Monday, November 30, 2009
For 16 of the 36 years the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has been in business, it’s been headed by William Donohue. In that time Bill Donohue has put his own distinctive mark on this feisty anti-defamation organization, on the Catholic Church in the United States and on American culture as a whole. No small achievement, to say the least.
What does Donohue do? Here is a sentence from a recent League news release quoting its leader: “The real story here is not the corruption of Harvard — that’s old hat — the real story is the president of the United States choosing a morally challenged anti-Catholic homosexual to join his team.”
In case you wonder, that was Donohue’s trademark way of protesting President Obama’s choice of one Kevin Jennings as the administration’s “safe schools czar.” Among other things, it turned out, Jennings was a member of a homosexual activist group called ACT UP and donor to an ACT UP display featured at the Harvard art museum. In case it’s slipped your mind, it was ACT UP which in a notorious 1989 incident disrupted Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and desecrated the Eucharist.
It’s hardly a surprise that Bill Donohue, holder of a doctorate in sociology from New York University and a former college professor, is not universally liked. There are two obvious reasons. One reason is his take-no-prisoners way of expressing himself. The other reason is that he gets his facts straight. Take my advice: If you are thinking about signing up in the culture war, be sure to join Donohue’s side.
But make no mistake — this is not a mean man. Friends of Bill Donohue (full disclosure: I count myself among them) know him as a kind and gentlemanly fellow. Trash the Catholic Church, however, and beware. Donohue in action plays rough.
A few zingers drawn from his new book “Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America” (Faith Words, $21.99) may serve to suggest the flavor of the man:
— On the people whom he gently terms “radical secular activists”: “That they have absolutely nothing to offer in the way of an alternative social order not only reveals their intellectual bankruptcy, it explains their rage. This is the revenge of the nihilists.”
— On college administrators who take steps to suppress religious expression on their campuses: “Some college officials are totalitarians.”
— On old-line Catholic dissidents who keep up their complaints about the Church year after year: “What would make them happy? It’s not clear even the dissidents know at this point. ... They could join another religion, but that wouldn’t be as much fun.”
“Secular Sabotage” is chock-full of anecdotes drawn from skirmishes in the culture war. Bill Donohue and the Catholic League have played a high-profile role in many of these. If your dudgeon is low and your blood needs to boil, read this book.
Many Catholics deeply admire Donohue, seeing him as a gutsy and effective champion of the Church in the face of rampant anti-Catholicism. Others find him an embarrassment or worse — too loud, too outspoken, a spike in the wheels of Catholic surrender to the culture of secularism.
Count me in the first group. In a devastating chapter on Catholic “self-sabotage,” Donohue writes of those Catholic church-wreckers of the ‘60s and ‘70s who “gave it their best shot and they lost. ... It’s up to the rest of us to clean up the mess they left behind.”
Bill Donohue is working hard at that. We all should.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.
Whenever I read a homily or reflection or writing by Pope Benedict XVI, I am struck by his gift for reaching out and touching the hearts, minds and spirits of everyday Catholics who are struggling to make their faith real amid the busyness of modern life. It is amazing to me that this pope could be so in tune with what I'm going through in my frantic suburban family home. His words during vespers for the first Sunday of Advent struck a chord for me today especially as I ponder how to keep Advent front and center in what is becoming an increasingly secular season in the world around us.
From Pope Benedict's homily at the Vatican Basilica, as reported by the Vatican Information Service:
"In daily life we all know the experience of having little time for the Lord, and little time for ourselves. We end up becoming absorbed by 'doing'. Is it not often true that it is activity itself that possesses us, society with its multiple distractions that monopolizes our attention? Is it not true that we dedicate a lot of time to entertainment and leisure activities of various kinds?
"Advent, this potent liturgical period we are entering, invites us to remain silent as we come to appreciate a presence. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are signs God addresses to us, signs of the care He has for each of us. How often does God make us aware of some aspect of His love! To maintain what we might call an 'inner diary' of this love would be a beautiful and rewarding task in our lives. Advent invites us and encourages us to contemplate the living Lord. Should not the certainty of His presence help us to see the world with different eyes?"
Later in the homily, the Holy Father addressed the Advent significance of "waiting," something that can be difficult for those of us unaccustomed to waiting for anything, be it a long-sought-after job or a big-screen TV:
"There are many different ways to wait. If the present time is not filled with meaning, the wait risks becoming unbearable. If we await something, but at this moment have nothing - in other words, if the present is empty - then every passing instant seems exaggeratedly long and the wait becomes an over-heavy burden because the future remains too uncertain. When, on the other hand, time has meaning and at every instant we perceive something specific and valid, then the joy of waiting makes the present richer," the pope said.
