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January 16, 2010

Responding to Haiti after catastrophic earthquake -
What does personal "integrity" mean, and does it really matter? -
Human trafficking: Fast growing form of organized crime -
Pope Benedict XVI offers positive and negative views of secularity -
Cultural diversity viewed from a Christian perspective

In this edition:

1. The church responds to Haiti's catastrophic earthquake.
2. Quotes to ponder on natural disasters:
a) natural disasters and the poor;
b) why natural disasters are a test of faith;
c) the human spirit's generous response in times of disaster.
3. What is personal integrity, and does it really matter?
4. Moving on from integrity to -- yes, happiness.
5. Setting the victims of human trafficking free.
6. Cultural diversity: The essential value of the "other."
7. Viewing secularity negatively and positively: Pope to diplomats.
8. As Christians continue to exit the Middle East, pope calls special synod.

1. The Church Responds After Haiti's Catastrophic Earthquake

The morning after a devastating earthquake struck the poor and always struggling Caribbean nation of Haiti, Pope Benedict XVI issued a statement of support for its mourning people and called upon the world community generously to provide the aid needed in the wake of a great catastrophe.

Relief efforts swung into operation during the days immediately after the Jan. 12 earthquake, even as families, relatives, friends and rescue workers continued the search for missing persons and countless numbers began to mourn the multitude of lives lost. That is the reality after a natural disaster - that profound grief is accompanied by an immense need to provide medical care, to restore a society's ability to function on at least minimal levels, to feed and house people, to begin to rebuild.

Father Jean Jadotte captured the complexity of the new reality imposed by this natural disaster in remarks that were posted on the Catholic Relief Services Web site. The associate pastor of Miami's Notre Dame d'Haiti Parish in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Fla., said that when his parishioners heard the news of the earthquake "they were heartbroken.

"Many were in tears at Mass on Wednesday morning. We are in mourning, as many parishioners of our predominantly Haitian church have lost three and four family members." He "lost one family member," Father Jadotte said.

"We are praying for hope despite this situation," the priest said.

Father Jadotte requested prayers such as these:

-- "For those who at this time are in search of meaning in their lives and peace."

-- For "patience and perseverance" among relief workers and awareness everywhere of the assistance Haiti needs.

Pope Benedict spoke of the earthquake at the end of his Wednesday general audience Jan. 13. He invited everyone to join him in praying "for the victims of this catastrophe and for those who mourn their loss," and he appealed "to the generosity of all people so that these, our brothers and sisters who are experiencing a moment of need and suffering, may not lack our concrete solidarity and the effective support of the international community."

The U.S. Catholic bishops asked the nation's parishes "to take up a special collection the weekend of Jan. 16-17 for the humanitarian efforts in Haiti by the bishops and Catholic Relief Services. In a statement Jan. 13, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, bishops' conference president, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, episcopal chairman of Catholic Relief Services, said the money raised would help fund the response "to immediate emergency needs for such necessities as water, food, shelter and medical care," the "long-term need to rebuild after widespread destruction," and the "pastoral and reconstruction needs" of the church of Haiti.

Cardinal George and Archbishop Dolan noted that the earthquake took the life of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, and "destroyed countless homes, churches, seminaries, schools and other buildings." Their statement said Catholic Relief Services already was "mounting a major emergency response to this severe disaster and has committed an initial $5 million to fund relief efforts which are likely to go on for some time."

In an interview with Catholic News Service in Rome, Archbishop Dolan said that after hearing about the earthquake he went to St. Peter's Basilica to pray in front of Michelangelo's Pieta, which depicts Mary holding the body of Christ after the crucifixion. "Haiti is the broken and bloody body of Jesus in the arms of his Blessed Mother and crying out to the world for aid and assistance," Archbishop Dolan said.

The disaster is "aggravated by the fact that Haiti is already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere," Archbishop Dolan added. He said the situation carries "a special urgency and gravity" because Haitians are "our neighbors," the country is "highly Catholic" and many Haitians already live in the United States. "We can't let them down now," he said.

