Friday, February 22, 2008

Need for Signatures on a Letter to the Pope About His Visiting President Bush

Pope Benedict may visit Presdient Bush during a coming visit to America. Friends have proposed a letter to the Pope and are asking us to sign it. The original message is set forth here just as received. If interested, please email:

Thank you,
Paul Kelly

----- Original Message -----

Stephen Kobasa
2/16/2008 2:01:20 PM
Invitation to sign a letter to the Pope

In advance of Pope Benedict's scheduled April visit to the United States, the letter below is being circulated for signatures. If you would like your name added, please send it to me in the form that you would like it to appear. Include whatever  other forms of identification you deem appropriate, e.g., organization, vocation, position. Also feel free to circulate it to others who might be interested with the instruction to reply to me at by March 16.
in peace,

To His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI

Most Holy Father:

In your own words, "today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war'."

Yet, during your upcoming visit to the United States, you are planning to meet with President  George W. Bush, whose empty justifications for the violence in Iraq lead to increasing numbers of  dead, injured and displaced people.  Iraqi civilians still endure the  "continual slaughter" which you described in your 2007 Easter Sunday address.

Shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq, you rightly declared that "there were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war."  You've also called attention to the terrible new technologies which cause indiscriminate destruction.  Five years later, how  much more reason you have to call for  an immediate end to this war, and to refuse to meet with the President of the United States until that is accomplished.

If you kneel in grief and outrage before the cross of the tortured Christ, can you offer your blessing to a head of government  who excuses the most terrible abuses of human minds and bodies as "legal"?

If you meet with him you must, then meet as a prophet should - issuing a warning and an invitation to repentance. Courtesy cannot be used as an evasion of our biblical faith.  Ezekiel was repeatedly reminded of his responsibility to admonish those doing evil if he desired to escape sharing in the responsibility for their sins.  Shouldn't any of us who recognize the horror of what is happening in Iraq be condemned if we are silent?

You are scheduled to be in Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of your birth.  We feel sure that you will be thinking of the countless children of Iraq who never reached their fifth birthday.  In 2005 alone, 122,000 Iraqi children under age five died.  There are many, both within the Church and outside of it, who long for your voice to speak for those innocent dead and  - face to face with those whose policies denied all respect for their lives - demand that the killing stop.

We are, in faithful hope,
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Archdiocese of Detroit
Kathy Boylan, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker
Stephen Vincent Kobasa
Kathy Kelly
Marie Dennis, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Barbara B. Broderick
E. Paul Kelly

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Church Self-Policing

A Sister's Opinion

In an email to members, CTA-NE reported that Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, Victims' Advocate of New Castle, Delaware, disagrees with Andrew Greeley's recommendation for self-policing by priests. She wrote to The Chicago Sun Times, stating simply that "Priests Can't Self-Police." At:,CST-EDT-vox18.article. Sister Turlish ended her comments with:

The bottom line here is that no institution can or should be trusted to police itself. The responsibility to protect the common good belongs to the state.

My Opinion

Relying on my experiences when a lawyer, I remonstrated with Sister Turlish, showing that professional associations do police themselves. Many lawyers have been disbarred and doctors have lost their licenses to practice, because of the work of self-policing committees. My opinion was that professional associations must self-police and should not leave it up to law enforcement agencies and the courts.

The Professor's Opinion

Professor Marci Hamilton, Visiting Professor at Princeton University, is the author of "How to Solve the Appalling Problem of Child Sex Abuse: Why Catholic Priest Andrew Greeley Is Very Wrong to Suggest Church Self-Policing Is the Answer." At: She agrees with Sister Turlis.

Read Them And Think

Please listen to Sister Turlish and Professor Hamilton. Then, put Fr. Greeley and myself off to one side, on what has become the critical issue for the Roman Catholic Church: the inability of hierarchs to do much of anything helpful in bringing predator priests to justice, or in caring for helpless victims. This is a matter of justice. And there can be no justice without accountability.

The Professor's One Change In Public Policy

Professor Marci Hamilton is the best scholar and writer we have on matters of church and state, religion and the rule of law. Her most recent work is God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law
(Cambridge University Press 2005) and her next will be published this spring, Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge 2008). In her response to Fr. Greeley, Professor Hamilton writes:

Who cares what the Church has to say about child abuse, anyway? You don't see the hierarchy taking any steps to ensure that all children are protected or floating new ideas about how to transform all of society to make this a better place for children. The focus remains where Greeley's is - inside the institution. This navel-gazing is a distraction from the pressing need to protect all children now.

Even if the Church were to take care of every one of its victims perfectly (which will never happen), and were to never permit another child to be abused (ditto), it would have taken care of only a small percentage of the total number of children abused in this country. And even if it screened perfectly every priest on its doorstep, the problem transcends the Church.

Many more children are abused within the home, and plenty are abused in the schools. The breaking news is that there is a growing national grassroots movement for all victims of child sex abuse.

As I've written in previous columns such as this one,* and as I explain in my forthcoming book, Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children, there is one change in public policy that will do more to protect children from future abuse and to bring justice to the millions currently suffering outside locked courthouse doors than any other: the simple fix of eliminating the statutes of limitations for child sex abuse.

The Church hierarchy is implacably opposed to such reform. Let me repeat myself - who cares?

*The Philadelphia Grand Jury's Report on Clergy Child Sex Abuse in the City's Archdiocese: A Lesson for All States," September 22, 2005, at:

The Last Six Years

It has been six years since The Boston Globe first exposed the horror of sexual abuse of children by clergy. Six long years of listening to the Episcopal Chant of Sacred Silence, as bishops refused to acknowledge accountability, focusing solely on the institution, heedless of great millstones, repeating three Ds of Dogma, Doctrine, Discipline. Alone, celibately so, in basilicas and chanceries, they wilfully chose to be separate and apart from the people of God, whom they were ordained to serve as the servants of the servants of God.

The people of the Church have sadly grown accustomed to her face in the daily news, gathered each day by Kathy Shaw in the AbuseTracker at Although shocked at first by the Church in court as a litigant, we have fallen into a soporific state over the misuse of our legal system by lawyers defending the Roman Catholic Church. The children, now growing or growing up, suffer still. The Church qua Institution continues as if nothing but a mild disturbance had taken place. While the Church struggles futilely to lift victory out of the black hole of defeat, its way of proceeding is to issue new edicts, exclude anyone who disagrees, or even asks a question, and crack down on dissenters. Hierarchs just do not realize that we have lost respect for their authority.

The Church is no longer as sacramental as it used to be in our youth, some 60 or 70 years ago. It has begun withholding the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist. The Sacrament of Reconciliation seems long ago and far away, almost as if it were old-fashioned and out of date. Bishops in hiding rarely come out for Confirmation. Holy Orders, reserved exclusively for male celibates, is denied to women.

Our Church is closing down, clustering parishes, selling off real estate, filing for bankruptcies, hanging around courthouses as parties defendant, and watching the median age of its priests climb higher without enough seminarians to lower that number. The Church has even gone so far as to insult other religions and their churches as neither true nor holy. Its attention is focused on the city-state of the Vatican, where museums glorify a past of Dark and Middle Ages long gone into ancient history. Those who govern cannot come out of that past and are unable to live in the present to make way for any future yet to come.

The fall and decline of Rome and its Catholicism is like the collapse of a once bright and giant star into a white dwarf, after a long life of billions of years. The process is faster than the speed of light, as the dying star vanishes into a black hole. It is happening so rapidly in our own short lifetime, that it cannot be due to the uncovering of the sexual abuse scandal alone. The Church is dying from within due to the abuse of power, absolute power corrupting absolutely. It is as difficult to curb such power, as it is to reverse the plunge of the white dwarf towards the black hole, from which no light can ever glow.

Just One Change for Justice

Some thinkers try to toss off the sexual abuse of minors, whether by clergy or lay from any religion or institution, as merely an aberrant way of life for a very few. Not so. Not so. Those who harm little ones are monsters committing monstrous crimes against humanity. What they have done is not merely an issue for theological disputations of doctrine and dogma or the laying down of stricter discipline. Nor is our demand for accountability just a topic for discussion among reformers seeking change.

We seek justice, but not just as a rebellion against two thousand years of dictatorial governance of an institution claiming to be a Church. We know that the process of justice can begin with one simple change, as Professor Hamilton says: the abolition of statutes of limitations which bar accountability. With justice comes the healing of those abused and also a change in governance, so the institution can once again be Church. The Holy Spirit has the power to resurrect a star from a black hole by granting it light strong enough to overcome astronomical gravitational forces. She can do the same for hierarchs in the black hole of absolute power. We share in such power as the people of God. Those responsible must be held accountable. Those wounded will be healed. The Church can be Church again.

Professor Hamilton, aware that the core issue is that of absolute power, asks, "Who cares what the Church has to say about child abuse, anyway?" In the poem that gives this blog its title, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, "Crying What I do is me: for that I came." And then, "I say more: the just man justices. "

After standing to speak truth to power, we will not fall back into our old, familiar posture of silent submission. We are taking take back our Church. Giving heed to professor and poet, we step forward from speaking truth to power to doing what must be done.

  • Let the statutes of limitations be repealed.
  • Let there be accountability.
  • Let there be healing for victims and for Church.

We do not care what the Church has to say about child abuse, anyway, crying What we do is us: for that we came. We say more: the just man justices.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Heroes and Posters

On February 15, 2008, WorldNetDaily published an article with this headline and sub:
Che Guevara flag featured in Obama campaign office
Candidate attracts 'people who think mass murderers are romantic revolutionaries'

FOXNEWS picked it up and the political tirades of the 1960s were reborn, until today, when all the news blurt that Fidel Castro has resigned. And so, we are all drawn back some 50 years to another time, another hatred that still sets us apart. We wonder what difference time makes, after all, in dividing people into victors and losers, each side claiming heroes of their own, of course and regardless. And yet and yet. Nevertheless.

The whole aura of heroes has been gilded and muddled since man first began to fight man. We think of Alexander the Great as an early western hero, but those he defeated in the Middle East suffer still. Genghis Khan scared the stuff of our European forebears, but might rank even, or a close second, with Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin as a hero to his people. Audie Murphy won fame and got in the movies. Good, clean American kid who stood up to them Nazis. And we raved over Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, until some of us were sent in the 1950s to teach in Japan and heard a different story.  

El Che Guevara is to many, Americans as well as Cubans, a legitimate hero.  Check him out in Wikipedia, which ends with this, "Time Magazine in 1999 named Ernesto "Che" Guevara one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century under the heading of 'heroes and icons.' " If Che Guevara is to be deemed unworthy of being called "hero,"whether then or now, does that make a "hero" out of Cuba's dictator General Fulgencio Batista, whom he and Fidel overthrew?

Who are our heroes now? Yesterday, we celebrated Presidents' Day, a lumping of birthdays into one, and heard much good stuff about George Washington - February 22 - and Abraham Lincoln – February 12. Even Jesuits have their own heroes: Pedro Arrupe, and an old soldier, name of Inigo of Loyola. We look up to heroes as lords, for they are not just ordinary men and women. When it comes to designating heroes and keeping their mementoes on our walls, though, not all would agree. Just as the Lord said about those trying to enter the kingdom by calling him "Lord, Lord."

When I stopped to think about heroes, a memory popped up of a feisty session years ago at our dinner table with our four sons of  elementary school age. We were talking about courage and bravery and heroes, prompted by some news item in the paper. It might even have been El Che's capture and summary execution in 1967 in Bolivia, with the support of the CIA and U.S. Special Forces. To keep these thoughts balanced and fend off the expected flaming charge, "Kelly, you damned bleeding liberal,"  our youngest son later joined Special Forces and served for years in their Reserves. Keith, second son, ended that hot and heavy dinner talk, when he got exasperated about the people being picked out as heroes and blurted out, "Who's  the bravest man who ever lived?" The rest of us tossed out some names of favorites. With the wisdom of the young, Keith said, "Nope. The bravest man who ever lived was the first man who dared to milk a cow."

As for "mass murderers  as romantic revolutionaries," I think of the Nazi's Blitzkrieg, Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, -- the four centuries of The Crusades, too --  and then I think of the pattern bombing of Germany, and my life in Tokyo for three years,  where I saw the rebuilt residential sections of the city, which had been encircled with incendiary bombs to burn completely into the center of the circle and vanish, and stared up at the big buildings downtown, spared to save them for the occupation forces. I sat several times on the floor of our scholastic's rec room at the feet of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, listening to him share what happened that day in Hiroshima, when he heard the sound of a mushroom cloud and rode his bicycle straight into town to help whoever survived the madness of such easy slaughter. At Sophia Univerty's faculty residence, I lived with young German Jesuits who had fought in the Battle of the Bulge. I marvelled at the tales of older European Jesuits, how they shovelled off incendiary bombs from B-29s, to save the university.

In the current years of the Bush Administration, I have often gone down in deep moments of utter frustration and near despair. Even now, I think of our President and Vice President calling their preemptive strike in the Middle East a "Just War."My poor rational mind is befuddled whether the phrase, "The war on terror," is but an oxymoron, with meaning. And that, of course, is an oxymoron itself, isn't it? Once I took the phrase, "It all depends on whose ox is being gored," and changed it to: "It all depends on whose gore is being oxed." We are the same. And yet we differ. We have our own heroes, some mass murderers, some romantic revolutionaries.

And El Che is long dead, but his posters still hang on walls.


We adore our heroes 'n have to say

That it's OK to fume or foam,

Or put up  a poster,  say of Che,

High on the wall in a room at home.


But first we remove the faded ones

Of long ago, like John Paul Jones,

Even those of the Napoleons,

To get rid of history's famous clones.


In order to fight in modern times,

We  have to be politically correct.

Else our wars are filled with crimes,

Our righteous causes must  be wrecked.


Unless we stand tall on the left,

We can't beat neocons  from the right,

For the center is usually bereft

Of heroes with any will to fight.


We  take care then of whom we choose

To follow  in our life's pursuit,

For  those out there with different views

Will claim  we are  simply not astute.


That's why we forget the heroes of yore,

Revolutionaries just don't survive,

Replaced by  those who won the war.

Not even El Che could stay alive.




Voices! Stand! Speak Truth To Power!

My voice,

Inside walls of stone, broke,

Fell apart, dropped down

Unheard. My dog and

I vaulted the wall, its grove,

Unlike stones, alive and green,

Waving in synchronicity blessed

By wind's wafting. Unnerved,

It was always so.


I spoke

Again, and again my voice

Whisked away to leaves and limbs,

Wisps floating down to barren

Ground. My little dog sensed

Fear in belly, agony of heart,

My very soul lapsing under

Strain of needing to be

Heard. And yet unnerved,

It has always been so.


A friend

Joined step and voice,

Making us two, till more came.

Then more. Hundreds and

Thousands and thousands,

More than thousands on town

Greens, nation's Mall, old

Village squares across the

Global world of voices,

Where all of us stood hushed

As one, as if waiting for the cue.


We raised

Our joined, single voice

In thunder clap after clap,

Booming and rolling on and again,

Reverberating in discharge, as

Only lightning-struck thunder can.

Voices of the world in unison

Smashed stone walls, blew

Down trees, down deep at

Roots. We sensed, animals and

People alike, we had at

last been heard. Nerved,

It had never been so.


Silence splashed

Like rain, washed down on all

Our voices. All the world of us.

We stood together across our

Greens and squares and groves,

Along our stone walls, stood

Still together, waiting, praying,



A voice whined,

The lie in the tin of the voice thin,

Tilted to the side like its head,

Tiny, jerked by shrugs of shoulders,

All performed on cue,

Haltingly, hauntingly.

"I won't be budged.

I am the decision maker.

Just give war a chance.

Let it be so.

Let The Surge be so."


Our voices,

Turbid yet not willing

To let it be so, yelled

Out for the flash and roar

Of lightnings and thunders,

From out that turgid silence,

Undaunted, one lone Voice asked,

"But what about the blunders?"


The Vice's voice

Prompting loud from out of sight,

Behind the tinny one.

And yet, and yet from on high,

It spat from mouth's twisted sneer,


Let there be War."

Monday, February 18, 2008

He Speaks and Speaks and Speaks

Mister Bush beams a familiar voice on daily news,
Stumping in halls owned by crowds that ooze
Applause each time he sounds "Stay the course."
Brainwashed as they are without remorse,
Eager to cheer for swagger and bravado
By a little man from the past's grey shadow.

Jurors are instructed to sift the credibility
Of witnesses by using their own ability
To size up the huckster and the fraud,
By the way they talk and the way they plod.
The norm is Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.
False in one thing, false in everything, Mister Bush.

Only you are our White House resident,
Commander-in-chief and president,
Leader of all, decider of deciders, too,
Uniter not divider, ringmaster of the zoo
Of Washington, DC, once the proud capitol
Of a revered country, now doomed to fall.

Speak your rambling rant, embellish the lies,
Schoolboy grin hovering under hooded eyes,
Pile it on, false on true, loud and clear,
Make sure you get the country's ear
And mind and heart and soul as well.
Then, send more soldiers to Mideast hell.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Sentencing of Fr. John Dear, SJ

Professional decorum requires that lawyers begin with "May it please the Court", then respect the office of the person in a black robe sitting on high with "Your Honor." Those two phrases come rippling off a lawyer's tongue habitually from daily practice. That demeanor is so much a part of the very being of one who represents clients in a court of law that nobody ever questions their meaning or the sincerity of their utterance.

It is difficult to abide by that courtesy when considering United States Magistrate Judge Don J. Svet of the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, who sentenced Fr. John Dear, SJ, on January 24, 2008, for a misdemeanor infraction of a federal rule concerning moving around in a federal building.

Fr. Dear and eight others wanted to deliver a letter to Senator Domenici (R-NM)about the war in Iraq, but were prevented from doing so by employees in the federal building in Albuquerque. They occupied the elevator for several hours and were arrested for violating signs and instructions regarding getting around the building. They earned the descriptive group name of "The Elevator Nine."

While the infraction took place in the summer of 2006, the trial was not held until September of 2007, and Fr. Dear's sentencing was delayed until January of 2008. The case, from beginning to end was assigned to the Honorable Don J. Svet, whose sentence of Fr. Dear was for 40 hours of community service and $510 in fines and fees.

Comments by the Magistrate Judge

The Albuquerque Tribune reported on January 24, 2008:

Dear's attorney, Penni Adrian, had asked the court for mercy, saying Dear had a "lifelong commitment to peace and human decency." His action that day was "but a legal misstep," she said.

Adrian also said she received word Wednesday that Dear had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Gandhi Peace Award.

But Dear asked for no mercy, using his time before the court to condemn the Iraq war.

"This war is unjust, morally sinful and just downright impractical," he said.

Dear added that he had contemplated the words of Mohandas Gandhi, who Dear said advocated to reject a court's sanctions if the cause was just.

"I want to take my case to a higher court, to a higher judge — the God of peace," Dear said before uttering a prayer.

But Svet would have none of it, calling Dear a "renegade priest," "a coward" and "no Gandhi."

"Mr. Dear, you frankly are a phony," Svet said. "You preach nonviolence but you are the same man who took a hammer and a can of paint against a U.S. aircraft."

Those in the crowded courtroom, filled mostly with members of Dear's Pax Christi peace group, gasped and shook their heads at the judge's comments.


A Respectful Request to the Magistrate Judge

Unable to shuck off professional habits as a lawyer and an officer of the Court, I begin: May it please the Court," but Judge Svet's insults of Fr. Dear are not impartial, judicious, nor are they befitting the dignity of the very Court in which they were spoken. Fr. Dear was addressed as "Mr. Dear," by a Magistrate Judge who would quickly find any person in contempt of Court were he himself addressed as "Mr. Svet."

I wish to disclose that I am a former Jesuit of the New England Province, 1949 -- 1957, as well as a retired attorney from New Hampshire, Bar # 1341, 1960 -- 2000. In both of those capacities, I respectfully ask Magistrate Judge Svet,

"Your Honor, please review your remarks in a judicial manner, even to the point of pretending that they had been spoken by somebody else. After such a review, you may wish to call to mind the 12th Century challenge of St. Bernard of Clairvaux to Peter Abelard on some public statements the latter had made, 'Amend them. Defend them. Or deny that they are yours.' "

Archbishop Desmond Tutu's Nomination of Fr. Dear for the Nobel Peace Prize

For some assistance in his review and reconsideration of Fr. Dear's good standing as a Jesuit priest and his reputation as a dedicated worker for peace, my simple offer is Archbishop Desmond Tutu's opinion of Fr. Dear. On January 31, 2008., the Archbishop wrote:

Jan 31, 2008

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

In support of The Reverend Father John Dear, S.J.:

Nobel Peace Prize 2008

Dr Leo Rebello, World Peace Envoy from Bombay, India and Dr Charles Mercieca, President of International Association of Educators for World Peace, USA have nominated the Reverend Father John Dear, SJ for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. I commend Father Dear to you and support his nomination.

Fr John Dear is a Jesuit priest who has been in the forefront of the religious peace movement in the United States. He is the embodiment of a peacemaker. He has led by example through his actions and in his writings and in numerous sermons, speeches and demonstrations. He believes that peace is not something static, but rather to make peace is to be engaged, mind, body and spirit. His teaching is to love yourself, to love your neighbor, your enemy, and to love the world and to understand the profound responsibility in doing all of these.

He is a man who has the courage of his convictions and who speaks out and acts against war, the manufacture of weapons and any situation where a human being might be at risk through violence. Fr John Dear has studied and follows the teachings of non-violence as espoused by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., he serves the homeless and the marginalized and sees each person as being of infinite worth. I would hope that were he to receive this honor his teachings and activities might become more widely accepted and adopted. The world would undoubtedly become a better and more peaceful place if this were to happen.

For evil to prevail requires only that good people sit on the sidelines and do nothing. Fr John Dear is compelling all of us to stand up and take responsibility for the suffering of humanity so often caused through selfishness and greed. I hope you will consider his nomination favorably.

God bless you,
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The Sentencing of a Jesuit Priest in Germany 63 Years Ago

Another federal judge in another country in another time sentenced another Jesuit priest to death by hanging for high treason as a dissenter. The Jesuit was Fr. Alfred Delp, SJ. The Judge was Roland Freisler, president of the People's Court of the Third Reich. This is not a comparison of Nazi courts with our federal courts. Please center on the dialogue between Judge and Jesuit. The following is taken from Fr. Delp's biography by Mary Francis Coady, With Bound Hands: A Jesuit in Nazi Germany, 2003, Chicago, Loyola Press, p. 160:

To Fr. Delp's claim that he was absent from a certain meeting,

. . . this fact was thrown at him as a "typically Jesuitical" action: "By that very absence you show yourself that you knew exactly that high treason was afoot and that you would have liked to keep the tonsured little head, the consecrated holy man, out of it. Meanwhile he may have gone to church to pray that the conspiracy should succeed in a way pleasing to God.". . .

Freisler: "You miserable creep, you clerical nobody – who dares to want the life of our beloved Fuehrer taken . . . a rat – that should be stamped on and crushed. . . . Now tell us, what brought you as a priest to abandon the pulpit and get mixed up in German politics . . . Come on, answer!"

Delp: "I can preach forever, and with whatever skill I have I can work with people and keep setting them straight. But as long as people have to live in a way that is inhuman and lacking in dignity, that's as long as the average person will succumb to circumstances and will neither pray nor think. A fundamental change in the conditions of life is needed. . . . "

Freisler: "Do you mean that the state has to be changed so that you can begin to change conditions that keep people away from the Church?"

Delp: "Yes, that's what I mean. . . . "

Fr. Delp was hanged at Plōtzenee prison on February 2, 1945

Judges and Magistrate Judges

In New Hampshire lawyers were privileged to appear before Chief Justice Frank Kenison of the state Supreme Court, Justice Hugh Bownes of the state Superior Court, the U.S. District Court and the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Justice David Souter of the state Superior Court, the Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. Calling each one of them "Your Honor" was the use of the term to its maximum extent of dignity and respect. The standards of these three jurists, whether as trial Judges or appellate Justices, are indeed extremely high. Magistrate Judge Svet's are not.

It is difficult to complain about a Magistrate Judge's demeanor in sentencing a defendant, convicted of the charges alleged. Human nature being what it is, few lawyers are discouraged about our judicial system when a trial judge vents his or her personal displeasure while sentencing a vicious murderer, rapist, child abuser, or anyone else convicted of a major crime. Many lawyers and most of the public, however, would lose both faith in our legal system and respect for any judge who insults a defendant for sitting in an elevator against the rules of the building.

The language used by Magistrate Judge Svet during sentencing did not demean Fr. Dear. It did destroy the Magistrate Judge's judicial integrity and dissed the dignity of the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico. While not a Federal Judge appointed for life by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the senate, a Magistrate Judge is nevertheless a judicial officer and is held to the same high standards expected of any Judge.

The Federal Magistrate Judges Association states at:

A United States Magistrate Judge is a federal trial judge appointed to serve in a United States district court for a term of eight years. He or she is appointed by the life-tenured federal judges of a district court, District Judges, who supervise the activities of the Magistrate Judges by assigning civil cases for jury or non-jury trial upon consent of the parties and for pre-trial matters. Similarly criminal cases are assigned to Magistrate Judges on the consent of the parties, except for the trial of felony cases.

Should anyone wish to inquire further about the conduct of Magistrate Judge Don J. Svet during the sentencing of Fr. John Dear, SJ, contact may probably be made with either the Chief Judge or the Chief Magistrate Judge in New Mexico.

The Honorable Martha Vázquez
Chief United States District Judge

United States District Court
Santiago E. Campos Courthouse
106 South Federal Place, Second Floor
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501

Chambers' Phone: (505) 988-6330
Chambers' Fax: (505) 988-6332
Chambers' Email:


The Honorable Lorenzo F. Garcia
Chief United States Magistrate Judge

United States District Court
333 Lomas Blvd. N.W., Ste 680
Albuquerque New Mexico 87102

Chambers' Phone: (505) 348-2320
Chambers' Fax: (505) 348-2324