Contact Your Representatives, Urge Impeachment of Trump!

Here is my letter to Rep. Francis Rooney (R, FL 19th), urging him to support articles of impeachment.  I encourage everyone to do the same.
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Dear Congressman Rooney,

I am writing to strongly encourage you to vote in favor of the Articles of Impeachment against President Donald A. Trump that are likely to be brought to the full House within the coming weeks.

I personally watched the many hours of testimony from numerous government officials and public servants, testifying before the House Intelligence Committee.  I also watched the hearing before the House Judiciary Committee after having received the report from the Intelligence Committee.  Having done so, there is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Trump has abused the powers of his office and has committed numerous offenses that warrant impeachment and removal from office.

There is no doubt that such an action is extreme, and there is no doubt that the Founders of the Republic and authors of the Constitution did not envision such actions to be commonplace. However, they did have great knowledge of human nature and an understanding of how possible it can be for the systems of this Republic to be abused by corrupt or corruptible individuals.  Despite the “spin” that his supporters try to put on the facts those many witnesses presented, the facts do remain:  Donald Trump used the power of his office in an attempt to illegally withhold foreign aid for the ‘quid pro quo’ of obtaining interference from a foreign government in the current presidential election. There is no evidence Trump was concerned about “corruption” in a general sense. He was concerned primarily (only?) about the personal benefit that the withholding of this aid could provide him. What he did was use the power of his office for his own personal gain.

Truth be told, there are countless other examples of Mr. Trump doing this, i.e. using the power of the Presidency for his personal gain. His nepotism and his seeking and accepting of emoluments, his questionable of the presidential pardon — these alone would be enough to seek impeachment (as the historical record of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 clearly demonstrates).  However, his abuse of power concerning Ukraine is beyond the pale.

While I strongly disagree with you on many of your policy positions, I do believe that you are a decent and thoughtful man. I hope and pray that you will do the right thing — which, I believe, you know in your mind and heart is the right thing — and vote to impeach Donald A. Trump as President of the United States.

Thank you, and best wishes to you and yours for a blessed Christmas season.

Timothy MacGeorge

“Fear Is a Liar”

Only recently have I begun to listen to popular Christian music. As a Catholic, I’d always thought it was a “Protestant thing,” listened to by Evangelicals and Southern Baptists, not by Catholics or other mainstream Christians. We, I thought, so rightly kept our religiously-themed music in church, “where it belongs.”

My prejudice, and my practice, changed recently when a new friend introduced me to a few popular Christian songs.

This one — “Fear Is a Liar” by Zach Williams — is particularly powerful. The music video is poignant, depicting the depths of despair and hopelessness that can sometimes befall us in this life. And, I suspect, there are aspects that every one of us can relate to, perhaps all too personally. If you ever find yourself feeling like any of the three persons depicted — or feeling “not good enough … not right … not strong enough … not worthy … not loved … not beautiful” or think you are “troubled” and will “forever be alone” — I pray you will remember that these are lies, they are not true. And because we often need to be reminded of what we sometimes forget ourselves, I pray that a timely text, a caring gesture, or the touch of a loved one will remind you that you are deeply valued and unconditionally loved.

“A very acceptable time” (2 Cor. 6:1)

What we have been given is not to be kept and hoarded for ourselves, but to be passed on freely and shared, so that it may bring life to others. In my work as a therapist, it is usually the questions I ask, rather than the statements, suggestions, or “advice” I offer that are the most helpful means of effecting this sharing and the new life that rises from it.

Today is Ash Wednesday (as well as Valentine’s Day!). It marks the beginning of the Season of Lent, a “very acceptable time.” This year I choose not to “give up” some “goodie” or “treat,” but rather to make my Lenten practice one of asking questions — not of others, but of myself.

