Wednesday, November 05, 2014

(Mis)Adventures in Assembly Line Apologetics

Writing for the Catholic media has many benefits. Making a decent living at it isn’t necessarily one of them. Which is why, when I received the robocall from a local temporary employment agency about a second-shift job at a local electronics assembly plant, I jumped at the chance. It was supposed to last a month. That was on September 1st. As of February 19th, I was finally out of a job.

Since 1997, I have been working in the Church or at Church-related work and since 1999 have been living in the rural Midwest where it takes a half-hour or more to get to a town of any size. Let’s just say that my social contacts where I live have been limited.

Then I began at the plant and my vision of the world suddenly expanded. After our initial basic three-hour training session, we were brought out to the floor and introduced to Chad, our line leader. Chad is 34, about five-foot-seven and weighs no more than 145 pounds soaking wet. He has a thick but scruffy-looking reddish-brown goatee, a thin face, wears what looks like a horseshoe earring in one ear and chews his nails down as much as he can, as often as he can. But how he chews them is a mystery to me since he appears to be missing about a quarter of his teeth and those that are left look like they’re about ready to fall out.

Besides this obvious characteristic, he has another one – the ability to talk your ear off and be “honest” about his life. So in fairly short order we new temps all found out that he is a convicted felon (assault on a police officer), still on probation, wears an ankle bracelet for the police to track him, has numerous friends who are also small-time criminals, has had many girlfriends, and has a son through one of them. (Or was she actually his wife? It’s hard to tell since he uses the phrase “The mother of my son” to describe her. And Chad is not a person you want to question for fear of how long and labyrinthine the answer will be, an answer that will usually include the word “technically” even if there are no technical data involved – which is almost always the case.) As the week went on, we found out (among other various and sundry items) that, though he wants to travel to Canada, he really can’t do it because, being a convicted felon, that requires much more paperwork to get clearance along with an annual $200 fee, but he has a friend who does it every year. Or so he says. As he says a lot of other things.

The list of other characters at the plant is long. There’s Bryan, who's 6'7" and weighs in at around 420 or more, and has an ego and mouth to match. Boua is the exact opposite – an immigrant from Laos who is 4'7" and weighs maybe 95 pounds. But she can hold her own. Pat looks like she’s twice past retirement age and has worked there for nine years, but she worked at a woolen mill for many years before that. She’s one of those crusty old folks that you know is a dear underneath the seeming hard shell. Nick is Chad’s best friend at work. He’s 24 and has an underbite on his lower jaw that looks like a serious orthodontic malpractice case. He claims that he knows the most about religion of anyone he knows. And since he barely graduated from high school and usually ends up crawling the bars of the larger city near him every weekend, that isn’t saying a whole lot. David is also young, about 22, and has also had jail experience (as has Nick) and calls himself Catholic. “I’m even confirmed,” he boasted, just as he also boasted about driving home while he was drunk.

Then there’s Geoff. When you see the name “Geoffrey,” you generally think of someone with an aristocratic air, someone like Geoffrey Boisi, the multi-millionaire who heads up the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management at Boston College and has the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at the same college named after him. Or you might think of a stupid giraffe that serves as a mascot for a certain toy store. But you would not think of the Geoff with whom I worked at the plant. Lean of build and uncertain of character, he displayed behaviors that left you wondering if he was altogether there.

The conversation at this plant does not lean toward the intelligent, and some of them know that. Chris, who is Chad’s roommate, once told me, “The people here are either rednecks, racists or just plain stupid.” I didn’t have the heart to ask him into which of the three categories he placed himself.

One night, the conversation began at strip clubs and descended from there. If you’re not sure how far one can descend from strip clubs, just take my word that it can happen. It finally got so bad that I went to the supervisor and asked her to reassign me to another task. She asked why and I told her. This was the second time this kind of discussion happened, and Peggy had had it. She called a quick meeting and made it clear that the inappropriate talk was to cease and that if it happened again, “You’ll no longer be working here.”

We got back to the line and Bryan began to whistle and drum his fingers on the line – for two hours. The other guys, Geoff and David in particular, looked at one another asking, “What was inappropriate about what we were saying?”

