Aparecida 78 – Violence

In paragraph 78, the bishops note the rise in violence in the region.

Social life, in harmonious and peaceful coexistence, is deteriorating very seriously in many Latin American and Caribbean countries, due to the rise in violence, which takes the form of robberies, muggings, kidnappings, and even more seriously, murders, which every day destroy more human lives and fill families and all of society with sorrow.

They list various types of violence:

Violence takes on various forms and has different agents:
organized crime and drug trafficking, paramilitary groups,
common crime, especially on the outskirts of large cities,
violence of youth gangs, and growing domestic violence.

Two other types of violence I have encountered are the violence of revenge and the violence of feuds between families, often fueled by an initial act of violence against one member of an extended family.

There is no mention in this paragraph of guerrilla forces that were active in the last fifty years and are still active, at least in Colombia, though this is briefly noted in paragraph 81.

There is also no mention of violence by governmental forces. In the last four decades of the twentieth century, this was a significant problem throughout Latin America, related to the authoritarian governments in the region. Often governmental police and military units coordinated their efforts with death squads. Though that era is over, there are still occasions when the police or the military use violence. At times the violence is due to the actions of individual police or soldiers, acting in a criminal manner. But the militarization of the police in several nations may lead to violence against civilians. In addition, there is always the danger of a government using the police to repress protesting sectors of the society.

The bishops continue, listing causes:

The causes are many:
worship of money,
the advance of an individualistic and utilitarian ideology,
disrespect for the dignity of each person,
a deterioration of the social fabric,
corruption even of law-enforcement entities,
and lack of government policies of social justice.

Though the bishops mention “lack of government policies of social justice,” as a cause, one might add, making this more specific, the lack of an efficient justice system, the lack of trained police, the militarization of police forces, and impunity.

Since the Aparecida conference, violence has increased in some parts of Latin America.

But, as far as I can see, the document offers no comprehensive analysis of violence, including its social roots – something which is really needed.

Here is an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Reconciliation Lectionary: Genesis 4:1-15

mary-the-penitent.jpgI have never heard this passage from the early mythology of Genesis proclaimed and preached at a Reconciliation Liturgy. The tale of Cain and Abel is one of the saddest in the Bible. At least I find it so. In a mere nine chapters of the Bible, Genesis 3 through 11, humankind sinks desperately low. The acceleration picks up with the first murder:

The man had relations with his wife Eve,
and she conceived and bore Cain, saying,
“I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.”
Next she bore his brother Abel.
Abel became a keeper of flocks,
and Cain a tiller of the ground.
In the course of time
Cain brought an offering to the Lord
from the fruit of the soil,
while Abel, for his part,
brought one of the best firstlings of his flock.
The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering,
but on Cain and his offering he did not.
So Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen.

The various commentaries on farmers versus ranchers do not interest me. Nor what seems to be the arbitrariness of God being pleased with one man’s offering and not the other’s. Likewise the curiosity that an infamous member of the second generation of human beings would need, somehow, to be identified with a mark. Are these the first people, or not?

What I do understand is the perception that God sometimes seems unfair and arbitrary. It seems natural to be angry or resentful. Note also that Cain was crestfallen–the NABRE says “dejected.” His inner tumult was not just directed at another, but consumed him in a particular mood. We can feel this way. God can also intervene then. Do we listen for the questions of life:

So the Lord said to Cain:
Why are you so resentful and crestfallen?
If you do well, you can hold up your head;
but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door:
his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.

It is a truth that sin lies in wait for us. It’s not some personalized other to blame, at least not all the time. But something to entrap us when we choose not to overcome it. The NABRE passage doesn’t mention a demon, only the impersonal “it” of sin. Make of that edit what you will.

Now comes the sadness: murder and cover-up.

Cain said to his brother Abel,
“Let us go out in the field.”
When they were in the field,
Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord asked Cain,
“Where is your brother Abel?”
He answered, “I do not know.
Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The Lord then said: “What have you done!
Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!
Therefore you shall be banned from the soil
that opened its mouth to receive
your brother’s blood from your hand.
If you till the soil,
it shall no longer give you its produce.
You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.

So Cain loses his relationship with his ability, being able to be a productive farmer. Serious sin sometimes results in separating us from not only the people we love, but the work we love to do. This kind of alienation, either as a punishment from a human source, or a loss of internal verve, often accompanies serious sin. How does the Christian community leave a path open for a penitent without creating a situation in which the spiral of sin becomes all too easy? I don’t have the answer to that one.

Cain bargains with God, not unlike other Old Testament figures:

Cain said to the Lord:
“My punishment is too great to bear.
Since you have now banished me from the soil,
and I must avoid your presence
and become a restless wanderer on the earth,
anyone may kill me at sight.”
“Not so!” the Lord said to him.
“If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold. So the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight.

The Lord’s punishments so often seem magnified, especially if we have been lured into sin from a sense of personal unfairness. As a parent, I have found this extremely difficult. How to exact consequences for bad choices without allowing my child to descend into a deeper resentment and bitterness?

I would applaud any preacher who manages to speak effectively and fruitfully on this point. Any experiences out there with this reading, or in your own personal reflection?

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Remarriage Worse Than Murder

Bishop Robert Lynch reflects on a “Rubicon” about to be crossed:

Think about it for a moment, I can absolve the most heinous of criminals who seeks God’s forgiveness for the sin of murder and give him or her the Eucharist, but let a twenty-one year old who made a mistake in choosing a spouse for a bevy of reasons return to the Eucharist – no way says the Church and I pray instead for some way. Pope Francis has instilled in my heart a desire for reconciliation of all, forgiveness, mercy and compassion for those who need it and seek it, and a Church which is itself a beacon of hope to those who walk in the darkness of this day and age.

Seems right. A person is murdered. Seems like that person should come back from the dead in order to undo the sin and permit a repentant killer to return to the sacraments.

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DPPL 61: Values in Popular Piety

STA altar at night smallValues in popular piety, according to popes, we start with the Holy Spirit, the recognition that the Spirit guides people and the magisterium accepts this, in principle:

61. Popular piety, according to the Magisterium, is a living reality in and of the Church. Its source is the constant presence of the Spirit of God in the ecclesial community; the mystery of Christ Our Savior is its reference point, the glory of God and the salvation of man its object, its historical moment “the joyous encounter of the work of evangelization and culture” (John Paul II, Homily given at the shrine of the Virgin Mary of “Zapopang”, 2, in AAS, 71 (1979) 228). On several occasions, the Magisterium has expressed its esteem for popular piety and its various manifestations, admonishing those who ignore it, or overlook it, or even distain it, to adopt a more positive attitude towards it, taking due note of its many values (Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, 31; John Paul II, Allocution to the Bishops of Basilicata and Apulia, ad Limina visit, 4, in AAS 74 (1982) 211-213). Indeed, the Magisterium sees popular piety as “a true treasure of the People of God” (John Paul II, Homily given at the Celebration of the Word in La Serena (Chile), 2, in Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, X/1 (1987), cit., p. 1078.).
The Magisterium’s esteem for popular piety is principally motivated by the values which it incorporates.
Popular piety has an innate sense of the sacred and the transcendent, manifests a genuine thirst for God and “an acute sense of God’s deepest attributes: fatherhood, providence, constant and loving presence”, (Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 48) and mercy(Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 54).

Admonishing those who ignore, overlook, or disdain popular piety: I think there is a strain of people who are skeptics on non-liturgical spirituality. To what degree do people actively discourage this strain? I think it happens institutionally here and there, but more likely focused on questionable practices: St Jude chain letters, Medjugorje, excesses. Thing is, some people are attached to excesses, and they take not kindly to others suggesting perspective.

The Latin American bishops are cited here:

The documents of the Magisterium highlight certain interior dispositions and virtues particularly consonant with popular piety and which, in turn, are prompted and nourished by it: patience and “Christian resignation in the face of irremediable situations”(Puebla 965); trusting abandonment to God; the capacity to bear sufferings and to perceive “the cross in every-day life”(Evangelii nuntiandi 48); a genuine desire to please the Lord and to do reparation and penance for the offences offered to Him; detachment from material things; solidarity with, and openness to, others; “a sense of friendliness, charity and family unity”(Puebla 913).

What do you think?

The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.

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Aparecida 77 – More On Corruption

Paragraph 70 treated corruption in the context of economics. In paragraph 77, the context is the political.

The bishops note how corruption has affected all branches of the government:

A major negative factor observable in much of the region is the intensification of corruption in society and the State involving the legislative and executive branches at all levels. It also extends to the judicial system, which in its ruling often sides with the powerful and fosters impunity, thereby jeopardizing the credibility of government institutions and increasing the mistrust of the people. That phenomenon goes hand in hand with a deep contempt for legality.

An important addition here is the mention of impunity. Crimes go unpunished; many are not even investigated.

This leads to a lack of credibility of the government and mistrust. Thus many people are reluctant to even report crimes, since they see little chance of justice being done or of witnesses being protected. Sometimes this situation leads to people taking the law in their own hands, leading to cycles of revenge.

Another possible result of rampant corruption is disenchantment with politics and a withdrawal from involvement in the public sphere.

Broad sectors of the population, especially young people, are increasingly disenchanted with politics, particularly with democracy, because the promises of a better and more just life were not fulfilled, or were fulfilled only partially.

The bishops therefore note the importance of formation in democracy and participation.

 Thus it is forgotten that democracy and political participation are fruit of the formation that becomes a reality only when citizens are conscious of their fundamental rights and of their corresponding duties.

Thus in many countries in Latin America, CARITAS and other Catholic institutions have projects that from people in their human rights and duties.

Here is an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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From Supreme to Honorary


Tweet-whispered a few hours ago, Sandro Magister reports Cardinal Burke’s career arc is about to descend to a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean. More specifically, to a “patronage” of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

If confirmed, Burke’s exile would be even more drastic than the one inflicted on Cardinal Piacenza, who, transferred from the important congregation for the clergy to the marginal apostolic penitentiary, nevertheless remained in the leadership of a curial dicastery.

With the shakeup on the way, Burke would instead be completely removed from the curia and employed in a purely honorary position without any influence on the governance of the universal Church.

This would be a move that seems to have no precedent.

It might free the former US bishop for more airport time.

Rorate Caeli:

Why not a movement back to an American see? A translation of Cardinal Burke back to any of the “red hat” see in the United States, much less one as influential and prestigious as Chicago, would simply not be welcome to many liberal and “moderate” bishops in that country, not least those Cardinals such as Wuerl, O’Malley and Dolan who have found themselves on the opposite side of Burke’s strident promotion of Canon 915.

Or perhaps Rome wasn’t so interested in repeats of schism, which happens when a person in charge takes canon law to its fullest extent–as a weapon to wield. Welcome to other bishops? Let’s talk about Chicagoland parishes. That’s a lot of churches to close down in the 2020’s.

Wait–liberal and moderate bishops? Really? Really!? Where the heck did they come from?

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Praying From A Psalter

ICEL PsalterWith desire and longing on my mind in my own spiritual journey, I turn to the psalms these days, especially psalms of longing. Psalm 62 I chose for a staff meeting this morning, which included:

Wait, my soul, silent for God,
for God alone, my hope,
along my rock, my safety,
my refuge: I stand secure. (62:8-9)

Afterward, one of my staff colleagues searched for the translation on Amazon. And it is there, still being sold. She was surprised new hardcover copies are still available, and still being sold … for up to $100.

I could bequeath her my copy, or I mused, hold onto it and finance my grandchildren’s college education.

Or perhaps I should hold on to the thought of the Psalmist that God alone is my hope.

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