Friday, December 2, 2011

Co-Founder of Major U.S. Catholic Charity Dies

Bud Hentzen, co-founder of Kansas City based charity Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), died November 30. The 30 year old charity he helped found has served more than 650,000 children and aging through their tremendously successful sponsorship program which matches donors with individual children and other beneficiaries worldwide.

Hentzen was 83 and news of his death in Wichita was sent out today by CFCA’s Carlos Casas.

CFCA has a low-profile compared to other well-known Catholic and Christian charities, but it has grown to be one of the largest because of the trust its sponsors have in the organization and the loyalty they continuously prove to deserve.

Hentzen was a tremendous Catholic – K of C, Serra, Holy Sepulchre, 9 kids and 52 grand and great grandkids. May he rest in peace and may his efforts continue to prosper to the benefit of God’s children in need. In lieu of flowers, please join CFCA. Instructions are in the release below:

CFCA co-founder Bud Hentzen dies at 83

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Dec.2, 2011) — Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), a lay Catholic organization based in Kansas City, Kan., is mourning the passing of co-founder Bernard A. “Bud” Hentzen. Hentzen died Nov. 30, 2011, in Wichita. He was 83.

Hentzen, along with three siblings, CFCA President Bob Hentzen, the late Jim Hentzen and Nadine Pearce, and their friend, the late Jerry Tolle, founded CFCA in 1981 to help provide much-needed assistance to families living in extreme poverty in developing countries.

"Bud was the face of CFCA to many of the church institutions — Catholic Press Association, Knights of Columbus, Serra Club," said Scott Wasserman, chief governing officer of the CFCA governing board.

Through the years, Hentzen remained an active member of CFCA and recently traveled to Kansas City to attend a board meeting and celebrate the organization’s 30th anniversary.

Hentzen served CFCA in various capacities, most recently as director emeritus on the governing board. His contributions helped the organization grow from a small home-based charity into one of the 200 largest U.S. nonprofit organizations listed by Forbes. Since CFCA’s founding, sponsors and donors have contributed more than $1 billion in total revenue, resulting in more than 650,000 children, youth and aging persons and their families being served through the sponsorship program.

Hentzen was an active member of the Wichita community through his involvement in various local organizations, including Catholic organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Serra Club and Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, a pontifical society entrusted with preserving Christian sites in the Holy Land.

Hentzen is survived by his wife, Joanne Wilkes Hentzen; nine children; and 52 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A daughter, Kitty Bircher, preceded him in death.

A funeral Mass for Hentzen will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 5, at St. Jude Catholic Church in Wichita.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to CFCA. Donations can be made directly through the CFCA website at www.hopeforafamily.org.

Founded 1981 in Kansas City, CFCA is a lay Catholic, international nonprofit working with families living in poverty in 22 developing countries. Through the contributions of U.S.-based sponsors, CFCA’s Hope for a Family program provides basic resources and encouragement to children, their families and the elderly. To learn more, visit www.hopeforafamily.org.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Time is not Slippin’ into the Future . . .

From the next edition of the Catholic Key comes our first Advent reflection on the Christian conception of time from Fr. Ernie Davis:

I’ve had an irritating song lyric stuck in my head on and off for thirty-five years.  All of you baby-boomers will recognize it immediately, and fans of the Steve Miller band will remember it too.

“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future.”

It is irritates me not only because it sounds whiney, but also because no matter how hard I try to see how time could act that way, I simply cannot.  The present doesn’t slip into the future, it slips into the past.  Whatever awareness I might have of the “now” is already past as soon as I reflect on it.

I love traveling, and I love reading history.  I’m interested in reading about and in seeing what people in various times and cultures accomplished and how they lived.  As I look at the great Pyramids of Giza or the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem or the bullet holes in Berlin, I experience not only the present reality, but also a past reality that was once as present as the moment now.  Once present, they all slipped into the past. We experience bits of long-gone present moments as we encounter their relics.

I can also see how the past may be slipping into the present.  We are continually on the leading edge of a wave that has already been somewhere.  We remember past experiences and they continue to shape us. We avoid some things in the present because of past bad experience, and we hope that something that happened in the past will happen again.  Isaiah remembered the great deeds of the Exodus and hoped that God would make them present again, helping and saving people from the distress they were experiencing.  We read about his remembering, and kindle a similar hope that God will act for us in our present distress.

It seems to me that Jesus invited his disciples – and us – to experience another reality in relationship to time, different from the way the present may slip into the past or the past into the present.  When he told his disciples, “Be watchful! Be alert!” he was not recalling a past action that could shape the present, and he was not looking at a present evolving moment.  He was looking ahead to a reality already present with God that is now breaking into the human present.  Rather than looking at relics of past events, he was inviting his disciples to look up and look ahead to events that are already rushing into our experience. He invited, warned, encouraged and cajoled them to reorient their lives to that new reality, a future reality charging in our direction.

"Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'" (Mark 13:33-37)

The Collect for the First Sunday of Advent seems to catch this invitation to reorient ourselves: 

“Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.”

Advent is an invitation to allow God to reorient us now to the coming reality.  It doesn’t invite us to make a pious wish, but step into a reality that is coming and eternal and becoming present.  That reorientation involves our human choices and it involves God’s action in our lives.  Our collect prays that God will give us the resolve we need to live in accordance to that new reality, that we may be truly righteous, just and loving.  When we catch glimpses of that reorientation in ourselves and in the lives of others, we might want to sing a new song, one the angels and saints are singing now and we’re just learning how to sing.

Fr. Ernie Davis is administrator of St. Therese Little Flower Parish in Kansas City.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

‘The saints are alive and they pray with us’

From the upcoming edition of the Catholic Key:

Praying With Our Eyes Fixed on Heaven

By Most. Rev. Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City – St. Joseph

In every Mass after the Consecration we express an affirmation about the power and promise of Jesus. The proclamation of the Mystery of Faith takes different forms, but it is a reminder to us that the profound truth that is taking place at the altar – the death and rising of Jesus truly made present - also tells us to look forward to the Day when we shall see the Lord in glory.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass unites us with Jesus and with a Communion of Saints and Souls who have gone before us. Throughout the history of Christian art and architecture some churches have fittingly provided reminders to us of the heavenly goal to which God calls us. Even while the orientation of the church may keep us aware of those with whom we are worshipping, at the same time many of the great churches provide us with images of God in heaven and the saints: They show us the heavenly Jerusalem which is our ultimate home. It is right for us to keep such realities in mind. I have often said that no matter what is going on in our life – sufferings or joys – the most important goal of everything we do is to get ourselves to heaven and bring with us as many as we can.

The month of November begins with the two great celebrations: All Saints day (November 1) and the Commemoration of All Souls (November 2). These feasts celebrate our communion with the “Church triumphant” in heaven, and the “Church suffering” in purgatory.

Near these feast days I have gathered with the priests to celebrate the Purgatorial Mass for all our deceased priests. I hope you also remember your family members, friends and “heavenly heroes” who have gone before us. Those in heaven intercede for us.

To me this is such a natural and beautiful part of our faith: that the saints are alive and they pray with us, just as we might ask a friend to remember our intentions in their prayers. This sense of saintly intercession and patronage has been lost in many Christian traditions, perhaps seeing this practice of turning toward Mary or the saints as a distraction away from Christ. In one of the Prefaces used at Masses for the Holy Men and Women, we acclaim God: “You are glorified in Your saints. In their lives on earth You give us an example. In our communion with them, You give us their friendship. In their prayer for the Church You give us strength and protection.” All Saints Day provides us with a special “feast day” when we can celebrate God’s power at work, not only among the extraordinary saints canonized or officially recognized by the Church, but also in “our saints;” our Moms and Dads, tiny babies who have died in innocence, and others who were instrumental in helping us know and love God.

The Commemoration of All Souls is likewise a meaningful reminder to us to pray for those who have died who may still need our prayers as they await the Day of the Lord. We know very well that our lives are not always perfect and faithful. We cling too often to selfishness and sin: things that keep us from loving God and our neighbor. In her wisdom and with the Light of the Holy Spirit, the Church teaches clearly about purgatory, that “All who have died in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, … after death undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1030).

In the Old Testament Book of Maccabees, we see how the faithful prayed and offered sacrifices for the salvation of those who died (2 Macc 12:46). We should never cease to pray for those who have gone before us. We can be sure that these loving prayers will never be wasted, even if our loved one has already reached heaven.

Throughout November – and indeed at all times in the Church’s liturgical year – we can renew our focus on the eternal life to which we are called by Christ. We do not travel alone. We continue to support, pray for, and encourage one another. And we have a host of heavenly friends supporting us on our journey of faith. We often miss having the physical presence of our loved ones with us. It is at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass when we are very closely united to the faithfully departed, the Church throughout the world, and the saints in heaven.

