Letter to Lay Members of the Order of Preachers regarding Peace & Justice Issues


[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.

Lay Promoter

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

 

Dear Friends:

 

            Happy Easter!

 

            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:

 

            http://www.domlife.org/DLC/Justice/JusticePage.htm

 

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. 

  

Happy Easter.   

                                                                        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.

 

 

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Justice & Peace eLetter, No. 2, November 2008


Justice & Peace eLetter

Western Dominican Province

Peace & Justice

Vol. I, No. 2, November, 2008

TO SEE ATTACHMENT, SEE POST BELOW THIS POST. 

 

 

Dear Lay Dominicans & Friends:

 

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is named well, as it seeks to set out a complete text about the issues of social justice and peace in the modern world.   One method of tackling such a large subject is to take “small bites” with one subject, chapter, or page at a time. 

In this edition of Justice & Peace eLetter, the first attempt at writing about topics addressed in the Compendium, the article below addresses the subject of the Trinity, our relationship with God and with each other.   God willing, the Compendium will be examined in this forum, Justice & Peace eLetter, one subject at a time over the next three years.

  The second article in this eLetter, along with one attachment, is a brief review of a Saturday October, 23, 2008 justice and peace promoters meeting held in California.   My attendance was not possible.  Regardless, I asked the promoters to include the issue as one of their “call to action” issues.  That request was rejected as explained below.  Please review and write if you have any comments or questions.  John[at sign]Keenan.org. 

 

                         In peace & faith,

                         John Keenan, JD, OPL

                          

—- 

 On the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church :

 

The Love Shared among The Trinity, is the Charity that Christians should Share,

in the Social Action and Goal of Perfecting Society.

 

Whatever you wish men should do to you, do so to them.  Matthew 7:12.    After our love and duty to God, the social doctrine of the Catholic Church begins here, the GOLDEN RULE.    The Golden Rule applies from the dark cavernous caves beneath the earth to the heights of lofty buildings and magnificent mountains and everything in between.  It can be carried about like a well-remembered proverb that has penetrated the heart and soul, when considering the dignity and hope that each human person brings to you and the realization that each human encounter is no coincidence. 

The purpose here is to commence a series of thought-provoking articles and dialog about the Church’s social doctrine among members of the lay chapters of the Order of Preachers that may impact their lives, families, and communities.   It is also an effort to develop and form consciences in a distinctly Catholic worldview about peace and justice, based on the Holy Scriptures, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church,[1] among other core sources.

It commences with the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue as otherwise known, that forms a bond and fidelity to the One True God.  The Ten Commandments teaches “us the true humanity of man.  They bring to light the essential duties, and therefore, indirectly, the fundamental rights inherent in the nature of the human person.”[2]   The Ten Commandments “describe universal human rights.”[3]  It deals with the reality that the members of humankind not only have a relationship with the Lord, our God, but with each other.   As Our Lord said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:37-39.  See, also, Deuteronomy 6:5[4]

The expression of this love for God and other persons was initially expressed in the Old Testament, where it states “you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need,”[5]  Deuteronomy 15:7-8.  See, also, Leviticus 19:33-34.  As the Compendium articulates well, the regular jubilee year (every 50 years) was established for the “social and economic life of the people of Israel.”  Compendium p. 12.   Fields lied fallow, debts were cancelled, and there was a general release of persons and goods.  Compendium, p. 12.  The purpose of these laws was not only the founding cornerstone of Israel but its social and economic life as well, and it dealt with economic poverty and social injustices of the Nation of Israel.  Compendium, p. 13.   The early Prophets of God articulated and preached a type of justice and solidarity, qualities “which reside in the Lord’s heart” which we should nourish in ourselves, “[t]hen God’s will articulated in the Decalogue given on Sinai, will be able to take root creatively in man’s innermost being.”  Compendium, p. 13.

As so well stated, “[t]he process of internalization gives rise to greater depth and realism in social action, making possible the progressive universalization of attitudes of justice and solidarity, which the people of the Covenant are called to have towards all men and women of every people and nation.”   Compendium, p. 13 (emphasis original).   It is an irrational error to view this statement from a political worldview, because the concept quoted above is voicing a religious perspective that is ageless and Godly. 

