Monday, March 31, 2014


About 10 years ago a young person I know lost her driver’s license.  One stop for having a joint in her car, one for blowing positive for alcohol.  Bad teenage decisions.  At 19 her license gone, and coming from a middle class family of six kids, and $1000 plus fines to pay, soon to be a single mom, no way to get to a job, there was no chance to get it back.

She went to rehab, drug counselors—held jobs at times steady but eventually lost because she couldn't cobble together a ride or the bus was late.  She never had another problem with alcohol or the law, but the process to reinstate a driver’s license is beyond daunting—punitive.  She tried once, and after all the paperwork, fees and interviews was rejected.  Vowing to herself there’d never be hope of car independence, she became a master at recruiting others to help get things done for her single mom family grown to four now.

As of four days ago she’s driving legal again after all these years.  She took courage to redo all the legal and paperwork steps that attested to her good record during the past ten years.  We helped by hiring a lawyer.  It took over a year, with having to wait on the MI Dept. of State four months, even after perfectly blameless paperwork and testimony had been submitted.   The costs are over $2000 dollars, including an interlock system [breatholizer linked ignition] which had to be installed in the vehicle we’re lending her for the next year of her restricted license.

But the benefits are priceless.  She can now begin to believe, with the father of two of her children, that there is a way up and out.  He now lives with her in their own place taking care of all the kids while she begins to go to work again.   And he is pushing to clear up some minor legal issues which have stood between him and a regular job.

She is very grateful.  It’s as if some of the clouds in her life have been starting to break.   Keep her family in your prayers.

I know there are people who should never be allowed to drive a car because they can’t handle alcohol.  I know some of them personally.   She is not one of them.  There should be a common sense affordable way for those who've made minor mistakes to retrieve their driver’s license, and with it their dignity in the community, and the chance to make a decent living.
After we've lived on into adulthood, all of us have in different ways “lost our licenses.”  We get back on the road only by the redeeming grace of Jesus, and those in our communities who act with the merciful love Jesus teaches.

Father forgive us all; we know not what we do.  The world is not made of unlimited opportunity.*  The bad decision today has life altering consequences.  Salvation lies in God’s unbounded mercy which means we can, despite our shortcomings, live on into some good future, even the eternal happiness we’re promised.  Let’s each do what we can to be part of that mercy -- practicing it, making it more present for others.
Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy -- Mt 5:7

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

*Pay attention! Your life is not an endless series of open doors! Listen to your heart. -- Pope John Paul II speaking to youth

Monday, March 24, 2014


Faith Perspective on War & Peace II

First Biannual Request for Support Subscriptions –
Working independently and without staff since inception on Faith Perspective on War & Peace these past four plus years leads me to attempt a new business model.  Writing and working for peace should have some hope of making a small profit in our society.  But incomes have thus far been significantly smaller than expenses.  Magazine articles and speaking engagements have provided some inputs, but I've not tried to put any dollar amounts on this webpage.   I’d like to now merge an old technology with this new one.

Rather than monetizing the space with disruptive ads, this is a request for support subscriptions of $10 per year made by check sent to this address—Michael McCarthy, Faith Perspective on War & Peace II, 2714 Stone St., Port Huron, MI  48060.   Your check is your receipt.

Since I don’t indulge the “Comments” section, of the page, and the “google” hit count statistics vary widely and erratically, this will also give me a more direct idea of readership and level of interest.   Please send any suggestions with payments, or to my email –

Whatever the outcomes I’ll continue to try to write and illustrate informative articles that seek to unite on common ground the concerns of liberal, radical, conservative and devotional members of our churches and communities.
Limits of Firepower in Libya, et. al. -- Blows Up in Our Faces -- Again 

Lybian rebels celebrate in 2011 - file photo from current U K Gardian article 

"The deadly network: Revealed - guns for sale on Facebook" - now too dangerous to have reporters there.

Headline in our local paper this Sunday:  “Gun free-for–all in Libya fuels unrest.” Didn’t we win Libya in 2011?
Libya—lost.  Just as in Iraq, we helped decapitated the despicable leader, only to find the bad guys multiplied like the heads of a hydra, each group armed with formidable weapons.  And guys we deemed good and assisted through back channels to weaponize, now are bad—and we have to send in the special forces to keep them from stealing tankers-full of oil from their own powerless government.

When it comes to massive firepower and violence, there is a domino effect that goes well beyond politics.   In the case of the “victory” of the rebel forces we supported in Libya the collateral damage fast spread to Mali a year ago, when some of the more zealous rebel forces returned home, now well- armed, and toppled their own government.   As the 2-8-13 NYT stated then --
“According to the conventional wisdom of governments and arms manufacturers, well-coordinated arms exports can help strengthen vulnerable states, professionalize military forces and promote stability.  In Libya, the opposite occurred, and the related dangers radiated outward.  This presumed influx of weapons to Mali from Libya has in turn underscored the unwanted effects of a war supported by the West, and raised questions anew about why NATO and the allied militaries that helped defeat the Qaddafi military did little to contain weapons that foreign military intervention helped set loose.”

e have a weapons-based foreign policy.  Might makes right, and as the world’s dominant arms merchant, we’re mighty right.  But the guns and bombs we sell to one, become the recycled death machine of the other, and the only winner is war.   We will never learn to make peace as long as we are the best at making war.  War profiteers may appear to prevail.

But death will overtake us all, as warns James 4:13-16
Come now, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town,
spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”–
you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.
You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.
Instead you should say,
“If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.”
But now you are boasting in your arrogance.
All such boasting is evil.

There is a way out of the vicious cycle.  “…it is in prayer that we encounter Jesus, who is our peace, and learn from him the way to peace.” #290 U.S. Bishops’ Challenge of Peace, 1983

References ---
U.S.  SEAL Team Raids a Tanker and Thwarts a Militia’s Bid to Sell Libyan Oil - 3-18-14

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Sunday, March 16, 2014


The site of a suicide bombing at a checkpoint in the southern Iraqi city of Hilla 4-9-14, at least 45 killed--photo from Agence France-Presse

As we in America arrive at the 11th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq March 19th, it is urgent that we enter a collective examination of conscience, and face the truth.   It was not a just war.  We are not a just war nation, and U.S. Catholics are not a just war church. 

ccording to the Catechism of the Catholic Church all conditions for a just war must be met [Sec. 2309], for a war not to be sinful, murderous.   In the case of Iraq, few of them were met.   Pope Benedict XVI when still Cardinal Ratzinger said shortly after the war’s onset on May 2, “The Holy Father's [Pope John Paul II] judgment [against the war] is also convincing from the rational point of view: There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq.”  Both he and Pope John Paul II were completely opposed to the war before it began.  Our U.S. Bishops strongly advised against the war.  But nobody told us directly not to go, so we went.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, for all of us, whether we marched off to war, or were stay-at-home taxpayers for the war.   Millions of Iraqis died or were displaced.  Thousands of U.S. soldiers died or returned disabled.

Most all of us knew in our hearts that this war was to be fought preemptively, not because we were under attack, or even threatened by a nuclear weapon yet to be built, but for wrong reasons, whether to grab oil fields or to get back and finish off Saddam and his army.   It failed most horribly to meet the condition of proportionality.   What little good could come from the massive evil to be done.  It was “shock and awe” from the start.   Most awful for Iraqi civilians.   Violence, bombs, weapons are still now their daily bread.  Divisions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christian minorities, all factions, have never been more lethally severe.  Almost every day one can read another story of explosive violence, innocents killed in Iraq.   And now in a backhanded way, the Sunnis we defeated in Iraq, have been recruited to battle the Shiite ruler of Syria.   More endless, needless bloodshed.
A sin unconfessed repeats itself again and again.  In the United States we continue to fund the biggest war machine in the history of the world, constantly finding and justifying new fighting purposes for it.   This Lent is a good time for each of us to look deeply into our consciences, to confess that this war was wrong, to do prayerful penance, a leaven for peace in our church communities.  Then move on to amend our personal complicity [perhaps paying less federal war taxes directing money instead to further the welfare of all peoples, or and war related jobs--creating new work opportunities for self and others]; finally to firmly petition our leaders leaving the military to convert, from war fighting to peacemaking.

he truth is uncomfortable, but Jesus has promised it will set us free.   We must unchain ourselves from our war economy—our biggest manufactured export.  As Cardinal Ratzinger ended his comments on the Iraq war on May 2, 2003 during the first days of our Iraq War, so must we fully address the question, “…, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war.’"

One way for U.S. believers of all denominations to lead in this public change of heart would be to request from our national government that March 19th be designated “Unjust War Remembrance Day”—with a call to support national nonviolent service.   This measure of truth-based humility would be real “exceptionalism” among nations, admitting past weaknesses, to re-dedicate to a strength of unparalleled openness—one nation under the merciful God of all peoples.

What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you?  Is it not your passions that are at war in your members?  You desire and do not have; so you kill.  And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war.   James 4:1,2
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.   James 3:17,18

References for the up-to-date bad fruits, and covetousness, of Iraq War ---
"Violence has escalated in Iraq over the past year. Last year, the country saw the highest death toll since the worst of the country's sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007, according to United Nations figures. The U.N. said violence killed 8,868 last year in Iraq."

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

St. Patrick banishes the snakes of violence from Ireland--still much more to do worldwide.
What will it be, shamrocks or shillelaghs?

Monday, March 10, 2014


When Egypt’s military ousted their democratically elected government a couple years ago, there was a giant ho-hum from Washington, and our media pundits.  We continued to give billions to the generals of the coup.  It’s all just Realpolitik in the Middle East.  

Now the people in the streets [and East-West agitation – see Gagnon’s somewhat opinionated but factual article] of the Ukraine have chased out an overbearing President Yanukovych, and Russia moves troops into the Crimean part of the country they used to own.  Somehow this is tantamount to an act of war against the USA, if our media is to be believed.

here has been a toppling of a democratically elected [yet perhaps not really representative] government in the Ukraine.   Their president flees to Russia which had been his supporter.   Now Russia wants to take back Crimea which they gave to Ukraine when it was part of the USSR in 1954.   Politics is fickle and sovereignty subject to all superpowers’ self-interest.  Russia still has their biggest naval base there.  Ukraine is the conduit for massive amounts of oil and gas to the West.

A quick glance at the map above shows once again that policy is driven by the money politics of oil-gas markets controlled by the threat of war.  Dick Cheney’s observation, before the Afghan and Iraq wars, is the rule of this deadly game—It’s not always important who own the oil, “it’s who controls the spigot.”

This is what the New York Times reports on the recent history of the sovereignty vs. Realpolitik situation [leaving out our Afghan, Iraq involvements].

“The Kosovars’ secession from Serbia in 1999 drove a deep wedge between the United States and Russia that soured relations for years. Washington supported Kosovo’s bid for independence, culminating in 2008, while Moscow saw it as an infringement of Serbia’s sovereignty.
Now 15 years later, the former Cold War rivals again find themselves at odds, but this time they have effectively switched sides: Russia loudly proclaims Crimea’s right to break off from Ukraine while the United States calls it illegitimate.”

“Consider the different American views of recent bids for independence.
Chechnya? No.
East Timor? Yes.
Abkhazia? [and S. Ossetia] No.
South Sudan? Yes.
Palestine? It’s complicated.
It is an acutely delicate subject in the West, where Britain wants to keep Scotland and Spain wants to keep Catalonia.”   [Canada’s Quebec also a recurring question.]

Does anybody remember yesterday’s international crisis of Syria - Iran [and Iraq and Afghanistan]?  Pax Christi USA has a prayerstudy—action reflection to help keep us focused on these still open wounds—ongoing elements of the problem of universal soldiers made to protect international financial interests.

Here is their prayer ---

This is the fast that pleases me:

to break unjust fetters,
to let the oppressed go free,
and shelter the homeless poor.
If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness. (Isaiah 58:6-7, 10)

All praise be yours, God our Creator,
as we wait in joyful hope
for the flowering of justice
and the fullness of peace.
All praise for this day, this season.
By our weekly fasting and prayer
cast out the spirit of war, of fear and mistrust,
and make us grow hungry for human kindness,

thirsty for solidarity with all the people of your dear earth.
May all our prayer, our fasting and our deeds
be done in the name of Jesus. Amen.

--- From the Archdiocese of Chicago (1983)
Our country needs to find ways to enter a permanent partial fast from oil and gas.  Lets return to a simpler smarter use of our energy resources that includes some of our own physical labor, and devise new renewable energy methods—better stewardship of God’s good earth.

References --
[especially revealing is his video link to a Dec. 2013 State Dept briefing on Ukraine for oil executives]

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, March 3, 2014


The peaks of inequality in 1929, 2008 -- the system crashes.  "If you want peace, work for justice" Pope Paul VI
{graph from "Inequality for All"}

Last week I mentioned a film which outlines a crisis facing our country.  “Inequality for All” * traces the economic and social demise of the U.S. middle class.  It’s a spiritual crisis also.   Today’s Gospel {Mk 10:17-27} of the rich young man, and the camel-eye-of-needle dilemma, points beyond to the great difficulty our financial elite will have in finding entrance to eternal life.  Holding fast to fiscal power, grasping controls over money and possessions, hinders our openness to God’s saving grace.

  From this Gospel --

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Our merciful God wants us all to be treasured in heaven, no matter what social strata we come from, but wants us to make it there together, caring for each other by sharing the wealth, meeting each other’s necessities.  For us alone this is impossible; by God's grace it is.

Available at most local libraries also