Friday, September 28, 2018

Practical Atheism

How much time each day do you spend thinking about God and His interaction with your life and the world around? Just consider it. Five minutes? An hour? More? It would be interesting to find some way of measuring it down to the minute. If we could, one thing that would be discovered, is that those who spend the most time pondering our Lord, will also be those people who have the strongest relationship with Him.

The question we want to ask is, "which feeds which?" Does thinking about God strengthen our relationship to Him, or does a strong relationship with Him help us to think about Him? Technically, it is both; it goes both ways, because that is the nature of holiness. The lesson is clear: if you want a stronger relationship with the Lord, then spend more time thinking about Him (our forefathers used to call it "meditating").

Now, we all know that there are some things in life that make it harder to think about God, and there are other things that help us to think about Him. Naturally, we would want to avoid those things that prevent it and seek those things that help it; but we do not always do that. The problem is that many of those things that make it harder to think about God are "fun" (at least initially). As I have pointed out before, the very word "amusement" means "mindlessness" (what an interesting thing to realize!). To go through your day and rarely think about our Lord, is a form of practical atheism; it is like a denial of His existence!

Yet, there are some things that force us away from holy meditations that we can easily avoid, and those should be dealt with quickly (maybe even before you finish reading this post). Consider this: the more time you spend talking or thinking about the world without any reference to God, the easier it is to forget God, it makes Him seem irrelevant and absent from your life. This is one of the biggest problems with the schools becoming "public"; it forced God out of the picture, and created an educational system that encourages children to learn about the world without reference to God (imagine being told to go through the day thinking like an atheist!). As people today work to isolate reference to God from the public sphere, we cannot ignore this and let it happen to our minds as well.

Comparatively, the more time you spend thinking about and experiencing the presence of God (especially in the Sacrament) the more you can recognize his activity in the world. Certainly this means our ordinary thoughts and ideas, but it also means that we need to be doing extra work to remind ourselves of God's place in things. Reading stories about the lives of the Saints and reading the Scriptures are obvious ways. We can also think about how we read the news (assuming that you do). Do we examine current events in light of the work of God in the world?

Has your faith maybe gotten a bit bland lately? Has your passion for the Lord diminished and the spiritual disciplines seem to have little attraction to you? It is likely because you have let God "wander" from your heart and mind. You will not be able to return to the "joy of our salvation" unless you first restore the Lord to center place in your soul. When we love something strongly, we seek after strongly as well.

When a man is in love with a woman, he will have her often come into his thoughts. He will get all dreamy about her; her hair, her eyes, her voice, etc. If we love God as we are called to (in heart, soul, and mind), then He will come into our thoughts often. We will remember the wonderful things that He has done for us (without having to be reminded of them). This will lead us to praying to Him more frequently as well, and thus our relationship with the Lord will grow. This is the reason why Catholics wear a crucifix, and keep images and prayer cards around or near them: to remind them of the great work of God. Let us make sure that we do not allow anything to make us forget Him.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

When You Feel Powerless

What do you do in days like these when trouble seems to be around every corner? If you pay attention to the reports it seems like there is another scandal (or new facet of a previous scandal) that pops up regularly. It can get depressing if you are not careful. We know that the Lord always gives us the strength to get through the trials He allows us to experience, but He also gives us holy deeds to perform so that we can prepare for what comes after the trial (and that is often forgotten).

When we think about what we are supposed to do, we often think about what we are supposed to do "right now" to have an effect on things "right now". Yet, that means that we usually miss those things that we are supposed to do "right now" to have an effect on things in the future. It may sound a bit too mundane, but the thing we are supposed to be doing right now is to be raising more faithful Catholic children. If a large percentage of Catholic clergy have been compromised by sodomite temptations, and if the seminaries are filled with heretical teachings (and teachers), and if our Churches have given in to the spirit of the age, then we need to be working to raise up a new generation of faithful Catholics who will step up to the task and replace those in the hierarchy.

There is already a trend of more and more seminarians and newly ordained priests that are clearly leaning to a more traditional view of the faith. Yet, that does not mean that the rest can sit back and let someone else work on that. In one way, the "littlest members" of the Church is the duty of us all (just not all in the same way).

If the Pope and many Bishops and Priests are in sin and refusing to repent, then at the very least we can admit that they will eventually pass from this life and be replaced by someone else. If faithful Catholics will return to the practice of large families (and even my family of 5 children is not really large by standards of a century ago) then we will literally "flood" the Church with a majority of holy children for the next generation. In essence, we breed them (the liberals, modernists, americanists, and sodomites) out of existence. After all, they are promoting contraception and sodomy; both of which prevent them from perpetuating themselves.

The reason that many Catholics avoid having more than one or two children is largely because they have trouble with parenting and think that it is too difficult. Not so. As I have said numerous times, raising disobedient children takes more time and effort than raising obedient ones. Statistically speaking, the time and effort that a parent puts in to dealing with all the challenges of parenting is far less when children are raised to be solid in their faith, than when parents raise their children to be "wishy washy" in their faith. It is a vicious circle: parents who raise their children to be disobedient say it is "too hard" to have more than one or two children; and for them, it is. While parents who raise their children to love their faith and enjoy engaging with it find that obedient children take less time to discipline (and more time to enjoy).

More faithful children leads to the availability of more potential faithful priests and religious. When the going gets tough, the tough have babies. No, that is not how the original phrase went, but it is true all the same. This is one of the most important tasks upon the Catholic faithful at this time. If you are married and still of child bearing years, then accept the Church's teaching against artificial contraception (which also means do not use NFP to avoid having more children--that is not its purpose) and trust the Lord to grant you the children He wants you to have.

If that is not your situation, then consider adopting children and raising them in the Catholic faith. If that does not work for you, then find out how you can help those parents with children to raise them more faithfully (sometimes just some free help around the home on occasion can have a major impact on good parent's abilities to minister to their family). And if even that does not work, then spend at least an hour every day praying for those families who are trying to do these things. Parenting is a sacrifice, and helping parents is also a sacrifice; but that is what we are called to.

If you are already doing what I have said, but struggle with keeping your children in the faith (i.e. if your children are not joyfully practicing the Catholic faith without you having to push them, then you are struggling), then seek out help. There are some good resources out there (but be careful, because there are also some very lousy parenting resources out there), but you have to seek them out. If most children born a couple centuries ago in Catholic homes kept their faith, then maybe the "outdated" (!) methods of those parents ought to be reconsidered (and restored in our homes today).

So then, what do you do if you feel powerless? You use the power that God has given you and help to raise up another generation of faithful Catholics. Do not sit back and complain, "what can we do?" You know what needs to be done, and that means that you know what God is already working on right now. He is working on replacing the unfaithful in the Church with faithful people. We may not be able to get those in sin to repent, or to resign, but we can prepare those who will someday replace them. It is long term work for us, but we cannot say "let someone else do it". If we participate with God in this, and do our part, we may not see the results in our day, but imagine the strength that the Catholic Church will have in the next century?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Go to Confession!

