Monday, March 28, 2005

Orthodoxy and orthopraxy

There are many who are rightly concerned about correct teaching in the Church. Not having the doctrine of the faith taught has been one of the chief weaknesses since the Second Vatican Council. Because of that, many different groups have arisen to try to restore the truth of the Church to its proper place. These groupings address varying aspects of ecclesiastical life – laity, life issues, parish life, religious, and so on. They have been correctly recognized for the new life they bring to the Church by recalling her to some of her most basic teachings.

There is, however, a troubling aspect to many of these groups. While they will often present a face of adherence to the truths of the faith, they will often in private act in ways contrary to it. It happens in all kinds of ways and all kinds of groups.

I was part of a covenant community in the charismatic renewal for many years and hung around another one long before that. Some of the things I personally saw and experienced there and heard about in other similar communities were enough to make your skin crawl. What happened there was lay leaders assumed authority where they had none. Even bishops and priests will not presume to tell a man when to pray and with whom, or whom to date. The lay leaders of these groups, however, did take that sort of authority unto themselves. A rather large crisis in these groups back in the early 90's helped to clear some of that up, though I daresay it was not entirely excised.

This sort of thing happens in other groups. It is well-known that Opus Dei, the Legionnaries of Christ, Focolare, The Neocatechumenal Way, Alpha and others have all had allegations of abuse of power of one sort or another leveled against them. If these allegations are proved true, I would not be surprised. All too often, unless a new movement is founded by a true saint, pride and arrogance sneak in and the group comes to believe that it is the way that God is going to renew the Church. As one leader of a covenant community said to me once, “I don’t know if in 10 years these people who are leaving the community will still be loving and serving the Lord.” (My reply to him was, “Look, covenant community is not God’s answer to modernity.”
“Well, what is?” he asked to my complete incredulity.
“Jesus Christ and His Church,” came the rather obvious answer.)
Rules begin to multiply for members, recruitment by whatever means becomes a matter of necessity, suspicion about the competency of the rest of the Church rises in members’ minds, and soon the group has almost assumed a parallel structure since they are better than the rest of the Church.

It isn’t just the new renewal movements that have problems, though. Service organizations can have their difficulties as well. I recall some time ago when I had people practically begging me to write an exposé about a certain high-profile group that was treating its employees rather badly, allowing what appeared to be an adulterous relationship by a high-ranking employee to go unchecked and very questionable monetary transactions taking place. I would have done it, but I could not find a proper venue for it (blogs hadn’t been invented yet).

A friend of mine from college was working for a pro-life group when the person who headed it suddenly decided not to renew the lease of the place they were at, and up and moved without telling the employees, leaving them high and dry.

These kinds of practices have to be eliminated by following the truth of the Gospel. We who proclaim the inestimable value and dignity of the human person are all-too-often subject to the sin which brought our first parents down and begin to use others for our own needs and whims. While this is common, it should not, therefore, be accepted as normal. What should be normal are leaders who realize their own human frailty and who seek ways to prevent themselves from becoming entities unto themselves. Our fallen humanity will often believe that a good idea we receive is the magic bullet from God that is going to solve all of the world’s ills rather than simply one more tool in His rather enormous toolbox needed to help fully realize the salvation of the world.

It takes humility to be this kind of leader and that’s not easy. I can’t stand it when my children or even my wife point out some fault I am rather publicly displaying. That does not diminish the truth of what they’re saying, though.

So along with the right teaching, we have to have the right practice. And that right practice is hard to do because the Gospel requires much of us. However, having the humility to receive God’s grace for whatever it is He has asked of us is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, what began as God’s work will end up being our work. I don't know. There's something of that scenario which vaguely reminds me about the story of a garden, a man and a woman, some fruit and a snake. Ring any bells to anyone?

An off-Broadway Mass

I took my family to an off-Broadway show on Saturday night complete with audience participation, dancing girls, women in leopard-skin shirts or shirts with one sleeve, catchy tunes, off-stage water shows, lighted candles and a warehouse theatre.

You Broadway experts don't recognize it? And what was I doing taking my family to the theatre when we should have been at the Easter Vigil? Oh, sorry -- forgot to explain. That was the Easter Vigil.

In any given year, you can find my family at the magnificent Cathedral of St. Paul for the Easter Vigil. However, this year we went to another church (which shall remain nameless and locationless to protect the innocent) because a family member was being baptized, confirmed and communed. Now this family member came into the Church partly because of marriage, partly because of her own initiative. The parish is but a half-mile from her home, so it made sense for her to go there.

Unfortunately for her and others, the priest has willingly abdicated most of his authority thus allowing a circus atmosphere to reign. This family member knows no better having been raised churchless and in a culture that had no true thoughts about beauty and order. So what I am about to tell you has no reflection on her whatsoever.

I write this somewhat amazed. I know there are liturgical abuses going on all over the place. However, I was completely unaware that they were of such number and so rank. We have been keeping ourselves to places where we knew we could find at least somewhat orthodox priests, so I was blissfully content in the thought that things were getting better, liturgically speaking. How wrong I was.

When I said it was in a warehouse theater, I meant that almost literally. It's a modernist building in the suburbs amid all the other modernist buildings that store the worker bees during the day. It's made of brick, with one wall that is monolithically brick -- no decoration whatsoever. I could not help but think how bored the bricklayers must have been when they were building it.

Along this blank wall to the right are three large black structures which I took to be either speakers for the organ or the pipe boxes, though no pipes were showing. There was no crucifix to be found at all, only a cross. Eminating from this cross were yards of pastel colored cloth in ray-like fashion. And, of course, the tabernacle was nowhere in sight, shoved off over the left in a chapel-like niche.

Not a statue or stained glass window is to be found anywhere in the place, not even the simple crosses to mark the Stations that some churches have . Wait a minute! Did I say no stained glass windows? I meant no windows. The only statues are two in the rather wide atrium -- one of Mary, and the other of I don't know whom (both of them white, of course).

I've not read Michael Rose's books on architecture and he has probably already beat me to this observation -- the blank modernist style does not lend itself in any manner whatsoever to anything of beauty. So there is no sense to having chant or polyphony or organ music -- it does not fit there. With the blank character of the architecture, one is free to do as one pleases, and what pleases these people is Broadway.

I should stress that nothing was done to make the celebration of the Mass invalid. Its liceity, however, well that's another story. How was the liturgy abused? Let me count the ways:

- No albs on anyone except the pastor and his concelebrant, so we had a young girl sitting next to the priest in street clothes who played the part of server, an obviously wealthy woman who carried in the censer, and various other "ministers" who did one thing or another in their less-than-Easter-best.

