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Faith in Flux

The preamble of the United States Constitution reads: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union….

The Civil War had been fought at the outset, from the perspective of the North, over the concept of union. The soldiers of Lincoln were called Union soldiers.

On August 23, 2008 I wrote a piece suggesting that there was a real irony that despite the outcome of the Civil War, the South, the united South, had been deciding elections for more than last 40 years. In the era of television.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life issued a report Monday that 22% of Americans say they never go to church, the highest ever recorded by the General Social Survey conducted last year. In a nation that is firmly 76.7% Christian of the adult population of 208 million. Where Protestants make up 49.8% of this adult population. But those Protestant numbers are falling.

What was the impact of religion on national identity? Or, specifically, what was the impact of religion on American identity? On politics? On elections? In the way of social security? On the idea of a welfare state? Or on foreign aid? On a more perfect union?

In Fort Wayne, Indiana, there is a concern about the identity of a near-by Catholic University. Within the Catholic Church too many people get caught up in a discussion about abortion as a holier-than-thou issue, attempting to universally resolve the deeply personal issue of pregnancy, without ever focusing on the practicality of life. Catholic bishops are rather well known for the opposition to abortion as public policy, but without addressing the repercussions in a world if Roe v. Wade is ever over-turned. Should women who have abortions be imprisoned? Should health care professionals be imprisoned? It is too easy to focus on theory, dogma, without addressing real people lives. And within the Catholic Church, too many Catholics look upon Catholic politicians as if they should be partisans to dogma, when the district that Catholic politicians represent is not restricted to only Catholics.

What was the impact of religion on American identity? In a land without one religion as part of its identity to pass on its tradition and all of its meaning, was there still an unrecognized burden to teach your kids something about your own religious heritage? In a speech given approximately 2 or 3 years ago at Boston College, a former prime minister of Ireland had said that the “idea of a Catholic University would seem very strange – I would even say unacceptable – to modern Irish society.” He acknowledged “the idea” of a Catholic university in a country like the U.S. where Catholics are in a minority, “may make” sense.

Was identity, national identity or religious identity, only an idea? Was a Catholic university only an idea? Where was the focus over what America was, how this identity developed in the past, and what was being done to foster ongoing growth of the same American identity? If it has not been the goal of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, it seemed a goal of merit.

In the way of identity, national identity or religious identity, what did these changing numbers mean about the future identity of the United States? How could there be union in a nation without a dimension of religion and a religious foundation?

So what was the impact of religion on American identity—in this so called age of diversity? What would the impact of more secular humanism be on American identity? Was the growth in a missing religious foundation also a contributing factor, with this generation, why newspaper readership was dropping? What would the impact of less religious practice be on a more perfect union – American identity – over time?

The Living Ghosts.  The falling numbers.  Living in Exile.  With those Protestant numbers falling.  In the way of identity – national identity or religious identity – what did these changing numbers mean about the future identity of the United States? And what was the effect that 50 million abortions having, beyond dogma and political platforms, on population numbers, on the preponderance of Protestants in this culture, and on that goal to form a more perfect union?  In a nation whose identity – whether national identity or religious identity – always to the outside world has been a place of refuge, those abortions clearly made room to welcome refugees still seeking asylum, just trying to survive.

Visitations, Part II

On November 25, 1981, Pope John Paul II named Joseph Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which he held until his election as pope. That Joseph Ratzinger, a highly educated theologian, has just completed his fourth year as the pope. Pope Benedict.

Four of his former deputies from his days at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith where then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ran the show for 24 years now are in charge of important Vatican offices, with Ratzinger’s former private secretary and close friend, Bishop Josef Clemens, the number two official at the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

In November 2000, William Levada was appointed one of the members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith where he served under Cardinal Ratzinger. The American-born Cardinal William Levada became a cardinal in the consistory on March 24, 2006 and is currently serving as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He grew up in Long Beach, California, the son of natives of Concord in the San Francisco Bay area, where his father worked for Shell Chemical Corporation. Before moving to Rome he had served as the archbishop of Portland and San Francisco. From 1976 to 1982, Levada taught part-time at the Pontifical Gregorian University and was upon recommendation of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican. He had been recommeded by Joseph Cardinal Bernadine.

On the fourth anniversary of Benedict’s papacy, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, headlined a story on Durban, “The Holy See deplores the use of the forum for taking extremist positions offensive to any state.” The article was about the inflammatory remarks by the Iranian premiere made ironically during the week of Holocaust Remembrance Day, about destroying Israel.

The Holy See deplores the use of taking extremist positions offensive to any state. Except, I was going to say, with regard to nuns. Until I read a few articles.

