Friday, April 29, 2005

Death Penalty in Massachusetts

Mitt Romney, the Republican governor of Mass, is trying to restore the death penalty in the state where I have served for many, many years. He touts his bill as "fool-proof." While I do concede that he makes some gestures to a more secure level of guilt, his whole effort is based on a very serious misconception of human nature. People lie, enforcement officers do falsify evidence, witnesses lie or just get it wrong, judges and juries are susceptible to manipulation by lawyers on all sides. Not always, of course, but often enough (as we painfully know). Even under Romney's protocols, eventually someone innocent would be executed unjustly.
A prediction: this morning's NYT story on this points out that Romney faces big opposition in the Democratic legislature, ascribing that opposition to the Catholicism of many of the legislators. The usual church-state hysteria will not call this an imposition of someone's moral values on the body politic. They only do that on issues like abortion. Just so we know: the real test here is not at all a constitutional one. It is a policy test. OK to express Catholic views when they agree with the secularist ideologues, but it is unconstitutional when Catholic views go against secularist ideology.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Media, Maureen, Cheney and the Pope

The mammoth media coverage of the death and election of the pope now ends. I am sure that much of the media is relieved that the stress and hugeness of their task now returns to usual things like war, terrorism, poverty, if only because it is territory more familiar to them. Yet I am also imagining that if a select small group of Catholics had engaged in a conspiracy to use the media to display the church worldwise, they could not have come up with anything as huge or as effective than the past few weeks. As Benedict himself said on Saturday, the church needs to be very grateful for the media coverage. Almost all of it has been skillful and very careful to be as accurate as possible.
Now, Maureen Dowd has often made me chuckle over her very clever fantasies and connections. On Saturday morning, however, something really went deeply wrong with her. Linking the new pope with Dick Cheney showed a real deficit in her knowledge and perception. Put Cheney and the new pope (or JPII) in a private room and they would fundamentally diasgree on almost everything. Iraqi wars, the UN, 3rd world debt, world poverty are only the beginning of the enormous list of their disagreements. I have never identified Cheney with Life issues, but that might be the only overlap, except for the big one of the death penalty. The attempt to create some alliance or conspiracy here was one of Maureen's poorest and strangest efforts. And I reluctantly have to say: not even funny. Maureen - what's going on?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedict XVI

We all know the new pope, largely in a cartoon version in which he was the bad cop to John Paul's good cop. That was always a good made-for-TV script but never credible. Today I am taking inspiration from the suggestions that he chose the name of Benedict because the founder of western monasticism gives us the impetus to recover the holiness of spirit that is still there at the sources.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A Small World but all Grace

Tonight at dinner here, Fr Ed Nowak told a most incredible story that links his trip on a flight to Seattle, a man suffering a heart episode en route, a nurse coming forth to help the man, Ed offering prayers (and holding an IV), and the story being told in a Seattle hospital only to be heard by another nurse, a friend to whom Ed had already told this story. And the second nurse has kindly looked at this Blog of mine a few times and has written to me about it. In a vast world, these linkages are truly improbable, and yet at every juncture, filled with grace and human response.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Archbishop Iakovos dies

Now another monumental religious figure of this age has completed his grace filled journey and been called to the Lord. Retired Archbishop Iakovos, who led the Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas for 37 years, has died. He was a pioneer of authentic Christian Ecumenism, especially in the US and a vigorous witness for social justice, marching with Dr King in Selma. He greatly developed excellent relations between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church here in NY and in the US. All pray that he now receives the welcome of the Lord he served so faithfully, so long and so masterfully.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Now With God

Nothing can be added to the TV pictures of today's funeral. God clearly spoke his Word once again to all his people, today in front of St. Peter's, and within the heart of every good and decent human being.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Resentments Surface

In the overwheming cases of media coverage of the pope, I find it to be powerful and compelling. One can find some small errors but nothing too much. The huge outpouring is, of course, a news event of staggering proportions and the media has to cover it. In a small number of instances, there have been some nasty expressions of what I sense is a real resentment of the great appeal of the pope and his life and death, but especially the impact of his faith and prayer life. Two of these resentful outbursts appeared exactly where you might expect - my beloved New York Times. One was a very ungenerous and really pathetic editorial which was put on the last page of the special section on the pope last Sun. The other was a nasty and very inaccurate tirade by the otherwise fine writer, Thomas Cahill, on the op-ed page. Now neither item had much effect on anyone but it confirms the real resentment among many at the TIMES that their power has not brought down the Catholic Church, but they are forced by reality, in their straight news coverage, to cover extensively the enormous power of this pope's death. It is clear that much of this is propelled by a militant, ideological secularism and the lingering bitterness of self-loathing ex-Catholics who grandly thought that their defections were the vanguard of the end of the church. The pictures, on the TV screens and in the TIMES itself, would suggest otherwise.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I have little to offer now. I do want to say how moved I am by the incredible numbers who are paying their prayerful respect in Vatican City. I do not think anyone, even church officials or Italian security, anticipated anything of this magnitude. As I watch, I think of all the people everywhere who aspire to a full and blessed life and such a serene death. I see these days as a global liturgy of praise, for the pope of course, but really to God for the miraculous gift of this one human life. The whole world is now eagerly receiving the invitation that God is so generously sending to us in the life and death of his great and noble servant, John Paul II.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

This Historic Moment of Faith

The final gift of John Paul II is now everywhere on TV, radio, newspapers, and the internet. It is simply the most global, powerful catechesis ever proclaimed, probably since apostolic times. He is offering his suffering and death, in the most public and accessible manner, as a final word from his life long ministry of evangelization. The millions upon millions of people keeping vigil in every part of this vast world are surely caught up in this very different vision of life and now of dying. Even the TV screens, which so often purvey violence and human degradation, are now in the service of his compelling gospel witness. We all watch now, knowing as if by some basic instinct that this is the way to live and the way to die. No one has ever reached this level and scope of gospel proclamation. As I watch this Saturday morning, I have the conviction that everything else in the world has been muted and pushed aside as we contemplate what stuff we are marvelously made of, how we are made in the image of God and have been redeemed in Christ, and how one of us has lived this out in all its fullness, even now to the moments of his dying. Praised be Jesus Christ.