Breaking Families Instead of Bread at U.S.-Mexico Border

Families who illegally crossed the Mexico-U.S. border walk up a dirt road near McAllen, Texas, last month. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

“It’s unjust for kids to be separated from their parents. It doesn’t matter the race or where the come from, because we all know, the fundamental base of society is family. So if we separate families, what we are doing, is destroying society.”—Yulio Bermudez spent 45 days trying to get his children, age 16, 7, and 3, back from the Department of Homeland Security

“God is Love and love enfolds us all the world in one embrace; with unfailing grasp God holds us, and every child of every race. And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod, then we find that self same aching deep within the heart of God,”–Isaac Watts, “God is Love” (sung to the tune of the Old 100th)

If you want to send donations to help families at the border, I recommend supporting Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. It is run by Sr. Norma Pimentel.

For more on the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that uses children as pawns for partisan political theater, see these articles below:

San Diego diocese launching program to prevent family separation at border

Doctors Say Kids Separated From Parents At Border Face ‘Toxic Stress,’ Serious Health Risks



James Alison: Love in a Changing Catholic Climate

jamesalisonJames Alison, priest and theologian, has written a great analysis of the final documents from the Synod on the Family vis a vis gay, lesbian, and transgendered Catholics. Alison takes the bishops’ lack of commenting as a good sign, because they clearly thought about the issue a lot during the synod.

One telling example of that his conversation was occuring was when New Ways Ministry director Francis DeBernardo asked Ghana’s Archbishop Palmer-Buckle whether the African bishops, or any bishops, would support a statement from the synod condemning the criminalization of lesbian and gay people. Palmer-Buckle’s answer included, “We know that all are sons and daughters of God and have dignity. We are doing what we can. It takes time for individual voices like that to be heard, when you are dealing especially with something that is culturally difficult for people to understand.”

In addition, Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp said, “It is better that the synod said nothing on this issue than if they said something harmful.”

So I commend to you James Alison’s generous analysis in The Tablet. Here’s an excerpt below:

There were two weak-minded “ways out” of the current hierarchical impasse in the Church on matters gay – the first, a bombastic reaffirmation of current teaching as obviously right, the solution of the deluded pure; the second, that the teaching is right, but that there is a problem with the language in which it is communicated – the solution of the cowardly cosmeticians. I’m delighted to say we got neither. The low-key reaffirmations of loyalty to current positions in the final document have “pro tem” written all over them; and the general dropping from view of matters LGBT towards the end of the synod suggests that something much more interesting may have happened.
Continue reading “James Alison: Love in a Changing Catholic Climate”

Joan Chittister: The Feast of All Souls

“All across the world, plants and flowers, trees and flags, mementoes and framed photographs stand on quiet graves to mark that communion of life that one generation feels with another. Our souls stretch always forward, yes, but our hearts stretch always back. The chain of life never breaks, the shape of soul never strains beyond what formed us, what filled us with life in the first place.

We are bound to one another, each generation a link in the chain, each generation a standard for one to come. The people over whose graves we weep are not simply people we have known or who, though strangers, have had the decency to disappear from an earth already overcrowded. No, we cry tears of loss only for those whose lives touched our own and made them better. We cry both for parents and for politicians, for friends and for public figures, for anyone who has lived out “the communion of saints,” the Eucharist of humankind, the Christening of life and made it real in our own time, in our own neighborhoods, in our own world. We weep for those whose faith has formed our own.

When we visit the graves and say the memorial prayers and tell the family stories over the bodies of the dead, we tell of the Christ we saw in them. We remember how it looked in them. We know in them what it is like to be driven by the consuming power of God, to be totally oriented toward God. The communion of saints stands before us, stark witness to the holiness of God, reminding us always to leave behind us for those yet to come a searing memory of the same.”–Joan Chittister, OSB

An excerpt from In Search of Belief by Joan Chittister

Megan McKenna: A Convening on ‘The Family’ Should Start With Breakfast

monkimageThe World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September (and all the other related gatherings that have been pushed to the periphery, such as the global Women’s Ordination Conference)and the Synod on the Family in Rome in October (participants in which 99.75 percent are men)  present opportunities for a more diverse image of what it means to be a Catholic family (large C or small).

Megan McKenna, Catholic spiritual writer and peace and justice advocate, has a great reflection based on John 21 (the “breakfast with Jesus” scene on the banks of the Galilee) on how important it is for the global Catholic family to come first to the table of Christ–as sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, children and parents, partners and singles–in a spirit of kinship and communion before launching into any conversations about “the definition of family,” who is in and who is out in marriage, and the education and raising of children. Jesus was notoriously non-conformist in who he identified as “family.”

Read an excerpt here:

This is how Eucharist is to be celebrated—drawing everyone back into intimacy, all forgiven with a shared meal, awkward though it might be among them. Jesus’ words—Children, come and have your breakfast—welcome back into my company—welcome home to my heart. We are one; we are in communion because of My love, My life, death and resurrection. Come and eat. …

This is how the Synod on the Family should begin—with a proclamation of the Good News to the Poor—with God’s simple invitation repeated again to everyone—come and eat; break bread with me; let me feed you. The opening prayer should be a greeting of welcome—a place to stand after Resurrection, as Jesus’ stands with all of us, no matter how we have behaved. Did the disciples deserve Eucharist and being drawn back into intimacy with Jesus?

…What if we admitted that we need a theology of marriage based on the mystery of the Trinity, where the third party is God, marrying the two persons. [even now the sacrament can be celebrated without a priest—the couple marrying one another in the presence of God, and having it witnessed later by a representative of the Church]. What if this sacrament—of two married in the presence of and with the Trinity speaks of communion and universal family and incorporation as one for all people, revealing the mystery of our God as community? …–Megan McKenna  (Read more here.)

Download the whole article and read more about Megan McKenna here.

May Families be ‘Authentic Schools of the Gospel’

by Fay Ocampo
by Fay Ocampo
Pope Francis today called for prayers for families and offered this beautiful one as an example:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
In you we contemplate
The splendor of true love,
We turn to you with confidence.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
Make our families, also,
Places of communion and cenacles of prayer,
Authentic schools of the Gospel,
And little domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth
May our families never more experience
Violence, isolation, and division:
May anyone who was wounded or scandalized
Rapidly experience consolation and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
May the upcoming Synod of Bishops
Re-awaken in all an awareness
Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family,
Its beauty in the project of God.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Hear and answer our prayer. Amen.

Synod on Family: Like Watching Sausage Getting Made

As an editor, I’m always interested when the fine art of copy editing gets political! I decided to run a “compare docs” program on the first and second versions of the report from the Synod on the Family currently going on at the Vatican. (See above. Scroll down to Part III in document for the “juicy” stuff.)

In case you are just catching up, on Monday, 13 Oct, the Vatican released an update from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Basically, at the half-way point, they wanted to let folks know what was going on.

Pope Francis is trying a “sunshine strategy” at the notoriously closed-door Vatican. Parts of the synod were even “live-streamed”! He seems to believe that many of the worlds 1.1 billion Catholics — and certainly most of its priests can handle the truth of how things are done, that they can handle spirited discussion, that they can handle more than one idea at a time. (This seems generally to be true, except for one or two really piqued U.S. cardinals.)

Pope Francis trusts that people are complex and intrinsically beautiful and that so is truth. In this, he is totally in sync with his predecessors.

After the first update on Monday, 13 October, the document went to small groups (based on language groups) for review. The agreed upon changes were then entered into a new document, which was released on Thursday, 16 October. (The final document will probably be released next week.)

You’ll recognize it by edits that now identify some families as “broken” (not “wounded”) and calling churches to “provide for” homosexuals (not “welcome”). These changes were ONLY made in the English language version, not the official Italian version.

Theology, like politics, can be messy to watch being made. However Pope Francis may be recalling the words of he predecessor a few years ago when Pope Benedict XVI said at Christmas in 2012 :

“I would say that the Christian can afford to be supremely confident, yes, fundamentally certain that he can venture freely into the open sea of the truth, without having to fear for his Christian identity. To be sure, we do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us: Christ, who is the truth, has taken us by the hand, and we know that his hand is holding us securely on the path of our quest for knowledge. Being inwardly held by the hand of Christ makes us free and keeps us safe: free – because if we are held by him, we can enter openly and fearlessly into any dialogue; safe – because he does not let go of us, unless we cut ourselves off from him. At one with him, we stand in the light of truth.”

Here’s the link to the original English version as of 13 Oct 2014, prior to the small group review. (Scroll down about halfway through the post.)

Here are the links to the 3 English-speaking small group (Circuli Minori) reviews: English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “A” – Moderator: Card. Raymond Burke English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “B” – Moderator: Card. Wilfrid Napier, OFM English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “C” – Moderator: Mons. Joseph Kurtz

Here’s the link to the English version current as of 17 October 2014.

Serve up some buns and sauerkraut with that sausage!–Rose Marie Berger

Catholics Post Own Online Vatican Survey, US Bishops Too Slow

eqsurvey-300x250In my earlier post Pope Asks Global Catholic What We Think, I noted that the U.S. Catholic bishops were slow in promoting the Vatican survey to hear from Catholics around the world on issues such as church and family life, outreach to divorced and separated persons, outreach to same-sex couples and gay people, and how to be a church of mercy and welcome in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in 2014.

