Why People Hate Catholics and Others in the Pro-Life Movement

Perhaps you haven’t heard of the story of the teacher who was dismissed in Montana from a Catholic School for having a child out of wedlock.

It seems there is a morals clause in her contract to uphold Catholic teaching and in that instance the superintendent felt he had no choice but to dismiss her.

Several of my colleagues have thought this could have been handled better. Deacon Greg Kandra has a great take on this today in which he cited the need for the diocese to support her in a variety of ways and yet still uphold the right to terminate her as a teacher. The latter part of that I vehemently disagree with the good deacon, but he’s at least making an effort to be charitable.

I’m calling for the Superintendent to resign because he has failed to uphold three central Catholic principles:

1) It Violates Our Pro-life Principles: How is this decision pro-life? It isn’t. Which violates Catholic teaching in a variety of ways. He has places a pregnant women in danger of being in poverty and at risk of choosing an abortion over bringing her baby to term. He’s also failing to care for a child and mother beyond term and at this point even with pre-natal care. In short, he’s cut her off from her source of money and health care.

2) It Violates Our Call to Love: How is this a loving response? It is not. Which violates Catholic teaching by not responding to sin with love. As Deacon Greg notes:

…though she has violated her terms of the contract does not mean we abrogate our responsibility as Catholic Christians. To that end, we are going to pay Mary Jane the severance required by the terms of her contract. But we are also going to go beyond that. We will continue to pay her health care up to the time of her delivery. We will also work to help her find employment, so that she can fulfill her obligations to the life she is bringing into the world. None of this is required of us in our contract with her. But we are doing this, as I indicated, out of Christian charity and out of our support for the most precious gift of all, the gift of life.
It is our sincere wish that in taking these actions, our school will serve as a witness to the world, standing up in defense of the unborn and in support of women making this most difficult choice. It is important that these mothers know they are not alone.
Discussing this among parents and faculty, again and again people have said that this is a teachable moment. But what, exactly, do we want to teach?

We wish to teach LOVE.
I also find it interesting that the MALE chancellor could have gotten a woman pregnant and hid that fact and not a word would have been said. But that’s a whole other column.

3) It Violates Our Call to Mercy: Which the POPE reminds us is the CENTRAL teaching upon which our entire faith rests. Mercy, Mercy and more Mercy. Guess someone missed that memo.

On a personal note, my 7th grade teacher got pregnant after her husband had left her and she began a new relationship. She was not married to the father and indeed, she lived in fear of being fired when she discovered that she was expecting. In his wisdom, the Pastor of my church at the time, supported her and allowed her to keep her job. One would ask “How did the students and parents respond?” They responded with love and care for a new child in the parish and great concern for the teacher.

I’d also say that I once heard the story of a parent who brought her 15 year old daughter to her pastor and told him “Well, she’s gotten herself pregnant, Father!” (which is an interesting term to begin with–it’s not like she acted alone in getting pregnant!) What was the pastor’s response?

“CONGRATULATIONS! That’s great!”

The mother nearly blew a gasket. And the priest pulled her aside and told her something very wise. “Look, we all know she made a mistake. And we’ll hold her accountable for that. But right now she cannot look at this child as a burden, because she will treat that child as something unwanted and burdensome for the rest of that child’s life. It will be unloved and unwanted and YOU will end up having to care for that child. Right now, we need to show her love and mercy and go back to her and say ‘Let’s go make plans for the Baptism!'”

Amen! And that’s what should have been the response here. Two things should happen. One is that the teacher should have been retained out of mercy for her and her baby. Two is that the community should have worked together to support this woman under the mantra of “We all make mistakes” and now we have to live with our mistakes with love that can always solve any situation that we may be in. We come to God sinful, sorrowful and yet, hopeful as forgiven people.

This was a teachable moment. And the superintendent chose the wrong lesson to teach. His lesson actually violates 3 Catholic principles. Perhaps he should be publicly shamed 3 times as much?

But that wouldn’t be very forgiving, now would it?

