Friday, March 30, 2012

Women's Rights Are Human Rights

Online News Archive of Catholic News Service News Briefs NEWS BRIEFS Mar-29-2012

By Catholic News Service

'Hope in trying times' sets scene for talks on women in church, world

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In what the organizer described as "an experiment in hope in trying times," a prominent theologian and another speaker known for her work in international women's rights told an audience at Georgetown University March 24 that there are reasons to think things can get better for women in the church and in the world. University of Notre Dame theologian M. Cathleen Kaveny and Melanne Verveer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women's issues, told a symposium sponsored by the Woodstock Theological Center of reasons for hope for women. Verveer, who worked at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops more than 20 years ago, described learning firsthand about the struggles of women around the world through her position at the State Department and through her previous job as chief of staff to then-first lady Hillary Clinton. Speaking at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, Clinton in a keynote address said "this is a time to break the silence" on the many ways women's rights are abused around the world, Verveer said. She cited a litany of injustices to women including killings over inadequate dowries, murders of girl babies, slavery, child marriages, rape as a tool of war and others. The message from Clinton's speech then and the continual theme underlying the creation of Verveer's position at the State Department, which Clinton now heads as secretary, is: "Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights," she said. Verveer said that ideal is far from being realized. Women and children make up the majority of the world's people living in poverty and the majority with limited access to health care. Violence against women is a global problem, she said. But where women are able to take positions of power they become agents of change for improving the lives of other women and others who are usually on the receiving end of grief, she said.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Bill Byron and Charles Zech Find Out Why They Left. America Magazine

We can learn so much if we will listen to this. Aloof, rude, unhappy, arrogant priests hiding behind a clerical facade will not solve this problem. We have to do better. Not just preaching the faith but also living our lives in ways people will appreciate and admire, not disparage and despise - Fr. Rick

Why They Left

Exit interviews shed light on empty pews in Trenton
the cover of America, the Catholic magazine

I t is no secret that increasing numbers of baptized Catholics in the United States never or rarely attend Sunday Mass. In the late fall of 2011, we asked some of them a simple question: Why? At the request of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., of Trenton, N.J., we surveyed nearly 300 nonchurchgoing Catholics in his diocese.

We got in touch with registered parishioners who are no longer showing up by placing articles in the secular and diocesan press, as well as notices in parish bulletins and requests for contact information from pastors. The survey was also offered in Spanish, sent to all the parishes with Spanish-language populations and advertised in a Spanish-language newspaper.

Through these methods, we established confidential contact with Catholics ranging in age from 16 to 90, with a mean and median age of 53. Ninety-five percent of the respondents were White/Caucasian; 2.1 percent were Hispanic; and 63 percent were female. Through Villanova University’s Center for the Study of Church Management, each participant received by regular mail or e-mail a brief set of questions inviting open-end responses. This article
highlights those responses.

Left Behind

An overwhelming number of respondents told us they had left both their parish and the church. About a quarter said they had separated themselves from the parish, but still considered themselves to be Catholic. One respondent wrote: “I separated my family from the Catholic Church and turned to an alternate religion for a while and then returned knowing I had the right religion but the wrong people running it.” Several chose to specify that they separated themselves from “the hierarchy.”

A fair amount of ambivalence was exhibited in response to our question whether separation was a conscious decision or not. Relatively few indicated that they simply “drifted away.”

One 23-year-old female said, “I felt deceived and undervalued by the church. I didn’t understand certain things and found no mentors within the church. I just stopped going because my community of friends and family were no longer in the church.” Another woman wrote, “I tried different Catholic churches in the area because I just didn’t seem to be getting anything out of the Mass, especially the homily.” Another person said, “I stopped going regularly because the homilies were so empty. And whenever the church wanted to raise money, they dropped the homily and talked money.” There were many complaints about the quality of homilies as well as poor music at Mass.

Click Here!

The scandal surrounding the sexual abuse of minors by clergy was mentioned often. “The bishop’s refusal to list pedophile priests on the diocesan Web site and his non-support of the effort to lift the statute of limitations for bringing sexual abuses cases forward in the courts” did it for me, said one man.

To Prompt a Return

We also asked: “Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?” Respondents clearly welcomed the opportunity to express their opinions. We found no easily discernible trend in their replies, but their generally positive tone suggests the wisdom of finding ways for all Catholics to post their views somehow “on the record,” with an assurance that they will be heard. Here are just a few of the many replies this question drew:

“Be accepting of divorced and remarried congregants.”

“I’m looking for more spiritual guidance and a longer sermon.”

“Return to a more consultative and transparent approach.”

“Change the liberal-progressive political slant to a more conservative, work-ethic atmosphere.”

“Make the homilies more relevant; eliminate the extreme conservative haranguing.”

“Provide childcare and a children’s ministry.”

“Give us an outwardly loving, kind, Christian Catholic priest/pastor.”

Our question about whether or not their pastor was “approachable or welcoming” drew a number of warm and positive answers. About half of the respondents, however, were not enthusiastically supportive of their pastors. Where pastors and parishes were named, we gave that information to the bishop and recommended that he deal with the issues privately and avoid unnecessary public embarrassment when he goes public with our report. Words like "arrogant,” “distant,” “aloof,” and “insensitive” appeared often enough to suggest that attention must be paid to evidence of “clericalism” in the diocese.

Most respondents were positive or neutral in response to our question about the approachability of parish staff. There were sufficient reports of bad experiences over the parish telephone, however, to suggest that attention should be paid to courtesy and improved “customer relations.”

By a margin of about two-to-one, respondents reported that they did at one time consider themselves to be part of a parish community. On the negative side, here are two interesting replies elicited by this question:

“As much as I wanted to get involved and expand my faith, there were no clear avenues to do that. So it was just a place to attend Mass. And because attending Mass was a guilt-ridden obligation, I was always alone in a crowd where I knew no one and no one knew me.”

“I did not experience community in the sense that I knew people just from going to church. The ones I knew, I knew them outside of church. No one misses the fact that we stopped going. No one has called from the parish even though we were regular attendees and envelope users!”

We asked, “Are there any religious beliefs or practices specific to the Catholic Church that trouble you? Here is a sampling of what we heard:

“Yes, the church’s view on gays, same-sex marriage, women as priests and priests not marrying, to name a few.”