Mary, Mother of the Church, Queen of All Saints and All Souls, keep us on a safe path to your Son.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Diocesan Statement Concerning Action of Jackson County Grand Jury

The Jackson County Prosecutor announced this afternoon Grand Jury indictments surrounding the case of Shawn Ratigan. The Grand Jury returned misdemeanor indictments against Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn and the Diocese itself. Each was charged with failure to report suspected child abuse, a Class A misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to a one year prison term and $1,000 for an individual and up to a $1,000 fine for a corporation. Attorneys for Bishop Finn and the Diocese both entered pleas of not guilty in Jackson County Court.

The following statements were issued by the Diocese and Bishop Finn today.

 

Statements of the

Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph

and the
Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph

concerning
Action of the Jackson County Grand Jury

Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 14, 2011 -- Bishop Robert Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph today acknowledged receipt of the misdemeanor charges brought by the Jackson County Prosecutor.  Jean Paul Bradshaw and Tom Bath, counsel for the diocese, entered a plea of not guilty for the diocese. According to Gerald Handley and J.R. Hobbs, counsel for Bishop Finn, the bishop also entered a plea of not guilty.

“Bishop Finn denies any criminal wrongdoing and has cooperated at all stages with law enforcement, the grand jury, the prosecutor’s office, and the Graves Commission. We will continue our efforts to resolve this matter,” said Gerald Handley, counsel for Bishop Finn.

“In response to these charges Bishop Finn said, “Months ago after the arrest of Shawn Ratigan, I pledged the complete cooperation of the diocese and accountability to law enforcement. We have carried this out faithfully. Diocesan staff and I have given hours of testimony before grand juries, delivered documents, and answered questions fully.”

More importantly, to address the issues that led to this crisis, I reinforced and expanded diocesan procedures. We added the position of ombudsman, effectively moving the ‘gatekeeper function’ outside the Chancery and under the authority of an independent public liaison, a skilled and experienced former prosecutor. I commissioned the Graves Report to accomplish a full independent investigation of the policies and events that led to this crisis.  I ordered the report to be published in its entirety for the sake of full transparency.”

Today, the Jackson County Prosecutor issued these charges against me personally and against the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph.  For our part, we will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”

I ask the prayerful support and unity of our priests, our people, the parishes, and the Catholic institutions. With continued dedication, we will persevere in the many good works that are the hallmark of the faithful people of the diocese throughout its 27 counties and nearly 150-year heritage. With ever stronger determination, we will form, teach, and protect children and care for the spiritual and material needs of people who look daily to the diocese for assistance.”

With deep faith, we will weather this storm and never cease to fulfill our mission, even in moments of adversity,” said Bishop Finn.

In addition to full and complete cooperation with all levels of law enforcement, the diocese has taken an array of steps to ensure accountability for the protection of children in diocesan, parish and school programs.

  • June 9 – Engaged Todd Graves, a former U.S. Attorney and national co-chair of the Department of Justice Child Exploitation Working Group, to conduct an independent investigation of events, policies and procedures,
  • June 22 – Expanded diocesan administration with the appointment of Father Joseph Powers as Vicar for Clergy,
  • June 17 – Completed listening sessions with parishioners served by Shawn Ratigan,
  • June 30 – Appointed Jenifer Valenti, a former prosecuting attorney, as ombudsman to field and investigate all reports of suspicious or inappropriate behavior by clergy, diocesan personnel and volunteers,
  • August 15 – Reviewed requirements for the mandatory reporting of abuse and neglect with more than 925 employees and made the training available by video conferencing to others,
  • September 1 – Published the complete findings and recommendations of Graves Bartle Marcus and Garrett.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Luck, Power, and the 99 Percent

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key, by Santiago Ramos:

“WE ARE THE 99 Percent” is the online presence (http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/) of the Occupy Wall Street movement which is quickly spreading throughout our major cities. The idea behind the website is simple: to document the precipitous gap between the haves and have-nots in this country. As the homepage says:
We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.
The site is a place where the 99 percent can air their grievances. Anyone can send in a photograph consisting of a headshot (sometimes the face is partially covered) and a note (usually handwritten) which takes after the style of the message above. For example, here is a short one:
My dad subjects himself to harmful chemicals 50+ hours a week so I can go to college and I don’t even know if I’ll have a job when I graduate.
We are the 99%.
If we could find one common denominator, one common attribute to the mood of all these messages, it would not be desperation. It would be a sense of individual helplessness and indignation. But the very act of sending a photo to this website implies at least the flicker of hope—the hope that something will come of this movement.

The 1% who has everything has it either because of injustice or because they were lucky. But if they were so lucky and the rest of us are unlucky, that is also an injustice. “Either way,” the site seems to be saying in a collective voice, “we have to do something together, because what needs to be done no one person can do on their own. We have to help each other to fight injustice.”MediaPicOct14

THE LATEST EPISODE of The Office—“Lotto”—also deals with luck and money and jobs. Perhaps the show’s writers were attempting to address, however obliquely, the grievances of Occupy Wall Street. Regardless of their intentions, they touched on some of the same grievances that one encounters as one scrolls down the “We are the 99 Percent” page.

Because it’s The Office, they do it in a pleasant, inverted way. No one loses his job in this episode. Someone is simply passed up for a promotion, and doesn’t win the lottery.

The warehouse workers of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company—the guys who actually put the boxes of papers into the delivery trucks—win the lottery. The prize money is not quite a million dollars, and it is also split several ways among the workers who took part in the lotto pool. Nevertheless, the prize is big enough that they all quit their jobs and move on to better lives.

Darryl (Craig Robinson) was once part of the warehouse crew, and even part of the lotto pool, until about a year ago, when he took advantage of an opportunity to move upstairs for an office and a promotion: warehouse foreman. Now the workers he was the boss of all have cashed out, leaving him alone. On top of that, their winning ticket was based off of Darryl’s birthday.

Darryl spins into an existential crisis. He left the warehouse on a lucky break, in order to work for a better life for himself. Yet the real luck eluded him—insulted him, even. The real luck went to the people who stayed in the warehouse and won all the cash. He becomes a zombie, retreats into self-pity. He tells his boss to fire him.

The boss responds to Darryl’s request by reminding him that he (Darryl) had been promoted because he showed promise, and hunger, and hard work. But in the last year, he “stopped pushing”: his fire was gone. That’s why he was overlooked for another promotion, when that opportunity came along. That is the real reason why Darryl is unhappy: because he isn’t working to make himself better, and is thinking about luck.

Darryl learns his lesson: “My future will not be determined by seven white lotto balls… I control my destiny. I do.”

BEYOND CONTROL, THERE is only luck. That is what both the website and the TV show appear to be saying. The only difference lies in types of control. Darryl rediscovers his own will: he can control his destiny. The people posting on “We are the 99” are smarter than that, because they have suffered more. They can’t control their own destiny, but perhaps there is hope in mutual cooperation and, therefore, in politics.

Some will find value in “Lotto” because it reaffirms the importance of personal initiative. Don’t blame others for your problems: work harder. There is something to be said for that. But it is not something that should be said to most of the people who have shared their predicaments in “We are the 99 Percent.” Most of them have suffered from problems beyond their control—medical problems, corporate downsizing, the end of industries.

What strikes me about both the website and the TV show, however, is that neither appeals to charity. Not charity in the Salvation Army sense. I mean the word “charity” as it connotes friendship and dependency: we need others in order to get through life. Charity as solidarity: brotherhood in the face of suffering. Charity as love, and as something upon which to build the political order.

Charity won’t tell us (at least not directly) what political policies to pursue. But we all know how real it is: we all know how much we need someone else’s help when life becomes difficult. If nothing else, it is as real as luck and power. And perhaps, in times of anger and disappointment, it is something we should appeal to—not as a substitute for politics or hard work, but as a necessary precondition for both.

Santiago Ramos writes from Boston, MA.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Just the Facts – A Review of ‘The Way’

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

Just the Facts

The Way
DIR Emilio Estevez
SCR Emilio Estevez
Starring Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt, Yorick van Wageningen

Reviewed by Santiago Ramos

mediapicsept30 EL CAMINO DE Santiago, or the “Way of St. James,” is a pilgrimage route in Spain which stretches for around 500 miles, if you start from the most popular starting point in the French Pyrenees. The path leads right up to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in the Spanish region of Galicia, where the remains of St. James the Apostle rest and are venerated. Most pilgrims take a month or more to make the journey. For hundreds of years, pilgrims from all over the world have traveled the Camino, in a quest to pray before some bones which also had to travel—to Spain, from the Holy Land, where James had died.

Martin Sheen (whose real name is Ramon Estevez), had heard about the Camino from his elder relatives in the Old Country. For years he entertained the romantic idea of going on it himself, but he was not able to do so until he already had grandchildren. During a West Wing filming hiatus, he flew to Spain with his grandson Taylor (son of Emilio Estevez), and traveled the Way—by car. (“Like a good American,” as he said during a Q and A session I attended in Boston.) During the trip, his grandson fell in love with a Spanish girl, and so the Way and the pilgrimage became even richer with meaning for them.

