Current Affairs

Memorial Day Weekend

In_remembrance
Not only have sacred holy days been commercialized almost beyond recognition in recent years, but neither can the more somber notes be heard in the gleeful celebrations of some our national holidays.

Memorial Day is now taken to mean the official start of summer, more than a commemoration of those who have served to protect our country and lost their lives in sacrifice.

Please take some time to join the Holy Cross contingent in the Rumson parade, or to observe the day at the service in Sea Bright. I hope to see many parishioners at both events.

Enjoy a peaceful and refreshing Memorial Day weekend.

 


Fire at the Former St. Francis of Assisi Church in Germantown, Philadelphia

GERMANTOWN - November 26, 2013 (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Fire Department has been called to a church fire in Germantown.

 The fire broke out around 9:00 p.m. Tuesday at Victory Community Church, formerly St. Francis of Assisi, on the 4800 block of Greene Street.

Officials say Victory Community Church is leasing the building from the Archdiocese.

 Neighbors tell Action News there have been a lot of break-ins in the building lately.

 The fire was place under control around 10:20 p.m.

No injuries have been reported.

 (Copyright ©2013 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

 

How sad for the residents of the neighborhood and those for whom St. Francis Church held so many consoling memories. The treasures we were able to obtain from St. Francis' Church are even more meaningful.


40 Days of Prayer Witness for Life

Today parishioners from Church of the Holy Cross joined others from Church of the Nativity and St. James Church to keep a vigil of prayer outside the Planned Parenthood Abortion Clinic on Newman Springs Road in Red Bank.

For many years the clinic has been the site of prayerful vigils by the bishops of our diocese along with members of the faithful.

Today's witness marked the beginning of 40 consecutive days of prayer to bring an end to abortion - a goal which is more realistic now than any time in recent memory. Most Americans are opposed to abortion on demand and would limit or restrict them to a very small fraction of the number which are performed in the United States daily.

This is the abortion clinic in case you've never realized what it is by its unassuming appearance.

Planned
So many motorists pass by each day, imagine the prayers which could be directed toward the protection of human life and the safety of the unborn. The prayerful witness is silent: pray the rosary, read Scripture, recite the Divine Mercy chaplet, any non-confrontational but public prayer.

Our trio of parishes has been assigned Thursdays from 9 AM to 6 PM. If you can join us anytime during these Thursday vigils please call the Parish Office to sign up for a specific hour so we know we can count on you.


Grant Us Peace

2260494905_1673413c07Thank you to all who prayed with us for peace after the 12 noon mass. The service was prayerful and reverent. It was, I think, the first time the Blessed Sacrament has been exposed for veneration in our gymatorium. We still, of course, cannot use incense anywhere on the campus since both the chapel and the gym are wired with smoke detectors which immediately object to such things as burning incense. 

It was good for us to unite our minds and hearts in worldwide prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East and the world. 

Let us persist in prayer for the security of the world and the dignity of all God's peoples.

 


Pope Francis and Cardinal Sandri Urge Peace in Syria and Egypt


http://www.asianews.it/news-en/ 
August 17, 2013

The following list of 58 looted and burned buildings (including convents and schools) has been verified by representatives of the Christian Churches.

At least 58 Christian churches, schools, institutions, homes and shops have been attacked, looted and torched over the last three days by the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the former Egyptian president who was deposed on 3 July . On August 14 the army has tried to evict the sit-in of the Islamists in Rabaa El Nahda Square and Adaweya. In a wave of devastating violence, over 600 people were killed and thousands injured. But violent attacks were also carried out on Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical churches as well as the homes and shops of Christians, as we have documented

The representatives of the Christian Churches have drawn up a list which we publish below. The list was handed over to AsiaNews by the Press Office of the Catholic Church in Egypt.

