Showing posts from 2010

What Makes a Hospital or College Catholic?

It is relatively easy when speaking of a human person to say who is Catholic and who is not. Only a validly baptized person who is in communion with the local Catholic bishop and through the local bishop with the Bishop of Rome and the whole College of Bishops is a Catholic. But how does one know whether an institution is Catholic or not? For example, lots of Catholics own businesses, but that doesn't make their businesses Catholic. So, what does it mean to speak of a hospital or a college as Catholic? Is it a matter of ownership? Of the religious identity of the patients, students, or customers? Or is it something deeper. For the better part of a millenium, the Church has understood that associations of Catholic persons can be so closely bound to the Church's mission to the nations that by extension the institution sponsored by an association of Catholics can itself be called Catholic. And the two classic examples of this are in education and health care, because of thei

What the Pope Did and Did Not Say About Condoms

Over at First Things, George Weigel explains what Benedict XVI did -- and more to the point -- did not say about condoms in his new book, Light of the World . As ever, the world press (once the Fourth Estate, now primarily the Fifth Column) misrepresented the pope's remarks in so tendentious a manner that it beggars belief for their reporting not to be deliberate deception. And whether or not the AP reporters and those who followed their lead knowingly lied about the pope's remarks, it remains true that their headlines and stories effectively turned Benedict XVI's entire point on its head. So, have a look at The Pope, the Church, and the Condom: Clarifying the State of the Question.

A Courageous Bishop

Thomas Olmsted is the Bishop of Phoenix, and since learning several months ago that an abortion was performed in a "Catholic" hospital in his diocese, he has been engaged in an effort to be certain that such a thing will never happen again. The hospital is owned by a congregation of women religious who evidently do not want the local bishop looking into the ways in which ethical decisions are made at the hospital. After a prolonged effort to reach an understanding, Bishop Olmsted has now informed them that if they do not accept the instructions he has already given, he will declare -- as it is his canonical power to do -- that the hospital in question is no longer a Catholic institution. You can read about the bishop's effort to call this hospital to account in USA Today . BIshop Olmsted is a courageous reformer of the Church and is a model of how the office of overseer should be exercised. Pray for this good shepherd of Christ's flock. UPDATE: A few more deta

Doesn't Play Well With Others

Though most lay Catholics are unaware of it, the discipline of secular psychology has been a powerful force in almost every seminary and religious community in the Western Church since the early 1970's. During the naive enthusiasm of the years just after the Second Vatican Council, secular psychology was imported, usually uncritically, into the life the Church in her seminaries and religious communities, and we are still tallying the cost in vocations lost or destroyed and communities cut loose from their foundations. I think of that today because the Church keeps the feast of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church, who -- among the many accomplishments of his long life -- rendered the Holy Scriptures from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. He was also famously (or, depending upon your point of view, infamously) cantankerous, and I suspect that in most seminaries today, such a man would be sent away because he doesn't play well with others. I am not suggesting that we shou

Time to Put Up or Shut Up

With whom are you in ecclesial communion? Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC has been appointed by the Holy See to direct the implementation in the United States of Anglicanorum Coetibus . Any Anglican parish, association, religious community or other group which desires to be restored to full, visible communion with the Catholic Church should write to him immediately: The Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl Archbishop of Washington Post Office BOx 29260 Washington, DC 20017 It has been eleven months since Benedict XVI responded to the request from groups of Anglicans around the world for a way to come into full communion with the Catholic Church while at the same time preserving all of their Anglican patrimony that is in harmony with the Catholic Faith. So, you've had a year to think and pray and talk and argue and pray some more. Enough. The time for excuses, evasions, rationalizations, dithering, and delaying is over. It's time to become Catholic or decide once and for

Lead, Kindly Light

Here's a splendid introduction to the life and work of John Henry Newman, who will be beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday 19 September during the pope's pastoral visit to Britain. My own journey to the Catholic Church almost thirty years ago was guided by this man's writing.

Baptist Bishops?

According to a report in the Boston Globe , increasing numbers of Baptist pastors -- particularly Black Baptists -- are retrieving the signs of the episcopate from the long-locked treasure chest of Church history and beginning to talk about the importance of the apostolic succession. So, just as Anglicans around the world are trashing the episcopate after 450 years of trying to preserve it, Baptists are dusting it off again. Curiouser and curiouser.

Weirder and Weirder, But It Makes Sense in a Twisted Anglican Way

From Damian Thompson in the Daily Telegraph I thought this was a spoof at first, but it seems not: a General Synod working party is exploring whether the Church of England’s male bishops can join religious orders previously reserved for women. In other words, become Anglican nuns. As usual, the Synod’s topsy-turvy ecclesiology is a mystery to me, but I gather that the idea is that bishops would be entitled to take vows in orders of nuns so that they can provide special episcopal oversight to the sisters. It’s a typically ingenious Anglican response to the forthcoming ordination of women bishops. “There will be jokes about bishops in wimples, but having bishop-nuns would introduce a degree of mutual cooperation that could make the introduction of women bishops much smoother,” says my Synod source. And just when I thought things couldn’t get any weirder, I learn the identity of the bishop who is rumoured to have volunteered to take nun’s vows: the Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydo

Thinking About Immigration

The debate over the reform of immigration laws has come to South Carolina with great urgency, and most of the Republican candidates for governor support an approach similar to that taken in Arizona. In the service of suggesting a way to hold in creative tension the various principles that are in competition with each other in this debate, I offered a column to the Greenville News which they published on 8 May 2010 . Here is the text of that column: What should we do about the millions of people who live and work in the United States illegally? This is a vexing question with political and moral dimensions, but to sort through these questions, we first need to think clearly about the principles at stake in our ongoing debate. In the service of thinking clearly about immigration reform, I suggest these principles. First, every sovereign nation has the right and duty to secure its borders and regulate entry of those who are not its citizens. This is a fundamental principle of natural l

Whither the Legion of Christ?

One of the strangest and saddest stories in the Catholic Church in the past century is the rise and fall of the Legion of Christ, a community of priests, and its associated lay movement, Regnum Christi, both founded in Mexico by a charismatic con man named Marcial Maciel. For many years there were scattered stories of Maciel's degenerate life: drug abuse, sexual abuse of his own seminarians, misuse of funds given to the communities he founded, etc. As it turns out, the truth is far worse than anyone imagined, and it is now clear that this man was an evil sociopath who for decades deceived nearly everyone he ever met, including Pope John Paul II. Maciel died in 2008 (apparently without repentance or remorse for his vicious crimes), but the communities he founded endure. And now the question arises, Whither the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi? Over at First Things, George Weigel (a longtime friend of many fine priests in the Legion) takes on that question: Next Acts in the Legion

Why The World Hates the Catholic Church

Jody Bottum, peerless essayist and editor of the indispensable First Things, has a brilliant exploration of anti-Catholicism in the Weekly Standard. It is a long piece of work but well worth reading every word:  Anti-Catholicism, Again

Disobedient Priests

At Mass this morning, the first lesson is taken from Chapter 6 of the Acts of the Apostles; it tells of the apostolic origins of the diaconate and the selection of the first seven deacons. The passage ends with these words: "The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:7) The priests being referred to here are, of course, the descendants of Aaron -- priests of the Old Covenant who offered sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple. But one cannot help but think also of priests of the New Covenant who, despite their Baptism and Ordination, are disobedient to the faith, and when I heard those words at Mass this morning, I thought immediately of Father Michael Pfleger. Pfleger, for those of you fortunate enough not to know anything about him, is an egregious fool in the Archdiocese of Chicago who has spent decades playing the bad boy. I imagine that

Another Long Lent

I intended to write this morning about several dimensions of the present maelstrom swirling around Benedict XVI, but I find that the always perceptive George Weigel has already said what needs to be said over at First Things in: Another Long Lent.  Go have a look at this brilliant analysis of our present situation and future possibilities.

Pray for Benedict XVI

The estimable Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, has organized a nationwide campaign of prayer to support Pope Benedict XVI in the days leading up to the 5th anniversary of his election to the Chair of St. Peter, Monday 19 April. Lord, source of eternal life and truth, give to your shepherd, Benedict, a spirit of courage and right judgment, a spirit of knowledge and love. By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care, may he, as successor to the Apostle Peter and Vicar of Christ, build your Church into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for all the world. Amen. V. Let us pray for Benedict, the pope. R. May the Lord preserve him, give him a long life, make blessed on the earth, and not hand him over to his enemies. V. May your hand be upon your holy servant, O Lord. R. And upon your son, whom you have anointed. One Our Father, one Hail Mary, one Glory Be.

The Pope and the New York Times

Three days before Palm Sunday, ironically enough on the Solemnity of the Annunciation -- March 25th --the New York Times unleashed a barrage of Catholic bashing and baiting that has not yet subsided. The primary point made in the first article is that Pope Benedict XVI is not only not the reformer who can lead the Church out of the crisis caused by failing to deal honestly and responsibly with priests who sexually abuse children but that he is actually by his own personal failings a central part of the problem. The second point of the story was to lay the foundation for the general argument taking shape in all the other stories published since March 25th -- namely, that the Catholic Church is an international criminal conspiracy for protecting child molesters. Well, the Wall Street Journal has been looking carefully at the very first story in this fusillade, and it turns out that the Times didn't publish all the news that's fit to print after all. Have a look at William McGu

Take Up the Sword

My friend and colleague Father Dwight Longenecker has a splendid post on the media firestorm raging around the Catholic Church these days. It's over at his blog, Standing on My Head , which is always worth a visit. His take on the present battle is here: Take Up the Sword

Easter Sunday

At the beginning of the great Vigil of Easter, the Paschal Candle is prepared with words that confess our faith in the Lamb once slain and remind us that even the Risen Christ bears the signs of His Passion: Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega. All time belongs to Him and all the ages. To Him be glory and power through every age forever. Amen. By His holy and glorious wounds, may Christ our Lord guard us and keep us. Amen. And as the Paschal Candle is lit from the new fire, the priest says: May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and mind. Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti! Christ is risen! Truly He is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Holy Saturday

Much attention has been given recently in the secular press to the moral failures of bishops and priests in Ireland and Germany, and the outrage in normal people at the grotesque sin of sexual abuse by priests, compounded by the malfeasance of cowardly bishops, is completely appropriate. What is not appropriate, however, is for this outrage to cause a Catholic to question his faith in Jesus Christ or his confidence that Christ’s Church is the universal sacrament of salvation for all mankind. The Lord Jesus chose twelve men from among his thousands of disciples to be his apostles, the men who would be his witnesses and emissaries to the world. For three years they traveled with him, listened to his teaching and preaching, and witnessed his miracles --  the signs of his divine glory. And in the night on which Christ gave us the Holy Eucharist and the sacramental priesthood, what did these chosen Twelve do? When the hour for which the Word became flesh finally arrived, Judas betrayed H

Good Friday

How did it come to this? The conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit was announced by an angel to his virgin mother, the woman full of grace. His growth in the womb brought confessions of faith from his unborn kinsmen John and John’s mother Elizabeth. His birth was greeted with joyful song by the choir of angels and with puzzled wonder by simple shepherds and philosopher kings. His hidden years, living in obedience to his virgin mother and his foster father, were filled with growth as he was filled with wisdom. At length he came forth from Galilee, preaching a Gospel of love, forgiveness, and peace. He healed the sick, made the blind to see and the dumb to speak; he restored palsied limbs and raised the dead to life. How did it come to this? The birth of Jesus, while greeted with joy by some, was also greeted with fear by others. Innocent children in Bethlehem were slaughtered just so he might not live. His parents had to flee with him through the desert to safety in Egypt and live t

Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

Why is this night unlike any other night? This is the Passover the Lord.  From before the foundation of the world, the Ancient of Days knew this Hour and by types and figures prepared the world to understand its meaning. In the garden our first parents fell, and we were promised a woman whose seed would crush the serpent. The fruit of their disobedience was not freedom, but murder, and the blood of Abel cried out for justice. Abram was called out of Ur of the Chaldees to become Abraham, our father in faith, and Melchisedech, the king of righteousness, offered a sacrifice of bread and wine on Mt. Zion. Through Isaac human sacrifice was ended, even as our loving Father prepared us for the sacrificial death of his only Son. Jacob was given twelve sons whose twelve tribes would fill the land of promise. By the blood of a lamb, the children of Israel were freed from slavery in Egypt, and by the flesh of that lamb they were nourished for their journey. This is the Passover of the Lord.

Spy Wednesday

The Gospel at Mass on the Wednesday of Holy Week tells of an event that yields the curious alternate name for this day: Spy Wednesday. All three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-12, Luke 22:3-6) give an account of the same event. On the day before the Lord Jesus celebrated His last supper in the upper room, Judas Iscariot went in secret to the chief priests to find out what they would give him if he handed Jesus over to them. They promised him thirty pieces of silver, and the deal was done. What led Judas, one of the Twelve Apostles, to betray Jesus? We know that he was a thief and that he stole from the common purse which Jesus had entrusted to his care. Perhaps one of the others found him out and was prepared to expose him.  Perhaps Judas expected Jesus to raise an army, throw off the yoke of Roman occupation, and rule a newly unified Israel from the Throne of David in Jerusalem. When it became clear that nothing like this would happen, perhaps Judas grew angry at h

Fight the Real Enemy

On Palm Sunday, Sinead O'Connor (who was allegedly once a singer when not ripping up photos of the pope on television) had an egregious piece of nonsense in the Washington Post, and at the heart of her essay was an oft repeated lie about an arcane bit of canon law from 1962 which the Church's enemies would like the world to believe is evidence of an international criminal conspiracy to protect child molesters. George Weigel and I take issue with Ms. O'Connor at National Review Online.

