Executive Orders

08-26-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Someone should order an Executive Order that orders that executive orders be rare and only for exceptional circumstances. Otherwise we get this:

President Obama issued an executive order that orders the Federal bureaucracy not to deport young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children if they fulfill certain requirements and allow them to apply for work permits. The President said he was doing this since Congress failed to act on Immigration Reform. Some cheered and some jeered.

AZ Governor Brewer issued an executive order as well, which orders AZ State bureaucracy not to give state level benefits such as Driver’s license or in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who fall under the President’s executive order. The Governor said she was doing this to comply with AZ voters who did pass a Proposition that limited certain state level benefits to state residents with regular federal immigration status. Some cheered and some jeered.


Circumcising religious liberty from the culture

08-19-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Circumcising religious liberty from the culture…

A court in Cologne, Germany recently ruled the religious practice of circumcision on boys amounts to 'grievous bodily harm" and that the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents". (It never phased the court that a fetus is denied the right to bodily integrity.) German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised to overturn the court's decision but was met with opposition from medical and child welfare groups who view circumcision as religiously motivated child abuse. Both Muslims and Jews practice circumcision though it is primarily seen as a practice fundamental to Judaism, which would make you think a German Court would be a little more sensitive to the anti-Semitic overtones of the case.

Yet the decision by the high court in Cologne was believe it or not, not motivated by anti-Semitism (the case involve a Muslim boy) but by an insistence on pitting human rights against each other of human rights as well as a worldview that is hostile to religious practice. Once again we see every problem framed in the language of human rights. Here the religious rights of the child are pitted against the right to maintain bodily integrity as well as the rights of the child verses the rights of the parents.


The first of the Health & Human Services Mandates...

08-12-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

The first of the Health & Human Services Mandates stemming from the Affordable Care Act has gone into effect as of August 1. This first mandate requires health insurance plans to provide all FDA approved forms of contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, HIV testing, Domestic Violence screening and some other services to women/girls at no cost. (If you put your 12yr old daughter on the pill you probably have other issues.) So your insurer should be retooling your health insurance to accommodate this first of many mandates. I suggest that if you do access any of these services, figure out what your cost would have been and place that money in the Sunday collection as a sort of divine irony.

Religious employers have been given until August 2013 to comply with this mandate or as Cardinal Dolan said, “a year to figure out how to violate our consciences”. In the meantime various Catholic and non-Catholic religious employers have filed dozens of lawsuits. Since Chief Justice Peter Pan ruled that the individual mandate is actually a tax and not a penalty some of these lawsuits have been put on hold till August ′13 since you can’t sue until a tax is actually imposed and you have to pay it. Other suits are progressing along constitutional grounds.


Reflection on the tragedy in Aurora, CO

08-05-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

When I heard the reports of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado my first thought was “I wonder what chemicals the shooter was ingesting?” Street drugs or prescription? (Not that the brain can tell the difference). Simply put, average people even seriously mentally ill people do not carefully and intricately plan and execute mass murder. Some other precipitating factor needs be present: usually either mind-altering chemicals or psychological techniques aimed at mind and behavioral control. Terrorists, assassins, mass murders don’t just simply happen they are created one way or another.

In this case a young, bright, comfortably middle class young man with a promising future and no reports of troublesome behavior or talk, doesn’t just wake up one day and decide to commit mass murder. Were there any warning signs? As the facts come out slowly, he was in fact under psychiatric care. (The treating physician had previously been censored for prescribing to herself, her husband and her employees and mainly saw patients for “medication management” in other words a licensed drug dealer.) Which means the shooter was probably put on powerful, dangerous mind altering pharmaceuticals and left unsupervised. If you read the warning label on these “medications” especially anti-depressants it clearly states: “May cause suicidal or homicidal ideation”. There’s the warning sign.


Opposing same-sex marriage is not anti-gay.

07-29-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Recently the daughter of former Vice-president Cheney was “wed” to her girlfriend in Washington, DC, where same-sex marriage licenses are issued. The Vice President and his wife were quoted in the media as “expressing great joy on the occasion”.

This really epitomizes the dilemma that so many of you face when confronted with the issue of same-sex marriage: these are often your children, grandchildren, siblings and closest loved ones that are entering into same-sex unions. The dilemma then is how to express love for your loved ones without approving wrong behavior? First it must be said that rejecting same-sex marriage is not the same as rejecting same-sex behavior as part of our culture. In other words opposing same-sex marriage is not rejecting your children and loved ones who are same-sex attracted. Though it is often presented as “if you don’t accept same-sex marriage you don’t love me” in order to guilt you into submission. After all what parents want to be at odds with their child?

Supporting a codification of a catastrophic redefinition of marriage as the law of the land is not the same as loving your gay children and friends. One does not require the other.