  • How am I open to the Presence of God today?
    • in myself?
    • in others?
    • in nature and all Creation?
  • What lesson is God asking me to learn from the people God brings into my life?
  • In what ways might I be “missing the mark” (which is really the Hebrew definition of ‘sin’) in my love and care for others?
  • Where are kindness, compassion, understanding, and self-sacrifice in my life today?
  • Am I truly listening to God, speaking to me in the depths of my heart — in the midst of trouble and distress, as well as in silence and calm?

The second reading (2 Cor. 5:20-6:1) from today’s Liturgy reminds us:

“Working together, then,
we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:
In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.”

“Introduction: Image and Likeness”

Richard Rohr, OFM

When one of my favorite authors titles a blog post with the same title of these pages, how could I not share it? In part, Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr notes a fact of history and human experience that reinforces a fundamental and false belief underlying all dualistic, all-or-nothing perspectives:

“Christianity has far too easily called individual, private behaviors sins while usually ignoring or even supporting structural and systemic evils such as war, colonization, corporate greed, slavery, and abuse of the Earth. All of the seven capital sins were admired at the corporate level and shamed at the individual level.”

Here’s his full post: How can everything be sacred? 

The Present is all we have – and why we must forgive

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Myakka River State Park, Florida

If you’ve ever been in a Catholic church, you’ve surely noticed the tabernacle. It’s a small box-like structure on an altar, and usually there’s a candle nearby, burning 24/7. Inside the tabernacle is reserved some of the bread that was blessed and consecrated at Mass, the liturgical celebration of what we call Eucharist.  Because we believe that Jesus is somehow present in the elements of bread and wine blessed in his name, Catholics refer to this reserved Eucharist as the Real Presence.  I like that term a lot. Whether you hold to Catholicism’s sacramental beliefs or not, there’s something very powerful and meaningful about Presence.  The Present, really, is all we ever have. What, then, am I doing with it? How am I using the gift of this present moment right here, right now? Fr. Rohr offers some thoughts:

Only the false self easily takes offense. The false self can’t live a self-generated life of immediate contact with God. It defines itself by the past, which is to live in un-forgiveness. Forgiveness is the only way to free ourselves from the entrapment of the past. We’re in need not only of individual forgiveness; we need it on a national, global, and cosmic scale. Old hurts linger long in our memories and are hard to let go. We must each learn how to define ourselves by the present moment—which is all we really have. I will not define myself by what went wrong yesterday when I can draw upon Life and Love right now. Life and Love are what’s real. This Infinite Love is both in us and yet it is more than us.

From Daily Meditation for Aug. 1, 2017

Faithfully Extending Faith: Will the Church ever recognize same-sex unions?

Monarch Butterfly

In a recent Daily Meditation (July 17, 2017) from Richard Rohr, OFM guest writer Brian McLaren makes this statement: “Jesus and Paul were not denying their religion . . . ; they were faithfully extending it [emphasis added], letting it grow and flow forward.” McLaren’s point is that Christians in every age must overcome the tendency to let their faith be just another ossified institution of rules, power structures, and laws that fail to fully meet the needs of the contemporary world. To do this, Christians must always look to Jesus. There, McLaren asserts, is where we see the overarching teaching of Jesus on the supremacy of love. “The new commandment of love meant neither beliefs nor words, neither taboos, systems, structures nor the labels that enshrined them mattered most. Love decentered [and] relativized everything else; love took priority over everything else.”

I remember first pondering the supposed conflict between my own sense of self as a gay person and the “long-held teaching of the Church” that homosexuality was sinful. How could this be?, I wondered. How could the Church’s teaching on the purpose and place of human sexual expression be so very different from my own growing understanding of myself as created “in the image and likeness” of God, of someone who is flawed, yes, but who is fundamentally good? I fed my reflections not only with my own lived experience, but with a knowledge base of philosophy and theology expanded throughout my college and seminary years.

The word that eventually came to mind to describe this tension was incomplete. As far as the Church’s main and positive notions about human sexuality were concerned, this made sense to me. The basic relational values of mutual respect, faithfulness, commitment, and openness to new life seemed spot on. But the other notions — those that are negative or proscriptive and which have the effect of being more burdensome than liberating  — these did not seem to fit with the radical message of Jesus to “love one another as I have loved you.”

Knowing that the Church holds to a belief in the Development of Doctrine — that the richness of the Gospel can yield new insights and greater understanding in every generation — could it be that our understanding of human sexuality was also growing, deepening, and extending as we became more aware of the natural (i.e. God-given) diversity in this dimension of human experience?

Take, for example, whether a committed same-sex relationship could be licit, valid, even sacramental. Church teaching holds that the two “ends” of marriage are its unitive and procreative ends — a loving union between two persons who are open to new life. However, the Church recognizes and accepts as fully sacramental those heterosexual unions where there is absolutely no possibility of “new life” in the form of biological children. Think of those with significant health conditions or couples who marry in advanced age. Here, a more generous theology is called for. A theology which sees “procreative” as more than just the begetting of biological children. This more generous theology recognizes how such unions can be procreative by the ways such couples extend themselves, give of themselves, and share their life with family, friends, community. Why could the same generous theology not also recognize the validity and sacramentality of similarly-committed same-sex couples?

Clearly the institutional Church is a long, long way from recognizing not only the sacramentality of same-sex unions, but even their civil legitimacy. All that notwithstanding, is it possible for us, in love, to be like Paul and countless others who have gone before us in faith? Can we lovingly, not fearfully, “read the signs of the times” and — with open ears, eyes, minds and heart —  be willing to see the ways in which the Spirit might be challenging us to extend our faith, so that the joy of the Gospel might be known to all peoples and in every generation?

The Truly Catholic Vision of Religious Freedom

Today's post from Bondings 2.0, On the USCCB's Fifth (And Hopefully Final) "Fortnight For Freedom", prompted me to re-read Dignitatis Humanae [DH], the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom. After all, if the bishops or others think that religious liberty and the free exercise of religion are under attack in the US, one would think we should be looking to this important document for guidance.

DH clearly and strongly promotes the rights of individuals and social groups "… to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits."

The bishops' concern that religious persons and institutions might be forced by the government to act in a way that is coercive and violates their "own beliefs" clearly finds some support here. However, that nasty 3-word phrase at the end puts a different slant on things: "within due limits." Several times DH references the "just order of society" and the "due limits" on one's religious freedom. Perhaps the clearest statement is in Article 7, which begins:

"The right to religious freedom is exercised in human society: hence its exercise is subject to certain regulatory norms. In the use of all freedoms the moral principle of personal and social responsibility is to be observed. In the exercise of their rights, individual men [sic] and social groups are bound by the moral law to have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all. Men are to deal with their fellows in justice and civility."

While the bishops and other "religious freedom" advocates look with limited vision to the US Constitution, they seem to have forgotten the teachings of their own Tradition. DH reminds us of the "due limits" and "regulatory norms" which a just and civil society must enact to ensure the "rights of others" are respected. The bishops' original concern related to healthcare, though quickly was extended to the area of LGBT rights. The US Supreme Court has decided to hear a case from Colorado about the refusal by the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Jack Phillips, to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Phillips cited his disapproval of same-sex marriage, which he claims to be rooted in his Christian faith, as the reason.

From a Catholic teaching perspective, it'd be quite a stretch to say that the baking of a wedding cake rises to the level of a "religious act" worthy of protection. If it did, then where would it end? In theory, no end would be in sight. After all, any religious person who takes faith seriously would try to express his/her religious values in all aspect of life, right? If that's true, what's to stop said religious person from hiding behind such "religious freedom protections" for any and all acts in which he engages?

As the bishops of Vatican II rightly recognized, civil society has the obligation to impose due limits and appropriate regulatory norms on the exercise of religious freedom. Such limits and norms must respect the rights of ALL citizens. As we celebrate today 241 years of independence from political tyranny, may we be always strive to be free from tyranny of all stripes, even when wrapped in red, white and blue.