Catholic Church


The following is an excerpted opinion column by Bishop Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, published in Catholic Peace Voice, a publication of PAX Christi USA, the Catholic peace organization.

In November 2006, the president of the United State Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), Bishop William S. Skylstad, issued the statement, “A Call for Dialogue and Action on Responsible Transition in Iraq.” In it, the Catholic bishops of the United States expressed our prayers and concerns for our military personnel in Iraq, as well as the suffering people of Iraq, “who are also our sisters and brothers and deserve our care and solidarity.”

This important statement also noted: “The Holy See and our Bishops’ Conference have repeatedly expressed grave moral concerns about military intervention in Iraq and the unpredictable and uncontrollable negative consequences of invasion and occupation.”

We have witnessed many of those negative consequences come to fruition: deadly sectarian violence engulfing the Shia and Sunni communities; the justification by our leaders of the concept of preventive war; the practice of torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees; and the evermore precarious safety of the men and women who serve int eh U.S. military.

In addition, the bishops urged that “the Administration and the new Congress need to engage in a collaborative dialogue that honestly assesses the situation in Iraq, acknowledges past difficulties and miscalculations, recognizes and builds on positive advancdes, and reaches agreement on concrete steps to address ther seirous challenges that lie ahead.”

The statement also offered this: “Our nations’ military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as their presence contributes to a responsible transition.”

This last point is my starting point. I would offer that our presence in Iraq has long passed the capacity to contribute to anything positive.

Even with the president’s desire for a new “surge” of troops in Iraq, our soldiers are unable to stop the deepening spiral of violence. It is time to bring our occupation of Iraq to an end.

This is not to say that we are to ignore our responsibility for the destruction and chaos that has been unleashed. But a U.S. presence, front and center, is breeding hatred that will punctuate our world for generations. Even a CIA study concluded months ago that, in effect, this war and occupation is creating terrorism, not stopping it.

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I think one of the great downfalls of Christianity has nothing to do with Christianity in fact.

Christianity should never be righteous, arrogant or boastful, for none of those things are what Jesus Christ was about and there is nobody on this earth who is deserving of that praise. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

During Lent, Christians prepare themselves for the Resurection of Jesus from the dead, which is something beyond all comprehension.

Lent, for many Catholics, myself not included, is a time of fasting, penance, privations even.

I respect that type of admiration and enthusiasm for Christ because it is far from what I have been able to achieve in my life.

Since “becoming a Christian” in 2001 and being Confirmed in 2002, I have made just as many mistakes, committed just as many sins and done more lousy things than I did before. Nothing has changed in that regard.

I don’t disclose this to be exculpatory towards myself. In the end, there is but one divine judge He will have his way with my soul.

At times I’m not sure why I call myself a Christian.As a Catholic, we’re supposed to love and love until it hurts. And when the hurting is too much to bear we should call on God to help us love more.

It seems at times that I’m incapable of that type of selfless love that binds all men to God.

In the fall I had a spiritual experience that I can’t describe other than peace. It went away, but I’m glad I have it and welcome for it to come again into my life. Until then, it appears that I’m like everyone else, just a person, a man, confused, tired, wanting.

This is a life worth living and one that I love, despite it’s frustrations. I only wish I could do better though. How is it? It’s no one’s fault either.

We prepare for ourselves a condominium on earth when there is a Kingdom beyond us. The grass is greener on this side of God, I suppose. It looks that way.

The best Christians, in my view, aren’t the righteous, but those who recognize their weakness, their tendency towards evil and their shortcomings (I won’t include myself in that group, despite my predeliction to do wrong!).

Instead, I’m speaking of the models of Christian life: St. Augustine comes to mind as does my hero, St. Francis of Assisi, the reveler and prodigal son who before founding one of the greatest spiritual movements known to man, was a carouser and womanizer and a drunk.

The best Christians aren’t always the ones wearing robes or certainly not pin striped suits, dancing and screaming Hallelujah.

The crem-de-la crem of Jesus’ flock are the prisoners who turn the other way, the murderers who recognize their evil, the corrupt leader who asks forgiveness.

Karla Faye Tucker, who the state of Texas put to death in 1998 for murder did in my opinion more for the message of peace and love by asking for her forgiveness than a million holy men looking for praise, attention or worse, money.

Then Governor George W. Bush, the compassionate Christian leader that he is, ignored Tucker’s plea to be spared execution, turned his back on her tears and signed away her life.

In writing this, I don’t imply that a murderer, a molestor, adulterer, rapist, drug dealer, thief or any other miscrient is doing good work for God’s Kingdom simply by doing what they do. No. Not at all. But doesn’t God rejoice over one sinner turning his way more so than a multitude of holy men?

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I came across this picture today on the Internet. He’s not a real Roman Catholic bishop, but one in a splinter group called the Ecumenical Catholic Church. He rocks. 

 I’m a Catholic and will likely never leave the Church over social issues. The faith of the Church is enough for me.

I think that Catholicism is a great force in the world. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s also by no means a homogenous religion. There are so many different ways to apply the faith to the world and room for different ways to express Catholic life.

Catholicism is greatly misunderstood by  a lot of people, be them Christian fundamentalists or ultra liberal (and ultra obnoxious) people who lay blame on the Church for the poverty of the developing world.

I think I’ll stay with her though. I like being Catholic.