There are some permanent truths that the supporters of same-sex marriage do not want us to consider. First contrary to assertions, traditional marriage is not just a Christian or religious thing but something all societies have recognized as a union between opposite sexes. The reason for this is that the primary purpose of marriage is procreation and the nurturing of future members of society. Even in cases where polygamy was permitted, it was permitted for the increased propagation of offspring. And in societies that openly practiced same-sex behavior it was never considered as an alternative to marriage.


Natural Family Planning Awareness Week

07-22-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

The HHS Contraception mandate has brought into sharp focus the fertility fault lines in our culture. On the one side is the Church that insists that fertility is a gift to the human family and respecting its natural cycles is morally virtuous. On the other side is a culture that sees fertility mostly as an inconvenience that must be controlled and manipulated over and against its natural purposes for the sake of lifestyle choices. What fuels this view of fertility is an adolescent demand for equality and a consumerist attitude. The Church insists that men and women are equal but different while much of our society argues that men and women are equal and the same-- and where differences arise an advanced society will find ways to erase all differences and do so if necessary by force. Communism 101.

Our society has pushed hard for the equality of women with men with the understanding that equality means sameness. We have pretty much through public policy set up a structure where this can be possible. Except for the fact that women are the bearers of children and we have never found a way to make men bear children. So instead we have found all sorts of ways for women to not be bearers of children. Women can temporarily shut down their fertility (contraception) or permanently disable it (sterilization) and when neither happens then abortion. But this equality is still not equal enough.

What makes this still unfair is that women most often sustain the cost of shutting down their fertility and men do not. Hence the insistence on “free” contraception, sterilization and publicly funded abortions. But again even with women bearing no cost the playing field is still not yet level.


Happy Feast Day!

07-15-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Mount Carmel in the Holy Land has been a place of spiritual significance since biblical times. It is where the prophet Elijah took on the prophets of Baal and dared them to prove that their god was superior to YHWH. They failed, he won and slit all their throats (messy business being a prophet) thus claiming Mount Carmel as a place where the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob would be worshipped. This is also the place from where Elijah spotted the tiny storm cloud in the distant horizon that signaled the end of a devastating drought in Israel. For Christians that cloud symbolizes Mary, who would eventually come to Israel and bring forth the Savior who would end Israel’s spiritual drought. Hence she is called Star of the Sea.

Today the Carmelites still have a monastery on Mount Carmel dedicated to the Mother of God who when she gave St. Simon Stock the brown scapular promised that her faithful children would be protected come the final judgment. The brown scapular is an outward sign for those who have been marked by the seal of the living God. It is a mantle of grace and love. Mount Carmel itself has always been a place of beauty and fertility in the midst of the barren wilderness of the Holy Land. Hence the description of Mary as the beautiful and most fruitful flower of Mount Carmel.

On the lower eastern extension of Mount Carmel is a series of hills sometimes referred to as Har-Megeddon that is probably the source of the name Armageddon, the valley where the battle of the last days will begin (Rev 16:16). This is a strategic area as it is a boundary between the Kingdoms of the North and of the South. It would make sense that if Israel were to be invaded this spot would be the location of a great conflict. The scriptures also say that when Mount Carmel withers God’s devastating judgment will come upon the earth (Nahum 1:4).


Fulton Sheen's thoughts on our contemporary ways

07-08-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

What are the odds today that a Catholic Bishop would win an Emmy Award? Slim to midland as they say. But in 1952 Archbishop Fulton Sheen won an Emmy for his show "Life is Worth Living." He can rightly claim title to being the first televangelist. Unknowingly he spawned an entire industry of sometimes-great TV shepherds of the flock and sometimes-iniquitous wolves in sheep clothing. His legacy is far more than groundbreaking celluloid reels and now the Vatican has officially noticed his real legacy.

Pope Benedict recently declared, (what we already suspected) that Fulton Sheen lived a life of heroic virtue and has taken the first step on the road to canonization and now to be called "venerable." His TV and radio legacy may be a past remembrance but his spiritual legacy is on going. And boy do we need that sharp mind, clever wit and tantalizing logic to speak to our country once again. One of the biggest deficits that we Catholics have today is an inability to make our case, particularly our understanding of the human person and all that implies, to our culture. We can ask Archbishop Sheen to beg God to send us another "voice crying out in the wilderness".


Freedom of worship or Freedom of religion?

07-01-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Over this past year I've noticed that Secretary of State Clinton often refers to freedom of "worship" and not freedom of religion. I wondered why the shift especially coming from the US State Department, which historically has pushed for freedom of religion throughout the world for generations. Well it appears, at least according to the State Department that the reason for the shift is that talk of religious freedom sort of spooks out many Muslim nations. That is because religious liberty is not seen by them as a right and often is seen as a threat to Islam. (Christianity also was wary of religious freedom prior to the 18th century and the Church eventually settled on the position that Christianity and Religious Liberty are not incompatible. This is something Islam has yet to work out.) Hence the State Dept. believes it can push many of these countries to allow at least freedom of worship, that is; non-Muslims living in Muslim nations be permitted to non-Islamic worship so long as it is contained in the four walls of a church, synagogue or ashram. The official line then from the Secretary of State is that the Administration is demonstrating "sensitivity" to Islamic nations.

