Monday, October 31, 2011
There’s a widespread impression that the international financial system which the United States and its friends put in place after World War II is breaking down. The old system may of course be patched up and limp along for some time to come, but sooner or later something else will take its place. What that will be no one now knows.
Against this background, it’s a pity that the Vatican's friends and foes hastened to all but torpedo its new statement on international financial reform right at the start. Issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace with an eye on an economic summit of world leaders, the Holy See’s proposals deserve a lot better than that.
For my money, the best one-paragraph explanation of the Vatican’s initiative was provided by The New York Times: “The document grows out of the Roman Catholic Church’s concerns about economic instability and widening inequality of income and wealth around the world, issues that transcend the power of national governments to address on their own.” With the possible exception of people nostalgic for the protectionism of the 1930s Smoot-Hawley Act, it would be difficult to find any sane person who takes exception to that.
The friends and foes of the document nevertheless seemed to go out of their way to undermine it by likening it in some way to the Occupy Wall Street movement. On the face of it, this was more than slightly absurd.
Occupy Wall Street is after all an amorphous, leftwing gaggle whose most notable feature up to now has been its lack of any clear program. By contrast, the Catholic Church has been developing a body of social teaching since the days of Pope Leo XIII in the late 19th century and continuing through Benedict XVI. The result by now is a well articulated and sophisticated set of principles addressing social and economic issues.
Still, what really produced “hyperventilation” (Bill Donohue’s word) among critics of the Vatican statement was undoubtedly its advocacy of a “global public authority” as a key component of a new international system committed to the common good.
It is not a new idea. Popes including Benedict XVI have been suggesting the same thing for several decades. And although it appears to conjure up images of the proverbial black helicopters among some, it should be borne in mind that the statement says the supranational authority it has in mind should be “set up gradually,” should be friendly to “free and stable markets,” “cannot be imposed by force,” and must arise from a “maturation of consciences” after extensive consultation. There is no suggestion in the document that the Pontifical Council imagines this will happen either soon or easily.
Perhaps the strongest argument for something of the sort is the process of globalization that is already such a marked feature of the contemporary world. Years ago, globalization fans like Thomas Friedman were touting its advent as something very like a panacea. In a day and age when the threat of a possible Greek default can rattle markets around the globe, however, it should be abundantly clear that globalization has minuses as well pluses. Here is a truism sufficient in itself to underline the need for some kind of global monitor — a “supranational public authority” in fact — with scope and outreach comparable to globalization itself.
The Holy See’s document is an invitation to a conversation, not a final word. The foes and friends have done their worst. Now let the conversation begin.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
By Mary DeTurris Poust
Having come of age in the years after Vatican II, I never knew the Catholic Mass in Latin. In fact, the only version I know is the one that's been celebrated for the past 40 years. So I didn't take too kindly to the idea that the words and responses of the Mass would be changing, and I'd have to look at a written guide to get me through the prayers that have rolled off my tongue since childhood.
The impending changes to the English translation of the universal Roman Missal have sparked controversy among Catholics, to be sure. Some wonder why we need a new translation when the old one seemed to be working just fine. They see the new language--which brings the English more closely in line with the original Latin--as a return to a harsher time, a past that no longer fits our modern way of thinking. Others see the changes as a long time coming, a correction of a translation that was always slightly "off." Whatever side of the fence you're on, the changes are less than one month away. It's time to adapt and move forward. The new translation of the Roman Missal will go into effect on the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, which is the beginning of the Church year for Catholics.
So what will these changes mean for you? They will probably feel somewhat strange at first, and no doubt there will be some things that may never feel right. I'm not going to try to convince anyone that referring to Jesus as "consubstantial with the Father" in the Nicene Creed where we once had the almost-lilting "one in being with the Father" is ever going to feel normal, let alone be an improvement. But, if we approach the changes with an open mind and, more importantly, an open heart, we just might find our connection to the Mass reinvigorated for the first time in years, something Catholics in this country could sorely use.
Here are four basic guidelines for making the new Mass your own:
Get to know the Scriptural references behind some of the changes. When I first heard that the short prayer said before Communion was changing, I balked. Continue reading HERE.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
By Mary DeTurris Poust
I rarely go to the movies and almost never with my husband, Dennis, but last weekend I decided we were going to find the time -- make the time -- to see The Way with Martin Sheen. In recent years, pilgrimage has become an important part of my spiritual journey. And not just because I finally got the chance to go to Rome last year. Nope. In fact, my focus on pilgrimage began long before I'd ever renewed my passport, and that, as it turns out, is as it should be. We are all on a pilgrimage, whether we walk the 800 kilometers of the famed Camino de Santiago de Compostela, or never get past our neighborhood church.
Here's how I put it in the pilgrimage section of my latest book, The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass:
"When we think of pilgrimage, it's likely we imagine a journey to some far-off land. It's true that a pilgrimage in the traditional sense is a long journey, but our entire lives are meant to be a pilgrimage -- both physical and spiritual -- leading us ever closer to God.
"...The goal of pilgrimage is not to reach a physical destination but rather a spiritual one. Without leaving home, we can make a pilgrimage of the heart, an interior journey where we hope to meet God. Through our various methods of prayer -- vocal and silent, communal and private -- we make this pilgrimage with countless others around the world. We simply have to look at our very lives as pilgrim journeys, guided by the Spirit, our destination being the heart of God. It's a pilgrimage that often takes the better part of a lifetime."
Where are you now on your pilgrim journey? Perhaps an actual, physical pilgrimage might jump start things. You don't have to travel to France and Spain a la Martin Sheen's character to begin. A pilgrimage can be as simple as a visit to a new or historic church in your area, a shrine you've always wanted to see, the birthplace of a saint, or any other sacred place that leads you deeper into prayer. For me, I felt the first strong stirrings of pilgrimage when I went to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs (which you can read about HERE and HERE) a few years ago. As I camped in a tent on the beautiful grounds with my son's Boy Scout troop, I began to realize the significance of walking in sacred footsteps, of joining other believers in a literal journey toward holiness.
In the movie The Way, we get a wonderful up-close view of what the Camino is like. I certainly came away from it with a new appreciation for the courage and determination of those who undertake this level of pilgrimage. It is not for the feint of heart. And yet I know two people who have made this journey, and, in the back of my mind, I wonder if, perhaps, some day I will walk the Camino, either on my own or with Dennis or one of our children. Even seeing the rigorous terrain, the often-crowded sleeping conditions, and the many difficulties of the Way was not enough to make me cross the possibility off my list of potential pilgrim journeys. Quite the contrary. Seeing the film reminded me that pilgrimage is about leaving our comfort zones. Yes, physical comfort zones but also spiritual comfort zones. Pilgrimage -- as we see through the central characters of The Way -- is about looking at things we want to ignore, seeing in others what we've never seen before, exploring uncharted territory in our own hearts, healing our brokenness, finding our Truth...Continue reading HERE.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
From a story in the New York Times:
With this far-reaching anti-abortion strategy, the proponents of what they call personhood amendments hope to reshape the national debate.
“I view it as transformative,” said Brad Prewitt, a lawyer and executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, which is named for the Mississippi proposition. “Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.”
The amendment faces some unlikely opposition, however. In Mississippi, and in other states where similar amendments are pending, local bishops and National Right to Life have expressed reservations about the strategy, even if they are sympathetic to the overall goal. They say the "personhood" amendment could backfire on the pro-life movement by forcing the U.S. Supreme Court to take dramatic action, thereby undoing the slow but steady chipping away of abortion rights over recent years.
More from the Times story:
But many leaders of the anti-abortion movement fear that the strategy will be counterproductive. Federal courts would almost surely declare the amendment unconstitutional, said James Bopp Jr., a prominent conservative lawyer from Terre Haute, Ind., and general counsel of National Right to Life, since it contradicts a woman’s current right to an abortion in the early weeks of pregnancy.
“From the standpoint of protecting unborn lives it’s utterly futile,” he said, “and it has the grave risk that if it did get to the Supreme Court, the court would write an even more extreme abortion policy.”
Bishop Joseph Latino of Jackson, Miss., said in a statement last week that the Roman Catholic Church does not support Proposition 26 because “the push for a state amendment could ultimately harm our efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade.”
Conservative Christian groups including the American Family Association and the Family Research Council are firmly behind the proposal.
So what's your take on this strategy? Is it potentially harmful to the movement or a necessary step in recognizing the humanity of the unborn?
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
We are slowly losing our sense of religious liberty in America.
There is much evidence to suggest that our society no longer values the public role of religion or recognizes the importance of religious freedom as a basic right. As scholars like Harvard’s Mary Ann Glendon and Michael Sandel have observed, our courts and government agencies increasingly treat the right to hold and express religious beliefs as only one of many private lifestyle options. And, they observe, this right is often “trumped” in the face of challenges from competing rights or interests deemed to be more important.
These are among the reasons the U.S. Catholic bishops recently established a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. My brother bishops and I are deeply concerned that believers’ liberties—and the Church’s freedom to carry out her mission—are threatened today, as they never have been before in our country’s history.
Catholics have always believed that we serve our country best as citizens when we are trying to be totally faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church. And since before the founding of the American Republic, Catholics—individually and institutionally—have worked with government agencies at all levels to provide vital social services, education, and health care.
But lately, this is becoming harder and harder for us to do....Continue reading HERE.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
On his blog, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York gets to the heart of the matter. Here's the archbishop's blog post in its entirety:
"I am grateful to the New York Daily News for their editorial in today’s paper that chastises Susan Sarandon, because she “defamed” our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, with her “grotesque characterization” that he is a Nazi. The Daily News also correctly notes that she did this because, “it is clear, she despises the church’s moral teachings.”
"Here is the editorial from the Daily News:
Fresh from rallying the troops at Occupy Wall Street, actress Susan Sarandon defamed Pope Benedict, spiritual leader of the world’s 1 billion Catholics, as a “Nazi.”
She did it twice, in fact, persisting in the grotesque characterization even after an interviewer chided her for making such a remark. Sarandon meant what she said because, it is clear, she despises the church’s moral teachings.
And that, for her, justifies placing the Pope in the category of a mass-murdering perpetrator of evil beyond description.
His short-lived membership as a teen in the Hitler Youth, recognized by Jewish leaders as a mandate of German society at the time, is but a pretext for Sarandon’s slander.
The Catholic League and the Anti-Defamation League united in condemnation. The world now awaits the sort of outcry that greeted Hank Williams after he mentioned the name of Adolf Hitler inartfully close to that of President Obama.
Williams was fired from his gig belting out the “Monday Night Football” song. Doubtless Sarandon faces no such opprobrium because so very often the Catholic Church is considered fair game for anything.
"I am grateful as well for the comments made by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and the Anti-Defamation League, the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism, for their comments condemning Sarandon’s hateful remarks.
"Sadly, the Daily News is also probably right that Sarandon will face no public fall-out for her remarks, “because so very often the Catholic Church is considered fair game for anything.”
"However, with support from the Daily News, the Catholic League and the ADL, we might one day be able to turn that tide."
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
A couple of weeks ago, I experienced something at Mass that I'd never seen or heard before in my almost half-century of life as a Catholic. My family was sitting up in the second or third row, our usual spot in our very large suburban parish. Starting at the Eucharistic prayer and lasting through the Sign of Peace, a baby somewhere toward the back half of the church was screaming. I'm not talking fussing and cooing or even an occasional bout of serious crying. I'm talking full-out, top-of-his-lungs, screaming bloody murder. I'm not sure how the priest was even able to concentrate on the words he was saying. Well, actually, he obviously wasn't able to concentrate, and that's where things get interesting.
About halfway through the Eucharistic prayer, the priest simply stopped and stared in the direction of the screaming for what felt like an hour but was probably about 15 seconds. It was pretty clear to those of us in the front that he was being pushed to his limit. This priest (who is not the pastor) is a peaceful, kind, loving, compassionate guy, a really good priest. Anyway, the parents of this baby did not take the hint, so the screaming continued right along with the rest of the Eucharistic prayer and into the Our Father. At that point the priest grimaced and stood by silently as the rest of us continued to pray.
I leaned over to my husband and said, "I think father is going to lose it." And that was just about when he did. As we approached the Sign of Peace, he stopped again and pleaded with them amid the screaming: "Will you please take the baby out of the church? Please?" Talk about an awkward moment. I couldn't see what was going on behind me but I felt myself holding my breath as I waited to see what happened next. I guess the family finally got the message and headed out to the Gathering Space, or, more likely, out of the church. Perhaps for good.
