Saturday, August 15, 2015

Knowledge is Power

When it comes to understanding Pope Francis' proclamations and teachings it is also most important to know from where his teachings originate. As previously written, his notions contained in Laudato Si are a reiteration of the teachings that were given by each pope since Pope John XXIII on the responsibility Catholics have regarding respect for our common home, planet earth. The Second Vatican Council throughout its proclamations reaffirmed the responsibilities all Catholics and all peoples have towards the preservation and restoration of the place we call planet Earth.The phrase from Ecclesiastes 1:9,and all peoples share in responsible stewardship for planet Earth.  The phrase from Ecclesiastes 1:9, אֵין כָּל חָדָשׁ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ best communicates the sentiments that are indeed common to our contemporary understandings of our sacred relationship with Creation and our responsibility towards appropriate and positive stewardship. The methodology with which the Church needs to implement such an emerging eco-awareness is not an embracing of the political ideology of socialism, but rather a development of a new economics that unites all peoples with God and promoted the positive affects of successful capitalism, genetically modified so to speak with a social conscience that challenges the polarities of poverty and extreme wealth to recreate a society that balances economic, social and political resources in order to eradicate poverty, hunger suffering and war. Such a society, based on the concept of open communications, solidarity between all nations and the universal tolerance towards religious freedom is the ultimate goal the Catholic Church should be reaching towards and using its unique global presence to accomplish. Previously, I had written that Pope Francis is moving the Catholic Church towards a modified form of socialism. I do believe this is partially correct, however more correctly his actions and teachings might more correctly be instigated with the desire to more effectively implement Catholic social teachings, which are often difficult to tangibly put into practice. The inclusion of new members to the College of Cardinals that hail from developing 3rd and even 4th world countries is indeed admirable. However, such a practice might actually dilute the College of Cardinals in such a manner that it alienates members from politically and economically affluent countries that are capable of developing this new progressive Catholic social order when a sede vacante next occurs and the Sacred College while globally represented is divided more widely because of socioeconomic realities and not the theologically sound Catholic social teachings held so venerable by Pope Francis. In reality, the incumbent Holy Father needs to mediate between the extreme polarities of global poverty and successful capitalism and forge a new schema of cooperation in order to raise up the poor and disengaged, while accepting the positive aspects of economic capitalism and extracting from it the foundation for a new geo-theological and economic order that offers the world individual ethnic identities while fostering a communion of purpose rooted in the theological principles common to multiple faiths, cultures and international realities. Pope Francis is indeed raising the awareness, however the act of co-mingling geopolitics while compromising Catholic theological principles creates an awkward situation for some Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In all of his apostolic exhortations, Pope Francis needs to definitively reaffirm Catholic social and moral teachings that focus on Christ as the center and cultivate an acceptable form of geopolitics to incorporate the participation of all faiths and cultures without diluting or making objective Catholic teachings subject to individualism and personal interpretations. The Pope needs to use the knowledge of the collective traditions and teachings of the Church as the instrument of power while at the same time reaffirming to the world that there is really nothing new under the sun.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Pope Francis...moving the Church towards socialism is the wrong direction!

