Voices of Hope and Doom


E.J. Dionne has a great column today in the Washington Post and he rightly points out that the voices of doom seem to be all around us.

First he points to the voices of doom on the left.

Recently, a group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) ran a full-page ad in The Washington Post cast as an “open letter to ‘liberal’ and ‘nominal’ Catholics.” Its headline commanded: “It’s Time to Quit the Catholic Church.”

The ad included the usual criticism of Catholicism, but I was most struck by this paragraph: “If you think you can change the church from within — get it to lighten up on birth control, gay rights, marriage equality, embryonic stem-cell research — you’re deluding yourself. By remaining a ‘good Catholic,’ you are doing ‘bad’ to women’s rights. You are an enabler. And it’s got to stop.”

He immediately grasps that the secular left doesn’t care much for Catholicism, or I suspect religion of any kind, preferring to lump all of us “religious-types” together.

But there’s another kind of progressive minded group. And it’s those of us who believe in much that liberal principles hold and that it reflects much of Catholic teaching.

We’re the ones who remind some narrow minded folks that it’s not OK to just be against abortion when you call yourself a pro-lifer but that the title also demanded that we support women who struggle to not just bring a child to term, but also to support that child and mother well long after the birth. Not to mention those of us who call for an end to war, violence and the death penalty. We hope to care for the poor who all-too-often are in harm’s way and for the environment which continually gets ignored too often as well.

And we do so by pointing people to the wisdom of our tradition as the reason why.

Dionne then takes up a second group of doomsayers. Those on the Catholic right.

I wonder if the bishops realize how some in their ranks have strengthened the hands of the church’s adversaries (and disheartened many of the faithful) with public statements — including that odious comparison of President Obama to Hitler by a Peoria prelate last month — that threaten to shrink the church into a narrow, conservative sect.

Do the bishops notice how often those of us who regularly defend the church turn to the work of nuns on behalf of charity and justice to prove Catholicism’s detractors wrong? ….has it occurred to the bishops that less stridency might change more hearts and minds on this very difficult question?

Indeed. While I certainly think that those who oppose abortion, for instance (I would count myself as being in that group), are doing their darnedest to try to change the law and to protect the innocent who so desperately need our assistance, what good has it really done? Our opposers are more firmly entrenched because of the vitriol of some and they liken the words coming forth from well-meaning and dedicated people (Laity and Bishops alike) to hate speech and at best, mean-spiritedness.

I don’t think that’s the message that people need or even want to hear. It doesn’t call us to change and it doesn’t produce results apparently.

What do people want? They want two things: action and results.

It seems to me that this is what the nuns were doing pretty darn well and their heroism seems to be brushed off because they didn’t spew venom often enough.

Even with a Republican President for 4 years recently and a congress that also shared those principles what were we able to do about abortion?

Nothing.

That’s not a good record. And we should be ashamed. All of us.

There’s an old adage that some in the church should carefully heed.

“It’s time to put up or shut up.”

Why, might I add, haven’t we heard much about a small organization called Malta House in the state of Connecticut –a state I might add, that just abolished the death penalty?

Just a sample of what Malta House does:

Malta House promotes the dignity of God given life by providing a nurturing home environment, support services, and independent living skills to expectant mothers of all faiths, and to their babies.

Residents of Malta House participate in educational programs covering issues of Health, Nutrition, Parenting and Child Development. During their stay at Malta House, mothers also receive guidance designed to foster a positive self image for themselves and their children. Personal finance and budgeting advice is offered to promote self sufficiency as our young families assimilate back into the community.

In addition, each resident agrees to participate in an individualized educational component that may include GED preparation or certificate programs at a local community college. Tutoring is provided to support the rigors of each class.

Michael O’Rourke, Malta House’s founder, is a saint in my opinion. He put up and then he didn’t shut up–rather he went and spoke to thousands of people leaving no stone unturned in order to gain support for his cause. It was an easy sell. And he did it all with grace and a quiet voice of peace.

So why, might I ask, has nobody bothered to say…

“Y’know what might be a good idea? Let’s have one of these Malta Houses in every diocese! Heck, let’s have two! Get O’Rourke on the phone.”

It would provide jobs, care, and it’s clearly a pro-life message that can be seen and produces results.

