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Archive for July, 2011

Pope Benedict’s August Prayer Intentions

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VATICAN CITY, 29 JUL 2011 (VIS)

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for August is: “That World Youth Day in Madrid may encourage young people throughout the world to have their lives rooted and built up in Christ”.

His mission intention is: “That Western Christians may be open to the action of the Holy Spirit and rediscover the freshness and enthusiasm of their faith”.
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George Weigel – "Wholesale replacement of the Irish hierarchy"

Shortly after the Murphy Report was issued in November 2009 regarding the egregious Irish abuse scandal, I attended a lecture at Providence College by George Weigel.  When asked by an audience member to comment on the scandal, Weigel didn’t hold back in asserting (in the presence of a bishop) that the Holy Father needs to completely wipe the slate clean by removing every bishop in Ireland and replacing them with American bishops who have experience in the matter.  He remarked that is was Ireland that evangelized the world and now it was time to return the favor.

In the following article posted in NRO, Weigel again calls for the same:

Erin Go Bonkers

While America’s attention has been absorbed in recent weeks by domestic affairs, something quite remarkable has become unmistakably clear across the Atlantic: Ireland — where the constitution begins, “In the name of the Most Holy Trinity” —  has become the most stridently anti-Catholic country in the Western world.

Its Taoiseach (prime minister), Enda Kenny, recently took to the floor of the Dáil to denounce the Vatican as a house of “dysfunction, disconnection, elitism . . . [and] narcissism” and to commit an act of calumny against Pope Benedict XVI, accusing him of being a party to the coverup of the “rape and torture of children.” Ireland’s attorney general plans to introduce a new law that threatens priests with five-year jail sentences if they do not violate the seal of confession when pedophilia is confessed. Polls indicate considerable support among Irish voters for such an unprecedented violation of religious freedom, and the Irish press has indulged its anti-Church phobias with virtually no restraint.

There can be no doubt that the crisis of clerical sexual abuse — and the parallel crisis of local Catholic leadership that failed to address the problem — has been especially acute in Ireland. Benedict XVI condemned both the abuse and the coverup of abuse in a stinging letter to the entire Church in Ireland 16 months ago, a letter that condemned abusers and their enablers while offering a heartfelt apology to victims. Apostolic visitations of the principal Irish dioceses and seminaries have been undertaken, on Vatican orders, by bishops from the United Stats, Canada, and Great Britain; their reports, one understands, have been blunt and unsparing.

What has not happened, and what ought to happen sooner rather than later, is a wholesale replacement of the Irish hierarchy, coupled with a dramatic reduction in the number of Irish dioceses. Ireland is in desperate need of new and credible Catholic leadership, and some of it may have to be imported: If a native of Ireland could be archbishop of New York in 1850, why couldn’t a native of, say, California be archbishop of Dublin in 2012? The United States and Canada, in particular, have Anglophone bishops who have demonstrated their capacity to clean house and reenergize dioceses evangelically. Thus the Vatican, not ordinarily given to dramatic change, might well consider clearing the Irish bench comprehensively and bringing in bishops, of whatever national origin, who can rebuild the Irish Church by preaching the Gospel without compromise — and who know how to fight the soft totalitarianism of European secularists.

In the wake of Taoiseach Kenny’s hysterical rant in the Dáil, the Vatican recalled its nuncio to Ireland for consultations, a clear sign of displeasure with Irish politicians who, for whatever reasons, deliberately foment anti-Catholic hysteria. Yet as distasteful and irresponsible as Kenny’s attacks were, they underscore the fact that radical changes are needed in the Catholic Church’s leadership in Ireland — now, not at some indeterminate point in the future.

The deeper question that the past several weeks of Catholic-bashing in Ireland has raised — How on earth did this most Catholic of countries become violently anti-Catholic? — touches on the modern history of independent Ireland; serious answers to that question are likely to offer little comfort to either Irish romantics or defenders of the old alliances between Church and state.

Sixty years into the 20th century, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Quebec were among the most intensely Catholic nations on the planet. Fifty years later, Quebec is the most religiously arid space between Point Barrow and Tierra del Fuego; Portuguese Catholicism, outside the pilgrimage shrine of Fatima, is hardly robust; Spain has the most self-consciously secularist government in Europe; and Ireland has now become the epicenter of European anti-Catholicism. What happened?

Perhaps some comparative history and sociology suggest an answer. In each of these cases, the state, through the agency of an authoritarian government, deliberately delayed the nation’s confrontation with modernity. In each of these cases, the Catholic Church was closely allied to state power (or, in the case of Quebec, to the power of the dominant Liberal party). In each of these cases, Catholic intellectual life withered, largely untouched by the mid-20th-century Catholic renaissance in biblical, historical, philosophical, and theological studies that paved the way toward the Second Vatican Council. And in each of these cases, the local Catholicism was highly clerical, with ordination to the priesthood and the episcopate being understood by everyone, clergy and laity alike, as conferring membership in a higher caste.

Then came le déluge: the deluge of Vatican II, the deluge that Europeans refer to as “1968,” and the deluge of the “Quiet Revolution” in la Belle Province. Once breached, the fortifications of Counter-Reformation Catholicism in Spain, Portugal, Quebec, and Ireland quickly crumbled. And absent the intellectual resources to resist the flood-tides of secularism, these four once-hyper-Catholic nations flipped, undergoing an accelerated course of radical secularization that has now, in each case, given birth to a serious problem of Christophobia: not mere indifference to the Church, but active hostility to it, not infrequently manifested through coercive state power.

This, then, is the blunt fact that must be faced by bishops, priests, and lay Catholics who want to build the Church of Vatican II, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI — the Church of a New Evangelization — out of the wreckage of the recent Irish past: In Ireland, as in the other three cases, the Church’s close relationship with secular power reinforced internal patterns of clericalism and irresponsibility that put young people at risk, that impeded the proclamation of the Gospel, and that made the Church in these places easy prey for the secularist cultural (and political) wolves, once they emerged on the scene.

And that is why the leadership that Catholic Ireland needs may have to be imported, at least in part. Men of indisputable integrity and evangelical passion who have no linkage to this sad, and in some instances tawdry, history are needed to lead the Irish Catholic reform for which Benedict XVI has called. I know no serious observer of the Irish Catholic scene, anywhere, who disputes the necessity of clearing the current bench of bishops; I also know no one who thinks that a reconfigured Irish episcopate, even one leading fewer dioceses, can be drawn entirely from the resident clergy of Ireland today. This may be one factor leading to the current languid pace in reforming the Irish hierarchy; and that lassitude is what gave Taoiseach Kenny the opening for his latest rabid attack on the Church, the Holy See, and the Pope. All the more reason, then, to make the reform of the Church in Ireland truly radical by looking outside Ireland for men capable of helping lead this once-great Church back to evangelical health.

— George Weigel is distinguished senior fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.


George Weigel on the Appointment of Abp. Chaput to Philly

Rise of the Evangelical Catholic Bishops
Gospel without compromise, joyfully lived, replaces Catholic Lite.

from NRO

When Pope Benedict XVI appointed the archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M.Cap., as the new archbishop of Philadelphia on July 19, the usual suspects were trotted out to say the usual things that the usual suspects say.

Thus David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, continued his nine-year rant against the Catholic Church by pronouncing Chaput’s record on abuse (which virtually everyone else finds admirable) “dismal.” But then David Clohessy would likely have found St. John Chrysostom, St. Charles Borromeo, or Chaput’s 19th-century predecessor in Philadelphia, St. John Neumann, “dismal,” because if you’re the New York Times’s go-to guy for anti-Catholic-hierarchy sexual-abuse soundbites, that’s what you say. As for Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., the former editor of America magazine made his own priorities rather clear in fretting to the Philadelphia Inquirer that Chaput would “be a real pain in the neck for the Democratic Party.” (Bob Casey the Less, you have been warned!)

Just about every story on the Chaput appointment identified the archbishop as a “conservative” (because he believes and teaches as true what the Catholic Church believes and teaches to be true); just about every story claimed that Chaput was a tough guy when it came to holding Catholic politicians accountable for their votes on abortion and the nature of marriage (while completely missing the fact that Chaput had consistently made genuinely public arguments, not uniquely Catholic theological claims, about the inalienable right to life and marriage rightly understood); and of course every story emphasized abuse, abuse, abuse (as if this were the only reality of Catholic life in America).

All of this is tiresome, if wholly predictable; both its tediousness and its predictability help explain why it’s the rare discerning reader who turns to the mainstream media for serious reportage about and analysis of the Catholic Church. In this case, however, the same-old-same-old also obscured what is truly important about the Chaput appointment — which is not the archbishop’s Potawatomi ancestry (interesting as that is) but his place as one of the most vigorous exponents of what might be called Evangelical Catholicism.

Archbishop Chaput put it best himself in an exclusive interview with Catholic News Agency: “The biggest challenge, not just in Philadelphia but everywhere, is to preach the Gospel. . . . We need to have confidence in the Gospel, we have to live it faithfully, and to live it without compromise and with great joy.”

That formulation — the Gospel without compromise, joyfully lived — captures the essence of the Evangelical Catholicism that is slowly but steadily replacing Counter-Reformation Catholicism in the United States. The usual suspects are living in an old Catholic paradigm: They’re stuck in the Counter-Reformation Church of institutional maintenance; they simply want an institution they can run with looser rules, closely aligned with the Democratic party on the political left — which is precisely why they’re of interest to their media megaphones. Archbishop Chaput, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, and other rising leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States are operating out of a very different paradigm — and in doing so, they’re the true heirs of both the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II.

The Council put the Gospel and its proclamation at the center of Catholic life. John Paul II, in his apostolic letter published at the end of the Great Jubilee of 2000, challenged the entire Church to leave the stagnant shallows of institutional maintenance and put out into the deep waters of post-modernity, preaching Jesus Christ as the answer to the question that is every human life. In his 1991 encyclical Redemptoris Missio [The Mission of the Redeemer], John Paul insisted that the Church doesn’t have a mission, as if “mission” were one among a dozen things the Catholic Church does. No, John Paul taught, the Church is a mission, such that everything and everyone in the Church ought to be measured by what the management types would call mission-effectiveness.

The old warhorses of the post–Vatican II debates, on either end of the Catholic spectrum, don’t get this; they’re still mud-wrestling within the old paradigm. But Archbishop Charles Chaput gets it, big time. That, and the effective work of his predecessor, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, is what has made the archdiocese of Denver what is arguably the model Evangelical Catholic diocese in the country: a Church brimming with excitement over the adventure of the Gospel, a Church attracting some of the sharpest young Catholics in America to its services, a Church fully engaged in public life while making genuinely public arguments about the first principles of democracy.

This is the vision that Archbishop Chaput is bringing to Philadelphia, and it has virtually nothing to do with “agendas” as the usual suspects understand agendas. Of course that vision includes addressing serious problems of sexual abuse. The old clericalism that protected perpetrators in various dioceses created serious legal problems for the institutional Church; but it was also, and even more importantly from an evangelical point of view, a terrible impediment to preaching the Gospel and attracting people to friendship with Jesus Christ. It’s his palpable commitment to the latter — to the project of unapologetic evangelism — that will give Archbishop Chaput credibility in cleaning up what needs cleaning up and in healing what can be healed in Philadelphia.

And this is something else the usual suspects miss. The usual suspects’ answer to clerical sexual abuse has been, is, and seems likely to remain the transformation of Catholicism into Catholic Lite. But in situation after situation — Phoenix and Denver being two prime examples — it’s been the Gospel without compromise, joyfully lived, that has turned abuse disaster areas into vibrant Catholic centers where public confidence in the Church’s credibility has been restored. Where Catholic Lite has been adopted as the solution to the problems Catholic Lite helped cause — as in Boston — the meltdown that began in 2002 continues.

With the appointment of Charles J. Chaput as archbishop of Philadelphia, the deep reform of the Catholic Church in the United States — the reform that is giving birth to Evangelical Catholicism even as it leaves the old post–Vatican II arguments fading into the rear-view mirror — has been accelerated.