Back on December 22, 2008 the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life had issued a decree that it would be beginning a comprehensive study to look into the quality of institutes of women religious in the United States and the life of the members of these religious institutes. Students of history might recognize the old German theory of a 2 front attack, once discussed at the time of World War I. The second front involved the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “doctrinal assessment” of the women’s organization, separate from the inquiry by the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Nuns and Papal committees. John Allen, Jr., has reported that officers of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), the main umbrella groups for women’s and men’s religious orders in the States, as well as officers of the Leadership Conference for Women Religious met with officials in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This week. There has been an absence of public statements about the motives and scope of the new inquiry by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, remembered for their historic part in the Inquisition. William Cardinal Levada sent a letter in February 2009 to the officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the officers of CMSM, and their meeting with him this week in Rome was part of a previously scheduled visit to various Vatican offices.

If this was the New York Post, the headline would be about a separate doctrinal inquiry mandated this time by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. While the previously announced visitation of all apostolic women’s religious orders in the United States, sponsored by the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, is itself unusual, the fact that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is now the target of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is, according to John Allen, virtually unprecedented.

Why the separate doctrinal inquiry which, according to John Allen, is virtually unprecedented? That February 2009 letter from William Cardinal Levada pointed to three areas of doctrine: over ordination of women; over homosexuality, and over the theoclogy {sic} of religious pluralism. The Vatican commissioned Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, to conduct the doctrinal assessment. Bishop Blair is a member of Committee on Doctrine of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. According to Allen, sources told the National Catholic Reporter at least part of the push to conduct the doctrinal inquiry came from Bishop Blair. One of John Allen’s sources said the “concern ‘entirely’ was about speakers the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has invited to address their annual assemblies in recent years, based upon the texts of those presentations posted on the conference’s Web site.”

On background, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was asked in 2001 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to promote “Ordinatio sacerdotalis,” a 1994 Apostolic Letter which represented Church teaching on the sacramental priesthood and restated the church’s position that ordination of women is impossible; to promote Homosexualitatis Problema, the Catholic position written by then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 1986 on homosexuality; and to promote “Dominus Jesus,” the 2000 document which holds the Catholic Church as the chief path to salvation.

Julia Duin, the Washington Times’ religion editor, has attributed to NCR a quote from Cardinal Levada’s letter that “This dicastery can only conclude that the problems which had motivated its request in 2001 continue to be present.”

While the bulk of women’s orders in America currently belong to The Leadership Conference for Women Religious (LCWR), some 1,500 members representing approximately 95% of the nation’s 63,032 nuns, in 1995 the Vatican also granted recognition to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious which is generally seen as a more conservative alternative to the leadership conference.

Catholic bloggers have pinpointed as an example, Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Laurie Brink’s 2007 speech given at an LCWR assembly in Kansas City. “Jesus is not the only son of God,” she added. “Salvation is not limited to Christians.” Her speech seemly endorsed universalism, speaking of the need to go “beyond Jesus.” positions at variance with Catholic doctrine and not precisely within the standards of orthodoxy.

As for the leadership conference, that KEYNOTE speech by Sister Laurie Brink was entitled “A Marginal Life: Pursuing Holiness in the 21st Century.” Commenting on the decline of many religious orders, according to the Catholic News Agency, she characterized some successful new orders as being “acquiescent” to others’ expectations and also discussed the possible future of women religious.

Why the separate doctrinal inquiry from Rome? According to John Allen, “The Leadership Conference of Women Religious has been recognized by the Vatican as an official entity under the church’s Code of Canon Law since 1959. The Vatican thus has the capacity to issue official recommendations or mandates, whereas the bishops’ conference can present only non-binding guidance. By way of explanation, officials said that the reason for the doctrinal congregation’s involvement is because the issues touch on matters of theological orthodoxy.”

That is why the Vatican is sponsoring the inquiry led by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo rather than the bishops’ conference.

A bishop’s responsibility is to safeguard the unity of the Catholic Church and protect the souls of the faithful. The duty proper to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith according to Article 48 of the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, dated June 28, 1988, “is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals. If the purpose of religion was unite people in belief, that Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith seemed to be doing a better job than under the previous prefect.

On the other hand, in the 28 years since Pope John Paul II election to pope, there had never been an investigation into the goings on in other nations such as Ireland. The Ryan Child Abuse Commission has been investigating 18 Catholic religious congregations examining their failures in their duty of care to children while the various Congregations including the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith sat idly by. That Ryan Commission report was due sometime in May.

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10,000 Maniacs

Capitalism was on trial. It was in the news each day.

Communism had been tried and found guilty a generation ago. What now the system here?

The relationships were still there. Think of those vows. In good times and in bad. For better or for worse. We never really had witnessed ‘worse.’ Not my friends. Only a few had died. I was a baby boomer.

How was yours? The relationship. The loyalty. The test. Noli Me Tangere and the ‘Don’t touch me.’ Well, mostly the suffering had missed me. I never really had witnessed ‘worse.’

These were the days. When all those bankrupt banks were going to end up owning even more homes of financially bankrupt people. There were now a lot more than ten thousand maniacs. TO BE CONTD…

Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not!)


I purchased this book entitled Noli Me Tangere , at Easter time in the Philippines three years ago. With little understanding of the title. Up until now I had been thinking this language was some kind of Tagalog expression. And I still have never completed reading the book

This past week, 3 years later, I discovered a piece of art work with the same title. It was Lavinia Fontana’s “Noli Me Tangere,” which was mentioned in this week’s edition of America magazine.

Noli Me Tangere. Up until now I had never recognized the Latin phrase. This week I discovered that Noli Me Tangere is a Latin translation of the original scrolls of Scripture from the Easter Sunday morning description in the Gospel of John (20: 14-17) which has been translated “Don’t touch me.” In Fontana’s work of art, Mary Magdalen is not even trying to touch the Gardener. A Filipino might tell you that the translation is “Touch me not.”

Now about the author, Jose Rizal. He was a Filipino, educated in Europe, who became an ophthalmologist. He lived in interesting times when Spain had long ruled over the Philippines. His novel was written in 1887 when he was 26 years old. Today his novel is taught to help establish a sense of national identity among a people divided by dialect, social class, ethnic group and ideology on 7,000 islands.

The novel created so much controversy that when Rizal returned to the Philippines after completing medical studies, he quickly was exiled only a few days after his arrival to an island a 3 day journey away from Manila by boat. With charges that Noli was full of subversive ideas, with the portrayal of corruption and abuse by both the country’s Spanish government and the clergy, government officials were pressured by the Church to take action against the book. A character, Father Dámaso, impregnates a woman, when the fathering of illegitimate children by members of the Spanish clergy was a reality.

Now about that title: Rizal’s friend, Ferdinand Blumentritt, stated that Noli Me Tangere is the term used as the professional nickname used by an ophthalmologist to describe cancer of the eyelids and tear glands. Rizal was executed in 1896 following a military trial, so he was not around long to offer his own explanation.

“Noli Me Tangere” is also what the Resurrected Jesus instructed Mary Magdalene on the morning in the garden, 3 days after Good Friday. The phrase did not exactly resonate until yesterday. Hearing another Gospel account of that same day when the Resurrected Jesus met Mary Magdalene, also in the Gospel of John, with this Doubting Thomas apostle. About one week later from this Noli Me Tangere story, Christians hear of an invitation by the Resurrected Jesus inviting the now famous Doubting Thomas to touch him. So why is Thomas invited to touch the Resurrected Jesus and Mary Magdalene was not? And what exactly did this Noli Me Tangere really mean? What exactly is going on here?

In Noli Me Tangere: Mary Magdalen: One Person, Many Images, there is a discussion by Karlijn Demasure and Hannelore Devoldere of the Greek — the preceding language of Scripture, and of the Greek verb of movement. The writers explain “Noli Me Tangere” was a commandment to join with the others, in a grieving. The interpretation is not ‘do not come to me’, but ‘go’ to the apostles. ‘Go join the community.’

In this “Noli Me Tangere” story, there is absolutely no mention of the Resurrection. In this “Noli Me Tangere” explanation, Karlijn Demasure and Hannelore Devoldere are much more observant about this personal encounter in the garden, with no announcement of what has happened. There is Mary Magdalene’s recognition of the voice of Jesus, without realizing what really has happened, without an understanding of this New Life to Jesus that Mary had witnessed.

With all the knowledge of the modern day Christian, insight is lost of the fear and confusion on her part.  Especially the fear.  When Jesus said “noli me tangere,” Karlijn Demasure and Hannelore Devoldere suggest, the interpretation was about only approaching Him now through  a holy Spirit; ‘You don’t have the understanding yet.’ To get the understanding of what is going on, “Get to the apostles!”  With your eyelids and tear glands and tears.

“Noli Me Tangere” is an instruction about a change in a relationship that was about to happen. Mary Magdalen finds the Beloved only to be immediately asked to go share the news, let him go again, and to stop clinging onto her idea.  Her way of thinking about past relationships. Thus, most miss out on the instruction to join with the others; miss out that this business in a new creation soon to be called Christianity is never to be a solo pursuit.

