First Tuesday in Advent: Remembering Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day, 1929
Dorothy Day, 1929

November 29 marks the anniversary of Dorothy Day’s death. I owe much of my formation as a Catholic, as an activist, and as a writer to Dorothy Day and the Worker movement. Currently, I’m making my way through the recently released The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg. Dorothy’s personal papers were embargoed for 25 years after her death. Ellsberg has done a phenomenal job in sifting, collecting, tracing, and editing. (I’ve written a few times about D. Day and the Catholic Worker movement for Sojourners.)

Below is a poem by my friend Ted Deppe, recalling Dorothy:

House of Hospitality
Tivoli, NY, 1976

Down the hall, someone’s playing Schumann and cursing,
and Dorothy says, ‘That’s why we call this a house of
hostility. At least we don’t turn away those in need,
but all our farms are failures.’ She quotes Dostoyevsky
to sum up fifty years of the Worker: ‘Love in dreams
seems easy, but love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing.’

Outside, the ice on the Hudson keeps breaking with loud booms,
and Dorothy recalls the San Francisco quake
when she was eight. Which prompts an elderly man, silent so far,
to clear his throat and say, ‘I was there—I heard Caruso
sing from the window of the Palace Hotel. We were running
down Market Street when Mother stopped, pointed up,

and there he was, testing his voice they say—he was afraid
he might have lost it during the disaster—singing from La Boheme,
that magnificent tenor of his floating above the sound of collapsing
buildings.’ ‘And you heard him sing?’ asks Dorothy, ‘you heard
Caruso?’ and the man—a very articulate schizophrenic—says,
‘I saw a city destroyed and heard Caruso sing on the same morning.’

‘What a life!’ Dorothy says. ‘See, I was in Oakland,
where it wasn’t so bad. I only read about Caruso. And his valet—
did you see him? A character out of Ignazio Silone!
I mean, I love opera, I love Caruso, but this valet, when the quake hit,
reportedly came into the maestro’s hotel room
and told him, “Signor, it is nothing—nothing—but I think

we should go outside.” Then, once he’d waited in the shaking
building for Caruso to sing, a cappella, the complete aria,
once he’d finally escorted him safely to the open square,
he climbed six floors to that Room with a View
to pack the great man’s trunks, and carefully—apparently
calmly—carried them down, one by one.’

This poem appeared originally in The Shop and will appear in Orpheus on the Red Line (Tupelo Press, 2009)..

Can We Close the Door on the Nuclear Age?

“At 11:02 am, two-thirds of Japan’s Catholics were annihilated; … more Japanese Christians were slaughtered than had been martyred in four centuries of brutal persecution.” – The Holy City Nagasaki

Lest We Forget …

That 67 years ago, on August 6th and 9th, there were 150,000 people, mostly non-combatants, killed instantaneously by 2 nuclear weapons which were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Additional thousands died of radiation poisoning in subsequent years.

That today the U.S. has 6,800 nuclear warheads with indescribable power of destruction.

That today’s nuclear bombs could end human life on planet Earth.

That today’s nuclear weapons have no rational use but could be used by ideologues, or the insane.

That today’s nuclear power industry is intimately linked with the nuclear weapons industry.

That today it is a fact that $1 TRILLION will be spent globally on nukes in the next decade.

That today, politicians are cutting budgets for health care, education, renewable energies, and other social needs programs but not for nukes.

So, today, we can do something about it for our families and future generations.

We can sign a petition with Global Zero to call on world leaders to cut nukes, not the things we desperately need.

Please consider signing the petition at www.cutnukes.globalzero.org.

John A. Dick: Belgian Catholics Issue Reform Manifesto

Belgian Catholics issue reform manifesto
by John A. Dick
Dec. 2, 2011 – NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — The week before the start of Advent, four Flemish priests issued a church reform manifesto that called for allowing the appointment of laypeople as parish pastors, liturgical leaders and preachers, and for the ordination of married men and women as priests.

