Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Jewish man proclaims, "Be proud to be Catholic!"

A friend sent me this article. It brings some needed perspective on the current situation.

Sam Miller, a prominent Jewish Cleveland businessman is fighting mad about concentrated effort by the media to denigrate the Catholic Church in this country. This was a speech he gave a few years ago.

I’m going to say things here today that many Catholics should have said 18 months ago. Maybe it’s easier for me to say because I am not Catholic, but I have had enough, more than enough, disgustingly enough.

During my entire life I’ve never seen a greater vindictive, more scurrilous, biased campaign against the Catholic Church as I have seen in the last 18 months, and the strangest thing is that it is in a country like the United States where there is supposed to be mutual respect and freedom for all religions.

This has bothered me because I too am a minority in this country. You see, unfortunately and I say this very advisedly the Catholics have forgotten that in the early 1850′s when the Italians, the Poles, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, all of Catholic persuasion, came to this country looking for opportunity because of famine, (particularly the Irish) they were already looked upon with derision, suspicion and hatred. Consequently the jobs they were forced to take were the jobs that nobody else wanted bricklayers, ditch diggers, Jewish junkmen, street cleaners, etc.

This prejudice against your religion and mine has never left this country and don’t ever forget it, and (sic) never will. Your people were called Papists, Waps, Guineas, frogs, fish eaters, ad infinitum.

And then after the Civil War, around 1864, the fundamentalists, conservatives, Protestants and a few WASP’s began planting burning crosses throughout the country, particularly in the South. And today; as far as I’m concerned, very little has changed. These gentlemen now have a new style of clothing they’ve gone from bed sheets to gentlemen’s suits.

There is a concentrated effort by the media today to totally denigrate in every way the Catholic Church in this country. You don’t find it this bad overseas at all. They have now blamed the disease of pedophilia on the Catholic Church, which is as irresponsible as blaming adultery on the institution of marriage. You and me have been living in a false paradise. Wake up and recognize that many people don’t like Catholics. What are these people trying to accomplish?

From the Sojourner’s Magazine dated August, 2002, listen carefully to a quote, “While much of the recent media hype has focused on the Catholic Church’s pedophilia scandal, relatively little attention has been given to the high rate of sexual misconduct in the rest of American Christendom. This is truly a crisis that crosses the borders of all religions.”

Now let me give you some figures that you as Catholics should know and remember. For example, research by Richard Blackman at Fuller Theological Seminary shows that 12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner; 38% acknowledged other inappropriate sexual contact. In a 1990 study by the United Methodist Church, 41.8% of clergywomen reported unwanted sexual behavior by a colleague; 17% of laywomen said that their own pastors had sexually harassed them. Phillip Jenkins concludes in his book “Pedophiles and Priests” that while 1.7% of the Catholic clergy has been found guilty of pedophilia, 10% of Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia.

This is not a Catholic problem. This is a problem of pure prejudice. Why the papers, day after day, week after week, month after month, see fit to do nothing but come out with these scurrilous stories? When I spoke recently to one of the higher ups in the newspaper I said, “This is wrong”. He said, “Why, do you want us to shoot the messenger?” I said, “No, just change the message”. He said, “How?” I said, “I’ll tell you how”.
Obviously, this is not just a Catholic problem. And solutions must be broader and deeper than those carried out by Catholic cardinals. The whole church has a responsibility to offer decisive leadership in the area of sexual misconduct whether it is child abuse, sexual exploitation, or sexual harassment.

Recently, churches have shown unprecedented unity on issues of poverty and welfare reform. Now it is necessary to call for a broad based ecumenical council addressing the issue of sexual misconduct in the church not only the Catholic Church, all churches, including synagogues. Its goal would be transparency and openness in developing stringent, forward?looking guidelines, consistent with denominational distinctions, for preventing and addressing sexual misconduct within Christian churches and church?related institutions.
Such a council could include not only denominational representatives but also a majority presence from external organizations such as child protection agencies, law enforcement, psychiatric services, victims’ agencies, and legal and legislative representatives.

Crisis. “Crisis” in Chinese is one word. “Crisis” in Chinese means, on the one side, a real crisis problems etc., but the other side means great opportunity.

We have a great opportunity facing us. Crisis is often accompanied by an opportunity for extraordinary growth and leadership. We have that today. Even though you are the lowest ?? by far the lowest of any organized religion today when it comes to sexual harassment ?? American churches have a unique opening to develop and adopt a single set of policies, principles, practices, and common language on sexual misconduct in Christian institutions that is binding across denominations.

A system of cross denomination review boards could be established to help compliance and accountability. A centralized resource bank could be formed that provides church wide updates on new legal, financial, psychological and spiritual developments in the field. Guidelines, both moral and legal, could be established on how clergy, churches, and victims should best use civil and criminal actions in pursuit of justice and financial restitution for injury. A national database could be established with information on all applicants for ordination in any member Christian religion. Every diocese, conference, presbytery, and district could have a designated child protection representative whose job is to ensure that the policies and procedures are understood and implemented and that training is provided.

Any religious institution, or system, that leaves power unexamined or smothers sexuality with silence rather than promoting open conversation that can lead to moral and spiritual maturity becomes implicated in creating an unhealthy and potentially abusive environment. An ecumenical Christian council authentically dedicated to strong moral leadership in the area of clergy sexual misconduct might move the church beyond the extremes of policing our own or abandoning our own.

For Christians, the true scandal is not about priests. It’s about a manipulation of power to abuse the weak. When Jesus said, “Whoever receives the child, receives me”, he was rebuking his followers for putting stumbling blocks in front of the defenseless. Church is supposed to be a place where one can lay one’s defenses down; where one is welcomed, embraced, and blessed. This can only be authentically expressed in a culture that requires absolute respect for each individual’s freedom and self hood. Until all churches bow humbly under the requirement, the indictments by wounded women and children will stand.

Just what are these Kangaroo journalists trying to accomplish? Think about it. If you get the New York Times day’ ,after day; the Los Angeles Times day after day, our own paper day after day looking at the record, some of these writers are apostates, Catholics or ex-Catholics who have been denied something they wanted from the Church and are on a mission of vengeance.

Why would newspapers carry on this vendetta on one of the most important institutions that we have today in the United States, namely the Catholic Church?

Do you know and maybe some of you don’t the Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students everyday, at cost to your Church of 10 billion dollars, and a savings on the other hand to the American taxpayer of 18 billion dollars. Needless to say, that Catholic education at this time stands head and shoulders above every other form of education that we have in this country. And the cost is approximately 30% less.

If you look at our own Cleveland school system, they can boast of an average graduation rate of 36%. Do you know what it costs you and me as far as the other 64% who didn’t make it?

Look at your own records. You (Catholic schools) graduate 89% of your students Your graduates in turn go on to graduate studies at the rate of 92%, and all at a cost to you. To the rest of the Americans it’s free, but it costs you Catholics at least 30% less to educate students compared to the costs that the public education system pays out for education that cannot compare.

Why? Why would these enemies of the Church try to destroy an institution that has 230 colleges and universities in the United States with an enrollment of 700,000 students?

Why would anyone want to destroy an institution like the Catholic Church which has a non profit hospital system of 637 hospitals which account for hospital treatment of 1 out of every 5 people not just Catholics in the . United States today?

Why would anyone want to destroy an institution like that? Why would anyone want to destroy an institution that clothes and feeds and houses the indigent 1 of 5 indigents in the United States, I’ve been to many of your shelters and no one asks them if you are a Catholic, a Protestant or a Jew; just “come, be fed, here’s a sweater for you and a place to sleep at night” at a cost to the Church of 2.3 billion dollars a year?

The Catholic Church today has 64 million members in the United States and is the largest non-governmental agency in the country. It has 20,000 churches in this country alone. Every year they raise approximately $10 billion to help support these agencies.

Why, after the “respected” publication, the New York Times, running their daily expose’ on the Church, finally came to the conclusion of their particular investigation, which was ongoing for a long time. And guess what: buried in the last paragraph, they came up with a mouse. In their article “Decades of Damage” the Times reported that 1.8% of American priests were found guilty of this crime whereas your own Cardinal Ratzinger in Rome reported 1.7% the figure I gave you earlier.

Then again they launched an attack on the Church and its celibate priests. However, the New York Times did not mention in their study of American priests that most are happy in the priesthood and find it even better than they had expected, and that most, if given the choice, would choose to be priests again in the face of all this obnoxious PR the church has been receiving.

Why wouldn’t the New York Times, the paper of record they call themselves, mention this? You had to read it in the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times refused to print it.

If you read only the New York Times, you would begin to believe that priests are cowards; craven; sexually frustrated; unhealthy criminals; that prey on the innocent. What a shame.

Sometimes freedom of the press should have some type of responsibility, too. So I say this to you: instead of walking around with a hangdog look ?? I talk to a lot of Catholics all the time, “how’s everything going?” “Well, in the face of things I guess okay”. That’s the wrong answer! The wrong answer!

Also, I ran into a fellow who said they started a discussion at some social function on pedophilia and he said, “I excused myself and left the room.” I said, “why did you do that?” “Well, you know how it is”. I believe that if Catholics had the figures that I enumerated here, you don’t have to be ashamed of anything. Not only are you as good as the rest, but you’re better, in every respect.

The Catholic Church helps millions of people every day of the week, every week of the month, and every month of the year. People who are not Catholics, and I sit on your Catholic Foundation and I can tell you, and what I am telling you is so. Priests have their problems, they have their failings just as you and I in this room do, but they do not deserve to be calumniated as they have been.

In small measure let’s give the media its due. If it had not come out with this story of abusive priests, (but they just as well could have mentioned reverends, pastors and rabbis and whatever), probably little or nothing would have been. done. But what bothers me the most is this has given an excuse to every Catholic hater and Catholic basher to come out loudly for the denigration of your Church.

If some CEO’s are crooks it does not follow that every CEO is crooked; and if some priests are sexually ill it does not follow that all are sick. And your Church teaches that you’ve got to take in the sick and a priest who is this way has to be taken in and cannot be thrown out the 21st story of a building. He’s got to be looked upon and given the same type of health that you would give anybody who has a broken leg or cancer or whatever.

The Church today, and when I say the Church keep in mind I am talking about the Catholic Church, is bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. The agony that Catholics have felt and suffered is not necessarily the fault of the Church. You have been hurt by an infinitesimally small number of wayward priests that, I feel, have probably been totally weeded out by now.

You see, the Catholic Church is much too viable to be put down by the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Cleveland Plain Dealer take your choice, they can’t do it, they’re not going to do it and sooner or later they are going to give up. But you’ve got to make sure that you don’t give up first.

In 1799 a notice was placed in a French newspaper that a citizen Brachi had died in prison. Little did the people realize that this was Pope Pius VI who had occupied the Chair of Saint Peter for 25 years. He had been taken prisoner by Napoleon’s forces and died in prison as an indigent. At that time the thought was that this was the end of the Catholic Church, this was 200 and some odd years ago. And the reason was that there was no Pope to succeed him at that time.

But you fooled them then, and we’re going to fool them again.

I’ve been talking more or less about the United States of America as far as the importance of the Church. Let’s bring it home to Cuyahoga County and the seven surrounding counties.

In education, you save the county 420 million dollars per year. Wherever there’s a Church and most other churches have fled the inner city there’s a Catholic Church; and wherever there’s a Catholic Church there’s an absence of drug dealers. You talk to any bank that has real estate mortgages in the inner city, and they will tell you that the one thing that keeps up the value in that particular area is your Church. I’ve seen, for example, on Lorain near the Metro Catholic Schools there at the Church the nuns used to go out in the morning with brooms and sweep away the drug dealers from around the particular area.

On Health and Human Services, the homeless, adoption, drugs, adult care and so on, you saved the county 170 million dollars a year.

At the end of the day the difference that your local Catholic institutions make in the eight counties that comprise this diocese are several billion dollars per year.

Why don’t we hear about this? Why, because it’s good news. If some priest was caught with his hand in the collection plate it would be front page news. But the fact that you have thousands of students being education (sic) free, as far as the rest of the country is concerned, doesn’t make news. Why? Because it is not newsworthy, it’s not dirty.

I’m not here to deny freedom of the press, but I believe that with freedom comes responsibility, and with rights you have an obligation. You cannot have rights that are irresponsible.

Unfortunately, our society today is protected by all rights and ruled by some of their wickedness. Anybody who expects to reap the benefits of freedom must understand the total fatigue of supporting it. The most important element of political speech, as Aristotle taught, is the character of the speaker. In this respect, no matter what message a man brings in, it shouldn’t collide with his character.

The other day was shocked when I opened up America, a Catholic magazine, and my good friend Cardinal Keeler, who is a very dear friend of mine, was being fingerprinted by the Baltimore police not for a crime, but as part of the new law put in place that all members of the Church hierarchy must be fingerprinted.

Amos, of the Old Testament, accused the people of Samaria in words that seared and phrases that smote. They “cram their palaces,” he said, “with violence and extortion.” They had “sold the upright for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals” from Gucci, no doubt. But he also said that all this could be reversed, if only the people of Samaria would turn away from their own self absorption and toward those who, however silently, cry out for help. “Then,” promised Amos, “shall your justice flow like water and your compassion like a never failing stream” (Amos 5:24)

The worst feature of contemporary society is its tendency to leave each of us Locked up in himself or herself, connection less. To lessen this isolation we have developed all kinds of therapies spiritual, psychological, and physical front groups that meet and talk endlessly all day long in spas week spas, month spas, life spas. But none of these things, from primal screams to herbal wrap, seem to be doing the trick, any more than the huge houses and wine parties the.: the Samaritan did.

What we need to do is open our heart to the plight of others, even some of your priests who have been condemned. They’re human beings and they should be shown the same type of compassion we have shown anybody who is critically ill. We need to open our hearts to the plights of others, like our hearts were a dam, so that indeed our justice and compassion may flow to all.

What is essential is that each of us steps forward to hold out our hand to someone. There is no other way to walk with God.

One of the biggest Catholic bashers in the United States wrote “Only a minority, a tiny minority of priests, have abused the bodies of children.” He continues, “I am not advocating this course of action, but as much as I would like to see the Roman Catholic Church ruined. I hate opportunistically retrospective litigation even more.”

Now he’s talking about our tort monsters. “Lawyers who grow fat by digging up dirt on long?forgotten wrongs and hounding their aged perpetrators are no friends of mine.”

I’m still quoting this man, “All I’m doing” he said, “is calling attention to an anomaly. By all means, let’s kick a nasty institution when it is down, but there are better ways than litigation.” These words are from a Catholic hater.

I never thought in my life I would ever see these things.

Walk with your shoulders high and your head higher. Be a proud member of the most important non governmental agency today in the United States. Then remember what Jeremiah said: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” And be proud, speak up for your faith with pride and reverence and learn what your Church does for all other religions. Be proud that you’re a Catholic.

NOTE: Even though of the Jewish faith, Miller has been a staunch supporter of the Cleveland Diocese and Bishop Anthony Pilla. It was published in the May-June issue of the Buckeye Bulletin.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"I know my sheep..."


Jesus was walking around Heaven one day and came out by the gates where St. Peter was hard at work sorting out those who would enter Heaven from those who wouldn’t. Jesus said, “Pete, you’re at the gate a lot. When do you take a break?” Peter said, “Never. This is my job. All the time.” Jesus, feeling compassionate for his friend said, “Hey, I’ll take over for a while, why don’t you grab a cup of coffee.” Peter gladly said yes and went on his way. Jesus opened the Book of Life and looked up to the next person in line. “Name?” he said. “Mary O’Donnell,” the old woman responded. Seeing her name he said, “Ah, yes, here you are. Head right on in, we’ve been waiting for you…Next.” A middle-aged man stepped up and gave his name, “John Smith.” Jesus looked at the Book and didn’t see his name. “Sorry John, you’re not in here. You’ll have to take that elevator over there…press the down button…Next.” Suddenly an old man appeared before Jesus and he looked familiar. “And you are…” Jesus asked. The man responded, “I’m a carpenter. And, I was told that my son was in there. I’d like to see him. You’d recognize him, he’s got nail marks in his hands and in his feet.” Jesus was stunned, he leaned forward, looked at the old man, smiled and said, “Dad?” The man’s eyes widened and he looked at Jesus and said, “Pinnochio?”