Catholic churches and convents

1. Franciscan church and school (road 23) - burned (Suez) 
2. Monastery of the Holy Shepherd and hospital - burned (Suez) 
3. Church of the Good Shepherd, Monastery of the Good Shepherd - burned in molotov attack (Asuit)
4. Coptic Catholic Church of St. George - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt) 
5. Church of the Jesuits - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt) 
6. Fatima Basilica - attacked - Heliopolis 
7. Coptic Catholic Church of St. Mark - burned (Minya - Upper Egypt) 
8. Franciscan convent (Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) - burned (Beni Suef, Upper Egypt) 
9. Church of St. Teresa - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt) 
10. Franciscan Church and School - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
11. Convent of St Joseph and school - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
12. Coptic Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart - torched (Minya, Upper Egypt) 
13. Convent of the Sisters of Saint Mary - attacked (Cairo)
14. School of the Holy Shepherd - attacked (Minya, Upper Egypt)

Orthodox and Evangelical Churches

1. Anglican Church of St. Saviour - burned (Suez)
2. Evangelical Church of St Michael - surrounded and sacked (Asuit, Upper Egypt) 
3. Coptic Orthodox Church of St. George - Burned (Minya, Upper Egypt) 
4. Church of Al-Esla - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
5. Adventist Church - burned, the pastor and his wife abducted (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
6. Church of the Apostles - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
7. Church of the Holy renewal - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
8. Diocesan Centre Coptic Orthodox Qusiya - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
9. Church of St. George - burned (Arish, North Egypt)
10. Church of St. George in al-Wasta - burned (Beni Suef, Upper Egypt) 
11. Church of the Virgin Mary - attacked (Maadi, Cairo) 
12. Church of the Virgin Mary - attacked (Mostorod, Cairo)
13. Coptic Orthodox Church of St. George - attacked (Helwan, Cairo) 
14. Church of ​​St. Mary of El Naziah - burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt) 
15. Church of Santa Damiana - sacked and burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt) 
16. Church of St. Theodore - burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
17. Evangelical Church of al-Zorby - Sacked and destroyed (Fayoum, Upper Egypt) 
18. Church of St. Joseph - burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt) 
19. Franciscan School - burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt) 
20. Coptic Orthodox Diocesan Center of St. Paul - burned (Gharbiya, Delta) 
21. Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Anthony - burned (Giza)
22. Coptic Church of St. George - burned (Atfeeh, Giza) 
23. Church of the Virgin Mary and father Abraham - burned (Delga, Deir Mawas, Minya, Upper Egypt) 
24. Church of St. Mina Abu Hilal Kebly - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt) 
25. Baptist Church in Beni Mazar - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt) 
26. Church of Amir Tawadros - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt) 
27. Evangelical Church - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
28. Church of Anba Moussa al-Aswad- burned (Minya, Upper Egypt) 
29. Church of the Apostles - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt) 
30. Church of St Mary - arson attempt (Qena, Upper Egypt) 
31. Coptic Church of St. George - burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt) 
32. Church of Santa Damiana - Attacked and burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt) 
33. Church of the Virgin Mary - burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt) 
34. Church of St. Mark and community center - burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt) 
35. Church of Anba Abram - destroyed and burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt) 

Christian institutions

1. House of Fr. Angelos (pastor of the church of the Virgin Mary and Father Abraham) - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
2. Properties and shops of Christians - Burnt (Arish, North Egypt) 
3. 17 Christian homes attacked and looted (Minya, Upper Egypt) 
4. Christian homes - Attach (Asuit, Upper Egypt) 
5. Offices of the Evangelical Foundation - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt) 
6. Stores, pharmacies, hotels owned by Christians - attacked and looted (Luxor, Upper Egypt)
7. Library of the Bible Society - burned (Cairo)
8. Bible Society - burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
9. Bible Society- burned (Asuit, North Egypt). 

Burned buildings owned by Christians

*1. 58 houses.

*2. 85 shops.

*3. 16 pharmacies.

*4. 3 hotels (Upper Egypt)

*5. 75 buses and cars.

7 Victims (killed) 17 kidnapping and hundreds injured. 

 

http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-francis-mourns-as-christians-die-and-churches-burn-in-egypt/#blogComments


Jesus Calming the Storm

What do you think about the possibility of an exterior statue/shrine of Jesus Calming the Storm at Sea? It could be located toward the East of the Prayer Garden Plaza and possibly face Ward Avenue and the Ocean!

