Program #0253 for Thursday, March 8, 2012: Fr. Roger in the Holy Land; Assisted suicide hearing on Beacon Hill; Catholic Charities in Brockton; updates on religious freedom fight

March 8, 2012

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Roger Landry, executive editor of The Anchor, the newspaper of the Fall River diocese; and Gregory Tracy, managing editor of The Pilot, the newspaper of the Boston archdiocese

Links from today’s show:

  • The Anchor
  • The Pilot
  • Some of the stories discussed on this show will be available on The Pilot’s and The Anchor’s websites on Friday morning. Please check those sites for the latest links.

Today’s topics: Fr. Roger in the Holy Land; Assisted suicide hearing on Beacon Hill; Catholic Charities in Brockton; updates on religious freedom fight

Summary of today’s show: Fr. Roger Landry rejoins the Thursday panel, which included Scot Landry and Gregory Tracy this week, to discuss the headlines, including a hearing on Beacon Hill for a bill to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide, previewing the November ballot initiative; the great new Catholic Charities facility in Brockton; a new pastorship for former vicar general Fr. Rich Erikson; and updates on the fight to maintain religious freedom and how the current debate signals a new era of oppression of religious views.

1st segment: Scot noted that Susan Abbott was unable to be with us today because she had to attend a funeral in her family.

Fr. Roger talked about going on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land over the past couple of weeks. He said his group was able to live the entire liturgical year, visiting the places related to Christ’s life, and they lived the meteorological year, experiencing all kinds of weather from 80 degrees and sunny to snow. It was an opportunity for a life changing encounter with Jesus. Scot said his wife and son both agreed on how the trip changed them and said they will never look at the Scriptures the same way again. Fr. Roger was able to celebrate Mass in the holiest of holy places in Christ’s tomb with Scot’s son, Christian, assisting at the altar. Fr. Roger said Pope Benedict calls the Holy Land the Fifth Gospel because the very stones cry out the Word of God. He talks about his experience on the Sea of Galilee and being able to understand how the apostles would have reacted during the Storm on the Sea.

Susan’s nephew went on the pilgrimage with his family and they posted many of their photos online at

2nd segment: This week the Mass. Catholic Conference testified at the State House on a bill proposed by a representative that would put into law what has been proposed by the assisted suicide ballot petition.

“The Church reaches us that life itself is a gift from God. Life is to be cherished, nurtured, protected, and finally, cared for with the help of others unril the time of natural death – not self-administered death, not assisted death,” MCC executive director James Driscoll testified at the hearing. … “Terminally ill, dying patients should
not be permitted to make or be encour-aged to make a choice that ends all choices. Terminally ill, dying patients do not need the so-called compassion that supports the
idea that one is bener off dead,” Driscoll said.

Greg said the testimony was a preview of the arguments about assisted suicide and was an opportunity to get those aired in public testimony. He said this bill had been advanced many times in the Legislature and never went anywhere, so proponents went ahead with the ballot initiative. While this hearing doesn’t affect the ballot initiative, it offers a chance for education on this issue. Greg noted new information that came out that the Legislature has options to put an alternative version of the bill on the ballot or can put a statement on the ballot that shows their disapproval. Scot said the Secretary of State will be the one writing up the description of the ballot referendum and that will be important.

Scot quoted Peter McNulty, assistant policy director for the Mass. Catholic Conference, who noted one of the flaws in the bill is its vague language.

The Anchor has a story about the Archdiocese’s efforts opposing this ballot initiative, including the website Because the Diocese of Fall River hasn’t yet started its educational initiative on this issue yet, Fr. Roger wanted to disseminate the information that people will be able to use to form their own hearts and minds and equip them with the arguments they will need to convince others.

Scot said the next local story is the appointment of former vicar general Fr. Richard Erikson who has been appointed as pastor of Our Lady of Fatima in Sudbury, effective March 1. The parish has been without a pastor for about a month and at an event this past week, Fr. Rich was sharing his excitement at being appointed pastor for the first time. He had spent many years as an Air Force chaplain and currently serves as a brigadier general in the Air Force. Greg said Fr. Rich has often spoke of his desire to have a parish of his own to serve.

Fr. Roger said he thinks it will be a tremendous joy for Fr. Rich to take what he has learned and all of his experience and focus to help sanctify the people of Sudbury. He expects it will be one of the most joyous times of Fr. Rich’s life.

Scot said even after five-plus years as vicar general, he always lead with a pastor’s heart.

Scot noted two other local stories, including the launch of the 2012 Catholic Appeal. The story in The Pilot includes reactions from parishioners in the parishes where Cardinal Seán and Msgr. Deeley launched the appeal in person. The other story concerns the launch of a new facility on the South Shore by Catholic Charities on Court Street in Brockton. For the first time, Catholic Charities will have a facility on the South Shore that is designed for their specific needs, as opposed to jerry-rigging a location.

“Most importantly, today I want to thank our staff and volunteers here at Catholic Charities South who put their hearts and souls into the work we are called to do, each and every day each making a real difference in the lives of our neighbors in need,” she said, before inviting guests to tour the facility after the ceremony. “This space was designed to fit program needs, not the other way around. This is the first time we will be able to house all of our services under one roof,” Rambo said. …

“Brockton in particular has a fairly large newcomer population, so there are a lot of folks who need to learn how to speak English, who are certainly very capable, and just need a little extra help to get jobs,” Rambo said.