Pope Francis is presenting the universal Church with a dilemma from which it might never really recover, especially from a credibility standpoint. While all Catholics agree on the need to feed the hungry, provide for the poor and in general promote the general prosperity of all peoples, the message coming from Pope Francis is alienating many Catholics, especially American Catholics. The root of the Pope's inability to effectively communicate the Church's humanitarian mission is directly associated with his extraction from a country that has been a socialist failure both politically and economically. Argentina under socialist policies did not really thrive economically and still harbors some of the largest sections of poverty in the southern hemisphere. The Holy Father, a life long resident of this system of government, and in some regards an advocate for socialism in action is taking the same message of potential Catholic disaster to all of the places he visits and reflects the same sentiments in his apostolic writings as well. Laudado Si, the papal teaching on the role Catholics should play in the preservation of the environment fails to integrate the long held teachings of the Catholic Church that both economic revival and development work in communion with a respect for the environment as a reflection of God's Creation and man's responsibility to maintain, preserve and develop the same environment. Most recently, Catholics have started criticizing the precepts of Laudato Si, not especially based on its intrinsic message, but because it minimizes and indirectly criticizes the positive effects that economic capitalism has in the role of offsetting the state of economic poverty. This type of backhanded criticism strikes a chord that is not quite harmonious with the typical American Catholic, especially since the American Catholic Church is one of the most generous group of Catholics that support the Holy See. The emerging dualism within the words and actions of the incumbent Holy Father practically suggests there is a disconnect between traditional Catholic theology and how it integrates effectively in a global economy and global culture that supports and often comes at odds with the teachings of the Bishop of Rome. Pope Francis' remarks often make light of established Catholic practices that are established and rooted in moral and ethical teachings and are often diminished with papal commentary such as,"...who am I to judge!" This previous example refers to the Pope's commentary on same sex relationships after the landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court. While it is true, not one of us has the proper disposition to judge the internal character of what motivates an individual's lifestyle or actions, the Bishop of Rome should not be so cavalier in his attitudes when commenting to the press on the subjective and objective nature of the sin of homosexuality. Please understand, my filial devotion and respect for the Holy Father is paramount to my personal exercise of my faith, and I would in effect, "take a bullet to save the life of the Holy Father," there are more geopolitical and theological issues at stake besides my obedience to the person of the Pope. The Church at the current time it seems is walking a very fine line between theological and political matters. While the Church by its very nature is indeed called to be part of this dynamic interaction between global politics and spiritual matters. What Catholics do not need is more confusion regarding their role in the world as both Catholics and good global stewards either politically or socially. The Holy Father's ongoing campaign to highlight the needs of the poor and those that are impoverished is indeed calling attention to the many problems of consumerism that causes global poverty; it is also offensive to many faithful Catholics that while not poor and impoverished are suffering from other manifestations of poverty, such as poverty of the spirit, poverty of hope or most evident a growing sense of isolation between economic classes that is proving to be a point of despair for many Catholics especially those in the United States where this condition is nurtured and thriving.
In most of the articles I publish, my direction is towards understanding the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes is indeed prophetic in its understandings of the problematic state of the world in the late 20th century, and indeed is inspired in the understanding of how the Church needs to interact in the 21st century in order to take a prominent role as the, Light of Christ, leading all peoples towards the final eschatological reality of life in Christ. Pope Francis was not a Council Father at Vatican II. Since his pontificate initiated he has with much credit raised topics of concern over globalization, consumerism, ecology and the plight of global poverty to a new level of understanding for the world to firstly react, then understand and potentially solve the perils that come with the emergence of globalism and the demise of the Church's isolation in some parts of the world. However, the methodology with which the Holy Father conducts his activities towards raising apparent  awareness of these issues frankly have an underlying sense of liberation theology, tempered with the appearance of Argentine socialism in order to obscure the direction in which the Church's political and social teachings are headed. Contemporary Catholics, globally want a Pope that not only represents the long held teachings of the Catholic Church but one that embraces tradition as well. As early as Saint Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, the Church's responsibility in preserving the world as a reflection of God's Creation was apparent in papal teachings. All of the subsequent popes, (with the exception of John Paul I) have elaborated the critical importance the Church and its members play in our responsibility to preserve our common earthly home. Blessed Pope Paul VI in Populorum Progressio, article 34 outlined clearly the role Catholics have in sustaining Creation through all aspects of our lives:

Organized programs designed to increase productivity should have but one aim: to serve human nature. They should reduce inequities, eliminate discrimination, free men from the bonds of servitude, and thus give them the capacity, in the sphere of temporal realities, to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments. When we speak of development, we should mean social progress as well as economic growth.

