Archives for the month of: November, 2011

James 5:1–6:

1 Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.
2 Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,
3 your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days.
4 Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
5 You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.
6 You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance

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At The Practicing Catholic:

Like homecoming weekend in a college town, there are currently no vacancies. Everything, it seems, is occupied. Occupy Wall Street. Occupy San Francisco. Occupy DC. Begun as Occupy Dataran in Kuala Lumpur in late July, the Occupy movement has spread around globe like wildfire in just over three months. “The 99%” seem intent on taking back financial and government institutions that have apparently been corrupted by the minority who presumably control them by their concentration of wealth. The majority are fed up with their interests not being represented, so they’re moving in and taking over.

This is neither to ridicule nor affirm the Occupy movement. Simply put, however, this sentiment is not new. Much, if not most, curmudgeonly grumbling and hand-wringing is about how we need to take back things that have been corrupted: marriage, education, authority, devotion, piety, etc. The list goes on and on and often expresses valid concerns about the direction of society, one microcosm at a time. The commercialization of Christmas is one such microcosm.

What follows is a list of suggestions for putting Christ back in Christmas.

Thomas Gumbleton in the National Catholic Reporter for the feast of Christ the King:

You’re going to find Jesus not in the 1 percent that people are talking about in these occupations. Jesus will be in the 99 percent, and especially in the poorest and the weakest of the 99 percent, those who are in desperate need, those who are homeless, those who are hungry, those who do not have clean water, those who are fleeing their own land because they’re starving, and who are coming into our country as immigrants, the poor. That’s where Jesus is now. He identifies himself with the poorest of the poor.

If we wish to honor Jesus, to really accept Him into our lives, to follow Him, then we have to be the ones who reach out to the poor, who welcome the stranger, the immigrant. Recently there has been some emphasis by some leaders in the Church, and I’ve read about different Bishops in various dioceses promoting what we call sacramental adoration, putting the host in a monstrance above the altar, and come and worship, spend time in adoration and prayer.

I’m not against that. We need to have that kind of quiet time at times, but one Bishop wrote, “When I kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, and I continue to gaze at the Blessed Sacrament, I begin to see the poor in that Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I begin to see the imprisoned and the immigrant.” That’s fine, but what I want to say is, “What Jesus really wants you to do is not see them in the host, but go out into the world and find them where they are. Go to them in prisons. Go to those who are fleeing their country because they do not have enough. Go to those who are hungry and the poor. There you will find Jesus.”

I hope that we can hear this message and even as we celebrate, according to our liturgy, Jesus as King, that we will really try to understand how Jesus rejected the worldly notion of king, and taught us another whole way to live, the way of love, letting ourselves become servants of all, letting ourselves be the ones who reach out to the poor and the homeless, because there we will find Jesus.

Michael Sean Winters in the National Catholic Reporter:

The task for the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and especially their sympathizers, is to channel their protest into productive political change. Instead of camping out in a park, better to get washed up and go to your local congressman’s next town hall meeting. Time to write letters to the editor at your local newspaper. Time to speak with your friends and family over the holidays and insist on talking about politics at the dinner table. Time to make sure everyone you know is registered to vote. Time to speak to your pastor and ask why he is not addressing the issue of poverty from the pulpit, as Archbishop Timothy Dolan encouraged bishops and priests to do earlier this autumn. Ask your priest or your bishop what they think of the new document from the Holy See on the world financial crisis.

In short, it is time to take a “protest” and turn it into politics. Here is where the Tea Party, to which the Occupy Movement is often compared, succeeded in large measure. They did not win every race, to be sure, and Senators Chris Coons of Delaware, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Harry Reid of Nevada have the fact of Tea Party over-reach to thank for their wins in 2010. But, the Tea Party ran enough GOP House candidates, and won, and scared the rest of the GOP caucus into falling into line, that their political influence in Washington today can scarcely be denied. Can the Occupy Movement achieve such a sea change in the political landscape?