“I am the Good Shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” We celebrate today the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. And, what a perfect day to be mindful of vocations as we hear this Gospel reading in which Jesus gives us this powerful image of Himself as the Good Shepherd. We first need to know a little bit about shepherds and what they do to understand what He means. In Jesus’ time, there were two kinds of shepherds. There was the hired hand for whom keeping the sheep was just the available job. He moved from flock to flock depending on the conditions of service and he would most definitely not risk his life for them. Seeing danger he would flee and leave the flock untended. Then there is the shepherd-owner of the flock who grows up with the flock and stays with the same flock all his life. He knows each and every sheep in the flock individually. He calls each one by name and knows everything about each of his sheep. He knows which ones are strong, which are weak; which ones might stray from the flock and would keep an eye on them. When in danger, he would risk his life to defend his sheep.

Jesus tells us that this is the kind of shepherd He is. He knows each one of us individually. He knows the cares and concerns of our lives. He knows our needs. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows what we can be. And this is the heart of vocation. Discovering our best identity – who we are called to be in God’s sight. God continually calls people. We must create environments in our lives, in our families where we help and allow people to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, so that they can follow where he will lead. The Good Shepherd is calling all of us to something. He is most definitely calling someone here today to the priesthood or religious life. The question is, can we hear His voice?

You know, people talk about the vocation crisis – what are we going to do, there aren’t enough priests and religious? I can tell you that there is no vocation crisis. All I have to do is show you the endless numbers of young people that I work with in this parish alone who love God, who are involved in many aspects of our parish life, who are always there when it comes to service, who very likely may have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. But, time after time, that seed of vocation planted in their hearts is not nurtured or encouraged by those around them.

Just think about your own experience for a moment. When was the last time you said to someone, “I think you’d make a good priest, or religious sister or brother?” Or, if someone expressed a desire to become a priest or religious, would you be more likely to say to that person, “Why would you want to do that?” I know in my own vocational journey, I heard that response very often. The crisis the Church is facing is not a vocation crisis, it is a crisis of vocation awareness. Young people are not encouraged today to think about a life dedicated to God through the Church. And we wonder why we have such a dwindling number of priests and religious?

It is up to us to be people who value the role that priests and religious can play in our lives. We have to be people who encourage our young to consider lives of dedication and service as priests and religious. I don’t know if I would be a priest today if it weren’t for the support I received from crucial people in my life as I explored this call – Dominican sisters who taught me and encouraged a vocation, my aunt Maureen who is a Sister of Mercy and who showed me the joy that can be found in religious life, Fr. Marc who was my first mentor and led me toward a life of priestly service, and most importantly my mother and father, who gave witness to me of what it means to live a Christian life.

I challenge all of our young people to consider living a life dedicated to God as a priest or religious. And, even more so, I challenge everyone here today to pray for vocations and just as importantly encourage vocations. If you’ve ever thought that someone might be called to the priesthood or religious life, tell them. Maybe they’ve been waiting for someone to confirm what they’ve been feeling inside. We cannot bemoan the problem of fewer and fewer priests without recognizing our own responsibility in this regard.

The question of vocation is all about identity. Who we are is what is important. And the only important answer to the question of our identity is who we are before God. St. Francis would remind his brothers, “You are what You are before God. That and nothing more.” The Good Shepherd helps us to see this. He knows who we are intimately and wants to help us grow to see ourselves primarily through the eyes of faith – as God’s sons and daughters. It is only when we know our true identity before God, we discover our vocation.
If this identity has been nurtured by those around us, and if we’ve been open to the Good Shepherd, we see it most clearly each and every time we gather around the Eucharistic table of our Lord. Receiving the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus, tells us something about ourselves. When we enter into that personal relationship with Jesus that we can only have in the Eucharist, Jesus helps us to discover who he has called us to be. We are most clearly the people we are called to be in the Eucharist. You want to know what Jesus asks of you, what Jesus wants you to do, what your vocation is – meet Jesus in the Eucharist and he will reveal it to you.

I’ve told my vocation story many times before. But, it all boils down to this. As a teen, I really didn’t have any faith. I had not yet begun a faith journey with the Lord. In my early 20s I felt drawn for the first time in my life to the Eucharist. When I began going to Mass, I started to have powerful experiences. The Mass was speaking to me in ways it never had before. I felt the presence of Jesus that I had never felt before. I remember receiving the Eucharist at one of these Masses and in a spiritual sense this was my first Communion because it was the first time that I truly believed in my heart that this was Jesus. And when I met him personally, for the first time, in that Eucharist, He began to show me who I really was and what He really wanted from me. It was through meeting Jesus in the Eucharist that I discovered my vocation, my calling, my place in God’s Kingdom. And you can too.

We have all been led here by a Good Shepherd who knows His sheep and wants the best for them. We will meet Him in a profound and special way in the Eucharist and discover who we are in God’s sight and what God has planned for us in His Kingdom.

“I am the Good Shepherd and I know mine and mine know me.”

Let us pray that more young men and women will have the courage to pursue the vocation that God is calling them to; that they will follow the Good Shepherd. And let us be the people who encourage them to do so.

May God bless the Church with many vocations and may God give you peace.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tearful Pope says Church will better protect young

Pope Benedict XVI, flanked by his secretary Georg Gaenswein, left, and Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, talks to journalist on an aircraft on his way to Malta, Saturday, April 17, 2010. The pope is scheduled meet with the president and visit a grotto linked to St. Paul. On Sunday he will celebrate an open air Mass and meet with young people before returning to Rome. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
By Victor L. Simpson
Associated Press Writer / April 18, 2010

VALLETTA, Malta—Pope Benedict XVI met Sunday with a group of clerical sex-abuse victims and told them with tears in his eyes that the Catholic Church would seek justice for pedophile priests and implement "effective measures" to protect young people from abuse, the Vatican and victims said.