Jesus, he said, is "present among us and speaks to us in many ways: in Sacred Scripture, in the liturgical year, in the saints, in the events of daily life, in all creation, which changes its appearance depending upon whether [we see Him] behind it or whether [we see it] shrouded in the fog of an uncertain origin and uncertain future."
May we all push past the "fog" in our lives to a place where we can clearly see God's hand at work in the daily events of our days. Do you have some Advent traditions you want to share? Do you have any tips for keeping the spirit of the season strong? Please share in the comment section.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
From the press release:
For the second consecutive year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has created a Website www.usccb.org/advent/ with suggestions for daily prayer, reading, reflection and action throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons.
The focal points of the site are the interactive calendars for the Advent season, which begins with the first Sunday of Advent, November 29, and the Christmas season, which ends on January 12 with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. Clicking on each date on the calendar brings up a menu of resources for reading, prayer, reflection and action. Another highlight of the site is the Festival of Lesson and Carols, which can be heard live online or downloaded for later listening.
The Website includes biographies from Catholic News Service on many of the saints whose feasts are celebrated during the Advent and Christmas seasons along with audio “Saint of the Day” podcasts from Franciscan Radio.
Other resources on the Web site include a list of recommend holiday-themed movies from the USCCB’s Office for Film and Broadcasting, prayers and blessings from the USCCB publication Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, and suggestions for remembering the needs of immigrants and the poor throughout the season.
Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, addressed the U.S. bishops at their meeting last week to report on the wide-scale national vocation study his organization undertook.
The landmark study, Recent Vocations to Religious Life, looked at "who is entering religious life today and the characteristics of the religious institutes that are receiving and retaining new members."
From Brother Bednarczyk's address:
"It is no surprise to anyone that men and women religious are a shrinking and aging population. Compared to the mid-sixties when the number of religious reached its peak at about 23,000 priests, 12,500 brothers and about 180,000 sisters and nuns, the religious population has decreased by approximately 65 percent. According to the latest statistics, there are less than 13,000 religious priests, 5,000 religious brothers, and 59,000 religious sisters and nuns. About 75 percent of men and more than 90 percent of women religious are age 60 and over. For those men and women religious who are under 60, the majority are in their 50s, with only 1 percent under 40.
"Although the number of religious is considerably lower, we need to look at this phenomenon within the broad spectrum of religious life. The truth is that throughout history men and women religious have always made up a small percentage of our Catholic population. The temptation is to compare the high numbers of the fifties and sixties as the norm, when in actuality, they were an anomaly. It is my hope that this study will serve as a more realistic benchmark for tracking future trends in religious vocations for this century."
The research, he said, confirmed what his organization has been tracking for several years: Younger people are beginning to look at religious life as "a viable option." He explained that the numbers show that millennial Catholics are looking for more "traditional style" communities:
"Newer members say they are drawn to religious life primarily by a sense of call, a desire for prayer, spiritual growth, and clearly for younger members, a deeper commitment to the Church. More than three fourths of institutes of men (78 percent) and two-thirds of institutes of women (66 percent) have at least one person currently in initial formation. As a testimony to the strength of diversity in religious life, these institutes represent a wide variety of lifestyles, ministries, charisms, and spiritualities. The institutes though that are most successful in attracting and retaining members at this time, would be characterized as following a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotion al practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and its teachings. All of these characteristics and practices are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today, the members of the millennial generation."
The read Brother Bednarczyk's full address, click HERE.
To read "Ten Myths About Religious Life...," click HERE. And to find resources from the study, click HERE.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., argued forcefully in a Washington Post op-ed piece yesterday that if the D.C. City Council passes a same-sex "marriage" law, as expected, it must include religious liberty protections sufficient to allow Catholic Charities to continue its historic ministry to the people of the District.
From Archbishop Wuerl's op-ed:
"While we do not agree with the council on redefining marriage, we recognize that it is firmly committed to opening marriage to homosexual couples. We are asking that new language be developed that more fairly balances different interests -- those of the city to redefine marriage and those of faith groups so that they can continue to provide services without compromising their deeply held religious teachings and beliefs. The archdiocese has not been alone in requesting broader language. Other groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and nationally recognized legal scholars all called for stronger protections for religious freedom in their testimony on the original bill.
"For the archdiocese and Catholic Charities, two core tenets of our faith are at the heart of our concerns: our understanding of the nature of marriage and our commitment to expressing Christ's love through service to others. Under the legislative language before the D.C. Council, the archdiocese would be forced to choose between these two principles...