I confess that I could not be more immune to the romanticism of this, or any other, protest movement. I am not a joiner to begin with and a hot shower is one of life’s greatest joys. I do not like grunge no matter how or why it manifests itself. But, politics is, as the Church has continually taught, a noble enterprise. Indeed, this insight that politics is a noble thing may be the most counter-cultural affirmation the Church makes in our day, as the USCCB’s John Carr said at a panel discussion on “Faithful Citizenship” in New York in September. So, as the tent come down and the sleeping bags get packed up, my advice to the Occupy Movement protesters and their sympathizers is this: It is time to organize, not occupy.

See the full cover story in pdf form here. About a third of it appears also at Occupy Writers:

A few minutes before the October 5 labor march to Foley Square began, I ran into the 90-year-old war resister Dan Berrigan and some of his fellow Jesuits on Liberty Plaza, all in plainclothes. This was a wonderful surprise—the plaza was overflowing in new faces that day, and I was happy to see some familiar ones, and so unexpectedly. I felt like I could stand a little taller around them than I ever had before. Best of all, as daily life at the plaza showed, we were taking our stand in the form of a carnival—what Dan’s friend, the theologian William Stringfellow, might have called “a parable of the eschaton.” It’s a sideways glimpse of the world to come.

After I cajoled the Jesuits into posing for a picture with me, we were approached by a man who introduced himself as a TV reporter from Greece. He had a cameraman waiting a few paces behind him. (Liberty Plaza has become essentially a never-ending press conference.) I nodded a hello, but he went straight for Dan.

“Can I interview you?” he asked. “I’d like to show the world that it isn’t just a bunch of radicals here.”

What he was referring to, of course, was the perception in the media that the occupation was a mob of dirty young rebels without a clear idea of what they wanted. (Early on, this was mostly true. Who else would hold a space like that through rain, discomfort, and police intimidation?) Clearly, though, the reporter had no idea whom he was talking to, that this old man was possibly the most radical person on the whole plaza. Dan has spent a whole lifetime in peaceful resistance and he served years in prison—not just a few hours in a holding cell—for his trouble.

By then, Occupy Wall Street had taken fewer than a thousand arrests, plus a well-publicized use of pepper spray. (A few more arrests would come that evening, along with billy clubs and more pepper spray.) Sacrifices had only begun to be made, and the powers that be had only begun to feel the least bit threatened, if they did at all. The proto-movement still could have faded away with little harm done.

To me, and to most of the young people there who were doing this for more or less the first time, these had been among the longest, best, and most sleep-deprived two-and-a-half weeks of our lives. But seeing Dan there put those weeks in perspective. As people liked to chant in the early days of the occupation, when it seemed liable to be shut down at any moment, “This is just a practice”—this is just the beginning.

From The Daily Caller:

WASHINGTON – Hundreds of Occupy DC supporters took over the Francis Scott Key Bridge linking Washington D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood with the Rosslyn area of Arlington, Va. on Thursday during the evening rush hour. The Key Bridge is the same structure President Obama used recently as the backdrop for a speech promoting his jobs bill.

One protester, spiritual leader James Burch, said Jesus Christ would support the march, which began at Occupy DC’s home at McPherson Square because greed contradicts Christian teachings.

“The government’s good, the people are good. The system is bad,” Burch told The Daily Caller. He leads the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, a progressive religious organization that is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The group is best known for ordaining women and performing “Same Sex Holy Union” marriage ceremonies.

A mystical recommendation from Minnesota:

As Catholics, the first thing we should do is occupy our local eucharistic adoration chapel and sit in the presence of the sacrament of charity.

As Mother Teresa said, “Prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament will save the world from destruction.”

Transforming a broken world must first start with transforming ourselves because there is no political solution to what is fundamentally a moral problem. There is only a spiritual solution — one that starts with repentance and conversion.

When we gaze upon the Lord, we will better see him in the face of others. And when we do so, we will gain a renewed sense of solidarity — particularly with the hungry, the homeless, the unemployed and the immigrant looking for work.

