Lonesome Tree in Sandhills

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day: Remembering Why

Yesterday's Memorial Day was just another day for most people, in fact many even had the day off.  However, I would like to take this opportunity to remember my Uncle Albert - a typical farm boy from Nebraska sucked into a war machine.  

A few weeks after I was born, Uncle Albert was sent with the re-formed 106th to the Ardennes Forest, arriving on Dec. 15, 1944, the day before Hitler’s army began the last big German offensive in WWII - the Battle of the Bulge. The 106th officers surrendered after German tanks mowed down most of their troops & the rest were marched & shipped in trains for weeks with little food or water to several stalags, ending up in Stalag III-A near the Oder River on Germany's border with Poland. Six months later, a week before Berlin fell, Russia's army liberated those POW camps & my uncle joined a few POWs who commandered a town's firetruck to get back to France. He was discharged 5 mo. later - a mere shell of his former self at 90 lbs. with most of his hair gone when he arrived back on my grandparents' farm, taking 10 years of Grandma's TLC to heal.

These young men were just ordinary guys living through a hell of someone else’s making ~ enduring the usual ravages of war - in hopes of peace among nations.

Contrast my uncle’s experience with that of 200,000+ Germans captured & brought to POW camps in the States. My home state of Nebraska had 9 POW camps that fed the Germans well & provided labor to nearby farmers whose sons were drafted ~ an odd twist of irony.  When the war ended, many of these young men didn’t want to return to Germany to face the destruction, starvation & roving refugees - they stayed and made a life here in the States.

To all who served or are serving now, and to those who lost loved ones or still have family members in Iraq/Afghanistan ~ Big HUGS ~ Moms

Thursday, March 14, 2013

History of the Popes

Anyone Catholic or otherwise interested in the history of the Church, I highly recommend reading “A History of the Popes” (originally published as “Keepers of the Keys” in 1982) by Sir Nicolas Cheetham, an English classics scholar and diplomat, educated at Christ Church – Oxford.

Sir Cheetham (1910-2002) had a successful career as a British diplomat - first to NATO, then as British Ambassador to Hungary (1961-1963) and Mexico (1968-1972). He was the grandson of a British Parliament Member (House of Commons), and the son of a British diplomat and ambassador's daughter (Russian Empire's last ambassador to Italy). He is also the author of a number of books about history (Mexico, New Spain, Greece).

Sir Cheetham’s “History of the Popes” is a slow read as straight history, but an excellent resource book to learn the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

New Catholic Leader: Pope Francis

The new pope, calling himself Pope Francis, is the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina where he was born and became a Jesuit priest.  Promoted by two very conservative popes, it is no surprise that this pope is also very conservative.  Described as living humbly unlike most cardinals, he is known for cooperating with previous military juntas and dictators, but then clashing with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner - Argentina's first freely-elected female leader. 

Taking the name ‘Francis’ does not necessarily mean anything. This pope may have chosen the name after another Italian - Francis of Assisi, a non-ordained friar, or maybe after a Frenchman - Francis Xavier, founder of his order, the Society of Jesus, aka Jesuits.  Both men, one from early 1200's and the other from the 1500's, had shunned family wealth to “walk the talk” - becoming missionaries for Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church. 

The current crop of cardinals might see in Pope Francis a financial savior with the missionary zeal to convert billions of Asians, perhaps thinking where the money is going to come from in the future.  After all is said and done, the Church as an institution requires a lot of money to survive and all things lead to Rome.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Catholic Birth Control Ban - Do the Math

There are financial reasons why the Roman Catholic Church has continued its stance on birth control (BC) - just do the math to understand.  Is the Vatican's position rational?  I'll let you figure that out.

In 2 generations, Catholic families went from an average of 8 kids who had an average of 5 kids, to my generation with an average of 2 kids. The average total adults in a Catholic family donating to the church dropped from 50 [2+8+(8*5)] to 17 [2+5+(5*2)] after the pill arrived in 1964.  The impact of family members who have left the church because of BC ban magnifies the results.  

My parents had 6 kids & 16 grandkids, but only 4 out of the total of 22 are practicing Catholics.  Using $100 as today's average monthly donation of Catholic adults, the lost revenue annually from just one family is $21,600 (18 x $1200) or $216,000 in a decade if nothing changes. 

The Church's financial experts would look at this impact in the USA of:
1 million families   = $216,000,000,000 = $216 Billion
10 million families = $2,160,000,000,000 = $2.16 Trillion

$2.16 TRILLION is a heckuva lot of money!!

Unfortunately, at the same time families were having fewer kids & therefore higher disposable income, which could have translated into increased donations, the Vatican then doubled down on the BC ban causing those fewer kids to turn away from the church as adults.

Add financial settlements from decades of child sex abuse, which are the tip of this iceberg, and you begin to understand why the Roman Catholic Church faces grave financial troubles today.  To "bring Catholics back to the Church" would require the Pope, the Curia in the Vatican and all the Cardinals, as well as bishops and priests, to completely lift the ban on birth control... and increase the number of available parish priests by taking back those who left to marry.