Monday, August 14, 2017



Nagasaki post U.S. atomic bomb - 1945

The news is bad.  The news is frightening.  North Korea threatens the U.S. by building a nuclear weapon.  We are “locked and loaded” against them, as in a Times Herald 8-12-17 headline.  This news is not new.  As a sub-headline explained we’ve been so prepared since 1953.  And they had begun developing a nuclear bomb in 1994, aided by Pakistan [our erstwhile allies in our Afghan wars.]  They might now be actually able to mount one on a missile, after 23 years working on it.  I wrote an op-ed on this in the Detroit News, 6-28-1994, “North Korea: U.S. displays a nuclear double standard.”  

The North Koreans had withdrawn from the Non-Proliferation Treaty to make their own atom bombs.  They and the rest of the Non-nukes nations had been waiting since 1968, the date of the treaty, for the U.S. and other nuclear weapon possessing nations to disarm and destroy their weapons [our part of the agreement].  That was 26 years past due then, and everyone’s still waiting almost 50 years later.
For the first time this year, we and the other 7 nations with established nuclear capability [Russia, China, U.K., France, Israel, Pakistan, and India] did not even attend the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference which has been regularly scheduled every 5 years since 1968.  So at this recent United Nations meeting the rest of the world voted to make nuclear weapons illegal in international law.  They’ve lost patience, and more will perhaps try to go it on their own, to join the elite club of those owning thermonuclear bombs.

If we don’t feel safe at this point with just North Korea’s aspirations, what will that future bring?  The more nuclear nations the merrier?  The bombastic rhetoric is escalating with both U.S. and N.K. leaders caught in a war of words.  Most discouraging to me [believing neither wants mass destruction] is that both are promoting an arms race that will further tax their people, squandering their resources instead of giving citizens productive work to meet their real needs.  And the U.S. has never faced countrywide famine as North Korea has.
In the words of former President Eisenhower, “This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…  Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

Christ and the Holocaust - Chagall

I grew up in the Cold War, born 2 years after we exploded the only atomic bombs ever used in war.  We’d won WWII, but we never had enough weapons.  First there was the “Bomber Gap,” then there was the “Missile Gap.”  A glossy annual report, “Soviet Military Power” published by our intelligence services, was regularly passed out to Congress and the media.  The “madman” was then the Communist.  The Soviet Union dissolved, but we’ve always had a new madman to fill the gap.  Grandpa Kim Il Sung during the Korean War, the Ayatollah, the Sandinistas, Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden, Saddam, Assad, Kim Jong il, now Kim Jong Un, etc..  Be afraid, build more, and more deadly, weapons has been our mantra.  Weapons are the way to win we believe, and being clearly the most weaponized, this is the pre-emptive message we send to the rest of the world.

s the dominant military power on earth, it is incumbent upon us to lead in disarmament.  “Do as I say not as I do” will not work.  We must be not afraid to disarm.  “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he lose his own soul.”  With the great excess of nuclear firepower on our planet, to do otherwise does risk destruction like the world has never seen.  Someone will make a mistake, which will cause certain climate change and global warming precipitously, and unimaginable suffering.

For Christians we are given assurance many times by Jesus, “Be not afraid.”  We must be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”  We have to learn that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” Matt. 26:52  We must not be afraid to love even our enemy; to do unto all others as we would have them do unto us.

We face a N. Korea shakedown threat engendered by both parties.  The most definite effect: increase of our [and their] peoples’ onerous taxing investments for military industries.  The U.S. has a perpetual “be afraid” budget.  There is a constant fear-mongering, lobby marketing of our weapons of mass destruction [$100 billion now dedicated to their “modernization”].   We hear a constant counter-message to Jesus’ repeated admonition, “Be not afraid.”  Can we not listen to His words, this Good News, and believe?

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Now that Pope Francis has begun to open the door again to increased possibilities for married men to also be priests [see 3-10-17 NYT article], lets examine the history of the married and celibate priesthood, within our Catholic church.   I offer my term paper that I wrote in 1965, as a first year college seminarian at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit for some points of information.  This issue has been much discussed, for 2000 plus year.  Celibacy did not become the church law requirement for priesthood until 1123 at the First Latern Council.

After that one year my vocation eventually led me to medicine, and the wonderful challenges of married life.  It has been sad to have known many others who continued to feel the call to both marriage and priesthood but were unable fully answer.

As I wrote to a local priest for whom I've great respectIn giving you that paper I wrote at Sacred Heart, you should know that I am edified and encouraged by the vocation of celibacy for our priests, and that I used the Seminary library for all the research.  My hope is still that more married deacons, and sometime soon, married priests, will be able to join them in the harvest where laborers are too few.

Harvest - section of painting by Bruegel

Our mounting problem in the USA is that we are becoming ourselves a mission church, inundated and diminishing in a culture which adores financial wealth, material possession, and political power--more than anything else.  The existence of a loving God is an afterthought, extraneous and unimportant as we pursue these other rewards.  Our country thirsts for more living examples of that courage, humble service, and holiness, that our priests are meant to be--leadership disciples, followers of Christ who was open to all.  We should be welcoming these priest candidates from all walks of life.  Training them well, proving their character, supporting them in their quest for service and justice, but welcoming the married and unmarried, trusting in the Holy Spirit as a guide to a more complete and evangelical church.

There follows photo copies of the term paper.  You might print & enlarge [esp. the references at end if desired].  Please read, just as an initial stepping stone to what, on the level of our church leadership, might be accomplished in a renewal, an "opening of doors & windows," [as begun by St. Pope John XXIII] in our U.S. Catholic church.   Let me know what you think; please pass on and discuss with others.


 From 4th Century Roman sarcophagus--Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Man with a Hoe - by Edwin Markham

Monday, March 6, 2017


The current mood in our country, as typified by our President Trump, is in direct opposition to the spirit of President Reagan’s, “Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this wall.”  Instead we have a rabble rousing, “Citizens, let’s build up these walls—and tear down the Statue of Liberty while we’re at it?”  We are a nation of immigrants, all of us, except the remnant of indigenous still surviving our European conquest.  Many of us immigrants were fleeing wars, famines, religious persecutions.  And this continues to the present day, much of it now caused in great part by our own exercise of global power and military might.

Aren’t these newcomers dangerous, in this world of War on Terror?  The Cato Institute is a very conservative Libertarian think tank.  The 2-11-17 Port Huron Times Herald cited a recent report by them: "… out of more than 3 million refugees admitted to the U.S. from 1975 to 2015, three committed terrorist acts that killed Americans. They were [anti-Castro] Cuban refugees in the 1970's."

What should be the response of Christians who strive to follow the Gospel?  Today’s New York Times hints at a resurrection of the 1980’s civilly disobedient Sanctuary movement, which welcomed the refugees of our Central American wars of the time.   Some of our immigrants no longer want to stay here, no longer feel safe, and are leaving north to more stable Canada.   The U.S. administration is threatening the five or so major cities that have stated they would be sanctuaries for refugees, with cut-off of federal funds.
At the same time detention of immigrants is becoming a for-profit industry--over 60% are being held in private facilities.

The reaction of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the Jan. 27, 2017 executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations to the U.S. was this:  “It is our conviction as followers of the Lord Jesus that welcoming the stranger and protecting the vulnerable lie at the core of the Christian life. And so, to our Muslim brothers and sisters and all people of faith, we stand with you and welcome you.”

Archbishop Garcia-Siller of San Antonio added this in his formal statement “While being promoted as a response to safety concerns in this country, these are unprecedented announcements that will punish the majority of immigrants who want to come to America -- the land of the free -- for a better future.
In a letter sent to President Trump prior to his inauguration, Pope Francis wrote, “Under your leadership, may America’s stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door.”

In this moment of our political history we should read again Luke’s account of the rich man , and Lazarus who lived at his gate.  The gate and wall in this world, become the chasm between heaven and hell in the next.

The Gospel reading from today's mass was from Matt 25, the Last Judgment scene, “Whatsoever you did for the least of these…”  This is the criteria for our collective and individual salvation.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney


Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, a Democrat, pledged cooperation if public safety was threatened, but “what we will not do,” he said, “is turn our N.Y.P.D. officers into immigration agents.” ...
Studies show that crime rates among unauthorized immigrants are lower than those among native-born Americans.
A sign of what could happen nationally emerged last month in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott canceled $1.5 million in criminal justice grants to Travis County, whose seat is Austin, the state capital. This was after the county sheriff renounced cooperation with immigration officials seeking deportations.

On Wednesday, the immigration and refugee clinical program at Harvard Law School issued a report stating that Mr. Trump’s executive orders on immigration made the United States “not a safe country of asylum” for people fleeing persecution and violence.

Monday, July 11, 2016


For the readable story go to the Michigan Catholic newspaper site.
It is a companion piece to the story of Orchard Lake Seminiary's celebration of 1050 years of Polish Cathoicism.

                     Otto at 17

Otto Schimek a 19 year old Austrian soldier, under pain of his own death, refused to fight for Hitler in southern Poland.  After almost three years of research, this story ever more necessary in our world of increasing violence, begins to be told in the U.S. media.  It is just one of many similar stories of the faithful courage not to kill, that I find as I look further into the period of WWII, and all the decades of war since.  May we all find more of this courage.
        Deo gratias.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

P.S.  This may become weekly again this fall.

Monday, March 21, 2016

What St. Patrick was preaching about the Triune God

"Non occides. Homicida non potest esse cum Christo." 
-St. Patrick, Epistola ad milites Corotici

Irish Catholic & protestants have begun to listen--will the rest of us?

Monday, January 4, 2016


My wife Ande moving through one of our many travel connections
 {with her daughter's snowboard}

Travel throws one into the present moment, alert attentive to every change of color, sound , and place—but in a foreign land, at the mercy of people’s good will.  Here in Europe, out of my Spanish-French language zone into unknown German, I’d forgotten how vulnerable one is.

Planning one’s journey is necessary, but always incomplete, dependent on each person you meet, and whether they are paying attention to you.  And your own touring goals are transient, mutable, difficult to formulate in real time, and easy to lose track of as time flits by like towns on the many trains.  Where to get on, where to get off?  We’re fortunate when we travel with good guides.

My daughter Kathleen now working in Basel Switzerland, and her boyfriend Eric with his German skills, were that for us in our trips into the high Alps, they down-mountain skiing, Ande and I hiking and cross- country skiing.  As we tramped around, and through, but not over a glacier area [crevasse risk too dangerous in this unseasonable warm weather], Herr Beat was our capable snow-shoe guide, urging us on with gluwein [hot spiced wine] and his insightful lament on the demise of his Saas Fee glaciers, less than 50% what they were when he was a boy just 50 years ago.  He could easily point down these high ridge valleys to where they no longer were.

Anatol, and his daughter Laura, were wonderful hosts to us just before Christmas in Vienna, as we continued the search for the story of Otto Schimek, a young Austrian who refused to kill for Hitler’s army [more on Otto].   We made progress, visited the bishop there who gave some support to our project.  There is hope that back in the USA we will move into a New Year, where Christians begin to truly renounce violence, turning towards the courage of peacemaking.

Ande, with Laura & Anatol Rathbaur in front of
Vienna Town Hall

                                                                                     Ande and Laura {reminds me of our Maura}

Short visit to Otto's family church in Vienna, St. Leopolds--Christmas trees on sale in front

On the steps of St Bridgittas in Vienna, where Otto was baptized

Monday, December 7, 2015


A sand tornado passes through as thousands of Kurds stream into Dikmetas, Turkey, from Syria in September 2014. Years after rural residents fleeing drought poured into Syria's cities, helping to spark a civil war, the region remains in turmoil.  {Millions of refugees having already arrived from our war in Iraq}  PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN STANMEYER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

 From today's NYT

As the world gathers in Paris, facing the challenge of climate change to life on earth, recent war and terror are intermingled with the threat to climate.  The terrorist attacks on civilians in Paris on Nov. 13th, and many other places, from Beirut to Mali to San Bernardino.   Millions of refugees from Syria’s and others wars and a failing ecology in the Middle East, moving towards Western Europe.   Tens of thousands in similar fashion flee war and climate disaster in Central America and Mexico, heading for our borders.

To see this situation more clearly in its wider implications, what happened in Syria must be looked at in a larger than political perspective.  {a short superficial video on this}
“Climate Change Helped Spark Syrian War,Study Says  - National Geographic – March, 2015
Research provides first deep look at how global warming may already influence armed conflict.”
It should not be hard to understand the catastrophic cascade of crop failure, scarcity of food, un-alleviated destitution, and war.
Nor should it be difficult to see that war itself compounds and propels the damage to the land and the inhabitants.   Nov. 12 News article - Amidst the debris- Environmental impact of conflict in Syria could bedisastrous - from PAX.

At its beginning and end, war ensures a deepening destruction of a population and their surroundings.
We must put away the petrochemical sword of war, before it displaces, chokes, bombs, or beheads all of us.
 Gul, 22, rests with her children at a gas station in SuriƧ, Turkey, after fleeing violence in Syria in 2014. While scientists acknowledge that many factors contributed to the conflict in Syria, a new study documents how mass migration influenced by climate change appears to have played a role.

From Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si --
“There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees…”
"It is foreseeable that, once certain resources have been depleted, the scene will be set for new wars."

From today’s scripture readings – Yet hope abounds this Christmas season.
     IS 35:1-10

Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water;
The abode where jackals lurk
will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.
A highway will be there,
called the holy way;

      Kuwaiti oil well afire during our first Gulf War

Flight to Egypt- by Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn