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?

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

Is this enough?

I have been waiting for a statement from my bishop about the current crisis/scandal in our beloved Church. As I stated in my “Open Letter to My Bishop” in this blog on August 13, as a faithful son of the church I want to know that my leaders are giving spiritual leadership to the flock that they have been entrusted to their care. Cardinal Raymond Burke in a recent interview calls this the greatest crisis the American Catholic Church has ever faced!

So three days ago this joint statement was issued by Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, and the four bishops of Trenton, Paterson, Camden and Metuchen. You can read it below. But in case you don’t get through it, allow me to say that this statement is well crafted and sound like it’s coming from corporate headquarters regarding a potential recall. What we don’t see here is a call to prayer and fasting. Was this just an unfortunate circumstance that took place in neighboring Pennsylvania, and we’re good in New Jersey?

Again to quote Cardinal Burke (and our Lord), this demon can only come out by “prayer and fasting.” The faithful of New Jersey love our Church. With all due respect to your offices that has been entrusted to you, we plead with your Eminence and your Excellencies to lead us into righteousness through confession and repentance.

Saint Joseph, patron of the Church, pray for us! Saint Peter Damian, reformer of the Church, pray for us! Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Newark  Trenton  Paterson  Camden  Metuchen 

August 15, 2018

New Jersey’s Roman Catholic Bishops acknowledge that media accounts of the details contained in Pennsylvania’s grand jury report show a heartbreaking departure from our fundamental belief in the dignity and value of every child.  As a Church, our calling remains unchanged – to help children in our care encounter leaders who exemplify God’s commandment to love and protect the most vulnerable.

As Bishops, we hold that every parent and every child deserve a safe environment to learn and explore their faith.  Every space where teaching, worship, and ministry take place must provide this safe environment. There must be no compromise on this principle.  The children entrusted to our care are treasures.

We cannot undo the actions of the past, but we shall remain vigilant to ensure that not one child will ever be abused on our watch.

New Jersey’s Catholic dioceses have conducted some 380,000 criminal background checks of all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors.  In addition, all Catholic dioceses have integrated a comprehensive program of reporting abuse to civil authorities, compensating and counseling victims, and implementing rigorous protocols and training for more than 2.3 million clergy, employees, volunteers and children.

We thank law enforcement agencies, child protection advocates and victims themselves who have helped us move beyond compliance to creating the safest environments for learning and worship.  We are deeply thankful for those who have joined our efforts to extend both healing and hope to every victim and their family.  We renew our commitment to foster healing and seek forgiveness.

We urge anyone who was abused by clergy to come forward to civil authorities.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Archbishop, Archdiocese of Newark

Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M.
Bishop, Diocese of Trenton

Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan
Bishop, Diocese of Camden

Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli
Bishop, Diocese of Paterson

Most Reverend James F. Checchio
Bishop, Diocese of Metuchen

Is this enough?

Why I’m Staying Put

Unless you have been stranded on a deserted island, you know that the news coming out of Chile, Honduras and now the United States, reveals that another chapter of scandal and cover up has emerged in the Roman Catholic Church. Is this a repeat of 2002 when the epicenter of abuse was the archdiocese of Boston? And wasn’t that supposed to be behind us once the United States Catholic Council of Bishops (USCCB) introduced the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People?

Well, it’s back! And if you have read this blog over the past two weeks you know that I have written a good deal about how I am processing this. So my purpose here is not to rehash the details or to try to give a reason why it happened and what we need to do. Rather I want to answer the question that I have been asked, “What do you stay put?”

I entered the Church with my wife Charlotte at Easter 2016. I am no more than a toddler when it comes to being Catholic, even though I have a long history as a Christian. In these two plus years I have been blessed with wonderful priests, with the Sacraments, and with the two-millennia history of the Church that Jesus founded upon the Apostles.

I am frustrated. I am angry. I find myself with knots in my stomach. I pray. I cry. I have written my bishop. I go to daily Mass. And I receive Jesus–Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity every day in the Eucharist. Every day the priest raises the host, the bread, now the Body of Christ, and says, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” And together with the priest and the people I say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

And then I receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I can’t ever give this up! That’s why I’m staying put.

 

Why I’m Staying Put

Verses You Never Hear in Church

I made an interesting discovery this week and decided I would share it with you today. To give context there are several things that I need to point out.

  1. I spent almost 60 years of my life in Protestant evangelicalism.
  2. I entered the Roman Catholic Church a little over two years ago.
  3. The vast majority of my ecclesiastical life in Protestantism was not centered on daily and weekly liturgical readings. We were more free-style in our Bible reading in church.
  4. Since coming into the Catholic Church the lectionary dictates all Scripture read in public worship.
  5. During the last 10 to 15 years in evangelical circles there has been and continues to be a lot of conversation around several Scripture passages that speak to the issue of homosexuality.
  6. The recent Archbishop McCarrick scandal is revealing a likely connection between homosexuality and the abuses that took place in Catholic churches and seminaries.
  7. In light of this most recent sexual abuse scandal some laity and some Catholic media are making that connection, but there has not been any recognition from the Church hierarchy to that regard. In fact, one could say there has been a rather laissez faire view of homosexuality among average Catholics.
  8. The final point, and the discovery that I made this week: none of the passages that I referred to above in #5 are included in the lectionary readings that the Catholic and major Protestant denominations use. We’re talking about the Revised Common Lectionary for Protestants which in turn is based on the Ordo Lectionum Missae a three-year lectionary produced by the Roman Catholic Church following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

I found this very interesting when I compare my findings with the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states:

Chastity and homosexuality
2357 
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (Genesis 19:1-29; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Timothy 1:10), tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Persona humana 8). They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358  The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359  Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Please hear me! This is not meant to be a “heavier burden of condemnation” to those who experience and struggle with same-sex attraction, but a call to our pastors and bishops to give us the “full counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and help us toward “holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Verses You Never Hear in Church