January 2022: Director of the Paulist Fathers' Office of Ecumencial and Multi-Faith Relations while continuing to offer some of my missions and retreats. As a missionary priest, actor & singer, Paulist Fr. James DiLuzio developed a Mission/ Retreat entitled LUKE LIVE! Now in his 8th year traveling throughout the USA proclaiming Luke’s Gospel from memory with preaching and song meditations, his goal is to inspire , entertain and exemplify how we may more fully personalize and celebrate scripture in our lives.
Throughout my mission/retreats, I offer many suggestions on how we may share our faith comfortably in all kinds of situations and contexts—highlighting the Paulist charism of Evangelization, Reconciliation, Multi-Faith and Ecumenical Dialogue.
PARADE – a musical theater piece by Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry.
Review and Mediation by Father James DiLuzio CSP
This past weekend I began my observance of what we Christians call Holy Week by attending PARADE. This musical theatre piece dramatizes the travesty of a historical 1912 trial convicting an innocent man of murder. The man was Leo Frank, one of the few Jewish members of an Atlanta community, sentenced to death by hanging. For two years, Lucille, his wife, and many legal and justice-oriented organizations from the north submitted appeals for Leo, until, finally, Georgia Governor John Slaton commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Angered by the governor’s decree, a mob abducted Frank from his jail cell. Hanging from a tree, Leo reiterated his innocence and prayed the Kaddish – a prayer recited daily by devout Jews and commonly offered at burials and subsequent days of mourning. Here is one of many English translations:
“Exalted and sanctified be God’s Great Name,
in the world which God created according to His Will,
May He establish His Kingdom,
and may His salvation blossom,
and His anointed be near.”
The tragedy of Leo Frank’s trial, the ultimate sentence, and lynching provide heartrending evidence of Antisemitism and other forms of scapegoating in the United States right down to today. As a Catholic priest, I could not stop making connections between Leo’s story and Jesus’ trial and execution. Does not the Kaddish echo themes in many of the Psalms, especially Psalm 22 that Jesus prays while suffering on the cross? It begins with “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” but concludes with these words of praise:
“You who fear the Lord, give praise! All descendants of Jacob, give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel! 25 For he has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away[g] from me, but heard me when I cried out. 26 I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.”
I began wondering if Jesus’ crucifixion could be scrutinized in such a way as to conceive Jesus’ death as an example of Antisemitism along with Leo Frank’s. The Roman empires’ disdain (albeit with tolerance) for the Jews is well documented. The Gospels portray Pilate as making no effort to reconcile the opposing factions within the Jewish religious authorities – abandoning his magisterial duty. Was this in part due to his contempt for the Jews? (In fact, the Gospels try to show Pilate as sympathetic to Jesus because of early Christianity’s hope to gain acceptance and recognition from Rome. But Pilate’s historical reputation does not present him as a man of integrity and compassion.)  As with Leo Frank’s trial, many witnesses lied and/ or were coerced in preparation for their testimonies against Jesus. In both cases, the antisemitism may be perceived as ingrained in the culture, rather than overt – i.e., no one in either crowd (if the play is accurate in this regard) cries “Kill the Jew.” More importantly, however, in both cases, the government, the state alone, has the power to execute, while hatred for a person who was “not like others” reveals the failings of humanity as a whole, above and beyond any particular prejudice. That, at least, is the emphasis in the Gospel and an essential lesson of Jesus’ Passion. Still, had our very Jewish Jesus been a Roman citizen, would there have been a trial at all, let alone an execution? Banishment, maybe. I welcome further conversation on these ideas.
As for PARADE, the production is solid, the performances top caliber, and the plot appropriately disturbing. The title itself is filled with irony – echoing the popular public marches of John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) that engaged 19th-century Americans in displays of national pride. Exemplifying the nation’s hubris, these marches along with Stephen Foster’s wistful parlor songs, often disguised the many prejudices of the age: slavery, racism, and the abuses of the industrial revolution. Fittingly, Jason Robert Brown’s score evokes Sousa in most of the coral scenes – the Chorus representing the Atlanta public – proud, boastful, and blindly egocentric. The opening ensemble piece is so over-the-top- nationalistic, I cringed throughout, anticipating at the onset, as most of us do, that this crowd will soon be transformed into a violent mob.
To his credit, Brown uses a variety of 19th-century musical styles in addition to the musical fanfares as the plot unfolds. I found his ballads the best part of the score, especially those highlighting intimate moments between Leo Frank and his wife Lucille. The excellent Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond as the Franks shine in these scenes. In addition, Brown inserts typical Broadway show-stopping tunes to several supporting players, but I think he was misguided to feature these in a play of such importance. For example, while playing Jim Conley, a more likely murder suspect, Alex Joseph Grayson gives a bravura performance in a spirit-filled, toe-tapping song that screams for applause. But the music is set to the lyrics of his testimony against Mr. Frank that incriminate Leo so completely that the irony of the musical setting is lost. The mendacity in evidence in the number is just too painful and we are left confused as to how to respond. Only a third of the audience at the performance I attended attempted to clap.
