Saturday, November 28, 2009

We Begin a New Church Year

This Sunday begins the Season of Advent and marks the beginning of the new ecclesiastical year.  The name Advent comes from adventus, or "coming", the Latin translation of the Greek term for "second coming", parousia.  The Church invites us to prepare ourselves not only for the celebration of Christmas, but for the Second Coming of Christ.  St. Bernard speaks of the three comings of the Lord:  In the first coming He was seen dwelling among men, in our flesh and in our weakness; in the final coming He will be seen in glory and majesty.  The third lies between the other two, invisible and coming to us in spirit and power-keeping God's Word (from Office of Readings, Wednesday I Advent).

It is interesting to review an entire season of readings to ascertain where the Church is leading us.  Let's very briefly look at the Gospels from the season of Advent.

First Sunday
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.” LK 21:34

Second Sunday
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. LK 3:3

Third Sunday
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.” LK 3:10-11

Fourth Sunday
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,  the infant in my womb leaped for joy. LK 1:44

Christmas Vigil
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,  which means “God is with us.” MT 1:22-23

What can we get from this?  The Church, in her infinite Wisdom, knows that by the end of November we have all grown weary by the anxieties of everyday life.  It is almost assured that we are so focused on the minutia of our daily routine that we can easily lose sight of the "big picture".  Jesus warns us, "Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy by the anxieties of daily life".

Next week John the Baptist will proclaim to all of us, "Repent!"  "Repent" means to turn away from sin and dedicate oneself to amending one's life.  But to turn away from something (the anxieties of daily life) necessarily means to turn towards something (God).  The Church reminds us to refocus on God and make Him the center of our lives.  Once we have turned from the anxieties of daily life and turned toward God as the center of our lives, what next?

Well on the third Sunday of Advent the crowds asked John the Baptist that very question, "Now what?"  Very simply the response is, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise."  Simple.  If you say you love God and He is at the center of your life, prove it!  Love of neighbor is the external proof that the internal mystery of love of God is real.

Once we have turned away from the anxieties of daily life, turned toward God as the center of our lives, proved it by charitable acts of loving our neighbor, we will leap for joy in the presence of God.  Like John the baptist leaping for joy at the sound of the Blessed Mother's greeting, like David dancing for joy and leaping with abandon  before the Ark of the Covenant (2 SAM 6:14), we will experience the joy of the presence of God in our lives.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,  which means “God is with us.”

When He humbled Himself to come among us as a human being,
He fulfilled the plan You formed long ago
and opened for us the way to salvation.
Now we watch for the day,
hoping that the salvation promised us
will be ours when Christ our Lord will come again in His glory.
from the Advent Preface

Thank You, Congressman Kennedy (and Bishop Tobin, too)

Now that the dust has seemingly settled over the public debate between Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Bishop Thomas Tobin, several things have become quite clear. 
  1. The cause and nature of the initial debate got lost in a sea of peripheral issues and spin.
  2. Congressman Kennedy irresponsibly throws bombs, distorts facts and retreats.
  3. Bishop Tobin is very articulate and goes where most bishops fear to tread.
  4. US bishops have failed to send a clear, consistent message to the faithful.
  5. The Church is reaping the fruits of forty years of catechesis devoid of substance.
1.  Rep. Kennedy put the ball in motion when he chided the bishops' "so-called" pro-life position for their insistence on health care reform without public funded abortion or an abortion mandate.  The debate evolved when the congressman stated he was no less a Catholic for his pro-choice position or disagreement with the hierarchy.  Bishop Tobin was compelled as a faithful pastor to stave off scandal by correcting this erroneous claim.  This issue had nothing to do with the separation of Church and State or punishing a politician on his vote on a particular piece of legislation, but everything to do with who defines authentic Catholicism.  Roman Catholic Identity.

2.  Congressman Kennedy fanned the flames, escalated and perpetuated this controversy.  Let's see...from his incendiary remarks which prompted this public debate, his erroneous claim to authentic Catholicism despite his contradictory convictions, his accusation that Bishop Tobin betrayed confidences, his 'private' meeting with the bishop at a busy 'public' restaurant at Noon, his interview indicating he would no longer discuss his private faith in a public forum, to his public disclosure of a two and a half year old letter from the bishop requesting him to refrain from presenting himself for reception of Holy Communion--all prompted Bishop Tobin to respond.  Where is he now?  It is evident that Rep. Kennedy's handlers failed him on this latest controversy.

3.  On the few occasions I have heard Bishop Tobin speak I have been very impressed and I would even say "inspired".  "Now THAT was a bishop."   The sad fact is that the majority of bishops would have let Congressman Kennedy's remarks slide without any comment, or perhaps no public comment.  Bishop Tobin said he felt an obligation to address the public statements and misinformation for the sake of Kennedy himself, and to prevent others from being led astray.  Bishop Tobin's press releases, public statements, radio interviews, Chris Matthews and Bill O'Reilly appearances all demonstrated his intelligence, poise (even during Matthews' disrespectful, condescending, lecturing filibuster) and measured approach in articulating the Church's teachings.  There is a small list of the 'usual suspects'--bishops who respond publicly (Abps. Burke, Dolan, Chaput, Nienstedt) .  It was encouraging to see Bishop Tobin join the ranks of bishops not afraid to defend the Faith and use such public scandal as a moment of instruction.

4.  Reaction to Bishop Tobin's response ran the gamut from those who thought he never should have interfered or went too far, to those who shook fists in the air demanding he excommunicate the congressman.  There is no episcopal handbook on how to deal with such issues, therefore it is up to the discretion and devices of each individual bishop who has the authority over his diocese.  Confusion arises when there are different responses or even public infighting seen among the bishops on how to handle such issues.  There are numerous recent public scandals to cite as examples: President Obama at Notre Dame, Nancy Pelosi on Meet the Press, Sen. Ted Kennedy's funeral, and now Congressman Patrick Kennedy's scuffle with Bishop Tobin.  Is a Catholic politician's public voting record on abortion cause for public scandal?  Remember that scandal is defined as "conduct causing or encouraging a lapse of Faith or religious obedience in another".  Public scandal requires a public correction and a public repentance.  The inability of US bishops to reach a consensus on dealing with public scandal is divisive and the inconsistency or lack of response can itself become scandalous.

5. Why do people have the erroneous impression that they can be proponents of abortion and still remain faithful, devout Catholics?  Or how is it possible that people don't see a fundamental flaw in their reasoning when they espouse the "I'm personally against abortion but would not impose my belief on another" argument?  Why is the belief so widespread that it is acceptable to compartmentalize one's religious beliefs from public conduct, or hold Faith as not only personal but also private.  And why is that not seen as contrary to the very heart of Catholicism?   Why do people mistakenly cite their consciences to justify dissent from central teachings of the Church, and just about everything for that matter?  Why wouldn't faithful Catholics approach personal disagreements with Church teachings from a disposition of humility and a fundamental assumption that "if I find myself at odds with the Church, I must not have a clear understanding of what the Church is teaching"?  There is genius and centuries of wisdom in the Church.  As Abp. Fulton Sheen once said, "There are only about 100 people that truly hate the Church, but there are millions who hate what they think the Church is".  The answer to all these questions is simple:  lack of education (catechesis).  Where is the substance in catechetical education for children and young adults?  Where is the adult education?  Where is the continuing formation for the clergy?  Where is the reinforcement from the pulpit?

So, thank you Congressman Kennedy for unwittingly bringing much needed discussions to a national audience.  Thank you Bishop Tobin for having the courage and taking this opportunity to instruct the faithful and challenge the unfaithful.  Public scandal requires a public response, lest complacent inaction creates scandal itself.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Some Abortion Statistics

The following annual statistics for abortion in the United States are helpful in understanding the background of the pro-life pro-choice debate.  There are 1.2 million abortions in the US every year.

  1. Unintended pregnancies account for almost half of all pregnancies.

  2. Four out of ten unintended pregnancies end in abortion.

  3. Out of the total number of pregnancies (intended and unintended), 24% are terminated by abortion.

  4. For women ages 15-44, two out of every hundred have an abortion. Of these, 48% have had one or more abortions previously.

  5. For women choosing abortion, 52% are under 25. Teenagers account for 19%, and women 20-24 account for 33%.

  6. As compared to white women, black women are almost four times as likely to have an abortion. For Latino women, the number is 2.5 times.

  7. Women who have never been married account for 2/3 of all abortions.

  8. The majority of women choosing abortion are already mothers who have had one or more children. They make up over 60% of all abortions.

  9. Women who have never used any method of birth control account for 8% of all abortions.

  10. For women having abortions, 43% describe themselves as Protestant and 27% identify as Catholic.
Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States. Guttmacher Institute May 2006 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pope John Paul II Closer to Sainthood

CNS reports that the cardinal and bishop members of the Congregation for Causes of Saints unanimously recommended that Pope Benedict XVI formally recognize that Pope John Paul II heroically lived the Christian virtues.  The Holy Father approves such requests three times a year and is expected to declare his predecessor "Venerable" this December.  This is the next 'official' step in declaring John Paul II a saint, and considering a miracle has already been attributed to him, beatification should be right around the corner.

John Paul the Great.  Pray for us.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Left's double-standard on religion and abortion

The Left opposes the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion provisions in healthcare reform. So why doesn't it oppose the YWCA, United Methodist Church, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis for favoring abortion?

Original post by William Donohue

Getting Nancy Pelosi to accept a health care bill that bans federal funds for abortion was the greatest victory scored by U.S. bishops in a generation. It also unleashed an unprecedented attempt to censor them. Their latest enemy is Geoffrey Stone writing in the Huffington Post.

Stone finds it troubling that the bishops are so vocal. He yearns for a time when JFK was president, a time when separation of church and state met his approval. Perhaps the Chicago law professor forgot about Rev. Martin Luther King, the minister who took to the pulpit and lobbied for civil rights in the name of free speech and religious liberty. Should King have been muzzled as well? Or just today’s bishops?

As the following list discloses, Stone is hardly alone in trying to censor the bishops: Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Rep. Diana DeGette, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Frances Kissling, Planned Parenthood, Feminist Majority, Catholics for Choice, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National Organization for Women, and many others favor a gag rule. On Nov. 12, Nancy Snyderman of MSNBC spoke for many when she said that “This is going to be a Pollyannaish statement. The Catholic bishops appearing and having a political voice seems to be a most fundamental violation of church and state.” Brilliant.

