I don’t believe in coincidences!

As the Summit on Abuse opens this week in Rome there is a general sense of urgency that something significant takes place, as well as general sense of concern that the status quo will be the outcome. The laicization of Theodore McCarrick, announced on Friday, February 15, comes six months after the news came out that there were credible accusations against the once powerful cardinal. In these six months we have been sickened and angered and thrust to our knees as we seek God’s mercy for the Church that Christ founded and gave his life to make her without stain or wrinkle.

The hopes for reform are neutralized by the seeming intransigence of powerful prelates who speak carefully crafted words, but show no signs of humility or contrition in the face of perhaps the worst crisis the Church has faced in the last 1000 years. An example in point came from the news conference in Rome prior to the summit as questions about the focus of the summit were being addressed to Cardinal Blase Cupich and Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

Diane Montagna of LifeSite News asked: 

Recently, Cardinal Muller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — which gives him a unique perspective on these problems — said, as others have … that more than 80% of the victims of these sexual offenders are teenagers of the male sex. Will the problem of homosexuality among the clergy be addressed as part of this problem?  It’s obvious from the data that many of these acts committed against minors are homosexual acts. In fact, the majority [are]. So will this be part of the Church’s ‘transparency’ over the course of the coming days?

Cardinal Cupich answered:

Yes, I believe that it’s important to admit the fact and recognize the fact of what you said in terms of the percentage of abuse involving male on male sex abuse. That is important. I think that has to be recognized. At the same time, as professional organizations studied the causes and contexts — such as the John Jay School of Criminal Justice and also the Royal Commission’s report in Australia — indicated that homosexuality itself is not a cause. It is a matter however of opportunity and also a matter of poor training on the part of people.

Lord, have mercy!

Pope Francis has called for a Summit on Sexual Abuse convening  all the presidents of the national bishops’ conferences to come to Rome, February 21-24, beginning Thursday. It hit me last week that there is something very significant about when this conference falls on the calendar. And because I believe in the supernatural, and I am certain that Jesus Christ established the Church (Matthew 16:18), unlike Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, and I believe that he will not let the gates of hell prevail against her, I believe that it is no coincidence that the starting date of the Summit on Sexual Abuse falls on the feast day of St. Peter Damian, a doctor of the Church.

One thousand years ago, Peter Damian led a reform in the Church to clean up sexual abuses within the clergy among cardinals, bishops and priests. These sexual abuses were focused principally on sodomy being practiced among the clergy. The terms “homosexual” or “gay” or “same-sex attraction” were not in the parlance of the day—just sodomy!

Will you join me in praying this novena starting now and for the next nine days to St. Peter Damian for true reform and reparation in our beloved Church?

NOVENA TO ST. PETER DAMIAN FOR REFORM AND REPARATION IN THE CHURCH

V. O Blessed Saint Peter, Cardinal and Doctor of the Church,
.
R. Thy soul was inflamed by holy zeal for God’s House.
.
God gave thee to His Church in those sad times when the wickedness of the
world had robbed her of her beauty.
.
Thou wast a chief instrument used by God to bring back to His one Church its ancient beauty.
.
Thee, who bore the glorious name of Peter Damian! The Mystical Body of Christ, which God intended to be free, was but a slave, in the power of the rulers of this world; and the vices, which are inherent to human weakness defiled His Sacred Temple.
.
V. Yet God had pity on the Perfect Spouse of Christ,
.
R. And for her deliverance He chose thee, Saint Peter, as His principal cooperator in restoring order.
.
Thy example and thy labors prepared the way and the work of regeneration was
completed.
Thou hast fought the good fight; thou art now in thy rest; but thy love of the
Church, and thy power to help, are greater than ever.
Watch, then, over her interests.
Obtain for her pastors that apostolic energy and courage, which alone can cope with enemies so determined as hers are.
Obtain for her priests the holiness which God demands from
them that are to be salt of the earth.
(cf. Mt 5:13)
.
V. Obtain for the Faithful the respect and obedience they owe to those who direct them in the path of salvation.
.
R. Thou wast not only a Prince and Successor to the Apostles, thou wast moreover the model of penance in the midst of a corrupt age.
Pray for us, that we may be eager to atone for our sins by works of mortification. Excite within our souls the remembrance of the sufferings of our Redeemer, that so His Passion may urge us to repentance and hope. Increase our confidence in our Blessed Mother, the Ever Virgin Mary, the Refuge of Sinners, and make us, like thyself, full of filial affection towards her, and fill us with zeal that she may be honored and loved by those who are around us. Amen.
.
(mention special intention)
.
V. Assist us, O Lord, we beseech Thee, through the merits of St. Peter Damian.
.
R. That what our endeavors cannot obtain may be given us by his intercession.
.
V. Our Father… R. Give us this day…
.
V. Hail Mary… R. Holy Mary…
.
V. Glory Be… R. As it was in the beginning…
.
V. Let us pray.
.
Grant unto us, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, so to follow the counsels and example of blessed Peter, Thy Confessor and Bishop, that we may, by despising earthly things, obtain everlasting joys. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

I don’t believe in coincidences!