The other emphasis in the story is on closeness. In the “breathed into” part. I am “breathed into” only by those I allow to have a closeness. It is the companionship part of life. It is the companionship part that moves me beyond myself to others. By those who knew how bad I smelled. Mammals in the story in the evolutionary process. Join with the other mammals, with their innate fears surrounding decisions about death. The surrounding fear of wild mammals –‘Touch Me Not” –which was about to change.

‘You don’t have the understanding yet.’ Explaining who you were all along. These were still the days when the understanding was not there yet of what the personal side of Jesus was all about, before the passing on that name, Christian, and the personal subtle side to His companions.  There first was this need to join the others.  In explaining who you were all along, there is this need for a community.

One sent. The headlines will be explained over time, and the most important part of the story was yet to come. ‘You don’t have the understanding yet.’

And how did all of this apply to the history of the Philippines, by an author who happened to be a physician, who was put to death?  I wanted to finish my reading of Noli Me Tangere , of that book addressing a bit of the history of the Philippines. That book with the title encompassing cancer of the eyelids and tear glands, in a story about revolution and a sense of national identity, among a people who that line, ‘You don’t have the understanding yet,’ had quite an application at that point in history.  And today.

And like the New Testament instruction of “Noli Me Tangere” about a change in a relationship that was about to happen, the Philippines was then under the dominion of Spain.  The Inquisition in Spain which began with fervor in 1492 was still alive.  Had there been a separation of Church and State in the times written about by Jose Rizal, with the government fear of a story about revolution and a sense of more true identity?

I had seen where Rizal was held on the night before his execution. But I never understood the spiritual connection that the Filipino people had for this national hero. Or to this book title. Or of the truly spiritual part of my trip to that nation at Easter time. And I never saw the author’s understanding of what was going on, with idea about past relationships, about a change in a relationship that was about to happen, or about the meaning of this title. I had never understood the importance of the instruction to join with the others. And I never had comprehended the method of how — the reason how.  In the how to come together.

How to form a community.  How to grieve correctly together. . .with others.

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On Distant Shores

Politics and religion.

Journalists with no understanding of religion failed to understand that the fundamental purpose of religion and politics was formulating a common belief in purpose. And too many journalists failed to understand that the principal purpose of both was to unite people.

This week there was more transparency to methods of torture used by the Central Intelligence Agency in the name of the American government. Orders which came on down from the White House concerning the CIA’s interrogation plans following September 11, 2001 were about nothing except cruel inhumane torture to extract information from suspects never tried under rules of evidence. As people involved in methods of extracting information from “terrorists” discuss their own role, what gets lost in the discussion was the methods which were used on suspects. Suspects were being punished through torture.

The memos with the sterile discussion of the safeguards against real torture evoke days of totalitarianism in gulags and concentration camps. The cruelty of a real experience of torture was not the sadism of the ancient figures but of living people. There was a real contempt for the conceit of the journalist, or a new government with a different political persuasion, who dared question with a distance which the immediacy after September 11th did not allow for those responsible for both order and the law.

The distance and location of the world discovered by Christopher Columbus had always seemingly allowed a separation from problems far way on other continents. America until the past 20 years had few Moslems. Since September 11, 2001, politics has become
more entwined in a religion that most of us still know little about.

There was little real contempt for the conceit of the academic who studies antiquity with the distance which to understand the past. The distance allowed a separation from the past. The distance that too often is involved in the failure of modern men and women to recognize the passions tied up in reality.

So how distant was morality this week? In the modern world? In a week after Good Friday. In a country that practices capital punishment. How distant seemed to be the question which was supposed to be left over from Good Friday. In what essentially was meant to determine right and wrong in an environment of terror against what mostly a people of a distant faith.

The sole archaeological evidence of a crucifixion from Roman days is a picture of the heel bone of Jehohanan. Jehohanan was crucified probably between 7 A.D. and 66 A.D. the beginning of the war against Rome. The cruelty and the sadism of a real experience, torture to an ancient figure, can be read about at another website.

An appreciation of the horrors of antiquity, with the nail still embedded. What better time to question the means of torture and capital punishment, too often shown with modern DNA evidence to demonstrate that sentences imposed have been based on bad evidence. Seeking a commitment to joining those who campaign against the cruelty of torture, of capital punishment in the contemporary world.

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Sunrise. Prayer.

Geography. Ecuador. We studied Ecuador in the third grade with Mrs. Wolfe. She taught about the affects of mountains. Of weather. Of rivers. Of language. And of religion. On people. On people as a group.

Afghanistan. Geography. I have not really ever studied Afghanistan yet. The affects of their geography. The Mountains. Of the politics and religion. On the Taliban. Of Moslems and Islam. Their faith binding on the community of believers yet related to a situation.

Sunrise. Prayer. Five times per day. I wonder what Moslems pray for. In Afghanistan. In the mountains. Amidst never ending war. Amidst the suffering. For the old ways? I wonder if Moslems pray for peace. For jobs.

In Afghanistan. War had a way of messing up a culture.

There is the UTube scene of a women getting beaten, not alone in a household, but amidst a number of men. By the Taliban. Deaths change history. Vacuums were created from the space left by people who have died. War stirred the emotions. The caring for the stranger, the love for the weak, the hope of “little” people, all get lost in war.

It was always about what you did when that prayer time ended. Awaiting a response. From the heavens. And on earth. In geography.


In September 2001, I spent a few days in Gdansk, Poland, in the days following September 11th. This town formerly was known to the world as Danzig, Germany. A few borders had changed in the aftermath of World War I. This was where the first shots of World War II were fired in September 1939. The world powers had once attempted to address war reparations throughout Europe in 1919. There were undertows to history of those war reparations that lasted for more than a decade.

The passions of American history can be aroused when discussion centers over the issue of reparations over issues of slavery. Almost one hundred fifty years later, descendants have wondered out loud about monetary damages owed them as descendants of slaves, as corporations grew on the backs of slave labor.

Nazi gold. The search for art that rightfully belonged to Jews who were disenfranchised of all possessions. When the Berlin Wall came down, people were coming to Gdansk asking for the property back that had never been sold, where families had never received compensation for what was unjustly taken.

In Oregon, there was a news story sometime around February 18, 2009 over the pending bankruptcy of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits of the Oregon Province seemingly staff both Gonzaga University and Seattle University in a part of the country that carries some of the most secular beliefs in the United States. It is true that not all academic assignments within the Society of Jesus follow strict boundaries, regarding the affiliation of anyone Jesuit to this province. But the bankruptcy would seem to have real affect on the future Jesuit identity of these institutions.

A Portland attorney by the name of Kelly Clark felt compelled to issue a statement on the filing of the bankruptcy on Tuesday by the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus. One hundred years from now not many people are going to remember Kelly Clark, if he was a man or a woman. Kelly Clark, one news story reported, was making a living representing a number of clients who allegedly were abused by Catholic priests and nuns. Kelly Clark, expressed delight that “justice will be done ….for some of these victims who have carried the shame and brokenness of childhood sexual abuse.” Unlike the Jesuits who take a vow of poverty, Kelly Clark apparently believes, as does American jurisprudence, that justice will be done with dollars, and punishments are to be measured in dollars. “My clients would say this to anyone who would blame them for the Jesuits’ financial trouble: ‘The Jesuits should look in the mirror; they have no one to blame for their predicament but themselves. What the Jesuits are seeing is simply the consequences of their own actions,’” the statement read.

Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus put out their own statement which noted the province had settled more than 200 claims and paid more than $25 million to victims since 2001, an amount that did not include payments made by insurers.

American jurisprudence does not look at the source of funding for the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus. I dare say the source of the riches of the Oregon Province is in the hearts of those who financially support the mission of these priests. The reparations paid to victims of sexual abuse came from funding that was to feed the hungry, educate the ignorant, attend to the spiritual needs of believers.

There was a certain irony in the Kelly Clarks with their law licenses, and their “holier than thou” speeches about really holy people. Not seeing the affect on generation in his/her part of the country, where secularism was the fastest growing faith.

So how much do you want, Kelly Clark? From the real source of funding for the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, since these men actually took a vow of poverty. Since reparations are to be measured in dollars against men with a vow of poverty, with ideally no self interest, the real source of funding is in today’s earnings. Can we offer slave labor of all the Jesuits of the Oregon Province as reparations? Can we offer the slave labor to your law firm to disburse of 20,000 graduates of Jesuit institutions? Can we offer the labor of descendants of graduates of Jesuit high schools and universities of the Northwest? For the next generation? How much is enough?

It seems a fair conclusion to reach that the legal actions against these Jesuits who stole a part of life, where without a statute of limitation, were essentially ones of strict liability, where the discussion was only about damages. About reparations.

There was little discussion about other collaborators in the wrongdoing of sexual abuse. About police and public defenders who did not bring charges. Most of these cases left lingering seem to have involved incidents which happened more than 7 years ago. Sue the police for not doing their job?

The Kelly Clarks of the world and their own legal network fostered by Jeffrey Andersons of the world, communicating within their own network of the trial lawyer association, on how to proceed, the tactics to use, the statements to release. These slam dunks cases were essentially cases of strict liability, with no defenses to raise. In the day when the Obama administration is even resurrecting the defense of sovereign immunity, where no one could not sue the king, the Kelly Clarks of the world had their guns pointed at the Pope.

The Kelly Clarks of the world never seemed to ask to punish these men in criminal courts. They never seemed to criticize the state’s attorney with jurisdiction over criminal matters. Not when the offenses occurred so long ago. Because there are no contingency fees in criminal cases, these trial lawyers wanted to keep this in the civil courts. When there was no defense about the lambs of the world whose lives, the innocent part, were taken. Even as the Catholic world watched other adult Jesuits, who had no part in the mismanagement, suffer in silence.

In cases of obvious liability, when it was all about money, no defense attorney wanted to question the victims. The Kelly Clarks of the world, the Jeffrey Andersons, who certainly have theorized how to get at a share of the wealth of Rome. Because that was the source of this bad management.

The Kelly Clarks of the world, the Jeffrey Andersons, the Mr. Potters. There is this scene in “It’s A Wonderful Life” where Jimmy Stewart is telling his bank patrons: “We don’t’ have your money, Charlie. Your money is in Joe’s house…that’s right next to yours. And in the Kennedy House, and Mrs. Macklin’s house, and, and in one hundred others.” It was how a savings and loan work. It was how the world worked.

In the world of finance, Americans are getting a new fear of how things work in times of panic. In other times when without the FDIC, people reacted to affect bank runs. Suddenly those black and white scenes on the Turner Classic Movie channel seemed much more real. The dark ages always had potential to return. In the discussion of “too big to fail,” count the Roman Catholic Church into the discussion.

There were still individuals trying to profit off disasters. Like news teams who saved stories for Sweep Week in February and May. All those folks trying to profit off disasters. In places like Somalia. Where war lords, with their own kingdom and power, reign. Where piracy is making a comeback.
The resolution of jurisprudence over the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, over similar litigation in Philadelphia, in Boston, was larger than the amounts of reparations involved. There was little understanding of the undertow, for generations.

Nazi gold. Jewish property. Those ongoing searches for the owners of art that was wrongfully taken from people in Nazi occupied Europe. To find the rightful owner, in a world filled with injustice. In a world where borders do change. In a world where attempts to address reparations is ongoing, but with little understanding of the aftermath of reparations.

A few borders had again changed in the aftermath of World War II. There had always been undertows to history beyond reparations, undertows that lasted for generations. Individually. Communally. Whether over issues of slavery, over issues of war, or over issues of sexual abuse. Whether an undertow to sexual abuse, when a kid sexually abused saw no boundary to abuse another innocent youth. Or whether to a nation who felt something had been taken away and saw no boundaries in trying to get that “something back.”

(Post script: Statistics show that there are two-and-a-half to three times as many cases of sexual abuse in the American public schools as there are in the Roman Catholic Church. But those institutions are funded with tax dollars. And tax payers complained loudly, whereas people who gave out of charity did not.)

A Sense of Privacy

Once upon a time there was a strong sense of privacy. Here. Times have changed.

In an age of terror, many Americans were willing to give up their right to privacy, in order to maintain a sense of order. To avoid having the next skyscraper run into by an airplane.

In an age when a generation of young girls were forwarding pictures of nudity, their own, to others, what communally would happen to a strong sense of privacy? In a democratic society, when I was subject to the lowest common denominator, if the low levels were enough to become a majority sometime in the future?

The same issues arise when it comes when health records were on-line. When telephone companies released information as to who I was talking to. The same issue is there when it was the records of foreigners talking overseas. In the age of terror, when issues were politicized, the issue of human rights, of protected rights should not apply based upon place of birth. The first ten amendments to the constitution, the Bill of Rights, were all about human rights. Not the rights granted to a privileged few determined by latitude and longitude.

Boundaries. What boundaries? Was there still the right to privacy and the sense of privacy? The constitutionally protected rights to privacy, and the legal opinions about rights would be changing based upon the thinking of the era that the attorneys grew up in?

I am in disagreement over a couple issues. Over what exactly constitutes human rights. Human rights have no capital cost. Free speech. Freedom to assemble. Freedom of religion was a subset of freedom of assembly. Health care was not a basic human right. Nor was “reproductive rights.” That California woman who had multiple births, was it 8 or 9 kids, with the help of fertility drugs. Issues of birth control as practices with birth control devices that had a monetary cost, was not a basic human right. Things that cost money were not a human right. It was only advocates clouding the issue of fundamental human rights.