I heard reports that there were many phone calls and emails to the parish in the days to come, but I also heard the same comment repeated to me by several people regarding the offending parents: "At least they were there."
Well, okay, let's start with that. I remember those days of crying babies. I've been there three different times, armed with board books about the saints and the occasional bag of Cheerios. We've stood in the back with a fussy infant. We've listened to the homily over the sound system while chasing a rambunctious toddler around the Gathering Space. We've questioned whether there was a point to our attending at all when we seemed to hear so little of the Mass. But we always, always stepped outside when the fussing became a distraction to the people around us.
Why, then, in recent years, have we taken this "at least they were there" attitude for everything from screaming babies, to inappropriate dress, to kids playing video games in the pews, to people walking up to Communion chewing gum? Do we honestly think that by expecting the bare minimum from people in terms of respect for the Mass and for others we'll hold onto them for a little while longer? Is this the way to bring people to Jesus, by asking nothing of them, not even common courtesy?
Think about it: If you were in a nice restaurant with your family, enjoying an expensive dinner, chances are you'd be a bit miffed by a couple with a screaming baby at the next table. At least if they didn't get up and try to rectify the situation. Or, if you were at a movie theater catching the latest animated feature with your kids and the folks behind you let their toddler scream through the showing, you probably wouldn't think: Well, at least they were there. More likely, you'd wonder how anyone could be so self-absorbed that they would think it was acceptable to ruin an experience for everyone else simply because they didn't feel like inconveniencing themselves.
I'm not saying it was necessarily the right thing to do, to call people out from the altar and ask them leave, but excusing people for all their bad behaviors at church has gotten us nowhere. All that does is breed even more disrespect for the Mass, for the Eucharist, for the parish community. If anything goes, soon nobody goes -- because who wants to belong to something that doesn't stand for anything or that doesn't respect itself enough to demand things of its members. Sometimes things worth our time and effort come with rules and expectations. Mass should be one of them.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Roman Catholic bishop of Kansas City, Robert Finn, and the diocese he leads have been indicted by a county grand jury on a charge of failure to report suspected child abuse in the case of a priest who had been accused of taking lewd photographs of young girls.Read the full story HERE.
The indictment is the first ever of a Catholic bishop in the 25 years since the scandal over sexual abuse by priests first became public in the United States.
Bishop Finn is accused of covering up abuse that occurred as recently as last year — almost 10 years since the nation’s Catholic bishops passed a charter pledging to report suspected abusers to law enforcement authorities.The bishop has acknowledged that he knew of the existence of the photos last December but did not turn them over to the police until May.
The indictment was announced on Friday by the Jackson County prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker. It had been under seal since Oct. 6 because the bishop was out of the country. He returned on Thursday.“This is about protecting children,” Ms. Baker said.
The bishop and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph were charged with one count each, a misdemeanor.
Bishop Finn appeared in court at 1 p.m. and pleaded not guilty, as did lawyers for the diocese.
Bishop Finn said in a statement, “We will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”
He said that he and the diocese had given “complete cooperation” to law enforcement. He also pointed to steps he had taken since the scandal first became public, which included commissioning a report to look into the case, and reinforcing procedures for handling allegations of abuse.
The priest accused of taking the lewd photos, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, was arrested in May and has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of taking indecent photographs of young girls, most recently during an Easter egg hunt last spring.
His case prompted a civil lawsuit filed in August that asserts that between December 2010 and May 2011, Father Ratigan attended children’s birthday parties, spent weekends in the homes of parish families, hosted the Easter egg hunt and presided, with the bishop’s permission, at a girl’s First Communion.
From Sister Mary Ann's post:
The USCCB program excelled because of its anytime-anywhere approach. It had extraordinary reach, something valued by people who work to free men, women and children from slavery. Because of USCCB’s organizational capacity, MRS could respond immediately. Should an Immigration Enforcement official find a vulnerable child, for example, a call to the MRS program got safe housing immediately. There was not the delay of weeks that one associates with programs that lack such a network.
The program worked well on the ground. but not so well for distant administrators promoting the abortion and contraceptive agenda, who bristle at the fact that in accord with church teaching, USCCB won’t facilitate taking innocent life, sterilization and artificial contraception. MRS anti-trafficking programs ran successfully for six years in harmony with these moral convictions until the American Civil Liberties Union brought suit against the government for not forcing the USCCB program to provide these services as a part of the program. The suit’s outcome is pending, but ORR apparently has made its own decision apart from any judgment of the court. So much for the Administration’s guarantee of conscience protection.
...Trafficking of human beings is one of the great modern-day scandals, but at least until now, the U.S. government sought to sincerely address the issue. It asked USCCB for help when regional programs weren’t reaching victims outside the usual hotspots for trafficking. USCCB created an extraordinary program in conjunction with several partners, Christian and secular, including Lutheran Family Services, Jewish Family Services, Salvation Army, YMCA affiliates, domestic violence shelters, World Relief and others. Only one-third of its subcontractors were Catholic-affiliated, but with the USCCB infrastructure they reached virtually everywhere in the USA.
Now ORR seems to have yielded to abortion politics. It has undercut a worthy program, limiting the numbers served, while increasing the time and money it will take to serve them.
Apparently HHS rules about the benefits of experience and cost effectiveness can be waived. So can rules about being fully operational by a certain date. What can’t be waived is the new, albeit unwritten rule of HHS, the ABC rule – Anybody But Catholics.
Read the full post HERE.
It's not too often that a journalist working for a Catholic newsweekly gets the chance to attend a glamorous event such as a movie premiere (what to wear??), but that's the position I find myself in today. And as a longtime movie buff, I'm very excited.
I'm in Philadelphia to represent OSV at the premiere of "The Mighty Macs," the story of the amazing Immaculata College (now University) women's basketball team, which won a few national titles in the early 1970s under the coaching of Hall of Famer Cathy Rush. The movie, written and directed by Catholic filmmaker Tim Chambers, stars Carla Gugino, David Boreanaz and Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn.
Philadelphia has been the scene of many great movies, including, of course, "Rocky." And like that scrappy underdog Rocky Balboa, the Immaculata players had to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to succeed. A key part of that success was the support of the sisters who run Immaculata.
Later today, I'll be attending a press conference with Rush, Chambers and a few original Mighty Mac players. Then it's red-carpet time with the movie's stars and Philadelphia VIPs, including Archbishop Charles Chaput. I just hope I'm not too starstruck to interview them!
Check out updates from the premiere on OSV's Twitter feed. Follow the #mightymacs hashtag.
Sarah Hayes is OSV's presentation editor.
Check it out, and see how you measure up:
Holy Trinity: The mystery of one God in Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Incarnation: When the Son of God assumed human nature and became man.
Transubstantiation: When, in the consecration of the bread and wine, there occurs the change of the entire substance of the bread into the Body of Christ, and the entire substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ.
Angel: A spiritual, personal and immortal creature, with intelligence and free will, who glorifies God without ceasing and who serves God as a messenger of his saving plan. Not a person who has died and gone to heaven.
Sanctifying grace: Grace that heals our wounded human nature by giving us a share in the divine life of the Trinity. A habitual and supernatural gift that perfects and makes us holy.
Actual grace: Temporary supernatural intervention by God to enlighten the mind or strengthen the will to perform supernatural actions that lead to heaven.
Sin: Any intentional thought, word, deed or omission that violates God’s law.
Original sin: The sin by which the first humans disobeyed God, resulting in the loss of original holiness. Also, the fallen state of human nature that affects every person.
Concupiscence: An inclination to sin, due to original sin, which remains even after baptism.
Mortal sin: Grave infraction of the law of God that destroys divine life (sanctifying grace) in the soul of the sinner. For sin to be mortal, it must involve grave matter, full knowledge of the evil of the act, and deliberate consent of the will.
Venial sin: Sin that diminishes and wounds but does not destroy the divine life (sanctifying grace) in the soul of the sinner.
Heaven: Complete and eternal happiness with God and all the blessed.
Purgatory: Temporary state after death whereby souls who die in a state of sanctifying grace are purified from sin and its effects and are made ready for eternal life with God.
Hell: State of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed; unending misery reserved for those who freely choose not to repent of mortal sin before death.
Doctrine: A revealed teaching of Christ that is irreversible.
Discipline: A man-made ordinance subject to change.
Immaculate Conception: The conception of the Virgin Mary, who through the anticipated merits won by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection, was preserved immune from original sin.
Adapted, with permission, from the Diocese of Harrisburg’s “Basic Catholic Vocabulary” list for new catechists.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
By Mary DeTurris Poust
If your house is anything like our house (and I’m kind of selfishly hoping it is), the noise hovers just below earsplitting. I’m not just referring to the usual kid noises—talking, singing, whistling, whining. I’m talking about noise that rises to a whole new level, driven higher and higher by a culture totally ill at ease with silence.
Think about what you hear during a typical one-hour period. Phone, TV, computer, doorbell, even washers and dryers that “sing” when the cycle is complete. If you take it a step further, you can find noise of an entirely different—but no less distracting—kind. Facebook, instant messaging, Twitter and other online communication may be silent on the surface but it is noise just the same.
Not long ago, when our family was uncharacteristically silent as we puttered around the kitchen making dinner and completing homework, my teenager blurted out: “Somebody say something. It’s too quiet.” Can it ever be too quiet? Our society would like us to think so. Like frantic symphony conductors, we are challenged to make the many different parts of our lives play all at once and in harmony, but mostly all we get from that is a lot of mental and spiritual dissonance.
I find I crave slowness and silence more with each passing year. I work at home, so I actually do get a heavy dose of silence on a regular basis. Other than the occasional phone call and my sporadic “conversations” with our two cats, I’m silent for about six hours a day, but it’s not the kind of silence that heals the soul and leaves me refreshed for whatever life throws my way. It helps, for sure, but healing silence comes only through extended periods of quiet and solitude.
Enter the silent retreat, something few of us get to experience nowadays but so worth the time it takes to drive to the monastery or retreat center. Because no matter how silent we may try to be at home now and then, nothing can prepare you for the deep but difficult work of real silence.
This is where we confront ourselves and many of the things we try to hide amid the noise of our daily lives. With no iPods or social networking, no televisions or telephones, we come face to face with our true selves, and, if we really make good use of our silent time through prayer, face to face with God.
From what I’ve experienced on silent retreat, I think of it as a kind of spiritual detox. First there’s denial, as in, why am I even here? I should go home and do the laundry and clean the bathrooms. Then the anger phase: What’s the point? I don’t hear God. I don’t think my prayers are working.
With each passing hour, however, things begin to shift. Walls go down and emotions surface. I begin to recognize how much I fear real silence and how easy it is to drown out the Spirit. It is not unusual, on silent retreat, to see people crying, apparently for no reason at all. Except when you’re on silent retreat, you know very well that there is a reason, or many reasons. By the time I leave, I am clinging to every last second of silence, already looking forward to the next time I can come back to a place that is so elusive no matter how hard I try to recreate it at home.
When I returned from my last retreat, my teenager—the same one who couldn’t bear a moment of silence—asked if he could come with me the next time I head to the Trappist abbey. Silence speaks volumes, it seems. It echoes in our words and actions, long after we’ve left it behind. Its scent lingers on us, giving others a taste of what’s possible when we listen, as St. Benedict taught, with the “ear of our heart.”
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The Catholic media world was rocked yesterday by the resignation en masse of the editors of Zenit, the international Church news agency based in Rome which publishes in seven languages to an email list of some 450,000 people. It followed the recent resignation of Zenit cofounder and chief editor Jesus Colina, citing differences with the agency's sponsor, the scandal-tarnished Legion of Christ.
OSV Newsweekly: The ZENIT editors, echoing Jesus Colina, say ZENIT was never intended to be identified with one congregation, but that the Legion recently has been insisting on closer institutional identification. Is that true, and to what extent, and if so, why?
Father Thomas Williams: The Legion has been closely involved with Zenit from the outset (1997), investing seed money, hiring the needed personnel, and participating in weekly editorial meetings. It was in 1997 that I began working as publisher of Zenit, a role I played until recently, when that post was assumed by Father Oscar Nader. Earlier on, we thought it appropriate to downplay the Legion’s involvement, so that people would see that Zenit was a truly ecclesial news agency, at the service of the universal Church and not of particular interests. Perhaps in hindsight this wasn’t the best way to do things, but it seemed so at the time. In our efforts toward greater transparency, however, we have recently made the Legion’s involvement plain for everyone to see.