"Love means never having to say you're sorry." Ryan O'Neal said it in the movie "Love Story" and popularized the phrase. Two years later, in a slapstick comedy O'Neal responds, when Barbara Streisand uses the exact same words, by saying, "that's the dumbest thing I ever heard". I agree with his latter assessment. If loving and being loved means never having to say sorry, then the definition of that kind of "love" is sad and pitiful. It amounts to the idea that we can just ignore problems and they will go away. Although there are many people today who believe this, it is an evil lie.

Ignoring our problems never makes them go away, but the philosophy behind this syrupy comment has taken hold in many people today; offenses do not get better if we ignore them, they get worse. I would like to change (completely) the phrase to, "love means you are willing to say sorry, and even go so far as to reconcile". Realize, please, that reconciliation is not the same as an apology. As I have said many times before, to say "I am sorry" is to apologize for a mistake; to say, "please forgive me" is to recognize you have sinned.

This bad attitude about relationships has caused numerous problems. I know of people who grew up in homes where no one ever said that they were sorry when they did something wrong. They certainly never went out on a limb and asked for forgiveness for their sins to one another. This is a dysfunctional family situation. A child growing up in that type of household will grow to care less and less for those around him. He is not being taught to be concerned for how he treats others, because a lack of the simple phrase "I'm sorry" means that we do not have to be sorry for bad things done. No, that may not be the intent of those who raise their children like this, but it is definitely going to be the result.

What makes this even worse, is that it has crept its way into the Church. It is bad enough for pagan or heathen families to live this way, but when Catholics do this it is a tragedy. Children who have little to no concept of what it means to apologize or reconcile, will find it terribly difficult to deal with relationships when they grow up. Furthermore, it is possible that many of those same children will grow up to abuse others (physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc.) precisely because they were never taught properly what it means to show concern and respect for other people.

To apologize or reconcile (depending on the nature of the offense) is to say, "I care about you". It is the proper manner in which we acknowledge that the person we are speaking to is made in the image of God and deserves a certain level of dignity (even if they have not actually "earned" that dignity). The apology or reconciliation is itself and act of love. Therefore, to imagine that because of love we do not have to apologize or reconcile, is self-contradictory (and thoroughly illogical).

Now imagine with me an entire generation or two who have been raised this way. They have been raised to think that apologies and reconciliations are merely unnecessary details of people who do not "really understand love". What would be the response of this group of people when they are told by a priest that Sacramental Confession is an absolute necessity? They would likely think to themselves, "since God loves me, and I love Him, I do not need to reconcile or say I'm sorry", and they would therefore skip reconciliation without even the slightest feeling of guilt. 

This may not be the primary reason why so few accept the Church's teaching on the requirement of receiving the grace of confession (once a year is the barest minimum--without which the Catholic has no reason to hope for salvation!) but it clearly has a major influence on many. A lack of love leads to a lack of appreciation for what forgiveness means, and also for how much we need it. Do you feel confession is unimportant? Do you lack any desire to reconcile with God? Then it is likely because your love for the Lord has grown cold. If you truly love the Lord Jesus, then you will not be able to be at peace until you have been able to reconcile with him.

I have said it many times, and will continue to say it. Go to confession! Not merely because you are supposed to (though you are supposed to) but rather because it will help to grow your love for the Lord. Also, the grace provided in the Sacrament will itself help you to avoid the very sins that you are confessing. Do not misunderstand love; do not think that it "lets you off the hook". Just the opposite: true love for God will not allow you to feel comfortable until you have admitted your sin and received His forgiveness. That is how we grow in Christ. Go to confession!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Getting on the Ship

If you're stranded in the open ocean without a life jacket, and a ship comes by to pick you up, what do you do if you discover that one of the passengers is an escaped convict? Well, I suppose the answer would be dependent on your understanding of the situation. If there were plenty of other ships nearby, you might decide to wait a bit for something a little safer. If, on the other hand, you knew that this was the only ship in the ocean, then you would not be willing to wait. Challenges aside, getting saved is getting saved.

Right now, I find it remarkable that with all of the difficulties going on, that there is anyone who wants to join the Catholic Church, but there is. I already have people in catechism classes at two of my three parishes right now, and I just got another call today from someone asking about how to join. I know that the vast majority of people know about all the scandals, but apparently that has not changed their minds. It is not like I do not want them to convert, but I have to ask "Why?"

It makes me think about how the early Church grew. When things were lax and easy, the Church might gain some people (who frequently had weak commitments), but it was not often that there was significant growth during those times. It was the times when the Church was most heavily persecuted that she grew--and often exponentially! As has been said so often: the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

Nineteen hundred years ago the Church was being persecuted from the outside, and many still wanted to join. Today there are various attacks coming from the world, but the worst persecution is coming from inside the Church, and still many are wanting to join. It is in these times of difficulty that people's hearts are most heavily burdened, and it is those very burdens which we feel that make people want to be right with God.

How we react to the current crisis is being viewed by the whole world, whether we know it or not, and it impacts their view of the Church. I have often told young men and women who are considering getting married, "watch how your potential spouse acts in times of crisis and decide whether that is the person you want at your side when you experience a crisis". Those outside the Catholic Church may not realize it, but that is what is going on right now.

These may (or may not) be the days that usher in the end of the world, but they are definitely the days that usher in our thoughts about the ends of our lives. "How is this going to turn out?" "Can I do something about this?" "Where do I stand in all this?" These are the questions people ask. When they look at the Church in times of trial, and see people in fear--or worse, people becoming angry and hateful--they are not drawn to the beauties of the Catholic faith.

If, however, they see people who say, "we trust Jesus to get us through this" and "just because others were unfaithful does not mean we need to be", it draws people to want to stand with that kind of spirit. Most especially, when they see people performing acts of penance and reparation for the sins of their fellow Catholics, they see a community that cares enough about one another to sacrifice for each other; regardless of how rough things may seem.

Think of how a visitor to Catholic parish feels if he hears a priest belittle his parishioners in a homily for saying they were worried about sinful bishops (as I was recently told happened in a Catholic parish somewhere in America). Does that make anyone want to convert and join? When the kids are afraid of a storm, Dad should never scold them for being afraid--he is supposed to give them courage to endure! Whether or not your priest is encouraging hope and holiness, how are you expressing your faith these days? Which do people see more -- hope in Christ, or fear of the devil? It can be the difference between salvation and damnation for someone you meet.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Homosexual Abuse

We hear the word "abuse" a lot these days. Elderly abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse; they all show up daily, but what about homosexual abuse? I am not talking about abuse of a person with homosexual temptations, but homosexual actions as abusive in themselves. After all, homosexuality is, in itself, a disordered and sinful inclination. It is not just a "less than perfect" behavior. If someone has homosexual urges, it would be cruel to leave that person in a disordered state without seeking to help him to return to the order God has designed for us.

