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July 11, 2011 | Volume 86, Number 19






– Necrology

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‘Whine of the privileged’ ignores plight of the poor

While the letter from Rev. Mr. Curtis Hornstra (CV 6/27) does give a polite nod to our obligations to the poor as outlined in the “Circle of Protection,” the vast preponderance of his letter struck me as a self-serving whine of the privileged.

The split between the rich and poor in this country has grown from the pathetic to the obscene. During this past economic downturn brought on by the housing, banking, and insurance frauds which have thrown millions of working people into poverty, the rich have grown even richer by a disgusting 20 percent.

Don’t forget that the super rich pay a tad over half the tax rate as working people. Strange that the Rev. Mr. Hornstra seems to have missed it.

Forgive me if this sounds like “class warfare” but that war has already taken place and we have lost. (No prisoners were taken.)

Permit me here to give an equally polite nod to the social virtues of honesty, prudence, and thrift but take on the weightier matters of social justice. Believe me, I have no dog in this fight. God has taken care of all my needs and an embarrassing number of my wants. I have a very alacritous immune system and a retirement which to many may seem modest, but it is quite adequate for my needs.

“Is it moral to force someone to work and do something for someone else against their will?” The short answer is yes, if he is talking about taxes.

My question is why is this against the worker’s will? I gladly pay school taxes for children not my own. I pay taxes to support the court system which tries criminal cases not my own. I gladly support hospitals, fire and police protection, and unemployment compensation for those out of work through my taxes - modest as they are. Why? I’m really not all that altruistic, it is simply the case of a shared humanity saved by grace.

“God wants us to succeed and prosper.” To succeed and prosper in the Lord is one thing, but this phrase sounds more like Rev. Joel Osteen than the One who said: “The birds of the air have their nests and the foxes have their dens, but the Son of Man hath not whereupon to lay His head.”

read the letter »

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Political overtone found in deacon’s letter

I was at first incensed when I started into Rev. Mr. Curtis Hornstra’s letter describing the “immoral avenues” utilized by “A Circle of Protection” to achieve its goals (June 27 issue).

Well, actually I was a only a little incensed and then a lot more confused by the clauses piled upon clauses and what appeared to be double-speak. I wanted to find out what was so wrong, so I kept reading in spite of my confusion.

Then I noticed several not-so-veiled code words which clarified for me that this letter was less about taking this organization to task for its “alleged immorality” than it was to set forth a political position. Apparently, according to Rev. Mr. Hornstra’s argument, the immorality lies in “taking assets” against the will of some (Deacon Hornstra brackets the word “taxes” at this point) and then goes on to decry the “redistribution” of those assets to “another group of people” which he does not identify.

Haven’t I heard these buzz phrases before? Hornstra further points out the use of the IRS and other government services to accomplish these immoral ends. The discussion moves into trillions of government debt, a government that is broke, raising taxes on the rich, the burden of the debt on our children.

Several more times phrases like “immoral means” are used to bash something that somebody supposedly is doing, but as much as I looked for evidence of the immorality in Deacon Hornstra’s argument, I could find only innuendo.

I visited the website of “A Circle of Protection.” (

Having an inquiring mind, if there’s insidious behavior, I like to see who’s behind it, so I first visited the list of Primary signatories. Among the purported immoralizers, I found: Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop of Stockton and Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Patrick Carolyn Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network; Very Rev. Thomas P. Cassidy, SCJ President, Conference of Major Superiors of Men; Joseph Flanagan, National President, National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Inc.; Ken Hackett President, Catholic Relief Services; Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany and Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace, USCCB; Sister Mary Hughes, OP President, Leadership Council of Women Religious; Very Rev. Thomas H. Smolich, S.J. President, The Jesuit Conference; Rev. Larry Snyder President, Catholic Charities USA.

These are just the Catholic collaborators! The Lutherans, Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, Methodists, the Salvation Army and many more religious groups are also represented. A veritable rogues gallery of conspirators!

The website displays eight Key Principles and a mission that is simply stated:

As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.

I found no obvious political overtones. I also did not find a twisting of “God’s will” or “gifts that God has given us” (i.e. The American People). The only better mission statement I’ve seen was in Matthew 25.

read the letter »

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‘Circle of Protection’ has right perspective

The tone of the letter from Permanent Deacon Curtis Hornstra (June 27, 2011) inspired me to research the entity “A Circle of Protection.” Imagine my surprise when I read their statement of purpose.

There is not one mention of taxing and redistribution. They declare “As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist cuts that undermine the lives, DIGNITY ( MY EMPHASIS) and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.”

graphic: rules for sending letter to editorWhere is the “immorality” in the position of this group?

Is it in reducing future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people?

Is it their position in advocating the position that funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut?

Or is it in their statement that national leaders must review and consider tax revenues, military spending and entitlements in search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits?

Is it in asking how we protect the “least of these?” Or in asking “what would Jesus cut?”

I am sorry but the tone of the letter is the sound of the political punditry (“take assets from one group of people against their will — taxes”) so cavalierly asserted by some radio and TV personalities.

I urge anyone attempting to reconcile conscience and the budget/deficit turmoil to visit the website

read the letter »

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Helping the poor is Catholic teaching

In his letter in the June 27 issue (“Catholics Called to Prayerful Stewardship”), the Rev. Mr. Curtis Hornstra affirms the Catholic teaching “to stand for those who cannot stand up for themselves.” He then questions the morality of using other people’s assets through taxation to help those in need.

The question here is how do we assist the poor and vulnerable among us? We have a moral obligation to provide assistance as Catholic social teaching asserts. This involves sharing assets by paying taxes to fund government programs that provide needed assistance.

We found out a long time ago, during Teddy Roosevelt’s administration, that depending on private charities was woefully inadequate to provide assistance to those who need it. Public funding was essential to protect the population, regulating the food industry, for example, as well as providing resources for those who were hungry, homeless and unemployed.

Deacon Hornstra objects to raising taxes on the rich, a move that would add billions of dollars to the treasury and he then complains about government debt, a concern we all have.

President Obama has proposed a plan of raising taxes on the wealthy, citing hedge-fund managers and owners of corporate jets as examples of people who could afford it, combined with deep cuts in spending to reduce the federal deficit.

Corporate incomes continue to soar while taxes are the lowest in decades.

Deacon Hornstra should read the statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops calling for Congress and the Administration to protect programs for the poor and vulnerable during the deficit reduction negotiations. This is the guide for Catholics to follow. His message of self-serving individualism under the guise of free will, combined with an impotent government response to the poor, is inconsistent with Catholic social teaching.

read the letter »

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Just ask why — to fallen away Catholics

Some people are under the impression that “fallen-away Catholics” left the flock out of sheer negligence or boredom. They are now poor, miserable souls shivering in the outside darkness, eager to jump meekly back into the fold, if only we open the door for them “in a sincere, generous way.” (a reference to a comment published in the “We Walk by Faith” article, June 13 issue)

Wishful thinking.

In my lifelong lay ministry on three continents, the majority of fallen-away Catholics I encountered left practice deliberately (sometimes even prayerfully) because of irreconcilable differences with Church policies.

If we want to find out why they left, maybe we should just ask them — and listen.

read the article »

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St. Thomas More Society needs forum

I am writing this on the feast day of St. Thomas More. The feast day is set aside to honor and inspire the good work of Catholic lawyers, judges, and other members of the legal profession.

It should also be a day to focus on the work that remains undone and the ways in which our legal system in Virginia falls short.

It is a shame — in the strongest sense of that word — that nearly 15 people have been executed in the past six years, during which Virginia has been governed by Catholics who are also attorneys. Both governors have stressed that their obligations are defined by the legal system, and the legal obligations are binding notwithstanding personal or moral considerations.

Again, that is a shame. The example of Thomas More shows clearly that the law, in this case the dictates of King Henry VIII, is not the final word. The Word is the final word.

Thomas More was put to death for opposing King Henry VIII because his greater loyalty was to God.

By this time, Catholic teaching has clearly evolved to a point where capital punishment cannot be justified on moral grounds, certainly not in Virginia. You can look it up in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2267 and also John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae.

People may look at those statements and say that there is a loophole that could support the use of the death penalty in some unimaginable circumstance. I think people who say this are legalistic nit-pickers who are not to be celebrated on any day, least of all the feast day of Thomas More.

In Richmond, if the St. Thomas More Society wants to do something to bring focus to the death penalty issue and the moral and legal considerations, perhaps it should hold a public “civil discourse” forum.

Catholic lawyers — and especially Catholic governors — should take time to search their souls on this one.

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