Posts Tagged ‘Mike Ashland


Where are the 79 Bishops now?

Scott Roeder, a convert at age 30 to Catholicism, walked into Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas and shot Doctor George Tiller to death as he handed out church bulletins.  Why is Roeder’s religion an issue to me?  Roeder has the right to worship as an American citizen, including as an inmate inside a county, state or federal prison.  Scott Roeder and Kathleen Sebelius, both Kansas citizens and both Catholics, evidently do not enjoy the same rights to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas asked Sebelius to refrain from taking Communion based on her 30 years of advocating legal abortion.  Archbishop Wuerl of Washington plans to maintain that pastoral request as Sebelius takes her post in D.C. as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

There is no word from the Kansas Archbishop’s office as to Roeder’s Communion rights.

79 Amercian  Catholic Bishops boycotted or condemned President Barack Obama’s commencement speech May 17 at Notre Dame  for not reflecting the pro-life stance of the Catholic Church regarding abortion, characterizing the President’s appearance as “not just a bad decision by university officials, it will mark a day of shame and blemish for the Catholic record and reputation of Notre Dame University…”

Eisenhower, Carter, Reagan, and both President Bushes have appeared as commencement speakers at Notre Dame in the past.  Ronald Reagan, early in his California governorship, signed a permissive abortion bill.  In May 1967, he signed the Therapeutic Abortion Bill.  Still, he spoke without protest at the Catholic College.

President Jimmy Carter, who said, “I’ve never believed abortion is right.  But I was sworn before God to enforce the laws of my country,” signed and enforced abortion legislation as determined by the Supreme Court decision in “Roe versus Wade.”  He spoke without protest at Notre Dame.

Even President George Bush Sr. struggled with the abortion issue as his administration fought with pro-life forces in support of his nomination of Dr. Louis W. Sullivan to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.  Sullivan was opposed to abortion except in cases of rape, incest and where the life of the mother is threatened–echoing the president’s position but angering anti-abortion activists and lobbyists.  He spoke at Notre Dame without protest.

I wonder where the organized outrage of those 79 bishops is now over the cold-blooded murder of a doctor in the vestibule of his church?  Which will attend the memorial for Tiller?

The Catholic church has helped to fuel the fire that lit Scott Roeder’s and ignited the gunpowder of 6 other murderers of abortion providers in the recent past.  It is complicit.  And, lacking the same moral outrage against Roeder that they heaped on Obama, they exacerbate the hypocrisy of the Catholic “Pro-Life” movement:  boycott, ridicule and demean a discussion of abortion at a Catholic college; silence against murder and a refusal to accept responsibility for incendiary rhetoric that inflames the discussion of the one thing upon which we all agree:  making abortion rare and unecessary.

At my own parish, St. Clare Church in Portland, the parish hosts a night of prayer for women who have lost children in the womb or at birth–prayer and community for healing.  But left out of every announcement, flier and bulletin notice is an invitation to women who have experienced abortions.  By not overtly inviting and including these women who need healing,  the parish–the church–disenfranchises, ostracizes and turns its back on those who would undoubtedly be welcomed by Christ.

When I realized what was happening as the first service was being publicized, I wrote to and spoke to parish staff about the oversight.  But it was not an oversight.  It was discussed.  And the overt inclusion of an invitation to women whose pregnancies had been aborted was rejected.  When I pressed, I was told that it would be “better” or “more appropriate” to have a seperate prayer service for “them.”  But of course there was none planned.  Women whose past included the intentional loss of a baby in the womb were not welcome.  Are not welcome.

I am ashamed of my church’s lack of mercy and understanding of women who choose abortion–and their vengance toward those who support that choice, down to the public denial of Holy Eucharist.  The deafening silence of bishops in the murder of a doctor in his church while they roar against a president who comes to a Catholic University to say,

“Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions.

So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women.”

Understand – I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it – indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory – the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.”

The table at which all should be welcome...

The table at which all should be welcome...

Can we not be a church that facillitates discussion to find common ground?  Can not the table that is the center of our worship welcome all sinners,  overtly inviting, welcoming and forgiving women who have had abortions?  Do we have so little faith in Eucharist that we will deny it to anyone–especially those who perhaps are considered most in need of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s inspiration?

And what can I–what can we–do to really bring Christ back to the pews and streets of our real world?


Honest Catholic Observations–it’s just time.

I’m a cradle Catholic.  Catholic school-bred and a career in the church for 35 years.  I’m starting this blog because I have reached a point of anger and frustration that requires reflection and action.  It is prompted at this moment because of Pope Benedict’s statements about Aids and condom use upon arriving on the continent of Africa:  “You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” Benedict said, adding, “On the contrary, it increases the problem.” 

I understand the Catholic position on contraceptives completely and fully, and I don’t fault the Pontiff for entering into this dialogue on a continent ravished by this disease.  Had he challenged the population–especially Catholics–with the teaching of the church while demonstrating empathy and mercy for those afflicted, dying and orphaned, I would understand.  I would disagree and be frustrated and probably still question his authority in this matter.

But he lied.  There is not a scintilla of evidence that the widespread use of condoms increases the transmission of the Aids virus.  He is a brilliant, learned man with a staff that is completely capable of researching the current science of the pathology of HIV.  His lie condemns tens of thousands to death.

I will write more about this at another time.  I have other fish to fry–they have been crackling in the pan for years and it is time to plate the results.  Because I can’t get to every issue, I intend to use Catholic Comment to explore local and global issues with Holy Mother Church.   I welcome your comments.   I know some of you will find my words and thoughts and conclusions dead wrong, perhaps even heretical.  Fine.  I am 57 and I am at peace with my self and my God.  Where I can, I will provide links for your further exploration.

My immediate and most pressing issues:

I’m shocked that I’ve reached a point in my life where I worry that my active participation as a Catholic  is enabling, or supporting, injustice at both the parish and global levels.  I’ve often been the Catholic advising angry friends not to confuse the imperfect people running the church with the Body itself.  But I suddenly find myself challenged and so have become the recipient of my own advice.  And I don’t buy it.

It was difficult enough to endure the scandal and tragedy of the child abuse revelations.  “Those are individual priests.  They no more represent Catholics than murderers in US prisons represent Americans.”  But I think those years did have an impact on me that manifests itself today as a more pragmatic reaction to “church” actions.  For instance:

I was invited to a party in the basement of our church for a lifelong parishioner who has been an unpaid staff member in our parish for close to 40 years.  The birthday party was almost entirely very active congregation members who shared a pot luck, a bit of cake and some prayer.  Yet the parish “charged” the party $108, to which end a basket was passed.  I know all about insurance and archdiocesan policies and all that.   Despite, or because of those, an injustice was done to our community.

It’s a tiny thing.  Hardly worth the time to type it up, I suppose.  But it dripped into the same pan with Benedict’s awful statement in Africa, with the loss of our 5th youth minister in 7 years, with the refusal to give communion to Secratary Sebelius and the excommunication of doctors treating a 9 year old rape victim.  I can no longer hold myself distant from these injustices and dispassionatley claim my own innocence.

I have been arrested for civil disobedience in the service my own pacifist activism.  I have stood outside the gates of San Quinton Prison dozens of times over the years in prayerful protest of capital punishment, marched in protests and waved placards at rallies and been indicted and tried twice in federal court for refusal of induction during the Vietnam war.  And so much of my social justice work has been inspired by the church, by the life and teachings of the Christ, and through countless Catholic lay and religious members of my church.

So I have taken principled and risky stands.  But it is with my own church that I feel the need to step back and re-examine what it means to live a Christian life within religious community, including publicly questioning authority and pointing out iniquity.  And so I will, here.

My next post will cover Catholic Education in the US today.

July 2018
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