Dec 032013

Why in the world is the USCCB Blog promoting Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ? Despite what good work she might have done involving the death penalty she is also involved in serious errors. She is not an example to parade on the USCCB blog.

At the Democratic National Convention in 2008 she spoke to an interfaith crowd saying:

She received nothing but a stony silence, however, when she questioned the basis of the biblical crucifixion story as a “projection of our violent society.”

“Is this a God?” Prejeans asked about the belief that God allowed his son, Jesus, to be sacrificed for the sins of humanity. “Or is this an ogre?”

So much for St. Paul’s “we preach Christ crucified.”

The previous year in 2007, she had this to say:

(A)ccording to Sister Helen Prejean, author of the best-selling book Dead Man Walking, and internationally-renowned advocate against the death penalty, it is the Church’s doctrine on homosexuality that is sinful, as it fails to recognize “the full dignity of all human beings.”

Speaking on Sunday at the close of the symposium, Prejean noted that the first steps in denying and “removing” a human being is to declare them somehow “not quite human, not like how we are … to say that they’re ‘disordered’” – a reference to the language of the Vatican to describe the orientation of gay people. Such terminology, she said, fails to recognize the full dignity of all human beings and is the “greatest form of disrespect.”

Accordingly, “to not stand with LGBT people would be a sin,” declared Prejean to thunderous applause.

Prejean said that she is hopeful as she’s convinced that “people are waking and rising,” and that this will “change the Church.”

“When dialogue starts, the bread starts rising,” she said. “The yeast, the Holy Spirit, is in our hearts.”

In 2006 she was one of the signers of an ad in the New York Times that in part said “YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.” After being disinvited by Duluth Bishop Dennis Schnurr to be a keynote speaker at an education dinner she later clarified “I believe that all of life is sacred and must be protected, especially in the vulnerable stages at the beginning of life and its end.” Yet she still managed to sign this document while at the same time saying: “ I stand squarely within the framework of ”the seamless garment“ ethic of life.” A year after this in the July-August 1997 St. Catherine Review: Sister Prejean “will not take a stand against abortion.” She has also said if she got a chance to talk to President Obama it would only be about his support of the death penalty. She can find nothing else to chide him about.

Dec 012013

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, made clear that the Catholic Church remains adamantly opposed to the president’s health-care law because of what the Church considers its assault on conscience rights. “We bishops have been really kind of in a tough place, because we’re for universal, comprehensive, life-affirming health care,” Dolan said on Meet the Press, noting that the Catholic Church in the United States has supported the goal of universal and affordable health care for almost a century.

But the so-called HHS mandate, which requires coverage ofsmall_9359470402 contraception, sterilization, and drugs that may be abortifacients, without any co-pays, on all health-insurance plans, has made it impossible for Catholics to support the president’s efforts, Dolan said. “Mr. President, you’re really pushing kind of aside some of your greatest supporters. We want to be with you, we want to be strong, and if you keep doing this, we’re not going to be able to be one of your cheerleaders,” Dolan said. “That sadly is what happened.” (source)

While I can certainly understand some of the points Cardinal Dolan is making here. I think it also plays down or ignores other aspects. For example it was not the tacking on of the HHS mandate that made Obamacare morally unacceptable. The mandate just made it even worse. The U.S. Bishops were in the majority opposed to this act before the HHS Mandate which occurred only after the passage of the law. The very law itself had significant moral problems.

His statement “Mr. President, you’re really pushing kind of aside some of your greatest supporters.” also seems rather hyperbolic or a kind of diplomacy in place of truth. The assault on our faith by this President has extended across multiple lines beyond just the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The idea that Catholics could be his greatest supporters if only he put aside the HHS Mandate is rather laughable. Yeah if he would just put aside his support for abortion, infanticide, contraception, so-called same-sex marriage, ordered drone strikes with oversight or accountability, assault on religious liberty, IVF, three-parent embryo creation, and a whole laundry list of morally problematic thrusts by his administration we would be great friends! We are called to love our enemies not whitewash away what makes them enemies.

Maybe I am being too hard on the Cardinal here who is obviously trying to balance prudentially calling out something without being belligerent. Yet I wish this prudence included not making a statement so obviously untrue.

Photo credit: BostonCatholic via photopin cc

Nov 272013

After reading Evangelii Gaudium I knew one of the areas that would receive some criticism was the area of economics. I jokingly thought that we wouldn’t have to wait long for someone from the Acton Institute to respond.

Fr. Longenecker mentions:

In this article Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute  and author of Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing![][4] gives a cogent, fair and informed critique of the economic content of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation. He shows how the Pope’s conclusions are well meaning, but naive and not well informed. The good thing about Gregg’s article is that he is not condemning the general thrust of Evangelii Gaudium nor is he taking a doctrinaire and opposed view to the pope.

However he does point out regarding Pope Francis’ economic opinions  that it’s well, more complicated…

My own thoughts as I read this document that the Pope’s economic emphasis was rather one-sided with the root of the problem being “absolute autonomy of markets.” As Samuel Gregg wrote I also find some of these points the Pope made to be “straw-man arguments.” Reading what the Pope wrote you would have no idea about the amount of government regulation in this regard or the fact that big government is more likely to lead to increased poverty. The Country of Greece is and so many others are not suffering from the “absolute autonomy of markets.”

Not that I believe laissez-faire open markets is the answer to all economic problems. The problem with any system is not always the system itself, but the fact that original sin is always involved. Without morality a system only becomes more flawed. The increased secularization and loss of morals can make the free market anything but free.

“Finally, true freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace.” – Pope John Paul II (source)

Free markets become “license” markets when the bottom line does not include the dignity of the human person. When decisions are made without this necessary criteria. Ensuring free markets requires evangelization and conversion.

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Quincy Adams

Our Republic breaks down when this is lost and I would say the same is true of a truly free market. Yet even our flawed free market has done much to reducing poverty and this would be more so with the advancement of moral values.

I certainly don’t want to dismiss the Holy Father’s economic critique since I thought much of it was apt, but just aimed at the wrong target or that the targets could easily have been expanded. It is not government regulation that is the answer here, but regulation of ourselves. Whenever you find poverty you don’t usually have to look far to find a corrupt government involved.

I also found Let’s Listen to Pope Francis on Economics at First Things to be worth reading from a Catholic who is pro-free markets:

Francis’ call is not a governing agenda. We must, however, let it be a wake up call. We must look first at the impact of the policies we promote on the poor and the marginalized, and keep their interests in line first. And this is something Milton Friedman would agree with, by the way. Would most of his disciples? Rhetorically, sure.

But in the conservatarian community I’m a part of, while I see a lot of good intentions and good ideas, do I see enough concern towards directly addressing poverty and looking at everything through the lens of poverty and inclusion, including in my own work? I have to say that the answer is no. And certainly we must say we can always do better.

I am reminded of Sen. Mike Lee’s excellent speech on poverty. It’s truly great. But how much energy is devoted in free market circles in seriously discussing and debating poverty? What percentage? I have to admit that while I most often disagree with their prescriptions, there is a sincere and overwhelming concern for the poor that is more present in the progressive coalition than in my own. We must not be afraid of this concern for the poor that Pope Francis calls us to. We must make it our own and embrace it.

He concludes:

There is a place for discernment, and for advocacy, and even for confrontation. But I think that as Catholics we are also called upon to take the Pope’s message seriously, humbly, and to let it challenge us and to incorporate it into our own thinking, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For this I’ll pray.Note: My title of Popeconomics is aimed at the humor side with no disrespect to His Holiness.

Note: My title of “Popeconomics” is aimed at the humor side with no disrespect to His Holiness.

Nov 242013

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 10 November to 24 November 2013.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.


General Audiences




Motu Proprio

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

  • “Confessing our sins may be difficult for us, but it brings us peace. We are sinners, and we need God’s forgiveness.” @pontifex, 18 November 2013
  • “The Saints were not superhuman. They were people who loved God in their hearts, and who shared this joy with others.” @pontifex, 19 November 2013
  • “To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone.” @pontifex, 21 November 2013
  • “The Kingdom of Heaven is for those who place their trust in the love of God, not in material possessions.” @pontifex, 22 November 2013
  • “The Sacraments are Jesus Christ’s presence in us. So it is important for us to go to Confession and receive Holy Communion.” @pontifex, 23 November 2013
Nov 132013

‘Special Message’ On HHS Mandate At Conclusion Of General Assembly

… Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.

Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.

The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.

As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation. We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences. We remain grateful for the unity we share in this endeavor with Americans of all other faiths, and even with those of no faith at all. It is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church. We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.

This resolve is particularly providential on this feast of the patroness of immigrants, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant. We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.

Interesting and accurate choice of words “of the mandate against us”.

Via Rocco Palmo

From a story yesterday on Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

PITTSBURGH — The Roman Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh said Tuesday that he will refuse to sign a document allowing its health plan to provide birth control and abortion coverage for employees of a diocese-related charity, even if it means paying fines.

The Pittsburgh diocese and its counterpart in Erie are challenging federal health care law changes that require contraceptive and abortion coverage in employee health plans. Tuesday’s hearing was focused on whether U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab should block the government from enforcing the mandate while the dioceses pursue their lawsuits claiming the requirements violate their First Amendment right of religious freedom.

The Justice Department contends the church is exempt and that its charitable affiliates can be accommodated so they don’t have to pay for the coverage they object to.

Last year a judge dismissed a previous lawsuit the Pittsburgh diocese filed over the same issues, saying it has not been harmed by the new health care legislation and that the government had promised to take steps to address religious objections. But the diocese sued again, saying the final regulations that take effect Jan. 1 are worse than the proposed regulations that prompted the earlier lawsuit.

Bishop David Zubik testified that he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he signed a form that allowed the disputed services to be provided to employees. Zubik said the church is being asked to violate an important belief and a matter of conscience.

Many of the Bishops have been concentrating on the fallout from the employee mandate from the HHS effective next year. With no change in the law or really the artificial restrictions from HSS it is hard to see how we are going to effectively deal with this. The choice seems to be between knuckling under or paying the fines and going out of business. Really morally there is no choice but to resist so we will just have to see how the Bishops and Catholics institutions handle this.

Although I think others are in more immediate difficulties. While the employee mandate was delayed, that is not so for the individual mandate. So what happens with a Catholic whose insurance was cancelled and must buy insurance with all the HHS mandated coverages? Price increases will largely be used to subsidize all the new “free” coverage that includes intrinsically evil acts. Hopefully the bishops will speak on this and what level of material cooperation this is. Although I say hopefully in a sort of not-holding-my-breath way. This really is a all-hands-on-deck moment for the Church in America.

Nov 062013

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a letter to all of the U.S. bishops about Medjugorje. So yeah just another quite Catholic news day.

Jimmy Akin as usual has provided his usual excellent service of distilling what this means with things to know and share about the new letter on Medjugorje.

One thing I find interesting is that the letter was sent to the U.S. Bishops specifically. Possibly other Bishop conferences are receiving similar letters. Or maybe the majority of visitors to Medjugorje are from the United States. It seems to me that many bishops have seemed to turn a blind eye to “unofficial official” pilgrimages there despite the 1991 letter from the Bishops of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. In my own diocese these “unofficial official” pilgrimages appear in parish bulletins and on local Catholic radio along with parish priests “unofficially” going along.

Another thing of interest was the way the letter was written with language such as “so-called visionaries” and later “apparitions” used with scare quotes.

Years ago I reviewed Donal Foley’s book “Understanding Medjugorje Heavenly Vision or Religious Illusions”. Information since then has only confirmed my belief that it is a hoax on some level. When I first came into the Church I was very interested in apparitions. I think my previous atheism was seeking for evidential proofs to confirm I had not gone crazy with this “faith thing.” Medjugorje interested me and I had even gone to a parish where one of the “seer’s” spoke. Not long after that though I found out what the Bishop’s of Medjugorje had said and decided to pay no more attention to it along with the whole idea of seeking apparitions. After all even such apparitions that the Church considers worthy of pious credence and declaring them constat de supernaturalitate might emphasize an area of the faith, but teach nothing new.

The situation reminds me of the rich man who had feasted sumptuously while ignoring the plight of Lazurus.

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ (Lk 16:27–30)

We are in the same situation where we have the scriptures, sacred tradition, and the teaching authority of the Church and yet look for other sources instead of “hearing them.” Still I think God in his mercy does act via some apparitions to call us to what has already been revealed. Valid apparitions (and valid with all necessary caveats) are a sign of our weakness and not favor.

When it comes to Medjugorje I find it fascinating that it produces two contradictory fruits. That of disobedience and conversion. There has been so much shameful disobedience surrounding followers of the so-called seers and disobedience to their bishop from the “seer’s” themselves. Yet around this there have been genuine conversions. Evidence that God can draw straight lines out of anything and of course anywhere there is the Mass, the sacraments, and repentance; there will also be conversions.

Nov 052013

Since I was under ten at the time and had no connection to the Catholic Church the Second Vatican Council was a total non-entity for me. Still in retrospect I have wondered about the disconnect between what the Council actually taught and how it was perceived by Catholics and the world-at-large. Information about the Council was almost entirely filtered through the media. Even for Catholic who were watching closely there was a lot of misinformation to wade through and as the actual documents were published there were relatively few who read them. So partly it is easy to comprehend how the “Spirit of Vatican II” developed in an atmosphere of cultural upset and expectation of change.

I think I have a better understanding now how this dynamic worked. The reason I say this is I believe there is a “Spirit of Pope Francis” dynamic working right now. Once again change seems to be expected and that dogma and doctrine is up for grabs. The media amplifies anything interpreted to be in this direction; a grasping at straws and straw-men. It has been quite ludicrous when it comes to dogmatic teachings related to abortion, homosexual acts, women’s ordination are going to result in a total rewrite of the Catechism. Areas concerning discipline and not dogmas spin out of control on something totally unsubstantial. For example Archbishop Pietro Parolin’s answer regarding clerical celibacy that was anything but a signaling of future change. More recently all the talk about women Cardinal’s being appointed.

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said yesterday:

“Being a cardinal is one of the roles in the church for which, in theory, one does not have to be ordained as a priest,” Lombardi said. “But to move from that point to suggesting the pope will name female cardinals for the consistory is not even remotely realistic.”

So of course the media reports “Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi fuels rumours on female cardinals

More evidence of the “Sprit of Pope Francis” at work. You don’t need actual statements or documents just and expectation of change. The media, non-Catholics, and some Catholics not exactly friendly to the Church see Pope Francis as a “breath of fresh air.” So since they like him many assume that he can’t possibly be a “dogmatic” Pope and someone that actually believes all that the Church authoritatively teaches. The Pope’s repeated claims that he is a “son of the Church” is rather lost on them. He’s a humble guy with an obvious love for the poor so of course that means he is a political liberal. Some of the imprecision in the Pope’s language also contributes to agenda interpretations regarding what he has said. Some missteps such as the interview with Eugenio Scalfari that was not recorded and published based on Scalfari’s memory. There are reports that the Pope “regretted” the publication of the interview in “L’Osservatore Romano” and “complained of it to the director, Gian Maria Vian, in Assisi on Oct. 4.”

So there are many things that lead to the “Spirit of Pope Francis” and once again obvious contradictions don’t matter. Pope Francis can preach repeatedly about the reality of the devil and at the same time is expected to eject everything that went before. So just like the “Spirit of Vatican II” the “Spirit of Pope Francis” is full of contradictions between what is actually written and what is expected. The question is how is this to be overcome? Just the fact that the Pope won’t be changing these teachings will not be enough for those Bullwinkle Catholics who keep thinking “This time, for sure!”

Oct 232013

With the pontificate of Pope Francis there has been a growing of two kinds of Chicken Little’s. One kind sees the sky is falling and the Church teaching is being corrupted and the other see things falling – their way. Often both seem to have the same level of theological understanding as most media reporting. The same headline sends some into panic and others into ecstasy with stories that cover the Vatican are as accurate in prediction as hepatomancy – the reading of entrails. The media also greatly distorts/misunderstands anything Catholic, the difference is that you have what I see as a growing number of people listening to their nonsense.

For example the lastest example of this regarded allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion. To be specific allowing Communion to those who have remarried where either their spouse was still alive or did not receive a decree of nullity in a case where no marriage was actually contracted.

The amount of attention this was getting lead to Archbishop Gerhard Muller, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, writing a lengthy article in the L’Osservatore Romano putting a kibosh on the speculation. Funny I also remember how when Archbishop Gerhard Muller was selected by Pope Benedict XVI there were also cries of doom as he was suppose to be some sort of “progressive” theologian.

Part of the problem is how the term “acting pastorally” has come to mean different things to different people. Some think the term is a politically correct term for ignoring sin and doing nothing in response. Others that mercy means there is no sin or consequences and acting pastorally is about affirming people. The Pope’s repeated talking about mercy gets translated into a narrative instead of what he is actually saying and doing.

As Jimmy Akin ends his recent post on the subject:

12) So what is going to happen with the Church’s approach to the civilly remarried?

It’s a given that the Pope will continue to stress the need to be pastorally close to them and to help them draw closer to the Church.
Benedict XVI did that, and Francis is certain to continue the approach.

We’ll have to wait and see what practical forms this takes, and it will be a major point of discussion at the forthcoming Synod of Bishops, but I would be gobsmacked if the discipline regarding receiving Holy Communion were simply dropped.

That discipline is too closely based on biblical principles and infallible Catholic teaching, and Archbishop Muller’s article seems written precisely in order to communicate that the idea of dropping it is not on the table.

Moses compromised due to people’s “hardness of heart”, but that is not a solution available to us.

Oct 142013

SANTA CLARA – A decision by Santa Clara University’s president to drop health insurance coverage of elective abortions for the Catholic university’s faculty and staff has triggered a serious rift at the school.

Many faculty members say they were blindsided by the move at an institution that has long prided itself on open communication and governing by consensus.

The thorny issue echoes a nationwide debate at Catholic universities over their institutional identities and ability to consider the convictions of those who do not identify with – or who disagree with – certain principles the Catholic tradition holds as central.

The uproar at SCU comes on the heels of a contentious vote this week by trustees of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, another Jesuit school that decided not to provide coverage for elective abortions. And, ironically, the controversy came to a boil on the same day that California Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, went off in a different direction by signing two bills aimed at increasing access to abortion in California.

“This really makes Santa Clara University’s express commitment to openness, diversity and inclusiveness ring hollow,” said history professor Nancy Unger, who is Catholic. (source)

Because nothing says “openness, diversity and inclusiveness” quite like funding abortion. Seems to me murdering a child leads to less diversity and is not exactly inclusive. When disallowing abortion coverage is what angers you as a Catholic educator – your’e doing it wrong.

Still the good news is that two Jesuit schools are taking action regarding something that should never have happened in the first place.

This article only tangentially notes the recent law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown regarding abortion. He signed a law to allow non-physicians, including nurse practitioners to perform abortions. Pro-abortion activists freak out if a doctor doesn’t operate an ultrasound machine in a pro-life women’s clinic and yet have no problem with non-doctors slicing and dicing the unborn in woman’s wombs. Safe, legal, rare.

Another thing comes to mind regarding Gov. Moonbeam or is that Gov. Unborn Death-ray. I remember watching the installation Mass for Archbishop Michael C. Barber, SJ last May which the Governor attended. I was very annoyed by the comments during Mass yucking it up with the Governor and the mention of his being “Jesuit trained.” Sure I didn’t expect them to attack the Governor even if he calls himself a “uncompromising champion of a woman’s right to choose” along with other intrinsic evils. Politics shouldn’t enter the Mass, but it really is political pandering the way he was acknowledged. He just shouldn’t have been mentioned at all.

Oct 142013

(CNN) – A Catholic priest has gone to court, saying the partial government shutdown is preventing him from providing religious services– even voluntarily– on a U.S. military base.

Father Ray Leonard filed a lawsuit Monday in federal district court in Washington, saying he “wishes to continue practicing his faith and ministering to his faith community free of charge… but has been told that he is subject to arrest if he does so.”

Leonard is a newly hired civilian employee, scheduled to start work October 1 to provide Catholic religious services at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.

The priest was one of thousands of civilian military employees and contractors furloughed because of the failure of Congress to reach a deal on funding the federal government. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has since recalled some Defense Department workers, but civilian military chaplains were excluded.

Leonard and co-plaintiff Fred Naylor, a veteran who attends Catholic services, said their First Amendment right of religious expression and outreach was being violated. (source)

The weekend before last I was experiencing car problems and thought about just walking to the chapel on base for Mass. Good thing I checked their Facebook first since it turned out Mass was canceled and continues to be.

I do wonder if any of these military bases affected had arranged for transportation of service members to a nearby parish? Especially for those Catholics living in barracks without cars. Of those in this situation I wonder how many are aware how serious the obligation is to attend Mass?

Not being a Canon lawyer and having not even played one on television I still wonder about the canonical questions regarding this obligation (Canon 1247, 1248). I would think just because the closest convenient parish was closed would not be a sufficient grave cause when other parishes are available in the area. I faced this question myself realizing that just because our car wasn’t working didn’t mean we couldn’t call a taxi. Thankfully we did end up getting a ride to Mass that day.