Here is a sample of from the March 2014 issue of The Long Island Catholic magazine. To subscribe to the magazine click here.from the editor
Evading issues by maligning others
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent proclamation that there is “no place in New York” for people (including, or perhaps especially, faithful Catholics) who have the temerity to disagree with him on issues like abortion and same sex “marriage,” has been met with the scorn and disgust such arrogance merits.
At the same time, the governor’s appeal to intolerance brings into sharp relief a disturbingly prevalent tendency — one that all too many of us too easily fall into. It is the tendency — tactic, really — of strictly defining certain parameters within which rational discussion must be confined, and thereby dismissing — demonizing, really — any who dare to express a point of view outside those parameters as “extremists” whose views merit the contempt, rather than the respectful consideration, of civilized society.
This tactic is effective primarily because the term “extremist” instinctively conjures up images of violence. And so it is used most effectively on issues where there are fringe elements that do resort to violence — the entire pro-life movement unfairly tied to rare incidents of violence against abortionists or abortion clinics; Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders of the 1960s unjustly linked to violent militant groups; peace activists of that same era dishonestly associated with violent anti-war campus protests; peaceful environmental activists connected, without justification, to the Unabomber or other assaults on alleged environmental offenders; or, today, all supporters of traditional marriage blamed for incidents of gay bashing.
Yet the tactic goes beyond unfairly imputing threats of violence; it is also employed simply to consign an opposing point of view outside the realm of rational discussion, thereby stifling debate and avoiding having to try to refute that point of view — or defend one’s own — on its merits.
Recently, I referred in one of my blog posts (www.licatholic.org) to an observation made on FOX News by commentator Tucker Carlson, that one explanation for the costly, unneeded items that Obamacare forces on health insurance consumers is that these requirements benefit powerful interest groups (such as, I suggested, Planned Parenthood).
A commenter responded by simply saying he might have known I’d quote FOX. Thus did he avoid any need to actually refute the point, or justify these costly mandated items. Just dismiss it because it came from someone on FOX News, a network he obviously considers unworthy of being part of the dialogue, presumably because FOX does not comport with his ideology.
As Catholics, we should be particularly sensitive to this tactic, as we are increasingly on the receiving end of such mischaracterizations: from Gov. Cuomo’s dismissing as “extremist” the pro-life position on abortion that polls show is now actually the majority opinion across the country, to our defense of marriage being misportrayed as hatred toward gay men and women, to the Church being accused of promoting lawlessness in its advocacy and services for undocumented immigrants. And we have seen our Holy Father’s statements on economic justice labeled “Marxism” — a particularly insidious calumny when one reflects that Marx promoted not just economic socialism, but violent revolution to attain it, and brutal suppression of any dissenters from the ensuing “workers’ paradise.”
Of course, when Catholic leaders or Catholic institutions speak out, on social, cultural, political or economic issues, their positions are fair game for disagreement. But critics should address and try to refute those positions, not try to evade them through malicious mischaracterization.
This tactic — of tagging ideas we deem disagreeable with inflammatory, scary labels in order to keep them from being heard or discussed — is akin to putting such ideas inside a box, sealing it tight, and covering it with “hazardous material” stickers warning, “Extremism — Do Not Open!” When we do this, however, what we are really refusing to open are our own minds.
As Catholics, we should reject this approach, and guard against it in our pluralist society. As we work in the public square toward the common good, our obligation is to search for truth, not for some mythical, pseudo-sacred “middle ground” arbitrarily defined by the prevailing cultural zeitgeist. And truth is best arrived at through healthy discussion and debate, in which there is a place for all points of view that are sincerely focused on advancing the common good.
Rick Hinshaw is the editor of The Long Island Catholic Magazine. Read his blog at www.licatholic.org.
faith and new works
Are you ready?
by Bishop William Murphy
Pope Francis, in his morning homilies and even more by his numerous visits around Rome and beyond, has garnered the attention of the whole world. His message is clear and sometimes blunt. He wants every one of us who are Christians to live it and show it to the world in concrete, real actions.
As I am writing this column to you, I have just finished a book written by an Italian missionary whose title I translate as Mission, No Ifs, Ands, or Buts! Father Piero Gheddo is his name and he is among the best known missionaries of the past century. Now 85 years old, he has traveled the world, been a journalist and editor, collaborated with every pope and was an expert at the Second Vatican Council!
