Program #0368 for Thursday, September 6, 2012: Back to school; Barbara Thorp; assisted suicide; RNC and DNC; Bl. John XXIII seminary

September 6, 2012

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The Good Catholic Life

Summary of today’s show: Scot Landry, Susan Abbott, and Gregory Tracy discussed the news headlines of the week, including the retirement of Barbara Thorp as head of the victim assistance office; students returning to school equipped with amazing new technology; a disability group’s advocacy against the assisted suicide ballot question; the Bl. John XXIII Seminary lawn party; the amazing, late Msgr. Abucewicz; and responding from a Catholic perspective to the Republican and Democrat conventions.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Gregory Tracy, managing editor of the Pilot, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston

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: Back to school; Barbara Thorp; assisted suicide; RNC and DNC; Bl. John XXIII seminary

1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed Susan Abbott to the show and they discussed how she helps parishes find and form catechists for the beginning of the religious education year.

Scot said Fr. Roger is away on his annual priest retreat, but he did welcome Greg Tracy back to the show and noted that we are back into a busy news cycle. Greg noted that the month of August was a desert for Catholic news, but then there is a massive backlog of news in September. He said their editorial calendar for the next month is completely filled.

The headline in the Pilot this week is that Catholic school students are heading back to school. The school profiled in the article is St. Columbkille’s in Brighton and they note that there is a big technological push, especially to provide iPads and ebooks. Scot said his son has about 30 pounds of books and wishes his son could replace all that with an iPad. Greg also noted that they’ve created a closed social media platform for the students that will be monitored by the teachers. He said social media is a reality for kids today. The aim is to teach them how to be good and safe digital citizens with Catholic values and principles.

Scot noted that Catholic schools aren’t just for the benefit of students enrolled and their families. He said he has come to realize it is a critical ministry for the Church and that it’s important for the whole Catholic community to support, not just financially, but also through volunteerism, especially if you have specialized skills. Susan reiterated how the entire society benefits from strong Catholic values education.

Also in the news, Barbara Thorp, who has headed the office for pastoral support and child protection for the past 10 years, is retiring after 35 years of serving the Church in various ministries. Susan said she counts Barbara as a friend. She said she has a wonderful blend of a professional and pastoral touch.

“This has been really ‘holy ground,’ to have been invited into the sacred space of people’s lives in the midst of a very, very painful moment in the life of our Church. So, I have just considered every minute of it an extraordinary gift and a blessing for me personally,” she said.

“I have prayed and thought about this for a long time now too and it just felt like this was the right moment,” she said.

“I think the people often will think in a situation like this, ‘well you know Barbara must be burnt out or something like that.’ It is not that at all,” she said.

Greg said they dedicated a lot of space to this story because of the significant role Thorp has played in the Archdiocese of the past three decades. He said the news staff joked who else could have possibly taken on this role 10 years ago when there was no precedent for it. Greg said he is most amazed by what Thorp must have endured through this job and to hear these stories repeatedly while maintaining her faith and to remain hopeful that these people can reconnect with God.

Scot noted that Cardinal Seán has often said how much he has appreciated Thorp’s work in this area.

“Barbara Thorp has been a beacon of hope for survivors and their families. Her care, concern and compassion have been essential in bringing healing to many survivors and their families, and to the wider community of the Church,” he said.

“These last ten years have been life changing for everyone impacted by the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse. I have relied on Barbara’s sound judgment and expertise in responding to the needs of survivors. We give thanks for her decades of service to the people of God and we ask the Lord’s blessing on Barbara and her family,” he added.

Scot also said a few years ago Pope Benedict turned to Cardinal Seán to help when clergy abuse became a big topic in Ireland and the Cardinal made sure to bring Thorp with him when he visited Ireland for her expertise. Greg added that she was intricately involved in the meeting between victims and Pope Benedict during his visit to the US in 2008. She described it asa fundamental turning point for those victims who were there.

Also in last week’s Pilot was a profile of the disabilities group Second Thoughts. They are part of the coalition opposing Question 2 on the Massachusetts ballot in November to legalize assisted suicide. They are called Second Thoughts because we should all have second thoughts about assisted suicide when we see the reality of how it has been implemented elsewhere.

Second Thoughts says it encourages voters “to look at assisted suicide in the real world” which it says is one “where insurance companies and other organizations try to limit spending on health care”; “where disabled people face discrimination through architectural barriers and unemployment while lacking in-home services to enable them to integrate into communities”; “where some people think it might be better to be dead than disabled”; and “where abuse and financial exploitation of elders and people with disabilities is at unacceptably high levels.”

Susan said Tom Keane wrote a great article in the Boston Globe a few weeks ago called “Kevorkian comes to Massachusetts.” The question we ask ourselves as a society is who do we have sit at the table with us? Do we only value those who are productive? Because that way lies doom for society. She said we need to ask how we support the sick among us and the families caring for the sick. Beyond the vote in November, whether it succeeds or loses, we need to step up our care for them.

Scot said Second Thoughts brings up many of the questions about and loopholes contained in the proposed law. Greg said The Pilot wanted to show this particular perspective on the issue because this isn’t hypothetical for them because they are in a situation where they feel threatened by this law.

Coming up in the Archdiocese is the Blessed John XXIII National Seminary annual lawn party. This seminary forms and trains priests for dioceses all over the country, men who have come to the priesthood later in life after some very amazing life experiences. The event takes place on September 19. Susan and Scot have said it’s a treat to meet the seminarians. She said one of the men she met one year had been a park ranger in Alaska. Another was the first native Bermudian to be ordained for the Diocese of Hamilton, Bermuda.

Greg added that the seminary is doing a lot of renovation work to prepare for the next 50 years of forming priests and their website has many good photos and videos of the work done.

Next, Scot and the panel discussed the passing of Msgr. Abucewicz who has a very interesting biography, including playing an extra in the John Wayne movie “Sands of Iwo Jima”, playing to type as a priest administering last rites. He also wrote three published novels, two plays, and painted over 100 paintings. He was a Navy chaplain at the time of the movie role. Susan said the monsignor reminds her of another artistic Polish prelate, Pope John Paul II. Greg noted that the two were ordained in the same year.

Also in last week’s Anchor was the story of Fr. Andre “Fr. Pat” Patenaude, a popular singing priest of the LaSalette order, who has been hospitalized in Grenoble, France, and is in a medically induced coma for a pancreatic disease.

2nd segment: Looking to the 2012 presidential election, Scot said there was a powerful story in Catholic News Agency about Mary Ann Glendon, former US ambassador to the Holy See, in which she explains why she thinks this election is most important in many years.

Her concerns are both economic and cultural. She has accepted the chairmanship of the Catholics for Romney group. She has left the Democrat Party and is a registered Independent. She never joined the Republican Party because some sections within it have failed to “place a high enough priority on our need to be responsive to the needs of the poorest people in our society.”

Her greatest fears, however, are about what another four years of President Obama being in office will do to both the economy and culture of the United States.

“The current administration will regularly subordinate rights relating to human life, rights relating to religious freedom, to their agenda items on the gay rights agenda and the abortion rights agenda,” she stated.

Scot said he feels similarly, that he feels like a political orphan where neither major party is a complete fit for his views. Susan said as a pro-lifer, she’s not just pro-birth. She wants to see parties do more for the poor. Susan read a quote:

“There is nobody here but us Americans, including the Catholics, and this election is going to be a very close election. The population is divided, families are divided; it’s like the Civil War when some wore blue and some wore grey and (they) were often brothers.”

She recalled Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, the Democrat who wasn’t allowed to speak at the Democrat convention solely because of his pro-life beliefs.

Scot said it’s interesting to him that Glendon, who’s never really gotten involved in politics, has taken on this role with Catholics for Romney. He said there’s not really any wiggle room on what we believe as Catholics, although there can be room in some areas as to how they are applied. As a Catholic, there was much more for Catholics to agree with, but yesterday at the Democrat convention there was a big brouhaha over the simple inclusion of the word “God” in the party platform.

Greg said he agrees with Susan that 25 years ago there were a lot more centrists and today both parties are heading harder to the Left and the Right. Scot pointed out that it’s the word “extreme” that’s being used to label people as polarized if they hold views that were centrist in the past, like pro-life views. When Casey was governor, you could follow him as a Catholic. A forum in Charlotte asks whether you can be a pro-life Democrat.

He noted the statistic that there were 125 pro-life Democrats in Congress in 1978 but only 17 today. The forum noted that big pro-abortion lobbies, like Planned Parenthood, have targeted pro-life Democrats in primaries to oust them as incumbents.

Susan added that when the Republicans controlled the White House, Senate, and House in the 2000s, they didn’t use the opportunity to propose any legislation to end abortion. If the Republicans won’t take action, where do we go? Scot said we can at least hold self-proclaimed pro-lifers accountable, but pro-life Democrats have nearly no one in power to hold accountable. Susan said Republicans allow pro-choice Republicans, but Democrats won’t tolerate any pro-life Democrats.

Scot said the election will probably be determined by voter turnout, especially in the Midwest where there are a lot of blue-collar Republicans.

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