"We recognize that the council is likely to legalize same-sex marriage. It is the hope of the archdiocese and Catholic Charities that council members will work with us to find a way to better balance interests so religious organizations that have served this city well for many decades may continue to provide services without compromising the tenets of their faith" (Read the full piece by clicking HERE.)
The New York Times, not surprisingly, disagreed with the Archbishop's reasoning in an editorial today, which you can read HERE.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Advent is right around the corner. As a busy mom and a faith formation teacher, I'm always looking for new ideas for bringing this season to life for my family and my students. Check out a sample issue of OSV's Advent Take Out: Family Faith on the Go by clicking HERE. I'm already planning to give the construction paper Advent wreath a try with my fourth-grade class.
You can also get more Advent ideas by going to OSV4Me by clicking HERE. You'll find general information on the season, prayers and projects, such as how to make a Jesse Tree, something I've always been intimidated to try, and how to make Advent star sugar cookies.
Another great site to check out for Advent is Karen Edmisten's "No-Panic Advent Series." You'll find everything from standards like the Advent wreath and Jesse Tree to more unusual ways to mark the season, like the Jesus Stocking or St. Lucia Bread, and a complete list of great Advent books. Check it all out by clicking HERE.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
At a time when marriage is under attack, it would be negligent on my part not to tell you about something that has the power to help husbands and wives fully live out their sacramental commitment. That's why today I wanted to share with you the post from my personal blog, Not Strictly Spiritual, on the Worldwide Marriage Encounter my husband and I attended this past weekend:
When Dennis and I first started dating, after being friends for a while, everything about us seemed in sync. We often said the exact same thing at the exact same time, bantered back and forth like a well-rehearsed comedy team, wanted all the same things out of life, even bought each other the same card on our first Valentine's Day together. And it was not a traditional, common card. It was one of those eccentric artsy cards. It was totally unexpected and happily surprising when we realized that we were so in tune with each other that even our card shopping reflected it.
Soon after we were married, we moved across the country -- from New York to Texas -- to start our life fresh. We eventually bought a house under construction and, not long after, had our first child. Life began to get more stressful and less carefree. After struggling through a difficult miscarriage and a year of medical issues following it, we had another child, another move back across the country, and, finally, a third child when I was almost 43 years old. To say that life was very full -- and sometimes very difficult -- is a monumental understatement.
The blissful feelings of those early days, when we each recognized the other as soul mate, best friend and lifelong love, started to get buried under the day-to-day obligations and normal stresses that come with parenting and professional lives, volunteer service and home owning. It was becoming harder and harder for us to see the couple we had once been, despite our deep and constant love for each other. Our actions, tone and words didn't reflect the love we knew was there, so we decided that we would do something we had talked about now and then but never pursued seriously: attend a Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend.
Even up until the moment we entered the Don Bosco Retreat Center at the Marian Shrine in Stony Point, the two of us were wondering if this weekend could really make a dramatic difference in our busy lives. Marriage Encounter veterans had told us again and again that it would be life-changing, transforming, but we had our doubts. We vowed to give it a 100 percent anyway and see what happened.
I am here to tell you that it was, in fact, everything promised. While the room wasn't stellar and the food was mediocre at best, the weekend itself was amazing, restorative, renewing, and, yes, transforming. Over a period of two days, Dennis and I explored ideas and feelings we hadn't thought about in a while -- or ever, in some cases. The weekend didn't dredge up problems or dwell on the negatives; in a gentle and life-affirming way, it gave us an opportunity to stand side by side looking out at the future as one. Through the powerful stories and examples of our presenting couples and priest, we learned how to create a married life of joy, passion and excitement even in the midst of our daily challenges and struggles.
Marriage Encounter is not about sharing your deepest feelings with strangers, something Dennis feared when I first started suggesting we attend. It's about sitting together, as a couple, away from everyone else and really giving each other some much-deserved attention, something that had been sorely lacking in our lives. We left the retreat center with the resolve to put into practice all the skills and tools we'd been given in order to make radical changes in the way we live out our marriage.
The really interesting thing is that so far my excitement and hopefulness and anticipation for what's ahead for us is actually continuing to increase even though the weekend is behind us. I kind of expected that after we left our Marriage Encounter cocoon, we'd be right back to where we started, but that's absolutely not the case, and if you look at the presenting couples, you can see that this new reality is not a flash-in-the-pan kind of thing. We were in a great place when we left Stony Point on Sunday night, but I have to say that today we are in an even better place, and I find myself giddy -- much as I did in those early days of our relationship -- over what I realize I still share with Dennis. That's not to say we don't expect fights or setbacks. We wouldn't be human if we could live a perfect life. But we do expect to be able to manage those setbacks better and to bring real healing to any divisions threaten to pull us apart, the kind of healing that can actually make our bond stronger.
