Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Catholic Schoolgirls Confront Chicago Cardinal Who Met with Bush

by Chicago World Can't Wait member

SIGN the Petition to Support the "Holy Name Six"

Three days into the sixth year of the US occupation of Iraq, Christians around the world celebrated Easter. In Chicago, services at the Holy Name Cathedral in the Gold Coast, the most prominent Catholic church in the area, were interrupted by a righteous challenge to the complacency and complicity of business as usual. As Cardinal George started his homily, six well-dressed young people in the congregation stood up. One loudly said, “The sixth commandment says, 'thou shall not kill.'” George stopped speaking as all eyes turned to the protesters. "Yet more than a million Iraqis have been killed since the invasion of Iraq," said a second protester.

After calling out Cardinal George for meeting with the war criminal, George Bush, this past January, several of the protesters screamed, squirted stage blood on themselves and lay in the aisle to represent the ongoing bloodbath in Iraq. The whole incident took less than 30 seconds; ushers, aided by police, immediately escorted the six (members of the street theater group Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War) out of the church and placed them under arrest.

While in handcuffs, waiting for a police wagon to arrive, media gathered to record the services photographed and interviewed the protesters. “What was the point of the blood?” asked one reporter.

“It’s important to have a visual,” answered one woman. “People aren’t visualizing what’s going on. They’re going about their daily lives like nothing’s going on.”

Since then, a storm of controversy has erupted. The six protesters were taken to the notorious county jail at 26th and California, held for days, and each was charged with a felony (supposedly for the cost to clean the stage blood off the carpet). Mainstream media posted each of the six’s mug shots on websites and aired reports painting the anti-war activists as violent extremists. The Chicago Sun-Times (one of the two major local newspapers) even posted attack pieces from reactionary bloggers on their own website. One included this: “You left wing violent radicals keep doing what you are doing, and I'll keep exposing you as the America hating terrorists you really are.” Another blog posted on the Sun-Times site (“Stop the ACLU: Beating them with their own Sickle and Hammer”) compared these protesters to the pro-war thugs in Move America Forward. Although the flag-draped bikers in MAF physically assailed the anti-recruitment protesters in Berkeley, including by punching a high school student in the face, none were arrested (Berkeley police did arrest several of the high school students, though). The backlash from press working closely with “protest warrior” types and the labeling of this symbolic act of protest as “violent” ratchets up the criminalization of protest overall.

The vilification of the Holy Name Six started immediately, even though the Cardinal picked up his homily by thanking them for “calling for peace,” and was applauded when he said “we should all call for peace.” Two days later, the Chicago Archdiocese issued a statement condemning the action as “sacrilegious” and an attempt by a small group use their partisan views to violate “the fundamental right of Catholics to practice their faith freely.”

Support came in from unexpected corners as well, including from Catholics and religious peace groups – as thousands of dollars were raised in a few days to bail out the six. Controversy over whether this sort of action “alienates the mainstream majority” was kicked up. Some would like the anti-war movement to confine all protests within an ever-shrinking box of acceptability; while we can learn from history and by looking at present day reality that “people who steal elections and believe they’re on a ‘mission from God’ will not go without a fight.”

5 years have gone by and 1.3 million people are now dead. Something like 6 million people are displaced. Violence and chaos has been unleashed on a country the size of California on a scale that we really can't comprehend in our comfort and security living here in the US - with no end in sight!!

It will take actions like what happened at Holy Name Cathedral (and beyond) that disturb the normal operation of society to create a situation where the war ends. Yes, the pope has raised objections to the war, and yes, the Cardinal here has not dissented from that doctrine. He did meet with the war criminal leading the country in our names, though. And the people in the congregation who were so offended by six young people squirting blood on themselves and lying in the aisles of the church were not offended by that? If so, then they need to be shaken up, and confronted with the reality that while we celebrate holidays with our families, calmly and peacefully, there are little children in Iraq who live in fear every day of being shot or blown up by "our troops."

The Holy Name Six dared to step outside the narrowing “free-speech zone” and challenged the complicity of those who hold their tongues while crimes against humanity are carried out in our names. 1930s Germany could have used a few more young people like this – and everyone who opposes the war must come to their defense. We cannot allow them to be locked up in prison for years. Just two days before the Holy Name incident, Bishop Arthur Tafoya, of San Luis, Col., forgave three Mormon missionaries for defacing a Catholic shrine, dropping criminal charges. The missionaries had been photographed preaching from the Book of Mormon and pretending to sacrifice each other while holding the broken head of a statue at the shrine. People are encouraged to contact the Archdiocese of Chicago to show support for the Six and to ask for the charges to be dropped. Surely their acts on Easter in the name of ending the horrible deaths of so many in Iraq is as worthy of Cardinal George’s forgiveness as the acts of the Mormon missionaries!!

CONTACT the Holy Name 6 with support messages at:

Contact: Archdiocese of Chicago 155 E. Superior Street Chicago, IL 60611

General: 312-751- 8200
Cardinal George: 312-751-8230

Newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago:

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