What Chris said.

The next night, Bryan was moved to another position off the line and I was left there with Geoff, David, Nick and Tong, a 23-year-old of Hmong descent. Suddenly, Geoff started asking questions about Christianity. He had been raised in a rural Midwest town as an agnostic and he was truly ignorant of Christian belief. So ignorant, in fact, that he asked, “Well, Jesus wrote the Bible, didn’t He?” My attempts at answering the questions foundered, not because I didn’t know the answers, but because Geoff’s attention span is about as short as a TV commercial. David’s was no better and going from one to the other was interiorly frustrating. This conversation lasted for more than an hour and Tong tired of it. He’s a true pagan, retaining the Hmong pagan beliefs that were handed on to him. But he’s also secularized and not wanting to hear anything of religion at all. It finally did end without any kind of fruit that I could see.

Others would occasionally ask me faith-related questions. Mark, who’s originally from Chicago, also a convict and missing his two upper front teeth from who knows what fight, once asked me what Catholics believe, but I did not have time to even begin to tell him. Perhaps the most bizarre occurrence happened when Brent came on the line. He’s good at math and figured out a three- or four-part problem in less than five seconds. Geoff’s response was “(Take the Lord’s Name in vain), “you’re good at math” and then he turned to me and asked, “Was that taking the Lord’s Name in vain?”

A close friend of mine once described these people as “a bunch of yahoos.” To an extent he’s right. Or as Chris said... 

But they’re yahoos, rednecks and racists who need redemption as much as the next guy. And this is where it occurs to me that the Church is missing out on evangelizing a large segment of the population. There are many evangelical efforts aimed at the middle class or, as with Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., towards the elite. But we have been missing out on something like Catholic Action for many years. There are still remnants of that rather vast and influential late-19th to immediate post-World War II organization which worked in factories towards evangelization, but most of them have morphed into political groups. Most outreach that is currently done is attempted at the parish level towards people who are already at Mass. We have Theology on Tap, but we don’t have Theology on the Line.

A young St. Gianna Molla (center, back row) and her Catholic Action group

Yet this is where it is needed. Unfortunately, my efforts weren’t very successful -- at least that I'm aware of. Working with the Chads, Bryans, Tongs and Geoffs of the world is difficult. It doesn’t help that the atmosphere of an assembly line isn’t conducive to such conversation or even to thinking about that kind of issue, nor is the loud music that is blared in constantly and greatly influences people’s behavior. And you have the very real expectation that you’re there to work, not evangelize.

Yet such is the task of evangelization, bringing the Gospel into what would purport to be the gates of hell. How this is done, I’m not sure and I hope it’s not a totally lost art. But if we take up the challenge, we shall have our Lord’s promise behind us: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Problems at The Courant

It's been a long time since I've posted anything here and I doubt that what I post now will get any attention. But I came across an article in the Hartford Courant that I had to respond to. I sent in a column, but they never published it -- probably because I wasn't local enough. But here's the full version of that column (I sent in a considerably reduced version to keep in their word count guideline):

The August 4th story, “Vatican's Decision Not To Remove Connecticut Priest May Play Role In Abuse Trial,” was another exercise in the game of “pin the tail on the Pope.” Whether the blindfold was completely over The Courant’s eyes or whether the reporter and editors were peeking, the result is the same – the tail wrongly ended up in the Pope’s eye.

There are numerous problems with this piece. First, there's no indication given by the reporter of when Father Thomas Shea’s last days of active ministry were. All we’re told is he was removed from ministry “years ago.” So readers have no clue what the timeline of the story actually is.

However, we get this quote from a letter written in 2005 to Bishop Michael Cote by the then-Secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato: “This case falls into prescription as it involves incidents which, while serious in nature, occurred over 35 years ago...” Over 35 years ago? So was Father Shea’s last incident of abuse back in 1969 or 1970? The reporter doesn't tell us, which is confusing because there’s talk later in the story about him being reassigned in 1975.

