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June 1, 2010

Spirituality and stress along the Gulf Coast -
What priestly identity is and is not -
Catholic investors urge action against human trafficking at World Cup -
Crossing the "Jericho Road" willingly in modern communities

In this edition:
1. Beyond clericalism: priestly identity in crisis times.
2. What priesthood is and is not.
3. Pastoral perspective: Gulf oil spills on still-open wounds.
4. Spirituality and stress along the Gulf Coast.
5. Current quotes to ponder:
a) U.S. permanent deacons today;
b) willingly crossing the "Jericho Road" in contemporary communities;
c) the deep roots of each diverse culture in the church.
6. New take on some familiar words: church shepherds.
7. World Cup: Catholic investors urge action on human trafficking.
8. The economy, ethics and the pontifical academy.

1. Beyond Clericalism: Priestly Identity in Crisis Times

"We're not priests for what we can get, but for what we can give, and anyone who's in it for power, authority, privilege or entitlement should not be. That's clericalism, and it is a vice, a sin," Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York said in a May 27 speech in Ireland. His theme was that "God is the only treasure people desire to find in a priest."

Speaking at the national seminary, St. Patrick's College in Maynooth, as the church's Year for Priests neared its conclusion, Archbishop Dolan focused on priestly identity at a time when many priests in Ireland may feel demoralized by the clergy sexual abuse crisis their nation has been experiencing.

Archbishop Dolan suggested that what he had to say about a humble, well-grounded priestly identity "has a special urgency now, in a moment of crisis." In "times of emergency," he said the church can follow "one of two routes: We can become frantic, losing focus, hope and trust, tempted to impetuous actions and, rudderless, going around in circles or we can return to basics and rediscover our identity, purpose and confidence."

Philosophers remind people that "no one gives what one does not have," the archbishop said. Thus, he continued, "if priests are expected to give God, we better have him -- and that's sanctity, holiness."

Jesus was never more a "priest, head and shepherd of the church than when he was on the cross," Archbishop Dolan commented. He said: "We priests don't whine with the thief on the left, 'Get down off your cross, and get me down off mine.' Nope. We're like Dismas who tells the Lord, 'I'm happy to be next to you on Calvary.'"

Archbishop Dolan said that sometimes he wonders "if we are being invited back to the church of the Acts of the Apostles" - meaning he wonders "if we priests, bishops, indeed the entire church have been reduced to the utterly basic reply of Peter and John to the crippled beggar in Temple Square in Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 3: 'Silver and gold I have not, but what I do have, I sure give you: In the name of Jesus Christ, stand up and walk!"

2. ... What Priesthood Is, What It is Not

In his speech at Ireland's national seminary, Archbishop Dolan recalled how "the late, great John Paul II went hoarse teaching us that the priesthood is a dramatic, radical reordering of a man's very life, his soul, his heart, his identity, and that we're much better off looking at fathers and husbands for metaphors of priesthood than we are at professions."

Thus, New York's archbishop added, "the priesthood is a call, not a career; a redefinition of self, not just a ministry; a way of life, not a job; a state of being, not a function; a permanent, lifelong commitment, not a temporary style of service; an identity, not a role."

He took care to explain that the loss of what is called an "'ontological' appreciation of priesthood applies as well to marriage, religious life and, for that matter, to Christian, ecclesial identity conferred in baptism." But if concerns are real when it comes to addressing the identity of marriage or religious life, Archbishop Dolan noted that this nonetheless was not the topic he was asked to address May 27.

Thus, focusing on priestly identity, he said:

"If the very value of my priestly vocation depends on 'what I do,' where I'm assigned, how the people affirm me, how my bishop treats me, what the newspapers report about us, what horrible sins brother priests may have committed, what negligence was shown by their bishops, how much I get out of it or how high or low morale may be at a given time -- if the very value of our priesthood depends upon those external forces, however dominant they may be; if, in a word, my value depends on what I do, sooner or later we'll get frustrated, cynical, exhausted, crabby, bored and tempted. Our value must come from who we are."

