30 July 2011

Media double standard in Ireland same in USA

In a must-read post, Father Tim Finigan exposes a blatant double standard in the Irish press regarding pedophelia and those who support it.

It seems David Norris, a presidential candidate, has made statements in the past which would be hard to be taken as anything but an endorsement of pedophelia, yet the media is making strides to white wash his comments.

As Father Finigan concludes, "Good to see the Irish press is keeping an even-handed and impartial view of things as ever."  I'm glad to see it isn't just the American press who maintains this double standard.

27 July 2011

Tomb of Saint Philip found

It seems the tomb of the Apostle Philip has been found near Hieropolis in Turkey.

When I was in Turkey in 2004 and in the ancient city of Hieropolis, our tour guide told us that Saint Philip's tomb was nearby and pointed out the location to us, but told us it was off limits.  Maybe archeologists should have checked with the locals several decades ago.

May he rest in peace

Rocco passes along the sad news that His Excellency the Most Reverend Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America, has died.

May the angels greet him and escort him into Paradise.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.  Amen.

More on Pius XII's efforts during WWII

Vatican Insider has a good piece today on the Servant of God Pope Pius XII's efforts to save thousands of Jews during World War II.  The article follows (emphases original):
The Vatican secretly forged baptism certificates to allow many Jews to emigrate as Catholics. Historian Michael Hesemann has found a number of texts in the archives of St. Mary of the Soul, the German national church in Rome, which document the direct action taken by Pius XII. This constitutes a step forward in the cause of beatification and canonization. In an original telegram sent by the German commandos in Berlin to the headquarters of the SS in Rome who ordered the arrest and imprisonment, in the Mauthausen concentration camp, of 8,000 Roman Jews. Thanks to the Pope’s intervention, just over 1,000 out of the original 8,000 were arrested.

The personal and direct action of Pius XII to stop the arrests of Jews in Rome October 16, 1943 is documented. When the arrests ended, Pius XII sent a representative to the place where they were being held to demand the release of the 1,000 Jews, but he was refused entry. The Pope ordered that the Roman Jews taken in, in the Church’s various properties and Catholic houses, suspending cloister rules so that men could be allowed into convents and women into monasteries across Europe.

He literally hid as many as 7,000 Jews in one day. “Pius XII probably saved more Jews of all political and religious leaders of the world together.” Gary Krupp, President of the “Pave the Way Foundation,” comments that “it is time to recognize Pope Pius XII for what he actually did and not for what he did not say.” He added: “From what I have seen, the Pope is, without doubt, the greatest hero of World War II. Pius XII was not Hitler's Pope, he was a man Hitler wanted dead.”

Furthermore, the future Pius XII used his influence so the then representative of the World Zionist Organization, Nahum Sokolov, could be personally received by Pope Benedict XV to speak about his Jewish homeland in Palestine. In 1926, Monsignor Pacelli urged German Catholics to support the Pro Palestine Committee, which supported Jewish settlements in the Holy Land.

The documents, which can be downloaded from the Foundation’s website, include a manuscript written by a nun, dated 1943, detailing the instructions she received from the Pope, as well as a list of protected Jews. Another document is a report by the U.S. Foreign Service of the American Consul in Cologne, informing about the election of a “new Pope” in 1939. The diplomat expressed his surprise at the '"extreme dislike" of Pacelli for Hitler and the Nazi regime, and at his support of German bishops in their opposition to Nazism, even at the cost of the suppression of German Catholic Youth. In a document dated 1938, the then Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli opposed a Polish bill to outlaw the kosher sacrifice, as this law “would presuppose severe persecution of the Jewish people.”

During the war, Pius XII wrote a telegram to the then regent of Hungary, Admiral Miklos Horthy, asking him to avoid deporting Jews. The Admiral agreed, saving an estimated 80,000 lives. He asked the Brazilian to accept 3,000 “non-Aryans”. In a testimony, General Karl Wolff speaks in detail of Hitler's plan to attack the Vatican and kidnap the Pope.

