By Sr. Rose Pacatte
A Golden Voice: How Faith, Hard Work, and Humility Brought Me from the Streets to Salvation
By Ted Williams (with Brett Witter)
Penguin, New York
$26 hard cover
Two books were released in May about what it means to be a man: a father, a son and a grandfather, too. Both are apologias more than memoirs and both have a strong faith dimension and links to Catholicism and Ohio — and addiction. The men in both books became fathers at a very young age. Their stories are extremely honest and reveal details that will surprise and inspire you, and some that may shock you as well. Both books have dual voices and are easy, swift reads that ask us to admit our humanity. They invite us to walk with these fellow travelers to discover humility and the action of grace in people’s lives that will astonish you
I read Ted William’s story first, the “theater of the mind” man with a voice born for radio. Ted was born in New York in 1957 and adopted by a woman, Julia, who always wanted a child, and her husband, Al, who worked his entire career in the same job for an airline at JFK International Airport. His parents were steady, but Ted was a “pleaser” who wanted to be liked and accepted. He was raised Protestant but began going to the Jehovah Witness Kingdom hall in his teens. He went to Catholic school in Brooklyn for a while, too. From the age of 14, he wanted to become a radio announcer. He and his father never saw eye to eye.
A film by Ami Horowitz and Matthew Groff opens this weekend in limited release. And thank God for that. The film documents many of the gross and more recent failings of the United Nations but it felt like an assault by an affluent bully (Horowitz) trying to channel Michael Moore. The difference between the two is that Horowitz only knows how to criticize, judge and tear down but offers nothing in terms of understanding or solutions. At least Moore offers some hope.
These sins of the U.N. are known, as are critiques of the ineffectiveness of the U.N. Seeing them all lined up has the power to confirm the anger and frustration of Americans and people in the West. This seems to me to be the purpose of the film.
Nothing positive is said about the U.N.
The Catholic Church, through the Permanent Observer from the Holy See, makes known its interest in and support of, the work of the U.N. Three popes, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, have visited U.N. headquarters in New York and addressed the assembly, a way to speak to the governments of the entire world. It seems to me that the U.N. is important to the Church because the U.N. is the only worldwide organization of nations that we have. The website of the Holy See’s mission to the United Nations states that, “In its activities at the United Nations, the Holy See Mission works to advance freedom of religion and respect for the sanctity of all human life – from conception to natural death – and thus all aspects of authentic human development including, for example, marriage and family, the primary role of parents, adequate employment, solidarity with the poor and suffering, ending violence against women and children, poverty eradication, food, basic healthcare and education.” Holy See’s mission to the United Nations
The U.N. is the best hope we have to live in peace, to employ negotiation over war to resolve problems. If it is not good enough then member nations need to regroup. The U.N.’s website has a page designated to reform beginning with “strengthening accountability.”
The film divides the world players into “them” and “us. It seems to want everyone to live according to our U.S./Western standard and since they are not bright enough, and don’t have our culture and values or understanding of economics, to turn into us, well, what are we to do? Get frustrated! (The film does not say shut down the U.N. but this is the only reasonable conclusion based on what the film establishes.)
The U.N. can only do what it has powers to do. Yes, the head of the Egyptian U.N. decided not to return to New York and went on a parade to gather laurels rather than attend to the Rwanda tragedy. Remember, President Clinton didn’t even know where Rwanda was and Madeleine Albright in her new book “Prague Winter” admits this was a tragic failure on the part of the United States and other nations.
Obviously the filmmakers did not see 2010 “The Whistelblower” (based on true events recounted in a book of the same title.) The company DynCorp that hired the woman who became a whistleblower, Kathryn Bolkovac, is a U.S. corporation, a private military contractor, used by the U.N. The firm did, as the film recounts, hire on people from U.N. member countries with no background checks, etc. And most of the bad guys that engaged in the sex trade in post-war Bosnia were from the U.S.
The film “U.N. Me” does not hold up for me. Anyone can tear down but it takes people who are authentically human and who appreciate the gift of community, to offer solutions.
If we dismantle the U.N., what then? How many wars will we have to endure, how many deaths, so that a country can be top dog? The filmmakers do not offer an answer.
First time filmmaker Horowitz was an investment banker for twelve years before turning to filmmaking in 2006. “U.N. Me” made a limited film festival circuit in 2009 and picked up an award. It’s interesting that it has taken another three years to make it to some theaters.
“U.N. Me” makes no attempt to be objective.
In 1917 the Mexican Constitutional Congress adopted a new constitution. It confirmed the separation of church and state first decreed in the 1857 constitution, returned subsoil rights to the government from ownership and control by foreign corporations, established the basis for secular education, and provided for land reforms. Five articles restricted the power and liberty of the Catholic church. These forbade public worship outside of churches, restricted the church’s right to own property, closed monasteries, deprived clergy of civil rights, forbade the wearing of clerical or religious garb, and banned clergy from criticizing the government or commenting on public affairs in the press.
Although this tragic conflict may be unknown by this name to many in the United States, many Catholics do know the story of Jesuit Fr. Miguel Pro (1891-1927) who was shot in November 1927 on the order of Calles under the pretext that Pro was part of a plot to assassinate former President Alvaro Obregón. The church canonized Pro in 1988. Calles ordered that the photographs of his killing were to be spread far and wide to discourage the Cristeros; it had the opposite effect.
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