There’s a great scene from my favorite TV show, The West Wing where a politician is looking to shame the President’s chief of staff for his past use of alcohol and drugs. It was a mean-spirited approach used to gain political capital. Here’s a clip:


By the way, does anybody have an address for this mother, I’d like to send her $50 that I can’t afford because unlike you, Mr. Haggerty, I’m OK with being a bit uncomfortable while upholding my principles.

This is why people hate us. This is why some of my students won’t darken the door of Campus Ministry and I have to bend over backwards in order to get them to trust me and believe that I won’t have a judgmental attitude about them. This is why people assume that Catholics are right-wing nutters (which is different from being conservative or republican) who are fundamentalists and non-negotiable in their dealings with others that they consider sinners.

THIS is why.

One last note: I wonder what the Diocese’s pregnancy crisis centers think about all this. He’s just made their job ten times harder.

Solidarity and Dignity

One of my colleagues woke up this morning to no heat in subzero wind chill weather. He escaped to a Starbucks with his family to get warm and to use the internet on a morning where a major project was due.

It reminded me of a Winter Service Break where we had to spend just one night in a drop in Center (by ourselves). We served a bunch of people at the center for dinner and fun in the late afternoon. Essentially the place is a living room atmoshphere where people can “drop in” to get a shower, a meal and some companionship. We served food, played cards and generally made conversation. After the guests left we locked doors and settled in for the night. It was then that we noticed.

One mouse.
Two mice.
Three mice.
Four mice.

I stopped counting at 12.

So sleeping on the floor was no longer an option. I propped myself up on two chairs in my sleeping bag and drifted off. My daring colleague called us a bunch of wusses and threw his sleeping bag on the floor and got inside throwing one arm outside of it.

“Those mice are more scared of you then they are of–AHHHHHHH!”

We jumped to attention at his scream as a mouse ran over his arm.

I looked down and saw about 4 or 5 of the critters circling my chair-bed as if I was in the mouse version of Jaws.

Ed, my aforementioned colleague said it best:

“Dude, I’m all for solidarity with the poor, but how about dignity?”

Wise words. And since then I’ve taken them to heart. It moved me to write to my colleague this morning: “Solidarity always leads to dignity. Use this experience to lobby for the poor.”

I’ve also noticed that in the more progressive Catholic circles there often are people who bend towards one pole or the other of solidarity or dignity. There are some who say, live in Catholic Worker homes in solidarity with the poor and literally pick people up off the street and treat people the way Jesus would. They live in relative squalor. Sometimes they have bedbug issues and cleanliness is not at an all time high. And they are willing to live like this because poor people often have to. There are volunteer communities who live in homes with broken appliances or other household issues because “poor people don’t get to fix their homes–they can’t afford it.”

Then there are those who are leaning towards the dignity end. Some go to the extreme of merely doing charity. They raise money, they promote advocacy, maybe even they do a habitat project. They recognize that people in the world have problems and that they can help. So they do so. But they never quite understand at a deep visceral level what the plight of the poor is like. It is always a “them” and “us” polarity.

The truth is that we need both of these drives. We need to have experiences of solidarity in order to remind us deeply that people are being robbed of dignity. We need to feel their indignity to see that we are not so different.

We need not abandon dignity altogether however. Experiences of solidarity need not result in choosing to live indignantly. Rather all of this needs to result in our living for one another joyfully. Can we look at our luxuries and live without them in order to more gratefully provide for others? “How little can we live with and retain our dignity?” is a great question to ask ourselves.

However, we can’t let our own dignity slip away. Everyone should have a comfy bed, shelter, enough to eat, access to health care. I’d argue that a computer and good internet access is getting close to being needed in order to keep up with society. I once chastised a student who said he saw a guy with a nice phone but he spent a lot less money on clothing for his kids. Certainly priorities need to be in order, but we also need to think about what that phone provided him with. A status symbol like a nice smartphone might get him a better job. What if he said that he doesn’t own a cell phone or didn’t have an email address? How would the person interviewing him regard him? What if he didn’t have an address? You can see the downward spiral in our elitist minds. Dignity is all too easily robbed in our developed world where Americans are clearly the 1% by global standards.

“Nobody should have to live like this.” I said to my colleague and indeed that experience has charged my energies in lobbying for the poor. It’s not enough to allow yourself to face day to day indignities and in doing so claim solidarity as your prize for being above it all. Rather, we need to experience solidarity and take steps towards restoring dignity. The reverse is also true. It’s not enough to recognize dignity is what’s needed and to throw money at the problem. What’s needed is solidarity as well. We need to see the other as ourselves and in doing so also see Christ in our midst. That should be enough to recognize that the other indeed can easily be ourselves. It’s not about how others are different but rather it’s about how we are all the same.

Solidarity needs to keep its cousin dignity close by. Otherwise we will always keep those who live in poverty on the outside. And dignity needs solidarity to keep providing all of us with the experiences of poverty, for that empowers us to feel for others and to treat them as we would like to be treated.

Restoring Dignity

It’s something we’re all called to do for all people. And Ronald Davis helps us all remember this today.

An incredible interview. From 22 words–which is a great site. A h/t to my fabulous colleague Susan Haarman from Loyola Chicago.

I’ve been thinking much about the things that we all think are important lately. We had a student commit suicide this week. I didn’t know him, but he was one of our athletes and he had a child. The University is so big that people often easily get lost in the shuffle. It bothers me that in a University this large that this student felt there was nobody to reach out to.

How many are out there filled with loneliness and think there is nobody that they can turn to? How many are treated with no respect and discarded on a park bench unable to reclaim their own dignity?

These are the problems that we can solve…if we wanted to.

Can One Experience Change Us Forever?

Heather Mallick has a haunting article in the Toronto Star today that several colleagues have forwarded to me today. The mother of one of the children in the Newtown shooting insisted on an open casket. She hopes it will change people’s attitudes about gun violence.

Noah Pozner, 6, was one of the 20 child victims in the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. All the dead were shot between three and 11 times. Tiny Noah took 11 bullets. His mother, Veronique, insisted on an open coffin, Naomi Zeveloff reported in the Jewish Daily Forward.
You’ll probably remember Noah. He was a happy little guy with beautiful heavily lashed eyes and a cheerful smile. In his coffin, there was a cloth placed over the lower part of his face.
“There was no mouth left,” his mother told the Forward. “His jaw was blown away.”
She put a stone in his right hand, a “clear plastic rock with a white angel inside.” She wanted to put a matching stone in his left hand but he had no left hand to speak of.
Parents of the dead children were advised to identify them from photographs, such was the carnage. But every parent reacts differently. Veronique Pozner did the most difficult thing. She asked to see the body. Zeveloff asked her why.
“I owed it to him as his mother, the good, the bad and the ugly,” she said. “. . . And as a little boy, you have to go in the ground. If I am going to shut my eyes to that I am not his mother. I had to bear it. I had to do it.”
When the governor of Connecticut arrived, she brought him to see Noah in the open casket. “If there is ever a piece of legislation that comes across his desk, I needed it to be real for him.” The governor wept.

Seeing for one’s self indeed can change us for life. For myself two incidents in my life changed me for the better:

The first is growing up in Yonkers in a working class neighborhood. When I was about 12 or 13, a young man was shot in my neighborhood, three houses away from my own apartment building. Ricky, who I didn’t know personally, had broken up a fight between two kids who were arguing over a baseball bat. The kids went home and told their father what happened and the father came out with a shotgun and killed him. It was horrible. From my window I watched them lift the stretcher into the ambulance. Ricky, still alive, barely, lay there mouth agape. I looked at my dad and said, “What the hell? This guy is going to die over a baseball bat. And why does this guy have a shotgun in his house anyway?” The guy beat the rap. Got off on self defense and received community service. I made a decision at that point of my life that I wanted to make sure that nobody would ever be robbed of justice again, if I could help it.

And sometimes, I feel…well…powerless to help those caught in injustice.

The second was my experience of Nicaragua. I made four trips to Managua, to work at an orphanage. We also went to a place called Chureca, the garbage dump. People lived in Chureca and I have never imagined such poverty. Cardboard used for walls with the word “Basura” on it. Animals roaming free, dogs, chickens, pigs in people’s houses. Many died of malnutrition and stomach cancer was also prevalent. I thought to myself, “I’m trying to live in solidarity here, but nobody should ever have to live this way.” It robbed everyone of their dignity, and they grasped on to whatever they could to retain it. We brought supplies, baby formula, foodstuffs and more…but it would never be enough.

My journal entry as I travelled home, said a simple phrase,

“Poverty shouldn’t exist. And in a country as rich as ours, we don’t come close to knowing real poverty.”

I took pictures that day in Nicaragua, like the one above and the picture of Ricky burned in my mind continues to remind me of the senselessness of needless death and destruction.

St Ignatius reminds us that we need to revisit “the pictures” of our previous day and then let those moments lead us into deeper contemplation over the consolations and desolations of our lives. Then, and perhaps only then, we can make a firm amendment to change for the better.

Today we pray to remember the pictures that change our lives. May those who see the violence have their heart changed, especially as we remember these children, Noah in particular. We remember those who die needlessly in war, war that our country has sanctioned and continues to destroy peace. And we pray for the poor, who suffer needlessly because of greed. May God teach us to solve the problems of peace and justice because we have seen injustice. May that experience bring us to work harder for the dignity of humankind. Amen.

Sandy in Long Island

I just returned from Long Island where 8 of us from St Joe’s took some time to help people effected by Superstorm Sandy. We were hosted by Fr. Ted Brown, the director of Campus Ministry at LIU Post and a LaSallette priest (His nameplate on his desk just reads Ted Brown, Friend) and he and his colleague Jeanette, arranged our projects and provided our housing and a few meals making this an affordable and awesome trip.

We headed out to Long Beach where the sand on the beach is now piled high. Know those snow piles you see in winter. They have sand like that. See for yourself.


We helped a great guy named Bryan who has been putting his own needs far behind the needs of the community. He opened his realty office to be used as a donation headquarters. “Basically anything you can get at a CVS!” he said to us. At the same time he arranges volunteers to go help residents who have lots of damage to their homes.

He sent us to rip out flooring and sub flooring in two different homes and then Jeannette, LIU’s community service coordinator suggested that we help him get his business back on its feet as well. Bryan’s office was also damaged by the tons of water that flowed ashore, but Bryan was too busy helping everyone else to take care of this. So we ripped out his walls and insulation and got two rooms ready for rehab. Here I am crowbarring out his drywall.


Val, one of my favorite students, had an insightful remark during reflection about the experience. “Outside these homes look fine, even beautiful. But inside! They’re ruined! Do we look carefully enough at the needs of others, because they might look OK, but on the inside, they may be in need of help.” Here we see Christine ripping out rotted floor boards from a home.


That young lady will be a great occupational therapist!

So pray for the people in these areas, who are still recovering. They need our prayers and now that the CNN cameras have gone away, many feel isolated and alone and quite a bit desperate.

As we get back to our lives, let us remember to look more deeply at the needs of others and know that what we see may not tell the whole story.

Will Bishops Lose Their Tax Exempt Status for Pushing for Romney?

From the Religion News Service:

A public watchdog group is charging the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops with openly politicking on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and it wants the Internal Revenue Service to explore revoking the hierarchy’s tax-exempt status.

“In completely unqualified terms, the IRS should immediately tell the Conference of Catholic Bishops that the conduct of its members is beyond the pale,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

“If the Catholic bishops would like to continue receiving the tremendous tax benefits on which they rely, they should follow U.S. law and stay out of American politics,” Sloan added in a statement last Friday (Nov. 2) announcing the complaint.

Sloan argued that last-minute appeals by numerous bishops had crossed the line into electioneering. She named several prelates, including Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Ill., a fierce critic of President Barack Obama, who ordered his priests to read a letter at all Masses on Sunday that sharply criticized Democratic policies and warned that Catholics who voted for those policies would endanger their eternal salvation.

A few thoughts here:

The first is that the USCCB doesn’t endorse a particular candidate as a body. Individual bishops who represent a particular diocese are another matter. One stated that Catholics voting for the President would put their soul in jeopardy. Others put pressure on Catholics to vote against the President for his stances on abortion, gay marriage and the HHS mandate (or the issue of religious freedom). Meanwhile on the other side, many black protestant churches openly touted the President and are far more apt to make such statements. Billy Graham openly plugged his preference for Governor Romney and one small non denominational church posted “Vote for the Mormon, not for the Muslim.” Interesting that this last one is both partisan and incorrect.