By the week’s end more than 4,000 of publicly active Catholics had signed on to the “Believers Speak Out” manifesto. By Dec. 1, the number of signers had reached 6,000.
Among the supporters are hundreds of priests, educators, academics and professional Catholics. Two prominent supporters are former rectors of the Catholic University of Leuven, Roger Dillemans and Marc Vervenne.
“These are not ‘protest people.’ They are people of faith. They are raising their voices. They hope their bishops are listening,” said Fr. John Dekimpe, one of four priests who launched the manifesto.
“Some people are fearful about approaching church leadership,” said the priest, who lives in Kortrijk. “Is this being a dissident? I don’t think so. The Belgian church is a disaster. If we don’t do something, the exodus of those leaving the church will just never stop. … I really want the bishops to reflect deeply about the growing discontent of so many believers.”
Among the manifesto’s demands, made “in solidarity with fellow believers in Austria, Ireland and many other countries,” are that:
• Parish leadership be entrusted to trained laypeople;
• Communion services be held even if no priest is available;
• Laypeople be allowed to preach;
• Divorced people be allowed to receive Communion;
• “As quickly as possible, both married men and women be admitted to the priesthood.
So far there has been no official reaction from Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, the Catholic primate of Belgium, any of the other Belgium bishops, or the Vatican. Privately, and off the record, one Belgian bishop has applauded the manifesto.

Read the rest here.

Does Wearing a Cross Make You a Torture-Supporter?

witness-against-tortureorigOver at Brian McLaren’s blog he’s been responding to the the recent Pew Forum study, reported by CNN.com, that correlates “White evangelical Protestants with those most likely to say that torture is often or sometimes justified.”

More than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

Additionally, evangelical pastor Gabe Salguero wrote a great piece in The Washington Post also responding to the data:

Torture is morally reprehensible. Christians, who serve a Christ who was tortured and murdered by a brutal Empire should know this to be true. Torture is not just an affront to the human dignity of the person being tortured but also on the one’s who are dong the torturing. Any society that sanctions torture has lost its moral compass and threatens the ethical integrity of all its people.

What about the Catholics?

The Pew research also shows that 19 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics think that torture “can often be justified.” This is the highest percentage of the religious breakdowns in this category. Nearly half of the Catholic interviewed said that torture “can often be” or “can sometimes be” justified.

But, on the same day that the report was released, 62 members of Witness Against Torture, started by a group of Catholics, were arrested at the gates of the White House demanding that the Obama administration support a criminal inquiry into torture under the Bush administration and the release of innocent detainees still held at the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp.

Each of those arrested wore the name of a Guantanamo inmate who had been cleared for release or who had died in prison.

“We sent a powerful message to the Obama administration and beyond,” said Witness Against Torture’s Matthew Daloisio, “that the rule of law can be restored only if the law is enforced. President Obama cannot deny indefinitely the mounting evidence of torture under Bush, and must move to hold those who committed, ordered, and justified torture to account.”

This civil disobedience was the culmination of a 100 Days Campaign to shut down Guantanamo.

Send these folks a note of thanks for representing true Christianity at the White House yesterday.

Remembering Cardinal Bernardin

Twelve years ago today, the Catholic Church lost one of her great and humble leaders, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

Bernardin grew up in the South. Born in South Carolina, he served for many years in Atlanta until he was asked to lead the U.S. Catholic bishops as their General Secretary. He held that position in the critical and turbulent years between 1968-1972, when Catholicism world-wide was trying to get it’s footing in the Post-Vatican II era.

Bernardin captured the vision of the second Vatican council: Carry forward tradition, not traditionalism; cling to the faithful first, and the dogma of faith second. He was a rigorous intellectual and philosopher, but, above all else, he was a pastor.

