In Bad Company

By , November 30, 2012 4:32 am

Tragically, the Catholic Church has stumbled through the last twenty years desperately trying to extricate itself from the biggest scandal of the last century or two, namely the issue of child sex abuse. While much progress has been made, serious work is still before us.
I hope that no reader will take any pleasure or satisfaction out of the fact that the same problem has hit another wonderful organization supposedly set up to help and protect children, namely the Boy Scouts of America. Recently, the president of the Boy Scouts of America apologized for the release of a cache of documents detailing accusations of abuse and “many thousands of victims” allegedly committed by over 1,200 scout leaders between 1965 and 1985. Like the Church, the Scouts first tried to prevent the documents from being released. The Scouts themselves now call these records the “perversion files.”
Where will it stop? These revelations don’t let Penn State off the hook nor the British Broadcasting Company or any other organization that attempts to cover up these crimes in order to protect its “reputation.” Surely, after all this pain, agony, suffering and scandal institutional leaders should take the necessary internal controls to make every effort to eliminate this cancer from our society to the greatest extent possible.
What is the common denominator that ripples through each one of these large organizations causing them to act so foolishly, immorally and destructively? In my opinion, the disease that infects the brains of leaders of organizations is the erroneous feeling that the organization comes first. “Yes, individuals get hurt. Yes, mistakes are made. But you’ve got to protect the name of the organization.” This is so foolish. It is a terrible mistake. The fact is, the truth almost always comes out and when it does the cover-up will be seen by the world as a much worse crime than the original offense. Wake up leaders of the world. Haven’t we had enough experience to have finally learned the facts?

  • Share/Bookmark

GAP Is Closing The Gap

By , November 29, 2012 5:50 am

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is one of my favorite organizations. With limited resources, it struggles constantly to maintain honestly and accuracy in all aspects of our economic and social system. Their chief method is to be prepared to support “whistleblowers” when they have the courage to report improper production or sales methods. In the past, an employee who would have the courage to report transgressions in protecting America against corporate greed they would usually be fired quickly and brutally. For years, GAP has tried to protect them and now a real victory is about to be achieved.
In late September, the House of Representatives passed S. 743 – the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) – by unanimous consent! Can you believe that? The legislation will provide millions of federal workers with the rights they need to safely report government corruption and wrongdoing. The bill reflects a strong bipartisan consensus and is finally excepted to pass the Senate this month.
When the bill passes, it will end a hard-fought and crucial victory. This victory was achieved by the Make It Safe Coalition (MISC), which GAP coordinates. They have done a great job and deserve our appreciation and support.
Our government struggles to protect us from bad food and medicine through programs such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Center for Disease Control. It cannot and we would not want it to supervise every production line in the country. What we can do, however, is stand prepared to help those workers who see dishonest practices that threaten not just the money of the public but their health as well.
Do you have an extra twenty bucks? How about sending it to the Government Accountability Project, 1612 K Street, NW Suite #1100, Washington, DC 20006, 202.457.0034,

  • Share/Bookmark

Trouble Across the Rhine River

By , November 28, 2012 5:50 am

Two weeks ago, I wrote with shock in this space about my disbelief that the German bishops had issued a decree refusing the sacraments to Catholics who stopped paying a Church membership tax. I was not the only one who was incredulous. That reaction has spread across the world. Global media coverage has brought into clear focus the unique situation in Germany that most people knew nothing about until this issue arose.
Since the middle of the 19th century, the German central government has collected a small tax on both the Lutherans and the Catholics in Germany, transferred the funds to the churches for use in providing schools, hospitals, youth centers and other excellent programs. Today in Germany many Catholics are angry with the Church and don’t like the tax and they have signed documents taking themselves out of the Church. So much for that but now the bishops say that such persons can be denied the sacraments!
I have no doubt that this situation creates a real financial problem. In a short period of time, the Church has to do a better job of raising its own money but it is hard to imagine the Catholic Church denying someone baptism, the Eucharist or a funeral because of a failure to pay a government tax. Something is wrong and I hope that it will be corrected very quickly. Until then, I pray with all my heart for the German Church which is truly a great Church but faced with organizational difficulties.
Luther, there is still tension on the Rhine!

  • Share/Bookmark

A Gentler Society

By , November 27, 2012 5:48 am

There is altogether too much cruelty in the world. Insensitivity is rampant and a willingness to hurt other people’s feelings with impunity should not go on unnoticed. However, is everything bad? By no means. I grew up on the north side of Houston in a white Protestant lower middleclass world. As I looked around, I saw constantly, but usually did not think too much about it, the cruelty that was meted out to blacks, Hispanics, gays, the retarded and others who were a little different. Even the Catholics took it on the chin at that time.
In the face of all that, I am thrilled to see the tremendous progress that is being made. Cruelty and insensitivity have not disappeared but at least most of the people who are guilty of those stupid offenses feel culturally bound to hold back and not verbalize it. I am especially happy to see the progress that has been made in our society to lessen the pain of people who are suffering from Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and so on. We have wonderful organizations and programs that exist in strong opposition to outdated stereotypes of disabilities. Young people burdened with such now find themselves able to grow up with full lives, much laughter, a great deal of playing and, most of all, love and acceptance.
The job is not done but let’s keep working on it. The followers of Jesus should be the group most interested in lessening unnecessary pain.