This is social action grounded in the love of God, i.e. charity, which can be and should be fulfilled in this world.  It is not political in action, seeking to satisfy the shifting sands of power, worldly desire, and personal fulfillment, but true love of God in action for the care of one’s person, his or her family, neighbor, and for all of humankind, and thereafter to steward and conserve all of creation.

Jesus Christ is the par exemple of and the fulfillment of the Father’s plan of love.  Compendium, p. 14.    That which opens the heart of all persons and gives inspiration from the Holy Spirit, is that love which “inspires Jesus’ ministry among men is the love that [Christ] has experienced in his intimate union with the Father.  Compendium, p. 14 (emphasis original). 

This love between the Divine Persons of the Trinity should be shared by us all, in that “there is a certain parallel between the union existing among the divine Persons and the union of the children of God in truth and love.”  Compendium, p. 16. 

In the present order of the world, there are those who facially seek social change through various means but for wrong reasons.  Often motivated politically, or for gain whether monetary or prestige, or for the sheer activity involved, these people seek political ends by religious means, thus injecting their own will (as opposed to God’s) and worldly dogma of political correctness.   Our Lord rejected these politically-motivated purposes, for after He fed the five thousand, “Jesus, knowing that [the crowd] intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”  John 6:15.  Consider also the motivations of Judas Iscariot.

Therefore, Christians should be motivated to social action by the Love of God and of neighbor, not for political, social, or other worldly motivations.  This certainly requires a careful examination of conscience after much prayer. 

The next time your receive this newsletter, God willing it will address more on God’s plan of love for humanity as expressed in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.   [John Keenan, JD, OPL, Promoter of Peace and Justice, Lay Dominicans, Western Dominican Province].

 ——

 

On the Dominican Call to Action [SEE ATTACHMENT IN POST BELOW:

 

The “Justice Elephant” in the promoter ‘kitchen’: incorporating the issue of “abortion” as part of the Dominican Call to Action.

 

On October 23, 2008, the peace and justice promoters for the Western Dominican Province, including religious congregations, friars, and the lay folk, met in California to discuss the current North American Dominican Call to Action.  [See link, http://domlife.org/DLC/Justice/JusticePage.htm].  Gloria Escalona, OPL attended as the secretary but did not represent the lay people of the Dominican Western Province.    I could not attend.  Regardless, in an effort to represent the lay people of the Order of Preachers in the Western United States, with the consent of the executive committee of the LPC, I submitted a proposal to the peace and justice promoter meeting, to include the issue of abortion as part of the “Call to Action.”

 

Prior to that meeting, the following text of the request regarding the issue of abortion, was forwarded to all members of the meeting, but addressed to Sr. Stella Goodpasture, OP:

 

Dear Sr. Goodpasture:

I have attached a copy of a recent newsletter called Idaho Domincana.   I would kindly ask that the promoters at the upcoming meeting would consider the issue of abortion as a vital part of the agenda for promoters.  The attached document includes an article explaining our chapter’s position on this issue.   This is such an important and fundamental issue facing our society today.   The newsletter also explains the pope’s position on preserving and protecting the Native Americans when the European first came to our great land here: to respect their freedom, their right to property, and not to enslave them.  He also admonished them to respect these native people because they were fully able to receive the Gospel.  I pray that the third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, be with you this coming meeting and that He may guide you in all good things. 

You have my best wishes and prayers. 

Thanks kindly,

John Keenan, JD, OPL, Peace & Justice Promoter, Lay Members, Western Dominican Province.

A copy of the article addressing the issue of abortion and position taken by the Blessed Margaret Chapter in Boise is set forth here:

The 2008 Election:

The Unborn, First in Public Policy

The Scriptures say, that when we obey Christ and transform our minds to conform to His, that “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”  Colossians 3:11.  Over history, by development of ideas, and by transformation of minds and hearts by the grace of Him, mankind and the law have also accepted this elevated thinking. 

Before God, as is the goal of modern human law, there is no distinction between groups of people.  In principle, it is “justice for all.”   This is well established in the founding principles and laws of the United States, where it was written:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,  (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776).  

This elemental legal cornerstone of the United States of America proves we are a Godly nation at our founding, and are based upon two principles: (1) that no man is above the law, and (2) that there are fundamental laws grounded in the natural law, or that law which is derived by nature.  For instance, any human legislative body cannot repeal the law against murder, assault, battery, robbery, stealing, and lying, among others.  These laws are written into our very beings, and if the state were to allow such infringements, the state’s laws are void because they violate the natural law that is written on our minds and upon our hearts. (Hebrews 10:16)  St. Thomas Aquinas says such governmental enactments are not law, but are a type of violence.  Without just men and women serving in governmental posts and without just laws, tyranny will soon follow.  

Public policy and public laws must be rooted in and guided by the natural law and the concept that no man or woman is above the law.   God has called many people to advocate for good public policy.  These are advocates, jurists, and activists who work in the political arena for the common good, seeking to perfect society through the cooperation of public and private officials and entities.  There is many a laudable goal, when these activists advocate for the homeless, the disenfranchised, the naked, the voiceless, and the poor, among others. 

The foremost principle in our modern social culture is that all such advocates and activists should first advocate justice for unborn persons.  The unborn share in the characteristics of all other disenfranchised groups.  In other words, the unborn persons are naked, voiceless, innocent, unseen, disenfranchised, blind, choice-less, and marginalized.    Based upon present U.S. law as stated by the Nation’s highest Court, the unborn have no rights or guarantees to pursue happiness, to own property, to make love, to have children, or to simply live and breathe.    The unborn children who are aborted will never see the sunset, or be guided by the Scriptures, or see, or feel, or touch those about them.    Innocent of personal sin, the unborn child has made no choices, has not failed or succeeded, or responded to God’s grace or sinned. 

Advocacy for good public policy is not grounded in a proverbial woven cloth, but a priority rooted in justice first for the most innocent and voiceless in our society.   Effective advocacy starts with the rights of the innocent unborn, which fruitfully legitimizes and encourages advocacy for the homeless, the disenfranchised, the disabled, the marginalized, the poor, the sick, and the suffering. 

Under the present law in the United States, the pure power of choice trumps the rights of persons (unborn) granted under the natural law—in other words, God-given rights—and life becomes cheap in all its forms; whether unborn, old, sick, homeless, hungry, blind, poor, voiceless, powerless, or disabled.   When men and women of good will seek legal justice and public policy based upon fundamental rights and not for political purposes, it will result in clarity and priority of purpose for all other advocacy. 

Therefore, as a matter of justice, as a matter of true concern and Godly charity, it is essential that Christian advocates and activists, whether for political, religious, or social purposes, and Christian public officials, concern themselves by prioritizing their effort for life; firstly the unborn, and secondly other persons.  To bring justice to all the disadvantaged, we must first bring it to the most humble and poor first.  In modern America, that is the unborn.

The ‘petition’ asking that the promoters, among other issues, to include the issue of abortion among the “Call to Action” issue and agenda, was considered by the promoters,  In the minutes to the meeting regarding the ‘petition’ the email to Sr. Goodpasture, OP was acknowledged where it states:

“We have all received John Keenan’s email.  We all recognize abortion as contrary to support for all life, and we all support the life of the unborn.  Following discussion, we agreed with Fr. John Morris, that abortion is not the central issue of social justice (although it is an important issue).   In the past the overemphasis by some groups on the issue of abortion to the exclusion of other life issues, has been discussed.  The group assembled decided we would recommend that abortion not be included in the new North American Dominican Call to Action.”

A copy of the minutes of the Western Dominican Promoters of Justice, Peace, and Care of Creation is attached to this document for your review and reference [PLEASE SEE POST BELOW ENTITLED “MINUTES’].   The minutes noted of my desire to present the issue next year at the promoters meeting in Adrian, Michigan.

Of course, it is without hesitation that one should take exception to the idea that “abortion is not the central issue of social justice.”   Whether that statement is correctly attributable to Fr. Morris, charitably such a statement reflects a profound negligence of the understanding and purpose of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.  It cannot stand, “for the absolute inviolability of innocent human life is a moral truth clearly taught by Sacred Scripture… .”  Evangelium Vitae, No. 57 (1995).

 

Factually, the killing of innocent children whether born or unborn, the old and infirm, are the most fundamental monstrosities of modern life.  Among the issues that the promoters seek, many seek a political ends by religious means, failing the most fundamental of social justice rigors: charity first, second … and last.

We must acknowledge that laws and decrees that permit the commission of abortions are not the only issues of peace and justice, but the shedding of innocent blood is an abhorrence to God.  Psalm 106: 35-40.  Further, with the federal elections behinds us, the president-elect has made a clear record that he will sign the Freedom of Choice Act—proposed legislation that would eliminate any and all state and federal restrictions on abortion (parental choice, informed consent) and mandate public funds be expended in the killing of innocent unborn life.

With hope and prayers, let’s continue to work for true charity, and peace and justice in our society as lay members of the Order of Preachers.  If you wish to discuss this matter, do not hesitate to contact me via my email address at john[at sign]Keenan.org.  I pray all goes well with you. 

In peace & faith,

John Keenan, JD, OPL

Promoter, Peace & Justice

Lay Members

Western Dominican Province.

 

—-

 


[1] © 2004, Liberia Editrice Vaticana, USCCB Publishing, Washington, D.C. [hereinafter Compendium] [also internet link, www.vatican.va].

[2] Compendium, p. 12. (Quoting, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2070). 

[3] Compendium, p. 12.

[4] Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength. 

[5] Compendium, p. 12.

 

Letter to LPC on Social Justice: “New Cosmology” and “The Earth Charter.”


Thursday, July 03, 2008

 Dear Members of the Lay Provincial Council:

           Greetings from the members of the Blessed Margaret of Castello Lay Chapter here in Idaho.  Please visit our beautiful state and our local Chapter.

          As you may recall, at the LPC meeting in 2007, the Blessed Margaret of Castello Chapter in Boise forwarded to the Lay Provincial Council [LPC] a document titled, “On Social Justice Issues.”  That document was authored by the undersigned after much discussion among chapter members, which was unanimously endorsed by the Boise Chapter. 

That document can be found at the following link.[i]  Its purpose was to express concern about some of the social justice issues and causes that the Order of Preachers in general, and the laity in particular, are involved and to call upon the,

lay members of [the Order of Preachers] to 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. 

On Social Justice Issues.  This letter is only a primer and will explore and discuss with renewed vigor the goal of a proper and moral approach to key social justice issues the Lay members of the Order of Preachers must face as an ecclesial institute.

          In good faith and with prayers, the undersigned truly and humbly hopes that this letter helps in some small way—with God’s help and your prayers—regarding the defects in the social justice efforts now manifest.

          The Boise Chapter has prayed for and continues to pray for and honors each and every lay promoter and officer of the Lay Provincial Council in thankfulness for services rendered to the lay members of the Western Province of the Order of Preachers. 

          First, this letter will discuss the nature of some of the issues, concerns, and efforts being made by members of the Order of Preachers.  Often the most resourceful place to view these issues is to review the various websites that inhabit the internet. 

          The second aspiration this letter is to review our role, as laity, in our own personal and chapter apostolates—as well as members of a Catholic lay ecclesial institute—in the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic.

          Finally, this letter will review possible alternatives and approaches to this current problem. 

          There are issues we must face as lay members of the Order.

First, let’s take a look at “Dominican Life USA” a resourceful website that rightly dubs itself as “A web crossroads for the Order of Preachers.”  See, www.domlife.org.

That website provides a virtual storehouse of current information regarding the Order.  Also, at the “domlife.org” website is a link to “Peace, Justice, and Creation,”[ii] where a number of links are available to key issues, including:

Global Warming, Africa, Columbia, Death Penalty, Disarmament, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Human Trafficking, Migration, United Nations, and Earth Charter.   

In addition, there is also a link to a Dominican Call to Justice 2007 document.[iii]  That document contains the same issues as noted above. 

At the top of the domlife.org website, it provides a link to the Dominican Leadership Conference [DLC].[iv]  In its own words, the website notes the purpose of,

The Dominican Leadership Conference is the networking organization for elected leaders of Dominican congregations and provinces in the United States. It serves 29 congregations of sisters and four provinces of men. This represents about 6,000 Dominican men and women in the US.

[See, at this DLC link[v]].  On the DLC website titled “Peace,”[vi] it identifies Dominicans doing Justice.  Prominently on that website, it identifies a number of issues and concerns.  These include the Dominican Call to Action, Iraq,[vii] death penalty,[viii] human trafficking,[ix] School of the Americas,[x] global warming,[xi] and our Dominican Family in Iraq. 

          On the page entitled “Dominicans Doing Justice” at domlife.org, it states,

Dominicans see the significance of the New Cosmology as the critical lens from which all preaching needs to flow and all justice action should emerge. It is for this reason that our work for justice and peace is situated within the context of care of creation.

Dominican Life Justice Website[xii] (emphasis on website). The website is void of any explanation of the term “New Cosmology” and how that term became the “critical lens from which all preaching needs to flow.”   

If the “New Cosmology” is the ‘critical lens’ through which the key charism of the Order of Preachers should flow, then a logical question arises, what does the term “New Cosmology” signify? 

As the term appears on a key Dominican website, I examined internet sources regarding the term.   

A university in Oakland, California sponsors the Sophia Center located at the Holy Names University, two Dominicans are listed as “Outstanding Scholars and Teachers of New Cosmology.”[xiii]   The first is Sr. Miriam MacGillis, OP, MA, of Caldwell, New Jersey congregation, who is identified as an “earth activist and artist … [co-founder of] Genesis Farm.”[xiv]  She is also a Dominican Sister. 

          The other Dominican listed on that website is Albert Nolan, OP, a founding member of the Institute for Contextual Theology in Johannesburg, South Africa.

That term “New Cosmology” is also referenced at www.earthlight.org, where it records a 2001 conference at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, entitled “Earth Spirit Rising” attended by “author and University of Creation Spirituality president” Mr. Matthew Fox, a past Dominican friar and now Episcopalian priest, and Dominican sister, Miriam MacGillis, OP, mentioned above.   See, here.[xv]

At that website, Mr. Fox related his “’Ten Blessings’ we receive from being awakened by the New Cosmology.”  These new cosmology blessings include “rediscovery of the Cosmic Christ as wisdom,” “redeeming the word ‘flesh,’ as holy and imbued with spirit,” “redeeming of darkness, facing nothingness & emptying,” and “reinventing education to integrate all chakras.” 

          Dominican sister, Miriam MacGillis, OP, whose presentation included her recent trip to Ireland, where she says her, “ancestors communicated both cosmology and faith” to her, and that Ireland, was originally the body of, “the [s]un [g]oddess. … I learned that the early [g]oddess was benevolent. She was about abundance and fertility, and [h]er gift was fire and the renewing cycle of the seasons.” [See, here].[xvi] 

          Sr. Miriam MacGillis, O.P., helped start Genesis Farm near Blairstown, New Jersey.  Genesis Farm’s vision “is rooted in a belief that the Universe, Earth, and all reality are permeated by the presence and power of that ultimate Holy Mystery that has been so deeply and richly expressed in the world’s spiritual traditions. We try to ground our ecological and agricultural work in this deep belief. This Sacred Mystery, known by so many religious names, is the common thread in our efforts.” [See, here].[xvii]

Sr. MacGillis’ “mystical” reference is not to the worship of the Triune God but to a type of scientific and evolutionary mysticism that starts with the beginning of the Universe, 14 billion years ago to the evolution of life on earth, and to human life today. 

The evolutionary “new cosmology” supplants the reality that humankind was created in the image of God, and in denying order puts humans on evolutionary par with all creatures and all of creation, ignoring the centrality of the Gospel, the place of humankind in creation as described in the Holy Scriptures, and the social justice message.  For instance, as it says in Genesis,

Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”  God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26, 27.  See, also, Wisdom 9, Psalm 104.  As stated by a Catholic ecologist, Bill Jacobs, about the “New Cosmology” that

[a]t times, Creation theology involves the worship of Creation more than, or in place of, the worship of the Triune God.  The Most Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is often ignored or denied by the proponents of the “new story.”  This contributes to a grave (and old) anthropological error that is widespread today:  Instead of carrying out humankind’s role as cooperator and co-creator with the Triune God in the work of Creation and Redemption, people set themselves up in place of God, thereby provoking a kind of rebellion on the part of Nature.  In some expressions of Creation theology today, Creation and/or humankind become gods.[xviii]

[Emphasis here]. This “new cosmology” blends a form of neo-paganism with a variety of nature worshipping, Earth-based secular environmentalism, new age, goddess-based, Gnosticism in contrast to the Judeo-Christian religion and the change that Christ wrought to the universe in His Passion and death on the Cross.

          It is true that it is a priority that we must care for people first, and in the order of the world, we must care for creation, recognizing that God created the world and by His Word created it into existence. 

As John Paul II said that as Christians we believe, “that the death and resurrection of Christ accomplished the work of reconciling humanity to the Father, who ‘was pleased … through (Christ) to reconcile to himself ALL THINGS, whether on Earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross’.  Creation was thus made new.” 

The highest point of the work of creation ends in the greatest work of Redemption.  For an excellent discussion on conservation of creation grounded in Catholic thought and culture, see, “’Peace with God—Peace with all of Creation’: A Reflection on the Holy Father’s 1990 World Day of Peace Message,” or “The Ecological Problem Today: the Relation Between the Human Person and the World,” both by Sr. Marjorie Keenan, RSHM, Member, Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice. [See, here].[xix]

 

Plainly stated, the “old cosmology” is the story of creation as set out in the Scriptures.  The “new cosmology” is mulled-over man-centered Gnosticism. 

          The Dominican Life USA and the Dominican Leadership Conference websites identified above, also have links to “The Earth Charter.”  The charter can be found at http://www.earthcharter.org/.   

          The Earth Charter has published a book that explains the Charter purposes and goals.  It is called “Toward a Sustainable World: The Earth Charter in Action” published by the Royal Tropical Institute (2005 The Netherlands).[xx]

          The Earth Charter presents a great concern.  At first impression, the Charter and its goals looks quite impressive.  It’s preamble notes that humanity stands at a critical moment in Earth’s history and that “[w]e must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.”  Toward a Sustainable World, The Earth Charter in Action, Preamble. 

          However, the authors of The Earth Charter admit that the challenge of the Charter is to make it “an effective instrument of global governance, and international law …”  Toward a Sustainable World, The Earth Charter in Action, History and Provenance of the Earth Charter. 

         

          In 1987, the U.N. Commission on Environment and Development called for a document that would set forth fundamental principles for “sustainable development.” 

 

In 1994 and thereafter, Maurice Strong, Steven Rockefeller, and Mikhail Gorbachev worked together to draft The Earth Charter.  It was released in A.D. 2000 and is hailed as a “declaration of fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st Century.” 

 

As noted by Mikhail Gorbachev at his founding speech of “Green Cross International” at Kyoto, Japan on April 20, 1993, “The emerging ‘environmentalization’ of our civilization and the need for vigorous action in the interest of the entire global community will inevitably have multiple political consequences.  Perhaps the most important of them will be a gradual change in the status of the United Nations.  Inevitably, it must assume some aspects of a world government.”  (Emphasis added). 

 

The authors of the Earth Charter also note that in order to obtain their goals, that “multiple ways of looking at global governance are necessary and imminent.” 

 

This is not a faint claim.

 

          The Earth Charter document does not acknowledge God as the author of life and of creation.  It seeks a type of evolutionary state that will seek the redemption of the environment by all peoples yielding to global government and the necessity of saving creation through tough environmental regulation and a type of forced sustainable development.

