Monday, March 23, 2009

The State of New Mexico Understands: Thou Shalt Not Kill

It should not come as any surprise to anyone that as a catholic and as a catholic bishop, I am unconditionally opposed to the death penalty. I would like to think that regardless of the elements of faith and episcopal rank notwithstanding - I would still be opposed to the death penalty.

Of all the social justice and peace issues I am personally and pastorally involved in, I had come to fear that there would never be, in my lifetime, any real political and social momentum that might finally bring a end to the death penalty throughout this country.

And then from the Land of the Enchantment comes some hope for us who still dream.

The good people of the State of New Mexico have abolished the death penalty from their books. I do not doubt for a moment that this decision came easy for the citizens of New Mexico, the members of their legislature or for Governor Bill Richardson - but God bless them all they did it.

It is my hope and prayer that this spark of hope will ignite the flames of humanity, reason and morality to begin sweeping across our country to inspire those States who continue to retain the death penalty on their book to follow the lead of New Mexico and abolish it.

We have been commanded by God not to kill. God did not provide any government any dispensations from this commandment and the good people of New Mexico realized that.

Thank you, New Mexico. I am feeling a bit more hopeful again.

Sincerely Yours,

James Alan Wilkowski
Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest
Chicago, Illinois

Thursday, March 12, 2009

To All Who Are Victims of Abuse: Run Like Hell As Fast As You Can And Get Away!

I believe that “teachable moments” present themselves to us when we least expect them.

The recent events surrounding celebrities Chris Brown and Rihanna have provided us with a very teachable moment regarding the issue of abuse in relationships. I do not think we should squander this opportunity to dialogue and learn.

I invite you to realize that as you read this article, someone, somewhere is being physically or emotionally abused at this very moment.

And there might be a very good chance that the person being abused at this very moment could be someone you know.

So often, when discussing the issue of abuse in relationships, much emphasis gets placed upon the issue of determining the reasons why a person engages in abusive behaviors. While it is always important to learn why a person i s abuse and to take all necessary steps to treat this illness – we sometimes fail to adequately help the victims of abuse free themselves from these relationships.

This teachable moment will be squandered if we fail to reinforce the chorus of common sense advice being offered to victims of abuse – if you stay in such a relationship “they will do it again.”

The only addendum I would add to the above mentioned advice would be the tag “run like hell as far away as you can as quickly as you can.”

It is a documented reality that victims have difficulties separating themselves from their abusers. They psychological power abusers have over their victims is astonishing and extremely difficult to break. It is heartbreaking and frustrating for us who know those who are victims of abuse in ongoing relationships to watch from the sidelines those whom we care for continue to live in the hellish nightmare of emotional and physical abuse. We want to protect and save all who are in abusive relationships but we can’t save anyone who won’t let us.

In her autobiography “I, Tina,” and the movie based upon said autobiography, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” singer/actress Tina Turner tells of her many years of suffering physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband. Despite the many pleas from those who cared for her, Tina Turner could not bring herself to leave that relationship.


The day came when after suffering another brutal beating by her husband she made the spontaneous and irreversible decision to leave. As that moment was being recreated for film, Tina Turner didn't just walk out of her hotel room in Las Vegas – she ran out and began the process of healing.

And she never went back.

I believe that each of us are all created in God's image and I also believe that God takes great delight in each and every joy and happiness we experience in life. When we are willing to share ourselves with another person - either as spouse, partner or friend - we are obligated to share the unconditional love which God has graced us with the person who we have entered into a relationship with. Physical and emotional abuse and objectification has not place in sacred relationships.

I believe we can all agree that abusive behaviors and all acts of abuse are part of a mental illness that is very difficult to overcome - for this illness is like all forms of addictions. It can, with tremendous will-power and commitment, be controlled. But there is no cure for this illness and the changes of regression is very high. For anyone to remain in any relationship in which abuse is part of the dynamics is emotionally and spiritually suicidal. It can also be fatal.

Because if a abuser abused someone once, they will most likely do it again and again and again.

And that is not part of God's plans and hopes for us.

Because so many who are victims of abuse loose their self-esteem, they find it so difficult to give themselves permission to leave the relationship.

So today, I wish to join the growing chorus who are shouting out to all those who are suffering in abusive relationships.

