Saturday, December 24, 2011

Comments by Francis Cardinal George inconsistent with Theology of Social Justice and Peace

The Theology of Social Justice and Peace advocates the responsibility of all branches of the Catholic faith to provide the voice and, if necessary, the physical presence to counter any and all attempts to deny or prevent any person from their God-given rights and dignity.

With all due respect, I believe that Cardinal George’s comments, equating advocates of human rights for gays and lesbians with the KKK, have failed to witness these values and obligations which are held sacred by all catholic jurisdictions.

Sometimes these actions must go beyond writing letters to the Editors or posting personal Blogs. It is the baptismal obligations of all Catholics, regardless of their jurisdiction to sometimes take strong and proactive stances to fight all forms of injustice to others.

The history of the pastoral administration of the Catholic faith is permanently stained by its many past acts of social prejudices and even the murders of others in the ‘name of the faith.’ These past sins of our shared history must be atoned for by this generation of all branches of Catholicism through the embracement of the sacredness rooted in the Theology of Social Justice and Peace.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, we need not compare those who advocate peace and justice within the Kingdom of God on Earth to the KKK. We need to compare the faith of these advocates, these modern workers in the vineyard - to that of our Holy Family.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Revisiting Chicago's "Our Lady of the Expressway."

In 2005, claims were made that a water stain on the inside street level wall of a overpass on Chicago's Kennedy Expressway resembled an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For weeks, swarms of people came to this site at the intersection of Fullerton Avenue and the Kennedy Expressway to view this site.

As a priest, I was impressed with the desire of these people to find encouragement that brought them to prayer and faith.

Since 2005, the crowds have gone, but a continuing makeshift shrine to our Lady has been tended to and small numbers of visitors continue to come.

Yesterday, I revisited this place of faith and prayer, nicknamed "Our Lady of the Expressway" and/or "Our Lady of the Fullerton Bypass." I found candles burning and fresh flowers support a makeshift shrine to our Lady. The walls had much writing on it - not graffiti, but rather deeply personal prayers to the Blessed Mother.

I cannot tell anyone with absolute certainty that at this site, our Blessed Mother did indeed appear, but I can state with certainty that this site draws people to prayer and to faith and maybe that is the more important miracle.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Interracial Couples Banned from Kentucky Church

According to press reports out of Kentucky, "In a move to "promote greater unity" among its body and the Pike County community it serves, a small Kentucky church voted to ban interracial couples from membership and from participating in certain worship activities."

Recently, Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, voted to ban interracial couples from "from becoming members and used in worship activities, except for funerals."

I would love to know where Pastor Melvin Thompson studied for his theological degree.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A New Generation of Police Demostrates Brutality to Passive Protesters

On this day before Thanksgiving, my faith and confidence in the continuing growth of our national society has been shaken.

This past Saturday protesters sitting on the ground supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement on the campus of the University of California, Davis, collectively took a face full of pepper spray at close range from an officer in riot gear in an incident that was captured on cellphone video and spread virally across the Internet.

This afternoon, I watched this video replayed and as I watched it I began to think about various past attacks on suffragettes, civil rights marchers,

marchers for the Equal Rights Amendment and advocates for LGBT rights. It seems to me that despite our growing sophistication in so many areas of life, we continue to have problems permitting our fellow citizens from exercising their rights to protest social wrongs.

Have we not learned any lessons from the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago? I am fearing we have not.

With regards to this most egregious event in California, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi described the video images as “chilling” and said she was forming a task force to investigate the actions of campus police.

In the California video an officer dispassionately pepper-sprays a line of several sitting protesters who flinch and cover their faces but remain passive with their arms interlocked as onlookers shriek and scream out for the officer to stop.

It is my understanding that each of the officers involved, along with their supervisor have been suspended. I wonder if it is with or without pay? Nevertheless, they should all be dismissed.

I had hoped that acts of brutality by law enforcement officers was part of a sad chapter in a closed book.

I may be wrong.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Many thanks to all who made the 2011 Bishop's Dinner and Awards Ceremony Memorable

I would like to begin with two simply words - thank you to all who made our 2011 Bishop's Dinner and Awards Ceremony so memorable.

Without the assistance of Bill Morton, Kris Luck, Deacon Peter Mc Gechie and Laurie Westberg-Martin our Dinner could not have made our guests and ten of our honorees welcomed.

And would like to especially thank the Very Reverend John David van Dooren and the staff of the Church of the Atonement for their kindness to us for the evening.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Clemency for Illinois Governor George Ryan

On April 17, 2006, former Illinois Governor George Ryan was convicted on political corruption charges during his term as Illinois Secretary of State. After exhusting his judical appeals, he entered into federal prison on November 7, 2007.