They are not that common, at least images of them on the Internet aren't. A rather famous statue on Corpus Christi, Texas and another in a cemetery pond in Gainesville, GA are the only sizeable ones I can find. Likely it would need to be designed/commissioned.

With enough donor interest, I think it would contribute a wonderfully consoling message to the community and a needed spiritual note to the many rebuildng efforts already underway. Let us know what you think in the Parish Office or by email to the webmaster at Holy Cross' webpage.

Corpus Christi
Jesus Calming the Sea at Corpus Christi Bay


 


Pope Consecrates Vatican City State to Sts. Michael and Joseph

How heartening to see both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict together in public at the consecration of the new monument to St. Michael the Archangel in the Vatican gardens.

Pope Francis spoke about St. Michael in the context of the modern world:

In the Vatican Gardens there are several works of art. But this, which has now been added, takes on particular importance, in its location as well as the meaning it expresses. In fact it is not just celebratory work but an invitation to reflection and prayer, that fits well into the Year of Faith. Michael—which means “Who is like God?”—is the champion of the primacy of God, of His transcendence and power. Michael struggles to restore divine justice and defends the People of God from his enemies, above all by the enemy par excellence, the devil. And St. Michael wins because in him, there is He God who acts. This sculpture reminds us then that evil is overcome, the accuser is unmasked, his head crushed, because salvation was accomplished once and for all in the blood of Christ. Though the devil always tries to disfigure the face of the Archangel and that of humanity, God is stronger, it is His victory and His salvation that is offered to all men. We are not alone on the journey or in the trials of life, we are accompanied and supported by the Angels of God, who offer, so to speak, their wings to help us overcome so many dangers, in order to fly high compared to those realities that can weigh down our lives or drag us down. In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him.

We also consecrate Vatican City State in St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus, the guardian of the Holy Family. May his presence make us stronger and more courageous in making space for God in our lives to always defeat evil with good. We ask Him to protect, take care of us, so that a life of grace grows stronger in each of us every day.

 

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Pope Francis blesses new statue of St. Michael the Archangel in the Vatican Gardens


 


Thought Provoking Article by Theologian Stanley Hauerwas - "The End of American Protestantism"

"The End of American Protestantism" by Stanley Hauerwas

Preacher_10
This article via Bioedge Newsletter was originally published on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) by Professor Stanely Hauerwas, now of Duke University.

Entitled "The End of American Protestantism," it decries the dissolution of faith in God, or at least in the American god Protestantism had created from "a synthesis of evangelical Protestantism, republican political ideology and commonsense moral reasoning." Hauerwas' analysis of the peculiar secularism in which we now find ourselves comes from the unravelling of the moral consensus we previously held on the importance of faith in republican democracy and the common sense of the average American. 

Hauerwas begins his article by exempting American Catholicism from his analysis, but I'm not so sure we have escaped the melting pot of America's new god - freedom of choice. Look at the first two paragraphs of his essay and see if they would intrigue you, as they did me, to read the entire piece:

Catholics in America know they do not belong, which is why they are so determined to demonstrate that they are more American than the Americans.

All you need to know to understand America is that the FBI is made up of Catholics and Southerners. This is because Catholics and Southerners have to try to show they are more loyal than most Americans, since Southerners have a history of disloyalty and Americans fear that Catholics may owe their allegiance to some guy in Rome. That is why the FBI is given the task of examining graduates of Harvard and Yale - that is, high-culture Protestants who, of course, no longer believe in God - to see if they are loyal enough to be operatives for the CIA.

The related phenomenon is what I call "the New York Times Catholics." These are Catholics, usually clergy, a New York Times journalist has learned to call after the Pope has issued an encyclical or given a speech that seems offensive to American sensibilities. They call a Catholic, whom they have previously identified as a critic of the church, to have confirmed that whatever the Pope has said, Catholics in America are not required to obey, or even if they are so required, Catholics will not take what the Pope has said seriously. From the perspective of the New York Times, therefore, a good Catholic is one that would be regarded by the Vatican as a bad Catholic.

 

To emphasize the point even more strongly, it seems that several of the most well published writers critical of the Catholic church and its teachings identify themselves as Catholics. 