  • Share/Bookmark

An Outstanding Archbishop

By , November 26, 2012 4:11 am

In 1946, a young Italian boy graduated from St. Anthony’s High School in Beaumont, Texas. His father was a barber. He played basketball for St. Anthony’s. Overall, he was a quiet and gentle young man. Nobody foresaw that he would be one of the outstanding leaders in the Catholic Church in the United States at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.
The young man was Joseph Anthony Fiorenza. He would be ordained to the priesthood in 1954 and would retire as Archbishop of the Church that served one of the most important diocese in the country – Galveston-Houston, Texas.
I was ordained two years behind Fiorenza and I closely followed his extraordinary work for the next fifty years. He would be hospital chaplain, parish pastor, chancellor, Bishop of San Angelo, all before becoming Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. This is interesting but it is not too important. The Church has an adequate supply of archbishops and my guess is that it always will.
What made Fiorenza special in my book is that he always was so strongly committed to the social mission of the Church. Never forgetting that while the Church had to be concerned about everyone, its special interest was the poor and the vulnerable. Well, this came out recently in Baltimore when Archbishop Fiorenza took the floor to remind his brother bishops that a suggested proposed statement on the economy that was to address the agonizing problems facing the unemployed in this country. Fiorenza and other bishops denounced the proposed pastoral statement on workers, poverty and the economy as a betrayal of Catholic social teaching. Fiorenza is a past president of the USCCB and his criticism of the document is devastating. He pointed out that there was only one short sentence to the long history of Catholic social teaching on workers’ rights to organize in unions, to bargain collectively with their employers and to go on strike if their demands for just wages and working conditions were not met. He said much more about the document but his brother bishops took him very seriously and the document was rejected.
May God bless Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza and may the bishops get to work on a more realistic statement of economic crises through which the poor in this country are suffering, and such a document must be faithful to the Church’s magnificent commitment to the poor, the weak and the vulnerable.

  • Share/Bookmark

Viva Cristo Rey! Viva Christ the King!

By , November 24, 2012 4:12 am

It’s over. It’s finally over. Once again, the Church across the world completes the liturgy year, the year of prayer, the year that has been centered on preparing for, receiving, suffering with and walking behind Jesus of Nazareth. We started back on November 27th in 2011 with the first Sunday of Advent. We spent a month symbolizing the time between the creation of Adam and Eve and the coming of Jesus. Then we were at Christmas, the Resurrection and the third great feast of the Church year, the Feast of Pentecost. Then we were urged to acknowledge the fact that not only have we received the faith, but we have a responsibility to strengthen it and carry it on.

Today is the last day of the year and we mark it with joy and triumph. When we look around, we see our own weakness, our own family problems, the difficulties that the United States faces, our concern for more wars, our inability to deal with the tragic poverty on this planet. Sometimes everything looks so grim. But Jesus Christ is king. He is the Lord of the universe and on this day, in a very special way, we acknowledge his triumphant power over anything and everything. God has given the human family the gift of freedom. It is frequently misused but ultimately his plan will be carried out in the lives of individuals and for the whole human family.

Viva Cristo Rey! Viva!

  • Share/Bookmark

Congratulations Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza!

By , November 23, 2012 4:11 am

I have known Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza since September of 1949. I always admired him and have been very proud to call him friend for these many years, but my pride reached its high point this week at the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore. For some strange and tragic reason, the American bishops have been giving indications that they are trying to back away from their magnificent 200 year tradition of caring for the poor and the vulnerable. They don’t verbally challenge Rerum Novarum and they haven’t contradicted the magnificent pastoral letter of 1986, entitled Economic Justice for All. They certainly have not challenged the fact that the Second Vatican Council moved concern for justice high up on the Church’s agenda. What they do is that collectively they are very silent, and silent especially about the Church’s 200 year old commitment of the right of workers to join unions.

Last year when a number of Midwestern governors were moving cruelly to crush unions and cancel retirement programs by an administrative fiat, Church leaders were sadly quiet. One letter came out of the USCCB bemoaning the scene but nothing more than that. In the spring of this year, the bishops met almost on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council but virtually no mention was made of its social implications. One thoughtful bishop stood and called his brothers attention to the fact that the country was in an agonizing recession, and governmental equipment was log jammed and virtually nothing was being done to alleviate the situation. Bishops voted to issue a pastoral message (message mind you) on work, poverty and the economy. Well, this powerful document surfaced recently at the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore and it was a shocking disappointment for anyone who is concerned about the Church’s traditional commitment to social justice.

