Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.


Mosul Minus Christians

08-31-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

The existence of Christian communities in the Middle East and elsewhere has become more and more precarious and now in many places in Iraq there are no longer any Christian communities. This is a stunning development as these communities were able to survive the ups and downs of history for over 1600 years. What does that say about our age?

The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Archbishop Amel Nona (the Chaldean Catholics are one of the branches of the Catholic family and one of the most ancient) said this recently:

Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.

Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.

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Solutions without Problems

08-24-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

You probably have noticed the sprouting of signs urging you to vote in the upcoming Primary/Special Election in Tempe on August 26. I certainly urge you to be a faithful citizen and cast your ballot. The Center for Arizona Policy has a voter's guide that you can download at azvoterguide.com to help you gather some info on the candidates and other issues that are on the ballot as they relate to issues important to people of faith.

Most of us receive lots of postcards in the mail asking us to support this or that candidate. But one caught my eye; it was from the Mayor and two Tempe Council members urging me to vote YES on Prop 475 so that we "keep Moving Tempe forward" and "strengthen our great reputation". This ballot proposition amends the City Charter. Amending a City charter or a constitution is usually a pretty serious matter, which got my attention, so I was curious as to what Prop 475 is all about.

Here's the exact Ballot Proposition (the old language has a strike through it and the new language is in caps): "No person shall be appointed to, removed from, favored in any way or discriminated against with respect to any city position because of race, sex, political or religious affiliation, COLOR, GENDER, GENDER IDENTITY, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, FAMILIAL STATUS, AGE, POLITICAL AFFILIATION, DISABILITY, OR UNITED STATES MILITARY VETERAN STATUS, EXCEPT AS SUCH FAVOR MAY BE AUTHORIZED BY LAW."

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Back to School

08-17-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Well, it's back to school for one and for all. The young ones start school for the first time, others are making their way through the various grades, some are finishing their last semesters, others are matriculating through college or university and the rest of us can enroll in our new Bible Class here at Mt. Carmel.
As I look across the educational landscape I see that All Sex University, colloquially known as ASU is listed as the campus with the most STD's, and that's not an academic degree. I wonder if that is included in the In-State Tuition Rate or is it just a free extra? Incidentally the same University is rated as the 4th most Promiscuous College in the US. I guess they will have to try harder to earn the numero uno spot. While I'm not sure how those ratings are had (www.viralsip.com), but sadly they don't really surprise me.

But for those students who may not be interested in getting an STD there are some good alternatives. The ASU Newman Center has a new building and some great programs for students. Also St. Paul Outreach continues to operate on campus a Women's House and a Men's House for students who want to live in a faith inspired environment. SPO also has lots of outreach to the larger campus.
(www.spoweb.org/arizona)

I also see that some elementary school students at one school in Washington, DC are going to learn a new lesson called "Equity, Inclusion, and Caring" better know as Reality Denial. Apparently when they return to school one teacher, Mr. Robert Reuter will now be Ms. Rebecca Reuter. I wonder what will happen when a 10yr old boy blurts out, "that's not a woman it's a man dressed as a girl". Will he be disciplined, suspended, sent to sensitivity training? Children are taught that when an adult makes them feel "creepy" they should tell another adult since this could be a sign of an abuser. How will this one be handled? This lesson in "subtle and explicit gender identities" subverts common sense. We will not be teaching this lesson at our school. (http://eppc.org/publications/back-to-school-when-mr-reuter-becomes-ms-reuter/)

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Not the Child I Want

08-10-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Last time I checked there were 30 ways to make a baby these days. The "birds and the bees" talk obviously takes a lot longer. One of the more recent ways to have a child is through commercial surrogacy. That is when a couple pays to "rent a womb" of a third party to "gestate" a child and then by contract to give that child to the paying couple. This arrangement is fraught with problems and unfortunately reduces a child to a commodity.

There has been an explosion of "Surrogacy Agencies" for couples that can't or won't have a child. This represents the worst kind of entrepreneurial capitalism. Recently, the Washington Post reported that in one such arrangement the biological parents refused to accept one of the twins born of the surrogate or "gestational carrier". As the Post reported:

A Thai surrogate mother said Sunday that she was not angry with the Australian biological parents who left behind a baby boy born with Down syndrome, and hoped that the family would take care of the boy's twin sister they took with them. Pattaramon Chanbua, a 21-year-old food vendor in Thailand's seaside town of Sri Racha, has had to take a break from her job to take care of her 7-month-old surrogate baby, named "Gammy," who also has a congenital heart condition. The boy, with blond hair and dark brown eyes, is now being treated in a hospital for infection in his lungs.

The view that this Australian couple had was more akin to manufacturing a child and since one was defective they simply returned the merchandise. This sad situation also underlines one of the elitist cultural values that is pervading our society: "I have a right to a child and to the kind of child I want". Seeing a child as a gift, the fruit of love seems so blasé these days.

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No Need to Execute

08-03-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

How long should it take to die, or more precisely how long is too long? That is the question that is being asked in several states including Arizona as recent executions using lethal injection have taken much longer and possibly have been much more painful as the executioner has access to only two of the three drugs normally used for executing a condemned prisoner.

The drug, sodium thiopental is no longer produced in the United States and most European countries have banned pharmaceutical companies in their countries from selling the drug in the US. This follows a long campaign by death penalty opponents to pressure drug companies to stop making the drug available for use in executions. Thus we see the law of unintended consequences at work. I am sure it was not the intention of death penalty opponents to make executions more difficult or more painful but that wound up being one of the unintended consequences.

The use of lethal injection as a method for execution is probably not the best method to employ for a variety of reasons. From the start no one knew what combination of drugs and at what dosages they should be used at would make killing a basically healthy person quick and painless. Even though now it has been tried and tested we really don’t know if it is painful and it still takes lots longer than other execution methods. It also puts medical personal in the unacceptable spot of participating in the killing of a human being. And as we watched recently in Arizona without medical expertise the execution could easily be botched or violate the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

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Anything but a Hobby

07-27-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

I think we have a new psychiatric condition: Hobby Lobby Hyperbolic Hysteria Disorder. The campaign of disinformation that has followed the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Woods Supreme Court decision is both astonishing and disingenuous. The fact that the families who run these companies are not Catholic but Evangelical Christian hasn't stopped their opponents from fomenting all sorts of anti-Catholic bigotry. I originally thought it was a good thing that the Court did not take for review one of the lawsuits from a Catholic business owner as it would open the Justices, six who are Catholic, to all sorts of accusations of imposing Catholic teaching on the country. Even though the case did not involve Catholic business owners Catholic bigotry has been on full display.

The hysterics I have heard include: women will have lots less sex and lots more babies or the 5 men on the Supreme Court are denying women access to birth control. No such thing happened. What the Court did was retain the status quo, the way it was before some government technocrat issued the "contraception mandate".

I also heard Sen. Barbara Boxer from California bitterly complain that Hobby Lobby denies women contraception but provides men with Viagra. Is this Senator dumb as a bucket of spit? Someone needs to let her know that Viagra is not a form of birth control but is prescribed to treat a legitimate medical condition. While contraception actually does not treat a medical condition in fact it shuts down a women's otherwise healthy functioning fertility. Then there was Sen. Reid from Nevada castigating the 5 "white" men on the Supreme Court, which was certainly news to Justice Thomas. And Rep. Nancy "I call myself Catholic but should be Episcopalian" Pelosi who warned us all to be "very afraid of the men on the Supreme Court".

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The other Supreme Court Decision

07-20-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

While we have been overwhelmed with the faux hysteria over the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision and also amused at the mind-numbing stupidity of so much of the commentary that insists we are heading towards a theocracy with those 5 Catholic men on the Supreme Court, many of us may have missed the other small victory in the Court's unanimous decision to strike down the Massachusetts law that required buffer zones around Abortion Clinics in order to keep the Pro-Life sidewalk counselors at bay.

The Court ruled that the law as written went too far in restricting the Pro-Life counselors. As I have written before Pro-Life protestors are the only group of protestors that are routinely singled out again and again for unequal treatment. These laws are never targeted at Union protestors, Occupy Wall Street protestors or any other protestor for that matter. Apparently Justice Scalia agrees with me and in his concurring opinion took Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the decision, to task for the logic he used to reach the decision, stating very unambiguously that Robert's rationale continues "this court's practice of giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents." In essence Justice Scalia is saying that the court reached the right conclusion but for the wrong reasons. I concur.

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Stop Encouraging Dangerous Behavior

07-13-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Opinions on what to do about Immigration and Border issues in our country are often formed by the heart without the head or the head without the heart. The first leads to an ooey-gooey form of feel-good-ism that only furthers the problem and the latter offers a sterile response that reduces people to a commodity. And as I have pointed out previously, the current political parties have no interest in really fixing the problem since it is such an effective political battering ram that they can use against each other. But in the meantime thousands of children are streaming across our border as a direct result of our current immigration policies.

The WHY is pretty simple: coming to the US offers opportunities that these children would never have in their home countries. In his recent speech on Foreign Policy given at West Point, President Obama disappointingly never mentioned Latin America. It would seem to me that it is in our national interest to help the poor countries to our south develop economically. That might reduce the need for people to flee their home countries. The conditions must be pretty bad for parents to seriously jeopardize the lives of their children to send them on the dangerous and uncertain journey to the US.

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One Nation under Allah?

07-06-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.
—Abraham Lincoln: First Inaugural Address, 4 March 1861

I quote President Lincoln on this Independence Day Weekend not as a suggestion but as a reminder that the direction of our country is yet in our hands to shape. Admittedly many of us are growing weary of the existing Government whose policies hollow out the First Amendment protections of religious freedom. It appears more and more that the "separation clause" that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, applies only to Christianity. And the guarantee that the government will not "prohibit the free exercise thereof" is no longer had by default but by long fought legal battles.

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No Greater Joy

06-29-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

A year ago this weekend we were blessed to witness Sr. Maria Kim make her perpetual profession with the Daughters of St. Paul. I remember with fondness the gang of Sisters that “invaded” our parish the week before and shared with us their great love of the Lord and their incredible teaching skills. For a pastor to see one of the young people from the parish consecrate her life to the Lord and the service of the Church, yes there is no greater joy.

This weekend a year later, we witness the ordination to the priesthood and the First Mass of Fr. Scott Sperry. Again what greater joy can a pastor have than seeing a young man lay down his life in service of Christ the High Priest? Truly there is no greater joy...Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every year in June we had someone dedicating his or her life to the service of the Gospel?

But in order for that to happen our parish has to be an incubator of vocations. Vocations rarely sprout in isolation. Most begin to germinate in the family and in the larger parish family. Both are the fertile soil in which a young person can begin to yield to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and be given the courage and support needed to accept the call to “come follow Me” as Jesus invites.

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Come one, come all!

06-22-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

With Praise and Thanksgiving to God, Our Almighty Father and relying upon the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Diocese of Phoenix and the
Parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel joyfully announces the Ordination of

Scott Michael Sperry

to the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ through the imposition of hands and the Invocation of the Holy Spirit
by His Excellency Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix
on Saturday, the twenty-eighth of June
in the year of two thousand-fourteen
Ten o'clock in the morning
SS. Simon and Jude Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona

First Mass of Thanksgiving
at five o'clock in the afternoon
Sunday, the twenty-ninth of June two thousand-fourteen
Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul Apostles
at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, Tempe, Arizona

We have waited a long time for this so please come and share our joy!

Love, Fr. John B.

Happy 82nd Birthday

06-15-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

This past week our Parish officially turned 82! The Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was erected in 1932 but the community existed as a Mission in Tempe since the 1870's using a small adobe Church where now stands the Sun Devil Stadium and then built a more permanent structure on University and College and finally migrating to the Rural Road property in the late 1950's with the cornerstone of the current Church being laid in 1968. If you go to our website and click on the Video Gallery you can watch the video of the History of the Parish that was put together for the 75th anniversary. It is certainly a history of a community's growth with the buildings and properties providing the structure for that growth to happen. The history of the parish demonstrates the old adage: build it and they will come!

What always amazes me is that the move from the "old Church" to the new campus increased the size of the Church and the property by ten times! That was quite a hopeful vision that the community would grow accordingly. And maybe what's more amazing is that the community, a lot smaller than it is now, was able to build and pay for a new Church, Hall, school, convent and rectory. Many of you were around when the parish moved to the Rural road property and helped build the present campus. But unlike many of you, the buildings on the campus are starting to show their age!

So here's the latest triage report for the bricks and sticks that are on our property. We have done a fairly good job of keeping up with the maintenance and capital improvements needed on our property but there are a few large outstanding issues we need to start working on.

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A Toxic Product

06-08-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

The University of California at Santa Barbara recently became the latest killing fields. Before the young killer went on his murderous rampage he posted a video manifesto of his intentions and his grievances. One of his grievances was that women had ignored him and refused to have intercourse with him and he greatly resented being a 22yr old virgin. His rejection by women seems to be the motivation behind his murderous spree. But where did he get the idea that women owe him sex?

Pornography is the answer to that question. Even if you don't view pornography you are still affected by it as our culture is saturated in it. From the way people dress, to the steady stream of graphic scenes in movies and television, to the lyrics of much contemporary music it is easy for a young man to get the idea that women are walking lust factories just looking to satisfy their urge. As this young man found out the reality is often otherwise. But the fantasy world that porn creates is for many of its users reality that they act upon and expect others to do the same. The blurring of the lines between the real world and the fantasy world has damaging results for individuals, marriages and society at large. If a cigarette produces secondhand smoke that has harmful effects on non-smokers then pornography certainly produces "secondhand sex" that has harmful effects on non-users.

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Politics and War

06-01-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

The inevitable intersection of politics and war often produces less than ideal results. Since the Vietnam War military analysts report that politicians usually because of domestic pressures did not send enough troops, or enough equipment or the right equipment to enable the military to get the job done. To have executed a war properly would most likely mean that politicians would have to ask the American people to make some sacrifices and that is usually not a position people up for re-election like to hold. The last war in which Americans really had skin in the game was WWII. There were lots of sacrifices, rationing, restrictions etc. The national feeling was that we were all in it together no matter which side of the battlefield. Whether Americans just won't go for that scenario or politicians wrongly think they won't go for it, the end result is fighting a war on half-measures. For the last 13 years America has been engaged in two wars but unless you are in the military or have a family member who is, there were no sacrifices required.

Which is all the more reason that Americans should be outraged at the chaos that marks the VA Healthcare system. How is it that a healthcare system as large as the VA can fail so miserably in taking care of veterans who make up around 1% of the population? So while our military men and women were fighting wars that required little on our part we could at least show our gratitude by making sure our veterans are well cared for upon their return. Maybe now is the time for Americans to make some sacrifices on behalf of our veterans and get the VA system up to par.

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