Time for Reckoning Rightly

Since the Solemnity of the Annunciation last week, the "prestige" press on both sides of the Atlantic have been in high dudgeon at the Catholic Church for ... well, for being the Catholic Church. But since it is still not possible simply to say that in public (though probably not for much longer), the assault on the Church being led by the New York Times has been an outraged protest against the sexual abuse of minors by priests and the absurd response to that abuse by bishops. Now comes some clear thinking from George Weigel, biographer of John Paul II and arguably the dean of Catholic thinkers in the United States. Please take time to read slowly and carefully what he has to say about this latest campaign against the Church:

Palm Sunday

Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross. Because of this, God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name above every other name, So that at the name of Jesus every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD! (Philippians 2:6-11)

The Path of Purification

My blog is just a few days old, but given the attention in recent days to the sins of priests and bishops, it seems worth recalling my very first post, entitled "The Church is Always in Need of Being Reformed". In part, I wrote: "Why is the Church always in need of being reformed? Because I am always in need of being reformed. "Yes, the Church is holy because she is the spotless Bride of Christ, vivified and sanctified by God the Holy Spirit. But she is also an assembly of human persons, each of whom is a sinner in need of redemption, and for this reason, the Second Vatican Council likened the Church to the Incarnate Word, who is a single Person with two natures: one divine and one human. Because the Church is 'at once holy and always in need of purification, (she) follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.' (Lumen Gentium 8)" This path of penance and renewal is the Way of the Cross, and we are called by the Lord Jesus to follow Him in

Keeping the Record Straight

The National Catholic Reporter is a weekly news and opinion journal of the far Left, and they are no friends of the theological project of Pope Benedict XVI, which makes all the more remarkable the very fine essay today from their Vatican specialist John Allen. Allen is a thoughtful reporter and an experienced hand at interpreting for English-speaking readers the sometimes arcane language and customs of those who work for the Holy See. Here is his take on the real story behind Joseph Ratzinger's involvement in the Church's effort to respond effectively to the crimes of sexually predatory priests: Keeping the Record Straight

A Bone in the Throat

Continuing yesterday’s attack on Benedict XVI, the New York Times today alleges that then Joseph Ratzinger, while serving as Archbishop of Munich and Freising did know, contrary to earlier assertions, about the transfer of a priest who had been credibly accused of molesting adolescent boys to a new post for pastoral ministry. The story refers without citing a source to two documents (a memo and the minutes of a meeting) which theoretically establish the point the Times is trying to prove: that Joseph Ratzinger once did as a diocesan bishop the very thing he now condemns other diocesan bishops for doing in Ireland, the United States, and other places. It will take some time to untangle the facts of this case from the sensationalist charges aimed at the pope by the Times and other newspaper of the cultural Left, but when the sifting is done, I am confident that one thing will be demonstrated beyond all cavil: Joseph Ratzinger is not and never has been a liar or a man who fails to cal

All the News That's Fit to Print

In this morning’s New York Times, there is a story about a wretched priest in Milwaukee who allegedly molested over 200 boys committed to his care in a home for the deaf to which he was assigned from 1950 to 1974, but the story is less about this depraved degenerate than about the alleged cover-up perpetrated by none other than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The Times makes every effort to place the full responsibility for this monster not being punished on Ratzinger, but as is always the case, there is more to the story than is published by the rag that brags it has “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” In response to this naked effort by the Times to paint Benedict XVI as a man who gave aid and comfort to child molesters, the Holy See issued this statement: “The tragic case of Father Lawrence Murphy, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, involved particularly vulnerable victims who suffered terribly from what he did. By sexually abusing children who were hearing-impaired, Father Mu

The Dangers of False Religion

On 30 August 2009, the Twenty-Second Sunday of the Year, I preached about the danger of the false religion which arises from belonging to the tribe rather than believing the Word. Given the complicity of so many nominal Catholics in the various catastrophes now unfolding in the nation's political life, it seems timely to recall what I said following the funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy: In the first lesson from Deuteronomy, Moses instructs the children of Israel: “In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.” In the second lesson from the Letter of St. James, the Apostle urges the disciples of the Lord Jesus: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” And in the Gospel from Mark, the Lord Jesus excoriates the Pharisees: “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from

The Folly of Appeasement

Neville Chamberlain declares: Peace for Our Time!

The Gospel of Life and Health Care Reform

Here is the homily I preached at St. Mary's, Greenville on 21 March 2010, the Fifth Sunday of Lent: On 25 March 1995, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, Pope John Paul II promulgated the encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, on the value and inviolability of human life. Today, four days before the fifteenth anniversary of that glorious defense of the Gospel of Life, the Congress of the United States, led to this moment by the President of the United States, is poised to enshrine in American law a savage assault on human life and the freedom of conscience of those pledged to help heal the sick. Make no mistake: This is a dark hour in the history of our Republic, and the tyranny of abortion is about to be enshrined under the guise of health care reform as a public entitlement which will be paid for by public funds collected from every tax payer and from which, in due course, no doctor, nurse, hospital, or clinic will be permitted to withdraw on a conscientious objection. This is a d