Journalists and Bishops

Before Buffalo diocese whistleblower Siobhan O’Connor spoke on 60 Minutes, she worked extensively with Charlie Specht. The man has given our Church a tremendous gift of dogged truth-telling.

One important point Specht makes, which diligent readers here have heard me make before:

Beware a bishop who says, ‘We’ve had no claims of abuses occurring since Dallas in 2002! Look how great we are!’

Minors rarely, rarely report abuse at the time. It usually takes decades for the Gospel of You-Didn’t-Deserve-to-be-Treated-that-Way-and-You-Deserve-Justice to penetrate the huge edifice of manipulative lies that the abuser constructed in the victim’s mind.

A reasonable bishop would admit that some Catholic official in his diocese is probably building just such an edifice of lies right now. But: “When I learn about it, I will kick that manipulative bas-d’s a-s myself!” Or something along those lines.

…As the PA Grand Jury pointed out in their August report, one particular institution brought about the reforms which the bishops enacted in 2002. That institution is The Boston Globe.

Not sure if the Globe intentionally chose the feastday of 16th-century reforming hero St. Charles Borromeo. But they nonetheless published a magnum opus this past Sunday.

Their report demonstrates the hollowness of the bishops’ actions of 2002. This time the Globe co-operated with The Philadelphia Inquirer, and both newspapers published the same article simultaneously. It is long, detailed, and devastating.

(You and I, dear reader, have registered the hollowness of the ‘reforms’ of 2002 for months now, of course. Since the King of the 2002 “Reform” was… Theodore Edgar McCarrick.)

The best line quoted in the report comes from a sex-abuse victim of former Wyoming bishop Joseph Hart. Hart’s successor made a trip to New York to apologize personally. The anonymous victim told the Globe/Inquirer:

I remember thinking, ‘What the f— am I going to do with an apology?’ And then you realize it actually means a lot–to be believed.

…Three bishops have responded to the Globe/Inquirer report. 1. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput published a pointlessly tendentious and defensive op-ed in the same edition of the Inquirer. 2. Newark Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Tobin wrote a letter to his people. In which he could only manage to refer blandly to “the resignation” of Theodore McCarrick. 3. Sean Card. O’Malley of Boston expressed to the Globe his disappointment that evil still exists in the world.

Brothers: This is not going to work. I mean: Euphemisms. Defensiveness. Invoking 2002. Crocodile tears and words and blah blah blah blah.

We’re praying for a miracle in Baltimore. To be honest, I think the beautiful miracle might wind up looking ugly, at least on the surface. That is: open disagreements and recriminations.

Holley yelling at Wuerl and Wuerl yelling at Holley. Dolan yelling at Malone and Malone yelling at Dolan. Tobin yelling at Chaput. Kurtz yelling at Holley. Holley yelling at DiNardo. O’Malley and Cupich cowering behind the coffee urns, as the fur flies.

Bring it on. We need to break this thing wide open.

Bring in Charlie Specht from Buffalo, and give him a microphone. Bring in McCarrick’s victim James–from Michael Voris’ nearby rally–and give him the microphone.

We don’t need bella figura. We need hard-nosed journalist types who get in your face to learn the truth.

Click HERE for a pretty reasonable satire about the choice we American Christians face in the voting booth today.

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The One Real “We”

Donald Trump from the back

We have to do our best to follow the Commandments. Love God and seek Him above all. Honor Him. Mass every Sunday. Respect for those who have the authority to guide us. Be kind, gentle, pure, and honest with others. A peaceful life with a clear conscience. [Spanish]

We can do it. We can live prayerful Christian lives. Because God loves us with tender mercy and showers us with grace through the sacraments.

No one follows God’s commandments without God’s help. Knowing that is where a real relationship with Christ begins.

Now, politics has become a kind of religion for a lot of Americans. With a big Us-vs.-Them aspect to it. In the Us.-vs.-Them scheme, We are righteous. And They are not.

I don’t want to get bogged down in a whole lot of political details here. But here in the USA these days, the Us.-vs.-Them political scheme tends to revolve around one person. He’s either The Devil or The Savior, depending on which Us you fall into. Talking about a certain orange-haired gentleman.

