IT MAKES SENSE TO ME
By Larry Peterson
The Catholic Church—Saying “NO” to a World Screaming “YES”
IT MAKES SENSE TO ME
IT MAKES SENSE TO ME
By Larry Peterson
IT MAKES SENSE TO ME
By Larry Peterson
Lent is here. I sit in front of this keyboard with the current memory of ashes smeared across my forehead. The season of Repentance and Forgiveness followed by Redemption is once again upon us. The ashes remind us of our mortality. We all know in our hearts that we will surely die one day. Just like the adulterous woman in the Gospel reading (John 8: 2-11) we want to be FORGIVEN for all the bad things we have done in our lifetimes. When we do make that final journey we desperately want our final destination to be heaven.
That is why God became man, isn’t it? So all of us would have the chance to reach that final destination. That is why he came and lived among us and taught us how to live. That is why He allowed Himself to be beaten and tortured and finally killed by being nailed to a cross. This is Lent–and, once again, we prepare. But what about that key to redemption called the “Golden Rule“? Does it not apply to everyone? It seems to me it is supposed to. Do I have this all wrong? Has the sex scandal that rocked our beloved Church turned it into a Bi-forgiveness institution? Do we forgive and not-forgive depending upon the sin?
I live in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. I have been an EMHC (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion) for over 20 years. Bringing Holy Communion to the sick and home bound is a great joy. Five years ago I (and all those who serve in this ministry) were required to attend “Safe Environment Training” and undergo a Level II background check. This included having your fingerprints run through the FBI database. Now all of us who went through that are “required” to do it again. Why? Who knows. I assumed fingerprints lasted longer than five years. Just run them again, right? I wish it were that simple.
So, I am going through my certification and paperwork from five years ago and I come across the “47 List” (I call it the “47 List”, just me). This is a list of different offenses as described under Florida Statutes that the Diocese of St. Petersburg uses to determine eligibility for employment or volunteer positions. If a person who is applying for a position that would place them near minors or vulnerable adults happens to fit the profile of one of the 47 sections, they enter the ranks of the “Unforgiven”. They are the people that become “Persona non grata”, permanently, aka Zero Tolerance
Many of these laws have to do with sexual abuse and many do not. Many have to do with charges that can be ambiguous. Here is an example: Section 843.01; relating to resisting arrest with violence. If a police officer tries to arrest you and you take a swing at him you can be charged with violating this statute. Makes sense, right? When Zero Tolerance is plugged into the equation nothing else matters. It is over. ZERO means ZERO–NOTHING. This is my dilemma. I hate Zero Tolerance.
Every person is different and every action is different. If someone walks up to me and shoots me in the head I can be killed. If I walk across the street against the light and get hit by a car I can be killed. In both cases my being dead is the same. But the reasons were different. The shooter who killed me can get the death penalty or life in prison. The driver of the car was not responsible for my behavior and goes on about his/her life. Zero Tolerance would put the driver in the same category as the shooter.
Case in point: A young man I know for many years by the name of Eddie (not his real name) has a learning disability. When he was 19, Eddie and a few friends had to much to drink. Eddie passed out and his friends propped him in a sitting position against the back wall of a local restaurant. They took magic markers and, being goofy, drew all over his face and arms etc. Then they left him there and headed home (Nice friends). Patrons leaving the restaurant saw him and reported him to the manager who promptly called the police.
The police arrived and saw this large, (he is a big guy) young man sleeping against the back of the building. Shining their flashlights on him they saw the magic marker scribbled all over him. They shook him to wake him and he did not respond. Then they shook him harder and yelled for him to wake up. The touch of the firm hand on his shoulder startled Eddie. He woke up and swung at the officer hitting him in the shoulder. He was promptly “subdued”, handcuffed and arrested for violation of section 843.01: resisting arrest with violence. Off to the county jail he went.
The police were only doing their job. If I were they I would have been super cautious too. Eddie had been a foolish 19 year old. The fact is, he was just frightened and instinctively lashed out to protect himself. Having only a vague recollection of what had happened he pleaded “guilty” to the charges. He was given probation and some community service. To this day it is the only time in his life Eddie has been in any trouble.
We move ahead almost 15 years. A local catholic high school has an opening for a cafeteria worker. Eddie, who had a hard time finding work because of his disability, gets the job and is thrilled. He actually starts work before his background check is complete. A few days in and his supervisor is called to the school office and told that Eddie has to leave immediately. He failed the background check and cannot be anywhere on school grounds. Eddie is stunned and leaves the school crying. That was four years ago and he still has not found a new job. He is on anti-depressants and lives with his parents. In Eddie’s case Zero Tolerance became his abuser.
Five years ago when I was attending the Safe Environment class the facilitator, in her opening remarks, told everyone a story about a man who had been a volunteer bus driver for the school for several years. She went on to say how “fortunate and blessed” the school was to have been able to find out through the Safe Environment background check, that the man had been guilty of having a DUI 20 years earlier. He was immediately dismissed from his “volunteer job” and she was quite pleased even though the guy had been clean and sober ever since his DUI.
I was appalled and let them know it. Everyone thought I was trying to hide some personal demon in my own life. The facilitator even came over to me and, bending down close to me, said, “We can talk later if you have some personal issues”. No one seemed to understand that I just thought it was UN-Christian to not forgive this man. I told her that she and folks like her were my issue. She did not understand nor get my point.
Look, I deplore sexual deviants and anyone who sexually harms kids and /or adults is a reprobate. We have to protect our children and vulnerable seniors and our moms and wives and everyone from people who might harm them physically, emotionally and sexually. But is Zero Tolerance the way to go? After all, it eliminates all mitigating factors. As a parent you might be accused of negligence for allowing your children to walk to the park by themselves. That has happened. Should that mom be prevented from getting a job 20 years later because her name
pops up in a data bank as being charged with child neglect? Did a Zero Tolerance policy save someone from Eddie or just help destroy him?
So I guess it comes down to answering the question, Do we as followers of Christ extend forgiveness to all people? The answer is, we should but we don’t. Is this hypocritical? Does Zero Tolerance trump Forgiveness? If we are truly all of God’s children do not all of us deserve Forgiveness and second chances? What would happen if we replaced the words, Zero Tolerance with Golden Rule? Imagine the possibilities or am I just a “Pollyanna”.
Copyright © 2015 Larry Peterson
IT MAKES SENSE TO ME
by Larry Peterson
Back on October 22, I wrote a blog about a wife and mother of five kids who lives in Pakistan and has been sentenced to death by hanging for the crime of “blasphemy”. That’s right; BLASPHEMY. And how does one commit such a heinous act in Pakistan? Asia Bibi drank some water that was only supposed to be for Muslims to drink. She is a Catholic/Christian and is therefore considered “unclean”. It followed that she defiled the drinking water. An argument between her and her Muslim co-workers ensued. So, since she was a Catholic, she was accused of blasphemy for insulting Muhammad. They beat her, tried her and sentenced her to death. That was five years ago and she is still in prison waiting to be hanged. This sentence has been upheld by Pakistan’s Supreme Court. How civilized some of our ‘friends and allies” are.
I cannot help but feel a deep affinity for these people. After all, we are all part of the same spiritual family. They are people just like you and I. They love their spouses and children and their moms and dads. They get the flu and upset stomachs. They get rashes and toothaches and they have wants and desires. They want a nice home that is safe and secure. They would like to have a church they can go to without a fear of being killed or maimed for doing so. They just want some peace in their lives. Yet they are hated and despised. Why–because they are just like me and maybe you. They are Catholic and believe in Jesus Christ.
Yes, like us, they believe in the “golden rule”. Unlike us and for believing this they are called “infidels”. They are defiled as “unclean”. For this they are killed. For this they are blown up by maniacs. For this Asia Bibi will be hanged by the neck until her twitching body stops moving. Where is the outcry? Where is the outrage from all of us here in America? Where are the reproaches by the National Organization for Women? Why does our government help a government that allows such medieval acts to be inflicted on its own people by its own people? Why not demand the Pakistani government end these atrocities or we will remove their seemingly bottomless U.S. money pit?
As a Catholic man I know that these people are also our brothers and sisters in faith. We belong to the same church and Pope Francis is our spiritual leader. We are “extended” family. The only difference between them and us is location. We are greatly blessed and still have full stomachs from our Thanksgiving feast. They are in dreaded fear of any day being imprisoned and tortured and murdered. This morning, I was able to drive over to my church and attend morning Mass. No fuss, no muss, no anxiety existed. I am a free American man allowed to practice my religion (so far) unencumbered. Cross over an imaginary line called a boundary and things can change quickly.
Recently a 28 year old pregnant Christian woman, our sister in faith, was dragged from her home by her employer’s sons and his friends, stripped naked and forced to parade up and down the streets of Rana Town in Pakistan for a half hour. Her offense? The man did not think she was doing her work properly. She lost the baby. Never doubt this fact, to be a Catholic/Christian in Pakistan and Sudan and Iran and other places takes tremendous faith and courage.
For me and you, blessed to be living in America, we have never been faced with the threat of torture, mutilation, hanging, beheading, or being starved because we believe in God differently than someone else. Yet, around the world, our brothers and sisters in faith live with this reality every minute of their lives. They must TRULY love their Savior, Jesus Christ. I do not know if I could be as brave and courageous if faced with the same everyday circumstance.
God bless them all. They make me SO proud and humbled to be part of their Christian family.
Review Redux: ***** The Priest and The Peaches *****
Book Title: The Priest And The Peaches
Author: Larry Peterson
Published By: Tribute Books
Recommended Age: 15+
Reviewed By: Lee-Ann Graff-Vinson
Blog Reviewed For: Great Minds Think Aloud
Yimey knew the secret to life. He made sure his family and friends did, too. Even when the love of his life died, he kept the faith. But then, Yimey died and his five children were left to fend for themselves – orphans in a grown up world.
Teddy and his sister, Joanie were now the adults of the house, taking care of the everyday happenings of a family. Their three younger siblings were more than handful. With work to attend, and high school exams to complete, Teddy and Joanie tried hard to fill the enormous shoes their parents left behind.
There were those, however, who did not agree with five children living in an apartment without any adult supervision. Orphans could not raise orphans. Just days after they buried their father, the “adults” went back to work, leaving the younger ones at home. Catastrophic events led the three young children to be taken into custody by the police, and a call made to Child Protection Services. They had lost their mother and father, and now they were about to lose each other. The only way out was through a dead man’s secret to life.
Author, Larry Peterson, uses loving humour to guide his readers through a novel of heartache. He writes with a message to us all, one that shows the true worth of love for thy neighbour. The Priest And The Peaches will leave you with feeling of warmth after days spent in the cold, bleakness of reality. This is a story worth reading and recommending to family, friends and neighbours. The secret to life is worth sharing, right Yimey?
Last week I wrote a piece commenting on why “I Love being Catholic”. This past week has validated those feelings. “Hello, Pope Francis. Nice to meet you.” Unbelievable.
I loved it when the cardinals went into conclave. The doors were locked and sealed behind them. No communication devices of any kind were permitted. They shut themselves off from the world and I thought that the 5000 journalists, reporters, broadcast folks and whoever else wanted information must have been going crazy. Speculation was rampant and no one knew anything. What I noticed and became fixated on (as I am sure many others might have too) was the bird sitting on the smokestack. It was alone and it stayed for the longest time. How many statues have you seen of Francis of Assisi with a bird on his finger? Was that God communicating to all of us what was about to happen? After all, God doesn’t need a cell phone or an iPod. “Hello, Pope Francis”.
How about the inexplicable angel cloud that appeared in the crystal clear skies of south Florida around the same time the new Holy Father was introduced? It was broadcast over numerous stations and many thousands were witness to it. Was God introducing us to His new representative here on earth? I think He was. “Hello, Pope Francis”.
I believe that it is easy to be Catholic as long as you stick to the fundamentals. You follow the “Golden Rule” and love your neighbor. That is Numero Uno, Numerus Unus, Number One in any language. “Hello, Pope Francis”. Did you really refuse to live in the palatial edifice that was available to the Cardinal of Buenos Aires and choose instead to live in your own small apartment? Did you really turn down a chauffeured limo and take the bus to work like the plain folks? Oh no, you did your own cooking too? Did you not realize that you were the highest cleric in the land of the Pampas and Gauchos? What, are you kidding me? You also frequented the slums surrounding the city. You kissed the feet of Aids’ victims and blessed unwed mothers? What kind of “Big Shot” cleric are you? You are God’s kind of “Big Shot”, that’s what kind.
Today, most Holy Father Francis, you are the “Biggest Big Shot” cleric in the whole world. So what have you done so far. You rejected the papal Mercedes and took a Volkswagen to the conclave hotel to claim your own bags and pay your bill with your own money. You are certainly a strange “Big Shot” Holy Father. All you had to do was ask someone to fetch your bags and pay the bill. In fact, you might want to check but it is possible the Vatican has a running tab for Popes all around the Eternal City. But you do not care about that, do you? After your introduction as our new Pope you decided to take the bus along with the other Cardinals back to the Vatican for dinner.
So, “Hello, Pope Francis I”. “Hello” to a follower of the man from Assisi who was a lover of the poor and downtrodden and animals. What a way to start a Papacy. You have humbled us all and made us proud. We must all thank the Lord for sending the world His kind of “Big Shot”.
IT MAKES SENSE TO ME
By Larry Peterson
I was born a Catholic, raised a Catholic and I am still a Catholic. Even with a secular college education I remained a Catholic. I am considered fairly intelligent although some of my opinions have had some of the intelligentsia consider me an idiot. I do not care. I LOVE being Catholic. That’s right, I do love being Catholic and permit me to let you in on a little secret, IT IS EASY TO DO! Just keep it simple. How? You reach inside yourself, admit that you are not nearly as smart as you think you are and DO NOT “outhink” the fundamentals.
What are the fundamentals? The “Golden Rule” encapsulates it all. Love God. How? By Loving your neighbor. How do you do that? You treat him/her the way you would like to be treated. You do not pass judgment on them and you “forgive them their trespasses”. That’s it. That is being Catholic. Where does the strength and courage come from to help us live this way? From the Risen Christ Who is there every single day of the week for us in the Holy Sacrifice of The Mass.
I am a writer. I am not famous or anything like that. I have no idea who might even read this. But I write every day so I am a writer. In my office at home I am surrounded by a bunch of books about a whole bunch of stuff. My task bar on my desktop has the dictionary, Wikipedia , Google translate and other links at my fingertips for immediate reference. I have all the news information a click of the mouse away. I know about the church scandals, the pedophilia and the defrocked clerics that shamed the church so badly. It changes NOTHING as far as the fundamentals are concerned. Those people decided not to follow the Golden Rule and used their positions to disgrace themselves, hurt the innocent and scandalize the Church that trusted them. No matter what, that church has never deterred from her fundamentals. It was some of the people entrusted with her care who did that.
Tomorrow the College of Cardinals will conclave. They will go into the Sistine Chapel, the doors will be locked behind them and they will not exit until a new Pope is elected. There will be no communication with the outside world. There are over five thousand journalists on hand to cover the proceedings and the speculation about topics such as birth-control, women’s ordination, “reproductive rights”, gay marriage and other subjects will get top billing. None of the thousands are reporting about the love and forgiveness the church teaches or the charity it extends and has extended to millions over the decades. None of them has a clue as to what is going on inside the conclave. Yet they will speculate and offer rumors. It is what it is.
My Pollyana side imagines that some of these folks might report about some of the simple catholics who have lived and died their faith following the Golden Rule. Catholics like St. Maximilian Kolbe, a priest who gave his life at Auschwitz so a man who had children could live. He was starved to death. They could mention Blessed Frederick Ozanam, the 21 year old student from Paris who founded the St. Vincent De Paul Society in 1833 and how this society is today a worldwide charity serving countless millions each year and also was the first charity in the United States. One more is Venerable Solanus Casey, a simple priest who spent most of his life as a doorman at the monastery where he lived. They called him “Barney” and his kind words to people coming and going made him renowned. It was all because he stuck to the fundamentals.
Yessiree, I LOVE being Catholic. All you have to do is keep it simple and L-Y-N (love your neighbor)
copyright © 2013 Larry Peterson