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.

Speaking the Truth in Love

Che cosa?

Pope Francis gestures at the end of the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican

With all due respect, I want to ask Pope Francis, “Che cosa?” or as we would say here in America, “Say what?”, in response to his order to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops not to vote on two proposed measures that would have begun to show a modicum of movement to deal with the latest and greatest sexual abuse scandals in our beloved Church.

This scandal is really a continuation of the revelations of 2002, that erupted once again in June like the famous Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano. The concerns of the Catholic faithful that the Church continues to lose ground in our secularized, humanistic culture were magnified as we realized that too many of our leaders were “in bed” with the permissiveness and promiscuity of mainstream practice.

It’s hard to offer an alternative to a culture that has lost its way, particularly when it seems that many of our leaders are on the same road to perdition. And then our spiritual hopes for purification, reparation and renewal are dashed, or maybe delayed, when our Holy Father, who offered great hopes of reform, has either hoodwinked us or is just as complicit as the rest. His rhetoric toward those who care about this downward spiral in the Church is disturbing at least, and unconscionable at best: “Be careful around those who are rigid. Be careful around Christians – be they laity, priests, bishops – who present themselves as so ‘perfect,’ rigid. Be careful. There’s no Spirit of God there. They lack the ‘spirit of liberty’.”

You and I must continue to pray for our Holy Father, for our cardinals and bishops here in the U.S., and especially for our priests who lead us on the parish level. This isn’t just about the Catholic Church regaining its reputation. This is about the salvation of souls in our nation! This is Jesus’ concern—why He came and died on the cross and rose again—establishing His Church to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20 RSV).

[Photo: Max Rossi/Reuters]

Che cosa?

What Did Paul Say to Peter?

Last evening our Forty Hours of Prayer came to its conclusion with a procession of the Holy Eucharist through the church. It was a beautiful and moving experience at the close of a time devoted to praying for reparation, healing and reformation in the Church. Fr. Alexander Poccetto, an oblate of St. Francis de Sales, gave a short, but powerful homily that succinctly brought together the call to all Christians, especially Catholics, to be faithful to our Lord in these difficult times.

This morning the first reading at Mass was from Galatians 2. In the Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, he describes his call by Christ and his loyalty to the gospel. He makes it very evident in the first chapter that he did not venture out on his own, but went through the proper channels to validate his mission. In 1:11-12 he writes: “Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

On that basis, I might be tempted to print up my business cards, start a website and begin a public ministry. After all, what I have to share is a direct revelation from Jesus Christ himself. But not Paul. He went out into the wilderness for three years and allowed Jesus to further prepare him. Then after three years he tells us, “I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas (Peter) and remained with him for fifteen days” (1:18). Why is this important? Paul recognized the authority of Peter (Cephas is the Aramaic equivalent, meaning “rock” and the name that Jesus would have actually given to the apostle, upon whom he would found the Church). It was not only important, but vital that Paul be commissioned by the vicar of Christ, the one we recognize as the first bishop of Rome, the first in the long succession of popes in the Church.

It is interesting that Paul uses the Aramaic version of Peter’s name throughout his writings, even when writing to churches in the Greek world (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Galatians 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14). It’s not that he never calls him Peter, he does (Galatians 2:7, 8), but the use of Cephas seems to affirm even more his authority as the “rock.”

The passage that was read this morning refers specifically to Peter’s inconsistency at Antioch. Paul writes the following:

And when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong. For, until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcised. And the rest of the Jews [also] acted hypocritically along with him, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Paul, as one of the apostles, saw the importance of “calling out” Peter regarding an inconsistency in his life and practice–something that would hinder the proclamation and practice of the gospel. Peter, even with his direct commission from Christ to be head of the Church, accepted Paul’s rebuke and later speaks highly of him in his second general epistle.

What can we learn from this Scriptural encounter? Paul never denied Peter’s leadership role, he honored him as the head of the Church. Yet when the very integrity of the Church was threatened, when other leaders close to Peter veered into potential error, Paul spoke up under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We may be uncomfortable with recent calls to our Holy Father to state succinctly the faith that has been passed on to us, from the “dubia” cardinals and more recently from Archbishop Viganò, however, when these concerns are addressed by Pope Francis, the Church and the our witness to the world will be confirmed. Let’s pray faithfully for the Vicar of Christ and the College of Cardinals that together we will rebuild Christ’s Church through reparation, healing and renovation.

What Did Paul Say to Peter?

What’s with Washington?

I’m almost certain that as you read the headline of this blog, your mind immediately goes to political Washington, whether it be the Trump White House, the “contentious” Congress, or the latest sad debacle called “confirmation hearings” for the next Supreme Court justice. I’m not going there.

My concern today is about what is happening in ecclesiastical Washington. We all know about disgraced Archbishop Theodore McCarrick who served as archbishop of Washington from 2001 until 2006. I say we know all about him, but no doubt there is much more to sort through and disclose, if we can stomach it! According to a report from Catholic News Agency, McCarrick “has begun his life of prayer and penance at St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in Victoria, Kansas, according to statements from the Diocese of Salina and the Archdiocese of Washington.”

Then there’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is mentioned repeatedly in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on sex abuse in his role as Bishop of Pittsburgh before he became archbishop of Washington. He was recently in Rome waiting on Pope Francis to take action on his letter of resignation which he submitted when he turned 75.

A personal note before I go further, Charlotte and I have a special place in our hearts for the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. We have made two trips to the Basilica that played a major role in our journey into the Catholic Church. IMG_0897

The Basilica in many ways is the national parish of the Catholic Church in the United States. It is there that popes have visited, it is there that the funeral Mass of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was celebrated. This weekend a group of our parishioners will be joining others from the diocese of Camden for a Marian pilgrimage to the Basilica with the opportunity to see the new Trinity dome mosaic.

As a couple we have financially supported the ministry of the Basilica and have been encouraged by the prayers that have been offered up for our intentions from the Basilica. And yet my heart is heavy as I read that the wound that was opened with McCarrick continues to ripple out for miles around his places of influence in Washington and New Jersey. I will link here to an article by Anne Hendershott of the National Review and allow you to read and discern. I plan to write the rector of the Basilica, who was appointed by McCarrick to that position, and ask for some answers before I send any more support to a place I love. That will be my small part besides prayer in calling our spiritual fathers to lead us in accountability and holiness.

It is fitting on this feast of St Francis of Assisi to ask ourselves how we will respond to Christ’s call to rebuild his Church “which had fallen into ruin.”

And of course, as in the case of St. Francis who sought to rebuild the local Church of St. Damiano that was in ruins, our call is bigger than our local parish or the Basilica, though both are extremely important, Christ wants to restore his Church which has fallen into ruin.

St. Francis pray for us!

What’s with Washington?

Thor’s Mighty Oak

Bonifacius_by_Emil_Doepler

Recent events in the city of Chicago remind me of an earlier event in the history of Christianity. Winfrid, born in Wessex in Anglo-Saxon England in the year 672, is better known as St. Boniface. Boniface (which means “good fate”) is considered the apostle to Germany. In 721 Boniface went to Hesse in central Germany to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. After the conversion two chieftains Dettic and Deorulf, who were twin brothers, thousands of Germans converted to Christianity.

Upon hearing news of this successful mission to the Germans, Pope St. Gregory II called Boniface to come to Rome at which time he consecrated him as bishop of all of Germany, even without an episcopal seat. Boniface took an oath at that time that is very significant and powerful:

I, Boniface, by the grace of God, bishop, promise to thee, Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and to thy Vicar, the Blessed Pope Gregory and his successors, by the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, undivided Trinity, and by thy most holy body, to proclaim the whole Catholic faith in all its purity; and by the help of God, to remain steadfast in the unity of that faith, in which, without doubt, is the Christian’s hope of salvation. Never, at the bidding of anyone, will I do anything against the unity of the One Universal Church; but, as I have said, I will in all things be faithful and helpful to thee and to the interests of thy Church (to which God has given the power of binding and loosing), and thy said Vicar and his successors…. This oath I, Boniface, a lowly bishop, have written out with my own hand; and, according to what is prescribed, have placed it on the most holy body of Blessed Peter, and, in the sight of God, have sworn to keep it. (from Warren H. Carroll, The Building of Christendom).

With his new ecclesiastical authorization, Boniface returned to Hesse the following year. There he found that many had gone back to their pagan ways. He confirmed those who had stood fast in the faith and directly challenged “entrenched paganism by personally chopping down the ‘Thunder Oak’ of Giesmar, a huge old tree dedicated to Thor.”* He did not act alone but in consultation with the Hessian Christians who knew culturally and religiously that this would be “the most effective way of dramatizing for these largely barbarian people the powerlessness of their old gods and the victory of Christ in their land.”**

Commenting on this episode, church historian James Hitchcock writes: “The Germans expected Boniface to be struck dead, and when he was not, they concluded that the power of his God was greater than that of their own and used the wood of the tree to build a church.”*** As a result the true religion was firmly established in Germany and many others from Boniface’s native England came to help with catechesis as the task of converting pagan Germany was vast.

Now back to Chicago. Until Saturday Fr. Paul Kalchik was the pastor of Resurrection Church in Avondale, a community area of Chicago. Fr. Kalchik has been pastor there eleven years. A survivor of homosexual rape twice, once by a homosexual priest, he has been faithful in his call to “love the sinner, but hate the sin” and at the same time be faithful to the teachings of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.

Recently he found the rainbow banner with a cross superimposed that earlier had been a fixture in the church, hanging in the sanctuary, from when it was dedicated by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, as the “gay parish” of Chicago. In the example of St. Boniface, Fr. Kalchik announced he would burn it. However, he evidently heeded his bishop’s warning not to, but a small number of the parishioners took the banner and burned it last week. On Saturday, under the direction of Cardinal Cupich the priest was removed from his parish.

I admit not knowing all the inner details and particulars of this case, but where there’s smoke there’s fire. Blessed Pope Paul VI said in 1972, after Vatican II, “… We would say that, through some mysterious crack—no, it’s not mysterious; through some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God. There is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, dissatisfaction, confrontation.” The enemy still seeks to obfuscate his machinations with smoke and mirrors!

St. Boniface, pray for us!

*Carroll, The Building of Christendom, p. 276.
**Ibid.
***Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, p. 112.
Thor’s Mighty Oak

Dickens Was Right

Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” (opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, 1859)

Charles Dickens could have been describing many things that we experience in the early part of the 21st century. Before you move on, read that paragraph again and ask yourself if it describes any part of  life that you experience.

“It was the best of times…” Almost daily I find myself rejoicing that the Holy Spirit led me into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I anticipate going to 6:45 a.m. Mass and getting my day started with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist! I am energized by practices that give life to me in the Church.

“It was the worst of times…” Almost daily, at least since the end of July of this year, I find myself weighed down by the reality of what is going on in the Catholic Church. Everyday, it seems, a new revelation comes forth that keeps this “summer of scandal” moving into the “autumn of atrocity.” What makes things worse for me and many is that we want answers and those seem slow in coming.

“It was the age of wisdom…” There is so much “wisdom” running around. We see it daily on TV, in social media, etc. King Solomon warns us in Proverbs 3:7 NRSV, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” So much of what we call wisdom today is not moored in the Author of all wisdom.

“It was the age of foolishness…” The absence of God’s wisdom leads us to another characteristic of our times, foolishness. We live in a “silly season” to put it euphemistically. Don’t get me started, but when we believe everything that certain folks with a Ph.D. behind their names tell us, it’s hard to look at ourselves in the mirror and see sanity.

“It was the epoch of belief…” Gallop tells us that 90% of Americans believe in God. Pew Research tells us 80% of Americans believe in God. Great! But the truth of the matter is that belief is not enough. In his letter St. James says: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (2:19 NRSV). So you could say that believing puts us on par with the demons! Ouch!

“It was the epoch of incredulity…” As I mentioned a few days ago in this blog, church attendance in general, and weekly attendance at the Mass in particular, has dropped dramatically. For all the belief, there is a lot of incredulity. Fewer people believe in the distinct Christian doctrines, even some as key for Catholics as the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

“It was the season of Light…” I could go on, but you get the idea.

Last night I attended a wonderful event in our parish, the St. Peter Senior Ministry Fundraiser: “The Age of Beauty.” Our parish has the only senior ministry in south Jersey that ministers to beautiful seniors Monday through Friday. Because my wife, Charlotte, volunteers there, by extension I feel I am part of it. For this event artist Linda C. Dennin painted a portrait of each of approximately 60 seniors and staff of the ministry. What joy there was in the hall throughout the whole evening!

I engaged in conversation with many of these dear brothers and sisters, people who have loved Christ and His Church all of their lives, a half dozen of them in their nineties. I thought about how one by one they will leave a gap in our parish, a parish they love, and what will the next and succeeding generations do to take their place? Right now these seniors are confused and hurt that a cardinal they respected has been discovered to be a predator of seminarians and a child sex abuser. They are even more hurt that this was covered up by prelates they trusted to care for the flock. I tried my best to encourage them, to assure them that Christ has not given up on his Church, but the pain is deep!

In these times, good and bad, even very bad, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, and He will make His Church holy. Let’s hold on tight and pray!

Dickens Was Right