While this may work as a short term diplomatic strategy to work up to an insistence on religious freedom as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and inscribed in the U.S. Bill of Rights, it should not be the policy stance of the US. Unfortunately the Secretary of State has also used the term "freedom of worship" in reference to the US and seems to be adopting this limited notion of religious freedom as the Administration's official interpretation of the First Amendment in order to justify policies that run afoul of our long held and broad understanding of religious freedom. I must say it was a very subtle and clever shift, which I guess the State Department figured would go unnoticed or that people would equate the two as synonymous. But it has been noticed and they are not synonymous.

It is a bit of historical irony that the Church who initially held that a restrictive version of religious freedom was preferable to the more liberal vision held by our nations founders, now finds itself defending a robust right to religious freedom against national leaders who have a narrower view of religious liberty! In our own case we can thank Fr. John Courtney Murray, a US priest who provided a solid theological basis for religious freedom that put aside once for all any Catholic concerns with an unfettered right to religious freedom. His classic work: "We hold these Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition" is still worth a read. In it he successfully argues that the idea of a limited government and the separation of Church and state allows citizens the opportunity to have moral control over their own religious beliefs instead of being told what to believe by a paternalistic state. For us that is a no-brainer but there was a time when these ideas were new and threatening.


This past June 14 we turned 80!

06-24-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

This past June 14 we turned 80! And like me, we look good for our age! Over those past 80 years (and the 50 before when Mt. Carmel was a mission parish) many have served and have served well to build up this portion of the Body of Christ here in Tempe. So it is that time a year once again when we say Farewell and Thank You to some of our staff who are moving on and Hello and Welcome to new staff who will now join us.

Over at our Parish School a very fond farewell with lots of gratitude to Mrs. Sharon Kwasnica who was hired by Msgr. McCready while Jimmy Carter was President. After 32 years of teaching our children she moves on to a well-deserved retirement. And over my 12 years at Mt. Carmel I always noticed that she was one of the first teachers to arrive in the morning and the last to leave. We cannot say thank you enough. Also we bid adieu to Mr. David Portillo, who came to us as a second career and was a favorite among the students. Mrs. Julie Smith who this past year was our Fine Arts teacher is movin’ on up to Seton Catholic High School where I am sure she will continue to be a model witness to Christ.


Whenever we disregard the natural law we always pay a price

06-17-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Just about two years ago we watched in horror as the Gulf of Mexico was flooded with oil from a drilling station off the Gulf coast. Lots of damage and pollution followed and many called for a complete ban on drilling for oil in the seas. In this case the responsible party was BP Oil and they have paid for the clean up to the tune of billions of dollars. And that is how it usually goes with polluters, they pay for the cost of the clean up. How often do you see signs that if you litter a fine can be imposed which covers the cost of clean up.

As I pointed out before our waterways are being polluted by a flood of hormones from chemical contraception that are voided by women who use them and which our sewage filtration systems are unable to sufficiently purge. You can read more about it at the US Fish & Wildlife Service section on Environmental Contaminants Program: Endocrine Disruptors. (www.fws.gov/contaminants/Issues/EndocrineDisruptors.cfm)


New York City is the Abortion capital of the US

06-10-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

New York City having many distinctions distinctively claims the title of Abortion capital of the US. The latest stats available (2010) show that over 40% of pregnancies are terminated by abortion in the Big Apple including a 48% rate in the Bronx and a 60% rate among African-Americans. Anytime someone suggests that this is an unacceptably high rate and maybe alternatives to abortion should be promoted more, Mayor Bloomberg is quick to declare: hands off women’s bodies, “our bodies, our choice”.

Ironically this is a city where condom/contraception use is heavily promoted and subsidized. The facts show that with increased promotion and access to condoms and contraception rates of abortion do not decrease but rather increase. This is most likely because condoms/contraception increases risky behaviors. So much for the contraception reduces abortions argument.


The butler did it in the Conservatory with the candelabra

06-03-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

It was the butler. Really. Who would have thought! The whole episode sounds like a game of Clue: the butler did it in the Conservatory with the candelabra. And I would have guessed Col. Mustard in the Drawing Room with the wrench.

So a member of the Pope’s domestic staff helped leak to the press some purloined confidential documents that he took from the Papal apartments. Apparently too he used sophisticated photo copying cameras often used by spies. All for what? My guess is that the man in question wanted to shore up his future by ingratiating himself with some rising star inside the Vatican so that he would be in a good spot come the next Papacy. But who knows. This rare glimpse into the bloodletting sport of ecclesiastical politics of Vatican City shows how corrupting power can become.