Do we think that the secular left couldn’t get behind that? Despite the law, we Catholics need to find ways to support the cause of life ANYWAY.

And other causes that support and claim who we are–a people of action.

Or we can just keep crying foul as a voice of doom that claims that the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket and we are powerless to change that because of those pesky little laws.

Now c’mon folks, we’re smarter than this. A lot smarter.

Perhaps, as Dionne suggests, we should heed the words of John XXIII:

“Distrustful souls see only darkness burdening the face of the earth. We prefer instead to reaffirm all our confidence in our Savior who has not abandoned the world which he redeemed.”

And as Dionne rightfully notes: “The church best answers its critics when it remembers that its mission is to preach hope, not fear.”

Amen.

Oh! And if you’d like to help to Malta House click here—their gala event is Thursday!

Girls Can’t Play

This one got to me today, and thus will produce a rant below:

From Irish Central

A fundamentalist Arizona Catholic high school is refusing to play in a baseball final as their opponent’s team includes a girl on second base.

Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic school, in Phoenix, will forfeit the final rather than play against Mesa Preparatory Academy because 15-year-old Paige Sultzbach is on their team.

The fundamentalist Catholic school is run by the U.S. branch of the Society of Saint Pius X. The group represents conservative, traditional priests who broke from the Catholic Church in the 1980s.

The school’s statement read, “Our school aims to instill in our boys a profound respect for women and girls. Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we choose not to place them in an athletic competition where proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty.”

Paige’s mother Pamela responded by saying, “This is not a contact sport, it shouldn’t be an issue. It wasn’t that they were afraid they were going to hurt or injure her, it’s that they believe that a girl’s place is not on a field.”

Read more: here

So ya wanna know what I think (said in my deepest Bronx-laden accent)?

I think they’re scared.

I think these misogynist cowards might just be afraid that this girl is better than half of the WIMPS on their team. And they’re too scared to pitch to her, lest she get a hit off of one of their pitchers.

As Tom Hanks would say, “There’s no crying in baseball.”

I played a year of soccer on my high school’s junior varsity team. My school didn’t field a girl’s soccer team and so, Dawn Burns became our goalie. We were horrible. But Dawn made some saves that I know I wouldn’t have made, nor would anyone else have.

On my street the Kosmolsick girls were some of the best athletes around, especially in basketball. My dear childhood friend Donna Bechtold hit a softball one day that still hasn’t landed. And when we played fast pitch stickball, a woman named Stacy hit a tennis ball that flew out of the park so quickly that rocket ships might not have caught up to.

Girls can play too. Sometimes better than us boys.

They call the religion that the protesting school follows a “Fundamentalist Catholic” one. I would challenge that because Catholics are not fundamentalists. In fact, to be fundamentalist is exactly what it means to NOT be Catholic–and it insults centuries of our great intellectual tradition and it’s a fairly new development of thought amongst people who simply want to reform Catholicism to their own brand of what they think Catholicism should become. But I get the author’s thought.

I have another word to describe them. Goofy.

Hey Paige Sultzbach, I hope you understand that not all Catholics would bar you from the right to play a sport you love.

Or serve at the altar. Or be a lector.

You go girl…and keep swinging.

And h/t over to Deacon Greg

Because I’m King of Fairness

A word of thanks to the Cardinal Newman Society for taking down the post I mentioned yesterday and for a thoughtful apology for the mistake:

In case you missed it:

Yesterday, The Cardinal Newman Society reported that Peter Singer of Princeton University was invited to Georgetown to speak on the ethics of automated war. But it was in fact Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution. Our apologies for the misinformation. We will work to ensure that this doesn’t occur again.

While I doubt that this is true John Slattery said this about me on Facebook and it made me snicker:

He must have a powerful voice…they’ve already taken down the page at the Newman society!

Power to the bloggers! =)

Cardinal Newman Society Picks the Wrong Guy to Blast

The Cardinal Newman Society always gets their man….

Except when they get the wrong guy.

The society claims to have the market cornered on what makes a Catholic college. It’s ridiculous at times and at times I can see their point. Often however they can be so focused on trying to find fault with certain Catholic colleges that they make simple journalistic mistakes.

