REFLECTION: Pope Francis – “Facts are more important than ideas”

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by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

“Facts are more important than ideas” is a statement from Pope Francis that one would have never heard from Popes Benedict XVI or John Paul II.

It is not that Pope Francis is dumb or an anti-intellectual. He is well-read and thoughtful, but by no stretch of the imagination can he be called a scholar. His training as a scientist and his life experience make him approach theory in a different way than John Paul and Benedict. It also helps explain his approach to the environment in Laudato Si’.

pope-francis-and-doveJohn Paul was trained first as a philosopher and then as a theologian, and as a priest, he taught ethics at a university. He wrote in a style that was not easily digested. Benedict was trained in theology and became one of the leading theologians of his generation. Both wrote scholarly books that promoted a particular perspective.

On the other hand, Francis’ initial training prior to entering the seminary was as a chemist. He never finished his doctorate in theology. He is what academics refer to as ABD, “all but dissertation.” He never wrote scholarly books. He was a wide-ranging consumer of theology, not the proponent of a particular view.

For John Paul the philosopher and Benedict the theologian, ideas were paramount. But for Francis the scientist and pastor, facts really matter…

 

 

Read the entire article by clicking here.

REFLECTION: The Catholic priest who blessed atomic bomb crews – and his conversion

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

Seventy years ago, on August 6, 1945, the single most destructive weapon ever unleashed upon human beings and the environment – the atomic bomb – was dropped by an American B-29 bomber on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing approximately 80,000 people.

Three days later a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, killing an estimated 40,000 people.

hiroshima_2651372b“Blessing” the crews and its two missions, was the Catholic chaplain to the 509th Composite Group – the atomic bomb group – Father George Zabelka.

In a Sojourners Magazine interview, the late Fr. Zabelka explained, “If a soldier came to me and asked if he could put a bullet through a child’s head, I would have told him absolutely not. That would be mortally sinful.”

But in 1945 on Tinian Island in the South Pacific, where the atomic bomb group was based, planes took off around the clock, said Zabelka. “Many of these planes went to Japan with the express purpose of killing not one child or one civilian but of slaughtering hundreds and thousands of children and civilians – and I said nothing. …

“Yes, I knew civilians were being destroyed … Yet I never preached a single sermon against killing civilians to men who were doing it. …

“I was brainwashed! It never entered my mind to publicly protest the consequences of these massive air raids.

“I was told the raids were necessary; told openly by the military and told implicitly by my Church’s leadership. To the best of my knowledge no American cardinals or bishops were opposing these mass air raids. Silence in such matters, especially by a public body like the American bishops, is a stamp of approval. …

“Christians have been slaughtering each other, as well as non-Christians, for the past 1700 years, in large part because their priests, pastors and bishops have simply not told them that violence and homicide are incompatible with the teachings of Jesus.”

After years of soul-searching, Fr. Zabelka’s complete conversion from being a strong proponent of the “just-war theory” to a total pacifist was announced in a 1975 Christmas letter: “I must do an about face. … I have come to the conclusion that the truth of the Gospel is that Jesus was nonviolent and taught nonviolence as his way.”

Fr. Zabelka dedicated the rest of his life to teaching, preaching and witnessing to Gospel nonviolence.

In 1983 he and a Jesuit priest, Fr. Jack Morris, organized and participated in the “Bethlehem Peace Pilgrimage” starting at the nuclear submarine base in Bangor, Washington and ending on Christmas Eve 1984 in Bethlehem.

When Fr. Zabelka reached Maryland, I had the good fortune of hearing him personally share his inspiring story of conversion.

I strongly recommend reading Fr. Zabelka’s entire Sojourners Magazine interview by going to this link http://bit.ly/1LQtdFX. And consider ordering from the Center for Christian Nonviolence (http://bit.ly/1H37EeF) the excellent DVD “Fr. George Zabelka: The Reluctant Prophet.” Or just simply go to this link (http://bit.ly/1eAT5bC) to view it.

We can either choose to rationalize and condone violence and war, or we can help God build his kingdom of life and love.

In the biblical book of Deuteronomy, the author lays out a divine ultimatum for humanity: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him.”

May we always choose life!

