The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Flannery O'Connor, Bishops, Government and Money

More on Flannery O'Connor. Yesterday, a few hours after I posted links to recordings of a reading and a lecture by Flannery O'Connor, I received an email from a friend asking me for more information about her. He had never heard of O'Connor and wanted to know something before investing in the books I had recommended in the post. So, for him and for others who might be thinking similar thoughts, here are a few additional links I trust will whet your appetite to get to know Flannery and her work.

Her publisher and friend, Robert Giroux, wrote a superb introduction to her collected short stories. You can read his introduction online here and purchase the published collection of 30-plus stories (including Giroux's introduction) here. If you're not familiar with O'Connor and her work, Giroux's comments will provide you with some wonderful insights.

I've also included a link to an audio file (about an hour long) that addresses four twentieth-century writers: Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor, and Dorothy Day. It's an interview with Paul Elie who, a few years ago (2003), wrote a fascinating book about these four writers: The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage. Here's a link to the recorded NPR interview of Paul Elie answering questions on the four authors and his book about them: Paul Elie.

One more link, this one to a recent biography by Brad Gooch: Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor. I don't fully agree with Gooch's emphasis when he addresses the role played by of her faith in her life and work, but despite a few minor disagreements, I truly enjoyed the book. It's well researched and very well written, and I recommend it to all wanting to know more about this remarkable woman.

The Bishops and the Obama Administration. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, ordained me about 15 years ago when he was Bishop of Fall River. And because I love the man I'm a regular reader of his blog. Last week the cardinal included a post in that blog about a recent decision by the Obama administration that prohibits the US Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services from receiving grant funds to help victims of human trafficking receive food, clothing and medical care. These victims -- men, women and children -- in their desperation have been either fraudulently recruited or overtly kidnapped and placed in slavery-like conditions. And why will the Church no longer receive grants for this work? The US Catholic Bishops, upholding the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, will not refer these victims for abortion, sterilization and other similar anti-life services.

In his blog posting, Cardinal Sean includes an excerpt from the US Bishops' USCCB Media Blog written by Sister Mary Ann Walsh in which she describes the situation and its causes. She refers to the emerging policy of the administration's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as the "ABC Rule"; that is, the "Anybody But Catholics" rule.

Do you recall the president's promise to guarantee the protection of conscience in such matters? Apparently it's a promise that neither the president nor anyone else in his administration remembers. Of course, this is what happens when the Church cozies up to the government at any level for the sake of sharing in the distribution of public funds. Eventually, government bureaucrats and their political ideologue bosses will try to enforce their will on the Church. This situation with the bishops' Migration and Refugee Services is a typical example.

Last weekend the deacons of the Diocese of Orlando took part in a weekend-long workshop put on by Catholic Relief Services, the US Bishops' international charitable arm. As you might imagine we heard many discouraging statistics about worldwide poverty, hunger and disease, but for me the most depressing statistic was that Catholic Relief Services receives 60% of its funding from federal government grants. CRS does much wonderful work throughout the world, but its dependence on government funding is problematic at best and will not lead to good. Instead of telling us to call our senators and representatives asking for more federal funds, perhaps they should be telling us to encourage our parishioners to give directly to CRS.

It all makes one wonder: Where are our bishops? These Church-sponsored organizations should be fully funded by the Church without the need to accept any public funds, thus frustrating the government's desire to suppress or even distort the Church's moral teaching. To do otherwise is to ignore the Great Commission that Jesus gave His Church [Matthew 28:19-20]. Is our faith as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church so weak that we have forgotten the power of prayer, that we no longer believe that "with God all things are possible"? As a Church we should be storming heaven with our prayers asking for God's intervention and mercy in the lives of His people who suffer so much. And the bishops should be taking these needs directly to the faithful in the pews, explaining the need and making clear the Gospel mandate to address that need. It's a mandate that applies to all of us as Jesus made abundantly clear [See Matthew 25: 31-46], and it demands a generous response in money, time and service. By ignoring it we place our very souls in jeopardy.

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