Monday, August 30, 2010

A Model for Reforming CCHD

The U.S. Catholic bishops are set to receive a review board’s report on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development at their November meeting. The report may include recommendations for reform of the controversial program. The Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph has already implemented a reform of CCHD locally. A discussion of our reform is offered here as a possible model for the bishops’ deliberation. The author, Jude Huntz, is Director of our diocesan Human Rights Office.

A Model for Reforming CCHD

By Jude Huntz

In recent years the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has come under a great deal of scrutiny and criticism. CCHD had a relationship with the national organizing group ACORN that was problematic, and when a variety of problems were discovered with ACORN the national CCHD office took steps to defund the organization. Yet, the relationships with community organizing groups across the country have been the fundamental problem with many CCHD grants in all parts of the country. Many have called on bishops to cease their support of the collection entirely, and some bishops have chosen that path for a variety of reasons. Others have called for a reform of CCHD, and in response to those requests the U.S. Bishops established a review board last fall to examine all aspects of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. This November the bishops will receive a report from this committee and recommendations will be made on the future of the campaign.

While we pray for the work of this review board and await the outcomes, it may be fruitful to look at one possible model of reform that we have established in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. This model was established last year after a thorough review of the history of CCHD in our diocese and careful reflection on current funding decisions by the Human Rights Office of the diocese, the office charged with oversight of CCHD by Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn. In addition, Bishop Finn met with his fellow bishops in November to hear their experiences and to obtain their advice. What follows is the result of these two processes.

I. The Negative Decision

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development offers two possible national grant opportunities: community organizing grants and economic development grants. In studying the various problems with CCHD grants nationally, we noticed that the problematic grants all fell under the community organizing area. These organizations have traditionally attempted to create a voice for populations that have historically had no voice in the political and economic decisions of society. This goal is laudable in itself, but as time progressed the nature of organizing evolved. Many organizing groups began to develop a partisan edge to their work. What is more, many organizing groups began to advocate for causes that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, most notably in the areas of abortion, same sex marriage, and health care reform.

Our first decision, then, was to cease funding all community organizing projects in our diocese and not to grant such requests in the future. While the diocese still supports the concept of providing a voice to those who lack a voice in our society, we believe that there are a variety of mechanisms to achieve such a goal that can take place without funding community organizing groups that offer positions contrary to Church teaching. In the Church’s political advocacy work, we believe in the following principle: no permanent enemies, no permanent allies. Funding community organizing groups gives the impression that we are permanent allies when in fact we are not. We welcome alliances with such groups on particular issues, and we recognize that we will have to be on opposing sides on other issues. The decision not to fund community organizing groups enables the Church to maintain her autonomy while respecting the autonomy of these groups as well.

The Church will continue to advocate for the voiceless in our society, and we will do so using our diocesan offices, state Catholic Conferences, and the work of the laity. It is not necessary to outsource our advocacy work to organizations that may not agree with our principles in all areas of Catholic Social Teaching.

II. The Positive Decision

Our focus for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, then, is in the area of economic development. In our experience, we have found that economic development is an effective tool in combating poverty and in developing authentic community throughout the diocese. This focus enables the diocese to promote a fundamental principle of Catholic Social Teaching – the importance of and the right to work. The surest way to overcoming poverty is providing jobs for people, and the economic development grants of CCHD have provided us the opportunity in our diocese to help organizations develop jobs for people so that people can help themselves.

In our review of CCHD grants nationally and locally we discovered that in all the controversy around CCHD grants, no grants to economic development organizations were problematic in any way. We also discovered that these projects were highly successful in the work they do in providing jobs for people living on the margins of society. Furthermore, our diocese has had a great deal of success in the area of economic development grants to various organizations. We have seen first hand businesses and jobs created through this work, and it led to the discovery that people need and want to have a job more than they need and want to be organized into the work of agitation.

III. The Outcomes

This year of grant funding represents the first year of our new model for CCHD in our diocese. Our diocese chose to recommend national grant awards to two organizations – the Kansas City Urban Youth Center, and Northwest Missouri Enterprise Facilitation.