If a person has a temptation to torture small animals, do we leave them and say "well, as long as he doesn't act it out"? If someone is constantly tempted to lie, do we just say, "tell the truth" and let it go? No; in both of those (and the many other sinful temptations) we would seek to provide for the person a practice of spiritual discipline that will help him to overcome the desire for sin. One of the reasons why this seems so hard for people today is that they have been duped by the world's terminology. I have been referring to this as "homosexuality" and, technically, that is an accurate term. Yet, there is a reason why the Church chose "sodomy" so long ago to refer to this sin. It reminds us of what happened to Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities God destroyed for this sin.

Every temptation to homosexual activity is an "abuse" to a certain degree. Because of the disordered nature of homosexuality, if someone tempts another person to commit a homosexual act, then that person is "abusing" the other person. He is doing this by trying to encourage someone to reject God's order, and pursue the "order" of the devil (regardless of whether the two individuals are consenting or not!). Everyone calls it abuse if someone does something to another person that harms that person (even if he has blinded the person to how harmful it is). Homosexual behavior is always harmful.

Think of it this way, if someone encourages another person to use cocaine, then he is tempting him to "abuse" his body. Cocaine is harmful in itself, regardless of whether a person uses it willing or not. So to lead someone into that sin is abusing that person. I am not stretching the terminology here. Consider, for example, the old term "self-abuse". Although rarely used today, that term acknowledged that the act in itself is an abuse of that person (both body and soul!).

To feel a temptation is not in itself a sin, true, but we are not "tempted" to do good things, we are tempted to do sinful things. Every temptation is on a scale of varying degrees of disobedience. It is much worse to accuse someone falsely of murder, than it is to lie and say you forgot to do something (when in reality you just ignored doing it). A man's desire to have sex with a woman may be sinful, but it is not disordered along the same lines as is a man's desire to have sex with anyone (or anything) other than a woman. There are varying degrees of disorder, and the Church has said multiple times that sodomy is completely disordered on every level.

Therefore, we can say that all "homosexual" activity is "abusive" in this way. It does not make a difference if those engaged are adults, or if they are willing; it is abusive and a perversion of God's good and beautiful intention for sexual activity. There are a few societies in past history that tried to normalize sodomy. The obvious ones are Sodom and Gomorrah. Ancient Rome also went down this path, and the influence of the Church appears to be the only thing that stemmed the tide of immorality (at least for a while). It is bad enough when society attempts this, but when those in the Church try it--especially her clergy--then the problem has reached grave depths (pun intended).

Although many would disagree, I am not actually trying to attack those who suffer with these disordered temptations (there are a few men in my parishes who struggle with this, and are genuinely seeking holiness in their lives). What I am doing is seeking to help them (and those who know them) to realize the gravity of these temptations. Just because someone does not give in to the temptation to engage in sodomy, does not mean that he or she has nothing to be concerned about. The very temptation itself is a sign of a disordered understanding of what is good and holy. It is something that we must work to eliminate from the Church, just like we work to eliminate adultery and divorce.

Let us seek the grace of Christ to overcome all forms of abuse; all forms of perversion of godly and pure sexual activity. As we do so, we will find that many (sadly, even some priests and bishops today!) will resist us. We are not, however, trying to eliminate something neutral (as though it were no more than "you like it this way, I like it that way; let's just maintain self control"). We are seeking to eliminate something that harms the family, it harms masculinity and femininity, it harms children, it harms adults, it harms the very community of the local parish by creating temptations to something that is abusive to everyone involved. Let us rid the Church of all abuse.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Time for Imprecatory Psalms

"Father, I don't want to sound hateful, but is it time to be praying imprecatory Psalms?" I hesitated; not because I was not sure of the answer, but because I was not sure whether she could handle it. Sometimes we have to be careful about what we say because not everyone is necessarily ready for all truth (cf. John 16:12). It has now been a few weeks since Abp. Vigano's testimony, and no evidence to the contrary has even been hinted at. We must do something (and hand-wringing does not count).

I have read numerous statements that support the integrity of Abp. Vigano, and a number of articles that show that there is nothing about his claims that cannot be true. On the other hand, I have not read one comment to refute them (unless you consider the idea that, "plastic in the ocean is a greater concern", to be an actual argument). That does not guarantee its truthfulness, but it does tell us that the devil is at work and we must work even harder than he.

Therefore, "is it time?" Given that there is always evil seeking to destroy what is good, we should always be praying against it (like when we say the prayer to St. Michael at the end of Mass). Therefore, yes, it is time to pray the imprecatory Psalms. We do need, however, to be cautious that we are not doing so with selfish hatred in our hearts. Even King David in Psalm 139 (an imprecatory Psalm) says that he "hates" his enemies with a "perfect hatred". We could paraphrase that by referring to it as a "mature" or "pure" hatred. In other words, he is saying that his "hatred" is not tainted by sinful desires or selfish foolishness. That is what we need to have when we pray an imprecatory prayer; a pure "hatred" of the sin and desire for righteousness.

It may seem that these Psalms are difficult to reconcile with the Christian idea of prayer where we are to "love our neighbor". What we must take into consideration is that the same God Who welcomes the faithful into Heaven, also allows the wicked to enter into Hell. Although, He never desires anyone to go into eternity in Hell, His love is not a sappy sentimentalism. God's love is not contradictory to proper justice; the two fit together perfectly--even if we cannot see how.

Of course, I do not deny that praying for God's justice to be sent upon those who are impenitent can be done sinfully. Any time someone curses and says "damn it!" that is an imprecation. It is a call for God to judge something. That is why it is sinful when it is done towards something that is not actually worthy of the judgment of God. Jesus apparently did not have a problem with the imprecatory Psalms since He quoted them more than once (e.g. John 2:17 and 15:25). There are also many times when He spoke direct imprecations against the religious leaders of His day. Consider the following:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves (Matt 23:15).
You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matt 23:33).
Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar (Matt 23:34-35).
When corruption appears to everyone to have reached a point of no return (cf. Heb 6:4-6) then imprecation is merely the ordinary expression of what is good and right. This is comparable to why the Church endorses the use of capital punishment (contrary to what many today would want you to believe), and also comparable to the Church's attitude toward it. It is not pleasant, but it is right. Jesus shows this loving attitude, right in the midst of His condemnations listed above, by pointing out what He would rather have happen: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Matt 23:37). He does not "throw" anyone into Hell; they jump in, even though Christ offers them help to avoid it.

We can see the same manner of expression from the early Church as well. St. Peter used an imprecation against a magician in Acts 8:20. When the magician tries to purchase from the Apostles the power to grant the Holy Spirit, Peter tells him,
Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.
Here is the Father Seraiah direct paraphrase of what St. Peter said (excuse my French!): "To Hell with you and your money!" The first Pope of the Church saw impenitence and an intense depth of iniquity in this man's soul and expressed that the path he was on was headed directly to Hell. Then he tells him he is not sure God would forgive a sin so grave. Peter is not making a full judgment; he is stating where things are headed and tells the man himself that the judgments of Hell are coming upon him if he does not repent.

