By Fr. George Welzbacher
July 5, 2009
Because of the Fourth of July long holiday weekend the deadline this past week for submitting the Pastor's Page to our Chicago printer was twelve o'clock noon on Monday, June 29th, rather than the usual mid-week (Wednesday) deadline. Accordingly my remarks here this week will be less long-winded than is my custom. (Some may be saying: "AT LAST!").
I would like to share with you a few reflections on the meeting that I attended (together with Archbishop Nienstedt and almost all of the priests who serve our archdiocese) from Monday evening, June 22nd to Thursday morning, June 25th at Rochester's Kahler Hotel (with Mass offered in communal celebration each day at St. John's Church nearby). For a long time now this meeting has been held every two years in June, originally at St. John's University near St. Cloud. When the numbers of attendant clergy grew to a volume that was difficult to accommodate there, the site was transferred to Rochester.
Several benefits have accrued from these regular biennial meetings, and this year in particular the positive results were, in my opinion, considerable. First of all (and I believe most importantly) this year's gathering, with its featured speakers and its opportunities for extensive conversation among the priests and with the Archbishop, gave Archbishop Nienstedt, perhaps for the first time, the strong sense that the rank and file of the clergy of his diocese were solid in their support of his policies. At the meeting two years ago he had just been officially declared the Coadjutor Archbishop (Bishop with right of succession to the incumbent Archbishop) of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Thus in 2007 he was meeting most of us for the first time.
Understandably he may not have been certain that all of us were, so to speak, in his comer, particularly in view of the reputation of a certain segment of our presbyterate for being less than enthusiastic in support either of the papal magisterium (cf. Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae) or of certain prescriptions of canon law (e.g., the prohibition of the imparting of general absolution except in a situation of dire emergency). And certainly the outrageous personal accusations flung at him in the local press by a small number of priests who in my judgment are chronic malcontents did little to increase his confidence that he was entering friendly territory. By now, thanks to the Archbishop's many contacts, one-on-one, with the priests of this Archdiocese over the past two years, and thanks especially to the uninhibited warmth of the greetings he received from the assembled clergy at Rochester, he knows that he is a general in an army (fighting the ultimate war, the war against Satan for the fate of immortal souls) whose officers are with him all the way. And that is an important achievement.
A secondary but significant achievement was the affording of an opportunity for the older clergy to come to know, or at least to know better, the younger clergy, and vice versa. And that works to enhance the solidarity - and thus, I should think, the effectiveness- of our clergy in their common cause.
And may I offer two final summary observations of my own. First of all, the number of our clergy who represent, if you will, a more emancipated attitude towards Humane Vitae and related issues and who still seem, perhaps, to retain to some degree the revolutionary spirit of the 1960's has been visibly declining throughout the succession of these biennial meetings. And secondly, I was personally deeply moved by the liturgies in which we took part. They seemed to me to be a kind of anticipation, imperfect, of course, but offering ground for hope, that even as we came from our separate ministries to join one another at Christ's altar, we may, God willing, one day be able to greet one another and those whom we are privileged to serve in that glorious liturgy which is founded on the face-to-face vision of Almighty God in the ecstatic communion of angels and saints.
* * * * *But even as, after the final liturgy that Thursday morning, we left Rochester to return to our individual posts-back, so to speak, to the "real" world-ominous developments in North Korea remind us in the midst of our joyous celebration of the Fourth of July that the liberty we enjoy is not guaranteed forever. Crucial to the defense of our freedom and security, given recent major developments, is investment in anti-missile defense, the very thing that our government, so prone to spending incalculable sums of money on almost everything else, is cutting to the bone. As a stimulus to the writing of letters to our congressional representatives to go all-out in support of research on anti-missile defense (along the lines of our all-out effort to develop the atomic bomb or to place a man on the moon), may I present for your reflection on this Fourth of July an editorial from [where else?] The Wall Street Journal for this past June 29th?
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The Wall Street Journal
Monday, June 29, 2009 Editorial
The Pentagon recently announced that it is repositioning ground-to-air and missile defenses near Hawaii in case North Korea decides to launch another long-range missile, this time toward the Aloha State. So at least 1.3 million Hawaiians will benefit from defenses that many officials in the current Administration didn't even want to build.
But what about the rest of us? Its an odd time to be cutting missile defense, as the Obama Administration is doing in its 2010 budget-by $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion, depending on how you calculate it. Programs to defend the U. S. homeland are being pared, while those that protect our soldiers or allies are being expanded after the Pentagon decided that the near-term threat is from short-range missiles. But as North Korea and Iran show, rogue regimes aren't far from having missiles that could reach the U.S.
In case you're not convinced about the threat, consider this exchange between Arizona Republican Trent Franks and Lieutenant-General Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, in a hearing last month at the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces:
Rep. Franks: "Do you believe that the threat from long-range missiles has increased or decreased in the last six months as it relates to the homeland here?"
Gen. O'Reilly: "Sir, I believe it has increased significantly .... the demonstration of capability of the Iranian ability to put a sat[elite] into orbit, albeit small, shows that they are progressing in that technology. Additionally, the Iranians yesterday demonstrated a SOLID rocket motor test which is ... disconcerting. Third, the North Koreans demonstrated ... that they are improving in their capacity and we are very concerned about that."
Among the losers in the Administration's budget are the additional interceptors planned for the ground-based program in Alaska. The number will be limited to 30 interceptor missiles located at Fort Greeley in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Also on the chopping block is the Airborne Laser, which is designed to shoot down incoming missiles in the boost phase, before they can release decoys and at a point in the missile trajectory when it would fall back down on enemy territory. This highly promising technology will be starved.
The Administration may also kill the plan for a missile defense system in Europe. The proposed system which would place interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic is intended to protect Europe against Iranian missiles. As is often forgotten, it would also protect the U.S., by providing an additional layer of defense for the Eastern seaboard, which is a long way from the Alaskan defenses.
The Administration is reconsidering the European site due to opposition from Moscow, which says--though it knows it's false-that the European system is intended to defeat Russian missiles. In advance of Barack Obama's visit to Russia next week, there's talk of "cooperation" on missile defense, possibly by adding radars in southern Russia and Azerbaijan. From a geographical perspective, neither location would add much as an Iranian missile headed for Western Europe or the U.S. would be on the periphery of the radars' vision, at best.
Meanwhile, Moscow says that unless the administration backtracks on missile defense, it won't agree to mutual reductions in nuclear arsenals under the START Treaty, which expires this year. Mr. Obama is eager to negotiate arms cuts. But it would be a mistake to tie decisions on missile defense to anything except what it best for the security of the U.S. and its allies.
In Congress, bipartisan efforts are afoot to restore SOME of the funding for missile defense. But even if more money is forthcoming, the bigger problem is the new U.S. mindset. The Obama Administration is staffed with Cold War-era arms controllers who still believe missile defense is destablilizing-ecxept, apparently, now that they need it for Hawaii. They also reject the essential next phase, which is to make better use of space-based systems.
Missile defense is no techno-fantasy. The U.S. has made major strides since President Bush exercised the option to withdraw from the ABM Treaty in 2001. If North Korea launches a missile toward Hawaii, the best demonstration of that ability-and of U.S. resolve-would be to shoot it down.