Saturday, December 25, 2010


Again some stops before getting into Quadragesimo Anno…

At some point in this blog I will claim that Liberation Theology is a part, if not the best of Catholic Social Teaching. Important points will be: method in doing Theology, the need for structural political change, concientizasion, (expands the notion of the moral as reasonable) and preferential option for the poor. I will also include Cesar Chavez for his non-violence theology and organizing methods, and recent attempts by Roman Catholic theologians to give direction in the struggle for immigration reform.

But who cares? Here’s an example. My cousin Meg got me an invitation to the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the grade school that I went to in River Forest, Illinois. It was founded by the Dominican Fathers as the parish school for St. Vincent Ferrer Church. The school and the parish were part of a Dominican presence in River Forest that included Rosary College for women – now called Dominican University, co-ed, the Dominican House of Studies (Pontifical Institute of Philosophy), and Trinity High School for girls. Rosary, Trinity, and St. Vincent Ferrer School were staffed and run by the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters. The House Studies now is part of Rosary – Dominican University.

St. Vincent Ferrer School started in 1940, but classes were held at Trinity. In 1941, the school building was completed, and I began my school career, first grade, in 1941. Our 1949 graduating class was the first to do eight years in the new school. My two brothers graduated from St. Vincent’s and my mother taught there for many years.

I was excited to go to the anniversary party. I had my mind set on not challenging anything and looked forward to possibly meeting old classmates. It wasn’t easy. The English Gothic church was full for the opening of the festivities. Vatican II hadn’t inspired any renovations except they did have an altar piece that faced the people. Since the House of Studies was turned over to Dominican University, the St. Vincent Ferrer Rectory has become a residence for Dominican priests not necessarily connected to the parish. Some of them participated in the Mass. The pastor is the Rev. Herb Hayek, O.P. whom I knew when he was a Dominican student. Strange, the last time I saw him Herbie was a kid with a sarcastic sense of humor. As an old man he does emit a sense of pastoral “gravitas.” Also in the procession to the altar was Kevin O’Rourke, O.P. former Dean of the Aquinas Institute in Dubuque. Leading the procession to the altar were the Knights of Columbus in full regalia. At communion time a knight with drawn sword stood at attention alongside each of the five or six priests distributing communion. A proud incorporation of the “conquista” into the celebration (sacrifice – the guy on the cross looked like a Native American). Was it Jesus that preached “the good news” of peace to be achieved by war or was it Caesar Augustus? Has anybody ever heard of Bartolome de las Casas, O.P.? I take it too seriously; it was comedy at its best.

After Mass I talked to Kevin O’Rourke, who is famous for saying that nurses should not be allowed to organize into a labor union. Kevin was using a walker; we said hello but neither of us was about to get into any kind of discussion. Secular priest, Mons. George Higgins of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, had already flattened him years ago in the debate over the nurses. I did feel guilty about it. A friend, stalwart of the Milwaukee Faith Community for Worker Justice, and champion of the nurses right to organize, Regina Williams, O.P. Ph.D., would have wanted me to at least make a few snarky remarks. Regina had recently passed away at 92 years of age. Associate and friend of Regina, Mike Crosby, O.F.M. Cap., presided at the funeral liturgy. No Heisman Trophy for Regina and her followers, but she would say that it’s not necessary.

The night was saved when we met John Lattner, 1953 Heisman Trophy winner, and his wife. We spent a half hour or so talking. John indicated gratitude to labor and the union he belonged to during the summers while he was at Notre Dame. To me he will always be superman. Also a conversation with high school classmate and St. Thomas scholar Albert Judy, O.P. was refreshing.

We went to England in November to celebrate the birth of our newest grandson, Matthew James Lange. (b. October 18, 2010) Joanne dragged me to a Sunday mass at the local Roman Catholic Church – St. Gertrude. Sean, our two year old grandson, provided entertainment when he escaped from the children’s area to say hello. He then ran down the center aisle with Joel in hot pursuit.

But besides Sean, Father Martin McCarthy’s homily was interesting. He talked about the establishment of the feast of Christ the King by Pius XI ( Quadragesimo Ano, 1931) in 1925. The homily was a reminder. Monsieur Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, the future Pius XI, was named Papal Nuncio to Poland after W.W.I by Benedict XV. Poland was very loyal to the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican and the Vatican therefore supported a strong and independent Poland – an ally in the fight against “communism” – Russia, Spain, and Mexico. Pius XI was dogged in his support of Poland in its struggle to stop an attempted takeover by the Russian Bolsheviks. He was a supporter of Marshall Pilsudski who, with the help of the Polish Jewish community, defeated the Bolsheviks.

