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Archive for March, 2009

I recently received the following comment.  It is a story I am hearing again and again.

In 2007 I went with my wife to see our priest in Florida concerning our marriage. I told the priest that I did not want to get divorced and that my wife had filed for divorce. The parish priest told me, while pointing his finger at me, that he believed our marriage, quote— “…should never have happened.” I told him that I had come to see him for help to save my marriage. I told him that I expected him to defend the Catholic sacrament of matrimony. He repeated, “The marriage should never have happened.”

We have four young children who attend school at this same church, his church. The priest advised my wife to be lenient with child custody. When I left his house on the school grounds, I repeated to the priest that he should “Defend the sacrament of marriage.” He then said to me, “Get out of my sight, you arrogant bast-rd!” After the meeting with the priest, on our way home, my wife said to me; “You see, even the priest believes we should divorce!”

This is absolutely true and you can contact me or my wife to verify this is true. I know you will not believe what I am saying. But it is absolutely true.

I want to know; what I can do now? My wife is in the last stages of this divorce and she is living with another man. Time has passed since my encounter with this priest and I believe there is no way to repair the marriage situation, for obvious reasons.

But as far as I am concerned the priest, to whom I went for help, was instrumental in shattering any hope to resolve the situation with my wife. He threw his weight and that of the Church behind her decision. I have stopped attending church since this incident. I still pray. I am angry and I find it difficult to remain silent.

Sometime in the future, when all my pain is gone, I will peruse this priest in the Church under Catholic Church law. I cannot forgive this priest for what he did to me, particularly when I was foolish enough to go to him for “help”. He committed the greatest sin.

Patrick

FATHER JOE:  I am so sorry Patrick for what you have gone through. There are cases where marriages are difficult to save, particularly when there is abuse and fear. However, I am sickened when people simply say they fell out of love or found someone they liked better. I do not now the grounds for her divorce and we have not heard her side; however, you are right, whenever possible a priest must both safeguard the well-being of the spouses and the sacrament of marriage. It is not the role of a priest to urge divorce but rather dialogue and reconciliation. You mention that your wife is in the end-stages of a divorce but living with another man. Does she think that most priests would also rubberstamp adultery? If she attempts an annulment you have every right to share your side and how you view the sacramental nature of the bond. Be honest about it, even if it means that she would not be able to get the annulment. Anything else short-changes the process and is an offense against truth. Know that not all priests would have acted like the one in your story. I will keep you in my prayers. Her departure from your life and home is a terrible cross. I bring my struggles and pain to my Lenten observances. Do not blame the Church for the callous actions of one priest and the abandonment of a wife who failed to return the love you had for her. We have a regular commenter at this Blog named Karl who has endured a similar situation. The diocese in which you live may have resources for coping with the loss and for dealing with the repudiation of the priest. Bai Macfarlane has developed a national campaign against no-fault divorce and has appealed her husband’s divorce to both the civil courts and the Roman Rota. She may have some useful information to share with you, too.

Her webpage is: http://www.marysadvocates.org.

Her email is: ma.defending@marysadvocates.org.

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STEVE:

With all of these cases [of priests leaving for women], it brings up the arguments to allow priests to marry. The practice of celibate priests, I believe, did not happen until the middle ages in the West. Our first Pope, Peter was married as many priests in the East have been since the beginning. What is the opposition to allowing married priests? It seems it might solve a lot of the lonliness and depression problems a lot of Western priests have as well as sexual impropriety. It seems to be a self-imposed cross of the Church on its clergy in the West.

My European Legal History professor was of the cynical view that the celibate priesthood in the West was begun so that priests could not pass on their money to children or wives upon death in order to keep the money and property under Church ownership.

FATHER JOE:

There was a preference for celibacy going back to St. Paul and the early Church. There is even evidence that married priests practiced celibacy. Jewish priests practiced temporary celibacy during the time of their service to the temple; the difficulty with Christian priests was that their service was perpetual. There were many early attempts to impose mandatory celibacy in the West, as is evidenced in the Lateran councils and various synods. The definitive point came in the eleventh century. The ruling was not simply to protect Church property but to raise the moral and spiritual caliber of clergy. Celibacy was such a serious sacrifice that it was thought that it would help weed out the worldly ambitious and those seeking monetary gain. The Church essentially made the monastic model the framework for her priests in the West. They would not promise poverty like religious, but they would often live a simple life and promise obedience and celibacy. We should not look at celibacy merely as a deficit or as a tragedy. It is a wondrous gift that God makes possible through the faith and service of the man and the empowering gift of grace. This does not mean that married men could not function as priests, only that the single-hearted love of celibate clergy is a different kind of priesthood, yes of a higher order.

Married people also know loneliness and depression. Married intimacy and sexuality is no absolute protection in this regard. The celibate priest is often too busy to feel sorry for himself. In any case, most priests I know are happy men. They belong to the people they serve. They are comfortable with “aloneness” and if they are ever tempted by loneliness, it becomes part of the priestly identity, resonating with Christ’s agony in the garden as he awaited his betrayer and passion. I do not think married priests would solve the Church’s problems. Then we would have to deal with alienated spouses, marital and family scandals, etc. If you do not believe me, look at the Lutherans and Episcopalians. They have their rascals, too; although, our sinners seem to get more publicity than theirs.

STEVE:

Regardless of its origins, I think it’s time the archaic celibacy rule for Western Priests was abandoned. Eastern Rite married priests, to my knowledge; do not suffer from the problems of Western celibate priests to the same degrees. They have proven it works. Not only those, but many Protestant ministers with big congregations have families and do well. One argument I’ve heard is that priests are on call 24/7 but so are doctors and many other married professions. In addition, allowing married priests would help solve the priest shortage, therefore reducing the work each priest has to do.

FATHER JOE:

I absolutely and totally… disagree with you. One of the hallmarks of a traditional Catholicism is the celibate priesthood. The Protestant reformers were quick to discard celibacy because it is such a hallmark of a Western priest’s identity and fidelity. He belongs to the Church. He goes where the bishop sends him. There is no wife and family that can be used as a manipulation against him. There is no reservation to sending him to the missions or to a poor parish where drugs, crime and murder surround him.

The numbers of Eastern rite clergy are very small and even they admit their problems. The bishops themselves must be celibate. Protestant ministers may have large congregations and serve well, but they are not priests. Indeed, they are not even deacons, and among these men we have many married clergy. It shocks me that you would compare Protestant ministers to Catholic priests. Trustees control their churches. They compete for the churches that offer the best salaries and benefits. Episcopal bishops often only have minimal control, and that in a church where holy orders is generally counterfeit and doctrines and values blow about like leaves in the wind. A minister cannot absolve your sins. A priest can take a damned man and make him a saint! (He knows the sins and secret lives of others, pray God a married priest would not talk about such things in his sleep and into his wife’s ears!) A minister can give you grape drink and buns. But a priest can give you the body and blood of Jesus Christ, humanity and divinity, raised from the dead! Does he need to conceive a child with a woman when he can consecrate God at the altar? In any case, you are quite wrong about married clergy in other churches. Over half of the men in the Lutheran churches are divorced and remarried. The Methodist churches allow for married men and yet most new candidates in seminary are female. The Episcopalians are not always in the news but there are countless cases of adultery, pederasty and pedophilia, and incest thrown in besides. Indeed, the past president of the Episcopal Church USA left his wife and lived with his gay lover. You would hold them up as an example for us? Pleeeeeease!

I am not saying that we cannot have married priests. We have some wonderful men, formerly Episcopalian, in my diocese. But it can make the priesthood a great deal harder and Mother Church would prefer not to place both the burden of a family and ministry upon our priests. The first man ordained in the Catholic priesthood after leaving ministry in the Episcopal church was greeted with great fanfare. A few years later his wife gave him an ultimatum– the Catholic priesthood or their marriage. She said that many years of service in the Episcopal church did not prepare them for the demands of Catholic priesthood. He remained a Catholic priest and she left him. Now, if not through a promise, then through her divorce he has joined the ranks of the celibate priesthood.

Despite having a married clergy, many mainline traditions are also having clergy shortages. The prospect of married clergy will neither solve scandals nor fill seminaries.

Most celibate priests I know are happy and want things to remain as they are. Honestly, we would appreciate it if the laity and others would just mind their own business and leave untouched the celibacy which we treasure in the priesthood.

STEVE:

God commanded us all from the beginning to be fruitful and multiply. Anyway, just some thoughts!

FATHER JOE:

I do multiply… every time I baptize someone… every time I take a host and say, “This is my body.” The body of the Church grows. Christ extends himself in the sacrament. That is how I am fruitful… by being a good priest and caring for souls in the family of God. The sacrifice of not having a wife and children was and is a very serious one for me… but I think it was for the best… and I would do it again! I belong to no one family but to every family.

TOM:

Franciscan friars aren’t celibate because they’re Latin Rite priests. They’re celibate because they’re Franciscan friars.

FATHER JOE:

You are right that religious brothers and priests both take vows of celibacy.

However, the religious clergy I know still see their celibacy as an element of their priestly vocation. Indeed, they speak about it as such in their theological formation classes as a shared discipline with the secular or diocesan priesthood. If they were one of the newer faith communities which invite both celibates and married couples, then the candidate for priesthood would have to embrace celibacy before ordination. Diocesan seminarians pledge celibacy at their ordination to the diaconate. Religious brothers and priests are held to vows of obedience, celibacy and poverty. Diocesan priests make promises of obedience (at the ordination to priesthood) and celibacy (at the ordination to the diaconate). However, no matter when taken, celibacy is understood as something that is to be maintained perpetually throughout priesthood. The Church regards the celibacy of both religious and secular priests as part of the common discipline mandated by Church law.

It should also be noted that in practice it is a great deal easier for a religious brother or sister to be released from vows than for a priest (secular or religious) to be released from celibacy. Laicization regulations became more complicated under Pope John Paul II than with Pope Paul VI. Under the previous Pope, there were thousands of defections who received laicization. Not all of them were released from the obligation of celibacy which is a separate matter. Some men left the priesthood following Vatican II, not because of romantic relationships but because they could not relate to the new sense of identity in the Church and the reformed liturgy. Pope John Paul II revised the laicization process and now it more resembles the procedures for an annulment. Usually the first and maybe even the second request for laicization are turned down. There are long periods of seeming inaction on the petitions. The priest must assert that his ordination was a mistake and that he should never have been ordained. The Church can also force laicization upon a priest as a disciplinary measure, i.e. a pedophile abuser, a man ordained to traffic in drugs, etc. Both the Mafia and the Communists tried to plant their personnel in the ranks of the clergy; when discovered, these men were quickly removed.

If a religious priest, like a Franciscan, should want to become a diocesan priest, he must receive permission of his superior and the invitation of a bishop. After five years of service within that diocese he can be incardinated as a diocesan priest. He does not repeat his vow to celibacy which still binds him but he does promise anew and transfer his obedience from his superior to the diocesan bishop.

I have a dear friend who was a Carmelite and who faithfully served as a diocesan priest for many years. Such a change in direction is not infrequent and is often welcomed in dioceses where the priest shortage is particularly painful. Similarly, I have known men who went from the diocesan priesthood to the religious life, particularly as monks.

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FATHER JOE:

Healthy heterosexuals, real men in the priesthood, are attracted to women. They make a promise of celibate love and by discipline, prayer and grace, they live out this life of loving service. They might fall in love… heck, they might fall in love with a number of nice women in their lifetimes, but they remain steadfast. Older and wiser men recognize the signs and make distance, even becoming gruff or mean to women they particularly like. This is often misinterpreted. But it has to be done. If a priest falls deeply in love with a woman in a romantic way, he must abandon her friendship and any affiliation with her. He must not play games that will lead the both of them into disaster. He must say goodbye. Often he will not and should not tell the woman why they cannot remain associates or “friends”. He must love her enough to let her go. There is something of sacrifice and the cross about this. It is as it must be. We need men who have a single-hearted love for God and devotion to the Church. As new Christs, they take the Church as their spouse. Once the promise is made, they must not think again that they are free like other men. Fantasies must be guarded and brushed aside. No time for envying other men or feeling sorry for oneself can be allowed. They have surrendered their intimacy and their sexuality to God– case closed.

HELEN:

Father Joe, I have question about the following: “Often he will not and should not tell the woman why they cannot remain associates or ‘friends’.”

Why should a priest not be honest with the woman? If he pushes her aside with no explanation, she may think she has done something wrong (sinned) to hurt or offend him, when she has not. Perhaps, she did not lead him on. We (adults, single, celibate, married, whatever) are beyond the age of innocence, yet we do not always “do” anything that makes another desire us sexually. The priest has taken a lifetime vow of celibacy. Has he also promised not to be so aloof that may hurt another person, when a simple explanation could clear up the problem, as far as the woman going her way, so as not to be a “stumbling block” to him?

FATHER JOE:

“Why should a priest not be honest with the woman?”

Priests are often shy men who live in their heads. They may feel a great many things that they do not express. While priests may express fatherly love or the more general love of a shepherd to his flock, it would not do for a priest to confess “romantic” love to a woman. I base this upon the experiences of many priests who thought they had to be honest before making distance between themselves and a woman they cared “too much” about. More so than not, it can touch reciprocal emotions in the woman and matters can quickly escalate. It is best that she never know how he really felt. Unfortunately, they can also begin to lie to themselves, that they can keep this love under control.

“If he pushes her aside with no explanation, she may think she has done something wrong (sinned) to hurt or offend him, when she has not.”

Yes, she might feel hurt. This sometimes happens, but it cannot be helped. It is for the sake of both their souls that he must keep silent. He can assure her that she has done nothing wrong, and maybe tell her that the demands of ministry require more of his time. This is true; his priesthood requires that he spend less time with her. He can also explain in a vague manner, that he wants to return to the spirit of detachment that he was taught in seminary so as to better focus on his spousal love to the Church and to his prayer life as a priest. But he should not tell her, “I love you.” What he feels for her may not even be reciprocal; it does not matter. He might never get over her and will have to take this burning love with him to the grave– so be it. He must allow her to find joy in the company and embrace of another man, no matter how much he sacrifices personally. Promises are made to be kept.

“Perhaps, she did not lead him on?”

“We (adults, single, celibate, married, whatever) are beyond the age of innocence, yet we do not always ‘do’ anything that makes another desire us sexually.”

She did not have to, at least not intentionally. He might simply have fallen in love with the person she was. Priests are especially vulnerable or sensitive to nice girls who practice and know their faith: going to Mass, saying their prayers, practicing modesty and chastity, etc. They are everything a religious man of strong values would hope to find. He sees in her a true helpmate and a wonderful potential mother for a family. Many people these days discourage priests and tear them down. Such a lady builds him up and tells him that he is important and needed. He will quickly make friends and before long, loving her will be as easy as breathing. Her joy will become more important to him than his regular duties. Trouble is brewing!

We are sexual beings. Priests like all men are constantly dealing with sexual feelings and thoughts. His need for intimacy when turned toward such a girl will not subtract the sexual elements. If the relationship becomes increasing exclusive, then he must make the hard decisions about what to do next. Hopefully, the priest did nothing to lead the woman on.

Young priests in particular can be very innocent. This is also a component that quickly resonates with the innocence of a woman who cherishes her virginity and values. They see in each other something of themselves, and the potentiality for a best friend. But can a priest have a woman as his best friend? I have trouble in seeing it. Fr. Groeschel used to recommend that priests make friends with women whom they find particularly unattractive. This way they develop that side of their personalities that must interact with females, but by lessening any possible dangers. That is why some priests reserve their closer female relationships to matronly or elderly women. Older priests might also have some friendships with young women for whom they have fatherly feelings. However, caution must be used because while young men like young women, so do old men.

“The priest has taken a lifetime vow of celibacy. Has he also promised not to be so aloof that may hurt another person, when a simple explanation could clear up the problem, as far as the woman going her way, so as not to be a ’stumbling block’ to him?”

YES, a priest has taken a lifetime vow or promise of celibacy.

But, to be honest, he did not make promises about the rest. Some priests are aloof and they remain that way to survive. Others are better at relationships and limits. I am all for simple explanations, but in many of these situations the explanations are really not so simple and can lead to a host of additional problems. Rarely is it a case of the woman going her way, unless she sees the problem and nobly makes a move before the priest does to preserve his vocation. What usually happens is that a priest, consulting his spiritual director and/or confessor, will seek a new assignment. It is often too hard for the priest to remain in a parish and regularly see a woman with whom he wants to share time and intimacy. He goes on with his life and she goes on with hers. He does not go out of his way to be mean or nasty. He will no doubt bless her and keep her in prayer. But he might also never see or talk with her again. And if he does, then he must bear his pain of loss in silence.

HELEN:

Thank you for your explanation. Obviously, priests are fully human. They are as sexually alive and responsible for their own behavior as anyone else. It just seems that in almost every instance a priest could say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t see you anymore. You didn’t do anything wrong and have not sinned against God. I am asking you not to question me further. If you care for me, as a human being, please don’t continue to ask.” It seems kind, doesn’t seem to violate his vows, and would let a young woman (perhaps as shy as he) know she had not led a priest on.

FATHER JOE:

Helen, certainly the priest should do all he can to help a person he loves to move on with her life. But the priest may be so caught up in his own emotions that he does not have the right words.

You suggest that he could say the following: “I’m sorry, but I can’t see you anymore. You didn’t do anything wrong and have not sinned against God. I am asking you not to question me further. If you care for me, as a human being, please don’t continue to ask.”

I think it is good to tell her that she has done nothing wrong. About that I agree, if it is indeed the case. But I also believe that he has to remove himself from the picture. If she really cares about him, no explanation will suffice. Someone is going to get hurt, not matter what.

Further, in some cases the emotions are not entirely shared. The girl might only have “friendship” feelings while the priest feels more than he should. He has to be careful to say or do nothing that would re-direct or amplify her feelings. (It could also be the other way around. I have known priests pursued by women.)

Romantic feelings are not very rational. The problem may be more the priest than the girl. If he says something like this and she comes crying into his arms, begging, “What is wrong, tell me?” Well, who knows?

Thank you for the contribution. I hope priests struggling in such situations will take seriously this post and the thoughtful words that you offer as a model for them. You are a smart lady, Helen. God bless!

MARY:

There are so many factors involved in these situations; it is hard to reduce these situations to linear scales of right and wrong. There are multiple factors acting on the principles. Some examples:

(1)  Some women consciously or unconsciously actively seek priests out for relationships and marriage. I know of one woman who is obsessed with marrying a priest and even vehemently argues for the Church to allow priests to marry. She never sees her obsession as taking a “father” away from many, many, children. This woman may have felt that she needed a father for her children, but she probably didn’t ever consider that in giving her children a father she will be depriving many, many others of a one-of-a-kind spiritual father.

(2)  People become confused I think also when they entrust someone with the deepest, most intimate parts of their spiritual life. This is often a person’s most secret and intimate self. It’s not surprising that a person who has never been able to share this part of their life with anyone else will reason that their ability to share it must necessarily mean that that they and their priest/counselor share an intimacy beyond any other and is evidence that they should be together for life.

(3)  Our society is over sexed and places a high premium on “sexual identities.” The Christian life demands that people refrain from inappropriate relationships but the world is so at odds with Catholic understanding of sexuality and the human person. Everyone is bombarded constantly with messages to be sexy and demonstrate one’s sexual prowess. It’s about the equivalent of alcoholics being asked to live in a bar 24 hours a day. The temptations are so great. I think we need to realize that just as alcoholics need AA, so to do those who are called to chastity according to their state in life (married, celibate consecrated, celibate singles, etc.) need the same kind of support that AA provides its members. I think the Church should organize support groups for chastity for both lay people and clergy.

(4)  If this relationship really went on for awhile, it underscores the value of having busy body old ladies as receptionists who just have a way of “knowing” who should have a lot or a little access to father.

SANDY:

Fr. Joe, today I find all too many priests insensitive to the feelings of those they “shepherd”. How sad it is for me to hear that a priest would purposely choose to be mean to a woman whom he has feelings for. It seems cruel given the sensitive nature of woman. Some women look to a priest as a reflection of Christ. A priest treating her coldly may cause her to question her love of the Church and this may cause her to leave the Catholic Church. I know this because I have left the Church due to so many uncaring priests.

FATHER JOE:

You miss the point Sandy; the object or ideal is for the priest to pull away before the woman develops strong feelings and an attachment to him. Many today see love only in a selfish way, like those priests who break their promises. If a priest really loves a woman he will want what the best for her, even if he must pay a high price by forfeiting her friendship. Love is not always about kissing, holding hands, embracing, or jumping into bed. Sometimes REAL LOVE means saying goodbye. (Remember, priests and their women who attempt marriage commit mortal sin and cannot be restored to good grace unless they separate or unless the priest is laicized and given permission to marry. I have known such couples, cut off from the sacraments, knowing that every act of romantic affection and sexual union is neither sanctioned by the Church nor approved by God. How can a good priest live with such a decision, knowing that he may have damned the person he says he holds most dear?)

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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Through Scripture and Catholic teachings we are called to protect the life and dignity of all human persons no matter how young or old. Working to prevent child abuse is an important response of what we are called to do as a Church.

The Archdiocese of Washington is dedicated to promoting and ensuring the protection of all children. The archdiocese [wants] to help parents better understand how to protect their children from victimization, both inside and outside the home.

A long standing commitment to protecting children

The Archdiocese of Washington was one of the first dioceses in the nation to have a written Child Protection Policy, education on child protection and the first to use electronic fingerprinting for background checks. Our policy has become a model for dioceses nationwide and is available online at www.adw.org.

If you have worked with children in our parishes and schools, you know
that any adult who has substantial contact with children must complete an application, be fingerprinted for a criminal background check and attend a child protection education workshop. The program used for these workshops, Protecting God’s Children for Adults, is nationally recognized and held across the archdiocese throughout the year in English and Spanish.

Children in archdiocesan schools and religious education programs also
receive education on how to recognize abuse and protect themselves. In fall 2008, Touching Safety, a safe environment program that has been successfully used in 31 other dioceses, was implemented as the core curriculum for schools and parishes. The program supports the teachings of the Catholic Church, has age-appropriate lessons and connects with the education for adults.

An archdiocesan Child Protection Advisory Board of lay experts
(including at least one victim-survivor) monitors the archdiocese’s outreach and compliance with the Child Protection Policy. In addition, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops audits all dioceses on their compliance with the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The auditors conduct interviews and review records and materials relating to education, background checks, compliance monitoring, reporting and healing. The archdiocese has been found in full compliance every year.

Since 1993, the archdiocese has had a Case Review Board to assist the Archbishop in assessing allegations of child sexual abuse against clergy and fitness for ministry.

Help, healing and support for victims

The Archdiocese of Washington has long been committed to the treatment and healing of those harmed. These are some of the ways the archdiocese has reached out to victims of abuse by archdiocesan personnel:

  • Apology and statement of remorse by a bishop and leadership.
  • Immediate offer of paid counseling, therapy and other assistance (1) of an individual’s choice, (2) for as long as needed to heal and (3) for family members, in some situations.
  • Assistance regardless of legal claims. The archdiocese has paid for counseling even after being sued and even after the suit was thrown out of court on its merits, because we believe it is the right thing to
    do.
  • Opportunity to meet with a bishop. Our bishops have traveled to meet with victims, provided them with a private phone number and e-mail, and set aside regular office time just for victims who would like to meet.
  • Immediate reporting of allegations and support for victims in pursuing criminal prosecution.
  • More than $6 million in direct assistance has been provided to victims and millions more spent on prevention efforts. Settlements have been made, if appropriate in an individual’s situation.
  • Licensed clinical social worker on staff to assist those coming forward and Office of Child Protection Services to assist victims and implement prevention programs.

Reporting abuse

  • If you suspect child abuse (sexual, physical or neglect of anyone under the age of 18) or have been a victim of child abuse, report it immediately to the local law enforcement agency or the local department of social services (Department of Child Protective Services in the District of Columbia).
  • If you suspect child abuse involving any archdiocesan personnel, also report it immediately to Marcia Zvara, MSW, LCSW-C, Director
    of Child Protection Services for the Archdiocese of Washington, at 301-853-5328.
  • The complete Child Protection Policy, which includes a form to report suspected abuse by archdiocesan personnel and details on where to report to civil authorities (Appendix A) is available online at www.adw.org.

Some signs that a child is being sexually abused:

  • Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical
    activities
  • Reports nightmares or bedwetting
  • Experiences a sudden change in appetite or behavior
  • Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge
    or behavior
  • Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if
    under age 14
  • Runs away

Note: Victims of sexual abuse do not necessarily exhibit physical signs of the abuse and some sexually abused children may exhibit no signs of abuse at all.

By the numbers

Between July 2007 and June 2008 in the Archdiocese of Washington:

  • 97 child protection workshops were held for adults who work with children in the archdiocese
  • 5,800 people, including clergy, new employees and volunteers attended those workshops
  • 18,251 Catholic school children received safe environment  education
  • 22,281 children in religious education programs received safe environment education
  • 6,536 employees, volunteers and clergy were fingerprinted

Between 2003-2007 the Catholic Church in the United States:

  • Trained more than 1.8 million clergy, employees and volunteers in parishes in creating safe environments and preventing child sexual
    abuse
  • Prepared more than 5.8 million children to recognize abuse and protect themselves

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“LONGING FOR SOMETHING? MAYBE IT’S GOD!” When a friend of mine first saw the title of this initiative on a bus billboard, she humorously said, “Hum, longing for something? Maybe it’s… CHOCOLATE!” She did not mean to be profane; I guess she was just hungry. Her response does offer us something important to reflect upon. Many people are searching for ultimate meaning, but often they settle for something proximate and which gives a quick fix. Some turn to drugs and replace otherworldly communication (prayer) and meditation with drug induced euphoria. Others have substituted sexual union, and the accompanying thrills, for a genuine communion with God and the spiritual rapture that knows no bounds. I suppose some try to find God in a bottle, and yet excessive alcohol always fails to deliver what it promises and forces a heavy toll upon us as well. Even physical food, which we need to survive, cannot come close to the promise of the Eucharist as our spiritual food and encounter with the living God. Every one of us is like a puzzle where our lives consist of putting the pieces together in the right places. Without God, an important piece remains missing and the perfection or wholeness is ruined. We were made for God. There is no need to wander aimlessly through this world. The Church safeguards the answers to the ultimate questions; Christ, himself, is the source of this meaning. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. The old children’s catechism did not hesitate to share the answer to the great existential question. Why did God make you and me? He made us TO KNOW HIM and TO LOVE HIM and TO SERVE HIM in this world and TO BE HAPPY AND GIVE HIM GLORY forever in the world to come. That is the long and short of it.

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ADW_Longing_BusBack.qxd

The Archdiocese of Washington has started a blog for the Lenten initiative, “LONGING FOR SOMETHING? MAYBE IT’S GOD.” My dear friend and priest-colleague Father Charles Pope writes most of the posts. He is well known for his offering of the Tridentine Mass and for running a bible study in the White House during the last Bush Administration. It can be found at:

http://blog.adw.org/.

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Choosing the Woman over the Altar

fallenIf any priest in a compromised situation with a woman attempts marriage then he places himself and a person he says he loves into a seriously sinful state. It angers or upsets me that men can reject Church law and teachings when it suits their selfishness. My upset or indignation is in reaction to the hypocrisy, dissent and scandal caused by fellow priests against the Church I love. I am not vindictive about it, only deeply disappointed. If he maintains a brother-sister relationship until (or if) laicization is offered, at least then he shows some respect to the Church and concern about her soul.

I have friends who are priests who left ministry to get married. I would not condemn them. But they would not seek to function without the legal faculties to do so. 

Discussion with revisionists who have burned their bridges is very difficult. We may be destined to communicate at cross-purposes due to very divergent premises and convictions. However, everyone on the right or left of such issues should want to facilitate genuine healing in the lives of others. Priests and the women with whom they have had intimate relations or attempted marriages might confess to something of a love-hate relationship with the Church, owning up to their anger, reckoned by them as justifiable.

I wish priests who leave ministry well. Once a man has defected with his beloved, I would hope that such couples would love and be faithful to each other. Laicization and release from the promise of celibacy are important; otherwise, no marriage would be recognized as either valid or licit. I would hope that priests who leave for a woman would reserve their romancing until that time they are deemed free to do so. As for shame, what kind of woman could take a priest from his altar and from the confessional and not feel some sort of remorse? How could a priest, albeit a fallen one, ever really love a woman who took so lightly what he would give up for her?

Doing the Right Thing

Healthy heterosexuals, rightly ordered priests in their sexuality, are attracted to women. They make a promise of celibate love and by discipline, prayer and grace they live out this life of loving service. They might fall in love… heck, they might fall in love with a number of nice women in their lifetimes, but they remain steadfast. Older and wiser men recognize the signs and make distance, even becoming gruff or mean to women they particularly like. This is often misinterpreted. But it has to be done. If a priest falls deeply in love with a woman in a romantic way, he must abandon her friendship and any affiliation with her. He must not play games that will lead the both of them into disaster. He must say goodbye. Often he will not and should not tell the woman why they cannot remain associates or ‘friends’.

Certain dissenters, who might see some small value in celibacy for misanthropes, refuse to accept that such a mandatory discipline could be in concert with God’s will. My view was clear and was voiced in an earlier post: “They have surrendered their intimacy and their sexuality to God— case closed.” A priest is not his own man. He belongs to God and the Church. Giving God his intimacy and sexuality means that he will not have an exclusive sexual or intimate relationship with another human being. Priests are still sexual human beings, but they love in a celibate way of service.

I can well understand how those who have become entangled with priests might suffer through my comments. I stand by my words. Celibacy is a sacrificial discipline which priests FREELY embrace. God does not return our gifts except as transformed. In this case, the priest belongs to God and to his congregation but not to a particular friendship or to an intimate sexual relationship. The salvation of souls is the fruit he seeks, not that of his loins.

Is it immature to be a faithful celibate? Is it misogyny to say that a man can be happy and fulfilled without a wife and family? Those who applaud fallen priests and their women are very quick to judge priests like me; they errantly place the greater maturity with those men who broke their promises, perhaps even committing mortal sin? I have many close friendships with women, but I am well aware of the boundaries and I do not play games with them. The trouble today is that many women mistake friendship and kindness as a summons to something more. Given the immaturity of men and women in our society, it is no wonder that there is a problem in this regard. Would we rate the men who stayed celibate as children and those who fooled around with women as the more well-adjusted and mature?

Defection and Redefining the Priesthood

Those who turn their bitterness against the so-called “institutional” Church, as if the properties of the Church can be practically dissected, often forfeit a sense of the sacred and the supreme importance of the sacraments. It is for that reason that renegades will often turn to ecclesial communities with dubious apostolic succession and a questionable or counterfeit priesthood and Eucharist. One critic referred to the sacramental role performed by a celebrant, his action at the altar “in persona Christi”, as an empty caricature of priesthood with no significant or enduring meaning. She would reduce the meaning of priesthood to show that it is a poor trade for a wife and family. Priesthood becomes less a vocation and more a job in this evaluation. But priests are more than clueless figureheads; they truly make Christ present in their own person and in their activity.

Every validly ordained priest shares in the one priesthood of Christ, this is where his ministry finds focus: in the sacrifice, in the consecration (real presence) and in the forgiveness of sins. Dissenters, renegade priests and the women, who run away with them, might embrace a defective religious confession and their rites or they might even brush off any definition of priesthood which places the gravity upon the dispensing of the sacraments. Poor lost souls, they lose a sense of basic Catholicism 101.

It may be that some women redefine the priesthood to blunt the blow that they have cost the Church a good priest. Of course, the priest has responsibility in all this, and must share culpability. One might feel less guilty if our vision of the priesthood is narrowed to activity that anyone might do. It is wrong to contend that when not saying Mass or hearing Confessions, he is no longer configured to Christ Jesus, the great high priest. A priest is always a priest. As a case in point and it might sound profane, I once heard a Confession in the stall of a bathroom. Yes, I prefer Church confessionals, but if a person is in serious sin, there is no time to waste. Priests are never really off duty. And definitely, there is never time for illicit fun and games with the girls!

Priests who are celibate and expect other priests to keep their promises are not rigid and deliberately hurtful. Every priest is called to be a healer. But excusing or ignoring or offering approbation for failure is not to render true healing. Such activity represents a false compassion. The priestly confessor of souls serves many functions: physician or healer, father, teacher, prophet, and judge. I would not judge myself any less severely than I would any other priest. Such a role is necessary to insure proper guidance and repentance. We are all sinners. We are all weak and poor instruments. But, God’s grace can work the miraculous in our lives.

Truth versus Dissent

I can only speak for God when I echo the teachings and disciplines of faith. I claim no moral superiority over others. I make mistakes and even errors in judgment. We all do. But I do not think my views about this are in conflict with the Good News of Christ. Our Lord has given us an infallible Magisterium to guide and govern the Church. Dissenters cannot speak for God if they oppose the Catholic faith. Dissenters believe they have a special enlightenment in regard to the truth. They do not even seem to fear God in making themselves into little popes in deciding what they will and will not accept. Such a dilemma is clear when dissenters argue for a version of love unhampered by the restrictions of the Church (like vows or promises). Challenge their special enlightenment and they will go further in denying the Church’s charism of truth and the qualifications of faithful priests.

While speaking as if they are a competing or parallel Magisterium, critics insult the Church and every good priest, and yet, seem blind to what damage they are doing. Their rhetoric betrays an anger that moves from the matter of married priests to that of women priests or priestesses. They insist that the Church is depicting women as the enemy and dangerous. They demand that men and women be treated equally. Priests and their women who marry outside the Church and/or move into other denominations are stamped as heroes and not as sinners. There are a few cases where former Catholic priests allow their “attempted” wives to serve as priests alongside them. The first has no faculties to minister and the latter has a counterfeit priesthood severed from apostolic succession. An imaginary and false line is drawn between faith in the true Church and faith in the Lord.

The conflict in such discussions between sides is divergent views of ecclesiology and vocation. Those on different sides of this question place the gravity in different areas. My emphasis would be upon the head and the spiritual power of will. I suspect that many women actively involved in an intimate way with priests would give the gravity to the heart and the corporal passions or emotions. On the other hand, I would stress the clear fact that the Church welcomes men to holy orders who promise or vow celibacy. The objective or external situation is that men do this and I feel they should remain faithful to their promises. There is no good escape clause. As far as I am concerned, that is where matters should end. They should behave themselves and if they should suffer emotionally, offer it up with Christ’s passion.

Those who later want out of their promises make all sorts of rationalizations. The business about the heart and/or emotions is only recognition that such seems to play a big part in the decision of priests and women who become romantically entangled. I may be wrong, but is this really such a large leap in reasoning? If this is overly presumptive, then I would apologize but I have dealt with many delicate situations regarding such things and it has been my experience.

We must not be naive about the fierce physicality in men and the sexual drive which men must daily sublimate to stay chaste. I have never said that priests must hate or fear or universally separate themselves from the female gender. However, there will come times when a priest must break off certain relationships because his heart and fallen nature is taking him in a direction he must not go. A priest is always a living ICON for Christ. The full gravity or weight of his sacramental vocation is manifest at Mass where he operates “in the person of Christ, head of the Church.” He signifies Christ the groom and the Church is his bride.

Critics will insist that the Church and her defenders violate a number of values. However, a clarification has to be made. EQUALITY in grace is not any kind of egalitarian view of humanity. JUSTICE for others also includes following objective norms, of the State, of the Church, of Nature, and of Divine Positive Law. Today many things we call RIGHTS are really just made up excuses for license and sin. Women have no right to priesthood. Celibate priests have no right to either wives or concubines. People of one gender do not have rights to sexual contact with those of the same gender.

What Do Priests Know of Love?

One critic argued recently that priests generally knew nothing about love. She contended that they were ordained merely to fulfill family expectations. But there are many reasons and such anger cannot invalidate the calling of good men validated by the true Church. The truth be said, most priests today entered the seminary against the wishes of family and friends. God is love; however, it is wrong to equate this love entirely with the romantic. Such critics fail to acknowledge human weakness and sin; rather, romantic entanglements with priests are wrongly interpreted as God’s will. This is ludicrous. God never desires sin.

It is not my intention to give a comprehensive treatise on divine love and how we share that love. I believe God can forgive and that he showers mercy upon priests who leave active ministry to marry women. It is rather insulting and “mean spirited” that certain critics think many priests have no notion of love. I counseled a woman many years ago against flirting and trying to seduce a man in seminary formation. She walked out shouting that I had nothing to say to her because I had never been in love! I challenged her on this assumption and she crudely blurted out, “Unless you have gone to bed with a woman, you do not know what love is!” The very reason why I and so many of my brothers embrace our celibacy is out of love for God and his people. The harshest critics are essentially saying that they do not care and that it is a waste of our time. Love brought me to the priesthood. It is love that beckons me to the altar, to the confessional, to the baptismal font, and yes to the sick bed of the dying. I am sorry that such lost people cannot understand or appreciate that.

Attacks against the Church and Her Messengers

What has been my reward for speaking about the value of celibacy and for insisting that good priests keep their promises? I have been assaulted personally as a misogynist and my view of human sexuality has been condemned as immature. Such judgments were not the result of sharing a detailed appreciation of vocations and human sexuality; rather, I was labeled precisely because I placed a negative value on the illicit unions and/or liaisons of priests and their paramours. I am not naïve about priestly formation and human development. Truthfully, I believe clergy should be emotionally whole and integrated. Priests should be comfortable with women. However, and here is the great divide, celibate priests should NOT have sexual relationships with women.

I would certainly not want to generate unnecessary anxiety for others, but sometimes bravery means not denying or running away from our guilt. Ridiculing Church teaching and discipline, breaking the vows of priesthood and/or marriage, are not positive in any honest estimation. However, speak about sin, and there are always many who will insist that no one can judge such things, despite divine commandments and objective right and wrong. Prophets who speak the truth of God are castigated by false prophets who speak their own mind. Broken promises, fornication and adultery, attempted marriages, illegitimate children, scandal… yes, I would say that such sins should make people feel ashamed, particularly for the unrepentant and the guilty.

They want every faithful priest or so-called right-wing Catholic to be caricatured as an angry homophobic and chauvinistic white male. While they excuse their own venom, any use of hyperbole to make a point or indignation about fallen priests and their women is viewed as the most outrageous insult. They share this with certain radical homosexuals who condemn Church teaching as hate-speech. Both camps contend that you cannot judge the sin without condemning them as sinners. They think that faithful and traditional priests value institutions and laws more than people— and yet, must there be a disconnect? However, it is NOT the institutional Church that denies people access to grace. People do this to themselves by their sins and by failing to preserve a disposition receptive of grace. Critics wrongly dismiss the Church’s discipline as just man-made laws. But the Church is both a human and a divine institution. Celibacy is not a purely human fancy but is an element of the divine plan.

I would contend that it is a pretty poor and simplistic synthesis against supporters of the status-quo to say that those who disagree with revisionists on this matter and their agenda are all angry men with a punitive outlook. We can be upset or disappointed without desiring any kind of harm to others. Most priests try as confessors to keep emotions in check. We hear everything, from the lurid details of abuse to murder itself. Our response is that of Christ. The penitent expresses sorrow for sin, makes an act of contrition, and then receives our absolution. Sometimes that healing is enough and at other times, they are placed on the road to recovery. Any upset I feel is precisely because the priesthood means a lot to me and we should not give poor witness.

The Effect of Scandals

Scandals are always thrown into the face of those who argue for no change regarding our discipline. Lately, the recent scandals around Fr. Marciel Macial have been their ammunition of choice. It is true that many regarded him as a conservative, i.e. orthodox. Critics of celibacy are having a field day with revelations that he purportedly fathered a child. This is bad news for the Legionnaires and for the Church. The questions about abuse in his regard are even more serious. However, such poor witness is no absolute invalidation of priestly celibacy. Most priests are faithful to their promises.

Critics point to the scandals and the fallen priests and ask the rhetorical question as to whether or not compulsory celibacy is a fallacy or myth? They think it is. Some well-meaning voices play into their hands by recommending optional celibacy. They feel that celibacy should only be permitted to those who feel called to it. However, most priests in the West freely promise celibacy. No one is forcing them into the priesthood. If they do not feel called to celibacy then God in his wisdom would not ask them to be priests. God is not in conflict or battling his Church; rather, he works in concert with the authority he established. The struggle here is to do God’s will, not what our selfishness would ask and not what the dissenters demand. Optional celibacy might see its day; but it will not solve the vocations crisis and it will create new serious issues in itself.

Many of us have had concerns about the secrecy and ultra-regimentation of the Legionnaires. I wonder how much of it reflected the secrecy that Father Macial utilized to cover his own scandalous indiscretions. It is a very sad business. Hopefully Rome will bring reform and healing to the situation.

Celibacy is not a myth, despite what the cynics might say. I believe that God works with his Church and gives the grace of celibacy to any who are truly called to his priestly service in the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, the Church could change this discipline tomorrow and make it optional. But no one should seek ordination with such an expectation.

Why Should We Care?

Why would a faithful priest be upset about those who violated Church rules? Well, first, one can be both upset and still show compassion and empathy. Second, good priests have a responsibility to admonish and to guide people in the moral life. Breaking promises to God and the Church is selfish and wrong. Third, while it is true that no one can absolutely read the inner hearts of others; this does not mean that the Church cannot render judgment about external actions. If you make promises and break them, you commit an objectively evil act. This is more than a sentiment or a temptation hidden in the heart and will. We would suspect that priests, of all people, would be fully cognizant of their behavior and the repercussions. They cannot claim ignorance. Bad priests agreed to the rules but later wanted to change them. Women who become involved with priests, and here I mean actively involved as in sexual encounters, mistresses and attempted marriages, should know full well that they have fallen far from what God and the Church demands. Ladies who have the heartstrings pulled and then do the right thing are entirely different. This latter group deserves our respect and continuing support.

Fourth, a fallen priest’s promises were made to his bishop and before God, not to me personally to other priests. The actions of one priest often affect all priests and thus, the misconduct of any one priest hurts all priests. That is why the abuse scandals have been so incredibly devastating to the morale of priests. It wounds every one of us personally. We are all sharers in the one high priesthood of Christ. We trust and look up to one another. We expect fidelity, courage, generosity, obedience and sacrifice. We believe all the jargon about the glories of the Roman Catholic priesthood. When men fall short, it pains us more than any of us could properly convey.

Every priest who keeps his promises feels hurt and betrayed by those who do not. This fuels the indignation, along with the insufferable arguments that question the teaching in hindsight. Often personal responsibility is minimized and the Church herself is made the culprit for making the celibacy requirement at all. Broken promises by priests are seen as a betrayal of our brotherhood. It breeches them from their spiritual father the bishop and their brother priests. Those who are not priests might not understand this element of family that is focused upon the presbyterate.

My indignation or upset or anger or resentment or whatever you want to call it is not misplaced, but justified. I may come across as somewhat judgmental, but such is often my response to dissent and attacks upon a celibacy which I believe is worthwhile and should be sustained as compulsory in the Western Church. I would and have supported men who left ministry. I see no contradiction in doing this quietly for individuals while taking a strong general position against romantic entanglements, defections, and laicizations.

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A puppet version of the Stations of the Cross. The puppet show is created by Jesuit Brother Edward Sheehy. The show is edited and produced by Yvonne Balcer. The show was filmed at St. Peter’s Church, Jersey City, NJ in 2006.

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Do we see here the latest faces of evil?  While a certain anti-Catholicism has long been fashionable in the U.S., these bigots pull no punches in attacking the divinely instituted hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church:  Rep. Michael Lawlor and Sen. Andrew McDonald of Connecticut.  Why?  It is because these gay men hate the Church for her position against same-sex civil unions.  More about this below.

DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT VERSUS CONNECTICUT LEGISLATORS

Watch the video with Bishop William Lori where he warns of the crisis.

TEXT OF RAISED BILL IN JUDICIARY COMMITTEE #1098

A Bill that would strip Bishops of their authority over parishes!

KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS ALERT!!!

Catholics must stand together against this attack upon the nature of the Church! 

loritroubleThe latest and most intrusive step so far against the Catholic Church is in Connecticut. True Catholics must pray and support the Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bishop Bill Lori, formerly a priest of my diocese, Washington, DC, is headed for the fight of his life. What happens there will have repercussions for the Church throughout the entire nation.  Fortunately, he is up to the fight and is also Supreme Chaplain to the KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS.

This is not Red China with its puppet “patriotic” Catholic Church; but that is precisely what certain legislators in Connecticut must think. A bill has been put forward that would directly interfere with the internal activities and structure of the Catholic Church. Other churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are ignored; the Catholic Church alone (at least for now) has been targeted by name. Bill 1098 would strip Catholic bishops of their direct oversight over their parishes. The state would force the bishops to hand their jurisdiction to an elected board of directors. Clergy would not be allowed on this board, only laymen and laywomen. The bishop or his representative could sit with the 7 to 13 members, but he would have NO VOTE.

The overall authority of bishops over their priests and congregations comes from the apostles and the charge given them by Jesus. This legislation rejects the Catholic stance and forces a reformed Protestant form of government upon the Catholic Church. The Church rejected boards of controlling trustees over parishes after the Revolutionary War. Only the Protestant reformers, and not all of them, suggested that the bishops be stripped of their authority. Such a measure would reduce bishops to figureheads, good for periodic Confirmations but nothing more. Pastors would be hired, fired and treated as employees by these boards.  Pastors would no longer be true pastors at all.  I am sure the Vatican would never have any of it. But what would happen then, a forced schism where the legitimate bishops would govern from exile and their priests minister under tents while the state flunkies took over Church properties and changed policies? Such a view by which the laity rules the Church has been condemned as heretical by the Magisterium. We each have our role to play and the bishops should not be stripped of theirs. How could anyone in government dare think they could rewrite the system of governance for the Catholic Church? This is an obscenity to the freedom of religion!

The diocese of Bridgeport has explained the situation as follows:

“This past Thursday, March 5, the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature, which is chaired by Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven, introduced a bill that directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our Faith.

This bill violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It forces a radical reorganization of the legal, financial, and administrative structure of our parishes. This is contrary to the Apostolic nature of the Catholic Church because it disconnects parishes from their Pastors and their Bishop. Parishes would be run by boards from which Pastors and the Bishop would be effectively excluded.

This bill, moreover, is a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage.

The State has no right to interfere in the internal affairs and structure of the Catholic Church. This bill is directed only at the Catholic Church but could someday be forced on other denominations. The State has no business controlling religion.

The Pastors of our Diocese are doing an exemplary job of sound stewardship and financial accountability, in full cooperation with their parishioners.

For the State Legislature — which has not reversed a $1 billion deficit in this fiscal year — to try to manage the Catholic Church makes no sense. The Catholic Church not only lives within her means but stretches her resources to provide more social, charitable, and educational services than any other private institution in the State. This bill threatens those services at a time when the State is cutting services. The Catholic Church is needed now more than ever.

We reject this irrational, unlawful, and bigoted bill that jeopardizes the religious liberty of our Church. We urge you to call and e-mail Sen. McDonald and Rep. Lawlor:

Senator Andrew McDonald:
Capitol phone: (800) 842-1420; Home phone: (203) 348-7439
E-mail: McDonald@senatedems.ct.gov

Representative Michael Lawlor:
Capitol phone: (800) 842-8267; Home phone: (203) 469-9725
E-mail: MLawlor99@juno.com

We also ask you to come to Hartford this Wednesday, March 11, to be present at the public hearing. Details on bus transportation will be available on Monday. If you would like to attend, contact your Pastor.

It is up to us to stop this unbridled abuse of governmental power.

It is time for us to defend our First Amendment rights.
It is time for us to defend our Church!”

The First Amendment to the US Constitution is found in what is properly called the “Bill of Rights”. It contains these clear words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

This bill violates the rights of the Catholic Church and the faith of her good people. It is also unconstitutional and we can only hope that good sense prevails. But, even if we win this one; what about the next attack or the one after that? The Church has a hierarchical structure that comes down to us from Christ’s institution. This legislation is anti-Catholic bigotry at its best. Note that we alone are singled-out for such treatment. It is to be forced upon us because the Church refuses to be silent about such evils as same-sex unions and abortion. Do not think for one moment that these boards would be composed of good practicing Catholics who kiss the hands of their priest each Sunday. No, these would be the dissenters taking charge.

No doubt the scandal of a few bad priests and allegations of abuse weighs in the background for many people, but the rationale given here is that the bishops and Church cannot manage their own financial house.  Bishop Lori rightly finds this reasoning quite fantastic, given their high degree of accountability and good management.  By contrast, the State of Connecticut cannot close a one billion dollar deficit and the full story will never be told upon the government waste and corruption.  The real reason for this Bill is hatred of the Catholic Church and resentment about the tough moral stands she has taken.  It is no accident that the day before it was submitted, the same-sex marriage Bill was to be heard.  This Bill which focuses on the juridical structure of the Catholic Church is only a thinly veiled attempt to silence our voice.  Note that other churches are not targeted for such take-over.  The two main proponents are radically involved with the homosexual agenda and hate the Church for refusing to pander to perversity.  There can be no doubt, these men are out to destroy the Catholic Church as we know her.

Imagine for a moment what these boards might quickly put on the agenda if they should take charge:

  1. Their first objective would be achieved:  approval of same-sex couples, blessings over them and wedding ceremonies.
  2. Next would come condom and pill distribution from Catholic Charities and training sessions for CCD kids and parish youth groups.
  3. Parish pro-life groups would be disowned and replaced with Planned Parenthood or NARAL promoters.
  4. Married priests would be invited back, especially after orthodox celibates are fired.
  5. In short order, women would be ordained and received as priests in the parishes.
  6. Divorce and remarriage would be permitted.
  7. The protestant “open” communion table would be established, welcoming everyone  for communion, even your Buddhist friends.
  8. ACT-UP and Dignity would operate so-called gay-friendly activities using parish funds and property.
  9. The face of Jesus in churches would be refashioned to look like Obama— all hail the Messiah! (Who knows?)

MIKE LAWLOR ATTACKS CATHOLICISM AT GAY MARRIAGE HEARING:

The late Pope John Paul II told the young people at World Youth Day that they had to remain strong in the faith. He prophesied that many of them would face great persecution and maybe even suffer martyrdom. While he worked for a better tomorrow and reconciliation with groups which had historic grievances with Catholicism; nevertheless, when asked about the future he said he had a vision of BLOOD.

Many people assert that here in America we are safe to worship as we please. However, religion is about more than ritual, it is also about ideas and activism. Already there are politicians and organizations who oppose basic ideas and activities which touch core tenets of Catholicism. The question of the war aside, the Bush Administration was a momentary respite, an oasis in a storm that was looming ever closer and closer. Now that Obama is president, I suspect we shall find the ark of Peter frequently assailed and with few earthly friends to lend assistance. Catholics in the pews have grown timid to defend and help. They must be awakened from their moral slumber. As in many nations, certain Catholics have become the Church’s worst enemies. Even here in the United States, many Catholic pro-abortion politicians in the House of Representatives, the Senate and in the Executive branch oppose the Church’s efforts for the Gospel of Life. State governments are also turning against us. Many of these efforts are fueled by the big money that organizations like Planned Parenthood can muster. Add to this the general enmity that the ACLU and other such entities have against us, and well, this fight is going to have casualties.

Pretty much every year there is an effort here in Maryland to force Catholic hospitals to do abortion referrals and to distribute contraception, even if abortifacient. So far we have been on the winning side, but for how much longer? Maryland bishops have said they would close the hospitals before allowing any collaboration in murder and sin. The Church in Los Angeles took heat about their insurance plans for employees and was pressured to add same-sex partners to the mix. There is also growing insistence that artificial contraception be included in health plans, despite the Church’s view that such practices constitute mortal sin. The Church in Boston had to shut down their adoption program operated through Catholic Charities because the authorities insisted that they would also have to adopt children out to homosexual couples. No one thought the Archbishop would take such a step, but he had the courage to make the right move.  The new president has made no secret that he opposes any “conscience clause” for doctors, nurses and pharmacists who want nothing to do with abortion, embryonic destruction and artificial contraception.  Stripped of legal protection, many pro-life professionals and Catholics will have their licenses stripped and be removed from their jobs.

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CONFLICTING MESSAGES

wwjd45The light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration and making angry gestures as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup in the process.

As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up.

He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, ”I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the ‘What Would Jesus Do’ bumper sticker, the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ‘Follow Me to Sunday School’ bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so I naturally assumed you had stolen the car.”

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THE NECKLACE

pearlnecklaceThe cheerful little girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them, a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box.

“Oh Mommy please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please?”

Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl’s upturned face.

“A dollar ninety-five. That’s almost $2.00. If you really want them, I’ll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma.”

As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.

Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere, Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.

Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night as he finished the story, he asked Jenny, “Do you love me?”

“Oh yes, daddy. You know that I love you.”

“Then give me your pearls.”

“Oh, daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess, the white horse from my collection, the one with the pink tail. Remember, daddy? The one you gave me. She’s my very favorite.”

“That’s okay, Honey, daddy loves you. Good night.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.

About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again, “Do you love me?”

“Daddy, you know I love you.”

“Then give me your pearls.”

“Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper.”

“That’s okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you.”

And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian style.

As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek.

“What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?”

Jenny didn’t say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, “Here, daddy, this is for you.”

With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny.

He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her the genuine treasure. So it is, with our Heavenly Father. He is waiting for us to give up the cheap things in our lives so that he can give us beautiful treasures.

God will never take away something without giving you something better in its place.

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