Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Catholic Salute to a California Preacher Who Climbed a Tree to Protest Abortion

All of us who attended Protestant Sunday schools remember the story of Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector and a man of short stature, who climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus.  When Jesus saw Zacchaeus perched high in the tree, he called out to him: "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your home."

I thought of Zacchaues while I was reading the Washington Post account of Rives Grogan, a 47-year old California pastor, who was arrested in the District of Columbia for climbing a tree near the Capitol reflecting pool to protest legalized abortions during President Obama's inauguration ceremony (Hermann, 2013).

Rives Grogan: Antiabortion Protester from California
Photo Credit: Drew Angerer, Getty Images & Los Angeles Times
Mr. Grogan had been arrested before in the District of Columbia for his protest activities, and Judge Karen Howze, a local magistrate, banished him from the District. 

The Washington Post, to its credit, said Judge Howze went too far.  "[I]t is almost unheard of for courts to banish individuals from states and localities," the Post noted (Editorial, 2013).  After all, Americans have a constitutional right to travel.

Like millions of Catholic Americans, I oppose abortion; but I'm not willing to do much about it. I am certainly unwilling to get arrested for climbing a tree to shout my protest during President Obama's inauguration.

But Mr. Grogan, apparently not a Catholic, is willing to endure criminal prosecution and  even banishment to protest legalized abortion. On this issue, as St. Paul put it, he is apparently willing to become a fool for Christ.

As Catholics, let us salute Mr. Grogan for his courage.  I feel sure that if Jesus had passed by and seen Mr. Grogan sitting in that District of Columbia tree, He would have given Mr. Grogan a blessing.


Editorial (2013, January 25). Banished: A D.C. judge overreaches with her sentence of an antibortion protester. Washington Post, p. A18.

Hermann, Peter (2013, January 22). Police charge tree-climbing inauguration protester. Washington Post.

Simon, Richard (2013, January 28). Antiabortion activist goes up a tree, is banned from D.C. Los Angeles Times.,0,7548342.story

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Are the Anglicans Fools for Christ?

Anglican bishops are being ridiculed, according to the New York Times, for voting to allow openly gay men in civil partnerships to become priests and continue living with their partners so long as they remain celibate.

"They can live with one another and share the domestic chores and spend their evenings together playing Scrabble . . ." The Sunday Times of London observed gleefully. "but on no account must they get up to any hanky-panky" (Cowell, 2013).

The bishops' decision became the subject of much merriment in England.  How would such a rule be enforced, columnist Barbara Ellen asked. "Spot checks of ecclesiastical bedsheets?

St. Paul:
"We are fools for Christ"
It is true, as St. Paul wrote the Corinthians, that Christians must permit themselves to become fools for Christ's sake.  But surely these Anglican antics are not what St. Paul had in mind.

Alan Cowell, the New York Times reporter who wrote about these events, noted that the percentage of people proclaiming themselves to be Christian in Great Britain has fallen dramatically in recent years, from 71.7 percent to only 59.3 percent over the period of just a decade.

Perhaps Mr. Cowell was inferring that Anglican ambivalence about embracing the new morality accounts for the decline in people who call themselves Christian in the British Isles. If so, I think he is wrong.

In the United States, the Episcopalians have gone further than any other Christian domination toward jettisoning traditional Christian values on sexuality; and the Episcopal Church has imploded. Meanwhile the American Catholic Church, which has refused to compromise on ancient doctrine, remains strong and is growing--particularly in the South and Southwest.

By embracing postmodern notions of morality, American Episcopalians hoped they would achieve relevance. Instead, they stumbled down a slippery slope toward  an abyss--the abyss of oblivion.


Alan Cowell. (2013, January 14. A Church Diverted by Issues of Sexuality and Gender, New York Times.