Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Among Catholics generally, the realization has begun to sink in that we’ll soon receive and in due course start using a new English translation of the Mass. A few people have known that for a long time, and among them reactions are of two kinds: eager anticipation on the part of some, dissatisfaction verging on rejection on the part of others. It’s instructive to consider the pros and cons of this disagreement.
For some of the unhappy ones the source of their discontent appears to reside at least partly in nostalgia. The English translations currently in use remind them of the good old days after Vatican Council II, when they were young and everything seemed possible. In the new translations they claim to see an undoing of Vatican II and a rolling back of liturgical reform.
Whatever else might be said of this view, the people who feel like that have had their shot at reforming the liturgy for the last 40 years. Now it’s somebody else’s turn. Fair’s fair, after all.
A more serious complaint is that the new English version is in some particulars too difficult for people to understand. An example frequently cited is the use of the word “consubstantial.” So, precisely because it comes up so often in this discussion, let’s take a moment to consider the great “consubstantial” debate.
The issue arises in the Nicene Creed, where the Latin text declares that Jesus Christ, Son of God, is “consubstantialem Patri.” In the English translation now in use this is rendered as “one in Being with the Father.” In the new version, it becomes “consubstantial with.” No contest, the critics say. Who knows what “consubstantial with” means? “One in Being” is better because it’s nice and clear.
But hold on. “One in Being” is not as clear as it seems. Nor, upon examination, is it even correct.
We are dealing here with the language of metaphysics — appropriately so, since this is a creed, a solemn statement of the content of faith in which it’s necessary that the formulations be precise. By this standard, the current “one in Being with” fails the test.
For one thing, the supposed clarity of “Being” is delusory. Being as we understand it — the being of ourselves and other created things — is only an analogical participation in the subsistent being of God. Yet the translation’s non-specific and undifferentiated application of the word “being” to God sweeps this huge difference aside. We get the appearance of clarity at the expense of accuracy, and in a creed that won’t do.
For another thing, the current translation to the contrary notwithstanding, “being” and “substance” aren’t the same thing. Being means “existence.” And while one trembles at the challenge of trying to say in a few words what “substance” means as a term in metaphysics, it signifies something like the unique, singular identity of a thing.
Is “consubstantial” mysterious? Certainly. The creed is speaking of no less a mystery than the Trinity — three Persons in one God — and affirming that the Second Person, the Son, while distinct, nevertheless is one with the First Person, the Father, in the unique, singular identity of God. In short, “consubstantial with the Father” is correct whereas “one in Being with the Father” is not.
One trusts that the translators of the new translation of the Mass have gone through an analytical process similar to this in making the many decisions any translation involves. If so, the new version will be a considerable improvement over the old.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.
An apology to victims for the Church's mishandling of clergy sexual abuse and a defense of Pope Benedict XVI for "swiftly responding" to the crisis were at the heart of comments offered by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee at the end of the Chrism Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist yesterday.
An excerpt from the archbishop's homily:
Archbishop Listecki went on to thank "brave victim-survivors" for coming forward to tell their stories and prodding the Church to change. "...Because of their persistence and perseverance, we know the Church HAS changed," he said.
"As a bishop, a priest, and as a man of faith, I apologize to anyone who has been a victim of clergy sexual abuse. This crime, this sin, this horror, should never occur, especially by a priest. Those who committed these crimes and those, including some bishops, who didn’t do everything in their power to stop it, go against everything the Church and the priesthood represent. For those actions, I offer my sincere apology.
"So many people have suffered – first and foremost victims and their families. Because of the actions of the few priests who committed these crimes, all of us continue to suffer today.
"This past week our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has come under criticism for the way he has handled past cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors, including a case here involving Lawrence Murphy. The allegations against him, as well as the facts supporting him, are widely available.
"The Holy Father does not need me to defend him or his decisions. I believe, and history will confirm that his actions in responding to this crisis, swiftly and decisively and his compassionate response to victims/surviovrs, speak for themselves. The Holy Father has been firm in his commitment to combat clergy sexual abuse; root it out of the Church; reach out to those who have been harmed; and hold perpetrators accountable. He has been a leader, meeting with victims/survivors and chastising bishops for their lack of judgment and leadership.
Mistakes were made in the Lawrence Murphy case. The mistakes were not made in Rome in 1996, 1997 and 1998. The mistakes were made here, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, by the Church, by civil authorities, by Church officials, and by bishops. And for that, I beg your forgiveness in the name of the Church and in the name of this Archdiocese of Milwaukee."
"We know that today the policies and procedures in place in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and across the United States, ensures to the best of our God-given ability, that no priest with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor can ever serve as a priest again in our Church.
"Still, we know it is not words, but actions that will demonstrate our resolve. And, in some ways, regardless of what I say, tonight or any other time, our critics will say it is not enough. But that cannot and will not prevent me from making every possible effort at moving forward toward healing and resolution with those who have been harmed, and, determined, to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again.
"To you gathered here tonight – our pastors, priests, deacons and lay ecclesial ministers – through your vigilance at our parishes and schools, we now have in place the mechanisms to effectively combat the scourge of child sexual abuse. Through the formation and training of our safe environment initiative, we know that you, in your parishes, schools and institutions, have put in place the necessary safeguards and practices to ensure our children are protected. Thank you. Remain vigilant."
Read the full homily HERE.
Monday, March 29, 2010
On the USCCB Media Blog today, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, RSM, posts a powerful reflection on the Holy Week suffering that is enveloping the Church in an especially dark and painful way this year due to media reports that bring up "heartrending, often previously published, stories with a new twist – how the Vatican handled the cases."
She addresses many facts that have been missing from too many secular news stories of late: that Pope Benedict XVI has gone to great lengths to address the crisis, that the church in the United States has had a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse since 2002, that the problems found in the Church with regard to understanding and treating pedophilia decades ago were not confined to the Catholic Church but existed within institutions great and small, even within families.
From the USCCB Media Blog post:
"New knowledge means new obligations for church leaders, of course. Not knowing is no longer acceptable. Inaction will no longer be tolerated by law enforcement, fellow clerics and the Catholic community. Signs of such realization have been shown, for example, by Pope John Paul II who declared 'there is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young' and Pope Benedict who said bluntly: 'I am ashamed and will do everything possible to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future.'
"For many, the emphasis of Holy Week is on Good Friday, a day that’s good not because Jesus died a terrible death that day, but because the death led to His subsequent resurrection. It holds deep meaning for Catholics now who seek meaning from the tragedy of pedophilia.