It’s important to note that Zenit’s policy has always been to draw from and represent as much as possible the universality of the Church. We have had team members, including in positions of great responsibility, from a broad variety of backgrounds and spiritualities, such as the Teresian movement, Rinnovamento nello Spirito, the Emmanuel Community, Opus Dei, the Charismatic Renewal, Communion and Liberation, and Regnum Christi. The new CEO of Zenit, Alberto Ramírez, who began working this past February, is a supernumerary of Opus Dei.
Zenit journalists have always enjoyed great flexibility and freedom in their reporting, with the only stipulation that they must reflect communion with the Pope and the Church, since this is Zenit’s identity as “The World Seen From Rome.”
Zenit has never been and never will be an instrument of propaganda for any institution within the Church. Its stated mission is to serve the Church by spreading Church teaching and reporting objectively and as impartially as possible on the life of the Church and issues that are important to Catholics.
OSV: Colina says he was promised a financial system in which ZENIT funds would be kept transparently and separately from congregation funds, but that that never came to pass. Is that true, and if so, why?
Father Williams: I’m not sure why he said that. Zenit’s accounts have always been separate from the Legion’s since the beginning. The Legion has never drawn money from Zenit and would never do so. Legion members such as myself who have worked with Zenit for years do not even draw a salary. Initially the Legion lent money to Zenit to get it started, but Zenit paid the Legion back as soon as it was able—without interest, of course. [Editor's note: I have emailed Colina a request for comment on this discrepancy, and will update with his response.]
[UPDATE 10/12/11 6:35 p.m.: Here is Jesus Colina's reply:
Jesus Colina: Here is a short note to explain why I said that when ZENIT’s editorial team asked for transparency from the Legion, nothing was done.
Exactly two years ago during a general meeting of ZENIT, the entire editorial team asked the Legionaries of Christ for practical administrative independence from the Legion. In reality, this petition asked the Legion to respect the identity that ZENIT sought from the very beginning: an independent news service that operated administratively, economically and editorially separate from the Legion.
In fact, the “seed money” referred to by Father Thomas Williams came from a donation made by Aid to the Church in Need, and not from the Legion. Father Williams might not be aware of this fact, as he was not involved with ZENIT at its earliest stages. Father Williams does know, however, and he himself has stated, that the Legion does not donate or help ZENIT raise money for its operating expenses.
The administration of ZENIT’s funds, and ZENIT’s infrastructure, however, has slowly become more and more intertwined with that of the Legion. In 2009, however, Father Thomas Williams, then publisher of ZENIT, agreed to the team’s request for a separate administration, and he passed the request to Father Luis Garza, then vicar general of the Legion and president of ZENIT’s board. Father Garza also recognized the need to create an administrative system that was independent and that published detailed, annual reports of ZENIT’s finances.
What happened after this meeting?
— ZENIT’s bank accounts -- which are indeed separate accounts -- continued to be controlled by the Legion. This is to say, for ZENIT to access its separate accounts, we needed the signature of the Legion.
— Everything possible was done to unite the administration of ZENIT with that of Integer, which has since been dismantled by Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, and two of Integer’s representatives were put on the Board of ZENIT.
— A detailed report of ZENIT’s accounts was never published or made available to ZENIT’s employees, benefactors and subscribers.
As I have already said, I am morally convinced that all of the money ZENIT received from readers has been used only by and for ZENIT, but I cannot prove or verify that belief due to a lack of information. When one lives by donations, this is a duty, a duty that the Legionaries committed themselves to before the entire team.
I take advantage of this opportunity to thank Father Thomas for his priestly witness, which he has given me during many years.]
OSV: In announcing his resignation, Colina described a "gradual mutual loss of trust." Did the Legion lose trust in Colina, and why?
Father Williams: Things are always more complicated than they seem.
In recent years, as Jesús Colina became more and more involved in pursuits outside of Zenit, such as the H2O project, it became harder and harder to separate the different institutions, and many people assumed that they were one and the same. At one point Jesús suggested that Zenit consider taking over H2O, but after carefully analyzing its business plan, it seemed inadvisable to do so. H2O had considerable debts and no apparent way of generating the revenue necessary to sustain itself. At the same time, H2O began hiring members of Zenit’s staff and so many people were working simultaneously for both companies, without clear guidelines of separation in their work. Since they reported to Jesús in both capacities, confusion was inevitable. Something needed to be done to remove this confusion.
Zenit would never have existed without Jesús as cofounder, since he spearheaded its efforts from the beginning as editorial director and was essential to its growth. I believe that Zenit, and certainly I personally, have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for his talents and dedication.
OSV: One of the reasons Colina cites for his loss of trust is "the manner in which the Legion of Christ hid the information about Father Marcial Maciel," and he cites particularly the homily at a Legion Mass a month after Father Maciel's death in which the homilist (whom he doesn't name) continued to hold out the Legion founder as a role model, despite the fact that at that point, Legion leadership surely knew about his double-life and moral depravity. Any comment?
Father Williams: Unfortunately, the homilist Jesús is referring to was not a Legionary at all, but a member of the Roman Curia. I think it inappropriate for me to mention his name. A month after Fr Maciel’s death, no Legionary that I know of was holding him up as a role model.
This has been a difficult time for all of us, and initially, all of us struggled with the news of Fr Maciel, including Jesús, since it seemed so incredible. Little by little, we have all had to deal with it. I’m sure mistakes were made, but I have never seen evidence of malice.
[UPDATE 2: Jesus Colina added this comment to his email to me:
Regarding Fr. Thomas’ statement “A month after Fr Maciel’s death, no Legionary that I know of was holding him up as a role model”, I ask that you consider this letter written after the homily you mentioned, by Father Alvaro Corcuera, general-director of the Legionaries of Christ.
Thy Kingdom Come! ALVARO CORCUERA, L.C Mexico City, March 24, 2008To all Regnum Christi Team Leaders
My dear Friends in Christ, I send you my Easter greetings along with my heartfelt good wishes and a special remembrance in my prayers. God grant that this special season the Church offers us will be one of deep prayer and closer contact with Christ. How grateful we ought to be that God wished to come and redeem us, and that he wished to rely on us to carry his message of salvation to others.