It is interesting to go back to the presidential debates and recall Mr. Obama’s response when he was asked whether health care was a basic human right. He felt it was. That must be the foundation for his intent to pursue a national health care policy. CONTD.

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The Everlasting Comic

I hate Easter. The actual Sunday. Finding only a corner of the church, because the fire marshal had the day off and this was all that was left. The actual sermons that never added much, yet all these people here, stealing my pew.

Hey! I love what Easter meant to the Irish. It was about union. Finally. A nation once again. Still falling a bit short. But it was a new start.

The problem with Easter is that we are all gonna. Die. That was why all these people stealing my pew were here. Die. No matter what.

A people set apart. Looking for union. In my case in the United States. Looking for union. Looking for the answer to God’ s question, “What did you plan to do? After the sex, after life, and after death?”

All these people here, stealing my pew. The broken families. From divorce. In church. Churches broken. Divorced Christianity.

Trying to learn of the theme of union. Learning how to pray. All over again. What we had done. What we had failed to do.

We were scared as hell of death. Watching people dealing with the fact. Dealing with the mortality of loved ones. Then dealing with their own mortality. And then the people you don’t know. Seeing the issues. Meeting God, and the world asking, “Could you come back another time?” Looking for meaning, but in a wait-and-see mode. And now, on Good Friday, a fitting ending to God’s disappointment in relationship, when not even the Messiah survived all of this.

The relationship thing. God and His indifference to suffering. One long never ending sequel of failure.

Writers on Writing was written and was published by Bread Loaf Anthology in 1991. A chapter in this book called “Reading” was written by Richard Ford. Ford begins by stating that as he prepared to teach English in college, he really had to teach and explain to his students how to read carefully. Ford’s problem was teaching to young people who demanded relevancy in everything about presented characters in stories, character, and point of view. Students answering the character questions: How did he affect you? Did you love him? What was he after? Did he change much during the time that you knew him? What most impressed you about him?

This had been the week of Holy Week, where students still have to answer the character questions, the questions of relevancy: Why is this year different? To the point in time on a Friday, asking in a new way, “Why are you doing this?” I have never heard a preacher dare say, in the way of point of view, to the main character, “Father, how could this Messiah be crucified?”

The Passion story. God losing His anonymity with the life of Jesus. Jesus, made in the image of God, had this inherent human urge to leave something behind, in the evolutionary process of perfection: “Do this in memory of me.”

On Friday, it looked like it was over for good. The last clear chance. The Messiah. He came. He went. He died like all of us. So what was the big deal? He was human.

Those with deeply personal relationships with Jesus of Nazareth were obviously in shock over all that had happened so fast in 24 hours. It was September 11th, one thousand nine hundred sixty-eight years earlier, with all the fear thereafter. With blood and guts, and wrongful detention. If you had been schooled in the Old Covenant, tutored by this Master, the question had to be, “So would there be vengeance?”

Whose fault was this? This crucifixion. We never asked for THIS. So in the case of relationships, it was all the Creator’s fault? Everyone is mad at the Father? Well it can’t be His fault. That is the point of view of too many preachers. So they go looking for scapegoats. That same point of view leads to anti-Semitism. The lack of understanding. An anger. If Jesus died for me, then the Crucifixion is my fault? It sounds like an idea that was fostered by self-made men who thought they were worthy of all their riches. All those preachers looking for vengeance? Preachers, who never listened to Bogart’s last speech in Casablanca. Lives with sins that did not amount to a hill of beans. When the state and the religious authority had combined in this crucifixion. It wasn’t the Jews who crucified Jesus, a Jew himself. It was the ROMANS. The same guys who have mostly been running the Latin Church, my church, for the last 1977 years.

All those preachers who just never wanted to read the first half of the Good Book. The story of the Passion, the theme of a new covenant, seemed to be a renewal of the Old Covenant. A relationship that never really had changed, from the time of Abraham. It was just more inclusive. When Abraham took Isaac up to be sacrificed. It was a crazy idea. Trying to learn how to pray. And afterward, looking for a scapegoat to sacrifice. Too many preachers whose concept of prayer, of covenants, of relationships, never really had evolved. Had never evolved, with this concern over the Crucifixion of the Messiah and not with the meaning of his life. Well, the Crucifixion was not my fault. Except for the world I was born into. And the world Jesus had been born into. The wickedness. The shame over being chosen? So there must have been a lesson in the life itself of the Messiah. In Salvation History. To personal sacrifice?

Afterward. As if the covenant had changed. “God, how did you let this happen?” Listen to what it was that the evangelist recorded. And then all those preachers still talking about “Jesus died for me.” The story seems a bit bigger than that. It was all about personal sacrifice. Jack Miles wrote a sequel to God: A Biography. Miles never quite asks the same point of view questions in Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God, as he did in his Pulitzer Prize winner. Most Christian preachers focus too much on the Messiah and not on the ongoing Life of God. And how Jesus changed from the beginning of the story until his departure. In his personal sacrifice.

Too many preachers who focus on the death of Jesus instead of his life. Too many preacher without a concept of prayer. It is as though Jesus is the main character in the story instead of the Father. In his personal sacrifice to the Father. So with a perspective of the the life of Jesus, from that moment of conception, with the perspective from Solomonn’s Temple, under Jewish divine law (Deuteronmy 22: 25), rape committed on a betrothed woman was punishable by death: warrants for the infliction of capital punishment, as opposed to private retribution or vengeance, are found in the Pentateuchal codes for the commission of any one of the following crimes. So God got Mary pregnant. And the punishment was capital punishment. I am sure that Mary and Joseph could understand the perspective. (“If a man finds the betrothed girl in the field, and the man overpowers her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die.”)

April. When the snow seemed to be uplifted to the sky, instead of falling down. Holy Week in Minnesota. Holy Week was the real Final 4. And Easter was the story of Opening Day. Of liberty. The real Emancipation Proclamation. Easter was about the meaning of human life. Of human souls. We all had one. Soul.

Your pain here? It had all been a joke. The Messiah who came to the earth. The suffering? Well, he has risen. All of those who died are gonna rise again. This love that you had with other people, and this invisible relationship with God? Well, it never was gonna end. Life was all about a search for union with God. With God. Through each others.

“Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine,
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn.
Know ye not ’tis Easter morn?”

-Gerald Manley Hopkins

God, the Everlasting Comedian. The point of view which all along was invisible. As if the Creator did not know what he was doing. A good writer never could write a great story without knowing his/her own ending before hand.

The best comedians were the Jews and the Irish. Christ had risen. A Nation Once Again! Union! With God and the ones he loved. And all those people who got the message who filled the churches, in my pew ….well, they are gonna go invisible again. Starting tomorrow. Until Christmas. They appeared when God did. On Christmas. And on Easter. Was there a problem with Easter, or any of this?

Everyone was a comic. !

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Crime & Punishment

I live in the city of St. Paul but have never been drawn much toward the man. This guy named Saul. I was still piecing together fragments. In this Pauline year.

“Give us Barabbas.” How were people changed?

“Give us Barabbas.” Saul. Young men like him, up all night who partook in the crucifixion. People like Saul. After political rebels suffered all those crucifixions at the hands of the Romans, finally the Jewish hierarchy got to crucify one of their own. It was not an anti-semitic thing. It was all about dogma. Here was a religious rebel. Ah, when politics and religion collide.

“Give us Barabbas.” I have spent time in the state pen in South Dakota. I was allowed in to play softball. I preached the importance of hitting the cutoff man. That day I was the cutoff man. A guy asked me for help when he got out. Then I found out what he had done. He WAS the cutoff man. I told him all I could do was preach the importance of hitting the cutoff man.

“Give us Barabbas.” Those 2 million black men in jail. What had they done? Why the disproportionate number? What was wrong with the system? Society? What was legal? Why did people commit crimes? And even on those who had not, in American society, what of those women who had abortions and the docs who had performed them. They were legal. Sixty years ago they would not have been. Fifty million abortions. If abortion ever becomes illegal again, the question was how to punish. No one had an answer. Not in Washington, not in Rome.

“Give us Barabbas.” About this punishment thing. The arrogance of politics and religion in the foreground of Good Friday. Piecing together fragments. In this Pauline year. The arrogance of the human species, determining punishment. Crime and punishment. Determining crime. How this all became alive. All creation. In 2009.

“Give us Barabbas.” Piecing together fragments. Work. The burden of work that destroys us. Day by day. By those who had no understanding. What was that Genesis quote about crawling like a serpent on this earth. To be made humble. In search of food. Jesus destroyed by his work as it were, by his mission. By those who had no understanding.

“Give us Barabbas.” Crime and punishment. How to change things. How to change people. The method of punishment? With capital punishment? With a crucifixion?

“Give us Barabbas.” Crime and punishment. Piecing together fragments. In my world. In the city of St. Paul. By those who had no understanding.

“Give us Barabbas.” How was I doing learning piety? How was I doing teaching piety? How to change people? Over time? With age. By example. To overcome crawling like a serpent on this earth? Only in death. When there no longer was a need for a search for food. Could only God teach piety? With a shocking crucifixion?

Crime and punishment.

Listen to the composer of the above liturgical music.