Saturday, May 13, 2017


Our Father Who art in heaven …”  Is God “Our Father”?  The great Jewish theologian, Moses Maimonides thought that human names weren’t sufficient for God. Let us use another insufficient but perhaps more powerful analogy – God “Our Mother”.

The prophet Isaiah reported:

Zion says, (49:14) / ”The Lord has forsaken me. / My Lord has forgotten me.”/ (15) Can a woman forget her baby, Or disown the child, the child of her womb?
Can immigration law be so absurd as to threaten to separate a mom from her dying child?  It is. – she sent a letter from the jail and described her son as one of God’s angels.

Mater Dolorosa pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
Can immigration law be so absurd to deport a man – a grandfather with a family who arrived as a child, then graciously allows him to return to his mom in a casket?  Yes – and she buried him piously in Faith – she knows there is more to the story.

Mater Dolorosa pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
The hope of a Honduran family with several young children, born in Honduras and the U.S., is to work to get enough money in the U.S. to afford to get enough land and tools to own a small farm in Honduras.  The family moves quite often to avoid detection.

Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
Can immigration law be so absurd as to depend on the competence of a lawyer to avoid the separation of a family?  Such is the case of a mom whose husband could be deported because their lawyer was late in filing papers. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

“Behold! the angels said, ‘O Mary Allah has chosen you and purified you chosen you above the women of all nations.’ “ (Qur’an,  39:42)

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Working Catholic: Common Good

By Bill Droel

“Your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care,” says a former Congressman from Illinois. He has apparently forgotten the definition of insurance (a hedge or cushion against risk), which is normally achieved by spreading the cost of a problem (a car accident, a fire, a surgery) among a more-or-less random pool of people. More importantly, this former legislator (now a radio commentator) and many others like him have forgotten a crucial part of moral philosophy.

Our United States culture prizes liberty. It is a marvel the way our country’s founders and its citizens to this day have woven liberty into our laws, our civic affairs, our business practices, our expressions of faith and more. This is something new in the long history of civilization. We correctly invoke the virtue of liberty or freedom at sports events, in schools, in discussions of military deployment, in TV commercials, in policy debates and more. Frequently, however, we forget that liberty is a social virtue and that it is part of a constellation of other virtues. Instead, we too often equate liberty with ragged individualism.

Individualism is now the default position of our culture. It says that goodness is achieved when at the end of the day (or the end of the financial quarter or fiscal year) the greatest number of people gets the best results possible. The mechanism is individual choice. The maximum number of choices, says individualism, will somehow yield maximum benefits—though not for all people, but for the most people. This is a philosophy for lazy thinkers. It reduces liberty or freedom to choices or options. Should we install a dish or connect with cable? Should we marry or simply live together? Should we help one another with health insurance or allocate for our own family exclusively? 

Individual liberty is an achievement, but individualism, particularly as currently presented by some ideologues in our society, is destructive. Yes to communitarian individuals; no to extreme individualism.

The principle of the common good recognizes that many important things cannot be obtained by individuals. Many good things can only be obtained in common: public safety, effective fire-fighting in urban areas, roads and airports, libraries (including all cyber-research), clean water and access to health care. No matter how wealthy the former Congressman might be, he cannot have all these good things unless he cooperates. In fact, many people never use an airport but their taxes subsidize the airport that the Congressman uses. Many never go to college, but taxpayers underwrote his education. His tuition did not fully cover the costs of running those schools.

The common good, which was always part of the United States experiment in democracy, complements the so-called free market and in fact it makes the market better. The common good is not reducible to the sum total of individual choices. It imposes considerations on those who are expressing an opinion and acting on a calculated choice. If we forget about the common good, we sooner or later lose society.

Of course, the common good does not give wholesale endorsement to the Affordable Care Act. It does not endorse Trump/Ryan Care. Reasonable citizens can reasonably differ about the delivery of health care. In fact, the common good does not even necessitate a health insurance system. Theoretically, normal health care (the requirement of the common good principle) could be inexpensively available to all if pharmaceutical executives, doctors, hospital administrators and others were paid the same wage as their patients.

The former Illinois Congressman, who lists himself as a Catholic, puts the matter of health care delivery under the virtue of compassion. “It is compassion for me to voluntarily help someone else,” he says. It is not a virtue for the government “to forcibly take the money I make.”

Here again, he and many others don’t realize that compassion or love is a commandment or a requirement. It is not merely optional. Likewise, he forgets to put compassion into the constellation of social virtues. For example, distributive justice is the virtue that obligates an authority, like the government, to allocate resources so that all have the common goods.

Extreme individualism is bad for our culture, bad for business, bad for United States image abroad and bad for legitimate debate about government meddling in health care, about tax incentives for domestic job creation, about improvements in education outcomes, about women’s reproductive health, about enforcing the civil rights of gays and lesbians, about reform inside civil service unions, about extraction and use of domestic natural resources. Extreme libertarians on the right and on the left are hurting our society.