If you are the victim of any form of abuse going on in any spousal, partnership or friendship relations - run like hell as fast as you can and get away. You may not be able to cure your abuser, but you surely can save and cure yourself.

Sincerely Yours,

James Alan Wilkowski
Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest
Chicago, Illinois

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Juggernauts to Political Crucifixions

The political landscape of the State of Illinois is starting to look like the floors of the slaughters rooms in the old Chicago Stockyards and we seem to have become less squeamish about sending our politicans to their crucifixtions.

The comments I wish to share in these paragraphs are not about the assigning of guilt or the protestations of innocence of Rod Blagojevich or Roland Burris. These words are an expression of my growing fear that we, the family of Illinois, are not doing enough to keep in check a juggernaut mentality that truncates the necessity of a sober and deliberate process of ascertaining acts of political misdeeds or corruption.

The call for the impeachment or resignation of a elected official is a very serious matter and it seems to me more too often that such calls are presented in an irresponsible manner - with the greater emphasis placed upon sensationalism rather than merit. I believe that those who call for impeachments or resignations have the responsibility to do so in a meritorious manner.

Some have proposed that the recent process which lead to the impeachment of Rod Blagojevich ultimately resulted in a political crucifixion of Blagojevich rather than an impeachment. I cannot accept the attitude that regardless if the process was a act of political crucifixion or impeachment - "the important thing is that he's gone."

That is not the Illinois way.

A juggernaut is something that once created and empowered, has a mind and will of its own that cannot be contained or controlled. A juggernaut can be as deadly as any force of in nature.

I fear that the juggernaut that took down Blagojevich did not expire the moment after the impeachment was declared official. I believe that it has continue onward with its sites directed at Roland Burris. I hope that it might be possible for us to will the derailment of this juggernaut in order to permit emotional sobriety, together with facts and law, and ultimately answer all questions being aimed at Senator Burris. We must not permit Senator Burris or any elected official to be hounded out of office solely because of drunken sensationalism fueled by the media.

That is not the Illinois way.

If we fail to put aside our juggernaut addiction, our political "Mount of Olives" will soon run out of room.

Our constitutional process provides up with a sound avenue to deal with matters of political corruption and misdeeds. Our constitutional process is in place to prevent any form of vacuums to occur and provide openings for juggernauts to rear up. Let us trust this process to carry us through our questions about Senator Burris.

I believe in the goodness, honesty and integrity of the people of the State of Illinois.

We are NOT like the mob standing before Pilate demanding a crucifixion. We ARE a people dedicated to the process of justice and truth.

Let that be the avenue we travel as we address the questions surrounding Senator Burris.

That is the Illinois way.

Sincerely Yours,

James Alan Wilkowski
Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest
Chicago, Illinois

Friday, February 20, 2009

Illinois HB 45 - Release of Elderly and Rehabilitated Prisoners

The primary vocation of our Department of Corrections is not just to warehouse those who have been convicted of crimes, but rather to transform and rehabilitate those who have shown errant behavioral patterns and return them to society so they may be able to make positive contributions.

In recent years the attitude of our society has shifted more towards warehousing and away from hopes and goals of transformation and rehabilitation of those incarcerated. I believe that we all have an obligation to open our hearts and minds towards the prospects of transformation and rehabilitation.

Illinois State Representative Arthur Turner (D-Chicago) has offered House Bill 45 which offers society the opportunity to recognize that the transformation and rehabilitation of those imprisoned for their crimes is indeed possible and to welcome those who are prepared to except the responsibilities for productive citizenship to return to society.

HB 45 also provides a sensibly approach towards addressing the issue of rehabilitated prisoners who are elderly.

Under the terms of the bill, the Prisoner Review Board would only be allowed to order the release of a person if the Board finds that the person poses no threat to public safety. The bill provides that if the Prisoner Review Board determines that a committed person should receive a sentence adjustment, the Board will set conditions for the committed person's release. Finally, the bill creates a voluntary Impact of Crime on Victims Class (ICVC), which incorporates principles of restorative justice. The ICVC would be a pilot initially, patterned on a similar program within the Missouri Department of Corrections.

There are economic, social, and moral reasons to support this legislation. To the first, if only 100 prisoners were released under the proposal, it is estimated the state would save $7 million. Obviously, financial gains cannot be the primary force for a change in sentencing. The bill also recognizes that 25 years is a significant amount of time and that age 50 for a prisoner is considered elderly by researchers. The bill would not be a "get out of jail free" card. The requirements are stringent and will not be met by most petitioners.