Benedict expressed his "shame and sorrow" at the pain the men and their families suffered and prayed with them during the meeting at the Vatican's embassy in Malta, the Vatican said.

It was the first time Benedict had met with abuse victims since the worldwide clerical abuse scandal engulfed the Vatican earlier this year, and it marked his most personal and forceful statement on the spiraling scandal since a letter to Irish faithful a month ago.

"He prayed with them and assured them that the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future," the Vatican statement said.

The Vatican offered no further details of what measures would be implemented.

Victims' advocacy groups have demanded that the Vatican take concrete steps to protect children and remove abusive priests, saying the pope's expressions to date of solidarity and shame were meaningless unless actual action is taken.

The Vatican said the group of eight men, in their 30s and 40s, met with Benedict in the chapel of the Vatican embassy.

"Everybody was crying," one of the men, Joseph Magro, 38, told Associated Press Television News after the meeting. "I told him my name was Joseph, and he had tears in his eyes."

He said the men received a call Sunday morning to come to the embassy and that the pope spent a few minutes with each one of them. He said the overall encounter, which lasted about 35 minutes, was "fantastic."

Lawrence Grech, who led efforts to arrange the encounter, said the pope told each of the men: "I am very proud of you for having come forward to tell your story."

"It was something big," Grech said.

FULL ARTICLE: Tearful Pope says Church will better protect young

Monday, April 12, 2010

Preservationists decry redevelopment of historic New Bedford whaling building

Historian fumes at failure to save New Bedford site
By David Filipov
Globe Staff / April 12, 2010

NEW BEDFORD — In its prime, the Baker-Robinson whale oil refinery was a pillar of this port’s reputation as the whaling capital of the world. The factory excelled in using the products taken from sperm whales to produce the finest candles, the best lubricants, and the purest oil for lamps.

But the whaling industry left New Bedford in the 1920s, and the great cauldrons that refined oil in the Baker-Robinson plant never fired again. The hydraulic press that made candles out of spermaceti, a waxy substance taken from the whales’ heads, fell silent.

The Greek Revival structure was transformed into an ice house, a fish-processing facility for the Finicky Pet Food company, and finally an abandoned property fallen into disrepair, its bygone significance forgotten for decades.

Now, the 172-year-old Baker-Robinson building is back in the spotlight and embroiled in contro versy, its gray granite frame the subject of an often rancorous debate about how far New Bedford should go to preserve tangible links to its whaling glory days. Last month, the developer who owns the property cleared out the interior to make it a function center for a new hotel. Preservationists say the project has ruined an important historical site, and the city did nothing to stop it.

FULL STORY: Preservationists decry redevelopment of historic New Bedford whaling building - The Boston Globe

Posted using ShareThis

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Brit is it

Blimey, this is supposed to be America!

By Jan Freeman
April 11, 2010 | The Boston Globe

So you despise the phrase went missing? You think spot on is pretentious, at the end of the day is meaningless filler, and all such British vocabulary invaders should be deep-sixed in Boston Harbor?

Well, take heart: We are giving as good as we get these days, annoying our British cousins right back by exporting heaps of everyday Americanisms, along with a garnish of slang. The latest flurry of objections was touched off by BBC radio presenter Martha Kearney, who in a recent broadcast called on politicians to “fess up to” the need for spending cuts.

“Slack, lazy language,” said one listener. “What is wrong with just saying ‘confess’?” asked another. The Telegraph labeled the listeners’ response “outrage,” solicited a few more complaints, and ran a story about the threat of “creeping Americanisms.” And right on schedule, commenters queued at the paper’s website to unload their own peeves, both foreign and domestic. “Come on BBC — get back to using the term Railway Station, not the American Train Station.” “What about the latest word, ongoing. What is so wrong with continuing?” “What about all those BBC reporters and commentators, who wrongly say ‘different to’ when they mean ‘different from’?”

FULL STORY: Brit is it - The Boston Globe

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Pope and the New York Times

Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2010:

Cardinal Ratzinger did more than anyone to hold abusers accountable.

Unlike the Roman papacy, in certain circles the New York Times still enjoys the presumption of authority. So when the front page carries a story headlined "Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Deaf Boys," people notice.

Written by Laurie Goodstein and published March 25, the thrust is twofold. First, that the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, a priest who abused children at St. John's School for the Deaf in Milwaukee from the 1950s to the 1970s, went unpunished. Father Murphy, she wrote categorically, "was never tried or disciplined by the church's own justice system."

This all feeds the kicker: "the effort to dismiss Father Murphy came to a sudden halt after the priest appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger for leniency." In other words, Murphy got off scot-free, and the cardinal looked the other way.

Ms. Goodstein cites internal church documents, which the Times posted online. The documents were provided by Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan. They are described as "lawyers for five men who have brought four lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee."

What she did not tell readers is that Mr. Anderson isn't just any old lawyer. When it comes to suing the church, he is America's leading plaintiffs attorney. Back in 2002, he told the Associated Press that he'd won more than $60 million in settlements from the church, and he once boasted to a Twin Cities weekly that he's "suing the s--t out of them everywhere." Nor did the Times report another salient fact about Mr. Anderson: He's now trying to sue the Vatican in U.S. federal court.