From its earliest days, visitors to our country have been impressed with our teamwork, our sense of community, our voluntary associations, our inclusiveness and our collective dedication to the common good. We prosper and pursue our happiness to the extent that we pull together and that we refute mindless comments about “my own health care.”

Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a print newsletter about faith and work.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vatican II Pioneers

Pat and Patty Crowley

Hope and anticipation for Vatican II was fostered by the Christian Family Movement which was founded by a Chicago couple, Pat and Patty Crowley.  Essentially a lay movement within the Roman Catholic Church it fostered ecumenism, status for the laity, liturgical reform, and Catholic action with the goal of a better world.  Vatican II was encouraging but Pope Paul VI's Encyclical, Humanae Vitae, prohibiting artificial birth control, restricted progress.  This disappointed the Crowleys, but they continued in their efforts for church reform.  I am confident you will find the following story about the Crowleys moving and insightful.  It is  written by their oldest daughter - Patricia Anne Crowley, O.S.B.                                Bill Lange

Our 103 year old Sister, Vivian Ivantic, has been urging me to write about my parents for a couple of years now.   However, until William Lange invited me to write about my parents for his blog, I kept procrastinating saying to myself,  I am just too close to this topic…..I will try to write next week…I just don’t have time right now, etc.

So let me at least begin.   My father, Patrick F. Crowley, the son of Irish Catholic parents, was a fascinating combination of traditional religious practices and creative avant-garde spirituality.  His lifelong friendships from his early years at St. Mary of the Lake grammar school and Loyola Academy persisted even though those men were of various political persuasions and religious practices. He adored my mother and with her and those friends, formed what was known as “The Poker Club” or, at one point as “The Stork Club”.   He used his professional career as a lawyer to serve both sides of the family as their corporate counsel as well as to provide for his immediate growing family and to help all who came to him for legal advice and / or financial support.   He was a learner par excellence and reached out to emerging voices in our world to come and share with the hundreds of couples who gathered each year at Notre Dame for the annual conventions of the Christian Family Movement.  My impression always was that no one could bring themselves to dislike him and hardly anyone could say “no” to him!  What I suspect that people seldom saw in him was a soul that felt great anguish at other people’s suffering.  His disappointment was particularly evident to me when the encyclical on birth control, Humanae Vitae, was published.  He took that turn of events to heart and felt keenly the pain of couples around the world at that time.

Patty Caron Crowley, my mother, was the daughter of a Jansenist French-Canadian father and a Baptist mother, who converted to Catholicism when Patty was young.  She was often misunderstood by her mother, when as a student of the late Father John A. Ryan at Trinity College in D.C., she learned of Catholic social teaching and began to make decisions based on what she had learned.    Her social and political views were even more radicalized when she connected with the handsome Pat Crowley, who had been formed to think broadly in his years at Notre Dame University.  When they met, Pat was smitten immediately.   Patty, probably to please her mother who did not think a poor Irish law student was good enough for any daughter of hers, went off to Paris for a year and there dated several continental guys.  She apparently always remembered those times and never ever regretted her acceptance of Pat’s proposal for marriage upon her return home.

Pat and Patty were soul mates. Their personalities could not have been more different!  Their relational complementarity was their gift to all of us.  Their roles fit their personalities – he the visionary and she the organizational and practical one.  Together they graciously welcomed people of all faiths and origins into our home.

 In the 31 years between their deaths, I came to know and appreciate my mother’s strength and determination.  She, too, suffered greatly from the Church’s decision to go against the majority opinion of the Birth Control Commission.  It took her 25 years after Humanae Vitae was published, to speak out publicly about their “conversion” experience. They, along with the vast majority of that group, were convinced by letters from couples around the world, by scientists and theologians on the Commission that birth control was not intrinsically evil.  The official Church chose not to follow that advice and, as a drastic result, lost much of its authority among many of its members.

That is the context in which I grew into adulthood.  The family I knew in the first decade of my life was pretty typical of the times – as many children as possible, parochial school for the kids, daily mass at 6:30 a.m., family rosary after the evening meal, regular visits to grandparents, nightly family dinners, summer camp experiences and so much more.  That all changed during the next decade of my life.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Martin Luther King; A Letter from the Birmingham JAIL, April 16, 1963

How does King's letter relate to the current immigration debate?

   Despite the evidence of violence and devastating poverty in Latin American countries and the inadequate and unfair immigration law of the U.S., many U.S. citizens condemn undocumented immigrants for one reason:  immigrants are breaking the law.

   Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., in his letter from the Birmingham Jail, noted that both St. Augustine (Father of the Church, 354-430) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Church Doctor, 1225-1274) stated that a bad law was no law and did not require obedience. Dr. King was referring to the ‘Jim Crow’ laws of the South as bad law, but historically, there are many other examples, such as slavery itself.

Aquinas and Augustine on law

St. Augustine of Hippo, North Africa

In his letter from the Birmingham jail, King quotes St. Augustine: 

“That which is not just seems to be no law at all.”  

Aquinas quoted the above statement by Augustine and added:  

“But if in any point it (human law) departs from the law of nature (reason), it is no longer a law but a perversion. (1.)

Aquinas and Augustine knew that civil law was crucial.  Augustine wrote no matter what government (even the Roman Empire), man must obey the law, 

“…so long as he is not compelled to act against God or his conscience…” (2.)

Augustine and Aquinas represent differing philosophical and theological points of view but agreed that human law must serve all people – the common good.

St. Thomas defined law as:

 “… nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, promulgated by him who has care of the community.” (3.)

   A law can be a ‘bad law’ on two grounds:  if it is unreasonable and if it does not serve all in the community; it is a matter of forging a proper, peaceful society. 
   Law cannot rule out all possible or perceived evil.  Such a law may cause more harm than good.  In a pluralist society such as the U.S., religious mandates cannot be inflicted on the general public that would damage the common good.  An example would be a law to deny the right of some to health care.    An example is the Roman Catholic hierarchy attempting to impose the unreasonable prohibition of abortion in all circumstances, prohibition of contraceptives, and denial of gay rights.  St. Thomas states:

“…human law cannot punish or forbid all evil deeds, since, while aiming at doing away with all evils, it would do away with many good things, and would hinder the advance of the common good…” (4.)

The debate in forming the U.S. Constitution resulted in accepting slavery as the only possibility of forming the Republic.  The Constitution legalized slavery, but the horrible Civil War resulted in a change of the Constitution and a modicum of freedom for slaves.

Human Solidarity

   John Courtney Murray, S.J., a key advisor of Vatican II on freedom of conscience quotes English Dominican Thomas Gilby, O.P.:

“Civilization is formed by men locked together in argument.  From this dialogue the community becomes a political community.” (5.)

The dialogue is of existential importance. Timing is a factor.  When do practical politics move the Creator’s ‘self evident truths,’ expressed in the Declaration of Independence, to become the written law of the Nation?  The Letter from the Birmingham Jail gives a resounding cry of – Now!  In a book published in 1968 Doctor King explained:

“We still have a choice today: nonviolent co-existence or violent co-annihilation, this may be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.” (6.)

Dr. King used the term ‘mankind.’  Classic theology and philosophy attempted to be universal and not nationalistic.  St. Augustine wrote:

“The simple truth is that the bond of a common human nature makes all human beings one.” (7.)

Undocumented Immigrants

   U.S. immigration law is flawed, but there is a human bond with immigrants and is recognized by the U.S. Constitution and America’s basic proclamation, the Declaration of Independence.  Paul Rougeau emphasizes the need for International Solidarity advocated by John Paul II in his encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis.   Rougeau calls for a ‘cosmopolitan’ community. John Paul II writes Solidarity is:  

“…a fundamental concept that all humankind and Christians should agree upon and put into practice.  Solidarity should influence the lives of persons, nations and the world in general.” (8. R 78)

 In reference to the U.S. immigration crisis Rougeau states:

“Christians are called in solidarity with these migrants to promote meaningful dialogue about changing this system. (immigration)   “… we must confront the reality that respect for human dignity, human rights and liberal democratic principles excludes the possibility of massive deportations of undocumented immigrants. (8. R152)

Civil disobedience, a part of political dialogue

  Dr. Martin Luther King, a 20th century Baptist minister, in explaining why he broke the law, referred to classic theology and philosophy that predates the Protestant Reformation, capitalism and nationalism. Classic philosophical thought corresponds to the basic proposition of the U.S. founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence.  King quotes Lincoln’s 1858 ‘House Divided Speech,’ “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.”  

How do you solve the problem?  Like Lincoln at Gettysburg King refers to the U.S. Declaration of Independence – and the basic American political proposition, ‘All are created equal.’  For the community to survive, “the bond of mankind” - Augustine’s words, must be recognized – “all are created equal” means everyone.  King understood America as did Lincoln at Gettysburg. (9.)  King goes further and re-established an important part of civil dialogue in forming community, non-violent civil disobedience, to overturn unjust law.  The American tradition goes back to writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau.

   Dr. Martin Luther King is rightly considered an American patriot and a model to follow.


Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Benziger Brothers, 1947, I – II
(1. Q. 95 – A. 2, p.1014)  (3. Q. 90 – A. 4, p. 995)  (4, Q. 91 – A. 4, p. 998)

St.Augustine, Image Books, City of God, 1958, (2. P.113)  (7, p. 302)

John Courtney Murray, We Hold These Truths, Sheed & Ward, 1960, (5. p. 6)

The Declaration of Independence.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter From a Birmingham Jail.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Where do We Go From Here: Chaos or CommunityBantam Books, 1968, (6, p. 223)

Vincent D. Rougeau, Christians in the American Empire, 2008, (8, p. 152)

Gary Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg, Simon & Schuster, (9.)

Friday, March 31, 2017


  The annual May 1, Labor Day March is preceded by a program called, “PREDICATORES DE JUSTICIA.” (Preachers of Justice)

  In April preachers will be sent to various congregations in Milwaukee, Racine, Beloit, and Sheboygan to advocate for immigrant rights. There will be homilies, discussions, announcements or simply a distribution of flyers regarding the May 1st March at various faith communities.  
   Common sense demands immigration reform and immigrant rights; for example, an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel states: “Programs that foster integration (of immigrants) are crucial in the industrial Midwest … to fill vacancies as waves of baby boomers retire. (M.J.S. 3-30-17)  But there is more to it than that.  Some look for more illumination and inspiration from a fundamental understanding of their Faith.  A basic text for “People of the Book” is - all are created in the image and likeness of God. (Gen. 1)

The special dignity of the person is clear – all are created in the image of God – none are left out such as the stranger: – “If a stranger lives in your land, do not molest him.  You must count him as one of your own countrymen and love him as yourself.” (Lev 19: 33-34).   Jesus explained that if you have neglected the stranger you have neglected Jesus himself. (Matt. 24). The Koran states, “Do good to parents, kinfolk orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the Companion by your side, the wayfarer you meet …” (4;36)

   If your congregation is interested in participating in Predicatores de Justicia or you would like to be a messenger – a Preacher of Justice contact Nayeli Rondin-Valle at Voces de la Frontera.  (; 414-643-1620)  The voice of Faith needs to be heard.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Working Catholic: Lent Reading by Bill Droel

      St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday this year. Thus, several Illinois bishops (though not all) and other bishops elsewhere “granted a dispensation” so that the faithful could thereby have corned beef on the feast. (Is there any evidence that workaday Catholics are incapable of making such decisions on their own? I met no such person during my evening out.)

      By way of two bishops, here is an alternative to fretting about shamrocks and dispensations. Pope Francis suggests we read On Naboth by St. Ambrose (340-397), bishop of Milan. It is a 32-page commentary on a parable recounted in First Kings 21. St. Ambrose invites us to consider fasting in a more substantial manner than foregoing meat on seven days each spring—only six days if St. Patrick or St. Joseph intercedes. 

     St. Ambrose does not have to search far in Scripture to conclude that God is not interested in superficial fasting. “The fast that I have chosen,” as St. Ambrose paraphrases God, is to “undo every tie of injustice, loose the bonds of contracts made under duress, set free the broken and break every unjust obligation. Break your bread for the hungry and bring the needy and homeless into your house.”

St. Ambrose continues with a saying that is often reprinted: “Nature, then, knows no distinction when we are born, and it knows none when we die. It creates all alike, and all alike it encloses in the bowels of the tomb.” Go to any cemetery. “Open up the earth and [see] if you are able [to] discern who is rich. Then clear away the rubbish and [see] if you [can] recognize the poor person.”

As for the Old Testament story in First Kings, St. Ambrose cuts no slack for King Ahab, who perhaps had an advance copy of The Art of the Deal. Ahab seems to offer Naboth a deal for his vineyard. I’ll give you either a different vineyard or cash, says Ahab.

St. Ambrose is not fooled. It is arrogance, writes St. Ambrose. Give me, Ahab says. For what purpose? “All this madness, all this uproar, then, was in order to find space for paltry herbs. It is not, therefore, that you [Ahab] desire to possess something useful for yourself so much as it is that you want to exclude others... The rich man cries out that he does not have.” 

The First Kings story, St. Ambrose concludes, “is repeated everyday” as we in our dissatisfaction covet other people’s goods.

 It is not too late to adopt a Lent discipline. We can try to fast from envy and greed. We can try to be rich in contentment; not only between now and April 16, 2017. But we can practice contentment every day until that day when our last mortal possession is taken to a cemetery to join all the other look-a-likes.  

It wouldn’t hurt these Lent days and in the coming months to also give something away. Here St. Ambrose has a final piece of advice. “You are commonly in the habit of saying: We ought not to give to someone whom God has cursed by desiring him to be poor.” Or as this is expressed in the United States: We should refrain from helping the undeserving poor. There are no cursed poor, St. Ambrose concludes. There is no divine distinction between the deserving and undeserving. Read the Scripture: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a printed newsletter.