“Pedophile priests and brothers.”

“Hypocrisy, history of discrimination against women, anti-gay stance, unwelcoming attitude.”

“The stance on divorce.”

“Bishops covering up child abuse and transferring offending priests to other parishes.”

“Yes, I cannot comprehend transubstantiation, and I cannot see why we have to confess our sins to a priest.” [Many others mentioned confession.]

“Clerical privilege.”

“I think the church should focus its efforts on poverty, war and healthcare.”

“It’s all about money; that’s why we left” [married couple, age 44]

“The primary reason why I left the church is that divorced and remarried persons are not welcome; they are viewed as adulterous sinners.”

“Overemphasis on abortion.” [Mentioned by many who think abortion is wrong, but overemphasized to the exclusion of other social concerns.]

“I feel the church should stay out of politics; it should certainly not threaten politicians.”

“The Catholic Church as a whole is ritualistic and cold. I do not get the sense of family and community that I get from another faith community. I get the feeling that God is judgmental and harsh, unforgiving and unyielding.”

“I am troubled by what appears to be the Catholic Church’s seemingly insatiable demand for money. You can attend Mass every week, but if you are not putting money in your envelope, you can lose your ‘in parish’ status and even your ability to receive letters that are needed to be godparents, etc.”

“It’s all about the priests. The leadership of the church does not seem to understand that we do not care about priests. They live an upper-middle-class lifestyle and are completely disconnected from reality. And yet they think they can preach to us. End the clericalism and people like me may listen to the church again.” [Others mentioned priestly “pomposity,” “distance,” “aloofness.”]

It should be noted that most respondents said no to our question about any “bad experiences” they may have had with any person officially associated with the church. Mention was made, however, of bad experiences in the confessional; refusals by parish staff to permit eulogies at funerals; denial of the privilege of being a godparent at a relative’s baptism; verbal, emotional and physical abuse in Catholic elementary school; denial of permission for a religiously mixed marriage in the parish church. In one case the parish priest “refused to go to the cemetery to bury my 9-year-old son because it was not a Catholic cemetery.” Several respondents noted that they were victims of sexual abuse by clergy.

In the context of his reply to this question about “bad experiences,” a 78-year-old male said something that could serve as a guideline for the bishop in reacting to this survey. This man wrote, “Ask a question of any priest and you get a rule; you don’t get a ‘let’s-sit-down-and- talk-about-it’ response.” It is our hope that there will be more sitting down and talking things over in the Diocese of Trenton, and perhaps in other dioceses, as a result of this survey experience.

The Bishop’s Ear

We asked, “If you could communicate directly with the bishop, what would you like to say?” This drew a few barbs but a lot of very helpful commentary as well. The responses may prompt the bishop to find a forum for direct one-on-one future communication between parishioners and himself. Here is a very brief sampling of what the people would like to tell their bishop:

“The church should not condemn gays, but embrace them as God’s people. The church should also recognize women as equals.”

“Please find a way not to exclude me from the Catholic community.” [divorced female, 56]

“Remember that the church is not just the religious leaders but the people who sit in the pews each week. Ask more questions; listen to them, and involve them in decision-making.”

“Petition the church to expand its view on divorce.” [divorced and remarried female, 59]

“Young mothers like me need help. Have women, as well as men, as greeters at Mass; make childcare available; encourage the formation of mothers’ groups; have the homilies speak to me.” [married white female, 29, now attending
a Baptist church]

“Do something about confession; have communal penance services.”

“If the Catholic Church does not change its archaic views on women, it is going to become a religion that survives on the fringe of an open-minded, progressive society.”

“Instead of making every Mass a form of humiliation for Catholics who cannot receive communion, do something, like a private blessing at communion time, to include everyone.” [divorced and remarried female, 64]

“I would advise the bishop to make training in public speaking mandatory for every priest. They should also be trained in how to relate their homilies to the people and inspire them.”

“You have my sympathies, Bishop; I couldn’t imagine stepping into a management situation with such glaring human resources weaknesses. Perhaps you should have your priests live together in regional centers so that they could be psychologically healthier as a result of more human interaction. Also, do something about the quality of Catholic education.”

Our survey instrument gave respondents an opportunity to “break anonymity,” if they wished, and give their contact information so that someone from the diocese could be in touch with them if they would like that to happen. To his credit, Bishop O’Connell has indicated that he personally will respond to the 25 persons who indicated that they would like to be contacted.

The vast majority of respondents said no to our question about whether they considered themselves now to be members of another faith community. Those who do consider themselves affiliated with another church spanned a wide range, including Buddhist and Jewish on the fringe and Lutheran, Episcopal, Baptist and Presbyterian clustered in the middle.

The Take-Away

There is much to be learned from all this. Considering that these responses come, by definition, from a disaffected group, it is noteworthy that their tone is overwhelmingly positive and that the respondents appreciated the opportunity to express themselves. Some of their recommendations will surely have a positive impact on diocesan life. Not surprisingly, the church’s refusal to ordain women, to allow priests to marry, to recognize same-sex marriage and to admit divorced and remarried persons to reception of the Eucharist surfaced, as did contraception and a host of questions associated with the clergy sex-abuse scandal.

Throughout our involvement with this project, we thought of the “negotiable” and “non-negotiable” issues that would be raised. All the concerns expressed will, we hope, be received with pastoral understanding. Diocesan officials are taking notice of topics that call for better explanation. As they do, we hope that they will bear in mind the comment cited by one man, who said that “every time you ask a question, you get a rule.” It is not necessary to repeat the rules; it is time to offer more reasoned arguments and better pastoral explanations of points of Catholic doctrine and practice that appear to be troubling to people in the diocese. Notable among these are the exclusion of women from ordination, the perception that persons of homosexual orientation are unwelcome in the church, the complexity of the annulment process, and the barring of divorced and remarried persons from the sacraments.

In need of immediate attention is a fresh explanation of the nature of the Eucharist. Underlying all the opinions expressed by the respondents to this survey is the fact that they are, for the most part, willing to separate themselves from the celebration and reception of the Eucharist. This calls for a creative liturgical, pastoral, doctrinal and practical response. An explanation of the “Sunday obligation” as an obligation to give thanks—through sacrament and sacrifice—rather than simply to be present in church at Mass on Sunday might be helpful.