It is not enough to increase the general fund of wealth and then distribute it more fairly. It is not enough to develop technology so that the earth may become a more suitable living place for human beings. The mistakes of those who led the way should help those now on the road to development to avoid certain dangers. The reign of technology—technocracy, as it is called—can cause as much harm to the world of tomorrow as liberalism did to the world of yesteryear. Economics and technology are meaningless if they do not benefit man, for it is he they are to serve. Man is truly human only if he is the master of his own actions and the judge of their worth, only if he is the architect of his own progress. He must act according to his God-given nature, freely accepting its potentials and its claims upon him.
Saint Pope John Paul II in his address for the World Day of Peace in 1990 challenged Catholics to embark on a new awareness of ecology:
IN OUR DAY, there is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened not only by the arms race, regional conflicts and continued injustices among peoples and nations, but also by a lack of DUE RESPECT FOR NATURE, by the plundering of natural resources and by an progressive decline in the quality of life. The sense of precariousness and insecurity that such a situation engenders is a seedbed for collective selfishness, disregard for others and dishonesty.
Faced with the widespread destruction of the environment, people everywhere are coming to understand that we cannot continue to use the goods of the earth as we have in the past. The public in general as well as political leaders are concerned abut this problem, and experts from a wide range of disciplines are studying its causes. Moreover, a new ECOLOGICAL AWARENESS is beginning to emerge which, rather than being downplayed, ought to be encouraged to develop into concrete programmes and initiatives.
Even Pope Benedict XVI considered the preservation of the planet as a critical component in the struggle against relativism. Benedict often spoke about ecology in relationship to the Church and the Sacraments, most especially the Eucharist:
"The eucharistic form of life can thus help foster a real change in the way we approach history and the world. The liturgy itself teaches us this, when, during the presentation of the gifts, the priest raises to God a prayer of blessing and petition over the bread and wine, 'fruit of the earth,' 'fruit of the vine,' and 'work of human hands.' With these words, the rite not only includes in our offering to God all human efforts and activity, but also leads us to see the world as God's creation, which brings forth everything we need for our sustenance. The world is not something indifferent, raw material to be utilized simply as we see fit. Rather, it is part of God's good plan, in which all of us are called to be sons and daughters in the one Son of God, Jesus Christ (cf.Eph 1:4-12)." — Sacramentum Caritatis (par. 92), 2007.
However, the matter of concern for the environment was not presented as something that is intended as a subject that places Catholics against other Catholics as a pseudo-subset within the Church. Pope Francis' pastoral approach towards the environment and the understanding of global poverty often places Catholic communities at an oppositional stance towards Francis' admonitions. The Holy Father is indeed on the right path towards spreading this message of global eradication of poverty and the need to embrace environmental stewardship, but the rhetoric needs to be appropriately redirected towards other critical needs of the global Catholic Church. Catholics do not want to embrace a theological ideology of sublime socialism as a prerequisite for effective membership in the Church, they want a Church that distinctively proclaims the Gospel through the hierarchy of which the Pope is the head to lead them to spiritual, emotional and temporal satisfaction without being condemned for being born into an age of excessive consumerism and effective capitalism. If Pope Francis sees both of these factors are derogatory factors that exclusively affect the pursuit of the spiritual life, he will effectively alienate and then isolate the same faithful members of the Church he had hoped to effectively reach with his pastoral message.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Next year.....we meet in Jerusalem!

I have been anxiously watching all of the events in the Middle East and how it effects the Christian community living there. As a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem the turmoil is especially distressing. Watching the cradle of Christianity fall prey to the tragic persecution of my fellow Christians indicates the need not only for financial support but a conscious show of solidarity with our endangered brothers and sisters in Christ. What I propose is a solidarity field trip to Jerusalem, for prayer, reflection and to stand firm with those that are persecuted for our Catholic faith. I have spoken to multiple groups and they too are in agreement that something needs to be done to assist those persecuted and too keep the Holy Land as a place of prayer and  pilgrimage a zone of safety for all religious denominations. My suggestion is to organize a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, set perhaps for January so we can show support and solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in this most dangerous land of many ancient faiths. If you think that this is something in which you would like to participate, please send me an email at  Already I have engaged the support of some of my college and graduate school classmates, some priests and some bishops that would make the pilgrimage, provided there is a sufficient group of pilgrims. A  percentage of the proceeds of the trip would be donated to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem to assist in their continued works in the Holy Land. If your local parish priest would like to include your parish in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem we can mount an exceptional number of people in the tour to spiritually and personally highlight this severe elimination of religious freedoms in the Holy Land. Spread the we might save the missionary activity to freely proclaim THE WORD!

Friday, August 07, 2015

Pope Francis...openness to divorced Catholics!