I sincerely believe that justice, mercy and fiscal accountability dictate that some of the nearly 1,000 men and women meeting the requirements of this bill should have their sentences adjusted. I am convinced that HB 45 meets the constitutional mandate of returning prisoners to “useful citizenship.”

I thank Representative Turner for authoring this bill.

As we prepare for the beginning of Lent, I encourage all to support HB 45.

Sincerely Yours,

+James Alan Wilkowski
Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest
Chicago, Illinois

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ethics, Common Sense and IVF

Some years ago, a member of the Supreme Court was asked to define pornography. The answer was, "I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it."

I believe that we would all be in agreement that there is a very fine line that dictates if an act, action or decision crosses the line of ethics and common sense. Like the Supreme Court Justice, it is sometimes hard to define that line, but we certainly know when it has been crossed.

The backstory leading to the ultimate octuplet births in California has become a case in point of when the acceptable lines of ethics and common sense are crossed.

Before I say more, please permit me to make one statement of clarification before moving on:

These eight children born recently cannot and must not be forced to carry any blame or stigma associated with the process that has lead to their births. They babies are innocent victims of the recklessness of others. We are all obligated to avoid inflicting any addition burdens or stress in their lives.

With that said, let me proceed.

I believe that the discovery of IVF - in vitro fertilization has come into our lives through the gift of the Holy Spirit. IVF has provided some families the opportunity to overcome certain hurdles prevent conception. I believe that God has worked through the hands of those whom He has called to the vocation of medicine in the same manner in which He has worked through those who discovered so many vaccines which now prevents certain illnesses.

Since the octuplet births, I have had an opportunity to research the common standards and ethics involved in the decision making process for doctors to ultilize the IVF process.

I have come to the conclusion that the doctor of this woman dispensed himself from those necessary common standards and medical ethics and the proper authorities much hold him accountable for his actions.

I would very much like to know how this doctor could justify using IVF for a woman who already has six children. We are not talking about a woman having difficulites in attempting to conceive her first child. We are talking about a woman who already has six children. IVF should not have been considered an option for this case.

Much as been speculated regarding the emotional maturity of this woman and it would be wrong for me to engage in such speculation. I will offer, however, the suggestion that doctors specializing in IVF should complete a full case history of any candidate for IVF prior to undergoing the process.

As a result in the breakdown of common sense in this unique case, the spirit and goals of IVF have been dealth serious injury. The goals of medicine is to improve the quality of life. What we have learned about this California case could be akin to the horrors done to women by doctors in the Nazi concentration camps.

We must never permit the dignity of any woman to be reduced to that of a bitch in a puppy mill.

I do believe that we should permit this doctor and his insurance to begin establishing eight individual trusts funds for these children - with a responsible guardian being name for the minor children.

Sincerely Yours,

+James Alan Wilkowski
Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest
Chicago, Illinois

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ethics and Common Sense for in vitro fertilization procedures

When a Supreme Court Justice was once asked what defines pornography, the reply was "I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it."

The recent octuplet births in California is demanding accountability of the doctor involved in this particular case - and rightly so. As the background facts of this particular case comes to light, it has become nearly impossible to overlook the complete absence of medical ethics and basic common sense by those involved in the decision making process.

Let me preface my remarks by stating that I believe the discovery of the IVF has been a blessing and gift from God for those families struggling with the heartache of infertility.

Sincerely Yours,

+James Alan Wilkowski
Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest
Chicago, Illinois

Welcome to the Bishop's Blog

Greetings and Welcome.

It has taken some time for me to get around to doing so, but I finally sat myself down to put together and to organize my Blog.

As we all know, EVERYBODY, seems to have a Blog. Blogs seem to come in a very wide variety of styles and agendas. I am not restricting myself to any one form of style of blogging. I suspect that this endeavour will cover many, many topics and I hope will surely spur on some thought and discussion.

As the Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest, I hope that this project will lend some dignity to my church community. Knowing the blunt honesty that often reigns on the blogs - I suspect that those who vist and read will be the judge of my success.

Sincerely Yours,

+James Alan Wilkowski
Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest
Chicago, Illinois
February 15th, 2009