lundi, février 22, 2010

Letter to Bishop Taylor

As many other people, I was surprised to read the sermon that His Excellency Anthony Taylor, Bishop of Little Rock delivered on January 17th. In this sermon, General Robert E. Lee was simply associated with the culture of death. The same day, I gave a sermon – I was not aware of Bishop Taylor’s sermon at this time – and said that Robert E. Lee, though non Catholic, was a great man of honor and of principle who did not hesitate to sacrifice many things for what he thought being good. It is precisely for the sake of honor – it is justice to defend someone’s honor – that we had to react against this statement of Bishop Taylor, who happens to be my Bishop in Arkansas. It is with all due respect, without any unsound volition against the authority of our Bishop, but simply because we think it is the right thing to do that we sent the following letter to Bishop Taylor. It was written by Earnie Cavin and signed by 56 persons including myself.

Your Excellency,

After hearing about your sermon delivered Sunday, January 17th, AD 2010 and reviewing the text in the Arkansas Catholic, we were struck by your level of insensitivity towards the memory and the honor of a man who is considered to be a great Christian hero by many, many people, including Catholics, across this great state and nation. In addressing the timely and wholly appropriate topic of abortion, you used, what appears to be, your low personal opinion of an honorable 19th century military commander along with your obviously high personal opinion of a 20th century social action figure, to illustrate some perceived dichotomy between the two; linking Lee to the “culture of death” and King to the “culture of life”…

From your words, it appears you hold that, because Lee led an army in a bloody war, he was aligned with the “culture of death”… What’s more, you postulate that Lee was leading this army to keep slavery alive and well. However, you declare that because King led an effort in reforming social laws, through “non-violent” means, he was of the “culture of life”.

You express “astonishment” that Lee would be honored with a holiday in Arkansas. Let us assure you that we are astonished, indeed shocked, that the Ordinary of a diocese in a state which left the United States, and was honored to become a state of the Confederacy, would make such detrimental statements about a man who courageously led many secessionist Catholics into battle against an overwhelming invasion force of a tyrannical government. A holiday for Lee on the same weekend that we have a holiday for King? You asked, ”Why in the world would we ever want to do that?” Well, let us respectfully point out that “we” did not include “you”. Lee’s birthday (January 19) was a state holiday, long before King came to prominence. No dichotomy existed then.

Indeed, the very war which Lee fought was over the centralization of power, by the federal government. Because the war was lost, that same centralization has grown in nature to the point in which the ability of states to nullify laws, such as Roe vs. Wade, has been all but extinguished. When you think about it, the victory of the various northern states paved the way for the current federal system which mandates that every state allow abortion. Considering this possibility, perhaps Lee’s motives are a little more complex and noble than your sermon indicated. Could it be that Lee was more aligned with the “culture of life” than you realized? Therefore, to try and make the point that Lee fought on the side that wished to preserve slavery, making him somehow morally inferior to Dr. King, is a disregard of the facts as well as the bigger picture. Chattel slavery in the west (evil that it was), was on its way out… This was a given. Only two western countries still allowed slavery: The United States and Brazil. Lee was sympathetic towards the repeal of slavery, as were many other southerners who fought and died against an overwhelming invading army, in their quest for independence. The repeal of slavery would have certainly come about, soon, with or without the war.

Your comments would consequently hold the same contempt for all southerners of the period (Black, White, Catholic, Protestant, and Jew) who supported this great state, the Confederacy, and their struggle against an invasion. Were these people also aligned with the “culture of death”?

What about Confederate Catholics like:
Gen. Pierre Beauregard, who fired the first barrage at Fort Sumter ?
Gen. James Longstreet who commanded at Gettysburg ?
Rear Adm. Raphael Semmes who commanded the legendary CSS Alabama ?
Col. Santos Benavides of Texas ?
Gen. Joseph Finnegan of Florida ?
Stephen Mallory, Secretary of the Confederate Navy ?
Were these men also aligned with the “culture of death”?

What about the Catholic men who fought with valor such as those of the:
10th Tennessee?
Louisiana Tigers?
First Missouri?
…. “Culture of death”, also?

What about the courageous men of black Confederate regiments, such as the black Catholics in the 1st Louisiana Native Guard? …“Culture of death”?

What about the Southern priests, such as:
Fr. Abram Ryan, Poet Laureate of the South ?
Fr. Emmeran Bliemel (Killed in Action), Confederate Medal of Honor winner ?
Fr. John Bannon, fighting chaplain of the First Missouri ?
…Aligned with the “culture of death”, also?

