Wisdom, God’s Word and Eternal Life

By , September 29, 2012 4:07 am

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September 30th, Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s texts begin from the book of Wisdom, glide through Hebrews and land forcefully in St. Mark’s listing of the Ten Commandments. At first glance, they look like they are on entirely different subjects but they interlock beautifully. First we have the author of the book of Wisdom personifying that gift as a beautiful, wonderful woman – unbelievably valuable, more valuable than wealth of any kind and certainly more valuable than even good looks and good health. The author states that the person who has good things, “all things come together to me in her company.”

The brief second reading from Hebrews informs us that wisdom is a product that comes to us through God’s word and it is a living thing sharper than a sword and penetrates deep inside our souls. It judges the reflections and thoughts of our hearts and because of God’s word within us nothing is concealed from God to whom we must render an account.

An account about what? That we live according to the norms that he places before us listed in the Ten Commandments but more importantly, in the fleshy tablets of our hearts. The commandments seem quite brief, don’t they? However, actually they implicitly cover virtually everything about human living. They cover all relationships: first and foremost with God, we are to worship him; secondly, our family and then relationships beyond the family, even extending to the ends of the earth. God’s law forbids murder, lying, theft and extends also to intending to do evil even though we do not actually perform the evil acts. The commandments are a big tent and they implicitly cover all human actions. They are the markers. They provide the lines that guide us on our journey. If we follow those markers, that journey takes us to God, our ultimate purpose.

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Big Tobacco – Worse Than Hitler!

By , September 28, 2012 4:59 am


Over the last 25 years, our country has really been blessed to see a dramatic contraction in the amount of smoking in the American population. It didn’t happen by accident. It is certainly not due to corporate tobacco’s concern for the health of the American people. It was cut back because of the good sense of people across the country who saw the outcome of scientific studies proving that this addictive and destructive habit was killing people by the tens of thousands and killing them in a very painful and agonizing manner.

Big Tobacco exists to make money. The U.S. market is drying up. What should it do? It is doing something worse than it was already trying to do in the United States. It turns its interests towards the undeveloped world. It has gone into developing poor nations all over the world and unleashed an unbelievably cruel and destructive marketing. Young people are special targets. Big Tobacco really goes after them. English speakers in countries, such as the Philippines and India, are especially susceptible. “Working in a call center made me smoke more because most of my colleagues smoke. We get to talk about business over a cup of coffee and a cigarette” said Rowena de Leon Santos in Manila.

Such centers in Manila are ripe ground for tobacco giant Phillip Morris International (PMI). If PMI can effectively addict more highly educated people with greater expendable income like Santos, it will guarantee profits in the archipelago nation. The story is the same all over the world. British American Tobacco Nigeria’s (BATN) has really gone aggressively after young girls and enjoys a near monopoly on the tobacco industry in West Africa’s most populous country.

These are poor people in poor countries. Their limited income is really needed for food, clothing and shelter and yet Big Tobacco comes after them, not only to accentuate their poverty but to shorten their lives.

Do you want to help? Support Corporate Accountability International, 10 Milk Street, Suite 610, Boston, MA 02108 or reach them at info@stopcorporateabuse.org, (617) 695-2525.

Hitler killed millions of people because he was insane. Corporate America endangers the lives of millions more but their concern is money. Which do you think is most detestable?

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A Jewel in the Heart of Houston

By , September 27, 2012 5:59 am

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Today, I present the last of my brief descriptions of the six Catholic colleges and universities functioning within the State of Texas. It is my own alma mater, the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

The University of St. Thomas was a dream of the much-beloved bishop of the Diocese of Galveston, Christopher Edward Byrne. He had been in office since 1918 but after World War II, with the explosive growth of Houston, the bishop began to see the necessity of establishing an excellent school of higher learning centered on Roman Catholic faith and values. He called on the Basilian Fathers who had been running St. Thomas High School since the year 1900 to build on the work of a half century of productive educational efforts and launch a university. The Basilians complied and today 63 years later you can see the results of their faith, vision and labors.

The University of St. Thomas is really an excellent school with a reputation in all of the areas where it offers undergraduate or graduate courses. On a personal note, I am very proud to be a Basilian product. I was never considered a fast learner. I was five years in high school because I was caught by the move in Texas to go to 12 years. When I went to the seminary for eight years, I spent seven summers at the university to secure a major in economics, receiving a B.A. at the same time that I was ordained in 1956. Finally, I would be awarded a Ph.D. in history after about 25 years. There you have it – a new record for being in school – five years in high school, seven years for a B.A. and a quarter of a century for a Ph.D.

Forgive me. There is so much to say about the University of St. Thomas and I have used it improperly talking about myself. I will do better next time.