The Feast of Christ the King was established to remind the world that its moral center was the Vatican headed by Christ’s Vicar, the Pope. (Vatican I 1870 declared the Pope infallible) The Encyclical announcing the feast, Quas Primas, states (Part IV, paragraph 12): “The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ Himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied.” (by the “Communists”) Also, (Part VI, paragraph 19) “When we pay honor to the princely dignity of Christ, men will doubtless be reminded that the Church, founded by Christ as a perfect society, has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the state; and that in teaching, ruling, and guiding to eternal bliss those who belong to the Kingdom of Christ, she cannot be subject to any external power.” These are fitting comments for a Church founded by the Emperor Constantine.

This means that governments that oppose the Vatican are evil and those in favor are good. Support for fascists such as Franco in Spain, Dollfus in Austria, Salazar in Portugal and the dictator Pilsudski in Poland is not a surprise. Early Vatican social teaching did not see freedom of expression as fundamental. For example, the Vatican supported labor in so far as it is Roman Catholic and does not resort to strikes.

Questions to face: How did the U.S. Catholic Church react to the dilemmas presented by the Vatican to Roman Catholics living in a free society? The key concept of Quadragesimo Anno was “subsidiarity.” What is the American meaning of “subsidiarity?”

Myths are necessary to explain Faith, Hope and Love which are inexplicable. If a myth becomes absurd then it should be forgotten - e.g. limbo, and the Knights of Columbus. Valuable myths have positive palpable reality.

The fall elections seemed to squelch all hope for immigration reform. The dream act failed. Legislation that would free unions to organize is now nowhere in sight. In Wisconsin, the newly elected governor has openly declared war on the public service unions. There is a threat to turn Wisconsin into a - “right to work state.” A Wisconsin state legislator has proposed an “Arizona 1070 law.” “Where is there hope, Joanne,” asked a Voces Board Member.

We found it, myths but real - Christmas gifts:

We were doing our exercise walking at the Mayfair Mall when we met Barbara Toles, state legislator and Joanne’s former colleague. After brief greeting hugs, Barbara said, “It’s O.K. we’ve just got to work harder. We’ll get some new people in the legislature in two years.” We parted with hugs, Merry Christmas’s, smiles and good feelings.

Voces activist Primitivo Torres invited us to Trinity Guadalupe parish for the Sunday Mass celebrating the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was freezing, we were both sick with colds. Sanctuary had already done a vigil at the Church in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the four Church women murdered in El Salvador – why go? It was freezing cold, but we went. We arrived fifteen minutes early and the large 19th century Church was packed. We were lucky to find places to sit. Why did we have only about 20 people at our vigil? Before Mass a band and mariachis played for the Virgin – not the congregants. Mass began with Aztec dancers dancing up to the altar to pay homage to the Virgin. They were excellent performers – men, women and children – breathtaking. The band and the mariachis provided music for the Mass. At one point we had a complete dramatization of the Guadalupe story. I finally noticed that all the kids in attendance were dressed in costume. Girls were vested as the Virgin Guadalupe and the boys as Juan Diego. Pastor Jose Moreno, S.J. presided. Moreno who is also pastor at another nearby Latino church, serves as a jail chaplain and occasional math professor at Marquette, was worked up. During his homily he recounted the role of the Mexican priest Hidalgo and Church people in the fight for independence from Spain. All were under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Que viva la Virgen” he shouted, “Que viva Mexico” he shouted again. We heard the “grito” of Hidalgo – of Mexico echoing through the centuries. Before their exciting and colorful exit, the Aztec dancers expressed reverence to the Virgin – the revised Goddess of Tepeyac. The ceremony was a merger of myths; the Trinity now included the Virgin. Moreno said that the story must be preserved, “it is part of our culture.”

After Mass we were invited to refreshments in the school building basement. We got in line for hot chocolate and tamales. It was freezing cold in the basement, but not for long. One of Joanne’s former students came up to her excitedly shouting, “¿Maestra, Maestra como esta?,” hugs all around. We sat with her and her family, but we received Guadalupe greetings from all. We were told that the celebration started the night before with instrumental music and singing. Some had maintained an all night vigil. Ya somos Guadalupanos, pues.

