The title of this blog entry which will arise from time to time means “and other things” and signals that you should look for an entry that most likely lacks “unity, coherence and emphasis.” In other words, I will use occasions like this to raise a number of issues which are clearly unrelated to each other. So fasten your seat belt, here goes:
One thoughtful reader upon reading the entry on the level of charitable giving in the US to Haiti in the five weeks since the earthquake asked what the likelihood is that it is getting to the people who need it the most. It is a good question and all I can do is share my experience, now several years old of chairing the Board of Catholic Relief Services. Haiti is a challenging place for non-profits to work. There is a dreadful combination of corruption and violence present in that country which every private voluntary organization working there must be prepared to deal with. It is nothing to have a band of armed men break into a warehouse with food and steal it only for the purpose of selling it on the black market. The strongest of locks and the presence of armed guards secures nothing in that country for sure. Yet, most of what is donated for the needs of the general population does get to those in need. Giving it to the government to distribute is not a great idea because of the corruption factor and one thing which helps CRS is that they can use a vast network of parishes and churches as distribution points and that works more often than not. To the writer of the comment, the pictures of the army using force to drive away those storming the food distribution points was likely necessary to keep the method of distribution to those most in need going. I would have bet that had those storming the food center been successful, everything being shared, donated, sent for the poor and needy would have ended up on the black market. Haiti can be chaotic at times but I think that CRS and other PVO’s are succeeding in seeing that what they have to give gets to the right people. Will it be perfect? Not likely. Can it still be effective and fair distribution? Yes.
Health care is back on the burner and I am suspicious that the anti-abortion protection of the House language will not be present in what is parleyed through the legislature in the coming weeks. We need health care but we do not need a new “open sesame” which for all intents and purposes directs yours and my taxes to support abortion services. It looks like the action is slated for the Senate and I encourage all to “swamp” Senator Nelson with pleas that he change his position. The rest of this diocese’s elected representatives in the House remain pro-life but they need some pressure to work harder for an acceptable health care proposal in general. Remember, the official position of the Church is that access to safe, affordable health care is a right in itself.
On a much, much smaller scale of human interest, most of my doctors have declared me “cured” and my surgeon has politely and appropriately begged “never to see me again” – professionally. I am back to work, taking the major public liturgies which I used to celebrate without fail but will continue through Spring not “to overdo it.” My recovery is an answer to many prayers – my own and many of yours as well. It is wonderful to feel useful once again.
The Florida bishops meet in Tallahassee next week for what we call “Catholic Days at the Capitol.” Joined by several hundred volunteers we annually descend on the legislature as it opens its annual session, usually but likely not this time see the Governor for a discussion of issues of mutual concern, celebrate the annual Red Mass for the executive, legislative and judicial branches (usually only a sparse representation of the legislature shows up), and meet as a state conference of bishops. It can be one and a half long days so we will see what my staying power is this year.
On Tuesday I am going to drive right through Tallahassee and keep going to spend an hour with my dear friend and fellow bishop, John Ricard, of Tallahassee-Pensacola. He is in rehab at the moment and remains in need of many prayers. He is a great man and a good bishop and the priests, deacons, religious and people of his diocese are worried about and for him. I will report in this space how he seems to be doing after I see him on Tuesday.
Don’t forget, we are once again lighting our Churches next Thursday night, March 11th and hearing confessions from 5-8 pm. The Light is ON for You.
So now you know what the Latin phrase et alia means – assorted and unsorted thoughts while shaving. God bless.
Tags: Bishop John Ricard, Bishops, Catholic Days at the Capitol, Catholic Relief Services, Comments and Questions, Et Alia, Florida Catholic Conference, Haiti Earthquake, Healthcare, Pro-Life, Red Mass, Surgery, The Light is ON for You