The thinking goes like this: We’re right, because They cling to the orange-haired Devil. Or it goes like this: We’re right, because They hate and want to destroy the orange-haired Savior.

earthNo. Christians brothers and sisters. No. There’s only one real We. Only one real Us. Us sinners. We sinners who have no hope, but Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ looked at us with love. He saw that we had misunderstandings among ourselves, petty resentments, and self-righteous blind spots the size of Texas. He saw that we desperately wanted to attain righteousness, and truth, and inner peace. But we actually have no earthly idea how to do that. He saw us constantly shooting ourselves in the foot in our very efforts to attain godliness. He saw that we have emotions that run away with us to places like Las Vegas. Where we tend to make a colossal mess of even our best intentions. He saw that we human beings have a habit of hurting the people we claim to love the most.

He saw this one, united screwed-up human race. Perfectly united in this one thing—being sinners. Perfectly united in having wrecked our friendship with the one, true God Who made us. He saw us here on earth, perfectly united in making one pilgrimage together. A pilgrimage straight to the grave.

He saw all this—saw it all with perfect clarity. And He loved us. We were in the middle of taking His precious gifts for granted and squandering them. He loved us while we were in the middle of lying about each other and stabbing each other in the back. He loved us while we were in the process of making a mockery out of the very idea of justice. He loved us as we nailed Him to the cross.

Then: everything changed. Because He, Jesus Christ, the one and only Messiah and Savior—He brought righteousness to the human race. He brought the heavenly gift: Now we can live better. Now we can have a clear conscience. Now we can quietly aim for heaven. And make our way there, one step at a time.

Do not let your hearts be trouble Passion of the ChristWe can keep God’s Commandments because God has given us the gift of faith and the sacraments. Because we believe in Jesus, we know God loves us with a merciful fatherly love, patient and ready to forgive everything.

Because we have the sacraments, we receive supernatural wisdom from heaven. We receive superhuman strength to do good. The Heart of Christ beats in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. By the power of His Heart, we can love.

We can love our neighbors. We can love our enemies. We can love our persecutors. We can forget everything that isn’t God, and let it go, and live like St. Francis of Assisi—totally free, because we have nothing and want nothing except God Himself.

Now, I’m not trying to be Pollyannish here. We are living through extremely uncertain, fearful times. The institutions that should preserve peace and decorum among men—those institutions are visibly failing.

Again, I don’t want to get bogged down in details. But it seems to me that both the orange-haired gentleman, and the man in the white robe–even though they are sworn enemies of each other—seems to me like they will both go down in history with the same distinction: Being a householder who spent long days talking to himself in the mirror, while the termites ate the main support beams of the house.

So we face tough times. The younger we are, the more rough time we have ahead of us. But Christ came, and He did His work, and He gave us His Gospel—precisely for times such as these. The grace of Christ shows forth its sublime beauty most intensely in uncertain, dangerous times. Jesus Christ can make people righteous. Jesus Christ can unite the human race. Jesus gives hope. And He gives the gift of a quiet, godly life.

I Stopped Believing Him…

…when he wouldn’t answer the question: “How many beers is too many?”

A hostile Democratic Senator had not asked him this question. Rather, the Arizona prosecutor deputized by the Republicans asked, “How many beers is too many?”

The appropriate answer is a number. Three. Maybe four–for a big guy.

Judge Kavanaugh said: ” I don’t know. You know, we — whatever the chart says, a blood-alcohol chart.”

Every young person on earth needs to hear a clear and decisive answer to such a question. Three is too many. We need to hear it especially from someone sitting where Brett Kavanaugh sat at that moment.

…I have prayed for the end of Roe v. Wade every day for twenty-five years. This has nothing to do with politics. I am simply imagining myself in Twelve Angry Men. We just finished listening to the witnesses. And we now find ourselves in the jury room.

She told the truth.

He lives in terror–that he might actually have done it. He can’t remember, because he drank way too much in those days.

The irony is, both of these following sentences are true:

1. Brett Kavanaugh is a basically decent man who doesn’t deserve what he is going through right now.

2. He is guilty of the charge.

When I say that he doesn’t deserve what he is going through right now, I mean:

He deserved a long talk with a police officer and at least one night in jail. He deserved to sit beside his dad in the car, as they drove over to the young lady’s house, for him to apologize personally. Then ask her what he could do to make it up to her. Then give her time to think about it. Then do whatever she asked.