In a fascinating analysis of why American divorce and abortion have become widespread, Hauerwas asks if the "person on the street" would agree that someone should be held responsible for something they promised when they didn't know what they were doing. Of course not, would be the likely reply. So how could you possibly make an unconditional promise of marriage, or be held to deliver an unwanted child to put the child up for adoption? The dysfunctional marriage or the unplanned pregnancy are circumstantial evidence that at least two persons didn't know what they were doing. Either the marriage or the child can be dismissed.

Don't look for Catholics to save the day warns Hauerwas, for Catholicism in America has become another variety of Protestant Christianity. The laughable assertion that " I believe in Jesus as Lord, but that's just my personal opinion," is likely to be the sentiment of the average politically correct American Catholic. Similarly, a chorus of Catholic elected officials will carefully explain the dinstinction betweeen their "public" and "private" morality in an effort to reassure the electorate they will ignore Catholic doctrine at the office. Should we call this their belief in the Kennedy-Cuomo Doctrine?

The article is thought provoking commentary on modernity, pluralism and religious freedom. It makes interesting companion reading with Pope Francis' Encyclical "The Light of Faith."

Maybe the proverb many of us learned in our youth (perhaps taught by a nun) "better to light one candle than curse the darkness" needs a modern day Catholic revision - important to curse the darkness but keep lighting candles anyway.


Fortnight for Freedom

Fortnight-4-freedom-logo
As a way of participating in the national Fornight For Freedom organized by the United States Bishops, Holy Cross will offer parishioners the opportunity to sign petitions alerting our elected representatives that we object to the HHS contraceptive/abortifacient mandate imposed administratively by Washington. 

After all the weekend masses, we will also pray the novena prayer to protect religious liberty in America 

 


Christians Persecuted Worldwide

Persecution of Christians is increasing all around the world noted Catholic Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomassi during an interview on Vatican Radio.

The bishops of the United States have asked all Catholic parishes to participate in the Fortnight for Freedom, a prayer and petition crusade to protect religious liberties, especially here in the United States. 

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/05/29/vatican-spokesman-claims-100000-christians-killed-annually-because-faith



Holy Cross Parish will again participate in the petition signing and will have petitions available at all our masses. More details to follow.

 


Picture Perfect Weather for Memorial Day Parade in Rumson

Our interesting weather finally took a turn for the better. We were graced with a beautifully sunny, cool day for the Rumson Memorial Day Parade. It was good to see so many parishioners along the line of march, and to hear Mike Feerst rouse people to cheer. Thanks to the many parishioners who marched with Holy Cross and so many others who filled the parade ranks by supporting their teams or school. 

6a0120a4f88a1c970b0192aa636731970d-300wi

IMG_0696 IMG_0714 IMG_0735As we remember the heroic sacrifice of so many who died to ensure our freedom, let us encourage our hope in the Lord's resurrection to believe that they live on, not simply in our remembrance and memorials, but in eternal life, where we pray they enjoy eternal peace with God.

Let us pray today for peace and the willingness to achieve it. One day, may the Prince of Peace put an end to strife and war.

Let us pray for those wounded by cruelty of war - those physically injured, and those who have been mentally or spiritually wounded by what they have seen or done.

 

 P.S. Wouldn't you know there were three red poppies blooming in the garden this morning. So I cut one for Eugenia, one for Susan and popped one in my hardhat. The tradition about poppies on Memorial Day goes back to WWI and the poem In Flander Fields and makes interesting reading.

 


Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate

 

JudgeNews that the Federal appeals court in Washington DC has sided with Belmont Bishop Abbey which brought suit against regulations which would force the college to include all government-approved contraceptive services sought by plan participants, including sterilization, emergency oral contraception and counseling in any health care plan. It's supposed to be back to the drawing board for the regulations which must accomodate religious exemptions for institutions. Stay tuned.

Meantime, I came across an article written by Archibishop Chaput encouraging his brother bishops in the Spirit of Thomas More.

Having fought loudly and hard for religious liberty over the past year, in part because of the HHS mandate, America’s Catholic bishops cannot simply grumble and shrug, and go along with the mandate now, without implicating themselves in cowardice. Their current resolve risks unraveling unless they reaffirm their opposition to the mandate forcefully and as a united body.  The past can be a useful teacher. One of its lessons is this: The passage of time can invite confusion and doubt—and both work against courage.