The quality of preaching needs attention, as does the image of clergy who—fairly or unfairly—are all too often seen as arrogant, distant, unavailable and uncaring. Not unrelated to the homily issue is the quality of the sound systems in the churches and the ability of foreign-born clergy, with heavy accents, to be understood.

We have included only a sampling of responses in this article, but have given Bishop O’Connell our full report and recommendations. He also has what we call a “data dump”—the complete bundle of every returned questionnaire—which will take him on an unedited excursion through the minds of those whose bodies are no longer occupying space in the pews on Sundays.

William J. Byron, S.J., is university professor of business and society at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, Pa. and Dr. Charles Zech is professor of economics and director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University, Villanova, Pa

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We Shall Overcome

Gotta balance the bad news with the good sounds of life liberty and love. Sad to think how the killing of Trayvon Martin makes young men like the members of this choir feel about our country and culture.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Trayvon Martin 2012; Emmett Till 1955

We still have a long way to go. How many Emmitt Tills? How many Treyvon Martins?

I was born into a USA in Sept of 1955 wherein segregation was legal, lethal and largely unquestioned. If you did question the status of race relations, you could be killed as where the three young Civil Rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Philadelphia Mississippi in 1964. Dozens of others (e.g., Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo, Rev James Reeb, the great Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and dozens of others (click here) were murdered by those opposed to civil rights for all. Learn about the struggles those who changed our country and world (click here). The struggle continues. - Fr Rick.

The February 26th shooting death of 17-year-old Martin by George Zimmerman -- a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida -- has captured national attention and garnered universal outrage.

Emmett Till (left) and Trayvon Martin (right)

Trayvon Martin may very well become this generation's Emmett Till.

The February 26th shooting death of 17-year-old Martin by George Zimmerman -- a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida -- has captured national attention and garnered universal outrage.

Martin was gunned down near his father's home, wearing a hoodie and armed with little more than an iced tea and Skittles. The senseless killing of an innocent boy, and the failure of the police to arrest the professed gunman, is now a turning point in American history, and not just for African-Americans. And you'll find this case at the intersection of racial violence, civil rights and criminal justice.

theGrio slideshow: Slain black youth who galvanized our nation

In August 1955, Emmit Till, 14, was lynched in Mississippi while visiting relatives, reportedly for flirting with a white woman. He was dragged at gunpoint, was beaten and shot, his eye gouged out, and his body thrown into the Tallahatchie River -- weighted down by a 70-pound cotton gin. Till's corpse was badly mutilated, and his mother insisted on an open casket funeral to show the horrific crimes committed against her son. And black mothers today, like Mamie Till, worry that their sons are targets. They fear the worst will happen; that someone will tell them their black boy is dead.

As Mrs. Till warned her son in Chicago before he went down South, "Be careful. If you have to get down on your knees and bow when a White person goes past, do it willingly."

Till's admitted abductors, two white men, were tried and acquitted of murdering and kidnapping. They later confessed to the crime in a magazine interview. In death, the Chicago teen was a flashpoint in the civil rights movement, placing the spotlight on the treatment of black people in Mississippi.

Fast forward 57 years, and Trayvon Martin, not unlike Till, could potentially have a large impact on the nation's psyche. The racial implications of the Martin killing are clear. Although described by his father as "a Spanish-speaking minority with many black family members and friends," Zimmerman is heard in the 911 call mumbling about "f**king coons."

Trayvon Martin's killing continues to expose the problems black men face, the low priority they are assigned as black victims, and the unfair treatment they face at the hands of the police and in the justice system.

Unfortunately, there have been too many Emmett Tills and Trayvon Martins, each a catalyst in his or her own right.

Read much more on Trayvon Martin at

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Irish Let's Learn from Our Past

It’s About Immigrants, Not Irishness

By PETER BEHRENS Brooklin, Me. March 16, 2012

ON this side of the Atlantic, St. Patrick’s Day has become a boisterous, often bogus, celebration of America’s Irish roots. For most, the holiday is an excuse to drink, and perhaps pinch people who aren’t wearing green.

But for many Irish-Americans and Irish-Canadians, including me, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t really about Ireland. It’s about our ancestors leaving that country, often in bitter circumstances, and risking everything on a hazardous journey and being met with fierce hostility and scorn. It is about immigrants struggling, and mostly succeeding, in their new life, or making success possible for their children and grandchildren.

It is a story that should describe all newcomers to America. This March 17, on this side of the water, we ought to be celebrating immigration, not just Irishness.

Before the mass exodus from Ireland provoked by the great famine of the 1840s, new arrivals to North America were either settlers or slaves. The Catholic Gaelic Irish were the first cohort consistently labeled as “immigrants” in the modern, quasi-pejorative sense, and their experience established a stereotype, a template, applied ever since to whichever national or ethnic group happened to be the latest impoverished arrivals: French-Canadians, Chinese, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Hispanics.

It’s embarrassing to listen to prosperous 21st-century Americans with Irish surnames lavish on Mexican or Central American immigrants the same slurs — “dark,” “dirty,” “violent,” “ignorant” — once slapped on our own, possibly shoeless, forebears. The Irish were seen as unclean, immoral and dangerously in thrall to a bizarre religion. They were said to be peculiarly prone to violence. As caricatured by illustrators like Thomas Nast in magazines like Harper’s Weekly, “Paddy Irishman,” low of brow and massive of jaw, was more ape than human, fists trailing on the ground when they weren’t cocked and ready for brawling.

Soon it was another people’s turn. During the 1890s, when hundreds of thousands of French-Canadians were quitting rocky farms in Quebec for jobs in New England textile towns, The New York Times wrote, “It is next to impossible to penetrate this mass of protected and secluded humanity with modern ideas or to induce them to interest themselves in democratic institutions and methods of government.”

It was bad enough to be invaded by unmoderns. But the real danger was in the numbers, because, as The Times went on, “No other people, except the Indians, are so persistent in repeating themselves. Where they halt they stay, and where they stay they multiply and cover the earth.”

I live in Maine, where these days Hispanics and Somalis, not French-Canadians, are the most visible immigrant groups. I wonder if our governor, Paul LePage, born in Lewiston, oldest of 18 children in a family of French-Canadian descent, ever came across that thoughtless article while formulating a raft of anti-immigrant policies.