Divorced Catholics throughout the world have received a word of encouragement from Pope Francis this past week. The Holy Father indicated that the Church should be more receptive of accepting divorced Catholics back into parish activities on a more regular basis. For many, the Holy Father's statement appears to indicate a change on the Church's attitude towards this group of the faithful...however the Pope's statement is a reiteration of the current teachings of the Universal Church. Divorced Catholics are part of the Church's life and sacramental activities. The distinction regarding the reception of Eucharist is made when a divorced Catholic remarries without a proper Church dispensation and wants to receive communion on a regular basis. Currently, the Church maintains that divorced Catholics that remarry without the proper annulment process are not properly disposed towards the reception of Holy Communion. The Holy Father's mention of divorced Catholics returning to a more active participation within the Church's liturgical celebrations made no mention of remarried Catholics without proper dispensation receiving Communion. While the nuance might seem very small, nonetheless the Holy Father did not provide a blanket dispensation for remarried divorced Catholics to participate in the Eucharist. His statement was intended to welcome back many divorced Catholics that incorrectly believe they are not properly disposed to receive Holy Communion simply because they are divorced. Divorce in the Catholic Church, while not advocated does not automatically ban someone from the reception of the sacrament of Eucharist. It is the remarriage without annulment or proper dispensation from the Church that keeps divorced, remarried Catholics from the reception of Eucharist.
Despite the prohibition in place, Pope Francis is reaching out to a large group of Catholics that are often alienated because of their divorces around the world. Perhaps this is the first step towards a reexamination of the entire situation regarding divorced and remarried Catholics that are indeed alienated from the Church because they have not sought the process of annulment. One of the most prominent hallmarks of Pope Francis' papacy is his universal call towards forgiveness as a characteristic of the Church's ministry. This initial call to integrate divorced Catholics back into the active life of the Church's celebrations might signal the long needed reevaluation and understanding of how divorce negatively affects the Catholic call to inclusion for all peoples. While the issue is not one that is new, it is one that deserves an examination of how the Church interacts with divorced Catholics and by extension divorced and remarried Catholics as well. As the Holy Father prepares to visit the United States in September for the World Day of the celebration of the family, his pastoral message might well be a preparation for his message during the apostolic visit to the United States.
Papal focus on the status of the family deserves papal attention on issues that adversely effect the success and durability of the family as well. Divorce and remarriage are topics that appropriately suggest a need for increased dialogue and understanding of the factors that contribute to the disintegration of the Catholic family. If indeed, Pope Francis wants the celebration of the family to be embraced globally, the negative effects of separation and divorce should be studied and examined as well. Many Catholics find themselves in a state of divorce and remarriage and the Holy Father it seems is trying to reach out and embrace this isolated group of Catholics and restore them to participation to the community of faith. This approach is really a good one, enhanced by the spirit of love and paternal forgiveness that characterize the Church's ministry and most specifically the Petrine ministry of Pope Francis. As the prepares to celebrate the institution of the family in Philadelphia in September, with Pope Francis attending, it is refreshing to examine those who have had difficulties in the Sacrament of Marriage. Most refreshing is the fact that Francis' message is extending the Church's message not only to active Catholics but also to the disengaged, calling them back to an active participation within the Body of Christ to which they too rightfully belong.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Obama Plan...please NO more!