This heightened awareness of the needs of others will lead us to not just think about but also act to build a more just social order.

Spending time with the Lord will also help us see the world in a more integrated way, get at the root cause of problems, and begin to develop solutions that serve the common good, not just the narrow interests of a few.

Over the coming months, this column will periodically outline the moral principles and ethical framework the church offers us to reconstruct a broken social order.

But for now, we have to rebuild the broken person that is all of us.

Occupy the chapels!

Some opinion from Aberdeen, South Dakota:

Is the Vatican joining the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Well, not quite. But last month the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice did issue a document whose themes echo some Occupy Wall Street slogans, including its condemnation of inequalities in wealth distribution and of “collective greed.”

The document’s cumbersome title, “Towards reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the context of global public authority” reveals its central thrust. It finds the roots of our current economic troubles in a lack of oversight of global financial markets.

The long-term solution, it suggests, is to gradually establish an international authority to regulate those markets. It envisions, for example, establishing a regulatory “central world bank” and taxing global financial transactions in order to help support economies in developing nations.

The council’s president, Cardinal Peter Turkson, said “the basic sentiment” behind the Occupy Wall Street protests is in line with Catholic social teaching. “People who suffer from the way the financial markets currently operate have a right to say, ‘Do business differently. Look at the way you’re doing business because this is not leading to our welfare and our good.’ The Vatican is not behind any of these movements, but the basic inspirations can be the same.”

Both the document and Occupy Wall Street agree that the global financial system must be held to greater accountability. “If people can hold their government to account, why can we not hold other institutions in society to accountability if they are not achieving or not helping us live peacefully or well?” Turkson argues.

On the AP:

SCITUATE, Mass. — It’s the eighth autumn since Roman Catholic parishioners began occupying St. Francis X. Cabrini church around the clock to protest the Boston Archdiocese’s 2004 decision to close it. But this season could have passed without heat to kill the chill.

Last month, a utility worker showed up to cut off the power because the archdiocese hadn’t paid the bill for months, said vigil leader Jon Rogers. Protesters paid a couple hundred dollars to settle the bill, and the power stayed on.

The archdiocese said it was “an administrative error” and they intend to pay going forward, another example of the comparatively light-handed touch with which it’s handled the protests, to date. Rogers is skeptical and calls it another sign the archdiocese is working harder than ever to end the lingering protests.

At AmericanCatholic.org:

“These people are doing something worthwhile, quietly and faithfully,” David Moczulski says of the youthful residents of Occupy Pittsburgh, a camp of about 100 tents at Mellon Green, a park owned by the financial firm BNY Mellon.  “They’re very respectful and non-violent, walking around with signs, chanting, trying to engage people in conversation” about the growing gap between rich and poor. “It’s basically [about] the big bank bailout. Nobody’s been held accountable for the misdeeds of the last few years.” In a statement on its website, Occupy Pittsburgh spells it out: “We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know we are your allies.”

Describing himself as “an aging hippie,” David says, “It’s a great thing for me to see young people involved in this. I’ve thought about participating” in the Pittsburgh camp, made up primarily of underemployed college graduates and veterans. “It would be good if we did that as a Church.” So far the closest thing to that is a document on global finance issued Oct. 24 by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. “Catholic social teaching and the Occupy Wall Street movement agree that the economy should be at the service of the human person and that strong action must be taken to reduce the growing gap between rich and poor,” Vatican officials told the National Catholic Reporter. 
 
In Detroit, the poor joined forces with Occupy protesters just two blocks from St. Aloysius Parish. “Some of the Occupiers here have let homeless people share their tents” at the campsite at Grand Circus Park, says Al Mascia. While the parish has not endorsed a political agenda, “They are presently within our parish boundaries and so, according to Pastor Tod Laverty, deserving of our pastoral care. Our parish nurse, for example, was there helping to assist with health and wellness issues and giving out flu shots. Their food commissary was shut down due to health reasons so the Canticle Café carts and volunteers provided some food and hot beverages” last week during a cold snap.