KCUYC provides after school programs for urban youth who live in the poorest apartment complexes in our city. These programs include tutoring, athletics, community gardening, and organizational skills. This work enables young people to be successful in school and life, providing the surest way for a group of people to break the cycle of poverty in which they find themselves.

NWMEF began as a project of the diocesan Human Rights Office and became its own non-profit several years ago. This organization provides low income people with business mentoring so those who want to start their own business can do so, and others who want to expand their business can receive the help they need to do so successfully. This work takes place in rural counties of Northwest Missouri where the program has created a great number of jobs. The success of this work is being recognized by the State of Missouri, which would like to expand the model to other rural communities across the state.

The diocese also selected four organizations to fund with local CCHD money that comes from our share of the national collection as well as a private endowed trust we have for such local diocesan grants. The organizations are as follows:

1. Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty: This organization works for the abolition of the death penalty in Missouri and advocates for restorative justice programs in our prisons. Restorative justice programs seek to rehabilitate offenders and help them to become productive members of society again.

2. Amethyst Place: This facility is a residential and treatment center for single mothers overcoming drug and alcohol dependence. The families can live at Amethyst Place for up to two years. Mothers receive treatment for their addiction, job training, and counseling. The children attend school and receive free medical care.

3. Troostwood Youth Gardens: This organization operates a community garden in one of poorest neighborhoods of Kansas City. Volunteers recruit and train young people to plant and develop the garden, market the sale of the fruits and vegetables grown there, and be responsible for the reinvestment of proceeds into the garden project. The program has taught young people valuable skills of self-reliance, providing them a path out of the cycle of poverty.

4. Seton Center: The Seton Center is a Catholic social service agency that provides a food pantry, clothing pantry, free dental clinic, an alternative high school for troubled youth, senior citizen programs, and a community action network for the neighborhood association. The work of the high school provides an educational path for troubled young people which helps enable them to escape the cycle of poverty.

There are many other worthy organizations in our diocese deserving of such funds, and we hope to help them in future years with our CCHD funding model.

The reform of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is a goal to which our diocese is committed. We believe that we have demonstrated that not only is reform possible, but that it is happening here in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Our hope is that our model will provide the national office and other dioceses a framework for the work of CCHD across the country

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Divine Mercy and the Death Penalty

When the US Conference of Catholic Bishops launches Respect Life Month in October, one of the seven major articles made available in their Respect Life Program will concern the Church’s teaching on the Death Penalty. The article titled, “Divine Mercy and the death penalty,” is by Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn and is posted in full below:

image Divine Mercy and the death penalty

By Most Rev. Robert W. Finn

“The greater the misery of a soul, the greater its right to My mercy. . . . On the cross, the fountain of My mercy was opened wide by the lance for all souls—no one have I excluded!” (Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul, p.1182)

“Help us O God of our salvation; . . . according to thy great power, preserve those doomed to die!” (Psalm 79:9, 11)

In January of 1999, Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit to St. Louis. When he met with Governor Mel Carnahan of Missouri, the Holy Father asked him to commute the death sentence of Darrell Mease, who was scheduled to be executed in the next weeks. Carnahan granted the Pope’s wish, saying he was moved by the Pope’s appeal for mercy.

The Pope did not request a reevaluation of the merits of the condemned man’s case. Rather, he presented a simple and straightforward petition for mercy. The sentence was changed from death by lethal injection to life imprisonment without parole. The common good of society remained protected from the perpetrator. Justice was not confounded, but a higher purpose was served in putting aside the irreversible remedy of death.

The Church’s stance on capital punishment has always been based on the responsibility to protect society. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the legitimate civil authority is obliged to defend people from a dangerous criminal. At the same time, he cautions, “The execution of the wicked is forbidden wherever . . . the wicked are not clearly distinguished from the good.” (Summa Contra Gentiles V., Book III, c.146). Besides reminding us of well-known cases where innocent people were condemned to die, this should remind us that as Christians we are urged not to see anyone as irredeemably wicked.