— George Weigel is distinguished senior fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. His weekly column, “The Catholic Difference,” is syndicated by the archdiocese of Denver.


Moral Capital: Strong Fathers = Strong Families = Strong Societies

From the politically incorrect but always sensible Anthony Esolen, a Providence College (PC…the irony) prof I’d love to meet.  Unless you’re rich, you don’t have the luxury to dabble in non-traditional gender roles, college isn’t for everyone, raise manly boys and girly girls with virtue, and society depends on the strength of fathers and the family.
From Crisis Magazine:

Moral Capital

Anthony Esolen
Let us suppose we are looking at people who are not going to Yale or Harvard, or even to the local state university. First, they can’t afford it, and second, they lack the capacity to immerse themselves in absurdity for the sake of a few courses here and there that will deepen their understanding of the world, or that will at least help them make a living. They are not going to write papers on Herbert Marcuse and Woodstock. Perhaps their intelligence lies elsewhere. Or perhaps their backs and their arms are stronger than their minds. What capital can we give them to help set them up in life?

Currently, we don’t give them any at all. We flush many billions of dollars into higher education, often of very dubious quality, so that our “best” students can afford to go to college. The colleges themselves count on that money, floating their sticker prices upward to take it all in. State schools milk the population quite well, taking in many thousands of students who have developed neither manual nor intellectual skills, squeezing them for what they are worth, and conferring upon them degrees that mean little more than that the graduate usually shows up to work on time and follows directions.

The net result, as I see it, is twofold. First, a skilled working man — let’s say a carpenter who has learned his trade well and has worked hard, who has a child with the intellectual capacity to attend one of the elite colleges — will be less able to afford it now than in 1940, when four years’ tuition at Harvard cost one and a half years of the national median household income. Second, that same man, if he does not have a child capable of going to one of those schools, will be rifled for all he is worth to send his children to lower-tier schools, or will watch helplessly as the children flit from service job to service job.

Again I ask, what capital can we give to people who are not going to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, stock brokers, or business executives? Maybe I could put it this way instead: What capital of theirs have we rifled these last several generations?

I call to mind here my grandfathers, who were hard workers but not saints, not by a long shot. One worked for 15 years in the coal mines. That was brutally hard and dangerous work. Imagine swinging a pickax against a wall for nine hours a day, when the ceiling is so low you can’t straighten up. Then, one day, he couldn’t take it anymore. He had a nervous breakdown. He would collapse if he were away from his home for even a day. By then, he was well on his way toward middle age, and he and his wife had three boys and three girls. The state took pity on him and considered him permanently disabled. So they received a monthly check.

It wasn’t much. They lived poor enough — but they did not live in squalor. For poverty is one thing, and squalor is another. You’re poor when you don’t have money, but you’re squalid when you don’t have any decency, and that is primarily a moral condition, not a material one. They kept clean by taking the weekly bath, with hot water poured from buckets into a metal tub. The privy was outside. Each child had one or two changes of clothes, handed down from one to the next. My grandmother cooked and washed constantly. That meant scrubbing the clothes on a washboard, wringing them out, and hanging them to dry on the line, just as all the neighbor wives did. It also meant trooping up the hill to the coop every so often, grabbing a chicken, cracking its neck, and plucking out all the feathers, to get it ready for soup.

My grandfather should never have been a coal miner. He should have been a farmer. He didn’t stay idle at home. The house came with a sizable piece of property, so he cut it into terraces, just as they did in Calabria, where he was a boy, and he farmed it. He once told me that he could put a seed in the ground and spit on it, and it would grow. He tended that land, his garden, as well as any piece of land could be tended. They got from it all the vegetables they needed: beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, corn, zucchini. They got plums, apples, peaches, and grapes. They got figs from a fig tree that had no business surviving so far north. They got eggs and chickens, and I believe he kept a pig or two for a while. They made do.

