Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
October 23
, 2011

Our Parish Anniversary
A hundred and twenty-five years, measured against the life-span of our young Republic-235 years and counting-is a respectable segment of time; more than half of our Republic's history has unfolded since St. John's Parish was founded back in 1886. In this stretch of time our nation went to war eight times. We fought in two World Wars in which our participation was decisive in gaining the victory we and our allies sought, and those two wars were preceded by the Spanish-American War, in the wake of which we became an imperial power, with control of the Philippine Islands at the western edge of the immense Pacific Ocean. In the aftermath of World War II we divested ourselves of the Philippines and assumed the role of rebuilder of western Europe and Prime Defender of the Free World, in opposition to the aggressive appetites of the newly created Soviet Empire and a recently established Red China. It was in response to this generously assumed responsibility that we restored freedom to the South Korean people, whose country had initially been overwhelmed in an invasion launched by their Communist cousins to the north, and we fought gallantly again, with heavy casualties and much expense, though this time with a shameful outcome: a politically instigated, self-inflicted defeat, to maintain the freedom of the South Vietnamese in the face of attack--once again-from a Communist North. Then came the astonishing collapse of the Soviet Union-largely the achievement of President Reagan and Pope John Paul the Great, with contributions from Britain's Margaret Thatcher-a collapse officially certified in a document signed by Mikhail Gorbachëv in 1991, on, of all days of the year, Christmas Day. With that our nation became briefly the Lone Superpower, acting as which we led a powerful coalition to expel the megalomaniac dictator Saddem Hussein, Iraq's sadistic tyrant, from Qatar, the oil-rich country he had seized. We mistakenly allowed him to continue in power in Iraq, thus snatching defeat, as some of us thought at the time, from the jaws of victory. In the immediate aftermath of this Gulf War we did, however, discover, to our great surprise, that Saddam Hussein had made much more progress towards producing an atomic bomb than we had suspected, a fact that should have prompted us to eliminate the threat right then and there while our forces were on the ground. "Realist" thinkers in the State Department persuaded our government to allow Hussein to remain. With 9/11 a new kind of warfare burst upon the scene, asymmetrical warfare, a warfare of surprise attack on civilian populations unleashed by terrorist groups, the spawn of a virulent form of Islam that calls for the destruction of the civilization of the West. And so we went to war again, first against Al Qaeda's base country of Afghanistan, ruled at the time by the vicious fanatics called "the Taliban", and then once again against Saddam Hussein, who having earlier expelled the UN's atomic weapons inspectors, was now boasting that he possessed the Bomb. After flushing him out of power we learned that his boasts were premature but that he had accumulated a huge inventory of the "yellow cake" uranium metal from Africa's Niger that is the essential raw material for atomic weapons, and that he had acquired much of the necessary "know how" from the "father" of Pakistan's Bomb, A.J. Khan, who had long been running a highly profitable black market in atomic weapons technology. North Korea was another of Dr. Khan's clients. A spin-off from this second war against Hussein was the decision of the intimidated ruler of Libya, Moammar Khadafi, to hand over to us the total inventory of his own nuclear weapons program. He too, had been a client of A.J. Kahn. Apart from this happy but quite unexpected outcome, the verdict is still out with respect to the ultimate impact of these last two expeditions into the heart of the Muslim world.

In the meantime Red China is arming itself to the teeth, and at break-neck speed, with the latest high-tech weapons, a program financed in part by the huge interest payments we are currently paying to that country as a major holder of our enormous multi-trillion dollar debt. Added to this appalling scenario is the insane demand of the current administration to increase yet further the slashing already in force for expenditure on our national defense including programs for anti-missile defense, reduction of our own atomic inventory and delivery systems, coupled with an indefensible negligency in maintaining the efficiency of what we still possess, with vast reduction in research and development, cancellation of new aircraft programs, and calamitous reduction in the over-all size of our armed forces-all of this in an increasingly dangerous world, with Iran's sadistic mullahs as an extra dollop getting closer day by day to the Bomb.

All of which means we should be down our knees begging God to preserve for us the liberties for which our nation stands, despite our proliferating sins-abortion, widespread addiction to pornography, cohabitation without the life-long commitment of marriage, widespread casual sex and the consequent appalling increase in the number of children who do not enjoy the security, the financial, emotional and moral security, that growing up in a stable family provides. As individuals we can at least by a whole- hearted "YES!" to Christ and a decisive "NO!" to the devil make our own humble contribution to "ransoming the time." These are perilous times for our Republic."

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As we turn from reflection on the broader sweep of history during the life-time of our parish to a stricter focus on the parish itself, we must admit, first and foremost, that the REAL history, the most important history, of our beloved St. John's (dedicated to St. John the Apostle, the Evangelist) is known to God alone. That is to say, the most important achievement of this or any parish would be the successful encouragement of a generous response in the silence of each parishioner's soul to the Word preached and the Sacraments received.

Such impact upon the day-to-day decisions of our parishioners is for the most part invisible, though in a parish like St. John's the devotion and charitable "family" spirit so evident in our congregation does bear witness to a genuine commitment to living with, in, and for Christ.

An attempt has been made to record some major visible benchmarks in our parish's history in the pamphlet that Greg Cosimini and Martha Praska have put together with the generous collaboration of others. Its title is: The 125th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet of St. John's Parish. I heartily recommend it to you. And I add as an additional insert to this week's parish bulletin as providing special evidence of the "flowering of the spirit" here at St. John's over the years, a list of those from our parish who have joined the ranks of the priesthood, the permanent diaconate, and the consecrated religious life.

May God bless each and every one of you and keep you always in His holy love!

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Work, Pray, Sue
The Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2011

The Supreme Court's new term began this month, and one of the major cases is giving newer Justices their first chance to directly address the nature of religious freedom. At issue is whether government can trump the judgment of a religious institution as it carries out a faith-based mission-and whether the Court will open yet another pasture for employment litigation.

In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the question is whether courts should be able to weigh in on employment disputes within religious institutions.   Under what's known as the "ministerial exception", all 12 federal circuits have in recent decades said no, recognizing some level of autonomy for hiring decisions within the church.

The Obama Justice Department disagrees, arguing against the ministerial exception entirely. The school's "request for a broad exemption", argues Solicitor General Donald Verrilli in his brief, "would critically undermine the protections of the ADA [Americans wih Disabilities ACT] and a wide variety of other generally applicable laws."

The case centers on Cheryl Perich, who in 2004 took a medical leave from her job as a parochial-school teacher in Redford, Michigan. When she sought to return some eight months later, the school declined. Ms. Perich and the EEOC then sued the school for back pay and damages as well as her rehiring. The Lutheran church considers that a violation of its own internal dispute resolution, and Ms. Perich was terminated by a supermajority vote of the church's congregation.

During her time at the school, Ms. Perich taught a curriculum that included math, social studies and music. 

She also taught religious classes four days a week, led students in prayer and was considered part of the school's mission to offer a "Christ-centered education based on biblical principles."

 The Sixth Circuit ruled in Ms. Perich's favor, arguing that a determination could be made as to which jobs qualify for a ministerial exception by totaling up the number of minutes per day or week an employee spends on religious or secular functions. By this metric, they decided her role as a "commissioned minister" at a parochial school shouldn't qualify for the exemption.

We'd venture that faced with a stopwatch, neither would plenty of ministers. As Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner noted in 2008's Schleicher v. Salvation Army, those holding ecclesiastical offices, whatever their daily activities, should be considered "ministers" under the law unless those offices can be somehow be shown as "fake" or entirely secular. During Wednesday's oral argument, Chief Justice John Roberts marveled, "The Pope is a head of state and has important administrative functions, so he's not a minister?"

That principle should hold even in cases, like Ms. Perich's, where the cause of the dispute is not exclusively religious. To do otherwise opens the gate to a new mess of claims and adjudications, as any person fired by a house of worship could claim the termination was due to a secular dispute.

Most debates over church-state separation deal with such peripheral issues as saying the pledge of allegiance in class. This case goes directly to the core of what Americans have understood about religious freedom for centuries.

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