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You’ve Got to Be Kidding

Church Closed for Holiday – I Just Don’t Get It!

I just don’t get it!  I don’t understand!  Stuff like this makes me shake my head in bewilderment.  I intended to write a brief commentary this past solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on January 1st.  I was reminded and prompted once again this past weekend.  I was struck by an announcement at Mass the Sunday after Christmas which said, “This coming Saturday is not a holy day of obligation, therefore we will follow the usual Saturday Mass schedule” (or pretty close to that effect).  Period.

In 1992 the USCCB issued a decree that whenever January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, or November 1, the solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated.  Basically if the holy day of obligation falls on a Saturday or a Monday, it is not a holy day of obligation.  Ironically this decree by the USCCB was approved by the Vatican on July 4th.  The US was once again declaring independence–but this time is was from the oppressive dictatorship of obligatory worship!  Evidently the US Catholic bishops thought [think] it is too burdensome for Catholics to attend Mass 2 days in a row!

I think this attempt at pastoral sensitivity fails and sends a contradictory message.  Either a day is holy and our worship sanctifies our time and conforms and orientates us toward the Holy, or it does not.  What does it matter where the day falls.  The announcement I heard at my parish basically told people to stay home, you don’t have to come.  The decree of the USCCB aside, perhaps a better announcement may have sounded like this:  “This Saturday is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  Though the Solemnity falls on a Saturday and is not a holy day of obligation this year [this even sounds absurd while I’m typing this], we invite and encourage you to sanctify the first day of the year…”[you get the picture].

Now on to the egregious.  Following are bulletin announcements from a few parishes (not mine):

The Rectory Office will be closed on Monday, January 17th in observance of the Martin  Luther King, Jr. Holiday.  There also will be no Eucharistic Adoration on Monday, January 17th.

Holiday Schedule… Monday is a holiday, Martin Luther King Day.  The Parish Offices are closed and there is no daily Mass

The Church, Chapel and Rectory Office will not be open on Monday, January 17th in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

What on earth does any secular holiday have to do with the sacramental life of the Church?  It is perfectly understandable that the parish office would be closed, but why the church, why no Mass?  The priest can’t unlock the church on a day the sexton is off?  Isn’t the priest going to celebrate Mass?  Perhaps there would be more people inclined to attend a weekday Mass if they were not obligated to got to work.  Or if someone had the day off perhaps they would spend some time in adoration…but not if the church is locked.  I can’t think of any good reason.  “The Holy Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life…but not tomorrow…we’re closed”.

Egypt Recalls Vatican Ambassador…Really

The deadly New Year’s bombing at the Coptic church in Alexandria sparks clashes between angry Christians and Egyptian riot police. (Reuters / January 1, 2011)

File this under “you’ve got to be kidding me”.  Here’s what has transpired:

Bombing in Egypt
On New Years Eve a car bomb detonated as Coptic Christians were leaving Mass in the East Alexandrian Coptic Church of All Saints.  21 worshipers were killed along with 79 injured, the latest victims in an uptick  of growing anti-Christian violence throughout the world.

Pope Benedict Responds
The following day at the Noon Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict said the following:

“This vile and murderous gesture, like that of placing bombs near the houses of Christians in Iraq to force them to leave, offends God and all humankind, which only yesterday prayed for peace and began a new year with hope. In the face of these strategies of violence, which aim against Christians but have consequences on the entire population, I pray for the victims and their relatives, and encourage ecclesial communities to persevere in the faith and in the witness of non-violence which comes to us from the Gospel. I think also of the many pastoral workers killed in various parts of the world in the course of 2010. For them too we equally express our affectionate remembrance before the Lord. Let us remain united in Christ, our hope and our peace!”

Egyptian Imam Accuses Pope of Meddling in Egypt’s Affairs
Ahmed el Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the oldest Islamic seat of learning, told reporters the Pope’s comments were “an unacceptable interference in Egypt’s affairs…I disagree with the pope’s view, and I ask why did the pope not call for the protection of Muslims when they were subjected to killings in Iraq?”