On the one hand, this year’s Easter is tinged with special sorrow, being our first one without Nuestro Padre’s physical presence—but it also is one of deep joy and hope knowing that he accompanies us much more closely from heaven. As one, large family we have wished to celebrate and to proclaim to the world that God has triumphed; and using a phrase from the rite of incorporation into the Movement, we say once again, “It is our responsibility, Lord, and it depends on us…”. Now more than ever it is our responsibility to maintain the spirit God has given us through Nuestro Padre.
Daily, we can experience the fruits of holiness that God continually generates in Regnum Christi, and you as team leaders play a particularly important role in this work. I want to invite you to join me in reflecting together on the vital mission that is yours as key elements in our sections. In this respect, Nuestro Padre taught us that the hallmark of team leaders must be their deep, affective and effective integration with the Movement, their leadership, their sense of initiative, and their humility. The service they give their team members and hence the entire section must be directed toward the fidelity, dynamism and the constant growth of all the members of their teams and their apostolic endeavors.
On September 7, 1994, Nuestro Padre wrote a letter to ECYD team leaders, on which I would like to base myself to offer you some reflections that will help you grow daily in your awareness of your vocation as formators, to which God has called you.
The first image we can turn to is that of being light for your brothers and sisters. Christ tells us to be “light for the world” and he asks us let our light “shine before others” (Mt. 5:14. 16). Furthermore, he spoke of himself as “the true light that enlightens everyone who comes into this world” (Jn. 1:9). Therefore, if we want to be light for others, we must belong to Christ. Belonging to Christ means having him as my life’s ideal, the model of my existence, loving him with all my heart, following him wherever he goes. It would be empty and a mirage to try to be good cofounders, formators in Regnum Christi, if Christ’s love didn’t burn in our heart, if he weren’t the highest ideal and the truest meaning of our existence.
It is not enough merely to be light, Christ is asking more of us. He wants our light to shine, to be a true beacon to guide the souls he has placed in our care. Thus the team leader becomes the leader that guides and leads the other team members, who shines before them, not with the radiance of his personal qualities but with the splendor of the Truth which is Christ.
Another image Nuestro Padre refers to in the aforementioned letter is that of the Good Shepherd. Using this picture of Christ we can more easily understand that through their personal witness and leadership, their personal dialog and other adequate means, team leaders are called to work thoroughly and maturely so that their team members fulfill their commitments faithfully, grow in their Christian life, learn, love and defend the Movement, and become active and enthusiastic in their action. After the example of the Good Shepherd, you are in a certain sense guides, and responsible for the souls of your team members. You already know the value he gives an individual soul, for whose salvation he suffered and poured out his blood on Calvary. Ask him in prayer to help you understand the infinite value of every single soul he redeemed. As a Good Shepherd, he gave his life in order to rescue and save each and every human being without pausing to think how much he might like or dislike them. Learn to look at each team member placed in your care through the eyes of faith. Look beyond any type of qualities they may have and discover in them the human being for whom Christ died on the Cross, a son or daughter of God, with all of the dignity this implies. This outlook of faith regarding the value of each person will help you to see in them a potential apostle of Christ’s Kingdom, for whom it is worth suffering and sacrificing yourself since Christ didn’t hesitate to do so first, on the cross.
Against the backdrop of these considerations, I invite you to work on the following aspects proper to your role as formators and team leaders in your sections:
1. Know your faith and know Regnum Christi. We know that no one gives what he doesn’t have and less still if he doesn't even know it. If we want to be light, to be true guides for the souls given us, we have to prepare ourselves for this mission. Go to the bottom the Gospel, Christian spirituality and Regnum Christi’s spirituality. Set aside time to read the Pope’s encyclicals and discourses. The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Take an active part in the study circles the Movement offers its members, its summer courses for formators and team leaders. Learn to master the art of the written and spoken word, and the art of debate. Develop whatever will help you to communicate ideas, and strengthen the very content of your Christian faith. Christ and Regnum Christi need you to be formed, to be leaders so that you can form leaders. There is no substitute for personal formation: Enthusiasm, fervor and wanting to be generous aren’t enough. How effective you will be in your mission depends partially on the degree of personal formation you have acquired. If we have team leaders possessed with love for Christ, generous and well formed, then we can be sure that the Movement will bear the fruits we all hope for. Now more than ever, God calls us to be a Movement of saints!
2. Personal attention through dialog with your team members. Personal dialog is a golden opportunity God gives you to know your sheep and for them to know you (cfr Jn. 10:14). It is also a means to foster a sincere and unselfish friendship with each one of the members, trying to bring out the best in each one. What is typical of the dialog, as a complement to spiritual direction or spiritual guidance, is the examination of various elements of the life of a Regnum Christi member such as growth, the apostolate, presence at the specifically RC activities, personal contribution to the Movement’s works, integration with the other teammates, initiatives and suggestions for the team or section, and anything else you might freely want to mention to them. As you can see, through this activity you can do the work of forging your team members’ apostolic zeal, you can engage them in the common mission, encourage them to invite other members to the Church, in short, you can make them feel that the Movement is also in their hands. Obviously,in order to meet this goal we must go beyond the strict time allotted to the dialog; apply personal attention in the full breadth of its meaning. This will mean showing authentic and sincere concern for the other person, for their human, family and spiritual welfare; being there for them in their difficulties; sharing in their happiness and successes; offering comfort in times of sadness and failure.
3. Motivate each member and support them in their apostolate. In his latest encyclical, Spe Salvi, the Holy Father states that, “Being in communion with Jesus Christ draws us into his “being for all”; it makes it our own way of being. He commits us to live for others, but only through communion with him does it become possible truly to be there for others. [...] Love of God leads to participation in the justice and generosity of God towards others. Loving God requires an interior freedom from all possessions and all material goods: the love of God is revealed in responsibility for others.” (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, n. 28). May Christ’s call to live for others lead you always to seek what is best for each member of your section and to be very close to them as they form themselves into true men and women of the Kingdom. In this regard, I want to ask you for your special help in continuing to make ECYD grow. Right there is the future of the Movement. How often Nuestro Padre told us so, again and again! If we want robust, apostolically active sections we need a strong and solid ECYD that is constantly feeding new life into the youth sections. I am certain that you understand your mission of being light, formators andcofounders, and that being team leaders is not something sporadic or circumstantial in your lives, even more so after the example Nuestro Padre left us. Being a team leader is for each one of you a true, apostolic mission. I sincerely thank you for all your availability and generosity to further the mission of extending Christ’s Kingdom in the hearts of men and of societies. Christ himself is the first one to rejoice and he will be the one to give you the reward you deserve. Let us daily ask Mary to grant us a Regnum Christi and ECYD that are robust, vigorous and dynamic realities, where we forge the apostles Christ needs at this time in history.