The entire article is here. It's brief, concise, insightful and inspirational - typical Archbishop Chaput!

 


Masses as Usual This Weekend (so far...)

 

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All the weekend masses are scheduled as usual at this point along with our Sunday baptism.

Communications are ongoing with the Rumson police department and the Office of Emergency Management to coordinate use of our parking lot for the many interests that may require its use. Priority is for the emergency services vehicles of Sea Bright and Rumson, possibly residents of West Park depending on the tides and flooding conditions.

Please call the police for instructions when and if it becomes necessary.  

 

 


Wow, US Catholic Bishops Fact Check Vice-President Biden

The USCCB today issued a statement correcting the Vice-President's erroneous assertion that Catholic organizations and institutions will not be forced to provide coverage for morally unacceptable drugs and procedures in its healhcare coverage policies.

USCCB
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement, October 12. Full text follows:

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

"With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact."

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain "religious employers." That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to "Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital," or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional "accommodation" for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as "non-exempt." That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation "to pay for contraception" and "to be a vehicle to get contraception." They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.

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Catholics are free to believe the Vice President's debate statement that all is well for Catholic institutions under the mandate from the Obama administration's HHS directive. Nevertheless, the bishops have spoken quickly and forcefully to correct his statement. Smiling, pointing and repeating something to be a fact over and over doesn't necessarily make it true.


Physician Assisted Suicide: The Time Should Never Come

Physician Assisted Suicide : The Time Should Never Come

DPhysician Assisted Suicideemocratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli has introduced the “New Jersey Death with Dignity Act” which if approved would place the following on the NJ ballot:

AUTHORIZATION TO ALLOW CERTAIN PERSONS TO USE MEDICATION TO END THEIR LIFE IN A HUMANE AND DIGNIFIED WAY

Do you approve allowing an adult who is able to make health care decisions and has a terminal disease that will cause death within six months to use a prescribed drug to end his life in a humane and dignified way?

The bill authorizes safeguards to ensure that the decision by the individual requesting the life-ending overdose is freely made and the drug is self-administered. While I am sure there are many specifics in the bill to be critiqued by attorneys, the issue of physician-assisted suicide merits discussion on its own moral footing.

 

The Catholic Church has consistently spoken out against physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and its cousin, euthanasia. The arguments against legalizing PAS range from the secular to the sacred:

1) Physician assisted suicide is a contradiction in terms. Physicians are obliged to cure and ameliorate disease when possible and in the context of hospice care, to always ease suffering. There is an intrinsic code of medical ethics against ending life which cannot be violated, or permitted even with the patient’s request. In our day of individual empowerment, this assertion is not warmly received. Our culture rejects any absolute moral norms. Patient autonomy, one of the cornerstones of medical ethics in this country, can be wrongly taken to mean blindly conforming to the patient’s wishes as long as consent is informed and freely given.

2) Legalized physician assisted suicide is bad public policy. Economic factors weigh heavily on all modern medical decisions and the pressure on the terminally ill to end their lives is not alleviated by simply declaring that physician assisted death is entirely voluntary. Our lives should not be expendable once a physician determines it might only last six more months. The evidence from Washington state that highly educated, white citizens are primarily the ones choosing physician assisted suicide only strengthens the argument that the most vulnerable in society distrust the potential abuse to which it might be put.

3) Having complete control over one’s life is a modern illusion which death itself destroys. The Catholic Church teaches that our lives come from God and we are stewards, but not ultimate masters of our human existence. When physician-assisted suicide was first approved in Oregon, fear of unremitting pain and of being kept alive involuntarily by extraordinary means motivated some to approve its legalization. Hospice care, advance directives and health care proxy have alleviated some of that anxiety. Patient’s requesting physician assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington cite “having control” over their deaths as the primary reason for making the request.

 


Nazi Medical Atrocities: A German Apology

323407291_di4K4-LLast month the German Medical Association asked forgiveness for the German physicians who perpetrated atrocities and abetted the Nazi medical philosophy before and during WWII. The group admitted that contrary to public belief, German physicians were not coerced into experimenting on prisoners or running Nazi death camps.

