[The actual final recommendations from the lay members of the Western Dominican Province to the North American Dominican Promoters of Peace & Justice are listed at the bottom of this post.]
John Keenan, O.P.L., J.D.
Peace & Justice, Care of Creation
Western Dominican Province
United States of America
April 16, 2009
Chapter Promoters, Peace & Justice Care of Creation
Lay Provincial Representatives
Western Dominican Province
Re: North American Peace & Justice Promoters meeting;
June 16-18, 2009
The Lay Provincial Council meeting is set for June 19-21, 2009. The North American Dominican Promoters for Justice and Peace (NADPJP) meeting is for June 16-18, 2009 at Adrian, Michigan.
Please carefully review this letter. Its purpose is to explain steps taken most recently regarding issues for the NADPJP, suggested issues, and asking for your Chapter’s suggestions for issues, comment, and input.
1. What happened.
In Sr. Farnan’s and Fr. Dahm’s letter of March 20, 2009, they said:
“In April we will send out an official registration form for you and a tentative Agenda. If you have any suggestions for the Agenda please email Chuck or I [sic] and we will take this into consideration. At Present we believe we need to address: Immigration, Nuclear Weapons, Middle East: Iraq and Palestine/Israel, Human Trafficking and Ecological issues. We will try and use the framework of the Millennium Development Goals.” (Underline mine).
With that request in mind, I drafted a letter and forwarded it to the Lay Provincial Council executive committee for their consideration. I was given permission to forward the letter to Sr. Farnan and Fr. Dahm for their consideration.
2. The next step.
The earlier letter is not the final submission to Sr. Farnan and Fr. Dahm. Therefore, please follow this procedure.
a. Peace & Justice chapter promoters and LPC representatives should review the issues listed below with your chapter and/or council.
b. Forward your comments and suggestions to me by no later than May 10, 2009 to my email address at john[at]keenan.org. If you wish to discuss via the telephone, email me and give me a good time of day to call and your phone number. I will call you back.
c. These will be forwarded to the LPC Executive Committee for their review; after which they will be forwarded to Sr. Farnan and Fr. Dahm.
d. That letter will ask that they formally consider the issues of most concern to the lay members of the Western Dominican Province.
3. Current NADPJP issues. The 2006 Dominican Call to Justice document includes the following issues: (1) death penalty, (2) disarmament, (3) Iraq, (4) Israel/Palestine, (5) Africa, (6) Columbia, (7) Migration/Immigration, (8) Human Trafficking, (9) United Nations, and (10) Global warming. You can see the details at the following website:
In addition, the referenced justice Dominican Leadership Conference online page lists other related issues, including the “new cosmology,” the “School of the Americas,” and “global warming.” Many of these political and philosophical issues do not reflect key Church or moral teachings. Further, these issues may be supported or opposed in good faith by different men and women of good will exercising prudent judgment.
The Church encourages us individually to be involved in cultural, social, and political associations with other persons of good will. However, when we come together as Lay Dominicans, we belong to a province and an ecclesial institute of the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic. We do not belong to a political party. There is a place for political issues and movements. The Lay Fraternities is not that place.
Indeed, we belong to the Church which is a divine institution. As Dominicans, we should responsibly review each social and political issue very carefully so that it reflects the moral order, conscience, issues and efforts so dear and close to the Church–not the whim of ideology and political ideas that benefit from currency or fancy. The Vatican Council II amplifies this point when it states, “Laymen should also know that it is generally the function of their well-formed Christian conscience to see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city….” Guadiam et Spes, No. 43 (Emphasis mine). See, On Social Justice Issues.
Examples. The Israel/Palestine conflict is a perennial issue, but there are two sides to the question. Created under international law, Israel has a place in the world and the right to defend itself from aggression and terrorist attacks. It also has the obligation to act in accord with the moral law and international law.
The Palestinians’ right to an independent nation-state should also be recognized. It seems altogether, however, that many of the Dominicans at the national and international level promote only the Palestinian perspective. This is very political. Both sides of this issue, if reviewed carefully, articulate well their respective positions. Probably both are true and both are exaggerated. Nevertheless, the rights of both parties and people need to be recognized.
Another example is the nation of Columbia.
The United States has interfered with that country and promoted the war against the drug trade. The Dominican Order has focused on that issue to the exclusion of other important issues that have occurred in Columbia. While the drug trade and the drug war have harmed many innocent people, two years ago organizations of the United Nations and international pro-abortion groups successfully pressured Columbia and its supreme court to legalize abortion and “reproductive health” rights. Where were the Dominicans on that issue? You will not find that discussion on the domlife.org page. See, Dominican Life USA: Columbia.
In addition, Dominican involvement at the United Nations is very important. As a moral force, in addition to the issues it engages, you will see little, if any, Dominican involvement in ending abortion or focusing on the rights of the child in the womb as well as outside the womb. See, Dominicans at U.N.
Fundamental to human liberty and to the pursuit of happiness, is the right to life. As Dominicans, we are part of the moral vanguard, seeking and identifying, as we presently do, the numerous injustices in the world, but we also have the obligation to stand at the U.N.’s gates and remind them that if they cannot stand against the killing of the most innocent among us, then all their pronouncements and declarations are for naught. This is especially true with the new American administration’s support for abortion ‘rights.’
Another example is “global warming.” While many people state that the issue of man-caused global warming is fully and finally settled, and that we must take every measure necessary to change it, over the last two years, several world-renowned and honored scientists have come out against the concept of global warming, e.g. see these links, Michael Crichton, U.S. Senate Environment Committee: 650 scientists dissent man-made global warming theory, Global Warming Petition Project, 31,000 scientists reject Global Warming, NASA worldbook, and NASA scientist rejects theory. The economic harm to the poor and underprivileged has not been seriously calculated if governments impose extreme anti-global warming measures, i.e. the cap in trade law. See, here.
