Posts tagged: government

They May Get Him Yet, Father Bill

By , April 18, 2014 5:51 am

I graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston in May of 1949. One of my classmates was a wonderful young kid named Bill Woods. For a private boy’s school, it was a large class – 155 students. Bill and I lived on opposite ends of the town and I never really got to know him very well before we graduated. After graduation, we both entered the seminary. Bill went off to Maryknoll to become a foreign missioner and I went to the seminary of the Galveston-Houston Diocese. After our ordination, although we were in very different ministries in the Church, we became very fast friends and in a very real sense brothers.

Bill was helping to develop my interest in foreign mission work and in about 1962 or ’63 he got me to return with him to Guatemala in an open jeep! After that I was hooked. For the next several years, I made it a practice of buying jeeps in Houston for the Maryknoll Missioners. I would drive them down there for them and then spend two weeks riding in the mountains with Father Bill. I would then return home by plane. It took four days to get down there and three hours to get back!

After a while, the tragic intervention of the United States into the political affairs of Guatemala began to produce horrible results. The United Fruit Company and the CIA worked together to overthrow an elected leftist government. War was on. In those terrible years the United States saw Communists behind every bush and any corrupt government that declared itself to be anti-Communist was immediately a friend of ours and we would help them. That means that we would help them kill their own people.

My friend, Father Bill Woods, would be assassinated. His plane was shot down mysteriously in 1976. Then the reign of terror would begin. Villages would be wiped out, the archbishop of San Salvador would be assassinated, four American nuns would be raped and murdered, Jesuit professors would be slaughtered, etc., etc. For the most part, nothing would be done about it.

Now, however, a U.S. immigration court in Miami is seeking to expel General Jose Guillermo Garcia from the U.S. The American Ambassador at that time, Robert White, is wonderful and testified against Garcia and congratulated the court that “this is the first court that has ever found General Garcia linked so directly to these massacres and these killings.” The court stated that General Garcia held “the greatest power and authority in El Salvador.” The judge wrote, “He rebuffed reform, protected death squad plotters, denied the existence of massacres, failed to adequately investigate assassinations and massacres, and failed to hold officers accountable for the killing of their fellow countrymen.” The general also, “failed to adequately investigate Archbishop Romero’s assassination and encouraged “sham investigations” in the killings of the four churchwomen.”

Guatemala is far from a perfect country today. With the expulsion of Garcia back to his home country it may create the situation where that government will move against him for his countless heinous crimes.

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Another Divided Country

By , March 6, 2014 6:22 am


Anyone who takes the time to study the world map is conscious of the fact that there are many difficult situations all over the world. Being an optimist, I personally feel that overall this world is a much better and safer place for more people than has ever been true before. But we do have our problems.

There is one particular issue that pops up frequently from time to time, and that is some type of government entity, some type of nation that is painfully divided into conflicting spheres of power and influence. Just think about it – Northern Ireland, North and South Korea, in the recent past Vietnam, North and South Sudan, and North and South Nigeria. There are many reasons for these divisions. Sometimes it is language, sometimes it is religion, sometimes it is different economic systems and sometimes it is a mixture of many things.

Now yet another one – the Ukraine.

For a change, we don’t have a north/south division. It is east and west. And therefore, the hostilities are very real. The two segments of this large country break down on their industry, their language, their religion and their economic system.

Western Ukraine is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and identifies with Western Europe while the East is heavily Orthodox with a large Russian population. Tragically, those two Christian communities have had tenses relations for 1,000 years, and they are popping up again in the middle of a sharp misunderstanding between Russia and the Western nations. This may be very old news by the time we run this, but it is a tense and dangerous situation. I know that you knew that from last night’s television news and you saw it again in this morning’s paper. However, if you believe in prayer, and most of us do, we should really be praying that this situation is calmed down as quickly as possible.

Let’s pray for peace together.

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The Sad Story of Philip Seymour Hoffman

By , February 14, 2014 5:04 am

Every one of us who follows the media with some consistency knows that Philip Seymour Hoffman died a tragic death. A wealthy, Academy Award-winning man of great talent, he had many years to live. His life was cut short not by an assassin’s bullet or a destructive form of cancer, but by his own choice to begin to utilize the awesomely destructive drug that we call heroin.