Or what about your brother prelates, such as Bishop Patrick Lynch of Charleston, who was the ambassador of the Confederacy to the Holy See. Was he too aligned with the “culture of death”?

What about the Papal States? The Papal States were the only countries to exchange ambassadors with the Confederate States of America. Were they also complicit in the “culture of death”?

What about the Holy See and Blessed Pope Pius IX himself. . . . The only world leader to give de facto recognition of legitimacy of the Confederate States of America, addressing President Davis as the “Illustrious and Honorable Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America”? The same Holy Pontiff who wove a crown of thorns, with his own hands, and sent them to an embattled Jefferson Davis while Davis was held without trial for several years after the war? The same Holy Father who sent an autographed picture of himself to Davis, inscribed (from his own hand) with the words, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."

Was the Holy Father then also aligned with the “culture of death” ?

Your Excellency, while your zeal for social justice and work to end abortion is very much appreciated, we feel that denigrating the honor and memory of such a great man, whose courage, leadership, and impeccable moral character has, for over a century, been a model of civic responsibility, to so many people across this land, is both offensive and abrasive. Your public sermon, which seeks to include such a moral man, who is a great hero to the people of Arkansas and the rest of the South, in the “culture of death”, is both insensitive and insulting.

We prayerfully ask that you re-investigate the man and the conflict carefully. We might also recommend that you look a little deeper into the relationship that Holy Mother Church worked to foster with the Confederate States of America. Arkansas’ and the other Southern states’ cause for independence cannot be so simply described as the result of panicked slave holders, as so many northern history scholars have depicted.

We also prayerfully ask that you humbly consider retracting the offensive comments, in the spirit of cultural and pastoral charity.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours, Respectfully in Christ,

5 commentaires:

Unknown a dit…

Very well written and researched. I wish our Bishop would have spoken up about abortion prior to the last election as often as he does now. It seems that his open immigration views were more important that the murder of the unborn.

Randy Jack

Anonyme a dit…

Excellent. Bishops should certainly refrain from buying into the commonplaces of today's politically correctness, be it about North & South, the global warming scam, immigration or the confusion between social doctrine and socialism.

But with all due respect, was it a wise fight to pick? Among priests? At the risk of giving some people the excuse of identifying FSSP and Catholics faithful to liturgical traditions with support for slavery? Because it is not as if we need more enemies and negative characterization.

Of all the subjects to write about to a Bishop, the War between the States doesn't seem the most urgent. Such a letter would have been perfectly understandable if coming from a history professor or the president of some cultural foundation.

Father Demets a dit…

A quick answer. - I don't consider this as a fight; rather as a discussion that can help clarify historical events.
- This has nothing to do with slavery, and this is precisely for this reason that it is important to speak out.
- I do agree: this subject is not the most urgent. And as I said, I am not the one who wrote this letter, but simply one of those who signed it.
The problem is that: if the cause of Robert E. Lee is culture of death, what about the Catholic involvment in the War beetwen the States? Certainly the Church - it was the desire of Pius IX - wanted the peace in the US. Yet the fight of the South was not an unjust war.
And because this subject is not the most urgent, I have to leave it now.... precisely in order to do something more urgent ;)

In Christo Rege

Anonyme a dit…

Without wishing to continue a discussion that would be nonetheless interesting in another context, I think the tone of the letter was not crafted to invite an open-minded response from the bishop. It was rather defiant. I repeat that I sympathize with its general concern. Yet, for all the constitutional reasons that make the cause of the South appealing, I find it hard to discern what was the right side in that very unfortunate war, both from the point of view of Catholic morals and of the Constitution (and the Declaration of Independence. Despite the downplaying of the problem by many pro-South historians, slavery - and the attempt to preserve it - was no minor detail in the process that led to war, and some arguments made in favor of the Confederacy's constitutional reasons fall in the opposite extremism of destroying the legitimate prerogatives of federal government and congress, which, on the other hand, the North was seeking to expand unjustly to the point of turning the US in a nearly illuminist European-like absolutism.

Be as it may, it remains true that bishops should stay away from complex issues of prudential judgment and hystorical analysis for sake of cheap rethoric on "social justice"! If only they could be as "inspired" and indignant about the systematic and legalized violations of natural law that take place today, to the silence of so many successors of the Apostles who are more often heard speaking of global warming than of Sacraments!

Estase a dit…

Very good points made. All too often Catholic bishops go politically correct instead of thinking more than thirty seconds about what they assert.