When Moses came down from the mountain he had with him the tablets with God’s ten major ordinances – the Ten Commandments. The most important, of course, was that God’s people were to worship Yahweh faithfully and honestly, but down the line a bit there was the one that we now call “VII” – Thou Shalt Not Steal. We all know that stealing is wrong. To intentionally take something that is the private property of another person, is almost in cases a moral evil. I say in almost all because there are certain circumstances which would allow a person to make quick decisions in order to survive; for example, food when faced with hunger. In general, it is always wrong to steal.
But some kinds of theft are worse than others. Walking into a liquor store with a handgun in order to empty the cash register is theft and if you don’t get killed, you certainly can go to jail for a long period of time. You may not understand this but there is a certain honesty in that kind of theft. You have money, I want it and if you don’t give it to me, you are going to get hurt!
However, let me tell you of a worse kind of theft. Put yourself in the executive offices of a fast food place. It doesn’t matter whether it is McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Burger King. You see the hourly charts coming in reflecting that Gene Jones or Raul Martinez worked 52 hours at the minimum wage. No one can actually survive on that in an urban setting. Why should those two guys who sweated for so many hours get so much money? We will just say that he worked 40 hours cutting him out of overtime. Stealing from the poor is, in my opinion, the very lowest form of theft!
A few weeks ago the United States Department of Labor announced the results of a survey indicating that the scope of wage theft in this country is stunning. The practice of stealing wages, commonly called “wage theft”, is a national epidemic. It eats away at the livelihood of already underpaid workers. Eighty percent of surveyed fast food workers experienced off the clock violations, meaning that they were required to work without pay before punching in and after punching out. Forty-eight percent who worked more than 40 hours in a week did not receive overtime pay. Wage theft has ramifications beyond the employees who are cheated. We suffer when wage theft becomes a way of doing business. Law abiding businesses can’t compete with wage cheats who shave their operating costs by breaking the law. The less money that wage earners bring home, the less money they have to spend on basics, such as food, clothing and household necessities depriving local businesses of much needed consumer dollars and hampering our economy. When that happens everyone loses.
The Department of Labor has studied and documented that this heinous crimes. Now let’s give them the charge of cleaning this utterly cruel form of theft up as quickly as possible.
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Holy? Are you serious…holy? Over the last 10 or 15 years the Roman Catholic Church was torn asunder, badly wounded and humiliated by the actions of some of its priests. Despicable crimes were committed and the Church did not get serious about dealing with them until an extraordinary range of lawsuits costing hundreds of millions of dollars motivated the bishops to come to grips with the worst Church scandal since the Middle Ages. How can you call that Church holy?
Well, the tradition of the reality of holiness inside the life of the Church is centered on the fact, the belief and the awareness that it is nothing less than the presence of Jesus Christ who is infinite holiness who vivifies the Church. The holiness of the Church is dependent not on the goodness of its individual members but by nothing less than the presence of Jesus himself.
“Members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners. In everyone weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good weed of the Gospel until the end of time. Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s elation but still on the way to Holiness.” (Lumen Gentium)
When you look beyond the failures of individual members and you see the extraordinary goodness and faithfulness manifested in the lives of hundreds of millions, even billions, through the last 2,000 years, the reality of holiness begins to be seen and seen dramatically.
It would be wonderful if we could all be astronauts and look down at our spinning planet and able to see the Church making Jesus present in each one of the continents, see the heroism of the missionaries in the Amazon Delta, see the selfless work that the Church is ministering to in the prisons and jails in the dreary cities around the world, see the endless efforts to feed people, to heal people, to bring justice to people.
It is in this selfless work of millions of people that the holiness of the Church is so beautifully manifested. It is also manifested in the convents, monasteries and chapels where the Real Presence of Jesus is worshiped hour after hour day by day. As the globe turns a thousand miles every hour with the earth moving around the sun, the adoration of God never ceases with its unending worship by the community of faith.
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Several months back I commented in this space that I was shocked and horrified that the Obama Administration was convicting a heroic American CIA veteran on the charge of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. I am referring to the conviction and imprisonment of Mr. John Kiriakou, a 15 year CIA counterterrorism veteran who had spent his entire adult life in service to our country. He had wonderful success in Pakistan and was twice the victim of assassination attempts by overseas terrorist groups.
Mr. Kiriarkou is the recipient of 12 CIA Exceptional Performance Awards, the Sustained Superior Performance Award, the Counterterrorism Service Medal, and the State Department’s Meritorious Honor Award with medal.
Mr. Kiriakou made a mistake in dealing with a reporter and let slip the name of a former CIA operative. For that he is imprisoned for three years!
John Kiriakou never tortured anyone yet he is the only individual to be prosecuted in relation to the torture program of the Bush Administration. The interrogators who tortured prisoners, the officials who gave the orders, the attorneys who authored the torture memos and the CIA officers who destroyed the interrogation tapes have not been held professionally accountable, much less charged with crimes!
I have been shocked that the Obama Administration has dealt with whistleblowers in a way that is extraordinarily harsh. More whistleblowers have been prosecuted by this Administration than has happened in the preceding 15 years. I have written the president urging that Mr. Kiriakou‘s sentence be commuted. May I suggest that you do as well. The president’s address is known by all of us.
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Father Helmut Schuller
Over the centuries, the Church has faced every imaginable type of opposition, conflict, division, controversy and pain. Led by the Holy Spirit, it limps on and on and on.
Today, early in the third millennium, the Church is facing new problems and does not yet know exactly how to handle them. One of the problems that the Church has had for centuries is an inordinate commitment to the idea of secrecy. Church leaders have frequently felt that when scandals occur they must be covered up because the lay people would be shocked and their faith would be damaged. Well, there have been scandals enough for the last thirty years and the great majority of the people strongly, faithfully adhere to their beliefs in Jesus Christ. Sexual abuse of the clergy, Cardinals in conflict in the Vatican, cooperation with dictatorial regimes, Vatican bank scandals, etc., etc. People are well equipped to handle scandal which we bishops have provided in abundance yet Church leaders still don’t understand that the “cover-up” is almost always worse than the original sin or crime.
Another problem the Church leaders have is that they can’t stand the idea of public discussion of problems. They simply can’t stand it. There is no effective vehicle for dialogue on serious controversial subjects. The shortage of priests threatens the very heart of the Church’s life. The right of the faithful to receive the Eucharist is denied all over South America but the possibility of a married clergy cannot even be discussed. Relations between clergy and bishops are tense over many parts of the world. Some priests want to discuss it. Currently, Church authorities are trying to block such discussion.
An Austrian priest, Father Helmut Schuller, once the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Vienna, has organized hundreds of priests in his country to endeavor to confront issues that they see as truly damaging to the cause of Jesus of Nazareth. Hundreds of priests have joined him in this and he has been invited to other parts of the world to discuss the various issues.
Father Schuller has undertaken a speaking tour in the United States. One of his first speeches was to be in Boston but the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston forbid any parish or Catholic facility to allow Father Schuller to speak. He was also scheduled to speak at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. The Archdiocese objected but Chestnut Hill College, a Catholic institution of 2,500 students, allowed the presentation to move forward stating that Father Schuller was welcome to the campus “as part of the college’s continuing mission to encourage dialogue on issues of importance to society.”
Onward through the fog.
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