There were spies in the Vatican, and German snipers at 200 meters from the papal windows. The drop in public statements made by the Pope, which aroused much criticism against him, is explained by the increased punishments in the concentration camps, witnessed by former prisoners, each time Church leaders spoke out against the Nazi regime.

There are many documented examples of direct action and the pastoral ministry of Eugenio Pacelli to save Jews from Nazi tyranny. There is no evidence of “direct intercession by Pacelli to protect the Jews of Palestine from the Ottoman Turks in 1917 and his encouragement to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1925. Furthermore, Pope Pius XII played an active role in opposing Hitler.

Pacelli was an active enemy of Adolph Hitler, to the point that he conspired in an attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944. Among the testimonies of what Pius XII did for the Jews during the Holocaust there is written proof that the Pope gave orders to accommodate Jews in convents. In a memorial of the Augustinian Nuns of the Convent of the Four Crowned Saints in Rome in 1943there is an inscription which reads: “Having reached this month of November we must be ready to render services of charity in a totally unsuspected manner. The Holy Father Pope Pius XII, from his paternal heart feels all the sufferings of the moment. Unfortunately, since the Germans entered Rome in September, a merciless war has begun against the Jews whom they want to exterminate through the atrocities suggested by the darkest barbarism.”

In these painful circumstances - the Memorial text goes on to say - the Holy Father wants to save all his children, including Jews, and order that Monasteries must accommodate those being persecuted, and that even the cloistered must adhere to the desire of the Supreme Pontiff, so as of Nov. 4 we will be accommodating the people listed here up until June 6th ...” The Memorial also says that “during Lent, even Jews had to listen to sermons, and Mr. Alfredo Sermoneta would help in church.”

And again: “the war is over, we talked about the goodness of the Holy Father who had helped and saved many, including Jews, young people and entire families.” This confirms the personal and institutional commitment of Pius XII to protect and save persecuted Jews. The written copy of the Pius XII’s order is missing because under war conditions, with the city occupied by the Nazis, he had to act prudently and thus did not issue any written orders. Instead, he sent trusted messengers to communicate the will of the Holy Father.

It would be
imprudent and dangerous to write an order that could fall into the wrong hands and endanger the lives of many. Furthermore a group of priests got together and under the orders of the Secretary of State, went from one religious house to another, as well as universities, seminaries, schools, parishes to ask them to open convents and organize a support network. At the end of the war there were about 150 religious houses, monasteries and parishes, that saved thousands of Jews from certain death. Pius XII and the Catholic Church saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout Europe.

Voris vs. WYD

The organizers of the World Youth Day 2011 recently released a press statement in which they stated Michael Voris of Real Catholic TV is not associated with WYD.  The statement follows, with my emphases:
It has come to our attention that Michael Voris, a US based media producer, is scheduled to offer independent catechesis sessions out of a hotel in Madrid during World Youth Day 2011. There has been some confusion regarding his affiliation with World Youth Day. Michael Voris, the clergy and the laity associated with him, and their media efforts “Real Catholic TV” and “No Bull in Madrid” are not in any way recognized or approved by World Youth Day 2011.

Catechesis at World Youth Day is offered by Bishops of the Catholic Church in union with Pope Benedict XVI, who has invited the young people of the world to join him in Madrid for this celebration of faith and life. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity selects and invites Bishops, and only Bishops, from around the world to conduct Catechesis sessions at WYD in various languages.

Participants in the World Youth Day 2011 Cultural Program must be recognized and endorsed by the Bishops and Episcopal Conferences of their respective countries. Participants were selected for Cultural program by the World Youth Day organization in close collaboration with the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Those groups participating in the World Youth Day 2011 Cultural Festival have been selected because, through their various activities, they promote the authentic teaching and unity of the Roman Catholic Church and have been endorsed by their local Bishop and Espiscopal conference. Michael Voris, “Real Catholic TV” and “No Bull in Madrid” did not receive such endorsement from their Bishop or Episcopal Conference
Michael Voris, “Real Catholic TV” and the program “No Bull in Madrid” are not accredited to or recognized by World Youth Day 2011.