I really have nothing to say about this. The media has rolled over all of us with far more details than we would really care to read or watch. I do think, however, that such an unnecessary, tragic, highly publicized death would grab the attention of many people and help them to realize that drugs in general, and heroin in particular, are not toys to be played with but explosives that when self-detonated destroy not just the life of the user but that person’s beloved family and friends.

There are international aspects of the drug crisis that are undermining so much of the life in this country. Cartels in Mexico have developed an industry in securing and delivering dangerous drugs for the ever expanding market north of the Rio Grande. A new complication is the fact that for various reasons there is a surge in heroin production in Afghanistan, and it is much cheaper and more easily secured than was the case in the recent past.

For decades, our government has wrung its hands in frustration while spending billions of dollars in opposition to this evil, and continues to face and admit to the reality of defeat. We are not overcoming the drug trade in our nation. It is threatening to overcome us.

And what is the role of the Church in all of this? While the Church cannot compete with the resources of the U.S. government, it certainly has the moral power that could make a difference in thousands of individual families, and hopefully through those families reach a large portion of an American society that feeds itself on drugs due to selfishness, loneliness, meaninglessness. The Church has the answer to these needs but the Church, like the government, is proving itself to be woefully ineffective.

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A Much Needed Amendment

By , December 9, 2013 5:40 am

Our Founding Fathers divided the powers of government into three separate branches and it is a system that works wonderfully well. Because human beings are involved in all three branches, from time to time adjustment is needed and that situation is before us now.

Three years ago the Supreme Court made a decision properly called Citizens United allowing unlimited corporate money to pour into our elections. Our country had resisted that threat to democracy for more than 200 years but that safeguard was swept away by a five to four decision. Now I am hopeful, more accurately I am prayerful, that we might be seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Public Citizen is the leading entity trying to bring about a Constitutional amendment that would nullify this disastrous decision. They have gathered more than two million signatures supporting such an amendment and more are coming in every day. The president has endorsed this effort.

Five hundred cities in our country have passed resolutions calling for the amendment.

A coalition is building across the country involving nearly 200 organizations, indirectly representing tens of millions of Americans from every walk of life and they are calling for returning to the situation where elections cannot be bought. The name of the campaign is “Democracy is for People.”
Consider joining Public Citizen in this effort. Their address is 1600 20th Street N.W., Washington, DC 20009,

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Making Sense Out Of Texas

By , December 5, 2013 5:17 am

God bless Mr. Fehrenbach!

Over the years I have had many opportunities to meet people who had recently moved to Texas from other parts of the United States. They are not here very long before they become quizzical because Texas seems to them to be such a strange state and its state government seems to be especially strange.

I have advised dozens of these new friends on how to get a grip on the reality of Texas from just one book. I then go on to say that if they would like to deepen their understanding of Texas, then they should read a second book. But you shouldn’t overwork friends when they are just getting started.

The book that I recommend is always “Lone Star: A History of Texas and Texans.” The author was T.R. Fehrenbach, a man who was born and raised in South Texas and died last week.

Mr. Fehrenbach does an amazing job of describing the historical forces that swirled into, around and over Texas from the 1600’s until today. He explains, to the extent that it can be explained, the Texas mindset with its hostility to almost all authority and a buoyant self-confidence that makes Texans laughed at and the butt of jokes across the world. Texas is unique. Its history is different from any one of the other 49 states. It resources are almost limitless but not always utilized very effectively.

With the Native Americans out of the picture, the two remaining groups, Hispanics and Anglos, would, from 1836 until today, experience tense and sometimes violent relationships. Those from the south of the border held that not only had Texas been stolen from them, but the entire southwestern portion of the United States.

The Mexican American War only added to the hostility that marked this relationship into modern times.

Today Texas is experiencing a dramatic demographic change. All of us ought to observe that loosely, analyze it and endeavor to walk into the future with the best possible understanding of the environment, economic and social structures in which we are living.

After that we have to take a look at Mexico.

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It Is A Better World

By , December 3, 2013 5:11 am

While the spirit of thankfulness flowing from our celebration of Thanksgiving Day is still in the air (and of course it always should be there), I would like to mention one that doesn’t sound very warm and cuddly but is an issue of tremendous importance. I am referring to international aid that flows across boundaries from country to country when terrible tragedies occur. The most recent, of course, is the monster typhoon that flowed across the central Philippines and went on to work havoc in Vietnam. Tens of thousands of citizens were suddenly deprived of everything – food, clothing, shelter and, worse of all short-term, water.

The response around the world was wonderful and virtually every country attempted to help, some more quickly than others. However, within three days you began to hear sharp complaints about the slowness of the aid efforts. That is a great compliment to modern governments and improving human solidarity. The storm hits on day one and by day 3, 4 or 5 the most needed supplies are beginning to arrive, admittedly not everywhere and not adequately, but just think about it. The nations have a sense of responsibility to each other and are able to move vast quantities of tonnage across the Pacific Ocean or wherever. We should all be thankful for this modern development.

Stop for a minute and consider the fact that storms, earthquakes, forest fires, plagues and every other conceivable disaster have been going on since the dawn of time. Until recent times everyone was just on their own. We are all conscious of our everyday problems but we ought to take pride and joy in this modern accomplishment.
Onward through the fog. And don’t forget Haiti.

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An Ungoverning Government

By , October 2, 2013 4:06 pm

Today millions of Americans are asking themselves in both frustration and anger: How is this happening? Why is this happening? The Founding Fathers developed an extraordinary system of government. Its like had never before existed in human history. We have been very proud of it for a quarter of a millennium and yet today the train has derailed. The government is not carrying out its responsibilities and it is being blocked from doing so by a very small minority.

The genius of our Founding Fathers was built around the word “COMPROMISE.” The legislation must pass through both Houses and the differences between them worked out by a joint conference committee drawn from members of both Houses. Even before they pass one or another of the Houses, a proposal has to work its way through a subcommittee, then a full committee, and then a rules committee with discussion, argument and compromise all along the way.

Today the Republican House is controlled not by a majority but a small group now called the Tea Party. There are many House Republicans who would like to get the country moving again but they are afraid to surface because they are fearful of rejection in their next Republican primary. That is where the power of the Tea Party is – in the Republican primaries. For the moment at least the Tea Party has regrettable strength.

Onward through the fog.

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Capital Area Food Bank

By , July 10, 2013 4:37 am

I started doing a blog back in the spring of 2010. Two weeks ago, I passed the number 1,000. It is such an exciting world and there are so many extraordinary events going on in the Church that I have never had any trouble at all coming up with a topic. Nevertheless, from time to time I do touch on the same subject and I do that not for a lack of ideas but because I consider that subject to be so important. I am going to do that today as I remind my readers about the importance of the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. Wow! What a program. Thanks be to God for its President and CEO, Hank Perret, whose imagination, zeal and drive knows no limits.
• Two in three Austin Independent School District students are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals during the school year. This summer, the Food Bank will provide daily meals at 50 summer feeding sites for children and families.
• Each week, nearly 48,000 Central Texans access food through Food Bank partner agencies and programs – and 20,000 of these clients (or 41%) are children.
• The Food Bank has expanded distribution of food by more than 50% since 2007, distributing nearly 50 million pounds of food in the past two years alone.
Why has the Food Bank expanded distribution by 50% since 2007? Because an ever-increasing number of our neighbors are having a very difficult time. The evening news reports about the fact that the United States economy is gradually pulling out of the Great Recession is always deceptive. They fail to mention that more than 15 million people are out of work. The need for food assistance flows from the fact that millions of us don’t have an economically productive position today. That is terrible but an even greater problem is the fact that since most of us are getting by, many of us fail to show due concern. Certainly our governments at every level seem to be pathetically indifferent to the issue of the jobs crisis. If we could get 10 million people back to work, Capital Area Food Bank would not need as much help as it does now. However, it needs your help and mine. Let’s all do it together.

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Is Mexico A Catholic Country?

By , June 27, 2013 5:51 am

Two weeks ago, I made a passing reference in a blog to the fact that Mexico is not a Catholic country. A few readers shot back sharp criticism challenging my views. Their reaction is very similar to that of most American tourists who visit around Mexico. They see that churches are everywhere. Every cab driver has a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his sun visor. Practically everyone has a baptismal certificate tucked away someplace. Does that make a country Catholic? Not at all.
What those tourists are really seeing is the fact that Mexico has very strong Catholic traditions and manifest them in beautiful meaningful ways. However, the government of Mexico has been hostile to the Church since the time of Benito Juarez in the 1860′s. That oppression became violent in the first half of the 20th century and there was even a terrible period of bloody persecution when being a Catholic priest was a crime and a number were executed. In those years, the government confiscated ALL Church property and that continues to this day. All those churches are actually owned by the federal government. The church is simply allowed to use them.
The situation is relatively quiet and peaceful. The government is not persecuting the Church but it simply acts as though the Church were not present. Bishops are usually very quiet but if occasionally they issue a strong statement on some public or social issue, the government firmly tells them to cease and desist.
Despite the government, is the Church alive and well in Mexico? Well, it is certainly alive but it is not as well as we would like to see it. It does operate a few Catholic schools and is using very round about measures, for example having the ABC Real Estate Company own this building that the Church uses Monday through Friday to teach, but there is really not that much of that and the religious education program is poorly developed. The Catholic Church in the United States has a relatively weak program of religious formation but it far and above what the poor Church in Mexico has been able to develop and deliver.
However, the Church in Mexico does have one quality or advantage that we would do very well to copy here in this country. I am referring to the teaching and informative power of the family. While the vast majority of Mexicans, especially in rural areas, are not overly well formed in the tenants of the faith, there is a basic commitment that is really beautiful and has carried them through the difficult last 150 years. Parents believe in and serve Jesus Christ. There is a tremendous belief in Mary, the Mother of Christ manifested as she was at Guadalupe, as a constant source in people’s lives. There is a desire, often frustrated by an inadequate number of priests, to live out their faith in a sacramental life, especially baptism and communion.
What makes a country Catholic? Well, it has nothing to do with whether or not the government is supportive or hostile. The country is Catholic to the extent that its members place their faith in Jesus Christ and live that faith in the community that was launched by our Lord in the first century. It is the people who are Catholic not the governmental structure, not the political world. Yes, the people of Mexico are overwhelmingly Catholic and their traditions have survived through extremely difficult circumstances. We can thank God for the faith that is still there throughout it all.

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Marriage – Conflict and Confusion

By , June 20, 2013 4:57 am

We are all conscious of the fact that there is a very embittered struggle taking place in this country over the issue of marriage. Something that was unheard of 25 years ago is now not only present among us but moving forward forcefully. I am referring to the subject of same-sex marriages. Today, nine states now recognize a marriage which involves two partners of the same sex and there is every reason to think that this number will only expand over the next few years. In addition, the Obama Administration has given strong endorsement to the legalization of same-sex marriages. In 1996, Congress itself took up the issue and enacted the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. So far, the law has been found unconstitutional in eight federal courts and is moving towards the Supreme Court itself where five cases are pending.

Part of the conflict is due to the fact that there are many different definitions as to exactly what the title “marriage” refers to. Those who pursue the legitimizing of this new situation are asserting that a single sex union should be accepted on a par with tradition values regarding marriage.

On both sides of the debate, marriage is seen, first of all, as a civil contract overseen by the government. The Church has always recognized the civil government’s right to do this. So many issues connected with marriage involve legitimacy, economics, property rights, etc. Inside the Church, we make a distinction which is not always obvious in the larger society. In a secular sense, a valid marriage is a civil contract, but in an ecclesiastical sense, a valid marriage is a sacrament, a sacred bond between two baptized persons, one man and one woman binding themselves to each other until death and open to the possibility of children.
Recently, some Church leaders have been fighting rather forcefully to block any changes in civil law regarding same-sex marriage. Personally, I think that it is very likely that their battle might be lost, but even if it is, Divine law on marriage will not change. Again, remember, civil laws are distinct from Church laws.

The institution of marriage is crucially important to everyone and to everything. How a society handles it will affect the economy, education, family life, religious practice, etc., etc., etc. It is so important that we need calm, thoughtful people helping us to resolve the conflicts that are present among us and to find a way to live and work together without conflict and discord.

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