He made clear, however, that in saying this he was not diminishing the seriousness of the sexual abuse crisis in Ireland. "To those who wonder if holiness, humility and identity are a pollyannaish ignoring of deep psychological turmoil in the priesthood, I say with Adrian van Kaam no, as a matter of fact 'holiness' means wholeness, and wholeness means integrity, and a man of integrity hardly abuses our youth or overlooks the crimes of those who do."

Recalling that Pope John Paul II once wrote that today's towering temptation is to prefer "having" and "doing" to "being," Archbishop Dolan said that "when you think about it, Jesus much preferred the 'being' words to the 'do' words." The archbishop said that "Jesus preferred 'being' to 'having' and 'doing.' Not, to be sure, because doing, actions, ministry, service were not important, but because unless what we do flows from who we are, we're shallow, empty functionaries."

"Watch out" if a priest's value comes from what he accomplishes or how useful he might be, Archbishop Dolan cautioned. Instead, he insisted, priests need to recapture a sense of who they are.

He added that when priests become "gratefully, humbly, joyfully aware that our value is within, that it comes from who we are -- a child of God, created in his image, passionately and personally loved by our Father, destined for eternity with him, redeemed by the precious blood of his own Son, reconfigured to that same Son at the 'ground zero' of our being -- well, to borrow a phrase from Father Michael Heher's excellent book on the contemporary priesthood, [then] 'we can walk on water.'"

Archbishop Dolan noted that "after decades of scholarly research, the controversial and colorful priest sociologist Andrew Greeley -- hardly some nostalgic, pious clericalist -- concluded that what people most want in their priest is a 'hopeful, holy man who smiles.'"

The thinking of Father Stephen Rossetti, a priest psychologist who long has worked with troubled priests, also was called to mind by the archbishop. He said Father Rossetti wonders if the emphasis in contemporary times on fulfillment, self-actualization, having one's needs met and so forth has taken a toll, "not only on the priesthood, but on marriage, religious life, on any type of commitment."

Father Rossetti's question, in the archbishop's paraphrase, is this: Where "is the talk of sacrifice, oblation or pouring out? And can the priesthood be renewed until we rediscover this humility?"

3. Pastoral Perspectives: Gulf Oil Spilled on Still-Open Wounds

Father Gerard Stapleton, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Port Sulphur, La., said he wished he could tell parishioners who are commercial fishermen that the disaster of the gigantic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico won't be yet another life-changing event -- as Hurricane Katrina was in 2005. But, he cannot, he told the Clarion Herald newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

"No one actually knows," Father Stapleton said of the oil spill and its potential damage to the Gulf and its shore, and the livelihoods earned there. He asked, "Are we looking at a month, three months, six months, 12 months or five years? What's the effect on the land going to be? These fishermen basically have one trade in life, and that's fishing. That's where we enter into the area of uncertainty."

Father Stapleton said he tries to be a good listener as fishermen release pent-up anxieties over the oil spill. And sometimes he is the one to draw strength from their faith. He said one fisherman told him, "The God who looked after us yesterday is the God who looks after us today, and he will also be with us tomorrow, and he will bring us through, just as he brought us through [Hurricane] Katrina."

Father Stapleton said, "I think that's the best advice I have to offer to the people -- that God has not abandoned us. In the midst of all this, ultimately what God looks for in his people is faithfulness in all situations."

The pain and stress of yet another disaster in the Gulf region, coming so soon after Katrina, is hard to imagine. Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans was asked in an interview for the May 8 edition of the Clarion Herald what was said when he spoke with leaders in two parishes about their efforts to deal with the impact of the massive oil spill. Did they make "reference to the oil spill following so soon after" the disastrous hurricane?

The archbishop responded that "a number of the parish staff people and the parish presidents made reference to the fact that we are just now rebuilding and continuing to rebuild and recover from Katrina -- and now this." He added, "It's accurate to say that the wound from Katrina is still open, and pouring oil on the wound makes it more challenging."

