Cascadia Catholics

A left-leaning Catholic discussion forum.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Catholic Social Teaching


The dignity of the human person flows from her/his creation in God's image. Every human being possesses an inalienable dignity that stamps human existence as good regardless of gender, race, class, ethnicity, nationality.


Human dignity is realized in community with others and with all of creation. Every aspect of life in community is measured by how the dignity of each person is upheld; therefore the earth and human community must be whole and healthy.


The freedom and good of the individual must be balanced with the good of society - domestic and global society. Promoting the common good is not compatible with tolerating hunger, homelessness, unemployment or injustice. The economic, political and social institutions of society must be shaped to contribute to the individual and common good.


Solidarity helps us to see the "other"-- whether a person, people or nation ... as a neighbor, a "sharer", a "helper", irrespective of age, race, gender, ethnicity, political persuasion, etc. There is an interconnection among all peoples demanding that we value and respect the experience of all.


People should be able to participate in the decisions which affect their lives (unions, social organizations, councils, etc.).


Decisions should be made as close as possible to the level of individual initiative in communities and institutions. Families, local community groups, local governments and small businesses should be fostered and their input considered. Larger government structures have a role when greater social coordination and regulation are necessary for the common good.


Work is an extension of the person, his/her gifts, talents, and education. It provides a person with an opportunity to contribute to the common good. Work should enhance the human person, not demean him/her for less noble motives. People should be able to earn a living wage with adequate benefits and be employed in good working conditions. Through work people participate in the social and economic order.


The goods of the earth are meant to enhance human life and dignity. How we use the resources of the earth, what we produce and sell should enhance the human spirit. Planet Earth belongs to all humanity. Both the Earth and humanity must be in partnership with each other for their mutual survival. Therefore, we must learn about and respect its multiple resources and systems if we would be responsible partners. The Earth's productive resources do not belong to the few who seek to use it for personal or corporate profit, but to the whole human community. These resources are limited and have their own right to be a part of God's creation. We need to use them with care, respect and in a way which allows for regeneration, i.e. sustainability.


Jesus teaches us to look at all reality through the eyes of the poor as he did. He chose to be born poor, to look at reality through the underside of history. His life teaches that a just society is achieved only when the needs of the poor in society are given first priority. In the Pastoral Economic Justice for All the U.S. Catholic Bishops state, "The obligation to provide justice for all means that the poor have the single most urgent economic claim on the conscience of the nation."


Earth's resources are limited and are part of God's creation. We need to use them with care and in a way that allows for regeneration and sustainability.

Monday, October 16, 2006

About Ndugu

So, has anyone here seen the movie, About Schmidt?

If not, let me tell you something about it. This is the story of Warren Schmidt, a retired Insurance Actuary from Omaha, Nebraska (wonderfully portrayed by Jack Nicholson). And, like many professional men, he soon discovers that retirement is not all it’s cracked up to be. He and his wife, Helen, have plans to tour the country in their new Winnebago, but Warren isn’t very excited about it. It was his wife’s idea. In fact, Warren isn’t very excited about much of anything, and spends his days in front of the television set, reclined in his easy chair.

Somewhere along the line, he catches a commercial about sponsoring a poor child overseas, and on a lark - or perhaps upon inspiration – he signs himself up. A couple of weeks later he gets a packet in the mail from the Sponsorship Foundation, along with a photo of Ndugu, a six year old boy from Tanzania. The Foundation recommends he write a letter of introduction to his sponsored child, which he immediately does.

And so, for the rest of the movie, the internal dialogue of Warren Schmidt is set down in these letters he sends to little Ndugu Umbo. He tells the boy about his life and family. He even sends a little extra money to Ndugu, so he can go down to the corner drug store and “get himself some candy.” Soon, he’s confesses that living in the same house with his wife for 24 hours a day is driving him crazy. Everything she does annoys him. And as for his old job, well, Warren writes that just this morning he went down to his old Insurance Company, thinking to give the “new man” some pointers, and they gave him the brush off! He later found all of his business files, which he had meticulously kept for over 30 years, piled high in the dumpster outside his old office. “Let that be a lesson to you, young man,” he scrawls across the yellow page.

Then one day, after a visit to the post office, Schmidt discovers his wife has collapsed and died on the kitchen floor, which she had been cleaning. Suddenly, all of their dreams for a happy retirement are shattered. “Dear Ndugu,” Warren writes sadly, “I hope you’re sitting down for this…”

At the funeral Schmidt’s daughter arrives with her fiancé, Randall, who’s a waterbed salesman. Now, if ever there was a disaster of a son-in-law, boy, this guy is it! Still, Warren is polite and stoic, and when all is said and done, and after his friends and family leave, Schmidt finds himself alone in the big, empty house. Things go down-hill pretty quickly after that. The house turns into a shambles: pizza boxes on the floor, dirty laundry draped everywhere, dishes piled high in the sink and the TV, always droning on.

