Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Buffalo Msgr. Speaks Out

Monsignor David Gallivan of Holy Cross Church in Buffalo, NY, responds to the discussion last week about Senator Obama and Reverend Wright.

March 30, 2007

Tomorrow I will escape to a distant shore, so I can risk sticking my head out on a current matter that is consuming my patience. Barack Obama has been severely criticized for his silence in the face of outlandish statements by his pastor. When we gave away 400 winter coats to poor people 2 years ago, one of the recipients confided that her pastor ordered his people from the pulpit to not enter a Catholic church, even for a child’s coat in winter. Later I asked a fellow pastor from the same denomination if their clergy could wield that much control over people’s behavior and beliefs. I want that power badly! By the way, the coats were all gone within a half hour; most of the blessed recipients were of other faith traditions and had disobeyed their shepherds. They aren’t that different from us after all.

How many of us preachers have given our personal opinions, nonsense and ideologies instead of gospel truth from the pulpit? Haven’t we all, from popes down to lower clergy, at times promoted as truth what was later proven to erroneous non-doctrinal opinions, nonsense or downright lies that tickled the flock’s ears and made us popular? How often have church goers gone home year after year without having heard a challenging message, one that helped them to correct a glaring defect in their Christian behavior and opinions of people and events?

Many of us, in spite of personal feelings, have endured silently and even participated in family conversations at dinners, picnics and birthdays in which people of any race, gender, sexual orientation or color not our own, have been ridiculed, insulted, accused or joked about. We have endured this or participated in it for years and generations among parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, work mates, etc. and others whom we love deeply because of the true goodness of the other parts of their lives. I have been a racist all my life with preconceived ideas and prejudices.After more than 45 years of seminary and priestly ministry among people ofmore nationalities that I can count, I still find myself at times reacting with unfair attribution of stereotypes, usually interiorly but not always. Fortunately there have been a few people in my life who have called me on it. Here’s an example. In ministering to the family of the victim of a particularly gruesome murder, it seemed to me that the family should not have carried on so extremely in their grief, given the frequency of such crimes in their racial group and neighborhood. When the same thing happened in my own family, it became clear to me that my racist reaction had been stereotypical and sinful. I shared this with an apology to my widowed parishioner and then I confessed it to a priest. When our parish youth go on retreat or to a convention or play in a basketball league, others notice their appearance and learn where they are from. The young people a repuzzled to be told “how nice” they are. At first they were flattered but now react with these or similar words: “Why are they surprised that we’re such good kids?”

God has blessed me with a ministry among people of most races and nationalities. They have been colleagues, houseguests, hosts, roommates and tablemates. No one who has not shared, at least occasionally, such normal features of human interaction, can know whereof they speak when they pontificate about “how they are.” Wouldn’t you think that after 45 years I would be free of stereotypes about “different” people? I’m not. None can honestly tell me they are. Tomorrow I will travel to Ireland for a cousin’s wedding. It was the deep similarities between his rural family’s deep Irish faith and values and those of my Peruvian parishioners and our Hispanic and African newcomers that have all enlarged my life; I hope they will continue to do so. I can measure the progress of Holy Cross Parish over 34 years. We can be proud of ourselves even as we know how much more all of us - black,brown and white - need to do.

—Monsignor David Gallivan


Carolyn Coy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carolyn Coy said...

OBAMA: Look, I've got two daughters, nine year old -- nine years old and six years old. I'm going to teach them first of all about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16. You know, so it doesn't make sense to not give them information.

Anonymous said...

Mark DeFrancisis said:

Keep up the good work Katherine. We need people who at least try to be pro-life through and through, in order to bring about a culture in which disrespect for life, in whatever form, will become next to unthinkable.

Katherine said...

Carolyn, your first post puts words within quote marks that you ascribed to Senator Obama. The words in the post were not a quote of his but your paraphrase. I thank you for posting a second time an accurate quote, so I assume you do not mind that I have deleted your first, inacurrate post.

Easter blessings to you!

stlouismb said...

Thanks for bringing some values-based discussion back to politicall discourse rather than hearing repeatedly about the "pre-eminent" right to life issues.

I would like to hear a wider, deeper discussion than the continually clanging cymbals.

Thanks again, Katherine and all contributors for this site!

Mike Baldwin