The following is a partial list of religious groups that want abortion coverage in the health care bill: Rabbinical Assembly, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, Episcopal Church, Society for Humanistic Judaism, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, North American Federation of Temple Youth, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist, Presbyterian Church (USA), Women of Reform Judaism, Society for Humanistic Judaism, Church of the Brethren Women’s Caucus, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Lutheran Women’s Caucus, Christian Lesbians Out, YWCA.

So why don’t Stone and company want to gag these groups as well? Let’s face it: they don’t have a principled bone in their collective bodies.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bishop Tobin Instructs the Faithful, "If you are a Catholic, darnit, it means something!"

Why am I giving the public 'dialogue' between Congressman Kennedy and his Bishop, Thomas Tobin, such attention?  This topic has everything to do with our Roman Catholic Identity.  More than the public rebuke of dissenting Catholic political figures, the dialogue serves to instruct all Catholics and shed some light on common misapprehensions.  There are some real gems here, and it is encouraging to hear a bishop speak with clarity and...spine.

Bishop Tobin appeared as a guest on the WPRO Dan Yorke show this past Wednesday and candidly discussed the public ongoing exchange between himself and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, falling short of calling him an outright liar.   But Dan Yorke connected the dots by quoting Kennedy himself in a recap. 

Says Rep. Kennedy:
Whenever I'd choose to discuss with him I would hope that it would remain between us, that's what I've been most concerned with.

I'd initially agreed on a meeting with him and provided that we not debate this in public in terms of my personal faith or things of that sort and, unfortunately, he hasn't kept to that agreement.  And that's been very disconcerting to me.  I don't think this is something that is open for public debate

As I said from the point of view of having him discuss things that I think are of a more personal nature, I think that that's unfortunate.  But I'm, as I've said, I'm not going to engage that any more because, like I've said, I'm not.  That's not something I brought up and I'd prefer to keep that between us.
What?  Bishop Tobin reiterated the fact that his hand was forced by the unwarranted attack by Kennedy and his continued public comments and letters.  There was no 'agreement' of confidentiality, especially whe the Congressman sent the Bishop an open letter and sent a copy to the Press.  The meeting between them which was subsequently 'postponed' was to be held at a busy Providence restaurant at Noon today--at the Congressman's request.  How private could this have been?  The bishop noted that within ten minutes every satellite truck in Rhode Island would have been there.  The fact that any confidences were violated "is preposterous".

Bishop Tobin fielded questions concerning broader issues of identity, the fallacy of pro-choice catholics, and denying Communion.

Bishop Tobin on being Catholic, "Darnit, it means something!":
Nobody is forced to be a Catholic. If you freely choose to be a Catholic it means that  you believe certain things, you do certain things, you understand and accept the teachings of the church, you understand the disciplines of the Church, you lead a sacramental life.  if you cannot do all that in conscience than you should perhaps feel free to go somewhere else.  But thats not what we're trying to do.  We're trying to invite people into the Church but at the same time saying, "if you are a Catholic, darnit, it means something".
Bishop Tobin on what it means to be a Catholic:
That whole question "what does it mean to be a catholic?" it means something you cannot say you're Catholic and be pro abortion, it's false advertising you cannot have it both ways.
Should pro-choice catholics be taking communion, going to Church in good faith? What should they be doing?
They should be really examining their conscience, praying really hard and try to understand why the church so consistently and unanimously says abortion is a terrible evil.  There's a reason we say those things because we think it is. 
But not telling them to stay out?
No, we're inviting them in but inviting them in to a real, strong and purified union with the Church--and same thing with Congressman Kennedy.  Patrick, please, we're not trying to drive you further away.  Patrick, come back.  The doors are open, our arms are open, think about what you're doing.  Congressman this is about your spiritual well-being, your spiritual growth and I want to do everything I can to help that.

On Anglican Unity: “De Lisle’s Dream Come True”

Originally posted on Friar Blog:

On October 20, 2009, the day on which simultaneous news conferences were held in the Vatican and London, at which the promulgation of a new Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus, was announced, that provides for the reception of members of the Anglican Communion into Full Communion with the Catholic Church in their own "Ordinariates," Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P., the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, asked us to convey to his Dominican brothers and sisters that this was the intention for which he had asked them to pray the "Litany of Dominican Saints" back in February 2009.  Archbishop DiNoia has now asked that a remarkable article, written by one of our Dominican confreres in England, the Very Rev. Leon K. Pereira, O.P., the Prior and Pastor at the Priory of the Holy Cross in Leicester, England, be shared with our readers.  In this article, it is made clear that the Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman (to be beatified in 2010) had prayed for such a provision that might allow a greater number of his fellow countrymen to find their way back into Communion with the Holy See.  His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, a student and devotee of the thought and writings of Cardinal Newman, has been made aware of this article.  With the permission of Fr. Pereira, his article follows below.
Two hundred years ago an extraordinary man was born in Leicestershire, Ambrose Philips de Lisle. He was a scion of the ancient De Lisle family, and the founder of Mount St. Bernard's Abbey. His descendants still come to Mass at Holy Cross. Ambrose de Lisle was a visionary ahead of his time. A convert to the Catholic faith, he dreamed of Christian unity. He wrote a pamphlet in 1876, voicing the idea of a corporate re-union of the Anglican Communion with the Catholic Church, whilst retaining Anglican juridical structures, liturgy and spirituality. When his friend Cardinal John Henry Newman read it, he wrote to him,
"Nothing will rejoice me more than to find that the Holy See considers it safe and promising to sanction some such plan as the Pamphlet suggests. I give my best prayers, such as they are, that some means of drawing to us so many good people, who are now shivering at our gates, may be discovered."