World Youth Day Madrid 2011 invites and encourages all pilgrims attending this celebration of faith to visit the vast array of events that make up the official World Youth Day 2011 Cultural Festival and are endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the WYD organization and their respective Bishops conferences.
For his part, Voris has released his own statement, with my emphases and comments:
The faithful who work at http://www.realcatholictv.com would like to thank the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for drawing attention to our existence and scheduled contributions to the upcoming World Youth Day events to be held in Madrid, Spain, as well as the launch of its new pilot program striving to address tough issues concerning sexuality and morals facing Catholic youth today, http://www.nobullinmadrid.com.

While we regret that some assistant to the Secretariat for Laity of the USCCB has not given us her approval “to participate in the cultural program”, we prefer to rely upon the higher authority of Our Lord Himself [this is a dangerous line of thinking and is not an authentically Catholic way of thinking], and an Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church as it does what it can to increase the authentic Faith and Morals of the Catholic Church:

“The laity derive the right and duty to the apostolate from their union with Christ the head; incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, they are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself.” Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 3. [While this is true, it is also true that "no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority" (canon 216).  This consent seems not to have been given.]

For every press release that is issued mentioning our existence, more and more tangible interest inhttp://www.realcatholictv.com is generated on the part of ordinary Catholic faithful simply seeking straightforward information on just how to be really Catholic – not only in word, but more importantly in deed, which all too often is lacking on the part of some Dioceses in too many parishes to the grave detriment of souls [this does not legitimate an oppositional stand against the organizers of WYD.  John Corapi's site also received increased attention, but that does not justify what he has done]. For the significant increased attention drawn to the exclusive on-line product found on http://www.realcatholictv.com, we are very grateful.

The faithful at http://www.realcatholictv.com are in full compliance with the universal norms of the Code of Canon Law [not with canon 216, unless such consent has simply not been mentioned on the site, unless I just missed it], the universal legislation of the Roman Catholic Church, which in no canon muzzles ordinary Catholic faithful from using themselves on the web as genuine instruments of dissemination of Catholic principles. To the contrary, the Second Vatican Council calls upon every single Catholic to do his or her share to build up genuine observance of authentic Catholic Faith and Morals [yes, but while maintaining communion with the Church (cf. canons 208-218], which we only strive to achieve in a concrete and updated format resonating with the youth of today.
While I have in the past enjoyed some videos from Real Catholic TV, I have, from the first time I saw them, had some reservations about them.  The videos are almost always confrontational in style and tone and seem to presume the worst intentions of Catholics who are lukewarm.  I do not know any of the "behind the scenes" details between Voris and WYD, but I suspect this tone is part of what why he and his organization have not been endorsed by the USCCB.

Fr. Gregor Mendel: Faith and Science are not mutally exclusive

Back on the 21st of June Google paid tribute to Father Gregor Mendel, the founder of modern biography, in the title graphic at google.com:
I saw this image that day but, not looking very closely at it, didn't realize what it was or why it was there.  I searched for whatever it was that I wanted and forgot about it.  Until I saw the following article at CathNewsUSA from the Catholic News Agency (with my emphases and comments):
.- Internet giant Google paid homage to Austrian priest and biologist Father Gregor Mendel, considered the father of modern genetics [Father Mendel is just one of many priests who show that science and faith and not automatically opposed to each other].
The design that appeared on the search engine’s homepage on July 21 featured the two pea plants that Fr. Mendel used in his experiment.
During a speech marking the 100th anniversary of the death of Fr. Mendel in 1984, Blessed Pope John Paul II said, “Gregor Mendel was a man of Christian and Catholic culture. During his life, prayer and praise sustained the research and reflection of this patient observer and scientific genius.”
“Based on the example of his teacher, St. Augustine, Gregor Mendel learned through the observation of nature and the contemplation of its Author to unite with one leap the search for the truth with the certainty of already knowing it in the Creator-Word,” the late Pope said.
Journalist Alberto Carrara explained that Fr. Mendel, who was born in Heinzendorf (in the present-day Czech Republic), took an interest in science because of his passion for agriculture. In 1843 he entered the Augustinian monastery at Altbrunn and in 1847 he made his religious vows and was ordained a priest.
While studying theology, he also attended courses on agriculture and vine growing, where he learned from Franz Diebl the method of artificial pollination as the main way of improving controlled plant growth.
Between 1851 and 1853, he studied at the University of Vienna where he heard the theories of Fr. Unger for the first time [I'm not familiar with him, but he would another example of that faith and science are not mutually exclusive], on the mutation of species and the age of the earth.
In 1865 during a conference of the Natural Sciences Society, Fr. Mendel presented the results of his research, which would later form the scientific basis for modern genetics.
He died in Brunn on January 6, 1884.

Mendel’s three laws of genetics have proven to be essential in modern-day research.
The first law, called the Law of Segregation, states that offspring receive a pair of genes for each inherited trait, one gene from each of its parents. These pairs separate randomly when the offspring’s genes are formed. Thus, a parent hands down only one gene of each pair to its offspring.
The second law, called the Law of Independent Assortment, states that offspring inherit each of its traits independent of other traits because they are sorted separately.

The third is the Law of Dominance, which states that when offspring inherit two different genes for a trait, one gene will be dominant and the other will be recessive. The trait of the dominant gene will appear in the offspring.

On the Pope's brothers new book

Some years back then Cardinal Ratzinger sat down with the journalist Peter Seewald for a lengthy interview that resulted in a book transcribed by Seewald called The Ratzinger Report.  The book was received so well that the Cardinal agreed to sit down a second time with Seewald for a lenthy interview that resulted in a second book, God and the World.  As Pope, he sat down again with Seewald for a lengthy interview that resulted in Light of the World.
I suppose it would be an easy way to write a book.  An interviewer asks you questions which you answer.  He transcribes your words and allows you to proof them and tweak them if need be.  And the book is finished.  It might be modern form of dictation.

I bring this up because the Pope's brothers forthcoming book, My Brother, The Pope, was written in a similar fashion.  Zenit's Jesus Colina recently interviewed Michael Hesseman, who interviewed Msgr. Ratzinger.

Zenit has published Colina's interview with Hesseman, the text of which follows, with my emphases:
ZENIT: Do you think this book will help to better understand Joseph Ratzinger's vocation?

Hesemann: Indeed this is the intention of the book, which was written on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the priestly ordination of His Holiness, the Pope, and his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger. The book shows how his incredible and completely unintended "career" followed a kind of hidden plan, which you can only call Divine Providence. When I visited the Emanuel School of Mission in Altoetting, the Marian sanctuary that was a central point in Joseph Ratzinger's early life, I heard their slogan: "Give all, get more." And this is exactly the principle followed by him: He always gave everything, he tried to serve the Lord with all his potential, and received much more than he ever imagined or even wanted.

ZENIT: Are there any revelations about Joseph Ratzinger's life? And Georg Ratzinger's?

Hesemann: Yes, of course. In this book, you will learn the most intimate details about their family life. And once again we have a slogan that describes it all: "A family that prays together, stays together." The Ratzinger family became a kind of stronghold against all the tides of those stormy times, including the brutality of the Nazi Regime and the horrors of the war, and it became strong because of its strong piety and intense religious life. Especially today, in a time when so many families are torn into pieces by family problems and divorces, the Ratzingers might serve as a role model for a happy family life. Their secret was to be a family under God, to turn their family into a basic cell of the Church itself. If there were more families like them, we would not have a lack of vocations!

ZENIT: What were the surprises from your conversations with the Pope's brother?

