17 April 2010

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 he thinks of himself as being filled with a prophetic spirit, when in fact it seems he is filled merely with himself. Pfleger is a longtime pal of Jeremiah Wright, the Bolshevik preacher who was for many years the pastor of Barack Obama, and much like Wright, Pfleger's "rebel with a cause" pose has made him the darling of the secular media and of the Catholic lunatic left.

Only last week, Pfleger received a lifetime achievement award for "promoting racial justice," but while presenting the award to Pfleger, Francis Cardinal George also tacitly acknowledged that Pfleger is a massive pain in the tuckus. Then, just days after receiving this award, Pfleger made the news again by saying in a homily that he thought women should become priests, bishops, and cardinals.

Not to put too fine a point on it: This man is a disgrace to the Catholic Church and to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and it is well past the time for the Archbishop of Chicago to take action against this false teacher.

The doctrine of the Catholic Church on the impossibility of women being ordained to the priesthood is clear, constant, and irreformable, and this teaching must be held definitively by all Catholics. Moreover, because Pfleger has taken the Profession of Faith and the Oath of Fidelity (these were first required of him to be ordained and then again to hold the office of parish pastor), he is bound by a public oath to accept the truth of this doctrine. For Pfleger now, and in a public act of sacred teaching, to repudiate this doctrine is an ipso facto disqualification for his office as parish pastor, and it is up to his bishop to help Father Pfleger face and accept the consequences of his public position by removing him from office.

In my estimation, disobedient and faithless priests constitute the principal obstacle to the work of the New Evangelization throughout the world. They cannot preach the Gospel with conviction because they no longer believe the Gospel is true. It is time for Michael Pfleger to admit to himself, his bishop, his congregation, and everyone who follows his misadventures in the media what has evidently been true for a very long time: He is not a Catholic Christian, and he should not hold an office in the Catholic Church.

The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Chicago increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith. Would that it were so.

12 April 2010

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.

09 April 2010

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.

06 April 2010

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 McGurn's analysis of The Pope and the New York Times

05 April 2010

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

04 April 2010

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!

03 April 2010

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 Him, Peter, James, and John went to sleep, the lot of them ran away in terror, and Peter lied through his teeth to save his skin. In other words, infidelity, sloth, cowardice, and mendacity were part of the apostolic office from the very beginning. Should we be surprised, therefore, to find these qualities among bishops and priests of every time and place?

To paraphrase Winston Churchill: governance of the Church by bishops is the worst possible means of organizing Christian faith and life except for all the others. The sacred authority entrusted by the Lord Jesus to his apostles and to those who succeed them is a gift of grace given through the sacrament of Holy Orders, meaning that the authority of bishops and priests to teach, sanctify, and govern the Church comes not from their personal holiness, intelligence, or learning; it comes, rather, from their ordination. In other words, the authority of bishops and priests to teach the Gospel and celebrate the sacred mysteries of our redemption comes from a sacramental gift of grace given to them by Christ the Lord, not from any human quality or accomplishment of their own.

We are right to hope for pastors who are holy, courageous, learned, and wise, and while we should always be disappointed when our bishops and priests do not have those qualities, we should never be surprised. I am not suggesting that we should ever be content with injustice or incompetence in the Church; we should not. But when the human frailties and failures of our pastors are exposed to public view, we must recall that our faith is placed not in the apostles or their successors, but in Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen.

02 April 2010

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 there in hiding until the murderous pagan king died. Once Jesus began his public ministry, he called all people to conversion from their sins and condemned false religion as an offense to God Most High. How did it come to this?

It was foretold by Simeon, the righteous and devout man who greeted the Holy Family in the Temple at Jerusalem: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.” How did it come to this? It came to this because he came for this: to suffer and to die and to rise again that our age-old captivity to sin and death might be destroyed forever.