He deserved to have his father tell him that he could not play football that fall, that he was grounded for a year. And that if caught with a beer in his hands, he was going to rehab.

(And of course: Confession and penance at Little Flower.)

Then, by February, the whole thing might have been behind them all. Not that I am blaming her for not saying anything at the time. God knows it took guts for her to say it now.

If he would just admit: It might very well be true. And I’m sorry, and that isn’t really me–redemption is close at hand. And he can join in praying for the next pro-life nominee. And find some peace.

…Let’s not forget that dudette nailed this “#MeToo” thing back in ’02, long before there were such things as hashtags.

The Place Where Abortion is Illegal

Ireland voted to nullify its constitutional amendment protecting the unborn. Most people see this as: Huge victory for modern liberal ways. Huge defeat for traditional Catholicism.

cathleen-kavenyProfessor Cathleen Kaveny wants to see it differently. She has written a brief essay in Commonweal magazine that 1. lays out some moral realities about as clearly as you can and then 2. neglects to face them with real love.

Kaveny thinks that Roe v. Wade framed the moral issue in the wrong way. The court based its decision on the idea that the unborn child is not a person, at least not in the eyes of the law. To summarize Part IX of Justice Blackmun’s opinion for the Court: The unborn are not “persons,” as the word is used in the US Constitution. If they were, then the case arguing a right to abortion would “collapse.”

Kaveny thinks focusing on the personhood of the unborn child warps the argument, like this:

Pro-life = Yes, the unborn child is a person with the right to life. Therefore, abortion is homicide.

Pro-choice = No, the unborn child is not a person. Therefore, the mother’s right to make decisions about her own body can include a decision to abort a pregnancy.

Kaveny wants to frame the issue differently. In my book, she makes an enormously helpful set of points. First, let’s all, “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” concede the following:

1. Abortion involves taking the life of an individual human being.

2. That individual depends completely on the mother. Providing for a totally dependent unborn child imposes great burdens on the mother.

Amen.

All the pro-lifers I know would agree: We don’t want any pro-life ‘allies’ who do not sympathize with the difficulties faced by pregnant women. Yes, the child has a right to life; no doubt. But that “right” has no meaning without the sacrifice of the mother. The real pro-life movement has no interest whatsoever in getting ‘in between’ the baby and the mother. As the old slogan has it: Love them both.

unbornCareful Catholic bio-ethical thinking long ago fully grasped this at its depths. Turning the “right to life” of the unborn child into some kind of absolute value leads you to an unpleasant place: Mother Nature Herself does not respect this right.

Many pregnancies end in miscarriage, a.k.a. spontaneous abortion. Many fertilized eggs never implant in the uterus. That means countless human beings in the first stage of life who disappear into a dark oblivion, with only God and His angels ever having known that they existed.

Kaveny gets it wonderfully right here. The problem of procured abortion is not, ultimately, a metaphysical matter. We have to focus solely on the simple moral question. Can it be right to choose to have an abortion?

At this point in her essay, Kaveny leaves us with only a handful of dust. She suggests that the Church, without having a ready answer to the question above, should rather “accompany” our contemporaries who think the answer is Yes. We should take the risk of “having conversations.”

Now, I am confident in saying that most of us priests with some years of experience under our belts have had quite a few conversations. ‘Father, the child will be born with a handicap.’ ‘Father, I’m pregnant with my boyfriend’s baby, but I want to go to college.’ ‘Father, he ran away with the hygienist. But I’m pregnant with our fourth.’

Now, if we (priests and all Christian believers) don’t patiently listen, sympathize, and offer support and helpful proposals, we s**k. But, by the same token, no honest moral calculus exists which could include a proposal that aborting the baby might be the right thing to do.

Because the baby is, manifestly, a baby, and not a Volkswagen. And it is this mother’s baby. The mother’s life, and the baby’s, are already entwined in such a way that violence against the one is ipso facto violence against the other.

To countenance the idea that abortion could be the right thing to do–that would involve a failure of charity towards both baby and mother. Just like refusing to sympathize with the burdens faced by the mother would involve a failure of charity towards both of them.

Kaveny rightly points out that the law fears to tread into the territory where blameworthy homicide and justifiable withdrawal of life-support come so close that they almost touch each other.

But she misses the one absolutely certain thing, the principle that can and does lead in the direction of a resolution of all the problems involved in any pregnancy: Intentionally killing the baby is not the right thing to do.

We human beings cannot see into the future. We can only make decisions based on our best lights right now.

I have argued for most of my life that we do not need faith in order to know that abortion is wrong, since sonograms clearly show us that is is.

But, on the other hand, it is faith that protects us from the hubris that justifies abortion, based on uncertain predictions about the future. Every line of thinking that leads to the idea that abortion could be the right thing to do–all of them start with fear of the future. From that fear of the future comes the compulsive attempt to control it, through violence.

If you read my review of Ross Douthat’s book about Pope Francis, you know that I deeply reject the distinction between “modern liberal” and “traditional Catholic.” But Kaveny’s essay actually leads us to a place where that distinction touches something real and stark.

Holding the faith of the Church means believing that God will provide. Abortion offers a false promise about controlling the future. In the Church of Christ, we must have the courage to say, in every case: God has a real future for you and your baby.

 

“Doesn’t Speak Too Well of the United States”

(Archbishop of San Antonio, Texas)

Click HERE for a way to contact public officials about this.

Higher Loyalty

Comey Trump

The rule of law. Former FBI Director James Comey has dedicated his life to it. He became a lawyer and a prosecutor. He followed a calling to pursue justice.

We Americans love tv shows about law-enforcement and criminal prosecution. We rightly respect the vocation of people like James Comey. Public servants dedicated to the rule of law: they keep our country from descending into a chaos in which bullies rule.

My dear mom lent me her copy of Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty. I tore through it. I feel a kind of brotherhood with the man, since we have two things in common: A tendency to bang our heads on door lintels, and an unexpected job transition at the same time last year.

As a US Attorney, Comey worked to convict gangsters and stock-market cheats, like Martha Stewart. Then he ascended to the highest echelons of the Justice Department. When the practice of torturing terror suspects became public in 2004, Comey took a stand against the George W. Bush White House. Because the law is the law, and it prohibits torture.

Comey A Higher Loyalty bookIn 2013, President Obama made Comey the head of the FBI. Comey writes about how he undertook to make the organization more open and communicative, a place where everyone could believe in the cause.

Meanwhile, some other things happened.

Former President Bill Clinton’s wife Hillary traded on her political connections and became a Senator from a state to which she had no real ties. Then she became Secretary of State. Finally, she ran for president and secured the nomination of the Democratic party.

A sober body politic would have recognized this nomination for what it was: A triumph of cronyism, insider-ism. Not a feminist breakthrough.

But the body politic proved itself far from sober. The other major party nominated a notorious liar–a shameless publicity hound, a wounded ego without any real accomplishments to his name.

It is no wonder, then, that a such a devotee of American ideals like James Comey would find himself at a loss during the summer and fall of 2016. In his book, he recounts how his mind jibbed and gybed, trying to figure out how to handle FBI public relations.

The agency had to investigate Hillary Clinton’s “careless” e-mailing as Secretary of State. Also: the Bureau had suspicions of Russian attempts to influence the American presidential election by stealing private e-mail exchanges and hijacking facebook feeds.

In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the ‘rude mechanicals’ (a group of Athenian working men) aspire to please the Duke with a stage play. They intend to present the tragic love story of ancient myth, Pyramus and Thisbe.

The Mechanicals meet by night, in the woods outside the city, to determine their roles and begin rehearsing. But Nick Bottom, the weaver, wants to play all the parts. He wants to play both Pyramus and Thisbe. When he learns that a lion comes on stage, he wants to play the lion, too.

During 2016, James Comey became a kind of Nick Bottom. He had the part of FBI Director, a low-profile part, with very few lines. His role involved speaking only to his superiors in the Department of Justice and the Oval Office. And only about hard evidence, not political exigencies.

But Comey decided that Attorney General Loretta Lynch did not have enough credibility to tell the public about “Hillary’s damn e-mails” (as Bernie Sanders put it). Comey concluded that the troubled nation would not believe that the e-mailing didn’t involve any crimes, unless he delivered the message.

So Comey took the stage to speak the lines of someone else’s part. Then, three months later, he had to take it back. Then, ten days after that, he had to take back the taking back.

Comey also wanted personally to go to the press about the suspected Russian election hacking. But President Obama managed to talk him out of doing that, just like Peter Quince managed to talk Bottom the weaver out of playing the lion, and Pyramus, and Thisbe, all at the same time.

shakespeareTestifying before Congress in early 2017, Comey said that he felt “nauseated” at the thought that his public statements of 2016 somehow affected the outcome of the presidential election.

Problem is: He nauseated himself. He could have just kept his mouth shut, speaking only in the private fora where he had a duty to speak. But that option appears not to have occurred to him.

The fundamental idea of Comey’s book is: We Americans owe our loyalty to something higher than any political leader. Not to “partisan interests” but “to the pillars of democracy.” Comey enumerates those pillars as: “restraint and integrity and balance and transparency and truth.”

Speaking of the virtue of restraint: This past Thursday, the Inspector General released a report. They agreed with me. It’s official: Comey put himself in front of a microphone too often in 2016. (In the book, Comey mocks Rudy Guiliani for the same offense, ironically enough.)

Comey, as is his wont, immediately took to Thursday’s The New York Times to welcome the criticism, even though he disagrees with it. The work of an Inspector General involves the pursuit of the rule of law, the very thing he wrote his book to vindicate, etc.

Amen to all that. We all have egos that should be smaller, not just James Comey. And all our egos will indeed get a lot smaller when the Inspector General, Who sees and knows all, and Who weighs everything with perfect justice, makes His findings public, on the great and final Day.

Comey deserves a lot of credit for writing a fundamentally honest book. And he wrote a page-turner. The passages about his dealings with President Trump during the winter and spring of 2017 read like a movie. If the Trump administration were a movie, Comey would name it: “The Forest Fire Presidency.”

Trump secretly asked for Comey’s “loyalty” (hence the book title.) Comey didn’t know what to say. So the president soon fired him. Now, Trump calls Comey “the worst FBI Director ever.” Which means worse than J. Edgar Hoover, who suspected Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., of being a secret communist, and had his phones bugged.

Comey characterizes the president as a kind of Mafia don. But Mafia dons have good organizational skills. To me, Trump looks a lot more like: a clueless, desperately unhappy fourteen-year-old boy maniacally masquerading as a grown man.

Comey almost certainly wrote his book to try and fulfill the teachings of his intellectual hero, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Neibuhr spoke and wrote repeatedly on 20th-century political questions. Neibuhr insisted that a Christian must seek to further the cause of justice in the world by talking part in public life.

Let’s leave aside the fact that Niebuhr would undoubtedly find Comey’s book blindly self-serving. The deeper problem is this: Neibuhr and Comey both share a false presupposition. Namely that “loyalty to truth” occurs in some pure realm where you can leave practical questions about religion unanswered. Basic questions of Christian practice, like: Did God write the Scriptures? Or: Is Jesus Christ alive right now? But that’s a topic for another day.

Comey and I agree on this: In November 2016, we, as a nation, found ourselves choosing between two candidates for president, neither of whom could claim with any real honesty to be worthy of the office.

How did we get there? We have had plenty of unworthy presidents before, to be sure. But we also had a Civil War before.

The post-World-War II “consensus” about the American presidency had serious flaws. Including the kind of megalomania that led us into unnecessary bloodbaths in Vietnam and Iraq. Or a self-righteous “solution” to our domestic race problems that didn’t really solve them at all.

But now we have totally wrecked that 20th-century consensus about who we are as a nation. We elected an unqualified, immature, dishonest president. We find ourselves barrelling down a blind alley.

Reinhold Neibuhr would be the first to point out that: In this fallen world, blind alleys usually harbor very dangerous, unhappy things in their unexplored shadows. I for one think that James Comey is absolutely right to speak out.

Who Will Give the Concession Speech?

Elections usually end with a concession speech. The defeated candidate acknowledges that the voters have chosen his or her opponent. The loser of the election promises to abide by the choice of the voters. The contest ends.