Hesemann: There were many surprises, but the biggest one was how straight but -- at the same time, unintended -- was the path that led Benedict to the See of St. Peter. The most important day in his life was his consecration as a priest on June 29, 1951, when he felt how much more he could give to the people when he allows the Holy Spirit to work through him. He was so happy when he was just a small chaplain in a Munich parish! But then, because of his unique intellectual brilliance, he was pushed to become a professor of theology, and he enjoyed teaching. He did not want to become a bishop, others had to encourage him, after Pope Paul VI made him the new archbishop of Munich. When John Paul II called him to Rome, he found more than enough reasons to stay in Bavaria, and once again someone else, this time the Pope, had to drag him: "Munich is important, but Rome is more important."

Eventually he dreamed of retiring, spending more time with his brother and writing some books -- when, he was elected Pope. This indeed reminded me of St. Peter and the words of Our Lord: "... and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish" (John 21:18). This was, of course, a prophecy, describing the martyrdom of the Prince of the Apostles. But it very well describes what happened to Joseph Ratzinger. But still, if you follow his life, "somebody" prepared him for the Petrine Ministry from the very beginning. It's all the work of God!

But another surprise was how unconditionally this family opposed the Nazis from the very beginning. The boys' father, Joseph Ratzinger Sr., was a regular reader, probably even subscriber, of the most radical Catholic anti-Nazi publication, "Der gerade Weg" (The Straight Path), whose editor, Fritz Michael Gerlich, was one of the first Catholic martyrs of Nazi Germany. The Ratzinger father was a police commander of a small town, Tittmoning, and he got into serious trouble even before the Nazi takeover, because he shut down Nazi meetings and confronted the Nazi SA several times. Eventually he was forced to step down from the career ladder and continue his service in a small village, Aschau, instead. Georg's and Joseph's entry into the seminary, their decision to become Catholic priests, at that time was an open rejection of the Nazis who vigorously terrorized the Church. They suffered mockery and discrimination because of this decision. And still they followed their conscience. The Ratzingers' father, who only had a meager pension at that time, refused all financial advantages of a membership in the Nazi party and even the teenage Joseph Ratzinger managed to avoid participation in the Hitler Youth, even when it was mandatory by German law to enter this organization. He just did not go and when he was forced to become a soldier, he even deserted and only a miracle protected him from being caught at a time when deserters were hung.

ZENIT: What is the role of music in Georg's life? And in Joseph's life?

Hesemann: Music always played an important role in the life of the Ratzinger family. Their father not only sang in the boys choir of his home parish, but also played the zither, an instrument popular in Bavarian folk music. Their mother once served as a housekeeper for a conductor and came in contact with classical music, too, at a rather young age. So when Georg discovered his huge musical talent, he was encouraged by his parents. He was fascinated by a man who owned a harmonium, so his father bought one and he played it so well that when he was only 10 years old, his parish priest asked him to play it during the Holy Mass for schoolchildren on weekdays. Joseph shared this love for music and had musical teachers on both the harmonium and the piano, in his young years and still, even as Pope, plays the piano when his time allows. He loves classical music, especially Mozart, after the Ratzinger boys managed to get to the Salzburg festival once and listened to some important concerts. When George Ratzinger visits his brother nowadays, the Holy Father regularly asks him to play the piano for him, which he enjoys so much.

ZENIT: Can you describe Georg Ratzinger's soul?

Hesemann: Honestly, I enjoyed every meeting with him. He has a heart of gold. I've rarely met a man who is so humble, so friendly and so warm-hearted as him. At the same time I was impressed by his good memory, which he obviously shares with his brother. He is a great and wonderful man and certainly not just "the brother of the Pope," since he had an impressive career of his own, as director and conductor of the world-famous "Regensburger Domspatzen," the cathedral boys choir, which toured in Japan, the U.S. and many other parts of the world. He is also a gifted composer. But first of all, he is a delightful gentleman and priest with a big heart, a deep-rooted faith in God and a good and healthy sense of humor.

BREAKING NEWS: Belleville seeks to join suit

The State Journal-Register carries the news that Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois - of the Diocese of Belleville - wants to join the suit in which the Dioceses of Springfield in Illinois, Peoria and Rockford are seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act.

The brief story follows:
Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois is asking to join a lawsuit against the state over foster placements to gay couples.

The organization is affiliated with the Belleville diocese.
The Department of Children and Family Services ended its foster-care and adoption services with Catholic Charities July 1 because it says the group discriminates by not allowing gay couples to take kids.

Catholic Charities sued, representing dioceses in Springfield, Peoria and Joliet. The lawsuit says the state's civil unions law does not require it to place children with unmarried couples.

The civil union law took effect June 1.

Sangamon County Judge John Schmidt has ruled that the foster-care contracts must stay in place until an August hearing.

26 July 2011

Prayers needed for Apostolic Nuncio

His Excellency the Most Reverend Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America, is in need of our prayers.  He recently underwent surgery and is now on a ventilator.  The Catholic News Service carries the story, with my emphases:
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, papal nuncio to the United States, “has been placed on assisted ventilation” since experiencing complications after he underwent “a delicate lung surgery” two weeks ago, according to the apostolic nunciature in Washington.

The ventilation is necessary “to attempt recovery of his lung function,” the nunciature said in an announcement released in the early evening July 22.

The apostolic nunciature and the nuncio’s family kindly ask that bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful offer sacrifices and prayers for the health of the apostolic nuncio,” it said.

A veteran Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Sambi was named as papal nuncio to the U.S. by Pope Benedict XVI in December 2005. At the time of his appointment he was the Vatican’s representative to Israel and Palestine, where he helped arrange Pope John Paul II’s historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2000.

After he arrived in the U.S. Feb. 24, 2006, he said in an interview with Catholic News Service in Washington that that he was impressed by the vitality of U.S. Catholicism, the level of weekly Mass attendance among U.S. Catholics and their generosity toward others.

As a papal diplomat “I travel a lot throughout the world,” he said. “It is difficult to find a part of the world where the charity of U.S. Catholics did not reach the poor or sick people.”

The archbishop is known for his warm and affable manner, sense of humor and being open and ready to listen to people.

During Pope Benedict’s April 2008 visit to the U.S., Archbishop Sambi accompanied the pope and during the pontiff’s stay in Washington hosted him at the nunciature, where the pope had a historic private meeting with five victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Persecution Watch

24 July 2011

Homily - 24 July 2011

The Seventeenth Sunday of the Year (A)

Dear brothers and sisters,

No farmer works the soil expecting to find a treasure buried there (cf. Matthew 13:44).  Likewise, no merchant has high expectations of finding "a pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:45).

When they do find such an item, the joy they experience at finding it comes from the unexpectedness of such a find in the midst of the ordinary pursuits of life.  It seems to be a pure gift from the heavens, a gift that others have not yet found.

If a farmer is to find a great treasure in his field, or a merchant to find a priceless pearl or a fisherman to haul in a great catch, he must already be about the work of farming, of buying and selling and of fishing.  He cannot simply sit idly by in his house and hope such things come to him.

Let us consider for a moment this pearl and this treasure.  Because Jesus speaks to us here in parables, we know these images must have a deeper meaning than the ones they have on the surface.  If we delve into the depths of their meaning we realize they are nothing less than Jesus himself.  He is himself the Pearl of Great Price and the Treasure Hidden in the Field; he is the net that has caught us in his embrace.

Both the pearl and the treasure were already present before the farmer and the fisherman set about their work.  So it is with all who seek Jesus Christ and his kingdom; he is present to them even before they begin to search for him.  Saint Augustine summed it up nicely when he wrote in his Confessions:

Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you - the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace.[1]

As fishes must yield to the fisherman’s net, so must we yield to the net of the great fisher of men who longs to draw us into his kingdom.

We see, then, that the Lord Jesus is often found in the most unexpected of places and wherever he is, there is his kingdom.  He has already given himself to us in the Sacrament of Baptism in the simple gift that comes from the outpouring of water and the Holy Spirit.  In these life-giving waters the pearl of grace and the treasure of faith has been entrusted to us to be guarded and increases and his net has been cast over us (cf. Matthew 25:14-30).  But how do we keep this treasure safe, and how do we yield to this net?