We will be married 15 years in April. The WWME weekend was the best anniversary gift we could have given to each other. We can look toward the future and see a life where the intense feelings of love and our joy in being a couple do not have to diminish with age or time or struggles. Because we have made a decision to love, because we have been reminded of our great gift and given what we need to keep that gift alive and flourishing, because we have put God back into his rightful place in our marriage, nothing seems impossible anymore.
If you have not yet made a Marriage Encounter weekend -- or if you made one a long time ago -- sign up today. You will never regret it, I can promise you that, and will more likely wish you had done it years ago. We did ours through the Archdiocese of New York, which will be sponsoring 2010 weekends Feb. 12-14, April 16-18, Aug. 13-15, and Nov. 5-7. Call 914-524-7088 for more information on NY weekends. For those outside the archdiocese, click HERE to go to the Worldwide Marriage Encounter national website, which will connect you with local ME weekends and resources.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Bishop Hubbard also previously sent letters to Congress, thanking the sponsors and cosponsors of House and Senate resolutions (H.R. 761 and S. 321) remembering the murder and commemorating the lives of those killed.
The letters quote Pope Benedict XVI's most recent encyclical, Charity in Truth, stating:
“Charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine. … [Charity] gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbor; it is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones).”Bishop Hubbard went on to write,“It is precisely this kind of charity that was exemplified by the Jesuits in El Salvador — a commitment to a more just and peaceful society where the human needs and rights of people are acknowledged and respected."
The legacy of the Jesuits killed in El Salvador "continues to be embodied in the many women and men who still seek a more just, peaceful and secure world where the life and dignity of all persons is defended," Bishop Hubbard wrote.
To read the full letter, click HERE.
Friday, November 13, 2009
By Russell Shaw
Speaking to 800 priests at the shrine of Fatima in Portugal, the cardinal who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy recently leveled criticism at priests for whom the priesthood has become “a kind of ecclesiastical profession which they carry out as civil servants.” Having only news reports to go on, I strongly suspect Cardinal Claudio Hummes said more than just that. I certainly hope so, because, although the comment contains much truth, it is seriously inadequate as it stands. In this current Year for Priests it’s important to point out why.
My biggest objection to the remark as reported concerns the slighting use of the expression “ecclesiastical profession.” What I suspect the cardinal meant — and what’s true enough — is that the priesthood isn’t just one more job alongside others. In making this perfectly reasonable point, however, it’s a mistake to say or imply that there’s something intrinsically wrong with, or at least inferior about, professions and jobs in general.
The Christian ideal of work is to do one’s job, whatever it may be, for the glory of God and the service of other human beings. Many people in many lines of work try to do exactly that each day. There is every reason for priests to try to do it, too. Looking down our noses at the notion of “profession” isn’t helpful to that.
Nor is it helpful to suggest that there’s something wrong with having priests approach their work with a professional attitude. To be professional means doing one’s best to meet high standards of excellence in one’s work. People who aren’t professional are prepared to settle for sloppy, careless, just-getting-by performance. Surely this is not what we want of our priests.
I also take exception to the slap at priests who function as “civil servants” in the Church. Over the years I’ve encountered many of these men in chancery offices, national organizations, the Holy See, and other settings, and — making allowance for the occasional time-server — I’ve found many to be admirable priests whose administrative tasks are as much an expression of their priestly commitment as preparing a homily or teaching a catechism class.
True, priests in this situation often feel a need for some form of directly pastoral work on the side — to keep their hand in, as it were — and I admire them for that. But this is not a reflection on their office work as such.
Around the time Cardinal Hummes made his remarks, Pope Benedict XVI also spoke to a group of Brazilian bishops about the priesthood. In this case, I have the advantage of having the full text of the pope’s remarks, and I find them notably more nuanced and helpful than the snippets attributed to the cardinal.
The pope’s central statement was this: “The role of the priest is essential and irreplaceable for the proclamation of the word and for the celebration of the sacraments.” That was said in the context of a discourse touching on questions raised about lay and clergy roles in the changing circumstances of today’s Church, including the shortage of priests in some places.
Against this background, Benedict insisted, there is need for a “harmonious, correct and clear deepening of the relationship between the common priesthood [the baptismal priesthood or priesthood of the faithful] and the ministerial [ordained] priesthood.” The more aware lay people become of their responsibilities in the Church, he said, “the more clearly stand out the priest’s identity and his irreplaceable role.”
Here’s a challenge and an opportunity for us all.