St. Paul uses similar language in his letters that he wrote. Not only does he quote from the imprecatory Psalms (cf. Romans 11:9-10 and 15:3), but he also makes clear reference to those who are under the judgment of God (1 Cor 16:22, and Gal 1:8-9). He even speaks imprecation against someone once by name (2 Tim 4:14). In addition, the Saints in Heaven speak imprecation against the wicked on Earth in various ways (e.g. Rev 6:10).

Here is a list of imprecatory Psalms, in case you are curious: 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40 52, 54, 56, 58, 69, 79, 83, 109, 137, 139, and 143. I do warn you, however, be sure of your heart. Be certain that you are not seeking just a selfish revenge against someone you do not like (clergyman or layman). If our hearts are pure before God, it is not a joyful thing to express imprecation; it brings sadness, not gloating. When we genuinely love the impenitent sinner, to pray imprecation against him, asking for the judgment of God, it is not done hatefully. It is done with sadness; it is done with humility; and it is done praying that we ourselves do not fall in the same way.

We pray the imprecatory Psalms by reading through them in a time of prayer. We should be very cautious about applying them to a specific individual unless we know that individual to be completely impenitent (and we rarely know this as much as we might think!). Instead we ask to God to bring judgment where it is needed, and where He alone knows is best. We offer these Psalms up to God with a humble heart, asking that He would intervene in history and prevent the advancement of grave sin (which can and should be named in the prayer).

Imprecations seek the intervention of God so that the grave sin will not continue. It seeks to have God prevent the sinner from getting himself any deeper into condemnation (with the hope that he might repent), as well as to prevent others from being harmed by the sin that is so rampant. In fact, it is right to say that if we do not pray for God forcefully to bring judgment and stop egregious sins, then we are, to a degree, complicit in that sin. It is like turning a blind eye and covering it up. And we all know the consequences of that kind of behavior; don't we?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Being Together

Being a family man, I often notice things in other families that are clear signs of trouble. When a family is out to eat at a restaurant, and none of them want to talk to each other = trouble. When parents ignore disagreements between children = trouble. When a child does not ordinarily respond with respect to his parents (like "yes sir" or "yes ma'am") = trouble. Another area that is trouble for a family is when they do not want to spend time together. How many meals do they eat together during an average week, and when they do eat together, how happy are they? Do they appreciate
opportunities to do things as a family?

A family that cannot sit in the same room without fighting, is clearly in trouble, but if they do not fight we must ask another more deep question. Do the members of the family actually want to be together, and do things with one another? The "strength" of a family can be proportionately determined by how much they want to be with one another as opposed to wanting to be with others outside the family. It is not wrong for someone to desire time with someone outside the family; let me make that perfectly clear--but how much do they desire it? Do the children want to be with others more often, and only tolerate it when they are with Mom, Dad, and their siblings? Are family members of the opinion that they need to be away from their own family?

Another factor in this is what happens when the children grow up and start their own families. Do they actively seek to remain near to where Dad and Mom live, or is it "no big deal" to move half way across the country? It is telling which they choose! No, I am not saying that children that move a distance from where their parents are automatically do not love their parents, but I am saying that the solidarity of a family can be seen by how close the children want to be when they "go out" on their own. Statistics show that families with extended family members near by, tend to remain strong and faithful to the Church because they have that support that is so crucial in daily life; someone you know and trust is nearby to help when you need it.

This truth should be obvious, and can be a helpful factor in determining the spiritual health of a household. Let us, then, take that same principle and apply it to the local Church parish. How much do the members of the parish want to be together? Do they appreciate spending time with the rest of the "Church family" or do they prefer to run out the door after Mass and avoid any social contact? Those who sneak out after communion (which is completely wrong to do) or who rush out right after the final blessing ("to avoid the rush in the parking lot") are showing their level of commitment to their parish community. Consider, as a side note, those who will move to another town because of a job, and do not even think about where the nearest parish is until after they are moved in. They are clearly more concerned with temporal things over spiritual. How much commitment to the community is seen in these types of behaviors?

Also, let us think about those who will leave a church and drive an hour to another parish because someone at their local parish "offended them" or the priest happened to love them enough to let them know that being impenitent is a bad thing. How much commitment is shown to that community? Little is done in those situations to reconcile, or to work through the problems. This behavior was probably learned at home by a lack of reconciliation, and by covering up various sins. Should we be surprised if the same behavior shows up in parishes and among clergy?

A family that actively is "avoiding" one another is a family that is not stable; so also with a Church. If the parishioners do not really want to be together outside the Mass (and only barely tolerate it in the Mass), then that parish is not stable, and is on the road to dissolving. Now some may say, "but we have an annual potluck where everyone gets together". That is somewhat comparable to an annual family reunion (which few actually enjoy, but they do it because it is expected of them). How close are you to people that you only spend face-to-face time with once a year? Certainly there are circumstances which may make it difficult for a family to join in regular fellowship with the other families in a parish, but if they really want to be together with them, then they will be working to overcome that.

Your parish family should be the people you really do not want to be without. Your home parish should be that group of people whom you are closest to because you share in the communion of Christ on a regular basis (hopefully weekly). That is where you should be seeking your friends and where you should expect to find your best community and fellowship. If this is not how you feel about it, then you should be looking into your heart to see just why you are adverse to the body of Christ.

As St. Paul said, no member of the body can say "I do not need you" to any other member; we are all parts of the body of Christ. The willingness with which we actively live that out by being a part of each other's lives, and the level of commitment we have to staying together is crucial. When times get tough (as they have lately) we need each other that much more. We need to know that we have a community of friends--a community of brothers and sisters--who are there for us, that we can be with to find support and encouragement in the faith. This is what it means to be the Church.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Tragic Death

I have waited a while to post this, because I did not want to seem insensitive. Even with that, however, I need to begin with a clear statement so that everything I say afterward will be taken correctly (hopefully). The death of Mollie Tibbetts in Iowa is a horrible tragedy. I prayed that she would be found alive, but that did not happen. I continue to pray for her and her family (I do not know if they are Catholic or even Christian). I also pray for the alleged murderer that he will repent of his sins. I have no intention of getting political in this.

That having been said, I want to point out something that I keep hearing and I pray that I am misunderstanding what I have heard. I have listened to numerous reports, and read a number of people talking about this case. It has been agonizing. One phrase that keeps getting repeated in reference to Mollie is that she was a "beautiful girl". Now, I will admit I have seen multiple pictures of her that the media have put out, and, yes, she is very attractive. I know nothing about her personally, but I think I recall someone mentioning that she was a very loving and kind person. I am not complaining about that.

It is hard to tell just what the references to "beautiful" are actually referring to. If the reference is to her personality, that would be a bit better than merely referring to her looks, but I am concerned at either reference. Yes, it is hard to feel saddened when an evil person dies, but a life is a life. Regardless of who is murdered, it is still murder. Yet, I have never heard anyone say, "it is such a shame that Mr. Smith, who was a wicked and vile person, was killed". If we are genuinely against murder, then we should be against the murder of anyone; young, old; black, white; nice, rude; ugly, pretty; law abiding citizen, or criminal.

No one's life should be "a waste" that causes us no concern when it ends. A genuine recognition of the dignity of life will lead us to a recognition of the need for capital punishment (that is the argument of the Scriptures, and of the Catholic Church for her entire history, in case you were unaware). This means that the dignity of the "beautiful girl" is at stake just as much as the dignity of the "ugly girl", for we are all made in the image of God (even if that image is completely scarred by sin). Many of the comments I have heard regarding Mollie Tibbetts make it sound like it is a worse tragedy because she was pretty (as though they wouldn't care as much if she were homely).

I know it is hard to avoid this kind of thinking, but we need to try; and we need to be diligent about it. This is important because it leads us to thinking in terms of one life being more important than another (and that is what made it easier for Hitler to justify genocide). What happens if someone decides that we as Catholics are not "beautiful" people? After all, we tell large portions of society that it is sinning, and that it needs to repent. This is certainly not considered to be a "beautiful" thing to most people outside the Church.

Mollie Tibbetts' death is a tragedy; not because she was pretty, or kind, but because she was human. What the murderer did was a sin. It was not, however, a sin because Mollie was loved by her family, but because God's commandments forbid murder. Let us truly respect life; all life. That means that it does not matter whether we like the person or not. It does not matter whether the person had friends or not. Unless that person has forfeited his life by taking another life (Genesis 9:6), then he has a right to life. Every "unnatural" or unexpected death (even proper capital punishment) is a tragedy, and it should cause us to mourn. That is what it means to be "pro-life".

Monday, September 17, 2018

Divisions and the Truth

Having been a protestant minister for 16 years before becoming Catholic, I have seen my share of quarrels. It a sad thing to say, but (at least in my experience) protestants can quarrel and divide much better than Catholics have ever been able to do. After all, protestantism was founded in division, so it is at the very heart of the entire movement (the reason it is called "protestant" is because its adherents complain and protest about what they disagree with). I experienced it firsthand many times.

Notice the division that is described by St. Paul in the first reading from today's Mass:
When you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 

He says that when the Christians in Corinth came together, it was "for the worse". It appears that they came together only to fight. Maybe that was not the actual intent that any of them had in their gatherings (whether he is specifically speaking about the Mass, or some other fellowship setting is not completely clear), but it seems it is what did happen.

Division is never, in itself, a good thing. Whenever people "split up" there is always some sin involved in at least one of the parties. In today's readings for the Daily Office (in the form that I use in the Ordinariate) it talks about Paul and Barnabas parting ways over a disagreement. It is portrayed lightly, but not as a good thing. The party that was right is not named, it is merely said that they disagreed. Sometimes, it is difficult to see the right side in an issue because both "sides" seem to have a good point (that may be the case between Paul and Barnabas). Yet, it is never healthy to sow discord.

When we think about the great divisions that are beginning to occur today it can be very confusing. Some want an investigation into Bishops who are accused of cover-ups, others (like Pope Francis and the other Bishops who have been accused) do not, and we have to ask, is there any good that can come from even something as bad as a division in the Church? St. Paul says there is at least one good thing. When divisions happen, the Apostle says that "those who are genuine among you may be recognized". In other words, the truth will come out. As sad as divisions are, they do help to make the truth clear; at least eventually. It may take time for the truth to be known, but it will eventually be revealed.

So then, let us at this time pray for truth. Even if that truth is something that we do not want to hear. Even if that truth is going to make us uncomfortable. We should always want the truth to come out, so that our Lord Jesus, Who is Truth Itself, will be glorified in what we are doing. This also means that we need to be praying that God would help us to be ready to hear the truth, and that is much harder. Are you really ready to hear the truth? At all times? Do you ask God to help you remain open to truth and closed to lies? If not, it is definitely time to do so.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Turning Ugly into Beautiful

Yesterday was Holy Cross (a.k.a.: the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross). In my years as a Catholic, I have always thought it somewhat an odd feast. No, I did not think of it as wrong; certainly not. Yet, having the feast focus on an object of Christ's death, apart from the death itself has always felt odd. Until this year. I will admit (as anyone who has been reading this blog lately will admit also) that lately I have thought a lot about this current crisis for the Church and what it means for us. Those thoughts connected well with this feast this year.

Consider this first: in the first century, before Jesus came along, no one wanted to have a wooden cross as a symbol on their walls at home. Yet, in less than a generation, that changed. For both Gentiles and Jews in the first century, the cross was a symbol of death and torture. It brought to mind the same things that a guillotine would bring to our minds: something repulsively brutal. It would be hard to imagine anyone--before the resurrection of Christ--seeing a cross and thinking of it as a symbol of hope. Rather, for people in the first century, the cross inspired fear and terror.

That changed with what Christ did on the cross. That specific Holy Cross, became for our Lord both a means of His death, and also the very altar where He offered Himself to God the Father. Seeing its dual purpose, the early Christians began to associate it as a symbol representing the totality of what Christ suffered in His passion. This is how we see it in some of the earliest paintings that those first Christians made.

That, however, is not the only symbol that we receive from the cross. Think about the radical change that occurred from viewing it as a horrible means of death, to viewing it as a symbol of hope. It technically changed in a matter of just a few days (from the first Good Friday, to the first Resurrection Sunday). It is the very fact of the change which should impact our hearts. Symbolism is important for our understanding of the world, and changes in symbolism are also significant. Just as an atheist who converts and becomes Catholic will view the symbols of the Church in a whole new light after his conversion, so we should recognize that those types of changes will effect us spiritually.

What does the change itself symbolize for us? It shows us that no matter how bad we may view something (an experience, an event, an object, even a person), God can change it into something good. He can take "ugly" and make it "beautiful". He can take a point of sadness and make it become a point of joy. He can take a device that repulses us, and make it something that draws us in. He did it with the cross; He can do it with anything that we experience. God can even take this current crisis that the Church is experiencing (which may become one of the worst she has ever had) and turn it into something that is for our good, and for His glory. Our God is truly amazing!

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Weakened Church

The Catholic Church has grown significantly over last century in numbers. She reportedly now has about 1.3 billion baptized members (presumably not all of them are active). In actual strength, however, she has not grown. It is something of an oddity to realize that the increase in people has not led to an increase in power. When we speak of an army, we would generally think that the larger the army the more strength it would have. That is not the case, however, when we are speaking about real strength (which is spiritual, not physical).

In things like humility, holiness, or wisdom, it is very difficult to believe that the Church has grown. I certainly do not know the mind of every baptized Catholic in the world, but Jesus did tell us (in various ways) that we "will know them by their fruits". This means that if the fruit of 1.3 billion Catholics is not good, then those numbers did not improve things. If the "fruits" of the Church today are coming to light as: pride ("who are you to tell me what to do?"), denial of sin (especially in the common refusal to go to confession even just once a year!), rejection of holiness (which is the same as compromise with the world), and a massive ignorance about what the Church teaches (which always results in large numbers of people making terribly foolish choices), then we can "know them by their fruits".