Posadas: Ascension Lutheran hosts vigils that we do before demonstrating at the ICE the next day. We do this once a month. Pastor Walter, who is from El Salvador, invited us to the Ascension’s Posada. Freezing cold, but we went. When we got to the church there weren’t many people. After a while we started the traditional songs in the church. More and more people showed up. Pastor Walter related the story of Mary and Joseph finding “no room at the inn” to migrants looking for sanctuary from poverty and violence. He encouraged us to be politically active in the quest for just immigration reform. We left the church and knocked on a couple doors looking for a “posada” for Mary and Joseph. The final stop was a house with a professionally printed sign on it stating, “We are Roman Catholics – No Soliciting.” Pastor Walter assured us it was OK. We sang our song pleading “posada.” A young man opened the door, listened, wished us “¡Felice Navidad!” and went back inside. We then went to the church basement for fellowship –hot chocolate and a full dinner. By now we had picked up about a hundred people for the banquette. Pastor Walter did the blessing. I felt the presence of the young man from Galilee who had no place to lay his head. (Lk. 9:58)

The Holy Angels Old Catholic Church did the full nine day novena for the Posada. A different family would host the posada each night and the final night would be at the church on Christmas Eve. The pastor, Father Alvaro, is a member of our “Comité Timon,” steering committee of the Milwaukee New Sanctuary Movement. Alvaro invited us to one of the posada nights. It took place at a modest south side home, a worker’s cottage, probably owned in the past by Polish immigrants. The yard was decorated with brightly illuminated snowmen and Santa Clause. We were ushered through the Christmas decorated house to the basement packed with people, men, women and children, including musicians. Father Alvaro introduced the ceremony. He explained that the trip by the Holy Family from Nazareth to Bethlehem where they were rejected is similar to their own migrant experience. He encouraged us to continue to be active in the struggle for justice. Alvaro then introduce us to the “ama de casa,” the hostess. She welcomed us, then lamented the failure of the “Dream Act.” She said we need to continue the struggle and develop better legislation. Alvaro took issue. He said the proposed law was a good one; we need to continue pressure to get it passed. We were asked to stand and say the Rosary. The Sorrowful Mysteries were introduced by a young woman who, at the same time, cared for a rambunctious ten year old son who had no place to run in the packed basement. Five different young “madres de familia” led each one of the five Mysteries. In between, the musicians provided accompaniment for hymns. The final Mystery, the Crucifixion, was introduced by one of the women with dampening eyes expressing a lament to claim that the Virgin witnessed the horror of the execution of her son out of love for us. Next the “Posada story” was dramatized with the traditional hymns. Mary and Joseph gained refuge and it was time to celebrate. The joy of families getting together was infectious. Hot chocolate, tacos and taquila were served. The host came up to us and introduced himself. “Ola maestra,” he said to Joanne, “Senior, - bienvenido a ustedes”. He was one of Joanne’s students at the technical college a few years ago.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

After Gustavo’s funeral I ask, (Scroll down to see last posting – “Remembering Gus”)

“Does Roman Catholic Social Teaching go down with the Titanic?"