Abortion rights activists aren't the only ones in an uproar over the passage of the Stupak Amendment as part of the House's healthcare reform bill. All those folks who scream about separation of Church and state whenever it suits their needs are making their voices heard, charging that the bishops are strong-arming the nation. (Even writing that sentence makes me chuckle.) Anyway, John J. Pitney Jr. over at NRO's The Corner has an excellent blog post on the sadly mistaken notion that people of faith are not allowed to voice their opinions in the public square.
"Prof. Marci Hamilton of the Cardozo School of Law writes that the Stupak amendment 'violates the Constitution’s separation of church and state. The anti-abortion movement is plainly religious in motivation, and its lobbyists and spokespersons represent religious groups, as is illustrated by the fact that the most visible lobbyists in the Stupak Amendment’s favor have been the Catholic Bishops.'
"By this standard, Professor Hamilton would have to conclude that the 1964 Civil Rights Act is also unconstitutional. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference, along with other religious leaders and groups, led the fight for its enactment. 'We needed the help of the clergy, and this was assiduously encouraged,' said Senator Hubert Humphrey. 'I have said a number of times, and I repeat it now, that without the clergy, we couldn’t have possibly passed this bill.'"
The Prof. Hamilton to whom he refers has been a leader in the national movement to open civil statute of limitations in sex abuse cases nationwide and has been single-minded in her focus on the Catholic Church alone. Of course, all of that becomes more clear when you read her latest anti-Catholic comments regarding the Stupak Amendment.
To bolster his point, Pitney includes this stunning statement by none other than Barack Obama:
"[S]ecularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King — indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history — were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their 'personal morality' into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition."
Read the full post HERE.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I know several Catholics who've told me that the discovery of extraterrestrials somewhere in the universe would have the potential to shake their faith. I wonder if the Vatican was sensing the potential for something like that on a much larger scale, when it brought together astronomers, physicists, biologists and other scientists to discuss the possibility of alien life forms and what such a discovery might mean for the Catholic Church.
The recent five-day conference looked not only at the origins of life in the universe but also the potential for such life to exist beyond what we now know. According to the Associated Press, Jesuit Father Jose Gabriel Funes, an astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory, said, "The questions of life's origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration."
From the AP story:
"Funes said the possibility of alien life raises 'many philosophical and theological implications' but added that the gathering was mainly focused on the scientific perspective and how different disciplines can be used to explore the issue...
"Thirty scientists, including non-Catholics, from the U.S., France, Britain, Switzerland, Italy and Chile attended the conference, called to explore among other issues 'whether sentient life forms exist on other worlds.'"
Father Funes made headlines last year when he said that the existence of aliens did not contradict belief in God. "As an astronomer I continue to believe that God is the creator of the universe," he told L'Osservatore Romano, calling possible alien life his "extraterrestrial brother" and addressing concerns that alien life might contradict the theology surrounding original sin and redemption. "If other intelligent beings exist, it's not certain that they need redemption."
To read the AP article, click HERE. To read the CNS story about the 2008 L'Osservatore Romano interview with Father Funes, click HERE.
As the Washington, D.C., City Council moves toward a vote on a bill to legalize same sex "marriage," the Archdiocese of Washington is warning that the lack of religious liberty protections could force them to abandon many of their ministries to D.C.'s most vulnerable populations.
According to the Archdiocese of Washington, the City's Council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary has narrowed the religious freedom exemption in the bill. If passed in its current form, the bill would require organizations like Catholic Charities to promote and support same sex "marriage" through their services.
The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., said in a press release:
"The committee’s narrowing of the exemption leaves religious organizations and individuals at risk for adhering to the teachings of their faith, and could prevent social service providers such as Catholic Charities from continuing their long-term partnerships with the District government to provide critical social services for thousands of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
"The bill provides no exemption for individuals with sincerely-held religious beliefs, as required under federal law. In fact, one council member opposed an amendment that would have respected an individual’s federally-protected, deeply-held religious beliefs by saying that would encourage a 'discriminatory impulse.'”
At risk are Catholic Charities' many outreach services to the poor and others in need, including adoption services, social services, employee benefits and more.
"As a result, religious organizations and individuals are at risk of legal action for refusing to promote and support same-sex marriages in a host of settings where it would compromise their religious beliefs. This includes employee benefits, adoption services and even the use of a church hall for non-wedding events for same-sex married couples. Religious organizations such as Catholic Charities could be denied licenses or certification by the government, denied the right to offer adoption and foster care services, or no longer be able to partner with the city to provide social services for the needy," the archdiocese stated.