After all, the governor’s grandparents were immigrants, members of a generation commonly treated as a despised minority in New England. From the Civil War through the 1950s, many if not most newly arrived French-Canadians looking for work in Maine’s mill towns or north woods were illegal immigrants.

If it’s really true that all politics are personal, Governor LePage ought to be an immigrant champion. However, in one of his first acts upon taking office in January 2011, he issued an executive order encouraging officials in state agencies to question people about their immigration status.

LePage insisted his action was needed to prevent welfare and social service programs from being squandered on non-Mainers. Civil libertarians, however, claimed there was no evidence of illegal immigrants’ getting special treatment, and the governor produced none. But in Maine, as anywhere, especially during hard times, it’s sound political strategy to blame the people from away, whether “away” is Quebec, Mexico or Somalia.

Since we have all been more or less constantly on the move since our ancestors decamped from the old neighborhood in Ethiopia, 195,000 years ago, you’d think that, as a species, we might have worked through our hostility and suspicion of newbies by now. But we haven’t.

So let’s have one day — March 17 — where the word “immigration” is not immediately followed by the word “problem” in our national conversation. Because that has never, ever been our real immigrant story. St. Patrick’s Day reminds us to celebrate, not despise or fear, immigrants. And the hyphenated-Irish, descendants of the first “immigrants,” ought to lead the parade.

Peter Behrens is the author, most recently, of “The O’Briens.

Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company

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Friday, March 16, 2012

What is Social Justice?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Jasmine and Crosby's wedding choir Parenthood

Hey here's the choir. Beautiful


Monday, March 12, 2012

Jewish Businessman, Sam Miller, Whaps Anti-Catholic Bias in News Media (Full Text)

Redemption Comes Through The Jews… Jewish Businessman, Sam Miller, Whaps Anti-Catholic Bias in News Media (Full Text)

Sam Miller, prominent Cleveland businessman – Jewish, not Catholic – is fighting mad about & concentrated effort by the media to denigrate the Catholic Church in this country.

I’m going to say things here today that many Catholics should have said 18 months ago. Maybe it’s easier for me to say because I am not Catholic, but I have had enough, more than enough, disgustingly enough.

During my entire life I’ve never seen a greater vindictive, more scurrilous, biased campaign against the Catholic Church as I have seen in the last 18 months, and the strangest thing is that it is in a country like the United States where there is supposed to be mutual respect and freedom for all religions.

This has bothered me because I too am a minority in this country. You see, unfortunately and I say this very advisedly the Catholics have forgotten that in the early 1850′s when the Italians, the Poles, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, all of Catholic persuasion, came to this country looking for opportunity because of famine, (particularly the Irish) they were already looked upon with derision, suspicion and hatred. Consequently the jobs they were forced to take were the jobs that nobody else wanted bricklayers, ditch diggers, Jewish junkmen, street cleaners, etc.

This prejudice against your religion and mine has never left this country and don’t ever forget it, and (sic) never will. Your people were called Papists, Waps, Guineas, frogs, fish eaters, ad infinitum.

And then after the Civil War, around 1864, the fundamentalists, conservatives, Protestants and a few WASP’s began planting burning crosses throughout the country, particularly in the South. And today; as far as I’m concerned, very little has changed. These gentlemen now have a new style of clothing they’ve gone from bed sheets to gentlemen’s suits.

There is a concentrated effort by the media today to totally denigrate in every way the Catholic Church in this country. You don’t find it this bad overseas at all. They have now blamed the disease of pedophilia on the Catholic Church, which is as irresponsible as blaming adultery on the institution of marriage. You and me have been living in a false paradise. Wake up and recognize that many people don’t like Catholics. What are these people trying to accomplish?

From the Sojourner’s Magazine dated August, 2002, listen carefully to a quote, “While much of the recent media hype has focused on the Catholic Church’s pedophilia scandal, relatively little attention has been given to the high rate of sexual misconduct in the rest of American Christendom. This is truly a crisis that crosses the borders of all religions.”

Now let me give you some figures that you as Catholics should know and remember. For example, research by Richard Blackman at Fuller Theological Seminary shows that 12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner; 38% acknowledged other inappropriate sexual contact. In a 1990 study by the United Methodist Church, 41.8% of clergywomen reported unwanted sexual behavior by a colleague; 17% of laywomen said that their own pastors had sexually harassed them. Phillip Jenkins concludes in his book “Pedophiles and Priests” that while 1.7% of the Catholic clergy has been found guilty of pedophilia, 10% of Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia (This is obviously a mistake. I think Mr. Miller meant to say 10% have been involved in sexual indiscretions. There is no evidence that Protestant clergy exhibit a pedophile five times that of Catholic clergy - Fr. Rick.)

This is not a Catholic problem. This is a problem of pure prejudice. Why the papers, day after day, week after week, month after month, see fit to do nothing but come out with these scurrilous stories? When I spoke recently to one of the higher ups in the newspaper I said, “This is wrong”. He said, “Why, do you want us to shoot the messenger?” I said, “No, just change the message”. He said, “How?” I said, “I’ll tell you how”.

Obviously, this is not just a Catholic problem. And solutions must be broader and deeper than those carried out by Catholic cardinals. The whole church has a responsibility to offer decisive leadership in the area of sexual misconduct whether it is child abuse, sexual exploitation, or sexual harassment.

Recently, churches have shown unprecedented unity on issues of poverty and welfare reform. Now it is necessary to call for a broad based ecumenical council addressing the issue of sexual misconduct in the church not only the Catholic Church, all churches, including synagogues. Its goal would be transparency and openness in developing stringent, forward?looking guidelines, consistent with denominational distinctions, for preventing and addressing sexual misconduct within Christian churches and church?related institutions.

Such a council could include not only denominational representatives but also a majority presence from external organizations such as child protection agencies, law enforcement, psychiatric services, victims’ agencies, and legal and legislative representatives.

Crisis. “Crisis” in Chinese is one word. “Crisis” in Chinese means, on the one side, a real crisis problems etc., but the other side means great opportunity.

We have a great opportunity facing us. Crisis is often accompanied by an opportunity for extraordinary growth and leadership. We have that today. Even though you are the lowest ?? by far the lowest of any organized religion today when it comes to sexual harassment ?? American churches have a unique opening to develop and adopt a single set of policies, principles, practices, and common language on sexual misconduct in Christian institutions that is binding across denominations.

A system of cross denomination review boards could be established to help compliance and accountability. A centralized resource bank could be formed that provides church wide updates on new legal, financial, psychological and spiritual developments in the field. Guidelines, both moral and legal, could be established on how clergy, churches, and victims should best use civil and criminal actions in pursuit of justice and financial restitution for injury. A national database could be established with information on all applicants for ordination in any member Christian religion. Every diocese, conference, presbytery, and district could have a designated child protection representative whose job is to ensure that the policies and procedures are understood and implemented and that training is provided.

Any religious institution, or system, that leaves power unexamined or smothers sexuality with silence rather than promoting open conversation that can lead to moral and spiritual maturity becomes implicated in creating an unhealthy and potentially abusive environment. An ecumenical Christian council authentically dedicated to strong moral leadership in the area of clergy sexual misconduct might move the church beyond the extremes of policing our own or abandoning our own.

For Christians, the true scandal is not about priests. It’s about a manipulation of power to abuse the weak. When Jesus said, “Whoever receives the child, receives me”, he was rebuking his followers for putting stumbling blocks in front of the defenseless. Church is supposed to be a place where one can lay one’s defenses down; where one is welcomed, embraced, and blessed. This can only be authentically expressed in a culture that requires absolute respect for each individual’s freedom and self hood. Until all churches bow humbly under the requirement, the indictments by wounded women and children will stand.

Just what are these Kangaroo journalists trying to accomplish? Think about it. If you get the New York Times day’ ,after day; the Los Angeles Times day after day, our own paper day after day ………………….. looking at the record, some of these writers are apostates, Catholics or ex-Catholics who have been denied something they wanted from the Church and are on a mission of vengeance.

Why would newspapers carry on this vendetta on one of the most important institutions that we have today in the United States, namely the Catholic Church?

Do you know and maybe some of you don’t the Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students everyday, at cost to your Church of 10 billion dollars, and a savings on the other hand to the American taxpayer of 18 billion dollars. Needless to say, that Catholic education at this time stands head and shoulders above every other form of education that we have in this country. And the cost is approximately 30% less.

If you look at our own Cleveland school system, they can boast of an average graduation rate of 36%. Do you know what it costs you and me as far as the other 64% who didn’t make it?

Look at your own records. You (Catholic schools) graduate 89% of your students Your graduates in turn go on to graduate studies at the rate of 92%, and all at a cost to you. To the rest of the Americans it’s free, but it costs you Catholics at least 30% less to educate students compared to the costs that the public education system pays out for education that cannot compare.

Why? Why would these enemies of the Church try to destroy an institution that has 230 colleges and universities in the United States with an enrollment of 700,000 students?

Why would anyone want to destroy an institution like the Catholic Church which has a non profit hospital system of 637 hospitals which account for hospital treatment of 1 out of every 5 people not just Catholics in the . United States today?

Why would anyone want to destroy an institution like that? Why would anyone want to destroy an institution that clothes and feeds and houses the indigent 1 of 5 indigents in the United States, I’ve been to many of your shelters and no one asks them if you are a Catholic, a Protestant or a Jew; just “come, be fed, here’s a sweater for you and a place to sleep at night” at a cost to the Church of 2.3 billion dollars a year?

The Catholic Church today has 64 million members in the United States and is the largest non-governmental agency in the country. It has 20,000 churches in this country alone. Every year they raise approximately $10 billion to help support these agencies.

Why, after the “respected” publication, the New York Times, running their daily expose’ on the Church, finally came to the conclusion of their particular investigation, which was ongoing for a long time. And guess what: buried in the last paragraph, they came up with a mouse. In their article “Decades of Damage” the Times reported that 1.8% of American priests were found guilty of this crime whereas your own Cardinal Ratzinger in Rome reported 1.7% the figure I gave you earlier.

Then again they launched an attack on the Church and its celibate priests. However, the New York Times did not mention in their study of American priests that most are happy in the priesthood and find it even better than they had expected, and that most, if given the choice, would choose to be priests again in the face of all this obnoxious PR the church has been receiving.

Why wouldn’t the New York Times, the paper of record they call themselves, mention this? You had to read it in the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times refused to print it.

If you read only the New York Times, you would begin to believe that priests are cowards; craven; sexually frustrated; unhealthy criminals; that prey on the innocent. What a shame.

Sometimes freedom of the press should have some type of responsibility, too. So I say this to you: instead of walking around with a hangdog look ?? I talk to a lot of Catholics all the time, “how’s everything going?” ………… “Well, in the face of things I guess okay”. That’s the wrong answer! The wrong answer!

Also, I ran into a fellow who said they started a discussion at some social function on pedophilia and he said, “I excused myself and left the room.” I said, “why did you do that?” “Well, you know how it is”.

I believe that if Catholics had the figures that I enumerated here, you don’t have to be ashamed of anything. Not only are you as good as the rest, but you’re better, in every respect.

The Catholic Church helps millions of people every day of the week, every week of the month, and every month of the year. People who are not Catholics, and I sit on your Catholic Foundation and I can tell you, and what I am telling you is so. Priests have their problems, they have their failings just as you and I in this room do, but they do not deserve to be calumniated as they have been.

In small measure let’s give the media its due. If it had not come out with this story of abusive priests, (but they just as well could have mentioned reverends, pastors and rabbis and whatever), probably little or nothing would have been. done. But what bothers me the most is this has given an excuse to every Catholic hater and Catholic basher to come out loudly for the denigration of your Church.

If some CEO’s are crooks it does not follow that every CEO is crooked; and if some priests are sexually ill it does not follow that all are sick. And your Church teaches that you’ve got to take in the sick and a priest who is this way has to be taken in and cannot be thrown out the 21st story of a building. He’s got to be looked upon and given the same type of health that you would give anybody who has a broken leg or cancer or whatever.

The Church today, and when I say the Church keep in mind I am talking about the Catholic Church, is bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. The agony that Catholics have felt and suffered is not necessarily the fault of the Church. You have been hurt by an infinitesimally small number of wayward priests that, I feel, have probably been totally weeded out by now.

