Friday, July 28, 2006

Pax Christi National Conference Starts Today

I am off to this year's National Conference for Pax Christi USA. I am very excited as this is my first one. I am sure I will have lots to post about when I get back.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Can You Follow the Logic?

Please be advised that this is largely a mental exercise.  The outcome does not necessarily represent the opinions of the author.  This is something of a geometry/philosophy proof.  See if you can follow the logic.

Given: It is murder to experiment on stem cells because it destroys the stem cells and thus human life.  

If experimenting on stem cells is wrong because the embryos are destroyed then destroying embryos is wrong.

If destroying embryos is wrong then ALL research (not just federal funded research) should be banned.

If destroying embryos is wrong then all 400,000 embryos currently in storage need to be preserved.

If the embryos cannot be preserved then they should not be created.

If they should not be created invitro fertilization should be outlawed.

Do you follow the logic?  Is stem cell research truly a slippery moral slope or are we already there because stem cell research is legal if it is privately funded.  Or did our slide begin with invitro fertilization?  Many of those questions need to start from where you believe that life begins, but if you believe it begins at conception can you get around this argument?

A Prayer For Leadership

Today the United States government continues to call for a cease fire in the Middle East. Yesterday the United States delegation lead by Condoleeza Rice left the negotiating table without coming to an agreement that would end the conflict. So far 51 Israelis have died in the conflict and over 430 Lebanese are dead, the majority civilians many of whom are children.

Give us, O God,
leaders whose hearts are large enough
to match the breadth of our own souls
and give us souls strong enough
to follow leaders of vision and wisdom.

In seeking a leader,
let us seek more than development
- the virtue of others.

Give us a government
that provides for the advancement
of this country
without taking resources from others
to achieve it.

Give us insight enough ourselves
to choose as leaders those who can tell
strength from power,
growth from greed,
leadership from dominance,
and real greatness from the trappings
of grandiosity.

We trust you, Great God,
to open our hearts to learn from those
to whom you speak in different tongues
and to respect the life and words
of those to whom you entrusted
the good of other parts of this globe.

We beg you, Great God,
give us the vision as a people
to know where global leadership truly lies,
to pursue it diligently,
to require it to protect human rights
for everyone everywhere.

We ask these things, Great God,
with minds open to your word
and hearts that trust in your eternal care.


-Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Day of Prayer for Peace in the Middle East

In a statement issued by the Vatican yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI called for an immediate cease fire in the Middle East and declared July 23rd a special day of prayer. In his written statement the Pope declared
The Lebanese have a right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected, the Israelis have a right to live in peace in their nation and the Palestinians have the right to have a free and sovereign country.
The USCCB is urging all bishops to communicate the message of Pope Benedict to the priests and parishioners in their dioceses. In a letter to all the bishops, Bishop William Skylstad wrote:
The Holy Father has declared July 23rd to be a day dedicated to prayers and penance for people of all religious faiths "to implore God for the precious gift of peace." In a brief statement issued by the Vatican press office on July 20, Pope Benedict XVI urged prayers for "an immediate cese fire between the (warring) sides," the establishment of "a humaitarian corridor in order to bring aid to the suffering people," and the satrt of "reasonable and responsible negotiations so as to end the objective situation of injustice exisitng in that region."

I share this information with you in hopes that you will find a way to share it with the priests and people of your (arch)dioceses. Also, I wanted you to be aware that both the Holy See and our Conference have spoken out on the current crisis in the Middle East and you can find those statements on the USCCB website.

Here is a link to the statement by the USCCB.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

NJ Death Penalty Hearings News Roundup

Yesterday the Death Penalty Study Commission met for the first time. There was a very good showing by opponents of the death penalty including Barry Scheck and Larry Peterson (pictured*), the first person in NJ to be exonerated using DNA evidence, as well as Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person in the US to be exonerated using DNA evidence, Lorry Post founder of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Bishop John Smith from the Diocese of Trenton and William Bolan executive director of the NJ Catholic Conference.

Bishop Smith explained as he testified before the panel,
The death penalty in our view is not consistent with evolving standards of decency. The death penalty diminishes all of us. We cannot teach respect for life by taking life.

Also pictured is Sharon Hazard-Johnson, a proponent of the death penalty, whose parents were murdered at their home Pleasantville, by Brian Wakefield. Hazard-Johnson has expressed concern that the panel is packed with death penalty opponents and she would prefer to see the death penalty end by a public referendum rather than by an act of the legislature. Also testifying on behalf of retaining the use of the death penalty was Marilyn Flax a former assistant Bergen County prosecutor who tried John Martini for the murder of Irving Flax. John Martini's final appeal is currently before the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Although it was not necessarily front page news, the hearings did not go unnoticed in the media. Below is a listing of some of the articles that ran over the last two days regarding the hearings.

Daily Record- Report: 25 NJ Death Sentences Overturned

Star Ledger: Panel Takes up Life or Death Debate

Star Ledger: Death Penalty Foes Call for end to Law Say Life in Prison is Option
(in the print version there is a great picture of Bishop John Smith sitting in the front row. You can make out Lorry and Kirk as well)

Philadelphia Inquirer: In NJ, Pros and Cons on Death Penalty

Trenton Times: Daughters Killing Fueled Unlikely Crusade

Asbury Park Press: Death Penalty Opponents Lobby at Public Hearing

Asbury Park Press: Death Penalty Opponents Release Report on Overturned Convictions

Courier Post: Emotions Fuel Public Hearing on Death Penalty

Courier Post: NJ Death Penalty Panel Hears Testimony

NY Newsday: Report on Wrongly Imprisoned Jerseyans Fuels Death Penalty Debate

NBC10 Philadelphia: Report: 25 New Jerseyans Wrongly Imprisoned

*photo courtesy Associated Press

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How Do You Define Murder?

Today President Bush exercised his veto stamp for the first time since he took office to reject a bill which would allow federal funding for stem cell research.

President Bush believes as many other Christians and most Catholics that life begins at conception. Tony Snow took the rhetoric up a notch during a press conference yesterday when, while refering to President Bush's position, he said “The simple answer is he thinks murder is wrong.”

Many pro-lifers, I am sure were thankful that he phrased it this way. I am too, but I just couldn’t help but take the comment out of context and apply it elsewhere. It was then that so many questions came to mind.

Is it murder to execute prisoners even after we have removed them from society?

Is it murder to bomb civilian neighborhoods if we refer to the civilian casualties as “collateral damage”?

Is it murder to lay siege to a city or a country through the use of sanctions knowing that the lack of medicine and food will result in the death of thousands of children?

Is it murder to bomb water treatment plants cutting off the supply of fresh water and sanitation to civilian populations?

Is it murder to refuse to intervene in genocide?

Is it murder to allow manufacturing and power plants to pollute the air and shorten the lifespan of children who live in the shadows of the stacks?

Is it murder to send troops into a preemptive war?

I guess it all depends upon how you define murder.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Death Penalty Hearings to Begin in Trenton

I received a call from Abe at New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.  They are trying to make a good showing at the first hearing of the Death Penalty Study Commission which is scheduled for next Wednesday in Trenton.

The target is to have 200 NJADP members and supporters at the hearing.  Anyone who is available next week is encouraged to go.  If you are planning on attending please contact Abe at the NJADP Trenton Office 800-973-6548.  Here are the rest of the details.

The New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission has scheduled its first public hearing for Wed., July 19 at 2 PM, in Committee Room 4, on the 1st Floor of the State House Annex in Trenton. 

You are welcome to join fellow NJADP members at the hearing, including murder victims' family members and death row and other exonorees who will send a strong and clear message that we do not want, nor do we need, the death penalty in our beautiful state.

Because the hearings are getting off to such a late start (they were originally scheduled to begin in March) it is unlikely that the panel will conclude its study and submit a report to the legislature by November.  This means that a vote on the abolition bill which will replace the use of the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole will be pushed into 2007.  The problem with that is all of the legislators will be up for re-election.  I think we all know how hard it is to get politicians to commit to anything that will significantly change the status quo during an election year.  The point is NJADP needs all the help it can get.

Right now we are in a position end the use of the death penalty in our state and set an example for the entire nation, but we need to keep up the momentum.  Please consider coming on next Wednesday.

For other ways for you to help end the use of the death penalty in our state you can refer to

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

August 5th is Universal Peace Day

August 5th is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Groups throughout the world commemorate this event with solemn vigils, marches and protests. Since 1984 Art for the People has chosen to celebrate this day as a re-dedication to life on a day that they refer to as Universal Peace Day.

This year The Riverside Church, New York Buddhist Church, and Art For The People have organized a day of activities which is co-sponsored by Mission and Social Justice at The Riverside Church, the New York Buddhist Church, Art For the People, Band Together Records, World Water Rescue Foundation, Hiroshima Initiative and Good News Broadcast.

We cannot change the past but we can determine our future. By recognizing the positive and the life affirming we can combat the anger and fear that leads to violence.

Here is a listing of the events planned in New York this year.

Riverside Park
begins at 11:00 AM with
Special Guest: Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary)
West 80 Street
(just above the 79th St. Boat Basin)

New York Buddhist Church
6:00 PM
Film, performances
7:15 PM Candlelighting Ceremony
7:20 PM Silent Peace Walk to Riverside Church
331-332 Riverside Drive (between 105 and 106 Streets)
The Riverside Church
8:00 PM
featuring: Interfaith Service, Hiroshima survivor, performers from Japan and US
Special Guests: Robert Thurman, Josh White, Jr., Oscar Brand, John Hall
Riverside Drive (between 120-122 Streets)


Monday, July 10, 2006

Good Lord Deliver Us From Our Good Intentions

From the cowardice that dare not face new truth,
From the laziness that is contented with half truth,
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
Good Lord, deliver me.