One such person was Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, retired Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. Archbishop Fiorenza eloquently reminded his brother bishops that the “message” was grossly inadequate, failed to utilize the powerful tradition of the Church’s commitment to the poor, especially workers, and verbally gave an outline of what the document should really be like.

This blog is far too long so tomorrow I will give you a summary of Archbishop Fiorenza’s remarks. I have always been proud of him as a brother and as a bishop, but I have never been more proud than his challenge to his brother bishops to confront the issues that are before us.

  • Share/Bookmark

A Miracle on Second Street

By , November 22, 2012 4:11 am

When I came to Austin 37 years ago, I was wonderfully surprised by the extraordinary amount of good work that goes on in our community and especially wonderful ministries sponsored under various organizations of the Catholic Church. Seton hospital had a century old tradition of helping the poor and was in a period of rapid expansion as its second century approached. We had a half dozen excellent East Austin parishes, each one of which was doing the best that it could to assist with the needs of that area. However, Seton hospital was four or five miles away and transportation was sometimes difficult.

I approached the Daughters of Charity to explore the possibility of opening a clinic in East Austin. In my medical innocence do you know what I thought a clinic probably was? I was thinking in terms of a large, clean room, thoroughly stocked with band aids and aspirin. How naïve.

On completing their study of the area, the Daughters opened what was then called “Seton East.” I have not checked recently but on average they have served approximately 35,000 people a year using the “ability to pay” method. Tens of thousands of people have had their lives made somewhat easier because the vision of St. Vincent de Paul continues after 400 years and is alive and well in East Austin. God bless St. Vincent, God bless the Daughters and God bless their clinic on Second Street.

If I had even a trace of humility somewhere in my system, I would avoid the opportunity to tell you that it is now named Seton McCarthy! Yes, I am proud but it is principally the Daughters and their co-workers of whom I am so very proud. May God bless them always.

  • Share/Bookmark

God Bless Sister J.T. Dwyer

By , November 21, 2012 4:11 am

The World is always changing.
Our country is certainly changing.
The Church is changing but slowly.
Religious life is changing.

The Church is aware of all of these facts and reacts somewhat differently in each case. We had a flap inside the Church over the last two years as Church leaders in the Vatican have reflected modest dissatisfaction with women religious in the United States. Happily, that flap is being ironed out peacefully within the family.

I thank God for vowed religious who live in cloistered convents. I thank God for other religious women who live lives of great sanctity with their lives centered on Eucharistic adoration. What a blessing they are to us. What a blessing to the human family.

I also thank God, however, that there are sisters who see new problems, new difficulties, new forms of suffering and decide to act. One such wonderful sister is right here in Austin and I am thinking of
Sister J.T. Dwyer. She is a Daughter of Charity which is the community that runs the wonderful network of Seton Hospitals. Sister Dwyer does not work in a hospital, as important as that work is. She is deeply involved in waging a battle against the agonizingly cruel and criminal world of human trafficking. Several times in this space I have mentioned that some of us think that human trafficking is something that goes on in India or in South Africa. My friends, it goes on right here in Austin, Texas.

Are you are so caught up with life that you occasionally go down to relax on “Sixth Street?” There is nothing wrong with that but you may be passing on the sidewalk a young woman who is there against her will and for purposes that are absolutely terrifying and destructive. Sister J.T. is aware of that and along with others have formed a very active anti-trafficking organization. You know what they have done? They have gone from bar to bar in that area and received permission to put up anti-trafficking posters in the windows and printed on the little napkins that go under drinks. That is truly wonderful.

If the world would become more aware of the reality of human trafficking, we could all come together and almost completely eliminate it. However, most of us are unaware. I want to congratulate the business establishments that are cooperating with these anti-trafficking friends but I especially want to thank Sister J.T. and her co-workers. They are showing the way!

  • Share/Bookmark

A Reason for Optimism?

By , November 20, 2012 4:11 am

If there is anyone in the United States that did not know that American politics is a tough, difficult and expensive world, they do now. A two year struggle to choose a president for the next four years is now over. As I said last week, most of us are very thankful for that fact. Will anything be different now?

The last two years were extraordinarily bitter and hostile. It seemed like the government was at a complete impasse. The battle over the debt ceiling took us into a very dangerous situation and was temporarily solved only at the last minute.

I think that we are all happy to note that there are glimmering signs of rationality and a willingness to work together to solve our many and very serious problems. The president’s position is strong and Speaker Boehner has given some indication that he is going to try hard to develop a cooperative spirit in the Republican controlled House. If that works out, it will certainly be a wonderful blessing for the country. We must deal with our problems and continued stalemate, conflict and logjam points us to disaster.

Let’s pray that our leaders are open to responding to reality and that they put the overcoming of these obstacles ahead of their personal views and opinions.

We are reasonable people. Let us move forward and let us move forward together.

  • Share/Bookmark

Panorama Theme by Themocracy