Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
November 11, 2007
In the liberal press we frequently read about “soulless” corporations that in the drive to improve the bottom line mercilessly run roughshod over people and communities. These corporations do not seem to be bound by the same moral codes that individual people are. They are just creatures of the capitalist system, forces of nature, really, that if just left alone (we are assured) will serve the common good—eventually.
In most parts of the country, the local Catholic diocese is a corporation sole—that doesn’t mean a corporation with a soul, but a corporation whose only (that is, sole) member is the local Bishop—all property and assets are in his name. This practice arose in the United States in the nineteenth century in reaction to what has been described as the “trustee system.” In the trustee system, each parish was a separate legal entity whose assets were held in trust for the parishioners and were managed by a local board of trustees in each parish—the trustees managed the money and property and the pastor took care of the spiritual needs (roughly speaking). Given the democratic tendencies of the American spirit and mindset, this eventually created conflicts between some pastors and parishioners and led the hierarchy to abolish the trustee system and to either institute a corporation sole for the diocese (in most places) or to wrest control of parish trustee boards from the parishioners (e.g., the Archdio-cese of New York).
The Vatican has always looked dimly on the corporation sole model since it is at odds with the way parishes are described in Canon Law. Ironically, many dioceses in the United States are now looking to separate incorporation of each parish, doing away with corporation sole, not because of some new insight into the nature of parish communities, but as a way to protect assets when the diocese loses a judgment in court (e.g., a sex abuse settlement).
Our diocese is a corporation sole which many times seems to act like a corporation without a soul—witness the latest foolishness associated with KMBH. The powers associated with the station (the Bishop, Monsignor Briseño, etc.) seem to think they can run a public broadcasting operation like they run their parishes and diocese, secretly and tyrannically. This is the only PBS station in the country owned and operated directly by a church (there are two others with church-related ties: Provo’s station is run by Brigham Young University, which in turn is owned by the Mormon Church, and New Orleans’ second PBS station—a small effort with very limited programming—is owned by an organization with only informal ties to the Archdiocese). It remains to be seen whether the general community of the Valley will continue to be satisfied with the ownership and management of its public broadcasting being in the hands of this diocese, this corporation sole.
The Eleventh Hour
“I pray for the millions of Iraqi brothers and sisters who have been killed in the 16-year war of the United States against the people of Iraq. I pray that all soldiers will put their guns down and refuse to kill. I pray that no young person will join the military. And I pray that we will not pay for war any longer. For this I pray to God.” a Prayer of the Faithful offered by Kathy Boylan at St. Aloysius Parish in Washington, D.C.
There are those who remember November 11th as Armistice Day, com-memorating the end of World War I (the “war to end all wars”). Many decades ago the commemoration morphed into Veteran’s Day, which has a slightly different emphasis—rather than celebrating the end of a war, we now reflect more on the men and women who sacrificed so much of themselves (and some their lives) by participating in our nation’s wars.
For some of us raised in families for whom World War II has always been and probably will always be “The War”, it is difficult to look at the last sixty years of history and see the righteousness of America’s wars over that period of time with the same clarity that we saw the righteousness of World War II. Vietnam, the various Latin American invasions, Iraq, etc. have all raised serious questions about how our nation uses military force to impose its will on the world.
Our Catholic Church is not a peace church in the sense that Quakers and Mennonites belong to peace churches, but in modern times Catholicism, at least at the level of the official, teaching Church, has officially condemned more and more conflicts as violating the teachings of Christ and the Gospel. The American invasion of Iraq is one such condemned conflict. What becomes the moral obligation of the young people who find themselves being combat soldiers and ordered to kill in a war that has been condemned by the Church? We hear a lot about “material cooperation with evil” in the context of abortion, but we do not hear much about material cooperation with evil in the context of war.
I am a conflicted person about all of this. My father was in France and Germany in 1944-45 and in Korea; my brother flew over 100 missions over North Vietnam; my brother-in-law was in Saigon during the Tet offensive. It is impossible to deny their courage and sacrifice (over half my brother’s squadron did not come home), but if people continue to accept the command to kill, then war will never end.
At this eleventh hour of this eleventh day of this eleventh month let’s at least not glorify war and warriors. As Wilfred Owen, young British poet who died in the trenches in World War I wrote:
“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.”
from fellow parishioner, Jerry Brazier
Call to Action’s National Conference
On the weekend of November 2-4, Call to Action (CTA) held its National Conference in Milwaukee. The weather was terrific and the theme was challenging, From Racism to Reconciliation: Church Beyond Power and Privilege.
Every institution in our society—business, schools, the churches, the political system—needs to look at itself and understand how prejudice can lead to an assumption of privilege by some of its members and then to uses of power that amount to oppression of those who are different in some way from the privileged. Racial and/or ethnic prejudice is the basis for many of these Power/Privilege situations in our society. It’s a complicated problem that on the surface may not seem to apply in our particular part of the world, but we all would benefit from reflecting on how we see ourselves vis-à-vis those who are different from us and who we see as being less privileged in some way.
By the way, the All Saints Parish Choir from Milwaukee was marvelous and helped remind everybody that there is really only one truly American musical tradition—the one that brought us Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin and (with apologies to the Monsignor) provides the real meaning of the phrase, “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”
Rumor has it that a financial report was given to the Parish during the weekend of November 3-4. I was out of town and have been unable to find a written copy of the report (the parish office doesn’t seem to have one available). Is there someone out their in cyberspace who could get me a copy of the report? Jerry Brazier
Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.