The plan was doomed to be thwarted in De Lisle's lifetime. To console him, Newman said:
"It seems to me there must be some divine purpose in it. It often has happened in sacred and in ecclesiastical history, that a thing is in itself good, but the time has not come for it ... And thus I reconcile myself to many, many things, and put them into God's hands. I can quite believe that the conversion of Anglicans may be more thorough and more extended, if it is delayed - and our Lord knows more than we do."
In our own time, Pope Benedict XVI has rightly been called the 'Pope of Christian Unity'. Two years ago, the Pope said that in the critical moments of the Church's history, when divisions arose, the failure to act on the part of Church leaders has helped to allow divisions to form and harden. He observed, 'This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.'

It is with this in mind, no doubt, that Pope Benedict has made this unprecedented and overwhelmingly generous response (N.B. the Pope is responding to a request, not enacting his own initiative) to the many requests submitted to him by Anglicans left in dismay within their own Communion. Already such Anglicans are being castigated as misogynist homophobes - an uncharitable, prejudiced aspersion. Some Anglicans see them as traitors; some Catholics see them as less-than-desirable for our Church.

The real issue is one of unity, genuine unity: that those who seek communion with the Barque of Peter should not be left to founder amidst the waves, but be brought safely aboard where Christ is not asleep, but Master of wind and waves, standing on Peter's deck. The Pope has shown that real ecumenism is not about courteous disagreement trying to increase each other's insipidity until one church cannot be distinguished from another in a cosmic-beige mélange. No, the call of the Gospel still holds: one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. These are our brothers and sisters, shivering at our gates, to be received as brothers and sisters, and not as traitors or second-class Catholics.

The Dominican Order has a small role in all this. On 21 February this year, our brother Fr. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., then Under-secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asked all Dominicans to pray the Litany of Dominican Saints from February 22 (the Feast of the Chair of St Peter) till March 25 (the Solemnity of the Annunciation) for an at-the-time undisclosed intention - it was for this intention. It is no wonder that in our history people have remarked, 'Beware the Litanies of the Dominicans!'

Fr. Leon Pereira, O.P.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rep. Kennedy to Bp. Tobin, "I'm not going to engage this anymore"

 The Providence Journal Bulletin carried a story today which quoted Congressman Patrick Kennedy saying he was “not going to dignify with an answer” Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin’s public comments that he could not be a good Catholic and still support abortion rights. Kennedy called those comments “unfortunate,” and said, “I’m not going to engage [in] this anymore.”

For deciding "not to engage anymore" he certainly continued to keep "engaging".  Rep. Kennedy finds it “very disconcerting” that Bishop Tobin will not agree to keep private the discussion of his faith, and that is why his scheduled meeting with the bishop Thursday has been postponed.  Bishop Tobin's public letter covered that one, "Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue...your description of your relationship with the Church is now a matter of public record, and it needs to be challenged."

Responding to Bp. Tobin's question, "Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?" Kennedy said yesterday that he has a pastor, and “I have my sacraments through that pastor. I have sought the sacraments of reconciliation and Communion and all the rest.” He said he preferred to keep his pastor’s name private.

About the 'postponed meeting',  the Congressman said “I had initially agreed to a meeting with him [Thursday], provided we would not debate this in public in terms of my personal faith, but unfortunately, he hasn’t kept to that agreement, and that’s very disconcerting to me.” But he also said he expects to meet with the bishop, if matters of faith will be kept “between us.”

Michael Guilfoyle, spokesman for the diocese, said the meeting was postponed “by mutual agreement,” but noted, “The bishop’s schedule is still free on Thursday if the congressman would like to have that personal and pastoral meeting. The contents between any personal conversation between the bishop and the congressman could certainly remain private. However, the congressman has made this a very public debate, and the bishop is responding to his public comments.”

"Congressman Kennedy should know better...after all, he is a Catholic"

This letter to the editor of the Providence Journal was submitted by a Rhode Island Pastor and was not printed.  It gets press here:
To the editor,

It is easy for a Congressman to make bravura statements.  It is much more challenging for a Congressman to make principled statements that not only attend to immediate issues but also reveal a deeper understanding of the true issues that confront our country.

Unfortunately Congressman Kennedy chooses the bravura in making critical statements about the Catholic Church.  In doing so he completely overlooks the Catholic Church’s rich tradition of both respecting and championing the rights of all individuals …. from conception until natural death.   Few organizations can rival the Catholic Church’s dedication and support for the health needs of all members of our society.  And because of the Church’s dedication to the rights of all, it cannot support assistance to a part of society while compromising  and overlooking the rights of another group.

Bishop Tobin is quite correct.  The Congressman owes us an apology.    It is no mark of achievement that one can champion the health needs of some members of our society when the life-needs of the unborn are trivialized.

Congressman Kennedy should know better.  After all, he is a Catholic.

                                                      Rev. Ronald E. Brassard
                                                      Immaculate Conception Church

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bishop Tobin calls Rep. Kennedy to Repentance

File this in the "I can't believe my eyes" category. It is encouraging to see a bishop lead and not mince words.  From the Rhode Island Catholic:

Dear Congressman Kennedy

Dear Congressman Kennedy:
“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” (Congressman Patrick Kennedy)
Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership.

For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true. And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.

For example, the “Code of Canon Law” says, “Lay persons are bound by an obligation and possess the right to acquire a knowledge of Christian doctrine adapted to their capacity and condition so that they can live in accord with that doctrine.” (Canon 229, #1)

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says this: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles, ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ the faithful receive with docility the teaching and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.” (#87)

Or consider this statement of the Church: “It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002)

There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”

But let’s get down to a more practical question; let’s approach it this way: What does it mean, really, to be a Catholic? After all, being a Catholic has to mean something, right?

Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.

Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?

In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?

Your letter also says that your faith “acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.” Absolutely true. But in confronting your rejection of the Church’s teaching, we’re not dealing just with “an imperfect humanity” – as we do when we wrestle with sins such as anger, pride, greed, impurity or dishonesty. We all struggle with those things, and often fail.

Your rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion falls into a different category – it’s a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision that you’ve re-affirmed on many occasions. Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an “imperfect humanity.” Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.

Congressman Kennedy, I write these words not to embarrass you or to judge the state of your conscience or soul. That’s ultimately between you and God. But your description of your relationship with the Church is now a matter of public record, and it needs to be challenged. I invite you, as your bishop and brother in Christ, to enter into a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance. It’s not too late for you to repair your relationship with the Church, redeem your public image, and emerge as an authentic “profile in courage,” especially by defending the sanctity of human life for all people, including unborn children. And if I can ever be of assistance as you travel the road of faith, I would be honored and happy to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin

Bishop of Providence

Bishop Tobin Rep. Kennedy Meeting Postponed

It has been reported that the meeting between Bishop Tobin and Congressman Patrick Kennedy, which was scheduled to take place this Thursday, has been 'mutually' postponed.  No rescheduling has been announced, though Bishop Tobin has published a public letter in response to Rep. Kennedy's October 29 letter.

Help Fr. Tom's Kids

This was originally posted on the Friar Blog.  Fr. Martin Martiny, OP--shown in the video--is a former classmate of mine.  As Christmas looms on the horizon, in lieu of adding to our excess, perhaps a donation in someone's name would make a special and unique gift.

Dominicans Helping the Poor in Kenya
Posted by Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P. on November 09, 2009

Fr. Thomas Richard Heath, O.P., the first Vicar Provincial of the Vicariate of Eastern Africa, was a teacher, preacher and father to many during his life as a Dominican Friar. He taught in the U.S., Lebanon, South Africa, Lesotho, & Kenya. Fr. Tom was a gentle and wise priest who showed to everyone the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He inspired many in the classroom, from the pulpit, and in the confessional. Fr. Tom's memory remains in the hearts of many in the village of Mkendwa where he spent the last 8 years of his life serving the people of Kenya whom he loved so dearly. He was pastor, formator, seminary and university professor extraordinaire, teaching and guiding many of the clergy and religious of Western Kenya - even up to the last days of his life. 

On January 8, 2005, Fr. Tom was beaten severely by armed robbers who had seized the Dominican compound in Kisumu. Despite his injuries, Fr. Tom was still able to speak by phone with the Provincial in New York City, who himself had served the mission in Kenya. Fr. Tom's words on this occasion serve well as a legacy for all of those involved in the mission at Kisumu: "Thanks for everything!" He died in peace later the night of that phone call.

Because of Fr. Tom's devotion to the children of the Lake Victoria region, the Dominican Friars of St. Martin de Porres House in Mkendwa Village (Kisumu) chose Fr. Tom as their model and example for the community's outreach program to orphaned and needy children. The program links African students with sponsors who wish to make a difference in the life of a child through the gift of education. The "Fr. Tom's Kids Program" memorializes this beloved Dominican priest because of what he passed along to so many during his lifetime. Fr. Tom inspired a dedication to "Ukweli" ("Truth" in Swahili) by the values he passed on to everyone who met him by his encouragement to strive for excellence for the sake of Jesus Christ our Savior. He was a man of integrity within and beyond his Dominican community, with a special concern for the poor, the sick and children.  
If you would like to support these children, click here for more information. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pope St. Leo the Great - Champion of Orthodoxy

You were the Church's instrument 
in strengthening the teaching of true doctrine; 
you shone forth from the West like a sun dispelling the errors of the heretics. 
Righteous Leo, entreat Christ God to grant us His great mercy.

“Little is known about the early life of this man who proved to be such an extraordinary shepherd of the Catholic Church that he came to be known not only as Pope Saint Leo I, but also is one of the only two Popes in two thousand years to be called “the Great.” What we do know is that as a deacon of the Roman Church, before being elevated to the office of Pope in 440 AD, St. Leo the Great had opposed the heresy of Pelagianism which taught that grace was not necessary for salvation, but was rather a bonus that God granted to those who earned it by their good works. As Pope, St. Leo the Great was forceful and unambiguous in his Christological teaching which affirmed the full divinity and humanity of Christ. In fact his most famous writing, commonly known as the Tome of St. Leo (449), was the basis of the Council of Chalcedon’s (451) dogmatic definition of Christ as one Divine Person possessing two complete natures, human and divine.

During his pontificate the Council of Chalcedon was convened. It condemned many popular heresies of the day, and declared that the two natures of Jesus were indivisible. Pope Leo had already defended this doctrine in the epistle called the Tome. When the Council Fathers read it they declared, “This we all believe. Peter has spoken through Leo.”

St. Leo the Great was Pope during the middle of the fifth century, a troubled time when barbarian armies were ravaging the once mighty Roman Empire. For all intents and purposes, the Western Empire was in total political and military collapse and there was a vacuum of political leadership. Pope St. Leo filled the void and became the advocate for the temporal as well as spiritual needs of his flock. He is perhaps most famous for persuading Attila the Hun to abandon his plans to sack the city of Rome and to withdraw his forces beyond the Danube river (452). St. Leo once again was the spokesperson for the Roman citizenry in 455 when the Vandal barbarians swept into Central Italy, securing concessions from them.

Through both his powerful teaching and his leadership, Pope St. Leo the Great very much strengthened the office of the Papacy and made a strong biblical case for the Divine institution of this ministry by examining the biblical evidence for Peter’s unique role among the apostles.”

- courtesy of Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrossio

Apostolic Constitution ANGLICANORUM COETIBUS Published

VATICAN CITY, 9 NOV 2009 (VIS) - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith today published the Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus", which provides for personal ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church, and some Complementary Norms for the same Apostolic Constitution.

Both documents are dated 4 November, feast of St. Charles Borromeo, and are signed by Cardinal William Joseph Levada and Archbishop Luis F. Ladaria S.J., respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

An English-language communique released by the congregation recalls how on 20 October, Cardina Levada "announced a new provision responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Catholic Church.

"The Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum coetibus' which is published today introduces a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing personal ordinariates, which will allow the above mentioned groups to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. At the same time, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is publishing a set of Complementary Norms which will guide the implementation of this provision.

"This Apostolic Constitution opens a new avenue for the promotion of Christian unity while, at the same time, granting legitimate diversity in the expression of our common faith. It represents not an initiative on the part of the Holy See, but a generous response from the Holy Father to the legitimate aspirations of these Anglican groups. The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church.

"The possibility envisioned by the Apostolic Constitution for some married clergy within the personal ordinariates does not signify any change in the Church's discipline of clerical celibacy. According to the Vatican Council II, priestly celibacy is a sign and a stimulus for pastoral charity and radiantly proclaims the reign of God".

The Apostolic Constitution contains thirteen sections which concern, among other things: the formation of the new ordinariates which possess, according to paragraph 3 of section 1, "public juridic personality by the law itself (ipso iure)" and are "juridically comparable to a diocese"; the power of the ordinary, "to be exercised jointly with that of the local diocesan bishop in those cases provided for in the Complementary Norms"; candidates for Holy Orders; erection, with the approval of the Holy See, of new Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; the "ad limina" visit of the ordinary, etc.

The Complementary Norms concern the jurisdiction of the Holy See; relations with episcopal conferences and diocesan bishops; the ordinary; the faithful of the ordinariate; the clergy; former Anglican bishops; the governing council; the pastoral council, and personal parishes.

There is Hope for the Church 2

God will always provide for His Church.  In this there is hope.  CNA ran a story last week about a 43 year-old prioresses who has revolutionized an old Poor Clares convent in Spain, turning it onto a magnet for dozens of young professional women.  And we think we have a vocation crisis in the US?  Consider Spain.  In the whole of Spain, the Jesuits have 20 novices, Franciscans, five, and the Vincentians, two.   Religious sisters are being imported from India, Kenya or Paraguay to prevent the closure of convents inhabited by elderly nuns Most priests are above the age of 60.

Sr. Veronica answers the call.  According to the Spanish daily El Pais, Sr. Veronica “has become the biggest phenomenon in the Church since Teresa of Calcutta,” as “she has made the old convent of Lerma into an attractive recruiting banner for female vocations, with 135 professional women with a median age of 35 and 100 more on a waiting list.”  The paper adds that Sr. Vernoica has also “opened a house in the town of La Aguilera, 24 miles from Lerma, at a huge monastery donated by her Franciscan brothers."

According to El Pais, the majority of the young sisters who have been attracted to the cloister "have been in relationships and had careers.”  The women are strong in their knowledge of theology, and are “urban and educated.”  “None are immigrants. There are five sisters from the same family, eleven pairs of blood sisters and a few twins. Most are from the middle class. And they have college degrees. This community offers a complete roster of lawyers, economists, physicists and chemists, roadway engineers, industrial workers, agricultural workers and aeronautics engineers, architects, doctors, pharmacists, biologists and physical therapists, librarians, philologists, teachers and photographers.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

New and Improved Roman Catholic Identity

Some self-promotion:
Roman Catholic Identity has moved to its own domain,
A few tweaks and formatting adjustments to allow for some richer content
Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Feast of All Dominican Saints

O God, fountain of all holiness,
you deigned to enrich your Church with the many gifts of the saints of the Order of Preachers.
Grant that we, who venerate them in this celebration on earth,
may follow in their footsteps and join the in the eternal festival of heaven.

We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

From The Narration of the Miracles of St. Dominic, by Bl. Cecilia:
One night, after prolonging his prayers until midnight, Dominic left the church and came to the dormitory, where he completed what he had to do and, taking his place at one end of the dormitory, continued to pray. As he stood praying, he glanced at the other end of the dormitory and saw three beautiful women enter, but noticed that the one in the middle was a venerable lady far more beautiful and dignified than the other two. One of them was carrying a beautiful, shining vessel, and the other an aspersorium which she handed to the lady in the center, who went from bed to bed sprinkling the brethren with holy water and blessing them. As she went along in this way, she passed by one of them without sprinkling him or blessing him. Blessed Dominic observed this and took note of the brother they neglected. The lady said to blessed Dominic: “I am the one you call upon in the evening. When you say, Turn therefore most gracious advocate thine eyes of mercy toward us, I prostrate myself before my Son and ask him to preserve the Order.” After that Blessed Dominic inquired about the brother she had passed by as she had sprinkled and blessed all the others. “Because he was not properly disposed,” she said.

After this she continued to sprinkle and bless all the others and then disappeared. When she was gone, Blessed Dominic returned to pray in the place he stood before. Suddenly he was rapt in spirit before God and saw Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin sitting at his right. It seemed to blessed Dominic that Our Lady was wearing a cape of bright blue, the colour of sapphire.

As blessed Dominic looked around, he could see religious of all the orders but his own before the throne of God, so that he began to weep bitterly and stood far away, not daring to approach the Lord and His Mother. Then our Lady motioned for him to come near. But he would not dare, until Our Lord Himself also called him.

Then blessed Dominic cast himself before them weeping bitterly. But our Lord told him to rise, and when he did, Our Lord asked him, “Why are you weeping so?” “I am weeping because I see all other orders here but no sign of my own.” And the Lord said to him, “Do you want to see your Order?” and he answered, “Yes, Lord.” The Our Lord, putting his hand upon the shoulders of the Blessed Virgin, said to blessed Dominic, “I have entrusted your Order to my Mother.” Then the Blessed Virgin opened the cape which covered her and spread it out before blessed Dominic, to whom it seemed vast enough to cover the entire heaven and, under it, he saw a large multitude of his brethren.

Then, prostrating himself, Blessed Dominic gave thanks to God and to Blessed Mary his Mother, After that the vision disappeared and he returned to himself just as the bell rang for Matins. When Matins was over, he called the brethren to chapter and gave them a long and beautiful talk, exhorting them to love and pay reverence to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Among other things he related this vision to them.

This vision blessed Dominic narrated to Sister Cecilia and the other sisters of San Sisto as though it had happened to someone else, but the brethren who were with him and heard it from his own lips implied to the sisters that it was he.

All the above statements about blessed Dominic were made by Sister Cecilia, who testified so firmly to their truth that, if it were necessary to repeat them under oath, she would do so. But because she is such a holy and religious person and it is so easy to believe her simple words, this account which she gave from her own lips has been put in writing by Sister Angelica of the same convent of Saint Agnes for the honour and praise of Our Lord Jesus Christ, our Blessed Father Dominic and the consolation of the brethren. Pardon the style of the compiler, for she is woefully ignorant of grammar.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Chirothecœ Are Off--Bishop Tobin v. Lawmakers

“If someone is clearly and consistently and obstinately opposed to the church on something as serious as abortion — which again is a grave and intrinsic evil — then they really have to question their membership in the church and their participation in the life of the church.”  So says Bishop Tobin directed at Lawmakers.  Bam!...there it is! 

In an interview two weeks ago Rep. Kennedy attacked the church's opposition to current health care legislation and accused the bishops of 'fanning flames of dissent and discord': "I can’t understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time...You mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life saving health care? I thought they were pro-life. If the church is pro-life, then they ought to be for health care reform because it’s going to provide health care that are [sic] going to keep people alive."

Bishop Tobin responded: “Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s statement about the Catholic Church’s position on health care reform is irresponsible and ignorant of the facts. But the Congressman is correct in stating that “he can’t understand.” He got that part right."Congressman Kennedy continues to be a disappointment to the Catholic Church and to the citizens of the State of Rhode Island. I believe the Congressman owes us an apology for his irresponsible comments. It is my fervent hope and prayer that he will find a way to provide more effective and morally responsible leadership for our state."

After Bishop Tobin extended an invitation to meet and discuss the "Catholic Church's longtime support of comprehensive health care legislation and measures that protect and defend life", Rep. Kennedy responded in a letter, falling short of an apology: "[my remarks] were never intended to slight the church...“that the church has always stood for health-care reform.”

Kennedy said he hopes that “our Church will be true to its millennia-old mission of feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and caring for those less fortunate than ourselves. My Catholic faith is based on these foundation principles.” But his disagreement with “the hierarchy of the church on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” “We all have our own morals and religious views, but in the end women have to have their health protected. Back alley abortions and so forth will happen if there isn’t a safe, legal means to have that medical procedure.”

And the hits keep coming.  It seems Congressman Patrick Kennedy is feverishly digging himself a deeper hole as he spars with Bishop Tobin of Providence.  They plan to meet at 12:30 on November 12th at a yet to be disclosed location.

btw: Chirothecœ = episcopal gloves

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A sermon by St Charles Borromeo

From the Office of Readings:
Practise what you preach
I admit that we are all weak, but if we want help, the Lord God has given us the means to find it easily. One priest may wish to lead a good, holy life, as he knows he should. He may wish to be chaste and to reflect heavenly virtues in the way he lives. Yet he does not resolve to use suitable means, such as penance, prayer, the avoidance of evil discussions and harmful and dangerous friendships. Another priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected?

Would you like me to teach you how to grow from virtue to virtue and how, if you are already recollected at prayer, you can be even more attentive next time, and so give God more pleasing worship? Listen, and I will tell you. If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter.

If teaching and preaching is your job, then study diligently and apply yourself to whatever is necessary for doing the job well. Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.

Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself.

My brothers, you must realise that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on how the Lord’s blood that has washed them clean so that all that you do becomes a work of love.

This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work: in meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Abortion and Health Care

Over the weekend there was an interesting "Facebook exchange" between a commonly held opinion and a succinct response by a friend who is a priest...thought I'd share it:

Comment"I'm against abortion, but I still think it's something that must be decided between a doctor and patient. You never know if because some poor women couldn't afford an abortion her and the baby died. I think the focus should be and should've always been the forming of conscience, not the forcing. Even if it is an objective evil I believe the antidotes we create, most of the time is worse than the poison."

Response"True we need to form consciences - in the dignity of the human person from the moment of conception until natural death. Consciences need to be formed so as to understand that human life is a gift from God and that any doctor or woman has no right to destroy the life of another human being. There is no "forcing". Abortion destroys and is one of the greatest injustices we have seen in our own day - any law which allows it to take place (or forces others to pay for it in the case of the proposed Health Care bill) is unjust. Laws must protect the baby and help the mother. 

Unfortunately the law of the land becomes the morality of the "little" ones, those who are unable to make the right decisions by not having help from the right people or any religion/faith.  We might think this to not be significant, but it is HUGE when we consider the number of people who have no direction for their lives in regard to such a monumental decision (like destroying the life of your own child!) - the law becomes their morality.

At the very foundation of all laws there must be the dignity of the human person - without which there is no justice.  Many people have been duped into such thinking that it all comes down to a personal choice. How about the choice of the child?

I believe one way to resolve such poor reasoning is to have an "all out" effort to help women to understand the love and the mercy of Jesus in their lives after an abortion.  The more this is made known to post-abortive women (and men), the more the Good News of Christ will spread and the truth of abortion (and faulty thinking) will be made known."
Two points.
1.  I have difficulty understanding the argument "I'm personally against, but support your right to decide for yourself", unless the debate is for vanilla or chocolate ice cream.    Take the following statement: "I am personally opposed to sticking a needle in my wife's eye, but I respect your right to make that decision for yourself".  Hopefully we are in agreement that this is absurd.  

2.  Any law that omits an entire class (unborn in this instance), even if the intention and foreseen outcome produces a good, is an unjust law.  How can you be against health care?  This is the Patrick Kennedy argument.  Suppose such legislation provided the finest of comprehensive care for all...except African Americans.  The vast majority of Americans would be covered and the law would accomplish a tremendous good.  How could you not be in favor of health care reform?  Quite easily.  How are the examples different?  They are not.  Such a law is unjust and cannot be supported.

Bishops vs. Obamacare

I cannot recall an historic precedent for this.  The USCCB launched a sudden campaign to rally all Catholics to contact their representatives in an effort to prevent the passage of present health care legislation which funds abortion.  (The vote in the House may occur this Wednesday or Thursday.)  The campaign provided pulpit "talking points" and a bulletin insert.  Unfortunately, by the results of some polling in the blogosphere, word didn't get out to the country's 19,000 parishes.  The vast majority neither made any mention of the issue nor provided the bulletin insert.

Ecclesia Penitens

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of All Souls in which we pray for the souls in Purgatory--the Church Suffering. Why do we pray for the dead? Here is what the Catechism says:

[1030] All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. [1031] The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. [1032] This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.

[1472] To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

Prayer for the souls in purgatory
Saint Gertrude the Great was a 13th century German mystic and Benedictine nun who showed "tender sympathy towards the souls in purgatory". In one mystical vision Our Lord dictated the following prayer and promised to release a thousand souls from purgatory each time it was said. The prayer was extended to include living sinners as well.

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus Christ, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, for those in my own home and within my family. Amen.