View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Military Madness

"Our soldiers must have a fighting spirit; if you call that hating enemies, then we must hate with every fiber of our being. We must lust for battle; we must scheme and plan night and day to kill; we must hit harder and harder we must become tougher and tougher; the avowed purpose of the army is to make killers out of every soldier." - General Lesley McNair (WWII - killed by friendly fire)

I keep thinking of Arlo Guthrie in "Alice's Restaurant" jumping up and down yelling, "Kill! Kill!"

Of course, he was trying to sound absurd.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Political poetry

Our local paper allows some "blogs" on its website. I have one.

I sometimes post political poetry on it.

Most are pretty self explanatory. One involves a local issue.

County Executive Maggie Brooks decided to to break a decades-old agreement to share sales tax revenue with towns and school districts. To balance the county budget, she arbitrarily seized half of the school districts' money in January. The districts took her to court. An appeals court ruled 5-0 in favor of the schools, and said the county must give them their money.

The poems:

Maggie has reason to frown,
her soak-the-schools plan has gone down.
So now our Ms. Brooks
must balance her own books,
or find someone else to shake down.

President Bush,
when shove came to push,
had no valid reason to attack

The fate of the not-so-fast ferry
has left us all a bit wary.
When that plan didn't float
we unloaded the boat
and now fear baggage a new one might carry.

Governor Eliot Spitzer
gained fame as a crusading blitzer,
but his "Mr. Clean" rep is now gone
after he earned the new title of "John."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday prayers for life

Every year on Good Friday, Catholic pro-lifers in Rochester gather at McQuaid Jesuit High School to hold a prayer service, then to process to a nearby site where abortions are performed.

The procession is led by priests and deacons, and the marchers recite the Station of the Cross with a consistent life focus.

There are prayers about abortion, war, economic and social injustice, the death penalty, and euthanasia, and ones for prisoners and women who've had abortions.

This year, despite a biting wind and 25 degree temperatures, more than 100 people took part.

Deacon Ron Tocci preached at the service about a minister who focused on Good Friday by noting that no matter how bad things seem, "It's Friday, but Sunday is coming."
Even when it seems bad for those fighting for life - against abortion, war, and euthanasia, and for social and economic injustice - "Sunday is coming."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Governor Paterson praises stem cell research

New York's new governor, David Paterson, was in Rochester today.

He's already made news with his admission earlier this week of several affairs.

He has also been a strong proponent of gay marriage. He helped to push for legislation in the Assembly.

Today, he praised stem cell research. He has been a proponent of embryonic stem cell research for several years, so this is no surprise.
And he is pro-abortion

All of this is suggesting that New York is facing more moral woes in the years ahead.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Conscientious Objection and the 2nd Amendment

The U.S. Supreme Court is due to hear arguments this Tuesday over the Second Amendment in connection with a District of Columbia handgun ban.

The Amendment, as passed by the House and Senate back in 1789, reads: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The Amendment has been the subject of ongoing debate over the right to own weapons and attempts to place limit gun ownership. The current case may help to clear up some of the issues involved in interpreting the Amendment, though given the history of the issue, that is unclear.

From an historical point of view, however, there was an earlier version of what became the Second Amendment that, if it had been approved, would have proven beneficial to those promoting non-violence. It also helps to reveal the long history of opposition to war in this nation.

The original version of the Amendment introduced to the House back in 1789 read:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.

That last clause - but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person – was intended to allow for those who objected to war for moral reasons. Members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) had had a long history of opposition to war, including the Revolutionary War. There were other groups and individuals who objected to war as well. Some of those objectors suffered fines, prison, and loss of property due to their opposition.

If that version of the Amendment had been approved, it would have helped conscientious objectors to better make their cases.

The Amendment was revised to read: A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms.

It was further modified and passed by the House in this form: A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.

That version was sent to the Senate. The Senate ultimately changed to the form we know, dropping the conscientious objector clause.

Milton Metzler, in his 1985 history of refusing military service in the U.S., Ain’t Gonna Study War No More, pointed out that the vote to delete the conscientious objector clause was just 24 to 22.

Had just two votes changed, conscientious objectors would have had clear Constitution grounds for arguing that they had a right NOT to bear arms.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Catholic? Worker

A local Catholic Worker house has called a woman to be their priest, to adminster sacraments, etc. The woman is seeking ordination through an organization identified as "Roman Catholic WomenPriests."

This is not to debate the ordination of women - I have my own private views on that - nor even the qualifications of the woman in question (a complicated personal issue for me in this case.)

It's the Catholic part.

The Catholic Church has spoken pretty clearly against the ordination of women. There's debate over whether it is definitive teaching or not, but it is a very clear teaching.

And any organization that claims to be Catholic is supposed to support the teachings of the Church (at least publicly). Otherwise, the name is just an empty title.

Think of Catholics for a Free Choice, for example.

Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Worker movment, was pretty clear in her adherence to the Church. She said that she would shut down her house in a minute if the Church told her to.

I wonder how she'd feel about this?

This Worker House has a right to call itself whatever it wants.

But I think it has to be made clear that that its actions are not in line with the official teachings of the Church.

As for me - a former volunteer and live-in staff member of the House - I have asked them to take me off their mailing list.

I will continue to support other Worker Houses here and across the country and the good work that they do. This is a choice by just one particular house.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cardinal Bernardin's prayer advice

"Pray while you are well, because if you wait until you're sick you might not be able to do it."

- Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, The Gift of Peace

Friday, March 07, 2008

Pax Christi Rochester blog

I started the blog for the local Pax Christi chapter.

It's called Pax Christi Rochester -

I plan to add to it, and as soon as I get more posts on it, to add is to lists to generate traffic.

Please stop by to see it. Advice is welcome!


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Pax Christi IV

Well, turns out that Pax Christ Rochester still does exist, and has regular gatherings for readings, a monthly Mass, and so on.

I spoke with the coordinator, who is mailing me the newsletter and more information.

She liked the idea of the blog, so I will get that up soon.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Pax Christi III

My old friend returned my call about Pax Christi in Rochester.

The chapter she was affiliated with hasn't been active in 2 years!

And the leader the National Office gave me for Pax Christi Rochester has been dead for a while.

Hmm. Obviously things need to be perked up around here!

I did create a blog called Pax Christi Rochester. I will start to post there soon.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Pax Christi II

Well, I rejoined. I haven't been a member in more than 20 years.

But when I look at my faith - and my interests - the most consistent things have been my love of music and literature, and my concern about life issues. I am now in two music groups at church, and I'm back in Pax Christi.

Turns out one of our local contact people is an old friend, too.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Pax Christi

I stumbled across a mention of Pax Christi in a news article the other day, and it reminded me of the late 1970s.

I was involved with the peace movement then - protesting, marching, and speaking.

One of the manifestations of that interest was helping to create a local chapter of Pax Christi - Pax Christi Rochester.

We were a small but active group for a couple of years. The Cold War and Reagan provided plenty of fodder in the early 1980s.

For a variety of reasons - some personal and in two cases involving nasty divorces - the core leadership of the local group moved on. Ironically, two of the key members (both involved in those divorces) now represent extremes. One is ultra-orthodox, another is a schismatic who plans to become a woman priest.

Me, I left too. Family. Work. Parish involvement. Personality conflicts. The kinds of people and fellow travellors it was attracting.

Strange that there should have been so much "violent" behavior involved in a group promoting peace.

I don't blame Pax Christi. It was that particular group of people. Me included. I'm an ornery cuss who likes to argue too much.

The organization continued locally for a while with new leadership. As far as I can tell, it is now defunct. There is a Western New York Pax Christi group apparently based over Buffalo way.

I wonder if it's time to reconsider it for Rochester.

The world has gotten no more peaceful.