Francis Stratmann: ‘The souls of the well-intentioned’

I had a wonderful Skype interview with Jim Forest this morning. It’s great to be able to see one another’s faces, laughter, tears, and even a pesky sleek feline who likes to sit on Jim’s lap.

In the course of our conversation he mentioned a German Catholic priest who was head of the German Catholic Peace Union in the 1930s and wrote a significant book, War and Christianity Today. His name was Francis Stratmann, OP.

In learning more about Stratmann, I came across an excerpt from a letter he wrote on April 10, 1933, to Cardinal Faulhaber. This was less than a month after the German Catholic bishops had accepted the legitimacy of the National Socialist government and rescinded their mandate that Catholics could not support National Socialism.

“The souls of the well-intentioned are deflated by the National Socialist seizure of power, and I speak nothing but the truth when I say that the bishops’ authority is weakened among countless Catholics and non-Catholics because of their quasi-approbation of the National Socialist movement.”–Francis Stratmann, OP, to Cardinal Faulhaber in Munich (April 10, 1933) [from Catholic Theologians in Nazi Germany, by Robert Krieg]

Stratmann’s German Catholic Peace Union was banned in July 1931 when their offices were raided by 26 men and Stratmann and others had to flee the country. Gordon Zahn’s German Catholics and Hitler’s War tells this story well.

I was struck to my heart’s core at reading this. Our souls are indeed “deflated” by the current “seizure of power.”–Rose Berger

Thomas Merton on #StayWoke Christians

Thích Nh?t H?nh and Thomas Merton, 1966
Thích Nh?t H?nh and Thomas Merton, 1966

We must awaken Christians to their “grave responsibility to protest clearly and forcibly against trends that lead inevitably to crimes which the Church deplores and condemns.”–Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton on Peace with introduction by Gordon Zahn (1968, pxi)

Sadako’s Peace Crane Arrives at Pearl Harbor

sadako
This origami paper crane made by Sadako Sasaki will be donated. It is said that a candy wrapper was used. (Provided by Sadako Legacy)

On Sept. 21, 2013, a tiny paper crane made by Sadako Sasaki, the Hiroshima girl who had hoped to survive radiation-induced leukemia by folding 1,000 paper cranes, arrived at the Pearl Harbor museum.

The exhibit opened on the day more than 200 countries celebrate the UN’s International Day of Peace and Nonviolence. Sadako was 2 years old when the U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb less than a mile from her home.

Here’s a bit from the news article:

“An origami created by a girl who contracted leukemia and died as a result of Hiroshima’s atomic bombing will be displayed at the visitor center of a memorial for victims of the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. …

Sadako Sasaki folded hundreds of origami paper cranes while she battled leukemia. She died in 1955 at the age of 12.

The origami is one of three owned by the nonprofit organization Sadako Legacy headed by her elder brother, Masahiro Sasaki, 70.

It is said in Japan that a person’s wishes will come true if he or she folds 1,000 paper cranes.

“We hope the country that started war by attacking Pearl Harbor (in 1941) and the other that ended the war by dropping the atomic bombs (in 1945) will reach an end of the war from the heart, discarding their old grudges,” Sasaki said.

“We hope the origami will serve as a catalyst for that.”

Clifton Truman Daniel, the 55-year-old grandson of Harry Truman, the U.S. president who authorized the 1945 atomic bombings, worked as a go-between so the origami could go on display at the Visitor Center of the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu.”

Read more here.

They Might Be Giants: Remembering Jerry Berrigan

Jerry Berrigan, left, and his brother the Rev. Daniel Berrigan with Sister Elizabeth McAlister in 1972. (Credit: UPI)
Jerry Berrigan, left, and his brother the Rev. Daniel Berrigan with Sister Elizabeth McAlister in 1972. (Credit: UPI)

Catholic peace prophet Jerry Berrigan died last week at home in Syracuse, NY. His brother Dan Berrigan is now the last of the six Berrigan brothers that called America to account for its soul. Among them they raised generations peace prophets. Below are excerpts from Jerry’s obituary and a recent profile of him. Thank God for the Berrigans — and all their relations!

