Fallen away veterans invited back to Church

Sept. 28 Mass and program to be hosted by deacons, Knights at Colorado Freedom Memorial

Roxanne King

The names of 6,200 Coloradans killed or missing in action are listed on the Colorado Freedom Memorial in Aurora. For the first time since the memorial was dedicated in 2013, the site will be blessed during an outdoor Mass for veterans, their families and friends Sept. 28. Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez will be the main celebrant of the Mass, which will be concelebrated by other priests of the archdiocese. Deacons will assist.

Click here for the event page.

The event starts at 10:30 a.m. with a short program that includes a performance by the Air Force Academy Cadet Choir and inspiring talks by retired Air Force Gen. Mike Duggan and retired Air Force Sgt. Bill Lancaster. The Knights of Columbus will serve a complimentary lunch after the Mass and tours will be conducted. Master of ceremonies will be Rick Crandall, KEZW-AM morning show host and founder and president of the Colorado Freedom Memorial.

The Mass and program was organized by the deacons of the Archdiocese of Denver to express gratitude to veterans and to help those who may have fallen away from their faith to reconnect with the Church, said Deacon Dave Thompson, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

“At the end of that war, veterans were seriously disrespected. It was embarrassing and shameful,” he said. “A lot of veterans have had that experience after other wars since then.”

While the trauma of war can result in deeper faith for some veterans, in others it can lead to loss of faith and/or diminished participation in religious activities, reports the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD.

“I’ve interviewed thousands of veterans over the years. Many of them talk about falling away from their faith because of things they had to see and do in war,” Crandall said. “They think: I’ve done something out of necessity that God is not going to be happy with.

“There’s a bridge that needs to be crossed to bring them back [to God],” added Crandall, who is a convert to Catholicism. “That was the whole idea for this event.”
Mount Tabor Counseling, which offers therapy from a Catholic perspective, will have counselors and contact information available for veterans who may want to speak with one at the event or in the future, Deacon Thompson said.

“We want them to know that if they are suffering, healing is possible through God and the Church,” he said.
Attendees are urged to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets. Some seating will be available for those with disabilities, the organizers said.

The organizers said they have no idea how many people will attend the liturgy and luncheon. It is open to both Catholics and non-Catholics.

“It will be a beautiful celebration,” Crandall said. “We’re trying to make it a wonderful sense of community. Who knows, it could be the first of an annual event to help veterans.”

Outdoor Mass & Program for Veterans

Sept. 28, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Pre-event music starting at 10:30 a.m.
Mass & Program from 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Colorado Freedom Memorial,
756 Telluride St., Aurora, CO 80011
Questions? Call 303-715-3198

Featured image courtesy of Colorado Freedom Memorial Facebook page

COMING UP: A last chance for Australian justice

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

My late parents loved Cardinal George Pell, whom they knew for decades. So I found it a happy coincidence that, on November 12 (which would have been my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary), a two-judge panel of Australia’s High Court referred to the entire Court the cardinal’s request for “special leave” to appeal his incomprehensible conviction on charges of “historic sexual abuse,” and the even-more-incomprehensible denial of his appeal against that manifestly unsafe verdict.

Thus in 2020 the highest judicial authority in Australia will review the Pell case, which gives the High Court the opportunity to reverse a gross injustice and acquit the cardinal of a hideous crime: a “crime” that Pell insists never happened; a “crime” for which not a shred of corroborating evidence has yet been produced; a “crime” that simply could not have happened in the circumstances and under the conditions it was alleged to have been committed.

Since Cardinal Pell’s original appeal was denied in August by two of three judges on an appellate panel in the State of Victoria, the majority decision to uphold Pell’s conviction has come under withering criticism for relying primarily on the credibility of the alleged victim. As the judge who voted to sustain the cardinal’s appeal pointed out (in a dissent that one distinguished Australian attorney described as the most important legal document in that country’s history), witness credibility – a thoroughly subjective judgment-call – is a very shaky standard by which to find someone guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It has also been noted by fair-minded people that the dissenting judge, Mark Weinberg, is the most respected criminal jurist in Australia, while his two colleagues on the appellate panel had little or no criminal law experience. Weinberg’s lengthy and devastating critique of his two colleagues’ shallow arguments seemed intended to signal the High Court that something was seriously awry here and that the reputation of Australian justice – as well as the fate of an innocent man – was at stake.

Other recent straws in the wind Down Under have given hope to the cardinal’s supporters that justice may yet be done in his case.

Andrew Bolt, a television journalist with a nationwide audience, walked himself through the alleged series of events at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, within the timeframe in which they were supposed to have occurred, and concluded that the prosecution’s case, and the decisions by both the convicting jury and the majority of the appeal panel, simply made no sense. What was supposed to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did.

Australians willing to ignore the vicious anti-Pell polemics that have fouled their country’s public life for years also heard from two former workers at the cathedral, who stated categorically that what was alleged to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did, because they were a few yards away from Cardinal Pell at the precise time he was alleged to have abused two choirboys.

Then there was Anthony Charles Smith, a veteran criminal attorney (and not a Catholic), who wrote in Annals Australasia that the Pell verdict and the denial of his appeal “curdles my stomach.” How, he asked, could a guilty verdict be rendered on “evidence….so weak and bordering on the preposterous?” The only plausible answer, he suggested, was that Pell’s “guilt” was assumed by many, thanks to “an avalanche of adverse publicity” ginned up by “a mob baying for Pell’s blood” and influencing “a media [that] should always be skeptical.”

Even more strikingly, the left-leaning Saturday Paper, no friend of Cardinal Pell or the Catholic Church, published an article in which Russell Marks – a one-time research assistant on an anti-Pell book – argued that the two judges on the appellate panel who voted to uphold the cardinal’s conviction “effectively allowed no possible defense for Pell: there was nothing his lawyers could have said or done, because the judges appeared to argue it was enough to simply believe the complainant on the basis of his performance under cross examination.”

The Australian criminal justice system has stumbled or failed at every stage of this case. The High Court of Australia can break that losing streak, free an innocent man, and restore the reputation of Australian justice in the world. Whatever the subsequent fallout from the rabid Pell-haters, friends of justice must hope that that is what happens when the High Court hears the cardinal’s case – Australia’s Dreyfus Case – next year.

Photo: CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images