Catholic News Service reported that among the international aid agencies working with partner agencies and local religious leaders in Haiti, and accepting donations for victims of the earthquake were these Catholic agencies:

-- Catholic Relief Services, accepting donations by phone at (800) 736-3467; online at www.crs.org; or by mail to CRS, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203-7090.

-- The Salesian religious order, accepting donations by phone at (914) 633-8344; online at www.salesianmissions.org; or by mail to Salesian Disaster Relief, Salesian Missions, P.O. Box 30, New Rochelle, NY 10802-0030.

-- The Archdiocese of Miami, which has a large Haitian population, accepting donations at www.newmiamiarch.org.

-- Caritas Internationalis, accepting donations at www.caritas.org.

-- Food for the Poor, accepting donations at www.foodforthepoor.org.

-- Catholic Medical Mission Board, accepting monetary donations by mail to CMMB, 10 W. 17th St., New York, NY 10011; by phone at (800) 678-5659; or online at http://support.cmmb.org/Haiti. Medicines and medical supplies may be donated by calling CMMB's Kathy Tebbett at (212) 242 7757.

-- Jesuit Refugee Service, accepting donations at www.jrsusa.org.

-- The Pontifical Mission Societies, which have established a long-term solidarity fund to help Haiti. Contributions may be directed to: Pontifical Mission Societies, Haitian Solidarity Fund, 70 W. 36th St., New York, NY 10018. Credit card donations can be made at www.onefamilyinmission.org.

-- The Vincentians, whose donation forum can be accessed at www.cammonline.org.

2. Natural Disasters: Quotes to Ponder

Natural Disasters and the Poor: "While forces of nature cause natural disasters themselves, these forces are insufficient to account for the full impact of any given disastrous event. There can be little doubt that the suffering and hardship brought about by natural disasters are deeply exacerbated by poverty and inequality. For example, in a large urban center like Kingston, the desperate shortage of housing is forcing people to build in even more dangerous and vulnerable locations. People and nations who do not have their fair share of the resources of creation are less able to take measures to limit the effects of natural disasters and repair the damage that occurs." (Archbishop Samuel Carter, then archbishop of Kingston, Jamaica, in a 1989 pastoral letter assessing the impact of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988)

Natural Disasters Test Faith: "For us as Catholic bishops, [Hurricane] Katrina is more than a terrible natural disaster and human catastrophe. It is a test of our faith, our hope and our love. Faith in Jesus Christ insists life conquers death, resurrection follows crucifixion, recovery comes from suffering and hope overcomes despair. This is a time to live out the Gospel, turn our love into care for others, move our words into action and practice the solidarity we proclaim." (From a September 2005 statement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Administrative Committee on the church's response after Hurricane Katrina, whose August 2005 impact was felt so strongly in New Orleans and along the U.S. Gulf Coast)

Human Solidarity in the Face of the Suffering of Others: "How often in recent years have we had occasion to reach out as brothers and sisters to help those struck by natural disaster or subjected to war and famine. We are witnessing a growing collective desire -- across political, geographical or ideological boundaries -- to help the less fortunate members of the human family. Two of the reasons why I was pleased in 1986 to confer the Pope John XXIII International Peace Prize on the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees of Thailand were, first, to be able to call the attention of the world to the continuing plight of those who are forced from their homelands and, second, to highlight the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that so many groups -- Catholic and otherwise -- have displayed in responding to the need of these sorely tried, homeless people. Yes, the human spirit can and does respond with great generosity to the suffering of others. In these responses we can find a growing realization of the social solidarity that proclaims in word and deed that we are one, that we must recognize that oneness and that it is an essential element for the common good of all individuals and nations." (From Pope John Paul II's 1987 World Day of Peace Message)

3. What Is Personal Integrity, and Does It Matter Much?

"To grow in integrity is a lifetime job of facing life's challenges while trying to be congruent and whole," says Kevin McClone, a licensed clinical psychologist and an adjunct professor at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. His article "Identity, Intimacy and Integrity" appears in the first digital edition of Touchstone, posted on the National Federation of Priests' Councils' Web site. (The publication can be read online at www.nfpc.org.)

I suppose that one reason McClone's article caught my eye is that for a long time I have regarded integrity as a seriously underdiscussed virtue. What does "integrity" actually mean, and why does integrity matter?

But McClone's article also caught my eye because the topic of "integrity" seems quite timely. There is a growing discussion in society right now of public figures -- whether in sports, politics, entertainment or even the field of religion -- who promote images of themselves that are inconsistent with their actual way of life. If the image collapses, the public's disappointment and sense of being betrayed has been shown to be large.

Of course, integrity is not a virtue for public figures alone. The quest for integrity is everyone's quest. Furthermore, as McClone suggests, it is a quest in which support received from others can play a positive role.

A question about integrity posed by McClone is, "How do I best grow to live and love out of who I know myself to be?" The question suggests that integrity emerges from knowing oneself and then living in accord with that awareness.

"Integrity is a life-long process of becoming known to oneself in more authentic ways and being able to live out of that awareness in my relationships with self, others and God," McClone says. He describes integrity as "holistic" and says that it "encompasses many different dimensions: mind, body and spirit."

According to McClone, "to live consciously in the here and now, facing life's challenges with honesty and hope, marks the journey of integrity."

All of this presupposes that we know - or work at knowing - who we are. McClone examines this challenge in a section of his article devoted to "identity." He writes, "Identity challenges me to respond over and over to the question, Who am I?"

McClone thinks that people continually are challenged "to define and redefine or reclaim" their real selves. He urges readers to ask themselves how their self-awareness has changed over time and whether they are more aware of their "strengths and weaknesses today" than, say, five years ago. He asks, "Has this discovery led to changes in how you connect with self, others, God."

4. And Moving Right Along From Integrity to, Yes, Happiness

"Today, the idea that happiness can indeed be measured and quantified remains at the heart of a new science of happiness," says writer Andrew Santella, whose article "Happiness Is" appears in the winter 2009-10 edition of Notre Dame Magazine, a quarterly journal published by the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. Santella's quandary is that trying to understand happiness has always seemed to him "like just the sort of activity that would interfere with the actual enjoyment of happiness."

I have discussed new books and articles on happiness in this jknirp.com newsletter from time to time over the more than two years I have written it. I think that everyone wants happiness, but few can say what happiness is. I wonder, moreover, how people are supposed to know whether they are happy or not. What are the signs of happiness?

Santella asks whether happiness can be measured. He seems to wonder whether happiness studies actually can help people become happy. He writes:

"For all the data generated on the subject, happiness remains an elusive concept. Does it mean simply feeling good at a given moment? Or is it about broader satisfaction with life?"

Santella makes clear that he does not prefer depression or despair to happiness. "On the whole, I'd rather be happy," he says. "But the trouble with happiness is that its pursuit can be so frustrating and dispiriting. Happiness is a moving target."

Just when Santella thinks he has "hit on the right blend of routines and pleasures and meaningful pursuits" that will make him happy, "something changes. My strategies for happiness wear out. They stop working." In any event, he does not want his "happiness reduced to a set of behaviors to be checked off in a happiness workbook."

This is not to say that happiness is impossible in Santella's view. Instead, it means he does not think he will find happiness "by trying to chase it down - or by filling out a workbook." Perhaps a more "indirect approach" to the pursuit of happiness is needed, he proposes, and he asks:

"Doesn't happiness usually catch us while we're busy pursuing something else?"

You'll find another discussion of happiness in the Feb. 5, 2009, edition of this newsletter (still accessible in our archives on this Web site), which focused on a new book by British Benedictine Abbot Christopher Jamison titled "Finding Happiness." He said, "To find happiness, we need to broaden our definition" of it.

"All too often," Abbot Jamison cautioned, "happiness is narrowed down to mean feeling good." But while there is "nothing wrong with feeling good," happiness needs to be viewed in "the wider context of doing good and knowing good."

Though "people are searching for happiness," not everyone "knows how to find it," Abbot Jamison said. He expressed concern about an "underlying assumption" that "when people use the word 'happiness' they all mean the same thing, namely, the very loose concept of 'feeling good.'"

