1986 Aug 17 – 20th Sun Ord Time (Bulletin Letters)
A LESSON IN GRASS ROOTS POLITICS: I was one of twenty y -five Harrison County residents who showed up at the Youth Center in Woodbine Monday afternoon to ask Governor Branstad questions about his decision to send the National Guard to Honduras and got a valuable lesson in grass roots politics. The Governor was advertised to be at the Youth Center to listen to the concerns of’ area citizens in what the Governor called taking Iowa government out of’ the statehouse and directly to Iowans.” Our contingent arrived a few minutes before the Governor’s scheduled arrival. I began passing out copies of’ the Des Moines Register’s August 11th editorial by Pollock & Vlastos, “Why the Iowa Guard should stay out of Central America.” (Attached to bulletin) and a copy of Fr. Neil Fagan’s letter to the Governor (see last week’s bulletin). I explained to a number of people who were there that we hoped to ask the Governor some questions about his National Guard decision. WE WERE NOT THERE TO PROTEST! It was an open meeting. The twenty-five of us were well within our legitimate rights.
By the time the Governor arrived there were 75 people at the meeting. The Governor was running 35 minutes late. One wonders why the Governor was shaking hands on main street when he was supposed to be at the Youth Center? On his arrival, the Governor hurriedly moved through the crowd shaking hands in a circular route around the crowded room. As poached our group, we unraveled a banner which read, “Governor Branstad, No Iowa Guard to Honduras! A number of Branstad’s supporters positioned themselves in front of the banner so the Governor could not see it. Other Branstad supporters stepped between us and the Governor to insure we had no access to him. Seeing this sad chain of events, I spoke up asking, “Governor, will there be time for questions? There was no reply. It was clear that the Governor had no intention of listening to anyone’s concerns that day. I then positioned myself at the front door hoping to make some contact with the Governor on his way out. In the meantime, Mary Moore, a member of’ our party managed to break the blockade and ask the Governor if we could ask him some questions concerning the National Guard. The Governor told her he wasn’t going to talk about it. As the Governor moved towards the front door and his exit I was pushed aside, yet managed to tell the Governor that there were 25 people here concerned about Central America. The Governor cut in on me saying, “We didn’t come for a confrontation.” The Branstad supporters then applauded the Governor as he left the building.
The lesson learned on the local political scene is that things aren’t always what they appear to be. The Woodbine meeting was billed as an open meeting where citizens could air their concerns with the Governor…the planners had something entirely different in mind. With their Branstad posters and stickers, cookies and punch, the meeting was set up as a “Re-elect Branstad” affair. There is nothing wrong with a Re-elect Branstad rally; only it should not be billed as an Open Meeting for citizens to voice their concerns.
PRIEST, COLLARS AND PUBLIC GATHERINGS: After the Governor’s departure I was confronted by Mr. Richard Den Herder of’ Logan. He was upset that I was wearing my Roman Collar. He said I was pretending to speak for the larger Church and my St. Anne’s congregation. I have never pretended to speak for the larger Church or my St. Anne’s congregation in any of my social justice positions. We are a large Church in the United States with over 50 million members. There is no single Church position in regards to the many peace and justice issues confronting our Church and world. There are as many different opinions within the ranks of the priesthood as there are within the larger Catholic community. In wearing the Roman collar, I am saying that I am a Catholic priest. In that sense I represent the Church, but I in no way am speaking for the whole Church. As long as I do not advocate anything contradictory to explicit Catholic teachings and dogma I am free to support a wide range of issues like any other citizen. Being an American Catholic is one of the healthiest experiences for our larger Church, a gift we give to the Universal Church.
Admittedly, I come to my convictions from my Faith perspective, yet we live in times when people of, good Faith can genuinely disagree. We do our Faith justice and serve our country best if we follow our own convictions while respecting each other’s many different ways.
I MUST CONFESS: During my encounter with Mr. Den Herder l was accused of running stop signs in Logan. I must confess that at times I have not stopped at Stop Signs in Logan. I am sorry and will try to do better in the future.
F L A S H – SPECIAL COUNTY WIDE MEETING:
Open meeting to all Harrison County Catholics to discuss concerns re-garding Harrison County Priest involvement in Social Justice, In-clusive Language and Catholic Education. Fr. Mike O’Meara, Chancellor of the Des Moines Diocese, Sr. Stella Neill, Diocesan Planning Director, the Harrison County Catholic Board of Ministry and the Harrison County Team members will be at the meeting to listen to concerns and answer questions. Sunday, August 24th, St. Anne’s, Logan, at 6PM.