World Series

World Series

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by Bill Droel

Here is Rev. Martin Luther King (1929-1968) writing from jail in Summer 1963. The intended audience is fellow ministers. The topic is church leaders’ opposition to King’s direct advocacy for integration.

“In spite of my shattered dreams of the past, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and with deep moral concern serve as the channel through which our just grievances could get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed… Read more

When America Hated Catholics

When America Hated Catholics

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In the late 19th century, statesmen feared that Catholic immigrants were less than civilized (and less than white).

By Josh Zeitz

September 23, 2015

In the late nineteenth century, political cartoonist Thomas Nast regularly lambasted Irish Catholic immigrants as drunkards and barbarians unfit for citizenship; signs that read, “No Irish Need Apply,” lined shop windows in Boston and New York and dotted the classified pages in many of the country’s leading papers; statesmen warned about the dangers of admitting Catholics from Southern and Eastern Europe onto American shores, for fear that they were something less than civilized (and less than white). It wasn’t unusual for respectable politicians to wonder aloud whether Catholics could be loyal to their adoptive country and to the Pope.

What a difference a few decades can make. Today, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these Catholic immigrants occupy the halls of Congress, governors’ mansions and state legislatures. One of them currently resides in the Naval Observatory. And when the head of the Catholic Church comes to visit, he will be warmly welcomed and hailed by politicians of all parties and all faiths.

Indeed, America has traveled a long road since the days when many native-born Americans regarded Catholic immigrants as an ideological and racial threat. Read more

After Protest

After Protest

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by Bill Droel

This column is hardy ready to endorse Hillary in 16. But Clinton is correct in her reaction to Black Lives Matter activists with whom she had an off-stage exchange early in August. They probed her how she will change hearts to eliminate racism. “How do you actually feel that’s different,” they asked?

“You can get lip service” from some people, Clinton replied. Some people will respond to your protest and say: We get it. We are going to be nicer. “That’s not enough, at least in my book,” she asserted. “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.” Her point, reports Maggie Haberman in New York Times (8/20/15), is that “deeply felt emotions” have to be translated into “meaningful lasting change” because “movement politics gets you only so far.” Read more

Papal Visit – Part II

Papal Visit – Part II

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by Bill Droel

Where does Pope Francis get his ideas on the economy? The same place as every other informed Catholic. Like other Christian traditions, Catholicism says God’s truth is revealed through the Bible. Like other Christian traditions, Catholicism says Jesus Christ is God’s unique self-revelation. Catholicism also says God’s One Truth is mediated through reason (philosophy, social science and physical science) and through collective experience. Many Christian traditions agree with this method, but some do not.

Catholic social doctrine is premised on the God-given absolute dignity of each person—from womb to tomb. Further, says Catholicism a person is by God’s design a social being. Therefore, God expects society to enhance personal dignity. A good family makes it easier for its members to be holy. A just society makes wholeness or holiness possible. Read more

Pope’s Visit

Pope’s Visit

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by Bill Droel

Is the pope a socialist? During this month’s papal visit to our country a few vocal critics raise the question.
Why would someone call Pope Francis a socialist?

First, there is still a strain of anti-Catholicism in corners of our society. Socialist conjures up abhorrent communism. The socialist label is thus a covert slur. In addition, there are a few disgruntled U.S. Catholics who over the past 40 years have not liked many Catholic leaders, including the current pope.

A further source of the socialist label is worth more comment. Many people in our society follow an ideology of individual liberty. They—be they moderately rich or be they working class–mostly think about life in relation to their individual situation, usually in monetary terms. Pope Francis is quite clear in condemning this individualism and this consumerism. Read more

Rules Part II

Rules Part II

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by Bill Droel

Chris Matthews supplies several rules for public life in Hardball: How Politics Is Played (Free Press, 1988).

One chapter explains why “it’s better to receive than give.” Such surprising rules make Matthews’ book a classic. “Contrary to what many people assume,” he writes, “the most effective way to gain a person’s loyalty is not to do him or her a favor, but to let that person do one for you.”

Take for example a college graduate’s job search. The typical approach is well-described in another classic, What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles (Ten Speed Press, 1972). The young adult makes a list of potential employers (probably using the Internet) and sends each a confidence-flavored resume and an assertive cover letter lightly peppered with exclamation marks. A few more preliminary research hours and a more supplicating approach are probably more effective. Is there someone in the young adult’s circles who might have a weak-link connection to the prospective employer? Might your research uncover that your dentist with whom admittedly your link is weak or maybe the neighborhood funeral director have some connection to a board member of the bank or hospital where you seek employment? Ask a favor of your dentist. Maybe she feels too remote from the bank officer to comply, but she is now invested in your search. The circle of weak-link contacts is growing. Read more

No Rules

No Rules

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William Droel 

Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) could not tell less experienced organizers more loudly or more frequently: There are no rules. Creative life is for fluid people.

Alinsky’s insistence caused cognitive dissonance in many of his novice disciples. They read his Rules for Radicals (Random House, 1971) and concluded there really are rules for public life. They memorized his adages: “The action is in the reaction,” or “Reconciliation means one side gets power and the other side gets reconciled to it,” or “Personalize the target and polarize the issue.” Each of Alinsky’s so-called rules was supported by examples from his reading of history, his contact with John L. Lewis (1880-1969) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations and his own pioneering organizing efforts. Read more

Free Choice?

Free Choice?

Droel_pictureby Bill Droel

Rebecca Friedrichs doesn’t want to pay her union dues. And indeed, because our culture is premised on individualism some workers can now legally opt out of their dues. Friedrichs, whose workplace is represented by California Teachers Association, wants something more. She wants no payroll deduction for what is called agency fee or fair share service fee. This is an amount between $350 to $400 a year given to a union for negotiating her contract and handling any grievance she may have. Friedrichs doesn’t want the union speaking for her in the public sphere at all and she thinks an agency fee is a violation of free speech.

Friedrichs does not have a moral objection to any union position in the sense that a particular topic touches on her religious liberty—a matter like abortion or, let’s say, marriage policies or even evolution. Her objection covers anything the union says about classroom size, teacher evaluation, the merits of charter schools and the like. The union, by the way, is not allowed to leave Friedrichs off its lists, allowing her to handle any situation on her own. Read more

Action First

Action First

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by Bill Droel

Young adults do not so much need a meaning in life as an experience of living. Despite or because of our cosmopolitan culture and global economy, too many young adults get caught up in a small circle of co-workers and friends while communicating mostly about small comings and goings.

Meanwhile, many young adults are disaffected from churches. Could it be perhaps because, at least in part, churches don’t offer an experience of living? Some churches deliver moral standards and dogmas in a compassionate, pastoral fashion. Other churches, more or less, serve up entertainment in the form of snappy hymns and stylized self-help preaching.  Upbeat hymns, good preaching and fellowship over robust coffee are well and good. But a rousing prayer service or a church’s sensitive staff cannot alone contribute to a young adult’s experience of living. Read more

Hometown Brag

Hometown Brag

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by Bill Droel

Political commentators derisively call it The Chicago Way. They refer to our machine-style politics. Its motto, of course, is Ubi est mea? (Where’s mine?) It is accompanied by corruption and then jail time for some, including in recent years a Congressman and two Governors.

By contrast, two commentators point to a positive Chicago Way–our style of being Catholic. “As U.S. Catholic histories continue to be written, the Catholic Midwest in general and Chicago in particular will highlight the emergence of the post-Vatican II pastoral church,” writes Tom Fox, editor of National Catholic Reporter (www.nconline.org, 6/8/15). Fox pays tribute to recently deceased Chicagoans Eugene Cullen Kennedy (1928-2015) and Bob McClory (1932-2015). He also mentions our Fr. Andrew Greeley (1928-2013). Kennedy and the others “embraced a rich sacramental vision,” Fox says, believing that “the divine imbued all matter and the sacraments [the formal ones and the many small ones] were aids to open our eyes to the richness of God’s all-embracing love.” Read more