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!

Advertisements
What’s with Washington?

In Silence No More!

One of my spiritual disciplines for 2018 is reading from “A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living” by Mike Aquilina. I find the excerpts challenging and edifying. Such was the case as I read from Day 264, an article that Aquilina titled, “We are all equal in God’s sight.” I was challenged to consider what should be expected of our political leaders and us who profess faith in Christ, and especially those who are  Catholic.

In the introduction Aquilina writes: “When riots broke out in Thessalonica, the emperor Theodosius (347–395) furiously ordered that the city should be punished. Thousands died when soldiers were let loose on their own fellow citizens. When Theodosius came home, the bishop, St. Ambrose, refused to let him into church until he had gone through months of public penance.”

Theodoret, a church historian, wrote about this in Ecclesiastical History, 5.17:

When the emperor arrived in Milan, he as usual went to enter the church. But Ambrose met him outside the outer porch and refused to let him cross the threshold.

“Sir, you don’t seem to understand what a bloody crime you have committed,” said Ambrose. “Your rage has settled down, but you still don’t understand what you’ve done.

“You rule, sir, over people whose nature is the same as yours. In fact, they are your fellow servants—for there is one Lord and Ruler of all humanity, the Creator of the universe.

“How will you look on the temple of our common Lord? How will you walk across that holy threshold? How will you hold up your hands, still dripping with the blood of unjust slaughter? How can those hands receive the all-holy body of the Lord? How will you lift the precious blood to your lips, when you in your fury poured out so much blood?

“Go. Do not try to add another crime to the one you have already committed. Submit to the restriction to which you are sentenced with the agreement of God, the Lord of all. He will be your physician. He will give you health.”

Theodosius was well learned in Scripture; he knew what belonged to priests and what belonged to emperors. So he bowed to Ambrose’s rebuke and went back to his palace, sighing and weeping.

Theodosius was excommunicated by the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, for the massacre. He was told to imitate the famous royal penitent David in his repentance as he had imitated him in guilt; Ambrose readmitted the emperor to the Eucharist only after several months of penance.

What would it look like if those in governmental leadership today were held to the same standard? The position taken by many Catholic prelates such as in the case of abortion and euthanasia is toothless and actually puts them and their sheep: Catholic political figures and Catholic voters in mortal sin and in danger of losing their souls. Tough language, but true!

Go back to 2004, when then Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, conveyed in a letter to then Cardinal McCarrick (Washington) and Cardinal Gregory (Atlanta) that denial of Communion is obligatory “regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia.” And further that a priest should warn “the person in question” of the consequences, including the denial of Communion. Ratzinger further said that if “the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it,” And then the final paragraph of the letter addresses those who knowingly vote for a pro-choice candidate: “If he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia,” that Catholic too “would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion.” (Quotes from The Washington Times, July 7, 2004).

Unfortunately ex-Cardinal McCarrick took it upon himself to misrepresent the direct order from Rome and told the USCCB that the decision was up to them. What happened next is “their bad” for voting 183-6 on a compromise statement allowing each bishop to decide whether to give Communion to pro-choice politicians or not. Fourteen years later we have to wonder what would have happened if the truth had been told, and even if not, if our bishops would have had the spirit of St. Ambrose.

We have an election on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. It behooves us to find out where the candidates for every office stand on the issues as they relate to our faith. I live in New Jersey where in the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Bob Menendez (D) is running against Bob Hugin (R). They are both pro-choice. I will not be voting for either one, and I have let them know that. I do appeal to Joseph Cardinal Tobin of Newark to take seriously his role of shepherd of Mr. Menendez, who is Catholic, regarding the grave position he places his soul to support abortion. I live in congressional district 1 where incumbent Daniel Norcross (D) is running against Paul Dilks (R). Mr. Norcross is pro-abortion and I have already informed him that I will be voting for his opponent, Mr. Dilks, who is pro-life.

I appeal to all Christians, but especially to my Catholic brothers and sisters to do the right thing. This is not something we dare take lightly.

St. Ambrose, pray for us!

In Silence No More!

Faithful Shepherds

Faithful Shepherds

These are challenging times in the lives of the faithful in the Catholic Church. What we once thought was behind us after the uncovering of the sex abuse scandals in 2002, has now flared into white-hot reality with the ex-Cardinal McCarrick revelations, the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the uncertainties swirling around Cardinal Wuerl, and the eleven-page testimony from Archibishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

Now the president of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) Cardinal DiNardo and team have visited with Pope Francis, and just yesterday Bishop Michael Bransfield of the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston (WVA) has retired under the shadow of sexual harassment of adults. You may be scratching your head along with me wondering what is coming next. You may be asking if there is a side you should take, or if it’s worth soldiering on.

If you have followed along with me on this blog you know that I have asked some of these questions. I go back and forth thinking I should address the whole “enchilada” to trying to keep a local or even diocesan focus. I have written my bishop asking for clarification. I’ve heard from him, but many questions still remain. A few nights ago we had a group of friends over to watch our story on “The Journey Home” and after answering a few of their questions about our personal journey into the Church, the conversation inevitably turned to the crisis that we are living.

What does a faithful Catholic do? Of course, we know the first answer is to pray. Pray for the Church at large, pray for your bishop, and pray for your priest. If you sense there is not a commitment to purification and restoration of the Church, pray into that and let your voice be heard on the local and diocesan levels.

Recently I came across a website called “Faithful Shepherds.” You can do a search of your diocese or of your bishop, even auxiliary bishops and find where they stand on the following issues that are related to the issues that we face in the Church today:

  • Viganò Testimony
  • Amoris Laetitia
  • Pro-Life Leadership
  • Homosexuality
  • Abortion Politics
  • Contraception
  • “LGBT” Ideology
  • Liturgy
  • Marriage and Family Life
  • Education

While some bishops have spoken clearly one way or another, many bishops have not addressed any of these topics. You have the right to ask your bishop where he stands on issues that are very important to faithful Catholics. Check it out and prayerfully consider how you can take a stand for Christ and His Church in this challenging time.

O Virgin Mother of God, most august Mother of the Church, we commend the whole Church to you. You bear the sweet name of “Help of Bishops”; keep the bishops in your care, and be at their side and at the side of the priests, religious, and laity who offer them help in sustaining the difficult work of the pastoral office.

Faithful Shepherds

Strangely Comforted

I went to bed Saturday night and woke up Sunday morning to the news reports that former Papal Nuncio to the United States Archbishop Carlo María Viganò had written an eleven-page letter that among other things claimed that Pope Francis knew about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and actually lifted sanctions placed against him by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. In the midst of this growing scandal, this was another severe blow, one that left me feeling extremely raw.

As Charlotte and I walked across the street to go to Mass yesterday morning, I felt strangely comforted. We were going not to sing songs in worship (although we did), or to hear a sermon (we heard one of the best I’ve heard–more about that in a moment), or even to enjoy fellowship (several congratulated us on our 40th anniversary). We went to Mass with the full assurance that we would have an encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, and He never fails us there!

The readings for the day, not chosen at random by our priest, or a worship team, but from the lectionary that was determined by being the year 2018 were right on target. Below are specific portions that our pastor referred to in his homily.

Joshua 24–[Joshua said]: “If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River of the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” The people answered, “We also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

Psalm 34–“The LORD has eyes for the just, and ears for their cry. The LORD confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”

Ephesians 5–“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

John 6–As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

We have deep appreciation for our pastor, Fr. Timothy E. Byerley, starting his third year at St. Peter’s parish in Merchantville, New Jersey. I can only imagine the burden and sorrow in his heart as he stood before the people he loves and serves…the day after!

In his homily he reminded us that like the people of Israel, we too have to choose this day whom we will serve. And just as in the time of the psalmist God is close to the brokenhearted and the crushed in spirit (those who have been abused). Jesus is committed to a pure and holy church and the revelations that are coming forth are evidence that Jesus will get what He wants–a pure and holy church. Finally, to whom shall we go? Fr. Tim reminded us that there is no where else that we can encounter Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. That’s the same conclusion that Peter and the other apostles had come to.

His final words to us was a commitment that St. Peter’s parish would seek to be a holy and pure church, that while much uncertainty and purging would go on, we would seek to be a people of prayer and purity. As we stood to declare our faith in the Nicene Creed I couldn’t hold back the tears!

I am strangely comforted!

Strangely Comforted