- Inclusivity was the watchword here. So at the fraction rite during the Agnus Dei, each of the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist were given their cups or ciboria and came down from the sanctuary area in a highly choreographed fashion with four leaving there at the start of each new invocation of the litany. Then when the priest elevated the host and cup at the general invitation to Communion, so did the ministers.

- After the third reading of the Crossing of the Red Sea, the lector read, "Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song" and suddenly the music blared, two singers (one in leopard-skin shirt) from the back of the chorus strutted up to the lectern hands held high and the Psalm Response began. But the lector stayed put. Then at the end of that performance, the lector said, "The Word of the Lord."

- Two liturgical dancers (who, in technical terms, were really bad) brought forward two clear pitchers of water to pour into the baptismal font.

- The music was, of course, all from the Haugen/Haas/Joncas school, with some Schutte thrown in for good measure -- except for the closing hymn which was "Jesus Christ is Risen Today."
The HHJ school has little respect for the words of the liturgy or the truth of the Gospel.

- The two baptisms were by full immersion. I have no problem with that, nor does the Church. What I did have a problem with is that neither candidate was individually asked the necessary questions (Do you reject Satan? Do you believe in God?). Instead, it was the whole "community."

- Since it was Easter and we now were redeemed, we were instructed in the program to stand during the Eucharistic Prayer. I was left wondering from what we had been redeemed -- sin or common sense?

- At the Pater Noster, the whole congregation held hands, even across aisles. The woman who was the family member's sponsor told my 15-year-old daughter to hold her hand. My daughter politely refused. But the sponsor insisted. Again, my daughter refused and the sponsor backed down.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Who knows if the local bishop is aware or even cares? There should be no wonder in anyone's mind that the world gives such little notice to the Church today. We've become so like it that the two at times are hardly distinguishable.

Friday, March 25, 2005

A curse? Or a prayer for mercy?

Blogger’s note: I wrote this last year during the height of the controversy over The Passion of the Christ. However, I believe it still has relevance, particularly for this time of year.

“Oh no,” the reader might say. “Not another column on Mel Gibson’s, ‘The Passion of the Christ’!”

Well, yes, and I offer my apologies up front for inflicting this upon you. But I think there’s something very important that’s been missing in the discussion (well, I suppose you could call it an argument) about one line in particular.

It’s that famous, or, depending on your perspective, perhaps infamous, passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel: “So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man's blood,’ he said. ‘See to it yourselves.’ And all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’” (Matt. 27:24-25)

Now this sounds rather nasty, right? Yes, and there are some Old Testament texts to demonstrate just how nasty it could be.

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand’” (Gen. 4.9-11).

In the beginning of Solomon’s reign, David instructed him to do certain things to consolidate his power since Solomon’s half-brother, Adonijah, had claimed the throne. One of those was to kill Joab, who had been David’s army commander because Joab had killed Abner, one of Saul’s top commanders, just when Abner was about to help David overthrow Saul. Joab did this because Abner had killed Joab’s brother – and because he didn’t want a rival for his position. So in 1 Kings 2:33, Solomon says of Joab, “May the guilt of their blood rest on the head of Joab and his descendants forever. But on David and his descendants, his house and his throne, may there be the Lord's peace forever."

Jeremiah places these words in the mouth of Israel during the exile: “King Nebuchadrezzer of Babylon has devoured me, he has crushed me; he has made me an empty vessel, he has swallowed me like a monster; he has filled his belly with my delicacies, he has spewed me out. ‘May the violence done to our flesh be upon Babylon,’ let the inhabitant of Zion say. ‘My blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea,’ let Jerusalem say” (Jer. 51:34-35).

And the prophet Ezekiel says, “If he has a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things (though his father does none of them), who eats upon the mountain, defiles his neighbor’s wife, oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore pledges, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, lends at usury and takes excessive interest, will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head” (Ez. 18:12-14).

So if we follow this idea, what those in the crowd that day said to Pilate is indeed a curse and those who claim the film is anti-Semitic would be right to say this curse should be expunged.

But there’s a problem with this interpretation – it’s taken out of context. What’s the context? It’s the Passion of the Lord, the greatest act of love the world has ever known, as the great Scripture scholar, Father Francis Martin, used to tell his students. A key part of the Passion is the Last Supper (obviously), which St. Matthew describes in chapter 26:26-28: “Now, as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (my emphasis)

It is significant that the other two Gospels that describe the same scene, St. Mark and St. Luke, and St. Paul’s description of the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, which is read at the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, do not include the part about the forgiveness of sins. It is also interesting that when Pope Paul VI had the liturgy revised, he specifically instructed that the words of institution for the Eucharist should be taken from St. Matthew’s Gospel and not the other sources in order that the faithful would be reminded every time we hear the Eucharistic Prayer that the blood of Christ is shed for the forgiveness of sins.

St. Matthew, by having Jesus say, “this is my blood of the covenant” makes a direct connection between Christ’s blood and the blood of bulls and goats which was placed on the horns of the altar in the Temple every year on the Day of Atonement. The Letter to the Hebrews makes it clear that Christ’s blood is far superior to the blood of animals because Christ’s blood cleanses from sin so we can worship the living God, while the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin.

This now places the people’s cry, “His blood be upon us and upon our children,” in a very different light. Though the people who said it may have meant it in the Old Testament context, that is not necessarily what St. Matthew meant. It is said after the Lord has given his blood as the blood of the new covenant which, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, “speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel,” and, as St. Matthew’s Gospel says, is shed “for the forgiveness of sins.”

That blood, then, which the people call upon themselves and their children, is not blood that cries out for vengeance, as Abel’s did; rather it is the blood of the Son of God that cries out for mercy. "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do" (Luke 24:34).

Indeed, in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, we pray, “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world.” We then say, “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, takes three chapters to talk about the Jews and their relationship with Christ. He did not condemn them to everlasting punishment, and if there was anyone who would or could do it, it would be him. Instead, he maintained that their obstinacy in not seeing the Messiah was God’s plan at work for the salvation of the Gentiles. “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles,” he says in chapter 11, verse 13. “Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?”

All of this makes it obvious that there is no room for accusing Jews of deicide. And neither is there room for saying that St. Matthew, or any of the New Testament writers, was anti-Semitic. If either one was the case, Jew and Gentile both would be left out of receiving any mercy from God at all. How could those who killed God expect mercy? Or how could those who believe God's chosen people are sub-human receive God's mercy? But St. Paul utterly rejects these thoughts because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are now freely justified by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:23-25).

