Archive for May, 2007

This is an amazing incident of generosity and love for poor children that we rarely see even among believers. The fact that this man is a declared atheist makes it a fascinating story. It reminds us that there can be a dialogue and cooperation with those who do not share the Catholic faith and those who claim no faith at all. Here is what the news reported:

NY, MAY 25, 2007 (Zenit).- The Cardinal’s Scholarship Program of the Archdiocese of New York received a record-breaking gift of $22.5 million from self-styled 80-year-old atheist Robert Wilson to provide educational scholarships for disadvantaged inner-city children. An anonymous donor inspired by Wilson’s gift gave an additional $4.5 million to the effort.

Cardinal Edward Egan: “We are grateful…for this historic and far-sighted support from Mr. Wilson for the education and future well-being of our neediest children in the archdiocese.”

Robert Wilson: “Let’s face it, without the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no Western civilization. Shunning religious organizations would be abhorrent. It was a chance for a very modest amount of money to get kids out of a lousy school system and into a good school system.”

It does give us pause and an opportunity for reflection. There seems to be little or nothing of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness, unless Mr. Wilson expects significant tax benefits or prizes the esteem of men. His words convey that he sees the possible return in regard to the poor children themselves and the doors that will open to them because of a better education. I bet you, however, there are critics shaking their heads, totally perplexed by his charity.

It was related to me that some in the New York public school system are steaming, arguing that this money was rightfully theirs. Unfortunately it is a system riddled with waste and various social engineering agendas and values that impede the very work they hope to do. Catholic schools seem to do a better job at educating while passing on traditional values that help insure success and true happiness. Catholic schools also seem able to do their job for a lot less money, meaning that what resources they do have assist more children and families than the public sector. This Wall Street Investor made his millions in reckoning what were and what were not the best investments. Given that he is not a believer, I suspect there is nothing capricious in his choice.

What would be going through the mind and heart of such an investor? A believer might be motivated by his faith, hoping that such an act of charity would cover a multitude of sins. Okay, we cannot buy our way into heaven, but it might be a wonderful act of solidarity with Christ’s sacrifice by which we are ransomed. Such would not be the case for a true atheist. What might move him to such generosity?

  1. Since there is no afterlife, such a donation would be a lasting legacy so that he would be remembered after he is dead.
  2. He may genuinely desire to leave the world of men a little bit better off then when he first entered it.
  3. Secular humanitarians actually exist who love their fellow men and desperately want to improve the lot of others in the human family.

The problem with such sentiments is that often, separated from the Gospel, such good intentions and love can become easily misdirected and corrupted. Foundations can be established to help the poor and to fight disease by supplying condoms or making contraception and abortion available. Separated from God, the faith and values that should govern charity and love can become twisted or expunged. The efforts to help others and the love expressed can become tyrannical and oppressive. We are fortunate in this particular case that Mr. Wilson and the Church were on the same page about educating disadvantaged children.

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tony-blair.jpgThe Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports that a priest (Fr. Michael Seed) associated with Prime Minister Tony Blair and his family will publicly declare his Roman Catholicism when he leaves public office. His wife and family are Catholic. There was some commotion a few years ago when he received holy communion at the Vatican. Evidently this was not the only time he had been caught either.  [By the way, CLICK on his head if you want to look like Tony Blair, and are not easily shocked!]

Father Seed stated: “He’s been going to Mass every Sunday. He goes on his own when he is abroad, not just when he is with his wife and children.”

Although he is known as an Anglican, except for official services associted with his office, he rarely attends the Church of England. If I am correct, Catholics are still legally prevented from serving as prime minister.  [Oops!  While he has a role in the appointment of Anglican prelates, there is no strict “constitutional” impediment against a Catholic prime minister.  I guess I spent too much time with my head in history books reading about the old penal laws?  I heard that there is some informal concern from the crown about such matters in light of several recent high profile conversions to Roman Catholicism.] 

Given the Catholic Church’s long and difficult history since the Reformation, such a reception into Catholicism would be a major event. However, one still has to wonder about his positions on such matters as abortion, homosexuality and same-sex adoption. Ah, if he only shared more views than just the war against terror and the intervention in Iraq with the conservative President Bush!