Cardinal Bernardin is probably best remembered for introducing the concept of “the seamless garment of life.” In his 1983 speech at Fordham University, Bernardin put forth an inquiry to the audience: How can Catholics address the need for a consistent ethic of life and probe the problems within the church and the wider society for developing such and ethic? He made this address in the context of the bishops’ letter on war and peace issues (The Challenge of Peace), which had been recently released. He said:

Right to life and quality of life complement each other in domestic social policy. They are also complementary in foreign policy. The Challenge of Peace joined the question of how we prevent nuclear war to the question of how we build peace in an interdependent world. Today those who are admirably concerned with reversing the nuclear arms race must also be those who stand for a positive U.S. policy of building the peace. It is this linkage which has led the U.S. bishops not only to oppose the drive of the nuclear arms race, but to stand against the dynamic of a Central American policy which relies predominantly on the threat and the use of force, which is increasingly distancing itself from a concern for human rights in El Salvador and which fails to grasp the opportunity of a diplomatic solution to the Central American conflict.

The relationship of the spectrum of life issues is far more intricate than I can even sketch here. I have made the case in the broad strokes of a lecturer; the detailed balancing, distinguishing and connecting of different aspects of a consistent ethic of life is precisely what this address calls the university community to investigate. Even as I leave this challenge before you, let me add to it some reflections on the task of communicating a consistent ethic of life in a pluralistic society.

I encourage you to read Cardinal Bernardin’s full address, especially in these days when the current cohort of American Catholic bishops seems to have lost sight of the “seamless garment” and of the delicacy of pluralism..

Catholics and Obama

The Tablet, the leading Catholic newspaper in the U.K., ran an interesting bit of analysis by David Gibson on Obama’s election:

Obama’s election is another important step towards what the Founding Fathers – all white men, many of them slaveowners – called “a more perfect union”. As Obama said in his speech on election day, “This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change.”

And that is where the path once again grows steep. Now the prophetic rhetoric gives way to the cold reality of a country that cannot afford a New Deal or a Great Society. But the challenges facing America are, historians say, every bit as grave as those that faced Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Depression, and the desire for fundamental change – Obama’s campaign mantra – as strong as that which coursed through America in the 1960s.

Additionally, the Pew Forum on Religion and Politics report How the Faithful Voted (5 Nov. 2008) said this about the Catholic vote:

Catholics, too, moved noticeably in a Democratic direction in 2008; overall, Catholics supported Obama over McCain by a nine-point margin (54% vs. 45%). By contrast, four years ago, Catholics favored Republican incumbent George W. Bush over Kerry by a five-point margin (52% to 47%).

Though precise figures are not available, early exit poll data suggests that Obama performed particularly well among Latino Catholics. Overall, the national exit poll shows that two-thirds of Latinos voted for Obama over McCain, a 13-point Democratic gain over estimates from the 2004 national exit poll. Meanwhile, Obama’s four-point gain among white Catholics (compared with their vote for Kerry) is smaller than the gain seen among Catholics overall. In fact, as in 2004, white Catholics once again favored the Republican candidate, though by a much smaller margin (13-point Republican advantage in 2004 vs. five-point advantage in 2008).

.

Biden: First Catholic Vice President

Another historic “first” that hasn’t been too highlighted in the news is that Obama’s victory brings with it Joe Biden as the first Catholic vice president of the United States. Biden is a good representative of most American Catholics. He loves his church. He respects its traditions. He listens carefully to its teachings and to the bishops who are its shepherds. He tries his best to live out his faith in the midst of the world. He forms his own conscience. He tries to act with mercy. He also demands that bishops provide real pastoral answers to contemporary issues, not simply archaic legalism. Sometimes this puts him into creative dissent with some aspects of the Catholic hierarchy.

Oh well. That’s like most of us. We say our prayers and get up the next morning and try to follow Jesus.