In the true American “can do” spirit, lay Catholic organizations have stepped into the gap of leadership and have posted the Vatican survey online themselves. Results will be sent to both the US Catholic bishops and the Vatican.

Since these are not multiple choice questions but open-ended, I expect that Catholics individually, in small groups, and as worshiping communities,will bring thoughtful and extensive responses to the Pope’s question. I pray that the Spirit keeps moving through our church and the sense of the faithful is strengthened.

Read more below in Michael J. O’Loughlin’s piece for RNS:

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a progressive-leaning organization that exists to promote “public policies and effective programs that enhance the inherent dignity of all, especially the poor and most vulnerable,” has created its own online survey and is encouraging its members to share their thoughts. Chris Hale, a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance, said that survey results will be sent to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as Vatican officials, including Pope Francis.

Since the survey was launched earlier today, Catholics in Alliance has collected over 300 responses, with many citing Pope Francis’ apparent openness to gay and lesbian Catholics more fully into the life of the church as an opportunity for reform. Hale says that the survey is meant to assist bishops, not challenge them. “We want to provide a model for how bishops could engage their flock on these important questions about the life of the Church. We want the lay faithful to be tremendously involved in the upcoming synod, and we think this is a great way to begin that process,” he told me.

James Martin, the Jesuit writer, wrote on the blog of America magazine that he expects at least some bishops to poll Catholics in their dioceses, and suggested that the “Holy Spirit is at work in her church and in her people. And she will let her voice be heard, this time through these polls, because she desires to speak.”

Read the whole article here.

Friday Night in Family Land


It’s Friday evening and I’m in Edmonds, Washington, just north of Seattle, with my Mom and my brother Joe’s family. I got to meet my nephew Zev for the first time! He’s about 7 months old and likes to have the dogs lick his face. (ick) I also haven’t seen my niece Sorelle since she was 4 months old and now she’s 2 years. She’s strong-willed–that’s the German side of the family. My nephew Gage is 6 and in kindergarten at St. Thomas More Catholic school. He got home from school around 3 p.m. and looks great in his navy blue uniform (that was appropriately covered with his light-up Spiderman hoodie). They had Mass today, he told me. There was a lot of  “get down and get up,” he said.

This trip was unexpected. At the end of August, our family got a bit of a scare when my sister-in-law found a fairly large tumor in her right lung. It was detected by her chiropractor during a routine spine X-ray. The first tests revealed a very grim diagnosis. But subsequent tests revealed kidney cancer that had metasticized to her lung from a cancerous kidney that she’d had removed when she was 15 years old. We went from a fairly dire prognosis to a very positive one. But in the meantime she has had to undergo major surgery to remove a portion of her lung, to be followed up by chemo therapy. She’s got a long road to recovery. But she’s very strong and very strong-willed with a great desire to get well. Every day she’s getting stronger and is giving all of her energy to healing.

In the meantime, an amazing circle of friends have kicked into gear to help take care of the kids and provide meals. None of our family live near Seattle, so we are staging our visits to stay with the kids and give the circle of friends a break.

Thanks be to God, in all likelihood my sister-in-law will recover from this scare and with several months of healing will be back to her old self.

Like so many Americans dealing with health issues, this one hangs by a thread. My brother works as a glazier in downtown Seattle (our joke is that he actually DID install windows for Microsoft because he worked on the new MS office building). Their health insurance depends completely on him. If he loses his job, they lose insurance. So, much to his despair, he hasn’t taken a day off from work during all of this family crisis. He’s left early at times–sometimes paid, sometimes not. But he couldn’t risk getting laid off. “If I show up, they’ll keep me on,” he says. Otherwise, probably not. Right now my sister-in-law has 100% coverage (because Zev is still under a year old). On December 31, her coverage drops to 80%. I’m not sure what they will do then. Like most couples raising three kids on one salary, there is absolutely nothing left at the end of the month.

A recent study found that 62 percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were linked to medical expenses. Of those who filed for bankruptcy, nearly 80 percent had some kind of health insurance. I would guess, like most American families, we’ll all share our resources as best we can to cover the additional expenses. But this is the kind of situation that can and does financially devastate families for years.

Right now, Congress has gotten farther on health-care reform than it’s ever gotten in 50 years. The House bill is probably the one that will help the most people the most. Let’s just get it done–and deal with the tweaks later.

Now … back to playing “Indiana Jones” with Gage on his DS (whatever THAT is!)