An alternative to the death penalty

Prior to his intervention in St. Louis, Pope John Paul had laid out his case for the limitation of the use of the death penalty in his encyclical The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) (1995) and in his extraordinary 1997 modification of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). He still allowed for the application of the death penalty as a just choice that authority may make in its responsibility to safeguard society from the unjust aggressor. Yet the revised text goes on to say: “Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.’”

The sworn responsibility of authority to secure the common good is not easily laid aside. But here the Church, convinced that society can be protected without executing dangerous criminals, charges us to look to a less violent, less final remedy. The Catechism directs us to a solution that preserves the common good without definitively curtailing the individual good of the perpetrator, offering him the opportunity for redemption. Each man, no matter how sinful and flawed, has a final purpose and call to salvation, one that we ought not too easily or unnecessarily preempt.

The above is the “ought” for laying aside the death penalty: legitimate authority can fulfill its responsibility using lesser but sufficient means for protecting the common good. But we should add that the argument of Divine Mercy, while never violating justice, transcends the human “ought.”

Mercy surpasses justice and heals hurts

The correct dispensing of justice always seeks to provide something which is well suited to the person and the circumstance. Justice is giving each person his “due.” (CCC, no. 1807) When Jesus freely submitted to human “justice,” He provided by means of His Cross an act of justification that, because He was divine, satisfied all our sins.

God did not abolish justice. Rather, He intended by the offering of His Son to purge human justice of any sense of wrath or revenge. Time and again we see that violence begets violence in a seeming unending spiral. God told St. Faustina that “Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy.” (Diary, p.300)

In the Divine Mercy, God receives and quenches human vengeance in Jesus’ own wounded Heart. In this Heart, which is an abyss of love, mercy overcomes hatred. Mercy brings healing that is impossible on a merely human level. Divine Mercy can restore hope, because it flows from the heart of the Risen Christ who, once and for all, has vanquished the finality of death. The deep truth that faith teaches is that only in the context of mercy -- God’s mercy and our own forgiveness and mercy -- can we, as wounded human men and women, find healing and hope. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7).

A prayer of reparation

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which God gave to the world through St. Faustina, is a beautiful prayer that has a powerful efficacy to repair the hurt wrought by sin. As we respond to God’s call to continuing conversion, the invocations of the Chaplet may be offered as a litany of reparation. With our hearts turned to the Father, we use the Chaplet to profess and invoke God’s mercy accomplished in Christ’s sorrowful Passion. We unite ourselves with the sacrifice of His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

When human efforts seem futile and human solutions leave us empty, we pray the Chaplet to beg for a new beginning: the healing of the damage done by our sins and those of others. Our plea for mercy will not fail to reach the Father.

Christ’s execution and the gift of Divine Mercy

The Church’s annual novena to the Divine Mercy begins on Good Friday, the day of the execution of Jesus. The hour of mercy is the hour of His saving sacrifice. This is when blood and water gushed out for our salvation. “On the cross, the fountain of My mercy was opened by the lance for all souls -- no one have I excluded.” (Diary, p.1182) This is the moment that shook the world and stirred the faith of the pagan centurion to say, “Truly, this was the Son of God.” (Mt 27:54)

As we seek a reason to put aside the practice of the death penalty, perhaps the best motive is our desire to imitate God in His mercy toward those for whom Jesus died. Mary, Mother of mercy, pray for us and teach us to show mercy to others.
Most Rev. Robert W. Finn has been bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph (Missouri) since 2005. A former chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Task Force on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person, he is currently a consultant to the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities. The accompanying article is a component of the 2010-2011 Respect Life Program of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What Makes a Man Interesting

By Santiago Ramos

I had been spending too much time on YouTube, watching the newest Dos Equis beer ads featuring its famous “Most Interesting Man in the World.” (On “wingmen”: “It doesn’t take more than one person to talk to a woman.” On drink umbrellas: “Unless your drink is expecting rain, you should probably reconsider.”) Scrolling through the sidebar of related videos, I came across an interview with Jonathan Goldsmith, the actor who plays the world’s most interesting man, from the 2009 World Music Awards.