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

REGIONAL EVENT: Pax Christi-Rhode Island educates on Hiroshima, Nagasaki anniversaries

from Pax Christi Rhode Island

hiroshima_2651372bMarking the 70th anniversary of the August 6 and August 9 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, Roman Catholic parishes throughout the Diocese of Providence (Rhode Island) have been invited to distribute information and to seek prayer about the urgency of nuclear disarmament at their Masses on or before the weekend of August 1-2, 2015.

The invitation was issued by Pax Christi-Rhode Island, the local chapter of Pax Christi USA. Pax Christi is the international Catholic peace movement which has NGO status at the United Nations and which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year as well.

In September, 2014, at St. Anthony Church in North Providence, Pax Christi-Rhode Island hosted a talk by Dr. Joseph Gerson who was preparing for his work as an American Friends Service Committee delegate to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in December. He described how some 160 nations would participate in this conference in Vienna to plan for the International Peace and the Planet Conference and Mobilization for a Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just, and Sustainable World in New York City on May 24-26 this year. These were the days immediately preceding the opening of the United Nations’ 2015 Review of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Four members of Pax Christi-Rhode Island subsequently attended the May Conference and Mobilization: two days of formal speeches, question and answer sessions, and discussion groups, followed by the Sunday Interfaith Prayer Service and the march to the United Nations. Especially impressive was the presence in the march of over 1,000 Japanese who either survived the bombings of 1945 or were descendants or other relatives of survivors.

In his most recent Without a Doubt column in The Rhode Island Catholic, Thomas Tobin, Bishop of the Diocese of Providence, wrote in support of the work of Pax Christi. He stated that “the information they provide and the commitment they bring to their mission is most impressive” and that “Pax Christi is working to remind us all of the enormous danger of nuclear weapons, particularly in a world destabilized by fractured governments and terrorist groups and thus ripe for nuclear proliferation.”

Pax Christi-Rhode Island meets monthly on the last Sunday of the month from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at St. William’s Church, on Ponagansett Avenue in the Norwood section of Warwick. New members are welcome. For more information, contact Bill Waters at 401-323-1136 or Pat Fontes at 401-516-7678.

REFLECTION: Compassion – One of Jesus’s most important virtues

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

What was happening in the time of Jeremiah when the leaders of the people — those who were to shepherd them, rule them, guide them — were failing so dramatically in their task? Jeremiah was preaching to them, trying to bring them back to follow the way of God. But as we heard in our first lesson today, they refused to listen. Jeremiah cries out, “Woe to you shepherds who mislead, even scatter the sheep of my pasture.”

compassion-wordHe’d been preaching to them for so long that now their failures were going to come to a terrible conclusion. They were going to go to war against the Babylonians, and they would be totally defeated. Jerusalem would be destroyed; the temple would be destroyed and the people carried off into exile for a long time. Isn’t it marvelous how Jeremiah sees this gleam of hope because he tells them (and tells us), “The day is coming when I will raise up a shepherd-ruler who is David’s righteous successor. He will rule wisely, govern with justice and righteousness. That will be a peaceful era, when all of Judah will enjoy peace and Israel will live in safety.”

Then when we turn to our Gospel lesson, we discover who this shepherd-ruler is. Of course, it’s Jesus, that descendent of David who is Son of God and Son of Mary. In the Gospel, we learn something today about Jesus that is probably the most important thing that we really need to know about Jesus and the most important way in which we must try to follow him. We recall the circumstances of the Gospel: The disciples were tired, Jesus was tired...

To read this entire article, click here.

TAKE ACTION: Urge Congress to support Iran nuclear deal

Iran-Nuclear-Deal-Congress-570x320In December 2014, the Holy See issued a ground-breaking paper entitled Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition, which said, “Now is the time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons, but the immorality of their possession, thereby clearing the road to nuclear abolition.” This year marks the 70th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons in war – in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A week ago, July 14, 2015, a significant agreement between Iran, the P5+1 (the 5 permanent UN Security Council Members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States – plus Germany) and the European Union was reached.  This is an important diplomatic accomplishment and is a critical step toward nuclear non-proliferation and, ultimately, nuclear abolition.

It is imperative that the Iran deal enter into force without obstacles created by the U.S. Congress. We must clearly express our support for the agreement as an important diplomatic accomplishment that will make all of us safer. Congress has until mid-September to reject the deal, otherwise it will go into force.