But who will concede the Irish referendum? Can the unborn children whose lives now stand in danger–can these little ones take to the microphones to acknowledge that the voters have chosen to grant abortionists the authority to kill them with impunity?

____

Pope Benedict wrote some penetrating, wise things to the Catholics of Ireland in the spring of 2010. He tried to help them recover from devastating revelations about pervasive child-sex-abuse cover-ups.

Pope Benedict Easter candleSeems like a good day today to consider a couple paragraphs of that letter. We could apply the Pope’s words to ourselves here in the US, too.

In recent decades the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The program of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it.

Young people of Ireland, I wish to offer you a particular word of encouragement. Your experience of the Church is very different from that of your parents and grandparents. The world has changed greatly since they were your age. Yet all people, in every generation, are called to travel the same path through life, whatever their circumstances may be. We are all scandalized by the sins and failures of some of the Church’s members, particularly those who were chosen especially to guide and serve young people. But it is in the Church that you will find Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever. He loves you and he has offered himself on the cross for you. Seek a personal relationship with him within the communion of his Church, for he will never betray your trust! He alone can satisfy your deepest longings and give your lives their fullest meaning by directing them to the service of others. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and his goodness, and shelter the flame of faith in your heart.

A young person’s experience of the Church should always bear fruit in a personal and life-giving encounter with Jesus Christ within a loving, nourishing community. In this environment, young people should be encouraged to grow to their full human and spiritual stature, to aspire to high ideals of holiness, charity and truth, and to draw inspiration from the riches of a great religious and cultural tradition. In our increasingly secularized society, where even we Christians often find it difficult to speak of the transcendent dimension of our existence, we need to find new ways to pass on to young people the beauty and richness of friendship with Jesus Christ in the communion of his Church… By treading the path marked out by the Gospel, by observing the commandments and by conforming your lives ever more closely to the figure of Jesus Christ, you will surely experience the profound renewal that is so urgently needed at this time. I invite you all to persevere along this path.

____

We are pro-woman and pro-life. The referendum in Ireland means a crushing short-term victory for unrealistic propaganda and the empty promises of sexual libertinism.

Pope St. John Paul II explained very thoroughly how a Christian must be pro-life. And he explained how a pro-lifer must be kind and sympathetic.

We separate the moral failings that can lead to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy from the simple good of a human life. We say Go to Confession, and start fresh; we stand beside you. The abortion movement offers no helping hand and piles shame on top of shame, saying: Go, Kill the fruit of your dishonest sex.

Love will win in the end. Dear brother and sister Catholics of Ireland, we American Catholics welcome you to the trenches. We will work to build the Culture of Life from the ground up, until the Lord calls us home.

Concession speech? No. We concede nothing.

Crying and Laughing: Dreamers

Just as you cannot understand Christ apart from the kingdom he came to bring, so too your personal mission is inseparable from the building of…that kingdom of love, justice and universal peace…A person who sees things as they truly are and sympathizes with pain and sorrow is capable of touching life’s depths…unafraid to share in the suffering of others; they do not flee from painful situations. They discover the meaning of life by coming to the aid of those who suffer, understanding their anguish and bringing relief. They sense that the other is flesh of our flesh, and are not afraid to draw near, even to touch their wounds. They feel compassion for others in such a way that all distance vanishes.  (Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate 25, 76)

Christian joy is usually accompanied by a sense of humor…Ill humor is no sign of holiness. “Remove vexation from your mind” (Ecclesiastes 11:10). We receive so much from the Lord “for our enjoyment” (1 Tim 6:17), that sadness can be a sign of ingratitude. (Gaud et Exul., 126)

Mercy Toward the Enemy

Whoever lives the truth comes to the light. (John 3:21) The light of calm, sober truth—which we can only reach by a patient search. A calm, patient search for truth. For instance, when an accused criminal faces a trial in a court of law, governed by fair rules.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis wrote us a letter Monday, exhorting us to seek holiness by practicing mercy. Mercy not just towards the people we like, but towards everyone who needs help. After all, the Lord taught us to love our enemies.

osama-bin-ladenSo: Get ready for a doozy of a homiletic application. After all, this week marks the anniversary of two deaths.