You see, the Catholic Church is much too viable to be put down by the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Cleveland Plain Dealer take your choice, they can’t do it, they’re not going to do it and sooner or later they are going to give up. But you’ve got to make sure that you don’t give up first.

In 1799 a notice was placed in a French newspaper that a citizen Brachi had died in prison. Little did the people realize that this was Pope Pius VI who had occupied the Chair of Saint Peter for 25 years. He had been taken prisoner by Napoleon’s forces and died in prison as an indigent. At that time the thought was that this was the end of the Catholic Church, this was 200 and some odd years ago. And the reason was that there was no Pope to succeed him at that time.

But you fooled them then, and we’re going to fool them again.

I’ve been talking more or less about the United States of America as far as the importance of the Church. Let’s bring it home to Cuyahoga County and the seven surrounding counties.

In education, you save the county 420 million dollars per year. Wherever there’s a Church and most other churches have fled the inner city there’s a Catholic Church; and wherever there’s a Catholic Church there’s an absence of drug dealers. You talk to any bank that has real estate mortgages in the inner city, and they will tell you that the one thing that keeps up the value in that particular area is your Church. I’ve seen, for example, on Lorain near the Metro Catholic Schools there at the Church the nuns used to go out in the morning with brooms and sweep away the drug dealers from around the particular area.

On Health and Human Services, the homeless, adoption, drugs, adult care and so on, you saved the county 170 million dollars a year.

At the end of the day the difference that your local Catholic institutions make in the eight counties that comprise this diocese are several billion dollars per year.

Why don’t we hear about this? Why, because it’s good news. If some priest was caught with his hand in the collection plate it would be front page news. But the fact that you have thousands of students being education (sic) free, as far as the rest of the country is concerned, doesn’t make news. Why? Because it is not newsworthy, it’s not dirty.

I’m not here to deny freedom of the press, but I believe that with freedom comes responsibility, and with rights you have an obligation. You cannot have rights that are irresponsible.

Unfortunately, our society today is protected by all rights and ruled by some of their wickedness. Anybody who expects to reap the benefits of freedom must understand the total fatigue of supporting it. The most important element of political speech, as Aristotle taught, is the character of the speaker. In this respect, no matter what message a man brings in, it shouldn’t collide with his character.

The other day was shocked when I opened up America, a Catholic magazine, and my good friend Cardinal Keeler, who is a very dear friend of mine, was being fingerprinted by the Baltimore police not for a crime, but as part of the new law put in place that all members of the Church hierarchy must be fingerprinted.

Amos, of the Old Testament, accused the people of Samaria in words that seared and phrases that smote. They “cram their palaces,” he said, “with violence and extortion.” They had “sold the upright for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals” from Gucci, no doubt. But he also said that all this could be reversed, if only the people of Samaria would turn away from their own self absorption and toward those who, however silently, cry out for help. “Then,” promised Amos, “shall your justice flow like water and your compassion like a never failing stream” (Amos 5:24)

The worst feature of contemporary society is its tendency to leave each of us Locked up in himself or herself, connection less. To lessen this isolation we have developed all kinds of therapies spiritual, psychological, and physical front groups that meet and talk endlessly all day long in spas week spas, month spas, life spas. But none of these things, from primal screams to herbal wrap, seem to be doing the trick, any more than the huge houses and wine parties the.: the Samaritan did.

What we need to do is open our heart to the plight of others, even some of your priests who have been condemned. They’re human beings and they should be shown the same type of compassion we have shown anybody who is critically ill. We need to open our hearts to the plights of others, like our hearts were a dam, so that indeed our justice and compassion may flow to all.

What is essential is that each of us steps forward to hold out our hand to someone. There is no other way to walk with God.

One of the biggest Catholic bashers in the United States wrote “Only a minority, a tiny minority of priests, have abused the bodies of children.” He continues, “I am not advocating this course of action, but as much as I would like to see the Roman Catholic Church ruined. I hate opportunistically retrospective litigation even more.”

Now he’s talking about our tort monsters. “Lawyers who grow fat by digging up dirt on long?forgotten wrongs and hounding their aged perpetrators are no friends of mine.”

I’m still quoting this man, “All I’m doing” he said, “is calling attention to an anomaly. By all means, let’s kick a nasty institution when it is down, but there are better ways than litigation.” These words are from a Catholic hater.

I never thought in my life I would ever see these things.

Walk with your shoulders high and your head higher. Be a proud member of the most important non governmental agency today in the United States. Then remember what Jeremiah said: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” And be proud, speak up for your faith with pride and reverence and learn what your Church does for all other religions. Be proud that you’re a Catholic.

NOTE: Even though of the Jewish faith, Miller has been a staunch supporter of the Cleveland Diocese and Bishop Anthony Pilla. It was published in the May-June issue of the Buckeye Bulletin.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Krugman says it best!

March 8, 2012

Ignorance Is Strength

One way in which Americans have always been exceptional has been in our support for education. First we took the lead in universal primary education; then the “high school movement” made us the first nation to embrace widespread secondary education. And after World War II, public support, including the G.I. Bill and a huge expansion of public universities, helped large numbers of Americans to get college degrees.

But now one of our two major political parties has taken a hard right turn against education, or at least against education that working Americans can afford. Remarkably, this new hostility to education is shared by the social conservative and economic conservative wings of the Republican coalition, now embodied in the persons of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

And this comes at a time when American education is already in deep trouble.

About that hostility: Mr. Santorum made headlines by declaring that President Obama wants to expand college enrollment because colleges are “indoctrination mills” that destroy religious faith. But Mr. Romney’s response to a high school senior worried about college costs is arguably even more significant, because what he said points the way to actual policy choices that will further undermine American education.

Here’s what the candidate told the student: “Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And, hopefully, you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”

Wow. So much for America’s tradition of providing student aid. And Mr. Romney’s remarks were even more callous and destructive than you may be aware, given what’s been happening lately to American higher education.

For the past couple of generations, choosing a less expensive school has generally meant going to a public university rather than a private university. But these days, public higher education is very much under siege, facing even harsher budget cuts than the rest of the public sector. Adjusted for inflation, state support for higher education has fallen 12 percent over the past five years, even as the number of students has continued to rise; in California, support is down by 20 percent.