This posting shall not be focused on a revisitation of the Ryan case. Rather, this post is challenge the judical system to acknowledge that George Ryan has accepted responsibility for his actions, paid his debt to society, poses no danger to the public and is ready to return to society.

The basic question for all to ponder, without prejudice, is the cause of justice and common good continues to be served with George Ryan remaining in custody until 2013.

There have been so many convincted of far more serious crimes and later granted parole after serve only a fraction of their time in custody.

How is the common good being served by retaining George Ryan in prison?

As a citizen of the State of Illinois, I believe that the common good is no longer being served with George Ryan in prison and it is time for him to be released. I have expressed this in several letters to President Obama and I realize that our country is back in national election mode, I suspect that the last thing the President wishes to deal with is the matter of George Ryan.

George Ryan has paid his debt to society. It is time for him to return home.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Surmounting Clinical Depression

It is estimated that one in 8 persons is dealing with some from of clinical depression. Clinical depression manifests itself in various forms within individuals, thus there is no common outward signs such as in chicken pox or measles. The most difficult aspect of clinical depression is that many individuals are not aware that they have it.

I do.

Like everyone else, I have that unique gene that triggers depression. One can go through life without having that gene turn on or it can turn on later in life for various reasons. Who knows - maybe my gene kicked in many years ago, but during the 70's who knew the difference between clinical depression and a contact high.

Five years ago, the gene that controls clinical depression was jump started after my heart surgery. I am told that the trauma the human body undergoes during this type of surgery typically alters the chemical balance of the patient and leave them prone to post surgical depression - and nobody knows how long this lasts for.

For those who do not understand the realities of clinical depression - just watch the television ads addressing clinical depression, for as these ads states, DEPRESSION HURTS both physically and mentally. And like millions of others, I found other excuses for many of the periods of my depression.

This past August, I realized that, despite the medication being prescribed, my depression was seriously impeding my daily functioning and I elected to take a leave of absence from my schedule. During this time I had the opportunity to work with a team of counselors and others dealing with depression and "burn-out" issues to regain my footing. This program I participated was no "club med." Many aspects of my 7+ week program made a Marine Corps boot-camp seem like a surfing party in Hawaii.

And now, I am prepared to resume my full schedule this week.

My return to my full schedule is not a statement of victory over clinical depression, but it a proclamation of my being better able to cope with it and to kick it in the ass when necessary.

I have to confess my personal culpability in what contributed to this recent siege.

I am a non-confrontation person. I too often permit myself to be a doormat to dysfunction personalities letting frustrations to build and build in the most unhealthy of ways. I accept the Gospel teaching of the turning of cheek and dusting off of one's sandals, but some days I am not wearing my Birkenstock and some days I forget to pack an extra set of cheeks in my briefcase.

Since the Gospels have taught us about Jesus getting pissed off and causing a bit of a raucous in the Temple, sometimes we have to, in all charity, tell some people to piss off. As the director of our program always said, "If Jesus can get pissed off, God will understand when you do."

Here's to the dawn of a new day.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Community Building and Community Service

Congratulations to the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce for their successful open house this past weekend.

Was glad to be part of it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Page is Turned and a new Chapter Begins

Congratulations to all those who advocated the end of discrimation within the United States Armed Forces.

With the death of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, our national family has taken a positive step forward.

I pray that those who suffered discrimation may find some solace with the significance of this day and accept our apologies for our past actions.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dr. Paul Chemello, DO - Friend and Doctor

Sometimes the roles our doctors, nurses and medical techs can easily be taken for granted. They are individuals whom we have to encounter when we are either ill or have a loved one who is ill.

I simply wish to take this opportunity to extend a happy 50th birthday to someone who have been a healer and friend to me and my family.

I first met Dr. Paul Chemello just prior to my ordination as priest in 1997. During those years, Paul Chemello has not only been our family physican but he has also become a friend. His skills as a doctor provided my mother an additional year of quality of life before we lost her to cancer.

In 2007, it was Paul Chemello who knew me well enough and could read me well enough to make me sit still and undergo and electrocardiogram which discovered that I was in need of quintuple heart bypass surgery. Had it not been for his keen eye and ears, this blog would be written today.

And finally, Paul Chemello is a someone who suffers with grace my particular dry and wry form of humor - and is willing to one-up me from time to time.

So to my friend and doctor, Paul Chemello - I extend, in friendship and gratitude, a very best 50th birthday.

And may all his days be spared from Purple.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

How healthy are Children "Beauty" pageants?

Ever since the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey, I have had to question the psychological impact on children being dressed up by their parents to participate in Children Beauty Pageants. I find it rather scary to see 6 years old dressed and made up to look like adult women.

For the past three weeks, I have been home recovering from a recent cardio-blip and have been getting my moneys worth from cable television. While browsing the channels, I came across a program called Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC.

Watching what these children are being put through by their parents has convinced me that these activites border on child abuse.

If parents want to paint up their children in adult clothes and makeup, then they should by a Barbie Doll. Their children are NOT dolls to play with.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thank You, Mrs. Ford

This past week our national family celebrated the life of Betty Ford, First Lady of President Gerald Ford.

It is somewhat difficult to believe that so many years have passed since she and President Ford retired to California.

During her brief time in the White House, Mrs. Ford's impact on social issues was nearly as profound of that of Eleanor Roosevelt and her post White House contributions to the welfare of our national family was as equally significant.

All of the eulogies have been spoken, tributes given and now Mrs. Ford rests beside her husband in Michigan.

I guess all that can be said now is thank you for making our national family better with the gift of your life.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The First Step to Unconditional Equal Rights

On June 1st, 2011, gender common couples in Illinois obtained the legal right to enter into civil unions. As of today it seems that the numbers of civil union licences have far exceed the expected amount.

I wish each of these couples well.

I wish to focus my comments on the fact that civil unions are not equal to civil marriage and those gender common couples who sincerely wish to obtain the same, full and equal rights which comes with marriage cannot and must not settle for civil unions as "the best we can get."

It is my hope and prayer that unconditional civil rights are provided for all members of our local and national families.

Let this work continue.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Tainted Homeland Security Hearings or the 2011 Version of the McCarthyism

Today has not been a day for America to rest easy.

Earlier today, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) gaveled to order the start of his Homeland Security Committee to begin his/their investigation of the "the radicalization of the Muslim American community." Not since the days of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) have we seen a congressional committee target a specific group of citizens for partisan politcal means.

While there remains a need to remain vigilant to our national security needs, Rep. King's agenda and circus may very well place our country at risk at home and abroad.

I hope that our national family has not lost the lessons of McCarthyism.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Burials for the Indigent

Every County in the United States has the responsibility to bury their unknown and indigent dead. It is a social obligation that demands to be fulfilled. For a variety of obvious reasons human remains must be tended to by some form of burial or cremation. While every County does their best to identify anonymous remain, it is impossible to also do so. When individuals die indigent and without family, the responsibility for the disposition of their remain falls upon the local counties. In doing research for this essay, I was surprised to learn that an increasingly numbers of families are declining to claim their deceased because they have no financial means for private dispositions, thus leaving the responsibility to the local County.

Unless I either read about it in the newspapers or see some story on the television news, I am have not been very aware about indigent burials until February 17th, 2011.

On that date I learned that the County of Cook in Illinois had recently dug a mass grave at Homewood Memorial Garden Cemetery located in Homewood, Illinois. This cemetery has been contracted by Cook County to provide burial space for indigent burials. From this mass burial, we learned the following facts:

Cheap wooden boxes costing $239.00 were stacked three high per "grave."

This box contains 26 infants mixed with assorted body parts and bones.

In light of these revelations, I wish to pose the obvious question: Is this the ethical and social manner to bury the indigent? From my pastoral view the answer is a resounding NO.

On February 20th, 2011, I, along with others, paid a visit to this mass grave at Homewood Memorial Garden Cemetery to see first hand what had taken place. What we found and discovered was beyond any of our imaginations. Had we not known that we were gathered inside of a cemetery

we could have thought that we were at some landfill site. The concept of "burial with dignity and respect" seems not to apply when it comes to the burials of the indigent. Are burials with dignity and respect afforded only to those families and friends who can purchase them? It is an indictment of our social ethics and morality to permit those who ended their lives indigent to have their remains suffer further indignities. The carcasses of highway road kill are disposed of better that those of the indigent.

Throughout the years, many local community come together to provide unknown children and adults with dignified burials. This is done because

the majority of people within our national family respects the gift of life, not just at the moment of conception but also at its end. At times like this I find the silence of those who campaign for "respecting life" extremely deafening. The gift of life entails a complete circle - marked by its beginning and its end. Why should the end of a life be less respected and less valued than that of a life at its beginning?

Alternatives to Mass Burials of the Indigent

I believe that there are viable alternatives to the practice of mass burials of the indigent, alternatives which would insure that all who indigent a burial which would provide dignity and respect to the gift of live.

My first recommendation would be for cremation of the remains of those indigent or unclaimed. But prior to cremation there must be DNA record made of the individual. Coded urns could be stored in a fitting place until such time as the possibility of claims being made become impossible.