'Pedophilia has had a terrible effect on many and reminds us of sinful humanity than is around us and within us. It has made a long Good Friday for many, especially those victimized by this sin and crime. But as the church has learned while dealing with these wounds, as it did with the crucifixion of Jesus, the pain can lead to a church purified of sin.
"With the current spate of news stories about inaction in the face of pedophilia, Catholics rightly feel numbness like that of Holy Saturday when the Apostles and followers of Jesus were stunned by the events around them. The message, however, is that Jesus’ death led to new life. The Church is still learning through its pain. The comfort of Christ awaits, which is something victims/survivors need and deserve and something the entire Church, from Pope Benedict to the newest baptized child, can take hope in."
Read the full post HERE.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Amid hysteria over a series of New York Times articles that insinuate a direct tie between Pope Benedict XVI and the sexual abuse scandal in the Church, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York defended the pope, saying that more than anyone else Pope Benedict has been the "leader in purification, reform, and renewal that the Church so needs."
Here are Archbishop Dolan's unedited remarks, made after the conclusion of the Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral this morning to the applause of the standing-room-only crowd:
“May I ask your patience a couple of minutes longer in what has already been a lengthy — — yet hopefully uplifting — — Sunday Mass?
“The somberness of Holy Week is intensified for Catholics this year.
“The recent tidal wave of headlines about abuse of minors by some few priests, this time in Ireland, Germany, and a re-run of an old story from Wisconsin, has knocked us to our knees once again.
“Anytime this horror, vicious sin, and nauseating crime is reported, as it needs to be, victims and their families are wounded again, the vast majority of faithful priests bow their heads in shame anew, and sincere Catholics experience another dose of shock, sorrow, and even anger.
“What deepens the sadness now is the unrelenting insinuations against the Holy Father himself, as certain sources seem frenzied to implicate the man who, perhaps more than anyone else has been the leader in purification, reform, and renewal that the Church so needs.
“Sunday Mass is hardly the place to document the inaccuracy, bias, and hyperbole of such aspersions.
“But, Sunday Mass is indeed the time for Catholics to pray for “ . . . Benedict our Pope.”
“And Palm Sunday Mass is sure a fitting place for us to express our love and solidarity for our earthly shepherd now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.
“No one has been more vigorous in cleansing the Church of the effects of this sickening sin than the man we now call Pope Benedict XVI. The dramatic progress that the Catholic Church in the United States has made — — documented again just last week by the report made by independent forensic auditors — — could never have happened without the insistence and support of the very man now being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo.
“Does the Church and her Pastor, Pope Benedict XVI, need intense scrutiny and just criticism for tragic horrors long past?
“Yes! He himself has asked for it, encouraging complete honesty, at the same time expressing contrition, and urging a thorough cleansing.
“All we ask is that it be fair, and that the Catholic Church not be singled-out for a horror that has cursed every culture, religion, organization, institution, school, agency, and family in the world.
“Sorry to bring this up … but, then again, the Eucharist is the Sunday meal of the spiritual family we call the Church. At Sunday dinner we share both joys and sorrows. The father of our family, il papa, needs our love, support, and prayers.”
Friday, March 26, 2010
In a story from CNS today, the Legionaries of Christ not only acknowledged that their founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, had sexually abused young seminarians, but also asked forgiveness and promised accountability for those who had been "guilty of cooperation" in his crimes.
From John Thavis' story:
"A statement released March 26 by the Legionaries and its lay branch, Regnum Christi, said that any members of the order who were guilty of cooperation in Father Maciel's crimes would be held accountable.According to the the CNS story, the Legionaries have resolved to reach out to those who have suffered, tell the truth about the order's history, protect minors in all its institutions, cooperate better with bishops and church institutions, continue oversight and demand accountability in the order, and redouble its efforts to bring the Gospel to as many people as possible.
"The statement said the Legionaries were looking to the future with the hope of continuing to serve the church, but with a greater emphasis on reconciling with those who suffered from Father Maciel's actions and greater cooperation with local pastors and other church officials.
"The future of the order rests in the hands of Pope Benedict XVI, who ordered an apostolic visitation of the Legionaries last year. The visitation team's report was expected to be handed in to the Vatican at the end of April.
"...The statement said the Legionaries would follow the instructions given by Pope Benedict in light of the Vatican investigation, which was conducted in the order's institutions around the world. Many at the Vatican expect a major reorganization of the Legionaries, perhaps with direct supervision by the Vatican."
Read the full story HERE.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
By Mary DeTurris Poust
This clip from Pope Benedict XVI's general audience seemed like a natural follow-up to my last post, "Scientists Overlooking the Obvious."
"There is a friendship between science and faith, and men of science can follow, through their vocation of the study of nature, a fascinating journey of holiness," the pope said in his general audience in St. Peter's Square yesterday. The clip is only one minute long, so check it out.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for reform of our health care system so that all may have access to the care that recognizes and affirms their human dignity. Christian discipleship means, “working to ensure that all people have access to what makes them fully human and fosters their human dignity” (United States Catechism for Adults, page 454). Included among those elements is the provision of necessary and appropriate health care.
For too long, this question has gone unaddressed in our country. Often, while many had access to excellent medical treatment, millions of others including expectant mothers, struggling families or those with serious medical or physical problems were left unable to afford the care they needed. As Catholic bishops, we have expressed our support for efforts to address this national and societal shortcoming. We have spoken for the poorest and most defenseless among us. Many elements of the health care reform measure signed into law by the President address these concerns and so help to fulfill the duty that we have to each other for the common good. We are bishops, and therefore pastors and teachers. In that role, we applaud the effort to expand health care to all.
Nevertheless, for whatever good this law achieves or intends, we as Catholic bishops have opposed its passage because there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion. The statute appropriates billions of dollars in new funding without explicitly prohibiting the use of these funds for abortion, and it provides federal subsidies for health plans covering elective abortions. Its failure to preserve the legal status quo that has regulated the government’s relation to abortion, as did the original bill adopted by the House of Representatives last November, could undermine what has been the law of our land for decades and threatens the consensus of the majority of Americans: that federal funds not be used for abortions or plans that cover abortions. Stranger still, the statute forces all those who choose federally subsidized plans that cover abortion to pay for other peoples’ abortions with their own funds. If this new law is intended to prevent people from being complicit in the abortions of others, it is at war with itself.
We share fully the admirable intention of President Obama expressed in his pending Executive Order, where he states, “it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services.” However, the fact that an Executive Order is necessary to clarify the legislation points to deficiencies in the statute itself. We do not understand how an Executive Order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions.
The statute is also profoundly flawed because it has failed to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protections (both within and beyond the abortion context). As well, many immigrant workers and their families could be left worse off since they will not be allowed to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges to be created, even if they use their own money.
Many in Congress and the Administration, as well as individuals and groups in the Catholic community, have repeatedly insisted that there is no federal funding for abortion in this statute and that strong conscience protection has been assured. Analyses that are being published separately show this not to be the case, which is why we oppose it in its current form. We and many others will follow the government’s implementation of health care reform and will work to ensure that Congress and the Administration live up to the claims that have contributed to its passage. We believe, finally, that new legislation to address its deficiencies will almost certainly be required.
As bishops, we wish to recognize the principled actions of the pro-life Members of Congress from both parties, in the House and the Senate, who have worked courageously to create legislation that respects the principles outlined above. They have often been vilified and have worked against great odds.
As bishops of the Catholic Church, we speak in the name of the Church and for the Catholic faith itself. The Catholic faith is not a partisan agenda, and we take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to working for health care which truly and fully safeguards the life, dignity, conscience and health of all, from the child in the womb to those in their last days on earth.
As I sipped my morning coffee, I came across an article, "Moral Lessons, Down Aisle 9," in today's Science section of the New York Times. It immediately caught my eye because the introduction made it clear that in a recent study of how people treat strangers, a group of Wal-Mart shoppers in Missouri were kinder, less selfish and more fair than groups in the Amazon, the Siberian tundra, a Himalayan monastery, and a nomadic tribe on the Serengeti. Although the scientists seemed to find it surprising, I wasn't surprised at all. So I read on, waiting to see if the scientists observed the obvious. They didn't. No surprise there either.
On and on the article went, talking about evolutionary psychology and leftover small clan behavior:
"But why even consider returning a stranger's wallet you find in a taxicab? Why leave a tip in a restaurant you'll never visit again?
"Some evolutionary psychologists have suggested that we have an innate sense of fairness left over from our days of living in small clans. According to this theory, our inherited instincts cause us to be nice to strangers even when we're hurting our interests, just as our ancient taste for fat and sugar causes us now to eat more calories than are good for us."
Sigh. Had none of scientists considered faith as a deciding factor, especially given the fact that Missouri is overwhelmingly Christian? Is it possible that Missourians are living the Gospel they profess to believe, the one that says specifically to be kind to strangers, even to our enemies? It didn't seem like a stretch to me, but, then again, I'm no scientist.
The best religious argument the scientists in the study could come up with is that the Islamic religion of the Kenyan herders they surveyed or the Orthodox Christian faith of the Siberian reindeer herders prompted them to share more of their "prize" in the study. Even then, the scientists didn't attribute this to the altruistic truths embedded in the major religions of the world but instead assumed that people acted this way because "religious systems galvanize pro-social behavior in broader communities, perhaps using both supernatural incentives (for example, hell) and recurrent rituals that intensify group solidarity."
Boy, that sure doesn't have the same poetic ring as "Whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers, you do it to me." So basically, people are nice because they're trying to avoid hell? Notice they didn't say that the incentive was the hope of getting into heaven. I think it's because most scientists simply can't go there. They can't imagine that people truly believe in their faiths, that the words of Jesus shape people's lives, and that we're not all trying to skirt eternal damnation but instead hoping against all hope to bask in eternal light.
Attention Wal-Mart shoppers. Clean up in Aisle 9.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
From the latest post on the USCCB Media Blog:
As someone who taught in Catholic schools, which Washington Post writer EJ Dionne attended, I applaud him for knowing sister is usually right. I can even excuse him for mistakenly accepting as true what a few dozen nuns said in a letter that was sent to Congress by Network, a nun social justice group.
Dionne made his case in a March 18 column titled “Listen to the Nuns” in the Washington Post. However, the signers he listened to were flat out wrong in many instances.
For example, they falsely said “we represent 59,000 Catholic sisters in the United States.” There were 55 names or groups listed as signers to the letter, with one, Sister Marlene Weisenback, signing twice (Does she have Chicago roots?). Sister Weisenbeck leads both the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) as well as her own community and signed for both. However, there are 793 groups of sisters in the USA, so there is no way that the 54/55 signers represent all the American nuns. Continue reading...
So they've released some resources outlining the reasons for their position (which is a lot more than some of their critics have done!).
From a press release:
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has made available several new resources explaining its calls for essential changes to the Senate health care reform bill. In a March 15 statement, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, President of the USCCB, said that the U.S. bishops would, regretfully, have to oppose the final bill if these changes were not made.
The resources are available at: www.usccb.org/healthcare
Among them is an analysis of the abortion funding provisions of the Senate health care bill that highlights the bishops’ objections (www.usccb.org/healthcare/030410facts.pdf). Two pieces respond to recent criticisms of the bishops’ position on the health care bill, namely criticisms from Timothy Stoltzfus Jost of Washington and Lee University Law School (www.usccb.org/healthcare/jost-response.pdf) and the other regarding the funding of abortion at community health centers (www.usccb.org/healthcare/communityhealthcenters.pdf).
With so much of the health care debate focusing on the nature of the legal “status quo” of federal abortion funding, the page also features a backgrounder on current federal policy on abortion funding (www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/healthcare/abortion_funding_102309.pdf) and an analysis of the House health care bill’s Stupak Amendment (www.usccb.org/healthcare/StupakAmendmentFactsheet.pdf).
There's no way that number can be accurate.
According to Georgetown University’s Center for Research in the Apostolate, in 2009 there were 59,601 total sisters in the United States. Clearly, not all of them share the assertions of the Network statement.
In fact, as Mary DeTurris Poust points out in a previous post here, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, which represents about 10,000 sisters, issued a statement supporting the bishops’ analysis.
Something doesn't add up.
UPDATE: Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of communications for the U.S. bishops' conference, just issued a statement making the same point. Here it is:
Washington—A recent letter from Network, a social justice lobby of sisters, grossly overstated whom they represent in a letter to Congress that was also released to media.
Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters.
The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice.
There are 793 religious communities in the United States.
The math is clear. Network is far off the mark.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh
The well-publicized dissent of a group of religious sisters regarding the bishops' opposition to the Senate health care reform bill is certainly discouraging. Fortunately, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious have countered that with a statement of their own, affirming their support for the U.S. Bishops' position:
March 17, 2010
In a March 15th statement, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke on behalf of the United States Bishops in opposition to the Senate’s version of the health care legislation under consideration because of its expansion of abortion funding and its lack of adequate provision for conscience protection. Recent statements from groups like Network, the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) directly oppose the Catholic Church’s position on critical issues of health care reform.