St. Paul, the Jew who once persecuted the Church and then became the Apostle to the Gentiles, makes clear God’s purpose of what should happen between Jew and Gentile when he wrote to the Ephesians: “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off [the Gentiles] have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both [Jews and Gentiles] one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end” (2:14-16).

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Clearing Loyola -- for now

This evening, I talked with someone who was very close to the situation at Loyola University Hospital that I had reported on back in October of 2003 in Our Sunday Visitor and that Jill Stanek had picked up on about a year later. Some of you may recall that Loyola was supposed to be doing early induction for fetuses with anomalies incompatible with life. That is, they were inducing early labor for women at about 24 weeks gestation because the children they were bearing had anomalies from which they would die very early on.

I had been told by a Jesuit ethicist there that this was OK since they were going to die anyway. I was also told by a perinatologist that they had only done five of these over a 10-year period. (Only five? I thought. And those five lives weren't worth anything, or what?)

Anyway, I met someone tonight who, as I said, was very close to that situation and whom I trust to be truthful and authoritative. This source told me that after Father O'Callaghan let go with his comment, heads perked up at the Archdiocese of Chicago offices and an investigation was launched. What they found was that each of the five cases had legitimate reasons for the early induction, like pre-eclampsia or some other maternal life-threatening conditions. They also went over the Ethical and Religious Directives on this particular point with the Loyola staff to make sure they got it clear.

Unless someone brings up new evidence that similar shenanigans is going on there, I am considering Loyola cleared of this particular allegation. My source told me that there are still other issues they need to deal with. Might, for instance, end of life issues be one of those?

Now, if only I could clear Providence Alaska of those same allegations....

Cheerleading a move toward schism

Splintering. That's what appears to be happening to people who are having disputes with their bishops. Not only with what Michael Paulson reports in this morning's Boston Globe, but also in St. Louis where St. Stanislaus Parish has said they're bringing in a priest to celebrate the Triduum for them against the clear wishes of Archbishop Raymond Burke.

Soon the Catholic Church in the United States may look rather ragged if this trend continues.

It doesn't help that the MSM (mainstream media) are cheerleading these efforts. Here's an e-mail I wrote to Michael Paulson this morning after reading his piece:

Mr. Paulson,

You've done it again. Your article this AM on the married former priests who are planning to illicitly celebrate Mass this Easter in Quincy and Natick is another cheerleading piece for the rebellious parishioners. The problem is in the lack of work you put into this piece.

There is a dispute here which means there are two sides to the story and you only gave one side to the story. In quoting Louise Haggett's one line from canon law and her statement that there are 19 other canons "that empower the laity to call on married priests when they cannot find a priest" you did not seek out any authority on the matter, a canon lawyer, and I doubt Haggett is such an authority.

There are several canonical problems with her claims, and I can name three off the top of my head:

1) The men in question no longer have the authority to claim that they are sacred ministers. That authority comes solely from their superiors and they rejected their superiors' authority over them when they left the priesthood.

2) The people in question are not "properly disposed." They are acting in defiance of the lawful authority of their bishop, actions by which they are separating themselves from the communion of the Church.

3) These people live in the Archdiocese of Boston, for heaven's sake. To claim they "cannot find a priest" is patently absurd.

This is from someone who is not a canon lawyer and is readily verifiable by an expert in Church law. Indeed, the absence of any quote from a canon lawyer is extraordinarily noticable in your piece.

If there was a dispute between the State and a landowner over some property issue, you would certainly go to a property lawyer to seek out his or her opinion, otherwise the story would be incomplete. The same would be true, I'm sure, of any other type of issue truly needing clarification from experts in whatever field was at issue.

You surely know by now, Mr. Paulson, that there are such people as canon lawyers who have expertise in these matters. Your failure to seek out their opinions is a grave journalistic error, not only on your part but on the part of your editors, and shows once again the bias The Boston Globe has against legitimate Catholic Church authority.


Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz
Though I have publicly admonished and will continue to publicly admonish bishops for their lack of action or bad actions, they do have legitimate authority and when they exercise it, it needs to be followed. That is part of our faith. Otherwise, we are no better than the Protestants we criticize.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Flight or fight?

There’s a news story that’s becoming far more common throughout the United States today that goes something along these lines: “Bishop (name here) of the (name of city here) Diocese announced yesterday the closing or merging of (insert double digit number here) parishes. He cited the shortage of priests and declining numbers of people attending Mass as the main reasons for the changes. Another factor in making these moves is the number of Catholics who have moved out of the central city to the suburbs.”

This may seem like common sense. You’re an institution whose members are moving from one place to another, so you close down resources in the less-populated areas to serve your members in the more-populated areas. This way of looking at things may be likened to the need for fewer hospital beds in one area because people are staying healthier or the need for fewer schools because the number of children is declining.

But there’s something fundamentally wrong with this way of viewing things when it comes to the Church – it’s not Catholic. Yes, if you’re a purveyor of some widget or service and the people who buy or use it are moving to a different area than where you’re located, go ahead and move so you can sell your wares or services. But the Church is not a consumer-oriented or even a merely service-oriented institution. The Church exists for the purpose of fulfilling God’s mandate to preach the Gospel to all humanity. So to say we’re moving out because our members are moving out misses a fundamental aspect of the Church – the preaching of the Gospel.

This is not to say that we ignore fiscal realities. Yes, a beautiful parish church in a densely populated urban center that is undergoing demographic change can be hard to maintain and we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the resources we have. But I think we’re shooting ourselves in the foot by limiting our vision of stewardship down to simply managing what money and physical resources we currently have.

For stewardship means that we have to manage all we have, including our spiritual resources. So if we say that a particular neighborhood is becoming less Catholic because the Italians or Irish or Poles have moved out, we have to ask ourselves a couple of questions: 1) How did those ethnic groups become Catholic in the first place, and 2) what of those who are moving in?
The answer to the first question is obvious – they became Catholic when they heard the preaching of the Gospel, however many years ago that was.

The answer to the second question is also obvious – we need to preach the Gospel to them.
To say that these groups are Catholic and these are not – and will most likely never become so – belies the misconception, if not downright falsehood, that the Gospel has been preached everywhere and has exhausted itself on certain types of people.

But Jesus Christ came not to save only Poles or Italians or Mexicans, but every single individual person. As St. Paul said, “There is no Jew or Greek here...”

So whose responsibility is it to preach? Stated simply, every Catholic’s. The bishop has the primary responsibility to see that it is done and to do it himself. As a successor of the Apostles, he must ensure that the Gospel is preached in its entirety in his diocese – and not only to Catholics. The priest has the responsibility to preach the Gospel in his parish – and not only to Catholics. Deacons must do it as well as the Religious. And we laity have the responsibility, as Vatican II said, to be leaven in the world, preaching the Gospel in our everyday lives.

We cannot simply be content to claim demographic shifts as the reason for parish closings or openings. By doing so, we limit God and deny these new people the chance to respond to the Gospel. If a parish’s numbers are down in a place where the general population is steady or growing, but only the types of people are changing, then the parish has the task of bringing the Gospel to those who are moving into its boundaries.

A roadblock to preaching the Gospel today is the mistaken notion that we cannot “impose” our values on others and we don’t want to be “sheep stealing,” so we must only talk to those who are “unchurched.” The most striking example of this was the document issued last year that said we cannot preach the Gospel to the Jews. (God forbid we should ever remember that the Catholic Church contains, by God's grace and mercy, the fullness of truth and the human heart is longing for that truth for its own salvation. Who knows what would happen then? We might actually start going door to door!)

This is certainly not what the Lord had in mind when He commanded the apostles to “Go, therefore, and teach all nations...” Nor does it equate with the experience of many people today coming into the Church from Protestant denominations because they see the fullness of the truth in her. Just ask all those former Protestant ministers from Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins to Marcus Grodi and Alex Jones. And what of the many Jews and Muslims who have recently become Catholic?

So we need to bring the Good News to the Bosnians, Serbs, Somalis, Hmong, Sudanese, Turks, Russians, Thais, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists, and all the other ethnic and religious groups that come to our shores, cities and towns. In fact, it seems to me that their coming here is making it easier for us to fulfill the great mandate, “Go and teach all nations.” All the nations seem to be coming here, so we don’t have to “go” anywhere, except out our front doors and down the street.

Certainly how we preach is important so that we do not force, coerce or pressure anyone into accepting the Gospel; that is simply wrong. But it is second in consideration to the fact that it needs to be done.

So if we believe what Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but through Me” or what St. Peter said, “There is no other Name given under heaven by which we may be saved,” or what Pope John Paul II said, “Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all,” then we see that we have plenty of fertile territory and a lot of work ahead of us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Is there a connection?

Remember when Princess Diana died? Mother Teresa was at the same time experiencing ill health. It turned out that it was not even a week after the princess died that Mother Teresa died. Many believe the princess was on the verge of becoming Catholic and that Mother Teresa, with whom she was close, had something to do with that. It was almost as if Mother went in pursuit of Diana's soul.

Today, there is this report from

New crisis in Pope's health?

Vatican, Mar. 22 ( - The director of the Vatican press office abruptly withdrew from a news conference on Wednesday, March 22, amid rumors of a new crisis in the health of Pope John Paul II. The Vatican has made no recent announcement about the Pope's health, aside from formal notice that the Holy Father would not hold his regular weekly public audience on Wednesday. That notice, made by Father Ciro Benedettini, the deputy director of the press office, had been expected.

However, reporters were put on alert by the last-minute announcement that Joaquin Navarro-Valls would not attend a press conference, where he was scheduled to discuss a new film about John Paul II that is scheduled to air on Italian television on Easter Sunday.

Navarro-Valls gave no reason for his sudden withdrawal. But one of the organizers of the news conference, asked to explain, replied: "You know very well why."

Speculation about the Holy Father's physical condition has heightened since his brief public appearance on Palm Sunday, when the Pope seemed to be in acute pain. During a 2-minute appearance at the window of his apartment in the apostolic palace, the Pope put his hand to his head in a sign of distress-- a gesture that he had made several times during a video appearance at a youth meeting on March 17. During that earlier meeting, the video feed of the Pope's image was disrupted several times, evidently while aides sought to ease the Pope's discomfort.
Could it be that the Holy Father is suffering what Terri Schiavo is suffering? Is it that he has taken on himself the sufferings of Christ in today's world, living in his body all that he has written about suffering and the evangelium vitae? Being the mystic that he is, I would not doubt it in the least.

We need more of this in the Body of Christ. Joining our sufferings to Christ's and not being afraid to lack comfort and the comfortable things of our American life so as to be united with Him -- though it makes no sense to the world -- will help to bring about the new evangelization.

Another poem on Terri

From my good friend, Joseph O'Brien, assistant editor at The Catholic Times, newspaper for the Diocese of La Crosse. He wrote this a few years ago when the story first broke and has kept it updated.

- for Terri Schiavo

It won’t take long for the flash of false mercy to do its work
On flesh, momentarily reflected on stainless steel,
The maculate evil of vain hearts. Judge:

The devils decamped and capering that pierce the darkness
Of noonday – the evil that clusters like wasps stinging
Fallen apples’ rotten flesh. Legislate:

The evil that musters itself, rank and petty,
En masse, pricking along the eastern path of night.

The evil with breath hot and straining through tiny slits
In the state’s official mask, affixed, a nice, bored expression
That holds all and sways with cold law,

Whispering in easy assassination, the good death is always best...
A point of law, a point of pride. No, it won’t take long
To understand the starvation of stars at dawn

(At daybreak the stars begin to disappear, dehydrated spittle
At a mouth’s cracked corners, the blood-flecked rim
Of tomorrow’s horizon):

The birthday of death – row and wade through it: here,
A grim world, death of innocence, emergence
In time for time’s divorce and destruction –

In predatory moments, a lone hill
Riding out noontime on a heat wave,
A voyage with mirage for destination,

A bark without pilot or command,
Triple-masted, naked, trolling the air,
Sparred without sails, lookout’s flesh

Nailed to itself as if in love with the world
It’s vessel has made passage through.
It clings to a makeshift crows’ nest,

Its gaze narrowing for new land,
And dimming in its view of the old:
O Jerusalem!

Counting all down, down to earth, earth
Beneath its own heavy lidded eyes, centuries of inhumanity
In humanity’s quivering, drooling, incomprehensibly tender face.

“No more!” said heaven. Cobalt punctures our eyes.
Pang of the ordinary. And creation answered back: “Wake…sleep.”
But who could see that it was good?

Meanwhile, no one should talk. Rather, be quiet
As cicada’s day is quiet. This day, the air is grey as rat’s hair
And the moon is lodged in the sky at midday,

A cat’s eye chasing away with a single pale blue glance
The last precedent of courage shadowed by the helpless inching of hours
And a fear that quickly quiets without calm.

The long needle of silence – the principle sleep – the dead clock’s single truth –
A new ally of law. It doesn’t take long to consider it done.
Judge. Legislate. Execute.