And he has a gripe! We Catholics have been blessed by baptism to have received the greatest gift of all times: life in Christ. Despite the teaching of the council which so many people claim has been thwarted or undermined by “authority,” meaning backward-looking bishops and popes who don’t agree with them, despite every effort by Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, there are so many priests, nuns, brothers and laity who have ignored the central call Jesus makes to His Church and to every member of the Church: We are all called by baptism to be missionaries! Not social workers, not politicians, not editorial writers and not professional critics of the Church, missionaries of the truth of Jesus Christ as found in the teaching of His Church.
While he is aiming principally at Catholics in his native Italy, his words apply across the western world. First he shows how the fathers of the council rejected a bloodless, theoretical set of propositions on “the missions” during the first phase of Vatican II. He tells us — and he is right — that it was a gift of the Spirit that gave the Church the final document, Ad Gentes. It is one of the four principal documents of the council. Had the whole Church embraced it and lived it, we would be much farther along the road to a new evangelization and a deepened experience of the faith for one and all.
Instead, what happened is that the interpreters took over. Our task, they said, was not to preach Christ and His liberating power to transform our lives. We had to temper our preaching, change our methods, relativize the message, become protagonists of social change and recognize that Christ was just one messenger of God, not the one savior of the world. That may sound off-base to you, but that is some of what they said. Father Gheddo is right in his description of this. I lived through it and can give many an example of it.
In the meantime, he says, what were the popes doing, each in his own time? Paul VI was ridiculed as a Hamlet, an old Italian who was frightened. Yet in 1975, with only two more years of life, he published his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, which presented us all with a clarion call to evangelize the world and all cultures as the best way we can liberate and give new life to our brothers and sisters in every culture and every part of the world. How many grasped the truth of what he said?
Father Gheddo tells us of a meeting with Blessed John Paul II and several others because the pope wanted their assessment of the life of the missions and the needs for missionary activity. At the end of the colloquy, all were agreed that despite the council, despite Evangelii Nuntiandi, by and large the central and essential aspect of the Church as evangelizer was being overlooked by Catholics as a whole. The Holy Father then turned to Father Gheddo and said, “Here is what I want to say. Give me your thoughts and help me write an encyclical.” Thus we have one of his great encyclicals, Redemptoris Missio, in which that great pope patiently explained to us why mission is at the heart of the Church. The reason: The mission of the redeemer, Jesus Christ, is now our mission because He consigned this to His Church before His return to the Father.
Then came Benedict XVI with great depth but with a simplicity and clarity of the true theologian. He explained what was happening in the western world and how relativism and the loss of the sense of God in western society had sapped the energies even of members of the Church. He saw in the mission to every culture and every people the primary way to re-engage Catholics, give new spirit to our lives of faith and through the new evangelization to recover God’s spirit in our own lives through our becoming witnesses to Christ’s life and love for all.
And now we have this exciting pope from the new world! His message is that of the popes and the council. Perhaps we will listen more deeply and accept it more fully given his unambiguous style of life and his unaffected and totally self-giving charity to one and all. Pray with me that you and I and everyone will learn from him. We have a mission, the mission of Jesus Christ with no ifs, ands or buts, a mission to preach and proclaim the Lord by our lives.
Bishop William Murphy is the fourth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre. Visit Bishop’s blog at www.licatholic.org, or email email@example.com.
“Never turn our backs …”
by Laura Cassell
If you’re like me, the polar vortex that gripped our region sounded more like something from a Harry Potter movie than an actual weather condition. I didn’t appreciate the meteorologists’ warnings until I went for an evening run and was immediately met by bone-crushing cold. All kinds of local records were broken with weeklong temperatures and wind chill factors that hovered below zero.
During that brutal cold snap, I recall reading that those temperatures could plunge a body into hypothermia in less than five minutes. I immediately started praying for Long Island’s homeless. Now I know people often raise an eyebrow when they hear the phrase “Long Island’s homeless,” but I assure you they exist. Long Island has been blessed with great wealth, but that also means homeless individuals and families tend to go unnoticed and slip through the cracks.
