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Archive for March, 2010

Hosanna to the Son of David

It was the month of Nisan.  The Book of Exodus ordered that in this month the Paschal Lamb was to be selected, and four days later was to be taken to the place where it was to be sacrificed.  On Palm Sunday, the Lamb was chosen by popular acclaim in Jerusalem; on Good Friday He was sacrificed.

As one looks in the ancient sculptured slabs of Assyria and Babylon, the murals of Egypt, the tombs of the Persians, and the scrolls of the Roman columns, one is struck by the majesty of kings riding in triumph on horses or chariots, and sometimes over the prostrate bodies of their foes.  In contrast to this, here is One Who comes triumphant upon an ass.  How Pilate, if he was looking out of his fortress that Sunday, must have been amused by the ridiculous spectacle of a man being proclaimed as a King, and yet seated on the beast that was the symbol of the outcast–a fitting vehicle for one riding into the jaws of death!

The acclaim of the people was another acknowledgment of His Divinity.  Many took off their garments and spread them before Him; others cut down boughs from the olive trees and palm branches and strewed them on the way.  The Apocalypse speaks of a great multitude standing before the Throne of the Lamb with palms of victory in their hands.  Here the palms, so often used throughout their history to signify victory, as when Simon Maccabeus entered Jerusalem, witnessed to His victory–even before He was momentarily vanquished.
+Fulton Sheen from The Life of Christ


Solemnity of the Annunciation…Life Begins at Conception

In the liturgical year, the conception of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary is celebrated on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord.  Nine months later, on December 25, we celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  The baby conceived on March 25 is the same baby born on December 25.  His name is Jesus from the first moment of his conception, as we all know.
Cardinal Francis George, OMI (link)

“Children have the right to be conceived, … brought into the world and brought up within marriage. In societies with a noble tradition of defending the rights of all their members, one would expect this fundamental right of children to be given priority over any supposed right of adults to impose on them alternative models of family life and certainly over any supposed right to abortion. Since the family is ‘the first and indispensable teacher of peace’, the most reliable promoter of social cohesion and the best school of the virtues of good citizenship, it is in the interests of all, and especially of governments, to defend and promote stable family life”.
Pope Benedict XVI to Scandinavian Bishops (25 March 2010)


Bishop Tobin’s Pastoral Response to Catholic RI Gubernatorial Candidates

The Bishop of Providence, Thomas Tobin, has not shied away from defending Catholic beliefs in calling out Catholic politicians or weighing in on controversial issues such as immigration and “homosexual marriage”.  His strong response to Congressman Kennedy’s misguided attack on the Church’s moral authority landed him in the national spotlight, making news headlines and television appearances.  He has frequently stated that professing to be Catholic means something and requires something from those who call themselves Catholic.

On March 4th supporters of same-sex marriage held a rally at the Rhode Island statehouse.  Present on the podium were four of the five current candidates for governor, two of whom profess to be Catholic (and pro-choice as well).  First to take the mic was State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio who said,  “As governor I will sign the marriage-equality bill. I also will work with the legislature to see that it gets through the legislature.”  Next, Patrick Lynch, RI Attorney General, said he “would quickly put pen to paper” and sign a marriage-equality bill, and would veto a bill that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

Bishop Tobin responded in a statement, “It is extremely disappointing to see Catholic politicians abandon their faith for the sake of political expediency.  I would hope that as candidates and office holders, they would be able to support traditional, moral values such as the recognition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. I am hopeful that they will reconsider their position.”

The Rhode Island Catholic has links to copies of the letters Bishop Tobin sent to both Catholic candidates.  The text is below [my emphasis]:

I am writing to express my profound disappointment that you participated in the recent rally at the State House and there publicly pledged to sign a bill allowing “homosexual marriage” in the State of Rhode Island should you be elected Governor.

From a practical point of view, your pledge to sign such legislation -without even knowing any of the details of the eventual legislation -is very puzzling. You’ve now put yourself in a box – pledged to sign legislation, even if the legislation that eventually emerges is seriously flawed or unacceptable for practical reasons. I wonder if you would make a similar pledge for any other piece of hypothetical legislation.

The greater concern for me, of course, is that your willingness to support -even promote- “homosexual marriage” is contrary to the obligations of the Catholic Faith you profess. The teachings of the Church on this matter have been clear and consistent.

While the Church strongly affirms and defends the human dignity and human rights of homosexual persons as beloved children of God and our brothers and sisters, the Church also teaches that homosexual activity is unnatural and immoral, a sin against human dignity and a grave offense to Almighty God. This teaching is based on the natural moral law, the Holy Scriptures and the constant tradition of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit.

The concept of so-called “gay marriage” is offensive because it amounts to public acceptance of and endorsement of immoral homosexual activity and is a blatant attempt to redefine the sacred institution of marriage as a union of one man and one woman. This traditional definition of marriage is not of human origin. It was designed by God and has been unquestioned in every culture and society from the very beginning of the human family.

I need to remind you that Catholic political leaders are not exempt from the obligations of their faith, any more than members of any other profession are exempt from their faith. Your Catholic Faith is not a private matter -to be authentic it must inform every aspect of your personal and public life. You cannot profess to be a Catholic on Sunday and then set out to promote immoral activities the rest of the week. To consider your faith a private matter without any impact on your professional life is clearly inconsistent with the teachings of Christ who taught His disciples to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” (Mt. 5: 13-14)

As your bishop I am concerned primarily for your spiritual well-being and for that reason I am obliged to remind you that your public support of “homosexual marriage” creates a grave spiritual danger for you. Someday you will stand face-to-face before the judgment seat of God and have to explain why you publicly promoted immoral sexual activity, scandalized the community and contributed to the erosion of Holy Matrimony and family life.

Lent is a time of spiritual renewal, repentance and reconciliation. In the spirit of this holy season, therefore, I plead with you to reflect upon and reconsider your stance on “homosexual marriage.” As always, I am available to discuss this matter with you personally, and I take this opportunity to extend to you and your family my prayers and blessings.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin
Bishop of Providence


Happy St. Patrick’s Day


Sacrificing Health Care for Abortion

If President Obama and the Congressional leadership truly wanted health care reform, they would maintain the 33 year precedent of not forcing those who do not agree with abortion to pay for it with their tax dollars.  If they respected the consciences of individuals and truly sought common ground, health care would now be law.  But they see an opportunity–perhaps their only one–to expand and solidify into law what they perceive to be an absolute right, abortion.  The following article is an excellent analysis:

Throwing the Bathwater Out With the Baby?
by Pat Archbold

In all the discussion about whip counts it is easy to lose sight of what really counts and what the health care debate is really all about.  It should come as little surprise that this is all about abortion, or more specifically about the federal funding of abortion.

However, conversely to what the media would have you believe, it is not primarily about Bart Stupak and a handful of pro-life Democrats holding up health-care reform.  Rather, it is about the leadership of the Democrat party’s willingness to sacrifice their electoral livelihoods and/or health-care “reform” in order to make sure abortion is covered.

The real truth is that if health-care reform were the true overriding objective of President Obama and the Democrat leadership in Congress, then they could have passed this bill months ago.  Instead, Democrats in the Senate refused to compromise on keeping the status quo—an over three decade prohibition on federal funds for abortion. If they had crafted language similar to the Stupak amendment in the House, which merely reflects the status quo, Obamacare would now be the law of the land.

They refused.  Now again in the House, Nancy Pelosi has struggled for months to find votes for the bill.  Even now, the Democrat leadership would rather risk their careers and blatantly violate the Constitution rather than give in on abortion and the Stupak language.  This gives proof to the lie that Obamacare does not change current law on abortion and makes inexplicable the willingness of some Catholics to blindly accept this falsehood.

This bill is all about funding abortion. The Democrats understand that this may be the one chance in the next decade to get this done and they will not sacrifice it.  They will sacrifice the Constitution and their own jobs, but not federally funded abortion.

I am not the only one who thinks so.  Bart Stupak appeared on Greta Van Susteren’s show last night and stated that the Democrats know this is their opportunity.  The Democrats have made clear they intend to throw out the baby, the only question is whether they are willing to throw out the bathwater to do it.  It seems the answer is yes.


Death by a Thousand Papercuts

You can shout that it is “40 year old news” or “nothing we haven’t heard before”.  You can complain about anti-Catholic bigotry by the New York Times because Catholic scandal is a page one story but they didn’t report about the Orthodox Rabbi in New York who was convicted this past week of 10 counts of child molestation.  You can cite statistics that show the vast majority of child sexual abuse happens within families or by non-celibate, heterosexual men.  You can qualify terms by identifying the majority of sexual abusers as ephebophiles, not pedophiles, since most victims were post-pubescent.  Why all of these may be true, they only succeed in making the Church appear as though it is deflecting the main issue or somehow mitigating its offenses.  So how does the Church respond?  Anyone in public relations (and possessing common sense) knows you have to ‘get out in front of the story’.

Why didn’t the bishops in Europe and throughout the world learn the difficult lessons their brother bishops in the United States learned beginning in 2002?  Why would they not have immediately begun to draft an equivalent of the Dallas Charter, as imperfect as it is, in their own dioceses?  Did they think they just dodged the bullet?  Naive in thinking there were no instances of sexual crimes among their clergy?  Or worse, were they simply hoping the information would not go public–in other words: covering up.

