Saturday, February 27, 2016

"O Great Love" by Jan Novtka Youtube Video, Meditation Music

http://youtu.be/erojwyuCPGw

Homily: “Getting Our Jesus Fix” Luke 9:28-36 February 21, 2016 Annie Watson, ARCWP

Annie Watson, ARCWP

Every once in a while I need to get my “fix.” Yes, I am addicted to a few things in life, like popcorn. I really love popcorn. Recently I have learned from a popcorn making connoisseur how to make really good homemade popcorn.
I also have to get my family fix on a daily basis: my husband, children, and grandchildren. There is my talking-on-the-phone-to-my-friends fix that I need to do on a daily basis. And, of course, I can’t lie to you: I have a Starbucks fix!
Getting a fix has a bad reputation because it suggests one is addicted to something that is bad for you. For example, a heroin addict needs to get his or her fix. We could, however, be addicted to things that are less dangerous, like for example, good books or Chinese food.
We all have our addictions, good or bad. But I’m here today to talk about our “Jesus fix.” This may be the one thing that brings all of us together, the one thing we all have in common. Most of us have some form of an addiction to Jesus.
The good thing about needing a Jesus fix is that we won’t suffer from physical withdrawals if we have to go a few days without him. Unlike some of our other habits, like surfing the internet or playing on our cell phones, we don’t have to rely on fickle technology to keep in touch with him.
So how do we get our Jesus fix? Some people get their Jesus fix by praying to him. Some, who are of a more mystical nature, get their fix “abiding in his presence.” Some simply get their fix by reading about him, either in the pages of the Bible or in the pages of books written about him.
Can you imagine being one of Jesus’ first disciples, the men and women who actually followed him around and got to hang out with him? How about that for a Jesus fix? Furthermore, can you imagine being one of Jesus’ closest friends? How exciting, interesting, and sometimes perplexing that must have been.
According to the Gospel writers, three of Jesus’ disciples seem to have fit that bill: Peter, James, and John. We often call them “the inner circle.” If the biblical writers had not been so patriarchal and enamored with “male privilege,” they would have included women in Jesus’ inner circle because we know they were there!
Nevertheless, we will stick with the way the story is told. Peter, James, and John have the privilege of hiking with Jesus up a mountain. They go there to pray—to get their God fix.
Mountains are important in the worldview of the biblical writers because God was thought to be up there. Therefore, a mountain got you as close to God as humanly possible. In the modern world we have had to rethink our understanding of where God is because we know “up there” is a lot of empty space, planets, stars, and galaxies.
Still, I don’t think many modern people would argue that there is not something about mountains—and nature in general—that make us feel closer to God. If you want a God fix, a climbable mountain or hill is a good place to go if for nothing more than the solitude it provides.
So Peter, James, and John accompany their friend and leader up the mountainside to pray. While they are praying something extraordinary occurs. Jesus’ face changes and his clothes become dazzling white.
Of course, in the ancient world, no one’s garment was ever “dazzling white.” They didn’t have laundry detergent, bleach, or washing machines, and, more importantly, they were always walking around in the dirt. In that place and time, nothing was very clean by today’s standards.
Frankly, I don’t know why a Madison Avenue advertising agency has not yet picked up on the idea of using this story to advertise their client’s laundry detergent. (Don Draper of “Mad Men” fame would be all over that!)
This story—what we call the “Transfiguration Story”—is like a television commercial with the sole purpose of trying to sell Jesus. Like all good commercials, it employs a little exaggeration while effectively communicating the central truth. And the central truth of the Transfiguration Story is that Jesus is One. Very. Important. Person.
Two of the most important historical figures in the Jewish faith pop out of nowhere: Moses, who represents the Jewish law, and Elijah, who represents the Jewish prophets. A cloud appears, reminding us of the pillar of clouds that led Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness.
The voice of God speaks from the clouds, reminding us of Jesus’ baptism. Not only does God repeat what was said at Jesus’ baptism that he is God’s “beloved” or “chosen” Son, the voice demands, “Listen to him!” Again: One. Very. Important. Person.
Moses and Elijah share something else in common with Jesus: their deaths are shrouded in mystery. There are no bodies to be found.  The book of Deuteronomy tells us that Moses died and was buried in the land of Moab, with this added caveat: “but no one knows the place of his burial to this day.” That’s the story-teller’s way of asking, “Did he really die?”
Elijah, of course, didn’t really die, according to the book of 2 Kings. As if he is hailing a cab, Elijah is picked up by a chariot and horses of fire and lifted up in a whirlwind. What a way to go, right?
And then there’s Jesus, who dies, is placed in a borrowed tomb, and is raised from the dead.  All three—Moses, Elijah, and Jesus—are biblical jabs at the power and finality of death.
We get the point: the storyteller is trying to sell Jesus. To use the language of television commercials, Jesus is a “new and improved” version of the Law and the Prophets, the two pillars of Jewish religion. This is savvy, creative story-telling, enough to make any Madison Avenue advertising agency envious.

The Transfiguration Story is just one of those stories that are rich in imagery and meaning. For me, it is one of the best stories in the Gospels to read when I need a Jesus fix. My face may not change and my clothes may not become dazzling white when I read it, but I am reminded that there is more to life than popcorn and Starbucks!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Homily: " Mercy and Compassion", February 7, 2016 by Karen Kerrigan at Heart of Compassion International Faith Community, Windsor, Ontario, Canada



As I reflect on today’s Gospel Call of; Simon, James and Zebedee, I am noticing several things.  First, the three men had been fishing all night and had caught no fish.  Second, after Jesus had finished speaking to the crowd, he asked the fishers to “pull out into deeper water” and lower their nets.  They caught an overwhelming abundance of fish that brought their nets to the breaking point.  They responded with awe and astonishment and Simon also responded with a traditional surge of unworthiness and guilt.  Jesus reassured them, not to be afraid and invited them to become fishers of humankind.  I hope my sharing invites you to pull out into, even deeper, water still. 

This year, we as a community are choosing to grow in the themes of Mercy and Compassion.  Therefore, I would like to couple, my reflection on this gospel with two different paradigms and understandings of; Mercy and Compassion.  The first paradigm and understanding is; the traditional religious concept of Mercy that in some ways may be currently conveyed by Pope Francis and The Vatican.  I invite you to look at the official poster for The Jubilee year of Mercy.  Take a moment, before I tell you what I see, to notice what you might see yourself. 

As I look at this poster, I notice the traditional paradigm of Mercy being conveyed.  Jesus, The Divine One, appears to be; the Active Agent of Mercy and the beneficiary of Mercy in this poster appears to be; a passive recipient of God’s Generous Act to, the unworthy one, being carried.  The slogan claims, that this is to be; “Merciful Like The Father.” I have some discouraged feelings about this Jubilee Year of Mercy. To add to my experience of the poster, recently, Francis commissioned a special group of 1000 men, all male priests, to be special missionaries of mercy.  To me, this suggests that men are the only ones capable of being active agents and missionaries of mercy.  That is a traditional masculine way of knowing.  No longer manifested by all men but, it is still the dominant paradigm in a trickle down economy of mercy and grace. 

     Now, I invite you to look upon this painting.  The painting was commissioned by President Lincoln to commemorate how Mercy Sisters and other Sisters, served as Nurses and leaders of military hospitals, for both the union and confederate soldiers, during The American Civil War.  Please take a moment to notice what you see before I tell you what I notice. 

  The Sisters of Mercy, were sent to; battlefields, military hospitals and hospital ships. The Sisters were known to attend to patients with typhoid and small pox when others fled.  Some of the Sisters were taken as prisoners of war, when they were caught by the wrong military official, for caring for the enemy.  At the beginning of the civil war, the Sisters, were the only trained nurses that the Union had.   When the Sisters were unable to get the food and supplies they needed due to some very strong anti-Catholic Sentiments, President Lincoln issued an executive order to be sure that the sisters were given everything they need and paid for by the union military.  These Acts of; The Mercy Sisters, The Daughters of Charity and Holy Cross Sisters was written about in newspapers throughout the north. At the end of the war, these sisters were given status and pensions as Veterans of The Civil War.  In 1924, a monument was commissioned to honor, The Nuns of The Battlefield.  The inscription reads; “They comforted the dying, nursed the wounded, carried hope to the imprisoned and in his name a drink of water to the thirsty.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure what Simon, James and Zebedee witnessed from Jesus, on the day of their call to become fishers of humankind, was an astonishing abundance of fish! But when I think of the Compassionate and Merciful Altruistic generosity of these Sisters, I wonder how one can imagine that women cannot do miraculous acts of mercy and compassion as well?  If what these nuns did is not conveying the fullness of; mercy, forgiveness, compassion and grace, than what is? 

     You see, I am a graduate of Mercy High School in Farmington.  When the idea of; A Jubilee year of Mercy came out, I immediately thought of The Mercy Sisters.  I thought about how The Mercy Sisters have manifested almost 200 Jubilee Years of Mercy since they were founded in Dublin, Ireland in the 1830’s. Now, just think about that for a moment, they only started in Dublin in the 1830s and here they were, in America, only 30 years later, to run and manage 35 military hospitals during the American Civil War.  These women casted their nets into far deeper waters of awesome abundance than Simon, James and Zebedee could have imagined! 
    Once again, I am baffled, that The Vatican and even sadder, Pope Francis does not recognize women as Active Agents of Mercy or anything else. Thank God, President Lincoln did!   These Sisters do not demonstrate a paradigm that, they are; The only active agents of mercy and all the rest of us are passive recipients. They seemed to intuitively notice an economy of mercy that remembers the word, mercy,  comes from an ancient estruscan word; mercy, like in “commerce or merchant” it means an exchange between two capable agents and not a top down model rationed out economy, by just a few.    

   Mercy and Compassion are my core identity and my deepest way of seeing.  I am empowered to come out at the world with the same kind of compassion and mercy that The Nuns of The Battlefield had.  I hope we can learn to take more time to go into our own storehouse of Mercy and Compassion inside our hearts, engaging our own intensive daily practices and that we will build each other up to do the same for others.   We also need to have practices ready, to help stay in the present moment and our merciful compassionate consciousness when surges of fear surface in ourselves and the greater community.  Fear can drive us right out of merciful and compassionate consciousness. I invite each of us to find our ways in The Universal Field of Mercy and Compassion to be active agents for a world in need.  As you go along,  Here is a chant that I offer to us:

The Universe is Mercy within Compassion within Mercy within Compassion weaving throughout everything always.
I’d like to close my sharing with these midrash quotes from Teilhard de Chardin on The Book of Proverbs chapter 8.  Teilhard entitled the entire poem this comes from as;

“The Eternal Feminine”
I sit at the city gates, at the crossroads of a world in crisis begging for mercy & compassion.  I attempt to open the eyes of each presence of pain & suffering in the world.  Whenever & wherever possible, I encourage tender compassion, forgiveness, & sacrificial love, attitudes that characterize the sensitive soul….. Sophia is the Mercy of God in Us.  Tender compassion radiates from her presence. She speaks to us from the poor ones of our world, seeking in their name, kindness, empathy and love.  She sits at the crossroads of our lives, ever imploring us to work for peace, to engage in fruitful dialogue, and to find new ways of connecting with the other.  She longs to open our eyes to the presence of pain and suffering in the world, to transform our hearts, and to move our action.”

I invite you to sit quietly and contemplatively for a moment.  What does Sophia want you to remember from what I shared?  What does she want you to see?  How will you respond to her being the Mercy and Compassion of God within you?  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

My Magnificat by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP


My soul rejoices in the Holy One
And my spirit laughs with the God of Surprises

For You bless my every breath,
And smile through me everyday. 

Holy, holy, holy are you, everywhere and in everything.
Your awe fills the cosmos.

I sing your praises and dance with joy in your loving presence!

When stresses and challenges come my way
Your strength lifts me up. 

You give me courage to confront sexism in my church
and to work for a renewed priesthood in a community of equals.

You help me to see the face of God in those in need.
especially the hungry and homeless in my neighborhood.

Aware of your faithfulness to our ancestors, Sarah and Abraham,  Mary of Magdala and Junia, Brigid and Patrick,

I walk each day with my family and friends in the communion of saints, my spiritual lifeline: 
Jack and Bridie, my dear parents, Aunt Molly, Uncle Fergus, Aunt Evelyn Uncle Paddy, Aunt Molly, Uncle Jimmy, Aunt Peg, Uncle Jack, my grandparents, Uncle Paddy, Uncle Tim... Sister Regina, Mary Emma, Frank Keefe, Irene, Adele, Rick and Ford....

www.arcwp.org
Sofiabmm@aol.com




Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 3rd Sunday of Lent C, by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

In today's reading from the book of Exodus,
Moses spots a flame in a bush,
and when he checks it out,
he finds that it's a messenger from God.
And then, when he gets nearer, he hears God's name—
I AM WHO AM.
God IS.
Moses learns the nature of God, and of all that is:
the ground he stands on is holy;
the people of God are holy;
all creation is on fire with God's love.
The bush is burning.
From the stardust of creation
to this very day,
every bush is burning.
God's name is written in all that is,
and it is to be remembered forever.
_______________________________________
Nearly 1500 years later, Jesus looks around
and sees that people are not remembering the name of God.
They are not remembering that the ground is holy.
They do not see that all creation is on fire with the love of God.
So he tells people about it.
_______________________________________
In the passage just before today's Gospel,
he tells the crowds that they know
how to interpret signs of the earth and the sky
but not the signs of the time.
He asks them why they don't judge for themselves what is right.
Then he tells them that, if they don't change their ways,
they will all perish,
and he follows that
with the parable of the fig that isn't bearing fruit.
The owner wants to cut it down,
but the gardener pleads for time
to try some routine horticultural practices
for just one more year to bring it into fruit.
_______________________________________
Now, it takes three to five years for a fig tree to fruit,
and the planter of the tree expects fruit in the fourth year.
The gardener knows that it should mature and bear fruit
by the next year, its fifth year.
If there's no change, it will be destroyed.
The crowd recognizes the fig tree
as a typical metaphor for the Israelite people.
They understand that Jesus is saying
that the center of their culture—
the Temple in Jerusalem and its cult of Roman collaborators—
is unfruitful.
And the crowd clearly understands his message:
unless they change, unless the Temple changes,
all will perish.
_______________________________________
Now, 2000 years after Jesus, and 3500 years after Moses,
we hear the same message,
this time aimed at us.
In Pope Francis' encyclical Laudatio Si'
we hear that the center of our culture is unproductive;
unless we change, we will perish.
We hear Francis calling us to heed the signs of our times.
There's lead in Flint's water, microcystin in ours.
Record heat and record cold.
Record earthquakes and cyclones and tornadoes.
Violence in Kalamazoo and on our streets in Toledo
and around the world.
Zika virus.
Air pollution, water pollution, land pollution, extinction of species.
They're all around us, the signs of our times,
calling us to change our ways,
or we will perish.
_______________________________________
It's inspiring to see so many Toledoans,
especially our Holy Spirit Community,
changing their personal lifestyle habits
to become more and more responsive
to Francis' call to care for creation.
Some folks carpool, or bike to work, even in winter.
Some turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater.
More are buying local food at local businesses.
Some are researching candidates' environmental positions
so they can vote their consciences in the March 15 primary.
And all of us are trying to get a few trees planted.
Big things and little things,
each of them part of the effort to take better care of our planet.
_______________________________________
Inspiring as all these good works are,
we know we have to do more.
God's name is written in all that is,
and human selfishness and greed are destroying it.
That's why we're spending time this Lent fine-tuning our lives,
eager to follow ever more closely the lesson Jesus teaches.
We must read the signs of the times.
We must judge what is right and act on it.
We must care for creation
as an act of love for God and neighbor
and a work of justice for all.
Amen.

--
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Holy Thursday, March 24, 5:30 p.m.
Holy Saturday, March 26, 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

www.holyspirittoledo.org

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

Links on articles about Women Priests' Witness during Pope Francis' Visit to Washington DC

http://www.newsweek.com/catholic-church-pope-pope-francis-female-priests-catholic-women-washington-375606

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/pope-francis-visits-america/renegade-female-priests-hold-peaceful-protest-amid-pope-francis-visit-n432371

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/women-priests-pope-washington-die-in_56031460e4b00310edf9e696

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/23/pope-francis-female-priests-catholic-church-sexism


Donna Rougeux ARCWP, holding primacy of conscience sign and Janice Sevre Duszynska, ARCWP with women priests are here sign
Franciscan Jerry Zawada seated with sin

Felix Cepeda Dominican Republic Catholic Worker standing with Lift Excommunication
Newsweek Story
Demonstrators calling for the Catholic Church to include women priests gather prior to the arrival of Pope Francis at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, for a prayer service and meeting with U.S. bishops, in Washington, September 23.MIKE THEILER/REUTERS

Monday, February 22, 2016

Homily: "Conceivable or Inconceivable Presence of God?" by Donna Rougeux ARCWP

2nd Sunday of Lent 2016
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 9:28-36
Donna Rougeux ARCWP


Have you seen the movie “Princess Bride?” It is one of those movies you have to see more than one time so that you can appreciate the lines that use subtle humor to make profound points. In one part of this movie the dread Pirate Roberts is following Vizzini and Indigo Montoya.  Every time Vizzini thinks that he has hindered the dread Pirate Roberts from staying on his trail Roberts not only remains in sight but he gets closer. Roberts is like a super hero who seems to defy the laws of gravity and exhibits great strength and power. We hear Vizzini say “Inconceivable” many times as he turns to see the dread Pirate Roberts getting closer. Finally Indigo Montoya confronts Vizzini on his use of the word inconceivable and says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Vizzini is having trouble understanding what he is seeing but Mantoya points out that since these things keep happening maybe he has the wrong word to describe this mysterious person. Or does he? Vizzini’s experience of trying to understand the dread pirate Robert’s powers and abilities is similar to what we find in the scripture passages today regarding the human experience of trying to understand God’s power and abilities. Is God’s presence conceivable or inconceivable?

In Luke’s transfiguration story the three disciples are learning more about who Jesus is.  This prayer experience with Jesus on the mountain is a mystical experience. They are in direct connection with the divine. They are experiencing God’s glory. Peter is so amazed that he wants to erect booths so as to contain this glorious experience. He thinks Jesus, the Messiah of God, has completed his mission. God corrects Peter’s desire to contain the divine in booths by enveloping him and his friends in the presence of the divine, which came in the form of a cloud.

God’s transformative presence is all around us but we like Peter either may want to contain it so it can not contain us or we may be afraid of its power and turn instead toward worldly and human power which takes us away from God.

We get glimpses of God’s presence or glory in many ways. Seeing the Grand Canyon or a mountain for the first time can be a powerful experience of the sacred. When we hear a beautiful song or see a work of art that opens us to the divine we can conceive of God’s power. Holding a new, born baby or seeing the sunset at the ocean can leave us speechless. God’s presence is conceivable but it is up to us whether we are open or closed to its effects.

 In the story found in Genesis, the smoking fire pot and flaming torch symbolized God passing between the animals that were split in half. This is the way covenants were ritualized long ago and in essence says the one who goes between the split animals would rather be spilt in half, themselves, than break the covenant. An interesting detail in this story is that God is the only one who goes between the animals. Abram does not. This powerful story of God wanting to be in a covenant relationship with humans continues to echo as Peter, John and James encounter God ‘s glorified presence in the transfiguration story. In both stories God wants to be in a meaningful relationship with humans. Inconceivable!

But there is more mindboggling information for Peter and his friends. Jesus, the Messiah of God must go to “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” Jesus’ mission includes going to Jerusalem, being sentenced to death on a cross when he did not commit a crime. He will then be resurrected. Jesus’ suffering and death is transformed into new life and eternal glory. Inconceivable!

So why would this loving God who wants us to be transformed allow his son to suffer and die? Why did Jesus’ mission include suffering and dying on a cross? This is the part that Peter could not understand. We like Peter have trouble understanding suffering. How can there be children in the world who die each day of starvation? Why are so many elderly people suffering due to severe loneliness? Why does racism and sexism still exist? Why do we continue to be in wars? Where is God? Where are the people?

Could it be that the sinful human response to the Messiah of God is what needs transforming? Jesus came to offer love and the love was rejected. It is not God who wants or needs suffering. When people reject God there is suffering. Love came into our world in the form of Jesus and he was rejected, he suffered and he died. Because God loves us, suffering and death do not have the final say.

As we heard in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.” We are born into a world of sin and find God’s glory inconceivable until we allow the transformative power of God’s presence to create us into our full selves.

Have you seen glimpses of God’s glory lately?
God’s glory is conceivable. We experience the divine in similar ways that are described in these scripture stories. Scripture scholar Joel Green writes, “In the Old Testament and Jewish tradition one’s countenance is a mirror of one’s heart and a manifestation of one’s relationship to God.”  The disciples witnessed Jesus praying and saw his face and clothes become radiant. Jesus models a close transformational relationship with God. A common expression used today is to say that someone is glowing. It means the person has a joyful and loving essence that comes from the inside out. Have you ever known someone like that? Are you someone who radiates with the love of Christ?

Hopefully we can all attest to the transformational power of love in our own human relationships which can seem to makes us shine brightly. So maybe we can conceive of a God who longs for a loving relationship with us. If human relationships are transformational how much more will a relationship with God transform us? We unfortunately have also seen the destructive power of human relationships. Some people may be surrounded by relationships that destroy their spirits. When someone is caught in unhealthy life destroying relationships with people the answer to their suffering is to listen to Jesus and turn to God. When human relationships threaten to destroy us we must come to God. A relationship with God is the one relationship that we can trust. New life and powerful transformative healing is always available to us in a relationship with the Divine Holy One. Will you allow a loving relationship with God to transform you?


May we use this season of Lent to become more aware of God’s glorious presence that surrounds us, like a cloud. May we come to a better understanding of who Jesus is, in a way that strengthens our relationship with God. May we courageously bring the transformational power of love into this world full of people who suffer.  And may the inconceivable presence and glory of God become conceivable.

"Refugees, the Difference a Word Makes" by Rita Lucey, ARCWP

Violence, corruption, decade old brutal criminal and narco warfare, egregious human rights abuses, trafficking, war, disunity, murder are only some of the adjectives used  in the article on the Pope's trip to Mexico.  And yet we refer to the people escaping these criminal forces as immigrants, aliens, illegals.

It seems to me that these are as much refugees as those escaping countries in the Middle East! The same conditions apply for they too are fleeing bloodshed.    They too are refugees from such terrible violence.

Once these  refugees arrive they are labeled 'undocumented' and when the bed quota falls below the mandated Congressional level of 34,000 in our mostly private prisons, then ICE ( Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids the major cities to find enough human beings - illegals, aliens, and immigrants to jail. So much for refugees.

 Yes, we have a law, passed by our elected representatives in Congress in 2009,  that mandates that we keep 34,000 undocumented immigrants in prisons every day! Follow the money on this one as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO,  for profit private prison corporations, legally profit from  these 'bed quota' laws that cost taxpayers like you and me at least  $2billion a year

If we were to recognize these human beings fleeing  from Central and South America as refugees, which they truly are then. perhaps, once again the words of Emma Lazarus's  on the Statue of Liberty would ring true " give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

"Death Penality in the State of Florida "by Rita Lucey, ARCWP


I am going to speak first on what we already know, then what is happening and finally what we can do.
Capital punishment is legal in the U.S. in the state of Florida. Florida was the first state to reintroduce the death penalty after the Supreme Court of the United States struck down all statutes in the country in the 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision.  19 states and the District of Columbia do not have the death penalty

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's death penalty law last month, the state was left with no  functioning capital punishment statue.   In an 8-1 ruling , only Justice Samuel Alito dissenting, the court found Florida's law  violated the Sixth Amendment,  part of the Bill of Rights related to criminal prosecutions,  because judges, not juries, make the final decision imposing the death sentence. (among the 31 states that allow death penalty only Alabama and Delaware do not require unanimous jury decisions and Delaware's law is under review.  Alabama requires a 10-2 vote and only Florida has a 7-5 majority rule. 
All the  way back to 2005 the Florida Supreme Court suggested that there should be a unanimity rule on jurors but our Legislature has ignored this judicial warning for 10 years.  Now these, our elected legislators, are thrown into a tizzy! Trying to come up with and pass a law that will allow the scheduled executions to continue.  The Florida Senate favors  unanimity, which is all jurors voting for the death penalty,  the logical way to go. Most polls suggest  Floridians don't want the death penalty at all according to the Miami Herald
Right now, there are 40 or more cases in active appeal according to the Miami Herald in which the death penalty can no longer apply.  And an article in the Orlando Sentinel adds that the Florida court already heard arguments in the Michael Lambrix case, originally scheduled for execution in March, but hasn't yet decided on whether the latest U.S. Supreme Court decision applies retroactively.  If it does, nearly every Death Row inmate, now at 393, would have a new avenue for appeal.

30 sates have not carried out an execution  in several years
Only 2% of all counties in the U.S. Are responsible for over 50% of all executions since 1976****
156 innocent people have been freed from death row. 
Florida has had 92 Exeutions since 1976
And we continue to be the first in the nation.  The first in Exonerations  at 26, more than Texas or Louisiana
 And as Mark Elliot of Floridians for Alternative to the Death Penalty says “a person who has been wrongly put to death cannot be exonerated!  He goes on to say that “Killing locked up people is too dangerous, too expensive, and absolutely unnecessary”

 Governor Scott  has signed more death warrants than any of his predecessors
Also of note, and this is important, important because it is little known, 
In Duval County Florida, (Jacksonville) an elected public defender fired respected senior capital litigators in 2009  and installed as deputy chief and head of homicide defense a lawyer, Refik Eler, who has at least 8 former clients on death row – the most of any lawyer in Florida.  Eler has already been found ineffective by the Florida Supreme Court in three capital cases for failing to investigate both guilt and penalty issues  according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

While the use of the death penalty in the United States has been steadily declining in recent years it is now largely isolated to a handful of state which actively use it.
Despite this diminished use, the flaws and failures of the death penalty are more apparent than ever. There is still racism in the application of the death sentence.  Inadequate support services are given to the  families of victims as well as for prison workers who carry out the execution. According to Equal Justice USA executions traumatize corrections and government officials.  “Every execution requires a team of workers who watch the inmate in the final days, who strap the inmate to the gurney, who insert and often reinsert te needles, and who remove the body after the execution.  Corrections officials haunted by the experience of putting people to death have committed suicide, turned to alcohol, or suffered mental and physical health problems.
“Sometimes I wonder whether people really understand what goes on down here and the effect it has on us.  Here is what some have to say:
Many of us who  take part in this process live with nightmares
For me, those nights that weren't sleepless were plagued by nightmares.
There are many quotes of this nature

Executions also Traumatize clergy, jurors, and journalists  who report
symptoms of anxiety, nausea, and nightmares among those who recently witnessed an execution

And a new set of victims is created among family members of the condemned who watch  - the stories told by the mothers who saw their sons being put to death “Some would just wail out crying.  It's a sound you'll never hear any place else, an awful sound that sticks with you “ says Jim Willet, former warden, Huntsville Tx who oversaw 89 executions



Some current presidential candidates have announced their opposition to the death penalty and more have pointed to the numerous problems with it according to the National Coalition to abolish  death penality  
Jeb Bush says “I have to admit that I'm conflicted about this  As governor he  signed 21 death warrants. As governor he voted  to accelerate the appeal process and increased the number of executions. This would be in opposition to the Catholic church's stand on the death penalty and Jeb does claim to be Catholic.
Hillary Clinton 's opinion has shifted over the years.  As a lawyer in AK  she defended people on death row and was an opponent.  As First Lady she voiced support for the death penalty but recently she began to qualify her support and how frequently it is applied
Ted Cruz is a passionate supporter of the death penalty  During his legal career he argued in favor of the death penalty in front of the Supreme Court five times
Marco Rubio says “ protracted legal battles in death penalty cases hinder justice for the victims and erode public confidence  He advocates for an increase in the pace of executions
Bernie Sanders opposes the death penalty and always has.  “The state itself, in a democratic, civilized society, should itself not be involved in the murder of other Americans.
And Donald Trump, just as we would expect  :” I have always been a big believer, and continue to be, of the death penalty for horrendous crime”  (  He paid for an ad in NYT when a teenager was on trial for murder- that called for the death penalty.  The teen was later cleared by DNA after serving 13 years on death row) 
Charley Wells, a retired justice of the Florida Supreme Court from 1992 to 2009 and as chief justice 2000-02   argues that in Florida, the appeals procedures mean that inmates can be on death row for up to 30 years, and says “for such long periods this is cruel punishment”  He recommends that if the death penalty will not be executed within the next two years, the sentence be commuted to life, and the prisoner removed from death row restrictions.  He goes on to say “this is not only the right thing to do ; it will save tax money, which can then be used for beneficial services, some of which may prevent some person from becoming a death row inmate.”
MVFR, Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation is  an organization and a community led by family members of murder victims and the executed that advocates for ending and replacing the death penalty. Understanding that victim families are on a spectrum of recovery, MVFR identifies, engages and mobilizes its members to build communities of support that educate the public on the harms of the death penalty, the true needs of the victim families and the transformative power of restorative justice. MVFR works with a variety of individuals and organizations that share a commitments to build a safer society and heal the damage caused by violence.  One of the questions asked by a member  “ Do two wrongs make a right.  If my child is murdered must I seek the murder of another?”  The director of MVFR is Dr. Jack Sullivan whose sister Jennifer was murdered in Cleveland in 1997, a crime which remains unsolved.
“On behalf of thousands who have lost loved ones to murder, myself included, I rise to say to our elected officials that murdering those who were convicted does not bring us closure, does not produce healing....
Their  Mantra: We do our job best when we create space for our members' stories and voices to be heard.

Most recently the Florida house thinks it found a fix for a law on the death penalty so that executions can resume.  The House voted 93-20 Thursday, February 18, for a compromise bill aimed at restoring the law, the same law that  was struck down last month  by the U.S. Supreme Court??  The bill HB 7101 would require juries to unanimously find an aggravating factor, whatever that means,   that warrants death and then vote by a least 10-2 to impose the sentence. This bill does however, leave the decision of death sentence in the hands of the jury taking away the power of the judges to impose the  penalty.
It is the opinion of many in the justice system that a law must require juror's unanimity in death penalties. Common sense suggest according to the Miami Herald that if the new statute lacks this crucial rule, the nation's highest court will turn thumbs down again on the Florida death penalty statute.
 In the meantime Gov Scott has ordered that Mark Asay be executed on Mar 17.





Finally a voice of reason within the Florida Republican party
Saying that if one is looking to identify "failed government programs ..., Florida's death penalty certainly fills the bill," Brian Empric , vice-chairman of the Florida Federation of Young Republicans, presents a conservative case against the death penalty. In a recent guest column for the Orlando Sentinel, Empric says that - as the Florida legislature weighs its response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hurst v. Florida - the state should halt all executions "[u]ntil the constitutionality of our sentencing process is satisfactorily addressed.... [M]ore important," he adds, "Floridians are being presented with a great opportunity to re-examine capital punishment." Empric argues that the death penalty conflicts with conservative pro-life values and that "it is impossible to square capital punishment with these views." He goes on to describe systemic problems in the administration of capital punishment that he believes violate conservative principles. He highlights the "prosecutorial misconduct, mistaken eyewitness testimony, and reliance on erroneous forensic testimonies" that has led to Florida's 26 death row exonerations - the most in the nation. "The human element in the process," he says, "assures us that the death penalty will never be entirely accurate, but when potentially innocent lives hang in the balance, we cannot accept anything less than perfection." He cites a study that found Florida could save at least $50 million by replacing the death penalty with life without parole, and notes that Jefferson County, "was forced to freeze employee raises and slash its library budget just to fund two capital cases." He calls the death penalty, "a government program that fails to achieve its intended objectives," and concludes, "It's an issue that should be of concern to every voterA description...


And what can we do as concerned citizens.

Call Gov Scott's office

850 488 7146

Send a letter to Gov Scott

Call your local representatives, house and Senate.

Only by making our voices heard can we be the change we want to see.

A copy of my letter to Scott is available at the door for those who might want to use it as a basis.  Be aware that if you choose to e mail our Governor it becomes a public record on the internet  - it is therefore my choice to use postal correspondence.



`


Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, Fl. 32399-0001


Dear Governor Scott

As a citizen of Florida  with a deep conviction  of the sacredness of all life, I strongly urge you to declare a moratorium  on death penalty executions.  Of the 142 death row inmates found not guilty nationwide, that is exonerated,  Florida leads the nation with 26 exonerations.

This is more than any other state in the union according to articles by the American Bar Association, the National Death Penalty Information Center and Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. .  Would these facts alone not point to the need for a moratorium for those already waiting execution? 

I wonder, has DNA evidence been used in all cases to eliminate the possibility that innocents may be facing death?  According to the Death Penalty Information Center some 27 innocents were put to death and later found not guilty.  Appalling!!  Is this not murder by the states?  What else can we call it? 

No matter what one’s position on the morality of the death penalty, we can all agree it is a tragedy if an innocent person is executed.  The American Bar Association called for a moratorium in 1997.  It cites “serious problems with the administration of capital punishment across the country.”  And now the Supreme Court finds Florida’s death penalty unconstitutional!

Governor Scott I urge you to seriously consider a moratorium on executions in the name of all that speaks to “liberty and justice for all”



Sincerely

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Between Heaven and Mirth with Fr. James Martin, SJ, Enjoy

"Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaun, Beautiful Video



 https://youtu.be/swIcX57vYDI

"When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that's the best
When I lay me down to die, going of the Spirit in the Sky..."