They had the advantage then, too, of no television, and so there was still a considerable sense of community. They knew all their neighbors. In fact, they knew their neighbors across the generations. That meant that they were never really alone. Italian was spoken up and down the street, though my grandfather did not want his children to speak it, and as they grew older they forgot what little they ever knew. When it came time to build a house, the men of the neighborhood would get together to do that. My grandfather himself had built the house his family lived in.

But there was much more. Here I dearly wish that Catholics would actually read the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, rather than rely upon commentators who reduce them to a single political position, as for instance that workers have the right to form unions. For Leo’s social vision was an intricate and coherent whole, with the church and the family at the heart of it. The family, he saw, was itself a society, with its own duties and rights, and its own sphere of governance, with the father as the head. He wrote quite movingly about the dignity of the wife and the mutual love that characterizes a true Christian marriage. But a society needs a head, and without any sense of being controversial, as at that time he was not, he affirmed that the head was the father. He saw, too, that the growing ambitions of the state — he was thinking particularly about socialism in its various forms — came at the expense of the father. That is, he saw that to weaken the father is to weaken the family, and that weak families are exactly what the enlightened wanted. And this has not changed.

But my grandfather, as debilitated as he was in his spirit, was not a weak father. He might have been too stern in his bearing; he grew up believing that it was not a father’s place to be overly affectionate with his children, that he would lose their respect, and that that would hurt the children in the end. I don’t believe he was right about that, but that is what both he and his wife took for granted. But he did more than tell his children he loved them: He did love them. He made sure that they grew up respectful of their elders. He made sure that they worked hard. The girls did not fall backward into shamelessness. The boys did not get other people’s daughters pregnant. They did not cheat or lie or steal, or even use foul language. My grandfather — one of those old Italian men with a great respect for religion, though he did not himself often attend Mass — made sure that they all went to church, the boys included.

They had, you see, a great fund of moral capital. All the children worked when they were old enough for it. All the money, too, went back to the family. Even when my mother was engaged, she worked as a seamstress in one of the many local dress factories and gave her whole paycheck to her parents. The boys lent themselves out in the summer as seasonal farm workers. All three of them entered the service, one of them lying about his age to try to enlist at the end of the Second World War. All six children were married, without any out of wedlock births, and without divorces. All six, with some straying here and there, remained in the Church. All had families that thrived in a material way, at least. All of them ended up living within a half mile of their parents. When their parents needed the house painted, the boys were there to do it. Same thing with paving the driveway, installing pipes for plumbing, and putting siding over the old asphalt shingles. They wanted for nothing. And the 19 grandchildren were at that house constantly, eating homemade cookies and pie, watching television, or playing in the backyard. Their stricture against showing affection didn’t apply to grandchildren, so we were made much of.

My grandmother was a saint. I could write a great deal about her unfailing charity and her cheerful deference to a man who was often difficult to get along with. I mean to take nothing from her when I say that she couldn’t have raised those children without him there as the head of the family. The boys were physically strong and active; the girls were stubborn. They would have been unmanageable if she had been alone. But she wasn’t alone: He was there, powerfully built and remarkably intelligent — he with his second-grade education could put many of my students to shame, with his general knowledge of the world. He and she made that family into a society that spanned several generations.

Through their example, we can see that the main fund of capital for people whose children are not going to be doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs is moral. Now let us see how the well-to-do rob them of it.

The first thing to do is to cripple the family. That can be done most quickly by crippling the father, or removing him altogether. How do we accomplish that? We take aim at his authority. We say, for a while, that we merely wish that the marriage be egalitarian; but what we really want is that it should be egalitarian and weak. It’s not as if we are going to take some of the authority of the father and lend it to the mother. For the secret is that a good and strong father — not a patsy, and not a tyrant — enhances the authority of his wife, and a weak or absent father compromises it or destroys it altogether. So we look kindly upon single motherhood and invade the woman’s home with social workers. We embrace feminism. That always was a revolt of some women against other women: in our day, mainly well-to-do women, college graduates, against women whose husbands are not professionals and who might actually wish to raise their own children at home, with neither monetary assistance nor moral interference from the state.

I am thinking now of a family I know. The father is a manual laborer of considerable talent. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t go to the casino, and doesn’t sleep around. He works hard when he comes home, too, so the back yard is now half vegetable garden, half park. The children are bright but not the right fit for college. If this were a sane world, if the elites had not polluted the moral watershed upstream, there would be order in this household. That is, the family would exist as a zone of authority and law-abiding in its own right, and it would span the generations. It would not be truncated by divorces and made chaotic with out-of-wedlock births. The sons and daughters would be preparing themselves, in a clear and coherent way, for assuming the duties of fathers and mothers. It would resemble the family of my grandparents.

But though the mother and father are genuinely good people, they have no moral capital. It has been rifled. They cannot depend upon the local school to preach such difficult virtues as chastity, manly courage, and piety. The school preaches quite the opposite. The television is an open sewer. The local drug stores peddle porn. The churches have capitulated and preach niceness rather than holiness; and people, bored with niceness, turn instead to what is neither nice nor holy, but simply material — riches, if they can get them, and sexual thrills, in any case.

After we’ve crippled the family with no-fault divorce, easy sex, smiling upon unwed motherhood, abortion on demand, and perversion parades — after we have cut its muscles to ribbons, and made it a cringing ward of the state, hurting rich families somewhat, and devastating the poor and the working class — we go after the boys. Back during the potato famine in Ireland, a certain family named Harkins pooled its little money to send one boy, a “likely lad” of 14, alone to the United States, to keep the family alive there. He arrived in New York, worked hard, and raised a family. His grandson became the first bishop of the diocese of Providence and was the founder of the college where I teach.

He and thousands like him built bridges and skyscrapers, mined coal, farmed the land, paved roads, and raised churches, not with money in the collection plate, but with their own hands. Of course they had the inestimable assistance of their wives, who had to be strong, too, and far stronger and more skilled than most of our college graduates are today. But the Brooklyn Bridge was not going to be built by people named Mary. We have depreciated work that is done with back and hands, because we don’t have to do that work; we’re educated, you see, and can do such necessary things as come up with Five Year Plans for the teaching of gender diversity.

I have no quarrel with studying the humanities. It’s how I earn my living. But I know well that all that I’m privileged to do, I do upon the bent backs of thousands of men who sweated more than I ever will. I am reminded of it every time I take a walk; I see roads, and houses, and bridges, and stone walls, miles of stone walls that once were the boundaries of farms and pastures in my neighborhood, and I know that all those stones came from the acres and acres of fields cleared by man and horse, and all those walls were built up of stones either muscled into place by the men, or lifted to their place by winch and pulley.

My reasoning here is simple enough. Suppose your family is not going to do well or even survive if it places all its hope in academic study. Then your children have to make their way by skilled hands or strong back or both. But that means, as a brute practical fact, that you are going to have to raise boys and girls to be men and women. Those boys will have to learn a trade. They will have to be carpenters, roofers, road builders, plumbers, welders, auto mechanics. And they will have to be more, not less, traditional in their morals and in their view of manhood. The boy who is encouraged to be effeminate is not going to repair motorcycles.

Perhaps it’s easier to see these things by applying them to a specific family. Let’s say we have what my grandparents came to America with; not much schooling, not much money, and no real hope that the children would go to college. There are millions of such families in the United States now. Let’s also grant them an intact marriage, and no illegitimate children on the side. Let’s grant them both boys and girls. As I’ve said, these are not going to be doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs. What does this family need to do to ensure that, a hundred years hence, it will still be recognizable?

The boys have to be trained to be men. That is a sine qua non. They cannot be allowed to play around in effeminacy. The son of Lord Marchmain can do that, because he has a lot of money and a huge estate. The son of two college professors can do that, for the same reason. Not that the effeminacy will do those boys any good; it will hurt them, but they’ll still get by. But the working-class family has not that same margin for foolishness. They don’t get to pass their moral license along, hurting others more than themselves. They are at the base, not the top, of the watershed. If we are going to be depending upon Stan’s skilled hands and Sam’s strong back, then those hands had better soon be chapped and rough with calluses, and that back had better be straight and the shoulders broad.

In other words, if we really wanted to help the poor and the working class, we’d be preaching manliness and chivalry to the boys and training them up in hard but well-remunerated work. But if we didn’t care about them, we’d just continue in our own self-indulgent feminism, and let them go hang.
Next, we would cripple what was left of their neighborhood. Not much would be left; there isn’t much of a community once we’ve tossed the hand grenade into the family. But whatever is left would have to be dealt with. We remove their schools from their proximity and from their influence. We turn policemen into “safety officers,” who do not know the people they are charged with protecting, and who in some cases are no match for the boys now hanging about and delving into crime. Not satisfied with removing the father from the home, we remove the mother too, so that children spend most of their time with people who do not love them, and who move in and out of their lives as transients through a slum.

Finally, we would preach moral relativism, the rot that destroys the soul. If I have money, if I’ve graduated from Yale, if I teach at a nice college, I can indulge myself in intellectual nonsense, and perhaps my children will be eager enough for material comforts and worldly prestige that they too will go on to graduate from Yale. I can dump battery acid into the river with a carefree heart, knowing that I get my own water from somewhere else. But the virtues are sometimes the only thing a poor family has. The boy sent to America from Ireland had a few coins in his pocket but a great deal more in his soul. He had courage, perseverance, self-control, obedience to authority, and willingness to learn. My uncles had those same virtues. They were sufficient.

That, readers, is what Catholic social teaching builds upon. Outside of an integrated Catholic vision of life — outside of the virtues, and of family — it makes no sense. If we want to help the poor, we can begin by restoring some of the moral capital we have robbed.


Our choices shape our eternity – Abp. Chaput

In Muslim countries like Pakistan, many of the young men begin studying the Koran as soon as they can read. In fact, many of them learn to read using the Koran. They read and discuss the Koran every day, for hours each day, every day of the week until they know it by heart. Many of them can recite whole sections of the Koran without thinking. Little by little, like water dripping on a stone, it shapes their whole view of the world—what’s right and what’s wrong; what’s important and what’s not.
Here in America, we have a similar kind of training. It’s called television.  The typical American spends between three and seven hours a day watching TV and sees well over 2 million commercials in the course of a lifetime.
That’s a form of education. And most of what we see on TV teaches us that buying a lot of products makes us happy; that young is good and old is bad; that we should eat whatever we want but that we also need to be thin; that suffering doesn’t have any meaning; that relationships never last; that most families are dysfunctional; that authority is dangerous; and that religious people are hypocritical.
None of us lives forever. Or rather, all of us live forever, but only for a very short time in this world.  If we lose our money, we can often earn it back.  But if we misuse our time, we can never get it back.  Where we put our time shows the world what we really value and believe. What we really believe shapes our choices.  And our choices shape our eternity.
Muslims didn’t develop their admirable piety in a vacuum.  They borrowed their reverence from Jews and early Christians, who had a profound love for the written Word of God in the Old and New Testaments.  The lesson for us today is simple.  American Catholics have the one true Word of God in the Bible.  If we took just one hour of the time we waste on television every day and used it to study and pray over the Gospels, we’d be fundamentally different people, and our country and our world would be transformed.
We were made for better things than silver and gold.  We’re more than what we own or think we want.  We’re children of God bought back from slavery by the blood of God’s son.  Somebody infinitely good, willingly died to make us free.  That’s how precious we are in the eyes of God.  God loves us infinitely.  That’s the source of our faith and hope. 
God’s love is not something anyone can buy.  It’s a free gift.  But it comes with consequences.  If we really believe that God raised his son from the dead in order to raise us along with him, then we need to act like it.  We need to submit our time and our actions to what we claim to believe.  A meaningful life is a life conformed to imperishable things.  And a futile life is a life that puts its time in the wrong places—into things that perish; things that lead us away from conforming our lives to Jesus Christ.
Those are the two options.  We get to choose.
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. is the archbishop of Denver. To read more writings and discourses by Archbishop Chaput, click here.

Instead of Sponge Words Use Square Facts

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is a Catholic priest from South Carolina who is married with children, is an author, blogger, and all around sensible thinker.  I guess that means I agree with him!  I have reposted some of his articles and I link to his site under blogs I follow on the right–>

Here’s his latest:

Sponge Words Square Facts

Has anyone else noticed what I call the ‘sponge words’ we use increasingly? These are words that are amorphous, vague and spongy. They soak up huge amounts of sub-text, innuendo and connotation, but they can mean virtually anything.

Take the word ‘inappropriate’. What on earth does that mean? I hear it in the confessional all the time, “I did something inappropriate with my girlfriend.” Huh? So I say, “Son, you’ll have to be a little bit more precise. I don’t want the juicy details, but nobody really knows what ‘inappropriate’ means. Did you cheat at miniature golf? Rob a bank like Bonnie and Clyde? Use the wrong fork when you went out to dinner? Gossip about a friend? Hold her hand at the movies or have sexual intercourse?” Honestly, people have different standards, and the word ‘inappropriate’ can mean anything or nothing at all.

When it comes to sexual behaviors in our society today what is ‘inappropriate’? College kids who are ‘hooking up’ every weekend might think it ‘inappropriate’ to hook up with more than two people on one weekend. A couple who are dating might think it perfectly ‘appropriate’ to spend the night together or go on vacation together. Things are not what they once were. Standards in our society have shifted. I’ve known priests, for example, who think it totally ‘appropriate’ to have a sexual partner because, they argue, their vow of celibacy just means they can’t get married.

The word ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’ is used to excuse sin and let ourselves off the hook, but it can also be used to condemn people unjustly because nobody really defines what the word means. Instead they throw it around at their own convenience. So Nancy Smith says in a shocked tone about a Catholic school teacher, “He had an inappropriate relationship with my daughter!” Turns out the poor had the girl’s cell phone number on his cell phone contacts list because he had to contact the girl when they were on a school field trip and now, due to the gossip everyone thinks he was sleeping with the girl.

Another sponge word is ‘affair’. “My husband is having an affair!” or “My wife was having an affair with another man for five years!” It turns out that it was “an emotional affair” which consisted of flirting and texting and meeting up for a meal. OK, such behavior doesn’t help a marriage. It’s a form of betrayal. It breeds jealousy and is dumb, and it can even be sinful. It destroys trust and can wreck a relationship, but it’s not an affair. An affair means adultery. Adultery is when you have sexual intercourse with someone who is married to somebody else, or with someone who is not your spouse. I know one woman who told everyone her husband was having an affair. His reputation is wrecked and all the other woman look down on him as a dirty beast when all he did was chat with an old girlfriend on Facebook.

The third sponge word is ‘abuse’. How do I hear, “My father was abusive!” or “My wife is abusive to the kids.” or “My boss is abusive.” This used to mean that a guy came home drunk three times a week, gave his wife a black eye, kicked his kids down the stairs, and locked his mother in law in the closet. Now, when you check the facts you find out that the ‘abusive father’ loses it and shouts at the kids sometimes, or the ‘abusive mother’ gets stroppy once a month and swears at the kids and maybe spanks them once in a while. Then there is ’emotional abuse’ and even ‘spiritual abuse’. Yes, I suppose all these things happen, but too often these spongy words contribute to a whiny, victim culture.

Meanwhile the ‘abusive institution’ may well be a Catholic school that has high standards of discipline and expects kids to behave themselves. I had a guy complain of ‘an abusive priest’ once and I thought he’d been molested by some pervert priest. It turns out that the man, when he was a kid, turned up to be an altar server wearing sneakers and the priest told him that he couldn’t serve wearing sneakers.

Instead of sponge words we need square facts. In general conversation, keep to the facts and avoid gossip and detraction and sponge words that are loaded with innuendo. In confession tell the priest what happened clearly and objectively without going into gory details. Use circumlocution and discreet language by all means to soften the shock and shame, if shocking and shameful it is, but be honest and transparent and don’t use weasly, cowardly spongy words like ‘inappropriate’, ‘affair’ and ‘abuse’.