Warren Schmidt misses his wife. And while going through her things one day he finds a shoe box full of love letters written to her by his best friend! Sure, the notes are 30 years old, and the affair a brief one, but Schmidt is horrified. He jumps into his Winnebago and tears off down the street. He stops only long enough to punch his “best friend” in the nose, and then motors off to Denver, filled with new purpose. In a flash he’s decided to keep his only daughter from marrying that nincompoop and ruining her life. All the while, he keeps Ndugu informed of every detail.

Now what all happens in Denver is too silly and lengthy to tell. So I’ll be brief: Schmidt’s daughter refuses to call off her wedding, and she asks her father in a very irate tone: “Why are you suddenly taking an interest in my life NOW? Where were you when I needed you MOST?”

Warren Schmidt is shocked beyond all measure. The couple do get married, and our hero drives home to Omaha in a daze. He has utterly failed; not only at preventing his daughter’s disastrous marriage, but at his own marriage as well. He’s failed as a parent and at his job: 30 years in the same company and all his hard work is thrown out in the trash. He forgives his wife’s infidelity, but it doesn’t seem to change things. Stripped bare of everything he values, Schmidt now realizes that there isn’t a single thing he has ever done in his life that matters. “I am weak,” he tells Ndugu, “I am a failure. What difference has my life made to anyone? None that I can think of, none at all.”

At home he kicks his way through the pile of mail that has stacked up in the entryway and discovers a thin, blue envelope, with international markings. He opens the letter. It is from the Sisters of Mercy at the orphanage where Ndugu lives. The Sister reports that Ndugu is a very intelligent and loving child, and he receives all of Schmidt’s letters. “Recently, he had an infection in his eye, but that is better now. Ndugu is too young to read and write,” she tells him, “but he has made for you a painting. He hopes you will like his painting.” Enclosed is a little child’s colored drawing of two people holding hands. The people are smiling. One is big and one is little. The sun is shining behind them. And Warren Schmidt begins to cry.

And that is the end of the movie.

But I didn’t come here to tell you about a movie. I came here to tell you about Child Sponsorship. I thought I’d talk about all the good things you could be doing for some needy child. I mean, as their sponsor, you’d be giving them food and clean water, a warm shelter, healthcare, clothing, and an education. And you’d be helping their families, too, and even their communities. But I didn’t want to tell you all that because you’ve seen the commercials, just like I have, and you can read about that stuff in the shiny pamphlets they print up.

So what am I trying to tell you? Well, it’s this. Look. If you see even a bit of yourself in Warren Schmidt - maybe your spouse annoys you, or your friends disappoint, or you have a stupid job and the kids don’t listen, or maybe you'd just like to make a difference in the world - why not take a chance on sponsoring a child? You’ll be doing the kids a world of good, and you know that. But, you see, what you don’t know, what I think you don’t realize at all, is that these kids will shine for you like the sun; these kids will be the light and love of Christ for you, because that’s exactly Who they are.

And that’s why Warren Schmidt wept with joy.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Achieving Conscientious Objector Status

Holy Cow!

A Conscientious Objector Workshop

Two years back, the University District (Seattle) Interfaith Advocates put on a Conscientious Objector Workshop for young students and their parents. The workshop was purely informational on how to achieve Conscientious Objector status by building a personal C.O. file. Step by step instructions were presented in a PowerPoint presentation, which you can view (or download) online at my working website:

Here's the link:

Given the saber rattling that continues over Iran's nuclear program, I think it would be wise to alert the young people you know about this important information.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Bishops' Letter to the US Congress

What the Bishops have said about the "detainee" [torture] legislation:

September 19, 2006

... prisoner mistreatment compromises human dignity. A respect for the dignity of every person, ally or enemy, must serve as the foundation of security, justice and peace. There can be no compromise on the moral imperative to protect the basic human rights of any individual incarcerated for any reason.

We share the concern of lawmakers and citizens for the safety of U.S. soldiers and civilians serving abroad in these times of great uncertainty and danger. In the face of this perilous climate, our nation must not embrace a morality based on an attitude that “desperate times call for desperate measures” or “the end justifies the means.” The inherent justice of our cause and the perceived necessities involved in confronting terrorism must not lead to a weakening or disregard of U.S. or international law.

In a time of terrorism and fear, our individual and collective obligations to respect dignity and human rights, even of our worst enemies, gains added importance. Reaffirming the standards contained in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions would reflect the conviction that our nation must treat its prisoners as we would expect our enemies to treat our own military personnel or citizens. We urge you to reject any proposed legislation that would call into question America’s commitment to Common Article 3. Preserving the strong U.S. commitment to humane and ethical treatment of detainees would continue your efforts to restore the moral credibility of the United States at a crucial time.

Bishop Thomas G. Wenski
Bishop of Orlando
Chairman, Committee on International Policy