The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the second conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious in the United States, believes the Bishops’ position is the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.
Protection of life and freedom of conscience are central to morally responsible judgment. We join the bishops in seeking ethically sound legislation.
Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan, R.S.M., President
On behalf of the Membership of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious
In the Archdiocese of Denver, Archbishop Charles Chaput also issued a warning to those who might be fooled by Catholic statements in favor of the "fatally flawed Senate version of health care reform."
From Archbishop Chaput:
To the Catholic Community of Northern Colorado
In the past two days, congressional leaders and the White House have brought tremendous pressure on prolife Democratic members of Congress to support a fatally flawed Senate version of health care reform.
Regrettably, groups like Network and the Catholic Health Association have done a grave disservice to the American Catholic community by undermining the leadership of the nation’s Catholic bishops, sowing confusion among faithful Catholics, and misleading legislators through their support of the Senate bill.
Do not be fooled. Nothing has changed. The Senate bill remains gravely flawed on the issues of abortion funding, conscience protections and the inclusion of immigrants. Unless seriously revised to address these issues, the Senate version of health care is unethical and should be firmly opposed.
+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Denver
+James D. Conley, S.T.L.
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
OK, I never thought I'd get an opportunity on this blog to post an image of a Ferrari. Must be St. Patrick dispensing special blessings today.
Here's the story: Tomorrow in Los Angeles, Ferrari North America is auctioning off the first Ferrari 458 Italia sports car to arrive in North America — and is donating the proceeds to the Catholic Medical Mission Board for the work it is doing in earthquake-devastated Haiti.
How cool is that?
From the press release:
In choosing CMMB, delivering the highest caliber of aid to the people of Haiti now and in the long-term, Ferrari is focusing its ongoing commitment to social responsibility to a cause that not only is close to everybody’s hearts but that is still in need of tremendous support. CMMB has been working in Haiti since 1912. Like Ferrari, they settle for nothing less than the best.This is a pricey car. Industry watchers expect the 458 Italia to retail at about $250,000. No word on what they expect to fetch for it in auction.
An interesting tidbit at the end of Catholic News Service's story today about Pope Benedict XVI's general audience:
Just before the pope began speaking, a man in the audience began shouting "abortion" and yelled for the pope to "excommunicate Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden," respectively the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and the vice president of the United States.
The man was escorted out of St. Peter's Square by Vatican security. Because he was not arrested, the Vatican refused to release his name.
Strong emotions about the health care debate have jumped the Atlantic. I bet the pope is not used to being heckled by people demanding that he excommunicate Catholic politicians. I wonder if this is just an "outlier" event, or if we'll continue to see this kind of intensity build.
CNS photo: Unidentified man shouts at pope "excommunicate Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden" in St. Peter's Sq.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Health care for life and for all
By Bishop William F. Murphy, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Bishop John Wester
For decades, the United States Catholic bishops have actively supported universal health care. The Catholic Church teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential for human life and dignity. Our community of faith provides health care to millions, purchases health care for tens of thousands and addresses the failings of our health care system in our parishes, emergency rooms and shelters. This is why we as bishops continue to insist that health care reform which truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all is a moral imperative and urgent national priority. Continue reading...
Monday, March 15, 2010
The Catholic Bishops of the United States have long and consistently advocated for the reform of the American health care system. Their experience in health care and in Catholic parishes has acquainted them with the anguish of mothers who are unable to afford prenatal care, of families unable to ensure quality care for their children, and of those who cannot obtain insurance because of preexisting conditions.
Throughout the discussion on health care over the last year, the bishops have advocated a bipartisan approach to solving our national health care needs. They have urged that all who are sick, injured or in need receive necessary and appropriate medical assistance, and that no one be deliberately killed through an expansion of federal funding of abortion itself or of insurance plans that cover abortion. These are the provisions of the long standing Hyde amendment, passed annually in every federal bill appropriating funds for health care; and surveys show that this legislation reflects the will of the majority of our fellow citizens. The American people and the Catholic bishops have been promised that, in any final bill, no federal funds would be used for abortion and that the legal status quo would be respected.
However, the bishops were left disappointed and puzzled to learn that the basis for any vote on health care will be the Senate bill passed on Christmas Eve. Notwithstanding the denials and explanations of its supporters, and unlike the bill approved by the House of Representatives in November, the Senate bill deliberately excludes the language of the Hyde amendment. It expands federal funding and the role of the federal government in the provision of abortion procedures. In so doing, it forces all of us to become involved in an act that profoundly violates the conscience of many, the deliberate destruction of unwanted members of the human family still waiting to be born.
What do the bishops find so deeply disturbing about the Senate bill? The points at issue can be summarized briefly. The status quo in federal abortion policy, as reflected in the Hyde Amendment, excludes abortion from all health insurance plans receiving federal subsidies. In the Senate bill, there is the provision that only one of the proposed multi-state plans will not cover elective abortions – all other plans (including other multi-state plans) can do so, and receive federal tax credits. This means that individuals or families in complex medical circumstances will likely be forced to choose and contribute to an insurance plan that funds abortions in order to meet their particular health needs.
Further, the Senate bill authorizes and appropriates billions of dollars in new funding outside the scope of the appropriations bills covered by the Hyde amendment and similar provisions. As the bill is written, the new funds it appropriates over the next five years, for Community Health Centers for example (Sec. 10503), will be available by statute for elective abortions, even though the present regulations do conform to the Hyde amendment. Regulations, however, can be changed at will, unless they are governed by statute.
Additionally, no provision in the Senate bill incorporates the longstanding and widely supported protection for conscience regarding abortion as found in the Hyde/Weldon amendment. Moreover, neither the House nor Senate bill contains meaningful conscience protection outside the abortion context. Any final bill, to be fair to all, must retain the accommodation of the full range of religious and moral objections in the provision of health insurance and services that are contained in current law, for both individuals and institutions.
This analysis of the flaws in the legislation is not completely shared by the leaders of the Catholic Health Association. They believe, moreover, that the defects that they do recognize can be corrected after the passage of the final bill. The bishops, however, judge that the flaws are so fundamental that they vitiate the good that the bill intends to promote. Assurances that the moral objections to the legislation can be met only after the bill is passed seem a little like asking us, in Midwestern parlance, to buy a pig in a poke.
What is tragic about this turn of events is that it needn’t have happened. The status quo that has served our national consensus and respected the consciences of all with regard to abortion is the Hyde amendment. The House courageously included an amendment applying the Hyde policy to its Health Care bill passed in November. Its absence in the Senate bill and the resulting impasse are not an accident. Those in the Senate who wanted to purge the Hyde amendment from this national legislation are obstructing the reform of health care.
This is not quibbling over technicalities. The deliberate omission in the Senate Bill of the necessary language that could have taken this moral question off the table and out of play leaves us still looking for a way to meet the President’s and our concern to provide health care for those millions whose primary care physician is now an emergency room doctor. As Pope Benedict told Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel H. Diaz when he presented his credentials as the United States government’s representative to the Holy See, there is “an indissoluble bond between an ethic of life and every other aspect of social ethics.”
Two basic principles, therefore, continue to shape the concerns of the Catholic bishops: health care means taking care of the health needs of all, across the human life span; and the expansion of health care should not involve the expansion of abortion funding and of polices forcing everyone to pay for abortions. Because these principles have not been respected, despite the good that the bill under consideration intends or might achieve, the Catholic bishops regretfully hold that it must be opposed unless and until these serious moral problems are addressed.
By Mary DeTurris Poust
As you know from last week's posts, I attended the New York State Catholic Conference's Public Policy Day in Albany last week. In light of the coming vote on health care, and the prominent role being played by the USCCB, I thought it would be relevant to post New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan's homily from the Mass that day. The archbishop ties the Church's mandate to be active in public policy directly to the Gospel, focusing on everyone from the baby in the womb to immigrants and refugees, from working men and women to farmers, the environment and the incarcerated.
Quoting the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Dolan reminds Catholics that "no human need is alien to the Church's concern."
Friday, March 12, 2010
By Russell Shaw
By Russell Shaw
The Washington rumor mill has been busy grinding out speculation that President Barack Obama will soon have a chance to nominate one or possibly two new justices to the Supreme Court. The speculation focuses more often on Justice John Paul Stevens and, less often, on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Both are stalwarts of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing.
In the immediate future, Stevens is more likely to go. He’s served on the court since 1975, turns 90 in April, and is said to be visibly slowed. Perhaps the best sign of his intentions is the fact that he’s hired only one clerk for next year—the ration allowed to retired justices, whereas active justices get four.
Ginsburg, 77 this month, is less likely to step down right now. Although she’s been treated twice for cancer, she apparently enjoys her work and is in no rush to quit. One scenario suggested has her staying through the court’s current term and the next one, then leaving well before the 2012 presidential election so as to make sure it’s Obama, not somebody else, who nominates her successor.
If Obama does get to make new picks for the Supreme Court, it goes without saying that he will pick liberals. It’s a bit soon to be absolutely certain, yet already it seems reasonably clear, that his 2009 choice, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, falls in that category. We should know more about that before the present term ends in June.
Sotomayor replaced David Souter—a liberal for a liberal, it appears. If new Obama nominees replace Stevens and Ginsburg, it will be liberals replacing liberals again. This is to say that the president will have made the court younger than it was when he came to office but, up to that point at least, will left it ideologically unchanged.
To be sure, words like “liberal” and “conservative” often prove not to be comfortable fits for labeling Supreme Court justices. Bearing that in mind, however, it’s not unfair to say that, as presently constituted, the court breaks down 4-4-1—four conservatives, four liberals, and one swing vote.
The conservatives are Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. The liberals are Stevens, Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and, apparently, Sotomayor. The swing voter is Anthony Kennedy. It is a remarkable and unprecedented fact that six of these—Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kennedy—are Catholics. But, as their voting records suggest, religion has no visible bearing on how they decide cases.
The ideological makeup of the Supreme Court does, however, have a very strong bearing on the way it’s likely to deal with social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. As matters now stand, the four liberals are solid votes in favor of legalized abortion and the four conservatives are no less solidly in favor of at least some restrictions on the practice. The justices have not been tested on same-sex marriage but would probably split the same way on that question.
This leaves Kennedy. He’s a supporter of the 1973 abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, but in 2007 wrote the majority opinion upholding the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. As for same-sex marriage, in 2003 he wrote the court’s opinion striking down state anti-sodomy laws yet at the same time offered the improbable assertion that the ruling wasn’t relevant to the marriage question.Like the flowing river of ancient Greek philosophy, the Supreme Court is always the same and always changing. Keep your eye out for what floats by next.
Considering the fact that my last two posts here focused on Catholic social teaching, social justice and American poverty, it would be a little like ignoring the elephant in the room if I didn't at least address the recent controversy caused by conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck, who urged Christians to leave their churches if the words "social justice" or "economic justice" are part of the teaching.
It makes for some great headlines, doesn't it? But the reality is the outrageous rhetoric -- that social justice is code for Communist and Nazi ideas and ideals -- doesn't hold up and all of us know it. Most of us on the streets probably just rolled our eyes when we heard the reports. There they go again. But some Christian leaders are urging their people to turn the tables and walk away from Glenn Beck instead, according to a story on The Caucus, the political blog of The New York Times.
From the Times:
"This week, the Rev. Jim Wallis, a liberal evangelical leader in Washington, D.C., called on Christians to leave Glenn Beck.
“'What he has said attacks the very heart of our Christian faith, and Christians should no longer watch his show,' Mr. Wallis, who heads the antipoverty group Sojourners, wrote on his 'God’s Politics' blog. 'His show should now be in the same category as Howard Stern.'
"Mr. Beck, in vilifying churches that promote 'social justice,' managed to insult just about every mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, African-American, Hispanic and Asian congregation in the country — not to mention plenty of evangelical ones."
Social justice is at the heart of Christian teaching. It's the heart of what Jesus taught us. Is it radical? It can be. Then again, Jesus is radical in every way, starting with the fact that he is God Incarnate. Doesn't get more radical than that. The fact that he asked us to take care of our poorer brothers and sisters really isn't so off the charts in comparison.
We are called to make sure that those who are poor and oppressed, hungry and isolated do not fall through the cracks of society, that they get to live with dignity and justice. Jesus said that people would know we are his disciples by how we love one another. Love is not just a pretty word for greeting cards. Love is charity. So rather than run from social justice in fear, we should run toward it, embrace it and renew our efforts to bring it to all God's people. "If you want peace, work for justice," Pope Paul VI once. Amen to that.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
I will never forget the first time I looked real poverty in the eyes. I was a young reporter for Catholic New York newspaper. Having grown up in a lovely home in a suburban town north of New York City, I had been lucky enough not only to avoid poverty in my own life but to avoid even the slightest brush with it in anyone else’s life. Catholic New York changed all that for me. Week after week, as we covered the stories of real people in need throughout Manhattan and the Bronx and Staten Island and the upper counties of the archdiocese, I would walk into one desperate situation after another and realize how different the world was from what I had first imagined.