There are at least two levels of suppression of Roman Catholic social teaching. The first level is with Church officials. In the first half of the 20th century, Catholic social teaching focused on the right of workers to organize and the duty of government to promote social justice for all. This was based on the philosophical principle that all are created equal and are endowed by nature with unalienable rights. Now the priority for political activity according to the hierarchy is opposition to: a woman’s right to choose, stem cell research and gay marriage. This is based on undifferentiated theological myth and tradition, plus unabashed alliance with the Republican Party and its money.
The next level is the groups that focus on reforming the Church such as the National Catholic Reporter and Call to Action. The Church they are trying to reform is, practically speaking, the hierarchy. Such efforts put Catholic social teaching on the back burner – the pot has boiled over; there is nothing left. At both levels the perspective is from the white, middle class – educated to live, work and do politics in a capitalist society.
Can Roman Catholic Social Teaching Shed Failed Undifferentiated Myths and Tradition?
There is value in using myths to explain inexplicable truth, but when they are used to suppress the basic rights of people the myths need to be re-thought. Traditions need to be reconsidered according to time and place. An indication of the problem is Angela Merkel’s comment about Muslims in Germany. Merkel is Chancellor of Germany and leader of the Christian Democratic Union political party. She said, “We feel bound to the Christian image of humanity – that is what defines us. Those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here.” Merkel is saying that Muslims don’t belong in Germany. A German born friend commented, “How can she say that? Turkish immigrants were crucial in re-building Germany after W.W. II.” In a globalized world, where it seems as if we all live in the same village, where do the Muslims belong according to the Christians?
Another example of traditions and myths needing to be rethought are the recent comments of German native, Pope Benedict XVI, at the shrine of Santiago de Compostela. Benedict XVI denounced social reforms in Spain and sided with the Spanish fascists of the 1930’s who were instigators of a bloody civil war. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Nov. 7, 2010) The comments are appropriate because the shrine, named after James the brother of Jesus, celebrates the victory of the Christians over the Muslims in 844 at the battle of Clavijo. The victors were inspired by a vision of St. James leading the charge on a horse with his sword raised. Statues of Santiago on his horse brandishing a sword can be seen in Roman Catholic churches around the world especially in Latin America and Spain. St. James is also known as Santiago Matamoros – the killer of Muslims. A town in Mexico is named Matamoros after St. James.
Contrast Merkel and Benedict XVI with W.W. II Belgian resistance fighter Dr. Gaston Vandermeerssche, long time Milwaukee resident, who recently passed away. “I feel that the fundamental basis of patriotism should be a belief in mankind and its freedom … far beyond the aspirations of any one nation, any one religion, or any geographical location.” He also said, “One must learn to discover the values and the similarities of a human being that go far behind the color of their skin, the artificial and superficial expressions of their creeds or religions and especially beyond the particular piece of land on which they live. The concept of ‘international patriotism is the only guarantee; it seems to me, for world peace.” In an interview Vandermeerssch stated. “We have to start teaching our youngsters that patriotism, as we know it, to defend only your piece of land is wrong.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Nov. 5, 2010. Also,
Gaston’s War, Allen Mayer, 1988)
Roman Catholic social teaching is grounded on the best of western philosophy. It stands or falls based on the quality of the philosophical reasoning. It must be timely, open to dialogue, admit mistakes and incorporate new insights. Failed dogmatized myths and traditions that appear in the encyclicals can be jettisoned without damage to the message of justice for all. Mid twentieth century Dominican Thomist , Humbert Kane, O.P., had strong criticism for philosopher – historian Etienne Gilson who wrote the historical classic, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages. I had a couple of classes from “Hum,” and I can hear him now: “Brothers there is no such thing as ‘Christian Philosophy’ – philosophy is philosophy.”
True enough there are different perspectives, but the resulting discussion enriches all. An example would be the medieval cities Toledo and Cordoba of Muslim Spain. Jewish, Christian and Muslim thought flourished at the same time and have been basic for those seeking consensus and productive peace.
In summary, you don’t have to believe in the Trinity or Papal interpretation of natural law (the law of reason) to recognize nature’s mandate for “preferential option for the poor” and the required political and economic structures. This is where loyalty lies with justice, not with an institution.

Monday, October 18, 2010


It was a relief to take off for San Francisco to visit our daughter and her family for a few days. We were worn out in our efforts as volunteers in the struggle at the immigrant worker’s center, Voces de la Frontera, trying to stop the Milwaukee County Sheriff from turning over undocumented non-criminal workers to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) when they land in jail for minor infractions. Also, three friends, who were involved in the movement for social justice, had recently died. All three traced their activism to a sense of Catholic Social Justice. Death is part of life, but one of our friends died tragically with devastating implications for his family and the Latino community in Milwaukee.
Dori & John took us on a visit to the Napa Valley Cohn Winery for some sun, relaxation and wine. At the wine tasting, with bread sticks, I asked the bartender attendant about the workers who pick the grapes. Are they migrants? Are they documented? Are they members of the National Farm Workers Union? “I don’t know,” was the answer. “That work is contracted out; I’m sure they’re nice people,” he conceded. “Do you have Kosher wine?” “We sell it but it is not produced here.” Remembering Postville, IA and the I.C.E. raid on the Kosher meat packing plant, I wondered whether Rabbis had been successful to include just wages and safe working conditions for workers as a requirement for the designation of “Kosher.” Then I thought of Gustavo Gomez, a friend who was deported a couple of years ago and was recently killed in an auto accident in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Despite the wine and bread sticks I felt angry. It seems to me that they don’t offer the “work of human hands” in Roman Catholic liturgies; they offer the workers themselves to false gods. I can still see the distorted death face of Gustavo in the casket and my whole being screams silently in horror.