I was a seminarian browsing the current periodicals section of St. Mary’s Seminary library twenty years ago, when I discovered an article which discussed the leadership role that Nazi physicians and nurses took in euthanizing physically disabled and mentally incompetent German children in hospitals and asylums before the beginning of WWII. I had been standing while casually leafing through the pages of the magazine, but sat down quickly, not only to read the article more attentively, but because I was suddenly sickened to learn the German doctors were not unwilling participants in the Nazi holocaust or its prodrome. Nazi medicine began in German hospitals with the killing of the “unfit” well before Hitler’s “final solution” of genocide. It was this discovery which fueled my interest in medical ethics and the importance for every people and nation to respect the dignity of every human life.

Such a long time after my disturbing discovery in a quiet seminary library, and even longer after the terrible events themselves, the German Medical Association on behalf of its previous and present leaders acknowledges its cruelties before and during the war and asks forgiveness from their victims, living and dead and their descendants. Their request comes alongside their caution to the German nation to avoid travelling down the road of state-sponsored euthanasia programs ever again as the Dutch-based euthanasia programs have done. So many from whom they need forgiveness are gone. It is imperative that we never forget, never give up warning, and never repeat such crude violations of human dignity. 

 


Holy Cross Parishioners Sign Petitions Against Instrusive and Immoral HHS Mandate

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This weekend Holy Cross parishioners signed petitions expressing our opposition to the intrusive and immoral mandate by the US Department of Health and Human Services that Catholic employers include objectionable medications (among them artificial contraceptives and the abortifacient "morning after pill") and procedures in whatever health care insurance they provide.

Over 600 petitions were collected and signed. Reach out to the Department and its Director, Kathleen Sebelius, and President Obama to decry this interference with Catholic public ministry.

 

 


Memorial Day, Military Suicides and Pentecost

Yellow_and_red_candle_fThis weekend our nation remembers those who suffered most acutely from war; we salute those veterans who gave their lives in battle. The Memorial Day holiday has an interesting history. Just around the same time the Catholic Church was moving holydays and allowing Saturday evening vigil masses to satisfy the Sunday mass obligation, Congress moved four federal holidays to Mondays in order to give federal workers three day weekends – Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day. It didn’t take long for most states to follow the federal lead, except interestingly, for Veterans Day, which after a decade of Monday celebration, was moved back to its traditional date of November 11. (WWI hostilities ended 11/11/1918 at the 11th hour; orginally Armistice Day)

We are reminded this Memorial Day, that war takes the lives of our soldiers not only on the battlefield, but off it as well. Some who speak of the glory of war too often forget its gory cruelty. Veterans cannot forget and haunted by the memories, they sometimes take their own lives after their fighting is done.

The commanding general of Fort Bliss, Maj Gen Pittard1 was criticized for recently blogging a comment that suicide was a thoroughly “selfish” act, which brutalized family members, friends and colleagues. His blog comments were made after attending the funeral of a soldier who killed himself at home with his family on Christmas in front of his twin six year old daughters. It is important to read about Fort Bliss and the full text of the general’s now deleted blog comments before agreeing with some politicians that the general “completely misunderstands” military suicides, or that he is “totally insensitive” to the problem. The general retracted his statement, but reemphasized his concern about suicide not only in the Army, but in our nation.3

 Meantime, no one led the charge to correct a statement from one of the Kennedy’s outside the funeral of Mary Kennedy, who hanged herself: “Mary suffered from depression…I just think about the story of Michael the Archangel, who had to battle the forces of evil, had to battle Satan who was trying to enter paradise, and that's what Mary did her whole life. She was battling, battling those demons and keeping them out of the paradise that was Mary. She was an angel, she was an angel who was brought to us to live with us here on Earth. And I think that God just brought her back up to heaven and said: 'You don't have to fight for me anymore, you can be back where you're supposed to be.”4

Emotionally sympathetic, but theologically bizarre comments like these are precisely why the Catholic Church forbids eulogies (praising the deceased) at mass and exercises increasing vigilance over the Words of Remembrance given by family or friends whenever they are spoken in church.

