29 May 2011

Paprocki: It is fitting that Brian Alford's last name begins with an "A"

Yesterday His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois ordained his first priest, Father Brian Alford.

The text of Bishop Paprocki's homily follows, with my emphases:
My dear priests, deacons, consecrated religious, beloved brothers and sisters in Christ: because this our son, who is your relative and friend, is now to be advanced to the Order of Priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which he is about to be raised.

The ordination of a priest is a very important moment in the life of the whole Catholic community, but especially in the life of the man to be ordained and in the life of the diocesan bishop and his presbyterate as well.

The ordination of a priest is a very important moment in the life of the whole Catholic community because it is a sign of faith, hope and love. Faith, because the ordination of a priest indicates that the faith is still very much alive and well even now in the third millennium of Christianity. Hope, because the ordination of a priest gives reassurance that the Word of God will continue to be preached and the mission of Jesus Christ will continue to be carried out in the world. Love, because the ordination of a priest assures the community that there will be continue to be shepherds who will love the flock and care for them.

The ordination of a priest is a very important moment in the life of the man to be ordained because by the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, he is signed with a special character and is so configured to Christ the High Priest that he will have the power to act in the person of Christ the Head. Brian Alford has come to this graced moment in response to God’s call as mediated by the Church after much prayer and preparation.

The ordination of a priest is a very important moment in the life of the diocesan bishop and his presbyterate because priests take part in the Bishop’s priesthood and mission. As virtuous co-workers with the episcopal Order, called to serve the people of God, they constitute one presbyterate in union with their Bishop, while being charged with different duties. We are not lone rangers doing our own thing. We are collaborators in a great spiritual symphony. Without the musicians in an orchestra, the conductor can make no sound. Without the conductor, the musicians’ sounds will disintegrate into a cacophony of dissonance and disharmony. Working together in concert, the Bishop and his priests can produce the “mystic chords of memory” of which Abraham Lincoln spoke in his First Inaugural Address one hundred and fifty years ago, “stretching . . . to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land” and swelling the chorus of communion, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Today’s ordination is also personally significant for me because Brian Alford is the first priest that I have ever ordained. It is fitting that Brian Alford’s last name begins with an “A,” because it is my ardent hope and fervent prayer that this will be just the first of many, many more priests that I will have the privilege to ordain through God’s grace for service to the mission of the One who is the “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22: 13).

The ordination of a priest is also a fitting moment to ask what the community of faith asks of a priest. Blessed Pope John Paul II answered that question in this way: “This is what people ask of the priest: The priest is The man of God, the one who belongs to God and makes people think about God. . . . Christians expect to find in the priest not only a man who welcomes them, who listens to them gladly and shows a real interest in them, but also and above all a man who will help them to turn to God, to rise up to him. And so the priest needs to be trained to have a deep intimacy with God.”

As specific means for a priest to be “The man of God, the one who belongs to God and makes people think about God,” a priest promises to pray the Liturgy of the Hours so that the moments of his day and his ministry may be punctuated by the markers of God’s active involvement in the unfolding of our lives. By the promise to live in chaste celibacy, a priest resolves, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, to take on “the likeness of Jesus Christ, the good shepherd and spouse of the Church, and therefore as a choice of a greater and undivided love for Christ and His Church, as a full and joyful availability in his heart for the pastoral ministry.” A priest also promises obedience in order to be open to hearing God’s call as prayerfully discerned by the diocesan Bishop in consultation with his advisors and the priest himself, so that the needs of the diocese will be properly served and the mission of Christ will be effectively embraced.

The ordination of a priest is not just a time to ask what the Church expects of a priest, but also what the priest can expect from the Church. In that regard, my friends, as your Bishop, I ask you to pray for priests; pray especially today for this priest, Father Brian Alford; be with him, care for him, work with him, support him, but most of all, love him, as Christ loves you, for as I say in my Episcopal motto, Lex Cordis Caritas, “The Law of the Heart is Love.”

May God give us this grace. Amen.

28 May 2011

New priest's call shows importance of every person's role in promoting vocations

Today, at 10:30 a.m. in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, will ordain his first priest: Brian Alford.  This will be a day of great joy for the entire Diocese.

With the ordination of Father Alford to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, I will no longer be the youngest priest in the Diocese, a position which I have held since my ordination six years ago today.

Father Alford will serve as Parochial Vicar at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham.

This week's issue of the Catholic Times has an article about today's ordination written by Michael Hoerner.  His text follows, with my emphases and comments:
Transitional Deacon Brian Alford will be ordained a priest by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield on May 28.

He will be the first priest ordained by Bishop Paprocki. As an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago for eight years, prior to his installation as bishop of the Springfield diocese last June, he had ordained deacons, but had yet to ordain a priest.

A parishioner of Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Maryville, Deacon Alford received his theology degree from Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis earlier this May.

Deacon Alford grew up in St. Jerome Parish in Troy, and attended public schools in the Triad School District. When his parents, Robert and Joyce, moved to Wisconsin in 1998, he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Upon earning his bachelor’s degree in computer programming, he returned to Illinois, settled in Maryville, and worked for three years for an insurance company in Louis, and then for two years in computer consulting.

I wasn’t really very active in my faith. My consulting work took me out of town a lot, but then I found a parish where I could go to Mass before going to work. That became an important part of my life.”

Thoughts about becoming a priest “really came from suggestions from others [remember this year's message of Pope Benedict XVI: everyone has a part to play in fostering vocations],” he said. “The first person to mention it to me was my twin sister, Cindy. We were conversing on our computers, and she said, ‘I think you want to become a priest. You are going to Mass every day [it's that simple].’”

Then on Thanksgiving Day, 2005, his paternal grandmother, who wasn’t a Catholic, mentioned it to him. “She was sleeping in my old room, and told me she noticed I had a lot of books in there about the church, and asked me if I was thinking about becoming a priest [the signs are not usually very hard to see].” A short time later, a lady he had never met came up to him after Mass, and asked him, “Are you thinking about becoming a priest?”

“I had never shied away from talking about my faith, but I hadn’t given much thought to becoming a priest either,” he said. But after thinking it over he decided to attend an upcoming conference in St. Louis on vocations to the priesthood.

“I talked to Father John Titus (then vocation director for the Springfield diocese), and decided to give it a go.”

Since he had his bachelor’s degree, he needed only a year of pre-theology studies. He entered Kenrick Seminary in 2005, lived in the seminary dormitory, but attended theology classes at St. Louis University. He went on to earn his theology degree at Kenrick, graduating this May in a class of 16. The youngest in the class is 25; the oldest is in his late 40s. Deacon Alford is 32.

His sister lives in Houston, Texas, where she works in health and fitness training, and does a lot of volunteer work. He has two brothers, one four years older, and one 18 months older, who are married and live in Virginia and Florida, and has two nieces, one 7, and one 3.

“Our folks live in Indiana now. Dad, who is non-Catholic, has been extremely supportive of my decision to be a priest. He has visited me in the seminary and has grown in his understanding of the Catholic faith and what is involved in the priesthood.

“My parents and my siblings are all excited about my ordination,” he said.

Father Titus will vest Deacon Alford at his ordination. He will celebrate his first Mass at Mother of Perpetual Help Church in Maryville on Sunday, May 20, at 2:30 p.m.
Congratulations to the soon-to-be Father Alford!

27 May 2011

Persecution watch: Christian cemetery desecrated in Pakistan

From Asia News comes this troubling report, with my emphases:
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Christian tombs were recently desecrated and a young Christian woman was gang-raped for an entire night. In both cases, police refused to file a First Information Report, allowing the culprits to escape justice. These are examples of the ordinary violence visited upon Pakistan’s Christian minority. Whether it involves Christian-owned land and property or individuals who are targeted because they are defenceless, victims will not find justice with the country’s legal system. Gradually, Pakistan’s ‘Islamisation’ slowly progresses, especially in the densely populated province of Punjab.