Pope’s Spokesman Reiterates Commitment to Religious Liberty for All
Jesuit Fr. Lombard said:

Pope Benedict XVI’s position is very clear, and always has been: a radical condemnation of violence, closeness to the community that has been so horribly stricken, and concern for the religious freedom of Christian minorities. As he said in his Peace Day Message, the Pope’s concern for the religious freedom of Christians has always been within the context of his concern for the religious freedom of all people, not only Christians.

Time and again, the Pope has condemned violence against all people – not only that, which is perpetrated against Christians. We recall his recent discourse to the new Ambassador to the Holy See from Iraq, in which the Holy Father spoke of the innocent victims of violence, both Muslim and Christian.

Pope Addresses Holy See Diplomats in  “State of the World” Speech
Each year the pope issues an important foreign policy speech to the Diplomatic Core.  This year he eloquently spoke about religious freedom and directed comments to governments of countries where religious persecution seems to be on the rise.

Looking to the East, the attacks which brought death, grief and dismay among the Christians of Iraq, even to the point of inducing them to leave the land where their families have lived for centuries, has troubled us deeply. To the authorities of that country and to the Muslim religious leaders I renew my heartfelt appeal that their Christian fellow-citizens be able to live in security, continuing to contribute to the society in which they are fully members. In Egypt too, in Alexandria, terrorism brutally struck Christians as they prayed in church. This succession of attacks is yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities. Need we repeat it?

Egypt Recalls Vatican Ambassador
“Egypt asked its ambassador in the Vatican to come to Cairo for consultation after the Vatican’s new statements that touch on Egyptian affairs, and which Egypt considers an unacceptable interference in its internal affairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement.

MTV’s Treatment of Abortion – Tragic on Many Levels


Last night MTV aired a special Pregnant and 16 episode in which a teenager, Markai, decided to abort her second child.  This was very difficult to watch.  Not surprising is how the subject was treated.  I first heard about this by a Salon article this morning and proceeded to watch the video of the episode.  LifeNews.com has a story here as well.  I was heartbroken, astonished, and saddened at how tragic this is in many different ways.  It is worth viewing simply to see the decision making process of this young couple and the kind of support and information they receive.

The most tragic was to see  a very nice girl in a poor situation receiving little or no support, receiving appallingly unscientific and false information, and ultimately rationalizing a decision clearly against her conscience which she admits will haunt her forever.  This could have been avoided with simple financial assistance.  Period.  

Lack of support.  She first discusses the dilemma with the father who says they have to make a decision that is best for him, her, and their daughter (what about the baby she is now pregnant with).  They don’t want their children to suffer through poverty–admirable.  She seeks the advice of her friend who offers to support her decision no matter what she decides.  Adoption is not an option because she will feel too attached,  “I’m in love with this baby already and this baby not doin’ nothing but making me sick” (I love this baby too much to just give her away, too much to let her suffer in poverty, therefore..).  This is irrational.

Appalling information.  She calls the local clinic to get information on abortion services.  The very friendly woman on the phone instructs her that there is a medication abortion where the “pregnancy tissue is expelled”, and there are surgical abortions in which there is “gentle suction to remove the pregnancy”.  She is so upset she needs to end the call.  Later at the clinic she is told not to think of 10 fingers and 10 toes and a forehead, just a ball of cells or it will make you depressed (her baby had a heartbeat at this point).  The sad reality that euphemisms and dehumanizing rhetoric are employed in order to make the unthinkable thinkable. She seeks the help of her mother and gets the following:  “I can’t tell you what to do but this one you’re on your own,  Mommy can’t help you.”  I really feel for this poor soul.

Contradiction on display.  Watching this tragedy unfold is disturbing but an fascinating glimpse into the inner struggle of conscience on vivid display.  “Mommy loves you a whole bunch…she’ll do anything and everything for you in the whole wide world”.  “I never called that thing a baby because I told you not even to think of it as a baby.”  “You hurt my feeling when you called it a thing I know its not a person but it’s still a part of us.”  “You will never feel my pain”  “A thing can turn out just like that (pointing to her 1 yr old daughter)…nothing but a bunch of cells can be her.”  “I wonder if we could have made a better one [decision].”  “I don’t think God would have given me something I couldn’t handle”.   This is difficult to witness.  Tragic.

The episode ends with an interview with two other young women who had abortions.  The pain of their decisions is more than evident.  Pray for all victims of abortion…this includes so many women who suffer and are in pain.


Youth Pro-life Leaders Respond to MTV’s Abortion Episode
by Bryan Kemper
For weeks we have been hearing about the MTV special that would feature a teen couple contemplating abortion. We were tempted to write about this show last week but decided to wait until the show aired. We know that MTV is no bastion of decency or truth, but we did not think the show would actually go as far as it did. We were wrong.

One very telling feature of the show was that it played without commercial interruption; this is not normal for MTV. This show was obviously funded by some one or some organization with an agenda; a very deadly agenda.
To be honest it felt like this was almost scripted as the perfect pro-abortion propaganda film. The couple was young, poor, and volatile; and they also already had one baby. They talked about God and the father had a Jesus tattoo on one shoulder and was wearing a necklace that looked like a rosary. They could have made it an extreme case, but they kept it simple; I don’t think they could have cast a better couple for this show to make the audience sympathize with their decision to kill their child. Full story at LifeNews.com

Fail – Cardinal Wuerl on Sex Abuse Crisis

Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, DC and newly elevated cardinal, appeared on Fox News Sunday this past weekend. (Full transcript here)  In a cordial interview, Chris Wallace asked questions on topics such as a yard sign evangelization campaign, declining Mass attendance, priest sex abuse scandal, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, same-sex marriage and its implications on the Church’s social outreach.

Cardinal Wuerl’s responses were articulate and diplomatic as is his reputation, but the response that had me shaking my head was on the sexual abuse topic. Here’s the transcript:

WALLACE: I want to ask about a specific problem, though. Because clearly, you would agree that the church priest abuse sex scandal was very damaging to the church, and hurt a lot of Catholics’ views about the church. 

You helped write the guidelines for the U.S. bishops. Are you confident that today that a priest who is accused of sexual abuse is not just transferred to another parish and is promptly reported to civil authorities? 

WUERL: I think that is one of the great accomplishments of the Catholic Church. When we look back and we talk about sexual abuse, we’re talking about something that happened 10, 20, even 30 years ago

We have succeeded in terms of the church and her response. We have succeeded in guaranteeing that if a priest is accused and there is a credible allegation, he is simply removed from the ministry, that is reported to the authorities and we begin to try to heal whatever was damaged in that abuse. 

I think it’s one of the great accomplishments of the church. It recognized there was a serious problem. It dealt with it forthright and then moved on to see that we’re in a much, much better place, a much safer place today. 

Great accomplishment? Guaranteeing? Moved on? No! Note to hierarchy…strike this vocabulary from any attempt to respond to questions on this topic. This is still public relations spin on getting beyond a crisis. It leaves me and hopefully every other sentient person wondering when some clergy are going to get it–especially a new cardinal. Just three days before Christmas Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels told authorities there that he saw no reason for the church to compensate victims of sexual abuse.  (as much as I hate to link to NCR, story here)  There are still reports yet to be released on the crisis in Europe, never mind other dioceses around the globe that have yet to make any public revelations.  The Church cannot and should not move beyond this because the damage that it caused will last generations. For victims the damage will last a lifetime.  Check out this previously posted article on the topic.

Perhaps it would have been better for the cardinal to first acknowledge the cataclysmic damage, ruined lives and destroyed faith of so many in the Church caused by the scandal. Only then should he express his confidence that the Church in the US has–to the best of her abilities–taken serious measures to prevent this from recurring in the future. No moving on…in the words of Pope Benedict in his curial address:

We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen. 

“We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good. We must be capable of doing penance. We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again.