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The Lake is Thriving

By , September 26, 2012 10:58 am


Today, I want to touch on yet another Catholic university in Texas, Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. “The Lake,” as it is popularly referred to across the city, has been doing wonderful work since 1895 when it was established by French Catholic sisters, members of the Congregation of Divine Providence. The school, while still young by northeastern standards, has been functioning in three different centuries. Our Lady of the Lake has nearly 3,000 students and about 40% of them are in graduate school. The university currently offers bachelors degrees in 33 areas of study, masters degrees in 14 areas and two doctoral programs. In a desire to reach beyond San Antonio, The Lake offers weekend classes on campuses in Houston and Harlingen.

In maintaining this school for nearly 120 years, the Sisters of Divine Providence have striven to ensure quality in undergraduate and graduate learning experiences. The school strives to foster spiritual and professional growth while preparing students for success in continuing service in the larger society.

I have followed The Lakes development for the last fifty years and I know that once there was a time or two when the school was experiencing real difficulties. I am very proud to see that it is so firmly established and moving forward with wonderful confidence and productivity.

May God bless Our Lady of the Lake University.

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The Right To Vote…?

By , September 25, 2012 5:02 am


When the United States of America began at the end of the 18th century the right to vote was restricted to white male property owners and, in certain places, voting was difficult for Roman Catholics or Jews. While that was taken for granted for a while, our nation saw a gradual and determined effort to expand the right to vote to all citizens. First of all, some of the property restrictions were dropped. After the Civil War, freed slaves were theoretically given the franchise (they would not really get this until the 1960’s). Then came the long, difficult battle for women’s suffrage which was achieved in the 1920’s. Native Americans were granted this right only in the 1940’s. Some of the logistical problems were eased out only in the last twenty years by permitting early voting and voting by mail. It is a story of slow but steady progress!

So the dream of the young Republic has gradually moved towards complete fulfillment until NOW. Since President Obama’s election in 2008, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin have passed laws to make voting more difficult. These laws require government issued ID cards to vote and have approved a number of other restrictions on voter registration. WHAT HAS BEEN GOING ON? Why this sudden explosive surge to protect us from alleged voter fraud which is so miniscule as to be ridiculous? Many of these laws are based on model legislation drafted by the Public Safety and Election Task Force of the American Legislative Exchange Group. This is a lobby-funded association of Republican legislators.

What will be the effect of these restrictions? One in ten of the voters in all these states do not have the required photo ID. Among the groups that tend to vote Democratic, higher percentages lack the required voter identification – 25% of African American, 16% of Hispanics and 18% of Americans over 65 years of age.

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The Need For Whistleblowers

By , September 24, 2012 5:05 am


The Catholic Church has always taught that human nature is essentially good but tragically weak. That is the major difference between Roman Catholic moral theology and the basic teachings of Martin Luther. He had a much more negative view of human nature. Nevertheless, because of that weakness, sin and corruption abounds all around us – in the corporate world, the government and sadly even the Church. Because of this, there is a need for people with integrity within these massive organizations and movements to have the courage to stand up, criticize and, if necessary, publically condemn evil, dishonesty, mismanagement, theft, etc. This is very hard to do because large organizations don’t like any criticism, much less public criticism and they will often move against the complainer with a very heavy hand.

All of this was brought to my mind when I saw the other day in a publication from the Government Accountability Project that recently six whistleblowers had been charged by our government under the espionage act. I can’t cover everything here but let me just point out that one accused person, John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, publicly acknowledged the waterboarding problems in the Bush administration. Kiriakou did heroic work in Pakistan for many years before retiring in 2004.

Kiriakou’s “crime” is that he testified on ABC News about the prevalence of waterboarding as a policy of the US. He gave detailed information about its misuse. Ironically, he is the only individual to be prosecuted in relationship to the Bush administration’s torture programs. Kikiakou is the sixth whistleblower to be indicted by the Obama administration under the espionage act. That is more than all previous administrations combined.

Dear Lord, something is really out of balance here. Interrogators who tortured prisoners or the officials who gave the orders, the attorneys who authored the torture memos, CIA agents who destroyed the interrogation tapes have not been held professionally accountable, much less charged with crimes, but John Kiriakou is facing decades in prison for helping to expose torture.

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Straight Talk from St. Mark

By , September 22, 2012 3:44 am


Time after time I have mentioned how much I love to read St. Mark’s gospel. He manifests many qualities that I admire, and to me, those qualities are symbolically very powerful. He’s brief, he’s cryptic, direct, blunt and truthful. However, you pay a price for all those brief staccato sentences, because many of them require expansion or interpretation, and that’s not too easy since St. Mark has been gone for over 1900 years. That means we have to do the best we can, but not claim divine guidance in the process.
In the first section of today’s exerpt, Jesus tells the apostles not to worry, or be jealous of others outside their circle who are going around doing things like Jesus and the apostles had been doing. Our Lord implies profoundly that when people are doing good, God is working through them, and therefore they should be accepted and trusted.
What Jesus was saying is that when we are looking at the actions of others, we ought to put the best possible interpretation on those actions. We should TRY to trust those with whom we are sharing life.
And then, our Lord turns on a dime, and begins to blast those who give scandal- who do evil things and encourage others to do evil. Mark quotes Jesus as saying that “if our right hand scandalizes us, we should cut it off. If our foot does the same evil, it should be cut off, and the same holds true with the eye.”
What we have here, of course, is Jesus using strong figures of speech to make a point. Feet do not cause scandal. Hands do not cause scandal. When scandalous actions are manifested, the evil is not in the physical reality that is present, but in the human mind and will. That person knows evil, and still chooses it.
Our Lord is really talking about two important things that occurs almost constantly in our daily life. First, he commands that we be trusting and patient with those around us, and to give them good example of how one of His followers ought to live. Then He stresses the destructiveness of BAD example, especially when it is carried out in a manner that is hurtful to young people.

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The Vatican Keeps Trying

By , September 21, 2012 3:01 am

Photo: Megan Poloskey


There was good news out of the Vatican last week. Vatican City State announced that it had hired an international expert on money laundering to help it get rid of its reputation for shady dealings following a Council of Europe call for tighter controls. Rene Brulhart, a Swiss lawyer, 40 years of age, has been taken on board to help strengthen financial regulations and improve transparency as the Vatican endeavors to crack down on terrorist financing and fraud. This announcement was made by Federico Lombardi, chief spokesman for the Vatican. He is a very good and dedicated man and he certainly has had a difficult job in the last few years.

A study released by the Council of Europe’s Anti-money Laundering Body gave the Vatican poor marks. It scored unsatisfactory ratings in 7 out of 16 “key recommendations” and satisfactory ratings in 9. While this represents progress, the Council urged that the Vatican redouble its efforts. Brulhart’s main task will be to try and clean up the Vatican’s murky image following a long series of scandals, including allegations that bank accounts belonging to clergy in the tiny state are being used by the Mafia for money laundering. You may remember that back in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s with the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, where the Holy See was the principal shareholder, the bank was accused of laundering money for the Sicilian Mafia. That was a far bigger issue than whether or not the butler did it!

The chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Calvi, was found hanging under a London bridge in 1982. While mobsters were suspected of the murder, no one has ever been convicted.

Let’s congratulate the Vatican for its efforts to clean up and help align this tiny state of 108 acres to utilize more faithfully new global standards of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development White List of Financially Virtuous Countries.

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Does the Church Need a Governing Strategy?

By , September 20, 2012 5:46 am

Photo: Megan Poloskey


From time to time in this space, I like to talk or even brag about the size of the Church, its universality across the planet and its constant pursuit of unity. Although there are always problems present, I have given the Church high marks in this area but have we entered, over the last few decades, into a new story in the life of the Church? The unity and doctrine is fairly consistent but respect for authority and leadership is now frequently questioned.

If you step back and watch the planet spinning through space, you will see many situations all across the globe. There is trouble in Australia, rebellion in Germany, tension in the United States, hostility in Ireland and so on. How has the Church been responding to these many and varied upheavals? I would like to quote from Robert Mickens of the London Tablet when in June he said that the biggest problem of the Church is not about communications, as serious as that issue is, but is the absence of a “governing strategy.”

“The head of an organization of 1.2 billion faithful, which is the Catholic Church, needs a program of governance.”

The author of that statement went on to say that despite the many internal and external structural problems facing the Church, the principal one is that it is still governed like an absolute monarchy.

“Even the Holy See has to realize that in the 21st century every authority, even the most ancient, must respond to public opinion about its actions, omissions and mistakes. English speakers call this accountability.”

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Good Advice From Our Holy Father

By , September 19, 2012 4:45 am

Photo: Megan Poloskey


Pope Benedict XVI recently stated, “Our present crises, whether economic, food related, environmental or social, are ultimately also moral crises. All of them are interrelated. They require us to rethink the path that we are traveling together. Specifically, they call for a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity with new rules and forms of engagement, one which focuses confidently and courageously on strategies that actually work, while decisively rejecting those that have failed.” [Emphasis added]

True – true – true! Now let’s look at the Church. In terms of inner joy, self confidence, optimism and numerical growth, the Church is floundering almost everywhere except Africa south of the Sahara. I think that the above statement needs to be taken very seriously. I pray that it will be.

With all these problems, maybe we should ask ourselves as to whether or not our beloved Church needs to examine its governing strategy. More on that tomorrow.

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