The best way to celebrate this happy significance, this joyous pilgrimage, would be to make a film. Sheen wanted to make a humble documentary, but his son Emilio (who already has directing credits for Bobby under his belt) wanted to tell a story. And he wrote a script with his father in mind for the starring role.

THE RESULT OF their efforts is The Way. Martin Sheen plays Tom Avery, a wealthy ophthalmologist whose estranged son, Daniel (played by Emilio) dies on the first leg of the Camino. Traveling to Europe to retrieve his son’s body, he decides to go on pilgrimage himself, as a way to honor his son. While in the Pyrenees he befriends a policeman, a veteran of the Way who warns Tom that one only ever does the Camino for one’s self.

Along the way, Tom meets three other characters who make it clear that they are on the path for themselves. Yoost (Yorick van Wageningen) is an archetypical decadent Dutchman, smoking marijuana and gorging on food and wine. He is on the path for a very worldly reason: he needs to lose weight. Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), a Canadian woman in her thirties, is coy: she chain smokes and says that she will leave her last pack of cigarettes on the foot of the statue of Santiago, and never smoke again. But her real reason for traveling will become clear later on. Finally, Jack (James Nesbitt), aggressively annoying when you first meet him, endears himself to the audience once we figure it that he is a broken hearted writer who is trying to find something real to write about.

This collection of motivations might, at first, appear to have nothing to do with the bones of St. James. They are not explicitly religious. One month is a long time to go on pilgrimage. Without having the reasons for the pilgrimage clear in one’s mind, that month might feel like a year. If those reasons aren’t significant, that year might feel like a lifetime. Yet it is the case that people go on the Camino for many reasons, lofty and banal, as people who have been there will tell you. In the film, a gypsy tells Tom that the Camino “has nothing to do with religion.” Tom also runs into a priest suffering from brain cancer, who hands him a rosary. “I am a lapsed Catholic,” Tom tells the priest. But a few stops later along the Way, he finds the priest and thanks him for the rosary, saying that it has come in handy. Later on, Tom encounters real-life flagellants—bleeding, faces hidden, slowly walking the same path that he is on. The path is crowded with spirits.

This film places us before the brute fact of the pilgrimage. It shows that 1.) people go on it for many different reasons and from all parts of the world; 2.) that what they all have in common, in the most essential sense possible, is the need for something that they cannot obtain without help; and 3.) that they go to pilgrimage to this site, and not another. They go to Santiago, not to Madrid, or Disney, or the beach. That they travel the same road that has been traveled and this is the most interesting fact of all.

WHY THIS PILGRIMAGE and not that one? Or, why a pilgrimage at all? In a beautiful book titled The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage, the writer Paul Elie defines a pilgrimage in this way: “A pilgrimage is a journey undertaken in the light of a story. A great event has happened; the pilgrim hears the reports and goes in search of the evidence, aspiring to be an eyewitness. The pilgrim seeks not only to confirm the experience of others firsthand but to be changed by the experience.” All of the pilgrims in The Way have heard reports from a specific place, and they seek confirmation.

This film is the story of their experience. It doesn’t force coherence upon it, and it doesn’t explain it completely. But this film is also, in its own way, the report of a great event. It makes you want to go on the Camino itself, looking for confirmation and experience. The film is interesting in itself because it makes you interested in life itself. What more can you ask from a movie?

The Way opens in theatres October 7. Santiago Ramos is pursuing graduate studies in philosophy at Boston College.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Commemorating 9-11: In Mary, Christians and Muslims Find a Common Path

From the current edition of The Catholic Key, by Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn:

In its first joint statement after the 9-11, 2001, tragedy the United States Bishops echoed the hope and promise of our Lord: His formula for holiness with which He introduces the Sermon on the Mount.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted….
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy….
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Mt. 5:4,6,7,9)


“These words of Jesus challenge us,” the bishops wrote, “and offer us hope today as our community of faith responds to the terrible events of September 11 and their aftermath.”

The November 14, 2001 statement went on to prayerfully remember all who were killed and wounded, and to honor “the selflessness of firefighters, police, chaplains, and other brave individuals who gave their lives in the service of others. They are true heroes and heroines. … In these difficult days, our faith has lifted us up and sustained us. Our nation turned toward God in prayer and in faith with a new intensity.”

Ten years later we still experience the changes that, because of the terror of a day, continue to have their effect on the way we do business, on airport security, and the interchange between cultures.

Ten years later we can still see the need for healing. For those who lost a family member or friend or work associate, the need may be deeper as the effects of the tragedy are more lasting and profound. The necessity of supernatural faith and Christian hope is real. Far beyond material compensations, these supernatural graces from God are perhaps the only context in which the work of reparation can commence. Jesus Christ’s way of forgiveness and life is the only path that has the capacity to reach peace.

Several years ago I became acquainted with two women from New York. Erin von Uffel enthusiastically told me about a French Daughter of Charity, Sr. Marie de Mandat Grancey, who had given up her position of nobility and wealth in France to serve the sick and the poor in Paris and later in Turkey. She cared for Christian and non-Christian children near Smyrna, and went on to find the House of the Blessed Mother, Mary on a hill above ancient Ephesus.

Both Erin and her friend and co-worker Lorraine Fusaro had known people killed in the 9-11 attack. These two women of faith had begun to see the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation as vital steps on the road to peace. In their experience of Mary’s House in Ephesus, they saw a place where every year millions of pilgrims came to ask the intercession of Mary in her maternal love. The extraordinary difference in this ‘Christian’ shrine was that the majority of those who came to Mary’s House in Ephesus were Muslims. Here the children of Mary were gathering, Christian and Muslim alike, to seek favors from this Woman who is heralded in the Christian Bible and the Koran. Erin and Lorraine also saw Sr. Marie as a modern day instrument and holy apostle whom God used to reestablish this holy place where – in God’s own mysterious way – diverse creeds could find a common path to God.

Our Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, in another mysterious way, has been given a special role to play in studying the life of Sr. Marie, whom God used to provide a place where perhaps even the tragedy of 9-11 could be reversed, where Christians and Muslims together might come and pray, and find refuge in the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attack, let us pray for healing for all those who sorrow over the terrible losses of that day. Let us pray for renewal in our nation based on our deep supernatural faith in God; for reconciliation and peace with any we may regard as our enemies. After the example of Sr. Marie, who served the Christian and Muslim people of Turkey; through the intercession of Mary, Theotokos, Mother of God and Mother of all people, may we find a true path to the beatitude, reconciliation and peace to which we are called by Jesus Christ.

A resolution has been passed in our country recommending, on Sunday, September 11, 2011, “the observance of a moment of remembrance or prayer to last for 1 minute beginning at 1:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time (12 Noon Central), to the maximum extent practicable, by

a) ceasing all work or other activity; and
b) marking the moment in an appropriate manner, including by ringing bells, blowing whistles, or sounding sirens.”
Certainly, for us as Catholics, this can be a special moment of prayer, and, pastors may direct church bells to be rung, if possible.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Archbishop Gomez’ Provocative Entry to Immigration Debate

Over at NCRegister, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez begins an essay ostensibly on the immigration debate by lamenting that too often, “we are just talking around the edges of the real issues.” He then continues for nearly 3,000 words without saying a single thing about immigration policy.

But Archbishop Gomez is not himself “talking around the edges of the real issues.” He has done something new for a Church leader in America. He has provoked, in the best sense of that word, what should be a wide consideration among American Catholics of what it means to be American and what it means to be Catholic in America.

The Archbishop knows well that how an American Catholic understands his history and identity fundamentally frames his response to the immigration debate. As it stands, I think it’s fair to say, the self-concept of a good majority of American Catholics leads them inevitably toward a legalistic and often nativist approach to the immigration debate. Archbishop Gomez’ has done something groundbreaking for a church leader by suggesting not policy, but a framework for American Catholics to understand their history and purpose, which while true, is very little attended to.

As I read him, there are two major points in Archbishop Gomez’ article that I think should provoke a spirited round of self evaluation among American Catholics:

First - He asserts that the part of our history which is pre-statehood, ie., Hispanic and Catholic out West, should still inform our current American identity. He argues against a diminished or “downsized” view of American identity which begins at Plymouth Rock and proceeds only through the thirteen colonies on out to the Pacific.

The rest of the story starts more than a century before the pilgrims. It starts in the 1520s in Florida and in the 1540s here in California.

It is the story not of colonial settlement and political and economic opportunity. It’s the story of exploration and evangelization. This story is not Anglo-Protestant, but Hispanic-Catholic. It is centered, not in New England, but in Nueva España — New Spain — at opposite corners of the continent.

From this story we learn that before this land had a name its inhabitants were being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The people of this land were called Christians before they were called Americans. And they were called this name in the Spanish, French and English tongues.

