Monday, September 30, 2013


Hijas de la Pasion de Jesucristo y de Maria Dolorosa, and my wife Ande, at their convent en la Parroquia de Santa Barbara, Barrio de Parraga, Havana Cuba, April 2001 - No fine yet for breaking the walls of embargo.  

This week's Gospel is the story of Dives [the rich, in Latin] and Lazarus, the beggar at his gate.  It was the scripture that came to my mind at the time my wife and I were threatened with $1000 plus fines for a vacation/mission trip to Cuba in April 2001 when we delivered some medical supplies to a group of nuns working with the poor in Havana.  Technically we were trading with the enemy.
We contested in administrative court in Washington D.C., and in Feb. 2005, were given a $5000 plus penalty.

he opposing lawyers did seem moved by our argument that included the parable of Dives & Lazarus, warning of the fate of those who persist in putting walls between haves and have-nots.  Our attorney made a quick appeal of the judgment against us.  There has been no word from the government since--no attempt to collect.  Every year the United Nations votes 160 + to 2 against the Cuba embargo.  Its time for our country to tear down this embargo wall.

August 4, 2006

Dear Editors of the Wall Street Journal,

            In this time of transition in Cuba, its time to give the Cuban people a definite sign of our ability to welcome change.  We applaud the recommendation in your 8-2-06 editorial, “The Fabulous Castro Boys,” that we should repeal the Helms-Burton Act, and encourage commerce and constructive interaction between our two countries.  The outdated barriers of embargo and travel restriction have been harmful to Cubans, Cuban-Americans, and U.S. business and civic interests across the board.

            My wife and I made a trip to Cuba, and gave some small support to a group of Catholic nuns there in 2001.  Traveling independently, without Cuban guide or approvals, we met people of all political persuasions, living simple, poor but dignified lives.  For that we were sanctioned by our own government, and became one of the first cases to face a Treasury Department administrative law judge in December 2004.  The outcome is still in limbo, appealed within Treasury, no action taken, and no fine imposed.  We believe that the majority in our government, and country, are convinced our current policy is wrong and counterproductive.

Our country is in danger of becoming a gated community {see Luke 16:19-31-- the Rich Man and Lazarus}.  Instead, on every front, our people need to reach out to other cultures, friend and foe, to be peacemakers.  It’s a question of our salvation. As the rich people, shutting ourselves off from the mutually healing contact with the poor, we court the disaster of the gate, turned into the eternal abyss.  {see the John J. Pilch, Georgetown University,  exposition of the above passage, pp 142-44, in The Cultural Word of Jesus, Cycle C, The Liturgical Press, 1997--[very worthwhile books].}

As Fidel Castro’s ability to lead diminishes, and as Raul’s direction is in question, I have confidence the Cuban people will make positive adjustments, and I hope we ourselves have the courage to make the first moves towards reconciliation.  The Archdiocese of Miami {witness their program En Comunion} and the Vatican {remember Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1998} have stood ready for years to help heal old animosities while respecting Cuban sovereignty.  May Congress heed your call, and confirm legislation that will open doors too long closed.

Yours truly,

Michael McCarthy PA-C,
Blue Water Pax Christi
Port Huron, MI   48060

This is how it appeared edited in the August 8, 2006 WSJ, clipped of much of it spiritual commentary.
Our society continues to ignore the whole world--rich & poor--implications of the Gospel.  Good for most, not so good for some who'd attempt to drag their feet with their possessions into eternity.
Dives and Lazarus
"It is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as God's will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent. But if you want them to believe you - try to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as God's will yourself!"      - Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation, chapter 14, p. 107 (1949).
      Words that need to be heard, especially now, in the halls of Congress.
Illumination, and much support during our Cuba trial in D.C., provided by Kathy Brahney, and her husband and friends, and many others.


Monday, September 23, 2013


Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit."   Jer 17:7-8
I decided I was a Conscientious Objector to the Viet Nam war in my junior year in college.  Dad was not happy.  When I broke the news he was so upset he could hardly speak.  Dad didn’t often get serious angry, but he was then.  His WWII experience gave him no way to understand me—and he gave me the silent treatment for about a month. 
Then, I needed a ride back to MSU for fall term.  I asked him and he said OK.  He quietly drove, while I decided to risk telling him of all I’d been thinking, point by point during the way back to school.  It was the best I could remember of the required ten page paper I’d been working on for my draft board presentation. 

The basis for the whole thing was my faith—that Jesus wanted all of us to find other ways than killing to defend our lives.  Dad would know my faith was a gift he and mom had given all of us by the devout consistent way they’d believed and acted.

He kept patiently listening, as I somewhat anxiously continued on, chapter and verse and various sources.  After a half hour of my monologue, he finally said as I paused, “Make sure you wear some decent clothes, and don’t be too wordy!”  A great weight was lifted between us, and I was proud to have a Dad that could forgive, and change his mind, mostly just because he loved me.  It’s been a powerful lesson for me to try and live up to with my children—to be a loving listening father like my father.

Thanks, Dad


Limerick best recited while viewing the companion illustration on same subject in the Duct Tape Book of Joe.
There was a mechanical marvel named Joe,
Every car trick in the book he did know.

But no inch could his van make,
Till he released the parking brake,

Which his daughter-in-law did him, politely show.

Artwork by Ande Gaines McCarthy -- from her "Unauthorized Story of Curious Joe" {a.k.a. "Duct Tape Book of Joe"}
"Beatus" Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Thanks to my sisters Jane and Mary who made our family party happen--on Sept 21st {would have been Mom & Dad's 67th anniversary}  Dad's birthday actually on Sept. 11th.


Monday, September 16, 2013



 "I am a Berliner" - JFK {Palestinian graffiti};  "Tear down this wall" - Pres. Reagan;  For us -- Why does the U.S. continue to support this wall of Israel?

This past March in the Wall Street Journal there was an article that grabbed my attention, Split Israel Bus Lines Spur Segregation Debate.   Having just received request for support of a young adult summer trip along the route of the civil rights Freedom Riders in the South of our country, the words “segregation” and “bus” resonated.
From the Freedom Rides of 1961 in the South
Freedom Riders Bus Burned near Anniston, Alabama, 1961
From the WSJ story it was apparent some Israelis were disturbed by the relationship.  A new separate bus system for West Bank Palestinians [two new lines], was requested by the Jewish settlers of the West Bank because they were being crowded out at times by Palestinians as both groups were headed in and out of Tel Aviv.   Yet a very small percent of Palestinians are given work permits on the Israeli side of their West Bank Barrier.  A few extra buses—not much change from the bad usual.  The crossings back and forth for them are one of many of the conditions that put them on the back of the bus, even when given two new bus routes.  No work, no land to work.

Getty image-West Bank Palestinians vie to take a new bus service begun Monday 3-4-13, to reach their jobs in Israel--Critics say it smacked of segregation-the government said it only added travel options
They’ve lost their lands to the creation of the Israeli state.  Since then, Palestine continues to shrink, as imposed Jewish settlements continue to grow on Palestinian land.  There are checkpoints throughout their territory, and military rule by Israelis supersedes any Palestinian law in what’s left of the West Bank.  It’s occupied territory.  They are second class citizens in their own traditional home.  
As the writer of the WSJ article put it, “Palestinians and Israelis living side-by-side in the West Bank are governed by a dual system riven with inequalities that rarely make headlines in Israel. … Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, was perhaps the first senior Israeli leader to publicly warn that Israel's policies in the West Bank risked leading Israel toward being "an apartheid state."

The history of Martin Luther King’s three headed monster of racism, poverty and militarism that a group of our young people learned more of personally in their journey south this summer, lives on in the troubled story of Israel / Palestine.  The violence of constant repression by Israel has led to the violent response of Intifadas.   Those killed always seem to mount up in a ratio of 10 to 1, favoring hyper-militarized Israel [receiving 3 billion plus of U.S. dollars per year].

Same bus burning in Alabama 1961 as above
The “Freedom” buses in our South were ridden by courageous black Americans, and whites supporting their cause, to change an apartheid society.  There were attacks on those buses.   In Israel buses have been bombed by suicide bombers in absolute frustration—belief blown up, that any change was possible.   There are also strong nonviolent movements among the Palestinians, till now having little support in Israeli society.

Screen shot from segment of Larry Towell's Indecisive Moments {artistically done--very worthwhile viewing} , in which he's evicted by Israeli troops for filming inside a bus destroyed by bomb

 Another one of allegedly 10, 20, 30 Palestinian suicide bus related attacks on Israelis since the late 1980's
At present, after the long impasse of so much war in the Middle East, there are tentative negotiations resumed, involving both sides of the Separation Wall, with the U.S. government as mediator, but the current war in Syria {offspring of Iraq War} overshadows.    At the end of the article on Israel’s bus segregation debate there is mention that a new movie gives a glimpse of what’s required for change.  “All six living ex-directors of Israel's internal Shin Bet security service, the lead agency in fighting Palestinian terror, recently participated in the Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers, to warn against Israel's continued presence in the West Bank.”

They have learned, as we learned in Afghanistan and Iraq, that occupation does not work.  All the children of Abraham must be given their promised land.  Returning lands to the 1967 borders was to be the minimal starting point for bringing the Palestinians to the table with the Israelis in talks ongoing today.  Stiff-necked Israelis now murmur and rebel.   May they remember that "This land is mine ... this brave and ancient land" was more than a line of a song from a 1960's movie "Exodus" celebrating the formation of the Israeli state.   It's claim applies also to the Arabs and Palestinians who've lived there century upon century.  

"Kindness and truth will meet; justice and peace shall kiss." Psalm 85

Until a just, two state solution is found--there will be no peace in the Middle East.  Thomas Merton says that "hatred is weak love." We are in need of strong love and forgiveness, not bomb-hardened hearts, to heal the violence that plagues the world, especially
in the Holy Land.


Monday, September 9, 2013


Rebels sent a wave of [conventional] rockets slamming into regime strongholds in the central city of Homs [Syria] on Thursday [Aug. 1, 2013], triggering a succession of massive explosions in a [government] weapons depot that killed least 40 people and wounded dozens, an opposition group and residents said. NYT 8-2-13
From the conclusion of Rep. Candice Miller's [MI 10th District] op-ed in Detroit Free Press 9-8-13.  “Since the first suggestion of using U.S. military force in Syria, I have asked my constituents for their input on whether such force is justified. They have clearly spoken their opposition. I share their skepticism, and when Congress convenes to consider this important vote, I will do my best to be their voice in Washington by opposing direct U.S. military involvement in the Syrian civil war.”

It’s not often that people in the peace and justice community have agreed with Congresswoman Miller.  She was an unflinching supporter of all of Pres. George W. Bush’s war and economic policies.  But I must thank Rep. Candice Miller, for her well-reasoned statements against U.S. military involvement in Syria.   May we correct and move beyond our mistakes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya wars, by directing our resources towards powerful informed diplomatic measures in the Middle East.
More from Rep. Miller---“our nation has learned many difficult lessons. In Afghanistan, we rightfully ousted the Taliban regime, which aided and abetted al-Qaida to murder our citizens, but what has followed is unending corruption and sectarian violence. In Iraq, our effort to remove the threat posed by the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, who had also gassed his own people, was greeted once again with sectarian violence and repression. American military involvement in Libya, which I opposed at the time, helped to protect the citizens of Benghazi from crushing assault, only to have those who we protected attack our consulate, murder our ambassador and three other brave Americans after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi.”

What we should have learned is that you can’t get good fruit from a bad tree, -- and war is hell, the worst of trees.  Jesus calls on us, for us, from the Garden of Gethsemane, and from the cross, “Put away the sword,” “Father forgive them…”
View from the cross--unknown artist
An international moratorium on all arms sales and support to all Middle East nations [recommended but not pursued by Pres. H.W. Bush after the first Gulf War], by all the counties in the world, is still the first necessary step to lasting peace.  It can be done.  The now revealed surveillance technology of NSA and worldwide satellite networks and intervention capabilities can be dedicated to shutting down this terrible aspect of the international arms trade.

The people of the U.S., China, Russia, France, Britain—all the major arms suppliers—should reduce their financial support of their governments until this takes place, spending that money directly instead, on peaceful measures.  An international taxes for peace-prosperity-not war-movement, that’s the tea party that’s needed.

So, these words of the Gospel [Luke 12:51] do not authorize in any way the use of force in spreading the faith. It is precisely the contrary: the true force of the Christian is the force of truth and of love, which means rejecting all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible! Faith and violence are incompatible! But faith and strength go together. The Christian is not violent, but he strong. And with what strength? That of meekness, the force of meekness, the force of love.

He now calls us to prayer and fasting for nonviolence in Syria, saying, “the path of dialogue and negotiation between all components of Syrian society, with the support of the international community, is the only option to put an end to the conflict."
Which would you rather suffer, a nuclear bomb or a chemical weapon?  The U.S. has been the only one to use the former, and the most prolific in the production of both. We are the "Arsenal of Democracy" wherein the arsenal has become more important than the democracy.
Thomas Merton has this to say in his book, Peace in the Post-Christian Era, manuscript in 1962--published posthumously in 2004. 
"Since any large scale war is likely to turn without warning into a global nuclear cataclysm, we can no longer afford to ignore our [Christian] obligation  to work for the abolition of war as a means of solving international problems."
Reference links --

On this week's 911 anniversary, something to remember from historian Howard Zinn -- "Since war is the most extreme form of terrorism, a war on terrorism is profoundly self-contradictory."
For more information on the complicated political situation in Syria, please see previous entry & related articles