The Pakistan Christian Post reports that, in Chak Jhumra (Faisalabad), Muslim landowners destroyed and desecrated a Christian graveyard, using a tractor to plough over a number of tombs. Buried coffins were broken and the bones of the dead were brought to the surface. The local police refused to open an inquiry, whilst the landowners utter threats against local Christians to get them to stop legal proceedings.

The Faisalabad chapter of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Pakistani Catholic Church has intervened in the affair. A team sent by the commission visited the desecrated graveyard and collected evidence.

However, a local Muslim has filed a claim, saying he owned the land on which the cemetery is located. The first hearing in the case is scheduled for 13 June 2011.

Fr Joseph Jamil, a Faisalabad priest, strongly condemned the anti-Christian violence. “The Church,” he said, “is closing monitoring the issue.”

“Landowners and extremists are actively involved against the Christian minority in Punjab,” he told AsiaNews. “Most attacks happen in the central part of the province.” The government, he said, should “take charge of the situation and defend the minority.”

As additional evidence of the prevailing atmosphere of violence, a story came to light involving a 29-year-old Christian woman who was abducted by a Muslim co-worker, roughed up, drugged and gang-raped.

Afshan Sabir is a factory worker and a mother of three. She was assaulted over night on 27 March in an unspecified area near Gojra. When she woke up, she sought help in a state of disorientation. She later tried to file a complaint with the local police station. However, instead of helping the woman, police officers helped the rapists cover their tracks.

On this occasion, the National Commission for Justice and Peace also intervened, providing the victim with legal counsel and following the case on her behalf.

50 Best and Worst Children's Fads

Over at First Thoughts, Joe Carter has created a list of the top 50 best and worst children's fads.  I particularly like this one:
36. Rubik’s Cube

What made it the best: They made you think you were smart enough to solve them.
What made it the worst: They made you realize you weren’t smart enough to solve them.
and this one:
43. Slinky

What made it the best: Those cool television ads that showed it “walking” down the stairs.
What made it the worst: They taught you the meaning of false advertising.

Life at the Cathedral

As I travel around the Diocese I am frequently asked how I like living at the Cathedral.  My usual answer is, "I don't know; I'm not really there much."  I may have eaten dinner at the rectory four times over the past two months.

At any rate, life here is good, particularly when we help each other.

This morning I took a load of laundry downstairs (several loads, really) and I noticed something strange outside my room when I returned.

On my door is a small bulletin board with a few push pins and above it is a clamp with a rubberband hanging on it (I'm not sure why; it was there before I moved in).  This morning a round, yellow something was hanging in the rubber band:

It is a lemon.  The Pastor bought a few lemons and left one for me knowing that I will need one for tomorrow's ordination of a priest (lemon can be used to very easily remove the Chrism from your hands).

You never know what you'll find around here.

Does patriotism have a place at Mass?

This weekend you are likely to hear - and maybe even sing - songs of a partriotic nature at Mass.  For some, this is an expected part of the Memorial Day oberservances.  For others, such as your humble scribe, they are a source of irritation.

They are irritating not because of their patriotic nature, but because of where and when they are sung.  Such sungs - while good for the nation and worthy of being sung in fitting places such as townhalls and squares and other civic gatherings - have no place in the worship of Triune God.  The words we sing in divine worship must be words of the Kingdom of God and not of any earthly kingdom that will pass away.

This is not to say that Christians should not be patriotic; quite the contrary.  It is to say, rather, that Christians must always remember their first allegiance.

Over at First Things, Joe Carter posts a few thoughts from Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan, on patriotrism and churches.

The part excerpted by Joe Carter is of particular interest to me and so I post it below, with my emphases and comments:
...while patriotism can be good, the church is not a good place for patriotism.

We should pray for service men and women in our congregations. We should pray for the President. We should pray for the just cause to triumph over the evil one. We are not moral relativists. We do not believe just because all people are sinners and all nations are sinful that no person or no nation can be more righteous or more wicked than another. God may be on America’s side in some (not all) her endeavors.

But please think twice before putting on a Star Spangled gala in church this Sunday [Amen!]. I love to hear the national anthem and “God Bless America” and “My Country, Tis of Thee,” but not in church where the nations gather to worship the King of all peoples. I love to see the presentation of colors and salute our veterans, but these would be better at the Memorial Day parade or during a time of remembrance at the cemetery [He's right]. Earthly worship should reflect the on-going worship in heaven [that is a very Catholic thought.  The Mass is, after all, the foretaste of the heavenly wedding banquet of the Lamb]. And while there are many Americans singing glorious songs to Jesus there, they are not singing songs about the glories of America. We must hold to the traditions of the Apostles in our worship, not the traditions of American history. The church should not ask of her people what is not required in Scripture. So how can we ask the Koreans and Chinese and Mexicans and South Africans in our churches to pledge allegiance to a flag that is not theirs [it is - or should be - theirs if they are living in this nation]? Are we gathered under the banner of Christ or another banner? Is the church of Jesus Christ–our Jewish Lord and Savior–for those draped in the red, white, and blue or for those washed in the blood of the Lamb?
As Father Valencheck would say, "Finding truth wherever it is found."
Happy Memorial Day weekend to everyone!

Where is the media?

Commenting on my post on persecutions in Malaysia, Andrew - who is a native of Malaysia and who blogs at Unam Sanctam - said the following, with my emphases:
Yup, they want to revoke my citizenship, which my grandparents had as British citizens long before Britain ceded the colony of Penang to the Federation of Malaysia. Those of us having ancestry dating back hundreds of years are called foreigners by Muslim immigrants barely one generation old. It's sad, and also ridiculous. Pray for us, Father.
Yes, our prayers are needed.  And if you are in the media, please help those who are being persecuted.

26 May 2011

The difference between boys and girls

Before each celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation, Bishop Paprocki and I speak with the confirmandi.  Bishop Paprocki first speaks about the vestments he wears and the symbols of his office as an way to introduce a time for questions and answers with him after I speak about discerning God's will for our lives.

One group of confirmandi with whom we recently visited was a group of seven girls and one boy.

Holding the crozier before him, Bishop Paprocki often asks the candidates what it looks like.  More often than not the answer comes back: "A shepherd's staff (or often cane)."  The Bishop then asks what a shepherd does with his staff/crook.  A common answer is that a shepherd either hits the sheep or prods them forward with it.

Symbolically, of course, and taken in a spiritual sense, the Bishop uses his staff in both functions.  Sometimes members of the faithful need to be corrected and sometimes they need to be nudged forward and deeper into the mystery of Christ.

Last night, though, both answers were rather unexpected.

To the question of what the crozier reminded them of, one of the girls quickly answered, "Little Bo Peep."

That was a first, and a funny first at that.  And again, not far off the beaten path since Bo Peep was a shepherdess.

And to the question of what a shepherd does with his staff, the same girl answered, "He gathers the sheep together."  That is, of course, in a spiritual and symbolic sense, just what the Bishop does with his crozier: he keeps the flock united in the faith of Jesus Christ.

I dare say, though, that neither of these last two answers would come from a group of boys, even with one girl in their midst.

25 May 2011

Persecution watch

Trouble may be brewing for the Christians - and other non-Muslims - in Malaysia as Muslim politicians call for the Caliphate state.

From the Malaysian Insider, with my emphases:
KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 – Several Islamic leaders have questioned the loyalty of non-Muslims in the country, declaring today the community’s rights must be re-evaluated if Malaysia is to call itself an Islamic state.

Former president of Islamic Da’wah Foundation Malaysia (Yadim), Datuk Nakhaie Ahmad, said treatment of non-Muslims must be based on the social contract agreed and pointed out that the government has been too gracious to the community.

“In attempts to get vote and support of non-Muslims, we have been very gracious in giving them their civil rights. Civil rights given to them includes the rights to vote, participation in politics, hold office, involvement in the military and so forth but we cannot just willingly give them everything.

Our offer must be based on religious practices. If we look at the prophet’s agreement in the Madinah constitution, civil rights were given to the Jews but the rights must be paid back with responsibility. They must have the responsibility and agree to defend our country and not insult the agreement,” he said during a forum on "Membina Negara Sejahtera" organised by the Persatuan Ulama Malaysia here.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared Malaysia an Islamic state a decade ago in a move to counter PAS’ growing influence among the country’s key Malay Muslim population.

The issue cropped up this month when several groups asked for amendments to the Federal Constitution to stipulate only Muslims can be the prime minister after Utusan Malaysia carried an unsubstantiated report of a Christian plot to usurp Islam’s position as religion of the federation.

Nakhaie stressed that non-Muslims that have broken the social contract must be expelled from the country and asked the government to adopt a tough approach in safeguarding Muslim interest.

“If the agreement is broken then actions must be taken against them. If they break our agreement then they are our enemy and must be expelled from the country. We must not compromise with them. We must be stern with them when it comes to the social contract agreed,” he said.

Nakhaie added it is important that high level government positions not be awarded to non-Muslims for national security.

We cannot give them important government position as it is not allowed for non-Muslims to become ministers in a Islamic state. Head of military must also not be given to non-Muslims.

“Without thinking about the future of our country, we are so willing to give them everything. Granting them their civil rights must be balanced with Islamic preaching so they will understand justice in Islam and the Islamic system,” said the former PAS member who defected to Umno years ago.

He also warned Muslims to unite as non-Muslims will become stronger if the community continues to quarrel among themselves.

“They are brave now and are willing to say anything because they are becoming dominant. They (non-muslim political parties) are only working with us to only achieve their goals. It is a marriage of convenience. We know what is their programme. We are already losing economically and now we want to give political rights?” he asked.

Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia’s (ISMA) deputy president Zamri Hashim added that Muslims must look beyond political affiliation for a common greater cause.

“We must think outside of politics. The Malay agenda is too important to ignore and a majority of Malays are Muslims. This is no longer about PAS and Umno,” said the Perak deputy Mufti.

Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim) deputy president, Dr Mohd Rumaizuddin Ghazali, also stressed that Malaysia must never become a secular state.

“This is why many non-Muslim politicians want to declare the country as a secular state because then the government will not have fund religious programmes.

They are scared that if we accept Malaysia as an Islamic state then there are many implications which means that only Muslims have the right to lead the country,” he said.

Mohd Rumaizuddin added that the Malays are beginning to be trampled on and non-Muslims are starting to take advantage of the community.

“Because of politics, we are still not free after more than 50 years of independence,” he said.

Hizbut Tahrir Malaysia president Abdul Hakim Othman added the country’s constitution must be replaced as it has been stained by the colonial British.

A Caliphate state is based on divine revelation. It is not a democratic or a theocratic state. It is only an Islamic state when the constitution is based on the Quran and prophetic traditions,” he said.
Catholic World News reports Malaysia's statistical makeup as follows: 60% of the nation’s 28 million people are Muslim; 19% are Buddhist, 6% Hindu, 6% Protestant, and 3% Catholic.

Bishops of England and Wales on the new Roman Missal

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has written and released a pastoral letter to be read in every parish this weekend concerning the translation of the Roman Missal.

The text of this letter follows, with my emphases and comments:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

At the beginning of Advent this year, when we gather for Mass, we shall be using the new translation of the Roman Missal. This will be the case not only in England and Wales but throughout the English‐speaking world. The Mass will remain the same but parts of it will sound different.

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has produced three Latin editions of the Roman Missal. At present, we are still using a translation of the first edition [a fact that is often either forgotten or ignored] which was published in 1973. Although the texts we have been using have served us well, since that time there has been much development in the liturgical texts themselves and in our understanding of them.

We all become very accustomed to the words we hear; and the fact that we have been praying in a certain way for so long has imprinted that style of language and words upon our consciousness and made them very special. The changes in the language now to be introduced, however, do not represent change for change’s sake, but are being made in order to ensure greater fidelity to the liturgical tradition of the Church. In the earlier translation not all the meaning of the original Latin text was fully expressed [that's putting it mildly] and a number of the terms that were used to convey the teachings of the faith were lost. This was readily acknowledged by the bishops of the Church, even back in the 1970s, and has become an increasing cause of concern since then.

There is an old adage in Latin which states that the way we pray forms the way we believe [we have seen the truth of these words all too clearly over the past several decades]. So words and language are important for the teaching and the handing‐on of the faith.

So what does this new translation offer us? First of all, there is a fuller expression of the content of the original texts. Then, there is a closer connection with the Sacred Scriptures which inspire so much of our liturgy. Also, there is a recovery of a vocabulary that enriches our understanding of the mystery we celebrate. All of this requires a unique style of language and expression, one that takes us out of ourselves and draws us into the sacred, the transcendent and the divine.

The publication of the new translation of the Missal is a special moment of grace in the English‐speaking world. It offers an opportunity to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the mystery we celebrate each week. This itself will help us to move towards that fuller and more conscious and active participation in the liturgy to which the Church invites us [which is first of all interior]. It will help us also to examine the dignity with which we celebrate the ‘source and summit’ of the Church’s life.

At the end of his visit last year, Pope Benedict asked us to use this moment for genuine renewal. He said: “I encourage you now to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers for in‐depth catechesis on the Eucharist, and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration. ‘The more lively the Eucharistic faith of the people of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples’” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 6).

In order to achieve this, the bishops have produced resources for all our parishes and, as from September, we will gradually begin to use the new liturgical texts at Mass and hear why certain changes have been made. Each diocese is already preparing its priests and deacons, catechists and liturgical ministers. Programmes for schools are being developed and new musical settings are being composed. From September until Advent everyone will have the opportunity to study the new texts and familiarise themselves with the prayers and chants. In addition, this period of preparation will allow us to pray these new texts.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is a gift, something we receive from God through the Church. Saint Paul spoke of it as coming from the Lord Jesus himself [in other words: it is not ours]. Writing to the Church in Corinth, he said, “for I received from the Lord what I in turn also handed on to you” (1 Corinthians 11:23). So Eucharist is not something of our making but a gift received. Like Saint Paul, therefore, let us receive it with reverence and care, knowing that we are being faithful to what the Lord himself passed on to the Apostles, which has been handed on since, in faithfulness, by their successors to every generation of the Church.

Let us welcome the new translation of the Roman Missal as a sign of our unity and a powerful instrument of God’s grace in our lives.
Capello tip to Father John Boyle who blogs at Caritas in Veritate.

23 May 2011

Why was Pope Pius XII silent?

For years now, many have blamed the supposed silence of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust for the death of millions of Jews.  Those who have studied the actual history of the actions of the Bishop of Rome during this time know these claims to be false.

New evidence indicates the Allies urged His Holiness to be silent for fear of upsetting Russia.

The Catholic Herald's Simon Caldwell has the story, with my emphases:
US and British diplomats discussed exerting pressure on Pope Pius XII to be silent about the Nazi deportations of Hungarian Jews, according to newly discovered documentation.

The British feared that the wartime pope might make a “radio appeal on behalf of the Jews in Hungary” and that in the course of his broadcast would “also criticise what the Russians are doing in occupied territory”.

Sir Francis D’Arcy Osborne, the British ambassador to the Vatican, told an American diplomat that “something should be done to prevail upon the pope not to do this as it will have very serious political repercussions”.

Osborne’s comments were made to Franklin Gowen, an assistant to Myron Taylor, the US special representative to the Vatican.

Gowen recorded the conversation in a letter to Taylor, saying he had promised Osborne that he would bring his concerns to the “immediate attention” of the US ambassador.

“It was understood that, pending your reaction, he would not take any steps vis-a-vis the Holy See,” Gowen told Taylor.

In the letter, Gowen also said that Mgr Domenico Tardini, the Vatican assistant secretary of state, had told him 10 days earlier that Pope Pius would not “make any radio appeal because if he did so he would, in fairness, to all have to criticise the Russians”, a member of the Allies.

He said he withheld this information from Osborne in the belief that it would be best for Taylor to impart it himself following a meeting with Pope Pius scheduled the day after the letter was written.

The letter was dated November 7, 1944, as the Nazis were organising mass deportations of Jews from Budapest, the Hungarian capital, to death camps in Poland, Austria and Germany.

Rome had been liberated by the US Fifth Army the previous June and, with the Vatican behind Allied lines, the pope had more freedom to speak out.

But as the head of a neutral state, he understood that he could not condemn the war crimes of one side without condemning those of the other.

However, on November 19 – less than two weeks after Gowen wrote his letter – the Vatican joined the neutral states of Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Sweden to appeal to the Hungarian government to end the deportations.

The British Jewish historian Sir Martin Gilbert, an internationally recognised expert on the Holocaust, said in his 2002 book, The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust, that at that time the Catholic Church in Budapest was hiding 25,000 Jews in homes and religious institutions.

Simultaneously, the Red Army of the Soviet Union was advancing westward across Europe and killing and raping many innocent people as it was driving Adolf Hitler’s armies into retreat.

Gowen’s letter was made public for the first time by the New York-based Pave the Way Foundation, which is conducting research into the actions of Pope Pius, assisted by a US Catholic lawyer, Ronald Rychlak; German historian Michael Hesemann; and a journalist, Dimitri Cavalli.

Gary Krupp, president of the foundation, told the American Catholic News Service that the Allies feared any condemnation of Josef Stalin’s armies “would work against the unified war effort of the Allies”.

He said the letter was significant because it showed the pressures that confronted Pope Pius, who has been criticised for his alleged silence in the face of the Holocaust.

“The simple reality, which seems to be ignored by many critics, is that the Vatican was a neutral government that used its neutrality to save thousands of lives,” said Mr Krupp.

Gowen’s letter was found by Rychlak among Taylor’s documents and has been posted on the Pave the Way Foundation website.

Another letter made public by the foundation discusses help for Jewish fugitives, with Osborne telling Harold Tittman, another of Taylor’s aides, that it must be destroyed because it might endanger the life an Italian priest who was rescuing Jews if it fell into enemy hands.

It was dated May 20, 1944, barely three weeks before Rome fell to the Allies and, according to the Pave the Way Foundation, shows how the work of rescuing Jews was conducted in secrecy, with most documentary evidence of such activities destroyed almost instantly.

Persecution watch

Serious looks at the false prophet Camping

If you did not suspect so prior to Saturday evening, by now you know that the claims of the coming rapture made by Harold Camping were false.

Many - including yours truly - enjoyed a laugh at the lead up but others took a more serious approach to the whole affair, including Anthony Sacramone.

Writing for First Thoughts, Sacramone comments on the danger of the build of up of the cult of personality present in many Protestant denominations, particularly of the evangelical bent.

Brother Charles sees in whole rapture affair the lesson of why the Scriptures must be read within the Church who produced it.

Writing On the Square, David Mills points out how such false prophets hurt people.

A knowing look

Last evening I was introduced to a young man who has been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  One of his relatives knew that I, too, have a form of juvenile arthritis (albeit an adult-onset form, that will in all likelihood become rheumatoid [some signs are already present]) and made sure to introduce him to me.  He is now the second person I have met with juvenile arthritis.

As we spoke he asked what I did to help control the arthritis.  I talked about the benefits I find from swimming and using a hot tub and naturally I spoke also of the benefits of Hawai'i.  To explain what I meant I mentioned that here in Illinois, as soon as I open a door on a foggy morning my joints immediately feel pain.

Here, I fear fog and mist and cold rains.  There, I can hike mountains in fog and mist and rain.  The difference is unbelievable.

As I said this, he gave me a very knowing look with wide eyes, as if to be excited to finally find another who might know what he experienced.  I must say that, on my end, it was also nice to see such a knowing look.  Sometimes as I try to explain to people what the arthritis does and why one day I will have no symptoms at all and the next day be hardly able to move, I want to quote the fibromyalgia commercial: "If I looked as bad as I feel, then would you believe me?"

As the Bishop and I travelled to this particular parish last night for Confirmation, we drove through a storm that dropped the temperature nearly twenty degrees.  When we emerged from the storm after about thirty minutes, the temperature increased that same twenty degrees, the effects of which I am still feeling this morning, despite the blue and sunny skies outside my window.  As the day moves on, I will feel better and by the afternoon I expect to be fine.

While I am on this topic, let me mention the biggest irritation of the arthritis.  It is when people - well meaning as they are - say to me, "You're too young to have arthritis."  Apparently not.  Please, never say something so lame and foolish.

Today I will offer the stiffness and pain in my joints for the people of Joplin, Missouri who have lost so much in recent hours.  Please join me in praying for them.

21 May 2011

A new assignment (sort of), but no move

His Excellency has seen fit to entrust to me additional responsibilities and has appointed your humble scribe to be Priest Secretary and Master of Ceremonies to the Bishop, while retaining my duties as Associate Director of the Office Vocations. This announcement, made public in this week’s issue of the Catholic Times, formalizes a capacity in which I have already been serving unofficially for a few weeks. It is an assignment that I very much enjoy.

Some years back when I was still in the seminary my class went on pilgrimage to Turkey, Greece and Italy. During the pilgrimage following in the footsteps of Saint Paul, we spent a full month in Rome and had the opportunity to meet with several members of the offices of the Holy See.

When we met with a representative from the Secretariat of State I couldn’t help but be impressed by the Irish priest who spoke with us. He worked in Section One (which deals with “general affairs”) translating and drafting texts in English for the Holy Father and helping prepare for various visits to and from the Holy See.

As he explained his work he radiated an obvious joy because he knew his work, humble and largely unknown as it was, helped the Holy Father in his daily ministry. I thought to myself as he spoke, “What a beautiful way to spend my life” (my classmates thought I was crazy). It is this same joy that I am confident I will know as I serve the Lord Jesus Christ by serving Bishop Paprocki. Please pray for me as I continue this work that I may serve Bishop Paprocki well.

You may read his other appointments, of which there are many, here.

20 May 2011

Around the blogosphere

Here are a few links of interest to me that may also be of interest to you:

Bishop Paprocki on the John Jay Study

In his column in this week's Catholic Times, His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, comments on the recently released John Jay Study (with my emphases):
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Earlier this month, six of my classmates who were ordained priests with me at Mundelein Seminary on May 10, 1978 drove down to Springfield to celebrate our 33rd anniversary of ordination. Joining us were the priests of the Cathedral along with Msgr. Carl Kemme, who was celebrating his 25th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. Msgr. Kemme was also ordained on May 10, albeit a few years later.

At the end of this month on May 28, I will have the privilege of ordaining my first priest, Brian Alford, in our Cathedral. His ordination brings great joy and is a real blessing for our diocese. It also brings me back to the day of my ordination, when Cardinal John Patrick Cody ordained me and my 28 classmates for the Archdiocese of Chicago. I’ll never forget the thrill of giving my first blessing to my parents outside the main chapel of Mundelein.

Looking back, I never imagined at that time that I would someday be bishop of Springfield in Illinois. God is full of surprises! At the same time, I had no inkling of the scandals of the clerical sexual abuse of minors that would shake the church to her foundations just a few years later. I had never been abused by a priest, never been solicited by one, never even heard of such a thing. So I was just as shocked as anyone when I first heard of these scandals.

I also had no idea that someday I would be chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago and, as such, that I would serve for 10 years as the cardinal’s delegate to the Professional Review Board that dealt with allegations of clerical sexual misconduct with minors. It was this experience of dealing with such allegations that brought me face to face with Evil, and why I am now so devoted to imploring St. Michael the Archangel to defend us in battle to be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. I am grateful that the faithful of our diocese have responded so enthusiastically to saying the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel after Mass.

Just a few days ago, the John Jay College for Criminal Justice released a study called, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002.

The Causes and Context study found that there is no single “cause” of sexual abuse by priests. Most cases of abuse occurred in the period of 1965-1985, and most current reports are of abuse that took place more than 25 years ago. The chief trend that emerged was the rise of sexual abuse incidents in the 1960s and 1970s and sharp decline in the mid-1980s. Even most reports that were filed after 2002 referenced abuse in this time period.

Some might wonder that if victims tend to wait many years before reporting, isn’t the drop-off in 1985 just a function of that delay? The pattern of reporting by victims is such that, even as time marches on, newly reported claims still pertain mostly to allegations that occurred before 1985. In other words, the lag time between abuse and complaint is getting longer each year, as opposed to staying constant over time.

What caused the sexual abuse “crisis” in the Catholic Church? The study found that there was no single factor that led to an increase in the number of priests who abused minors from the 1960s through the mid-1980s. The study notes, “The rise in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s was influenced by social factors in American society generally. The increase in abusive behavior is consistent with the rise in other types of ‘deviant’ behavior, such as drug use and crime, as well as changes in social behavior, such as an increase in pre-marital sexual behavior and divorce.”

This was the dawning of the “sexual revolution.” Crimes against persons also increased in the period. These social influences intersected with vulnerabilities of some individual priests whose preparation for a life of celibacy was inadequate at that time.

Some critics blame celibacy, yet the study notes that “celibacy has been constant in the Catholic Church since the 11th century and could not account for the rise and subsequent decline in abuse cases from the 1960s through the 1980s.” The fact that the commitment to celibacy was constant before, during and after the crisis period suggests that celibacy was not a cause of abusive behavior. Additionally, most sex offenders in society are not celibate clergy. In fact, most are married or in a relationship with an adult. The study concludes that there is no evidence that priests abuse at higher rates than men in the general population or in other organizations.

The study states that “The Catholic Church has taken serious steps toward understanding and reducing the problem of sexual abuse of minors by priests.” The study also notes that improved seminary education in human formation coincided with the decline in sexual abuse by clergy over the years.

As your bishop, I am committed to ensure the immediate and appropriate response to any and all allegations of clerical sexual abuse of minors with the help of our Diocesan Review Board and our Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator, Ms. Patricia Kornfeld. Anyone with any concerns in this regard may contact Ms. Kornfeld at (217) 321-1155.

In my opinion, the Catholic Church has done more to address the issue of sexual abuse of minors than any other organization. I also believe that our Catholic schools are safer than anywhere else. The gym coach at a public high school sexually abused a close relative of mine, so I am aware from personal knowledge that such abuse occurs in public schools, although the media focus on the Catholic Church would have you erroneously believe that this is a Catholic problem. Sexual abuse of minors is not a Catholic problem, it is a social problem, and we must work diligently to ensure safe environments for children everywhere.

During this month of May dedicated to the Virgin Mary, may our Blessed Mother shield us with her protective mantle and keep us safe from the onslaughts of the Evil One.

Archbishop Dolan on the John Jay report

His Excellency Archbishop Timothy Dolan has released a statement on the recently released John Jay Study (with my emphases):
Today’s release of The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, a report conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, adds valuable insight and understanding to how and why the crime and sin of sexual abuse occurred in the Catholic Church.

Keep in mind that the study released today is a report to the bishops of the United States, not from them. The sexual abuse of minors is a tragedy that affects every family, religion, school, organization, institution, and profession in our society. The Catholic Church in the United States has been noted as the first group anywhere to contract a professional agency – in this case, the John Jay College here in New York City – to examine the “causes and contexts” of this scourge.

I start with this fact because some of the early reaction has already – no surprise here – criticized the bishops for the conclusions of the study! Once again, they are not our conclusions at all, but those of an acclaimed academic institution specializing in this sensitive area.

The information provided in the Causes and Context study closely mirrors our own experience here in the Archdiocese of New York. The report makes clear that the vast majority of sexual abuse occurred during the 1960’s through 1980’s, even as it examines the various conditions that led to this abuse. It also concludes that the incidence of sexual abuse of minors has declined sharply in the Catholic Church since 1985. The reports of abuse that the Victims Assistance Coordinators for the Archdiocese receive today are almost exclusively from decades ago. This does not minimize the damage done to the victims of abuse, as I once again offer an apology to anyone who may have been harmed by a priest or any other person acting in the name of the Church, however long ago.

The study also points out that there was no single cause that led to the sexual abuse crisis. Neither celibacy, as some have suggested, nor homosexuality, as others have claimed, have been found to be a reason why a person would engage in sexual abuse of a minor. Instead, the Causes and Context report indicates that various vulnerabilities in an individual priest, in combination with situational stresses and opportunities, raise the risk that a priest might abuse.

Here in the Archdiocese, as elsewhere in the Church, many steps have been taken to combat this evil. As the study points out, providing safe environments for our young people is perhaps the most important way to prevent sexual abuse. In the Archdiocese, 74,000 adults have undergone safe environment training, and 82,000 have had background checks, with 170,000 children trained each year. In addition, our seminary formation program provides rigorous screening, and more intensive and comprehensive human and emotional development, which better prepares our future priests to live out their commitment to serving God and His Church. Codes of Conduct, both for clergy and for laity, have been established to clarify what is and is not appropriate behavior for those who work with or are associated with minors.

When an allegation of abuse is made, our policy and procedures are well-established, widely published, and effective. First and foremost, we continue to encourage anyone who has an allegation of abuse against a cleric, an employee, or volunteer of the Archdiocese to report it immediately and directly to the appropriate civil authorities. If the Archdiocese of New York has reason to believe that an act of abuse of a minor has occurred, it immediately contacts the appropriate civil authorities, cooperating with the district attorneys and other civil authority in their investigations of suspected cases of abuse.

Our Independent Lay Board, comprised of judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, social workers, parents, teachers, and those experienced in working with sex abuse victims, reviews these allegations after the civil process has completed. Using all the information that the Archdiocese has been able to gather, they determine if an act of abuse occurred, and advise the Archbishop of New York if the priest can be returned to ministry. Should a cleric be found to have committed even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor, he will never be permitted to serve in ministry again.

Earlier this week, the Holy See released a circular letter to bishops’ conferences around the world, urging them to develop polices for dealing with sexual abuse within their own countries. The letter outlines such steps as listening to and caring for the victims of abuse, creating safe environment for minors, proper formation of priests, cooperating with civil authorities, and taking proper care of priests who have been accused of abuse. It is my hope that the experience of the Church in the United States, as illustrated in this study, might help serve as a model, not only for the Church in other countries, but for all of society which is still learning how to deal with the awful problem of abuse.

A young man's wisdom

My friend Jonathan recently celebrated this thirty-third birthday and to celebrate he complied a list of thirty-three things he's learned over the years.

He's right about number 26. 

Weigel debunks common myths

George Weigel weighs in on the recent John Jay study on the causes and context of the sexual abuse crisis(with my emphases):
The American narrative of the Catholic Church's struggles with the clerical sexual abuse of the young has been dominated by several tropes firmly set in journalistic concrete: that this was and is a "pedophilia" crisis; that the sexual abuse of the young is an ongoing danger in the Church; that the Catholic Church was and remains a uniquely dangerous environment for young people; that a high percentage of priests were abusers; that abusive behavior is more likely from celibates, such that a change in the Church's discipline of priestly celibacy would be important in protecting the young; that the Church's bishops were, as a rule, willfully negligent in handling reports of abuse; that the Church really hasn't learned any lessons from the revelations that began in the Long Lent of 2002.

But according to an independent, $1.8 million study conducted by New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and released on May 18, every one of these tropes is false.

One: Most clerical abusers were not pedophiles, that is, men with a chronic and strong sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children.Most of those abused (51 percent) were aged eleven to fourteen and 27 percent of victims were fifteen to seventeen; 16 percent were eight to ten and 6 percent were younger than seven. Males between eleven and fourteen account for more than 40 percent of all victims. Clerical ephebophilia (a sexual attraction to adolescents, often boys) was clearly a serious problem. But to label this a "pedophilia crisis" is ignorant, sloppy, or malicious.

Two: The "crisis" of clerical sexual abuse in the United States was time-specific.The incidence of abuse spiked in the late 1960s and began to recede dramatically in the mid-1980s. In 2010, seven credible cases of abuse were reported in a church that numbers over 65 million adherents.

Three: Abusers were a tiny minority of Catholic priests. Some 4 percent of Catholic priests in active ministry in the United States were accused of abuse between the 1950s and 2002. There is not a shred of evidence indicating that priests abuse young people at rates higher than do people in the rest of society. On the contrary: Most sexual abuse takes place within families. The John Jay study concludes that, in 2001, whereas five young people in 100,000 may have been abused by a priest, the average rate of abuse throughout the United States was 134 for every 100,000 young people. The sexual abuse of the young is a widespread and horrific societal problem; it is by no means uniquely, or principally, a Catholic problem, or a specifically priestly problem.

Four: The bishops' response to the burgeoning abuse crisis between the late 1960s and the early 1980s was not singularly woodenheaded or callous. In fact, according to the John Jay study, the bishops were as clueless as the rest of society about the magnitude of the abuse problem and, again like the rest of society, tended to focus on the perpetrators of abuse rather than the victims. This, in turn, led to an overdependence on psychiatry and psychology in dealing with clerical perpetrators, in the false confidence that they could be "cured" and returned to active ministry - a pattern that again mirrored broader societal trends. In many pre-1985 cases, the principal request of victims' families was that the priest-abuser be given help and counseling. Yes, the bishops should have been more alert than the rest of an increasingly coarsened society to the damage done to victims by sexual abuse; but as the John Jay report states, "like the general public, the leaders of the Church did not recognize the extent or harm of victimization." And this, in turn, was "one factor that likely led to the continued perpetration of offenses."

Five: As for today, the John Jay study affirms that the Catholic Church may well be the safest environment for young people in American society. It is certainly a safer environment than the public schools. Moreover, no other American institution has undertaken the extensive self-study that the Church has, in order to root out the problem of the sexual abuse of the young. It will be interesting to see when editorials in the New York Times and the Boston Globe demand in-depth studies of the sexual abuse of the young by members of the teachers' unions, and zero-tolerance policies for teacher/abusers.

So: If the standard media analytic tropes on clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States have been proven false by a vigorous empirical study conducted by a neutral research institute, what, in fact, did happen? Why did the incidence of abuse spike dramatically from the late 1960s through the mid-1980s? The John Jay researchers propose that the crumbling of sexual mores in the turbulence of the sexual revolution played a significant role. As the report puts it, "The rise in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s was influenced by social factors in American society generally. The increase in abusive behavior is consistent with the rise in other types of ‘deviant' behavior, such as drug use and crime, as well as changes in social behavior, such as an increase in pre-marital sexual behavior and divorce."

This is not the entire picture, of course. A Church that was not in doctrinal and moral confusion from the late 1960s until the 1978 election of John Paul II might have been better armored against the worst impacts of the sexual free-for-all unleashed in the mid-1960s. A Church that had not internalized unhealthy patterns of clericalism might have run seminary programs that would have more readily weeded out the unfit. A Church that placed a high value on evangelical zeal in its leadership might have produced bishops less inclined to follow the lead of the ambient culture in imagining that grave sexual abusers could be "fixed." All that can, and must, be said.

But if the Times, the Globe, and others who have been chewing this story like an old bone for almost a decade are genuinely interested in helping prevent the crime and horror of the sexual abuse of the young, a good, long, hard look will be taken at the sexual libertinism that has been the default cultural position on the American left for two generations. Catholic "progressives" who continue to insist that the disciplinary and doctrinal meltdown of the post-Vatican II years had nothing to do with the abuse crisis might also rethink their default understanding of that period. The ecclesiastical chaos of that decade and a half was certainly a factor in the abuse crisis, although that meltdown is not a one-size-fits-all explanation for the crisis and the way it was handled.

The John Jay study is less than illuminating on one point, and that is the relationship of all this to homosexuality. The report frankly states that "the majority of victims (81 percent) were male, in contrast to the distribution by victim gender in the United States [where] national incidence studies have consistently shown that in general girls are three times more likely to be abused than boys." But then the report states that "the clinical data do not support the hypothesis that priests with a homosexual identity or those who committed same-sex sexual behavior with adults are significantly more likely to sexually abuse children than those with a heterosexual orientation or behavior."

The disconnect, to the lay mind, seems obvious: Eighty-one percent of the victims of sexual abuse by priests are adolescent males, and yet this has nothing to do with homosexuality? Perhaps it doesn't from the clinicians' point of view (especially clinicians ideologically committed to the notion that there is nothing necessarily destructive about same-sex behaviors). But surely the attempt by some theologians to justify what is objectively immoral behavior had something to do with the disciplinary meltdown that the report notes from the late 1960s through the early 1980s; it might be remembered that it was precisely in this period that the Catholic Theological Society of America issued a study, Human Sexuality, that was in clear dissent from the Church's settled teaching on fornication, self-abuse, and homosexual acts, and even found a relatively kind word to say about bestiality. And is there no connection to be found between the spike in abuse cases between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, with its victimization of adolescent males, and the parallel spike in homoerotic culture in U.S. Catholic seminaries and religious orders in that same period? Given the prevailing shibboleths in the American academy (including the Catholic academy), it may be that no clinically or statistically demonstrable linkage will be found, but it strains credulity to suggest that there wasn't a cultural connection here, one that bears serious reflection.

Empirical evidence is unlikely to shift the attention of the mainstream media or the plaintiffs' bar from the Catholic Church in this matter of the sexual abuse of the young. It would be a good thing for the entire society, however, if the defenders of the sexual revolution would take seriously the question of the relationship between their commitment to lifestyle libertinism and this plague. If the John Jay study on the "causes ands context" of clerical-sexual-abuse problems in the Catholic Church prompts a broader public reflection on the fact that the sexual revolution has not been, and is not, cost-free, and that its victims are often the vulnerable young, then the Church will have done all of American society a signal service in commissioning this study that looks into its own heart of darkness.
That's a big if, but let us pray it comes to be.

No smoking gun

A recently released study titled the John Jay Study on Causation and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States has received relatively little media attention.

The Anchoress suggests the reason for a lack of attention when one would expect a great deal of it lies in the fact that the report does not present a smoking gun (with my emphases):
The lack of a “smoking gun” is the cause of the thud. Lots of people with agendas were looking for a causation report shooting bullets inscribed with their agendas — bullets that would validate their beliefs that the dreadful sins committed by a small minority of our priests, and then damnably mishandled by some bishops, were rooted in the discipline of celibacy (a stupid argument, of course, since most victims of child sexual abuse encounter it within their own non-celibate homes, and while most humans experience periods of celibacy within in their lives, it never leads them to exploit children) or that homosexuality was the culprit, which is another weak argument.


But this is where the Jay study has great value: no matter what hopeful agenda one may have attached to the outcome of this study, it’s results suggest (to me, anyway) that it may be time to abandon all agendas and face the fact, finally, that Catholicism did not cause these crimes and does not foment sexual abuse toward minors, and to admit that this crime is not a problem peculiar to the church and therefore neatly folded and packed away as such.

Up to now, the issue of sexual abuse of minors in institutions has been dramatically focused upon the Catholic church because, let’s face it, it’s shameful and reprehensible for these things to have happened within the church founded by Christ. It was an is an appropriate focus. But in the face of this report, perhaps it ought no longer be the sole focus of our attention. It might, finally, be time to look at sexual abuse in other institutions, as well — even the secular institutions and the public schools — if we are ever going to come to understand the nature and scope and reality of the problem.

As reputable a study as could be mounted has declared that yes, the church failed, gravely, to do the right thing, and this is a great shame and a mortification that will reverberate through the church for generations — perhaps past our lifetimes. But the church, we see now, did not “cause” the abuse.

We are a culture that loves scientific studies and we look to “experts” and authoritative voices to tell us why things happen, and how we are supposed to address them. But I suspect that additional studies by equally reputable agencies, done on other institutions, will land with equally inconclusive thuds because the problem of child sexual abuse involves something deeper than the psyche, itself.
Please be sure to read her entire post.

A rapture round-up

It's no secret that Harold Camping is predicting the Lord's return tomorrow, and some are taking his warning seriously (though I don't know how many).

Others are viewing his claim as pure rubbish, especially in light of his previous failed prediction that the Lord would return on October 7, 1994.  This, clearly, did not happen.

Writing at Insight Scoop, Carl Olson points out a danger of Camping's prediction (with my emphases):
Most Rapture-ites/dispensationalists avoid specific date-setting, in part because of Jesus' statement, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only" (Matt. 24:36), but also because of the practical concern of looking like an idiot and quickly losing followers, reputation, and income. But Camping is almost ninety years old (he was born on July 19, 1921). What does he have to lose? But I don't think that this is a stunt on his part; I've known folks who have been convinced about this or that date of "The Rapture" or "The End", and they were as sincere as they were wrong: 100%. One concern, however, is that some people will associate such date-setting silliness with authentic, serious, hope-filled Christianity, and will then reject or mock all Christians because of the falsehoods promoted by Camping and Crew. Such is the nature of things, as Christians are often, to loosely rework Chesterton, the main stumbleblocks to folks becoming Christian.

His caution is a wise observation and his entire post is worth a read, particularly for a bit more background information.

Others in the Catholic blogosphere are taking a more light-hearted approach to the whole affair, particularly The Crescat, who has declared Sunday the International Day of Looting.  Afterall, according to Camping, many possessions will no longer have owners and there's no reason to simply let things lie around unused.

Sister Mary Martha is taking a bit of a delayed approach to the whole situation.

Weigel on bin Laden and just war

Over at First Things, George Weigel reflects on the death of bin Laden and the just war tradition.  His text follows, with my emphases and comments:
The death of Osama bin Laden did not end the war against jihadism, a war bin Laden had declared against the United States in a 1996 fatwa that mandated the killing of Americans wherever they could be targeted. But it did take one key leader of jihadist Islam off the global strategic chessboard.

The death of Osama bin Laden did not end the civil war within Islam over the proper interpretation of Islamic law and the right relationship of Muslims to those who are “other.” But it did continue the dymythologization of bin Laden and his alleged invincibility, a myth that was no minor factor in his faction’s power within that intra-Islamic struggle, which long ago spilled out of the House of Islam to shake the rest of the world.

The death of Osama bin Laden did not cure the social and political pathologies of the Arab Islamic world. But it did remove one obstacle to those pathologies being addressed by the democrats within 2011’s “Arab Spring.”

The death of Osama bin Laden did not resolve the intellectual dilemma of Islam in its confrontation with modern science and modern methods of reading ancient texts. But it may have hastened, if only slightly, the day when Islam confronts the intellectual fossilization that has made its lands cultural backwaters for centuries.

The death of Osama bin Laden will not bring the European Union out of its post-modern cultural funk (for bin Laden’s wickedness was rarely grasped in Old Europe), and I doubt that it will have a decisive effect on 2012 presidential politics in the United States. But it did create a moment in which to reconsider and recalibrate the full menu of methods the West uses to confront the ongoing jihadist threat, and that reconsideration might lead to wiser security policy. Perhaps that moment will be seized by public authorities who care more for good governance than for good polling numbers. Perhaps.

What the death of bin Laden did demonstrate unmistakably is just how poorly many religious leaders and religious intellectuals think about the new kind of war in which we have been engaged for more than a decade and a half (although most of us only recognized that after 9/11). Which is to say, the death of Osama bin Laden demonstrated yet again how badly the just war tradition has been received by the men and women who are supposed to be its intellectual custodians.

Thus from some religious quarters came laments, not over the ongoing damage that bin Laden’s evil network causes, but over the fact that he was killed and the method used to kill him [some tried to pin such labels on me, but what I lamented was the great rejoicing done over the death of a man]. It seemed as if, at various divinity schools, bin Laden was a gangster writ large who ought to have been dealt with by law enforcement agencies and methods and, after apprehension, read his Miranda rights and given a trial by a jury of his peers.

This is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at that. As I told one reporter, attempts to portray what happened to bin Laden in Pakistan as the equivalent of the Chicago police department breaking into a Milwaukee crack house and gunning down a crack-cocaine dealer are preposterous; they completely misconstrue the nature of the conflict between bin Laden and the United States since the mid-1990s. To say it yet again: in dealing with the bin Ladens of this world, we are engaging in war, not police work; and the relevant moral standards are those derived from the just war tradition, not from the U.S. Criminal Code as interpreted by the Warren Court.

As usual, Rutgers University’s James Turner Johnson got it exactly right: bin Laden’s death was “an execution of justice, plain and simple, carried out under the authority of the one who can properly use bellum (war) in the service of good.” And why is it important to grasp this? Because if soft-minded and ill-informed religious leaders and intellectuals succeed in gutting the just war tradition and loosening our public culture’s grasp on it, the only alternative will be a raw pragmatism that justifies any end and any means.

18 May 2011

Cardinal Sepe stands up to Mafia

His Eminence Crescensio Cardinal Sepe, Archbishop of Naples, has taken a stand against unrepentant members of the mafia.  He said, "If Mafiosi were repentant it would be a different story, but as this is not the case, they cannot be godfathers, or witnesses to a marriage, or have a funeral in church."

In making such a statement, Cardinal Sepe is reiterating what the Code of Canon Law already states.

Let us keep His Eminence in our prayers.

A welcome frustration

As I travel the Diocese with the Bishop as the Episcopal Master of Ceremonies, I meet a great variety of altar servers.  As might well be expected, some of the servers are good, some decent and some could use a bit more practice.

Last night I found a group of servers quite unlike most servers.  At various times throughout the Mass I turned back to the servers to motion for one or two of them to come to me but found I could not do so because their heads were bowed and they were not looking at me.

This is not an altogether uncommon experience, but evenso the experience last night was different.  The servers' heads were bowed not out of boredom, but in prayer.  That is a welcome frustration.

Persecution watch

In the Indian state of Orissa, a 17-year-old Christian woman was kidnapped, raped and killed.

They died where?

Have you ever wondered where the Apostles died?  The folks at Geographic Travels have put together the map for you.

Capello tip to Joe Carter at First Thoughts.

16 May 2011

Bishops of England and Wales restore Friday abstinence

From Zenit (with my emphases and comments:
LONDON, MAY 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The bishops of England and Wales are re-establishing the practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays as a penance to identify with Christ on the cross [I hope our Bishops in the USA will do the same].

In the resolutions published from their spring plenary assembly, which concluded Thursday, the bishops announced the re-establishment of the practice, to go into effect Sept. 16.

"Every Friday is set aside by the Church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of our Lord," a statement of resolutions from the assembly reminded. "The law of the Church requires Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays, or some other form of food, or to observe some other form of penance laid down by the Bishops’ Conference."

"The Bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the faithful as a clear and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity," the statement announced.

The prelates added that it is "important that all the faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance."

"Respectful of this, and in accordance with the mind of the whole Church, the Bishops’ Conference wishes to remind all Catholics in England and Wales of the obligation of Friday Penance. The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat," the resolution stated.

The prelates said those who do not eat meat normally should abstain from some other food on Fridays [ideally, one they regularly consume].

The date for the re-establishment of meatless Fridays, Sept. 16, marks the anniversary of Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom last year.

"Many may wish to go beyond this simple act of common witness and mark each Friday with a time of prayer and further self-sacrifice," the bishops' statement concluded. "In all these ways we unite our sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ, who gave up his very life for our salvation."
The universal law of the Church calls for abstinence from meat on every Friday of the year, but each national Conference of Bishops is able to substitute a different penance.  The US Bishops made abstaining from meat every Friday an option, but also allows each member of the faithful to choose a different penance if they choose to eat meat on Fridays.  Most Catholics in the US are sadly unaware of this.

Birth control, abortion and breast cancer

In a new book based on six years of studies, Dr. Chris Kahlenborn demonstrates the connections between birth control, abortion and several forms of cancer, including breast cancer.

A little too eager?

Not too long ago I had to take my car into the shop.  The computer was under recall and it needed new brake pads and a new serpentine belt.

Today I received a postcard from my dealership to which I took it.  In part, the card reads, "We can't wait to work for you again."

To be sure, the service was fine and the staff friendly.  Even so, as happy as are they are to see me again, I'd rather not see them again for a while.

15 May 2011

In honor of the day

Saint Clare and Eucharistic Living

Today the Church celebrates what is commonly called "Good Shepherd Sunday," a designation that will seem obvious to all who listen to the Gospel passage proclaimed today in each of the three cycles of readings.

It is Christ the Good Shepherd who willing laid down his life for his sheep.  It is this example that he calls us to imitate, to lay down our lives so that others might live.

The way in which we are called to do so varies from person to person and largely depends upon the vocation to which the Lord has called us.

After the morning Mass I sat down to read an older article by Ilia Delio, OSF titled, "Clare of Assisi and the Body of Christ" (The Cord, 55.4 [2005], 105-161).

In the article, she reflects on the important incident in Saint Clare's life involving the Saracens.  After noting that, like Christ, Saint Clare was willing to lay down her life for her sisters, Sister Ilia asks the following poignant questions:
I wonder if terrorists came to our door today and threatened to attack us would we hold up the Eucharist as the power of protection [as Clare did] or prostrate ourselves in prayer or delcare ourselves hostages for the sake of our brothers and sisters?  Or would we retaliate in self-defence and kill if necessary?  What kind of spirituality impels one to offer up one's life for the sake of others rather than to defend oneself against the enemy?
The answer to this last question, she suggests, is one centered on the cross of Jesus Christ which Clare sees as "the mirror of our humanity and the place of our transformation in God" and in leading a Eucharistic life.

12 May 2011

Pope: Digital man and the caveman alike seek to overcome finitude

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI continued his catechetical series on prayer yesterday reflecting on man's religious sense at his general audience.

The text of his address, via Zenit, follows, with my emphases and comments:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to continue reflecting on how prayer and the religious sense have been a part of mankind throughout history.

We live in an age in which the signs of secularism are evident. It seems that God has disappeared from the horizon of many persons or that he has become a reality before which one remains indifferent. However, at the same time we see many signs that indicate to us an awakening of the religious sense, a rediscovery of the importance of God for man's life, a need of spirituality, of surmounting a purely horizontal, material vision of human life. Analyzing recent history, the prediction has failed of those who in the age of the Enlightenment proclaimed the disappearance of religions and exalted absolute reason, separated from faith, a reason that would have dispelled the darkness of religious dogmas and dissolved "the world of the sacred," restoring to man his liberty, his dignity and his autonomy from God. The experience of the last century, with the two tragic World Wars, put in crisis that progress that autonomous reason, man without God, seemed to be able to guarantee.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms: "In the act of creation, God calls every being from nothingness into existence. [...] Even after losing through his sin his likeness to God, man remains an image of his Creator, and retains the desire for the one who calls him into existence. All religions bear witness to men's essential search for God" (No. 2566). We could say -- as I showed in the previous catechesis -- that there has been no great civilization, from the most ancient times up to our days, which has not been religious.

Man is religious by nature, he is homo religiosus as he is homo sapiens and homo faber [maker]. "The desire for God," the Catechism also affirms, "is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God" (No. 27). The image of the Creator is imprinted in his being and he feels the need to find a light to give an answer to the questions that have to do with the profound meaning of reality; an answer that he cannot find in himself, in progress, in empirical science. Homo religiosus does not emerge only from the ancient world, but he crosses the whole history of humanity.

To this end, the rich terrain of human experience has witnessed the emergence of different forms of religiosity, in the attempt to respond to the desire for plenitude and happiness, to the need of salvation, to the search for meaning. "Digital" man and the caveman alike seek in religious experience the ways to overcome his finitude and to ensure his precarious earthly adventure. Moreover, life without a transcendent horizon would not have complete meaning, and the happiness to which we tend, is projected toward a future, toward a tomorrow that is yet to be attained.

In the declaration "Nostra Aetate," the Second Vatican Council stressed it synthetically. It states: Men expect from the various religions answers to the unsolved riddles of the human condition, which today, even as in former times, deeply stir the hearts of men: What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what sin? Whence suffering and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?" (No. 1). Man knows that he cannot answer on his own his fundamental need to understand. Even if he is deluded and still believes that he is self-sufficient, he has the experience that he is not sufficient unto himself. He needs to open himself to the other, to something or someone, which can give him what he lacks, he must come out of himself toward the One who can fill the extent and profundity of his desire.

Man bears within himself a thirst for the infinite, a nostalgia for eternity, a search for beauty, a desire for love, a need for light and truth, which drive him toward the Absolute; man bears within himself the desire for God. And man knows, in some way, that he can address himself to God, that he can pray to him. St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest theologians of history, defines prayer as the "expression of man's desire for God." This attraction toward God, which God himself has placed in man, is the soul of prayer, which is cloaked in many forms and modalities according to the history, time, moment, grace and finally the sin of each one of those who pray. In fact, man's history has known varied forms of prayer, because he has developed different modalities of openness toward the on High and toward the Beyond, so much so that we can recognize prayer as an experience present in every religion and culture.

In fact, dear brothers and sisters, as we saw last Wednesday, prayer is not linked to a particular context, but is found inscribed in every person's heart and in every civilization.

Of course, when we speak of prayer as man's experience in as much as man, of the homo orans [prayer], it is necessary to keep in mind that this is an interior attitude, rather than a series of practices and formulas, a way of being before God, rather than carrying out acts of worship or pronouncing words. Prayer has its center and founds its roots in the most profound being of the person; that is why it is not easily decipherable and for the same reason, it can be subject to misunderstandings and mystifications. Also in this sense we can understand the expression: it is difficult to pray. In fact, prayer is the place par excellence of gratuitousness, of the tension towards the Invisible, the Unexpected, the Ineffable. Because of this, the experience of prayer is a challenge for everyone, a "grace" to be invoked, a gift of the One whom we address.

In all the periods of history, in prayer man considers himself and his situation before God, from God and in regard to God, and he experiences himself as being a creature in need of help, incapable of achieving by himself the fulfillment of his existence and his hope. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein reminded that "to pray means to feel that the meaning of the world is outside the world." In the dynamic of this relationship with the One who gives meaning to existence, with God, prayer has one of its typical expressions in the gesture of kneeling. It is a gesture that bears in itself a radical ambivalence: in fact, I can be obliged to kneel -- condition of indigence and slavery -- or I can kneel spontaneously, confessing my limit and, hence, my need for the Other. To Him I confess that I am weak, needy, a "sinner."

In the experience of prayer, the human creature expresses all his awareness of himself, all that he is able to understand of his existence and, at the same time, he addresses himself wholly to the Being before whom he is, he orients his soul to that Mystery from which he awaits the fulfillment of his most profound desires and help to surmount the indigence of his life. In this looking at the Other, in this addressing "the beyond" is the essence of prayer, as experience of a reality that surpasses the sentient and the contingent.

However, the full realization of man's search is found only in the God who reveals himself. Prayer, which is the opening and raising of the heart to God, becomes a personal relationship with Him. And even if man forgets his Creator, the living and true God does not fail to call man to the mysterious encounter of prayer. As the Catechism affirms: "In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation" (No. 2567).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn to spend more time before God, let us learn to recognize in silence the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, to recognize in the depth of ourselves his voice that calls us and leads us back to the profundity of our existence, to the fount of life, to the source of salvation, to make us go beyond the limits of our life and to open ourselves to the measure of God, to the relationship with Him who is Infinite Love. Thank you!