I assure you and the members of your teams of a constant remembrance in my prayers before the Blessed Sacrament. Yours affectionately in Christ, Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, LC]
[UPDATE 3: Father Williams responds: “Thank you for this clarification. I stand corrected.”
OSV: What do you make of the fact that the other Zenit editors resigned en masse, and some at least are following Colina to a new Catholic media venture?
Father Williams: I wish Jesús well in all his endeavors, and I am sure he means to continue to serve the Church through the media. Sure, it hurts to see several editors invited by Jesús to leave Zenit to work for him, but I sincerely hope that all of them continue to flourish both professionally and spiritually. Our job now is to see that Zenit continues to accomplish the work it was founded to do. There is room for many evangelizers in the Church, and a little more fraternal “competition” is good for all of us.
OSV: What are Zenit’s plans for the immediate future?
Father Williams: This is a critical time for us. The most important thing is to assure continuity with Zenit’s news services, which, with daily editions in seven languages, is no small feat! We have many exceptional journalists, and we will need to hire more to fill the gaps that have been left. I believe that God has blessed us from the beginning of Zenit’s existence, and trust Him to keep strengthening and sustaining us. We have received abundant mail recently from friends all over the world who appreciate the work Zenit does and want to show their support. There will be some tough times ahead, but with God’s help, we will continue to serve the Church throughout the world with an even better news service.
OSV: How will Zenit look different in the future from what it did yesterday? And what does "plainer" Legion involvement mean?
Father Williams: The media have evolved considerably in recent years, but people will always have a need for content. The forms of presentation may change, as well as interactivity, but the ideas behind the presentation, the message behind the form, will always be essential. Zenit will always focus, as it has since its inception, on getting out the Pope’s words to all who wish to hear them. We have also, seen, however, that there is a great thirst among Catholics for culture, for spirituality, for “soft” news as well as “hard” news. Zenit will try to tailor its production to the needs of the new evangelization, which are the needs of Catholics and people of good will everywhere.
Regarding the Legion’s involvement, it will continue to be what it has always been: behind the scenes support and counsel. It will be “plainer” in the sense that people will be more aware of the Legion’s involvement, but the extent of that involvement won’t change. The strength of Zenit is its lay apostles, its committed journalists. There has never been editorial review by Legionaries prior to publication. There must be trust between priests and lay Catholics, each doing their own respective tasks for the sake of the Gospel. This is a formula for evangelizing success. It has worked well until now, and I am confident it is the recipe for the future as well.
You may have noticed that this blog was conspicuous in its lack of postings on the passing of Steve Jobs. It seemed everyone, even in the Catholic blog world, was intent on making the genius behind Apple into a mascot, a spiritual guru, a motivational force, a pro-life symbol.
As much as I love Apple products -- and I'm writing this on a MacBook, with an iPhone in sight and iTunes on my dashboard and an iPod in my purse -- I just couldn't force myself to jump on the Jobs bandwagon.
Then this morning I read this post by Carl Olson and finally had reason to join the posting. Commenting on the 2005 commencement address that has been the subject of countless tweets and Facebook status updates in the past week, Olson says with brutal honesty what many have ignored. Or perhaps weren't willing to see.
First here's a piece from that commencement address by Jobs:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Here is Olson's take on it:
This is both revealing and, dare I say, a bit stunning. Why? Because Jobs, staring death in the face, sought comfort in a flood of clichés and Hallmark card-like platitudes that are as surprisingly vapid as they are relentlessly secular (I know, that's redundant):
• "Don't lose faith" (in what? in whom?)
• "Find what you love" (like your high school career counseler always said!)
• "Love what you do! Don't settle!" (does that also apply to empty clichés?)
• "Follow your heart..." (perfect for Hallmark)
• "Live your own life" (as if I have a choice!)
• "Listen to your inner voice" (because you told me to?)
• "Follow your heart and intuition" (even if it tells me to do bad things?)
And that doesn't even get us to Jobs' concluding bit of advice (taken from The Whole Earth Catalog): "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." Presumably, it seems, until one dies, at which point hunger and foolishness cease? Many people find this amazing and inspiring; I think it is ultimately empty and quite depressing.
My thoughts exactly. I found myself listening to that speech, watching it get incredible airplay, and wondering why this Gospel According to the Secular Age was having such an impact on the spiritual blog world. I'm all for following your heart, but sometimes we have to sacrifice and sometimes we have to put other people first, even if it means we don't always like what we have to do when we wake up in the morning.
Jobs said in the same address that whenever he wasn't happy with his life for too many days in a row, he knew it was time to make a change. I've been there. Sometimes I've been able to make that change; other times I've had to stick it out until I could see my way clear to a new path, or until I reached that place where I finally realized that the difficult things we have to deal with often are precisely the things that help us become who we're meant to be.
Read Carl Olson's full post HERE.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Andrea Roberts is one of those people. Statistics show that almost 90 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted, but Andrea and her husband opted for life -- and love. Their son, Reece, has not only brought joy to their lives but has inspired an organization, Reece's Rainbow, which aims to help other parents of Down syndrome children let go of the fear that grips them and embrace the future with hope and happiness.
As if that's not enough, Reece's Rainbow, through Andrea's efforts, has helped find adoptive families for more than 500 Down syndrome and special-needs children.
Here's an interview with Andrea Roberts by Tony Rossi of The Christophers:
When Atlanta resident Andrea Roberts gave birth to her son Reece in 2002, she and her husband experienced a great deal of fear and anxiety. Reece, they discovered, had Down syndrome. The hospital sent Andrea home with a packet of papers to educate her about Down syndrome, but she was too emotionally distraught to see anything but a bleak future for her son and family.
Eventually, Reece started to smile. A lot. Andrea recalled to me on Christopher Closeup, "That personality and that glow that is so much a part of Down syndrome started to come out and grow . . . It was easy to get to the other side emotionally and to recognize that this wasn't a horrible burden." Andrea's life would soon change in even more dramatic ways, leading to her being a force for good for children and families worldwide.
