Thursday, October 30, 2008


The other day I received an email entitled "Redistribution" and made fun of the socialistic views of Barack Obama. I immediately fired off a reaction that read something like, "Imagine that, the fighter pilot who got shot down doesn't realize that he is running his campaign on redistributed money." My friend wrote back and said that he respects John McCain for what he did for his country. I have no intention of jeopardizing my friendship with this individual, so I will tell you all why I did not vote for John McCain.

1. Getting shot down and surviving a concentration camp does not train you to be president.
2. Running a disorganized campaign proves that it doesn't train you to manage, period.
3. Being a maverick does not qualify you to be president. It might qualify you to be "complainer in charge."
4. Was that Gordon Liddy I saw you with the other day?
5. Did I hear that you voted for aid to the Contras?
6. I thought that I saw you one time with Ollie North.
7. Why doesn't Cindy ever let you out of her sight?
8. Maybe you are the one who needs her around all the time for moral support?
9. You are too wimpy to even want to talk with the Castro Boys?
10. You are not polite and respectful.
11. So you said that Obama is not an Arab, he is a "decent man." So Arabs aren't decent?
12. You proved to me that you easily go off half-cocked.
13. Over a year ago at a college campus, while you were on "Hardball" you answered a question about abortion just before the break. Then after the break you changed your answer.
14. The list of half-cocked reactions is too long to suffer through.
15. Your choice of Sarah Palin was bad, for a lot of reasons.
16. She too hangs around with bad people. the Alaskan Independence Group ring a bell?
17. She is cleaning your clock. It is hard to believe that you are in charge over there.
18. Will you show us a picture of you handing over a check for nearly $500 mil to Khalidi?
19. How about a picture of you speaking at a posh affair put on by ACORN?

I could not bring myself to vote for John McCain for president of the United States.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Non Omne Quod Sintillat aurum est

This painting is entitled "Transition". The reason why it is here is because it communicates the confusion that some transitions force on the people who have to go through them. I am sure that I am not the only one who feels this way. Our community is presently in the throes of a magnificently mismanaged transition as these words are drummed unto the page. The process is now nearly four months along and we are wondering how much longer it is going to last.

The community that is suffering this is a Roman Catholic parish. Roman Catholics have a special kind of life. They belong to communities which are called "parishes". These communities are geographically defined to be accessible to a centralized church. The church of course has a pastor. Unlike their Protestant counterparts, Catholics do not get to hire the pastor following a serious recruitment and vetting process. What happens is that the incumbent pastor leaves and a replacement is chosen by the bishop and sent to the vacated position. Sometimes these transitions are smooth, sometimes they are not. The clash of personalities and management styles from the one to the next are sometimes rather tectonic. One of the good aspects of the system is that the members of the community can always say, "Don't look at me, I didn't vote for him." One of the nasty sides of the system is that everyone knows that the next six years (yes, six) are going to be VERY interesting.

The situation that we are observing these days is of the second kind. Pastor comes in and right off the top complains about the lack of income. Then of course, he proceeds to lay off his brightest and best because, of course, they are being paid the most. Then, of course begins the recruitment of volunteers to replace the professionals who have accepted the invitation to move on because the parish "can no longer afford your services."
This takes place rapidly and in a dictatorial way. The new man looks around, sees who comes to church, who speaks his language most fluently, asks a question or two and then invites the person to take charge of programs about which the new volunteer knows nothing. This goes on for a while before the participants in the programs start to realize that they are so confused that they can't see where they are going.
It's interesting to watch. Meetings get called with miniscule advance notice. Those who can come to the meeting have no idea about what the agenda is, or even if there is one. In one case a long time class group was confronted by the replacement of the teacher that they were accustomed to and the person in charge of the change did not appear to introduce the new person to the group. Great transition management! There are more stories about the shock treatment of bad transition management, but that would be too boring and repititious.

Money. Of course, money. New paint, new chairs, new decor and a remodel of sorts, not yet finished, in my opinion.

Finally, not a single clerical priest in the entire parish is fluent in the language that dominates the lives of 85% of the parish. So, the spiritual life of the community is being burnished by the material changes in the environment.

Meanwhile, education processes clippity-clop along. The management of documents required is foggy. Who knows, this whole enterprise is living on the promise that "the powers of hell shall not prevail against it." All we can hope for is that the holy remnant of Ezequiel will be around when the six year term comes to an end.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


There are those of us who know that there are certain sins among those that we call "mortal" or "grievous" because we find their description as such in Sacred Scripture. The past Sunday (October 26, 2008), the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the first reading described one of these grievous, mortal sins. The Church presented this description to us as being in direct opposition to the lesson that Jesus was about to give to the sarcastic scholar who asked what the greatest law of all was.