While there are a number of local organizations that offer temporary solutions via shelters, at Catholic Charities many programs revolve around finding permanent or long-term housing for people. We offer affordable apartments for seniors, residences for the developmentally and physically disabled, homes for unwed teenage moms and their babies as well as for those suffering emotional disturbances. We know from more than 50 years of providing human services that establishing a stable home life is key to solving a host of other issues.
That’s probably why News 12 reached out to us to learn how we were helping. We connected them to employees Joe Silva and Lisa Mosquera, whom we affectionately call the Dynamic Duo. They took the news crew on a ride along to witness the heartbreaking realities of Long Island’s homeless veterans, as well as our unique solution called Project Veterans Independence.
This partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allows Joe and Lisa to scour communities from Elmont to the East End seeking out chronically homeless veterans who are usually too proud to ask for help. The goal is to get them into permanent homes, living independently and accessing the support networks and counseling needed to get back on their feet.
Before they can help rebuild these lives, Joe and Lisa have to first find the veterans on the streets and build up trust over weeks, sometimes months. If a vet eventually agrees, the team secures an apartment, then helps file mounds of paperwork with various nonprofit and government agencies like the Departments of Social Services (DSS). They also find furniture for the apartments, take the vets to their doctors and even go food shopping with them for the first few weeks. When I asked Lisa how to sum up this comprehensive effort, she replied, “We’re like their extended family. We have to be or they wouldn’t trust us.”
How wonderful to know that this agency’s team considers themselves family to those veterans! That wouldn’t be possible without the neighbors who act as Joe and Lisa’s eyes and ears in each community. It wouldn’t be possible without landlords who appreciate these veterans’ sacrifices and want to help. It wouldn’t be possible without donors who send furniture to make each house a home. Most of all, it wouldn’t be possible without Long Islanders like you, whose generosity to Catholic Charities makes this program possible. You can watch the story at www.facebook.com/CCharitiesLI to see the good that you help make happen.
Joe told me, “These vets were there for us, so we’ll never turn our backs to them.” If you agree, call Project Veterans Independence at 516.634.0012 ext. 155 to find out how you can help us help them.
Laura Cassell is CEO of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
our domestic church
Season of changes
By Mary Ellen Barrett
Things are changing around my house. It’s subtle, but I’m trying to take the opportunity to fortify myself for what is coming.
The “baby” turned five in January. This is big news around here because over the course of the last 19 years I’ve always had a baby and a toddler around the house, and while this change is good I’m a little sad that there isn’t a wee one around the house anymore. It’s a different season that allows my husband and me a bit more freedom to come and go, but I do miss having a bundle of joy in my arms.
My oldest daughter Kate is diligently filling out her college applications. That she might not be here next year fills me with a deep sadness and a mild panic. It’s her time to fly and she is more than ready, but I will miss my “right hand man.”
Kevin had a big year, turning 10 and reaching his goal of serving on the altar at Mass. Mothers of altar boys, how long before you stop welling up with tears when you see them on the altar? It’s been several months, and I still get a catch in my throat when he carries the Cross of Christ down the aisle. I feel like a fool, but there you have it, my little boy is, inch by inch, becoming a man, and he recently told me he thought maybe God wanted him to be a priest. Big thoughts for such a young one, but I am grateful it’s a possibility.
The other children, too, are moving into their new roles as older children rather than being Mama’s little ones, with some bumpy roads, many grace-filled moments, a few tears and much laughter. The upshot of all this change is that I am getting older, hopefully wiser and definitely more grateful. I can look ahead to things that might be in store for our family: college graduations, weddings, maybe an ordination (or two!) and hopefully, someday, grandbabies.
Lent is a little like that. It begins in the dark days of late winter but the signs are there that things are changing: light comes a little earlier, little crocus buds start to spring up, and we know busy, longer days are on the horizon and with them some joyful moments — a sacrament received, a team win, a good report card and the ultimate celebration of life, the Resurrection. Lent gives us time to shake off the old ways, renew our lives and our souls and look with great anticipation toward eternal life. So I will spend this changing season prayerfully trying to seek God’s will for our family, enjoying the little bits of freedom that come with older children, and joyfully waiting for the promise that comes with Easter.
Mary Ellen Barrett, read more at maryellenbarrett.com