None of this makes Mr. Anderson wrong or unworthy of quoting. It does make him a much bigger player than the story disclosed. In fact, it's hard to think of anyone with a greater financial interest in promoting the public narrative of a church that takes zero action against abuser priests, with Pope Benedict XVI personally culpable.

Asked about the omissions in an email, Ms. Goodstein replied as follows: "Given the complexity of the Murphy case, and the relative brevity of my story, I don't think it is realistic for you to expect this story to get into treating other cases that these attorneys have handled."

Martin Nussbaum, a lawyer who is not involved in the Murphy case but who has defended other dioceses and churches in sexual abuse suits, emailed me four interesting letters sent to Murphy from three Wisconsin bishops. These documents are not among those posted online by the Times. They are relevant, however, because they refute the idea that Murphy went unpunished.

In fact, the letters from these bishops—three in 1993 and one in 1995, after fresh allegations of Murphy's misconduct—variously informed the priest that he was not to celebrate the sacraments in public, not to have any unsupervised contact with minors, and not to work in any parish religious education program.

It's accurate to say Murphy was never convicted by a church tribunal. It's also reasonable to argue (as I would) that Murphy should have been disciplined more. It is untrue, however, to suggest he was "never" disciplined. When asked if she knew of these letters, Ms. Goodstein did not directly answer, saying her focus was on what was "new," i.e., "the attempts by those same bishops to have Father Murphy laicized."

As for Rome, it did not get the case until 1996, when the archdiocese of Milwaukee informed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Back then, the CDF handled abuse cases when they involved a breach of confession (Murphy was accused of using the confessional to solicit boys). At that time, too, the only real option for reducing Murphy to the lay state was a church trial. And the bishops in Wisconsin did begin a trial.

Ms. Goodstein's original article said simply that Cardinal Ratzinger's deputy halted Murphy's trial after the priest sent the cardinal a letter saying he was dying and asking for clemency. A follow-up Times article last Thursday clarified that Rome came down the way it did because Murphy had shown "apparent good conduct" for the last 24 years, and "it would be difficult to try him" because "so much time [had] passed between the crimes and the trial."

Plus, his bishops had already stripped Murphy of his priestly faculties, the equivalent of taking a doctor's medical license. Does all this really suggest people callously looking the other way?

A few years later, when the CDF assumed authority over all abuse cases, Cardinal Ratzinger implemented changes that allowed for direct administrative action instead of trials that often took years. Roughly 60% of priests accused of sexual abuse were handled this way. The man who is now pope reopened cases that had been closed; did more than anyone to process cases and hold abusers accountable; and became the first pope to meet with victims. Isn't the more reasonable interpretation of all these events that Cardinal Ratzinger's experience with cases like Murphy's helped lead him to promote reforms that gave the church more effective tools for handling priestly abuse?

That's not to say that the press should be shy, even about Pope Benedict XVI's decisions as archbishop and cardinal. The Murphy case raises hard questions: why it took the archbishops of Milwaukee nearly two decades to suspend Murphy from his ministry; why innocent people whose lives had been shattered by men they are supposed to view as icons of Christ found so little justice; how bishops should deal with an accused clergyman when criminal investigations are inconclusive; how to balance the demands of justice with the Catholic imperative that sins can be forgiven. Oh, yes, maybe some context, and a bit of journalistic skepticism about the narrative of a plaintiffs attorney making millions off these cases.

That's still a story worth pursuing.

Write to

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The empty tomb which held the dead Christ becomes the womb giving birth to eternal life


“Dear Katie,

I wrote this little poem for you and I hope that when we are married and celebrating our Golden wedding anniversary (50 years) that you will have this little love note from your sweetheart.

My Darling I will always Love you and hope and pray that you will always love me.

This is a …Valentine I am giving you, one that means everything that it says… written by your darling (I hope so).

I will close with all my love, to my love, from her Love. My Darling, My Katie, My Dear,

Loads of Love,

What I just shared is a love letter written from my grandfather to my grandmother a few years before they were married. It was 1935 and he was in the Navy, just 18 years old. I came across that letter in my desk drawer this week and was shocked to realize it has been eight years since my grandmother died. We buried her on the Wednesday of Holy Week eight years ago. When preparing for her funeral, I found that love letter in a in her bedroom. No one knew of that letter other than my grandmother and my grandfather. After finding that letter I shared it with my family and those gathered at her funeral.

I share it with you today because that experience has been on my heart this week because it taught me in a profound way what Easter is all about. It was the lesson learned while experiencing the grief of losing a loved one so close to the celebration of Easter, the celebration of resurrection. I remember heading back to my parish in on Holy Thursday that year, the day after burying my grandmother and thinking about my Easter Sunday homily not knowing if I could preach in the midst of my grief. But I realized in that moment, that if I couldn’t preach about the resurrection specifically when someone close to me had died, then perhaps I didn’t have the right to ever talk about it. You see, it is precisely when we’re in the midst of mourning, that the resurrection is the most powerful message ever – it is the message that says death is not the end, death doesn’t get the last word – there will be newness of life, and life everlasting!

Grief is a common experience and as we gather this Easter. I’m sure most of us have experienced some form of loss over the course of this last year or so. Perhaps we come to this celebration today with a heavy heart, or are praying for someone experiencing that kind of heaviness. There can be no more powerful message to the grieving heart then the message of Resurrection from the dead.

At the Easter Vigil last night, I sang the Exultet, which is the great hymn of resurrection sung only once a year. There is a powerful phrase in it which says, “The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy.” Brings mourners joy. I was struck by that last line – the power of the resurrection does so many things including bringing mourners joy. Joy! Why? Because there can be no greater joy known in the world then the realization of the resurrection in the face of mourning and grief.