The waning days of a lame duck administration usually means that the sitting United States President doesn't begin to initiate any initiatives related to domestic or international policies that effect the future of the nation. Unfortunately, President Obama is not familiar with the practices of previous occupants of the White House and he continues to insert his desire to leave a presidential legacy with a notoriously clandestine arms agreement with Iran, a divisive public policy regarding race relations, abrogation of the penal penalties applied to convicted felons through presidential pardons and most recently a criticism against America's gun laws. As recently as this morning, the President made comment that America's gun laws lacked, "common sense," and he would use the rest of his term as president to make changes to America's gun laws.
Before President Obama considers another imposition of his personal interpretation on the legislative process of the United States, consideration of the multiple loose ends and the implications his previously mentioned executive actions have already contributed to the domestic and international turmoil Americans are currently enduring. The proposed nuclear arms agreement with Iran disregards the long term ramifications of removing restrictions against a country that is already a self-proclaimed enemy of the United States. Negotiations removing economic and military sanctions at this time have effectively eliminated the effects of decades of international isolation against a bellicose regime that opposed individual civil liberties, exhibits incompatibility towards neighboring sovereign nations, and places Israel, a longstanding and staunch ally of the United States within range of nuclear attack. Neville Chamberlain in 1938 announced, "...peace in our time," with the infamous Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler. Consequently the diplomatic practice of appeasement with Nazi Germany resulted in the Second World War. Chamberlain because of this diplomatic assurance from Adolf Hitler became a lame duck and Great Britain thankfully restored Winston Churchill to government in order to defeat National Socialism and correct the mistakes of the Chamberlain government. Hopefully, an American version of Winston Churchill will rise during the Senate hearings to depose Obama's policy with Iran and send both the President and Secretary of State Kerry into a happy retirement, Obama playing in his presidential library and Kerry dabbling with his wife's condiments empire.
The present Administration seemingly does not understand properly the distribution of powers between the distinctively unique branches of the Federal Government. Regarding the proposed treaty with Iran, it is the role of the Congress, specifically the Senate to ratify treaties with foreign powers. Just because a diplomatic mission headed by the Secretary of State was dispatched to negotiate an agreement and come to an amicable and equally favorable agreement with Iran, does not mean the terms are finally consummated. The Senate makes that conclusion, not the President. President Obama's transparent dislike of the constitutional process of treaty ratification is apparent with his threat to override congressional opinion with a presidential veto illustrates the entire attitude of the Obama administration for almost eight years. Disregard of the process' of American government is the hallmark of the incumbent administration. Thankfully the American Constitution's limit on presidential terms of office is not negotiable. Most Americans, will be happy to bid , "Aloha," to the allegedly native born Hawaii's son.
American's have been subjected to a declination of positive inter-racial relations perhaps most severe since the Civil Right Act of 1964. Multiple times, the ignominious seeds of racial disharmony have been present at the forefront of civil unrest, apathy towards the proper enforcement of the rule of law and outright civil disobedience and willful examples of destruction have occurred during the Obama presidency. Events in Baltimore, Maryland, over the animosity between law enforcement and African-Americans ignited civil disobedience, inappropriate activities by law enforcement officers and the general public, destruction of properties a pseudo-imposition of martial law and heightened levels of racial tensions have characterized events during the President's watch. Most disturbing is the developing attitude that race relations between Caucasians and African Americans is at the most incendiary stage since the nascent days of the Jim Crow laws and the subsequent Civil Rights movement of the 1960's. The cultivation of a quasi-official presence at these infamous events by perpetually angry activists such as Rev. Al Sharpton creates an atmosphere of racial suspicion and perpetuates disharmony based not just on race identity, but the underlying sensation of raw anger and animosity that really has nothing to do with racial equality, but a subjugation of the rights of all races to equality regardless of race, creed or social status as first declared in the American Declaration of Independence and ultimately ratified with the eradication of slavery through the bloodshed of the Civil War and the legislative ratification of the thirteenth amendment to the United States Constitution. Further racial unrest has been fostered with the suppression of the Confederate Battle Flag in South Carolina. The real issue regarding the display of the Confederate Battle Flag has less to do with racial overtones associated with the traitor States of the Old South and more to do with an emerging trend of revisionist history. If symbols of the Confederate States of American are hidden from public view and display, perhaps it will change contemporary and future interpretations of the real reasons and effects of the Civil War. Yes, slavery was a major component of the war, however the preservation of the American Republic was indeed the penultimate reason Lincoln deployed troops in order to restore the union from an illegitimate and illegal Confederate government. The maligned Confederate Battle Flag no longer flies at the capitol in South Carolina. However, all Americans need to remember that the right to fly the banner is protected by the First Amendment and currently there is no prohibition legally against flying the Confederate flag ( or for that matter the flag of Nazi Germany,) in the United States. Both are protected by the Constitutional guarantee applied to freedom of expression. Of course, flying the latter flag is not encouraged or endorsed the action is protected by our American rule of Constitutional law.
Throughout the history of the American Presidency the commutation of penal sentences has taken place, even when the actions were unfavorable. President Gerald Ford issued a blanket presidential pardon to his predecessor President Richard Nixon. Article II, section 2 of the Constitution vests this power to the President of the United States.President George Washington pardoned John Mitchell for treason during the Whiskey Rebellion. President Jimmy Carter pardoned Vietnam War draft deserters. President Gerald Ford, pardoned and restored American citizenship to General Robert E. Lee (despite being deceased over 100 years,) pardoned the infamous Tokyo Rose who broadcast against the Allies during the Second World War. Bill Clinton pardoned Patty Hearst after she committed bank robberies in alliance with her kidnappers (Symbionese Liberation Army.) What sets President Obama apart from these other presidential pardons is this: the pardons were granted to imprisoned felons. It seems the questionable nature of these pardons involves not only a legitimate sentence imposed by a court, but also a question arises regarding the nature of the offenses President Obama has commuted the sentences of 46 non violent drug offenders. Why? What has happened to the national war on illegal drugs...famously initiated with the phrase,"...just say NO!" Is the commutation of convicted felons, violent or not in the best interests of the American people considering the invasive nature of drug addiction on families, neighborhoods and society in general?
President Obama recently criticized the lack of, "common sense," as it pertains to our gun laws. In the wake of many tragic events where individuals have committed mass murder with handguns the statement should be made for gun laws that respect the Second Amendment while screening those with addiction problems, criminal histories and violent behavior should be based on common sense, tempered with legislative prudence and not the suppression of our Constitutional right, "to keep and bear arms." If President Obama wants to tinker with our American gun laws, he should ensure the rights of more Americans to carry weapons for personal protection, rather than restrict the right to concealed and open carry. In the age of increasing domestic violence, combined with threats of foreign acts of terrorism on American soil, President Obama should work to provide a nationwide concealed carry capability that respects both the stipulations of the Constitution and the rights of individual States, reaching a national policy acceptable and in accordance to States' rights to provide nationwide personal defense for an increasingly violent America. Statistically, nothing deters violent crime more than someone who is defensively armed and trained for self preservation. Any other sort of presidential involvement in refining America's existing legislative texts on gun laws should remain away from the Chief Executive. If he wants to accomplish anything that positively effects the safety of the American people, President Obama should do nothing else. Throughout this Administration, the potential for increased warfare in the Middle East has exponentially increased. Our allies' safety has decreased. Racial harmony is in discord. Non-violent felons are free, potentially returning to the drug trafficking occupation. Violent crimes with firearms are at an astronomical height, while the President threatens to fix the problem by imposing restrictions on law abiding American citizens and jeopardizing the Constitutional right to bear arms, while antagonizing the States' rights to legislate the same matter.
Mr. President, please just say NO to more ideas in the Obama plan. Work on where the furniture will go in your presidential library! Americans offer a premature, "Aloha!"

