical context, which makes it different than an Iman verbally speaking out.

  • joan

    SORRY MISTAKENLY POSTED IN THE MIDDLE: the Jewish community was opposed and upset feeling disrespected. The sisters did not ‘fight’ to stay, aggressively stand on freedom of religion or force THEIR prayers where not wanted. That would be disrespectful and against the very purpose of their presence in the first place: GOD. Also, I voted for Mayor Bloomberg and would again. He saved this city from financial ruin and bankruptcy in the past 10 years and we need him. I’m sure this decision concerning the memorial was not reached by him alone. I have no problem, though, emailing him, the speaker of the city counsel Quinn, President O, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Rep Jerome Nadler voicing my disgust at this terrible decision about 9/11/11. Did last night. This year will not be participating in any way (even on TV) with the ‘official’ memorial.

  • TANJ

    Wonder how many NYPD are being “invited” to provide security at this event? Could there be a severe epidemic of “blue flu ” among those being selected to provide such security. The initial responders all lost somebody in the line of duty and should be allowed to attend.
    Do they have recall procedures for elected officials in New York City??????

  • Sue from Buffalo

    Manny is right. I was just going to say the same thing. A mosque placed on sacred soil is far far different than saying a prayer with other faiths. There is a history of placing mosques where they have conquered. Kind of sends a message, don’t you think?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Joan, they’ve been diluting 9/11 pretty much since it happened; they’d really like us to forget all about it, and just concentrate on empty ceremonies, buzzwords and “interfaith” ceremonies (which usually explain how everything that’s gone wrong in the Moslem world is all Israel’s fault.)

    And, yes, Sue, saying prayers with people of all different faiths is one thing; planting a mosque on the site of Islamic terrorism—especially given Islam’s history of erecting triumphal mosques on sites they’ve conquered (in India, they even used stones from the temples they destroyed, to erect mosques on Hindu holy sites)—and especially given that this mosque will bear a design of crashing Stars of David—does send a message.

  • Denan

    Bloomberg, like Obama, Pelosi, Gore and other elite Liberals, are devoutly religious.

    Their life is dedicated to worshiping their god, prostrating themselves to it – and forcing others to do the same.

    Their god is the almighty State. Their ‘Vatican’ is the seat of of governments and their ‘Pope’ the President.

    Bloomberg himself is a powerful bishop with dreams of becoming Pope, so his oh-so-pious adherence to scripture and verse of his Liberal religion.

    They believe their god can cure the masses of illness; end poverty and war; and bring utopia to everyone – but only through their one true god is this salvation attainable.

    Their god pretends that we submit ourselves to it willingly – but willingly or not, it will be our god and Bloomberg and his ilk will see to that.

    Bloomberg’s god demands fealty from all; and will tolerate no other god before it.

  • James G Ziegler

    I think the First responders, clergy and families who want to attend should crash this little party. Who is going to stop them…the cops?

    No government can stand against a unified a motivated People!

  • legend

    I blame the Tea Party Patriots.


  • Rich Fader

    Breathtakingly dumb. As in, it raises questions how this guy ever managed to get Forbes-400 wealthy. Even on the crassest PR level, why wouldn’t cops and firefighters in dress uniform look good for the pictures?

    And if the only reason they decided not to have clergy show up is because they’re worried about hassle over getting a Muslim involved…I’m not keen on it, for obvious reasons, but work the problem. There’s got to be at least one imam in the New York area who can keep a civil, reverent, solemn tongue in his head long enough to make it through the memorial. (If there’s not, frankly, that’s a bigger problem than what Pamela Geller thinks.)

    The Ground Zero mosque…kind of the same thing. I’m really not keen about that thing, but it’s technically legal and arguably constitutionally protected. (That said, so arguably would be a branch of Westboro Baptist in the West Village, and I’m guessing the city would find an equally legal and constitutionally-protected way of telling the Phelpses where to go and what to do when they got there.)

  • Richard Johnson

    “And if the only reason they decided not to have clergy show up is because they’re worried about hassle over getting a Muslim involved…I’m not keen on it, for obvious reasons, but work the problem. There’s got to be at least one imam in the New York area who can keep a civil, reverent, solemn tongue in his head long enough to make it through the memorial.”