Another issue of concern is the Earth Charter. The Earth Charter may be read at this link, Earth Charter in Action; and analyzed here, Catholic Family organization; and more deeply reviewed here, The Earth Charter. Note also, the analysis on the Earth Charter was done last summer in prior correspondence to the LPC dated July 3, 2008. To access, click here.
Finally, most importantly, what about protecting innocent human life? From persons in the womb to disabled and older people, is quality of life the only measure of life? As Dominicans, we need to stand as Christ did, as a contradiction to the world when protecting human life and in protecting institutions with historical and family significance. If we want justice, we start with peace. Abortion makes war on humankind and the world.
5. Proposed changes and issues at the North American Dominican Promoters of Peace and Justice meeting, and why.
a. A key change is simply procedural.
First, discuss a procedure or organizational structure by which the peace & justice promoters expand representation of the sisters, friars, and lay people, and include a process that encourages a wide-based, grassroots consultation with all members of the Order regarding key issues.
b. The following items are proposed for inclusion in this year’s list of issues according to the following order of priority:
1. A call for a pro-life position consistent with the Church’s teaching relative to innocent human life from conception to natural death.
2. A call to member governments, NGOS, and peoples from the United Nations to end the funding and advocacy of abortion or birth control.
3. A call to the several states to pass and define the historical legal definition of marriage to be between one man and one woman.
4. A call to refocus the Order’s efforts toward a Christian-based anthropocentric environmental position. Conservation programs must be based on good science, reasonable, moderate, and effective action, right and good order, and realistic solutions.
5. A call to decrease excessive governmental intrusion and regulation in the health care marketplace.
6. A call to ease the tax burden on the American middle class.
The first few of these proposals consider the Church’s positions on key religious and social issues, including pro-life efforts, abortion, and marriage. These concerns deserve a priority. The “greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion.” [Mother Teresa, February 4, 1994’]. If the Dominican peace and justice movement is about true peace, then it should tackle the pro-life issue with a compelling priority. Society desperately needs a softened heart. If society cannot see an unborn person as innocent and defenseless, then are we—as Christians—doing any good elsewhere?
The last two proposed issues are provided for several reasons.
First, it is to propose differing, yet reasonable, points-of-view. There are men and women of good will who—in good faith—believe differently. Some issues are debatable and should be thoroughly discussed before the Order endorses peace and justice initiatives.
Second, the Order of Preachers is not the proper forum for discussing many political issues. Frankly, the better place for many initiatives is political and social institutions. While the Church and ecclesial institutes may provide a proper moral guide, they should not engage in and make final decisions with regard to subjects where people of good will and good judgment differ on problems seeking effective solutions.
For instance, some people have cited universal health care as a “right.” While most people agree with such a sentiment initially, there are realities that need to be considered.
The first reality is that government-driven health care leads to long waiting periods and limited services. Second, people want a choice. Third, often times, when government intrudes, it creates more problems than solutions. Is that not why this discussion should be held in a a political forum and not in an ecclesial one?
Many people believe that human freedom is paramount to ending poverty worldwide, that the marketplace is best suited to provide the goods and services needed by people in the world. Economic freedom enables men and women to protect and provide for themselves and their families. Government is a partner in this effort, not the universal solution for social, economic, and other problems. That is another example of why this discussion should deal with key issues involving our Faith.
Conservation and the environment are legitimate issues and need focus. On the other hand, where radical environmentalism acts with religious fervor, it places humankind below creation in the order of the cosmos. In my home state, Idaho, this extreme position has closed forests to timber harvesting. A dozen small Idaho towns have lost timber mills and tens of thousands of sustainable jobs that provide for workers and families. Without conservation efforts to cull the forest and its undergrowth, the forest becomes fodder for intense and hot summer fires covering thousands of acres.
Third, there are solutions to social problems that need little, if any, government funding or action.
As an example, the American middle class is the most charitable class of people the world has ever known.
Following Christ’s admonition to provide charity for the poor and underprivileged, the American people give generously domestically and to foreign peoples when disaster and emergencies strike. Rather than relying on taxpayer monies, in record amounts the American people readily give their personal time, energy, and intelligence, as well as money, to those in need. If the American middle class is deprived of its wealth through excessive taxation, then many social justice and peace efforts around the world will be deprived of key capital. .
Finally, thank you for taking the time to read and study this letter. Once I receive your Chapter’s contribution, I will present it to the LPC Executive Committee and forward them to the committee organizing the NADPJP set for June 16-18, 2009.
Sincerely in St. Dominic,
John Keenan, O.P.L., J.D.
These are the final and actual recommendations from the lay people of the Western Dominican Province forwarded to Sr. Durstyne Farnan, O.P., of the Adrian Congregation on June 17, 2009, for submission to the North American Dominican Promoters of Peace & Justice meeting:
*That all public and private institutions at the state, national, and international levels seek and promote the legal protection of innocent human beings from conception to natural death from loss of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; and, relating to the dignity of each human being and based upon the concept that society may be properly protected from harm, that any person found guilty of any heinous crime should not suffer the death penalty.
*That grounded on the rule of law and the sovereignty of nations, persons immigrating to, or emigrating from, a nation should be treated with respect to, and in compliance with, the rights accorded such persons based upon the inherent dignity of each human being, together with rights established under law, including but not limited to natural, individual, family, religious, and civil rights.