Thursday, June 30, 2011

Losers of the Revolution

By Father Gregory Elder,
Parochial Vicar, St. Martha, Murrieta

The fourth of July weekend rolls around again, that day on which we recall our nation’s birth and the revolution which won our freedom.  That said, it’s a day we celebrate in our family with Mass in the morning and then picnics with friends.  But when one, such as myself, is married to a wonderful British woman, one learns to downplay the themes of the inevitable defeat British forces by the brave patriots in the interests of marital harmony.  Twenty nine years after her immigration to our great nation, on the Fourth of July, she still carries a British passport, a loyal subject of the Crown.  I once asked the esteemed wife how they studied the American Revolution when she was a girl in school.

“We got about twenty minutes on it in modern history,” she replied without looking up from her sudoku puzzle.

“Well that hardly seems right,” I said.  “After all regardless of which side one takes, the United States has had a considerable impact on the modern world.  Don’t we deserve a little more than twenty minutes?  In my high school I had to spend ages on bloody thing.”  She looked at me with a sad sweet smile.

“England became a nation around 700 AD.  Do you have any idea the number of colonial revolts we have had to face in  the past thirteen centuries?”  She then just shrugged and went back to the puzzle.  “We win some and we lose some.  Would you mind putting the kettle on for more tea?”  Unlike my ancestors who pitched the stuff in Boston Harbor, I obediently went to the kitchen to brew some more of the British elixir of life.

In our own history we know a great deal about the people who fought and won the war and the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  We read of Washington and his Continental army, Ben Franklin and the fifty six men who risked their loves to sign the declaration including, two future presidents.  Their ages were from twenty six to seventy, the great majority were devout Protestants including one ordained minister, with a couple of Deists, a Quaker and a  Catholic thrown in to the mix.  Contrary to popular mythology, only four of the fifty six ever owned slaves and several were quite outspoken for greater rights for women.  Many suffered great personal loss from the British during the war as a result of their signing the Declaration.

But what about the losers of the Revolutionary War?  They have a story too, and a great many died for their country also, even if it was a very different vision of what the American country might be.  Tens of thousands of loyalists fled to Canada and Britain, nations they never knew before.  Others fled to parts of the expanding British Empire in India, Australia and beyond.  And a great  many British and American loyalists rest in unmarked American graves, far from the green hills of England.  Let’s look at the ringleaders of the defeated, whose names we studied in school and look at whatever happened to them.

King George III, the villain of the Declaration of Independence,  ruled Great Britain from 1760.  He was the son of Frederick, Prince of Wales and grandson of George II.  George III was not an evil man but he was not particularly intelligent either.  His two predecessors in the Hanover dynasty had been born and raised in Germany and did not even speak English, and had become the rulers of Britain because Parliament insisted on Protestant monarchs in the place of the hated Catholic James II and his colorful heirs.  The first two Georges left English politics to their ministers of state, but George III was born and raised in England, and he was concerned to return power to the monarch.  This was not the best policy to take in keeping the Americans quiet.  He also appointed ministers of state based on their personal loyalty to him, rather than choosing the best men for the job, which likewise did not benefit British rule in America. At various times in his life he suffered from porphyria, which caused bouts of mental illness. 

George III was very interested in new breeds of livestock for the common people, drainage of swamps for better agriculture, and he encouraged the age of inventions in the Industrial Revolution which began in the textile industry in northern England.  Unlike most monarchs, he was loyal to his wife and loved his family.  Because of the dangers of France in the later Napoleonic Wars, he became a symbol of British resistance to Bonaparte and is remembered fondly in England today.  He died a prisoner, locked up in the palace for his madness, while his worthless and degenerate son misruled the kingdom in his name.

Sir Thomas Gage (1728-1787) who ruled who ruled America when the revolt broke out, was born from an ancient British family which traced its roots back to the Norman Conquest of 1066.  He entered the Army in 1840 and served in the French and Indian Wars, as did George Washington.  After the defeat of France he served as Governor of Montreal, and was promoted to be Major General and commander in chief of all Brtish forces in America, ruling from New York.  Under his administration rebel revolts at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker hill strongly suggested to the Crown that he was unable to put the rebellion down and he was relieved of command.  He died in several financial hardship.

William Howe (1729-1814) replaced General Thomas Gage in 1775 as supreme commander of British forces in 1775,  A Brilliant general, he defeated Washington at Long Island, Brandywine and retook the city of Philadelphia.  However, his victories seemed to pale in the wake of British General John Burgoyne’s defeat by the Americans at Saratoga.  In Parliament he was blamed for not doing more to support Burgoyne and was removed from command in 1778, in spite of his proven record of crushing the Americans. This may not have been wise for the British interests.  Howe returned to England, married  and entered politics and served in Parliament for many years.  He was made a nobleman, and died as Viscount Howe.