I pray that there will be an American bishop who is strong enough and secure enough to engage Joe Biden in an authentic, intellectual, compassionate, public dialogue on the role of the church and the state, the way scripture shapes and guides our values, the centrality of respect for human life and dignity, the role of forgiveness in public life, the way churches and governments can participate in God’s loving vision for the world beyond denominations, creeds, or nationalism. But this needs to be a bishop who respects Biden and his role, not one who is trying to punish him, humiliate him, or use him as a foil for what’s wrong with “liberalism.”.

Howth: A Woman Priest in Ireland

In the Irish Times on Tuesday, there was a nice commentary by Ginnie Kennerley. She’s a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest and editor of Search magazine. Kennerley gives a little peek into her world as one of Ireland’s first women priests and the surprising warmth and receptivity she’s felt among the Catholics in Ireland, many asking her, “When will our church get round to it?”

A SURPRISING thing about being one of the first women priests in Ireland has been the extent to which it has taken me out into the wider church community. It aroused an interest which was much wider than in my own church, and this offered the opportunity for a good deal of exposure to students, congregations and clergy of other churches – all of it enriching. …

Ever since my childhood in England, with a grandmother, an uncle and an aunt who were Roman Catholic converts, I had been aware there were spiritual riches in the Catholic and the Orthodox traditions; this awareness fed into my occasional Christian Unity Week sermons down the years. Invariably there was a warm welcome on these occasions – so warm that one could be forgiven for impatience with the power plays between the churches’ representatives.

“When will our church get around to it, I wonder?” was a common remark at country events where people who had never met a woman in a collar pressed round to shake my hand.

I’ve been following the women’s ordination movement with great interest. You can track some of my musings in Rocking the Boat, an article I wrote for Sojourners..

“Cut Loose the Body” quoted by U.S. Catholic Bishops

Joe Ross and I are very grateful to have our Cut Loose the Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib Paintings mentioned in the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ study guide Torture is a Moral Issue.  See the quote below and consider downloading the study guide:

Torture raced to the center of public attention in 2004 when startling photographs depicting prisoner abuse by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were published and broadcast widely.

While our primary, immediate concern in this discussion guide is about the possible use of torture by the U.S. government, an organization known as the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition (TASSC) reminds us that torture currently is practiced by more than 150 governments of the world. Those who are tortured include the apolitical and the politicized, says TASSC. In chapter 4 of this discussion guide, we’ll listen to the voice of a survivor of torture who was taken captive because her work with poor children in Latin America was considered suspicious.

“We thought the word was gone.… We thought ‘torture’ belonged to a foreign language.… We were wrong,” write Rose Marie Berger and Joseph Ross, the editors of a book of poems and paintings about torture titled Cut Loose the Body (American University. Washington, D.C. 2007).

Is it surprising that in our third millennium torture has emerged as a matter of great public concern? Perhaps not, and we’ll discuss the reasons why as this chapter unfolds

It surely isn’t surprising either that Catholic leaders speak out about torture. Why? First, torture is a moral issue for the Church. Second, as a participant in its surrounding world, the Church wants to contribute to society in positive ways, by sharing insights and values related to the most pressing matters of the times.

.

1-900-PHONE-PRAYER

So I’m answering phones at work over lunch…(It’s one of those egalitarian things that everyone at my work shares, in case the world falls apart while we are taking a break and we don’t know about it.) Mostly I’m doing my best impression of a Dial-M-for-Murder operator from the 1940s … “What extension please? I’m sooo sorry. She’s away from her desk right now or perhaps downtown destabilizing the International Monetary Fund. Would you like to leave a message on her voice mail?” And, even though we are a magazine, I for one am not at all capable of handling a simple subscription question, so I leave the real receptionist something under 100,000 renewal requests on small sticky notes casually plastered across her desktop.

So this time at lunch…with the handset already warm and sweaty, I yank it off the cradle and hear a broken down man’s voice saying, “Is this Sojourners? I need you to pray for me.” Then the line went dead.

Even though I am Catholic and there’s probably something in the rule book against “laying hands on” inanimate objects, I put both hands on the phone and prayed with all my might.

Where ever you are sir, may the angels escort you..