"34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, 36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" 37 He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." (Matt. 22; 34-40)

The scholar of the law should have known the answer. In fact, Jesus knew the answer because it appears in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 5 "Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength." Jesus added the fulfillment sentence that He came to earth to deliver, about loving your neighbor. We have the same trouble with this saying of Jesus that the scholar of the law did. It is really a hard-nosed law. There are not too many teachers of scripture and homilists who have the courage to
confront the true meaning of this expectation that God has of us. It just happens that the first reading of this Sunday showed us just how high God has set the bar in this area of love of neighbor.
Thus says the LORD:"You shall not molest or oppress an alien,for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.
"If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate."(Ex 22:20-26)

How's that for crying out to God for vengeance? These are sins that today occur every day our world. They are right up there with the others that are found in the Scripture: Murder, sodomy and the withholding of wages. How often do we offer prayers of intercession for these grievous sins? How often to we even think about them? How often have they been spelled out from the pulpit? How often have they been uttered in the same breath as abortion? Even abortion has a special niche in our lives...September and October of every election year. Along with sexual
misbehavior, homosexuality (sodomy) included, we have our moral map handed to us when it comes time to vote. It's almost as though voting against pro-abortion politicians is the one sacrificial act that can bring us justification. What do we do the rest of the year? We hope and pray that the killing will stop and that a miracle will happen that will cause the change of the law. We already know that this is a sin that cries out to God for vengeance. We pray that we will see the day when His wrath will be manifest. In the meantime we shake our heads and wonder how to attack this monster. And what if the anti-abortionist is pro-sodomy and negligent of the blue collar, or "no collar" worker? What if the anti-abortionist has an international policy that has war as the answer to most problems?

It is unfortunate that our narrow minded, one issue attitude envelops us so tightly that we cannot be creative enough to apply other tactics to the problem than to vote against the pro-abortion candidate. This attitude sends us down the path of voting for some well accomplished dunces. We are encouraged to vote for those who would listen to our holier-than-thou preaching about one sin while forgetting the terrible destruction that can be wreaked by an accumulation of other criminal behaviors that bring us to our knees and cause more abortions to take place because of the despair that the anti-abortionist causes. We have a hard time making the pious ones see that the pro-abortion whiz could construct a community that would be more at peace with itself, therefore making abortion less desirable in times of moral difficulty. We are made to believe that abortion is the gravest sin committed by our society. I think that there is room for discussion there. I happen to have a corner of my conscience that says that the sin of electing an anti-abortionist who presents a strong probability of destroying the fabric of the entire country is just as grave, if not worse. Running the country into despair would only cause a lot more sin to be committed, including more abortion. While it is true that running a country to the brink of despair is not classified as a sin that cries out to God for vengeance, it nevertheless would be close enough to satisfy me.

Let's get back to the answer that Jesus gave to the scholar of the law. Jesus did not tell him to avoid any of the 630 precepts of Jewish Law. He quoted Scripture. He quoted the law of love as found in chapter 6, verse 5 of Deuteronomy, "Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength." Then, to fulfill the will of His Father and to complete the dictate of His Mission he added, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt. 22; 39)
How many of us look for the candidate who most closely lives the tenet of love in his life? How many of us prepare ourselves to go to the polls with an inclusive, positive attitude rather than an exclusionary, negative mind set? How many of us prepare to go to the polls liking one candidate and disliking another? How many of us can ask ourselves 15 questions about what it would take to be a good president and apply the yes/no Ben Franklin test to each candidate? I get the impression that most of us prefer to listen to bishop so and so who writes an 800 word essay against the pro-abortionist and go to the polls with that. Is that adult Catholicism? I don't think so.
A while ago I wrote an essay entitled "God is pro-Choice". (March, 2006) I received a very scholarly response from a serious theologian who cautioned me that such statements can and will be interpreted according to the political terminology of the times. It is not therefore proper to try to change the meaning of the words because they will not be understood in the absolute sense that the writer (in this case, yours truly) intends. I do stick to my opinion. Even the person who opts for an abortion, makes a choice. Nothing gets done without someone making a choice. Adult Catholics make choices according to their conscience. Normally a good solid conscience is formed with the framework of Church teaching. I believe that a good solid conscience of a well-informed lay person is as good a guide as the well informed conscience of bishop so and so. The bishop can say all he wants but the conscience of the listener can be based on valid truths that dictate another line of action. The proof of the validity of this is the example of the community of bishops around the world making differing and even contradictory statements about the same behavior. That is why I listen, I pray, I make up my own mind according to the dictates of my conscience and I act.

Now that you know that I am at peace with myself about these things, when you go to my funeral I want to hear you saying something like, "He was weird, but look at that s___t
eating grin he has on him!" That's the sign that you should never, ever think of crying at my funeral.