In a May 22 Clarion Herald interview, Archbishop Aymond said uncertainty related to the oil spill had "everyone on edge." He added:

"In uncertain times we are called to put our trust in God and to know that God walks with us in the darkest times as well as in the brightest times. It's never easy to say, 'Let's wait and see.' Those of us who are simply watching the news at night and getting reports about the spill are affected in one way. I cannot imagine what it is like for those families who have to deal with the prospect of putting their lives on hold. Some have suggested this calamity could be as bad as Katrina."

So yes, the archbishop said, "we need to pray -- and take care of our neighbor." And, in fact, thousands of people affected by the oil spill already have received assistance from Catholic Charities of New Orleans.

4. Spirituality and Stress Along the Gulf Coast

Archbishop Aymond said May 25 that he learned in talking to people since he became New Orleans' archbishop last summer that they still were "struggling with the effects of Hurricane Katrina" and that the "downward spiraling economy" had "worsened stress levels." As a result, he "wanted to be able to provide the people of the area with some assistance in dealing with stress and anxiety from a spiritual and prayerful perspective."

What ensued was the development of a series of identical sessions titled "Spirituality and Stress" to be held throughout the New Orleans area, led by staff of the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center and Catholic Charities.

1. The archdiocese announced that from a spiritual perspective, these sessions will focus on opening oneself up to God through prayer and meditation, and will include a reflection on Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical on hope, "Spe Salvi."

2. Also, crisis counselors from Catholic Charities will talk about understanding the signs of stress and coping with stress. There also will be a presentation on the resources the local Catholic Church offers for individuals and families, as well as the opportunity for personal follow-up.

"We are at the beginning of Hurricane Season, which by itself can be traumatic for people here in the area," Archbishop Aymond said. "Now we are facing a new crisis in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and this is compounding the issue. Now is the time the Catholic Church can be present for people to assist them through this potentially difficult time in their lives."

5. Current Quotes to Ponder

U.S. Permanent Deacons: "Twenty-one [U.S.] arch/dioceses report having more than 200 permanent deacons, with Chicago (646 deacons), Trenton (442 deacons) and Galveston-Houston (383) among the top three. Deacons currently minister in all but one diocese in the United States, and eight in 10 permanent deacons in responding arch/dioceses are active in ministry. It is estimated that there are as many as 17,047 permanent deacons in the United States today, of whom approximately 16,349 are active in ministry." (From a May 28 press release issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the findings of a new survey of permanent diaconate offices in U.S. Catholic dioceses commissioned by its Secretariat of Clergy and Consecrated Life and Vocations)

Crossing the Jericho Road in Modern Communities: "[In regard to the charged political environment that exists today], the road to Jericho might well represent the partisan divides that exist in our country and even within the Catholic community itself. Sometimes we cling so tenaciously to our political positions that we refuse to cross over to the other side of the road, with the result being a circumventing of the demands of the Gospel as well as lost opportunities to address the pressing needs of our neighbors. Even among committed Catholics we sometimes become so focused on certain issues that we neglect concerns that are also deserving of our attention. Many pro-life Catholics, who exert tremendous effort on behalf of the unborn, too often stop there and fail to turn their concern fully to those already born. Likewise, those who have a strong commitment on issues that concern the poor and marginalized too often are silent when the discussion turns to protecting the life of the unborn. As Catholics who are pro-life from conception to natural death, we concern ourselves with all issues that have a bearing on the dignity of human life, we promote justice for the oppressed and -- moved to compassion -- we cross the road to serve our neighbor even when it is unpopular or uncomfortable." (Excerpt of a column by Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden, N.J., in the April 30 edition of that diocese's newspaper, the Catholic Star Herald)

The Deep Roots of Each Diverse Culture: "The cultural roots of our communities go deep into the human soul, to the place where God's spirit breathes us into life. Our cultures begin there, where God gave us a name and sparked a restless desire to know his name and seek his face. We cannot live the Gospel to its fullest without engaging culture." (From May remarks by Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, to the opening of the Catholic Cultural Diversity Network Convocation at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. His committee was a major sponsor of the convocation.)