The resurrection of Jesus, and our own resurrection, cannot be reduced to a pretty holiday of fancy clothing and colored candy eggs. This day isn’t about pastel colors, lots of candy and a good meal. It is much more tangible than that. It is about bringing the most profound joy into the most difficult moments of our lives.
This great event and celebration can’t be something that we merely commemorate today at this Mass, but it must be something we connect with at the most painful and difficult moments in our lives with the firm trust and firm faith that God can bring new life to any situation. Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Thessalonians, “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” We do believe and we do have hope.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the very center of what we believe. We must ask ourselves today more than ever, do we believe it? Do we truly in our hearts believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, that we too will be raised from the dead, that the loved ones whose loss we grieve have been raised from the dead? Can we stand with family members and friends who have lost someone and say, “He or she is with God now. They have been saved by the resurrection of Jesus.” We absolutely must have a faith that can say precisely that; otherwise, what is the point.

And why? Because we are a people who believe in the empty tomb. Our gospel stories today leave us with one thing – that empty tomb. There is no body left in that tomb because it has been raised! We are people of the empty tomb. What we so powerfully recognize is that the tomb that held the dead body of Christ has now become the womb giving birth to eternal life. This empty tomb speaks our faith – it speaks of a God who can conquer all things, who can triumph over all things, who can transform and change any situation into one that burst with life – not even death has power over this God of ours!

My friends, we need to be mindful of this message more today than ever before. In the midst of all of the danger and violence and strife and war in our world, God tells us that He will raise us to new life, new possibilities, new ways to care for one another, to love one another, to establish peace. God will renew us, transform us, change us, make us new, bring us to new life! The empty tomb has become the womb of new life!

Nothing can triumph over this. As St. Paul said, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

My brothers and sisters the tomb has no power over we who believe! O death, where is your sting? Nothing at all can keep us from being born to a newness of life – as individuals, as a community, as priest and people, as Church. I can say with confidence my grandmother is raised, my grandfather is raised, all the loved ones that we’ve lost have been raised, this Church will be raised, our warring world will be raised, each one of us will be raised - if we open ourselves and embrace the resurrection that Christ has planned for each of us.

The empty tomb has become the womb giving birth to eternal life! Jesus has risen as He promised – let us rejoice and be glad!

Happy Easter and may God give you peace!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The cloak of privilege becomes the apron of service


A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor's office. After his checkup, concerned, the doctor called the wife into his office alone. He said, “Your husband is suffering from a very severe stress disorder. If you don't do the following, your husband will most definitely die.” The woman quickly said, “Tell me, doctor, what I need to do.”

The doctor said, “Each morning, fix him a healthy breakfast. Be pleasant at all times. For lunch make him a nutritious meal. For dinner prepare an especially nice meal. Don't burden him with chores. Don't discuss your problems with him, it will only make his stress worse. And, most importantly, no nagging. If you can do this for the next 10 months to a year, your husband will regain his health completely.” On the way home, the husband saw how distressed his wife was and asked, “What did the doctor say?” The woman looked at her husband, thought for a moment and said, “The doctor said you're going to die.”

This humorous story points out a true reality tonight – if love isn’t paired with service, we cannot truly live.
We gather on this Holy Night and celebrate the beginning of the Sacred Triduum, three days which really serve as one singular feast. Tonight’s feast is in itself a mini-Triduum recalling three things in particular – the institution of the Eucharist, the mandate to service, and the establishment priesthood – but ultimately I think it focuses on God’s bounty; God’s goodness to us. On this holy night, our God spoils us.

The Sacred Triduum seeks nothing less than to inspire us; to remind us who we are as children of God and members of the Church; and most profoundly to remind us through dramatic moments of ritual and sacrament and prayer of one powerful reality – that Jesus Christ is real. We do not merely gather here tonight to tell a very old story. We gather here tonight to meet a very real person – our Savior Jesus Christ, who – although He walked the earth some 2,000 years ago – is still living and active and in our midst today. I’ll say it again, Jesus Christ is real!

In the history of the Church, the celebration of Holy Week and the season of Lent were originally established for those who were preparing to enter the Church as new members. Originally, new members entered only once a year, at the Easter Vigil. In my studies for my Master’s Degree in Liturgy, I did a great deal of reading about this process of preparation, particularly during the first 400 years of the Church and one thing I discovered is that these rituals in the early Church had the same goal as they do today – to help us realize what Christ has done for us and what we must, in turn, do for Christ.

There was tremendous drama in the rituals of the early Church. In our modern ritual, for example, when we do the renunciation of sin, we ask simple questions, “Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises?” But, in the early Church, they took those words and turned them into action. For example, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in a Holy Week sermon from the 4th century explains the renunciation of sin to catechumens this way. He said, “You began by entering the outer room of the baptistery. You faced westward, heard a voice commanding you to stretch out your hand, you spit in the face of Satan and renounced him as though to his face. I will tell you now, for you need to know, why you face westward. The west is the quarter from which darkness appears to us; now the devil is darkness, and wields his power in darkness. So we look to the west as a symbolic gesture, and renounce the leader of shadow and darkness. So, what each of you said as you stood there was, ‘I renounce you, Satan, you wicked and most cruel tyrant’…For Christ has dissolved that power by sharing with me in the blood and flesh…I renounce you, you cunning and most vicious serpent. I renounce you, you plotter, who under the guise of friendship have worked all manner of wrong and caused our first parents to secede from God.” Now, my friends, how’s that for drama?

