Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sanctuary! Sanctuary! ("The Bean Eaters" and Same Sex Marriage)

I recently finished reading The Bean Eaters by Barbara Kingsolver. Actually, it's a matter of rereading - I'd read it years ago, and now that it's on the reading list for a course I've been assigned I had to read it again.

I always enjoyed the book, so that wasn't a problem (I recommend it, by the way).

One of the subjects the book deals with is the Sanctuary movement of the 1980s. At the time, the U.S. government, in the name of fighting communism, supported a number of repressive regimes in Central America. Those regimes, or the death squads they permitted and supported, murdered a number of people for crimes like forming labor unions or supporting the poor. The dead included Blessed Oscar Romero, who was murdered because he spoke out. And Jean  Donovan and Sisters Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clark, and Ita Ford, were murdered by Salvadoran National Guardsmen for their work on behalf of the poor.

As a result of the murders and the oppression, a number of Central American people fled to the U.S. two of the characters in the novel were such refugees. But because of the U.S. government's support for the Central American governments, the U.S. government refused to grant these fleeing people refugee status - to do so would be to admit we were supporting dictators and murderers. So the Sanctuary Movement began. Individuals, organizations, and churches helped to smuggle and hide the refugees. Such actions were illegal, and the people involved could be arrested.

My parish at the time was part of that network, despite the risks. We hid a family - we knew them as the Gomez family - for many months, along with support from other local churches. I was not part of the direct hiding of the family, though I voted in favor of it and we supported what the church was doing. In fact, we had a party at our house and the Gomezes were among the guests. I still remember the father, Alejandro, telling one of my daughters who was prone to touching the animals too much, "No molesta da kitty." And I was part of the delegation representing the parish as a local Unitarian church was discussing becoming part of the movement. I recall one man getting up before the congregation pleading, "Even the Catholics are doing this." They voted no anyway; people did not want to break the law. The government caught up with the Gomezes, attempted to deport them, but members of the movement managed to smuggle them to safety in Canada. None of us were ever charged in connection with this, though we did not know for a while that we wouldn't.

I was thinking about those days thanks to the book, but also because of all the talk about what might happen to people of faith in light of some of the recent government actions, especially the Supreme Court decision concerning same sex so-called marriage. There have already been fines and lawsuits. What's going to happen in the future is unclear, but people are concerned. It would be a sanctuary moment involving smuggling people, but it could result in harassment, curtailment of free speech rights, more suits and fines, loss of business and jobs, and so on.

And the way things are going, the churches won't be able to offer sanctuary: They may be targets themselves.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Participating in homosexual "marriages"

A hypothetical situation:

I run a bakery and donut shop.

Billy Ray, the local head of the KKK, comes into my shop and orders a dozen donuts.

Should I serve him?

I would. I'm a professional, providing a service, and what he is asking does not conflict with my beliefs.

But then he says, "These are mighty fine donuts. You're a good baker. I'd like for you to cater our little KKK rally and cross burning this Saturday."

Should I serve him?

I would serve him donuts as an individual, but I would refuse to cater the rally. I think a lot of people would agree with me.

"Sorry, but no way, Billy Ray."

Now for reality: That's the situation with homosexual so-called marriages.

As individuals, I would serve homosexuals. You want a dozen donuts? Want to hear me perform at a coffee house? Want to buy a floral display for your desk at work? Sure. I'd serve them. They are not asking me to in any way assist with something counter to my beliefs. I'm just interacting with fellow human beings, fellow children of God. My brothers and sisters.

But if asked to perform at, provide services for a wedding? No. I could not in good conscience participate in anything counter to my religious beliefs - beliefs that are not just personal, but are defined by my Church.

In fact, I would not even attend such a wedding as a person in the pews, nor attend a reception.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in article 1868 -

Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them
- by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
- by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
- by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
- by protecting evil-doers.

Providing a service - as a baker, florist, musician, owner of a party house, etc. - is participating, something clearly forbidden. I would be advising if I helped to plan any part of the service. I would tacitly be approving them by my providing such services.

Even by attending the wedding or the reception I would be tacitly approving of what was going on.

Now there is the possibility I would be forced to play some sort of a role - the laws are getting pretty nasty out there. That's where "voluntarily" might come in. But it would have to be a pretty extreme situation for me to be so forced. The only possibility is for me as a church musician, but if my services were demanded and compelled by law - you play for others, so you must play for this one - I would just have to quit playing for weddings or receptions.