In 2004, a nurse from the hospital who remembered Andrea called her to say she was starting a social service program for families with Down syndrome children. The nurse wanted to call the program Reece's Rainbow. Andrea was happy to let her use Reece's name, and agreed to personally visit with the families while they were still in the hospital. She would tell them, "I've been in that hospital bed and I know how you're feeling. It's going to be different sooner than you think."
Continue reading HERE.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Out in my perennial garden, nestled among the stonecrop and candytuft, stands a well-worn clay statue of St. Francis of Assisi made by an artisan in Mexico. The unusual characteristics of the statue make it a conversation piece as well as a spiritual touchstone that helps keep me centered as I dig and weed and plant.
Of course, I’m not alone. Drive down any street and you’re likely to find St. Francis peeking out from both well-manicured lawns and wildflower gardens run amuck. He is just as likely to share a garden with a statue of Buddha as he is to share one with a statue of the Blessed Mother. He is a saint of the people – all people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. His broad appeal is fascinating, but at the same time it begs the question: Do those of us who plant St. Francis in our gardens really know what the medieval saint was all about?
Today Francis’ concerns are often compartmentalized by well-meaning folks who want to claim him for their own. And who can blame them? He is certainly a challenging but endearing saint for the ages.
Environmentalists jump on Francis’ love for creation, his “Canticle of Brother Sun,” his diligence in protecting trees and even “brother” fire, and find in him a kindred spirit. Animal lovers hear stories of him preaching to birds and taming a wolf and see in Francis the kind of saint who has rightly earned his status as patron of animals. His popularity comes into full view every year at this time, when adults and children alike line up outside churches with everything from goldfish swimming in glass bowls to German shepherds straining at leather leashes just for a chance to get their pets a blessing on Francis’ feast day.
Peace activists, interreligious leaders, social justice organizers -- the St. Francis fan club goes on and on. It seems everyone can find a piece of Francis to suit their cause. But, if you put all of those individual causes into the Gospel context that was at the heart of Francis’ rule and spirituality, you come away with a very different picture of our lovable saint, one that is not so easily shaped and molded by the latest trends in activism.
Would those St. Francis lawn statues be as popular if we really stopped to reflect on what they stand for? Francis’ life was one centered on his love of Christ, his commitment to a radical living out of the Gospel, and his “marriage” to the bride he dubbed “Lady Poverty.” The path that St. Francis chose was not an easy one. He was ridiculed and mocked as a madman during his own lifetime for what appeared to be an extreme response to his conversion experience.
He renounced his family’s fortune, fasted for days on end, heard the Lord speak to him from a cross in San Damiano, bore the stigmata. He lived and died for Christ. It would be a disservice to him and all he stood for to try to slip a politically correct mask over the spiritually devout saint who did not do anything halfway.
Sometimes I wonder how I can possibly weave Francis’ difficult and often uncomfortable lessons into my exceedingly comfortable existence. How do those of us with warm homes and busy jobs and nice clothes make St. Francis into something more than a decoration or a mascot? It’s not easy, but maybe, just maybe, seeing St. Francis from the kitchen window as we wash dishes or raking leaves from around his feet as we clean the yard will call us back to our spiritual center and remind us that what we do here on this earth cannot be separated from what we long for in heaven.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Draw yourself an organization chart that represents the Catholic Church. What you’ll get is a sketch of an ecclesiastical institution that on paper looks like a genuine world class internal communication machine.
Those boxes and lines you’ve drawn could lead the beholder to suppose that if the pope says something on Monday morning, then by the following Sunday evening a billion or so Catholics around the world will have a pretty clear notion of what he’s said. The Church’s network of dioceses, parishes, organizations, institutions, and media all but guarantees that happy result.
The same is true, more or less, of other communications by other communicators all up and down the line in the Church. Messages constantly flowing, messages constantly being received. Correct?
Sorry, my friend, but if you think it really works like that, all I can say is: Dream on. People who’ve actually spent some time in communication in and around the Catholic Church can tell you that the reality is vastly different.
I was reminded of this by news of a study showing only 16 percent of American Catholics recall even hearing about the most recent of the “political responsibility” statement published quadrennially by the American bishops. And three-quarters of those who’d heard of it said it had “no influence at all” how they voted in 2008.
Yes, a small number of professional Church watchers have been arguing about these documents ever since the bishops’ conference began publishing them in 1976. They have been, and to some extent still are, a big bone of contention between liberal and conservative Catholic activists. Whether that will be true of the version forthcoming for next year’s election remains to be seen.
But hold that argument for another day. The point I’m making now is that, except for the activists, very few Catholics have read or heeded these much-discussed documents.
It’s no surprise. As somebody who drafted many bishops’statements some years ago and did media relations on behalf of many others, I have no hesitation about saying it’s been this way a long time. Not just with bishops’ documents either. The same is true of documents from the pope and Roman Curia. Catholics by and large don’t read them or know what they say.
There are several reasons. Church documents tend to be long and difficult for people without much practice reading them. These days they’re readily available on the internet, but people still must make a small effort to access them — and they don’t. Priests rarely preach on them, and while Catholic papers faithfully report on them, many Catholics can’t be bothered to read the Catholic press to find out what’s going on.
Thus, what many Catholics know about the Church and the teaching of the magisterium comes to them largely (if it comes at all) from the reporting of the secular media. And secular media generally do a better job covering high school field hockey than reporting important statements by the bishops and the pope.
As suggested, though, the largest part of the problem lies elsewhere — with the lethargy and indifference of the numerous Catholics who know little about their Church and won’t make the effort it would take to know more.
Maybe it doesn’t matter. No one has to read an encyclical or a bishops’ statement to go to heaven. But at a time when the faith is commonly either ignored or misrepresented by secular purveyors of information and opinion, you’d think more Catholics would make that effort. Or am I the one who’s dreaming?
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Although Catholics often begin their prayer connection to angels in childhood, with the sing-song words of the Angel of God prayer --- “Ever this night, be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide” – angels are by no means child’s play. They are complex spiritual beings, often misunderstood by us humans who try to give them features and attributes that are more akin to existence on earth than heaven. Chubby little baby-like cherubs sporting wings and harps cannot begin to do justice to the reality of angels in our midst.
So what exactly are we dealing with here, and what role do angels play in our personal prayer lives?....Continue reading HERE.