Thursday, February 12, 2015

“The Pope challenges everybody!”

I visited the office of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (1st District, NE) at the end of the recent Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington.  I went with two people from Nebraska, and a staffer from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.  We met a legislative assistant, and the meeting was very professional – that is to say, dry.  Everybody was polite: a Republican aide from well-mannered Nebraska meets with some well-meaning liberals from the East Coast of Obama-Land.  Then someone mentioned Pope Francis’s planned visit in September, and the aide lit up: “The Pope challenges everybody!”

Can we all agree that the visit in September can be a time of grace?

Maybe people will listen to their consciences with a fresh awareness.  Can we all agree to let people – even legislators – shift their positions on issues of conscience at that time?

Legislators take positions on issues during campaigns.  What should they do if they change their minds?  Are they bound to stick to every position they stalked about during the last campaign?  What if the Pope pries open a new idea, and the legislator’s conscience pushes toward a new position on some issue?

Can we all agree not to punish a legislator whose conscience is pricked during the Pope’s visit?

It can be a time of grace.  And grace can be unpredictable.  A time of grace, a time of renewal, might be a time of adjustment and change!

PLEASE!  NOW! Write to your legislators, and tell them you will not attack them if they shift on some issue during the Pope’s visit!  Of course, you might vote against them in the next election, if you disagree with the new position.  But you won’t attack them for inconsistency or treachery or anything like that.  Tell them!  NOW!

Come Lord, and change our hearts!

Immigration Restrictions Kill

unborn unnamed undocumented uncounted unburied – and dead

American immigration restrictions support population control measures overseas.  The exact number of abortions overseas that are linked to America’s refusal to welcome immigrants is hard to determine.  But it’s possible that anti-immigration pro-lifers who are working hard to save about a million babies from abortion annually here are accidentally helping to trap and kill far more than a million annually overseas.

HOPE!  Every pro-lifer who has spent time outside an abortion clinic is keenly aware that most of what we offer to women who feel trapped is hope.  We offer medical help, legal help, housing, whatever is necessary; and the offers are real and testable.  But women who listen to us and turn around usually don’t take the concrete help we offer.  What they hear from us that matters is, “By God’s grace, this is possible. I can handle this.”  They don’t need money or housing (usually); they need prayer and love – and hope.
DESPAIR.  Women overseas facing poverty and pregnancies may consider fleeing, looking for help in Europe or America.  If the doors of wealthy nations are shut tight, that may be the last straw; that may be the detail that tips a woman into deadly despair.  How often does this happen?  Who knows?  Can we separate and measure all the ingredients of despair among poverty-stricken pregnant women overseas, precisely? What’s clear is that emigration is often an act of desperation.  And if you thwart an act of desperation, vulnerable people suffer deeply.  And when pregnant women despair, babies die.
When Jews were fleeing from Nazi rule, a shipload of refugees sailed out of Hamburg, crossed the Atlantic, came within sight of Miami, and then bounced off America’s immigration restrictions.  The refugees returned to Germany, and died.  The Holocaust Museum in Washington has a list of the passengers on the St Louis who saw the lights of Miami, then went back across the ocean to be exterminated.  How many others knew ahead of time that they weren’t welcome, and didn’t even try?  No stats exist.  It’s hard to measure precisely, but it’s not honest to deny the reality: immigration restrictions kill
When the Golden Venture went aground on Long Island in 1993, 286 refugees from China spilled out.  Some were women fleeing from forced abortion.  President Reagan and Rep Chris Smith led the fight to protect refugees from forced abortion – but it was a fight.  And it still is.  But somehow, many pro-lifers have forgotten what Reagan understood: our immigration restrictions here support depopulation efforts elsewhere.
How many pregnant women try to enter the country illegally – desperately?  And how many pregnant women don’t try?  If they don’t even try to cross our border, is that a “success”?

This isn’t rocket science.  Inhospitality kills babies, and oppresses women.  Pro-lifers shouldn’t do that.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

social ministers can sing

Catholic Social Ministry Gathering – 2015

I have been going back and forth between the social justice advocates and pro-lifers since 2012, intending to press for increased cooperation, mutual respect, unity.  Four days amongst social ministry folks at major annual event: what a great group!

Day one, initial impressions.  Music is rich, international, vibrant, engaging.  Msgr East from DC was the most visible musician: from 200 yards away, you can see and feel and hear that he means every word of praise and love that erupts from his long bony hands and his brilliant smiles and his wonderful voice. He was most visible, but not the best: great joyful music all over the place!

And there are pro-lifers all over the place.  The event is sponsored by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the USCCB does not suffer from left-right polarization.  There are arguments over emphasis, but not cosmic chasms between the left and right.

Just one talk.  Fr. Daniel Groody from Notre spoke about “A God of Life, a Civilization of Love.”  What was on his mind, principally, was the vast and growing gap in wealth, between the 1% at the top and the 20% or 50% with less.  Funny, engaging, wide perspective, extensive personal experience: great talk!  But I was listening from a pro-life perspective, specifically – to someone who is aware of death by abortion and euthanasia, but was focusing on poverty.  When he tried to get at the scope of the problem using a village analogy to get a grasp on stats – 16% are malnourished, 40% have cell phones, etc – he didn't include that 35% of this generation of the villagers are already in the cemetery (or trash), dead and discarded, victims of abortion.  I have the impression that he does understand that abortion is a problem, really does – but has no idea what the scope of the problem is.