Some people, some poverty still stands out in my mind. The young single mother who was living in a welfare hotel too disgusting for words. A single electric burner for cooking. Garbage on every side. A little boy crawling around on a filthy floor in one room with no running water, little light and even less hope. The soup kitchen not that far from my suburban home where good people braved not so good neighborhoods to serve a healthy and hearty breakfast to families that would otherwise go hungry all day. The children of migrant farm workers who played all day in buildings not fit to serve as chicken coops but that they had to call home for many months out of the year before they packed up to go to an equally abhorrent place in some other farming region. There, beside fields of endless green, two religious sisters struggled every day to give those children something to hold onto while they waited for nightfall when their parents would return.
It was that migrant farm labor camp that came to mind when I saw the exhibit by AmericanPoverty.org at the New York State Catholic Conference's annual Public Policy Day in Albany, N.Y. this week. Sponsored by Catholic Charities USA, the traveling exhibit tries to give Americans a glimpse of the kind of poverty I saw as a young reporter, the kind of poverty that most of us miss because we are lucky enough to have decent jobs and good homes and food on our table, the kind of poverty that we cannot imagine but that haunts us once we see it in the eyes of a hungry child or desperate mother.
AmericanPoverty.org is a project of In Our Own Backyard, an organization of photojournalists committed to raising awareness of and alleviating poverty in the United States. (The photo by Brenda Ann Kenneally at the top of this post is part of a photo essay on "Children of the the Gulf.") The photos are heart-wrenching reminders of what exists often just around the corner from us. Go visit the site HERE and check out the exhibit schedule, which includes Nashville, Cleveland and Chicago in the coming weeks.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Tracing the roots and development of Catholic social teaching from the Old Testament to the present, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan laid out six "pillars" of Catholic social justice for Catholic New Yorkers attending the annual statewide Public Policy Day in Albany today:
1. God comes first. "His ways, His law have dominion."
2. The innate dignity of every individual human person. Every man and woman is made in the image and likeness of God and has an "eternal destiny" and a "divine character."
3. The common good is always normative. "We are never in it just for myself but for ourselves."
4. Solidarity. "We are members of a family, and we have a special duty to the poor among us."
5. Subsidiarity. "One of the geniuses of Catholic social teaching is the closer you are to the grassroots, the better you are."
6. Supreme duty to bring values, God's truth and our principles into the public square. There can be no "cleavage" between what we believe and how we act.
The archbishop made his comments during a workshop at the event sponsored by the New York State Catholic Conference. Some 1,200 Catholics converged on the state capital today to meet with legislators, participate in workshops on specific issues and attend a Mass with all the bishops of the state. A number of key legislative issues were on the agenda: abortion legislation that threatens to make abortion a "fundamental right" in New York; cuts to the Maternity and Early Childhood Development Foundation, a program that helps young mothers in crisis pregnancies; Catholic education and $243 million the state owes Catholic schools for mandated services; and cuts to service programs that could devastate the poor in particular, especially immigrants and those recently incarcerated.
"We are never going to give up on that prophetic role of speaking up for the poor and for those who don't have a voice," Archbishop Dolan said during a press conference. Later, during his homily at the Mass, he recalled the motto of Pope John Paul II, Totus Tuus, "All yours," and said that Catholics must "hold nothing back" in service to God and His people.
"When there are those who say that people of faith, people of religion, people of the Church, should mind their own business. We say, 'Politics is our business,'" he said to applause. "...When people say morality and religion and faith and ethics don't go with politics, we say, 'They go together as naturally as a hot dog and a bun.'"
Monday, March 8, 2010
In a story in the New York Times, a self-described "Jewish kid from Queens" has become a leading advocate on behalf of Pope Pius XII in the long-running debate over that pope's actions during the Holocaust. Gary L. Krupp, a retired medical equipment dealer living on Long Island, N.Y., has now made it his mission to convince the world that Pius XII, who was declared venerable in December, did, in fact, do all that he could to save Jewish lives.
"“Believe me, I never dreamed I would be defending a man who, when I was growing up, we believed he was a Nazi sympathizer,” Krupp says in the Times story.
Being a Jewish fan of Pope Pius XII isn't Krupp's only unlikely Catholic connection. He is also one of only seven Jewish papal knights in history. He was dubbed a knight by Pope John Paul II in 2000 for his efforts to collect $12 million worth of medical equipment from American manufacturers for an Italian hospital.
From the New York Times story:
"Being knighted thrust Mr. Krupp into the ranks of some of the world’s richest and most prominent people, living and dead — Bob Hope and Rupert Murdoch included — who received the knighthood of St. Gregory the Great for serving the church in some way. Unlike the vast majority of them, however, Mr. Krupp said he saw his elevation as an opportunity to become a conduit between the Catholic Church and the world. In 2005, he brokered an agreement with the Vatican Library to lend a rare set of manuscripts by the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides to the Israel Museum. And gradually he decided he liked promoting interreligious understanding more than he liked selling medical equipment.Read the full story HERE.
"His Pave the Way Foundation became a full-time occupation in 2005, around the time a friend at the Vatican suggested that he might help clear up misunderstandings between Catholics and Jews about Pius. Mr. Krupp began collecting and underwriting research.
“'Did you know Pius XII saved more than 860,000 Jews from the death camps? I mean, I never knew that before. It’s character assassination — a shanda — that so many Jews say he was an anti-Semite,' said Mr. Krupp, using a Yiddish word for disgrace."
Every semester for nearly 25 years, Raymond Dennehy has stood in front of a mostly hostile group of hundreds of students at the University of California, Berkeley, and made a calm, logical case that abortion is the killing of an innocent human being.
It's unclear how many — if any — students walk into the lecture hall pro-choice and leave pro-life. But on a college campus that may be among the least reflective about the pro-choice position, Dennehy has clearly challenged assumptions and unsettled settled minds.
Dennehy is a philosophy professor at the Jesuit-led University of San Francisco and author of "Anti-Abortionist at Large: How to Argue Abortion Intelligently and Live to Tell about It." [Disclosure: Dennehy was a professor of mine — one of my favorites.]
His most recent visit to Berkeley was reported by the Los Angeles Times in a front page article. Here's a snippet.