The book by playwright Alfred Uhry could have been a bit tighter, too. Indeed, some plot points and character traits need more clarification – especially in regard to Leo’s defense attorney. Was he truly so inept? Furthermore, I would have liked more insight into Leo Frank himself as the script presents him as both an intellectual snob, a workaholic, and, at times, an utter nebbish. Uhry only allows Platt to realize Leo’s deeper humanity as he faces death. That may be true for many of us, but the play’s overall impact offers more insights into the angry crowd’s dynamics, the governor’s cowardice, and the prosecutor’s craftiness than into Leo’s “Everyman” dimensions. To be sure, the show offers empathy for Leo, but more in conceptual terms than profoundly personal ones. Interestingly, because there is much in the script akin to Arthur Miller’s THE CRUCIBLE, Uhry and Parade’s producers could have paid more attention to Miller’s protagonist John Proctor, the man scapegoated by Salem’s witch-hunting magistrates. All the same, the tragic events and elements of this story are important ones to scrutinize and evaluate, and the talents of all involved are quantitatively more in evidence than their failings. PARADE is an essential work of theater for our time.
 Writing around 90 CE, the Jewish author Josephus cited decrees by Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Augustus and Claudius, endowing Jewish communities with a number of rights. Central privileges included the right to be exempted from polis religious rituals and the permission “to follow their ancestral laws, customs and religion”. Jews were also exempted from military service and the provision of Roman troops. Contrary to what Josephus wants his readers to believe, the Jews did not have the status of religio licita (permitted religion) as this status did not exist in the Roman empire, nor were all Roman decrees concerning the Jews positive. Instead, the regulations were made as a response to individual requests to the emperor. The decrees were deployed by Josephus “as instruments in an ongoing political struggle for status”.
Because of their one-sided viewpoint, the authenticity of the decrees has been questioned many times, but they are now thought to be largely authentic. Still, Josephus gave only one side of the story by leaving out negative decisions and pretending that the rulings were universal. This way, he carried out an ideological message showing that the Romans allowed the Jews to carry out their own customs and rituals; the Jews were protected in the past and were still protected by these decisions in his own time. Source: History of the Jews in the Roman Empire – Wikipedia which also cites entries from The Jewish Encyclopedia: ROME – JewishEncyclopedia.com Interestingly, however, because there was considerable “tolerance” of Judaism in Rome, the “disdain” I reference is evidenced in the ways Pilate treated the Jews of Jerusalem following precedent from other rulers.
 “Josephus also recounts that Pilate raided the temple treasury for funds to construct an aqueduct; when the population again protested, Pilate arranged for his soldiers to mingle among the crowds and then, at an appointed signal, massacre them (Ant. 18:60-62). According to Philo . . . Pilate was ‘a man of a very inflexible disposition, and very merciless as well as very obstinate . . . in respect of his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity.” Source: The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Amy-Jill Levine, and Marc Zvi Brettler, editors. New York: Oxford University Press. The Jewish Annotated New Testament by Amy-Jill Levine, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)
 Book of Wisdom 2: “14 To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, 15 Because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways.”
Have you ever thought how good it would be if our public schools offered age-appropriated lessons on Religious Diversity to help students understand the religious dimension of American Plurality and cultivate mutual respect? Just this month, two members of New York City’s Council submitted a Referendum for that purpose. As a former high school English teacher, I had thought about a similar program for years. In case you, too, may wish to explore sponsoring a similar program in your community, I offer you the following.
On Thursday, 2 February 2023, I took part in a coalition of members of many faiths to support two NYC Council representatives in proposing Religious Diversity Education in the New York Public School System. I made many new contacts, particularly among the Muslim, Sufi, and Sikh community, and hope to participate in future steps toward making this goal a reality. Many of us gave two- minute statements for a press release on the steps of City Hall, accompanied by Council Members Shahana Hanif (Main sponsor of the resolution) and Oswald Felix (Education Committee member). Here’s my statement followed by a couple of photos and links to learn more about this initiative:
“I am Fr. James DiLuzio, a member of the Paulist Fathers, a Roman Catholic order of priests committed to the open dialogue of Faith with American Culture. Today, in the “Land of the Free,” many people are afraid to display their religious symbols, to discuss their faiths, values, and ethics in public. Suspicion of people of faiths, especially practitioners of faiths present in minority populations in our country, contributes to misunderstandings and racial profiling that leads to bullying, intimidation, and violence that American democracy cannot allow. I join with the others here present to insist that the public Education of new generations of Americans provide ways to foster understanding and cooperation among peoples of different faiths, backgrounds and cultures. A positive future for these United States depends on it. We, and other representatives of religious institutions are here to assist New York’s Education System in creating a fair, open-minded, and respectful Religious Diversity Education.”
Do you live in New York City? If you are in favor of this resolution and would like to see it enacted, write or phone:
Council Member Rita Jacobs (Chair of Education Committee)
On Tuesday January 24, 2023, the Greek Orthodox Church in America offered a beautiful Ecumenical Prayer Service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at Saint Nicolas Shrine on Ground Zero.  The event, entitled “Do Good, Seek Justice,” (Theme of the International Observance, Isaiah 1:17) brought speakers / Scripture readers, and prayer leaders together representing a variety of churches, including:
Presider: His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, a most humble and inspirational leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. The archbishop spoke of FRIENDSHIP as the most essential element in advancing Ecumenical dialogue and service. 
Gospel Homilist: His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Catholic Archdiocese of New York His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan – New York, NY Cardinal Dolan spoke of the importance of his friendship with Archbishop Elpidophoros, and official representatives from the Episcopal, Lutheran, Baptist, non-denominational Christian, and National Council of Churches present there. His homily focused on words of Pope Francis insisting the Church give priority to an outward focus with friendship, collaboration, and charity, and less on the politics of each respective denomination’s internal struggles.
A. Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, World Council of Churches President from North America, who pleaded for more efforts to break down cultural and political barriers that separate African American Churches from the White Christian Churches. She urged greater, focused solidarity on economic reforms and related social justice issues while maintaining collaboration on the more visible mutual works of charity.
B. Rev. Samuel Davis, St. Simon of Cyrene Orthodox Mission, New Brunswick, NJ, Orthodox Church in America.Rev. Davis, an African American convert to Orthodoxy, proved an imposing presence with a sonorous voice making unequivocal statements on the hypocrisies of those who claim to be “color blind.” He urged more humility in inter-racial relations and the importance of the Church cultivating greater listening skills.
C. FYI: Scheduled Speaker (Unable to Attend) Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, President and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie (vashtimckenzie.com)
Other Readers and individuals present:
Fr. Nicolas Kazarian, an appointed Ecumenical Officer of the Greek Archdiocese of America. Fr. Nicolas helped coordinate the event and its invitations and served as Master of Ceremonies. He is also pastor at New York City’s Saint Eleftherios Greek Orthodox Church, and a fellow Board Member for Religions for Peace USA (RFPUSA) among other organizations.
The Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche
Bishop Dietsche was installed as the 16th Bishop of New York on February 2, 2013 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. Bishop Dietsche – Episcopal Diocese of New York (dioceseny.org) In anticipation of his preparatory year that will begin his retirement, Bishop Dietsche was cited for his extensive Ecumenical service, and awarded an Icon of St. Nicolas by the Greek Patriarch Elpidophoros.
The Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer (Episcopal)
Rev, Breyer is the Director of The Interfaith Center of New York, ICNY Staff | ICNY Harvard grad, and author of The Close: A Young Woman’s First Year at Seminary https://interfaithcenter.org/
On Thursday January 26, 2023, I attended Remembering: Talking About the Holocaust in the 21st Century, a panel discussion co-sponsored by Fordham University and the Under-Told Stories Project of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, in partnership with the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. It was moderated by Fred de Sam Lazaro, director of the Under-Told Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, a program that combines international journalism and teaching. He has served with the PBS NewsHour since 1985 and is a regular contributor and substitute anchor for PBS’ Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. Fred de Sam Lazaro | Author | PBS NewsHour
HERE ARE MY TAKE-AWAYS: are my take-aways with links for more information about each of the participants:
FOUR KEY Suggestions (with references) on How to discuss the Holocaust in conversations and in classes and seminars:
Keep the stories of the HEROES among Jews and Jewish sympathizers, the “Righteous Ones,” in tandem with the facts of the Holocaust catastrophe, Nazi ideology, and humanity’s inhumanity. This imperative was presented by:
Professor Eva Paddock, Educator and Holocaust survivor, shared some of her personal story as one rescued from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II.
At age 2, Eva was one among close to 700 youth whose parents authorized their emigration to England via train and ship to live safely in foster homes. Now known as “Winton’s Children,” the heart-rending evacuation of mainly Czech and Slovak children for safety was organized by Sir Nicholas Winton, a 29-year-old British Stockbroker between March and September 1939, in the
months leading up to the outbreak of World War II. Winton’s parents were of German Jewish descent, and his deep foreboding regarding Nazi’s approaching Czechoslovakia, inspired him to organize eight trains for the Jewish children’s transportation out of the country.
In the interview, Professor Paddock also shared the extraordinary events that led to her father’s subsequent escape from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia –including the fact that he was actually assisted by a sympathetic SS Officer!
2.Yes, it is helpful to offer comparisons and distinctions of Holocaust history with other historical genocides, wars, and political travesties – Armenian Genocide in Turkey, Massacre of Albanians in the Balkan Wars, Rwanda, Stalin, etc. – while insisting on the unprecedented, unique facts of the Nazi “FINAL Solution.” This emphasis articulated strongly by:
Magda Teter, Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies, Fordham University emphasized this point. She also spoke about her current project: Integrating Jewish History in General History
3. It remains essential to include the Contexts of European Antisemitism in discussions and presentations of the Holocaust. Furthermore, include details on the origins of, and specifics of, Nazi ideology, the horror of eugenics, with concrete historical evidence of the prophetic signs of impending Nazi ascent. The panel was unanimous emphasizing these points, emphasized strongly by:
Professor James Loeffler, Jay Berkowitz Professor of Jewish History, University of Virginia
4. Regarding Antisemitism in America Today: The Charlottesville Riots of August 11, 2017, brought the contemporary eruption of Anti-Semitism into focus for the American public. As always, encourage critical thinking imbued with religious and social ethics. Note that in Charlottesville, the behavior was not Holocaust denial, but rather, a resurrection Nazi ideology and symbols –including its propaganda methods were revoltingly on display. Note the rioters’ holding torches on August 11, 2017 – a deliberate imitation of Wagnerian opera and Nazi propaganda art direction:
I recommend the film WOMEN TALKING. More than a “movie,” it is a fine example of honest discourse on both intellectual and emotional levels to the many impulses operating in our responses to violence. Set in a contemporary Mennonite community, the characters engage in Christian concepts, but the issues are equally applicable to people of all faith traditions –to anyone who holds forgiveness and reconciliation a life-giving value.
Equally important, the dialogue and images elicit questions on how families, and social and religious institutions (especially patriarchal ones) educate boys in relation to girls. I think the film will prove a great resource for any discussion, class, or seminar on Forgiveness, as we continue to ask ourselves, “With faith’s compulsion to forgive, what choices do we have until, or if, we are ever ready?” and “How does forgiveness engage us in issues of accountability?”
As a response to the violence our nation is experiencing here and now, WOMEN TALKING is definitely worth your time.
I finally caught up with this latest Marvel endeavor, now in its 4th week of general release. The special effects are grand, the battle scenes exciting, but what struck me most about the movie was its unusual emphasis on character development and its strong thematic elements.
WAKANDA FOREVER gives us time to breathe, to think, to feel. It doesn’t rush into its action sequences, although there are plenty of those. At its essence, the film calls forth empathy with minorities of all backgrounds oppressed by the past and in the present, continually anticipating advances of deceitful and greedy imperialistic nations. In this scenario, these nations are incarnated in none other than our own United States Government. Time to address the sins of our past, indeed!
The minorities, however, represented by the African peoples of the Wakanda and the Latin peoples of an underwater world, are strong, valiant, advanced in science, technology, and wisdom, and refuse to become innocent victims. They have the willpower and the means to guard against American and European self-centered interests and aggression. Governments that put power, profit, and subjugation of peoples over common human decency are going to meet more than their match! Nevertheless, our Wakanda heroes and their potential allies under the sea, being fully human, are as prone to power’s temptations as much as anyone. Some confront the urge to adapt western annihilation techniques against their adversaries, others more freely embrace it. This conflict gives the movie its gravitas, as the Wakanda administration and its warriors wrestle between ethics and expediency, justice and revenge, future potential – or immediate gratification. As in a mirror, we, the audience, see the conflicts raging within our real 21st century world. Moreover, the screenwriters offer their characters and us the ultimate choice between two world visions. Which will we embrace? Transcendence through ritual, faith, and hope in a world comprised of all that is seen and unseen, or the existential views that insist on science and technology with no spiritual dimensions.
I found the film’s direction, acting, cinematography, score and the like well-presented, but leave assessment of those details to the professional reviewers online and in the papers. For my part, I simply wanted to share with you what I appreciated most: WAKANDA FOREVER has a good story, interesting characters, and vital and important themes. With so many children these days not grounded in any religious tradition, Marvel and Disney has offered a tale that may keep our teens and young adults engaged in thoughts that really matter. Who is up for more conversation?
On Thursday, November 10th, I attended the all-day symposium “NEVER IS NOW” sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) at New York City’s Javits Center. As I approached the building, Chassidim men and women held up protest signs on a variety of issues including Issues with Israel, Anti-Zionism, and “Keep ADL Out of Our High Schools.” You may know that ADL offers upper grade level programs addressing bullying, racism, and antisemitism in the schools – a program in which I have a great interest. It seems Chassidim have concerns that the ADL program defends LGBQT+ rights along with those of fellow Jews and other minorities. Others claim that ADL is too all-inclusive and neglects its emphasis on antisemitism.
Once inside, I was amazed at the substantial number of young adults at the event. Inspiring! Older adults, however, made up the largest percentage of the 2,000 plus attendees (my estimate). Attentive to the power of SYMBOLS in any religious context, I was struck by the small percentage of people wearing kippah or yarmulke (Yiddish for a special kind of “kippah). For my part, I wore my Roman Collar to show Catholic support in ADL’s efforts to counter the evils of racism and antisemitism. Interestingly, I did not encounter anyone wearing a clerical collar – Catholic, Protestant clergy or otherwise. Christian clergy may have been present, but none were identifiable, and I circulated widely within large and small groups. My collar, however, as it proved a great entrée for conversation.
Christopher Wray, FBI Director, spoke on the FBI’s vigilance to prevent hate crimes, noting the increase in violent speech and actions against synagogue communities and Jewish organizations since 2020
Among the keynote speakers, I gained the most from Albert Bourla as he shared his poignant experiences growing up in a Jewish household in Thessaloniki, Greece, among primarily Orthodox Christians.
In his role as Pfizer CEO, Dr. Bourla elaborated on the antisemitism that erupted throughout and beyond the Corona Virus pandemic, particularly among those who either claimed the pandemic a political plot and /or refuted the value of vaccines, or worse, that the vaccines introduced DNA modifiers into the vaccinated. Later I attended a session on QAnon (Internet Conspiracy Theory) and the MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) movement (one-and-the-same!) offering more details to that phenomenon. The emphasis there:
“In personal encounters, please do not argue with these folks. Invite them, instead, to identify their feelings of fear, of being marginalized, or whatever is going on in their personal lives. Try to address the feelings, not the issues, to open the door to sanity.”
Never share outrageous posts on internet platforms — even to ridicule them or offer opposing argument. You are helping disseminate the information and furthermore, add to the algorithms that prove the item is popular.
Another Keynote: Christopher Wray, FBI Director, highlighted the intensified security at synagogues and churches, particularly those with large first and second-generation immigrant populations. The corresponding break-out session I attended offered the following information:
Currently, most states in the US do not designate “Domestic Terrorism” as ‘Illegal.’ Nevertheless, the FBI identifies domestic terrorism according to the following criteria:
Racial or ethical based violence
Anarchist rhetoric and action
Vigilante propaganda and civilians acting as law enforcement officials
“Sovereign Citizens” who invent their own laws and attempt to impose them on others
Extremists among any group or organization
FBI continues to negotiate a balance between the 1st and 2nd Amendments to the US Constitution and finds it exceedingly challenging.
Always REPORT threats to personal and environmental safety to police.
Always REPORT Cyber threats, account hackings and takeovers – never treat them lightly. Keep an ongoing paper trail of all incidents (hard copies)
The FBI recommends the following organizations to increase awareness of potential threats to life and security in worship:
Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership Resources including:
Here are some points from a second break-out session I attended entitled “Cultivating Effective Alliances: How Partnerships Promote Positive Change.” Members of the following organizations spoke about their complimentary respective goals:
Jewish Federation of North America Home | The Jewish Federations of North America JFNA mission addresses hate by improving access to health care and addressing poverty for Jewish communities and their neighbors: “Economic Security guards against Hate”
Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Board of Deputies of British Jews – Board of Deputies of British Jews (bod.org.uk) In Ms. Van der Zyl’s experience, people who are Anti-Israel are, indeed, Antisemitic. Using these or similar words, she repeatedly asked the question: “Why would anyone deny sovereignty and a nation of their own to any race or ethnicity? To deny this to the Jewish people is genuine Antisemitism.” She also noted that international criticism of Israel is inordinate compared to critiques of conflicts in other nations.
The day concluded panel discussions for the entire assembly and an interview with Congresswoman Liz Cheney conducted by journalist Ruth Marcus, Associate Editor of the Washington Post. Among the panelists:
Michael Eric Dyson who affirmed a recommitment to solidarity among Black and Jewish Americans See: Michael Eric Dyson
Ruth Marcus’ interview with Congresswoman Liz Cheney closed the day-long event. Marcus focused on Cheney’s role as Chair for the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capital, applauding her for her witness to the value bipartisan cooperation. The women also addressed the link between QAnon and MAGA in growing antisemitism throughout the nation and these organizations influence worldwide.
I became reacquainted with a Biblical concept in my reading this evening – a concept worth repeating – especially to those who have given up on exploring God because of violence evidenced the Bible. Faith invites us to see all those passages highlighting the harm we humans cause ourselves and others, be it in the name of God or of our tribe, to make readers conscious of our own wrongdoings, especially in the ways we repeat the sins of our ancestors. The Bible invites us to read back into any section we encounter two central moments: The Ten Commandments (i.e., “oh, yes, I see the resulting tragedy when this or that Commandment is broken!”), and Christ’s Passion (i.e., “oh, yes, here’s another wound inflicted against God and humanity). Why would a Holy Book only give us “the good parts,” showing merely “exemplary behavior,” without honestly admitting human failures? Scripture offers “Good News” because it is honest, and because its goal is that we see all parts destined to contribute to a whole, holy, and majestic conclusion. What is this conclusion? A patient and forgiving God is ever-present to us, assisting us that we learn from the past and create a better future.
For more insight that supports “Love of God and Neighbor” as part of the Bible’s Ultimate Message, you may enjoy this article from Biblical Archeological Society. Reading the first half is more-than-enough as the second half gets very technical. If you don’t have time, know the answer is: NEIGHBOR MEANS EVERYONE! This is true in both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible.
Here I invite us to an Unofficial Dialogue so that we may share with one another:
Our understandings of what our Faith Traditions teach or Philosophies Uphold
(Please Provide Sources)
Our Personal thoughts and Feelings about what our traditions teach or Philosophies uphold
What We Personally Believe with Respect and Reverence for one another and respect for ourrespective institutions.
True Multi-Faith Dialogue invites us to clarify for one another our respective Tradition’s beliefs and moral codes and share our own responses to those doctrines and/or sensibilities — however, UNCOMFORTABLE this may be for each of us. But I trust all who are committed to multi-faith dialogue are willing to share our perspectives without rancor, but instead, respect the ways the human heart and brain function as infused with each person’s particular faith, culture, and perspectives on personal autonomy. Therefore, in response to the recent United States Supreme Court Decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, I invite you to offer your Faith or Denominations’ perspectives on Right to Life and Abortion. I have begun to compile a SAMPLE of the various religious institutions’ and their representatives’ statements on the Court’s decision, and I welcome you to add your statements in comments there as well. Here’s the link to the SAMPLE OF RELIGIOUS STATEMENTS I have collated thus far:
Are you ready for more? Let’s give a civil conversation a try!
I will start us off with my explanation of the Roman Catholic position on WHEN LIFE BEGINS contextualized with my personal understanding of why this topic remains a difficult one.
A Humble Attempt at a Catholic Explanation of The Right to Life from the Moment of Conception
Presented by Rev. James M. DiLuzio CSP (A Catholic priest –not a formal Catholic Theologian, Ethicist, or Official Spokesman)
The Catholic Church upholds the belief that human life begins at conception and therefore society must protect it. Not all Christian churches agree. Not all Faith Traditions agree. Part of the issue’s complexity is rooted in the different foundational premises people have as they enter the abortion debate. Generally, Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, and Pentecostal Christians start with life in the womb. Protestants, and other faiths often, but not always, start with each woman’s right to bodily integrity. While the former groups insist a woman’s “right to choose” begins and ends with her decision to engage in sexual intercourse along with her choices regarding family planning and contraception, the latter groups extend each woman’s rights of self-determination to any point including her pregnancy be it wanted or unwanted. Some traditions limit the designation of “the right to choose” as “a moral choice” to specific stages in pregnancy.
In the hope of maintaining focus, I invite us to take one premise at a time. Therefore, in this first piece I will offer my best expression of the Roman Catholic beliefs regarding the life in utero.
# 2270: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his (sic) existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. (Source: CDF — Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith document Donum vitae) 
Biblical References: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1: 5) “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.” (Psalm 139: 15) 
# 2271: Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed whether as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.”
“God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men (sic) the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”
Science classifies many stages in the conception process. Let us first look at the natural process of conception and growth along with Catholic catechetical statements printed in BOLD.
# 364: “The human body shares in the dignity of ‘the image of God’: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of theSpirit. 
# 365: “The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body:  i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body, spirit, and matter, in man (sic), are not two natures united, but rather their unionforms a single nature.”
This last statement that the soul and material body are inseparable, makes the Catholic sensibility that God, The Creator, infuses the immortal soul as sperm and ovum together create a zygote more tenable. Of course, the moment of ensoulment is unverifiable. As far as I know, neither the Roman Catholic Church nor any Christian denomination or Faith offers as an Institutional Body, any pronouncement, dogmatic or otherwise, as to exactly when God infuses the immortal soul in the human person in the womb. Truly there is mystery here.7 But, again, this fact does not mitigate the Catholic position that life begins at conception, and that humanity must respect every child’s right to develop and prosper.
For the complete Catholic position with reference to ensoulment, here is the statement from the Pontifical DECLARATION ON PROCURED ABORTION from Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on June 28, 1974
“It is not within the competence of science to decide between these views, because the existence of an immortal soul is not a question in its field. It is a philosophical problem from which our moral affirmation remains independent for two reasons:
supposing a belated animation, there is still nothing less than a human life, preparing for and calling for a soul in which the nature received from parents is completed,
on the other hand, it suffices that this presence of the soul be probable (and one can never prove the contrary) in order that the taking of life involve accepting the risk of killing a man, not only waiting for, but already in possession of his soul.”
Let us return to what information Science gives us:
“Within 24 hours after fertilization, the egg begins rapidly dividing into many cells. It remains in the fallopian tube for about three days after conception.
“Within 24 hours after fertilization, the egg begins rapidly dividing into many cells. It remains in the fallopian tube for about three days after conception.
The cell of thezygote continuously divides, eventually forming a hollow ball of cells called the blastocyst. . . . The blastocyte continues to divide as it passes slowly through the fallopian tube to the uterus. The blastocyst stays in their uterus for several days before it implants in the inner lining of their uterine wall (endometrium). It continues to make new cells, which separate into layers.” 
Now some proponents of abortion and abortive contraception (those that prevent a fertilized ova to attach to the uterus wall) is morally justifiable because, in the natural course of events, attachment of blastocyte to uterus occurs as infrequently as 30% of the time. However, Catholicism insists there is a marked difference between what occurs in nature and what the human person “wills.” Human “Will” is subject to moral and ethical evaluation, and these are based on Biblical and Church Tradition norms.
“In these first few weeks, a primitive face will take form with large dark circles for eyes. The mouth, lower jaw and throat are developing. Blood cells are taking shape, and circulation will begin. The tiny “heart” tube will beat sixty-five times a minute by the end of the fourth week.”
And so it is that the Roman Catholic Church finds support of its teachings on when human life begins in the way science documents each body’s distinctiveness at the onset of gestation and its evolving readiness to exist beyond the confines of the womb. Nevertheless, Roman and Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, Orthodox Christian Churches and other Christian denominations have failed to convince society of the validity of this belief. Therefore, the conversation on human life, abortion and all the related issues of human sexuality and responsibility, maternity and paternity, women’s and men’s health and dignity, remains open. Of course, for all of this, the health and safety of pregnant women remains paramount. See Appendix B as an introduction to that essential topic.
And, for all this, it is time to insist our nation provides greater resources for families, fathers, mothers, and children– far more than our government currently provides. We must also consider the number of single parent families, and of grandparents raising grandchildren, absent fathers, and all the realities of people not taking joint responsibility for their children.
If the choice for abortion is to become truly “rare,” Americans must reclaim our responsibility to form healthy families. Sure, this will mean government programs and higher taxes, but taxes put to this purpose will strengthen our society now and for the future. Time for a New “New Deal.” I invite you to read my MODEST PROPOSAL To Eliminate and/or Greatly Reduce the Need for Abortion. Go to: https://frjamesdiluzio.com/2022/07/05/a-modest-proposal/
As always, All Comments Welcome!
PS: I found this article presenting Islam’s view of When Does a Human Life Become Human by Hamza Yusuf is a leading proponent of classical learning in Islam. He cites “Do not sever the bonds of the womb.” – Qur’an 4:1 and. Do not kill your children from fear of poverty. – Qur’an 17:31. Go to: https://renovatio.zaytuna.edu/
Father James DiLuzio is a Paulist Father and Director of the Paulist Office for Ecumenical and Multi-Faith Relations centered in New York. APPENDICES to this article appear on the following pages.
Biblical QuotationsUsed in Pro-Life &Pro-Choice Debates
A Conflict in Christian Interpretations. (New American Bible, Revised Edition NABRE)
The Call of the Prophets:
These passages are open to debate: Were these conceptions a priori in the mind of God bestowed on the prophets alone or everyone? Is ensoulment the same as to “be filled with the holy Spirit?” The Roman Catholic position is that these passages refer to every human being (in part via Psalm 139 cited below); other denominations disagree.
1 Hear me, coastlands, listen, distant peoples. Before birth the LORD called me, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
Psalm 139: 13-16
13 You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. 15 My bones are not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.[e] 16 Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.
Deuterocanonical Book of Sirach 49: 7
(aka Ben Sira and Ecclesiasticus 49:7)
7 As foretold by Jeremiah. They mistreated him who even in the womb had been made a prophet . . .
Deuterocanonical Book of Sirach 50: 1, 22 ff. Simeon, Son of Jochanan
1 Greatest of his family, the glory of his people, was Simeon the priest, son of Jochanan,[a] In whose time the house of God was renovated, in whose days the temple was reinforced . . .
22 And now, bless the God of all,[b] who has done wonders on earth; Who fosters growth from the womb, fashioning it according to his will! 23 May he grant you a wise heart and abide with you in peace; 24 May his goodness toward Simeon last forever; may he fulfill for him the covenant with Phinehas So that it may not be abrogated for him or his descendants while the heavens last.
Luke 1: 13-15 The Announcement of the Conception of John the Baptist 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid,[e]Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.[f]He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,16and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
PURPOSEFULNESSPRIOR TO CONCEPTIONLuke 1: 30-33
30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,[k] and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
The Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians 1: 15-16
15 But when [God], who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles,
Ambiguity in Texts: Exodus 21: 12 – 15 and 22 -23
Personal Injury.12 [e]Whoever strikes someone a mortal blow must be put to death. 13 However, regarding the one who did not hunt another down, but God caused death to happen by his hand, I will set apart for you a place to which that one may flee. 14 But when someone kills a neighbor after maliciously scheming to do so, you must take him even from my altar and put him to death. 15 Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death
22 [h]When men have a fight and hurt a pregnant woman, so that she suffers a miscarriage, but no further injury, the guilty one shall be fined as much as the woman’s husband demands of him, and he shall pay in the presence of the judges. 23 But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Taken together, these passages imply that the biblical authors did not judge life in utero as equal to that of a human living beyond the womb. The penalty for a homicide was death, but the recompense for an injured pregnant woman who miscarried is merely a fine. Some people cite these texts to justify their belief that a child in utero is not yet a human being. However, note that the biblical text refers to an accident toward a bystander, not a willful attack on a person as in the case of the adversarial men. The Scriptures do not address a violent act against a pregnant woman who subsequently miscarries here or elsewhere. Therefore, the assumption of the lesser value of the child in utero is a false one.
“Saving the Life of a Mother in Crisis Pregnancies”
Here is a brief look at the Catholic understanding in assessing crisis situations in which both the life of a mother and the child in utero are in jeopardy.
Catholic Moral Teaching insists that all medical means are permissible in saving a woman’s life providing one does not willfully intend to terminate the life of a child in utero.
“The Principle of Double Effect in the Church’s moral tradition teaches that one may perform a good action even if it is foreseen that a bad effect will arise only if four conditions are met: 1) The act itself must be good. 2) The only thing that one can intend is the good act, not the foreseen but unintended bad effect. 3) The good effect cannot arise from the bad effect; otherwise, one would do evil to achieve good. 4) The unintended but foreseen bad effect cannot be disproportionate to the good being performed.
This principle has been applied to many cases in health care, always respecting the most fundamental moral principle of medical ethics,primum non nocere, “first, do no harm.”
Don’t have time to read the article? Here’s the essence of it cited from Fr. Sawyer’s closing remarks:
“The pro-life movement has frequently been co-opted for other political goals and often happily colluded in them; politicians have used the lives of the unborn as moral cover for ignoring other calls for justice and to protect the common good. Many defenders of Roe v. Wade, meanwhile, have obscured and evaded the moral question about when life begins and what duties we owe to unborn children. Our country has, as a consequence of all these failures, not offered women a better choice than abortion, while it has accepted the lie that autonomy and freedom can only be guaranteed by the option to destroy an innocent life. “
As Pope Francis asked ‘“I ask: ‘Is it licit, is it right, to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem?’ It’s a human life, that’s science,” the pope said. “The moral question is whether it is right to take a human life to solve a problem,
Here’s a bit of SEX EDUCATION available right now from the New York Times that can clarify facts to be used in the dialogue. .
What Society Owes its Citizens in Order to Eliminate or Greatly Reduce the Desire or Need for Abortion
NOW IS THE TIME for MORE Conversation and Debate on the Role of Religious and Educational Institutions, Behavioral Sciences, Businesses, and Society-at-Large Regarding:
Advancing SOCIETY’S RESPONSIBILITY toward Families including Universal Health Care that includes Subsidies for
Pre-Pregnancy, Pregnancy, and Post-partem Health Care for All Regardless of Economic and Marital Status and Sexual Orientation
Expanding WIC (Women, Infants and Children) programs for All Single Parents, Male and Female
Paid Maternity and Paternity Leave for all Parents. I suggest we follow the European Model of Six Months or MORE as bonding is an essential dynamic for raising healthy children.
Universal, Professional Child Day Care for infants and children of all Working Women and Men whether he or she works inside or outside of the home.
Greater Public Educational Offerings in Parenting, Child Care and Child Development especially in High Schools and GED Programs.
Expanding Education K through Twelve to offer
Age-Appropriate Classes in All Schools on HOW TO BE A HEALTHY FAMILY, including such items as
Healthy Expressions of Anger
Ways to address fears, insecurities
Age-appropriate forms of Affection
Ethics and in Health and Sexual Education including: The Psychology of Sexual drives, thought, feelings and decision-making
In-depth understanding of layers of social pressures regarding sexual expression
Clarity and Specificity in situations when individuals reject sexual overtures
Expanding After-School Programs in Visual Arts, Crafts, Music, Theatre, and Sciences, especially where local school systems cannot afford such essential needs to healthy human development
Sponsoring Ongoing Local, State, and National PUBLIC FORUMS to Develop a Consensus on Universal Guidelines (NOT LEGISLATION) for Promoting Co-Responsibility for Sexual Activity and its Consequences for both Men and Women. Special attention must be given to educate men in proper attitudes toward women as equals and co-partners in mutually agreed upon relationships including clarification of all of Men’s moral / social responsibilities toward their partners before, during and after their partners become pregnant.
These PUBLIC FORUMS should include representatives from all faith traditions, experts in Behavioral Sciences, Sociologists, Economics and more. Our nation needs to cultivate greater awareness of the consequences of our actions, the complex needs families have, and the family’s impact on society.
Compare and Contrast Various Religious, Humanist, Philosophical, and Psychological approaches regarding sexual activity in human relationships (Inviting Multi-faith and Secular Perspectives) Amplifying and/or modifying these norms for Teenagers and their parents. Teenagers need to be much better informed of the dynamics of their changing bodies and all the associated feelings and drives. Psychology reminds us the human brain does not have all of its full adult capacities until age 25! Teenagers and parents need lots more information! See https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/02/18/at-what-age-is-the-brain-fully-developed/
Commission and Popularize Psychological Studies of psychological and emotional impact on sexual activity and abstinenceInside and outside of Marriage for
Inside and Outside of Marriage
On College Students
New Dialogues with Medical Professionals and Behavioral Scientists with Religious Institutions on Sexual Behaviors and Psychology, including the mental and emotional dynamics of Access to, and use of Non-Abortive Forms of Contraception.
Special Attention to Conversations with Religious Institutions Opposed to All Forms of Artificial Contraception, especially those like the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, among many others,, that ask all single individuals to abstain from sexual activity until marriage. Everyone could benefit by exploring further the many spiritual, psychological, and emotional dynamics of this prescription.
Public Health and Safety Service Announcements as to the Best Non-Abortive Forms of Birth Control for those whose faith and ethics permit them. Churches and Other Religious Institutions could offer their exemptions / rejections such as “The Roman Catholic Church finds these forms of artificial birth control morally objectionable.”
Here’s a bit of SEX EDUCATION available right now from the New York Times.