Nehemiah’s Prayer

St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Cathedral Nantes, France

On January 1, 2020 I started a plan to read through the Bible in a year. I am more than halfway through. This year I am reading the Holy Scriptures in the Douay Rheims version, an English translation from the Latin that predates the King James or Authorized Version (1611).

Today’s readings have me in 2 Esdras (Nehemiah), Proverbs, and Acts. As I read the first chapter of Nehemiah, his prayer to God after receiving word of the dire situation in Jerusalem post-captivity impacted me greatly. I have read this prayer countless times. This morning’s reading cut to the heart.

And when I had heard these words (regarding the condition of Jerusalem), I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days: and I fasted, and prayed before the face of the God of heaven.

And I said: I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, strong, great, and terrible, who keepest covenant and mercy with those that love thee, and keep thy commandments:

Let thy ears be attentive, and thy eyes open, to hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, night and day, for the children of Israel thy servants: and I confess the sins of the children of Israel, by which they have sinned against thee: I and my father’s house have sinned.

We have been seduced by vanity, and have not kept thy commandments, and ceremonies and judgments, which thou hast commanded thy servant Moses.

Remember the word that thou commandest to Moses thy servant, saying: If you shall transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

But if you return to me, and keep my commandments, and do them, though you should be led away to the uttermost parts of the world, I will gather you back from thence and bring you back to the place which I have chosen for my name to dwell there. (Nehemiah 1:4-9 DR).

The Catholic Church has traditionally understood itself to be the new Israel (Catechism of the Catholic Church 877). Just as Israel was God’s people in the Old Testament, the Church is his people now. https://catholicexchange.com/church-new-israel. So as Nehemiah hears of the condition of the city of Jerusalem and mourns over it, we too find ourselves weeping and mourning over our “Jerusalem.” And following the example of Nehemiah we are to fast and pray before the face of the God of heaven.

Nehemiah confessed the sins of his generation. Listen to his confession: “We have been seduced by vanity, and have not kept thy commandments, and ceremonies and judgments, which thou hast commanded thy servant Moses.” There were consequences for their sin. They found themselves scattered to the four winds.

Only God knows how much the recent events: fires, sacrileges and attacks on Christianity are a result of our sins of vanity, and failure to keep God’s commandments, ceremonies and judgments. That is not mine to determine. Yet it does seem appropriate to forsake the vanity that seduces us in order to follow the example of Nehemiah who wept, mourned, fasted and prayed.

Nehemiah reminds God of his promise to a repentant people: “But if you return to me, and keep my commandments, and do them, though you should be led away to the uttermost parts of the world, I will gather you back from thence and bring you back to the place which I have chosen for my name to dwell there.

Seduction by vanity looks a lot like casting blame on the culture instead of recognizing that the culture is where it is because God’s people (myself included) have failed to keep God’s commandments, ceremonies and judgments. I close with St. Peter’s powerful words in his first letter:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:12-17 RSV).

Am I Included in that Number?

Sermon for the Feast of the Forty Holy Martyrs by St. Theodore the ...

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew:

Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:16–23 NAB)

Today’s Gospel reading from the lectionary is disturbing. Honestly, many of Jesus’ words are. Who is Jesus talking to? Obviously in context he was speaking to his disciples who became his apostles. From Scripture and tradition we know that they endured these things in spades as they went forth to preach the gospel. They all suffered martyrdom with the exception of St. John the Beloved, and his life was no cakewalk.

Down through the 20 centuries of Christian history men and women have heard these words and wondered if it would apply to them. For millions it has been the case. There are countless people today in many parts of the world who know the reality of this prophetic passage of Scripture spoken by our Lord.

What about you and me? Whenever I have read this I have imagined some distant, dystopian danger that would not impact my life or the lives of my loved ones. But what if you and I don’t have that luxury? What if we are included in the number of those who cry out in Revelation 6:9–11?

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the the testimony they had given; they cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed. (NRSV)

We don’t know what today and tomorrow holds for us. We should hear the word of the Gospel today and not immediately exclude ourselves or come up with all the reasons why it won’t happen to us (as has been my custom). Only God knows our future, yet Jesus does give us comfort and a challenge.

The comfort: “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of the Father speaking through you.”

The challenge: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

A Prayer for the Preservation of the Faith
(St. Clement Hofbauer, 1751-1820)

O my Redeemer, will that terrible moment ever come, when but few Christians shall be left who are inspired by the spirit of faith, that when Thine indignation shall be provoked and Thy protection shall be taken from us? Have our vices and our evil lives irrevocably moved Thy justice to take vengeance, perhaps this very day, upon Thy children? O Thou, the author and finisher of our faith, we conjure Thee, in the bitterness of our contrite and humbled hearts, not to suffer the fair light of faith to be extinguished in us. Remember Thy mercies of old, turn Thine eyes in compassion upon the vineyard planted by Thine own right hand, and watered by the sweat of the Apostles, by the precious blood of countless Martyrs and by the tears of so many sincere penitents, and made fruitful by the prayers of so many Confessors and innocent Virgins. O divine Mediator, look upon those zealous souls who raise their hearts to Thee and pray without ceasing for the maintenance of that most precious gift of Thine, the true faith. We beseech Thee, O God of justice, to hold back the decree of our rejection, and to turn away Thine eyes from our vices and regard instead the adorable Blood shed upon the Cross, which purchased our salvation and daily intercedes for us upon our altars. Ah, keep us safe in the true Catholic and Roman faith. Let sickness afflict us, vexations waste us, misfortunes overwhelm us! But preserve in us Thy holy faith; for if we are rich with this precious gift, we shall gladly endure every sorrow, and nothing shall ever be able to change our happiness. On the other hand, without this great treasure of faith, our unhappiness would be unspeakable and without limit! O good Jesus, author of our faith, preserve it pure within us; keep us safe in the bark of Peter, faithful and obedient to his successor and Thy Vicar here on earth, that so the unity of Holy Church may be maintained, holiness fostered, the Holy See protected in freedom, and the Church universal extended to the benefit of souls. O Jesus, author of our faith, humble and convert the enemies of Thy Church; grant true peace and concord to all Christian kings and princes and to all believers; strengthen and preserve us in Thy holy service, to the end that we may live in Thee and die in Thee. O Jesus, author of our faith, let me live for Thee and die for Thee. Amen. (from The Raccolta)

Don’t Cry over Spilt Milk!

Introduction - Idioms and Proverbs

I don’t remember spilling that much milk as a child, but I do remember hearing my parents repeat the proverb often. I’m sure I didn’t fully capture the meaning they were trying to convey as they hoped to teach me how to grow up into a mature, responsible adult. There’s no point to being upset over something that has already happened and cannot be changed.

Three years ago today I began employment with the company that made it necessary for me and my wife to leave New York City after 15 years of residence there. Three years later I am approaching four weeks of having lost that job due to downsizing and reorganization. How does not crying over spilled milk apply here? I guess there is no point to being upset over something that has already happened and cannot be changed. And that is true!

Losing employment at my “tender age”—15 months from the traditional age of retirement—means starting all over again and putting myself back out into the job search world in a very economically unstable time. It means deciding what I want to do, if I get to choose, with the hopefully many productive years still ahead of me. Before losing my job I worked for twelve weeks remotely due to Covid-19. It helped me realize that not all work takes place within the confines of an established work site or office cubicle.

I’ve connected with a “talent transition and development company” thanks to my former employer and I’m taking advantage of the insights and advice being offered. New ideas of marketing my skills are “agitating my gray cells” as Hercule Poirot would say. I hope to keep you posted as I move forward.

During the time I spent working in my former company, work anniversaries were marked with coffee with the president/CEO and coworkers who had the same anniversary month. One of the icebreakers in that social gathering was to write the number of years of employment on a sheet of paper and pose for a picture with the group. I kept those papers marking “1” and “2” years of service. I didn’t get to “3”. That would have been today.

I will not cry over split milk or coffee! The best is yet to come!

Does Genesis give us hope?

Not a day goes by that there is not some mention of global warming or climate change. Some refer to it in derision or jest while others accept it as “gospel” truth. Honestly, I don’t know one way or the other. I’m certain there are fluctuations in temperatures over a period of time, but I’m not on the “let’s build an ark” as the seas are rising team. For my Millennial and younger readers, if you’re still with me, I grew up in a period of “global cooling!” Yes, especially after two dangerously destructive winters in 1977 and 1978, the science said we were headed for a new glacial age. If you doubt me here is the first paragraph from Wikipedia on the subject of “global cooling.”

Global cooling was a conjecture during the 1970s of imminent cooling of the Earth‘s surface and atmosphere culminating in a period of extensive glaciationPress reports at the time did not accurately reflect the full scope of the debate in the scientific literature.[1] The current scientific opinion on climate change is that the Earth underwent global warming throughout the 20th century and continues to warm.[2]

My steady response to anything posted in the news or even from the scientific community is a definitive “Well, we’ll see!” Yesterday they forecast snow for today. I said “Well, we’ll see!” Today it’s snowing! A true forecast now gives them slightly above 50 percent accuracy over the long haul.

Other conjectures are still waiting confirmation. But this morning I served as lector at the 6:45 Mass and the first reading was from Genesis 8:6-13, 20-22. This is the account of Noah in the ark waiting for the water from the flood to recede and allow him and his family to escape from their floating zoo. You may be familiar with the story: Noah releases a raven, then a dove, that returns because there is no place to land, then again and the dove returns with a plucked-off olive leaf, and finally a third time and the dove does not return. Noah and his family and all the animals leave the ark. Noah rejoices that he can escape the stench of the ark and put his feet on solid ground. He offers a sacrifice that pleases the Lord and the Lord makes a promise, a promise that I read this morning in a new way.

When the LORD smelled the sweet odor, he said to himself:
“Never again will I doom the earth because of man
since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start;
nor will I ever again strike down all living beings, as I have done.
As long as the earth lasts,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
Summer and winter,
and day and night
shall not cease.”

Whether “global warming” is a thing or not; whether it’s caused by man or not; God says that he will never again doom the earth because of man. That’s a message of hope right out of Genesis.

Does that mean we can be irresponsible? No, not at all! But what is responsible is to major on the majors and minor on the minors. The major issue facing mankind is our need to reconcile with our Maker, the Lord of heaven and earth. Once reconciled through our Lord Jesus Christ his only Son, how we treat each other and the earth he has given us to steward will have more impact than all the uncertain science we pretend to affirm. And please read much more into that statement on scientific facts than I am saying here for now! I want to hear more about the good news of reconciliation with God and man in homilies and if such is the case I expect God to keep his word!

 

They dressed in white

61 Million

It seems appropriate to share this post from January 22 in light of Tuesday’s important speech from the chamber of the House of Representatives.

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that made abortion on demand legal in all 50 states. The decision has been hailed as a victory for women and women’s rights. Many feminists regard it as indispensable for a woman to achieve full equality as a citizen of the United States.

A few days ago I came across some quotes from the earliest of “feminists” who advocated for women’s rights, especially the right to vote. These women who called in those days “suffragettes.” Many of them were present at the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, on July 19–20, 1848. It was “a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman,” and it was held at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were two of the more renown women’s rights activists who attended this convention. Seventy-two years later the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed the right to vote to all women in the nation.

Many of today’s feminists harken back to these brave and ground-breaking women for inspiration. As I stated earlier, the right to “choose an abortion” has become just as important as the “right to vote.” How did these 19th and early 20th century feminists compare to their modern-day compatriots? Let’s return to those quotes!

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

We are living today under a dynasty of force; the masculine element is everywhere overpowering the feminine, and crushing woman and children alike beneath its feet. Let woman assert herself in all her native purity, dignity, and strength, and end this wholesale suffering and murder of helpless children. With centuries of degradation, we have so little of true womanhood, that the world has but the faintest glimmering of what a woman is or should be. (Revolution, January 29, 1868)

Susan B. Anthony

The unifying theme of Susan Brownell Anthony’s life was to speak up for those without a voice. Anthony fought for temperance, the abolition of slavery and especially the enfranchisement of women. She also spoke up for the voiceless child in utero, opposing Restellism,  the term that Anthony’s newspaper and others at that time used for abortion. It’s easy to chalk up Anthony’s (and other early feminists’) opposition to abortion as a relic of their day and age. But these women were progressive and independent; they did not oppose abortion because they were conditioned to, but because they believed every human life has inherent and equal value, no matter their age, skin color or sex.

Anthony’s newspaper, the Revolution, had a policy  of not advertising abortion like other mainstream papers furtively did. Revolution editors like Elizabeth Cady Stanton were explicit in denouncing “child murder,” “infanticide” and “foeticide,” descriptions they used interchangeably for abortion. Indeed, a recent Smithsonian Magazine article discussed news coverage of “infanticide” in the 1860s, a common subject for early investigative reporters of the suffrage era, many of whom were women writing about their concerns under pseudonyms.

It is not hard to imagine that these early feminists and suffragists, Anthony among them, were opposed to the most fundamental human abuse: degrading another human being by claiming to own and destroy it.

In her famous 1875 talk on social purity,  Anthony condemned abortion as a consequence of liquor consumption.

Elizabeth Blackwell

In her autobiography, Elizabeth Blackwell, a suffragist and the first U.S. female doctor, went into medicine to denounce abortionists: “Women who carried on this shocking trade seemed to me a horror,” she wrote. “It was an utter degradation of what might and should become a noble position for women.”

Charlotte Denman Lozier

Another suffragist physician, Charlotte Denman Lozier, said, “We are sure most women physicians will lend their influence and their aid to shield their sex from the foulest wrong committed against it,” that is, abortion.

Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president in 1872 said, ““The rights of children, then, as individuals, begin while they yet remain the foetus.” Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Claflin, declared, “Pregnancy is not a disease, but a beautiful office of nature.”

These early feminists would be appalled if they could see where we are 170 years after that first women’s rights convention. Legally in the last 46 years, 61 million babies have paid the ultimate price. Their voices still speak to us today about the “foulest wrong committed” against all women, especially those who are yet unborn!

 

What Child Is This?

I’m sitting next to my week-old grandson on Christmas Eve while he peacefully sleeps. His three older brothers are occupied in pretend battles and other pursuits common to little boys. But back to baby Peregrine…

On the eve of the celebration of our Savior’s birth, little Peregrine gives me insight into the fragility with which our God entered our world. He was totally dependent on his mother for everything that he needed. He subjected himself to our weakest and most vulnerable state to become one of us and offer us his greatest gift–our salvation!

This morning I read a quote from St. Hilary of Poitiers that captures the essence of this Christmas miracle:

“What worthy return can we make for so great a condescension? The One Only-begotten God, ineffably born of God, entered the Virgin’s womb and grew and took the frame of poor humanity. He who upholds the universe, within whom and through whom are all things, was brought forth by common childbirth. He at whose voice archangels and angels tremble, and heaven and earth and all the elements of this world are melted, was heard in childish wailing. The Invisible and Incomprehensible, whom sight and feeling and touch cannot measure, was wrapped in a cradle.”

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Thank you Jesus! Merry Christmas!

Bring Them In!

This morning I remember a song we used to sing at the little white frame church by the railroad tracks in the little town I grew up in. The song was sung when all the Sunday school classes came together before being dismissed to their individual teachers.

Hark! ’tis the Shepherd’s voice I hear,
out in the desert dark and drear,
calling the sheep who’ve gone astray
far from the Shepherd’s fold away.

Refrain:
Bring them in, bring them in,
bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring the wand’ring ones to Jesus.

On a regular basis we get reports from Barna, Gallup, Pew Research, or our own visual assessments that people aren’t going to church like they used to. We remember the good ole days when people knew that the Sunday place to be was in church. I am not minimizing that reality. Church attendance is way down. Yet sometimes we need perspective and maybe even a holy “kick in the pants.” I’ll let St. John Chrysostom (d. 407 A.D.) do the honors today in his homily To Those Who Had Not Attended the Assembly:

It seems I did no good with the long harangue I addressed to you a while ago, hoping to rouse up your enthusiasm for the meetings here. Once again our church is destitute of her children. So once again I have to annoy and burden you by reproving those who are present and faulting those who are left behind—faulting them because they have not overcome their laziness, and you because you have not lent the salvation of your brothers and sisters a helping hand.

My remarks are not so much directed at them as at you, because you haven’t brought them in—you don’t rouse them from their inertia and bring them to this table of salvation. How many fathers are here whose sons aren’t standing next to them? Was it so hard for you to bring some of your children with you?

So it’s clear that the absence of all the others who stayed away is not just because of their own laziness, but also because of your neglect.

But now, even if you’ve never done it before, stir yourselves up. Let each one of you enter the church with one of your family. Prod and urge one another to the congregation here—the father should urge his son, the son his father, the husbands their wives, the wives their husbands, the master his servant, the brother his brother, the friend his friend. In fact, let us not call only our friends but also our enemies to this common treasury of good things. If your enemy sees that you care for his welfare, he will doubtless give up hating you.

—St. John Chrysostom, To Those Who Had Not Attended the Assembly, 1, 3
A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living, p. 342

Wise words from a wise Church Father! “Bring them in, bring them in, bring them in from the fields of sin. Bring the wand’ring ones to Jesus!”

A Mixed Bag

On this Wednesday near the end of November there are several directions I can go as I begin to write. The safest bet might be to give you a “mixed bag” of thoughts and ideas.

A Meaningful Thanksgiving

I spent Thanksgiving in Florida with my wife, my sister and her husband, and my dad who is a rock. Living past his mid-eighties he is dealing with a medical diagnosis that has taken away much of his independence, but that hasn’t diminished his heart, his mind or his soul. What a privilege to lovingly serve the man who brought me into the world and who loved and served me for so many years as I was growing up.

Trying to Put the Best Spin on a Negative Situation

It seems insult was added to injury when after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops were denied the ability to vote on measures to begin to address the sex abuse crisis in the U.S. by the Vatican, the Pope appointed Cardinal Cupich of Chicago to the organizing committee for the February meeting in Rome to discuss the protection of minors (but not seminarians?) in the Church. This is the same prelate who told the media that Pope Francis had more important things to do than deal with this crisis—things like immigration and climate change! This is the same prelate who became the recipient of a red hat due to ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s advocacy and machinations. One has to wonder how seriously the crisis will be taken with Cardinal Cupich leading the charge.

Little Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer

The next and last issue I want to touch is almost too strange to be true, but not in the present climate and seems to be a recurrent theme, unfortunately, in the current pontificate. I quote from LifeSite News:

Almost all of the members of a conservative order of nuns that serve the elderly in French nursing homes have announced that they have asked to be released from their vows following attempts by the Vatican to force them to alter their way of life and to “modernize” their order.

According to their lay supporters, the sisters have been accused of engaging in “too much prayer” and concerns have been expressed that they wear the guimpe, a traditional form of religious head covering used by nuns that is no longer in vogue among the Church’s liberal elite. The sisters say that they are accused of a “deviant authoritarianism,” of being “too classical” in their thinking, and of being guilty of an “immobilism” in their devotion to their institute’s charism.

A total of 34 of the 39 members of the the Little Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer say they want to quit the order after a Vatican dicastery removed their superior general and attempted to impose three “commissioners” on them who were hostile towards their more traditional practices.

(LifeSiteNews.comThanks for your prayers for my dad! Keep the February meeting in Rome high in your prayers! And pray for the Little Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer as they seek to continue serving nursing homes in France.

Speaking the Truth in Love

The Catholic Church in the United States received very sad news over the Thanksgiving holiday. His Excellency Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, died Saturday, November 24 as the result of a cardiac event. Bishop Morlino had been the bishop of Madison since 2003 and was known to be a firm proponent and support of sound Catholic doctrine, of life issues and the need to get to the bottom of the homosexual crisis in the clergy that has drawn the Church into her most grave crisis in the United States.

Because Bishop Morlino spoke the truth he was not always appreciated by those who have allow politics to color their commitment to Catholic doctrine. Some have accused him of hating the LGBT community. A letter he posted to the diocese of Madison back in August will speak to the reality of his heart: of speaking the truth in love. If you didn’t have the opportunity to see and read his letter, it follows. I present it as a tribute to a holy and honest prelate of the Church.

Bishop’s Letter
August 18, 2018
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ of the Diocese of Madison,
The past weeks have brought a great deal of scandal, justified anger, and a call for answers and action by many faithful Catholics here in the U.S.
and overseas, directed at the Church hierarchy regarding sexual sins by
bishops, priests, and even cardinals. Still more anger is rightly directed at those who have been complicit in keeping some of these serious sins
from coming to light. For my part — and I know I am not alone — I am
tired of this. I am tired of people being hurt, gravely hurt! I am tired of
the obfuscation of truth. I am tired of sin. And, as one who has tried —
despite my many imperfections — to lay down my life for Christ and His Church, I am tired of the regular violation of sacred duties by those
entrusted with immense responsibility from the Lord for the care of His
people. The stories being brought into light and displayed in gruesome
detail with regard to some priests, religious, and now even those in
places of highest leadership, are sickening. Hearing even one of these
stories is, quite literally, enough to make someone sick. But my own
sickness at the stories is quickly put into perspective when I recall the
fact that many individuals have lived through them for years. For them,
these are not stories, they are indeed realities. To them I turn and say,
again, I am sorry for what you have suffered and what you continue to
suffer in your mind and in your heart. If you have not already done so, I beg you to reach out, as hard as that may be, and seek help to begin to
heal. Also, if you’ve been hurt by a priest of our diocese, I encourage you
to come forward, to make a report to law enforcement and to our Victim’s Assistance Coordinator, so that we might begin, with you as an
individual, to try and set things right to the greatest extent possible.
There is nothing about these stories that is okay. These actions,
committed by more than a few, can only be classified as evil, evil that
cries out for justice and sin that must be cast out from our Church. Faced with stories of the depravity of sinners within the Church, I have been
tempted to despair. And why? The reality of sin — even sin in the Church — is nothing new. We are a Church made of sinners, but we are sinners
called to sanctity. So what is new? What is new is the seeming acceptance of sin by some in the Church, and the apparent efforts to cover over sin
by them and others. Unless and until we take seriously our call to
sanctity, we, as an institution and as individuals, will continue to suffer
the “wages of sin.” For too long we have diminished the reality of sin —
we have refused to call a sin a sin — and we have excused sin in the
name of a mistaken notion of mercy. In our efforts to be open to the
world we have become all too willing to abandon the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In order to avoid causing offense we offer to ourselves and to
others niceties and human consolation. Why do we do this? Is it out of an earnest desire to display a misguided sense of being “pastoral?” Have we covered over the truth out of fear? Are we afraid of being disliked by
people in this world? Or are we afraid of being called hypocrites because we are not striving tirelessly for holiness in our own lives? Perhaps these are the reasons, but perhaps it is more or less complex than this. In the
end, the excuses do not matter. We must be done with sin. It must be
rooted out and again considered unacceptable. Love sinners? Yes. Accept true repentance? Yes. But do not say sin is okay. And do not pretend that
grave violations of office and of trust come without grave, lasting
consequences. For the Church, the crisis we face is not limited to the
McCarrick affair, or the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, or anything else that may come. The deeper crisis that must be addressed is the license for sin to have a home in individuals at every level of the Church. There is a
certain comfort level with sin that has come to pervade our teaching, our preaching, our decision making, and our very way of living. If you’ll
permit me, what the Church needs now is more hatred! As I have said
previously, St. Thomas Aquinas said that hatred of wickedness actually
belongs to the virtue of charity. As the Book of Proverbs says “My mouth
shall meditate truth, and my lips shall hate wickedness (Prov. 8:7).” It is
an act of love to hate sin and to call others to turn away from sin. There must be no room left, no refuge for sin — either within our own lives, or within the lives of our communities. To be a refuge for sinners (which we should be), the Church must be a place where sinners can turn to be
reconciled. In this I speak of all sin. But to be clear, in the specific
situations at hand, we are talking about deviant sexual — almost
exclusively homosexual — acts by clerics. We’re also talking about
homosexual propositions and abuses against seminarians and young
priests by powerful priests, bishops, and cardinals. We are talking about acts and actions which are not only in violation of the sacred promises
made by some, in short, sacrilege, but also are in violation of the natural moral law for all. To call it anything else would be deceitful and would
only ignore the problem further. There has been a great deal of effort to
keep separate acts which fall under the category of now-culturally-
acceptable acts of homosexuality from the publically-deplorable acts of
pedophilia. That is to say, until recently the problems of the Church have been painted purely as problems of pedophilia — this despite clear
evidence to the contrary. It is time to be honest that the problems are
both and they are more. To fall into the trap of parsing problems
according to what society might find acceptable or unacceptable is
ignoring the fact that the Church has never held ANY of it to be
acceptable — neither the abuse of children, nor any use of one’s sexuality outside of the marital relationship, nor the sin of sodomy, nor the
entering of clerics into intimate sexual relationships at all, nor the abuse and coercion by those with authority. In this last regard, special mention should be made of the most notorious and highest in ranking case, that
being the allegations of former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s
(oft-rumored, now very public) sexual sins, predation, and abuse of
power. The well-documented details of this case are disgraceful and
seriously scandalous, as is any covering up of such appalling actions by
other Church leaders who knew about it based on solid evidence. While
recent credible accusations of child sexual abuse by Archbishop
McCarrick have brought a whole slew of issues to light, long-ignored was the issue of abuse of his power for the sake of homosexual gratification.
It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the
hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord. The Church’s teaching is clear that the homosexual
inclination is not in itself sinful, but it is intrinsically disordered in a way that renders any man stably afflicted by it unfit to be a priest. And the
decision to act upon this disordered inclination is a sin so grave that it
cries out to heaven for vengeance, especially when it involves preying upon the young or the vulnerable. Such wickedness should be hated with a perfect hatred. Christian charity itself demands that we should hate
wickedness just as we love goodness. But while hating the sin, we must
never hate the sinner, who is called to conversion, penance, and renewed communion with Christ and His Church, through His inexhaustible
mercy. At the same time, however, the love and mercy which we are
called to have even for the worst of sinners does not exclude holding
them accountable for their actions through a punishment proportionate
to the gravity of their offense. In fact, a just punishment is an important work of love and mercy, because, while it serves primarily as retribution for the offense committed, it also offers the guilty party an opportunity to make expiation for his sin in this life (if he willingly accepts his
punishment), thus sparing him worse punishment in the life to come.
Motivated, therefore, by love and concern for souls, I stand with those
calling for justice to be done upon the guilty. The sins and crimes of
McCarrick, and of far too many others in the Church, bring suspicion and mistrust upon many good and virtuous priests, bishops, and cardinals,
and suspicion and mistrust upon many great and respectable seminaries and so many holy and faithful seminarians. The result of the first
instance of mistrust harms the Church and the very good work we do in
Christ’s name. It causes others to sin in their thoughts, words, and deeds — which is the very definition of scandal. And the second mistrust harms the future of the Church, since our future priests are at stake. I said that I was tempted to despair in light of all of this. However, that temptation
quickly passed, thanks be to God. No matter how large the problem, we
know that we are called to go forward in faith, to rely upon God’s
promises to us, and to work hard to make every bit of difference we can, within our spheres of influence. I have recently had the opportunity to
talk directly with our seminarians about these very pressing matters, and I have begun to, and will continue to, talk with the priests of the diocese, as well as the faithful, in person and through my weekly column and
homilies, making things as clear as I can, from my perspective. Here now, I offer a few thoughts to those of my diocese: In the first place, we must
continue to build upon the good work which we have accomplished in
protecting the youth and vulnerable of our diocese. This is a work on
which we can never rest in our vigilance, nor our efforts to improve. We must continue in our work of education for all and hold to the effective
policies that have been implemented, requiring psychological exams for all candidates for ministry, as well as across-the-board background
checks for anyone working with children or vulnerable individuals. Here again, I state, as we have done consistently, if you have knowledge of any sort of criminal abuse of children by someone in the Church, contact law enforcement. If you need help in contacting law enforcement contact our Victim’s Assistance Coordinator and she will help connect you with the
best resources. If you are an adult victim of sexual abuse from childhood, we still encourage you to reach out to law enforcement first, but even if
you don’t want to, please still reach out to us. 
To our seminarians: If you are unchastely propositioned, abused, or
threatened (no matter by whom), or if you directly witness unchaste
behavior, report it to me and to the seminary rector. I will address it
swiftly and vigorously. I will not stand for this in my diocese or anywhere I send men for formation. I trust that the seminaries I choose, very
discriminately, to help form our men will not ignore this type of
scandalous behavior, and I will continue to verify that expectation.
To our priests: Most simply, live out the promises you made on your
ordination day. You are called to serve Christ’s people, beginning with
praying daily the Liturgy of the Hours. This is to keep you very close to
God. In addition, you promised to obey and be loyal to your bishop. In
obedience, strive to live out your priesthood as a holy priest, a hard
working priest, and a pure and happy priest — as Christ Himself is calling you to do. And by extension, live a chaste and celibate life so that you can completely give your life to Christ, the Church, and the people whom he
has called you to serve. God will give you the graces to do so. Ask Him for the help you need daily and throughout every day. And if you are
unchastely propositioned, abused, or threatened (no matter by whom), or if you directly witness unchaste behavior, report it to me. I will not stand for this in my diocese any more than in our seminaries.
To the faithful of the diocese: If you are the victim of abuse of any kind by a priest, bishop, cardinal, or any employee of the Church, bring it
forward. It will be addressed quickly and justly. If you have directly
witnessed sexual advances or any type of abuse, bring it forward as well. Such actions are sinful and scandalous and we cannot allow anyone to
use their position or power to abuse another person. Again, in addition to injuring individuals, these actions injure the very Body of Christ, His
Church. Furthermore, I add my name to those calling for real and
sustained reform in the episcopate, priesthood, our parishes, schools,
universities, and seminaries that would root out and hold accountable
any would-be sexual predator or accomplice; I will hold the priests of the diocese to their promise to live a chaste and celibate life of service to you and your parish, and evidence of failure in this regard will be justly
addressed; I will likewise hold every man studying for the priesthood for our diocese accountable to living a chaste and celibate life as part of his
formation for the priesthood. Failure to do so will lead to dismissal from diocesan sponsorship; I will continue to require (with our men and our
funds) that all seminaries to which we send men to study be vigilant that seminarians are protected from sexual predators and provide an
atmosphere conducive to their holistic formation as holy priests, in the
image of Christ; I ask all the faithful of the diocese to assist in keeping us accountable to civil authorities, the faithful in the pews, and to God
Almighty, not only to protect children and the youth from sexual
predators in the Church, but our seminarians, university students, and all the faithful as well. I promise to put any victim and their sufferings
before that of the personal and professional reputation of a priest, or any Church employee, guilty of abuse; I ask everyone reading this to pray.
Pray earnestly for the Church and all her ministers. Pray for our
seminarians. And pray for yourselves and your families. We must all
work daily on our own personal holiness and hold ourselves accountable first and, in turn, hold our brothers and sisters accountable as well, and
finally, I ask you all to join me and the entire clergy of the Diocese of
Madison in making public and private acts of reparation to the Most
Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for all the sins of sexual depravity committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy. Some sins, like some demons, can only be driven out by prayer and
fasting. This letter and these statements and promises are not intended to be an exhaustive list of what we can and need to do in the Church to
begin to heal from, and stave off, this deep illness in the Church, but
rather the next steps I believe we can take locally. More than anything
else, we as a Church must cease our acceptance of sin and evil. We must
cast out sin from our own lives and run toward holiness. We must refuse to be silent in the face of sin and evil in our families and communities
and we must demand from our pastors — myself included — that they
themselves are striving day in and day out for holiness. We must do this
always with loving respect for individuals but with a clear understanding that true love can never exist without truth. Again, right now there is a
lot of justified anger and passion coming from many holy and faithful lay people and clerics across the country, calling for real reform and “house
cleaning” of this type of depravity. I stand with them. I don’t know yet
how this will play out nationally or internationally. But I do know this,
and I make this my last point and last promise, for the Diocese of
Madison: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Faithfully yours in the Lord,
Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino
Bishop of Madison

O God, who chose your servant Bishop Robert Morlino
from among your Priests,
and endowed him with pontifical dignity
in the apostolic priesthood,
grant, we pray,
that he may also be admitted to their company for ever.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Progressive: Today’s Buzz Word

I find that a lot of life and deep thoughts come to me before 7:00 a.m., especially when I am the lector at the 6:45 Mass. This morning the first reading was from 2 John, not a book or letter that I have spent a lot of time with. The readings in the Mass (in English) are taken from the New American Bible Revised Edition. The passage that I read is as follows:

“I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth just as we were commanded by the Father. But now, Lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing a new commandment but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another. For this is love, that we walk according to his commandment; this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning, in which you should walk.

“Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming into the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist. Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for but may receive a full recompense. Any one who is so ‘progressive’ as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.”

2 John 4–9, NABRE

The word that jumped out at me is “progressive.” I have never seen it in the Bible. And as I confessed earlier, I haven’t spent a lot of time on John’s last two letters. I also realize that “progressive” is not the word you will find in other translations, but the choice of it by those who worked on the NABRE is not misplaced. In other translations “progressive” is rendered as “goes beyond” (NRSV), “goes ahead” (RSV), “runs ahead” (NIV), “revolteth and continueth not” (Douay-Rheims).

The reason “progressive” jumped out at me is because it is such a buzz word in our culture, both secular (political, social, economic) and religious. The dictionary defines “progressive” as “a person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.” Progressive politicians are people like Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In the field of religion you might consider people like Episcopalian bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Jesuit priest James Martin as progressives. I hesitate to assign this nomenclature to anyone, but some seem to wear it better than others. Some might even consider our Holy Father progressive, especially as compared to his immediate predecessors Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.

Let’s return to St. John’s warning: “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming into the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist. Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for but may receive a full recompense. Any one who is so ‘progressive’ as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.”

The danger of being “progressive” when it comes to the Church and God’s timeless Word is that we can run right past God’s intention and salvation plan to the point that we no longer “remain in the teaching of the Christ” and to do so is to find ourselves in that lamentable, but often unrealized place of not having God! That is another way to describe heresy or the reality of being a heretic.

Again I hate to call out people or groups of people, but something is taking place in the Christian world that deeply grieves me. A Christian denomination that I have historical ties to is taking a major “progressive” step. A very good friend of mine who pastors in that denomination is taking early retirement because he cannot conscientiously continue to support the “progressive” move. Read about the “One Church Plan” here. Another historic Christian denomination is setting in place a denomination-wide ruling on same-sex “marriage” that will take effect December 2. One bishop in Albany, New York, is standing up to the “progressive” move.

Anytime we “run ahead,” “go beyond,” or “revolt and continue not” the expressed will of God in His Holy Word and the Sacred Tradition of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, we do not remain in the teachings of Christ and we do not have God. Call me “traditional,” but “here I stand!”