Shortly after the scandal in Ireland made international headlines, Pope Benedict summoned the bishops of Ireland to the Vatican for a “summit“.  The outcome of this meeting is soon to be published in a pastoral letter from the Holy Father to the people of Ireland.  Who is next?  The Germans?  The Dutch?  We haven’t seen any headlines from Brazil yet…maybe them?  What I believe needs to be done is similar to what the Holy Father did with the prelates of Ireland–but for the entire Church.  Church Councils have been summoned for less of a crisis than this!  Bishops are fairly autonomous in governing their dioceses, and this may explain why responsibility for past crimes does not rest with the Pope.  However, while the sheer number of abusers and abuse cases may be comparatively low in number, there is not a diocese in the world immune.  Therefore the need for a universal response rests with the pope.

George Weigel best analyzed the clergy sexual abuse crisis in his book The Courage to Be Catholic.  In it he stated the cause of the crisis is not celibacy, homosexuality, pedophilia but a crisis in fidelity to Christ.  Amen!  Pope Benedict is attempting to heal the crisis of fidelity through The Year for Priests and Liturgical renewal.  I don’t doubt he had the crisis in mind when he called for the Year for Priests with the theme “Fidelity of Christ, Fidelity of the Priest”.  My fear, however is that unless Pope Benedict universally and publicly addresses this ongoing crisis, the Church will be further damaged over a longer period of time by the trickling stream of scandal and accusations of complicity for many popes to come.


Abp. Chaput on Health Care

The following column by the Archbishop of Denver succinctly articulates–from a Catholic perspective–the deficiencies of the health care legislation as it stands today: 

The following column is scheduled to be published in the March 17, 2010 issue of the Denver Catholic Register.

Catholics, Health Care and the Senate’s bad bill

by Abp. Chaput

The Senate version of health-care reform currently being forced ahead by congressional leaders and the White House is a bad bill that will result in bad law.  It does not deserve, nor does it have, the support of the Catholic bishops of our country.  Nor does the American public want it.  As I write this column on March 14, the Senate bill remains gravely flawed.  It does not meet minimum moral standards in at least three important areas: the exclusion of abortion funding and services; adequate conscience protections for health-care professionals and institutions; and the inclusion of immigrants. 

Groups, trade associations and publications describing themselves as “Catholic” or “prolife” that endorse the Senate version – whatever their intentions – are doing a serious disservice to the nation and to the Church, undermining the witness of the Catholic community; and ensuring the failure of genuine, ethical health-care reform.  By their public actions, they create confusion at exactly the moment Catholics need to think clearly about the remaining issues in the health-care debate.  They also provide the illusion of moral cover for an unethical piece of legislation.

As we enter a critical week in the national health-care debate, Catholics across northern Colorado need to remember a few simple facts.

First, the Catholic bishops of the United States have pressed for real national health-care reform in this country for more than half a century.  They began long before either political party or the public media found it convenient.  That commitment hasn’t changed.  Nor will it.

Second, the bishops have tried earnestly for more than seven months to work with elected officials to craft reform that would serve all Americans in a manner respecting minimum moral standards.  The failure of their effort has one source.  It comes entirely from the stubbornness and evasions of certain key congressional leaders, and the unwillingness of the White House to honor promises made by the president last September.

Third, the health-care reform debate has never been merely a matter of party politics.  Nor is it now.  Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak and a number of his Democratic colleagues have shown extraordinary character in pushing for good health-care reform while resisting attempts to poison it with abortion-related entitlements and other bad ideas that have nothing to do with real “health care.”  Many Republicans share the goal of decent health-care reform, even if their solutions would differ dramatically.  To put it another way, few persons seriously oppose making adequate health services available for all Americans.  But God, or the devil, is in the details — and by that measure, the current Senate version of health-care reform is not merely defective, but also a dangerous mistake.

The long, unpleasant and too often dishonest national health-care debate is now in its last days.  Its most painful feature has been those “Catholic” groups that by their eagerness for some kind of deal undercut the witness of the Catholic community and help advance a bad bill into a bad law. Their flawed judgment could now have damaging consequences for all of us.

Do not be misled.  The Senate version of health-care reform currently being pushed ahead by congressional leaders and the White House — despite public resistance and numerous moral concerns — is bad law; and not simply bad, but dangerous.  It does not deserve, nor does it have, the support of the Catholic bishops in our country, who speak for the believing Catholic community.  In its current content, the Senate version of health-care legislation is not “reform.”  Catholics and other persons of good will concerned about the foundations of human dignity should oppose it.