Friday, January 8, 2010

What Does This Silence Betoken?

Bishop Olmstead ministering to his large flock of residents in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tent city.

It seems that the Feds are finally going after the self proclaimed 'toughest sheriff' in America, Maricopa County Arizona's Joe Arpaio. Sheriff Joe has made quite the name for himself for his immigrations sweeps, tent cities, chain gangs, and other novel ideas about criminal investigation and enforcement. Oh yea, and using his extensive deputy force to investigate and intimidate oppositional politicians, government employees, and journalists. I guess he's over done the latter and that has resulted in the convening of a Federal Grand Jury.

Sheriff Joe has generated tons of controversy in his four terms as sheriff. He has incurred the wrath of international human rights groups, immigration reform advocates, state and local community groups, and engendered and lost quite the number of law suits brought by folks who didn't enjoy his novel concepts of incarceration. Yet in spite of all of this, he is still one of the most popular elected officials in Arizona--especially since he began his infamous sweeps for illegal aliens. I'm sure part of his popularity has to do with the fact he only goes after the illegal alien part of our immigration problem and not the employer part.

Not surprisingly he is also under federal scrutiny for racial profiling and has had his ability to conduct immigration sweeps curtailed by the Department of Justice. Racial profiling is an issue which effects a lot of legal American citizens in the Southwest. Families of Hispanic and Indigenous origin have been American citizens for hundreds of years and being cited in one of Sheriff Joe's 'sweeps' --mostly for vehicle violations--is unappreciated. I imagine it is very irritating to observe that the car with the cracked windshield being driven by a white person is not stopped while yours is.

A person can spend hours reading about Sheriff Joe and one thing you can't help but notice in the reading is that while religious leaders of other denominations have spoken out against some of Joe's behavior precisely because it is inhumane and racist, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J Olmstead has uttered not one peep. His official spokespeople say he is working quietly behind the scenes.

I find this quite interesting from a bishop who had no qualms about castigating Fr. Jenkins for inviting President Obama to speak at Notre Dame, or denying communion for ex Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano, or sending 50,000 dollars of Diocesan money to Bishop Malone of Maine to interfere in Maine's political battle over gay marriage. For some reason being vociferous and upfront on these issues is his duty, while being silent on Sheriff Joe and his predations on the Bishop's own Hispanic flock demands 'silently' working behind the scenes.

Could this difference possibly indicate that in the Diocese of Arizona there are two distinct approaches for the flock? A very vocal one for progressive Catholics who support positions which violate Catholic sexual morality and a very silent one for conservative Catholics whose policies violate Catholic social justice positions? Or are there two positions based on something else? Maybe there are two distinct Catholic churches in Arizona in that wealthy conservative white Catholics get one message, and poor Native and Hispanic Catholics get another message?

The silence of Bishop Olmstead bothers me for what it actually says about the coming immigration battle in Congress. This will be an ugly battle not just for politicians of both parties, but for the Roman Catholic Church. Does the American Catholic community include all Catholics, or just some Catholics? Will Catholic immigrants be seen as truly our brothers and sisters in Christ? Or does their national origin and legal status make them a second class of Catholics not worth our concern except to see they go back where they came from? Sheriff Joe is definitely in the second camp and Bishop Olmstead is silent.

I've written before that I really think the coming battle over immigration will be as divisive, if not more so, than the ones over gay marriage and abortion. This is a battle that will have lasting consequences for the American Catholic Church--a truly defining moment. The silence of Bishop Olmstead with regards to the blatant excesses of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is not acceptable. Whether he likes it or not, his flock is much bigger than just those who can afford to donate. He has a moral obligation as a bishop to defend those other Catholics and especially from the excesses from another part of his flock. He set that precedent for himself when he very publicly acted to deny communion to Janet Napolitano, castigate Fr. Jenkins, and send diocesan money to Maine.

Bishop Olmstead can not be a 'silent' cafeteria bishop when it comes to immigration and still claim to be the shepherd for his entire flock in Arizona. That is he can't unless we really do have one American Catholicism for those who can donate, and another for those who can't.


  1. The hierarchy's use of excommunication would be a joke if it's implications were not so serious.

    The leadership of the Nazi regime was a virtual Catholic men's group, a chapter you might say of the Knights of Columbus or Knights of Malta.
    Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Josef Goebbels, Reinhard Heydrich, Rudolf Hoess, Julius Streicher, Fritz Thyssen (who bankrolled the Nazi rise to power), Klaus Barbie, and Franz Von Papen were all Roman Catholics, as were the heads of all of these NAZI countries : Leon Degrelle of Belgium, Emil Hacha of Bohemia-Moravia, Ante Pavelic of Croatia, Konrad Henlein of Sudetenland, Pierre Laval and then Henry Petain of Vichy-France. and the R.C. priest, Msgr. Josef Tiso, of Slovakia.
    (who wasn't even defrocked after the defeat of the Nazis). Although these were among the most visible Catholic lay people in their countries at the time, did Pope Pius XII excommunicate a single one of them? NO. How can anyone say that this pope did "all that he could", when he failed to take this obvious measure so as to make it clear to the millions of Catholic faithful who were enabling the Nazis to carry out their campaigns of mass murder, not only against Jews, but against their fellow Catholics in Poland, that they should have no part in these monstrous of crimes and most mortal of sins? Apologists for Pius XII who claim that their crimes caused these people to be "automatically excommunicated" miss the point that excommunication isn't intended to tell GOD who is a Catholic and who isn't but to tell THE FAITHFUL whom to shun.
    On the other hand, after the Nazis were defeated and no longer posed any threat to the pope, the Vatican, or the Catholic Church anywhere, did Pope Pius XII allow the Vatican to be used to protect thousands of Catholic war criminals such as the above to escape punishment for their war crimes? YES. Whose side was the pope on?
    Here are some of the more infamous war criminals the Vatican protected from prosecution:
    Adolf Eichmann, "the architect of the Holocaust", ,
    Alois Brunner , referred to as his "best man" by Eichman,
    Dr. Josef Mengele, "the Angel of Death" ,
    Franz Stangl, commandant of the Sobibór and of Treblinka extermination camp ,
    Gustav Wagner assistant to Franz Stangl,
    Klaus Barbie, "the Butcher of Lyon" ,
    Edward Roschmann, "the Butcher of Riga",
    Aribert Heim, Mauthausen concentration camp's "Dr. Death",
    Walter Rauff, believed responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths
    Andrija Artuković, "the Himmler of the Balkans"
    Ante Pavelić, head of Catholic Croatia, arguably the most murderous regime in relation to its size in Axis-occupied Europe. from my

    Yet in 1945 Pius had no problem threatening any Italian who dared commit the unforgiveable sin of voting for the Communists with excommunication!

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  3. Liberator, I deleted a duplicate post. Didn't Pius excommonicate Stalin but not Hitler? I wonder if Vatican concordats had something to do with the latter.

  4. I doubt Stalin would have cared about excommunication, being the zealous Marxist he was. Stalin (né Iosif Dzhugashvili) was not even raised a Catholic, he was Georgian Orthodox, attended an Orthodox seminary when he was young, and was expelled because of his choice of reading material.

    What Liberator_Rev writes is regrettably true. The bishops' behavior over threatening American Catholic politicians over abortion looks petty and stupid especially when you consider Pius XII didn't excommunicate Roman Catholic Nazis and Nazi collaborators in Europe. I think Pius's hatred of Communism affected how he behaved toward the Nazis.

  5. So Bishop Olmstead is saying Mass for these people but not protesting their treatment? I find that odd. I am still aghast that he donated $50,000 to the Diocese of Portland, Maine. It seems that he treads carefully when it comes to human rights but isn't as concerned when it comes to stirring up homophobic hatred. The people of Phoenix must have whiplash with the bishops they have had.

  6. Yes, the previous bishop, Thomas O'Brien, resigned after being convicted on charges stemming from an incident where O'Brien hit and killed a pedestrian with his car, then left the scene of the accident. O'Brien and Olmstead, like many of the JPII bishops, are not big picture people.

  7. 1. It is obvious that bishops like Olmstead approve of this sherrif's tactics. It is not default consent by his silence; it is indicative of a backroom deal with those who enable the sherrif.

    2. You can be sure that if one of his priests were at risk of being a guest in such jails, great $$ & effort would be expended to cut a deal to avert it.

    3. Those who think - for one reason or another - that Bishops are literally out of the loop of state politics - are blind.

    Enough visible detachment is maintained to enable 'plausible deniability' in cases of obvious abuse of justice & corruption scenarios. This is by design, not accident.

    As to the overt misuse of "excommunication", I must agree with all Liberator_Rev has said. But on the spiritual level this must be said:

    If the Vatican wants to throw me out of their organization, they may do that. But no human has the power to do is to seperate me from Christ. No person or entity on earth has the power to do that.

    As to Communion: if that is denied or not available, one may always make a Spiritual Communion. The effects & benefit of which is virtually identical with the Sacrament.

    And one may always visit Christ in the Blessed Sacrament - anytime, 24/7.....even when "Father is perpetually out & the church is locked".

    Online Eucharistic Adoration via live webcam feed 24/7 may be found at:

    I highly recommend it to all!

  8. Quoted and signed by Thomas Olmsted:
    "For 2010-2011 there will not be any increase to the teachers' salary scales and teachers will be frozen at their position of the scales. I addition, when the salary scales are revised, teachers will move one step at a time. The steps will not be made up. The steps will not equal years of service."

    So while he can send 50K to Maine he expects his teachers to freeze their salaries. Even when times do improve, we will never be compensated appropriately for our years of service.

  9. It looks to me like Bishop Olmstead needs to take some remedial writing classes from his school system I had to read that three times before I could decipher what he meant.