During the 3 days of funeral proceedings for Sen. Kennedy, I was very pleased to see the public display of support and solidarity for Sen. Kennedy by the institutional Catholic Church.
Kennedy was an embodiment of Catholic social teaching in every aspect of his political life. He also was emblematic of the complexities of living out that social teaching with integrity in our modern world–especially on the issue of abortion.
But one of the fundamental characteristics of the Catholic faith is our ability to maintain a large embrace. Our strength to do this is provided by the unifiying nature of the Eucharist.
I was especially touched by the exchange of letters between Sen. Kennedy and Pope Benedict, read by Cardinal McCarrick at the burial at Arlington. Here’s the most complete transcript I could find.
Excerpts of the letter from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy that President Barack Obama delivered to Pope Benedict XVI earlier this year and an account of the pope’s response, as read by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington:
”Most Holy Father I asked President Obama to personally hand deliver this letter to you. As a man of deep faith himself, he understands how important my Roman Catholic faith is to me, and I am so deeply grateful to him. I hope this letter finds you in good health. I pray that you have all of God’s blessings as you lead our church and inspire our world during these challenging times. I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines.
”I was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago and although I continue treatment, the disease is taking its toll on me. I am 77 years old and preparing for the next passage of life. I have been blessed to be part of a wonderful family and both of my parents, particularly my mother, kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives. That gift of faith has sustained and nurtured and provides solace to me in the darkest hours. I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path. I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I have worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty and fought to end war.
”Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a United States senator. I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field and I will continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone. I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith. I continue to pray for God’s blessings on you and on our church and would be most thankful for your prayers for me.”
—— An account from the Vatican of the pope’s response, according to McCarrick:
”The Holy Father has the letter which you entrusted to President Barack Obama, who kindly presented it to him during their recent meeting. He was saddened to know of your illness, and asked me to assure you of his concern and his spiritual closeness. He is particularly grateful for your promise of prayers for him and for the needs of our universal church.
”His Holiness prays that in the days ahead you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the will of God, our merciful Father. He invokes upon you the consolation and peace promised by the Risen Savior to all who share in His sufferings and trust in His promise of eternal life.
”Commending you and the members of your family to the loving intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, comfort and strength in the Lord.”
Though HBO pulled the video of the interview, it’s now back up and you can see it here. Also, you can see my video interviews with Jim Douglass from last spring here. The JFK part starts at about 3:45 minutes.
Yesterday on CNN Live, Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley outlined how waterboarding is only the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to torture by U.S. military and paramilitary contractors.
Call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 and tell President Obama to not back down on closing Guantanamo.
Last February, before Binyam’s release, Bradley wrote a piece for The Guardian outlining in greater detail her experience representing Binyam. Here’s an excerpt:
I am a lawyer and a soldier, and I act for [UK citizen] Binyam Mohamed, who is currently on hunger strike in Guantánamo Bay. …
The Joint Task Force, which runs Guantánamo Bay, gives me no information about Binyam. When I called to enquire about his condition, they said first, that they would look into it and then that they would tell me nothing and that I should make a Freedom of Information request, which would have taken months to process. Therefore, whenever I want information about Binyam, I have to make the 5-hour trip to Guantánamo. Each time, he asks why he is still there.
It is worth bearing in mind that all charges against Binyam have been dropped and that Binyam’s chief prosecutor resigned, citing the unfairness of the system.
I profoundly hope that he is not being kept in Guantánamo to avoid information surrounding his rendition and torture coming out.
Read Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley’s full commentary in The Guardian.
Read the transcript of Clive Stafford Smith and Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley’s address to a UK Parliament subcommittee on “extraordinary rendition” about the Guantanamo prisoners the two are representing.
Well, it’s happened. The famous line from the musical Hello, Dolly! has come true. “Money is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread about, encouraging young things to grow.”
Not only is President Obama spreading ‘Bama Bucks like night soil on the languorous fields of the American economy, but Mrs. Obama is getting her hands dirty with a little Victory gardening of her own.
The kids from Bancroft elementary school — located in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, one over from Columbia Heights — digging and turning up the White House “back 40” (aka the South Lawn). The planting list includes: spinach, broccoli, various lettuces, kale, collard greens, assorted herbs, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.
For some reason, they are not planting corn. No doubt White House insiders will uncover the reason soon. My guess is that Big Corn exerted some influence here and didn’t want average citizens getting the idea that they could crowd in on AgriBusinesses profit share.
Another interesting tidbit is that the White House garden is also planning to host some bee hives and, as Mrs. Obama said, “grow their own honey.” This is great news! But someone needs to let them know that currently it is illegal to keep bees inside the District. They are considered “livestock” by the District agriculture code. While I’m sure that the White House falls under a federal law, not District law, I’m hoping the hives on the South Lawn will bring a big boost to the renegade bee-keeping revolution that’s been quietly raging in the District over the past few years. Maybe the apiarists can finally come out of the shadows.
For some “pure D” fun (as they say in the south), watch Ellen DeGeneres’ chat with 88-year-old Gladys Hardy from Austin, Texas. They discuss everything from the houseplants on Ellen’s set to Jesus to QVC to Austin’s cold snap. Let yourself laugh!
I loved reading Joseph Ross’s blog post Dr. King in 2009. It’s an excellent reminder for us all. Here’s an excerpt:
Dr. King saw America’s economic system creating a nearly permanent under-class. This, he saw, as a gross injustice, this willingness to allow whole segments of our population to remain poorly educated, badly treated in the social realm, and unfairly treated as consumers, all resulting in a horribly unequal economic state. Many of us forget that the reason he was in Memphis in April of 1968, when he was killed, was not to rally for racial equality, but to support the sanitation workers’ strike and their “I Am A Man” campaign.
If non-violence and poverty reduction were the twin centers of his social strategy, what would Dr. King say to America in 2009?
And I’d add to Joe’s reflections the quote in The Washington Post from King colleague Rev. Joseph Lowery:
They have made Martin a glorified social worker, and they have almost made our young folks believe that all Martin did was go around dreaming. He was a nonviolent militant. He was a Christian radical.
And for a great video to lift your spirits, watch Lowery’s address at Coretta Scott King’s funeral. Prophetic, funny, brave, and eloquent. (I love when he “critiques” President Bush, who is sitting right behind him.)
One of the great things about working at Sojourners is always getting to do something new. Here’s a video made by our assistant editor Jeannie Choi and our interactive media producer Matt Hildreth interviewing me about contemplative prayer.