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Evansville, Indiana
October 23, 1987     The Message
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October 23, 1987
 

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4 Editorial The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana October 23, 1987 By PAUL LEINGANG Message Editor Convocation 87: a calling together for extraordinary times I hurt the heel of my hand last week, stumbl- ing forward into gravel at the edge of a blacktop path, scraping forward into the darkness. It hap- pened as I was walking from the "Activities Center" to the "Main Lodge" at Kentucky Dam Village. The path would have been scenic, in the daytime, but the dark of the night had blended with the dark of the woods and the dark of the paved surface. I knew where I had been, and I knew where I wanted to go, but I wasn't quite sure of the twists and turns through the uncertainty in between. This incident was a very ordinary event, one of many ordinary and extraordinary happenings still tumbling together in my memory of what hap- pened to the diocese of Evansville, and to me, last week. Last week, "Convocation 87" brought together almost all of the priests in the Evansville Diocese, for an experience which will help shape the future of the diocese. The calling together for the diocese took place outside the diocese, at Kentucky Lake. Overnight accomodations were in motel-like rooms; all scheduled activities of the convocation took place at a building designed for meetings, about a ten-minute walk away from the main lodg- ing area. The days from Monday afternoon to Thursday noon were filled with ordinary events -- discus- sions, meals, quiet reflections, the kind of thing you would expect at a gathering of priests. The afternoons were filled with opportunities for recreation, golf, tennis, boating, hiking -- perhaps not ordinary, but certainly the kind of activities you would expect at a nearby resort. Not every priest agreed with the shape and development of the convocation structure, but you would hardly expect unanimity among more than 90 priests, who brought individual life-experiences into a group process. As predictable as it was, the convocation was nonetheless extraordinary. Priests serving the diocese had never before taken such an amount of time to gather together. With expert guidance, the priests reflected on their past -- the good and the not so good. They examined the present -- in the church and in society. They tried to get a fix on the future -- a future projected to be in a growing church served by a declining number of priests. The process, I realized, is not a simple as it seems. My view was the view of an observer, and there is some advantage to such distance; but the priests are participants in a process no observer will fully appreciate. The process involves more than ordinary thought and reflection about the past and present, to understand the directions needed for the future. The process involves the death of the past, perhaps the death of much of the present, so that there can be a future. It is a painful death. The time of plentiful priests is over, and the death of such a time is painful. The time of authoritative certainty about what was expected in priestly ministry is over, and the death of certainty is painful and uncomfortable. Faith in the face of uncertainty is what is re- quired, for priests and deacons and religious and laity. There is extraordinary danger in concen- trating on the pain, and not preparing for the pleasure of the present and future. Concentrating on all of the bad is as unrealistic as concentrating only on the good. Nonetheless, knowing what has happpened, and having firm faith in the future does not diminish the possibility of a painful fall along the uncertain path in between. What might be beautiful in the light of faith is treacherous in the darkness of doubt. There may be some stumbl- ng along the way, some minor scrapes. The scratches in my left hand are healing quickly. They were painful, but certainly minor; the only thing they hindered was hand clapping. If a conclusion is to be drawn, it is an ordinary observation: it only takes a little pain to keep you from showing appreciation. Washington Letter Shifts are minor in bishops' election-year statement By JERRY FILTEAU NC News Service WASHINGTON (NC) -- As the nation's Catholic bishops look toward the 1988 general election, their agenda for a more moral public policy is basically the same as in 1984. A comparison of their new statement on "Political Respon-, sibility: Choices for the Future" with previous election-year ver- sions shows the bishops are still seeking a halt to legalized abor- tion and the arms race and more attention to the housing, health, employment and food needs of the poor. They still want better protec- tion of civil and human rights at home and abroad and realigned economic priorities that em- phasize human needs and dignity. This year's statement, issued Oct. 14, added a section on im- 0000,O88aOO 4200 N. Kentucky Ave. Evansville, IN 47711 Weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville Published weekly except last week in December by the Catholic Press of Evansville. Publisher ........ Bishop Francis R. Shea Associate Publisher .... Rev. Joseph Ztliak Editor .................. Paul Letngang Circulation Mgr .... Mrs. Rose Montrastelle ProduQtion Mgr ............... Phil Boger Advertising Mgr ............... Dan Hetty Address all communications to P,O. Box 4169, Evansville, IN 47711, Phone (812) 424-5536, Subscription rate: $15 per year Entered as 2nd class matter at the post of- fice in Evansville, IN 47701. Publication number 843800. Postmaster: Return POD forms 3579 to the Office of Publication. migration and refugee policy in the list of morally significant issues facing the nation in 1988. And the bishops dropped a section on energy, a more burning issue four years ago than today. Since the 40-bishop Ad- ministrative Board of the U.S. Catholic Conference began making quadrennial political responsibility statements in 1976, the statements gradually have been expanded and refin- ed and have been adapted to changing political or economic circumstances. (The four statements so far were issued in spring 1976, fall 1979, spring 1984 and fall 1987.) On abortion, the bishops have held firm in all four statements on two key issues: the fundamental right to life of the unborn and the judgment that a constitutional amend- ment is needed to protect that right. In 1984 and 1987 they ad- ded a statement opposing all public funding of abortion. THE 1976 STATEMENT con- demned the global arms race for its threat to humanity's future and its immediate effect of depriving the poor of basic needs. In 1979, specific con- denmations of nuclear attack on civilian populations or the threat to attack them were add- ed. In 1984, following the bishops' 1983 peace pastoral, opposition to nuclear first use and even limited nuclear war were added. And this year, sup- port for arms control was ex- panded to specify support for three specific treaties. Opposition to capital punish- ment -- on grounds that it erodes "respect for life in our society'' and is "discriminatory" in its applica- tion -- was added to the list of concerns in 1979. The state- ment remained essentially the same in 1984 and 1987. The issue of civil rights -- skipped over in 1976 and treated briefly in 1979 under the heading of human rights -- was expanded and given its own heading in 1984. Continu- ing discrimination because of sex, race, ethnicity or age was condemned, but racism was cited as a particularly "urgent" problem. The 1987 statement is a carbon copy. On the economy -- a vast area in which political priorities often change from year to year -- the successive statements show many changes in em- phasis, but also some constants. All four call high unemploy- ment unacceptable. All urge the maintenance and improvement of services to the poor. But this year's statement, reflecting the bishops' 1986 pastoral on the economy, shows quiring government protection, "safe haven" tbr refugees flee- with national health insurance, ing natural disasters, war or comprehensive care, preventive civil strife. The new statement care, and containment of health also appeals for adherence to costs as major priorities basic immigration principles The 1987 statement also call- such as the priority of family ed for legislation "requiring reunification and viewing new employers to provide a immigrants as a national minimum health insurance resource rather than a burden. benefit to employees." On mass media, rapid A right to decent, affordable changes in technology and housing for all has been a government policy led to" feature of all four statements, significant changes in suc- with only slight variations in cessive statements. In 1976 and language from year to year. 1979 the statement focused All four also advocate giving mainly on responsiveness of greater weight to the promotion broadcasting to the public in- of human rights worldwide in terest. Then came massive the conduct of U.S. foreign broadcasting deregulation and policy, though there have been the proliferation of new some changes in specifics, telephone systems. The 1984 The section on immigration and 1987 statements warned and refugee policy, added only against "marketplace in 1987, is geared to such cur- economics" as the governing rent issues as resolving pro- norm of telecommunications blems left untouched by the and urged new legislation to - 1986 immigration reform assure responsibility in legislation and the question of broadcasting. Surrogate motherhood: WASHINGTON (NC) -- Op- and "those biologically able to ponents of surrogate have children." The testimony motherhood, including Rep. came at a subcommittee hearing Henry Hyde, R-Ill, and Mary  of the House Committee on " I Beth Whitehead, mother of Energy and Commerce. Rep. "Baby M," acknowledged the' Thomas A. Luken, D-Ohio, pain of infertility for many chairman oftheTransportation, couples but urged in testimony Tourism and Hazardous Oct. 15 that surrogacy be bann- Material Subcommittee, which ed as a solution. But an infertile conducted the hearing, has Montana couple unable to sponsored a bill, withHydeas a adopt testified that surrogate co-sponsor, that would make motherhood was their only op- criminal any commercial aspect tion and said it would be unfair of surrogacy, including any to a growing minority of transfer of money and any childless couples to limit advertisement of surrogacy -arenting to adoptive parents services. It expresses a more thorough theology of the moral dimen- sion of economic decisions, condemns continuing poverty more bluntly and adds an im- portant international dimen- sion to the question of U.S. economic policy. Also borrow- ing from the pastoral, the 1987 statement urges a new hike in the minimum wage, last ad- justed in 1981. HEALTH CARE was not in- cluded in the 1976 list of issues. From 1979 on it has been added as a "basic human right" re- extensive revision to incor- porate language from the testimony continues pastoral on all economic issues.