Thus, pleasure and happiness tend to be confused with each other, according to Abbot Jamison. But when pleasure and happiness are confused, happiness "becomes a matter of taste," since what brings pleasure to one person may well differ from what brings pleasure to another, said the abbot.

Overemphasizing pleasure as a sign of happiness could have negative results, the abbot suggested. He wrote, "It seems some people are quite prepared to be vicious rather than virtuous in order to be what they call happy."

By distinguishing happiness and pleasure, it is possible to see that pleasure is a matter of taste, but happiness is not," Abbot Jamison explained. He said, "As with gold, so with happiness, careful work is needed to discern the real thing."

Abbot Jamison pointed out that the founder of his order, St. Benedict, "never used the words 'happy' or 'happiness'" in his Rule; instead, Benedict preferred "to speak of joy and delight, and in describing those qualities he is describing the monastic understanding of happiness."

5. Human Trafficking: Fast Growing Form of Organized Crime

Human trafficking, which represents a form of organized crime, constitutes a $32 billion, illegal global business, according to a Jan. 3 joint statement by the Catholic bishops of Illinois and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of that state.

They urged Catholic institutions to participate in "programs aimed at assisting traumatized and frightened victims" of this coercive, often violent form of human slavery. Parishes and individuals were encouraged to "become educated" about trafficking, to pray for its victims and to support efforts against trafficking, as well as efforts in support of people who have been trafficked.

The practitioners of human trafficking "often outwit new law enforcement practices by moving victims from hotspots to other regions of the state or across state lines to avoid prosecution," the statement pointed out. It said many victims of human trafficking "are uneducated juveniles or young adults who come from developing nations and are marketed like cattle in wealthier countries like the United States."

"On any given day in our world, 2.5 million persons are victims of trafficking," the Illinois statement noted. How do people become trapped by traffickers? "Often lured by false claims of job opportunities, they are forced into prostitution, beaten and psychologically tortured. They are trapped in squalor and live despairingly in communities where they neither understand the culture nor the language," the statement explained.

It described human trafficking as "the fastest growing means by which people are forced into slavery."

Human trafficking "betrays every dimension of human life and personhood," the statement emphasized. The practice "feeds off the dire situations of entrenched poverty" in which its victims so often are first found.

The statement said that "sexual exploitation is by far the most commonly identified form of human trafficking," but that "trafficking also occurs in the area of forced labor" in homes, janitorial work, restaurants, sweatshops and migrant agriculture.

The Gospel directs Christians "to set captives free and to show mercy to [their] neighbor who is in need," the statement said. Because the church is a global community, its people "need to be about the business of eradicating human trafficking," it added. (The Illinois statement appeared in the Jan. 14, 2010, edition of Origins, CNS Documentary Service)

6. Cultural Diversity and the Essential Value of the "Other"

Why is the Catholic Church "so supportive of immigrants, refugees and other people" living on society's margins? In a December 2009 reflection on cultural diversity, Jesuit Father Allan Figueroa Deck responded to that question, saying:

"The answer is that we are faithful to the God we have come to know in Jesus by following Jesus in living out this love for others."

The final word in that sentence, "others," and Father Deck's analysis of it served as the foundation for his pastoral and theological reflection on cultural diversity. He is executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Father Deck referred to "the recognition of cultural diversity," as well as the "competency to work with different cultures," as "a fundamental aspect of the church's mission to evangelize. He commented, however, that "as the late Cardinal Avery Dulles has often noted," the emphasis the church places on evangelization "still has not been understood, accepted or readily put into practice in many parts of the church, including the United States."

The Catholic Church's "great strength" and "primary challenge" consist in "being faithful to the identity given it by Christ while at the same time establishing real bonds of unity across the boundaries of culture, language and social class," Father Deck said. Taken together, "Catholic identity and unity in diversity" constitute "quite a challenge."

By founding his discussion on the important role of others (those who are different from us) in the church's vision, Father Deck stressed that "the church's focus on diversity is rooted in the inner life of God."