Likewise when it came to approaching the altar for the Eucharist, catechumens were reminded of its awesome power. In a similar Holy Week homily, St. Ambrose instructed catechumens saying this, “Perhaps you say, ‘The bread I have here is ordinary bread.’ Yes, before the sacramental words are uttered this bread is nothing but bread. But at the consecration this bread becomes the body of Christ…When the moment comes for bringing the most holy sacrament into being, the priest does not use his own words any longer: he uses the words of Christ. Therefore it is Christ’s words that bring this sacrament into being. What is this word of Christ? It is the word by which all things were made. The Lord commanded and the heavens were made, the Lord commanded and the earth was made, the Lord commanded and all creatures came into being. See, then, how efficacious the word of Christ is. There was no heaven, there was no sea, there was no earth. And yet, as David says, ‘He spoke and it was made; he commanded and it was created.’ To answer your question, then, before the consecration it was not the body of Christ, but after the consecration I tell you that it is now the body of Christ. He spoke and it was made, he commanded and it was created…You see from all this, surely, the power that is contained in the heavenly word.” What is St. Ambrose’s point? Quite simply and quite powerfully that Jesus Christ is real!

A final modern example. This one comes from Pope John Paul the Great in a letter he wrote for Holy Week 2002. He said, “Before this extraordinary Eucharistic reality we find ourselves amazed and overwhelmed, so deep is the humility by which God ‘stoops’ in order to unite himself with us! If we feel moved before the Christmas crib, when we contemplate the Incarnation of the Word, what must we feel before the altar where, by the poor hands of the priest, Christ makes his Sacrifice present in time? We can only fall to our knees and silently adore this supreme mystery of faith.” My brothers and sisters, the profound question that God places in your heart tonight is this: Do you believe that Jesus is real and is present in our midst? If the answer is “yes” then we’ve got to be like the early Christians and that belief has got to be translated through the example of our lives into so much more than words – it must be lived in action; in service!

Our Gospel proclaimed tonight, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Have you ever wondered why it is that on this night that commemorates the institution of both the priesthood and the Eucharist, our Gospel is about foot washing? We would expect perhaps to have a passage from Matthew, Mark or Luke related to the Last Supper. Instead, we’re given the washing of the feet. John gives us an example where Jesus turns things upside down by a tremendous act of humility. The Master washes the feet of the servant. Peter is stunned, “You will never wash my feet!” But Jesus shows that the transformative power of His love is most effective when turned into humble service. In the washing of the feet, Jesus turn the Mantle of Privilege that comes from being the Son of God into an Apron of Service transforming the world with humble love. Jesus shows us that when we recognize Him in the Eucharist; when we internalized Him in our lives; we most powerfully make Him truly present to our world by the simple act of washing feet; simple acts of service.

John tells us why. He says, Jesus knowing “that he had come from God and was returning to God,” He rose from supper and took off his outer garment and took a towel and tied it around his waist. What is important is that this is the reason Jesus does what He does. Jesus washes feet not because He is the Son of God, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, but rather quite simply, He does this tremendous action because he knows that “he had come from God and was returning to God.” The fact that He, like us, is a bearer of the image and likeness of God is the reason for His humble action. As a human being, one of us, He has been created in the image and likeness of God and so He rose from supper and took off His outer garment and took a towel and tied it around His waist. My friends, we too, like Christ, have come from God and will return to God; and so we too must serve.

So, will we too take off our outer garment? Will we too take off all of the pretense and externals we put on; all of the things that keep us from humbly washing feet? We too must be reduced to nothing except God’s image shining brightly through us. We have come from God and will return to God and when we can take of our outer garments – the pride, jealousy, anger, selfishness and greed that keep us from helping others – then all things will be possible for us in and through God. We have to ask in our hearts, what are these outer clothes? What keeps me from washing feet? I heard someone say recently, when we are young we think we can change the world by sheer force of will. We march for our causes, speak out to be heard, we protest and write letters. But, as we grow in spiritual maturity we may realize that the way to change the world is to put down our placards and pick up a towel and basin.

St. Augustine said of the Eucharist, “We become what we receive.” When we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, He wants it to be fruitful in our lives, so that we can become a true reflection of Jesus in the world. My friends, the reality is that Service is Eucharist. Our Eucharist is not complete until it finds its fullest expression in acts of Christian charity.

There is a story about some ladies who met to study the scriptures. While reading the third chapter of Malachi, they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse: “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” Trying to understand this passage, one lady decided to visit a silversmith, and without telling him the reason for her visit, asked him to tell her about the process of refining silver. After he had fully described it to her, she asked, “Sir, do you sit while the work of refining is going on?” “Oh, yes,” replied the silversmith; “I must sit and watch the furnace constantly, for, if the time necessary for refining is exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be ruined.” She then asked, “How do you know when the process is complete?” He replied, “That's quite simple. When I can see my own image in the silver, the refining process is finished.” “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

My friends, on this Holy Night, look into the mirror that is Jesus Christ in His Sacred Body and Blood. Look there until you see your own image reflected in the face of Jesus. Then, become that mirror for the world, reflecting the face of Christ to all who see your face. So, my friends, what did the doctor say? He said, “You are going to live.” Let us be filled with His Real Presence here tonight and let us become his Real Presence in our world. Let us become like Him, washers of feet.

“‘Do you realize what I have done for you?...I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

May God give you peace.

Changing the impossible

HOMILY FOR THE 2nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, January 20, 2019: When my parents got married more than 50 years ago, my Mom came from a pract...