For example, Georgetown invited Dr. Peter Singer to their campus to give a lecture. Most people know one Dr. Peter Singer who is an ethicist and who often makes claims that infants in the womb aren’t persons. He even believes that because babies are not self-aware, then that means they are not yet persons until that part of the brain develops.

So the Cardinal Newman Society lashed out at Georgetown for making an invitation to a pro-choice ethicist to lecture at a Catholic University.

Now I might have a problem with them thinking that Dr. Singer shouldn’t even have “his day in court” or to give some Catholic ethicists an opportunity to debate Dr. Singer’s take on things. It seems that academic freedom isn’t really free when it comes to the Cardinal Newman society–a premise that I might add, is quite against what the Cardinal whose name they have taken would not support. He was always interested in Catholics being a part of debate and academic life–making sure that Catholics had a voice alongside other voices in secular society. After all, isn’t that how we proclaim truth to those who we have disagreements with? Or do we just talk to ourselves?

Now all that being said…here’s one crucial piece of information that I’ve withheld. The actual press release on Dr. Singer by Georgetown:

A war fought entirely by robots ? science fiction or not that far off? Dr. Peter W. Singer, the youngest scholar ever to be named a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an eminent scholar on warfare, will answer this and other questions in his address this April as the keynote speaker for the inaugural Walsh Exchange research conference.

They got the wrong guy. They were so eager to trap a Jesuit University that they’ve deemed “not Catholic enough” that they jumped to the wrong conclusion. Even more interesting is that they haven’t taken the link down yet.

And that’s the most un-Catholic thing I’ve seen a some time.

We Should Choose Bishops This Way

The Church of England is using Twitter to help pick the Archbishop of Canterbury!

Deacon Greg points this out to us:

Having wrestled with the best way to choose a new leader, the Church of England has decided to use the social networking site Twitter. It will also seek the views of people of all faiths and none, from the Chief Rabbi to Professor Richard Dawkins.
For the first time in history, the long and usually private process will begin with a widespread public consultation, to be finished by the end of May.
The Crown Nominations Commission, which must present the Prime Minister with two possible successors to Dr Rowan Williams, will also ask for contributions from “senior figures in other faiths, the secular world and the life of the nation”.

OK, that settles it, I’m running. Vote for me! Tweet me!

Tebow: Does He Have a Prayer in New York?

If Tim Tebow thought the media pressure of Denver was bad then he ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The Wall Street Journal put it best

“I can’t imagine a more unlikely fit for Tim Tebow than the New York Jets, just given what we know about the culture of that team. It seems to me, and a lot of outside observers, a team that has a pretty broken culture — at least a messy culture,” said Patton Dodd, the executive editor of Patheos.com, a website designed for dialogue on religion and spirituality, and author of the ebook, “The Tebow Mystique.”

“(But) in some ways, it’s sort of ideal for him,” Dodd added. “Even though it doesn’t seem like a likely fit, if he’s serious about what he believes, this is the kind of place that he ought to, to use Christian language, feel called to.”

I’m a Jets fan, as many know, and at first glance Tebow didn’t seem like the right fit for the raucous bunch in green. But perhaps he’s exactly what they need? Rex Ryan the team’s sometimes acid-tongued coach now won’t be the center of attention. Even if Tebow serves as a backup to QB Mark Sanchez, he’ll be the center of a media frenzy for a bit. It will be interesting to see if the Jets have given up on Sanchez who was widely criticized by teammates and fans alike this season, as the Jets failed to even make the playoffs, or if Tebow challenges Sanchez, who hasn’t ever had to look over his shoulder and who teammates have called lazy and undisciplined.

Tebow at QB has been dismissed as a publicity stunt, a QB who doesn’t have the tools to play in the NFL and even as someone disingenuous—as if he doesn’t practice what he preaches–something he can rightly dispute, perhaps on all counts.

It’s often the understated Quarterback who can lead, who shows confidence and leads a team on the field. Tebow could be that guy and it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table and what the Jets might be able to do with him. He’s got receivers, he’s got linemen and he’s got a defense to support him and keep the other team off the scoreboard.

If Sanchez couldn’t win with these guys, then maybe it is time to take a shot with someone else or to at least have someone on the team who can push Sanchez to stay disciplined? After all, Denver did make the playoffs and Tebow single handedly beat the Jets this year, pretty much knocking them out of the playoff hunt. So he’s earned some respect from the guys in green.

However it could also blow up badly for Tebow. The press will hound him greatly and make it hard for him to do his job. The Jets have had their run of Quarterbacks who came in with bigger resumes and who failed mightily, falling under the pressure of the media spotlight.

ANd perhaps there’s a precedent here. Across town, the Giants were told that a little Quarterback named Simms would never get it done for them and look at what happened with him. Then a guy named Jeff Hostetler, Phil Simms’ backup, well, he wouldn’t get it done either according to the experts and he did just fine. Then Eli Manning, the not-as-good-as-his-brother mantra was hung on him and two Super Bowls later, the critics have become quite silent.

Perhaps Tebow’s more understated résumé as a not-good-enough Quarterback is a distinct advantage and even drives him to achieve?

But will the bright lights of Manhattan tarnish the image of the GCQB (Good Christian Quarterback)? Or will Tebow become an even bigger phenomenon on the world’s biggest stage?

Nobody else has led this team to a Super Bowl since the brash Joe Namath who thinks Tebow is a mistake. Tebow could just be one more bad Quarterback but he’s worth taking a fly on at this point. I’m open to seeing what he has to bring to Gang Green.

Does Tebow have a prayer? Certainly. It may be all he has, but then again, without him this year, the Jets needed a lot more than that.

Attacking Bishops From an Unlikely Source

Often people on the far Catholic Left have little use for Bishops on the Catholic right–which they would claim are most Bishops. While I’m not sure that’s true (perhaps popular Bishops would be more accurate?) Michael Sean Winters reports that Bishops often get more flack from the right-wing of the church.

From Distinctly Catholic

Now, we have two new examples of far-right attacks on the bishops. The first is an article in the American Spectator that calls out Cardinal Wuerl for his handling of the Guarnizo case and argues that the cardinal has been derelict in his duty. The author notes the stance of Cardinal Raymond Burke on the issue of denying communion, conveniently ignoring the fact that many conservative canonists agree that Guarnizo went too far. The author is clearly unaware of the role of a bishop in his own diocese when he writes: “Cardinal Burke has spoken; the case is closed.” Perhaps someone should inform the Pope that Cardinal Burke disapproves of the way he, and his predecessor Pope John Paul II, dealt with the issue of denying communion – they didn’t do it.
But, what truly shocked was this sentence: “I’ve heard Church insiders call the cardinal ‘Wuerl the girl,’ a reference to his precious personality.” What does this have to do with anything? Isn’t this just a slur cast at Cardinal Wuerl? Why publish such a thing?
The other example comes from a group calling itself Concerned Roman Catholics of America (CRCOA) although I think Crazed Roman Catholics of America might be more appropriate. They are calling for protests at the upcoming Catholic Religious Education Conference, annually sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. They think the event is a hotbed of dissent and want all good Catholics and all good bishops to stay away. Here is their throwdown to Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles: “”Why does L.A.’s new, reputedly orthodox Archbishop José Gomez bring back the same dangerous speakers whom his predecessor Cardinal Roger Mahony brought in year after year?

Even the like minded can’t seem to get along. As Charlie Brown might say: “We’re doomed.”

When This Little Light of Mine Didn’t Shine…

So I love the blog Peacebang, who is everyone’s favorite Unitarian. She’s creative and hysterically funny. She must also know that I have a penchant for recalling the times in church when things just go horribly wrong–especially on major holidays.

Like at our 10AM Christmas Day Mass this year when someone projectile vomited in the back of the church. Merry Christmas, everybody.

Or at my parent’s parish when the pastor put too much lighter fluid on the kindling for the Easter fire and singed an older woman’s beehive hairdo. “Oh my hair!” was her cry. She was fine.

But Peacebang, AKA, the Rev Victoria Weinstein, a Unitarian Minister, takes the cake with this one that she reported from her friend’s church:

I guess what happened at my friend’s church is that she had worked for years to introduce the concept of The Coming of the Light into their candlelight service where, for decades, they sang “Silent Night” and left in the dark without a benediction or anything. This drove her crazy. “We don’t celebrate the coming in of the light!” she says. So at long last she got the Worship Committee to agree to having a child come forth at a dramatic moment in the service as she says, “And then arrived the Bearer of the Light.”

So last night, she announced this:

“AND THEN ARRIVED THE BEARER OF THE LIGHT”

And no kid.

For long minutes, no kid.

She ad-libbed. “AND THEN CAME JUSTIN, THE BEARER OF THE LIGHT.”

But “Justin” didn’t show up. I mean for 3-4 minutes, just dead air.

What happened behind the scenes is that Justin and his mother couldn’t get the little butane lighter going. They were frantically trying to get the clicker to work, while meanwhile my friend is up in front of the congregation going,

“SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO PATIENTLY AWAIT THE LIGHT”

And she’s having a total nervous breakdown and she’s so upset because right before the service she checked that butane lighter and everything was working FINE.

But you know, Justin’s mother also wanted to check the lighter and light it so many dozens of times making sure it was operational that she burned the thing right out. Those things are eight bucks or something – they don’t have that many lights in them.

So five minutes goes by – the most painful, sweaty five minutes you can imagine for the minister, and she’s still vamping,

“SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO WAIT A VERY LONG TIME FOR THE COMING OF THE LIGHT”

And finally, finally, the kid comes down the aisle with the unlit processional candle and some nice guy on the church staff goes up to my friend and hands her a Bic.

It’s just like, a total bomb of a moment.

But of course my friend says, “It was the WORST. But everyone loved the service. They said it’s the best one we’ve ever had.”

That’s why we love the Church, people.

Indeed. What’s your worst church moment? The time you just bombed as a minister or a congregant. Facebook me with some of yours and maybe we’ll make this a regular feature. I’ve got at least a dozen.

A Church Magazine of Forgiveness

Well…not really. But America Magazine shows that they can laugh at themselves this holiday season with a blooper reel:

Almost as good as this one from a few years back that’s gotten me all nostalgic:

http://blip.tv/play/gc9e4ft+jPc9

Fr. Dave and I are the last two standing at BustedHalo from this group and I, a mere part timer now from Buffalo. A secret, I was Santa in the first few shots with Fr. Jack Collins, CSP playing Santa at the end. I could never get the finger tapping down right in the scene with Jarred. Secondly, I do not shampoo with ground beef. My dog is creepy and he does that to me daily. I no longer fight him and my vet says it’s his way of saying that I’m part of his pack—like a mama dog would do to her pups. Awwww.

Regardless, I’m a bit nostalgic for NYC today and for some old colleagues. I went to spiritual direction at America Magazine for a few years with Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J. and Fr. Jim Martin, SJ is a good friend. So to all of those “old colleagues” in the greatest city in the world. Merry Christmas.

Nutter of the Week

So here’s a new way for you to get involved with GooglingGod.com–send me your “Nutter of the Week”. Each Friday we’ll pick a new one. Here’s this week’s winner who has inspired this contest after 6 different people sent me the article:

From today’s NY Times:

David Caton. An accountant turned rock-club owner, the author of a book about his pornography addiction, Mr. Caton had become a born-again Christian and the founder and sole employee of a fundamentalist activist group called the Florida Family Association.

This dispute, otherwise a mere footnote in America’s culture wars, matters very much right now. This same David Caton is the person who has maligned the television show “All-American Muslim” — a reality series on The Learning Channel about five families in Dearborn, Mich. — as a front for an Islamic takeover of America and pressured advertisers to pull their commercials.

At least two, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Kayak.com, have acknowledged doing so, partly in reaction to Mr. Caton’s campaign

But wait, there’s more!

On his association’s Web site he had accused “All-American Muslim” of hiding “the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.” In an interview earlier this week on CNN, he reiterated the thesis, saying of the series: “They show the good side of all this. But they don’t show what’s going on underground.”

It’s a conspiracy, I tell ya. #sarcasm.

The things that’s really interesting is that one nut has had a lot of significant influence. He’s awakened the anti-musliim bigotry that lives within the hearts of too many people. Earlier in his witch huntery career, Caton, tried to take down a pro-gay club at a local high school.

Who is next is anyone’s guess. My big question is why does anyone think this guy is credible? Are people really this dumb?

Who else is out there that we should nominate next week. Email your natters to me at mike.googlinggod at gmail.com.