6. New Take on a Few Familiar Words: Church Shepherds

A concern that Jesus' biblical commission to Peter often is understood in too static a manner led Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles to propose a fresh translation of it May 26. In a homily during a Mass welcoming Archbishop Jose Gomez , formerly of San Antonio, Texas, as Los Angeles' new coadjutor archbishop, Cardinal Mahony looked carefully at Jesus' meaning when he said, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my church."

The usual "English translation of [these] words of the Gospel does not convey the depth of this commissioning," Cardinal Mahony said. Rendering the Gospel's Greek words with the phrase "upon this rock I shall build my church" is, the cardinal commented, "far too static a translation." The words of Jesus' commission ought to ring out, the cardinal said. So he suggested these words instead: "Upon this rock I shall be building up my church."

It is expected that Archbishop Gomez will succeed Cardinal Mahony next February, with the cardinal's retirement. Looking ahead to that time, Cardinal Mahony, who has been archbishop of Los Angeles since 1985, said:

"As I near the end of my time of tending this corner of the vineyard, the shepherd's staff is being passed to Archbishop Gomez. Mahony goes; Gomez comes. Christ alone endures. The church's foundation and its future is not in either one of us. Our foundation and our future are in Christ alone. So we give thanks for the enduring presence of Christ in the church through the Spirit."

But an understanding that Christ is always present to build up the church does not relieve his followers of responsibility or relegate leaders to passivity, according to the cardinal. "Rather," he said, "imbued with a new and generous spirit, we hear again and respond anew to Jesus' words, 'You are Peter, and upon this rock I shall be building up my church.'"

Cardinal Mahony said of the roles of shepherds within the church:

1. "The shepherd is found in the midst of the sheep, leading them. He does not drive them! He leads them out from among the peoples and gathers them from the foreign lands." Expanding upon this point, the cardinal said:

"How ripe a message for our vast, multicultural reality in Los Angeles! A good shepherd here will of necessity work tirelessly for just immigration policies and for the protection of the dignity of all our immigrants."

2. "The shepherd feeds and nourishes the flock. The bishop knows how to nourish his people in word and sacrament, guiding his people in the life of the Spirit."

3. "The shepherd seeks the lost, the stray, the injured, the sick -- heralding the 'new evangelization.' With confidence, he and his people face the many opportunities and challenges to be a sign of reconciliation and healing. Shepherd and flock are a beacon of hope to all who are poor, weak or marginalized in the church and in the wider society."

The cardinal said that the work of "making the Gospel heard in words and seen in actions that evoke a response in faith -- that is, evangelization -- must permeate each level and every activity of this particular church."

In remarks during the Mass, Archbishop Gomez, a U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico, called attention, as Cardinal Mahony had done in his homily, to the cultural diversity that characterizes the Los Angeles Archdiocese. "May this church always be a sign that God is with us and that in his loving eyes no one is a stranger for him and no one is an alien to any of us," Archbishop Gomez said.

"In the communion of cultures here in Los Angeles we can see what it means to say that our church is 'catholic,'" the archbishop said. He added that "in this beautiful diversity we glimpse something of what God desires for the whole world," and "we see how God longs to gather all men and women into 'una familia de Dios,' one family drawn from every country, race and language, stretching to the ends of the earth and into heaven above."

7. World Cup: Catholic Investors Urge Action on Human Trafficking

The World Cup soccer tournament that gets under way June 11 in South Africa creates not only a great opportunity for sports enthusiasts to assemble, it also "may have the unintended consequence of creating opportunities for human trafficking," according to Francis Coleman, executive vice president of Christian Brothers Investment Services.

An April letter Coleman sent to major hotel chains urged them to be alert to the trafficking of adults and children, and to take action against it. His letter was signed by more than 300 leaders, including a large number of religious leaders who are members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and are concerned that the groups they represent make socially responsible investments.

Coleman explained that "Christian Brothers Investment Services Inc. is a leader in socially responsible investing with approximately $3.8 billion in assets under management for more than 1,000 Catholic institutions worldwide."

His letter was not the first attempt this year by faith leaders to address concerns related to human trafficking at major sporting events. In January, looking ahead to February's winter Olympics in Vancouver, the Canadian Catholic bishops' Commission for Justice and Peace said human trafficking for purposes of prostitution could likely arise as a moral issue during the Olympics.

Naturally, people looked forward to the winter Olympics as an occasion to watch "some of the world's best athletes compete," the commission said. But it noted that others, "especially groups involved in the struggle against human trafficking, [were] worried," realizing that some looked to the Olympics as a means of making money and regarded the event as an opportunity to do so, "no matter the cost to human dignity and human rights."

Coleman's letter to hotel chains on behalf of Christian Brothers Investment Services said, "The travel and lodging industry is well-positioned to help prevent human trafficking by collaborating and taking steps to stop the use of [their] hotels for these purposes." He said that members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility "denounce human trafficking in all its forms, whether it is intended for forced labor, child labor or for sexual exploitation."

His letter cited U.N. statistics on human trafficking. Coleman said it is "estimated that some 12 million people are victims of human trafficking. Some of the most vulnerable who fall prey to trafficking are children, through prostitution and sex tourism." He urged hotel chains to "create awareness among employees, using training and information as major tools to highlight the issues around human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children."

Coleman called upon hotels to "train staff to be observant of potential victims" of trafficking and to teach staff how to report "anything that suggests that the sexual exploitation of children may be taking place (for example, abuse, procuring, photographing)." Hotels were urged by Coleman to "build alliances with police, anti-trafficking organizations and child welfare agencies."

8. The Economy, Its Ethics and the Pontifical Academy

Taking place at the time of an exploding financial crisis in Greece that would prove to have worldwide ramifications, the 2010 annual meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, whose deliberations focused on the recession and the economic crisis, was "as relevant as the daily headlines," Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon said May 5 as the four-day meeting drew to a close. Glendon is the academy's president and is a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

The academy invited economists, lawyers, theologians, business leaders and social scientists to examine the roots of the economic crisis and its impact on individuals and nations.

Speakers during the meeting said the global economic crisis reflected failures of several kinds - failures of leadership, regulation and ethics. The pontifical academy tried to spell out what must change if such a crisis is to be avoided in the future.

And it was reported that Glendon said during a press conference May 5 that another issue needs to be considered as well, namely why some business actions are conducted without reference to their ethical dimensions - why the moral consequences of business decisions often are ignored.

She said, moreover, that it is unfortunate that no one yet has come up with a way to "construct a juridical framework that permits the enormous wealth-creating possibilities of the market to operate and yet corrects for the enormous destructive capability of the market."

In a written overview of the meeting, Glendon said the pontifical academy "addressed itself explicitly to the economic crisis." She reported that "one invited speaker, Dr. Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, chairman of Ferrari and Fiat, former president of Confindustria, spoke of a shift from an economy based in the real production of goods to an economy dominated by speculative activities driven by greed."

Glendon said that a common theme of the academy's 2010 meeting "was that the economic crisis took a serious toll on the poor, even if the origin was in the wealthy countries and within the financial sector of the wealthy countries." As a result, she noted, "those who were not at fault suffered."

If "the relative cost of the financial bailouts" is compared "to the amounts needed for basic nutrition, for example," the conclusion cannot be avoided "that this crisis has distracted greatly from urgent questions of development," Glendon said.

Pope Benedict XVI told participants in the academy's meeting April 30 that the continuing global economic crisis has demonstrated that the free market is not able to regulate itself in a way that promotes the common good. He criticized what he described as "an impoverished notion of economic life as a sort of self-calibrating mechanism."

Underlying the economic crisis was an attitude that overlooked "the essentially ethical nature of economics as an activity of and for human beings," according to the pope. He said economic activity should not be viewed simply as a matter of production and consumption. Rather, it ought to involve "an exercise of human responsibility" that is "intrinsically oriented toward the promotion of the dignity of the person, the pursuit of the common good and the integral development -- political, cultural and spiritual -- of individuals, families and societies."

(For a recent analysis of challenges encountered in public discussions of ethics and the financial crisis, see the May 1 edition of this jknirp.com newsletter.)