When Jesus first announced this strange and awful truth to the Twelve, they could not bear it. No sooner had Simon Peter confessed his faith that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God than Jesus began to teach the Twelve that “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” This was too much for Peter: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” On hearing Peter’s protest, the Lord Jesus, who had just named Simon the Rock on which his Church would be built, exclaimed: “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

To set our minds on the things of God requires that we accept several disruptive and startling truths: that we are sinners in need of redemption, that our redemption was accomplished by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that our acceptance of that redemption demands that we join Jesus in the thing Peter feared most: the Way of the Cross.

How did it come to this? It had to come to this if we are to live not as slaves to our own sins but as children of our heavenly Father, children adopted by grace and restored to the evangelical freedom for which we were created. And here we learn the deepest truth of how it came to this: not by the hatred of those who rejected Jesus and who sought to murder him; instead, it came to this by the love of Jesus who gave himself for us freely, so that we could share his glory forever, the glory of the only Son of the Father. That is how it came to this: Jesus came to us to suffer, to die, and to rise and so to restore us to life.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

01 April 2010

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.

By a pillar of fire they were led through the waters to the holy mountain, and there Moses was given the Law of God to keep the people from returning to slavery – the slavery of sin. In the desert they were fed with the bread of angels, and their thirst was quenched by living water from a rock. In the meeting tent, the tabernacle, the glory of the Lord dwelt in an ark, and the sons of Aaron offered sacrifice for the sins of the people. Elijah and the prophets proclaimed the saving word of the Lord, and revealed the Holy One of Israel as the one, only, living, and true God. David was anointed the shepherd king of God’s people, and Solomon the wise built the Temple in Jerusalem to be the dwelling place on earth of God Most High. Finally, in the fullness of time, John the Baptist, greatest man born of woman, announced the divine glory of the Son of Mary while both men were still babes in the womb and then proclaimed him on Jordan’s bank to be the true Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This is the Passover of the Lord.

During the three years of his public ministry, the Lord Jesus by signs and wonders revealed himself to be the fulfillment and perfection of all the types and figures which came before him. And when the Hour arrived for which he had come into the world, he gathered with the Twelve in the upper room to celebrate the Passover of the Lord. Now instead of shadows, we have the truth; now in place of images, we have the reality. This is the Passover of the Lord. 

In that upper room, the eternal Word gave us his flesh and blood as the medicine of immortality and an everlasting covenant, and to the Twelve he entrusted the sacred power to “do this in memory of me … so that sins may be forgiven.” And along with the Holy Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood, he gave us a new commandment: Love one another, as I have loved you. This is the Passover of the Lord. 

These three holy gifts, the Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the Law of Love, are what we celebrate this night, the night he was betrayed, the night for which he came into the world. This is the Passover of the Lord.

Imagine that night. See the upper room. Look into the faces of the Twelve. Behold the nearly unendurable mixture of love and fear, of faith and doubt, of awe and confusion. What were they thinking? How did they feel? Did they comprehend the mysteries being unveiled before them? We are so like them. This is the Passover of the Lord.

Now look at Jesus; see him reclining at table and stooping to wash Peter’s feet. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and Last, the One who is, who was, and who is to come. He is the Son of Mary, and the Son of God. He is the Ancient of Days who called Abraham, and he is the one who gave his Name to Moses: I AM. He is the Word made flesh and the true Lamb of God. This is the Passover of the Lord.

On that night, in that Hour, even as his Passion was at hand, what instructions did he give us through the Twelve? “Love one another, as I have loved you … I have given you an example, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” This is the Law of Love, and through it the Lord Jesus is restoring in us what was obscured by sin; he is making us a new creation and giving us the means of grace: the Word of God and the sacraments of the new and everlasting covenant. He is lifting us up from the degradation of slavery -- slavery to sin -- to the freedom and dignity of the children of God. This is the Passover of the Lord.

Tomorrow we will walk with Jesus in the Way of the Cross and weep for our sins, the sins for which he laid down his life. Tonight, though, we should glory in the cross, for Jesus is our salvation, our life, and our resurrection; through him we are saved and set free.  

Why is this night unlike any other night? This is the Passover of the Lord, and Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast.