Consortium Newsletter - March 31, 2017

Father Fred Scinto's picture

Father Fred Scinto

March 31, 2017

 

 CONSORTIUM NEWSLETTER

(MARCH 31, 2017)

 

CATHOLIC LUTHERAN DIALOGUE – THE REFORMATION

  • See Appendix A (“Rome Congress: the Reformation is Not Explained by Religious Differences Alone” from ZENIT) for a very important aspect for considering the understanding of the Reformation today.There were many elements in history that brought about the Reformation and some were not religious; this appendix makes that point.

  • One word of caution here: the document is a translation from the original Italian and in spots it is not the best translation.In spite of these shortcomings, it is well worth your while to read it and you still will catch the gist of the argument here.

     

    WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE UNITED STATES TODAY?? (CONTINUED)

    What IS Happening in the United States (Continued)

  • At this point in regards to this topic, I am writing and doing my research as President Trump and the White House administration are blaming the previous president, Barack Obama, for wiretapping Trump Tower, are having members of the American judiciary declaring the second ban on immigration judicially and religiously biased and therefore not to be allowed, and the complete mess and jumble that the “repeal-replace Obamacare” initiative ended up becoming.At this point, I need to sort out my feelings because they are all over the map, some are moving in contradictory directions, and everything feels so surreal!It feels like a bad dream that has plunged into a nightmare that is incredible at this point.To be honest, I have lost my inner compass which I need to find in order to bring my Catholicism and its beliefs to bear on the matter which is so very important to so many people, inside and outside the United States.And what makes the matter worse is that thus far we have covered a fair number of elements in enough depth as to what is happening in the United States today but it seems we are barely skimming the surface because there is so much that is cock-eyed that is going on!

  • Let us take a moment to catch our breath and then start again to assess a very complex and multi-faceted situation that we necessarily need to face as believers and disciples of the Risen One and try to do something with it and about it as His followers.

     

  • Let us be clear on the matter: what is happening in the United States at this time affects the whole world, including my country of Canada, e.g., just consider the developing rightist populist movements arising in the world, and especially in Europe, Canada, Latin America and other places like the Philippines.If we have any doubt about the great impact these United States events have on the whole world, just look at the amounts of news coverage these (Trumpian) events receive in the news/presses of the United States and throughout the world!

  • The total phenomenon is truly one of the “signs of the times” that Vatican II asks us as followers of Christ to “read” properly so that we will learn and know how to bring the Gospel to bear upon it for its salvation.The stakes here are very high but one thing that is becoming clear is that it is difficult to bring Catholic values and Catholic Social Principles and other necessary principles, e.g., historical, to this situation and apply them.But here, with the help of the Holy Spirit and prayer, we will do our best.God help us!Amen!

  • That this is not going to be easy is very evident!For a moment scrutinize what is going on in the United States and develop your own perspective about the Trumpian administration and what is happening there.(PAUSE) Ask questions like the following.Whatever happened to the concept of the common good? (Every year a listing is published of the world’s “happiest” countries; when this was done this year, part of the researchers’ report was that the countries at the top of the list are those that stress the common good.This tells us something very important, does it not?)

  • Other questions.Why, especially in the Western World, have we lost the distinction between professionalism/expertise, on the one hand, and opinion/self-opinion of the average person in terms of credibility?Cultural critics bemoan the fact that on the Internet an idiot’s comments on politics and other areas are of the same value and weight as that of a person with two PH.Ds and 30 years’ experience in some field.This situation allows something written by a ten-year old to be as important as a biblical text.Here something is drastically out of whack!Another question that brings us to the realization of the chaos around us: how do “fake news,” “alternative facts,” post-modernism, post-Christianity, and “post-truth” interfere with our discussion and dialogue on what is truly real and valuable?The prevalence of narcissism and individualism is so strong that everyone’s positon has the same weight and applicability as anyone else’s or, said negatively, no one’s positon/comment has any value.

     

  • The latest poll indicates that President Trump’s approval rating is 37% (in the second half of March 2017), a very very low rating for any president in the first 100 days!So what is happening here?

  • A large number of analysts and commentators are suggesting that there is too much lying going on at the White House and in the present administration.I tend to agree with this.

  • An example of this is to ask today whatever happened to the following portion of Trump’s inauguration speech after he got into office? (This comes from Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service, “Pope urges ‘wait and see’ on Trump,” The Catholic Register, January 29, 2017.)

  • Here are the statements in the speech mentioned in the previous point.“The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.When America is united, America is total unstoppable.” Is this happening now or are these comments not necessarily a lie but a pretense abutting on false hopes that is being contradicted by what is happening now?You decide!

     

  • In all this, I must keep before me the Gospel of the Risen One that urges me to distinguish between the person/personhood of the person in question and his/her individual acts/actions.For example, I am not allowed (strictly speaking) to state Donald Trump is a liar (because that is a judgment of the whole person whom only God can judge correctly) but I can say that at times he has used lies in some of his presentations, e.g., when asked by a reporter on the (pre-election) campaign which church he went to in New York, Mr. Trump gave the name of a Presbyterian church; when the reporter checked with the pastor of the church, the pastor said that was not true.So here, I am allowed (morally) to state that he told a lie or used a lie – which is not a judgment of the total person. This distinction is not an easy one to maintain and I will do my best to honour it as I go along.Thank you and I ask you to pray for me in this regard.

 

  • Please allow me to illustrate now with some lying incidents of the President (and the White House) after his inauguration.

  • One has to do with the charge of wiretapping in New York’s Trump Tower.The White House, on more than one occasion, has stated, among other things, that the place was wiretapped by British Intelligence Services because former President Barack Obama had asked them to do so.This was denied by Obama through a spokesperson but even more so by British Intelligence; British Intelligence normally makes no comments on things like this but they were outraged and stated this was nonsense.The whole thing caused diplomatic tensions between the United Kingdom and the United States.This thing was totally unnecessary!

  • Another has to do with the attempt to set up a health-care insurance plan for the American people.While trying to set this up, President Trump stated that he has never said he was out to “repeal and replace Obamacare”; at the time this statement was made, CNN showed two video clips of Mr. Trump speaking during the campaign for the office of the presidency and here he used exactly and explicitly those words.

  • In terms of climate change, Mr. Trump made the statement that climate change was a “Chinese hoax.” Later when he was challenged about this, he said he was just kidding.

  • At times, situations are set up that are not lies per se but pretense abutting on fake premises.Let me give you an example.Jared Kushner is married to Ivana Trump and thus is the son-in-law of President Trump.He has been given by the President the task of working in the Middle East to try to work on developing peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.Now Jared has vested interests (investments) in Israel.In this situation, can we honestly say that he is suitable for this task/position??Is there not something askew here that moves towards falsehood?

     

  • We could go on and on with the above illustrations but these say enough to us and others to conclude that at times (for some, too many times!), Mr. Trump has told us lies.Furthermore, as I was working on this section, the Toronto Star had a very interesting article in its March 23, 2017 edition by Daniel Dale, the Star’s Washington Bureau Chief, and titled “Trump’s false claims stack up in interview.”The article is interesting and enlightening and deals with President Trump’s interview with Time Magazine about the subject of his truthfulness.Here are some excerpts from the article.

  • “United States President Trump did an interview with Time magazine on Wednesday [March 22, 2017] to discuss the subject of his untruthfulness.In the interview, he vigorously denied that he is untruthful – and said at least 14 false things.Here is a selection of claims [regarding these 14 things].(We will allow him some rhetorical licence on a few others.For the Star’s list of his false claims as president, visit www.thestar.com – use link trumpcheck.The Toronto Star has a running tally of “the bald-faced lies, exaggerations and deceptions the president of the United States of America has said so far … The complete list of all 143 false things Donald Trump has said as president.” (Toronto Star)This can be available to you at www.thestar.com.

  • “1. The claim: ‘Sweden, I make the statement, everyone goes crazy.  The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems.’In fact: Nobody died in the Sweden riot that occurred two days after Trump falsely suggested that a terrorist incident had occurred in Sweden the previous night.

  • “2. The claim: NATO, obsolete, because it does not cover terrorism.  They fixed that.’In fact: NATO has long addressed terrorism.

  • “3. The claim: ‘… and I said that the allies must pay.  Nobody knew that they were not paying.  I did.  I figured it.’In fact: Barack Obama, among many other Americans, chided NATO allies for failing to meet a guideline of spending 2 per cent of their gross domestic product [the total economic activity, in dollars, in a country for a whole year] on defence.The fact that several NATO countries do not meet the guideline was widely known.[Even I knew this as one who follows closely what is going on in our world!]

  • “4. The claim: ‘Brexit [Britain’s formally leaving the European Union], I was totally right about that.  You were over there I think when I predicted that, right, the day before.’In fact: Trump did not predict Brexit theday before.The day before the vote, he said, ‘I do not think anybody should listen to me (because) I have not really focused on it very much,’ but that his ‘inclination’ would be that Britain should vote to leave the European Union.This was a recommendation, not a prediction.

  • < >

    “8. The repeated claim” “Brexit, I predicted Brexit, you remember that, the day before the event.  I said, no, Brexit is going to happen, and everybody laughed, and Brexit happened.’In fact: Nope [No].

  • “9. The claim: On his campaign claim that Ted Cruz’s father was seen with Lee Harvey Oswald: ‘but that was in the newspaper.  I was not, I did not say that.  I was referring to a newspaper I am just quoting the newspaper.’In fact: The newspaper in question is the National Enquirer – and when he made the claim, Trump did not make clear that he was quoting the National Enquirer.He said: ‘His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being – you know, shot.I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous.’ [Ted Cruz is a Republican member of Congress who was one of the candidates running for the presidency before he dropped out in 2016.]

  • “10. The claim: ‘I went to Kentucky two nights ago, we had 25,000 people in a massive basketball arena.’In fact: The capacity of the arena is about 18,000.

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    I strongly recommend that you read this material in TIME magazine very clearly, closely, studiously, and prayerfully.

  • At this point in our journey through the Consortium’s newsletters, we are trying to make sure we thoroughly and fully understand the facts in regards to “the Trump Phenomenon.”This is absolutely essential if we are going to bring our Faith to bear on this phenomenon and that is why we are looking at this question of truthfulness and “the Trump Phenomenon.” As we go along, please also pray for God’s blessings on our efforts and on “the Trump phenomenon” itself too.

     

  • A few days later, in the Toronto Star (the Sunday Star) of March 26, 2017, there was another article by Daniel Dale in the Insight section about our present topic, i.e., Trump’s Presidency and his use of lies; it was titled “Lies My President Told Me.”

  • The sub-headline summarizes the article well.“Donald Trump supporters in hardscrabble Ohio have finally figured out that he is lying a lot but they do not care.This is not a good situation for us to have because it is destructive of real community and society!

  • One person from Newark, Ohio, whose name was James Cassidy, had this to say about the matter.Cassidy “did not need the director of the FBI to tell him that Barack Obama never wiretapped Donald Trump at Trump Tower.Cassidy knew from the start that Trump made the whole thing up.He was happy the president lied.‘He is ruffling every feather in Washington he can ruffle.These guys are scrambling.So yeah!I like it.I think it is a good thing.I want to see them jump around a little bit,’ Cassidy, 58, said …

  • “Sure, Cassidy thought, Trump’s claim was obviously false.‘Why would he?Why would Obama do that?’ but Trump had promised to slap some sense into the out-of-touch Washington elites, and he is doing what he said he was going to do, wasn’t he?He makes them uncomfortable,’ he said, ‘which makes me happy’…

  • “[Some] Republican congress people, the New York Times reported, were privately complaining that Trump’s tweets were undermining his presidency.That may be true.But there was no hint of a collapsing brand … on the streets and in the stores of Ohio where Trump won more than 60% of the vote in the 2016 election … In the eyes of his voters, Trump was either correct, possibly correct, mistaken but well-intentioned, or a delightfully cunning manipulator fomenting chaos to strengthen his political hand …

     

  • “On the whole, Trump has never been viewed more negatively on matters of truth.A Quinnipiac University poll recently found that 60 per cent of Americans think he is dishonest, a new high.Time ran a cover story on Trump with the headline ‘Is truth dead?’The Wall Street Journal editorial board, long Trump-friendly, accused him of damaging his presidency with a ‘seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.’

 

  • “Yet Trump has also managed a remarkable feat: maintaining a reputation among millions of Americans as a man of rare honesty at the same time as he launches an unprecedented daily barrage of Oval Office lies.‘Trump would have never said that (Obama wiretapped him) unless it was true,’ said Robert Duffy, 73 … ‘That’s too much of a gamble for him to take.His reputation, you know?’ Two recent polls found that about 60 per cent of Republicans believe the inaccurate wiretapping claim is accurate …

 

  • “The challenge for Trump opponents is not merely that many Trump supporters believe his false claims.It is that supporters are willing to explain away the claims that they do not think are fully accurate …

 

  • “Charlie Sykes, the Trump critic and former conservative talk radio host in Wisconsin, says there is an ‘alternative reality bubble’ within the right, created in part by conservative media.Trump, he said, is both developing and exploiting this ‘post-truth environment,’ elevating once-fringe conspiracy theorists and propagandists who will then amplify his lies.

         “‘He is extremely aware of his ability to sort of throw these giant turd bombs out there and create disruption.  And to a certain extent that is all he really needs to do.  Just create enough doubt, spread enough chaos, and he will survive.’  In the long term, Sykes said, ‘the destruction of his credibility is potentially fatal’ – but ‘news cycle by news cycle, it probably works for him.’

         “His success with lying, however temporary, reflects broader problems afflicting the United States [and other] political systems: extreme partisan polarization and historically low trust in institutions [like the Church]. Trump supporters’ scant faith in institutions, actively encouraged by Trump himself, makes them skeptical of the people who have called him out on the wiretapping lie: news outlets, Democratic leaders, even law enforcement.” (Daniel Dale)

  • Red Flag For Believers.  Here Dale’s analysis has hit upon something very important that is happening to today’s Western culture that impacts upon religion and its proclamation.  In the past, we have seen that today’s Church’s call is for all Catholics to undertake the New Evangelization.  What has been immediately described above is a very important element of modern culture today which the New Evangelization of the Gospel has to face and encounter and this is hard work.  Also we have no choice here: whether we would like to or not, we cannot disregard this big stumbling block today to spread the Gospel.  Please pray, and pray hard, that the Church will successfully evangelize/re-evangelize the world today.  Thank you.

     

  • “It has never been clear how much of Trump’s deceit is strategic and how much of it is impulsive.But there is one thing he has known since his days as a serially untruthful businessman: attempts to correct his nonsense get far less attention than the original nonsense itself.” (Dale)

  • Anthony Skaggs, 50, a Newark engineer for a Fortune 500 company, said he had heard about the wiretapping situation and he was not necessarily believing it but it would not surprise him.He called the claim “something to distract you [like smoke and mirrors] away from real problems.” “But he also defended Trump’s penchant for ‘embellishing for dramatic effect,’ saying Trump has ‘really not that much different’ from historical figures like President Teddy Roosevelt – and circus impresario P.T. Barnum.

  • “Wes Rumee, a farmer, said he supports Trump because the president tells the truth.The wiretapping claim, he said was a comical ‘joke.’ ‘I think that was something just to rattle Obama.I do not think less of him because of it,’ said Grumme, 60 ,… ‘As long as he does not keep it up continuously – every once in a while, sure, take a little stab and crack at him or something.You expect that.He is a humorous guy.’” (Dale)

  • Rolin Pierce is the owner of a men’s clothing store and did not think anyone wiretapped Trump.He said, “I think Trump just did that to freak them out – they were giving him bad times, so he gave them bad times.Mess with their brains … I like that.Because we have had so much crap in Washington for years, and now we have someone shaking them up really good.”

  • “Then Evelyn Lasure, 63, returned to the conversation.She said she was not yet convinced Trump was wrong.He had, after all, always impressed her with his forthrightness.‘To me, I want to see what the person’s going to do, if he is honest, he is straight,’ she said.‘And he is pretty straight.’” (Dale)

     

  • There is another side to this story.Certain media, e.g., CNN (television) showed some Trump supporters wanting him to do less tweeting and lying and getting to work as the country’s President!

 

  • The March 25, 2017, The Tablet, in an editorial (“Trump’s Tactics: Only Weapon Against Fake News Is Truth”) adds some good considerations to the above dialogue (below).

  • “Does the concept of ‘fake news’ logically imply the existence of real news?Otherwise, all news is fake.Good news, bad news, indifferent news: none of it is to be believed.This worldview appears to be methodically and unscrupulously promoted by Donald Trump.His willingness to label any inconvenient fact as fake news – a deliberate untruth perpetrated by the media – is mirrored by his tendency to tell deliberate untruths himself.

  • “This is frustrating for Mr. Trump’s opponents.How can they land a punch on one so slippery?And even if they did – in a world in which all news might be true or might be fake, how would anybody know? … Mr. Trump did not actually assert [the Obama wiretapping] to be true but he gave this wild allegation authority by mentioning it more than once and praising its direct source, a commentator on Fox News …

  • “Or are we being pushed towards thinking that the allegation and its rebuttal are both fake news? This would make Mr. Trump’s intentions a little clearer.He may be deliberately embarking on poisoning the wells of trust and credibility, so that no one believes anything they are told, no matter by whom.Hence, when for example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announces the results of its inquiries into allegations that Mr. Trump colluded with the Russian Government in the presidential campaign, whatever the findings, nobody will believe them.If the FBI were to say that the Russian involvement had been proved, Mr. Trump could simply shrug, declare it ‘more fake news,’ and walk away.” (The Tablet)

  • When dealing with the House of Representatives intelligence committee, the Democrats figured out a strategy.“It was to batter down the wall of lies and doubts with truth upon truth upon truth, until the pressures became irresistable.It was a modern version of the Battle of Jericho.Committee members read into the record the evidence of the links, times, places, dates, sums of money passed and so on, in such detail that it would be hard to believe they did not come straight from the official U.S. intelligence sources – a possibility that clearly upset the Republican committee members.” (The Tablet)

  • It worked and so we learn that whenever we are faced with something like “fake news,” the thing to do is to follow the moral commandment of telling the truth as our only weapon in this situation.In other words, follow what God would have us do!

     

    (TO BE CONTINUED)

     

    LENTEN RESOURCE

  • “Grace began on the cross” (author unknown).The Stations of the Cross powerfully illustrate this saying and so are a good devotion for any time of the year, but they are very powerful and impacting for the Season of Lent.

  • Please allow me to bring to your attention a Way of the Cross that is very powerful and good.It is The Way of the Cross With Pope Francis put out by CNEWA = Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support.I know that we are getting close to the end of our present Lenten Season but this booklet can be used year after year.It is available from www.cnewa.ca or 1-866-322-4441 (a 1-800 number which costs you no calling charges) or from Catholic Near East Welfare Association, 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    K1H 6K9.

  • It is written in the style of Pope Francis, of course, but a style that refreshes and that has very catching ways of expressing the elements of our Faith.I highly recommend this to you.

     

    MISCELLANY

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    As you are aware, the number of the elderly segment in our population is increasing.In our ministry, we will continue to encounter more and more of them: a four-year-old today has a 50/50 chance of reaching 104 years of age. Ageism is a situation we encounter more and more today and as Catholics today, we need to have proper perspectives here; ageism in our culture cripples life, self-development, ministry, and spirituality.Please allow me to suggest a resource, just published, that is a good supplement for all of us in Catholic ministry, and, in fact, for all Catholics trying to live out the fullness of their biblical baptismal calling.The resource is the book, Disrupt Aging, by Jo Ann Jenkin.Jenkin’s point is that age is a number and aging is part of life and not something to fear.

  • “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page” (Saint Augustine).If you travel and hence read many pages, be sure to thank God for these opportunities.

  • Forty-three million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness; this is about 14% of the population.Figures in other Western countries are about the same.That means that in today’s world all of us who are ministering to people and/or encountering people will run into persons with some form of mental illness. This mental illness affects what they believe and how they believe.This means, especially for people called to ministry, that there is a need to have some understanding of basic psychology.We do not have a lot of time to get our doctorates in this field but the need to be aware of basic psychology remains.Allow me to make a suggestion.Start learning more about basic psychology either informally, i.e., by ourselves or formally, i.e., in some kind of teaching context.You will not have a lot of time to devote to this and so you will need to make some choices: my recommendation is that you let traditional psychology (Freud, Jung, etc.) go and focus on modern psychology, especially the newer positive psychology.The more you can achieve here, the better your ministry will be because ministry today needs to be holistic.God bless and bring to fruition everything you try to do here.Amen!

  • “If we are not convinced about God’s unconditional love, then we will not trust Him/Her, and when we do not trust the Lord to liberate and save us, to bring us from death to life, we will instead try to ‘liberate’ and ‘save’ ourselves, and this unfortunately results in even more situations of evil and injustice” (from a newsletter, Keeping In Touch With the Heart-Beat Of Our OK [Ontario-Kentucky] CR [Congregation of the Resurrection] Community by Father Murray McDermott, C.R., March 23, 2017, in the section, “Reflection by Provincial Council Members on the Mission Statement”; Father Murray, C.R., is our Provincial Superior).

  • Finally, here is a happiness tip from Woman’s World, April 3, 2017:

    “Happy Tip! Hear some chirping words? Listen in for a few moments for an instant happiness boost! Studies prove hearing birdsong ups your energy and keeps you focused!” And be sure to express your gratitude to God in a quick prayer of thanksgiving for the birds!

     

     

    God continue to bless you in special loving ways as we continue living out our Lenten Season and preparing for the celebration of Resurrection at Easter.  Amen.

     

    Father Fred Scinto, C.R.,

    Resurrection Ministries,

    Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

    (fscinto@rogers.com)

    (519-885-4370 or toll free 1-877-242-7935)

 




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