-Prayer from Kenya

On a typical day I get several emails and receive several letters in the mail from various groups advocating for one position or another. Each one claiming to be of utmost importance and often invoking the phrase of the "moral imperative". I have to admit that I have been known to send a few of those emails myself. I try to be careful not to be alarmist or get caught up in the cause du jour, but I can't always help myself.

There is, what we can no longer refer to as a cottage industry because of its tremendous size, rather, an industry of tremendous proportion which whips our population into a frenzy over this or that. Many of these issues are serious to be certain, the war in Iraq, poverty, globalization and the environment among so many others. Why is it, however, that after reading a single email, article, letter or blog entry that our minds can be made up and we can be inspired to act? Being an amateur organizer myself, I realize that it is against my self interest even to ask this question. However, I also realize that there are things that are more important than my self interest and forwarding my personal agenda no matter how balanced I may believe that agenda to be.

Although each of us may know hatred, injustice or evil when we see it, how can we as individuals or even groups of people of like minds presume to know the best way to solve problems that plague entire societies? In order to solve the problems of our society we must engage all of its members, rich or poor, democrat or republican, liberal or conservative.

Nonviolence as its is practiced by followers of Gandhi and Thomas Merton is not a tactic or a political strategy. It is a quest for the truth. We need to recognize that our view of the truth is subjective. We must come to understand that human issues are not like the sides of a coin, that there are more than just two options for every issue. We must resist the urge to demonize those who do not agree with our world view and we must guard against self-righteousness.

Not only can the best laid plans "oft go astray" but also can the best intentions. May God help us all to find the truth and may he save us from the consequences or our best intentions.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Truth Comes to Summit

Al Gore's documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, just started showing this weekend at the Clearview in Summit. My husband and I had been planning to see it, but had yet to find the time. Now that it was showing on an screen within walking distance from our house, we no longer had any excuse.

We showed up at the theater about ten minutes before the movie was scheduled to start and in a theater that only holds about seventy five people, there were already about 20 people seated. It was as if they were either concerned that the movie would be sold out or there were just filled with great anticipation. It was more likely the latter since Summit, being a fairly well off community within only about an hour of the ocean, generally becomes a bit of a ghost town on the weekends in July and August, particularly on weekends in which there is a holiday somewhere in the week.

As the movie began and Al Gore's narrative progressed, the anticipation, that I felt anyhow, quickly transformed into anxiety as Gore carefully made the case for and showed the current and projected effects of global warming.

I urge everyone to go and see this movie. If you were already convinced of the adverse effects of green house gas emmitions this movie will give you the tools to communicate the urgency and as Gore puts it "the moral imperative" of reversing the trend of global warming. If you are just not sure this movie may help you make up your mind. It doesn't matter if you are a republican, a democrat, a communist or an anarchist everything else that we disagree about will be a moot point if we have no planet on which to live. It is time that we all truly began to care for God's creation instead of just utilize it.

Here is a listing of theaters in NJ that are currently showing "An Incovenient Truth"

Belle Mead
Montgomery Cinemas Box 19 Belle Mead, NJ 08502

East Windsor

National Amusements Mutiplex Cinemas @ Towne Center Plaza 319 Us Highway 130 East Windsor, NJ 08520

National Amusements Edgewater Multiplex Cinemas 339 River Road Edgewater, NJ 07020

AMC Theatres Hamilton 24 325 Sloan Avenue Hamilton, NJ 08619

CJM Maplewood Sixplex 155 Maplewood Ave, Maplewood, NJ 07040

Clearview Clairidge Cinemas 486 Bloomfield Avenue Montclair, NJ 07042

Clearview Headquarters 10 72 Headquarters Plaza, Inside the Headquarters Shopping Mall, Morristown, NJ

New Brunswick
AMC Loews New Brunswick Theatre 17 US Highway #1 New Brunswick, NJ 08902

Frank Theatres Towne Stadium 16 6733 Blackhorse Pike, Pleasantville, NJ 08232

Clearview Beacon Hill 5 343 Springfield Avenue, Summit, NJ 07901

Washington Township
Clearview Washington Township Cinemas 249 Pascack Rd Washington Township, NJ 07675

Ritz Theatres Ritz Sixteen 900 Berlin-Haddonfield Road Voorhees, NJ 08043

Friday, July 07, 2006

Upcoming Events at CSE

This comes by way of Jim Barette. His wife Linda is Director of the Center for Theological & Spiritual Development at the College of St. Elizabeth (my alma mater). They run some great programs and they have a couple coming up very soon…

I wanted to give you a heads up to a couple upcoming events taking place at the College of St. Elizabeth under Linda's tutelage. I think you would find them interesting. This message may be redundant to a few of you as I am using my e-mail lists for the St Teresa Bible Study group, Book Discussion and Faith Sharing.

On July 9th (a Sunday) there will be an opening event (free of charge) from 7-9:30 pm in the Mahony Library Octagon on the campus of the College. Speaker will be Adele Gonzalea a Theology Professor from Barry University in Florida who is a national speaker in the areas of spirituality, lay ministry and multiculturism. Her topic is FEAR IS USELESS.

On Saturday, July 15th there will be a "Summer Spirituality Festival" from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm (also on Campus of the College of St. Elizabeth. There is a registration fee for this day of $30 (you can register the morning of) and the day includes a morning and afternoon keynote presentation (Reverend Lawrence Boadt in the morning with the topic "The Old Testament is Good News, Too" and Patricia Livingston in the afternoon (1:30 pm) titled "The Good News According to Each of Us.") There will also be a choice of a morning and afternoon workshop from a selection of four workshops. Well known author and speaker Megan McKenna will be one of the presenters. The topics include McKenna on "Dwelling in Mystery," "A Catholic Spirituality for the Dying" by Sr. Pat Parachini, "Keeping in Balance - The 4 Pillars of Christian Spirituality" by Ann Marie Eckert, and "The Spirituality of Taize" by Rev. Masud Ibn Syedullah.

There will also be morning and evening courses for credit or audit conducted Monday through Thursday July 10-13 and a separate set of courses the week of July 17-20. If interested in learning more on these you can either call the college (Linda's Office) 973-290-4300 or go onto their website

I have been attending these programs for some time (even predating Linda's involvement) and always find the sessions stimulating and relevant. If you know of others who might be interested, please pass the word.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Watada Has Been Charged

. . . we cannot fail to praise those who renounce the use of violence in the vindication of their rights and who resort to methods of defense which are otherwise available to weaker parties too, provided that this can be done without injury to the rights and duties of others or of the community itself. ("The Church in the Modern World," n. 78)

Lt. Ehren Watada as expected has been charged for refusing to deploy to Iraq and for the statements that he made in connection with his decision. The formal charges are for missing a movement, conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials. According to an article in the Army Times, Watada could face up to four years confinement if convicted on all charges.

Watada made a choice he chose his conscience above his duty to his country. The law says he should be punished and he probably will be. However, he is demonstrating that no matter what one's circumstances there is always free will.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Prayer For Patriotism on The Fourth of July

From The Catholic Prayer Book compiled by Msgr. Michael Buckley

Heavenly Father, purify in all the people of this land their love for the nation according to the mind of your Son Jesus Christ, who knew what was good for the peace of His land and people. May everyone strive by word and action to foster peace among the people of all social classes and creeds, so that, living in harmonny and justice, they may be a Christian light to other nations, such as your Son would have them be.

-Michael Buckley

May we all be wary that our feelings of patriotism motivate all of us to seek just ends rather than rationalize current injustices. Happy Fourth of July!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Catholic Social Teaching Program to Be Held at St. Bartholomew

One of the great challenges for Catholics is as old as our faith, but takes on greater urgency in this hectic and complex world we live in.

How do we connect worship on Sunday to work on Monday? How is the Gospel proclaimed not only in the pulpits of our parishes, but also in the everyday lives of Catholic people? How does the Church gathered on the Sabbath act as the People of God scattered and active every day of the week? How can we best carry the values of our faith into family life, the market place and the public square? How do we love our neighbor, pursue peace and seek justice in everyday choices and commitments?

On four consectutive Thursday nights: September 7, 14, 21, and 28 from 7:30 to 9:00PM, the Social Outreach Ministry at St. Bartholomew in Scotch Plains will sponser an adult formation program entitled "Catholic Social Teaching - Our Best Kept Secret"

The program will be facilitated by Ms. Kay Furlani, Director of the Office of Human Concerns for the Newark Archdiocese. It will also be open to the parishoners from our neigboring communities.

Come join us and begin to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. More details will follow.


Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice.

Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 1991

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Upcoming Retreats with Bishop Gumbleton in NY and NJ

Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, the retired Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, first bishop president of Pax Christi USA and author of the column entitled The Peace Pulpit for The National Catholic Reporter will be giving two retreats in the New York Metro Area this fall.

The first is from September 25th to the 29th at Bethany Retreat House in Highland Mills, NY. Call 845-928-2213 for more information.

The second one is still being planned by Pax Christi New Jersey, but is expected to be in Staten Island from December 1st to the 2nd, Friday evening and Saturday morning.