“If I watch this,” I told myself, “the Most Interesting Man in the World will become completely demystified. There is no way Jonathan Goldsmith is as interesting as his advertisement persona. I will no longer take as much pleasure in watching (and re-watching, and then watching again) these ads.”

The ads, in case you’ve missed them, feature a sophisticated, adventurous, bearded man, either sitting at a bar, surrounded by pretty girls, airing witty advice (as cited above), or performing adventurous exploits around the world (presenting gifts to queens, feeding endangered birds on dangerous mountain cliffs, playing cards with Mayans). At the end of every ad, the Most Interesting Man in the World says two things: “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis,” and, more importantly, “Stay thirsty, my friends.”

I decided to watch the interview. I was in a mood to slay idols, to do away with distractions. These ads held a seductive grip from temple to temple, across my forehead and over my eyes. I was spending too much time on them. So I watched the interview. But I got more than I bargained for.

Consider this exchange:

Goldsmith: I was sitting in a restaurant the other day and a fellow came over, he said, “You’re the guy.” “Yeah,” I said. He said: “I asked my seven year-old son yesterday, What do you want to do when you grow up? He said, I want to be the most interesting man in the world.” Made me feel good.

Fawning Lady Interviewer: How many kids say that?

Goldsmith: Well, a lot of people say that, not so many children. But he was seven. And the other day, an elderly man said, “Ohh, if I could do it all over again…” So it runs the gamut. It’s nice.

Fawning Lady Interviewer: Very nice.

He was demystified, yes. But I was horrified. I couldn’t get to sleep: I spent half the night staring at the ceiling, wondering about the poor old man who confided his regrets to Jonathan Goldsmith. How did Goldsmith respond? Most likely, whatever he said wasn’t very interesting. Yet the old man’s question is a gift for the rest of us who are smarter than Goldsmith: Assume the old man’s perspective, and wonder what life is about, even when most of it has already passed and it hasn’t been too interesting.

From the point of view of its intended audience—the young—the World’s Most Interesting Man is easily attractive. The world opens up to him as a direct function of his wonder and his courage. His only sacrifice seems to be a steady career, and he never seems to lack the affection of women (though we never find out if he has any children). His sophistication and savoir-faire (highlighted in the shorter “advice” commercials) is a different feature of his character altogether, which some people might find even more interesting. For the young who look forward, the Most Interesting Man in the World is a role model but also, more importantly, a prophet of possibility.

But for our old man, the case is different. Possibility doesn’t point backwards in time. The old man resigns himself to a wistful looking-back, and either he felt this sadness deeply or kept it at arm’s length. Perhaps he’s like the aging Ulysses in the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, who at the end of his long odyssey, wants to set sail once again: “Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/ To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” In any case, talking to a not-so-interesting actor was of no help. The only help would be a new horizon of possibilities in life (which probably don’t include playing cards with Mayans or climbing jagged rocks), and a different understanding of experience as such.

I wonder if Jonathan Goldsmith himself realizes that his hair is getting white, too. The accumulated experiences of the World’s Most Interesting Man will one day end—and then what? He won’t want to do it “over again,” but he might want to “still do it.”

The most interesting thing in these ads, then, is not the adventures but the adventurer. The adventurer has an impulse for the world that is bigger than the world itself, and that crashes against the limits of the world. The old man, in this sense, is as interesting as the Most Interesting. But once we understand this, and we look out ourselves with awe (as Allan Bloom puts it), we need assurances that reality will respond—that there is a way to “stay thirsty” and “still do it.”

Santiago Ramos is a graduate of Rockhurst University in Kansas City and has written for First Things (online), Commonweal, The Pitch, Traces, Image Journal and various blogs. He is currently studying toward a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Boston College.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cardinal DiNardo Urges House to Support ‘ No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’

The chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Pro-life Secretariat has written today to all members of the House of Representatives urging them to support and co-sponsor H.R. 5939 by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).