Dennehy was unwavering. A woman can abort a fetus only to save her own life. [See addendum at end of this post.] In all other cases, even rape, abortion is tantamount to murder.
"Have you ever been raped or been pregnant?" a young woman demanded.
You could almost see Dennehy rolling his eyes.
"Suppose I said yes," he said, unable to keep a slight snippiness out of his voice. "What's your next move?"
"I was just curious how your opinion would have changed if you were in that situation."
"What has that got to do with the validity of my argument?"
Her gambit failed; now she was on the defensive: "It's just a question."
"There are only two issues in an argument, miss," Dennehy said. "The facts, and the conclusions you draw from the facts.
"When we teach logic, that common fallacy is one of the first things we teach: shifting the attention of the argument and the evidence to the person arguing. It's absolutely irrelevant."
Potts sat attentively; students shifted a bit in their seats. If students thought Dennehy was going to play the avuncular, patient professor, they were wrong.
Read the entire thing here.
Addendum: From Ray Dennehy: "The journalist does a great job, but inadvertently misrepresents me by writing that I approve of abortion to save the mother's life. I approve only of indirect abortion, e.g., cancerous uterus, ectopic pregnancy, etc."
Friday, March 5, 2010
For those of you who have put down your beer mugs and wine glasses in the spirit of the Lenten season, you may want to rethink that plan. Turns out some 17th century monks in Germany came up with a super potent, super dark, super nutritious brew specifically for this season of fasting when they had to forego food. If you can't eat a meal, then drink one was sort of their motto. And their creation is celebrated to this day during "strong beer season," known as the Starkbier Festival, which starts today in Munich and lasts until the day before Palm Sunday, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.
From the WSJ story:
"During Starkbierzeit, Muncheners sip earthenware steins of the dark, formidable suds to ward off winter's lingering chill—strong beer was originally concocted by 17th-century monks who drank it in place of solid food during Lent. The locals still call it their 'health tonic,' and, keeping with tradition, celebrate and imbibe it during these late-winter weeks.
"...Starkbier is actually a doppelbock, or double bock beer, which is heavy on malt. It was first brewed by way of a religious loophole of sorts: In the mid 1600s at Munich's Neudeck ob der Au monastery, Paulaner monks concocted a beverage to sustain them through the Lent fast. They were forbidden to eat solid foods, but liquids were deemed acceptable. So they brewed the strongest, most nourishing beer they could come up with.
"The Paulaner monks, followers of St. Francis who derived their name from the Italian holy man's hometown of Paola, originally called their tonic 'blessed father's beer' and 'holy oil of St. Francis,' before settling on the simpler Latin moniker for savior, 'Salvator.' The name remains today as the Paulaner brewery's star starkbier, and as an homage, other strong beer brewers use the '-ator' suffix with their products."
Read the full story HERE. h/t Ed Mechmann at Catholic Varia.
By Msgr. Owen F. Campion
A man told me that just after World War II, he refused a very attractive job offer in Atlanta because there were too few Catholics in the area. He would feel out of place, he said.
Only in 1956 did Atlanta become the center of a diocese serving north Georgia. When Blessed Pope John XXIII named Atlanta an archdiocese in 1962, plenty of people who follow such developments questioned that move, since Atlanta was home to so few Catholics.
It has changed. The number of Catholics throughout the South and Southwest has surged. Since 1962, 22 new dioceses have come into being in the South, among them Brownsville, Texas, in 1965, Orlando and St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1968, Memphis, Tenn., in 1970, Biloxi, Miss., Houma-Thibodaux, La., in 1977, Knoxville, Tenn., in 1988, and Laredo, Texas, in 2000.
Four new provinces were founded: Miami in 1968; Oklahoma City in 1972; Mobile, Ala., in 1980; and Galveston-Houston in 2004.
Dozens upon dozens of parishes and many Catholic schools have been established. New parishes far outnumber older parishes that have been closed. Vocations, while not what they were 50 years ago, almost everywhere are up at a fairly good pace.
Certainly, strongly contributing to all this growth has been the migration of Catholics from other parts of the United States into the South and Southwest, along with the coming of many Catholics from Latin America and elsewhere.
However, to account for the growth only in terms of movement of Catholics into the area misses the bigger picture.
Conversions to Catholicism are an important element in the growth. Every Lent, the Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults is under way. It is easy to track the numbers.
Last year, 2,082 joined the Church in the two Virginia dioceses with 662,000 Catholics on record. In Georgia, 1,559 entered the Church, where the overall Catholic number is 831,000. This year, Atlanta will welcome more than 2,000 new Catholics into the Church.
In the three Tennessee dioceses, 1,110 became Catholics, with a total Catholic population of 214,500. In Arkansas, 698 joined the Church to make a total population of 121,748. Mississippi’s two dioceses had 1,254 converts, and a total of 108,342 Catholics.
This is the important point. Adult conversions in the South and Southwest are at a much better rate per capita than in some places in which the Church is more entrenched.
Why? Associating with an institutional religion still is very important in the South and Southwest. True, a number of Catholics, and many Protestants, are inactive, but churchgoing still is an ideal. Churches and traditional religious values are highly regarded.
Being a minority, except in Louisiana and parts of Texas, also may have an effect on Catholics. They have to explain their beliefs.
In the process, many convince themselves of the truth of Church teachings, but also of the value of living strongly Catholic lives.
In many places, Catholic schools and hospitals have set, and still set, a marvelous example of genuine Christian caring.
In addition, many Catholic newcomers, from other places in America or beyond, deeply within themselves find in Catholic churches something familiar and reassuring.
Still, there are clouds among the sunbeams. Many Catholics coming to these places simply forsake the faith or become lax in practice.
It prompts the question of what religion actually means. Why is it important? Why is being part of the Catholic Church important? What are the alternatives?
Thursday, March 4, 2010
OSV contributing editor Emily Stimpson reports this week on a study released last month by the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova School of Business in Villanova, Pa.
According to the study, the vast majority of parishes included in the study have woefully inadequate sites. Although most do pretty well at the basics — 96 percent list parish Mass times and 75 percent offer a link to the Sunday bulletin — few take advantage of the types of Web technology most Americans have come to expect.
For example, only 12 percent post sacramental forms on their website, and only 2 percent provide interactive forms that can be submitted online. Similarly, only 14 percent allow parishioners to sign up for events via the Web, while just over a third allow people to register at the parish online. Barely half of the parishes even have a calendar of events online.