Nor does the reporter tell us what “prescription” means. For the record, that’s the Catholic Church’s equivalent of a statute of limitations under the Code of Canon Law, though that’s something the reporter should have told the readers after consulting with a canon lawyer.

But then five paragraphs after that statement taken from the letter written by Archbishop Amato, we read, “Superior Court Judge Marshall Berger ruled against the church, and many of the documents including the letter from the Pope will become evidence at the upcoming trial, according to Reardon” (my emphasis). What letter from the Pope? The letter did not come from the Pope, but from Archbishop Amato. Were the reporter and editors blindfolded, or did they peek and hope the five paragraph distance would make readers not see them lifting it up?

But there’s even more blindfolding or peeking. The story states that Bishop Cote wrote to the CDF on April 8, 2005. That was six days after Pope John Paul II had died. Did no one at The Courant have the sense to contact any knowledgeable source about what happens inside the Vatican during the period between popes, called the interregnum? After a pope dies, all cardinals in charge of curial offices no longer operate in those functions until the next pope is elected and he reappoints them to their posts, if he chooses to do that. So at the time Bishop Cote’s letter was written, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was not the prefect of the CDF, even though the letter may have been addressed to him as such. Besides that, since Cardinal Ratzinger was the Dean of the College of Cardinals (which is not a curial office), he was, to say the least, rather busy helping to put a conclave together.

Everyone knows the result of that conclave: Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI. Thus, attorney Richard Reardon's assertion that “Amato was considered Ratzinger’s ‘right hand man’ at that time and would not have sent the letter without Ratzinger's approval,” is at least questionable, but The Courant takes it without question. Archbishop Amato’s letter was dated May 12, 2005, only a couple of weeks after Cardinal Ratzinger became pope. When he wrote it, Archbishop Amato was no more his “right hand man” than I was. That task fell to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was then the Holy See’s Secretary of State.

So the CDF was operating without a prefect from April 2, 2005 until August 17, 2005 when then-Archbishop William Levada assumed command of the office. That left Archbishop Amato in charge for that five-month period. And without going into the boring details of why, not laicizing Father Shea was a routine decision that did not require approval from a prefect, never mind the Pope.

Then there’s this paragraph: “Pope Benedict has come under criticism for similar actions in other cases.” Actions similar to what? To not being in charge of a case that was someone else’s responsibility? “Last year in Wisconsin, documents surfaced showing that a bishop sent him a letter seeking to have a priest accused of molesting deaf children defrocked. But a church trial never occurred after the accused priest wrote a letter to the Pope asking him not to go forward with the trial.” Wow, do you have that story wrong. Laurie Goodstein at The New York Times put that assassination piece together and it has been devastatingly critiqued in numerous places, especially by National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen.

Two more points of fact this story glosses over: 1) While Bishop Cote’s letter to the CDF was startlingly blunt, it came (apparently) some 35 years after the fact and it seems that Father Shea had been effectively removed from active ministry “years ago.” So what difference would it have made if he had been laicized? And what difference does it make to the present lawsuit if he had been laicized or not? Absolutely none. 2) Father Shea died in a nursing home the year after the letters in question were written. Like the horrendous case of Father Lawrence Murphy who died a mere two months after the Vatican’s decision not to laicize him, any action the Vatican would have taken would have had no practical effect on the case at all.

Finally, we only hear from the plaintiff’s attorney and David Clohessy of the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests. So it’s apparent that The Courant made no attempt to contact anyone outside of the Diocese of Norwich, like a canon lawyer, who could explain what was going on inside the Vatican during the time between when Bishop Cote wrote his letter and when Archbishop Amato replied. Or what “prescription” means. Nor did anyone attempt to contact a supporter of Pope Benedict, someone like George Weigel or Philip Lawler, to get commentary, or even the diocese’s attorney. That’s bias, plain and simple.

With all of this, I can’t help but think that The Courant newsroom was playing the game of “pin the tail on the Pope” while peeking from underneath the blindfold.

Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz is a writer and radio producer in Catholic media living in southern Minnesota. He is not connected in any way to the Diocese of Norwich.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Defending Lila Rose

There are many, many people commenting on Live Action's video recordings and the claim that Lila Rose and her companions lied in order to get Planned Parenthood's employees to talk and that that lying was illicit. Robert George, Christopher Tollefson and the people at The New Theological Movement have all said that it was completely wrong, while Monica Miller, Joseph Bottum and Pia de Solenni have all made various claims giving it some defense.

I had posted a response on Joseph Bottum's piece and it got a little bit of attention, but I'm posting it here with some revisions because I hope it will get more (though I doubt it since I haven't posted anything for nearly two years). Here goes:

What few – if any – people are looking at are two things: the intent of the lie and the Scriptural precedent for what Live Action did.

In normal lying, a person is either trying to protect himself or gain something for himself. For example, Mother asks Junior, “Did you take a cookie from the cookie jar,” and Junior says, “No, I didn't, Mommy,” yet he has cookie crumbs plastered all around his mouth and on his hands. Junior is lying to cover up something he did wrong and protect himself from Mommy’s just anger.

There is also lying to obtain something, whether it is a material good (e.g., writing a bad check) or a relational good (e.g., telling the girl at the bar she's the prettiest thing you've ever seen even though she has a huge wart on her nose).

Whether it's protecting oneself or another from the justice that should be meted out when one is caught in wrongdoing, or illicitly obtaining something that does not belong to oneself, the ultimate purpose of the lie has a selfish motivation behind it.

What is different about the “lying” that Lila Rose and Live Action have done is that they are “lying” in order to save lives that are being unjustly taken and this has plenty of good precedent in Scripture (these three quotes are from the New American Bible):

“The king of Egypt told the Hebrew midwives...‘When you act as midwives for the Hebrew women...if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she may live.’ The midwives, however, feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt had ordered them, but let the boys live. So the king summoned the midwives and asked them, ‘Why have you acted thus, allowing the boys to live?’ The midwives answered Pharaoh, ‘The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women. They are robust and give birth before the midwife arrives.’ Therefore God dealt well with the midwives. The people, too, increased and grew strong. And because the midwives feared God, he built up families for them” (Exodus 1:15-21).
“So the king of Jericho sent Rahab the order, ‘Put out the visitors who have entered your house, for they have come to spy out the entire land.’ The woman had taken the two men and hidden them, so she said, ‘True, the men you speak of came to me, but I did not know where they came from. At dark, when it was time for the gate to be shut, they left, and I do not know where they went. You will have to pursue them immediately to overtake them.’ Now, she had led them to the roof, and hidden them among her stalks of flax spread out there” (Joshua 2).
“As Judith and her maid walked directly across the valley, they encountered the Assyrian outpost. The men took her in custody and asked her, ‘To what people do you belong? Where do you come from, and where are you going?’ She replied: ‘I am a daughter of the Hebrews, and I am fleeing from them, because they are about to be delivered up to you as prey. I have come to see Holofernes, the general in chief of your forces, to give him a trustworthy report; I will show him the route by which he can ascend and take possession of the whole mountain district without a single one of his men suffering injury or loss of life’” (Judith 10:11-13).

All of these women directly deceived in order to save lives. In fact, the Hebrew midwives and Rahab directly lied to those who had lawful authority over them. In all three cases, Scripture says the Lord blessed their efforts and personally blessed them later on – because of their deception to save lives from unjust action. The midwives were blessed with families themselves. Rahab and her family were saved from slaughter and, even more importantly, she is mentioned directly in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus as one of His human ancestors. Judith saved all of Jerusalem from certain slaughter by the Assyrians by her deception to get into the enemy's camp.

Pia de Solenni raises Thomas Aquinas’ argument on this in Summa Theologica II-II, q. 110:
The midwives were rewarded, not for their lie, but for their fear of God, and for their good-will, which latter led them to tell a lie. Hence it is expressly stated (Ex. 1:21): “And because the midwives feared God, He built them houses.” But the subsequent lie was not meritorious.
Let me say that I am certainly no Thomas Aquinas, and his equal – and definitely not his superior – has yet to be found since his death in 1274. But permit me the audacious liberty to disagree. Here's why – notice that immediately after the text says that the midwives lied, it then says, “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives.” They lied and therefore He dealt well with them. If Shiphrah and Puah had told Pharaoh the truth, what would have been the result? They most likely would have been put to death and Pharaoh would have assigned Egyptian women as midwives who would have carried out his orders, including on Moses himself. If that had happened, history would have been completely changed. Instead, they lied and we were given Moses and the rest of salvation history followed.

Deception and outright lying is exactly what Catholics and others did in World War II to save Jews from certain death - deception and lying that were practiced by members of the hierarchy, probably even at the direction of Pope Pius XII himself. False papers are false papers – lies meant to deceive someone. Whether it’s falsified birth certificates or fabricated baptismal certificates for people who were never baptized, showing those papers to the Nazi soldiers constituted hundreds, if not thousands, of outright lies. But the false papers were used to protect those who were unjustly condemned to death. Today, we honor those who printed the papers and those who did the lying, including making films about people like Oskar Schindler of Schindler’s List fame.

We Catholics cannot forget the various times of persecution aimed at our brothers and sisters as well. There were those in Elizabethan England who hid priests in priest holes to protect them from certain torture and death and who lied to the authorities to throw them off the trail of the priests. Blessed Miguel Pro disguised himself – deceived the lawful authorities – so he could carry out his ministry during the Mexican persecution. Other examples are plentiful.

Notice what seems to be the rule and pattern here. This isn’t “the ends justifies the means,” nor “doing evil that good may come of it.” It appears to me that in the very specific case of when innocent people are in danger of being put to death unjustly, it is perfectly justified – and indeed perhaps even necessary – to keep those who would do the killing ignorant of the truth in order to protect those lives.

Planned Parenthood is a corporation that is unjustly – yet legally – making millions of dollars from the slaughter of innocent, unborn children. Lila and her group deceived those who are carrying out this unjust slaughter (and who are adding other evils on top of it) in order to save the lives of unborn children who are doomed to die unjustly. They are not doing this to protect themselves or to get something that is not theirs. They are doing exactly what the Lord has blessed in the past and which, despite all of the nitpicking naysayers, He will continue to bless.

Monday, April 27, 2009

God bless Mary Ann Glendon

What more can you say than that Mary Ann Glendon has once again shown herself to be a worthy woman? "Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the city gates." (Prov. 31.31)

As I said in my previous post, Ambassador Glendon single-handedly held up the promotion of abortion through the United Nations at the 1995 Beijing Conference. Now she has rightly embarrassed the president of Notre Dame for his hypocrisy. She realized she was being used as justification for inviting Obama to speak there and she would have none of it. Thanks be to God for her courage and fortitude and may He reward her richly for her actions.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Notre Dame's invite to Obama will worsen abortion worldwide

One aspect that has been overlooked in this whole President Barack Hussein Obama and University of Notre Dame flap is that the school is also going to be honoring Mary Ann Glendon with the Laetare Medal. For some reason, this medal has been taken by many to be considered the highest award that the Church in the United States can confer on anyone. I suppose back in the time when N.D. could be considered a Catholic university that may have been true, but since the abdication of their Catholic identity in March of 1967, I don't think that's the case anymore.

Professor Glendon is the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University and has a long and distinguished career in that field. She was also the most recent ambassador of the U.S. to the Holy See, a post she relinquished on January 20th of this year.

But she may perhaps be best remembered for the fact that in 1995, she led the delegation of the Holy See to the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing. That was the first time that a Holy See delegation to an international conference was led by a layperson, never mind a woman. But John Paul the Great made that decision because he knew it was going to be a tough fight.

Put the words "woman" and "United Nations" near each other and "abortion" -- or should I say, "reproductive rights" -- is not far behind. This conference had the potential to write into U.N. doctrine and documents the notion that abortion is a "right" that knows no boundaries and is to be given to all women around the world. That would have been devastating to the pro-life movement the world over and it would have vastly increased the pressure, especially on so-called Third World countries, to legalize it everywhere, for any reason, and at any time in the pregnancy.