Smith’s bill actually goes farther than simply fixing the abortion provisions of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”. It permanently codifies the provisions of the Hyde Amendment for all federal government agencies and programs and ensures conscience protection as well. Current abortion funding restrictions are piecemeal, require annual re-authorization and have been subject to various interpretation by unelected officials and courts, the cardinal explains.

Cardinal DiNardo makes the excellent point, that a single statutory ban on federal funding of abortion would allow debate on important issues like health care and annual appropriations bills to be on the merits of the bills themselves, “instead of being endangered because ideologues favoring abortion want to use them to reverse or weaken longstanding federal policy on abortion funding.”

The full text of Cardinal DiNardo’s letter is below:

August 20, 2010

Dear Representative:

The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R. 5939) was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) at the end of July, and already has 166 co-sponsors including 20 Democratic members. I am writing to urge you to support and co-sponsor this important legislation if you have not yet done so.

H.R. 5939 will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years: The federal government should not use taxpayers’ money to support and promote elective abortion. Even public officials who take a “pro-choice” stand on abortion, and courts that have insisted on the validity of a constitutional “right” to abortion, have agreed that the government can validly use its funding power to encourage childbirth over abortion.

So secure is this agreement, in fact, that some in the past have simply assumed that it is already fully implemented at all levels of the federal government. For example, some wrongly argued during the recent debate on health care reform that there was no need for restrictions on abortion funding in the new health legislation, because this matter had already been settled by the Hyde amendment. However, the Hyde amendment is only a rider to the annual Labor/HHS appropriations bill; and while it has been maintained essentially intact by Congress over the last 35 years, it only governs funds appropriated under that particular act.

In reality, federal funds are prevented now from funding abortion by riders to various annual appropriations bills as well as by provisions incorporated into specific authorizing legislation for the Department of Defense, Children’s Health Insurance Program, foreign assistance, and so on. On various occasions a gap or loophole has been discovered that does not seem to be addressed by this patchwork of provisions – as when unelected officials in past years were construing the Indian Health Service or the Medicare trust fund to allow funding of elective abortions, and Congress had to act to correct this grave situation. While Congress’s policy has been remarkably consistent for decades, implementation of that policy in practice has been piecemeal and sometimes sadly inadequate.

The absence of a government-wide law against federal funding of abortion has led most recently to the passage of major health care reform legislation that contains at least three different policies on federal funding of abortion – none of which is consistent with the Hyde amendment (now Sec. 508 of the Labor/HHS appropriations bill for the current fiscal year) or with similar longstanding provisions that govern all other health programs. For example, one provision of the final Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act technically complies with the first sentence of Hyde (against direct and traceable funding of abortion procedures themselves), but violates Hyde’s second sentence (against funding health plans that cover abortions) – and then violates the spirit of the entire amendment, by directly forcing conscientiously opposed citizens in many plans to fund other people’s abortions through their health premiums (sec. 1303). Another provision appropriates its own new funds outside the bounds of the Hyde amendment and allows those funds to be used for abortions or not, depending on a decision by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (sec. 1101). Yet another provision leaves out any reference to Hyde, and allows its new funding for community health centers to be governed by the underlying mandates in the authorizing legislation for these centers – mandates that in other health programs have been interpreted by the federal courts to require federal funding of abortion (Sec. 10503). These disparate policies are not compatible with the Hyde amendment, or even with one another. This is one reason why passage of a bill like H.R. 5939 is overdue.

The Catholic bishops of the United States strongly support legislation to correct these and other abortion-related problems in health care reform (H.R. 5111/S. 3723). But by implementing the policy of the Hyde amendment throughout the federal government once and for all, H.R. 5939 would prevent such problems and confusions in future legislation as well. Federal health legislation could be debated and supported in terms of its ability to promote the goal of universal health care, instead of being mired in debates about one lethal procedure that most Americans know is not truly “health care” at all. Annual appropriations bills could be discussed in terms of how their funding priorities best serve the common good, instead of being endangered because ideologues favoring abortion want to use them to reverse or weaken longstanding federal policy on abortion funding.