Not at all.

The Rule of Law, they cried...while Terri died

From my good friend, Deacon Keith Fournier.

The Rule of Law, they cried…while Terri died

By Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

"For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work…"

St. Paul's Second Letter to the Thessalonians

The eyes of the world watched,
As one more judge ruled for death over life

The Rule of Law, they cried…while Terri died

Who is this one who cannot speak?
She is a vegetable, of no use in this world of power and utility

The Rule of Law, they cried…while Terri died

Forget the smile; it has no productive value.
Disregard the mothers’ plea; misguided sentiment

The Rule of Law, they cried…while Terri died

The one on the bench, the blind guide leading the blind,
has the power now in this brave new world unanchored from truth;
his word is the sword

The Rule of Law ,they cried…while Terri died

All this talk of religion and solidarity be damned, let the one who cast the bride aside decide

The Rule of Law, they cried…while Terri died

The triumph of the Will ascends,
the meek and the weak shudder,
the reign of lawlessness begins

The Rule of Law, they cried…while Terri died

It was only a matter of time

When the San Diego Union Tribune announced that "Bishop won't allow funeral for club owner" it was news to keep an eye on. That's because Bishop Robert Brom of San Diego has been duly noted for his wimpiness.

Not that the See of San Diego has always had such problems. His predecessor, Bishop Leo Maher, was the first in the nation in 1989 to deny a politician Communion for openly supporting abortion (see this article I did on the issue). Unfortunately, Bishop Maher was left out in the cold by his fellow California hierarchs and suffered great humiliation on their account. It was not until late 2003 that his legacy was taken up again and that happened 1,500 miles away in La Crosse, Wis.

Bishop Brom certainly didn't follow Bishop Maher's lead. He has continuously allowed all sorts of shenanigans to go on his diocese, particularly at the Jesuit-run University of San Diego. So when that headline came, I wondered how long the bishop's resolve would last.

It appears 31-year-old John McCusker owned a couple of gay bars. If that's not bad enough, they had been used under contract for shooting of pornographic films. So when McCusker died of AIDS and it was announced his funeral would be at a Catholic parish, a number of people who knew of his business dealings contacted the diocese to let them know. Bishop Brom, amazingly, took the right step on March 17 (St. Patrick's Day, of all days) and denied him a funeral in a Catholic church.

But it appears his spine is made of something other than backbone. When the gay groups predictably protested and said they would keep up a bunch of noise, we didn't have to wait too long. Today's headline, "
Bishop apologizes for barring Catholic funeral of gay nightclub owner" and the attached brief story say it all.

Well, not quite all. Something like, 'Bishop' apologizes...., would have told a fuller story.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Action Item for Terri

I know that many of you are already doing tons for Terri and I know that many of you also might feel overwhelmed by the travesty that is taking place or by the numbers of action requests you are receiving. Please, though, listen to this:

CONTACT THE GOVERNOR, He DOES have the authority to place Terri in protective custody and assure her safety. This has long been known. Don't let him wimp out and hide behind the skirts of the legislators like a Pontius Pilate and wash his hands, saying he "can't do anything." He CAN! At any time, he could order the state police to place Terri in a safe place and give her all her nutritional needs.

The President has the authority to order the federal agents to place Terri in protective custody and to order investigations into the criminal conspiracy to hide the truth of Terri's condition, how she got that way. He has the authority to act now. Don't let him wimp out and hide behind the skirts of the legislators like a Pontius Pilate and wash his hands, saying he "can't do anything." He CAN!

I received that request from someone else. I passed it by a constitutional lawyer to check its veracity. Here is his reply:

I believe he DOES have the authority both under the Florida Constitution and Statutes as well as the Natural Law.
He can intervene for a death row inmate for goodness sake.
We are talking about a disabled woman being starved to death.
Additionally, the Judge is in contempt of Congress
Remember, we are dealing with "conservatives" who sometimes seem to value the "separation of powers" more than the Natural Law!

The same applies to the President. So I am asking you to contact them by phone, fax and e-mail at the numbers below. Your help in doing so will be greatly appreciated. And if you can send this request on to everyone you know, we can multiply the reach tremendously.

Governor Jeb Bush
Office (850) 488-4441
Fax 850-487-0801

President George W Bush
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A brave speech

New York State Senator Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) is probably the most courageous of state senators in the country. I've posted his speech (with some minor spelling and grammatical edits) to the New York State Senate opposing a bill funding embryonic stem cell research in which he speaks the unvarnished truth. He is getting a lot of opposition for this speech, and when you read it, you'll see why. (If you're as encouraged as I am, please call his office and offer your support at 518-455-2511 or 718-892-7513.)

It's ironic that the bill he opposed was introduced by an Italian Catholic.

I don't think you'll find him backing down from what he said as some Vatican officials did when a certain someone said something similar.

My Position On Stem Cell Research
By: Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz

Ladies and Gentlemen, it seems that nowadays everyone is rushing to put together a stem cell research program. There are those that have called this the new California “Gold Rush.”

Last November, the people of California voted and approved proposition 71. This is an initiative to obtain three (3) billion dollars in funding over 10 years for embryonic stem cell research. This program will give out $300 million every year for the financing of stem cell research.

Many people have recognized and realized that this field of study has incredible potential for an economic tool. In other words, there is a lot of money to be made and a lot of people trying to get it.

Now, here in New York State, we have suddenly opened our eyes and we don't want to be left behind and out of the pot of money from the projected gold mine of stem cell research.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to make matters worse, and to be sure that we get into this gold mine, there are those arguing for and in favor of the embryonic stem cell research who have embarked on a campaign of misinformation, claiming that there are scientific reasons to believe that this research will lead to a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Nothing Is Further From The Truth!.

But as someone said, “people always need a fairy tale.” The truth of the matter is that scientists have allowed society to believe that stem cells will effectively cure Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers have apparently known for some time that the embryonic stem cells will not, and I repeat, will not be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease. During one of the United States Senate Subcommittee Hearings this past month of May, two researchers testified that Alzheimer's disease is a whole brain disease and not a cellular disorder such as Parkinson's.

This opinion has been kept out of the news. But now, The Washington Post correspondent, Mr. Rick Weiss, has blown the lid off the scam. He has written an article stating that Alzheimer's disease is the least likely to benefit from stem cell research.

Ladies and Gentlemen, embryonic stem cell research is another and more sophisticated way for the continued killing of unborn babies in America. I oppose the direct destruction of innocent human life for any purpose, including research.

