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