Of course the secular media is trying to cast this as the Church being discriminatory. One article, in the Washington Post, said that religious organizations such as the Catholic Church oppose the same sex "marriage" law, which will be voted on next month, because "they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians."
Saying an organization just wants to discriminate against a group of people sounds a lot better than saying an organization is simply trying to uphold and live its long-held beliefs, which are based on natural law.
Susan Gibbs, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington, was quoted in the same Washington Post article, saying: "If the city requires this, we can't do it. The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem."
Exactly. Religious liberty and religious freedom mean being able to practice your beliefs without being forced to promote something that stands in direct opposition to those beliefs. More of this is coming as same sex "marriage" debates continue across the country. Good for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., for coming out strong and reminding people what's at stake -- for Catholics and for those we serve.
To read the archdiocese's full press release, click HERE.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
In case you missed it, the Sunday N.Y. Post ran an op-ed piece by Joseph Bottum with this headline:
Dolan's Catholic Crusade: Uncle Tim has taken off the gloves in his fight for the Church
Here's some of what Bottum had to say:
“The revelations in 2001 of decades of priest scandals revealed the existence of a corrupt clergy across the nation, and the Catholic Church watched a now middle-aged generation of believers slip away from the pews. In the midst of all this, how could an archbishop of New York not need to pick some fights? Especially one determined to restore the national prominence that the archdiocese of New York has traditionally had. 'America’s bishop,' John Paul II called Cardinal O’Connor, which is what every archbishop of New York should be named.
“In other words, Timothy Dolan’s swipe at Dowd is just the first blow in a what we should expect to be a long series. Uncle Tim is taking the gloves off, and public fights are coming with City Hall over schools, and with Albany over Catholic hospitals, and with Washington’s health-care reformers over mandatory abortion coverage, and with the Catholic colleges over their abandoning of Catholic principles, and with the blindered and old-fashioned clergy over the business-as-usual attitude that allowed the priest scandals to happen.”
Sounds like just what the doctor ordered. Enough with running away from who we are as Church and what we stand for, for fear that people won't stick around because they don't like this teaching or that priest or those songs. It's time to say, "This is what it means to be Catholic." I, for one, think Archbishop Dolan is a breath of fresh air, and just what the Church in New York and the Church in the United States needs at this moment in time.
Talk to any Catholic in the pews who has had the opportunity to hear or meet Archbishop Dolan in person and they gush with enthusiasm and hope. They recognize, as does the Post op-ed writer, that what the archbishop brings to the table is exactly what true Catholics have been waiting for: someone who not only isn't afraid to be Catholic but is positively bursting with joy over being Catholic. If speaking the truth is a "crusade," if preaching the Gospel can be considered "taking off the gloves," then bring it on.
To read the full op-ed piece, click HERE.
Friday, November 6, 2009
As the nation reels from yet another deadly shooting spree, this time at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, Va., is urging mercy for convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad, saying his capital sentence should be commuted to life in prison without chance of parole.
The bishop called the lethal injection that Muhammad is scheduled to receive on Nov. 10 a "manifestation of despair," according to a CNS story.
"And in this despair, in advocating the use of the death penalty, our society has moved beyond the legitimate judgment of crimes," Bishop Loverde wrote in the Nov. 5 issue of the Arlington Catholic Herald. "Brothers and sisters, we are better than this. We are called to be more than slaves to despair; we are called to be heralds of hope."
Muhammad went on a three-week killing spree in the Washington, D.C., are in 2002 that left 10 people dead and three others wounded. His partner in killing, Lee Boyd Malvo, was 17 at the time and is already serving a life sentence.
Bishop Loverde touched on the difficulty of Church teaching on capital punishment, especially when the sometimes-normal reaction to such tragic crimes is a desire for revenge:
"It is understandable for us -- all of us, myself included -- to have these reactions, and to be outraged at the way in which innocent lives were so senselessly taken, with their families left to mourn and to ask questions which have no satisfactory answers...We are called to choose hope -- hope in redemption of an immortal soul -- over the despair embedded in the death penalty."
Click HERE to read the CNS story.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany writes an insightful column about the breakdown of marriage in anticipation of the U.S. bishops' upcoming pastoral letter, which will "communicate in contemporary language the Church’s teaching about the beauty, goodness and truth of marriage as revealing divine love."
In the Nov. 5 issue of The Evangelist, Bishop Hubbard writes:
"Last month at our annual Marriage Jubilee Mass, I joined with couples from throughout our Diocese who are observing one, 10, 15, 40, 50, 60 or more years of marriage during 2009.
