Friday, November 16, 2012

WEORC on LinkedIn

As many of you know, LinkedIn is a popular networking website for people in professional occupations. There is a good chance you may already belong, given there are 175 million registered users.

Here at WEORC we are trying something new – the creation of a private WEORC networking group within LinkedIn. It would be for networking between resigned clergy and religious, and a resource for those currently leaving active ministry or those finding themselves again in a job search.

When WEORC first started in the 1970's and 80's, Jim Wilbur  and Marty Hegarty created and published some directories of thousands of former priests and religious with listing s of names, addresses, phone numbers, and secular careers. These were early resources for what is now commonly called “networking”. WEORC members could contact each other for encouragement, job leads, and industry and geographic information.

Of course, one of the drawbacks of the directory books was all the work and expense involved in collecting information and getting it published. Then the information started getting outdated almost immediately. It is hoped that by using the free resources of LinkedIn and a private networking group, many of the previous shortcomings will be eliminated. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Why Fortnight for Freedom fizzled among average Catholics

By Fr. Peter Daly, Nov. 5, 2012 Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly is a priest at the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and has been pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Prince Frederick, Md., since 1994.
Our Catholic bishops started out leading a political parade in the spring. But when they looked behind them in the fall, they discovered that almost nobody was following. What happened?

A few groups got in line. The Knights of Columbus were very active. EWTN had several programs devoted to Fortnight. There were some rallies around the country. A lot of money was spent on pamphlets and videos. There was an opening Mass in Baltimore and a closing Mass in Washington, D.C. But there was hardly any talk about it in the pews. The average Catholic hardly even noticed a Fortnight for Freedom was happening.

Why didn't this movement catch fire? Four reasons, I think.

First, perhaps some of our language was hyperbolic. When language is perceived as exaggerated, it is not taken seriously.

Bishops and Catholic publications used words like "alarming," "unprecedented" and "unconscionable" about the HHS mandate. But most people did not see it as an existential threat to our religious liberty. They saw it as a disagreement over government policy.

Everybody exaggerated, not just the church.

Conservatives like newly minted Catholic Newt Gingrich accused the Obama administration of "waging war on religion." Liberals, like the talking heads on MSNBC, accused the Republican Party of waging "war on women." Neither side really believed its own rhetoric.

Second, the statement that this was unprecedented was not historically accurate.

Bishops said that never before had people been required to violate their religious conscience to comply with the law. But every day, we tax Quakers and other religious pacifists to support wars. Jehovah's Witnesses pay Medicare taxes for blood transfusions. Seventh-day Adventists in the military must report to duty on Saturdays. Mormons had to give up their cherished practice of polygamy as the price for bringing Utah into the Union. The fact is that religious liberty has never been absolute.

Third, the Catholic church is not a convincing defender of religious liberty because of our own history.

The church only very recently came to accept religious liberty. For most of its history, the Catholic church vigorously opposed freedom of religion. Pope Pius IX and his Syllabus of Errors, issued in 1859, condemned freedom of religion and said "error has no rights." That is why Protestants were so fearful at the prospect of the election of a Catholic in 1960. It was not until five years later, in 1965, that the church accepted religious liberty at the Second Vatican Council in its declaration Dignitatis Humanae. The church did an about-face and accepted what it had heretofore condemned.
In recent years, Catholics have not been consistent defenders of the religious liberty. For example, when Muslims sought to build a recreation center with a mosque near ground zero in New York, we did not defend their right to do so. Cardinal Timothy Dolan suggested they move elsewhere.
Fourth, the Fortnight for Freedom was perceived as a partisan effort to influence the election.
The bishops, of course, did not intend to be partisan and vociferously denied that they were partisan, but both sides of the political equation perceived "Fortnight" as an effort to defeat President Barack Obama. I went to one Knights of Columbus meeting that ended with a blunt appeal to "get behind our bishops" and defeat the president.
Although the many bishops were unified on "Fortnight," the faithful were not. Catholics simply don't agree on what policies we should follow. Witness the two vice presidential candidates, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.
In my parish, we held a discussion on five religious liberty issues: gay marriage; the HHS mandate and the definition of religious organizations; immigration; prayer in public forums; and abortion. We had about 100 people participate. We could not agree on a single public policy for any of the five issues. If Catholics talking among themselves cannot agree, how can we lead a political movement?
The main issue was the HHS regulation's requirement that all insurance policies provided by private employers should cover contraception. The big problem was, and still is, that the religious exemption was too narrowly drawn. I spoke about the HHS mandate and unequivocally called upon the Obama administration to reverse its position. I got a fair amount of criticism from both sides. Some thought I did not hit hard enough; others thought I hit it too hard. Most said nothing. Obviously, we do not agree.
Some people feel the problem is that many of our institutions are not really Catholic. Their religious identity is weak or gone.

Many of our hospitals are now owned by large secular systems or even hedge funds. Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., for instance, is owned by a large secular chain, MedStar.
Catholic Charities in most dioceses are principally funded by government contracts and grants, not by the church. It is Caesar's coin that pays the bills.
Our universities and colleges rely on government grants and student loans, not the church. Most of our institutions of higher learning are only vestigially Catholic, as George Weigel once put it.
What are the lessons learned from "Fortnight"? As a pastor, I can see three.
First, let the laity lead. It is the laypeople who have competence in the secular world. That is the church's own teaching at Vatican II in Lumen Gentium, No. 33. Laypeople are the ones called to be salt of the earth and light for the world.

Second, tone down the rhetoric a bit. Our policy disputes are not an existential threat to religion. Our statements have to be accurate and narrowly drawn.

Third, educate the church first before you blow the bugle to line up the troops.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cardinal George and a nation state 'gone bad'

 |  NCR Today

Just about everyone knows that Chicago's Cardinal Francis George is battling cancer and nearing retirement. It's understandable that he would be saddened about these developments, but the nearly universal tone of negativity that he projects is troublesome. The cardinal is obsessed with the idea that the government is poised to trample on religious rights and turn this country over to godless secularism. In a recent column [1] in the Chicago New World, George stated his case.

"Communism imposed a total way of life based upon the belief that God does not exist. Secularism is communism's better-scrubbed bedfellow," he wrote. "The present political campaign has brought to the surface of our public life the anti-religious sentiment, much of it explicitly anti-Catholic, that has been growing in this country for several decades. The secularizing of our culture is a much larger issue than political causes or the outcome of the current electoral campaign."

George reiterated a prophecy he shared with a group of priests several years ago: "I was correctly quoted as saying that I expected to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square." And, he added, concerning the martyred bishop, "his successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization as the church has done so often in human history."

George wrote that "the unofficial anthem of secularism today is John Lennon's 'Imagine,' in which we are encouraged to imagine a world without religion. We don't have to imagine such a world: the 20th century has given us horrific examples of such worlds. Instead of a world living in peace because it is without religion, why not imagine a world without nation states?"

It is nation states "gone bad," he said, that don't need religion as an excuse for going to war. Every major war in the last 300 years has been fought by nation states, not by the church ... The state apparatus for investigating civilians now is more extensive than anything dreamed up by the Spanish Inquisition, although both were created to serve the same purpose: to preserve a government's public ideology and control of society."

I find it difficult to think the so-called Obama mandate requiring the church to provide its insured employees with access to contraceptives could alone explain this declamation and others George has uttered on the subject in the last year or two. It's unfortunate that in this year when the church should be rejoicing in the achievements of Vatican II, we get consistent messages of gloom and doom about our ailing culture and a government "gone bad."

And of course, the cardinal is among leaders of the hierarchy who are convinced that much of Vatican II has "gone bad" too, and are about the task of reforming the Great Reform along more traditional lines.

I can neither share nor comprehend this interpretation of our times.