This conference was held in 1995, during the years of the Clinton administration, which was pushing on the U.N. and other international bodies to further abortion overseas. And since the U.S. has a huge voice at the U.N., any opposition to this measure was going to come with consequences.

Enter Mary Ann Glendon. In my opinion, she single-handedly held back the overwhelming tide of abortion throughout the world. She and her staff worked throughout the conference to get an alliance together consisting of many Third World countries, which included most Muslim nations, in order to oppose this move. To the consternation of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Maria Stopes International and other pro-abortion, feminist and homosexual groups around the world, she was able to lead this ragtag group of countries to oppose the much larger nations that wanted abortion and homosexuality imposed around the world. For this, she and the Holy See were excoriated in the press.

Fast forward 16 years and this May in South Bend, Indiana, Ambassador Glendon will march in an academic procession with President Barack Hussein Obama at what Cardinal Francis George recently called the "flagship Catholic university" in our country. She will join him on the dais as she is awarded the Laetare Medal and he is granted an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

(And, yes, I will insist on using his middle name. Saddam Hussein killed many Iraqis. B Hussein O is authorizing the deaths of unborn infants overseas and, if he has his way, will soon add more to the regular total here in the U.S.)

Catholic commentators of all kinds -- lay (Bill McGurn's is the most penetrating analysis I've seen yet), priestly (see Fathers Schall's and Rutler's comments here) and episcopal -- have already listed B Hussein O's sins regarding abortion, so I will not detail those again. What I will point out is that the U.S. embassy to the United Nations will no longer try to stop the "reproductive rights" language. In fact, the official stance of our country will be to encourage it and see that it gets into the documents, as the Clinton administration had done when it was in power.

Lots of folks have been focused on the Freedom of Choice Act, and rightly so. But most are overlooking the fact that the State Department will one day soon bring the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to the floor of the U.S. Senate for ratification. That document, along with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, will undermine U.S. federal and local laws on abortion and parental rights. Once they are ratified, according to the U.S. Constitution, they will override all other laws of this country.

The efforts and pressure that the Committee on CEDAW is putting on countries that have signed the document into liberalizing, if not eliminating, their abortion laws are well-known. Few have held out. Most have buckled and will continue to do so.

I do not doubt that B Hussein O will find encouragement for his agenda in this recognition. Why shouldn't he? After all Notre Dame is the "flagship Catholic university," and the order that oversees it and the school are recognizing him and his accomplishments (whatever they are).

The fact that Bishop John D'Arcy, the Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, encouraged Ambassador Glendon to accept the award because of the "opportunity such an award gives her to teach" is indicative that she had serious qualms about being on the same stage as the president, for obvious reasons.

So on that day in May, we will have on stage to be honored at the University of Notre Dame -- the University of Our Lady -- the woman who stopped abortion from taking over the world and the man who will be responsible for reversing her actions. Good show, ND.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

From whence shrines come

The La Crosse Tribune's coverage of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine church dedication included this interesting bit:
Corinne Dempsey, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, said that for a church leader like Burke to initiate the building of a shrine is backwards.

Shrines come from the people, she said, not authorities.

“Pilgrimage sites do not start from the top down, but from the bottom up,” said Dempsey, who has taught a course on popular Catholicism and studied pilgrimages.

Other sites of pilgrimage, like the site where Our Lady of Fatima is said to have appeared in Portugal, grew from a groundswell of popular interest, and the official church later becomes aware of it, Dempsey said.

“Pilgrimage shrines historically have been places that began based on miracles that happen to people, not to popes,” she said. “I don’t know how well central Wisconsin is set up for that kind of thing either. These kinds of pilgrimage sites are not typically a mainstream American phenomenon.”
I beg to differ. Notwithstanding Bob Moynihan's excellent rejoinder that people like Dempsey “represent the pointy-headed intellectuals who have lost contact with the base,” there's a lot more to be considered.

First, there are the opposing statements about 'the people' and those in authority. “Pilgrimage shrines historically have been places that began based on miracles that happen to people, not to popes.” Funny, I thought popes were people, too. And miracles have happened to popes just as much as 'to people.' Consider, for instance, the miracle of the August snow which brought about the building of St. Mary Major. But Dempsey's thinking is typically Marxist -- those in authority aren't real people. In their minds, those who have power will necessarily abuse it, therefore, they aren't 'real' people because 'real' people would never abuse power.

Second, the shrines at Fatima, Lourdes, Tepayac, La Sallette, Knock and so many other places of Marian devotion, actually did begin from the top down. They came because the Mother of God herself requested them. If that isn't authority, I don't know what is.

Third, she's wrong about the relationship between those who have the visions and Church officials. These are private revelations subject to the authority of the local bishop. It is he who must give approval for any devotion at the alleged apparition site and the approval for any church that might be built there, as with any church built within his diocese. Indeed, in the Diocese of La Crosse itself there is a "shrine" in Necedah that has been in the process of building since the 1950's. The reason it's taking so long -- it has never had the approval of the local bishop because they were false apparitions. In fact, one of the reasons Archbishop Burke started the Shrine in La Crosse was to provide an authentic place of pilgrimage within the Diocese.

Fourth, she's wrong about all pilgrimage shrines starting with apparitions. While Marian shrines have started with them, there are plenty of other shrines that didn't. For instance, the second most important pilgrimage site in the world after the Holy Land itself is Santiago Compestela. That was founded by a bishop who had obtained the bones of St. James. There is a Shrine to the Divine Savior in Las Vegas. That was begun by the bishop of Sin City in order to help tourists, travelers and the immigrant population of the area.

Too bad for the readers of the La Crosse Tribune who were subjected to such glib and false analysis. All Dempsey did was to give more ammunition to those who already hold this false 'people/leader' dichotomy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hispanics against themselves

Eduardo Verástegui, the star of Bella, has a video on YouTube called Hard Reality. In it, he asks a pointed question and makes a pointed statement: "Most abortion centers are found in Hispanic neighborhoods -- why?" and "Abortion is not only a lucrative industry, it is also used by people who are racists as a means to eliminate our people since they consider us to be a threat to democracy in this country."

Unfortunately, Eduardo may also have to look to some of his own people for that threat. From 1999-2003, as part of my position as editor of the Catholic Times in the Diocese of La Crosse, I was a member of the Catholic Press Association. I went to three annual CPA conventions - Chicago, Dallas and St. Paul.

Unfortunately, I don't recall some significant details of the Dallas convention -- the year or who the speakers were. However, I do remember that there was a demographer of Hispanic origin who gave a talk on Latino demographics in the U.S. In fact, it was one of the main talks and was heavily attended because writers and editors wanted to find out what was happening with the Latino population around the country so we could try to address it and help bring the Good News to them.

However, it was clear that the speaker had no faith; he was simply a man of statistics. This became more evident during the question and answer session. He had earlier given a comparison of the birth rate for white women vs. Latino women. I don't recall the specifics, but I do know that whites were below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman of child-bearing age (still are), and Latinos were well above that level (still are as well, though that rate is slowing down. In Mexico, it's down to about 2.4).

That statistic got me to thinking, so during the Q&A I asked him something along the lines of, "Given the fact that Hispanics have such a high birth rate and given the fact that Planned Parenthood targets minorities for abortion, are you at all concerned that they are going to be putting clinics into more Hispanic neighborhoods and targeting the Latino population for abortion?"

I will never forget the first part of his reply: "They already are, and they should." After that, I blanked out. The rest of the audience was somewhat stunned as well. I was in total amazement that this man could say that his own people should be marked for death. I don' remember the reasons he gave at all. It could have been a global population thing, maybe even global warming -- who knows. All I know was that here was this well-off man, middle- to upper-middle-class, saying that his own people -- the majority of whom are in gut-wrenching poverty -- should be gotten rid of.

So Eduardo, while you're right about the racist intentions of many people in the abortion industry, unfortunately there are Latinos who are just as intent on getting rid of themselves as non-Latinos are.