I’m no angel, you’re no angel. Our battles are vastly different from angels, who do not experience hunger, thirst, fatigue or even physical pleasure. Angels don’t become addicted to drugs or alcohol, or suffer from any illness, even a cold. Angels cannot kill themselves.

Here apparently suicide has moved away from any opprobrium at all, to a hereditary illness, then to an honor in heaven, a kind of heavenly Purple Heart. As General Pittard reminds us however, “There is nothing noble about suicide.” Implying that there is, even to console the sorrowful, is dangerous.

If we can agree that suicide is not a moral flaw, I hope we can also agree that suicide causes terrible pain and suffering to others…suicide is surely not a moral virtue. Nor is suicide inevitable. (In fact a recent study determined that 20% of those dying by suicide are legally intoxicated; is getting drunk part of the suicide plan, or does drinking loosen inhibitions against self-harm? There is so much we do not yet understand.)

We reflect on the wounds of war this weekend: The wounds that kill on the battlefield and those that kill after the battle is done. God help us to understand the horror of war, and that some casualties of war can be prevented far away from enemy fire.

General Pittard comments that “suicide is a serious problem, not only in our Army, but throughout our entire nation.” As for the soldiers under his command, a buddy system has been instituted –  all soldiers have a teammate watching out for them; the general exhorts them: to “Please look after each other; please do not allow your buddy to make a rash decision that will have permanent life-ending consequences. Choose life.” That doesn’t sound like insensitivity or misunderstanding to me.

 As citizens we can make sure mental health treatment is freely and confidentially available. And we can fight the stigma that a history of mental health treatment carries in many professions and occupations.

As Catholics we can embrace the graces of Pentecost. Ask the Holy Spirit to make us ever faithful in Pentecost
prayer, to increase our respect for the Eucharist and strengthen our spiritual and communal bonds.

May we become

  • a community of compassion and consolation, of less strident criticism, but not of lesser moral values.
  • a community of courage to confront social evils and battle to right them.
  • a community of freedom to worship our God, help our neighbors and defend our most precious moral and religious values. 

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!

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Pittard's original blog entry Jan 18 2012: I've edited out the phrases which were criticized so as not to propagate them, you can Google them everywhere. The whole post is a bit more difficult to discover: 

"We lost a Fort Bliss Soldier to an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. I heard the tragic news as I walked out of a memorial service for another one of our Soldiers who decided to kill himself at home on Christmas Day so that his family would find him. Christmas will never be the same for his two young daughters he left behind....edit...There is nothing noble about suicide. I care about each and every one of our Soldiers, family members and civilians at Fort Bliss. I know there are a lot of people hurting out there, especially with the future Army personnel cuts on the horizon. If you are hurting mentally or emotionally, then seek and get help; but don’t resort to taking your own life. ...edit...SEEK HELP! If you need help, please call 915-779-1800 or 800-273-TALK (8255). It is a confidential call. Please look after each other; please do not allow your buddy to make a rash decision that will have permanent life-ending consequences. Choose life.”

 


Preserve Religious Freedom

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Preserve Religious Freedom

A webpage initiative of the Archdiocese of Washington with information about the decision of several Catholic groups in the Archdiocese to file suit against the Obama administration's HHS mandate that Catholic institutions provide coverage for immoral drugs and procedures when they offer employee medical insurance. 

This lawsuit is about an unprecedented attack by the federal government on one of America’s most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference. It is not about whether people have access to certain services; it is about whether the government may force religious institutions and individuals to facilitate and fund services which violate their religious beliefs.

 

The Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, The Consortium of Catholic Academis of the Archdiocese of Washington, Archbishop Carroll High School and the Catholic University of America are joining the lawsuit which is only one of twelve lawsuits filed today on behalf of 43 Catholic institutions around the country.

The lawsuits have been filed in eight states and the District of Columbia by the Archdioceses of Washington and New York, the Michigan Catholic Conference, Catholic Charities in Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Indiana, health care agencies in New York and two dioceses in Texas.

J3ddiplomamedal
In an irony too rich, but also too unjust to savor, the University of Notre Dame is also joining the lawsuits. Perhaps Obama will return his honorary doctorate in protest?