What happened?
In the spring of 1999 we were organizing our annual Labor in the Pulpits program and Deacon Julio Lopez of St. Rose-St. Michael congregations promised to bring Gus Gomez to our meeting. The new comer was introduced as Gustavo Gomez, an Iron Worker and member of the Union. He was also studying for the deaconate. Gustavo agreed to do homilies in English and Spanish at two masses. Their pastor, Father Dennis, was cooperative and helpful in many ways.
I got to know Gustavo and found out he was a grandfather and that his mother Josefina was one of my wife Joanne’s students at the local technical college. Josefina was in Joanne’s bi-lingual math class for dislocated workers. Master Lock “in the race to the bottom” had moved to a low wage area and Josefina lost her job. In mid-July I called Gustavo to ask him how his preparation for Labor in the Pulpits was going. “Bill” he said, “I can’t do it.” He was working at the Miller Park construction site when the gigantic crane, “Big Blue,” toppled over killing three workers – all good friends of Gustavo. The crane accident was avoidable. Gustavo said that wind conditions were prohibitive for sending workers up in a crane to do welding, but Major League Baseball wanted the stadium ready for the next year’s midsummer All Star Game.
Gustavo’s wife Rose is Native American and one of the workers killed in the accident was Native American and a close friend of Rose and Gustavo. That year a relative of one of the sacrificed workers did Labor in the Pulpits at the Native American Roman Catholic Church.
The next I heard about Gustavo was that he was in prison. After the accident he started drinking and made a bad decision allowing arms to be stored in his house. The police got wind of it, raided the house and found the arms. Gustavo pleaded guilty to storing the arms and was sent to prison.
After serving his time Gustavo was transferred to an I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention center for deportation. The 1996 immigration law stated that non citizens with a felony were subject to deportation. Gustavo had a green card – legal resident status, but was not a citizen. Josefina brought Gustavo to the U.S. from Mexico when he was five years old. Although he had grown up in the U.S. and was now a grandfather, he was subject to deportation. Gustavo’s family, the Faith Community for Worker Justice, the Iron Workers, priests and a Bishop advocated for Gustavo’s release and exemption from deportation. Former District Attorney E. Michael McCann was able to get the arms conviction vacated, but a felony conviction when he was nineteen years old remained. I.C.E. let Gustavo out of prison, but he had to report once a month while his case was appealed.
The concern was not only for Gustavo but also for his family. He had a wife, two children and a grandchild at home, three married daughters with children, and three sisters. One of his sisters was a widow with two young children. Her husband, a sheriff’s deputy, had committed suicide. Gustavo was also devoted to his mother Josefina. He provided emotional and financial support to a large extended family. Gustavo was the bond that kept the family together.
Two years ago, when reporting to the I.C.E. in Milwaukee, Gustavo was taken into custody without judicial process. He was sent to a detention center in Dodge County, WI and then deported to Mexico in chains. He arrived at the airport in Ciudad Juarez with the clothes on his back and $40.00. They released him from the chains. Josefina sent him money to travel to Guadalajara where she had relatives. Gustavo had helped Josefina purchase a small four-family apartment complex in Guadalajara as an investment and possible retirement home for her. Now it was a refuge where he could stay.
Joanne and I visited Gustavo in Guadalajara. His spirits were down; it was obvious that he missed his family. Iron Workers are very skilled, but Gustavo couldn’t secure a permanent job. He did do occasional construction work and taught some classes in Tai Chi. His mother, Josefina, in her 70’s, got a job cleaning an office building to help support him.
Gustavo’s family in the U.S. faced severe problems without Gustavo. A hardship visa was suggested as a way to get him back. The paper work was never completed.
A few weeks ago I received an early morning phone call from Guillermo, Gustavo’s brother-in- law. The shocking news was that Gustavo had been killed in an auto accident in Guadalajara. Guillermo’s 18 year old son was with Gustavo and was seriously injured. Josefina and Gloria who is Gustavo’s sister, Guillermo’s wife and mother of the young Gugi (Gustavo Guillermo) who was injured, had left for Mexico. Gugi insisted that his uncle was alive. He said he saw him get out of the car and was singing joyfully under a nearby tree. The police said Gustavo was killed immediately and the body had to be pried out of the smashed car. Two other young men were also in the car and were injured but not seriously. A gold chain was stolen from one of them by the medical personnel or the police.
Mexican and U.S. authorities allowed the body to be sent to the U.S. for a funeral and burial. There was also a funeral service in Guadalajara. The cost of sending the body back to the U.S. and the medical expenses amounted to $13,000 in U.S. currency. Family members in the U.S. and Mexico contributed to defray the cost for Josefina and Gustavo’s wife Rose. It’s more than somewhat ironic that I.C.E. allowed Gustavo’s dead body to return home.
Josefina asked me to call some labor people and some of those with the Faith Community for Worker Justice. The phone call to the Iron Workers was initially received with stunned silence, then the comment, “I worked with Gus; he was a good guy; a terrible thing has happened.” They sent flowers.
The wake was on a very warm evening in a packed funeral home with no air conditioning. Former D.A. E. Michael McCann paid his respects. Josefina was devastated as were Gustavo’s kids. Rose, Gustavo’s wife was numbed with grief. Joanne and I escaped the crowd, the grief and the stifling heat before the praying of the rosary.