 

In reality, the earth cannot be healed—redeemed—without God.  There is no number of men and women, commissions, committees, corporations or global government that is able to change the nature of humankind without the Redeemer. 

 

In addition, the Earth Charter provides no protection for unborn children.  In fact, the population is seen as a burden upon society and the environment.  Toward a Sustainable World, The Earth Charter in Action, Preamble. 

 

If the Earth Charter makes a plea for justice, what justice can there exist if the most innocent people among us, who are surely blind, have no choices, and have neither experienced love nor life in full, are not protected by operation of law?

 

          Unlike the Declaration of Independence of the United States, the Charter does not recognize that God is the author of life and liberty.

 

          Lastly, the Earth Charter should not be used to supplant Catholic Social Teaching, which is based upon objective truth, inalienable rights derived from our Creator, and in His Word as revealed in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition. 

 

           As the foregoing demonstrates, the ideas of a “new cosmology” and the “Earth Charter” have woven their way into the Dominican Order.  In addition to examples above, you may see, as an example, Preacher Exchange.[xxi]  These concepts present serious questions.

 

It requires prayer, discernment, and care, but also love for the charism of St. Dominic in the work of the Order, his friars, religious, and laity, and the love of our Father in Heaven, to work through this serious matter with clarity and with profound charity. 

 

For example, there is irony in these issues of the “new cosmology” and the “Earth Charter,” as it reveals a profound naiveté, if not foolishness, with regard to the truth of Original sin.  The goals of the “new cosmology” and the “Earth Charter” with regard to peace and security, while commendable, are not obtainable without the Redemption of humankind through Jesus Christ

 

This is not a new problem.  It is as old as human history where humankind seeks to displace God with its own knowledge, its own idols and its own objects of worship.  It’s been tried repeatedly with great failure.  Collaboration with this ancient rebellion has occurred. 

 

As St. Catherine of Siena succinctly states in The Dialogue, “You cannot imagine how great is people’s foolishness.  They have no sense or discernment, having lost it by hoping in themselves and putting their trust in their own knowledge.” 

The Dominican Laity plays a role in restoring right order, reasonableness, and priority to the justice and peace agenda.  First, please pray. 

Please pray for the Order, that St. Dominic’s charism and traditions set down before us be renewed and held in honor.  The Adaptation and Renewal of Christian Life (Perfectae Caritatas), para. 2(b) (October 28, 1965).

The laity must live in holiness.  This will help tend the seed bed of the Word of God.   We must seek to organize temporal affairs in accord with Christ’s mind, to bring praise and glory to the Father and His Son.  [Lumen Gentium 31]. 

          Further, as John Paul II said in Christifideles Laici,

Charity toward one’s neighbor, through contemporary forms of the traditional spiritual and corporal works of mercy, represent the most immediate, ordinary and habitual ways that lead to the Christian animation of the temporal order, the specific duty of the lay faithful. (No. 41).

The exercise of these virtues are a sure way to help reform the temporal order, by exercising virtue, prayer and fasting, and working consistently for right order in our own lives. 

The Laity can be real witnesses to Christian religious principles in society, where religion is a private practice but also where religious principles of truth, humility, character, and integrity are a public practice.

The exercise of the spiritual works of mercy are especially connected to St. Dominic, as preaching is the key charism of the Order of Preachers as Dominicans can help to convert, to instruct, to counsel, and to comfort others. 

This call to evangelization is for the Laity, especially in our own lives, whether in our home, business, government, or elsewhere.  

Thank you for the opportunity to present this to you.  I hope that it aids in the effort by the LPC to focus on true justice and peace issues that plague our world including the aid and help of the poor and for protecting and preserving life from conception to natural death. 

Please pray for me as I pray for all the members of the Lay Provincial Council.

                                                Peace & faith,

 

 

                                                John Keenan, J.D., O.P.L.

                                                LPC Representative

                                                Blessed Margaret of Castello Chapter

 

 


[ii]               http://www.domlife.org/Justice/index.html

[iv]              http://www.domlife.org/DLC/default.htm

[xiv]             http://www.genesisfarm.org/

[xix]              http://conservation.catholic.org/index.htm