Please take action:  As members of PCUSA we invite you to do the following:

  1. Make an appointment to meet before Labor Day (September 7) with your senators and your Congressional representative to express your opinion about the Iran deal with a group of Pax Christi members, supporters/members of religious orders, JustFaith graduates, etc. It may be possible to meet the senators/representative in person, or with their senior staff, when they are home for the August recess. Use the talking points listed below to shape your message. This is not an appointment to discuss the merits of the agreement, but ask the Congresspersons/staff if they are able to support the deal.

Items to take with you to share with the offices:

  • Pax Christi International’s statement on the Iran deal, available here.
  • The Holy See’s paper on the immorality of possessing nuclear weapons, available here.
  • Letter from Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, NM, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, available here.
  1. Make an appointment with your bishop if you have not already done so. Assume that he has seen the letter from Bishop Cantú on the Iran deal and the Holy See’s statement on nuclear abolition, but in case he has not studied them, bring him a copy and ask him to encourage every parish in his diocese to highlight these important statements from Catholic leadership. Also give him a copy of Pax Christi International’s statement on the Iran deal and a brochure from Pax Christi USA. Urge him to become a member of PCUSA and to contact his Members of Congress himself.
  1. Send a letter to the editor of your local paper urging your senators and representative to support the Iran deal. Use the talking points listed below to shape your message.

We ask that ANY action that you take to meet with your Congressional Representatives and/or your local Bishops be reported with the results to Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau, Program Director, at anadeau@paxchristiusa.org by Sept. 7, 2015.

This collaborative effort is sponsored by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Sisters of Mercy, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach and Pax Christi USA and Pax Christi International.

We thank you for your willingness to participate in this important effort toward nuclear disarmament.

In Peace,

Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN
Pax Christi USA, Executive Director

REFLECTION: Pushing up

Kathy Kellyby Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Last weekend, about 100 U.S. Veterans for Peace gathered in Red Wing, Minnesota, for a statewide annual meeting. In my experience, Veterans for Peace chapters hold “no-nonsense” events.  Whether coming together for local, statewide, regional or national work, the Veterans project a strong sense of purpose. They want to dismantle war economies and work to end all wars. The Minnesotans, many of them old friends, convened in the spacious loft of a rural barn. After organizers extended friendly welcomes, participants settled in to tackle this year’s theme: “The War on Our Climate.”

They invited Dr. James Hansen, an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, to speak via Skype about minimizing the impacts of climate change.  Sometimes called the “father of global warming”, Dr. Hansen has sounded alarms for several decades  with accurate predictions about the effects of fossil fuel emissions. He now campaigns for an economically efficient phase out of fossil fuel emissions by imposing carbon fees on emission sources with dividends equitably returned to the public.

Dr. Hansen envisions the creation of serious market incentives for entrepreneurs to develop energy and products that are low-carbon and no-carbon. “Those who achieve the greatest reductions in carbon use would reap the greatest profit. Projections show that such an approach could reduce U.S. carbon emissions by more than half within 20 years — and create 3 million new jobs in the process.”

NWNWimageSteadily calling on adults to care about young people and future generations, Dr. Hansen chides proponents of what he terms “the fruitless cap-and-trade-with-offsets approach.”  This method fails to make fossil fuels pay their costs to society, “thus allowing fossil fuel addiction to continue and encouraging ‘drill, baby, drill’ policies to extract every fossil fuel that can be found.”

Making fossil fuels “pay their full costs” would mean imposing fees to cover costs that polluters impose on communities through burning of coal, oil and gas.  When local populations are sickened and killed by air pollution, and starved by droughts or battered or drowned by climate-change-driven storms, costs accrue for governments that businesses should repay.

What are the true costs to society of fossil fuels?   According to a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) study, fossil fuel companies are benefiting from  global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, $10 million per minute, every minute, each and every day.

The Guardian reports that the $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

Dr. Hansen began his presentation by noting that, historically, energy figured importantly in avoiding slave labor. He believes some energy from nuclear power is now necessary for countries such as China and India to lift masses of their populations out of poverty.  Many critics strenuously object to Dr. Hansen’s call for reliance on nuclear power, citing dangers of radiation, accidents, and problems with storage of nuclear waste, particularly when the radioactive waste is stored in communities where people have little control or influence over elites that decide where to ship the nuclear waste.

Other critics argue that “nuclear power is simply too risky, and more practically speaking, too costly to be considered a significant part of the post-carbon energy portfolio.”