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Laudato si...a time to reconsider our view of planet stewardship!

When Pope Francis issued his latest encyclical, Laudato si, he finally addressed concerns for the global community of faith and the relationship it has with the environment. Most importantly, it provides a touchstone for contemporary Catholics to develop a new environmental awareness as the Church reflects on the fragile nature of Earth's ecosphere and how we need to protect our world from the effects of environmental inconsideration brought about through the Industrial Revolution.
Perhaps Catholics should begin the consideration with the small acts everyone is capable of doing in order to keep damage to the environment under control. Most Catholics already participate in recycling programs at home and do so in a manner that is quite honestly, second nature as part of trash removal in most communities. Lawn clippings, paper and cardboard already see different collection methods in our residential communities. Now it is time to extend the same sense of good stewardship to our faith communities, the parish churches and schools and anyplace we can negatively effect the global environment. In my own neighborhood, there is a local Presbyterian church that has converted to solar power to provide electricity to the church. Their entire church roof is covered by solar panels that provide power for the community's physical plant and the surplus energy generated during the week is sold back to the local utility company.  It has been quite a positive program for the Presbyterian church and also gives a revenue stream to their parish from the residual energy that the utility company buys back from them. As we as Catholics start planning to renovate, expand or even build new parish complexes, solar power should be considered in the architectural designs for new Catholic churches and schools. Not only would the solar panels provide electrical service in abundance, but would also contribute to the fiscal upkeep of the local parish. In accordance to the principles outlined by Pope Francis' pastoral teachings...we can all learn from our Presbyterian brothers and sisters in Christ and adapt our parish facilities to be more Eco-friendly.