Lord Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805) was born in London and educated at Eton and entered the Royal army at the age of 18.  By 1775 he was a general and was sent to help suppress the rebellion in America, as second in command to General Henry Clinton.  Cornwallis fought the revolutionaries in the Carolinas, but confident of victory allowed his numbers and supplies to run low.  Ignoring Clinton’s suggestion that he repair to New York, he was defeated by Revolutionary forces and French aid at Yorktown.  Blaming his defeat on the  enemy French, he was not punished  for his defeat and went on to command British forces in India and later was made Governor General of India, and later governor General of Ireland.  He died in 1805 and was given great honors.

Benedict Arnold (1741-1801) was born in the colonies and eventually entered the revolutionary militia.  He won a number of victories for the American forces including the capture of Fort Ticonderoga.  He served bravely in American attacks in Quebec, where he was wounded twice.  Washington made him military commander of revolutionary forces in Philadelphia.  But patriots in Philadelphia denounced him as being too soft on captured loyalists, and brought charges against him accusing Arnold of financial corruption.  His resentment grew when other rebel generals who had done less that he were given higher military commands.  Arnold resigned his command in anger and secretly contacted the British to sell them information about American positions and to betray the fort at West Point.  When Washington was told the news of Benedict Arnold’s treason, he is supposed to have remarked, “now we can trust no one.”  For his betrayal of the Americans he was given an annual pension of 360 pounds a year and a lump sum on six thousand.

When Lord Cornwallis surrendered, Arnold and his moved to England where he hoped to find a new military command and perhaps a position at court for his renewed loyalty to the Crown.  He was briefly welcomed by the King but shunned by society and given no position at all, not for his participation in the Revolution, but because he was a traitor to the Americans.  Even the  monarchists had no time for a man capable of the betrayal of his friends and modern British people think him an idiot.  After failing in business Arnold died, unloved in London in 1801, the same year that his former colleague in the cause,  the patriot Thomas Jefferson took office as the third President of the United States.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Honor of the Sick and the Dying!

By Father Benjamin Alforque, MSC, VF
Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

The debate between Catholic morality and medical ethics, on the one hand, and secular scientific medical ethics, on the other, has been going on among academics, intellectuals and theologians.  In a society that is obedient to the law, respectful of the plurality of ideas and tolerant of religious beliefs, this polite conversation may continue until it is shrill to eternity. But the individual remains the final arbiter of his own decisions and actions.  God, relegated to the extreme as a subjective idea, has nothing to do with my scientific decision and my consequent free act.

But what escapes from this seemingly peaceful cacophony is the reality of violence that the patient and those who love him experience.  The cover-up of this violation of the absolute dignity of the human person and his fundamental rights is provided for by the cultivated regard for the law and by the system that comfortably works.  This objective regard finds its anchor in the subjective disposition of the patient and of those who love him: the fear of suffering, the discomfort and stresses of having to care for the sick and the dying. 

Violence against human life finds its legal expression once again in the physician-assisted suicide.  This physician-assisted suicide was first legalized in Oregon in 1994; a similar one was passed by a November 2008 referendum in Washington, then a Supreme Court decision in its favor in Montana and now the movement goes to other New England and Western states.

In the Catholic tradition, we are taught of the redemptive value of suffering, both for the patient and for those who care for him. The patient, who unites his pains and sufferings with those of Jesus, understands more profoundly the mystery of the cross of Jesus and of God’s loving works of salvation. Those who attend to him are able to participate in the caring compassion of God. They become the instruments of salvation for each other: the wounded heals even as the healer is wounded! The US Catholic bishops might come up with a statement on this matter entitled “To Live Each Day with Dignity”. But will we Catholics ever read it? Will we believe it and live it?

Friday, June 10, 2011

California Bishops give us a good lens to view state budget crisis

By Jeanette Arnquist
Director, Ministry of Life, Dignity and Justice

On June 9 the California Catholic Conference of Bishops released the statement “In Search of the Common Good:  A Moral Framework for Addressing California’s Budget Crisis.”  Not only is it an excellent summary of Catholic Social Teaching, laying out the basic principles of the Dignity of the Human Person, Common Good, Subsidiarity and Solidarity, it also accurately describes the dysfunctional atmosphere in Sacramento, and it sets forth a part toward a solution.

It is time to face the fact that California is in the midst of a crisis with moral dimensions.  The goal of a budget is not simply to balance California’s check book.  A budget is a moral document that articulates the priorities of a society.  Rather than arguing over which cuts to make or where to get new revenues, we should decide what kind of a society we want to have.  And if we are going to look at that through the lens of our faith, we have the principles mentioned above to guide us. 

Our first principle is the Respect for Human Dignity, that gratuitous gift of God, and that leads us to respect and support each human life, whether it is the life of an unborn child, a person in a persistent vegetative state, someone sentenced to die for murder, a welfare mom or an undocumented immigrant. 

The Common Good calls us to “look beyond our won self-interest to the interest of the larger society.”  Are we to give up something in order that others will have what they need? 

Subsidiarity might not be a word in most people’s usage, but it has a long history in Catholic Social Teaching.  It helps us understand that we cannot respect the dignity of an individual without looking at the complex web of relationships with family, community and society.  In regard to the budget debate it sheds light on the issue of taxation.

In Solidarity, we realize that when one suffers, we all suffer. We all depend on the fabric of society to live out our lives.  None of us “are self made.”  We benefit from the contributions of others and societal structures like schools, parks, streets, universities, law enforcement and regularity agencies.  As Blessed John Paul II said:  “We really are all responsible for all.”

These principles are often in tension and they must be taken as a whole.  I think of Common Good, Subsidiarity and Solidarity as the three legs of the stool that supports Human Dignity.  Together they work to create a society that allows each of us and all of us to grow into the persons God intended.

It is my prayer that as faithful citizens, the members of the Catholic Community will communicate to their legislators the need to abandon partisanship and narrow self interest and tell them that we are willing to accept shared sacrifice because our faith tells us it is the right thing to do.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Las reliquias de los Mártires: Avivamiento de fe e identidad entre las comunidades Hispanas

Por Petra Alexander
Directora, Asuntos Hispanos

Las reliquias de los Sacerdotes Mártires Cristeros fueron recibidas calurosamente en las comunidades hispanas de nuestra Diócesis. Para muchos, una novedad o, sorpresa, para otros una oportunidad de reavivar la fe. Contestamos preguntas sobre la “Guerra Cristera”, nombre que se da al periodo de persecución en México. Elder Samaniego explicó en la Radio Católica El Sembrador cómo numerosos inmigrantes en los Estados Unidos escucharon de sus abuelo/as relatos increíbles que hablaron de una Iglesia perseguida e impedida de manifestarse. ¿Por qué se silenció todo esto en la historia oficial de México? Comenzamos a saber del sufrimiento de muchos católicos de un periodo tenso en las relaciones Iglesia-Estado, cuando no se dio personalidad jurídica los clérigos. Ahora nos impresiona saber que la fe de nuestro país, pasó una prueba en la que quedaron tantas vidas, de laicos y clérigos, como testimonio del alto valor. Muchos no sabían cuánto costó el grito de: Viva Cristo Rey y Santa María de Guadalupe..

José María Robles de San Eduardo, Corona, nos dijo cuántos sentimientos se despertaron con estos distinguidos embajadores, que nos repiten las palabras: ¿Señor a quién iremos?
Ellos dieron su vida para que pueblo no se quedara sin sacramentos, nosotros ahora tenemos cerca todas las bendiciones de la Iglesia, y, ¿las aprovechamos?

Ruth García, de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Ontario observó que en ésa comunidad se experimentó mucha esperanza, porque nuevamente México vive violencia y el deseo de todos es la pacificación. La presencia de las reliquias nos inspiró a mantener nuestra fe a toda consta.

Marta Domínguez, de Perris, comentó cómo en la comunidad de creyentes de nuestra diócesis, hay muchos familiares directos de esta generación de mártires y esto debe desafiarnos a perseverar en nuestra fe y a dejar la semilla de la fe bien plantada en las siguientes generaciones.

Sara Martínez, de San Eduardo, Corona, expresó la enorme bendición experimentada al tocar la cruz con las reliquias, como una prolongación de la gran raíz de tradición y amor a la Iglesia.

Laura Salazar, de Ntra. Sra. de Guadalupe, Ont. Observó en la comunidad mucha gratitud por haber tenido esta presencia, “creo que muchos padres explicaron a sus hijos y a los jóvenes qué significa para nosotros dar testimonio de la fe. Se despertó una identidad muy especial…”

Nuestra gratitud más sincera, a los Caballeros de Colón, por permitirnos este contacto con las reliquias, estamos seguros que despertarán en nuestra comunidad, vocaciones y compromisos de mayor servicio a nuestra Iglesia.