Because of the options provided with cremation, my second recommendation would be for unclaimed cremains to be interred in a simple common collumbarium or reserved in a underground ossuaries.

Given the reality of available land space, the option for cremation and fitting places for permanent internment, would be more cost efficient to the Counties in their obligation to dispose of the remains of the indigent.

The appalling manner in which the indigents from the County of Cook in Illinois were recently buried at Homewood Memorial Garden Cemetery cannot be permitted to occur again in the future.

I propose that we, as a national family, have the obligation to ensure the dignity of life to all persons and I would go one step further to say that we also have the additional obligation of ensuring dignity and respect to the dead. I further propose that we look for inspiration from the example of Saint Joseph of Arimathea, who provide Jesus with a dignified place of burial. Joseph of Arimathea is the patron saint for those in the funeral industry and his Feast is celebrated on March 17th of each year.

I wish to conclude by encouraging all, especially those who devote much time and energy to the causes associated to the Right to Life and for the Dignity of Life to address the issues related to the burial of the indigents and to work to ensure that no person should ever be denied a dignified place to rest in peace. Work to ensure that your county and state has ordinances and laws which will prevent such disrespectful mass graves from being created again in the future.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Hollow Networking Void of Chicago's Gay Liberation Network

On Sunday, February 13, 2011, Chicago's Gay Liberation Network, under the leadership of Andy Thayer, held a rally and protest in front of Holy Name Cathedral, seat for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. The agenda for this rally was to condemn the "behind the scenes effort" of Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Cardinal Archbishop for the Roman Catholic Community of Chicago, for his efforts to prevent secular to provide gender common couples the rights of civil unions and/or marriages. Andy and his group usually hold a protest in front of Holy Name once or twice a year, earn some quick air time on television and in the print media and then go home. In most cases, I usually don't too much attention to Andy's visits to the Cathedral, but this year I watched the media's coverage of this event and have become motivated to offer comment on it.

I must confess that I am at a loss to understand the true agenda behind this protest, for it came across to me as unseemly and akin to something the Fred Phelps group would engage in.

I have problems with protest in front of houses of worship and I have a problem with GLN's preoccupation with the Roman Catholic Church, for the Roman Catholic Church is NOT the only religious body unfriendly - both within their internal forums and within the secular forum - to the gay and lesbian community. I believe that I am on safe ground when I say that leaders from the various religious bodies have either directly or indirectly lobbied in Springfield and Washington against all of the various legislative attempts to provide civil rights to to the gay and lesbian community. So why single out the Roman Catholics? Could it be that protesting in front of a Roman Catholic Church would increase the odds of media attendance?

Andy and his posse negate themselves when they or anyone else choose to attach theology and doctines. First of all, we do not live in a theocratic society. We live in a society in which membership within any religious body is a voluntary act. Those who protest the teachings or theology of a religious body in which they do not belong to have no business to do so.

If Andy and his organization wishes to make a legitmate contribution to the cause of civil rights, he and they should direct their energies away from the steps of houses of worship. This is a discussion best left within the halls of our houses of government and the courts.

We already have one Fred Phelps group to deal with. We don't need another counterproductive one.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Sad State of Affairs in Arizona

As a student of politics and political science, I am amazed as to what human rights issues become bogged down in political partianship.

In recent months, the fate of Arizonians awaiting organ transplants have been held hostage in the hands of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R).

It is the position of Governor Brewer that the current status of the Arizona state budget has "forced" Governor Brewer to no longer fund Arizona Transplant Coverage.

I do not believe that one American citizen can deny the fact that our country continues to be in serious financial distress and our state and federal governments are struggling to find ways to deal wth these problems.

In recent times, the political establishment of Arizona have offered proposals and ideas which, in all Christian charity, have given the rest of the county moments of pause and confusion. But Governor Brewer's decision to condemn the fates of transplant patients to death crosses all lines of social morality and political decency. As of the date of this posting two patients awaiting life saving transplants have died at the hands of Governor Brewer. I wonder how many more will have to die because of Governor Brewer's politics?

Governor Brewer's official bio states that she is a member of the Christ Lutheran Church. To the best of my recollection, the Lutheran Church accepts the commandment that "Thou Shall Not Kill." I wonder how Governor Brewer reconciles this fact. One of the chief talking points of the Republican Party has been their dedication for the "Right to Life." I wonder how Governor Brewer and the Arizona Republican Party reconciles this fact.

For those families who have lost their loved ones due to the politics of Governor Jan Brewer, I offer this suggestion to them: Send the bill for the funerals of your loved ones to her.