Scot outlined the many programs that are offered at the facility, including teaching parenting skills. According to the US Census, more than 28 percent of children in the city live below the poverty line. Scot noted that the food pantry here is unique in that they allow people to shop for themselves. Fr. Roger noted at this own food pantry helps give people some choices between, say, different kinds of juices or breads, which lends people some dignity and gives some people the very basic skill of food shopping for themselves. He told a story about helping a man who had just got out of jail after 15 years and was paralyzed at having to make choices because he hadn’t been able to make any choices for himself in all that time. Greg said giving people a choice in their food builds up their human dignity. Scot said supporting food pantries during Lent is a good way of practicing almsgiving.

3rd segment: Scot said there are many stories in the Pilot and Anchor this week updating the fight for religious freedom. We have talked about it a lot, but there are new developments and this is one of the biggest issues of faith we have encountered as a Catholic people in our lifetimes. For us to be effective, everybody who is a member of any church needs to stand up.

Fr. Roger’s editorial this week says this is a new day and gives a chronology of the history of religious freedom. He said in the past the fight for religious freedom was primarily against ethnic prejudices.

It’s a new day for the Catholic Church and for truly religious believers in general in the United States. While the Church in the U.S. experienced discrimination in the past most notably during the Know Nothing era of the mid-19th century for the most part, this discrimination, despite its occasional mockery of Catholic beliefs, was fundamentally ethnic and anti-immigrant in its motivation. Once this rabid xenophobia passed and Catholics had the chance to demonstrate that they were good Americans hardworking, family-oriented, community-building, patriotic, and self-sacrificial citizens even those who may have had theological issues with Catholic teaching couldn’t help but recognize how much Catholics and Catholic institutions contributed to the common good. From hospitals, to schools, to orphanages, to soup kitchens, to local St. Vincent de Paul chapters, to scores of other parochial, diocesan and national social work, Catholic individual and institutional charity justly won the respect and admiration of almost all Americans; proof-texting Protestants, hard-core hedonists, supercilious secularists and assiduous atheists alike all seemed to agree that the Church’s charity was a cause for the common good that should be praised, protected, participated in and promoted. Those who opposed the Church’s teachings generally agreed to disagree with the Church in those areas, while enthusiastically supporting all the Church does and continues to do for the poor through her institutional charity. The good the Church did far outweighed in their opinion the problems they had with Church doctrine.

Fr. Roger thought back to the Clinton administration, which had many disagreements with the Church on several areas, but still recognized the good that the Church does and how important the Church’s work is to America, especially for the poor. The good the Church does, far outweighs the problems they had with the Church’s doctrine. That has all changed with the Obama administration. They are saying that they would rather shut down the Church’s agencies than tolerate Catholic beliefs. That happened in Massachusetts when Catholic Charities was forced to end adoption services because the Church didn’t want to place children with homosexual or lesbian couples. Likewise with the Church’s aid to trafficked persons, which the government required to include abortion and contraception services.

Scot said the Church has been persecuted in terms of living our faith, but hadn’t seen the distinction between the old persecution due to being immigrants, fear of foreigners. Now the attacks come because of how we live our faith, not how we pray. Greg agreed that religion in the past was just an identity marker, but now it’s really aimed at what we believe and how we live.

Scot noted that Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal George have warned that the Church will in fact call the Obama bluff and end important charitable services. Scot also recalled during the Republican presidential primary debates that George Stephanopolous had in fact laid the groundwork for using contraception as a wedge issue. He believes the Left has seen that they are failing to win hearts and minds on abortion, so they are turning to contraception to divide the Right.

Fr. Roger said many people believed President Obama went he went to Notre Dame and said he would honor our religious consciences and sincerely held beliefs, but he has completely reversed himself on this. Cardinal Dolan said he went to the White House last November and was assured by the president that he wouldn’t do anything to impede the good work of the Church and it turns out he lied. To top it all off, the White House has accused the bishops of lying about being consulted about the “compromise” offered by the White House.

Fr. Roger ended his editorial:

The first thing that we’ve all been learning is that, unbidden, the Church is now in a fight not of its making against members of an administration intent on using the power of government, in open defiance of the First Amendment, to compel the Church to act contrary to her teaching with regard to abortion, sterilization and contraception. This fight, as one commentator recently said, is not about contraception any more than the Revolutionary War was about tea.

Anybody who wants contraception in this country can go to Target and buy a month’s supply for $9. It’s not exactly expensive and some groups even give it away for free. So what’s going on here is that the Obama administration wants to stick it to the Church. It’s not that we want people to use contraception, but the point is that it’s obvious this is a power play. It’s not about contraception; it’s about religious freedom. Even if we agreed with the false statistics that 98% of Catholic women use birth control, this mandate could set a precedent for even more egregious impositions on religious freedom in the future. Scot said one of the things that make our country great is that the rights of the minority is protected. Separation of Church and state is supposed to prevent the government from telling us how to live our faith and practice our religion, not to prevent people from living their faith in the public square. There’s a high burden of proof to say that our religious beliefs trample on the rights of others.

The real issue is forcing people to pay for something that is abhorrent to them, when they can just go get it themselves. Those who have tried to claim the rights of their conscience are trampling on the conscience of others.

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