As I said before, embryonic research is simply another form of abortion in America. What is an abortion? Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy and the killing or the destruction of an embryo or a fetus.

Before January 22nd, 1973, a day of infamy in American history, abortions were illegal in most states and were only performed for extreme circumstances.

In 1970, Sarah Weddington, a young lawyer from Texas filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of a pregnant woman named Norma McCorvey. Ms. McCorvey did not use her real name, she used the alias Jane Roe. The purpose of this lawsuit was to overturn the State of Texas anti-abortion laws. The lawsuit charged that the laws were unconstitutional and that they violated women’s rights under the first, fourth, fifth, ninth and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution.

Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade was the defendant in the case; Jane Roe against Henry Wade, therefore the case is known as Roe v. Wade.

Since that day of infamy, January 22nd 1973, every year there are approximately 1.5 million abortions in America. In thirty-two (32) years, at the rate of 4,000 abortions each day, we have killed and slaughtered 48 million unborn American citizens.

Ladies and Gentleman, abortion is the American Holocaust. I want to compare Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust to what is happening to abortion in America.

A) The comparison is plain: six million Jews were exterminated by Hitler in Germany. Almost 48 million babies have been exterminated in the abortion clinics of America. We have simply been in the killing for a longer period of time than Hitler.

B) Hitler believed that Jews were not human beings. In America, abortionists believe that a fetus and an embryo are not a life.

C) Hitler killed Jews en masse. America is killing babies at a rate of 4,000 per day.

D) Hitler used the ashes of the Jews to make bars of soap. In America, we are selling fetal tissue to be used in the manufacture of cosmetics as well as for medical research. What is the difference?

Do not point your finger at Hitler, we are worse. Do not look at Joseph Mengele’s medical experiments on Jewish children and say that you are shocked. Our abortion clinics are doing more extreme things than that.

Ladies and Gentlemen, why am I opposed to stem cell research using the embryo? Or what we call embryonic stem cell research?

Simply because there are other ways to do stem cell research without using embryonic cells. For example, there is stem cell research using adult tissue, blood from the umbilical cord and other sources such as bone marrow, blood, muscle, fat, nerves, and even in the pulp of a baby’s teeth.

Today, adult stem cells have been used to help people with Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, sickle-cell anemia, heart damage, corneal damage, and dozens of other conditions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there has to be a fundamental commitment to protect and preserve the value and sanctity of human life.

We are crossing a fundamental moral line by supporting, promoting and providing taxpayer funding to encourage further destruction of human embryos. That is simply the killing of innocent human life.

Here in America, we like to be politically correct, so we just don't call it abortion, we call it pro-choice.

Let me tell you something about being pro-choice:

A) Hitler was pro-choice. He chose to send the Jews to Auschwitz. That was not the Jews' choice, that was Hitler’s choice.

B) Murderers and assassins are pro-choice. They choose to put a gun to your face and blow your head off. That is not your choice, that is their choice.

C) The baby in a woman’s womb will not choose the saline solution that will burn his skin away nor will he choose the forceps that will crack his little head off. That is not his choice, that is your choice.

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, one of the goals of embryonic stem cell research is to be able to clone, create or manufacture another human life in a laboratory with the sole purpose of killing him or her to be able to use his or her cells for experiments.

This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the ultimate degradation of a fellow human being.

Therefore Mr. President, I am voting NO on this issue. I ask my fellow Senators to join me in stopping this madness.....this gold rush.... this disrespect for human life.

Ladies and Gentlemen, stem cell research is the reincarnation of Dr. Joseph Mengele’s experiments, this time on the unborn, the innocent, and defenseless human beings.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Church as business

From the Boston Globe
A group of prominent Catholic business leaders and academics announced yesterday that they have formed a nonprofit organization aimed at professionalizing the governance and administration of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, which has been reeling from a string of management and financial problems.

The new group called for the church to solicit nominations from clergy and lay people for candidates to be bishops and for bishops to consult parishioners and parish employees before naming new pastors. Also recommended were a broad series of administrative changes, including the appointment of a chief administrative officer for every diocese, publication of annual financial statements that are ''reader-friendly," and the initiation of performance reviews for priests, nuns, auxiliary bishops, and other church employees.

The new organization, called the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, says it will aim to gather the expertise of accomplished lay Catholics and use it to transform the nation's largest religious denomination. The Catholic Church in recent years has faced a clergy abuse scandal attributed in part to poor management, a personnel crisis because of the dwindling number of priests, bankruptcy filings by three dioceses, and a raft of parish and school closings.
The man spearheading this thing is one Geoffrey Boisi. His name is most likely not recognizable to many people, but he is one of those Boston Catholic millionaires who works behind the scenes and is influential with certain members of the hierarchy, like Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C.

Boisi is the man who, in July of 2003, put together a secret or confidential (take your pick of terms and definitions) meeting of some lay business leaders and five bishops at the JPII Cultural Center in Washington. They talked about the sex abuse crisis and the effects it was having on the Church in the U.S. Now, obviously meetings between laity and bishops happen every day. I can meet with my bishop or even with other bishops. But what was unprecedented was that Boisi was able to get together with the then-leaders of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They included then-Bishop Wilton Gregory (president), Bishop William Skylstad (VP, now president even though he declared his diocese bankrupt), Bishop William Friend (secretary), Bishop Robert Lynch (yes, the one who is notoriously silent on the impending murder of Terri Schiavo in his diocese -- he is formerly the General Secretary of the NCCB) and Cardinal McCarrick. That is something I or any other ordinary layperson cannot do.

That meeting, and another one the following year, basically told the bishops they had better adopt a business model approach to running their dioceses otherwise they will repeat the sexual abuses of the past and the Church will crisis itself into non-existence. They seem to be of the opinion that the Church has to learn from the world. (Take a look at this article I wrote for Catholic World Report on those meetings.)

I don't buy that. The Church has learned too much from the world. The bishops who covered up and did not face the realities of what was going on had bought into the worldly notions of sexual license as the norm, or were advised by those who had. They gave up their episcopal authority or let it be rendered impotent by not understanding their roles as iconic fathers, images of The Father. The Church is a family, not a business (not even a family business). That is why we do not address the Trinity as CEO, COO and CFO, but Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yes, we do have to do some business-type things, but that is merely an accidental property. The Church is not even just primarily a family. Familial life is its essence. To operate her functions in any other way is to render her -- the chosen instrument of God's salvation on earth -- impotent. (Yes, I understand that women cannot be impotent, but my meaning is clear.)

I know bishops who were fantastic CEO's but lousy bishops. I know bishops who are lousy CEO's but great bishops. I would rather have the latter than the former. The latter will understand the importance of preserving proper relationships with God and with one another. The former will be concerned for the bottom line and the public image.

Besides, weren't there some companies called WorldCom and Enron?

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Insights on Sr. Lucia

I did an interview with Leo Madigan for Our Sunday Visitor. Those published interviews are always shorter than what is gathered, and what Leo said is insightful. So here's the full thing.

By Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

It was the spring of 1916. World War I had started two years before, but it had not brought war to Portugal. However, the country was in political turmoil after the killing of the king in 1908 and the government takeover by radical atheists.
Into this scene come three peasant children watching their sheep outside of Fatima and a sudden apparition of an angel who identified himself as the “Angel of Peace.” Unbeknownst to them, it was the beginning of a series of apparitions that would culminate in seeing the Blessed Virgin Mary six times the following year.
Lucia Santos and Francisco and Jacinta Martos, Lucia’s cousins, would become the carriers of an important message from heaven – the world needs to repent and pray for peace. If not, then something worse than WW I will happen and Russia “will spread her errors.” Francisco and Jacinta would not live long afterwards, but Lucia would remain on earth another 89 years.
Her death at age 97 on Feb. 13 brings to a close the living history of one of the most famous of Marian apparitions in the history of the Church.
Three secrets were given to the children. The first two became known fairly quickly – a terrifying vision of hell and the request for the Holy Father to consecrate Russia to Mary’s Immaculate Heart for the sake of the country’s conversion. The third would remain only for the Pope. Six successive pontiffs (Pius XI through John Paul II) would read it and keep it secret. That is until the Jubilee Year when it was disclosed that it was a prediction of the assassination attempt on John Paul II.
But more than that, Fatima is and has remained a distinct call for daily conversion and prayer – just like the Gospel.
Our Sunday Visitor talked with Leo Madigan, the author of six books on Fatima, about Sr. Lucia’s life and death.

Q. Was there a sense of real conversion for Lucia after the apparition with the angel or did that not come until after those of Mary began? And was there a need for conversion? After all, she was a young child.

A. Conversion isn’t really a word that applies here. She had been brought up in surroundings of solid peasant faith and had no experience outside it. The appearances of the angel certainly deepened her awareness of things spiritual without affecting her personality as a happy, affectionate young girl. The angel was clearly preparing her for the visitations of the Blessed Virgin, though Lucia was given no inkling of that.

Q. The story of Fatima is retold quite often, but we know little of what happened afterwards. What went on in Lucia’s life between the time of the apparitions and when she went into the convent?

A. For three and a half years after the apparitions, Lucia was mostly at her home in Aljustrel or staying with a series of ladies who undertook to provide her with an education. The longest of these was with a lady in Lisbon whose monarchical sympathies jeopardized the venture. Lucia went back to Aljustrel and then to another lady in Santarem, very near the Church of the Eucharistic Miracle. Lucia particularly liked it there and was keen to stay and attend school but the newly appointed Bishop of Leiria persuaded her to go north to Porto to a school run by the Dorothean Sisters. There she was to assume a new name and identity so that neither her fellow pupils, nor many of the nuns, would know that she was the surviving seer of Fatima. She went there on May 16, 1921. In 1925 she became a postulant in the same congregation and was sent to Pontevedra in Spain for her religious formation because the anticlerical politics of Portugal at the time would not allow the training of candidates for religious life in the country.

Q. How did Jacinta’s and Francisco’s deaths affect her?

A. She would hardly be human if she wasn’t deeply affected by the early deaths of her cousins and fellow seers, but these deaths could not have come as a surprise because Our Lady had told her that this would happen.
Her last words to Francisco (she had just turned 12) the day before he died were, “Goodbye then, Francisco Till we meet in heaven, goodbye …”
Before Jacinta died in Lisbon, she managed to send word to Lucia (who was now almost 13) that Our Lady had appeared to her and told her the day and hour of her death. It is clear from Lucia’s later writings that her bond with Jacinta was one of the most important influences of her life. When Jacinta’s coffin was opened in 1935 and a photograph of her incorrupt face was sent to Lucia by the bishop, she replied, “I cannot say how much I prize…the photograph of Jacinta. I longed to tear aside the wrappings and see her altogether. I was impatient to uncover the rest of the body, without taking into consideration that it was a photograph; I was half absorbed, such was my joy at beholding the most intimate friend of my childhood again.”

Q. Portuguese history is little known in the U.S. Can you put the apparitions in a historical context and talk about what happened there afterwards? How did the apparitions influence public life? Did Sr. Lucia have any role in that, however small?

A. There are many fat, though uniformly depressing, books written on the Portuguese politics of the time, so it is too complicated to condense here. But if anyone thinks the country was a sweet bucolic paradise on the edge of Europe, which our Lady approved of as she peeped out of heaven and decided to pay the odd fleeting visit, then he must be disillusioned because the opposite was true. The only certainty that was surfacing among the political turmoil was virulent atheism. And the Prime Minister at the time of the apparitions, Afonso Costa, was so fanatically atheistic that he was an embarrassment to his atheistic colleagues. He swore that two generations would see the obliteration of Catholicism in Portugal. From the assassination of the King and the heir in 1908, the only regicide in Portuguese history, till the relative stability introduced by [Antonio] Salazar over 20 years later, the country was in constant political chaos.
I am convinced that the influence of Fatima was immense in stabilizing the country – both in the realm of direct grace and in the effect it had on the consciences and moral sensibilities of the populace. But these are, ultimately, intangibles and defy verifiable assessment. In studying the subject though, I privately wonder if Portugal wasn’t the devil’s first choice for an atheistic state, an ambition forestalled by the effects of Fatima – and poor Albania got the brunt of the awful negativism

Q. How did the sisters in the convent deal with having a visionary in their midst? Was that a hardship for them? How much did it intrude on their life as a community?

A. In the Dorothean community Lucia was a lay sister (coadjutor), as opposed to a choir sister, at that time very much a manual worker in a convent. Her superiors saw to it that she was given no favors as a confidant of heaven, and she herself was no cringing mouse. Indeed, it seems that she had an admirable, if sometimes disconcerting, peasant’s bluntness about her till the end. If any of her sisters in religion wanted to treat her differently from the others on account of her role as a seer, they would have got no encouragement whatsoever from her.
The situation in the Carmel would have been a little different being, as it is, a school of intense spirituality. It can almost be said that saints are the norm in a Carmel, though those who are enclosed there are the last to recognize the fact. But the real difference with the Carmel is that Lucia was already a mature religious when she entered and the particular community was only starting up again after several generations of being disbanded. Sister Lucia of the Immaculate Heart was one of the pioneer nuns. She wasn’t entering a collection of women as an outsider, seer or no.

