Baltimore Archbishop Wants Nonviolence to Enter the Consciousness of Whole Church

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori wants the principles of nonviolence honed in the American civil rights movement to shape the consciousness of the Catholic Church. To this end Lori released a pastoral letter in February on the  principles of nonviolence. The teaching document addresses the riots three years ago that shook Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray Jr., who died from injuries while in police custody.

The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence: A Pastoral Reflection” was released on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of the season of Lent, a time that focuses on repentance, courage in the face of suffering, and reconciliation.

[To send a comment of support to Archbishop Lori, click here.]

Lori’s pastoral letter includes Dr. King’s principles for nonviolence:

1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
6. Nonviolence believes that justice will ultimately triumph.

Additionally, Lori highlights Dr. King’s actions for social transformation:

1. Information Gathering
2. Education
3. Personal Commitment
4. Negotiations
5. Direct Action
6. Reconciliation

Lori encourages a serious examination for U.S. Catholics of Kingian nonviolence and ties this philosophy to the history of Catholic witness and presence in Baltimore as well as to “Safe Streets,” an current evidence-based, trauma-informed, anti-violence project carried out in partnership with Catholic Charities.

Lori says that he hopes to lift up Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles of nonviolence and help them find their way into the consciousness of the church – “the whole church, myself, my brother priests, the leadership of the archdiocese, those involved in ministries.” —Rose Marie Berger

[To send a comment of support to Archbishop Lori, click here.]

Baron Wormser’s ‘Teach Us That Peace’

teachuspeace_wormserPoet Baron Wormser’s novel Teach Us That Peace shows how the seemingly impossible–racial harmony in the United States–began to become possible. How did we glimpse a vision of the Beloved Community?

Set in Baltimore, Wormser’s novel chronicles two very important years in American history–1962 and 1963–through the experiences of a 39-year-old mother of three and high school English teacher named Susan Mermelstein and her 16-year-old son Arthur.

This book is a great one to have over the holidays–especially as a conversation starter between generations. What were the critical events that shaped the Baby Boomers in your family? How do those events still shape their values and social-political and cultural life? What do you need to know from them about how we live today?

I studied with Baron Wormser at the Stonecoast MFA program in Maine. He’s an amazing teacher, exceedingly compassionate and gifted writer, and a man who” walks the walk” even more than he “talks the talk.” ORDER NOW.

Early Church or Occupy Baltimore?

A demonstrator in Baltimore

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.Acts 2:44-46

“I went down to Occupy Baltimore last night.  And although I did not see one cross displayed nor one prayer being prayed I felt as though I were seeing a vision of what “the early church” may have looked like.  There was a spirit in the place, it had its own pulse.  How many times have I read the book of Acts and wondered what it must have been like to be there at the moment my religion began.  Now I have a glimpse of it: people of all walks of life, including people who the majority of society would have shunned or written off as lunatics, gathering together and grasping for truth, justice.

Slowly rituals are being formed.  I looked all around and saw youth sitting cross-legged in circles in the damp grass wiggling their fingers in the air at each other.  This childlike movement is now a symbol of agreement with something that is being said. I watched the grins and warmth exchanged between strangers who knowingly wiggled their fingers at each other.  The “mic check” was performed with riotous pride during a general assembly meeting.  These are the beginnings of things that hold people together even after the last sleeping bag has worn out and the cardboard of the last picket sign disintegrates.

I know this won’t last forever.  But for me I feel that I have been blessed.  For many this is new, but I have witnessed something ancient.”–from an anonymous union organizer

Rose Reads at Baltimore Book Festival

Thanks to Gregg Wilhelm (CityLit Project) and Deborah Rudacille and John Barry (New Mercury Readings) for inviting me to read from Who Killed Donte Manning? at the Baltimore Book Fest last Sunday.

I shared the podium with 3 other impressive writers: Howell Baum (Brown in Baltimore: School Desegregation and the Limits of Liberalism), Christopher Corbett (The Poker Bride: The First Chinese in the Wild West), and Christopher White (Skipjack: The Story of America’s Last Sailing Oystermen).

There were about 40 people there in the outdoor tent (thanks Karen, Kevin, Heidi, Emmanuel and Julia for coming out!). We had fun eating kettle corn and watching all the people.

Vatican Adjusts Questionaire to American Sisters

dancing_nunGood news this morning! It appears that some good old-fashioned communicatin’ is going on between the heads of Catholic women’s communities and their sister, Mary Clare Millea, who has been tapped by Rome to investigate them.

(As far as I know, this does not affect any change in the investigation process of the Leadership Conference of Women religious who meet with Bishop Blair in Baltimore on Nov. 24.)

U.S. women religious superiors will no longer have to supply to the Vatican some of the most controversial information it had requested as part of a three-year study of religious congregations, writes Tom Fox in the National Catholic Reporter, according to a Nov. 5 letter obtained by NCR.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Information no longer being requested as part of the Vatican Apostolic Visitation, which began last January, includes the properties owned by the congregations, their most recent financial audits, ages of the sisters, and the ministries they are involved in. Word of the change in procedures came in a letter dated Nov. 5 sent to the women religious superiors by Apostolic Visitator Mother Mary Clare Millea. Millea explained in her letter why she had dropped the request for the information.

“Many major superiors have already addressed concerns to the Apostolic Visitation Office regarding confidentiality and protection of privileged information about their congregation, the sisters themselves and their apostolate. Although our canonical and civil advisors concur that the Apostolic See has the right to all the information contained in the questionnaire, in response to your legitimate questions, I have determined that documents number 5, 6, 7, requested in Part C of the questionnaire, are not to be submitted to the Apostolic Visitation Office as part of this visitation. This change in design of the questionnaire was made after listening to your concerns and after considerable prayer and counsel. “

Read the whole story here. Nice work by Tom Fox and NCR staff.

Waxing the Waterboard?

There’s an important conversation happening now at the tail end of the Bush-Cheney administration about whether or not to prosecute President Bush and Vice President Cheney on criminal charges for illegal acts they committed during their administration.

Abu Ghraib series by Fernando Botero
Abu Ghraib series by Fernando Botero

Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York has urged Attorney General Michael Mukasey to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and other senior Bush administration officials for violations of the law relating to the torture of prisoners in US custody. Nadler is the chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Read his letter to the Attorney General here.

Over at JosephRoss.net, my compatriot Joe is raising similar questions. He writes:

George W. Bush is a president who approved torture, allowed the CIA to fly prisoners to other countries for torture, who repeatedly stated that the U.S. does not torture and then it was proven that we do. We just didn’t call it that. As long as it’s called “enhanced interrogation techniques” and “stress positions” it’s alright and legal. This is also a president whose vice-president, just last week, admitted that he approved of “waterboarding” which is against the law. Recall that the U.S. has actually prosecuted other countries for “waterboarding.” Now we’re suddenly not sure it’s torture?

We have  all been looking on as our president romantically remembers all the good times he had as president. He is photographed looking reflectively out windows, goes on talk shows describing what he will miss, gives interviews like an entertainer whose concert tour has come to an end. This politeness ought to be more than Americans will tolerate.

I’m certain the last thing the Obama Administration wants is to investigate a former U.S. president and perhaps find him or others in the Bush Administration guilty of breaking both U.S. law and international law. Yet, what is to stop a future U.S. president from doing equally immoral and illegal acts if we do not hold the present one accountable?

Read the whole post here.

There’s always an argument made to “let by-gones be by-gones” at the end of a presidency. The incoming administration doesn’t want the next one to turn around and investigate them! Understandable, but WRONG when it comes to preserving the Constitution and now allowing laws to be broken with impunity.

“This shocking admission by Vice President [Cheney that he was aware of the waterboarding program and “helped get the process cleared”] demands at a minimum a federal investigation and,” Congressman Nadler says, “if necessary, the pursuit of criminal charges. No one is above the law and, if the Vice President admits he broke the law, then he must be held responsible.”

In one of the first acts of the 111th Congress, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers proposed legislation to create a blue-ribbon panel of outside experts – National Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties- to probe the “broad range” of policies pursued by the Bush administration “under claims of unreviewable war powers,” including torture of detainees and warrantless wiretaps.

Lest any of think that “warrantless wiretaps” only happen to “other people,” I suggest reading the story Spying on Pacifists, Environmentalists, and Nuns (LA Times, December 7, 2008) about the Maryland State Police sending undercover agents to infiltrate the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance and Marylanders Against the Death Penalty. It’s a prime example of how “them” is now “us.”

News of a Bookish Nature

I’ve been out sick this week, so this little ephemeral artifacting project–called blogging–has languished a bit. But: Here’s the news.

Who Killed Donte Manning?: The Story of an American Neighborhood, my first book, is due out in spring 2009 from Apprentice House press at Loyola College in Baltimore. It’s been an interesting process working with Apprentice House. I’m learning so much! And I’m really excited about the prospects of getting this little book into print and into the world. I’m geeky that way, I guess.

Apprentice House is only campus-based student-staffed educational publishing house in the United States. I think that’s really cool!  It’s run by Gregg Wilhelm, who also runs Baltimore’s CityLit program. Here’s part of an interview with Gregg from the Baltimore Sun:

What makes Apprentice House different from other publishing houses?

Apprentice House bills itself as the country’s only campus-based, student-staffed book publisher. All those words are important—there are newspaper publishers on campuses, there are journal publishers on campuses that are student-staffed. But we are the only book publisher in the sense that we’re not a university press, which are very different animals and have a very different mission. We’re educators first and foremost.

We are at the production stage where I am giving them a final manuscript and Gregg has assigned it to Emily, a student in Loyola’s design program, to work up cover treatments. I’ve still got some fact-checking to do, footnotes to complete, and a few research leads that I hope to track down before printing. But, otherwise, the book process is moving forward–and I’m excited!.