Jerry Berrigan, a Catholic peace activist who, like his better known brothers Philip and Daniel, was arrested frequently for protesting the Vietnam War and other conflicts, died on July 26, at his home in Syracuse. He was 95.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Carla Berrigan Pittarelli.

Mr. Berrigan was a quieter counterpart to his brothers, the former Josephite priest Philip and the Jesuit priest and author Daniel. The two of them became international antiwar figures after they participated in the burning of Selective Service draft records in Catonsville, Md., on May 17, 1968. The trial of the Catonsville Nine, as they were known, helped galvanize protesters across the country.

Though he was not among the Catonsville Nine, Mr. Berrigan joined his brothers in other protests, against nuclear proliferation, both wars in Iraq and other causes. He, Daniel and 58 others were arrested in 1973 for disrupting a White House tour by kneeling in prayer on the last day of United States bombing in Cambodia, and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for pouring blood on the floor of the Pentagon in 1979. …

New York Times (By Daniel E. Slotnik, AUG. 2, 2015)

And from the profile:

Jerry Berrigan can offer plenty of first-hand stories about giants.

Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the legendary Catholic Worker movement, was a friend. Day believed in “a revolution of the heart,” in the idea of hospitality and community for those who have the least.

When Day visited Jerry and his wife Carol in Syracuse, she spent a night at their home in the Valley.

Just over 50 years ago, Jerry traveled to Selma for the great march for voting rights, part of a contingent led by the Rev. Charles Brady of Syracuse. By sheer chance, they had an opportunity to meet Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

That was three years before King was shot to death by an assassin. Berrigan said his overwhelming reaction – in a place where he witnessed the essence of raw hatred – was a sense of just how willing King was to put himself at ultimate risk, for a higher cause.

Decades earlier, as a young American soldier during World War II, Jerry had served Mass for Padre Pio in Sicily. Pio was revered among Catholics for bearing the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, and he’d later be canonized as a Catholic saint.

‘Heart! Heart! Heart!’: Jerry Berrigan, at 95, on greatest moment in life of conscience by Sean Kirst (July 25, 2015)

Abbot Phillip: ‘Seek Peace and Pursue It or Play Host to Anger’

Abbot Phillip
Abbot Phillip

Abbot Phillip Lawrence, OSB, at Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico, offers these reflections on the paradoxical struggle for peace:

“The challenge for anyone who wants peace is to create peace within.  That is the first challenge. Saint Seraphim of Sarov said in one of his sayings that if we acquire a spirit of peace, and thousands of souls will be saved around us.  We don’t have to fight the world or to fight others. The first and really only battle is with ourselves. In much of the spiritual tradition, there is reference to the spiritual struggle, the spiritual battle, etc. That battle is always against ourselves so that we may have peace and love others without judging them.

In my own life I have gone through times when peace has been easy and has been a wonderful gift. At other times, though, I can feel my own reactions which are against peace. That is the point where there is a choice: seek peace and pursue it or play host to my bad feelings and angers and lusts and fears and let them push my life in all directions. Just because I try to choose to seek peace does not make it easy! Instead, part of growing in the spiritual life is learning to embrace such battles and not weary in pursuing peace. Most of us know when we have accepted anger or lust or fear or laziness.

It is when we become aware that we have accepted such realities in our lives that we have the chance to choose against them.  Sometimes these realities creep up on us and we are not aware of them. But in that moment that we become aware, we have the choice. If we are engaged in the spiritual battle regularly, we tend to make better choices, even if not always the best choices. So if I were to give advice to anyone about the spiritual life, it would be simple:  start now to try to do God’s will!  No matter how often you fail, keep on trying.  In time good things will begin to happen along with the necessary suffering that trying to do His will entails. … Stay with it! …

So often, when we seek the spiritual life, we are hoping to feel good.  An honest spiritual life sometimes has those moments of feeling good.  But it also has long stretches of not feeling much and sometimes periods of feeling awful about ourselves, about others and even about God.  Be prepared to suffer if you want a deep spiritual life.”–Abbot Philip, Christ in the Desert

Read Abbot Philip’s whole reflection.