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This is a post with me thinking outloud.  I fully accept the Church’s teachings about the dignity of the human body.  Donation of an organ is seen as a selfless and loving act; however, the Church would frown upon any commercialization of organs for transplant or research.  It is, nevertheless, a very complex issue with many branching questions.  

 The recent news article that inspired this reflection:

AP NEWS — Dutch reality show that claims to be trying to draw attention to a shortage of organ donors said Tuesday it would go ahead with a program in which a terminally ill woman will choose a contestant to receive one of her kidneys. The program, “Big Donor Show,” has been attacked as unethical and tasteless. At least one member of the Dutch parliament plans to ask the government to block Friday’s broadcast.

“We know that this program is super controversial and some people will think it’s tasteless, but we think the reality is even more shocking and tasteless: waiting for an organ is just like playing the lottery,” Laurens Drillich, chairman of the BNN network, said in a statement. She said waiting lists in the Netherlands are more than four years long and 200 patients die annually for lack of a donor.

Here is an addendum added on June 2, 2007, HOAX!!!:

A Dutch TV contest that purported to show a dying woman choose a patient to receive her kidneys was a hoax.  The “donor” in the show was in fact an actress – though the three people vying for an organ were real patients in need of a kidney transplant.  The three knew that The Big Donor Show, which aired on Friday, was not real. The producers say it was made to highlight the shortage of Dutch donors.   Before the hoax was revealed, the show had attracted widespread criticism.

This issue of selling, buying, or winning human organs has many moral wrinkles. Do you recall the Monty Python skit where a person is asked to become an organ donor? No sooner is the contract signed, that the client is surprised to find out that the contract means they can extract the organ, now! It was funny back in the 1960’s. Today, it has become the nightmare reality.

Despite our revulsion toward it, take this scenario:

Jill is dying from an incurable illness. Her husband is disabled and she has five needy children at home. Because of the type of illness, most of her organs are in good shape and in high demand. She loves her family very much and wants the best for them. Although she will not be around to see them grow up, she desperately wants to do something to help keep them together and to provide for them. She had even dreamed that a few of them might go to college and have options that she never had. A representative from a wealthy benefactor comes and offers her hundreds of thousands of dollars for her body parts: heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Even the corneas are thrown into the deal. Since she will be dead anyway, and will no longer need them, should she not be given the opportunity to sell her organs and provide for her family after she is gone?

What is the alternative? If she signs a regular donor card, she will get no reimbursement for her organs, although the doctors and hospitals will make a great deal from their various fees and for professional services. One way or the other, someone is going to financially benefit from the organs; as their rightful owner, indeed, as a part of herself, why should she be the only one excluded?

Should there be a significant distinction between selling the organs of the living and of the dead?

If organs should go to the highest bidder instead of to those on transplant waiting lists, would this not force prices up and discriminate against the poor?

Does the buying and selling of body parts reduce the body to a commodity?

Would poor people be unreasonably tempted to sell organs like a kidney or piece of a liver which they might later need?

Regarding the living, are not such practices too great a health risk?

Does this not open people up to intimidation whereby viable sick people might be allowed to die in order to get their organs?

Does not the buying and selling of body parts reinforce a “separatist” mentality toward the human body/soul connection instead of seeing the body as an expression of the whole human person?

Why is it that I can give away my kidney for free but I cannot sell it for money? Even if the idea is repugnant to us, what if you needed that kidney or would die? Or, maybe it would be your mother, or a sibling, or your own child? What seemed so wrong before, does it still seem wrong? Such an issue should not be judged solely on feelings, but it is hard not to get emotional about dying and giving away pieces of yourself.

Did you see the movie called JOHN Q where Denzel Washington played a distraught father whose son needed a heart transplant? He has no insurance and sees no hope for saving his child. Entering the hospital he takes hostages and demands that the doctor save his son. He decides that he will give his son his own heart. Getting the doctor to agree, he takes his gun and prepares to shoot himself in the head. It is a powerful film touching upon some of the themes here.

Few of us, except maybe for the Jehovah Witness, would object to the donation of organs to those who need them. The late Pope John Paul II said back in June of 1991:

Above all, this form of treatment is inseparable from a human act of donation. In effect, transplantation presupposes a prior, explicit, free and conscious decision on the part of the donor or of someone who legitimately represents the donor, generally the closest relatives. It is a decision to offer, without reward, a part of one’s own body for the health and well-being of another person. In this sense, the medical action of transplantation makes possible the donor’s act of self-giving, that sincere gift of self which expresses our constitutive calling to love and communion.

Love, communion, solidarity, and absolute respect for the dignity of the human person constitute the only legitimate context of organ transplantation. It is essential not to ignore the moral and spiritual values which come into play when individuals, while observing the ethical norms which guarantee the dignity of the human person and bring it to perfection, freely and consciously decide to give a part of themselves, a part of their own body, in order to save the life of another human being.

Yes, it can be a beautiful self-donation and sign of love.

Is the selling of organs becoming part of that slippery slope from contraception and abortion? DNA studies and gene manipulation may allow for designer children while defective models can be terminated. Embryos are harvested and frozen and discarded. Sometimes they are even fought over in wills or as items in a divorce settlement. The body is seen as something outside of ourselves that we can exploit and change. We can eradicate fertility for the pleasure of the body. A woman can argue, “It is my body,” and destroy her child in the womb. The body, both that of the woman and mother, as well as that of the child, are reduced to things. The pornography business already counts upon our appreciation of the body, especially female bodies, as a commodity to buy and sell for purposes of lust. Our fantasies make bodies interchangeable and heads do not matter, the person does not matter. We can change our bodies with the help of plastic surgeons and even go as far as sex-change operations. Michael Jackson used his face as a plaything, and now he has cartoon eyes, a bozo smile and a plastic nose. Treating the body as a commodity or thing has consequences. Under President Clinton, the NIH and other institutions bought and sold body parts, principally from aborted children, from glossy catalogues that were mailed out to doctors, hospitals and medical schools. Famous, important and rich people often bypass transplant donation lists, going immediately to the top and getting the life-saving surgery and spare-part. No connection is made afterwards with the new wing to the hospital or the multi-million dollar research project sponsored by the grateful recipient. Meanwhile a poor African-American janitor dies because the heart or kidney for which he waited went to someone else.

Does anyone remember a book and movie from many years ago called COMA? Comatose people were suspended from a roof by cables connected to the large bones of the body. This prevented bedsores and allowed for the long-term storage of such patients. Little did anyone know that behind the scenes, unethical doctors were exploiting these patients for the body parts. The idea was gruesome and unthinkable, but no more. I see a whole new industry on the horizon. There will be lawyers who will specialize on contracts to sell, buy and acquire body parts for their clients. Human organs will be grown in animal hybrids, pushing the boundary regarding what is human and what is not. Camps will be operated in Third World Countries where people’s organs will be harvested. I recall a case a few years ago where a man was kidnapped and awoke on the street with one of his kidneys removed. Such abductions and extractions will become common place as the price for organs skyrocket in an older population.

Much has been said about the exploitation of the poor and now the sick, but what about the young and the mentally challenged. There was a case not too long ago where a couple had a second child in order to have a transplant to save the older one. One could also feign a botched partial-birth abortion (infanticide) and deliver a brain-dead child that would live just long enough for organ harvesting. Retarded people could not give consent to such donations and yet how much do you want to bet that they will be the first to be sliced and diced.

It is unethical to force people to donate body parts, but we all know that desperation and unchecked greed can get quickly around that. A dictatorship might require its citizens to donate organs and body parts, both while living and when dead.

Women have sold their hair for centuries.  There are already people who legally sell their blood. I read about one guy whose blood is so rare that he is able to make a living from the few pints he donates each month. Certainly it is an element of the body that regenerates itself, but still, he is selling something of himself. I recall reading about obese people who after having gastric bypass lose hundreds of pounds and need surgery to remove excess skin. This skin is now proving valuable for research and for use by burn victims. But, should such a person sell his skin? What about criminals and people on death row? Can they donate organs and if so does this not create a conflict whereby the state might be more inclined to execute people when the organs have monetary value or are intended for some important personage?

My thoughts about all this just ramble on and on. I have nightmares of a Wheel of Fortune or Price is Right type game show wherein a spin of a wheel will bring wellbeing to some, a fortune to others, and dissection to losers.

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Some say that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be banned from receiving holy communion.  Others say that they should also be excommunicated.  Those who have abortions and those who immediately facilitate such abortions are already automatically excommunicated (if aware of the censure).  The difficulty with politicians and even with voters is “remote” cooperation.  Some bishops demand and others only ask that such politicians not come forward to receive the sacrament.  There seems to be little effort at dialogue or compromise between the majority of bishops with groups like the American Life League and Human Life International.  (This has created a real strain between bishops, orthodox and liberal, with some of our most faithful pro-life Catholics, particularly committed teens.  Other voices remain apologists for pro-abortion politicians, contending that pro-life hardliners do not understanding all the ins-and-outs of politics.  Pro-abortion and pro-infanticide politicians are sometimes given the mask of a pro-life stand because of efforts for the poor or against the death penalty and war.  This post is a response that I made to a recent comment on this matter:


I am no authority on the Healthy Start program. And that is why all of us must be extremely careful before we start calling for other people to be denied communion. As Catholics, we can agree the act of aborting a baby is morally wrong. And Catholics are blessed that our bishops, pastors and many lay faithful have been strong voices for public policies in support of this moral principle. But excommunicating people who do not have have exactly the same stance as we have, unless we are prefectly informed as to the working of politics and public policy AND pefectly informed as to their conscience and motivation for their actions, is misguided.

To be honest, Father, I find your position to be that you are against abortion unless it threatens you with a tax increase. I find a lot of other “pro-life” Republicans to be the same way. But that is my judgement based on your statements. As a voter, I am free to not vote for you based on this judgement. But it would be wrong for me to try to deny you the sacraments.


Dear Katherine, are you sure you have read what I wrote here? You state: “I find your position to be that you are against abortion unless it threatens you with a tax increase.” Excuse me? Read it more closely. Did you review my pages of analysis on EVANGELIUM VITAE? How can I put it more succinctly? Maybe this– tax exemptions be damned! The tax issue is an overused threat that Democrat politicians use against the Church on such issues as abortion and homosexuality. However, when it comes to fighting racism or violence or poverty; they are quick to demand that the Church come onboard. They want to tell the Church her business, but will accept no criticism themselves. They are bought and paid for by Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

The Church already denies communion to non-Catholics and to those in bad marriages. The law of the Church says that those guilty of gross heresy and scandal can also be denied the sacrament. The pro-abortion position is a violation at the heart of the Gospel of Life. Even bishops who do not publish a list of names regarding those banned from holy communion still seek to educate them and request that they do not receive. They have been put on notice, the problem is that they mock the bishops and Pope by coming up anyway. Their pro-abortion stand spurns the basic meaning of the incarnation and the value that God gives every human life as incommensurate. A politician or leader supporting abortion on demand is bad enough; what the Church is arguing upon in this instance is that Catholics cannot do so and remain in good standing with the faith. The pro-abortion position signifies, in a sense, affiliation with another religion– one more orientated toward the primacy of man and selfishness than to God and sacrifice. In ancient days, the distinction was the same although the contrast was with man-made idols exhibiting a hunger for human blood.

Your comment possesses a fatal error, the assumption that one can be personally opposed to abortion and yet remain an enabler for abortion. Actions often do speak louder than words, especially in the matter of murdering human beings. Such reasoning is not new. Mussolini was a tyrant who murdered many who opposed him, but his apologists argued that at least he insured the trains ran on time. Hitler ordered the extermination of six million Jews, but supporters praised him for resolving the housing crisis. If either of these men had practiced his Catholicism, would not the denial of communion be the least we could do? By the way, membership in German National Socialism was eventually judged as grounds for excommunication. The debate in American circles revolves around individuals. No one has yet seriously suggested that the entire Democrat party and some Republicans should be so censured.

While the Catholics in public office should be informed, you insist that it is more important that the Church should be under their formation. This is not only misguided but is a direct repudiation of Pope Benedict XVI. Every night I pray the children’s prayer to my guardian angel. I pray that should I die before I wake that he will take my soul to God in heaven. But look at what you argue. It is bad enough that people should bargain away their souls to the devil; but you would have us sell our souls to pro-abortion Democrats! Sorry, but you are the one sorely misguided and I will pray that the Gospel and the teachings of the Holy Father will make some real impact with you.

It is not enough to say that you are pro-life and then to support and vote for those who insure the holocaust of innocent children in our land. You say you are pro-life, what do you do to show it? Do you march each January in Washington, enduring the cold and snow, and do you lobby our representatives afterwards? Do you attend right to life prayer vigils? Do you volunteer at the local pregnancy crisis center? Or do you just make excuses for those who support the killing of children?

When you think about abortion, is our sympathy reserved to the women or do we also ponder the child in the womb? Do we imagine Christ as that child? Abortion is an echo of the ancient rebuttal, “There is no room in the Inn! Go away!” It is Herod the elder sending out his soldiers to kill the newborn King!  Have we made a place for this child in our community and in our hearts? Do we grieve and remember the millions of children who are left faceless except for the face of Christ? They have no voice other than our voices!

This is an issue that goes beyond religion and yet one that religion cannot avoid. Any compromise results in the destruction of innocent children. Do you not fear God? And you think for me it comes down to tax-exemption? Bah! I want to save my soul! Do you not love the Lord and his children who will probably see his face?

These are questions we all have to ask ourselves. Where do our allegiances rest?

Treating the collaborators of such terror in the womb as good and faithful Catholics is blasphemy to the sacrament and a scandal to those who remain faithful to Jesus and the truth. Excommunication is a censure that the Church can impose, either automatically or through direct action. However, what these politicians should most reflect upon is the state of their souls. Murder is the matter of mortal sin. And many of us have blood on our hands!

Vote for whom you pleeeeease, but do not presume to orchestrate the Church regarding her sacraments. Archbishop Burke has courageously taken the stand that I believe best reflects the teachings of Christ. However, do not think that the many other bishops have done these pro-death politicians and their supporters any favors. Remember, the same sacrament that brings life and salvation to one can bring spiritual death and judgment to others. The Eucharist heals but it also convicts us of our sins!

I would like to add a few more reflections.  The old order of Mass used to have the priest say with the distribution of holy communion:  “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting.  Amen.”  My personal reservation as a pastor of souls, is that to give the sacrament to those who are staunchly in the pro-abortion camp, is in fact if not in word to say, “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ damn your soul unto death eternal.  Amen.”  Unworthy reception is itself a mortal sin.  I desperately do not want to be a part of that.  Critics might say that it is their own fault, but do we not have an obligation to offer them correction and to fight for their souls?  While largely denied other men, every priest as a confessor able to offer absolution is defined by the Church as a judge of individual souls and sinfulness.  He can grant God’s mercy or withhold it if the penitent is not properly disposed.  I see a similar situation with holy communion, although the local bishop has an over-riding role.  Most priests today also have the authority to lift the censure of excommunication for abortion, but again the subject must be contrite and desire to make a true amendment of life.  If the local bishop were to excommunicate people by name, then only he or the Pope could lift such a censure. 


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Eighteen dissenting Catholic politicians issued a statement of rebuke to the Pope on May 10 in regard to his statement in Mexico where he warned elected Catholic officials that holding the pro-abortion stance risks excommunication and the loss of holy communion.

They asserted,

“The fact is that religious sanction in the political arena directly conflicts with our fundamental beliefs about the role and responsibility of democratic representatives in a pluralistic America—it also clashes with freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution. Such notions offend the very nature of the American experiment and do a great disservice to the centuries of good work the Church has done.”

Of course, freedom is not license and no one has the right to take the lives of the innocent. Our rights do not override the child’s right to life. Sin and evil bring bondage. True freedom seeks the good. It means to live according to our nature and to respect the rights and freedoms of others, including the most marginalized, those who have no voice of their own. Man is not the measure of his own freedom. The believer knows, and the Declaration of Independence reaffirms, that everything we have is a gift of the Creator. Life and liberty are a package deal that must be respected and kept in proper relationship.

What caused the response from dissenting Catholic lawmakers? The Pope was questioned about Mexican Church leaders who were talking about excommunicating poilticians who voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City. It is said that a light in the shape of a fetus appeared upon the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the very time of the vote. It is the great pro-life icon that appeared on a peasant’s tilma centuries ago with the image of a pregnant Virgin Mary. Pagan human and child sacrifice was soon brougtht to an end in that part of the world.

The Pope responded:

“Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon (Church) law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ. They (Mexican Church leaders) did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church… which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment (of life)…Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation. We in the Church have a great struggle to defend life…life is a gift not a threat.”

Here is the list of dishonor and shame, those who compromise the faith and betray the Gospel of Life proclaimed by Jesus Christ. The real issue is not a disagreement with the Pope, but with almighty God.  Here are 17 of the 18 names:

  • Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut (2262 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515)
  • Joe Baca of California (1527 Longworth House Off. Bldg., Washington, D.C. 20515-0542)
  • Joe Courtney of Connecticut (215 Cannon House Office Building, Washington , DC 20515)
  • Anna Eshoo of California (205 Cannon Building, Washington, D.C. 20515)
  • Maurice Hinchey of New York (2431 Rayburn H.O.B., Washington, DC 20515)
  • Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island (407 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515)
  • James Langevin of Rhode Island (109 Cannon House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515)
  • John Larson of Connecticut (1005 Longworth HOB, Washington, D.C. 20515)
  • Carolyn McCarthy of New York (106 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515)
  • Betty McCollum of Montana (1714 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515)
  • Jim Moran of Virginia (2239 Rayburn Building, Washington, DC 20515)
  • Bill Pascrell of New Jersey (2464 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515)
  • Tim Ryan of Ohio (1421 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515)
  • Linda Sanchez of California (1222 Longworth Building, Washington, DC 20515)
  • José Serrano of New York (2227 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515-3216)
  • Hilda Solis of California (1414 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515)
  • Mike Thompson of California (231 Cannon Office Building, Washington, DC 20515)


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Saint Joan of Arc Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota substituted a children’s message from the United Nations for the Scriptures. The first reading on May 20 was this:

“We are not the sources of problems; We are the resources that are needed to solve them. We are not expenses; We are investments. We are not just young people; We are people and citizens of this world. You call us the future, But we are also the present.”

Hum, it is a cute secular message, but I could not imagine replacing the Word of God with the Word of the UN. It appears that sometimes the laity are the ones who give the religious message at Masses. Their bulletin this week says that the pagan Gyuto Monks Tibetan Tantric Choir would be chanting at all liturgies this past weekend. Song is worship, so I suppose here is another instance of false worship in a Catholic setting. As I read their site, they seem to break a lot of the rules and even seem to condone homosexual activity and same-sex adoption. Is this place for real? I would think the bishop would shut them down.

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A month ago Francis Beckwith, head of the Evangelical Theological Society and a professor at Baylor University was received into the Catholic Church. He rightly resigned from the ETS which is a Protestant organization with an official “Bible-Alone” theology about revelation, despite the Evangelical rediscovery of the Church fathers.


He is not the first important Evangelical to come into Catholicism. Thomas Howard back in 1985 did the same. Similarly, he was a graduate of Wheaton College, the top Evangelical school.


Joshua Hochschild was terminated as an instructor at Wheaton after his coming to Catholicism (actually his return) in 2006.


Scott Hahn has put out a series of tapes and books since his conversion and is now an associate professor at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.


His best friend, Gerry Matatics, also entered the Church; however, he has since affiliated himself alternately with the Feenynites and then the sedevacantists.


(Some argue that Matatics went too far in his traditionalism or move to the right; I tend to think that in methodology he did not go far enough. He “seems” to read Church documents and encyclicals as they would the Scriptures according to a Protestant manner of “private or personal” interpretation and in a literal or fundamentalist way. But such documents, like the Bible, belong to the Church and one must not usurp the living Mother Church in her rightful role of reading and interpreting her own documents. In other words, the Magisterium has final word in interpreting magisterial teachings, not the laity nor renegade clergy.)

It must be said that contemporary dialogue and social interaction with Protestant Evangelicals has been impressive. Critics abound, but even the late Pope John Paul II admitted that there seemed to be an invisible Church in our age that connected believers across the lines of denominational affiliation. Conservative Catholics and Evangelical Protestants shared many important beliefs even as the tension and disconnect seemed to grow with Liberal Catholics, particularly on moral issues. It must be said that it has been an intellectual kinship and a profound respect for Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI that has fueled the movement of dozens of important and well-educated Protestants and Evangelicals into Catholicism. This gives Catholics a sense of hope and maybe pride, but we have to remember that few people come to or go away from Rome for intellectual reasons. Most converts come to the Church these days because of marriage with a Catholic and, unfortunately, many abandon the Church also because of matters of the heart, particularly divorce and remarriage. Catholicism takes some heavy stands, a fact that attracts a few and repels many more.

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