The funeral liturgy The funeral was at St. Rose Parish, a former Irish immigrant church now Latino. A large very quiet group filled the Church. Mass was said by Father Dennis and assisted, or you could say “con-celebrated,” by two other priests. Father Dennis, a friend of the family, preached the homily. Dennis was visibly shaken; he said that he thought things were pretty bad and couldn’t be worse, but now he knows it can get worse. That’s why he chose the story of the crucifixion from Mathew for the Gospel reading. The image of the dead, battered and bloody handyman on the cross did it. We knew what he was talking about. But what’s the response? Dennis said the response is faith in Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead and so did Gustavo. Sadly, nothing was said about fighting the immigration law that is destroying families.
This was good enough for Josefina. She will continue with us in the New Sanctuary movement as a member of the “Comité Timón” (New Sanctuary Steering Committee) and “Círculo de Apoyo” (New Sanctuary Support Group). But the Resurrection theology was comforting. She wrote for the funeral:
“I entrust my son to God. I give God thanks for having lent Gustavo to me and to the family. Share with each other the joy of bidding Gustavo farewell. He is happy to be here in this Church surrounded by all of us who loved him. He has gone on with Someone who loves us more than anyone else in this world, Our Lord, who received Gustavo with open arms to give him eternal life. He now rests in the Lord’s arms.”
Josefina’s statement was not shared by word or print at the funeral mass.
But it was not finished; Gustavo’s sister asked us to go to the cemetery with them. A sorrowful and strained Father Dennis read the prayers at the grave. Gustavo’s grandson, five year old Jason, competed with a continuing litany, “no – no – grampa, - don’t do that to him.” Native American relatives provided somber drumming. The casket was lowered into the grave. Jason’s litany became more intense. The Native Americans invited us to sprinkle tobacco on the casket. Some simply dropped soil into the grave. And we still weren’t finished: a dump truck loaded with dirt backed up to the grave. As the truck dumped dirt and covered the grave, Jason continued, now screaming, “no – no – grampa – grampa.”
Jason’s father had been murdered the year before in a drive–by shooting.
A month after Gustavo’s funeral, the 18 year old Gugi was accompanied back to the U.S. by his mom and Josefina. He has a scholarship to a top engineering school, but won’t be able to attend this semester.
Gustavo’s tragic death and the suffering of his family place a severe strain on Faith. Is it really going to be O.K.? And belief; do our myths and rituals serve to explain and inspire? Also, where does Catholic Social Teaching fit? Does it fail as badly as the myths and rituals – is there a difference?

Sunday, September 19, 2010


The lack of substantial articles in the National Catholic Reporter concerning Labor Day this year stirred me up to get back to my blog.
The blog started last year after my month-long researched Labor Day article was rejected by the National Catholic Reporter. Editor Tom Fox asked me to do the article, but it was rejected because they said I was too close to the entities I was discussing. N.C.R. wanted journalistic objectivity which of course doesn’t really exist. No compensation was offered for my work. The work included many long distance phone calls, fascinating personal interviews with Catholic officials in San Francisco, a phone interview with one of the last of the “labor priests” in Pennsylvania, and being immersed in a controversy and resolution of the controversy between the Milwaukee Area Labor Council and the Milwaukee Immigrant Workers Center, Voces de la Frontera.
After the article was rejected and just before Labor Day 2009, Joanne and I traveled to London to visit our son, daughter-in-law, and one year old grandson. I was angry about the article being rejected, but taking care of our grandson Sean submerged my anger. I did discuss the article and rejection with my son Joel. He suggested putting the article on a blog and doing some writing on “Catholic Social Teaching.” I followed his advice and I have a blog. Not many read the blog, but it is a great outlet and I’ve learned a lot doing it.

Looking back I feel I shouldn’t have been so shocked at the N.C.R. rejecting my article. After all, what commitment does the N.C.R. have to Catholic Social teaching? I suspect the answer is NONE! Granted, with arguments based on Catholic Social Teaching, N.C.R. held Briggs & Stratton C.E.O. and professional R.C. John Shiely’s feet to the fire for moving thousands of jobs from Milwaukee in 1994. I promoted the article. Briggs responded with a ridiculous $30 million liable suit which was thrown out as soon as it went to court. Does the Briggs’ lawsuit mark the beginning of the quest for “objective journalism” by N.C.R.? If so, the law suit was not ridiculous – Briggs won!
Let us fast forward to Labor Day 2010. Harley Davidson, iconic Milwaukee manufacturer of motorcycles, blackmailed workers into accepting massive concessions. There were no complaints from the N.C.R. Late this summer Catholic Social teaching was cited as the reason for Marquette University reneging on a contract with a lesbian who was hired as a social studies Dean. Such bizarre reasoning could only be described as Orwellian. There was no challenge from N.C.R.

Catholic Social Teaching as once defined is gone. As I hope to show, the original Encyclical, Rerum Novarum presented by Leo XIII, had developed into a coherent rationale for social change. Some called it the Roman Catholic Church’s best kept secret, but now it is a deliberately suppressed secret.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


In preparation for considering Quadragesimo Anno and the search for the third way, we should ask if the third way pointed to by the encyclicals was fascism. What is the evidence? What is fascism? How about anti-Jewish rhetoric in the New Testament, support for Salazar in Portugal, Franco in Spain, Dollfuss in Austria, the Cristeros in Mexico, the Ustashi in Yugoslavia, and concordats with Hitler and Mussolini? You won’t find solid answers in this blog, but the question needs to be raised and researched.

But how did the U.S. Roman Catholic Church react to Rerum Novarum? Capitalism is not based on the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, but the U.S. is identified as a capitalist nation at home and abroad.

Father Coughlin saw no problem with anti-Judaism or complete control of labor (the economy) by the government. But the bishops and major commentators such as John Ryan thought the U.S. capitalist system could be reformed. As mentioned above, the U.S. capitalists considered the reforms as socialism.

Let us jump ahead to 1958 for a rationale for the reform platform. A flat out rejection of capitalism might have meant a financial disaster for the U.S. Roman Catholic Church. For Harvard Ph. D. and Marquette University economics professor Bernard Dempsey, S.J., it was a matter of definition. The U.S. economic system needed only to be adjusted to move it toward justice for all. Dempsey reasoned that “…cutting the jugular of the fictional dragon, capitalism,…” was not the answer to form a just society. Dempsey thought the current use of the word “capitalism” was a Marxist fantasy and a rhetorical tool. The Functional Economy, p. 162, Prentice Hall, 1958. Note that Dempsey’s book was written after Mussolini and Hitler gave fascism a bad name.

However, Dorothy Day of the U.S. Catholic Worker Movement denounced the capitalism as “a dirty rotten system.” As mentioned before Dorothy Day was a distributist along with English Catholic writers such as G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and Vincent McNabb, O.P. Belloc defined capitalism:

“I use the term ‘Capitalism’ here to mean a state of society in which a minority controls the means of production, leaving the mass of citizens dispossessed. Such a dispossessed body of citizens is called a ‘Proletariat.’” An Essay On The Restoration of Property, IHS Press, 2002, p. 29. First published, 1936.

The third way for the distributists was not fascism. Belloc understood the two fundamental encyclicals of Roman Catholic teaching (Rerum Novarum and Quadregesima Anno) as pointing to a system with a fair distribution of power and property. He wrote:

“There is a third form of society, and it is the only one in which sufficiency and security can be combined with freedom, and that form is a society in which property is well distributed and so large a proportion of the families in the State severally OWN and therefore control the means of production as to determine the general tone of society; making it neither Capitalist nor Communist, but Proprietary.” Ibid. Restoration of Property, p. 29

Was the Roman Catholic Church looking for a monolithic society, guided morally and infallibly by the Vatican? Dutch theologian Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P. wrote in 1990:

“My concern is that the further we move away in history from Vatican II, the more some people begin to interpret unity as uniformity. They seem to want to go back to the monolithic church which must form a bulwark on the one hand against communism and on the other hand against the Western liberal consumer society.” N.C.R. Jan. 8, 2010

In 1894, three years after Rerum Novarum, Leo XIII wrote the encyclical, Longinqua Oceani, which was critical of U.S. law separating church and state:

“… it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be as in America, dissevered and divorced.” Op.cit. American Catholic History, Ellis, p. 517

The Encyclical was also critical of U.S. organized labor during the depression of the 1890’s. The Homestead Steel strike in 1892 and the Pullman strike in 1894 are significant events in U.S. labor history. “These two outbreaks differed from the uprising of railway workers in 1877. (Federal troops called out in 13 states) because they were strikes by powerful unions rather than spontaneous expressions of revolt, but they were marked by almost comparable violence and bloodshed.” Labor in America, Foster Rhea Dulles, Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1966, p. 166.

In the 1894 Encyclical, Longinqua Oceani, Leo XIII also reiterated that workers had the right to organize, but questioned Roman Catholic workers belonging to organizations that included non- Catholics. He saw the violence of the strikes as a failure to follow the principles of Rerum Novarum. “Nay, rather, unless forced by necessity to do otherwise, Catholics ought to prefer to associate with Catholics, a course which will be very conducive to the safeguarding of their faith.” Op. Cit. American Catholic History, p. 524.

U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral on the Economy of 1919: is this a response? Separation of Church and State – a freedom of conscience issue: “With great wisdom our American Constitution provides that every citizen shall be free to follow the dictates of his conscience in matter of religious beliefs and observance.” The Pastoral reminds Rome of the financial generosity of American Catholics, for war-ravaged Europe. The Pastoral brags, “We entered the war (WW 1) with the highest of objectives, proclaiming at every step we battled for the right and pointing to our country as a model for the world’s imitation.” The Pastoral reaffirmed worker’s right to organize but did not mention a right to strike. Concern was expressed that management and labor neglected the public welfare when there were strikes. No insistence or suggestion that Catholics join Catholic labor unions was presented.

It’s a moral question, not a problem in physics where numbers and charts give the answers. The Pastoral quotes Leo XIII. “It is the opinion of some, and the error is already very common, that the social question is merely an economic one, where in point of fact, it is first of all a moral and religious matter, and for that reason its settlement is to be sought mainly in the moral law and the pronouncements of religion.” Apostolic Letter, Graves de Communi, January 18, 1901.

The 1919 U.S. Bishop’s Pastoral expresses concern for immigrants. “There is much to be done in behalf of those who, like our forefathers, come from other countries to find a home in America. …But what they chiefly need is that Christian sympathy which considers in them the possibilities for good rather than the present defects, and instead of looking on them with distrust, extends to them the hand of charity.”

Difficult to imagine but true:
Pablo, age 16, was with two friends on Milwaukee’ main thoroughfare when he was stopped by the police and given an $80.00 ticket for underage smoking. The police searched his back pack and found a full package of cigarettes. He didn’t tell his mother until the day before his court date. His mom called Voces de la Frontera because she was at a loss as to what to do. Lawyers were consulted and the consensus was to pay the ticket, but to first contact the City Attorney’s office. There was the possibility that if the ticket would be contested, both mom and Pablo would be deported. (Pablo’s father was deported about two years ago.) The City Attorney was called in the name of Voces de la Frontera. The office secretary suggested that Pablo come in and pay the fine. Pablo and his mom went to the Municipal Court where he was informed that the police did not want to press charges. Pablo and his mom were given a document stating that no court action would be taken. Pablo’s mom lost a day of work at her low wage job: a fast food restaurant. By the way, have you read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America?