Video: ‘Start Music, End War’ Say Young Syrians

Young Syrian musicians are performing on the streets of war-torn Damascus to engage passersby, despite the security crackdowns.

When people ask, What can be done against ISIS or in the midst of a civil war? Artists always have an answer. Whether it is Vedran Smailovic with his cello in Sarajevo during the 1992 siege or the Syrian youth flash performers, Meet Us On the Road (seen here), peace finds its way.

With a motto, “Start Music, End War,” the organization Meet Us On The Road (find them on FB), whose members appear unexpectedly on the street with their instruments to recite their “musical” prayers, only to disappear suddenly, sees art as the only way to motivate Syrians to put aside differences and pursue peace.

This is what protest looks like in the middle of war: reclaiming space from violence. This is what church should look like every day. This is the kind of evangelization that undercuts the brutal coercion practiced by ISIS and the others with a habit toward violence.–Rose Berger

Read more here.

@Pontifex on Your Right to a Decent Job

Pax Christi co-president Marie Dennis and Pope Francis
Pax Christi co-president Marie Dennis and Pope Francis
Today Pope Francis met with members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Here’s what he said:

“… The State of social rights must not be dismantled, and in particular the right to work must be protected. This must not be considered a variable, dependent upon financial and monetary markets. It is a fundamental right for dignity, for the formation of a family, for the realisation of the common good and for peace.

Education and work and access to welfare for all are key elements both for development and for the just distribution of goods, for achieving social justice and for belonging to society, and for participating freely and responsibly in political life, understood as the management of the “res publica.”

Ideas that claim to increase income at the cost of restricting the job market and creating further exclusion are not coherent with an economy at the service of man and the common good, or with an inclusive and participatory democracy”.–Pope Francis 

Read the whole statement here: To Justice and Peace: rising inequality and poverty endanger democracy (Oct. 2, 2014)

83-Year-Old Teacher Gives Drone Squad a Civics Lesson – Reads Constitution, Gets Arrested

Eve Tetaz, 83, was found not guilty on Tuesday, Sept.16, in De Witt Town Court for her protest opposing Reaper Drone war crimes at 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, N.Y.

I’ve spend many extremely hot or bone-chillingly cold hours with Eve sitting in the back of police vans. She’s a wonderful soul. And Mark Goldstone is one of the heroes of the D.C. legal community. I’m a huge fan! He’s helped so many of us press our points in the court and helped us use the law to improve our country.

According to reports:

Immediately after Onondaga County prosecutor Jordan McNamara rested his case against D.C. peace and justice activist Eve Tetaz, DeWitt town judge David Gideon granted Ms Tetaz’ motion to dismiss. Ms Tetaz represented herself pro se with the support of D.C. attorney Mark Goldstone.

Ms. Tetaz had been arrested on April 28, 2013, along with 30 others as she stood reading aloud the Preamble to the UN Charter and the First Amendment of the Constitution on the edge of the driveway leading into the Hancock Reaper drone base. The prosecution’s video of Ms Tetaz’ arrest showed the arresting officer grabbing those documents from her hands and tossing them aside.

Continue reading “83-Year-Old Teacher Gives Drone Squad a Civics Lesson – Reads Constitution, Gets Arrested”

Kristof: Catholic Nuns as our Best Superheroes

sister-rice-candles
Transform Now Christian anti-nuclear activists, including Sr. Megan Rice (illustration by Jeffrey Smith)

Nicholas Kristof wrote a great column in the NYT on Saturday about American Catholic sisters. Part of his op-ed focuses on Sr. Megan Rice, age 82, who is spending 3 year in the federal pen for exposing U.S. nuclear hypocrisy. Watch for Dan Zak’s new book coming out about “The Prophets of Oak Ridge,” including Sr. Megan. (Editor’s note: This Washington Post article series by Dan Zak should be a required Bible study for all U.S. Christians.)

Here’s an excerpt from Kristof’s column:

IN an age of villainy, war and inequality, it makes sense that we need superheroes. And after trying Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, we may have found the best superheroes yet: Nuns.

