Hope for the future

April 28 -May 4
VOL 124 NO. 16
Hope for the future
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
St. Paul’s Church offers Mass in celebration of Pope Benedict XVI

OSWEGO — With dazzling white bunting and ornate gold bows draped above doorway in the vestibule, St. Paul’s Church was ready for the Northern Region Mass in celebration of the election of the new pope, Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. And the fact that the church’s pastor, Father Eric Harer, shares a love of all things German with the new pope was also obviously displayed. The Mass, April 20, featured a combined choir from area churches and Father Harer was assisted at the Mass by Father Philip Brockmyre who is serving at St. Mary of the Assumption Church also in Oswego. Deacon Frank Warren joined them at the altar.

After Father Harer welcomed the congregation to St. Paul’s, he said the Mass was not only one of thanksgiving but also an opportunity to ask for God’s blessing upon the 265th pope.

“We’re here not only in thanksgiving,” he said, “but to intercede to Almighty God to bless our pope with health and vigor.”

The readings were particularly poignant and chosen especially for the Mass. “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”(Isaiah 61:1) And especially fitting was the reading from 1 Peter, “God’s flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd’s care. Watch over it willingly as God would have you do, not under constraint; and not for shameful profit either, but generously. Be examples to the flock, not lording it over those assigned to you, so that when the chief Shepherd appears you will win for yourselves the unfading crown of glory.”

Father Harer introduced his homily by referring to the seventh commandment — “Thou shall not steal.” He chose to read aloud an article by Daniel Johnson that was published in the London Times upon the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Jokingly, Father Harer wondered if reading the selection amounted to plagiarism, so he promised to read it with feeling and emphasis so that it might become his own message.

The article called the papacy the oldest and most successful institution in the world. For the world to ask the leader of such an institution to “water down” doctrine would be like “asking him to abolish his own office.”

“Joseph Ratzinger has been the most powerful figure in the church after John Paul II for the past two decades,” Johnson wrote. “It is entirely right that he should have the opportunity to serve the church in the capacity for which he is so obviously head and shoulders above the rest.”

Johnson likened Pope John Paul II’s fight against communism to the type of fight Pope Benedict XVI will face against rampant secularism. “And all those anti-papist commentators who protested at the attention given to John Paul II’s illness, death and funeral will be gnashing their teeth once battle commences,” he wrote in the Times.

Father Harer encouraged the faithful to pray for the new pope, and to pray for priests and deacons as well because, “We need your prayers more than ever these days.”

Those attending the Mass were from various parts of Oswego County. Marge Corsoniti, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception in Fulton, said that she hopes that Pope Benedict will bring unity to the universal church. “I hope he brings all Catholics closer to God,” she said, “and that he can end a lot of the turmoil.”

Sister Mary Alice St. John, CSJ, a parish minister at St. Joseph’s in Oswego, said that “time will tell” whether or not the new pope can accomplish all that is necessary in today’s church. “He has shown both progressive and conservative sides,” Sister Mary Alice said. “May he be open to God’s Spirit and may God’s Spirit be open to him.” Looking at the death penalty Le Moyne College hosts event for Jail Ministry program By Richard J. Sales SUN contributing The U.S. has held itself to a very high standard regarding criminal justice and punishment. Early in American history the bar was set with the acknowledgment that it is better to let 100 criminals go free than to convict one innocent man. Despite all the sincere efforts of lawyers, judges, police and legislators, innocent people are can be found guilty. While these cases of wrongful conviction are only a tiny percentage of the total number of verdicts, they are devastating to the falsely accused and their families. One can imagine the embarrassment at being branded as a criminal. The loss of liberty one would feel by being confined in a cell, held away from work and family, and being denied the right to live a useful life is difficult to comprehend. It would cause anger and resentment toward the offending institutions, not to mention the financial damage that the accused would incur.

Le Moyne College recently hosted a fundraising event for Jail Ministry as part of its Human Rights Week celebration. Approximately 75 people gathered to view the film documentary entitled “Deadline” and to discuss recent legislation and current efforts regarding capital punishment. In the discussion following the film, issues related to parish involvement in petition drives led to an exploration into the stance of the Catholic Church on the death penalty and how the church can make its position known. In the past, Catholic support of the death penalty was about the same as the national average at around 70 percent. Recent drives to educate the public about the church’s vision on the matter have reduced this percentage to 48. A pamphlet: Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty details the findings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning capital punishment. It contains a strong pro-life/anti-capital punishment message which provided the basis for an excellent discussion between Catholic and non-Catholic attendees.

A recent ruling now bans capital punishment in New York State. More than 100 people in the U.S. who were convicted and sentenced to die have been found to be innocent, mainly due to advances in DNA identification technology. Without these new scientific techniques all these innocent people would either be dead or imprisoned and awaiting execution. The president himself said, in comments regarding the Terri Shiavo case, “In issues of life and death, we should always err on the side of life.” President George W. Bush, as governor of Texas, oversaw the execution of 152 people. The execution of criminals may seem acceptable to some, but no one believes that innocent people should be put to death.

Many people, especially non-Catholics, are still unclear as to the church’s position on capital punishment. The late Pope John Paul II said in 1999: “I renew the appeal for a consensus to end the death penalty.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” At first there seems to be a contradiction; the Pope calls on his followers to end the death penalty, but the Catechism does not exclude recourse to it. This is redressed, however, by the fact that life in prison without parole, with possible solitary confinement, would effectively neutralize any threat than any inmate might pose to human life. There is no justification within the Catechism to execute any death-row inmates, as they have been neutralized already by their imprisonment.

Non-Catholics at the Le Moyne event drew on quotations from the Declaration of Independence, Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. to fortify their arguments against capital punishment. The overwhelming majority of people who attended the fundraiser agreed that even the worst criminals — murderers, rapists, child abusers — are entitled to life.

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