Small things impact the environment in a large manner in our parishes. One example parishes should reconsider are the incredible amounts of money spent on disposable missals that are either replaced on a monthly or quarterly basis. Large quantities of paper are needed to produce these temporary missals and in quite a few cases they are disposed of without any consideration of recycling in the parish. Maybe it is time to eliminate them from our pews and have the congregation actually listen to the Word of God proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word and stop flipping pages in the pews. It would have a dual fold set of consequences, an unnecessary cost would be eliminated from parish resources and the second effect would be a more reflective liturgy freed from the rustling of paper missals. From the perspective of effective liturgical principles, the Word of God should be attentively heard as a proclamation, not a reading exercise. Maybe the teachings of Dei Verbum, the dogmatic teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the Word of God would be more effectively understood without the aid of disposable paper missals if Catholics listened to the Word and spiritually digested it in cardia, in the heart the homilies preached throughout the world would be better understood and applied to our daily lives.
Another small, but perhaps necessary step towards parish environmental stewardship would be the elimination of paper parish bulletins that usually end up on the floor of the church, are read during the Liturgy of the the Word or end up in the trash are finally eliminated. The Roman Rite liturgy provides a place after communion and before the final blessing and dismissal of the people a place for short announcements. Pastors should utilize this time, before the final send off to make BRIEF  announcements and alert parishioners to read the bulletin boards in the church, or even better to check out announcements on the parish website. Modern Catholic parishes need to embrace the communications technology available to enable better stewardship and reduce disposable resources and utilize electronic media to advise members of the parish on important events and in some cases emergency changes of schedules etc. Colleges and other organizations use text messaging to alert students and members of important events and changes. Parish communities should use the existing and developing technologies to enhance not only effective pastoral communications, but provide a liturgical space that eliminates temporal distractions from our liturgical celebrations. If Pope Francis can use Twitter...why can't the local pastor or parish educational coordinator use the same method of communications in order to effectively send a message to a local parish. Environmental good stewardship means," thinking outside of the box!" for effective communications and reduction of disposable tangibles  in our parish communities. If there is an objection against eliminating the parish bulletin because those that cannot attend the liturgy need to be kept informed of what is going on in the parish, this is a great time to use the moment to further enhance the parish visitation program and have those that bring Eucharist to the sick and the elderly not only bring the Sacrament, but also take the time to effectively communicate the faith communities events at the same time. The art of conversation is new again and never has there been a better time to revive the art of having a personal conversation with a fellow parishioner. Under the heading of an environmental mandate of Pope Francis, have a chat with your neighbor and eliminate the need for paper bulletins.
While it seems that the Catholic parish is a good steward of the environment, the parish needs to be retro in the manner in which the parish boundaries are structured. My parish when growing up was accessible by walking. Today's parishes are unfortunately part of suburban sprawl and are frequently inaccessible without driving to the parish church. While the parish is only a few miles away from home, most suburban parishioners cannot easily walk to church. Why not carpool to church. Take notice of the arriving cars next time you go to church. Most have only one or two occupants. Wouldn't it be nice if we could reduce the parish carbon footprint by proclaiming that Catholics carpool! From a theological perspective it would also go a long way to giving new meaning to, love your neighbor and give them a lift to church!
Laudato si, commits the 21st century Catholic Church to seriously consider global environmental problems and the depletion of natural resources we all need to live our daily lives. Clean air, potable supplies of water, food sources that are nutritional and equally available to all peoples are the cornerstones of human survival in any age, place or time. Pope Francis is effectively challenging Catholics globally to see the environment as a sacred place, given to us by God through creation as our home entrusted to us through the Father's generous act of the creation of the world. We are the recipients of a generous gift from our heavenly Father. Most importantly the gift gives us a unique responsibility to preserve and maintain our earthly home as a sacred gift and keep it as good stewards for those that will follow us after we have returned to our heavenly existence with God.
We need to preserve our world, clean it up where needed and share the natural resources available equally in a real understanding and appreciation of what it means to engage in Christian fellowship, not only through the celebration of the Eucharist but in our daily consumption of earth's resources intended for all peoples equally and not exclusively intended for the use of one group of the world's society. The small steps we are able to take as parish communities will show the world that Catholics are committed to environmental conservation, equal sharing of global resources and are indeed aware of the sacred gift God has given us in the creation of our blue planet as our temporal and temporary home until we are united in faith  with Him at the end of time.