Even fewer parishes have embraced what’s now commonly referred to as Web 2.0 — the types of interactive technology of which Pope Benedict spoke — with only 10 percent of the parishes featuring blogs and only 8 percent offering podcasts. Online Bible studies and links to good Catholic content on the Web are almost equally rare.
To Catholics of a certain age, those statistics might not seem all that troubling. But according to Eugene Gan, communications professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, they spell big trouble for the Church when it comes to young people.
“This generation expects a two-way street,” he said. “They expect interactivity. They’re not just looking for information, but also wanting to give feedback. They want to dialogue.”
Charles Zech, who directs the Center for the Study of Church Management and headed up the study, agreed.
“As a Church, we need to be concerned,” he said. “Things that most Catholics under age 40 take for granted can’t be found on parish websites. We’re not doing all we can to connect with them, and that’s a problem.”
Read the entire thing here, Don't miss the end of the article's detailed list of dos and don'ts in creating parish websites.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
By Mary DeTurris Poust
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver spoke recently on "The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life," which is not surprising news except for the fact that this talk was at Houston Baptist University in Texas. In his introduction, the archbishop noted the fact that a Catholic bishop speaking at Baptist college in America's "Protestant heartland" might seem unusual but that he was welcomed more warmly there than he might have been at "a number of Catholic venues."
Starting off with a few "caveats" -- that he was speaking for himself and not the pope or U.S. bishops, that Catholics and Protestants have "different memories" of history, that as much as he loves his country, his faith is first and foremost -- he dove into the idea that "real Christian faith is always personal, but it's never private."
If you have some time, watch the YouTube clip of his talk. It's long, but you can fast forward past the first seven minutes to get right to the archbishop's address.
1. How fasting fuels spiritual growth, charity
2. Anger: Why do we blow our tops about the wrong things?
3. What to make of Pope John Paul II's self-flagellation
4. U.S. deacon recounts miraculous survival of Haiti quake
5. In Focus: How hooking up hijacks youths' happiness
6. Lenten challenge: Turn off, tune out and listen
7. Editorial: The case for abstinence education
8. Editorial: Lent 2010: Do we really have to get more penitential?
9. Ranger Rosary ministry connects soldiers to their faith
10. Pope Benedict's guide to 'exiting the illusion of self-sufficiency'
Monday, March 1, 2010
When I was young, I used to argue with my mother that making me eat pizza or shrimp or fried flounder on a Friday during Lent wasn't exactly a sacrifice. I hated meat, so it was really a bonus to be guaranteed meat-free Fridays for a few weeks a year. All these years later, not much has changed. I'm a vegetarian, so if I want to live by the letter of the law, I don't have to do a thing differently during Lent. But that's not what this is all about, is it? So in our house, we don't eat seafood either on Fridays during Lent (to accommodate the non-meat eaters who still need to sacrifice) and I eat vegan on Fridays, meaning no dairy, eggs, butter or any products that come from animals (as it used to be back in the old days and still is in the Orthodox church).
I learned of a canon lawyer recently who explained that the law really says you can't eat "flesh," so it would be okay to eat chicken soup if you picked out the pieces of chicken or to eat beef gravy on your mashed potatoes as long as you didn't actually sink your teeth into a piece of meat.
This is exactly what gives Lenten abstinence and fasting a bad name. When we get caught up in the letter of the law, in the loopholes that might allow us to slip something by the Lord, we miss the point of what this season is all about.
And that's why you have to read this column by Christopher Orlet on The Amercian Spectator. Orlet, who was raised on Friday fish sticks throughout Lent, takes issue with the fact that too many Catholics today use the no-meat rule to feast on lobster or oysters or gourmet pasta laden with salmon and accompanied by shrimp salad.
From Orlet's column:
"Even now there is no escape. Every Friday evening I somehow end up at the all-you-can-eat fish fry at our parish. Here in the Midwest, fish fries are both a traditional family outing and a cheap date night. Parishioners and non-parishioners alike indulge in greasy platters of deep-fried cod cut-ups, French fries, and gallons of draught Budweiser. (I fail to see how any of this counts as a Lenten sacrifice.) Still, I dutifully attend, if only for the camaraderie and because my girlfriend is the dessert lady. (How ironic that I, the least devout of all, should be the one making the greatest sacrifice.)
"I got a reprieve last Friday when I was invited to dinner at my brother's house. My brother is something of a gourmet (doubtless a reaction to all those fishsticks); he prepared a lovely salmon pasta with San Francisco vinaigrette, a shrimp salad and copious amounts of cabernet sauvignon, and strawberry cheesecake dessert. Here was a meal fit for king. Again, I ask: where's the sacrifice?
"I know good Christian people who spend meatless Fridays at a local Cajun restaurant gorging on Acadian crawfish etouffee, lobster pie, and Oysters Rockefeller, all washed down with an expensive Beaujolais Nouveau. They may not be violating the letter of the law, but its spirit is being violated. As my younger brother -- who also dislikes seafood -- says, the Friday meal should be limited to stale bread and tap water, or just forget the whole thing. At the very least, everyone should have to eat fish sticks."
It's serious food for thought as we journey through Lent, scanning the grocery store for sales on shrimp or scallops or heading out to one of those fried fish fry feasts that can be found in firehouses and parish halls and local pubs. It's not about getting around the rules. It's about making a sacrifice that actually feels like a sacrifice.
Read Orlet's full column HERE, and then tell us in the comment section how you handle Friday meals during Lent.
From the story:
"There was no chance that the Very Rev. Glenn Dion would change the time of his 12:30 Sunday Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral, a couple of blocks from the site of Sunday’s Olympic gold medal hockey game between Canada and the United States.
"Well aware of the game’s 12:15 start time, Father Dion said: 'We have seven Masses on Sunday, and we don’t cancel any of them. Not even for a hockey game.'
"Then he made a confession. The 11 o’clock Mass would be shorter than usual, he told a full congregation, some wearing Team Canada clothes and one boy wrapped in a Canadian flag.
“'I’ll try to get you out of here so you can get yourself in front of a TV,' Father Dion said, before offering a prayer for 'the good fellows soon to start playing for the gold.'”
Later in the story Father Dion lightheartedly talks about how Canada's elevation of hockey to a near-religion parallels the faith life of Catholics:
"Father Dion did not blanch at the suggestion that hockey is religion in Canada. Rather, he detailed the natural congruencies: both are ingrained from a young age, passed among generations, studied and practiced reverently and — in the case of the Catholic parish, at least — have a box where sinners sit in penance."
Read the full story HERE.