Journalist and activist George Monbiot, author of a book-length climate change proposal, Heat, notes that nuclear power tends to endanger “haves” and “have-nots” equally. Coal power’s   deadliest immediate effects, with historic casualties clearly outpacing those of nuclear, are linked to mining and industrial areas populated by people more likely to be economically disadvantaged or impoverished.

Climate-driven societal collapse may be all the more deadly and final with grid-dependent nuclear plants ready to melt down in lockstep with our economies.  But it’s crucial to remember that our direst weapons – many of them also nuclear – are stockpiled precisely to help elites manage the sort of political unrest into which poverty and desperation drive societies.  Climate change, if we cannot slow it, does not merely promise poverty and despair on  an unprecedented scale, but also war – on a scale, and with weapons, that may be far worse than dangers resulting from our energy choices.  Earth’s military crisis, its climate crisis, and the paralyzing economic inequalities that burden impoverished people are linked.

Dr. Hansen thinks that the Chinese government and Chinese scientists might marshal the resources to develop alternatives to fossil fuels, including nuclear powered energy.  He notes that China faces the dire possibility of losing coastal cities to global warming and accelerated disintegration of ice sheets.

The greatest barriers to solution of fossil fuel addiction in most nations are the influence of the fossil fuel industry on politicians and the media and the short-term view of politicians. Thus it is possible that leadership moving the world to sustainable energy policies may arise in China, where the leaders are rich in technical and scientific training and rule a nation that has a history of taking the long view. Although China’s CO emissions have skyrocketed above those of other nations, China has reasons to move off the fossil fuel track as rapidly as practical. China has several hundred million people living within a 25-meter elevation of sea level, and the country stands to suffer grievously from intensification of droughts, floods, and storms that will accompany continued global warming. China also recognizes the merits of avoiding a fossil fuel addiction comparable to that of the United States. Thus China has already become the global leader in development of energy efficiency, renewable energies, and nuclear power.

What’s missing from this picture?  The Veterans for Peace earnestly believe in ending all wars.  Deepening nonviolent resistance to war could radically amend the impact of world militaries, especially the colossal U.S. military, on global climate. In order to protect access to and global control of fossil fuels, the U.S. military burns rivers of oil, wasting the hopes of future generations in the name of  killing and maiming the people of regions the U.S. has plunged into destabilizing wars of choice, ending in chaos.

Corruption of the global environment and compulsively frantic destruction of irreplaceable resources is an equally sure, if more delayed, manner of imposing chaos and death on a mass scale.   The misdirection of economic resources, of preciously needed human productive energy, is yet another.  Researchers at Oil Change International find that “3 trillion of the dollars spent on war against Iraq would cover all global investments in renewable power generation needed between now and 2030 to reverse global warming.”

John Lawrence writes that “the United States contributes more than 30% of global warming gases to the atmosphere, generated by 5% of the world’s population.  At the same time funding for education, energy, environment, social services, housing and new job creation, taken together, is less than the military budget.”  I believe that “low carbon” and “no carbon” energy and energy efficiency should be paid for by abolishing war. Lawrence is right to insist that the U.S. should view problems and conflicts created by climate change as “opportunities to work together with other nations to mitigate and adapt to its effects.”  But the madness of conquest must end before any such coordinated work will be possible.

Sadly, tragically, many U.S. veterans fully understand the cost of war.  I asked a U.S. Veteran for Peace living in Mankato, MN, about the well being of local Iraq War Veterans. He told me that in April, U.S. veteran student leaders at Minnesota State’s Mankato Campus, spent 22 days gathering daily, rain or shine, to perform  22 push-ups in recognition of the 22 combat veterans a day – nearly one an hour – currently committing suicide in the U.S. They invited the Mankato-area community to come to campus and do pushups along with them.

This is an historic time, posing a perfect storm of challenges to the survival of our species, a storm we can’t weather without “all hands on deck.”  Whoever arrives to work beside us, and however quickly they arrive, we have heavy burdens to share with many others already lifting as much as they can, some taking theirs up by choice, some burdened beyond endurance by greedy masters.  The Veterans for Peace work to save the ship rather than wait for it to sink.

Many of us have not endured the horrors that drive 22 veterans a day, and countless poor in world regions that U.S. empire has touched, to the final act of despair.  I would like to think we can lift hopes and perhaps bring comfort to those around us by radically sharing resources, eschewing dominance, and learning to join courageous others in the work at hand.

This article was first published on Telesur English.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). Kathy is a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace.