Monday, October 24, 2016

A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice

Yesterday was Criminal Justice Sunday, and to mark the significance of the day at the Spirit of St. Stephen's Catholic Community in Minneapolis a special prayer was shared along with a powerful excerpt from the U.S. Catholic Bishops' document, "Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice." I share both today at The Wild Reed.

But first let me say that in relation to the "Catholic perspective" of these texts, I understand and celebrate the word catholic not in terms of the religious tradition of Roman Catholicism but rather as the process which theologian Ilia Delio writes about in her book The Emergent Christ.

For Delio, catholic is a "dynamic process of making whole," and catholicity, at its roots, is "participation in creating greater unity through deepening relationships." Understood in this way, catholic is a descriptor of a way of being in the world rather than a label of identification with the belief system of a particular church or religious tradition. Indeed, for Delio, catholic describes the whole evolutionary universe. Accordingly, the true catholic is present and active wherever the Spirit of love "weaves the oneness of God." As someone who, more often that not, is mortified by the erroneous and divisive statements and actions of the clerical leadership of the Roman Catholic church, Delio's understanding of catholicity is incredibly liberating and life-giving. It's also an understanding and process which, whether the U.S. Catholic Bishops recognize it or not, is very much present in their 2000 statement "Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration," from which the following is excerpted.

In the United States, the prison system was. in some ways, built on a moral vision of the human person and society – one that combined a spiritual rekindling with punishment and correction. But along the way, this vision has too often been lost. The evidence surrounds us: sexual and physical abuse among inmates and sometimes by corrections officers, gang violence, racial division, the absence of educational opportunities and treatment programs, the increasing use of isolation units, and society's willingness to sentence children to adult prisons—all contributing to a high rate of recidivism. Our society seems to prefer punishment to rehabilitation and retribution to restoration thereby indicating a failure to recognize prisoners as human beings.

In some ways, an approach to criminal justice that is inspired by a Catholic vision is a paradox. We cannot and will not tolerate behavior that threatens lives and violates the rights of others. We believe in responsibility, accountability, and legitimate punishment. Those who harm others or damage property must be held accountable for the hurt they have caused. The community has a right to establish and enforce laws to protect people and to advance the common good.

At the same time, a Catholic approach does not give up on those who violate these laws. We believe that both victims and offenders are children of God. Despite their very different claims on society, their lives and dignity should be protected and respected. We seek justice, not vengeance. We believe punishment must have clear purposes: protecting society and rehabilitating those who violate the law.

We believe a Catholic vision of crime and criminal justice can offer some alternatives. It recognizes that root causes and personal choices can both be factors in crime by understanding the need for responsibility on the part of the offender and an opportunity for their rehabilitation. A Catholic approach leads us to encourage models of restorative justice that seek to address crime in terms of the harm done to victims and communities, not simply as a violation of law.

As you read the above excerpt I hope you discerned how the "Catholic" approach and vision outlined by the bishops is very much about, in Ilia Delio's words, "whole-making . . . [through] greater unity through deepening relationships" – a process rooted in the Spirit of love and our participation in this Spirit as together we "weave the oneness of God."

I close with the sharing of the prayer we prayed yesterday at Spirit of St. Stephen's. It's a prayer that, like the bishops' statement, reflects the expansive, "whole-making" understanding of catholic put forward by Ilia Delio.

Prayer for Criminal Justice Reform

Liberating God,
we call upon your love to liberate us
from our many layers of imprisonment.

Systemic racism holds us captive
while fear, addiction, complacency
and despair constrain us.

We remember especially sisters and brothers
bound by prison walls; we remember the anguish
of their victims. We do not understand so many things;
structures of sentencing, a disproportionate number
of inmates of color, the suffering of their children
in now single-parent families, our collective fear
of released prisoners as illustrated by their
inability to find housing, jobs, respect,
or a second chance.

We ask, Compassionate One,
for the wisdom of compassion
and the humility of forgiveness.
In the healing liberation of your love
we pray: free us from fear;
free us to action,
free us from revenge;
free us to reconciliation.

We make this prayer in the name of Brother Jesus,
that, like him, we may become instruments of peace,
healing, and true freedom for each sister & brother
created in Your image.


Related Off-site Links:
Fourteen Examples of Racism in the Criminal Justice System – Bill Quigley (The Huffington Post,July 26, 2010).
Our Prison System is Even More Racist Than You Think – Aron Macarow (Attn:, August 31, 2015).
Disrupting the School to Prison Pipeline – Artika R. Tyner (The Huffington Post, January 24, 2016).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Something to Think About – December 29, 2015
In the Garden of Spirituality – Ilia Delio

Image: Subjects and photographer unknown.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The following words of author and poet Julia Cameron are particularly meaningful to me at this time, for reasons which I'll share in a later post. Perhaps these words will resonate with you too, and where you're at on your journey.

All beginning is an ending. I both celebrate and grieve. As I choose to start anew, I choose to believe in my own resilience. I choose to trust the generosity of life. Calling upon Spirit to supply me, I encounter fulfillment of my needs. Spirit has abundant supply for my heart's desires. It is the pleasure of Spirit to give. It is my gift back to Spirit to accept. In an antique shop, I find a crystal globe, an antique map that speaks to me of a world lit only by firelight. On a beach, I find the fragile shell washed to me from warmer climes. The falling leaf, vivid and transitory, reminds me of life's cyclicality. A friend's dog licks my hand. I accept the generosity of Spirit. I allow my life to be made anew.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Onward Call
Unique . . . Yes, You!
The Body: As Sacred and Knowing as a Temple Oracle
Threshold Musings
Seeking Balance
May Balance and Harmony Be Your Aim
Memet Bilgin and the Art of Restoring Balance
Clarity, Hope and Courage
Prayer and the Experience of God in an Ever-Unfolding Universe
For 2015, Three "Generous Promises"
A Guidepost on the Journey
Turning 50
Be Just in My Heart
All 'Round Me Burdens Seem to Fall
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

An Autumn Afternoon at Minnehaha Falls

I spent much of this afternoon with my friend Kyle at Minnehaha Falls in south Minneapolis. We followed Minnehaha Creek from the Falls to the place where it flows into the Mississippi River. It was almost a year ago when, with my friend PJ, I made the same trek from the Falls to the River.

Today's trek took place under an overcast sky. It was nevertheless a beautiful autumn afternoon, as I hope the images I share this evening show.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
From the Falls to the River
Autumn Beauty
Autumn Leaves
O Sacred Season of Autumn
"Thou Hast Thy Music Too"
Autumn Hues
An Autumn Walk Along Minnehaha Creek
Autumn Dance

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Quote of the Day

A month to go [until the U.S. presidential election] and I find myself skewered with something bigger than frustration. It begins with the false, dead enthusiasm I hear in Hillary’s attempts to rally her base, the tepid “USA! USA!” she invokes as she praises America’s generals and its wars and its moral righteousness. She and Trump are running for president on the same illusion, and there’s something seriously wrong with this.

It’s no accident that most of the focus this election season is on how bad the other candidate is. The rallying cry from both sides is: We have no choice. And I agree with those words, but attach a different meaning to them. We have no choice because we’re given no choice. We live in a permanent state of Democracy for Dummies: a complexity-free democracy, reduced to a game of winning and losing. The voters are spectators, not co-creators of the national future. No, the future is already predetermined, and it’s one of unquestioned military budgets and endless war.

Robert C. Koehler
Excerpted from "The Politics of Fear"
Common Dreams
October 6, 2016

Related Off-site Links:
Outside RNC Headquarters, Millennials Declare: "It's Trump vs. All of Us" – Deirdre Fulton (Common Dreams, October 6, 2016).
I Don’t Like Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party. I’m Voting for Them Anyway – Annabel Park (The Washington Post, October 6, 2016).
As Trump Brags About Tax Avoidance, New Sanders Bill Aims to Fix Rigged System – Andrea Germanos (Common Dreams, October 5, 2016).

Sex, Lies and America’s Deplorable Democracy – Peter Bloom (Common Dreams, October 9, 2016).
Wikileaks E-mails Reveal Hillary Clinton's Presidential Strategy Which Included "Elevating" Trump in GOP – Tara West (, October 9, 2016).
Leaked E-mails Show That Trump Was a Tool Used By the Clinton Campaign From Day One – Brandon Morse (, October 9, 2016).
Both Campaigns Enthusiastically Violate Ban on Super PAC Coordination, Watchdog Says – Jon Schwarz (The Intercept, October 7, 2016).
Needed Now: A Peace Movement Against the Clinton Wars to Come – Andrew Levine (CounterPunch, October 7, 2016).
Trump May Go Away, But the People He Has Empowered Will Not – Jeremy Scahill (The Intercept, October 9, 2016).
At Second Debate, a Monster Calls – Michael Winship (Common Dreams, October 11, 2016).
In the Democratic Echo Chamber, Inconvenient Truths Are Recast as Putin Plots – Glenn Greenwald (The Intercept, October 11, 2016).
Planned Attacks on Sanders Included in WikiLeaks' Third Batch of Podesta E-mails – Nika Knight (Common Dreams, October 11, 2016).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Carrying It On
Progressive Perspectives on Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Hope, History, and Bernie Sanders
Super Tuesday Thoughts on Bernie Sanders
Quote of the Day – September 15, 2016

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Out and About – Summer 2016

Well, autumn is here in all its unique beauty which means it's high time to review the summer just passed with the latest installment of my "Out and About" series.

Regular readers of The Wild Reed will be familiar with this series, one that I began in April 2007 as a way of documenting my life as an “out” gay man, seeking to be all “about” the Spirit-inspired work of embodying God’s justice and compassion in the world.

I've continued the series in one form or another every year since – in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 . . . and now into 2016.

So let's get started with this latest installment . . .

A real highlight of this past summer was seeing and meeting one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters, the legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie. I was actually fortunate enough to see her twice in concert – in Minneapolis on August 26 and in Bayfield, Wisconsin on August 27.

In the image above I'm pictured with Buffy and drummer Michel Lee Bruyere. At left, Buffy is pictured on stage with guitarist Anthony King.

For images and commentary on both these performances, see the special Wild Reed post, A Music Legend Visits the North Country


Another highlight, though a somber one to be sure, was my participation in the July 7 vigil and march remembering and honoring the life of Philando Castile, a young black man lethally shot by a police officer on July 6. Philando's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, videoed the aftermath of the shooting and live-streamed it on Facebook. Reynold's young daughter was in the back seat of the vehicle throughout the ordeal.

Castile's death came just days after the police shooting death of another black man, Alton Sterling, in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, and was at the time the latest in a long list of black lives violently taken by law enforcement in the U.S.

For more images and commentary on the vigil and march for Philando Castile, click here.

Above: Bde Maka Ska ("White Earth" Lake), also known as Lake Calhoun, as viewed from the apartment of my good friend Raul (pictured at left wearing my Akubra Territory hat!). I've long maintained that Raul has one of the best views in Minneapolis.

For more images of Bde Maka Ska, click here, here, and here.

Above: Brent and I on the rooftop of Raul's apartment building in Uptown, Minneapolis – June 2016.

Right: A rain storm sweeping in from the west over Bde Maka Ska.

Above: With Brent and our friend Pete at the Twin Cities Gay Pride festival in Minneapolis' Loring Park – June 25, 2016.

For The Wild Reed's 2016 Queer Appreciation post, "I Will Dance," click here.

For a collection of images of LGBTQ Pride celebrations from around the world, see the special Wild Reed post, Worldwide Gay Pride – 2016.

Above: Friends Matt, Joan, and Karla – July 2016.

Left: With Brent – July 2016.

Above: Friends John, Brent, Fred, Carmen, Mark, Phil, Madeline, Noelle, and Ben – July 2016.

Above: Pictured center (wearing what I call my Cernunnos t-shirt) with friends (from left) Rick, Bob, Adrian, Brian, and John – August 2016.

Above: Breakfasting with my friend Pete at Eggy's Diner in Minneapolis – June 2016.

Right: With Pete and my friend and work colleague Julia at Our Kitchen – September 2016.

Above: With my friend Pete's nephew and niece – August 2016.

Above: On the shores of Pelican Lake, Minnesota – July 14, 2016.

I drove to Pelican Lake from the Twin Cities to spent the weekend with my good friend Angie and her family at their summer get-away spot. It was a wonderful few days away from the Cities, and great to catch up with Angie and her family.

For more images and commentary, click here.

Above: Hamming it up with Angie's and her husband Bryon's three daughters – July 16, 2016.

Above: Lake Harriet, Minneapolis – August 2016.

Above: Amelia!

Left: Summer blooms.

For more images, click here, here, here, and here.

Above: Eddie, who's clearly not in the least bit interested in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, also known as the 2016 Summer Olympics! Perhaps he'd read Sonali Kolhatkar's critique of the Games.

Above and left: More summer beauty.

Above: My friend Kyle snapped this photo of me when we took a breather in our walk from my place to the Tiny Diner in south Minneapolis.

Right: One of my favorite flowers, the sunflower. I take after my maternal grandfather, Valentine Sparkes, in this regard.

Above: My friend Kyle, pictured by the placid waters of Lake Harriet – August 2016.

Above: Friends Tom and Darlene White, Kathleen Olsen, and Brigid McDonald, CSJ – August 2016.

Above: Celebrating my friend Omar's birthday. From left: Kyle, me, Brent, and Omar.

Left: Happy Birthday, Omar!

Right: With Brent at the Eagle/Bolt Bar – September 16, 2016. Whenever I wear this particular t-shirt out to a bar or restaurant, I joke that I'll buy a drink for the first person who says, Hey, it's Buffy! . . . or something like that. To date, no one has.

Above: Wild (summer) reeds – Pelican Lake, July 16, 2016.

Summer 2016 Wild Reed posts of note:
Summer Boy
"Radical Returnings" – Mayday 2016 (Part 1)
"Radical Returnings" – Mayday 2016 (Part 2)
Progressive Perspectives on Islam and Homosexuality in the Aftermath of Orlando
"I Will Dance"
Australian Sojourn – May 2016
With "Around," Russell Elliot Tells It Like It Is
Gay Pride: A Catholic Perspective
You, O Comforter, Are Ever Near
"This Doesn't Happen to White People"
Remembering Philando Castile and Demanding Abolition of the System That Targets and Kills People of Color
Worldwide Gay Pride – 2016
Pelican Lake
Carrying It On
"There's Light in Love, You See"
The Impossible Desire of Pier Paolo Pasolini
"Window, Mind, Thought, Air and Love"
Standing Together
A Music Legend Visits the North Country
An Evening at the Fair
Late Summer Blooms
A Letter to "Dear Abby" re. Responding to 9/11

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Spring 2016
Out and About – Winter 2015-2016
Out and About – Autumn 2015
Out and About – Summer 2015 (Part I)
Out and About – Summer 2015 (Part II)