Time to rebuild the ‘city of God’

 Michael Sarafa

Michael Sarafa

“Let us build the city of God. May our tears be turned into dancing. For the Lord our light and our love has turned the night into day.”

The Catholic Church is in trouble. An astonishing and stomach-churning report by the Pennsylvania Attorney General documents hundreds, if not thousands of cases of abuse by over three hundred priests from six dioceses over the course of 70 years.

While many of cases are old, some of the facts that have come to light are new. Two priests were essentially trafficking in child pornography. Sadism, rape of boys and girls, whips, threats, base manipulation—the report reads like a script written for a twisted XXX-rated movie.

In the Diocese of Erie, a 7-year- old boy was sexually abused by a priest who then told him he should go to confession and confess his “sins” to that same priest.

Another boy was repeatedly raped from ages 13 to 15 by a priest who bore down so hard on the boy’s back that it caused severe spine injuries. He became addicted to painkillers and later died of an overdose.

One victim in Pittsburgh was forced to pose naked as Christ on the cross while priests photographed him with a Polaroid camera. Priests gave the boy and others gold cross
necklaces to mark them as being “groomed” for abuse.

The abuse “was rampant and widespread,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference in the state Capitol. “It touched every diocese, and it is horrifying.”

What is more devastating is that the report chronicles a massive cover-up. Most earth shattering for the church is what could be described as the widespread, institutionalized and systematic cover-up by other priests, bishops and others in authority.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. is directly implicated in the report. He was Bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese for 18 years when much of the abuse was still occurring and near all of it was somehow being covered up.

His predecessor in the D.C. Diocese, cardinal Theodore McCarrick has his own problems. McCarrick has been forced from the College of Cardinals. He is accused of abusing not yet adult seminarians using his authority and even taking advantage of the good graces of the boys’ families.

Incidentally, though he was not able to vote for Francis in the last conclave because of his age, McCarrick was instrumental in promoting then Cardinal Bergoglio for the papacy.

Francis’ response was curt and to the point. “Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated,” the Pope wrote.

But the City of God is in crisis.

The faithful are badly shaken and, as Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston noted, “the clock is ticking
on the Catholic Church.”

“Awake from your slumber! Arise from your sleep! A new day is dawning for all those who weep. The people in darkness have seen a great light. The Lord of our longing has conquered the night.”

Let us rebuild the ‘city of God.’

Michael Sarafa is Co-publisher of the
Chaldean News.

Birth control back in the news

 Michael Sarafa

Michael Sarafa

The issue of birth control recently resurfaced based on a new book by Monsignor Gilfredo Marengo titled “Birth of an Encyclical: Humanae Vitae in the Light of Vatican Archives”. Much has been written in the past about the actual pre-encyclical commission first appointed by John XXIII in 1963 and then greatly expanded by Pope Paul VI. Both Popes thought it wise to include many non-clerics on the commission.

This 72-person commission ultimately produced a report in 1966 suggesting that birth control was not an evil act and that couples should be allowed to decide for themselves what methods of birth control should be employed. Sixty-four members of this commission supported the majority report which Paul VI largely ignored in Humanae Vitae.

This majority report, however, raised a ruckus in the Synod of Bishops who pressed Paul VI, prior to his encyclical, to present the matter to the Synod. That is exactly what happened during a 1967 Synod held in the Vatican. Of the 200 Bishops present, only 26 produced written responses. It is those writings that make up part of Marengo’s book.

It is surprising both that more did not respond and that most of those responding were in favor of openings for birth control, some 19 out of 26. Also notable were who some of those for and against were. Three American Cardinals were in support of the opening; Shehan of Baltimore; Krol of Philadelphia and Dearden of Detroit. This may come as a surprise to many in the current U.S Conference of Bishops. The lone dissenting American respondent was Fulton Sheen who joined six ther Bishops in urging Paul VI to uphold the urrent magisterium. One other of the seven included a young Bishop from Krakow named Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II).

It has been known for fifty years that Human Vitae’s treatment of birth control was contrary to the vast majority of the Commission appointed by John XXIII and expanded by his successor. Less known is that many prominent members of the Synod also favored a more liberal treatment of the issue. We’ll never know for sure what the full complement of Synodal Father’s thought, since so many of them didn’t respond, at least in writing. No doubt, however, that each had a view.

Fifty years later, with hundreds of thousands of Catholic married couples living in a technical
state of sin, it would have been nice to know. Where do you stand?

Michael Sarafa is Co-publisher of the
Chaldean News.

Are donations to politicians good investments?


With college tuition for three children imminent and continued involvement in important causes to our family, I’ve began to evaluate the priorities of the dollar. I’ve been in banking and finance for nearly 15 years but never really took to evaluating political contributions on a Return on Investment (ROI) basis.

When you buy a hamburger, you get food and nutrition and satisfaction. When you pay for schooling, you are educating your children. When you take a vacation, you get relaxation and enjoyment.

What the heck to you get when you donate to a political campaign?

Well, one argument would be you are participating in the American political process and helping to elect good people that are aligned with your philosophy. That argument certainly is true.

But another part of me says, I never got a thing. Politicians come and go, many of them keep recycling and nothing much ever changes. Meanwhile, there is often scandal, embarrassment and major examples of flat out crookedness. There is also gridlock, acrimony and often the seeming inability to come together on important issues of the day.

I’m not suggesting necessarily that people shouldn’t contribute to political campaigns, I’m simply wondering if all of us should do a better job of evaluating our ROI.

Where do you stand? 

Michael Sarafa is Co-publisher of  the Chaldean News.

Commute Kilpatrick's sentence by half

 Mike Sarafa

Mike Sarafa

    In 2001, I supported Gill Hill for Mayor of Detroit over Kwame Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick won. In 2005, I supported Freman Hendrix over Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick was re-elected. During my time as President of the Associated Food Dealers, the city administration and police department wreaked havoc on Detroit store owners. Undeserved raids, tickets, fines, harassment and shakedowns for money. Kilpatrick and I became arch enemies; and everyone knew it.
    I always thought Kilpatrick was ethically challenged even when he was in the state legislature. His affair with Christine Beatty began then. When he ultimately was elected, he took his slogan—It’s Our Time—to mean it was his time in every criminal and sinister way possible. At the end of that saga, I felt strongly that he got what he deserved.
    But I’ve changed my mind. I think his three-decade sentence is excessive and I’m not the only one. An effort is actually underway to free Kilpatrick.
    In spite, of the real harm he caused the city, his sentence should be reduced. Here are six reasons why.
• I believe he may be capable of reforming himself in less than 27 years.
• He is a very low risk of committing a repeat offense given what he has been through.
• He is a father and I believe, still a husband.
• He probably can be let out early in exchange for some substantial community service. It seems that his story of his meteoric rise, catastrophic fall, epic humiliation and redemptive rebirth might do a few troubled kids out there some good.
     In the context of the immigration detentions, I’ve been to these prisons a couple of times to visit friends. They are horrible places. Our criminal justice and prison system are badly flawed, in my view. These places for a long sentence like Kilpatrick got, amount to a death sentence.
     Finally, and most importantly, he was coddled and enabled by some of the most powerful elected officials and corporate leaders in this town— many of whom are still in positions of power. They lifted him up and stood behind him way longer than was prudent. For years, they turned a blind eye to Kilpatrick’s untoward ways. They share responsibility for what he did to the city because they stood by him when it was happening.
    In a complete reversal of my positions on Kilpatrick and his case, I say commute his sentence by half.
    Where do you stand?

Michael Sarafa is Co-Publisher of The Chaldean News.

Comey’s book hypocritical

 Michael Sarafa

Michael Sarafa

Last month, fired FBI Director James Comey released his much-awaited book “A Higher Loyalty.” Let me first say that I have not read it, though I’ve read reviews and watched extensive coverage on it.

But here are some points I’d like to make that I think can be made without reading the entire book. First, I think the timing of the release, in the middle of the Russia probe, is preposterous. Comey apparently spends much of the book decrying the politicization of his former agency. But the act of the book itself is hugely political.

Second, his disdain for Trump is obvious but also seems personal. Here again, Comey has been lauded as sort of a career government person who remained, throughout his career, above politics. But when it comes to Trump, this seems impossibly disingenuous.

Third, Comey, while admitting some mistakes, or things he’d do differently given another chance, is the only person in America that thinks he didn’t botch the Clinton email debacle. First amongst those that think that are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Finally, Comey is very clearly jaded by the fact that he was fired and has taken to the talk show circuit for what seems like at once both retribution and financial gain. His book deal and tour are so patently about money that it’s difficult to take some of Comey’s more important points seriously. (His book deal is reportedly worth at least $2 million.)

So, while Comey has made a good chunk of change, I think that he will go down in history as an FBI director who played an unfortunate and oversized role in the presidential election of 2016. He very badly misused (maybe abused) his position and accomplished exactly the opposite of his stated goal of keeping politics out of law enforcement.

In this regard, I would say he is a downright hypocrite. Where do you stand?

Michael Sarafa is Co-Publisher of The Chaldean News

Any bets?

“Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault. He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!”

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Trump no doubt a sociopath

In the aftermath of the Parkland School shooting tragedy, one Democratic Congressman called President Trump a “psychopath” or, in other words, a lunatic. I don’t think that is correct. A better, more apt description of President Trump would would be “sociopathic.” As families and friends of those murdered were mourning the loss of loved ones and planning funerals, Trump actually turned the focus on himself.

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In the Balance

Hollywood, big business, national news personalities – no one and no institutions have been spared from the #Metoo movement. That is a good thing. These institutions have been exposed for what they are—elitist organizations or industries that use power, fame and money in the most heinous way possible.

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Seminarian professor challenges Pope Francis

Here comes a document signed by more than 70 priests, scholars, and church opinion leaders once again challenging 7 “heretical propositions” put forth by Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), his apostolic exhortation. The letter challenging the Pope is more significant for who did not sign it, which is nobody from the entire College of Cardinals and say but for one Bishop, currently suspended for his own unorthodoxies. 

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Teaching Sourath at home?

This is a tough question. Today, younger people that can speak the Chaldean language learned to do so primarily because they had to communicate with their parents or grandparents. Today, the Chaldean language is mostly a spoken language. Except for priests and other learned people, very few can actually read or write the language. It is a language without a country in a world where you can pretty much get by with English.

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Gone with the news!

Has anybody seen Walter, Peter and Tom? The 1968 hit song Abraham, Martin and John laments the assassinations of Lincoln, King and the Kennedy brothers and was written by Dick Holler in the wake of the killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.

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Be careful what you ask for

During last election season, many of my democratic leaning friends, including some democratic elected officials, were surprised by the level and voraciousness of Chaldean support for Donald Trump. As you know from other writings in this space, I was not a Trump fan, nor did I ever think he could actually win. 

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Minimalism Defined

The Trump era has ushered in an age of embellishment, bigness and largesse. If it hasn’t ushered it in, it at least exemplifies it. This has gotten me thinking about the concept of minimalism, which has many different meanings, depending on the context. In art and music, it mostly conjures ideas of being stripped to its basic elements.

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