Friday, February 06, 2015

" help me God!"

Yesterday the President of the United States during his address at the annual prayer breakfast in Washington managed to discredit generations of Christians for participation in the Crusades and compared the recent immolation of a Jordanian pilot with the actions of Crusaders over one thousand years ago. As is true with war at any time in human history, brutality and immoral actions are committed against each side in the name of God & country. However, presidential accusations against the Catholic war against radical Islam within the context of the Crusades provides a glimpse of the President's anti-Christian sentiments which permeate his global world view and diminishes his capacity to admit the world is at war against radical Islamic terrorism.
The presidential oath of office ends by tradition since George Washington with the phrase, " help me God!" There should be no misunderstanding in this simple phrase that the Deity George Washington and all of his successors was the Judeo-Christian God. The Founding Fathers, believed in a Deity in various capacities, however their God, was not rooted in the traditions of Islam, the teachings of Mohamed or the worship of the Islamic God we call in our modern society Allah! If the President of the United States is unable to recognize the most rudimentary principles of our American Republic, based on Christian principles and beliefs, then President Obama needs to internally examine his internal theological precepts which seemingly are at odds with his own presidential oath of office, taken twice over the last six plus years.
Why is it so hard for the Commander-in-Chief to compound the two words, radical Islam and use them in the proper perspective in regards to the spread of ISIS throughout the Middle East, and quite likely in our own back yards? The world is engaged in an ideological, theological and sociological crisis against yes...radical Islam. The intensity of the struggle is just as critical as the alarm sounded by the Catholic Church as the same extremism of Islamic terror spread throughout the same Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula during the Crusades. Collectively, we are in a geopolitical confrontation against the evils of theocratic extremism in the Islamic world that seeks to dominate not only faithful followers of Islam, but global subjugation of all of those that oppose this radical Islamic manner of spreading fear and terror throughout the entire world. Yes, the Crusades were at times extreme in the suppression of Islam, however atrocities were committed by the Moors during the same religious war they waged against Christianity.
The President of the United States needs to stand firm and embrace the principles the Founding Fathers intended our country to follow. Such an endorsement of Constitutional principles are part of his job as President of the United States and not the role of a reflective historian at the annual prayer breakfast which included all denominations of faithful people that abhor religious extremism and violence against all humanity. The mantle of Commander-in-Chief is indeed a heavy one. However that mantle does not provide presidential immunity to Mr.Obama from making serious mistakes in our foreign policy against such an imminent threat presented by ISIS. Americans do not want a president that incorrectly redacts world history and indites all of Christianity as similar terrorists during the Crusades. We need a president that unilaterally supports our global allies against this spreading radical Islamic threat that threatens the entire world with violence, suffering and human indignation. The Crusades were military struggles in the Holy Land focused on radical Islamic terrorism over a thousand years ago, we are engaged frankly in a modern extension of the ancient Crusades with our fight against radical Islamic actions and ideology. If the President of the United States does not understand the stakes for the world community, he also lacks an understanding and appreciation of the notion of history repeating itself through his personal theological indifference and refusal to admit the radical Islamic threat not only to the Middle East, but to the very fundamental precepts on which we base our American republic. Remember, the presidential oath clearly states, " preserve, protect and  defend the Constitution of the United States." So help me God !

Hugh J.McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist writing on Catholic topics and issues. He attended Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied both philosophy and theology.  Hugh holds a Master’s Degree in Catholic Theology from Villanova University, with a concentration in Catholic ecclesiology.At the present time Hugh is working towards his Doctorate in Sacred Theology and secondary education. Hugh is a member of The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher  of Jerusalem, with the rank of Knight (Sir). This Equestrian Order is one of the oldest orders in the Catholic Church. It is a papal honor that dates back to circa 1100.  He writes frequently at & . Hugh writes about his Irish Catholic upbringing and educational experiences at . He has contributed works to Catholic News Agency, Catholic Online, The Irish Catholic, Dublin, the British Broadcasting Company, London and the Philadelphia Bulletin,, Blogger News Network & The Catholic Business Journal. Hugh welcomes comments at