One result has been soaring fees. Inflation-adjusted tuition at public four-year colleges has risen by more than 70 percent over the past decade. So good luck on finding that college “that has a little lower price.”

Another result is that cash-strapped educational institutions have been cutting back in areas that are expensive to teach — which also happen to be precisely the areas the economy needs. For example, public colleges in a number of states, including Florida and Texas, have eliminated entire departments in engineering and computer science.

The damage these changes will inflict — both to our nation’s economic prospects and to the fading American dream of equal opportunity — should be obvious. So why are Republicans so eager to trash higher education?

It’s not hard to see what’s driving Mr. Santorum’s wing of the party. His specific claim that college attendance undermines faith is, it turns out, false. But he’s right to feel that our higher education system isn’t friendly ground for current conservative ideology. And it’s not just liberal-arts professors: among scientists, self-identified Democrats outnumber self-identified Republicans nine to one.

I guess Mr. Santorum would see this as evidence of a liberal conspiracy. Others might suggest that scientists find it hard to support a party in which denial of climate change has become a political litmus test, and denial of the theory of evolution is well on its way to similar status.

But what about people like Mr. Romney? Don’t they have a stake in America’s future economic success, which is endangered by the crusade against education? Maybe not as much as you think.

After all, over the past 30 years, there has been a stunning disconnect between huge income gains at the top and the struggles of ordinary workers. You can make the case that the self-interest of America’s elite is best served by making sure that this disconnect continues, which means keeping taxes on high incomes low at all costs, never mind the consequences in terms of poor infrastructure and an undertrained work force.

And if underfunding public education leaves many children of the less affluent shut out from upward mobility, well, did you really believe that stuff about creating equality of opportunity?

So whenever you hear Republicans say that they are the party of traditional values, bear in mind that they have actually made a radical break with America’s tradition of valuing education. And they have made this break because they believe that what you don’t know can’t hurt them.

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Slumdog Millionaire revisited

Hadn't seen Slumdog Millionaire since it was in theaters. It was on FX tonight. Great lenten movie.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Be Thou My Vision - Beautiful

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Good Lent Video w/ St. Louis Jesuit Music

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Sunday, March 04, 2012

NY TImes: College Does NOT Indoctrinate

March 3, 2012

The Indoctrination Myth

THE Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently called President Obama a “snob” for supporting higher education for all Americans. “There are good, decent men and women,” he said, “who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them.” He also called colleges and universities “indoctrination mills” for godless liberalism.

But is this true? Does attending college actually make you more liberal and less religious? Research indicates that the answer is: not so much.

It’s certainly true that professors are a liberal lot and that religious skepticism is common in the academy. In a survey of more than 1,400 professors that the sociologist Solon Simmons and I conducted in 2006, covering academics in nearly all fields and in institutions ranging from community colleges to elite universities, we found that about half of the professors identified as liberal, as compared to just one in five Americans over all. In the social sciences, humanities and natural sciences, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents outnumbered Republicans by a wide margin; among social scientists, for example, there were 10 Democrats for every Republican. Though a majority of professors said that they believed in God, 20 percent were atheists or agnostics — compared with just 4 percent in the general population.

It’s also true that young college graduates are somewhat more likely to identify as liberal and to hold more liberal attitudes on social issues than their non-college-educated peers.

But contrary to conservative rhetoric, studies show that going to college does not make students substantially more liberal. The political scientist Mack Mariani and the higher education researcher Gordon Hewitt analyzed changes in student political attitudes between their freshman and senior years at 38 colleges and universities from 1999 to 2003. They found that on average, students shifted somewhat to the left — but that these changes were in line with shifts experienced by most Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 during the same period of time. In addition, they found that students were no more likely to move left at schools with more liberal faculties.

Similarly, the political scientists M. Kent Jennings and Laura Stoker analyzed data from a survey that tracked the political attitudes of about 1,000 high school students through their college years and into middle age. Their research found that the tendency of college graduates to be more liberal reflects to a large extent the fact that more liberal students are more likely to go to college in the first place.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article

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NCR's John L. Allen on 3 Myths About The Church

Three myths about the church to give up for Lent

John L Allen, Jr. March 4, 2012

I realize this comes a little late, but if anybody's still on the market for something to give up for Lent, I'd suggest that the following misconceptions about the Catholic church and about Christianity in general would

I realize this comes a little late, but if anybody's still on the market for something to give up for Lent, I'd suggest that the following misconceptions about the Catholic church and about Christianity in general would be dandy bits of intellectual junk to cut loose in the spirit of the season.

Naturally, the venues where these three myths tend to be most deeply entrenched -- the secular media, the academy, political circles and so on -- are also places where the whole idea of Lenten sacrifice is sometimes a nonstarter. Yet they're remarkably widespread inside the church too, among people who really ought to know better. If Catholics perpetuate these ideas, it's hard to fault the outside world for being seduced by them.

Here are three popular fallacies, in the hope that Lent 2012 might mark the beginning of their expiration date.

1. Purple ecclesiology

"Purple ecclesiology" refers to the notion that the lead actors in the Catholic drama are the clergy, and in fact, the only activity that really counts as "Catholic" at all is that carried out by the church's clerical caste, especially its bishops. You can always spot purple ecclesiology at work when you hear someone say "the church" when what they really mean is "the hierarchy."

(I was once called by a producer from the BBC looking for leads on a segment they wanted to do about women in the Catholic church. I ticked off a series of high-profile Catholic laywomen they could ring up, to which the producer replied: "I'm sorry, I need someone from the church." She meant, of course, someone in a Roman collar -- that's purple ecclesiology at work.)

The truth is that the number of ordained clergy in the Catholic church comes to roughly .04 percent of the total Catholic population of 1.2 billion. If they're the main act, then all one can say is that the Catholic show is wildly top-heavy with supporting cast.

The self-parodying nature of purple ecclesiology was once memorably captured by Cardinal John Henry Newman, who, asked for his opinion on the laity, replied, "Well, we'd look awfully silly without them."

Seeing the church through a purple filter is misleading, even if all we take into view is the visible, institutional dimension of Catholic life. Most Catholic schools, hospitals, social service centers, movements and associations, even chanceries and parish headquarters, are staffed overwhelmingly by laywomen and men. More deeply, however, the church doesn't exist for itself, but to change the world, which means that if its message is to penetrate the various realms of culture -- medicine, law, the academy, politics, the economy and so on -- it's either going to be carried there by laity, or not at all.

Abandoning purple ecclesiology enables a wider focus on what the Catholic story of our time actually is. That story is not limited to whatever statement the U.S. bishops have made this week on insurance mandates or the latest Vatican pronouncement on liturgical practice, however important such developments may be. The full Catholic story also includes what hundreds of millions of laywomen and men are doing in their own lives and in their circles of influence, motivated by their faith.

Among other things, a purple ecclesiology leaves one ill-equipped to see creative change taking shape in the church. Even a rudimentary grasp of church history is enough to conclude that such change rarely comes from the top down.

Catholicism developed the mendicant orders, for instance, not because a pope decreed that it should be so, but because creative individuals such as Dominic and Francis saw a new world being born in the great cities of Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries and developed new apostolic models to evangelize it. Catholicism gave birth to the great lay movements of the 20th century, such as L'Arche, Communion and Liberation, Schönstatt and Sant'Egidio, in precisely the same fashion -- bottom-up.

Any take on Catholicism in the 21st century that doesn't include the Focolare along with the bishops, or the Catholic Voices project and the Salt and Light network along with the Vatican, or the great rise of lay ministry in addition to the College of Cardinals, simply isn't seeing the whole picture.

If you don't get that, then you don't really get the church.

2. A church in decline

The popular take on Catholicism these days tends to be that it's a church in crisis. Rocked by sex scandals, bruising political fights and financial shortfalls, it seems to be hemorrhaging members -- a recent Pew Forum study found there are now 22 million ex-Catholics in America, which would be the country's second-largest religious body after what's left of the Catholic church itself -- as well as clustering parishes, closing institutions and struggling to hand on the faith to the next generation.

The overall perception is that this is an era of Catholic entropy -- decline, contraction, things getting smaller.

Seen from global perspective, however, that's just wildly wrong. The last half-century witnessed the greatest period of missionary expansion in the 2,000-year history of Catholicism, fueled by explosive growth in the southern hemisphere. Take sub-Saharan Africa as a case in point: The Catholic population at the dawn of the 20th century was 1.9 million, while by the end of the century it was more than 130 million, representing a staggering growth rate of 6,708 percent. Overall, the global Catholic footprint shot up from 266 million in 1900 to 1.1 billion in 2000, ahead of the overall rate of increase in world population, and is still rising today.

The dominant Catholic narrative of our time, in other words, is not decline but astronomic growth. (That's not true everywhere, as there are significant losses in Europe, parts of North America and in some pockets of Latin America, but it is the global big picture.)

Running those numbers, one is reminded of a famous 2003 essay by David Brooks, poking fun at secular elites who like to believe that religion is in decline: "A great Niagara of religious fervor is cascading down around them," he wrote, "while they stand obtuse and dry in the little cave of their own parochialism."

Even in the United States, the Catholic church is actually holding its own. Yes, it's lost a third of Americans born into the faith, but its retention rate of two-thirds is actually fairly healthy by the competitive standards of America's wide-open religious marketplace. (It's much higher than, say, the Jehovah's Witnesses, who retain only one-third of their members.) Further, the Catholic church is holding steady at roughly a quarter of the national population, thanks largely to Hispanic immigration and higher-than-average birth rates among Hispanic Catholics. In the words of Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum, American Catholicism is "browning," but it's not contracting.

To be sure, statistics alone don't settle disputes about the choices facing the church. Those 22 million ex-Catholics in America, for instance, don't necessarily represent a "vote with your feet" referendum against the conservative drift of church leadership in the last quarter-century, especially when you consider that, according to the Pew data, a sizeable chunk defected to Evangelical Protestantism. Nor does the phenomenal growth of Catholicism in the global south necessarily amount to an endorsement of current Vatican policy, because quite honestly, the Vatican has had precious little to do with it.

In other words, you can't draw a straight line from population data to who's right or wrong in current Catholic debates. What can be said with empirical certainty, however, is that anybody who thinks this is an era of Catholic decline needs to get out more often.

3. Christianity is the oppressor, not the oppressed

Of all the popular misconceptions about Catholicism, and about Christianity in general, this is arguably the most pernicious.

Stoked by historical images of the Crusades and the Inquisition, and even by current perceptions of the wealth and power of church leaders and institutions, it's tough for Western observers to wrap their minds around the fact that in a growing number of global hotspots, Christians today are the defenseless oppressed, not the arrogant oppressors.

Here's the stark reality of our times: In the early 21st century, we are witnessing the rise of a whole new generation of Christian martyrs.

Christians are today, statistically speaking, by far the most persecuted religious group on the planet. According to the Frankfurt-based Society for Human Rights, fully 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians. The Pew Forum estimates that Christians experience persecution in a staggering total of 133 nations, fully two-thirds of all the countries on earth.

As part of that picture, the Catholic relief agency "Aid to the Church in Need" estimates that 150,000 Christians die for their faith every year, in locales ranging from the Middle East to Southeast Asia to sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Latin America. This means that every hour of every day, roughly 17 Christians are killed somewhere in the world, either out of hatred for the faith or hatred for the works of charity and justice their faith compels them to perform.

Perhaps the emblematic example is Iraq, where a strong Christian community that took two millennia to build has been gutted in the arc of a little more than two decades. Prior to 1991, the year of the First Gulf War, there were more than 2 million Christians in Iraq, while today the high-end estimate is that somewhere between 250,000 and 400,000 may be left.

Given the special responsibility the United States bears for Iraq, the fact that the fate of Iraqi Christians is not a driving, front-burner priority in American Catholic life is nothing short of a moral outrage.

As the U.S. bishops gear up to fight a new set of church/state battles on the domestic front, the foregoing suggests a special challenge to American Catholics to keep our eyes on the prize. In the States, a threat to religious freedom usually means you might get sued, while in many parts of the world, it means you might get shot. Surely we can all agree that's a more dramatic set of circumstances.

If you give up anything this Lent, the inability to recognize a growing global war on Christians would be a truly inspired choice.


[John L. Allen Jr. is NCR's senior correspondent. His email address is]

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