"It is always such an inspirational and uplifting experience to celebrate with these spouses who offer such marvelous witness to the sacred bond of matrimony, and to the many sacrifices and boundless love which serve as the foundation for this most fundamental human relationship.
"Sadly, fewer and fewer couples are observing these significant milestones, as the institution of marriage and the intact two-parent family is under assault today.
"The adulterous affairs of politicians Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards and Mark Sanford — and the ultimate married couple, Kate and Jon Gosselin of the TV reality show 'Jon and Kate Plus Eight' — only serve to highlight the perilous state of contemporary marriage."
Bishop Hubbard goes on to cite disturbing statistics showing not only rising divorce rates and increased cohabitation outside of marriage, but also a rise in births to unmarried women, which have reached 39.7 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bishop Hubbard continues:
"These startling statistics (and so many others) prompted Time Magazine to feature a cover story on July 13, 2009, written by Caitlin Flanagan. She states: 'There is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and human misery in this country as the collapse of marriage. It hurts children, it reduces mothers’ financial security and it has landed with particular devastation on those who can bear it least: the nation’s underclass.'
"Flanagan notes that three presidents in a row (Clinton, Bush and Obama) have sought to address the problem of the number of poor who are uncoupling parenthood from marriage.
"The reason for this presidential concern is simple: On every single significant indicator related to short-term well being and long-term success, children from intact two-parent families outperform those from single-parent households."
Read Bishop Hubbard's full column by clicking HERE. And click HERE to go to "For Your Marriage," the USCCB's National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage
Monday, November 2, 2009
Kathryn Jean Lopez gets it right on NRO Online in her column "Sister Maureen Gets It Wrong," when she takes New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd to task for portraying women religious in this country as unhappy, unsatisfied and under the thumb of Rome in a way that suggests constant oppression and submission. Writing of religious sisters who blog (even cloistered ones) and who are happily answering God's call, Lopez reminds us that "there are a lot of happy women behind convent walls. They have answered a Heavenly call. Their submission is not to any man, in Rome or anywhere else, but to the will of the Creator. It’s otherworldly, so it doesn’t fit as well on op-ed pages."
I write for several communities of women religious and on more than one occasion I have been asked to focus a fund-raising appeal on obedience. That's right: obedience. Not usually a money maker in the independent-minded U.S. of A. Yet obedience is at the heart of a religious calling. Obedience to a superior, yes. But more than that. Obedience to The Superior. In writing the appeals, I have learned a lot about the freedom that comes from true obedience to God. It's not a style-cramping, spirit-squelching thing. Rather it is a soul-expanding obedience that comes from being freed from the world's rules by obeying God's rules. But, as Lopez points out, that doesn't make a good newspaper headline.
"A Dominican sister in Chicago was recently pictured in the Chicago Tribune standing outside an abortion clinic, where she volunteers as an escort for women who enter to obtain abortions. She belongs to a group of sisters who advocate legal abortion. In case you are confused: This is not Catholic.
"The Catholic Church hasn’t been isolated from the chaos that the sexual revolution wrought. It warned, but that didn’t keep it immune. Yet now, after decades of spirited dissent and too much shameful sin in the headlines, if you look around, what you’ll see is countercultural faith. There’s a rebirth: A 'new evangelization' is what they’re calling it in Rome.
“'Religious community is the visible manifestation of the communion which is the foundation of the Church,' the once Cardinal Ratzinger has written. When some of those communities are so blatantly representing values inimical to the Church, intervention is called for."
Read her full column HERE.
1. 'Called out of darkness' and into light of Christ (Interview with Anne Rice about vampires and her journey from atheism to faith)
2. Setting a new standard for Catholic colleges (Outgoing president of The Catholic University of America boosts school's Catholic identity)
3. What's behind Vatican's decision to receive Anglicans
4. Popular priest has reluctant jubilee Profile/interview of Father Benedict Groeschel as he celebrates 50 years as a priest.
5. What the Church teaches about (big) government
6. Drawn to the Undead Why Americans love sinking their teeth into vampire stories.
7. Cross bolted to desert rock sparks church-state battle
8. Accent on better relations between international pastors and parishioners 300 Helping priests become better understood through speech training.
9. Inundated with Catholic mail solicitations?
10. Emerging voices energize pro-life movement Young pro-lifers lay claim to their cause with innovation, inspiration.
The director of the Bryan Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas has resigned after watching an ultrasound of an abortion procedure. "I just thought I can't do this anymore, and it was just like a flash that hit me and I thought that's it," said Abby Johnson in a report on KBTX-TV. Johnson said the clinic was moving away from prevention and focusing more on abortion, something that didn't sit right with her.
"I feel so pure in heart (since leaving). I don't have this guilt, I don't have this burden on me anymore; that's how I know this conversion was a spiritual conversion," she said in the KBTX report.
Johnson has since joined the Coalition For Life, located just down the street from the clinic where she worked for eight years, the last two as director. She has even prayed outside the Planned Parenthood clinic. Not surprisingly, this turn of events has prompted Bryan Planned Parenthood to seek a restraining order against Johnson and Coalition For Life, contending that business would be "irreparably harmed by the disclosure of certain information." In other words, the truth hurts.
Click HERE to read the full story and watch the video clip of the interview with Johnson.
"I would go so far as to say that if there was no purgatory, then we would have to invent it, for who would dare say of himself that he was able to stand directly before God. And yet we don't want to be, to use an image from Scripture, 'a pot that turned out wrong,' that has to be thrown away; we want to be able to be put right. Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That he can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with him and stand there in the fullness of life. Purgatory strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things, so that in each of them a pure heart is revealed, and we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being."
"Today, on the Feast of All Souls, I stood at my own graveside, but I didn't shed a tear.(Read the full post HERE.) Cathy has written a beautiful book about the short life of her baby Celeste. Broken and Blessed: A Life Story is a moving testament to the power of one tiny and fragile life to change the world around her. That book deserves a post of its own, which I promise to write later this month.
"I thought about my daughter, who awaits me there, and I remembered her life with awe and gratitude. I missed her with an ache that will never leave my bones, but my heart is not heavy. It soars to meet her.
"I looked at the descriptions cast in stone: husband and father, baby girl, wife and mother. The roles that will define us for all eternity.
"I suppose it is an excellent practice to ponder the fact that we will all be dust some day. As I stood on the very spot where I hope my grandchildren and their grandchildren will kneel someday, begging mercy on my soul, I realized the truth.
"It will all be over in a flash."
By Russell Shaw
For me at least, the most dismaying thing about criticism of Pope Benedict XVI’s plan for easing the way for Anglicans who seek to enter the Roman Catholic Church is the critics’ apparent indifference to the spiritual welfare of these Anglicans. As a consequence, a compassionate gesture by Rome is smeared as something sinister.
Clueless as usual where Catholicism is concerned, the secular media have tended to treat Benedict’s action in political terms, as a power grab. This interpretation ignores the fact that the Anglican traditionalists most likely to take advantage of the new provision for “personal ordinariates” have been pleading for something like this for years. The pope has simply responded to those pleas.
But secular journalists aren’t the only ones to get it wrong. Catholic voices also have been raised in this chorus of callousness. Consider the final paragraph of an article in the London Tablet, a reliable platform for progressive Catholic views: “It is hard to see how this new development will do anything but further sow division in the Anglican Communion and confusion among Catholics who have long been committed to the work of ecumenism.”
As to Anglican “division”: The departure of Anglicans who’ve anguished for a long time over the direction of their fractured communion is much more likely to restore a semblance of unity to that deeply troubled body than it is to create more division.
As to Catholic “confusion”: The confusion admittedly felt by many Catholics about the nature and intent of ecumenism is largely a product of a post-Vatican II interpretation that reduces the ecumenical enterprise to endless dialogue leading — God knows how — to some sort of corporate merger in an unimaginable future. Confusion is a mild word for it.
Most of all, though, such critical comments miss the fundamental point — the relief potentially afforded to those Anglican groups most directly affected by Benedict’s generous gesture. That is best understood in human terms.
A year ago in Rome I had a substantial chat with an Anglican woman who is a member of one of these groups. Moved by her faith and her ardent desire for communion with the Holy See, I told her at the end of our conversation: “I can only hope and pray that you get what you want — and get it soon.”
It’s often said that conservative Anglicans are upset about things like women bishops and openly homosexual bishops. No doubt they are. But much else is involved.
Several years ago an American woman — a contented member of the Episcopal Church — told me an anecdote concerning an Episcopal clergyman which she insisted was true. It seems that this gentleman, in a fit of whimsy, was seen one day to give communion to a dog. The lady seemed to think that was just fine. I was appalled — at what had happened, at her approval of it, and at what it disclosed concerning the state of Episcopalian belief in the Eucharist.
A man who’d been an Episcopalian for years but finally came over to Rome once shared a useful insight with me. “The trouble with those people,” he said of his former co-religionists, “is that they’re sentimental.”
A number of present Anglicans seem to agree. I am glad that Pope Benedict has offered these troubled believers a congenial way out of the dilemma in which their sentimental Anglican brethren placed them. As for those who don’t like what the pope has done, I suggest they remove their blinders and congratulate him on an act of Christian charity.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.