Thursday, June 22, 2006

An appropriate day

Archbishop Donald Wuerl was installed as the Archbishop of Washington today. It was concurrent with the Feast Day of two very important English martyrs, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. I'll leave it to you to read the links at the Catholic Encyclopedia. Suffice it to say that both of them shed their blood willingly standing up against a politician (Henry VIII) who wanted a tiny little thing called a divorce. All of the bishops of England said it was OK -- except Fisher. All of his courtiers said it was OK -- except More.

The two took divergent paths of strategy -- Fisher denounced him and More resigned the chancellorship and tried the method of silence in order to keep himself alive to care for his family. Fisher knew, though, that his strategy would get him killed.

More hoped to avoid that fate. "This is not the stuff of which martyrs are made," he tells his wife, Lady Alice, in Robert Bolt's play, A Man for All Seasons. Yet, though he hoped to avoid it, that did not mean that he would yield and positively affirm that it was OK for Henry to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn. Nor would he assent to the formula that proclaimed Henry as the head of the Church in England.

For their unswerving stands, both lost their heads after having had their death sentences commuted from hanging, drawing and quartering (Fisher), and hanging (More).

Fortunately, here in the United States in the 21st century A.D., we have a few more bishops willing to take a stand than England did in the 16th century.

There are two things to observe about today's ceremonies:

1) St. Thomas More is the patron saint of politicians.

2) His Holiness, St. (oops!) Pope Benedict XVI, appointed Wuerl just at the right time so that he would be installed on this particular day. Every year, he will be reminded of that fact. Let us pray, then, that through the grace of God and the prayers of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More the new Archbishop of Washington will be one of those who does stand up against the cultural tide and stands unswervingly for the truth, even when it puts him in the media spotlight and under the unfriendly and even glaring eyes of Washington pols. One never knows what surprises the Holy Spirit might have in store.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Another document from the bishops?

Bishops decide to write about teen stewardship, freeze assessment

By Jerry Filteau Catholic News Service

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The U.S. Catholic bishops, meeting in Los Angeles, agreed June 15 that their Ad Hoc Committee on Stewardship should draft two brochures -- one for young Hispanic Catholics and one for other young Catholics -- on teenagers and stewardship in the church.

Ah come on, now. We all know that these things just don't get read. And expecting teens to read them? Give me a break. This is simply a waste of time. They would spend their time in far better ways by being shepherds in their dioceses and not worrying about how teens are being stewards. They should be more concerned about whether or not teens understand who Jesus Christ is and their relationship with Him.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Polling on the Trinity

Here's something very interesting from the Chicago Tribune. How about a poll asking about what anyone thinks would be a good substitute term for Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

You see, the Presbyterians are debating the issue at their national meeting and the Tribune apparently thinks it's something on which any American should have an opinion. Just as they should have an opinion on what substitute name would be good for Allah, right? Riiiiight.

I picked up on this story this morning as I get the Tribune's daily e-mail headlines. I clicked on a link which brought me to a poll with the following question: "Which of the following substitutes for 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' do you prefer?" Here are your choices:

Rock, Redeemer and Friend
Lover, Beloved and Love
Creator, Savior and Sanctifier,
King of Glory, Prince of Peace and Spirit of Love
Mother, Child and Womb

(No, I didn't make up any of these -- I'm not that "creative" -- or, through God's grace, stupid.)

Now this poll was there when I clicked on the link at about 11:20 this morning. But then it was gone around 1:45. So I called the Tribune and asked where it had gone. I got this reply via e-mail from online producer Melissa Goh:
Thanks for your note. The poll was discontinued earlier today due to an editorial concern. The issue has been resolved, however, and you'll find the poll once again functional on your Daywatch newsletter, or you can visit:
Thanks again.

I e-mailed Melissa back and asked her what the concern was and how it was resolved, but got no reply.

What's interesting to note is that the second version of the poll has a "None of the above" option that was missing from the first one.

OK, so I don't mind the report about the Presbyterians. It's always good to know what goofy people are up to. But I do mind the Tribune asking every Tom, Dick and Harry what they think a good substitute for the ancient and venerable Trinitarian formula should be.

It certainly doesn't help that the Presbyterians think it's up for grabs -- that just makes it look like anyone can do anything they damn well please with Christian doctrine. It also doesn't help that certain Catholics are doing the same asinine thing.

Below is a commentary I wrote for the Drew Mariani Show on the subject, which pretty much gives full vent to my fury over this:
I’m not sure what the mainline Protestant churches are up to, but it doesn’t seem like it’s anything that’s really good. Yesterday, we talked about the Episcopalians and their moves away from traditional Christianity by ordaining women as priests and bishops. Today, the Presbyterians are meeting in Alabama and want to change the name of the Trinity from Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to, take your pick:

- Mother, Child and Womb; - Rock, Redeemer and Friend; - Lover, Beloved, and Love;
- Creator, Savior and Sanctifier; or King of Glory, Prince of Peace and Spirit of Love.

Now this was reported in the Chicago Tribune this morning, which is fine. It was a story they got from Richard Ostling at the Associated Press. But the Tribune has gone a step further. They have an online poll that asks readers, and I quote, “Which of the following possible substitutes for ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ do you prefer?” And then they give you the options that the Presbyterians are considering.

Now I don’t mind the Tribune reporting on what the Presbyterians are doing, in fact I appreciate that reporting because it lets us know how some folks are trying to contaminate and twist a doctrine that is the central reality of Christianity. But what I do mind is the Tribune asking everybody on the planet what they think should be used to substitute for something so central.

There’s a real problem here, folks. The problem is that this is a doctrine of the Christian faith that’s not up for grabs, it’s not up for an opinion poll from the Chicago Tribune. What do you think would happen if instead of asking about substituting Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Tribune asked, “Which of the following substitutes for Allah do you prefer?” You know as well as I do that they’d get all kinds of threats from Muslims – there might even be rioting in downtown Chicago in front of the Tribune building. Just look at what happened around the world with the cartoons of Muhammad.

What the editors at the Chicago Tribune have to understand is that just because the majority of Americans profess the Christian faith in one form or another doesn’t mean that its doctrines and practices are then up for debate by anyone and everyone. Secular Americans don’t get that, though. They don’t get the fact that what we as Christians believe is something that has been hammered out and lived for 2,000 years, that our brothers and sisters have gone to their deaths for their faith in the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the Presbyterians are debating this issue. It makes it seem to all the world that it is up for grabs, that anyone can define the Trinity as they want to. But like we talked about yesterday, that simply doesn’t work. Either God has a definitive being or He doesn’t. And if He doesn’t, then we have to start spelling the word god with a lower case ‘g’ all the time.

But that’s not what we know is true. We know that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that this truth is something that has come to us by way of revelation, not by philosophical or theological discourses. This is who God is and anyone who wants to redefine God by His attributes, rather than by the fact of His life in Himself is making an idol. Yes, you heard me right, folks. People who define God simply by His attributes and not by who He is in Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have made an idol for themselves. God is not simply the Creator, Savior and Sanctifier. Oh sure, the Father has created the world, the Son has saved us and the Spirit sanctifies us. But the Son certainly helped in the creation of the world, the Father cooperated in the saving of the world and the Holy Spirit does a lot more than sanctify us, no matter how great and difficult a work that is.

And don’t think that people haven’t talked about these kinds of crazy ideas over the centuries, because they have. The doctrines of the Church don’t come out of thin air, but out of lived experience and great conflict. But the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that Jesus promised would lead us into all truth, not into all confusion.

And that’s something the Chicago Tribune just doesn’t bank on. They don’t bank on the fact that God is really and truly present in His Church guiding her to all truth. So they think that such teachings are up for argument, that everyone’s got a valid opinion on it. But it doesn’t matter what people’s opinions are on it, truth is truth and you can’t get away from that. For the secular world to stick their relativistic noses into the affairs and teachings of the Church is simply out of place. Like I said before, they wouldn’t do it to Muslims because they’d be too afraid of their reaction, but they don’t care if they do it to Christians because they know Christians aren’t going to riot or make death threats, which I think shows just how shallow the secular media’s courage is.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Making the weaker sex

The above links to a column in the NY Times entitled, "The Weaker Sex" by one Marianne Legato at Columbia University. She argues that men are far weaker than women, contrary to what St. Peter said in his first letter (1 Peter 3:7). We men die earlier and more often in the womb, in childhood, adolescence and adulthood

She wants the National Institutes of Health to investigate men's health much more closely and try to protect us. She puts it this way:
Considering the relative fragility of men, it's clearly counterintuitive for us to urge them, from boyhood on, to cope bravely with adversity, to ignore discomfort, to persevere in spite of pain and to accept without question the most dangerous jobs and tasks we have to offer.
Well, sorry Ms. Legato, but that's coddling. And I don't like to be coddled. Now there are some men who coddle themselves by going to spas and plastic surgeons and spending hours in the gym -- even getting their nails done. But that's simply not manly.

Men are programmed by God to, "cope bravely with adversity, to ignore discomfort, to persevere in spite of pain and to accept without question the most dangerous jobs and tasks we have to offer." If we don't do that, we'll become far less than men -- we'll become a perverse form of woman.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Justice for Terri Schiavo -- and for marriage

The brilliant canon lawyer Ed Peters has posted on his blog again (link above) about Michael Schiavo's attempted marriage to Jodi Centonze, the woman with whom he lived while his wife Terri was still alive. That attempt at marriage was apparently given a blessing by the current bishop of St. Petersburg, Robert Lynch.

Ed has expanded his earlier and most excellent comments on the attempt in a new article in the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, a fact to which the current post is alerting his readers.

But he also makes the point that canon lawyers, unlike civil lawyers in the U.S., can only investigate a situation and make comments and suggestions. They cannot act like prosecutors or attorneys general and compel bishops or anyone else to do anything.

That is certainly the case and rightly so. The structure of the Church was established by Christ Himself and was set in place for a very good purpose. For a lawyer to try to usurp the three-fold office of the bishop -- to teach, to sanctify and to govern -- would be to usurp the authority of Christ Himself.

However, when someone like Bishop Lynch allows with virtually no comment the deliberate murder by starvation of a young woman by her husband, and then allows that husband who has murdered his wife to marry within the Catholic Church the woman with whom he lived and called "fiancé" while his wife was still alive, that cries out for justice. How that justice is brought about, I don't know. Certainly the civil authorities aren't going to do anything since the courts allowed it to go forward.

Not only is this an unjust situation in terms of the outrage against Terri Schiavo's life and the meaning of her marriage to Michael, it's also an unjust act against marriage itself. It renders marriage meaningless. That is why canon (c. 1090) -- and civil -- laws do not allow it.

So it seems to me that the Church has quite a different place to take here and that something should be pursued within her courts. Can a layperson sue a bishop in ecclesiastical court? Can it be immediately brought to the Congregation of Bishops? Should Michael Schiavo be sued in ecclesiastical court for marrying by fraud? Should his pastor be sued? If so, by whom?

If anyone has insight on this, I would certainly appreciate hearing it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Pope at Auschwitz

I thought this story had died, but apparently it has life amongst the liberals. NCR's John Allen reported on it here and Commonweal commented on it here.

John Allen's coverage of it is pretty well balanced. There were people who liked what Benedict had to say and others who didn't. Those who liked it weren't terribly vocal; those who didn't were -- as is usually the case.

But Commonweal was less than pleased. They even took the unusual step of slapping their liberal brother, John Allen, for not being liberal enough. Apparently, you see, the Catholic Church is still supposed to be flaggelating herself over her many failures regarding anti-Semitism. It's not enough, apparently, that John Paul led the Church through a recollection and repentence of her various sins during Lent of the Jubilee Year. It's not enough that John Paul went to Israel and put a petition in the Wailing Wall seeking forgiveness for our sins. It's not enough that Pope Benedict, as a German went to Auschwitz to show Catholic solidarity with those who died there.

Now the German people, on the other hand, they've done enough. One Israeli columnist, Sever Ploker, said they've said enough:
Not that we Jews, the remnants of those destroyed communities, still need German apologies. That was done in 1953, when the chancellor of the "new Germany", Konrad Adenhauer, offered such an apology to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. The theme of atonement has been repeated in the statements of many German public figures, and the decisions of many official German institutions.

No, the Catholic Church has to do more:
The German pope's apology at Auschwitz, over the graves of a million murdered Jews, should have had a different purpose: To warn against renewed anti-Semitism, and to atone for the sins of the German Catholic church, which in the best-case scenario was silent in the face of the Nazis, and in the more probable one – collaborated with them.
Collaborated with them?? Of course, there were those who did. But to say that the entire German Church is guilt of collaboration with the Nazis is simply wrong because it's simply not true, and Mr. Ploker knows it.

So to many, Benedict didn't do enough. Who knows what "enough" means. Would they want him to flaggelate himself or let them whip him? Do they want to empty the Vatican Museums? Do they want to bankrupt the Church? I'm sure some do.

But what puzzles me is why these people are not hearing what Benedict said -- to kill the Jews is to try to kill God. Now if that doesn't condemn anti-Semitism, I don't know what does. If Benedict's foes had opened their ears, they might have heard this and proclaimed to the media, "See how well he thinks of us? To try to destroy us is to try to destroy God." If they had done that, then that would have been the headline and then everyone would have known that anti-Semitism is wrong.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This could delay things a bit in the Cities

The former bishop of Fargo, James Sullivan, died yesterday morning at the age of 76. With the funeral arrangements on top of the USCCB meeting this week, the official announcement for what I predict will be Bishop Aquila's appointment to the See of St. Paul-Minneapolis could be delayed until the 27th.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A study in contrasts -- Albany, Pittsburgh and Fargo

I hate to harp, but sometimes one simply has to because it appears that certain people just don't get the correct concept.

Two stories from the Dioceses of Albany and Pittsburgh show that their leaders are incapable of getting enough priests to care for their flocks. This despite the fact that Albany has approximately 450,000 Catholics in its territory and Pittsburgh has 780,000.

So both dioceses are resorting to using deacons, nuns or laity to run parishes and reducing the role of priests to that of sacramental confectors and administrators. (So much for the title of "Father." Why don't they just start calling them "robot"?) For some reason, that's supposed to satisfy every need.

Contrast this with the Diocese of Fargo, whose former bishop, James Sullivan, just died. In 17 years, he ordained 80 priests (that's nearly five a year on average) in a state with a declining population and a Catholic population in his diocese of 80,000. (Who lives in North Dakota? 642,000 people placing it at 47th out of the 50 states. I suppose that's great if you want isolation.)

So what's the difference? The bishop. Bishop Hubbard is a known dissenter. Bishop Wuerl, though he's orthodox, exudes no excitement about the priesthood. He also seems to have been infected by the ideas of Archbishop Hunthausen as shown by the fact of resorting to laity and nuns to run parishes. These kinds of leadership get you nowhere.

To think that the Church can be run with laity is simply absurd. Sure, we can do some things, but we do not have the spiritual wherewithal to do what is needed -- because we are not ordained. Yes, that old teaching about the permanent change in character does still apply, especially since the priesthood is something ordained by the Lord Himself and not a human invention.

Bishop Sullivan, on the other hand, knew that the Lord is still calling young men to the priesthood. It's simply a matter that they don't know it and he made every effort to do what he could to help them realize it. This was a man truly after the Lord's own heart and he and the Diocese of Fargo were rewarded for it. May he have an everlasting reward as well. Requiescat in pace.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The new Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis

So Dennis McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, and Father Joseph Johnson, the vice chancellor for said Archdiocese, say it's all speculation about who the new archbishop is. But, sorry, this is no speculation. Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo will be coming to the Twin Cities as the archbishop. My prediction is that the announcement will be made on the 13th or the 20th.

While the reports are saying that Archbishop Flynn sought a coadjutor, the reality is that this was something pushed from the Vatican. Let's just say that a certain someone in Rome was rather unhappy with the Archbishop's response when it came to a Communion issue.

Now the real speculation to begin is what the arrangement will be. Will he come in as coadjutor or as ordinary? There are reasons to believe it will be the latter, mainly that it has been said that Archbishop Flynn is moving out of the archbishop's residence.

However, there is a history in the Archdiocese of a different arrangement. When Archbishop Brady was appointed as coadjutor to Archbishop Murray, the latter, it is said, basically gave over all responsibility to the former while retaining the title of ordinary until his death. Could that happen again?