    I think a more relevant question would be are there any Christians who could do likewise with a Muslim Imam sharing the stage with them. Even if that Imam were of a completely different sect of Islam. Given how the folks at Park51 are being lumped in with the extremists that attacked the WTC (something that makes as much sense as blaming the Southern Baptists for the Irish Catholic child abuse scandal), I have to wonder if the problem would be ill-informed Christians, not poorly spoken Muslims.

  • Sue from Buffalo

    Richard, what makes you think we’re so ill-informed? Did you not hear about how mosques are built in places of victory? Or didn’t that matter to you? You just ignored that completely.

    And wouldn’t it have been more sensitive on their part to NOT place it there? That’s like pouring salt on an open wound.

    You seem to be ill-informed on Christianity.

    “poorly spoken Muslims.” Gotta love that line.

  • Dancny

    I am a native New Yorker, but I don’t live there anymore. On 9/11 I was in the U.S. Navy out to see and I have always felt it a personal failure that someone felt they could do this and get away with it. I have no trouble believeing that the mayor is doing this. The more I see our secularist politicians the more I see them slighting the people who matter in faovr of those who don’t.
    As for keeping our prayer in church that simply proves again the poor training our Catholics have. Matthew 5, You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” and if salt loses it’s flavor it is good for nothing. A Catholic who hides his faith, actually, anyone who hides their faith and does not live it, shortchanges themselves and God. It is also a church scandal that any person of faith voted for the man who pushes the murder of children more than anyone else.
    I don’t say that to be mean but to educate.
    Anyway, we all need to pray for our politicians, and each other, that the light might shine in the darkness.

  • Richard Johnson

    Sue from Buffalo: “Richard, what makes you think we’re so ill-informed? Did you not hear about how mosques are built in places of victory? Or didn’t that matter to you? You just ignored that completely.”

    Yes, I did disregard that comment. The Islamic group behind Park51 are Sufi.

    This group has been persecuted in Iran for years, and is about to be outlawed altogether. It has faced similar trials at times in Iraq and Pakistan.

    As for their relationship with Sunni and Shia sects, this article gives a summary.

    “Sufi, on the other hand, is a contemplative school of Islam that aims to develop an individual’s consciousness of God though chanting, recitation of litanies, music and physical movement. Practitioners belong to different tariqa, or orders, that are described as “sober” — restrained in religious practice — or “drunk,” open to achieving religious ecstasy.

    “For Sufis, what’s important is approaching the inner meaning of God through mysticism. They try to reach an understanding of the hidden meanings of the world,” Watenpaugh says. “They tend to be less wedded to an orthodox reading of the Quran. As a consequence, they have an open relationship with other religions.”

    Sufis avoid politics because it “complicates their ability to contemplate God,” Watenpaugh says. “They see themselves as transcending labels, so the Sunni-[Shiite] thing is … irrelevant.””

    Thus my comment about holding Sufi Muslims responsible for the actions of Wahabi terrorists making as much sense as condemning Southern Baptists for the actions of Irish Catholic priests. While Sufis and Wahabis are both Muslim groups, the similarities end there.

    But then perhaps you are correct, and I erred in assuming that you were cognizant of the differences between these groups. If so then I apologize for making such a poor assumption.

  • Richard Johnson

    And as for being ill-informed on Christianity, I think the actions of some Christians speak for themselves. For example, the actions of the Missouri Synod Lutherans when one of their ministers dared to participate in the ecumenical memorial held at Yankee Stadium shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

    “A minister with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has been suspended for participating in an interfaith service at Yankee Stadium for the families of those killed on Sept. 11.

    The Rev. David Benke, president of the New York-based Atlantic District, was also ordered to apologize for mixing Christian and non-Christian views in violation of the denomination’s constitution.”

  • Greta

    For all those who believe the big lie on separation of church and state… I saw a suggestion that it would be best to have no political hacks there including the mayor, the president, or any others trying to get their face at 9/11 thus eliminating the state from the problem. Then the victims families, the first responders, and religious leaders could attend in peace. After all bloomie had nothing to do with 9/11 and he will have his ugly mug front and center. he does not want to have to share the stage with those who did make a difference on that day.