Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Note to My Catholic Colleagues: Updated

I have worked with Catholic Charities many times over the years, and have been consistently impressed by the compassionate service provided. Thus, I was dismayed to read of the archdiocese's threat to pull social services from the District in response to changes in its marriage laws. I am pretty certain that when Jesus said, "when I was hungry you fed me," or "feed my sheep," he did not say, "unless you oppose same-sex marriage." Jesus never attached strings to his compassion or threatened to use the poor as pawns in a political game. Whether or not one agrees with your stand on same-sex marriage, to harm the least of these in order to make your point is unworthy of your great tradition. I pray that you will reconsider.
UPDATE: Kojo Nnamdi had Ed Orzechowski, President & CEO of Catholic Charities of Washington, on this afternoon to talk about this issue. The most interesting part of the interview came when an attorney called in to press Mr. Orzechowski on the inconsistencies in Catholic Charities' positions with respect to their noncompliance with DC's human rights code. It's worth a listen, and it underscores my central concern here: the archdiocese is making the poor a pawn in the struggle over marriage equality. DC and the gay rights community have turned a blind eye to Catholic Charities noncompliance with the human rights code for years, and there is no reason to believe that would not have continued under the proposed law. Moreover, federal law prohibits a locality from forcing a private entity to comply with any regulations regarding insurance coverage (of, for example, domestic partners or same-sex spouses).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Poem for Veterans Day

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt. Col. John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Executioner's Song

The man found guilty of masterminding the DC-area sniper murders in fall of 2003 was put to death by the Commonwealth this evening.
Yesterday I found myself sitting in the Barnes & Nobles next to the "sniper Depot" reading about the father of one of the victims and remembering that distant October. We lived in Ohio at the time, but even there we wondered about copycats every time we filled our gas tanks or walked across large suburban parking lots. I was bringing a busload of Presbyterian peacemakers down for one of the first major rallies in opposition to the drumbeat of war in advance of the invasion of Iraq, and I recall the deep sense of relief we felt when the sniper arrests were made during the week before we headed down.
All of those memories are incredibly vivid even now, and none of the events touched me personally.
The father believes tonight's execution will bring "closure," but closure is a myth that sells pop-psych books not a reality that brings comfort six or seven or even seventy years after a devastating loss. Grieving never ends as long as memory endures. It is part of what makes us human, and part of the human condition of living always in the valley of the shadow of death.
Each of us bears our own scars from the particular paths we walk through this lonesome valley. Another's death will never remove the scar he caused. There is only moving with and through the pain of the wound until we find some deeper path where the suffering and scars inform instead of debilitate.
The cross of Christ offers deep wisdom to those who walk the lonesome valley in the company of Jesus, but that's a sermon for another day.
And so I sat sipping my mocha and wondering what point it serves to execute anyone.