Q. I wasn’t aware that the Carmel she entered had been out of commission. Who were the others who joined her and how did they start it? Why was there an interest for her to leave the Dorotheans and restart this Carmel?

A. After the installation of the republic in 1910 the contemplative religious were forced to disband their monasteries. The nuns from the Coimbra Carmel went to Carmels in Spain and their convent was taken over by the Ministry of War. During the 1930's as things were heating up in Spain, some of the sisters returned to Coimbra and continued their monastic life in a rented house. All the while they were negotiating for the return of their property, a transaction which was finally realized and they moved back into the restored building in 1947. Sister Lucia joined them in 1948.
One can’t assume to judge Lucia’s motives for leaving an active sisterhood and joining a contemplative but, given her ‘fame,’ life in an open convent would have become unbearable. She had, in a sense, done all she could do to spread devotion to the Immaculate Heart. Also, it is interesting to recall that during the miracle of the sun in October 1917, Lucia, and Lucia alone, had seen the Blessed Virgin in the sky as Our Lady of Carmel. It could hardly have been the resurrection of some early memory because she had never seen a representation of her and spoke of the vision as Our Lady of the Two Cards – as if she was suggesting a quick game of Gin Rummy. Many think this was Our Lady’s way of telling her that she would later be under her special protection as a Carmelite. Anyway, in the late 40's she applied to Rome for permission to change the manner of her religious life and it was granted.

Q. Was convent life difficult for her at all? Did she ever talk about it?
A. Convent life is difficult for anybody. So is marriage, and any street in life. But the difficulties were never insurmountable. Yes, she did talk about it. Father Antonio Maria Martins’ excellent “The Intimate Life of Sister Lucia” published under a contributing editor’s name by the Fatima Family Apostolate in Alexandria, SD, gives a picture of her life as a Dorothean, mostly by using her letters. Her chief difficulty, as with all of us, was herself.

Q. Why has she remained such a public figure? Has the Faith in Portugal remained that strong over the last 80 years that despite the fact that Sr. Lucia lived in such obscurity after taking the habit, she would remain so popular?

A. She was certainly a public figure in Portugal, inasmuch as everyone knew who she was and where she was. But no one expected anything of her apart from what she gave and that was, as it were, veiled in silence. Her contemplative vocation was well respected and, curiously, understood by most Portuguese. There is still a sort of atavistic understanding of religious and spiritual values among the majority of Portuguese no matter how much the activities of the media and the “intellectuals” might try to deaden it. In a sense her very obscurity was an essential part of her popularity – her fame. Had she suddenly started making world tours and lecturing and sounding off opinions, she would have got in the way of the message heaven had chosen her to deliver.
Anyway, I hardly think she was a public figure outside Portugal. Many Catholics were aware of her existence – though most were surprised to learn that that existence was still continuing in this world.
Heaven always has at least one “phenomenon” witnessing to its value somewhere in this world and, in its own way, heaven also handles their publicity.

Q. The president of Portugal declared a day of mourning for her and ordered flags at half-staff. While that’s a very nice official pronouncement (which admittedly would never happen here in the U.S.), what remains are there of the Faith and the influence of the apparitions in the 21st century? Has secularism pretty much taken over as it has in the rest of Europe?

A. All I can go by is the sight of the Portuguese people coming here which they do in their hundreds of thousands, many of them walking long distances, some even on their knees for stretches of the way. And not just the act of coming, as if they had nothing better to do. It is also the reverence they show when they get here. Sometimes it even seems to be in spite of themselves. The sacred mightn’t play a large part in their daily lives, but when it presents itself, they recognize it without putting up barriers. Yes, secularism has put down roots in much of Portuguese life, but those roots are shallow and only the shallow yield to them absolutely. The Faith is too deeply implanted in the people. Our Lady herself said at Fatima that Portugal would never lose the Faith and anyone observing the daily procession of Portuguese, coming from every corner of the nation to pay homage at their Marian shrine, would have no trouble in giving credence to the prophecy.

Q. Do you expect a beatification process to begin for her? If so, do you think it will happen as quickly as it did for Mother Teresa?

A. People are already praying to her, instead of for her, so if it’s a matter of popular pressure then I reckon she will at least be declared Venerable before too long. There is supposed to be a five year wait but, who knows? There seem to be more exceptions to the rules for raising souls to the altars these days than there are conventionally promoted candidates. It might be remembered, though, that the greatest exception was the great St. Anthony, another Portuguese (in spite of the Padua tag which sticks to him) in the 13th century. He was canonized within a year of his death.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Silence for a few days

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be silent on this page for a few days. I will be heading out to the East Coast to visit my Dad who has non-small cell carcinoma in four different areas of his body. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Coming up:

I've been commissioned by Catholic Online to write a four-part series on slavery around the world. Look for that in the next three weeks or so.

I also have some things up my sleeve that address the second part of my blog's purpose.

BTW, I received a request for RSS feed capabilities. I think I've done that, but it's way down at the bottom of the page. If there's anyone who could help me place it better, please send me an e-mail at Thanks in advance for the help.

Negotiate? Over murder?

This is from the St. Petersburg Times:

In other news Monday, Bishop Robert N. Lynch, head of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, issued a statement urging the two sides in the Schiavo case to come together to negotiate one last time to resolve their differences.

"I beg and pray that both sides might step back a little and allow some mediation in these final hours," Lynch said.
Mediation of what? Over what? "Well, how about if we delay her starvation until after Easter?"

The Florida bishops as a body were a little less stupid:

Also Monday, Florida's bishops issued a plea that Terri Schiavo "continues to receive all treatments and care that will be of benefit to her.''

It's obvious these guys haven't a clue of what's going on. Mediation happens over fender benders and financial matters. One does not mediate over life and death. (Imagine this conversation between Roosevelt and Hitler: R: "How about only 3 million Jews?" H: "No, no. You see, I need them all to disappear.") Death has a certain finality about it that is not mediatable.

Food is not "treatment." (We don't say, "Let's go to McDonald's and get some treatment," or, "I don't have much time. Let's stop at a fast-treatment joint.") It's the stuff of everyday life. Last I checked, food is "of benefit" to all living beings.

No wonder abortion remains rampant in this country. And no wonder euthanasia will soon follow -- at least legally. It's already done without fanfare on a regular basis. When bishops speak as ridiculously as this, moral death will overtake us all.