The question, as regards this particular situation, places individual Bishops and/or clerics in the crosshairs and it looks like someone will be holding them to greater accountability.

It seems to me that Bishops and other clerics need a media expert who can be a bit more covert about their intentions. For example, one should name an issue, not a candidate. One should call on the fallacies of BOTH candidates if they name one over the other. The USCCB often touts that they don’t endorse any candidate and perhaps that mandates all bishops to use the same language.

Lastly, I have two final points. One is that the hatred for the President from the right wing holds no bounds both within and outside of the church. That needs to change within the church or we will face having to work with the government from the cheap seats. Governing is choosing, governing is compromise–by design. We are not going to win every time in our efforts with the executive branch or with the other two branches of our government. Abortion will not be illegal overnight and health care packages may indeed not be mindful of our positions on contraception. But that merely puts the ball in our court to decide what we might do, despite those obstacles and more importantly, how we might do that peacefully.

The second and final point is that we play into the hands of the militant secularists when we endorse a candidate by name. We have a great responsibility to keep issues that we are concerned about in front of all the candidates, but in doing so, we cannot afford to trade an endorsement of a particular candidate in exchange for their aligning with our moral values. No, we need be more vigilant than that, because campaign promises are fickle and often unrealized. Our role in government is advisory and the body of Christ votes of their own God-given free will. And most often they vote for their candidate despite the ranting of those who think they know the state of our souls, or the assumption that they vote to endorse an immoral act. The militant secularists, those who wish to sideline religion altogether from public life are indeed winning. And they do so, because just a few people are downright dumb.

What role should the church play in politics? A huge one. The church, that is all the people of God, should be lobbying our own leaders to take a firmer role in assisting those who caring for the poor. We should become peace negotiators, like former President Carter, and be able to play that role publicly and with firm resolve for ending war. Imagine Cardinal Dolan negotiating peace at the United Nations! We should build homes for pregnant teens down the block from the abortion clinics so women think twice about making that decision and then we should support them with the full weight of our wallets. We should care for our environment and fight for the rights of immigrants. But we should do it all without regard for particular individuals and political parties.

In fact, we should do it on our own. We should do it to the point where all Governments call us and ask our advice and offer us some help because we set the standard of excellence in these situations despite the obstacles that are put in our way. We should do it because God calls us to it.

And we should do it so that they will know that we are Christians. How will they know? Because they will see us working with great love.

And not with partisan hatred.

Do We Wish to Leave? A Reflection on Sunday’s Readings 8/26

Many people leave the Catholic Church for a variety of reasons–in fact there are even some good ones. And that saddens me, our church, a human institution rife with flaws is sometimes not the best place.

But what saddens me more–is that people even within the church leave as well. They leave behind some of the sayings of Jesus that are too hard for them to handle. Sometimes don’t we just walk out of the church after Sunday mass and don’t pay a single bit of attention to where God has called us?

And maybe there’s something wrong with all of us regular churchgoers–because we don’t talk enough about how God is all we need. Maybe we don’t even believe that God could satisfy all our desires despite our commitment to a church community?

Can we really believe that God can be all that we need? It seems that many of the early followers had a hard time believing that.

Jesus even says that he’ll be our food, meaning that God’s boundless love for us can satisfy all our desires. It doesn’t mean that we’ll never have to eat again or that starving people only need to go to mass and that their problems will be over. What it does mean is that God always satisfies even in the face of struggle and discomfort. I saw this first hand in Nicaragua and in Kentucky where poverty is rampant. People lived in the garbage dump called Chureca, just a stone’s throw from Managua. Desperate people clinging to life and happy to get a few staples from us to tide them over. But it was our presence to them that they loved the most. After all, they are forgotten people. In Kentucky, it was more of the same. People happy to get groceries and other items from the local food pantry, but even happier to engage in conversation with those of us who worked as volunteers for the day.

The poor are often left out and Jesus understood that intimately. From a poor town Himself, Jesus took on the poor’s likeness and challenged the establishment not to forget them. In the polite society of the rich, hanging out with poor folks was akin to ritual impurity. I often say we’re not so different because many of us wouldn’t be caught dead eating with the homeless on the street–or even talking with them. So when Jesus says that all people will eat his flesh and drink his blood that was even more disgusting to them–never mind that all would be asked to do this, not merely the rich–who were often looked upon as God’s chosen people at the time. Poverty indeed was a curse.

And instead Jesus invites all. Come and eat my flesh and drink my blood. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

And it’s all too hard for many. So they do what most people do when they get overwhelmed by a challenging situation:

They give up and walk away, back to their comfy lives where these challenges do not bother them. They can’t comfort the afflicted so they choose to be the comforted themselves and hope to not be afflicted.

And when these people walk away, Jesus asks His disciples: “Do you, too wish to leave?”

And Peter has the line of the year. My loose translation is something like this:

“Where could we go? You’ve scared everyone else away! And YOU, after all, have the words of eternal life!”

I can hear the disciples laughing. And then Peter adds that in case Jesus didn’t notice it, they’ve been following Him and are convinced that He is the Messiah. So why would they go anywhere else? And even if they did it’s not like people are going to roll the rad carpet out anyway now after Jesus had some pretty hard words for them to hear. Some folks just might not have been ready to hear what God was asking of them.

And the question that remains then is for us. Do we too want to leave? Can we stand with the poor and know that God can change our hearts to help change their situation–so that desperate people will stop doing desperate things?

Where might God be calling you today–to have your heart stretch a bit farther than you think it can? We’re all challenged by time. There’s only so many hours in the day and we have so many responsibilities. Might we as Catholics, intentionally set some time apart even once a month to dedicate some time for those less fortunate than ourselves? I know sometimes I fill up my empty spaces of free time with things that are less than satisfying for me, but are still tempting nonetheless. Bad habits are hard to break.

But maybe that’s why we are here! We’re here because we know that we want just a bit more out of life than what we often think will satisfy us. And that God’s example of giving us all of Himself from this altar is the example that we need to learn from. Can we become what we receive and stretch ourselves farther than we think we can–even to the least of those in society: the hungry, the homeless, the unborn, the forgotten–or are they indeed too hard to give ourselves to?

Christ calls us to become what we receive here from this altar. And when we do others might find us just a bit odd. After all, at this university Community Service is often used as a punishment. We get to serve the poor because we got caught drinking in the dry dorm, or speeding, or violating one of 100 different campus directives.

But Jesus calls us to say that we are servants by design. Called to be with the poor always–not as punishment–but as human beings who care for each other.

May you come to believe that Jesus is calling you to somewhere or someone this semester—to become Christ for them.

And in so doing, may you not just become what you receive–but may you realize that you are satisfied by simply becoming all that God calls you to be.

Racism In Southern Baptist Church Alive and Well

So this article caught my attention today:

The governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, has said it was unfortunate that a predominantly white church in the state wouldn’t allow a black couple to get married in its sanctuary, adding that the state should encourage the union of any couple – as long as it was made up of a man and a woman.

Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson said they weren’t allowed to marry in July at First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, a small town south of Jackson.

The Rev Stan Weatherford, pastor of the church, married the Wilsons at a church nearby. The wedding was moved after some congregants at First Baptist told Weatherford they opposed allowing black people to marry in the church.

So now some folks don’t even think that black people should get married and their Baptist church honored that request. I’ll assume that they just don’t think that black people should reproduce and thus die out as a race. I can’t begin to tell you how much this angers me.

But this whole thing brings up several other streams of thought:

1) This got a lot more news play overseas and in Canada than in did in the United States.

2) What if the situation were different? A mixed race couple perhaps? Would there have been more coverage?

3) And from my perspective: If this were a CATHOLIC church that did this and not a BAPTIST church I have a feeling it would have been on the front page of every paper in the country. Lauer would have had the wedding on the Today show.

Suffice it to say that racism is alive and well. Did anyone else notice that the Governor only said it was “unfortunate” and not “wrong”?

U.S. Bishops Condemn Bachmann’s Muslim Brotherhood Claim

Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) recently drafted a letter to various government agencies asking them to investigate the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on various agencies in the federal government, particularly homeland security and the state department. In particular they targeted top State Department official Huma Abedin in their concerns.

42 religious organizations didn’t just distance themselves from those remarks, they outright condemned them.

From the Huffington Post:

“[W]e write to raise our voices in protest of your recent letters regarding prominent American Muslim individuals and organizations,” the 42 organizations wrote in a letter to the lawmakers on Thursday. “These letters question the loyalty of faithful Americans based on nothing more than their religious affiliations and what is at best tenuous evidence of their associations. As such, your actions have serious implications for religious freedom and the health of our democracy.”

The signatories include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which often sides with Republicans on social issues, along with the Interfaith Alliance, American Civil Liberties Union, American Baptist Churches USA, NAACP and United Church of Christ.

As King of Fairness, I’d like to say…

Nice job outta our Bishops on this one.

Spiritual Pigeonholing

I’ve been at the Frank J. Lewis Institute this week with a group of first-time campus ministers. (They all think I know something about this ministry thing, so please don’t tell them I’m a moron yet). We’re all of varied Catholic stripes. Some very traditional and pious, others somewhat irreverent and earthy. Many of us play the middle of the field as a mix of many ministerial styles.

There’s workshops throughout the week for these folks and Fr. John Grace gave an excellent keynote presentation on Educating for Justice this morning. He made the point that we often talk a good game about justice, but we also often shoot ourselves in the foot. Often, we act unjustly even towards our own colleagues in ministry. We size them up and ask how we might manipulate this relationship for our own personal gain.

Or we characterize people into different camps. The younger priest who often wears his collar is automatically a conservative. And those priests that aren’t head to the other side of the room. Even we lay people do this. Avoid those who we think we have no commonality with.

I’ve met few different people this trip and often this week, people have challenged my assumptions. There’s the very evangelical guy who has a great gift of evangelization, but might be more closed to social justice, something I value in my faith. I could pigeonhole him, thinking I know all there is to know about him and frankly, I did. I gave him short shrift, maybe not publicly, but certainly in my own thoughts.

He mentioned that he often thinks the poor are lazy, and dirty, and they use the system unjustly. And I suppose that sometimes he’s right about that in some cases, but I could feel my blood pressure rising with his every syllable.

But then, he told this story:

One time he found a guy who had lost everything and the guy simply asked him for a ride to the bus station.

He was a former minister himself and he was fired from his church for whatever reason. He had a hard time finding a job and his wife left him. He ended up on the streets.

That really spoke to my new friend. He was a man not at all unlike him. As he spoke, genuine tears fell from this hulk of a man’s eyes. He could see a bit of himself in the other…and I’ll presume a bit of Christ as well.

And there I was humbled as well. Because I had judged my friend as perhaps someone who could never see the poor as he sees himself.

It reminded me of some of the experiences shared with UB students in Cleveland, especially. We ate at a house of hospitality—and that’s all we did. We weren’t there to serve a meal. Instead, we were told to get in line, sign our names in their book, get some food and then take a seat with other guests. At first, I didn’t even want to write my name in their book–because…

“Well, you see, I’m not really a guest here.”

By week’s end I had become comfortable enough to carry on conversations with people who were regulars. No longer strangers, we ate in solidarity and found more commonalities than differences. The week continued and I found similar connections with men who were court ordered to do community service in the neighborhoods we served. Not so different from me at all, they just made a mistake or two along the way–and so have I. I could see the other in myself.

As Catholics living in this postmodern world, we all must keep talking and drop our own assumptions. We don’t know all there is to know about someone else, and if we can’t even get our ministers to do this with one another, how might we get our students to see the hungry, the homeless, the refugee…as they see themselves.

You see, that’s the thing about the principle of solidarity…we have to love those with whom we disagree, and to do that, we dare to learn about them and to see life from their eyes, not merely from our own suspicious landscape.

So today, let’s pray that we might see a bit of ourselves in one another and especially in those who we might not like, agree with, or want to spend time with.

Because by doing so we will encounter the Lord as well in our midst, prodding us to remember that we need to know each other and stop being so dismissive.

Each time we do this, especially when we do it for the least of our brothers and sisters, may we too, like my new friend, cry with great joy.