From this history, we learn that long before the Boston Tea Party, Catholic missionaries were celebrating the holy Mass on the soil of this continent.
Catholics founded America’s oldest settlement in St. Augustine, Fla., in 1565.

Immigrant missionaries were naming this continent’s rivers and mountains and territories for saints, sacraments and articles of the faith.

We take these names for granted now. But our American geography testifies that our nation was born from an encounter with Jesus Christ.

California does not have a Jefferson City or a Washington, but it does have a Sacramento. It may surprise the people of Marin County, California that Pt. Reyes got it’s name because Spanish Carmelite priests celebrated Mass there on the Feast of the Three Kings in 1603, but it shouldn’t. San Diego, Santa Barbara and Carmel were named in similar fashion by Spanish Carmelites more than 150 years before Blessed Junipero Serra founded the California Missions and 250 years before California became a State.

Speaking of California and the Southwest, Archbishop Gomez says, “Before there were houses in this land, there were altars.” We should not forget that history or omit it as part of our story and identity, Archbishop Gomez argues. Nor should we fail to assume the mission of those saintly missionaries who named and evangelized the West and Southwest. They too and their mission are part of the American story:

This is the real reason for America, when we consider our history in light of God’s plan for the nations. America is intended to be a place of encounter with the living Jesus Christ. . .

. . .When we forget our country’s roots in the Hispanic-Catholic mission to the New World, we end up with distorted ideas about our national identity. We end up with an idea that Americans are descended from only white Europeans and that our culture is based only on the individualism, work ethic and rule of law that we inherited from our Anglo-Protestant forebears.

Second – And Archbishop Gomez does this more subtly, but he all but says that America’s needed economic, political, spiritual, cultural and moral renewal is dependent on “new, youthful” Hispanic Catholics and that this renewal has something to do with God’s plan for salvation.

. . .I believe our immigrant brothers and sisters are the key to American renewal.

And we all know that America is in need of renewal — economic and political, but also spiritual, moral and cultural renewal.

I believe these men and women who are coming to this country will bring a new, youthful entrepreneurial spirit of hard work to our economy. I also believe they will help renew the soul of America.

In his last book, Memory and Identity, written the year he died, Blessed John Paul II said: “The history of all nations is called to take its place in the history of salvation.”

We must look at immigration in the context of America’s need for renewal. And we need to consider both immigration and American renewal in light of God’s plan for salvation and the history of the nations.

Well, reading that again, maybe he wasn’t so subtle.

What is remarkably refreshing about Archbishop Gomez’ approach is his candor. His candor has been met with similar candor in opposition to his points over at the Register’s combox. I do not think that is bad.

All through the DREAM Act debate, it was very clear that argument over the contents of the bill was merely a proxy fight for competing broader narratives*. It seems that rational debate over policy will never be achieved until we confront, examine and debate those underlying narratives. I am very grateful to Archbishop Gomez for so forthrightly laying out his. I also think his has the benefit of being true, but regardless, he has introduced a new and vital way of approaching the debate.

Do read the whole thing.

* – I hesitate using the word “narrative” because I generally used it as a pejorative, but I am using this in a generous sense allowing that some narratives are narration.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Will China Buy Our Silence About Persecution of Catholics? – Bishop Finn

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

Will China Buy Our Silence About Persecution of Catholics?

By Most Rev. Robert W. Finn

In May of 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a Pastoral Letter to Clergy, Religious, and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China. There the Holy Father expressed his affection for the people and his solidarity with them. He explained the proper relationships within the diocese, between the dioceses and the State, and the indispensable link between the local Churches and the Church Universal. The Pope offered encouragement for unity and a guide for evangelization.

The challenging circumstances for the work of the Church in China have been intensified because of a separation that has existed between a state-supervised Patriotic Catholic Association, China’s only legal public form of Catholicism, said to have about 5 Million members, and an “illegal,” “underground church,” believed to be the home for perhaps 10 million clergy, Religious and laity, who have sought to maintain a more unfettered communion with the Vatican. It is acknowledged that many members of the Patriotic Association, bishops included, have attempted to keep ties with Rome.

In his letter of four years ago, the Holy Father seemed to succeed in establishing a conciliatory note, while clearly outlining vital principles of religious freedom, and the Church’s requisite foundation for governance and pastoral action. The Vatican was able to build some level of communications with the Peoples’ Republic, giving rise to what has been, for the last few years, a more active and helpful collaboration in the selection of bishops – within the Patriotic Association – on the Mainland.

As 2010 was drawing to a close, the mood of cooperation collapsed as the Patriotic Catholic Association began forcibly gathering bishops in order to bring them to Beijing for an assembly, the intended purpose of which was to elect a new national president of the Patriotic Association and president of the council of Chinese bishops. A number of bishops resisted and fled; others refused to participate in Masses that were to be part of the assembly.

An illicit ordination of a bishop – one in which there was no mandate from the Holy See or permission from the Holy Father – took place in November of 2010; another a few weeks ago on June 29, 2011, and another last week. In the Vatican’s daily Press Release of July 15, Vatican Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. spoke of the Pope's “sadness and concern at the latest illegitimate episcopal ordination in China” which, he said, damages “the unity of the universal Church.”

July 14, 2011, “at Shantou in the region of Guandong Fr. Joseph Huang Bingzhang was ordained a bishop without pontifical mandate. … A number of bishops who are in communion with the Pope were obliged to attend yesterday's ceremony.” Shantou already had a bishop, and the “new bishop” had been cautioned several times by the Holy See not to accept Episcopal ordination.

Following the June 29 ordination, the Holy See released a declaration highlighting how a bishop ordained “without the papal mandate, and hence illegitimately, has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See does not recognize him as the bishop of that diocese.” In a release of July 18, the Vatican formally confirmed the sanctions against the illegitimate bishops, expressed support for the conscientious resistance of those who remain faithful to the Holy See, and asked for a cessation of the hurtful actions, “The Holy Father, having learned of these events, once again deplores the manner in which the Church in China is being treated and hopes that the present difficulties can be overcome as soon as possible”.

Some news sites suggest that, after the forced elections of the Patriotic Associations, in which ballots were reported to have only one name, as many as ten ordinations of new bishops are expected.

Aside from the concern over the kidnapping and arrest of bishops compelling them to participate in fraudulent elections, there are grave implications for all Catholics in China who, whether within the Patriotic Association or in the so-called ‘illegal’ or underground church fear more interference in Church life, and a renewal of reprisals from years past.

According to a July 17 CNN story, leaders in China have, in turn, accused the Vatican of interfering in its religious affairs. Last November the U.S. State Department listed China as one of eight countries of "particular concern" on religious freedom. Specifically the U.S. accused China of persecuting followers of the Dalai Lama in Tibet and Uyghur Muslims in western China. While President Barak Obama met last week with the Dalai Lama, apparently no public mention has yet been made by the administration about actions against Catholics.

In his July 17 blog post, Deacon Keith Fournier of Catholic Online (www.catholic.org) lamented the silence of the U.S. and other western governments about these abuses against human rights and religious freedom in China. “We should ask ourselves the following question; with our growing economic reliance and dependence upon the Regime in China: Are we sacrificing our fundamental obligation to defend human freedom and human rights because we depend on the economic assistance of a repressive regime?”

At one time we might have insisted that China’s desires to be accepted and welcomed as a partner with the West must be met by an insistence that it respects this fundamental human right of religious expression and organization. Now we must be careful that our need to come, hat in hand, to China in the economic sphere doesn’t require us to be silent about such significant restraints on human dignity.

For our Catholic brothers and sisters on the Mainland who have endured so much to hold on to an authentic Catholic faith, this is hardly an intellectual exercise. They need our support in prayer and political clout. Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for your children. St. Joseph, defender of justice, pray for us.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Illinois Lied about Civil Unions Law – A Lesson for Other States

When a bill creating civil unions in Illinois was signed by Governor Pat Quinn in January, sponsors and activists for the law agreed that its provisions would not affect religious social service or adoption agencies. Now, quite predictably, it has. Today, the AP reports that Governor Quinn has determined the State of Illinois can no longer contract with Catholic Charities for adoption and foster care services because the charities don’t comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act.

The reason for “religious freedom” preceding “civil union” in the title of the law now appears to have been entirely cosmetic. Opponents of the bill charged that creating civil unions would impinge on religious freedom. The bill’s proponents went out of their way to say it would not – in order to get it passed.

According to an op-ed in the Quad City Times,

The bill sponsor, Sen. David Koehler, clearly promised in his Senate floor testimony that the law would not impact “the social services” or the “adoption agencies” of religious organizations.

Equality Illinois, a major proponent of the bill, even put together a widely distributed Q & A on the bill intended to dismiss “myths” about the bill’s intentions. One question read:

5.      How would the Act affect religious affiliated adoption agencies?

Answer: The Act would not impact faith-based adoption agencies or adoption procedures. The Act does not amend the Adoption Act, which governs both public and private adoption agencies.

But then the bill passed, and religious freedom went out the window as some in state government, the Catholic governor included, began to argue that the passed bill does not in fact exempt Catholic Charities from facilitating adoptions to those in civil unions.

The position of the state government on the religious freedom provisions of the law was so contrary to the rhetoric leading up to the bill’s passage, that in April, original sponsor Sen. David Koehler introduced an amendment to make it absolutely clear that:

“A child welfare agency that is religiously based or owned by, operated by, or affiliated with a bona fide religious organization may decline an adoption or foster family home application, including any related licensure and placement, from a party to a civil union if acceptance of that application would constitute a violation of the organization’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Under fire for introducing the amendment, Koehler said he had to keep the guarantee he made on religious freedom when he was championing the civil unions bill. “No group should have to go against what its religious principles were and that included organizations that were involved in adoption,” he told WBEZ radio.

Koehler’s amendment failed 7-6 in the Senate’s Executive Committee. For Illinois civil union supporters, the time for supporting guarantees of religious freedom had passed. With civil unions now the law, civil unions will also be the hammer against religious freedom that anybody could have predicted they would be. Everywhere civil unions or same-sex marriages have become the law, they have been used to shut Catholic Charities out of adoption and foster care services. And there is no reason to expect they won’t be used to erode other religious freedoms down the road.

Other states would do well to consider Illinois’ experience. When it comes to the hierarchy of freedoms in a post-civil union/same-sex marriage state, the desires of same-sex couples for affirmation trumps every other right – no matter how well you craft your legislation. It is far safer not to consider civil unions at all.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vatican Nuncio to U.N. Discusses ‘Nuclear Question’ in Kansas City

20110701_0236 Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikat, Apostolic Nuncio to the United Nations, gave a major address July 1 on the Church’s teaching on nuclear deterrence, the use of nuclear weapons and the goal of a nuclear weapon free world. Before his appointment to the UN post last year, Archbishop Chullikat served as Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq. The address at The Catholic Center of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph was sponsored by the diocesan Human Rights Office.

Two years ago, the diocese and Bishop Finn himself had made statements on a proposed nuclear weapon parts plant in Kansas City. It became clear that in the general public, and not just locally, the Church’s teaching on nuclear weapons and their proliferation is not well known. Bishop Robert Finn invited Archbishop Chullikat to address this subject because of the Nuncio’s expertise, but also to help make Kansas Citians more aware of the Church’s teaching on nuclear weapons.

Following the address, Archbishop Chullikat and Bishop Finn held a press conference on the subject. Look for more in the next edition of the Catholic Key.

This is probably the longest blog post you’ll ever see here, but since there is little readily available explaining the Church’s teaching on this important subject, it is well worth while publishing the full text of Archbishop Chullikat’s speech:

The Nuclear Question:

The Church’s Teachings and the Current State of Affairs
Remarks by Archbishop Francis Chullikatt
Kansas City, 1 July 2011

Thank you, Bishop Finn, for the opportunity to join you in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and address a very critical question that has such particular relevance here. The “nuclear question” is at once complex and straightforward: what do we do with the Cold War legacy of thousands of the most destructive weapons humankind has ever created? For more than 60 years since the dawn of the nuclear age, the world, and particularly the Church, has grappled with the role of these weapons, their legality and the moral implications of their production, deployment and intended use.

What I would like to do here is to share how the development of the Church’s teachings have advanced over the years and what those teachings say to us today. I will then explore the current status of efforts to address these unique weapons and specifically, the position of the Holy See.

As you all are aware, new attention is being paid to the unresolved problem of 20,000 nuclear weapons located at 111 sites in 14 countries. More than half the population of the world lives in a nuclear-armed country. Each year, nations spend $100 billion on maintaining and modernizing their nuclear arsenals.

When we are talking about the nuclear disarmament, the principle of good faith is vital within international law. Essentially, good faith means abiding by agreements in a manner true to their purposes and working sincerely and cooperatively through negotiations to attain agreed objectives.

Therefore, the current modernization of nuclear forces and their technical infrastructure are contrary to such good faith because they make difficult or impossible a negotiated achievement of global nuclear disarmament.

President Ronald Reagan at his second inaugural address in 1985 said: “We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth”. I think it is time to follow through on his goal.

The vastness of this problem has long concerned the Catholic Church. With new efforts now being made to build a global legal ban on nuclear weapons, this is a good moment to review the Church’s teaching on weapons of mass destruction.

Catholic teaching on nuclear deterrence is found in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and in subsequent statements by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

Indeed, we can see that the indiscriminate use and devastating effects of nuclear weapons have led the Church to abhor any use of nuclear weapons. In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the Church’s fundamental condemnation of any use of nuclear weapons is stated clearly: “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation” (n. 80).

As you well know, the Church’s condemnation of any use of nuclear weapons has always been grounded in the Church’s respect for life and the dignity of the human person.

Although the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council expressed their desire for a universal prohibition against war, they, with the understanding they had at that time, seemed to have rather reluctantly accepted the strategy of nuclear deterrence. The accumulation of arms, they said, serves “as a deterrent to possible enemy attack.”

Pope John Paul II restated the Catholic position on nuclear deterrence in a message to the UN Second Special Session on Disarmament in 1982 at the height of the Cold War nuclear weapons build-up by the United States and the Soviet Union:

In current conditions, ‘deterrencebased on balance, certainly not as an end in itself but as a step along the way towards a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable. Nonetheless, in order to ensure peace, it is indispensable not to be satisfied with the minimum which is always susceptible to the real danger of explosion.

This statement made clear that nuclear deterrence during the Cold War years could only be acceptable if it led to progressive disarmament. What is intended therefore is not nuclear deterrence as a single, permanent policy.

Here lies the central question of deterrence: the Church’s moral acceptance of nuclear deterrence was always conditioned on progress toward their elimination.

Deterrence must be an interim measure; it should not be an acceptable long-term basis for peace. Deterrence must be used only as a bridge to provide stability while nuclear disarmament is pursued, as required under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Nuclear deterrence is only justified in this limited way, as a means of deterring the use of nuclear weapons by an adversary. Deterrence was never accepted as a means of projecting state power, protecting economic or political interests, nor was it acceptable to use nuclear deterrence as a primary defense strategy to address other security issues or to deter other, non-nuclear threats.

As the Soviet Union disintegrated and the Cold War came to a close, great hope was ignited that the world could move decisively and expeditiously with nuclear disarmament. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was extended in 1995 and new energy was focused on Article VI, the grand bargain, as it were, which lies at the heart of the NPT. The nations of the world agreed to forgo any development of nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment from the nuclear-weapon states to eliminate their own arsenals and provide access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses.

The Holy See is party to the Nonproliferation Treaty and remains actively engaged in the Treaty’s review process every five years. Unfortunately, rather than pursuing disarmament as they are obligated to do under the Treaty, the nuclear-weapon states engaged in a reinvestment in their nuclear weapons complexes, pouring tens of billions of dollars into new technologies to allow them to continue to design, test and deploy these weapons for the indefinite future. New missions were conceived for their nuclear arsenals and new capabilities and upgrades for their weapons were aggressively pursued.

As the Cold War receded and a new century dawned, the international community continued to press the nuclear-weapon states for concrete movement on fulfilling their obligations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals as called for under the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. The Church’s efforts in this area increased, and became focused on challenging what we came to see as the institutionalization of deterrence. Deterrence was not being considered anymore as an interim measure. Rather, nuclear-weapon states started to pursue nuclear advantage, maintaining that nuclear weapons were fundamental to their security doctrines. Modernization programs were accelerated. Hundreds of billions of dollars were earmarked for these modernization efforts and the fragile barrier between nuclear and conventional arms was obliterated.

In 2005 when the nations of the world gathered to review the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Treaty itself was on the verge of collapse. Not only were the commitments to disarm under Article VI being ignored, the very concept of nuclear elimination was dismissed out of hand by the nuclear-weapon states. And the Church increased its pressure on the nuclear-weapon states.

The Holy See voiced its growing concern over this situation, for example, at the 2005 Review Conference of the NPT:

When the Holy See expressed its limited acceptance of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War, it was with the clearly stated condition that deterrence was only a step on the way towards progressive nuclear disarmament. The Holy See has never countenanced nuclear deterrence as a permanent measure, nor does it today when it is evident that nuclear deterrence drives the development of ever newer nuclear arms, thus preventing genuine nuclear disarmament.

On his part, Pope Benedict XVI reinforced this position in his address on World Peace Day, 1 January 2006, when he asked:

What can be said, too, about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries? Along with countless persons of good will, one can state that this point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all —whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them— agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament. The resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor.

Indeed, experts have estimated that more than $1 trillion has been spent on developing and maintaining nuclear arsenals. Today, hundreds of billons of additional dollars are being channeled to maintain this scourge. With development needs across the globe far outpacing the resources being devoted to address them, the thought of pouring hundreds of billions of additional dollars into the world’s nuclear arsenals is nothing short of sinful. It is the grossest misplacement of priorities and truly constitutes the very “theft from the poor” which the Second Vatican Council condemned so long ago.

