Monday, November 24, 2014


We’ve just been through our latest elections in early November 2014.  Money in politics has never been more powerful.   Whether Republican or Democrat, you have to manage mega-millions to play the game.  Pay to play democracy.  One dollar one vote.  The individual voter is left with a wing and a prayer, overwhelmed by political financiers and their election calculations.

And the U.S. government is only a subsidiary of a greater international money club.  “The 85 Richest People In The World Have As Much Wealth As The 3.5 Billion Poorest”—as much as half the world’s population.  This small cluster of power brokers could virtually buy out and own half the people on the planet.  A reversed Thanksgiving with the biggest turkeys in charge.  This week’s gospel is Mt 25 31-45, the Last Judgment.  Goats, especially those on mountain pinnacle, remote from those below, beware.
Goat & Sheep by Philipp Peter Root

Pray that the rich and powerful will have a Gospel conversion experience, and a visit from Marley’s ghost this Christmas.
May they come to kneel before the Prince of Peace, the Savior born in a stable.
Paraphrasing JFK who died of an assassin’s bullet 51 years ago Nov. 22--ask not what your money can do for you, but what your great wealth requires you to do.   [This applies to most of us in the USA, some with much more than others.]

Illumination by Kathy Brahney


Revisiting last week’s issue of our repetitive mistakes in Iraq, and other countries, attempting to enlist the various factions there to fight for our benefit, I offer this from 2003 ---   ?“..occupy a country by force of arms, and then train the people there, to occupy themselves.” [ letter to the Times Herald 11-7-03]

Monday, November 17, 2014


Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983

Once again we work in vain to re-tool the Iraqi army.  As reported in the Nov. 13, 2014 New York Times:
Despite receiving more than $25 billion in American training and equipment over the past 10 years, the Iraqi military buckled, and thousands of troops fled, in the face of the Islamic State’s rapid advance across Iraq this summer. Only half the remaining units are considered fit to fight, according to American officials.
But even as Iraqi and American officials are racing to expand the security forces and turn their losses around, they are having to struggle with a widespread perception of the Iraqi Army as a hopelessly corrupt and incompetent institution.”

wenty five billion dollars busted, to train Iraqi’s to fight themselves.  [And Congress has just voted to spend countless dollars more under a “destroy the Islamic State” formula, to get them and hopefully Syrians also, trained somehow more effectively to fight themselves.]  This business of training proxy armies has been bankrupt from the start.   It’s at least the fourth time we’ve tried this in Iraq.  Iraq-Iran war [giving them “technical assistance”], Gulf War [provoking Kurd fighters on our behalf], Iraq War [supporting the “Awakening” militias, among other schemes].  It should have been three strikes and we’re out.   This strategy that didn’t work in Vietnam either.  Nor did it prevent the fall of the Roman and British empires.

We don’t want to live in your country except behind great big Green Zone walls, sending out drone diplomats to negotiate your life & death issues.  We won’t fight for you in person face to face.  But if you kindly enforce security upon yourselves, we’ll gladly extract the resources we need from your country.  You fight for our right to supersede your nation’s rights, don’t bother to fully focus on peaceful resolution of your own local conflicts.  Imported guns bombs and bullets will do the trick.

This is madness—policy doomed from its beginning.  Who in any other country of the world still believes us?   What waste of money and blood on foreign soil.  It can only benefit a military industrial power elite that detaches morality from financial interests.

So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'

f our country wishes to win hearts and minds in areas of conflict, we must put ourselves in their place, live in their neighborhoods, speak their language, respect their ways as we try to engage them in a respect for ours.    We have to risk encounter without resorting to overwhelming force, weapons spreading mass deception, suffering and distrust.   This is a tall order, ever more difficult to achieve as we continue the sad trajectory launched by our War on Terror.

We must show the world we are willing to spend more on peacemaking than warfare.  Make national service a requirement for every American, but have a Peace Corps and similar efforts, as big as and well equipped for the task, as our armed forces. 

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney 


Monday, November 10, 2014


Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 2014  --  THE WAR TO END ALL WAR, DID NOT
We still believe more weapons and soldiers there will be helpful?

From Fr Emmanuel Charles McCarthy  --
 “November 11 was a legal holiday commemorating the return to peace on November 11 at 11 a.m. when the armistice that ended Word War I took effect on that day at that time in 1918. It was declared a legal holiday with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; etc.
An armistice is an agreement made by opposing sides in a war to stop fighting. It is derived from the Latin armistitium, which is composed of arma, 'arms' and stitium, 'stoppage.'”

Haven’t we had enough fallen heroes—and vastly greater numbers of fallen enemies, plus innocents caught in crossfire?   The courage of those who fought and died is known and often commemorated.
It’s time to take the lives of those who lived or died in war, but would not kill, seriously into deep consideration.  Was it fear, revulsion, their faith, the Gospel, that motivated their refusal to fight?  Is it more heroic to kill for country, or follow one’s conscience, to respect all life even the enemy’s, even under imminent threat of one’s own death, risk to friend and family?  What would Jesus do?  And those who don’t know Jesus, and those of little or no faith?

What does it mean to refuse, or desert, the hell of war?  Some, as in the case of Detroiter Eddie Slovik in WWII Europe, have done so, knowing full well that they would die executed reluctantly by their fellow soldiers for doing so.

These are horrible questions to answer for human nature, especially when violence has reached fever pitch, wars breaking out persistently in every corner of the globe.  It’s beyond human capacity to follow Jesus in this path of unconditional nonviolent mercy, but calling on God’s grace, it’s what we’re all asked to do.

There are many whose courage—as committed peacemakers, perhaps even those “deserters,” in past wars and current circumstances—should be brought to mind.

From WWI  -
Ben Salmon, principled Catholic father, 19 years old, who refused induction, died a few years later from complications of prison abuse.
Journalistic accounts of recent, and previous resistance to war by members of the Peace Churches, traditionally Quaker, Anabaptist, Mennonite, and Church of the Brethern, among others.

From WWII --
Margarette Sommer – Catholic social worker in Germany who risked her life, saving many Jews.
Fr. Alfred Delp – Priest and writer who organized against the Nazi regime, hanged by the Gestapo in 1945.
Fr. Maximillian Kolbe –Priest and saint who took the place in Auschwitz of a man to be executed because someone had tried to escape.
Fr. Max Joseph Metzger  Priest and prolific journalist who wrote against the Nazi regime, and was beheaded by the Gestapo in 1944.
Blessed Franz Jagerstatter – Austrian Catholic farmer and father, beheaded in Berlin for refusing to be part of Hitler’s army.
Eddie Slovik – petty thief and Catholic, drafted into WWII, who determined he could not fight—executed by firing squad.
Otto Schimek – Austrian 19 year old executed in Poland for refusing Wermacht orders.  [I’m researching to write articles on him now]

More recently --
Dorothy Day – On refusal to participate in nuclear attack civil Defense drills in N.Y. 1957.  {at link skip down to the paragraph just before the title “Why We Do It.”}
Mother Theresa – Risks crossing Beruit’s Green Line in the midst of war to rescue Muslim children.
Paul Chappell – West Point grad, military family, deployed to Iraq—now works to create a nonviolent peace force as well trained as the military.
Kimberly Rivera – Mother of Four, Sentenced to Military Prison for Emigrating to Canada, Refusing to Serve in Iraq.
Camilo Mejia – Wanted service in Iraq to advance his opportunities in the U.S., found that killing changes you, went AWOL, imprisoned.
Joshua Casteel – West Point grad, evangelical Christian, interrogator at Abu Graibe in Iraq, realized war violates the Gospel, became C.O.

These lists are a small sampling of an ever increasing number—those helping move the world away from war, towards the Gospel way of peacemaking.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

11-11-14 Feast Day of another veteran, St. Martin of Tours,   316? – 397 AD
Veteran of Roman army who became a conscientious objector, and bishop.
“A conscientious objector who wanted to be a monk; a monk who was maneuvered into being a bishop; a bishop who fought paganism as well as pleaded for mercy to heretics—such was Martin of Tours, one of the most popular of saints and one of the first not to be a martyr.

Born of pagan parents in what is now Hungary and raised in Italy, this son of a veteran was forced at the age of 15 to serve in the army. He became a Christian catechumen and was baptized at 18. It was said that he lived more like a monk than a soldier. At 23, he refused a war bonus and told his commander: "I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight." After great difficulties, he was discharged and went to be a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers.”

References – in order

Monday, November 3, 2014


Tomorrow we vote, deep questions of our moral dollar compass unsolved.

When asked whether to pay the coin of tribute, Jesus says render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s [Gospel read at a mass on 10-19-14].   Knowing Jesus’s intimate triune God relationship, present and begotten within God since the creation, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, all-powerful, all loving, what is He saying we owe Caesar?  What, if we serve God, is left over?  To what other master and system do we owe allegiance? The dilemma for followers of Christ is the sense of being unfair to our neighbors if we don’t fully pay taxes to our government—leave them holding the bag for community services.   Yet so little federal money is spent for these good purposes, and so much badly spent on war, that payment national income tax has become a case of cooperation with evil.

The United States, as its leaders have become ever richer, has become ever more obsessed with its security.   There is waste in every aspect of our government, but the Dept. of Homeland Security now added to the Dept. of Defense together waste an absurd amount of money—so much money that they can’t even keep track of it.

The truth is our kingdom is not of this world, and no government represents Jesus, because they, against His teaching, will kill to maintain dominion.  The primary issue is not what is fair to government coffers, but what is fair, what is faithful to our God.   But Christians now give much more to the state, and its military than they do to any church, or charitable, or social justice cause.
When asked about even the temple tax, Jesus said, “Go fish,” and if one finds a coin in the mouth of the catch, give to the temple.   Neither temple nor country take the place of rendering first to the need we see in good conscience, to make God’s love more present in the world of our neighbors.  Witness the stories of the Good Samaritan, and the Widow’s mite.

Money serves God when it heeds the advice of the Last Judgment, and helps the “least of the brethren,” and when it furthers the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, even to concrete expression of love of the enemy.

There is need for good stewardship [story of the Good Steward], and responsible use [parable of the Talents], but this has the powerful counterweight of warning against hoarding [the rich man’s Barns] and always trusting in God first for basic needs [lilies of the fields].

U.S.  Christians live in a nation awash in too much money, grasped by too few hands.   Wall Street financial interests are the ever more predominant comptrollers of our political system.   Our government has become impossibly rich, favoring the rich.   The deck is stacked against the unborn, and the world’s poor, to guarantee the house of commerce’s lifestyle.   We kill the child in the womb, and the child in the enemy village, to protect Caesar’s palace.

So as we approach the season of Advent and the birth of the Prince of Peace, with Caesar’s feast day of April 15th not far off, I begin to examine my conscience and pocketbook once again.  What should we render, and to whom? 
                                                                                                           Peace Tax prayer vigil at St. Clair Co. Court House  7-4-13, for                                                                                                                          more info - NWTRCC