H.R. 5939 would also codify the Hyde/Weldon amendment that has been part of the section containing the Hyde amendment in annual Labor/HHS appropriations bills since 2004. Hyde/Weldon has ensured that federal agencies, and state and local governments receiving federal funds, do not discriminate against health care providers because they do not perform or provide abortions. It is long overdue for this policy, as well, to be given a more secure legislative status. No hospital, doctor or nurse should be forced to stop providing much-needed legitimate health care because they cannot in conscience participate in destroying a developing human life.

In short, I urge you to co-sponsor the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and help ensure its enactment.


Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
Archbishop of Galveston/Houston
Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Prop 8 Judge’s Denial of Stay Order is Too Cute by Half

Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker today denied a motion to stay his ruling declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional. His written justification for denying the motion provides ample evidence that Walker should have recused himself from the Prop 8 trial. In responding to the reasons Prop 8 proponents offered for a stay pending appeal, Walker shows himself to be merely willful and more than a little cutesy.

In addressing the argument that a stay is warranted given the proponents likelihood of success on appeal, Walker, astonishingly argues that the proponents likely don’t even have standing to appeal. Walker argues, “California does not grant proponents the authority or the responsibility to enforce Proposition 8.”

And here the cute begins. He argues that only the state has that authority:

In Lockyer v City & County of San Francisco, the California Supreme Court explained that the regulation of marriage in California is committed to state officials, so that the mayor of San Francisco had no authority to “take any action with regard to the process of issuing marriage licenses or registering marriage certificates.”

The right of citizens to defend a democratically enacted law in court is here rendered akin to Mayor Newsom’s unilateral and illegal decision to start issuing same-sex marriage permits, ie., both are illegitimate. Since only the state can regulate marriage, Walker argues, the only people with standing to challenge his ruling would be the governor or attorney general. Since neither of them are likely to do so, there is no likelihood of an appeal even progressing, Walker argues. So no stay.

This is really extraordinary – the implication being that if the people of a state pass a law that the governor doesn’t like, and a trial court (with an obviously biased judge) throws out the law, then the people have no right to appeal.

If that is not bad enough, Walker’s final argument should cause alarm to every American regardless of their position on Prop 8. Walker argues there is no “public interest” in a stay, despite the fact that the public very clearly expressed their interest at the ballot box. Here Walker explains the proponents’ position:

Proponents also point to the public interest as reflected in the votes of “the people of California” who do not want same-sex couples to marry, explaining that “[t]here is no basis for this Court to second-guess the people of California’s considered judgment of the public interest.”

His tyrannical response immediately follows:

The evidence at trial showed, however, that Proposition 8 harms the State of California.

So the people vote democratically that marriage is to be between one man and one woman. A partnered, gay judge decides that would be bad for the State of California. Therefore, the people of the State of California no longer have any business pursuing what they believe is in their interest. The judge has decided what their interest is.

Walker then backs this up citing the aforementioned support of Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Brown for same-sex marriage, as if this also defines the interest of the people of California, notwithstanding their clear vote to the contrary.

Walker’s full ruling is here. I’ll be following what actual legal minds have to say about it over the next few days. Certainly the 9th Circuit will review it before it goes into effect August 18. But my first impression is that Walker’s stay ruling is even more pernicious than his vain original ruling.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Marian Days 2010 – Day 1

DSC_9445 Marian Days 2010 had its official kick-off declared by Springfield – Cape Girardeau Bishop James V. Johnston at a 7:00 p.m. outdoor Mass last night attended by tens of thousands of Vietnamese Catholics from throughout the U.S. and Canada. But the Vietnamese who travel to Carthage, Missouri each year in thanks to and in honor of Our Lady had clearly already been there for a while.

In fact, the 130 mile drive down south on 71 highway from Kansas City was not what I’d expected. I’d driven through another mass gathering in an isolated location before – the annual Harley rally in Sturgis, South Dakota – and you could see it coming for three states. But here, I approached Carthage on a virtually empty highway, and even along route 571 into town, there was no traffic and no Vietnamese to be seen walking along the streets.

I was beginning to worry this year’s event would be a flop. It wasn’t until I turned a corner onto the campus of the Dòng Đồng Công religious order (Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix) that I saw the massive camp city of Vietnamese Catholics. Every single inch of the massive grass areas around the main buildings of the campus that wasn’t being used for an official function had a tent on it. While Marian Days doubles or triples (and more) the 13,000 population of Carthage each year, the impact is very compact, in and around the home of this religious order.

Of course, many prefer not to rough it and stay in hotels. I booked late, so I’m staying in Joplin, 15 miles away, and even here the guests are mostly Vietnamese.

So on to some pics:

At the entrance




Inside Assumption Hall, people stop to pray at the statues of various saints, each with their own neon halo.


The real reason I’m here – food. Making fresh rice wrappers here.


Thang Tran served me up my first and very excellent bowl of phở đặc biệt. He’s raising money to build a bigger church for his growing parish on Oklahoma City. The children pictured are helping out, but aren’t his. Thang just got married three weeks ago.


Sister M. Julianna of the Holy Family of Nazareth is selling foor to raise money to build a new church for her 1,200 family parish in Arlington, Texas. They currently worship in a converted Food Lion. Sister Julianna is the DRE.


Entrance Procession for Opening Day Mass.


A similar number of priests and sisters flanked the other side of the altar at the opening Mass. I counted about 160 concelebrants.


Bishop James V. Johnston


Bringing up the gifts.


More pics and posts to follow.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Magnitude of Missouri's Rebuke

On the front page of Drudge this morning, the lead item blares in all-cap red "BLOW TO O: MO SAYS NO". But here in Missouri, you'd be hard pressed to find the tiny bullet point "Missouri sets up challenge to federal health care law" on the Kansas City Star's homepage. It gets less billing than their promo for the "Hottest people, places and trends" feature in Ink magazine. So is Missouri's rebuke to Obamacare a big deal or not?

Let's look at the numbers. Proposition C, which rejects the Constitutionally questionable federal health care insurance mandate, garnered 71.1 percent of the vote last night.

- The 667,680 people who voted for Prop. C outnumbered the combined number of people who voted for the winners of both the Democratic and Republican Senate primary races.

- The number of people who voted in the Prop. C contest outnumbered the total number of people voting for all Senate primary candidates.

- The number of people voting for Prop. C outnumbered the total number of people voting for all Republican candidates for Senate, meaning that despite a lopsided Republican turnout, support for Prop. C was thoroughly bi-partisan.

- Even assuming the unlikely occurrence that 100 percent of the Republican turnout voted in favor of Prop. C, that means that at the very minimum, 25 percent of Democrats also supported the measure.

All this despite the fact that:

- Only $115,000 was spent by proponents of Prop. C, while the Missouri Hospital Association spent $300,000 to defeat it, according to the Missouri Record whose editor managed the Yes on C campaign.

- There was a near news blackout on the very existence of the initiative.

- Annectdotally speaking, I never saw a single Yes or No on Prop. C sign and didn't receive a single communication from either campaign, despite being a 100 percent turnout household.

- The only other major statewide race was the Senate primary to select candidates to replace Kit Bond and the result was a foregone conclusion for both parties. Robin Carnahan took 84 percent of the Democrat vote and Roy Blunt took 71 percent of the Republican vote.

- Even the Catholic bishops of Missouri who'd taken strong stands against aspects of Obamacare, took a neutral position on Prop. C - preferring to spend their energies on attempts to exclude abortion from the scheme.

So, with little publicity and virtually no prodding, 7 out of 10 Missourians who voted yesterday sent an unmistakable rebuke to Obamacare. You can call that symbolic. You can say the federal courts will overturn it anyhow. And you might be right on both counts. But politicians who dismiss it are gonna have a heck of a time in November.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Spoof - Dos Equis 'Most Interesting Man in the World'

Someone linked this hilarious video on twitter a few days ago. I can't believe by the view count it doesn't seem to have gone viral yet. Enjoy: