The National Catholic Review

While the topic shouldn't overshadow the magnitude of the memorial services, I agree with the much of the criticism over the exclusion of clergy from the official 9/11 ceremony in New York City.  (An article in the New York Times, "Omitting Clergy at 9/11 Ceremony Prompts Protest," by Laurie Goodstein, explained the situation.) To me, the omission seems both unnecessary (would that many people object to their presence at a memorial service?) and baffling (the official explanations still seem somewhat confused).  More importantly, excluding clergy from the official public memory of the day is almost willfully ahistorical.

The clergy were a significant part of the events surrounding the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, particularly in New York.  To begin with, they were among the first groups to respond to the disaster at Ground Zero, with priests, ministers and rabbis on the ground from the earliest days. (By the time I arrived on Sept. 13, there were already several who told me that they had been ministering there since the 11th.) Members of the clergy presided over thousands of funerals and memorial services, a ministry especially evident in the case of the many firefighters and police officers whose funerals were celebrated in scores of Catholic churches throughout the archdioces of New York. Clergy from a variety of traditions provided guidance, comfort and solace for those seeking answers in the face of the death of loved ones, or simply in the face of tragedy.  Religious organizations spearheaded charitable efforts both in New York and elswewhere. But most of all, the witness of the clergy on that day was embodied by Fr. Mychal Judge, O.F.M., who sacrificed his life in service to others. Fr. Judge, the Franciscan priest and New York City fire chaplain who was killed after racing into one of the burning towers to minister to firefighters, is listed as the first official casualty of the attacks on the World Trade Center: "Victim 0001."  Surely his public sacrifice warrants remembering the place of clergy--publicly.

James Martin, SJ

Comments

Bill Collier | 9/10/2011 - 11:57am
I'm disappointed in the decision to omit clergy, and especially in Mayor Bloomberg's very lame explanation for the omission. People of many faiths died as the result of the terrorism on 9/11, and perhaps it would have been unworkable to include a religious representative from each of those faiths, but certainly there should have been at least three clerics representing Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, respectively. How poignant it would have been to have had an imam quote the Qu'ran about the unspeakable evil that took place that day. An opportunity missed, IMO.   
John Hayes | 9/12/2011 - 2:59pm
I was pleased that, in place of a speech, President Obama simply read Psalm 46 at the 9/11 memorial in Manhattan. Nothing said before or after. 


Psalm 46
 1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
 2Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
 3Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
 4There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
 5God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
 6The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
 7The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
 8Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
 9He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
 10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
 11The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
 That is the KJV. He read a slightly different version. 
Carolyn Disco | 9/9/2011 - 6:20pm
Another voice of eloquence:

Gene Kennedy has an outstanding column and moving tribute here: http://www.ncronline.org/blogs/bulletins-human-side/911-site-sacred-itself#comment-251328

Excerpt: 

Has the Mayor asked New Yorkers whether they want members of the clergy present on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks? He should ask them what the clergy of various faiths meant to these people on that numbing day itself.

Whom did they seek out, not out of fear of the End of the World or the realization of the Rapture, but because, having entered the overpowering Mystery of Love and Loss, they instinctively turned to their clergy, not for answers or cheap pieties but to draw deeply and wordlessly from their faith tradition with priests, ministers, and rabbis who stood with them as Mystery with a capital M coated them with its rolling clouds of dust and debris.

Tom Maher | 9/9/2011 - 10:57pm
Mayor Bloomberg proclaims boldly all over of news tonight that he believes in the separation of church and state as an explaination why he has decided to bar all clergy from participating in 9/11 public memorial ceremony.  He does not want to favor one religion's clergy over the clergy of other religions as if that is some kind of a big problem that can not be easily handled as in fact it always is.  So Bloomberg  decided to bar all clergy from paticipating in the public 9/11 memorial ceremony. 

This is indeed unnecessary and unheard of in America where freedom of religion, the " free expression of religion" is a basic Constitutional right.  Public ceremoniy always has  the partiicipatiion of one or more clergy. 

Bloomberg's interpretation of the "separation of church  and state" doctrine which is design to prevent the government from establsihing an official state religion such as the Church of England  does not apply to public events whicih always and everywhere in America has clergy and clergy participation. 

Bloomberg's decision favoring a petty secularism needlessly detracts from this important 9/11 public memorial event where religion should play an important role in healing and renewing our still-grieving nation.   Bloomberg's alieneinated decision creates  yet another injury surrounding the 9/11 disaster by not allowing religious expression to address the still widely felt horror of 9/11 and the mass slaughter of our fellow citizens.
ed gleason | 9/9/2011 - 12:52pm
I guess having another Duffy Square in NYC where the statue of WWI hero/chaplain   Fr Francis Duffy is placed, is beyond the competence of the present NYC political system.. Is there not at least one Catholic layperson or one other religious layperson who is on the 'program' willing to speak the words of everlasting life.?
Are not the 3000 people who died presente' at this memorial?? Ought they be ignored and political posturing replace their presence?