Unconscious Racism

Ferguson Funeral

In the wake of the Ferguson, MO incident, racism has again become part of the national conversation. Whether it is based on ignorance, fear, stereotypes or feelings of superiority or inferiority, racism is real and its effects are destructive in our society. Is there a touch of racism in all of us? In a column in Thursday’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristoff explores that possibility.

Kristoff writes: “Research in the last couple of decades suggests that the problem is not so much overt racists. Rather, the larger problem is a broad swath of people who consider themselves enlightened, who intellectually believe in racial equality, who deplore discrimination, yet who harbor unconscious attitudes that result in discriminatory policies and behavior.”

For most Americans today, racism is seen in terms of oppression of Blacks by non-Blacks, but racism is ubiquitous and is found in all societies throughout history. Even God’s Chosen People suffered this weakness. In Deuteronomy 23:4 it is written: No Ammonite or Moabite may ever come into the assembly of the LORD, nor may any of their descendants even to the tenth generation come into the assembly of the LORD. In our own American history we find shameful discrimination against many immigrants, particularly the Irish and Germans who suffered vilification and discrimination from nativists.

Many of us recognize that we have a touch of racism, and recognizing that fact is the first step in overcoming it. Pope Francis has spoken out against racism and xenophobic behavior and several occasions. Having a better understanding of God’s love for all his children, St. Paul writes: For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him.

Ending racism and discrimination against others who are different from us in color or belief, must begin in our heart of hearts where we honestly and prayerfully examine our conscience, and see if there is a plank in our eye before we look for sawdust in another’s. (Matthew 7:3)

Image Credit: CNS photo/Richard Perry, pool via EPA

What Everybody Should Know About Christians in Iraq

What Everybody Should Know About Christians in Iraq

For some, the presence of Christians in Iraq is a surprise. Our image of Iraq is that it is an Arab nation and Arab equals Muslim. Of course, that is not the case. All Arabs are not Muslims and, conversely, all Muslims are not Arabs. Indonesia, with the world’s largest Muslim population, is not an Arab nation.

Christianity was born in the Middle East. Iraq, together with Iran, are part of Mesopotamia, and Christians have been present in the area since the mid-second century. Paulist Father Ronald. Roberson in his book, The Eastern Christian Churches, notes that in the third century the area was conquered by a Persian dynasty that perdured until the seventh century and was known as the Sassanid Empire. The Christianity that developed there became known simply as “the Church of the East.”

In the fifth century the Church of the East gravitated toward the Christology of Nestorius that was condemned at the Council of Ephesus. Nestorians were declared heretics and banned from the Roman Empire and many fled east to the safety of the Sassanians. The Church of the East, which became known as the Assyrian Church of the East, increasingly separated itself from the orthodox churches. Other Christian groups deemed heretical also sought refuge among the Persians.

While they remained a minority among the principally Zoroastrian Persians, the eastern churches flourished and cities such as Mosul, Basra, Kirkuk and Tikrit became thriving Christian centers. All of that changed with the coming of Islam. The eastern churches, while tolerated, were hobbled by Islam and became but remnants. Nonetheless, they continued to exist throughout the area until the present time alongside Eastern Catholic (Uniate) churches and their Muslim neighbors.

Radicalization of some Muslim groups in Iraq, Syria and Egypt has resulted in the harassment and persecution of eastern Christians culminating with the forceful removal of all Christians (and others) from Mosul and other ancient Christian areas by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

We must indeed pray for our suffering brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Christians and others, and pray for the strength to endure the tribulations that have come upon them. You may provide aid to them through Catholic Relief Services at http://emergencies.crs.org/iraq-crs-response-strategy-during-displacement-crisis/

Image Credit: CNS photo/Rodi Said, Reuters

Watching the scenes in Ferguson unfold

Ferguson Protests

 

As we watch the scenes from Ferguson, Missouri unfold on the nightly news, does it prompt some questions? Certainly, they are not scenes that we in the United States expect to see in 2014. But, what do we see?

Are we looking in a mirror? Are we seeing ourselves as others see us? Are we seeing ourselves as God sees us? Do we feel the pain and frustration of those protesting? Do we feel the fear and anxiety of the police officers? Or, are they like figures in an NCIS episode?

I wonder if we have become anesthetized to the authentic agony of others, whose real life pain and suffering will not be resolved by the end of the show. Have we fallen victim to the culture of indifference that inures us to the sufferings of others?

Have we lost the capacity to weep over the pain of those different from us? I hope not. I pray that we seek to be compassionate not judgmental. I pray that we stand down, not stand firm. May God bring peace, justice, understanding and mercy to all the people of Ferguson and throughout this great land and may He grant us all the wisdom to see ourselves as God sees us.

There are many admirers of Christ, but few disciples

Christ eyes

“I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life.”
 Deuteronomy 30:19

Disciples of Jesus are recognizable by their choices. Moses stood on Mount Nebo and challenged the Israelites to choose life or death. The rest of the Hebrew Scriptures chronicle their choice. As Catholics, as Christians, we must make the same choice. We must choose Jesus, choose to follow him, become his disciples committed to follow and spread his teachings …become in the words of Paul, other Christs. (Galatians. 2:20)

There are many admirers of Christ, but far fewer disciples. Admirers find it difficult to make the step to discipleship which is often thought to be unrealistic for those who live “in the real world.” Of course that is precisely where Jesus’ disciples must live. Discipleship is not asceticism, except for a few. There are those called to the eremitical life or to be missionaries, but most of us, clergy and laity alike, are called to witness Jesus to our family, our neighbors, our co- workers and friends.

That is where choices come in. The Christian Family Movement has popularized Joseph Leo Cardijn’s mantra of See, Judge, Act, adapted from St. Thomas Aquinas’ reflection on prudence. I find it a good guide to making Christian choices. To see means to observe, reflect and consult on elements of our society. It means rejecting at face value hearsay or claims of the media or radical voices and seeking an objective view to try to see with the eyes of Christ.

In judging we again take counsel, seek to determine how gospel values and Sacred Tradition (not custom or popular opinion) apply to the situation or incident to form an inspired Christian opinion considering the circumstances.

Finally, and most importantly, we should take appropriate action based on informed judgment. This is not a difficult process. Most of us do it automatically many times a day in circadian situations. The important key is to include gospel values and considered outcome in seeking a proper judgment.

I congratulate the many disciples who try hard to make proper judgments and I ask you to join me in praying that more admirers of Jesus will choose life and become His disciples.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Face_of_Jesus_in_art#mediaviewer/File:ChristandThorns.jpg)

Prayers for a Great School Year

back to school

[Some Catholic school students in the Diocese of Dallas begin heading back to the classroom on Tuesday, August 12th. That makes them among the first students in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to begin the 2014-2015 school year. Please visit the Catholic Diocese of Dallas website to see the full list of start dates for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Dallas.]

It is again a time of new beginnings as a new school year gets underway, making new friends, new teachers, new subjects, new challenges and new opportunities. A whole new world will open up for those children who will begin school for the first time.

Of course their education is not really just beginning. That began when as an infant they first began scrutinizing their hand or their foot. Their first educational institution is their home and their first teachers are their mother and father and other family members.

Pope Francis reminded us recently that “the fundamental institutions for the education of children and youth are the family and the school.” They must complement each other. We know now that the matrix of our life is formed in the family. Our life-long values are rooted in our family of origin.

Which brings to mind something else our Holy Father reminded us of recently, “the importance of proper religious education, in particular for the transmission of religious and moral values.” That is the difference in Catholic Educational Institutions, religious and moral values permeate the educational process. Religious education is more than subject matter. It is encountering Jesus in a Christian atmosphere, building on the living witness of the family.

Catholic school teachers and administrators are dedicated to the concept of a Christian value centered education for our children. For them it is a sacred trust.