“I may not believe in God, but I do believe in nuns,” writes Jo Piazza, in her forthcoming book, “If Nuns Ruled the World.” Piazza is an agnostic living in New York City who began interviewing nuns and found herself utterly charmed and inspired.

“They eschew the spotlight by their very nature, and yet they’re out there in the world every day, living the Gospel and caring for the poor,” Piazza writes. “They don’t hide behind fancy and expensive vestments, a pulpit, or a sermon. I have never met a nun who rides a Mercedes-Benz or a Cadillac. They walk a lot; they ride bikes.”

One of the most erroneous caricatures of nuns is that they are prim, Victorian figures cloistered in convents. On the contrary, I’ve become a huge fan of nuns because I see them so often risking their lives around the world, confronting warlords, pimps and thugs, while speaking the local languages fluently. In a selfish world, they epitomize selflessness and compassion.

There are also plenty of formidable nuns whom even warlords don’t want to mess with, who combine reverence with ferocity, who defy the Roman Catholic Church by handing out condoms to prostitutes to protect them from H.I.V. (They surely don’t mention that to the bishops.)

One of the nuns whom Piazza profiles is Sister Megan Rice. She earned a graduate degree at Boston College and then moved to Nigeria in 1962 to run a school for girls she had helped establish in a remote area with no electricity or running water. After eventually returning to the United States, she began campaigning against nuclear weapons.

In 2012, at the age of 82, she masterminded a break-in of a nuclear complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to call attention to the nuclear threat. As she was handcuffed by armed security guards, she sang “This Little Light of Mine.” She is now serving a prison sentence of almost three years.

Read the whole article here.

‘Resistance is the Secret of Joy’: Two Recent Court Cases

“Resistance” is the secret of joy, wrote Alice Walker in Possessing the Secret of Joy. In the great 20th century experiment of nonviolent civil disobedience, there are currently two cases worth keeping an eye on, reading about, and providing prayerful and material support to those involved.

Dennis Apel

1. Dennis Apel, longtime Catholic Worker, founder of Beatitude House in Guadalupe, Calif., and organizer of the peace witness outside the Vandenburg Air Force base, recently had his case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. [Send donations to support Beatitude House here: 4575 9th St., Guadalupe, CA 93434]

Issue: When a military installation share custody over a public highway and designated “protest area,” can the base commander bar someone from that area? In what cases is a “public road” a “military zone”?

Judgment: Yes, a “military . . . installation” for purposes of § 1382 encompasses the commanding officer’s area of responsibility, and it includes Vandenberg’s highways and protest area.

Justice Ginsburg and Sotomayor concurred with the judgement. But, they said, “a key inquiry remains, for the fence, checkpoint, and painted line, while they do not alter the Base boundaries, may alter the First Amendment calculus …  it is questionable whether Apel’s ouster from the protest area can withstand constitutional review.”

It’s likely that Dennis’ lawyer will bring the case again, this time making a constitutional argument. Read more on this case here.

transform_now_plowshares2. Greg Boertje-Obed (age 58), Sister Megan Rice (age 84), and Michael Walli (age 65), Catholic peace witnesses, were sentenced last week to federal prison for roughly 5 years for Greg and Michael and 3 years for Sister Megan, for crossing the property line of the Oak Ridge, Tenn., nuclear weapons facility and spray painting bible verses and religious slogans on the outbuildings. (Read Washington Post reporter Dan Zak’s groundbreaking coverage.) [Send donations to assist the Transform Plowshares here: Dorothy Day Catholic Worker 503 Rock Creek Church Road, NW, Washington, D.C. 20010]

Their public witness was called Transform Now Plowshares. It is part of the faith-based Plowshares Movement, an effort by people of faith to transform weapons into real, life-giving alternatives, to build true peace. Inspired by the prophets Micah and Isaiah, Jesus and Gandhi, Transform Now Plowshares began a symbolic conversion of the Y-12 Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility on July 28, 2012.