What makes this situation so hard to overcome is that these rotten fruits are seen not only in the laity, but also in the clergy. Many priests and bishops have fallen into horrible grave sin. Homilies, if doctrinally sound (which is not always the case), are often dry and lack any real encouragement for the faithful. Priests often give horrible advice to those who come seeking counsel. What will be the "fruits" of this rotten fruit? Sadly enough, it means that there will be many who will end up leaving the Church. Some out of frustration, and others merely because of confusion.

I mourn the fact that some souls will be lost, and others will be placed in terrible danger. Rather than anyone leave, I would pray that all would find a greater faith and return to what the Church has always taught (rejecting these modern innovations that come from the devil). I must admit, however, that that will not happen; some will be lost. Yet, those who remain will be largely those committed to a deeper faith and that means that the Church will end up growing stronger (even though she will also grow smaller).

Increase in numbers can mean an increase in faithfulness, but that is not always the case. When seminaries are not always orthodox, we cannot expect priests to teach the truth. When religious education for children is compromised in the parish, and often non-existent in the home, the children should not be expected to keep their faith. When RCIA prep classes are doing more to confuse the faith than to teach the faith, we should not be surprised if the Church's genuine strength has faded. How can we expect people to remain faithful if they were never taught how?

It is absolutely necessary that we work on strengthening the Church. That strength may come through greater numbers of children born to Catholic families, and through a greater number of converts, but not necessarily if those children and converts are not themselves strong in the faith. Let us continue to work on those things, but let us do it in connection with a good and effective plan of holiness, humility, and wisdom. Let us work toward the strength that endures, and thereby glorify our Lord.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Not False Hope

I read once that when the Titanic was beginning to sink, that there were people still sitting at their dining tables sipping drinks saying that there was nothing to worry about. They truly did not believe that the ship could sink. That is what we would call "false hope". This sort of confidence is not based in reality, it is based in one's denial of reality. In times of trial most of us will slip into one of two errors. Either we will presume the worst and lose our heads, or we will deny what is happening (and lose our heads in another way).

I wrote about hope yesterday, and today I need to mention what a false hope is. True hope recognizes what is going on and is cautious in its response. True hope stays with what is solid and certain (the reign of Christ) and then walks gently with everything else. It can be difficult to determine what is right and what is wrong in the news reports (especially from certain sources who are clearly compromised). The thing we cannot do is either assume that every report is 100% accurate, nor assume that this will "all just blow over eventually". Hope will definitely be the false kind if we place it in the wrong things.

It was Pope St. Gregory the Great who said, "It is better that scandals arise than the truth be suppressed." Hard words, but true. It is this kind of perspective which helps us to keep proper hope. Recognizing that scandals lead to the display of truth (though sometimes it takes some time before the truth is evident) helps us to avoid jumping to conclusions (either for or against). I will acknowledge that the denial that some are tempted to fall into may seem like it provides comfort. Who of us would not want this all to be just a big misunderstanding, and to find out that no one actually abused, no one covered up, and it is just an attempt by the devil to distract us from more important things?

It may sadden us to find scandals abounding today, but that should actually encourage our hearts to have hope. Yes, I know that probably makes no sense. No, scandals do not provide hope, but when they occur, that is when we need to say "now's the time to secure my hope in God". Consider this: when there are scandalous things occurring, but we do not know about them, it may seem nicer ("ignorance is bliss"), but that means that bad things are continuing to occur unchecked. That means that the perpetrators of these wicked behaviors are getting away with it. If we find out that there never were any scandals to begin with (and I am sorry, but it seems highly unlikely at this point), then we can be happy that someone cared enough to make sure of it.

When the truth arises (even if it is a heartbreaking truth), we can then know how to pray, and we can trust that God will do something in response to our prayers. Being aware of problems means that God is acting, and that we can take part in what He is doing (even if that is only through our prayers). Trust me, God is not sitting up in Heaven wringing His hands together trying to figure this one out. He already knows what He has planned, and what the good is that He is planning on bringing out of this.

In knowing that truth, we can place our hope in Jesus and seek to understand what part we can play in overcoming these events. The Lord wants a specific response during times of scandal: He wants us to seek to increase our hope. We do this by focusing our trust on Him and His promises. Saying to ourselves, "yes, some bad things are happening, and now I know how to pray" is the right response. This is true hope. This is confidence in the gracious promises of God.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


A sweet parishioner said to me recently, "I just want to move on from this crisis, but I know that we can't". Not completely true. It is possible for us, in one way, to "move on", but it must be the right way (more below). I also hear a number of Bishops (mostly those accused of abuse or covering up abuse) saying that we really need to "move on", but that is not the type of "moving on" that we need to be doing right now (even Pope Francis appears to be saying this with a blatant clericalism that staggers the mind). In other words, there is a holy manner to "move on" and a wicked manner to "move on", and we need to know the difference.

Essentially there are two ways to move on in a crisis (though I admit that there are various nuances to these).
1) You can refuse to dwell on the problems by acknowledging that Jesus is on His throne and trust He will work it out.
2) You can pretend the problem does not exist and try to distract yourself (and others) from it.
It does not take a genius to recognize that the first method is a godly one, and the second is the work of the devil himself. For someone who is guilty, to seek to distract from the problem is itself a grave sin (it is a denial of one's culpability). For someone who is not guilty of the sin in question, to seek to distract is to cut oneself off from the Church (for it prevents that person from even praying about the problem at hand). We need to be honest about what has happened, but we need to do it in an honest manner: acknowledging that Christ is working in this (even if we cannot see how).

Some (including Pope Francis) seem to want us all to forget that grave sin has occurred. As the link above shows, he wants to portray those who have brought sin to light as working for Satan (!). A claim like this should make our hearts ache. It would seem (note: I am trying really hard not to pretend that I know his heart) that Pope Francis wants us to believe that it is sinful to point out a sin to others. Furthermore, it appears that he wants to say that since Bishops are "chosen by God" as Bishops (his words, not mine!) that they are not to be accused of anything.

Do you see that? (Go, read the article yourself if you have not yet done so.) Let me give a few Scriptural examples that speak to how serious a problem this is.
Let a good man strike or rebuke me in kindness, but let the oil of the wicked never anoint my head; for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds (Psalm 141:5).
This tells us that it a good thing for someone to rebuke our sin (for it helps us find the path of repentance). If the Pope is innocent, then he should let us know and give evidence of it. If he merely attacks his accusers then he has responded like someone who is guilty.
He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you (Proverbs 9:7-8).
This shows that if someone demonizes his accusers that he is a "scoffer" and not behaving like a "wise man" who loves those who seek to help him by calling him to account.
He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck will suddenly be broken beyond healing (Proverbs 29:1). 
This verse helps us to see the path of those who refuse correction. They eventually end up destroying themselves because rather than repent, they deepen themselves in their sins.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them (Ephesians 5:11, emphasis mine). 
The Apostle here speaks to the importance of making sin clear. If we do not know what sin is, we cannot avoid it. Likewise it must be "exposed" so that we can be aware of the character of someone who is impenitent. "Exposing" sins must be gentle, but unambiguous.
As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear (1 Timothy 5:20). 

This verse is really the clincher on this entire issue because St. Paul is speaking about clergy who fall into sin (go read the full context). There is not much that I can say to make it any more clear than it is. If grave sins of the clergy are covered up, it will encourage others to fall into the same sin; it must be pointed out. What Pope Francis appears to be saying is flat out wrong and contrary to Holy Scripture.

Cardinal Cupich (one of those accused by Vigano's statement) said recently that the Church has "better things to worry about". Better things than the possibility of massive abuse and cover up at the highest levels of the Church? Better things than giving hope and encouragement to people in a time of confusion and fear? This is "covering up" the "cover up". Sticking your head in the sand is not good for those who are guilty (at least in appearance), nor is it good for the rest of us (especially the laity who feel so weak in these times). We need hope.

Hope says that we have no fear of the scandal itself, any more than we have fear of sin itself. Yes, we should seek to overcome the scandal and be able to heal and do things right in the future. That does not, however, mean that we should ignore it, or that it should destroy our very soul (for the devil would be happy with either of those responses). No, hope encourages us to stand firm and know (confidently, undeniably) that King Jesus is still on His throne, and that He will help us through this. We need to focus on Jesus. If we focus on the circumstances then we will be overwhelmed, but "not focusing" does not mean ignoring! Like St. Peter, when he saw Jesus walking on water, we cannot deny the storm, nor should we let our fear of it overcome our trust in God.

What does "hope" do for us right now? Hope would enable us to say what the Blessed Virgin must have said on the day Jesus was crucified: "I may not understand how this can lead to something good, but I know that God can understand it". We often allow ourselves to focus on the theological virtues of faith and charity, but we forget how crucial hope is until we find ourselves without it. Hope is that which supports our spirit in its faith and charity. Hope is what gets our feet out of bed in the morning. Hope is found in Christ and His Lordship.

Friday, September 7, 2018

How Can You Tell if You're on the Wrong Road?

    Why do you talk about protestantism so much?

    Why do you critique protestant theology so much?

    Aren't we all just "Christians" regardless of what Church we go to?

    Isn't protestantism really just the same?

    Why do you distinguish "Anglicanism" and "Anglican patrimony"?

These are all questions that I have heard since I became a Catholic priest. I will freely admit that I do refer to protestant ideas and teachings every once in a while. The reason, however, might not be what you think. I am not actually just trying to refute protestant theology (the very theology I taught for years -- God forgive me!). No, it is actually because many Catholics are ignorant of their own Catholic faith and often cannot tell the difference between Catholic doctrine and protestant doctrine (which can be of eternal consequence!).

Yes, I realize that this claim is quite harsh, but it needs to be heard. Consider this: how would you feel to find out suddenly that genuflecting was actually a protestant practice and was forbidden for Catholics? [It is not actually so, but it would feel just that extreme.] Should you, then, consider it to be harsh when someone points out a serious problem in your soul? Take these few examples: how would you respond if I said to you one of the following statements: "don't drive 90 mph in a 30 zone", or "that milk is sour, don't drink it", or "don't touch that, it's a copperhead snake", or even "that is not your medicine, it is poison"?

Would you be offended by my actions and refuse to speak to me? Would you say that I am attacking you? Probably not. Yet, when a priest tells a parishioner that something he is doing is "not the Catholic way" or that a belief he has is "contrary to Catholic teaching" he is often looked upon as being rude and un-pastoral. Now it is certainly the case that many priests may very well be inconsiderate in how they speak to their parishioners. Yet, I know of many good priests who are gentle and kind in how they approach their people, but are still treated as "mean" when they try to help someone with "creeping protestantism".

I have heard a number of Catholics refer to protestant beliefs and then claim that they are Catholic teachings. Let me relate one particular story. After a homily I was pulled aside by a parishioner; he was in his 70's. He told me to "please be careful" how I spoke about trusting the Church's dogmas. He then proceeded to let me know that every Catholic was supposed to interpret the Scriptures for himself and allow the Holy Spirit to lead his heart into what was right. Well, how do I say this? No. As in "N" and then "O" (really far to the right on the "Nope Meter"). That is protestant teaching, not Catholic.

Many people do not even know for certain what the source of their personal beliefs are sometimes. I have spoken to people who hold to a vast number of contradictory beliefs. It is most likely that they have let down the walls of protection around their minds [it would be wonderful if the Church would return to forbidding Catholics from reading any doctrinal material by non-Catholics] and have no resistance to foolish thinking. Many today will just accept what sounds good to them at the time, and never spend any effort at determining if their ideas are in accord with the Catholic faith (or even with one another).

How do we discern whether we are holding to Catholic truth (i.e. the exact revealed truth of God Almighty) if we do not spend some time examining our own beliefs? How can we consider it holy if we get angry when a concerned priest tells us "that's not Catholic"? When was the last time you read something that teaches (accurately) the Catholic position on doctrine? How about the Catechism of Trent? How about  just the little Catechism of St. Pius X? The fourth Baltimore Catechism would be useful as well. Like checking a map while taking a long trip, it is good for us to "get our bearings" and make sure we are still on the right road. Have you checked lately?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The "Pastoral" Choices of Pope Francis

I know that it can be frustrating to try to find your way through all the issues that are plaguing the Church today. There is, however, a "silver lining" to these dark clouds. We can say confidently that we know more about our Pontiff that we used to. Pope Francis is displaying more of what his character is like. Scripture tells us often that a person's true character will show through when he is attacked; whether the attack is accurate or not!

Now that the Pope has laid his proverbial cards on the table and it is evident what his character is like, we can rest. While I am always seeking to give him the benefit of the doubt, there does not appear to be much to have to figure out when he continues to respond in the ways that he has been doing. The condemnations for shepherds who do not tend to the sheep are pretty severe in Scripture (cf. Jer 23:1 and 10:21).

Truly, with no hesitation, I can say that I want the Pope to be innocent. I want these claims to be wrong. That is the desire inside of me because I seek after holiness and righteousness, and I do not want to see anyone fall into grave sin. I also, however, want there to have been no priests who broke their vows and committed fornication, or sexual abuse. Just because I want something to be true, does not make it true.

Francis' recent homily where he referred to those who want answers about whether he is guilty of grave sin as, "a pack of wild dogs", and said that the best response to them is "silence", makes him sound even more guilty than before. I am (still) trying to find ways that he might be innocent of these charges, but his behavior at this point is helping give more and more support to Vigano's statement. In the same homily, Pope Francis said he wants to avoid "scandal" and "division" yet his extremely un-pastoral behavior is going to cause more scandal and division than anything that those questioning him can ever do.

As the Pope, he is a public figure. He is supposed to be acting "in persona Christi" so that he can give an example to the faithful when they are hurting. What he is doing right now is not helping anyone except those who want to be "silent" (Francis' own word choice!) about sinful behavior and avoid accountability. In a time when the world is talking about how certain disobedient Bishops were silent about the sins of predators, "silence" is an extremely bad choice. Honesty, humility, and transparency are the only ways to show holiness.