Today, more and more people are convinced that nuclear deterrence is not a viable means of providing security. If some nations can continue to claim the right to possess nuclear weapons, then other states will claim that right as well. There can be no privileged position whereby some states can rely on nuclear weapons while simultaneously denying that same right to other states. Such an unbalanced position is unsustainable.

Some 40 nations possess the capacity to weaponize their civilian nuclear programs. Proliferation is a real and serious challenge. However, nonproliferation efforts will only be effective if they are universal. The nuclear-weapon states must abide by their obligations to negotiate the total elimination of their own arsenals if they are to have any authenticity in holding the non-nuclear-weapon states to their commitments not to pursue nuclear weapons or if they are to be effective in bringing those last few states who remain outside the NPT to the table of negotiations for the gradual elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

It is now more than two decades since the end of the Cold War. Though nuclear weapons stocks held by the major powers have been reduced, they are still being maintained and modernized, and the prospect of even more proliferation to other countries is growing. We are now witnessing an “extended deterrence” by which non-nuclear countries are put under the protection of a friendly nuclear state. Instead of being a temporary measure during the Cold War, the “doctrine of nuclear deterrence” has become permanent and is used to justify continued nuclear buildup.

When the 2010 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty opened, Pope Benedict XVI, who had previously called for “negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons sent a message asking delegates to “overcome the burdens of history”. He said, “I encourage the initiatives to seek progressive disarmament and the creation of zones free of nuclear weapons, with a view to their complete elimination from the planet”.

From this body of teaching, the Church has made clear its growing abhorrence of nuclear weapons. It is now recognized that they are incompatible with the peace we seek for the 21st century. In the 2001 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Conference, the Holy See Delegation had stated:

The most perilous of all the old Cold War assumptions carried into the new age is the belief that the strategy of nuclear deterrence is essential to a nation’s security. Maintaining nuclear deterrence into the 21st century will not aid but impede peace. Nuclear deterrence prevents genuine nuclear disarmament. It maintains an unacceptable hegemony over non-nuclear development for the poorest half of the world’s population. It is a fundamental obstacle to achieving a new age of global security.

International law and the Church’s Just War principles have always recognized that limitation and proportionality must be respected in warfare. But the very point of a nuclear weapon is to kill massively; the killing and the poisonous radiation cannot be contained (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl are permanent ominous reminders). The social and economic consequences of nuclear war in a world whose life-support systems are intimately interconnected would be catastrophic.

In the event of a nuclear explosion, the severe physical damage from radiation would be followed by the collapse of food production and distribution and even water supplies. The prospect of widespread starvation would confront huge masses of people. Rampant disease would follow the breakdown in health-care facilities. The entire question of human rights would be up-ended. The right to a social and international order, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, would be completely lost. The structures underpinning international law would be gone. Order would be inverted into disorder.

The Holy See believes that international law is essential to the maintenance of peace among nations. When peace breaks down, international law, setting limits on the conduct of warfare, is essential to the reestablishment of an enduring peace and civilized life at war’s end.

In 1996, fifteen years ago this very month, the International Court of Justice issued its landmark decision on the threat or use of nuclear weapons and the obligations of States parties to the NPT. The Court said that negotiations for elimination must be concluded. The Court’s decision stated: "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control".

The Catholic Church embraced the Court’s call for negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons and, in 1997, in addressing the United Nation’s First Committee, the Holy See Delegation put forth the Church’s position in the strongest terms:

Nuclear weapons, aptly described as the 'ultimate evil', are still possessed by the most powerful States which refuse to let them go.... If biological weapons, chemical weapons, and now landmines can be done away with, so too can nuclear weapons. No weapon so threatens the longed-for peace of the 21st century as the nuclear. Let not the immensity of this task dissuade us from the efforts needed to free humanity from such a scourge. With the valuable admonition offered in the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, the international community can now see how the legal and moral arguments against nuclear weapons intertwine with the strategic: since nuclear weapons can destroy all life on the planet, they imperil all that humanity has ever stood for, and indeed humanity itself...

The work... in calling for negotiations leading to a Nuclear Weapons Convention must be increased. Those nuclear-weapon States resisting such negotiations must be challenged, for, in clinging to their outmoded rationales for nuclear deterrence, they are denying the most ardent aspirations of humanity...

And finally, in that statement, the Holy See Delegation voiced in clearest terms the Church’s position on nuclear weapons, “Nuclear weapons are incompatible with the peace we seek for the 21st century. They cannot be justified. They deserve condemnation. The preservation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty demands an unequivocal commitment to their abolition.”

Yet the comprehensive negotiations called for by the International Court of Justice have not even started. The bilateral START treaty between the US and Russia only makes small reductions and leaves intact a vast nuclear arsenal on both sides, with many nuclear weapons held on constant alert status.

At last year’s Review Conference of the NPT, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put forth a Five-Point Plan for Nuclear Disarmament, which is worthy of the full support of all nations. He called specifically for a new convention or set of mutually reinforcing instruments to eliminate nuclear weapons, backed by strong verification and has asked that nations start negotiations. “Nuclear disarmament is not a distant, unattainable dream,” Mr. Ban said. “It is an urgent necessity here and now. We are determined to achieve it.”

The Holy See supports this plan and strongly advocates for transparent, verifiable, global and irreversible nuclear disarmament and for addressing seriously the issues of nuclear strategic arms, the tactical ones and their means of delivery. The Church remains fully engaged in efforts both to stem proliferation and to move forward on negotiating a binding international agreement, or framework of agreements, to eliminate existing arsenals under effective international verification.

The 2010 NPT Review Conference called on “all nuclear-weapon states to undertake concrete disarmament efforts,” and also affirmed that “all states need to make special efforts to establish the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.” This responsibility must be taken seriously. Nations which continue to refuse to enter a process of negotiating mutual, assured and verifiable nuclear disarmament are acting irresponsibly.

From its part, also the UN Security Council held summit level meetings devoted to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

The Holy See welcomes such developments regarding nuclear non proliferation and disarmament.

Viewed from a legal, political, security and most of all - moral - perspective, there is no justification today for the continued maintenance of nuclear weapons. This is the moment to begin addressing in a systematic way the legal, political and technical requisites for a nuclear-weapons-free world. For this reason, preparatory work should begin as soon as possible on a convention or framework agreement leading to the phased elimination of nuclear weapons.

To accomplish this goal, we must rethink and change our perception of nuclear weapons. It is a fact that no force on earth will be able to protect civilian populations from the explosion of nuclear bombs, which could cause as many as millions of immediate deaths. We must understand the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.

Reports indicate that workers employed by the nuclear weapons industry are exposed to radiation at nuclear weapons production sites across the globe. Hundreds of highly toxic substances are used every day in the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons and their non-nuclear components. Workers suffer from a range of illnesses, many affecting them only years after exposure. People are asking for transparency and guarantee about the safeguards measures. Secrecy surrounding nuclear weapons programs has led to a failure to inform - if not an outright misleading of - workers and civilian populations living in close proximity to nuclear weapons facilities about the dangers their activities pose to human health.

The Holy See cannot countenance this disregard for human life and the health of those most directly and immediately affected by the nuclear weapons enterprise. Provisions must be established to ensure transparency and appropriate safeguards support to workers as well as civilians living in proximity to these facilities to ensure their safety, even as we move expeditiously to a process for dismantling and destroying these unlawful weapons under international supervision. Moreover, the toxic legacy of the nuclear era will continue to pose urgent challenges requiring substantial investments of resources to clean up the heavily contaminated sites that dot the landscapes of every nuclear weapon state.

The need to effectively and transparently address the toxic legacy posed by six decades of nuclear weapons production and maintenance is of the highest priority. The risks involved with even the peaceful use of nuclear technology illustrate the problem. Here I wish to underscore the Holy See’s active role in confronting global environmental issues. His Holiness Benedict XVI has personally appealed for environmental justice in defense of creation. Nothing less than the dignity of the human person and the right to a fully human and healthy life are at stake in the global challenge to clean up the environmental damage of the nuclear era.

The recent experience in Fukishima, Japan, has refocused attention on the inherent dangers and indiscriminate nature of radiation.

As a founding Member State of the IAEA, the Holy See participated last week in the IAEA Ministerial Conference which took place in Vienna, Austria. The concerns and observations made there by the Holy See bear repeating.

Is it legitimate to construct or to maintain operational nuclear reactors on territories that are exposed to serious seismic risks? Does nuclear fission technology, or the construction of new atomic power plants, or the continued operation of existing ones exclude human error in its phases of design, normal and emergency operation?

Besides the above questions, there are others concerning political will, technical capacity and necessary finances in order to proceed to the dismantling of old nuclear reactors and the handling of radioactive material or waste. With regard to standards of safety and security, the Holy See asks:

Are States willing to adopt new safety and security standards? If so, who will monitor them? However, one fact remains: without transparency, safety and security cannot be pursued with absolute diligence.

Understanding that enhanced safety standards are only part of the solution, the Holy See also observed that

threats to security come from attitudes and actions hostile to human nature. It is, therefore, on the human level that one must act – on the cultural and ethical level.... What is absolutely necessary are programs of formation for the diffusion of a “culture of safety and security” both in the nuclear sector and in the public conscience in general.... Security depends upon the State, but also on the sense of responsibility of each person....

As a result of the nuclear crisis in Fukishima, one point emerges with ever greater clarity. A shared and co-responsible management of nuclear research and safety and security, of energy and water supplies and of the environmental protection of the planet call for one or more international authorities with true and effective powers.

The nuclear sector can represent a great opportunity for the future. This explains the “nuclear renaissance” at the world level. This renaissance seems to offer horizons of development and prosperity. At the same time, it could be reduced to an illusion without a “cultural and moral renaissance.” Energy policies are to be viewed in the perspective of the “integral development of the human being” (Declaration on the Right to Development of 1986, 5), which includes not only material development, but, above all, the cultural and moral development of each and every person and of all peoples. All are involved in this ambitious and indispensable project, both inside and outside of the nuclear and energy sector, both in the public and private sector, and both on a governmental and non-governmental level. In this way, a common commitment to security and peace will lead not only to a just distribution of the earth’s resources, but above all to the building of a “social and international order in which the rights and freedoms” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 28) of all human persons can be fully realized.

As terrible as the Fukishima disaster has been - let us not forget what happened in Chernobyl in 1986 - its impact would be dwarfed by the effects of a nuclear weapon explosion. Perhaps it is also because of this Germany decided just recently to close all of its nucelar reactors by 2022. So, the Church’s condemnation of any use of nuclear weapons remains as unequivocal today as it was nearly 50 years ago when the Second Vatican Council expressed that condemnation so clearly.

International law governing the conduct of warfare is known as the law of armed conflict. More recently, it is referred to as “international humanitarian law.” This recognizes the purpose of protecting civilians from the effects of warfare, and also protecting combatants from unnecessary and cruel suffering. The Church’s unequivocal commitment to the dignity of the human person lies at the very heart of its commitment to international law.

The simple truth about the use of nuclear weapons is that, being weapons of mass destruction by their very nature, they cannot comply with fundamental rules of international humanitarian law forbidding the infliction of indiscriminate and disproportionate harm. Nor can their use meet the rigorous standards of the Just War principles’ moral assessment of the use of force.

Both Just War principles and international humanitarian law prohibit the use of means of attack incapable of distinguishing between military objectives and civilians or civilian property. In this regard, it is appropriate to recall what the International Court of Justice has to say about it: “states must never make civilians the object of attack and must consequently never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets.”

Your 40th president asked: “Is there either logic or morality in believing that if one side threatens to kill tens of millions of our people, our only recourse is to threaten killing tens of millions of theirs?” So, even President Regan considered the strategy of deterrence to be in need of being replaced by a more permanent solution.

The threat as well as the use of nuclear weapons is barred by law. It is unlawful to threaten an attack if the attack itself would be unlawful. This rule makes unlawful specific signals of intent to use nuclear weapons if demands are not met. It also makes unlawful general policies of so-called deterrence declaring a readiness to resort to nuclear weapons when vital interests are at stake.

The unlawfulness of the threat and use of nuclear weapons calls into serious question the lawfulness of the possession of nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty prohibits acquisition of nuclear weapons by the vast majority of states. In conformity with the good faith principle, it cannot be lawful to continue indefinitely to possess weapons which are unlawful to use or threaten to use, or are already banned for most states, and are subject to an obligation of elimination. Countries must abide by agreements to “pursue negotiations on... a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control” (NPT, Art. VI).

The Holy See supports this gathering body of work and calls for more stringent attention to the urgency of implementing a well-founded comprehensive approach to eliminating nuclear weapons. For far too long, nuclear weapons have threatened humanity and there has not been sufficient political will toward removing this scourge. Now is the time for a profound rethinking and change in our perception of nuclear weapons. Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are essential from a humanitarian point of view. That is why the Holy See welcomed the clear statement made in the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review conference which stated:

The conference expresses its deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, and reaffirms the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.

This principle lays the groundwork for a possible outlawing of nuclear weapons. The international community is now challenged to ensure that every step on the non-proliferation and disarmament agenda is geared toward ensuring the security and survival of humanity and built on principles of the preeminent and inherent value of human dignity and the centrality of the human person, which constitute the basis of international humanitarian law.

The Holy See delegation articulated this very sentiment at the 2009 Deterrence Symposium organized by the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska. There the Delegation stated that:

In Catholic teaching, the task is not to make the world safer through the threat of nuclear weapons, but rather to make the world safer from nuclear weapons through mutual and verifiable nuclear disarmament… The moral end is clear: a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons. This goal should guide our efforts. Every nuclear weapons system and every nuclear weapons policy should be judged by the ultimate goal of protecting human life and dignity and the related goal of ridding the world of these weapons in mutually verifiable ways.

It is becoming ever clearer that nuclear disarmament must be addressed from a comprehensive approach. Despite steps for decades, we still have a profusion of nuclear weapons. The Holy See believes there needs to be a binding together of steps into a coherent commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons in clearly defined phases for an incremental disarmament. Only the expression of a visible intent to construct a global legal basis for the systematic elimination of all nuclear weapons will suffice. It cannot be considered morally sufficient to draw down the stocks of superfluous nuclear weapons while modernizing nuclear arsenals and investing vast sums to ensure their future production and maintenance. This current course will ensure the perpetuation of these weapons indefinitely.

The Holy See therefore welcomes the new dialogue starting on a Nuclear Weapons Convention or framework of instruments to accomplish nuclear disarmament. At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the Holy See Delegation stated:

The world has arrived at an opportune moment to begin addressing in a systematic way the legal, political and technical requisites for a nuclear-weapons-free world. For this reason, preparatory work should begin as soon as possible on a convention or framework agreement leading to the phased elimination of nuclear weapons.

A critical component of any framework to eliminate nuclear weapons is an immediate ban on the testing of new weapons. For decades the international community has struggled to institute a legal ban on all forms of nuclear weapons test explosions. In this regard, the Holy See continues to call upon all non signatory States to ratify without delay the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty for its earliest entry into force. Its passage and entry into force remains a commitment made by the nuclear-weapon states at the 2000 Review Conference of the NPT that would most clearly signify their willingness to forgo the development of new nuclear weapons. The international community views the CTBT not as an end in itself but as a concrete signal by the nuclear-weapon states that they intend to fulfill their international commitments and take seriously the global demand to end the nuclear arms race and begin negotiations to eliminate these weapons.

In closing, I think it is appropriate to restate the position of the Holy See expressed back in 1997, that “If biological weapons, chemical weapons, and now landmines can be done away with, so too can nuclear weapons.” This is the challenge before the international community today. It is the challenge before the Church today, and it is the challenge facing all people of goodwill today, believers and non believers alike.

As someone wrote, in the 18th and 19th centuries individuals fought for the abolition of slavery because they understood that every human being has the God-given right to live in freedom and dignity. In the end, slavery was brought to an end. In today’s world, we confront an issue of even greater importance: the possible annihilation of human species and human civilization by nuclear explosion. So, together we should work to build a world free of nuclear weapons. A world without nuclear weapons is not only possible, it has now become urgent.

Thank you and God bless you all!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Former Prosecutor Named Ombudsman for Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph

Following is a press release from the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph:

Former Trial Attorney and Prosecutor
Appointed Ombudsman for Catholic Diocese

Diocese Strengthens Abuse Reporting and Investigation

(Kansas City, MO / June 30, 2011)  Jenifer Valenti, a former team leader with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, has been appointed ombudsman and public liaison officer for the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph. The appointment was made today by Bishop Robert Finn, leader of the diocese, and is effective July 15.

“Valenti’s work will be independent and confidential. She will have the responsibility and authority to receive and investigate reports of suspicious, inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct by clergy, employees or program volunteers,” said Bishop Finn.  “Within our 27-county diocese, I have asked her to focus particularly on reports relating to children and young people,” he said.

Through a private and direct telephone number and email address, Valenti can receive and then investigate reports or charges. She will consult with law enforcement agencies as she deems appropriate or necessary.  Contact information for Valenti will be announced July 15.

Valenti graduated from the University of Missouri – Columbia School and Law and joined the Prosecutor’s Office in 1997. She worked closely with law enforcement agencies, and has experience prosecuting domestic violence cases from arraignment through disposition. She rose to team leader, with responsibility for six attorneys and two victim advocates. The Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office named Valenti the Victim Champion of the Year in 2002.