Please join me in praying for our students and their teachers in Catholic and public schools throughout the Diocese of Dallas that this will be a year of academic and spiritual growth.

U.S. Shares Responsibility for Border Crisis

Detainees sleep in holding cell at U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas

Does the fact that we are the largest consumer of drugs and provider of arms play a role in the unaccompanied minors crisis on our borders?

It is a natural tendency to blame others for our troubles, both as individuals and as a nation. However, occasionally, we will take our self-serving blinders off and look in the mirror to discover the real culprit. I am reminded of Walt Kelly’s play on words regarding Commodore Perry’s famous quote in his Pogo column, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Last week, President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras joined the presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of President Barack Obama. The reported intention of the meeting was to ask the Central American presidents to do more to stop the flow of unaccompanied children from their countries into the United States. Apparently, the assumption is that our Central American neighbors were encouraging, or at least not discouraging, the thousands of children seeking refuge in our country.

President Hernandez, in an interview with the Washington Post, reminded North Americans that to a large extent we share responsibility for the situation. President Hernandez said, “Your country has enormous responsibility for this. The problem of narcotics-trafficking generates violence, reduces opportunities, and generates migration because this [the United States] is where there is the largest consumption of drugs.”

He suggested later that American officials believe that drugs are “a health problem.”

“For us, it is a matter of life and death, and that’s not fair,” President Hernandez said. “What’s fair is that we work together dealing with our own responsibilities.”

We must take ownership of our share of responsibility for the influx of refugees. The violence from which the children are fleeing is to a large extent of our making because the market for illegal drugs is greatest in the United States. The guns that are sold to gangs and drug traffickers and that are at the root of the violence in Mexico and Central America come from our country.

The blame game is a dishonest attempt to avoid sharing responsibility for the problem and for our failure to adequately address the root causes.

Finally, we must stop demonizing the victims, who are seeking refuge in the United States. This is a moral problem not just a political one. We must remember the words of the Holy Father that “This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.” They are children who need to be treated with mercy and compassion, not merely a problem to be disposed of.

It is the love of Christ that motivates us.

 

 Image Credit: CNS

Pope calls for new attitude on migration

Immigration

Pope Francis in a message this week to the participants in the Mexico/Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development stated that “A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization.” Describing such attitudes as “typical of a throwaway culture,” he called for a change “towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter; the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”

Addressing directly the child migrants from Central America, the pope said, “This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected. These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin.”

Calling the migration crisis the principal manifestation of globalization and “one of the ‘signs’ of this time we live in,” the pope said, “We should be reminded of Jesus’ question … ‘Why do you not know how to interpret the preset time?’ ”

Migration, he continued, “is a phenomenon that carries with it great promise and many challenges. Many people who are forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically. Many of their rights are violated. They are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.”

Finally, the Holy Father concluded, “this challenge demands the attention of the entire international community so that new forms of legal and secure migration may be adopted.”

Image Credit: CNS/Reuters

 

Have you registered your children for religious education?

Religious Education

Registration has already begun in many of our parishes for religious education programs that begin in the fall. I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of registering your children early because space is limited in some parishes. I encourage you to call your parish to begin the process.

Participation in religious education programs is essential for sacramental preparation for First Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation. Children may not receive these important sacraments without proper preparation. Because of the importance, sacramental preparation must be done through the parish.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis continually emphasizes that knowing Jesus and following in his footsteps is the essence of our Catholic Faith. Saint Jerome, the great scripture scholar, believed that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. We are disciples, followers of Jesus, and we must know Him to be His disciples. It is also important to keep in mind that religious education is more than sacramental preparation; it is part of a lifelong faith formation in discipleship.

We would look pretty silly if we tried to wear the same pants or dresses we wore at our First Communion or even Confirmation, but some of us are wearing our First Communion or Confirmation faith and it no longer fits us. We must continue to expand our faith.

Remember, what we learn as children at home and in religious education is only the beginning. Our life is a journey to God. Faith formation ends only when we reach the goal of our journey.