If Francis' manner of handling these accusations were to be used by everyone (since he is supposed to be the example we follow), then every sexual predator in the world would be free to do whatever his vile heart desires, and no one would do anything about it. After all, according to Pope Francis' homily, the only answer to those who accuse you of sinful behavior is "silence". Is this really the example that Francis would encourage in others? Does our Pope really want to say that those who knew about McCarrick were right to be silent? Really!?

Those who are asking for answers may have bad attitudes and sinful motivations; I do not know all of them. Yet, the mere act of asking is not in itself wrong (and it is certainly not the sin against the Holy Spirit, as someone said). What is being asked for is to have Pope Francis behave as we expect a Pope to behave. There are certain pastoral behaviors that we can all expect from a good shepherd who is properly a "father" to his "children".

The following passage comes from the First Letter of St. Peter in the New Testament (5:1-5). It is the first Pope speaking to other Bishops and Priests and telling them how they should carry out their ministry:
"So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'"
When Francis can learn this passage and live it out, then it will be hard to believe the accusations.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


I have a parishioner at St. George parish who is just about always a picture of joy. She is encouraging toward others, and has such a sweet spirit that it draws others to her quickly and easily. If she knew I was writing about her, she very likely might be embarrassed (so please do not tell her). Those of you who know her, know exactly what I am speaking about--although it is not her name, I will call her "Jane".

There is something incredibly humbling about being with her, because the Lord has given her a challenge that may seem to prevent joy. Not for her. You see, Jane is blind. I know that blindness would be terribly difficult for me. I do so much that requires my sight, that I would struggle were I to go blind right now. Yet, in spite of saying that, I know that I could learn a few things from her; and I am not referring to reading braille.

What struck me so deeply about Jane's deep faith was her comment this last week when I announced the scheduled time of adoration. She asked if anyone could pick her up and drive her to Church so that she could participate. I told her that we would definitely find someone. Think about her desire though. She wanted to go to adoration. That means that she wanted to be in the presence of the Sacrament on the altar.

We usually think of adoration as significant because we can see the Sacrament in the monstrance. For Jane, I have to presume that since she cannot see the Sacrament (which is something we find so significant), she wants to be closer to the Sacrament. Her appreciation of a time of adoration with the exposed Sacrament points out the deeper aspect of the grace that is found in the Sacrament. It is not just an "I can see it" thing. Just being in the presence of the Lord in the Sacrament is a blessing that we do not always think about.

Jane is a testimony of love for God in so many ways. While not being able to see the beautiful things about this world that I can see, she has a love for God, and for life itself, that rivals what many of us can do on our best days. It is that love for God that, I believe, leads her to experiencing grace in her spirit--possibly more profoundly than many of the rest of us do. While many show little interest in the (great!) blessing of adoration because it does not have the excitement of a video game or tv show, we need to learn that there are some things that are more powerful than what we can see with our eyes.

Our minds have been so numbed by a constant stream of entertainment, that we have forgotten how to open our spirit and allow God to touch us. The contemplative and meditative practices of a time of adoration truly can have an amazing impact on our souls; if we will let it. Many people see Jane being led forward for communion during the Mass and I am sure that they think that she is missing out on something because of her blindness. I think we might be the ones missing out on what Jane can "see" (!).

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Righteous Anger

Picture the scene with me for a minute. A family is at home one day, and an uncle, who is visiting, attacks and physically harms the 14 year old son. How would you expect the father (who is the younger brother to the uncle) to respond? Ignoring it is not likely high on the list. Quietly speaking to the uncle and asking him to stop, is also not an expected behavior. What is the proper emotion in that circumstance? We would expect the father to be angry. Am I right?

In fact, if the father is not angry, we would assume that there is something wrong with him. Although we would not advocate anyone becoming unnecessarily physically violent, we should all understand the sense of anger that the father would feel and his compulsion to seek for justice. When any crime has occurred, most people believe that the perpetrator should be punished in some fashion. Now, having said that, I want you to think for a moment on how the father feels. He wants to protect his children, someone has intruded and caused harm, but it is a relative.

Now that you can feel that same sense of outrage, as well as the tension over the fact that it was caused by a relative, you can understand better our current situation. It is a simpler emotion when the perpetrator is a stranger; it is difficult when it is a family member. That same sense of anger is what I and many other Catholics (especially clergymen) feel about those who have either abused children, or seduced others into sodomy. They are "relatives" who have come into "our house" and harmed our "children". A feeling of anger about this is not automatically a sinful response. Yes, there is a sinful type of anger, but that is when someone lashes out in rage and merely seeks to cause harm to another person, with no sense of righteousness at all.

There is a holy and righteous anger, but what does it look like? It is completely self-controlled, and is a proper motivator to holy action. Righteous anger is a recognition of grave injustice that only comes from a heart that "hungers and thirsts for righteousness". People who experience this are said to be "blessed" because they more closely understand the heart of God. All that our Lord does is working towards righteousness because that is the only holy response in this fallen world.

Do you feel angry about what has been done by many of our own leaders? You should. In speaking with my Bishop, Stephen Lopes, about these things, he himself said that a righteous and self-controlled anger is good in this time. We should be angry at whoever has perpetrated these grave sins in our own Catholic dioceses. And anyone who covers it up is fully complicit in the sin; especially if he (or she) enables a sexual brute to continue his crimes. This is true whether it is one's own Bishop, or whether it is the Pope himself (and Vigano's testimony at this time appears to be credible).

Righteous anger makes us want to do something about what is wrong. Righteous anger is that very thing that was missing in whoever covered up the sins of those who committed these acts of sexual perversion. They were not angry and so they allowed these things to continue. It is comparable to Jesus entering the temple and saying, "sacrilege isn't really that bad, go ahead and disrupt the prayers". In that instance when Jesus cleansed the temple, the religious leaders of the day were also not angry, and that is why they allowed the liturgical abuse to continue.

We have spent so much effort trying to be tolerant (which is not always a virtue) and aiming at mercy (though true mercy does not exclude true justice) that we have forgotten that we are supposed to be angry about all forms of abuse; whether it is liturgical, moral, theological, or pastoral. We have spent so much time trying to defend the leaders of the Church, that we need to be reminded that all men sin (even Bishops and Popes), and sometimes the Lord does allow a Judas to enter our midst. He does not do this to hurt us, but it always is, in some way, for our good. At the very least it motivates us to work to clean up all the abuses that are still present in the Church.

Let me say it once more to be perfectly clear: it is a lack of righteous anger that got us into this situation, and a lack of righteous anger will not do anything but allow the sin to continue. Therefore, if you feel angry about these things, good. Feel that anger, and use it righteously. Allow it to motivate you to take a stand for holiness; in your life and the lives of others. Do not let that anger cause you to rant and rave; or to wring your hands in despair, thus becoming ineffective for God's Kingdom. Yes, be angry, but with the holiness that motivates us to be faithful, to protect one another (even from our own sins), and to work for the holiness of the Church of Jesus Christ.