News Release Archive - Religion

Barrett and Injustice: Jesuit Priest Being Sentenced for Nuclear Weapons Protest

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The New York Times reports in “Ardeth Platte, Dominican Nun and Antinuclear Activist, Dies at 84” that “Sister Ardeth spent years behind bars for her beliefs and was the inspiration for a character on the Netflix hit ‘Orange Is the New Black.'”

On Thursday and Friday, sentencing will take place for Fr. Steven Kelly, a Jesuit priest, and his co-defendant Patrick O’Neill, who co-founded a Catholic Worker house in Garner, North Carolina. Kelly has been in jail for the last two and a half years. They are part of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, Catholic Worker activists who entered the largest U.S. nuclear weapons facility in Georgia on April 4, 2018, exactly 50 years after Martin Luther King’s assasination. See KingsBayPlowshares7.org for background and @kingsbayplow7 for up-to-date information, including how to listen to the sentencing.

Plowshares activists follow the biblical edict to “beat swords into plowshares.” (See O’Neill’s oral arguments on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, an act championed by William Barr and Mike Pence — and mentioned by Ted Cruz during Barrett’s hearings — but prohibited by the court in this case.)

PAUL MAGNO, pmagno56@gmail.com
Magno is with Jonah House, an activist spiritual community in Baltimore, where many of the 100 Plowshares actions originated. It was founded by the late Philip Barrigan and Liz McAlister (see below) where Sister Ardeth lived for many years. He is currently in Brunswick, Georgia where the sentencing for Fr. Kelly and O’Neill will take place.

He said today: “It is a shame that Amy Coney Barrett didn’t pursue college or law school locally in her native New Orleans. If she had, she might have met and been mentored by a great lawyer, Bill Quigley, who is also a Catholic driven by his faith. He understands that social justice needs to be an intrinsic component of law in order to make justice a widely available resource for poor and marginalized constituencies in U.S society.

“Quigley has trained and mentored a host of advocacy-focused attorneys over the years from his place as professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, defended peace activists as part of the SOA Watch legal collective for over 30 years and the faith-based disarmament activists of the Plowshares movement. Notably he won an appeal for the three Transform Now Plowshares activists convicted in Tennessee after gaining entry to the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons complex in July of 2012. Their sabotage conviction was overturned and they were released from prison after serving two years apiece of much longer sentences imposed after their trial in Knoxville in the Spring of 2013. This week two other clients of his will face sentencing in Brunswick Georgia for their Kings Bay Plowshares incursion onto a Trident submarine base in April of 2018.”

Instead, said Magno, Barrett “has advanced professionally under the aegis of the Federalist Society and the influence of figures such as the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. With her opening remarks, ‘courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life,’ she embraces the notion of judicial indifference to social injustice and a judiciary that makes a virtue of that helplessness.

“A saying of medieval Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas is worth remembering. He said: ‘Law, when it ceases to be justice, ceases even to be law.'”

Liz Mcalister, who is also one of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, and was represented by Quigley, said: “This isn’t the first time that Steve Kelly faces the court of law — not the court of justice. I don’t think he even keeps count of how many times he’s stood before courts, or how long he has spent in jails and prisons. He enters all those spaces with grace and peace, knowing that the work that he can do there is welcome and needed and a gift to all of us. I trust that he will put any additional time in prison to good use, and that it will be a time of deep prayer, oriented toward transforming our world into a more just and peaceful place. We are grateful for his witness and I am called to a deeper commitment to the work for peace and justice by my brother Steve Kelly.”

Questions on SCOTUS Nominee: What Version of Christianity?

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[The Washington Post reports: “Yes, Senate Republicans could still confirm [Amy Coney] Barrett before the election.” Also see analysis in The Intercept. The vice presidential debate is scheduled for this evening and the issue of the Supreme Court is likely to be discussed.]

MATTHEW FOX, via Dennis Edwards, 33dennis@sbcglobal.net, @RevDrMatthewFox

Fox is a theologian, an Episcopal priest and an activist. He has written 37 books including A Spirituality Named CompassionThe Reinvention of WorkThe Order of the Sacred Earth and A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey.

He recently wrote “A Public Letter to Supreme Court Nominee Amy Barrett” which was published by Tikkun magazine. Fox writes: “With the nomination of a new supreme court judge, some are being accused of ‘anti-catholicism’ for posing questions about your religious beliefs. I, however, think questions like the following are important and I am sure that you are open to discussing them with the American public whose job it is [for you] to serve.

1) “Since you are a practicing Catholic, have you studied Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment (‘Laudato Si‘)? What are your positions on environmental justice? On climate change? Are you as passionate about them as you are about opposing abortion? …

2) “Have you studied Pope Francis’ statements on the ‘idolatry of money‘ that dominates so much of our economic system? Where do you stand on that subject and on unbridled Wall Street power? And on tax breaks for the very rich vs. for the poor and middle class? (Revelations on President Trump’s non-taxes being very relevant to the question.)

3) “Where do you stand on the long-standing teaching of the right for unions to organize that are embedded in papal documents dating all the way back to Pope Leo XIII in the nineteenth century?

4) “As for abortion, surely you know the distinction in Catholic philosophy between what makes good law and what makes good morality. They are not always the same. Since women are going to have abortions (and not all American women are Catholic, by the way), isn’t it preferable to make abortion as safe as possible than to make abortion go underground? …

11) “… Speaking anecdotally, in my interactions with charismatics over the years, I have hardly ever met one who considered the struggle for justice for the poor and oppressed as part of their religious consciousness. In fact, it was precisely the charismatic groups in South America who were financed to oppose and replace base communities and liberation theologies, while buttressing right-wing political fanatics.

“My question is this: What does the canonization of Saint Oscar Romero mean to you and your community? How does his struggle on behalf of the poor resonate with your version of Christianity?”

An Opus Dei Court?

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Trump has stated that he will announce his nominee to the Supreme Court on Saturday.

BETTY CLERMONT, bettyclermont@gmail.com
Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in AmericaShe writes at The Open Tabernacle blog.

She said today: “Leonard Leo selects Trump’s judicial nominees. In addition to his role at the Federalist Society, Leo is a board member of Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center. Attorney General Bill Barr and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone have also been board members. See recent piece from The Washington Monthly: “What Drives Leonard Leo’s Campaign to Remake the Courts?” Barr just received an award from the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast; Leo is also president of the board of that group.

“Indeed, at the top, Opus Dei ‘is an efficient machine run to achieve world power,’ investigative reporter Penny Lernoux wrote in her book People of God: The Struggle for World Catholicism.

“As Lernoux’s remark indicates, there is a struggle inside Catholicism and Opus Dei and groups it founded like the innocent-sounding Catholic Information Center are not at all representative of Catholics, rather it uses the garb of faith for political power for a narrow elite. The people Leo chooses are selected for their proven adherence to right-wing ideology of power at any cost. Whomever Leo gets Trump to nominate and Mitch McConnell’s Senate is set to approve, it will lead to further decay of our national wellbeing.”

Martin A. Lee, a specialist on far-right movements has written: “Opus Dei has emerged internationally as one of the most powerful and politically committed of the Catholic lay groups. Detractors have likened the organization to a ‘saintly Mafia,’ for its members control a large number of banks and financial institutions. … In the latter stages of the Franco regime, ten out of 19 cabinet officers belonged to or were closely allied with Opus Dei.”

“Opus Dei uses the Catholic Church for its own ends which are money and power …. Its members form a transnational elite. They seek to colonize the summits of power. They work with stealth — ‘holy discretion’ — and practice ‘divine deception,’” Robert Hutchison stated in the introduction to his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei.

See pieces by Clermont: “Opus Dei’s Influence on the U.S. Judiciary,” “Opus Dei’s William Barr, the Trump Whisperer” and “Opus Dei’s Influence is Felt in All of Washington’s Corridors of Power.”

Why Is Barr Prosecuting Catholic Peace Activists?

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On Wednesday at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Attorney General William Barr denounced “a new orthodoxy that is actively hostile to religion,” arguing that “militant secularists” are trying to move religion out of the public square and out of conversations on the common good. Trump also spoke and Barr accepted an award from the group. The event was held online and was delayed from its originally scheduled date in March.

The Catholic News Agency reported: “‘Separation of church and state does not mean — and never did mean — separation of religion and civics,’ said Barr, as he insisted Catholics should be more involved in public life through advocating for religious freedom.”

As Attorney General, Barr has continued to prosecute seven Catholic activists who attempted to fulfill the Biblical calling to turn swords into plowshares. At their trial last year, they were prevented from mounting a series of defenses, including invoking the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Six of the defendants have sentencing dates currently scheduled for Oct 15 and 16.

MARK COLVILLE, markcolville9761@gmail.com@amistadobrero
One of the seven Catholic Plowshares activists, Colville is co-founder of the Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven with his wife Luz Catarineau. In late December, the New Haven Register wrote: “For their sustained, compassionate approach to building and supporting their community and for their lived opposition to war and violence, the Colvilles are the New Haven Register’s Persons of the Year.”

Colville, with the other six activists — known as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 — entered a major nuclear weapons facility in Georgia on April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. They were protesting U.S. nuclear weapons policy and sought to “nonviolently and symbolically disarm the Trident nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay.” Colville used a hammer made from melted-down guns to smash parts of a shrine to nuclear weapons at the facility.

One of the seven, Father Steven Kelly, a Jesuit priest, is in jail, where he has been for 29 months. Others, like Elizabeth McAlister, the elderly widow of Philip Berrigan, spent over 17 months in jail prior to trial with little media attention. Colville spent over a year in jail. The other defendants are Clare Grady of Ithaca, New York, Martha Hennessy from Vermont (the granddaughter of Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker movement), Carmen Trotta from New York and Patrick O’Neill of North Carolina — who gave oral arguments regarding religious freedom.

They were supported in their efforts by many in the clergy, including Rev. Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
Said Colville: “The Trident Submarine is an idolatrous blasphemy against God. It’s mere existence refutes all of the basic tenets of faith that I have embraced as a Christian. While our leaders frequently invoke Christianity as this nation’s heritage, they wantonly violate its most basic command, namely, that we are to place our ultimate security in God alone, not in a weapon or a nation. Trident is an omnipresent threat to all life on the planet, and it has never been more urgent that the human community, and particularly the people of the United States, confront exactly what that reality means: We stand poised to murder our own children, for no other reason than to preserve our nation’s dominance in the world. This is the definition of idolatry. This is the definition of insanity.”

Bill Ofenloch, billcpf@aol.com@kingsbayplow7
Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08@gmail.com