It would be nice if the bishops came out with a clear statement summarizing all this. Maybe they have, but I missed it. It would be great to hold it up before fellow Catholics who call on us to waffle, to compromise, to not be so rigid.

Then again, I don't think Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher had any such summary document.

There have been enough statements and explanations that it's easy for even a slug like me to discern what to do.

If it means legal problems, or alienating friends and even family, so be it.

Isn't that what Jesus warned us could happen if we follow Him?

I just hope it doesn't mean losing my head!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, June 27, 2015

I've been blocked on Twitter!


Must have been something that I said.

Or even that I dared to say anything.

Whatever the reason, yesterday, my Twitter account was locked. Right in the middle of the reactions to the Supreme Court same sex so called marriage decision. (ooo, bet that last part offended some! )

Now I am outspoken. I have been dealing with not only that decision lately, but also abortion, the HHS Mandate, the Pope's environmental encyclical, and more. And when I debate, I DEBATE. I don't back down (though I do stop if the other person/s make it clear they don't want to continue). I am careful to avoid calling people names, or insulting them. But I do sometimes get sarcastic. And there is that off-beat sense of humor. Like that question about wondering if people would defend my first amendment rights if I burned a rainbow flag as a protest.

Which, by the way, I never would do, and I would not encourage others to do. I was just making a point.

The wife wonders if I hit a nerve because I was able to respond to all the arguments and misinformation with facts and evidence, and so someone turned me in. You know, like maybe the Catholic who said there's nothing in the New Testament that condemns homosexuality - and I responded by citing a number of verses. (The person responded by quoting Fr. Richard Rohr at me. I let that one go!)

Anyway, I've appealed. The Twitter people seem to required a cell phone number to help unlock an account, which doesn't help me as I don't have a cell phone. Even if I did, it might not be enough.

Ironically, the last post I made was to tweet a newspaper piece about how the newspaper will no longer run any op ed or letters to the editor opposing SSM, just as they would not run racist or sexist pieces. Right. My only comment was to add "Shhh" to the link. That's it.

And then, my account was locked.

Maybe the wife has a point.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, June 25, 2015

We have an obligation to speak out when we see evil and sin

I get tweaked occasionally because I speak out against various evils/sins I see in our world. Don judge. Don't offend. Mind your own business.

Now, one can go too far, certainly, and can be unnecessarily offensive in how one speaks out. I constantly have to monitor my own words and actions.

But ...

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I have an obligation to speak out:

1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
- by participating directly and voluntarily in them; - by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them; - by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so; - by protecting evil-doers.

I am culpable if I could have spoken out, but didn't.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pope Francis raises hackles - but he was right!

Pope Francis delivered some off-the-cuff remarks to youth in Turin on June 21 that have caused some people who like to react negatively to him to react negatively. Again.

The focus of their disgruntled reaction were comments about arms manufacturers and the issue of the allies not doing what they might have been able to do to reduce or even halt the massacre of the Armenians or the Holocaust.

Here's Zenit's translation of the offending section: 

It makes me think one thing: people, leaders, entrepreneurs that call themselves Christians, and produce arms! This gives some mistrust: they call themselves Christians! “No, no, Father, I don’t produce them, no, no .... I only have my savings, my investments in arms factories.” Ah! And why? “Because the interest is somewhat higher ...” And a double face is also a current coin today: to say something and do another. Hypocrisy ...l But let’s see what happened in the last century: in ’14, ’15, in ’15 in fact. There was that great tragedy in Armenia. So many died. I don’t know the figure: more than a million certainly. But where were the great powers of the time? Were they looking elsewhere? Why? Because they were interested in war: their war! And those that died were persons, second class human beings. Then, in the 30s and 40s the tragedy of the Shoah. The great powers had photographs of the railroad lines that took trains to the concentration camps, such as Auschwitz, to kill the Jews, and also Christians, also the Roma, also homosexuals, to kill them there. But tell me, why didn’t they bomb that? Interest! And shortly after, almost contemporaneously, were the lager in Russia: Stalin ... How many Christians suffered, were killed! The great powers divided Europe among themselves as a cake. So many years had to pass before arriving at “certain” freedom. It’s that hypocrisy of speaking of peace and producing arms, and even selling arms to this one who is at war with that one, and to that one who is at war with this one!

I understand what you say about mistrust in life, also today when we are living in the throwaway culture, because whatever is not of economic usefulness is discarded. Children are disposed of, because they are not developed or because they are killed before they are born; the elderly are disposed of, because they are not useful or are left there, to die, a sort of hidden euthanasia, and they are not helped to live; and now young people are disposed of: think of that 40% of young people who are without work. It is in fact a rejection! But why? Why are man and woman not at the center of the global economic system, as God wants, but the god of money. And everything is done for money.

He's right. He's raising legitimate questions. Too often our policies and actions are ruled by national interest and profit rather than what is right. We see that with abortion and war, certainly, but also in so many other areas. Think of the tobacco companies, drug companies, pornographers, the entertainment industry, tanning salons - I could go on and on. I think we will all be called to account for how we made our money, and how we invested it.

"And everything is done for money."

Pax et bonum

Crowded GOP field is fine with me

I'm a registered Right to Life Party member. (The party technically exists in NY, but is basically inactive in state elections, and so I'm considered a "blank.")

When I vote, I vote for the candidate, based on his/her positions. Most often, I vote for Republican candidates, only because they are more likely to go along with Catholic teachings on social issues. I have issues with the GOP on a number of economic issues, though. I was a member of the Democratic Party for more than 30 years - I was even the member of a city committee, and was once asked to run for town office as a Democrat! - but that party moved too far away from Catholic teachings.

When people ask what party I belong to, my shorthand response is "Catholic."

Which brings me to 2016.

None of the Democrats really appeal to me - though I find Sanders amusing! - because of their positions. Which means I will likely vote for a Republican for President, unless they nominate someone I can't support. Then I'll go Third Party again (as I did, for example, in 2000 and 2004).

Which means that I am locking at the 128 GOP candidates to see who I could support. The number of candidates seeking the nomination gives me a chance to find a few I could support.

In 2008, I backed Huckabee. I'd vote for him this time around, and he is my first choice. At this point, Rubio is my second choice. I could vote for Walker or Jindal if they got in. Maybe Kasich. I'd vote for Santorum, though I don't think he has a chance. I might even be tempted to vote for a ticket with a Bush on it (in 6 chances before, I had never voted for a ticket with a Bush on it!).

I'm watching, listening, checking them all out. It's nice to have some choices.

Pax et bonum

Friday, June 19, 2015

Trying to follow the example of St. Francis. Trying ...

There is a story of St. Francis on e time becoming the target of a porter's abuse, with the porter accusing him of all sort of things, and calling him names. St. Francis did not argue back or challenge what the porter said or did to him. He humbly accepted it, and thanked God instead. The saint called it perfect joy.

I was thinking of that story the last couple of days.

At work, I had created a local version of a national course that was very successful and popular. My students scored much higher than the national average on the test. It was my favorite course. I was proud of it, and invested a lot in cresting and constantly improving it. But perhaps the course was too popular. Last year, I had to deal with a huge enrollment split among multiple sections, and was overwhelmed by the paper-grading load. I was constantly exhausted, fell behind in getting papers back in a timely fashion, and coupled with depression, withdrew from a lot of activities and spoke about the paper load and complained, probably too much. My big mouth.

Anyway, the principal, who had to hire a new teacher anyway, hired one who was certified to teach that particular course. I thought he was going to divide the sections of the course between us. No such luck. He gave all the sections to the new teacher. I was given some regular classes, and some fluff courses.

Maybe the principal thought he was helping me, given the obvious strain I had been under, but I took it as a demotion. It also didn't help that he recruited this new teacher, based on contacts through friends.

When I asked why I had totally lost the class, not even getting one section, he replied that he thought this teacher was better qualified to teach it.

That hurt. As I mentioned, when I taught the course my students scored well above the national average. In addition, I now have to turn over all my successful lessons and plans to this new teacher.

Part of me wanted to argue. Part of me wanted to cite the scores. Part of me wanted to point out that the course became so popular because of the students' success, because of the way I have developed the course, because of my teaching style that students seemed to like.

But that might make things worse.

And then I thought of St. Francis. He accepted the porter's misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

And I thought of Fr. Solanus Casey, another role model who humbly accepted whatever role he was given.

I will accept it. I will. I will follow their lead. But right now I am struggling with that. I have to be careful not to comment, make sarcastic comments, ply the martyr. I need to do the best job that I can with the courses I have.

But it's not easy.

The fact that I'm writing this shows I am not there yet.

St. Francs, Father Solanus, please pray for me.

Pax et bonum