Stating that "love is about reaching out to another," Father Deck noted that the inner life of God "consists of a mutual giving and receiving among the three divine persons." Because we human beings are made in God's image, "we are also about love, and our godliness consists just like God's in reaching out to others in mutual giving and receiving."

But "otherness is about difference, not sameness," Father Deck wrote. Thus, he stressed, "when we close ourselves off from others, from those who are 'different,' we cease being like God."

This point was illustrated by Jesus in his parables, "particularly the Parable of the Good Samaritan," which Father Deck observed "was given in response to the question, 'Who is my neighbor?'" He said:

"The answer is that one's neighbor is the 'other,' not the person you think is like you, but rather the person you know to be different. He or she is your neighbor according to Jesus."

7. Viewing Secularity Negatively and Positively: Pope Addresses Diplomats

Two contrasting approaches to "secularity" were presented in Pope Benedict XVI's Jan. 11 speech to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican. On the one hand the pope spoke of a secularity that excludes or denies "the social importance of religion." On the other hand he pointed to what he terms "a positive and open secularity" that is urgently needed.

Care for the environment constituted the theme of the pope's speech, as it characterized his message for the Jan. 1 World Day of Peace. (See the Jan. 2 edition of this jknirp newsletter for a discussion of the peace day message.) A clear link was identified in both presentations between care for the environment and the promotion of world peace.

The causes of environmental degradation and the threats to peace that accompany it "are of the moral order," the pope told the diplomats. He said these matters "must be faced within the framework of a great program of education aimed at promoting an effective change of thinking and at creating new lifestyles."

This program of education is one in which "the community of believers can and wants to take part," Pope Benedict said. However, if it is "to do so, its public role must be recognized." The sad reality is that "in certain countries, mainly in the West, one increasingly encounters in political and cultural circles, as well as in the media, scarce respect and at times hostility, if not scorn, directed toward religion and toward Christianity in particular."

If this is considered "an essential element of democracy, one risks viewing secularity solely in the sense of excluding or, more precisely, denying the social importance of religion," the pope explained. He said that this approach "creates confrontation and division, disturbs peace, harms human ecology and, by rejecting in principle approaches other than its own, finishes in a dead end."

The reverse side of this, he suggested, is "a positive and open secularity." This approach to secularity, grounded both in respect for "the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility," Pope Benedict suggested.

The 2007 Lisbon Treaty amending the earlier European Union Treaty illustrates the positive, open secularity the pope had in mind, he said. The pope pointed out that the treaty "provides for the European Union to maintain an 'open, transparent and regular' dialogue with the churches." He reiterated his hope - which might be ranked as a theme of his pontificate - that "in building its future, Europe will always draw upon the wellsprings of its Christian identity."

"There is so much suffering in our world, and human selfishness continues in many ways to harm creation," Pope Benedict told the diplomats. He said he shares "the growing concern caused by economic and political resistance to combating the degradation of the environment," a problem he found "evident" during the December 2009 U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

8. Christians Continue to Exit the Middle East: Pope to Diplomats

A key reason for the special assembly of the world Synod of Bishops on the Middle East scheduled to take place Oct. 10-24 in Rome is concern over the continuing exodus of Christians from the Middle East, Pope Benedict XVI made clear in his address Jan. 11 to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican.

"Grave acts of violence , combined with the scourges of poverty, hunger, natural disasters and the destruction of the environment, have helped to swell the ranks of those who migrate from their native land" in a number of regions of the world, the pope observed. But he said he wanted to focus particularly on "the Christians of the Middle East."

In the Middle East, "beleaguered in various ways, even in the exercise of their religious freedom," Christians are departing from "the land of their forebears, where the church took root during the earliest centuries," Pope Benedict noted. He said that a reason he called for next fall's regional synod on the Middle East was to offer these Christians "encouragement and to make them feel the closeness of their brothers and sisters in faith."

When Pope Benedict announced the upcoming synod last Sept. 19, he said it would devote attention to various problems faced by the minority Christian communities in Middle Eastern countries, from migration to interreligious dialogue. The pope is expected to release the working paper for the October synod during a visit to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus this June.