The first one is the martyrdom of the Polish saint, Stanislaus. He died at the hands of a lawless monarch, who had kidnapped and plundered, and abused his power up and down the land. St. Stanislaus, as the bishop of Krakow, condemned King Boleslaw for this. So the king killed the bishop with his own hands, during Mass.

Now, St. Stanislaus recently had a very-famous successor as Bishop of Krakow. When Pope John Paul II visited his former cathedral to venerate the relics of St. Stanislaus, he referred to his holy predecessor as the “patron of moral order for the Polish people.”

Moral order. A sober society of law, justice, and peace, governed by the calm light of truth. That’s the ideal of Poland, and it’s our ideal, too. Truth, justice, the American Way. Terrorists have attacked that ideal by killing innocent people, especially on September 11, 2001. Decent people rightly condemn the terrorists for having done that.

But:

The other anniversary this week is what some people regarded as President Obama’s finest hour. Zero dark thirty happened seven years ago, during the second week of Easter. I remember reading John 3:16-21 at Holy Mass right after learning that we had killed Osama bin Laden.

VATICAN-US-OBAMA-POPEBut I cannot call that President Obama’s finest hour. Because he should have expressed one regret about what happened, and he never did.

Perhaps we never could have captured bin Laden alive and tried him for his crimes in a court of law. But it would have been better if we could have. If bin Laden had been tried, according to the rule of law, he might rightly have received the death penalty. But applying the death penalty without a trial—that is not what we stand for. That’s not the American Way. That’s not moral order.

I said this would be a doozy of an application of our Holy Father’s exhortation for us to practice mercy. But can we doubt that—even at the very moment when he breathed his last, after suffering a mortal blow—can we doubt that Saint Stanislaus prayed for king Boleslaw, the very man who had just killed him? Can we doubt it? After all, Jesus said: “Father, forgive them.” King Boleslaw and St. Stanislaus might be friends in heaven now.

Maybe, when Osama bin Laden died seven years ago, he went straight to hell. But we should not think that he did. We should assume that he is in purgatory, having been redeemed somehow by the omnipotent power of the blood of Christ. And we should pray and offer sacrifices for the repose of our enemy’s soul. It’s not easy to say, but we have to find a way to say: “May Osama bin Laden rest in peace.”

If we can’t bring ourselves to do that, then we’re not as holy as we should be.

Abraham and a March-on-Washington Partnership

us-capitolGod established His alliance with Abraham and promised a wonderful future. Abraham’s faith in that future makes him our father in faith. He willingly left behind everything that was familiar to him, in order to obey God.

Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ. The Messiah fulfilled the promises God had made so many centuries before.

So: On the one hand, Abraham’s all-consuming faith, which freed him to pursue the mysterious future God had prepared. On the other hand, the reward of that faith.

Now, what is it? The reward of faith? What can we call it, other than life? The day of Christ = the day of Life. Not toilsome life as we know it now—ephemeral, fleeting, dangerous, burdened by one anxious care after another. No. The life of Christ crucified and risen is life liberated from all these diminishments. Life primordial; life full of promise; endlessly youthful life.

Which brings us to: the youthful spokespeople for this Saturday’s “March for Our Lives.” They paint an evocative picture in their speeches. Where would the lost friends and classmates be now, had they lived?

The students killed in Florida last month would be preparing for mid-term exams. The little children killed in Connecticut in 2012 would be in middle-school. The high-schoolers killed in Colorado back in 1999 would be parents themselves, with their own children in elementary or middle school.

unbornLife. A future. Doesn’t it seem utterly obvious that this March-for-Our-Lives rhetoric could also take into account the other young victims of unjust violence—the little ones who never lived to see the light of day at all?

I myself am just old enough not to have to number the classmates and confreres that I might have had. I was already 1½ by the time Roe v. Wade came down.

But everyone younger than me has to live with the Roe-v.-Wade ghosts. The victims of violence who might have been childhood friends, or co-workers in the first job, or the Mr. or Mrs. Right that you could never find.

Christ came to reward faith with life. Our Gospel is the Gospel of Life. Can’t we imagine a better day, if all the true advocates of life could unite? If we could stand up together for all the innocent victims of violence that could have–and should have–lived to see the sun rise this morning?