Issue: The U.S. government charged the defendants with willful injury of a national defense premises with intent to harm the national defense (“Count One”) and willful injury or depredation of property of the United States in excess of $1,000 (“Count Two”). On May 10, 2013, Thapar cited the definition of “federal crime of terrorism” to rule that the protesters must remain in jail until their sentencing. The charge of sabotage – which could have brought a life sentence – was brought forward, discussed, and ultimately dropped.

Judgement: Judge Thapar sentenced Megan Rice to three years in prison for breaking into the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and defacing a bunker holding bomb-grade uranium, a demonstration that exposed serious security flaws. The two other defendants were sentenced to more than five years in prison, in part because they had much longer criminal histories. Judge Thapar said he was concerned they showed no remorse and he wanted the punishment to be a deterrent for other activists. They were also charged with more than $50,000 in fines.

Quotes worth noting:

A. “What is the national defense the three are accused of sabotaging? The answer to that question is not defined in the statute. The prosecution wishes to punish the defendants for interfering with national defense without 1) defining what national defense is and without 2) defining what part of their definition of national defense was interfered with by defendants.

The prosecution wants to use the vague sabotage charge as a blunt instrument to prosecute defendants and also as an impregnable shield to avoid admitting that there are preparations for a nuclear war going on at Y-12. The prosecution wants to proceed without admitting that materials for nuclear weapons are prepared, refurbished and stored at Y-12 or allowing defendants to put on any evidence about those weapons. There is a very good reason for the reluctance of the prosecution – the weapons themselves, thermonuclear warheads produced or refurbished at Y-12 are designed solely to reliably and effectively unleash mammoth amounts of heat, blast and radiation. The uncontested fact is that these weapons, as the prosecution well knows, cannot discriminate between civilian and military and are uncontrollable in space and time. They are designed to cause such massive damage that they necessarily would inflict unnecessary and indiscriminate suffering upon non-combatants and thus violate 18 U.S.C. § 2441. Likewise, the planning, preparations or threat to commit the war crime in 18 U.S.C. § 2441 are crimes in themselves.

This is why the prosecution wants to prosecute defendants for interference with a national defense without explaining that the “national defense” which defendants are claimed to be interfering with is totally based on first-strike thermonuclear weapons.” —OBJECTION TO MAGISTRATE’S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS NEW SABOTAGE CHARGE IN SUPERSEDING INDICTMENT

B. “[Judge] Thapar said the recommended sentences seemed extreme given the circumstances and did not distinguish between saboteurs and peace protesters. “Here, it seems like overkill,” Thapar said of Rice’s recommended sentence. “Six-and-a-half years for Megan Rice? Isn’t it supposed to be sufficient but not greater than necessary?”

Announcing the shorter sentences, the judge cited Rice’s decades of service and Walli’s military history, among other things. And he said he gave similar sentences to Walli and Boertje-Obed to avoid sentencing disparities. Even while emphasizing the importance of deterrence, though, Thapar acknowledged the good works of the defendants, which have ranged from volunteering in soup kitchens to teaching science in Africa.

“The court can say it is generally distressed to place good people behind bars,” Thapar said. “But I continue to hold out hope that a significant sentence may deter…and lead (the defendants) back to the political process that they seem to have given up on. Without question, the law does not permit the breaking and entering into the secure facilities of the United States.” Thapar urged the trio to use the political process and their community of supporters to go to Washington, D.C., to try to abolish nuclear weapons.”–Oak Ridge Today

C. Also fascinating is the “Heartland” Amicus brief and response by the defense on federal sentencing guidelines. Judge Thapar asked for guidance on whether he had to use the federal sentencing guidelines for “terrorism” in judging a nonviolent peace witness and how much he could take into account a defendant’s “good works” and contribution to the community.

Both cases remind me of practices in the early Christian church. A 3rd century Christian manual, called the Didascalia, reads as follows:

You shall not turn away your eyes from a Christian who for the name of God and for His faith and love is condemned to the games, or to the beasts, or to the mines; but of your labor and of the sweat of your face do you send to him for nourishment, and for a payment to the soldiers that guard him, that he may have relief and that care may be taken of him, so that your blessed brother be not utterly afflicted.[]