“My last assignment in the Prosecutor’s Office was in cases of physical and emotional abuse,” said Valenti. “To arrive at the truth, I established relationships with victims, law enforcement, victim advocates and the community.”

Valenti will serve as an ex officio member of the Independent Review Board. The board is an external group that reviews cases and makes recommendations to the bishop about the status of the accused and future fitness for church ministry. 

As ombudsman, Valenti’s work will be closely aligned with the Victims’ Advocate Leslie Guillot. The Victims’ Advocate provides confidential support and resources for healing to any person making a report of sexual abuse. Without regard for the credibility of the complaint, Guillot’s first obligation is to offer psychological counseling to the individual and to his or her family, whether it is a recent incident or happened decades ago.

Five-Point Plan

On June 9, the diocese released an announcement to immediately fulfill Bishop Finn’s ‘call for change.’ The five-point plan consists of sweeping changes that address recent alleged sexual misconduct in the diocese.

1. Immediate appointment of former national co-chair of the Department of Justice Child Exploitation Working Group and former U.S. Attorney to conduct an independent investigation of events, policies and procedures,

2. Appointment of an independent public liaison and ombudsman to field and investigate any reports of suspicious or inappropriate behavior,

3. Reaffirmation of current diocesan policy and immediate commencement of an independent review of the policies for Ethical Codes of Conduct and Sexual Misconduct,

4.  An in-depth review of diocesan personnel training regarding the Ethical Codes of Conduct and the policy on Sexual Misconduct,

5. Continued cooperation with local law enforcement.

The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph is the spiritual home for more than 133,000 Catholics in 27 counties of northern and western Missouri. The diocese is a diverse faith community consisting of 98 urban, rural and suburban parishes.

Through 43 well-performing Catholic schools, the diocese educates more than 12,000 students. Annually, more than 150,000 people receive human and social services through varied programs that include: emergency groceries, rent and utility assistance, aging in place services for the elderly, and transitional housing for the homeless.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Would You Know John Wayne Gacy if He Said ‘Boo!’

I was wondering if the Kansas City Star would run anything on Michele Bachmann’s “gaffe” about the birthplace of John Wayne (they did). Bachmann now famously said that Wayne was from her own hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. Wrong. There was a John Wayne who lived in Waterloo, but it wasn’t “The Duke”.

AP corrected Rep. Bachmann on her recollection. The Duke was born in Iowa, but not Waterloo. The Wayne who lived in Waterloo was serial rapist and murderer John Wayne Gacy.

The Star had to be a little self-conscious about sneering at Bachmann on this point since they made their own very famous blunder regarding Gacy in 1999 (presuming anybody from 1999 still works at the Star).

In 1999 the Star positively promoted “National Clown Week” with a picture of this clown:

Pogo el Payaso (001)

The caption read, "It's a rule. You MUST celebrate Clown Week, starting Sunday at City Market".

The picture was a file photo of – you guessed it – John Wayne Gacy in his Pogo the Clown outfit.

The Star was mighty embarrassed and plenty of people, especially clowns, were upset. The Star’s apology, no longer available on their website, is still on the WaybackMachine.

The episode would have been an interesting tidbit to add to the AP story the Star ran on the Bachmann episode. I think people would have got an appreciative laugh out of it.

But, it doesn’t fit the narrative. And the Star never leaves the narrative.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Corpus Christi and St. Josemaria

Each year, Catholics from the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph join together for a Corpus Christi Procession. Pictures here are from the procession which took place yesterday afternoon in Lenexa, Kansas. As in years past, KCK Archbishop Joseph Naumann and KCSJ Bishop Robert Finn took turns carrying the monstrance.

Earlier in the day, Bishop Finn celebrated Mass in Kansas City and his homily touched both upon the Feast and the saint whose commemoration also falls on June 26:

Homily for Mass of St. Josemaria Escriva
Corpus Christi Sunday – June 26, 2011 – Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Dear Friends,

DSC_0239 Adoration is the first and most important prayer of the human heart. In the adoration of God we orient all our being: mind, heart, soul and strength toward the One God, Who alone has the right to our complete obedience and devotion.

This is what the Catechism teaches: “Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge Him as Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful love.” (CCC #2096)

Today we celebrate the Solemn Feast of Jesus’ Body and Blood, Corpus Christi. Here at Mass – and later in procession with the Eucharistic Lord, we raise Him on high in an act of adoration and love. It is only when we place God first and above all else that we begin to experience the right orientation of our life. There are so many things in our life and in our world that vie for “first place,” which seek and absorb so much of our energy and attention. Over and over we must decide what is first? – Who is first? – And when we give God this spot which is His in the perfection of justice, only then do all these other things – many which are of high importance – only then can each find its rightful place. This is the first commandment of the law: Love God above all; worship Him alone.

The sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ contains this fullness of all spiritual treasure. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC # 1324). The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of the communion in the divine life. (#1325) The other sacraments and all works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. (#1324) The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice. (#1367) Here is a very important reality that helps us see the meaning of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Jesus is not only present in His Body and Blood – as a kind of object of our adoration. But He is a living God who draws us to Himself such that our adoration now becomes a Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ. This deep truth is, of course, not just for today, Corpus Christi. Rather Jesus has given Himself and He is with us always until the consummation of the world.

DSC_0252 One of the particular reasons for my participation with you today, dear friends, is because June 26 is commemorated as the Feast of a modern day saint, St. Josemaria Escriva. Clearly the Sunday celebration, and even more, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi takes precedence over the saint day. St. Josemaria would loudly insist on this as would any saint who lived their life for God. But nonetheless I thought it would still be a suitable moment to mention and seek the intercession of the Spanish priest who loved so much the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass, and who many years before the Second Vatican Council saw so clearly this right proportion of adoration and the whole of the Christian life.

St. Josemaria, in a way that seems to have anticipated the Council, taught simply and beautifully about the universal call to holiness for every faithful man, woman, and child. He knew all were called to be saints, and that the laity in particular were called to find and live holiness in all the most ordinary and everyday paths of the world. Through our daily work, whatever it happens to be, we offer God a gift of ourselves. As we realize we are offering ourselves, we strive to carry out all we do, from the most sublime duty to the most mundane daily tasks, with great love precisely because they are given to God.

In a homily he gave on Corpus Christi, St. Josemaria called us to contemplate the depth of our Lord’s love for us that causes Him to want to stay with us. And He not only wants to be with us. He desires to share life with us. He even chooses to use us as instruments for the divine work of God. (See Homily in Christ is Passing By)

When St. Josemaria spoke of our time before the Blessed Sacrament he said that this time passes quickly, because this is what it is like to spend time with those we love. “Love,” he says, “has been waiting for us for 2000 years.” He concludes that this is not such a long time because Christ loves us. We have a constant need of His friendship. Christ doesn’t only wish to see us occasionally. He wants us fully. Jesus gave Himself to us as food. He wants to nourish us so that we can become one thing with Him. He wants to be that close with us.

DSC_0224 St. Josemaria would always seek out churches in his travels around. He would look for the tabernacle. The tabernacle, he said is like Bethany, like the house of Martha and Mary and Lazarus. There is a place where we can rest and visit with our Lord.

Speaking of the Corpus Christi procession, St. Josemaria compared this with the Gospel when in His life on earth Jesus walked through the towns and villages. People saw Him, and they were not always expecting Him. He came among us – True God and True Man. He comes into the everyday procession of our lives. But the Saint cautions us: the procession cannot just be a passing noise – seen and then forgotten.

We might say something similarly of Mass: It cannot be a passing moment, an obligation fulfilled. It is a moment, rather, of communion with a friend Who wishes to walk with us everyday. He joins Himself to us and His presence endures – but we must live in Him. He does challenge us. There is much work to be done. There is no harvest unless we are ready to sow; unless we are ready for the hard work. Jesus wants to give us Himself as the food for our hungers; human hungers of Truth, Peace, Unity, Justice. We must be ready, if we accept His Food, to carry forward the work. We come to the Eucharist and He nourishes and strengthens us, but then we are sent out to carry Christ and the work which is His love to the world.

Dear friends, I am happy this morning to be able to share this Corpus Christi with you. I am strengthened by your faith, and we know that what we do here, this morning is at the same time part of the worship of the Universal Church. We are united at this altar with St. Josemaria and a whole cloud of witnesses, a living Communion of Saints. At the heart of those who urge us to approach the Eucharistic Lord Jesus, is the very one who in accord with God’s saving power and plan brought Him flesh and blood into the world. Mary Mother of the Eucharist accompanies us in our walk with Christ. She adored Him within her womb. She showed us how to make Him first in our lives. She shared – as no other human person – in His saving sacrifice at Calvary. I ask her to watch over each of you. May Mary, St Josemaria and all the Saints join us in all the prayers and intentions we bring to the Lord Jesus: for our families, our parishes, our communities, our diocese.

We adore you O Eucharistic Lord. Give us all we need to carry you to the world!