King Solomon points the way out to us.  When the Lord God addressed to him that surprising and risky command, "Ask something of me and I will give it to you," Solomon demonstrated by his words that he already possessed the gift he requested of the Lord, at least in, as it were, a shadowy form, because he could not have asked for the gift of wisdom without already being wise.

King Solomon intuited what Saint Paul wrote to the people of Rome: "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

The Son of David knew that God's purpose for him was to "govern this vast people of yours" by be able to "distinguish right from wrong" (I Kings 3:9).  But having asked for and received this gift, Solomon did not always act wisely and found himself at times in serious sin.  He did not always make use of the gift he was given, he did not always yield to the Lord’s net; are you and I any different?

How often do we not make use of the gift of faith that has been given to us?  Faith in the Lord’s goodness and care for us helps us to keep farming, buying and selling, and fishing as the men in his parables.  When a time of difficulty comes we back away from the Lord.  Having received the Ten Commandments we live without reference to them.  When a doubt or question arises about the faith we have received we do not bother to study the faith more deeply and to know it - and Jesus Christ - more intimately.  When we feel the Lord calling us one direction, we go the other way.

I wonder: if the Lord were to say to us, "Ask something of me and I will give it to you," for what would we ask?

Some centuries ago, the Lord said something similar to Saint Thomas Aquinas.  Toward the end of his life, Saint Thomas, one of the greatest minds the Church has ever known, was writing a treatise on the Eucharist, struggling to complete it.  In great frustration, the quiet man of God threw his text at the foot of a crucifix, asking the Lord what he thought of what he had written.

The voice of God came through the figure of the Crucified Lord, saying to him: “You have written well of me, Thomas. What would you have?”

Saint Thomas could choose whatever he wanted, whatever he desired.  Would he ask for wealth or fame or power?  Would he ask for love or athletic skill or simple pleasures?  He could ask for anything; what would he ask of the Lord?

Like King Solomon before him, Saint Thomas asked neither “for a long for [him]self, nor for riches, nor for the life of [his] enemies” (I Kings 3:).  He answered the Savior with these profound words: “Nil nisi te, Domine, nil nisi te (Only you, Lord, only you).”

The Angelic Doctor answered wisely and honestly.  Saint Thomas “wanted nothing more than Christ, nothing other than Christ, nothing less than Christ.”[2]  He knew that, as he had written earlier in his life, “God alone satisfies.”[3]  I wonder, would we ask the same of the Lord?

If we ask the Lord only for him then we will yield to his net and we will always have the joy of his treasure in our hearts; we will find ourselves in his kingdom.  But how do we keep this initial joy of finding that buried treasure, that great pearl, the joy of being caught in the Lord’s net?

Saint Damien of Moloka’i once said: “To have begun is nothing, the hard thing is to persevere.  This is the work of God’s grace.  That grace will never fail me, I am sure of that, provided I do not resist it.  Pray for me.  I will do all that depends on me.”[4]

This is true for us, as well.  We can stay in the Lord’s net and remain in his joy by relying on God’s grace, by desiring him above all us.  If we do not resist his grace but yield to his net, we will be brought to the point where we can truly say, “Only you, Lord, only you.”

[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, X.27.38.
[2] Robert Barron, Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996, 2008), 12.
[3] Saint Thomas Aquinas, Expos. In symb apost, I. In Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1718.
[4] In Vital Jourdain, SS.CC., The Heart of Father Damien.  Francis Larkin, SS.CC. and Charles Davenport, trans. (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1955), 50.

23 July 2011

Prayers for Confessors

In a short while I will enter the confessional of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace before offering the Holy Mass.
With this in my mind, I thought I would pass along the following Priest's Prayer Before Hearing Confessions that I recently found in the Congregation for the Clergy's recent document, The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy: An Aid for Confessors and Spiritual Directors:
Grant to me, O Lord, that wisdom which stands beside Your throne, that I may know how to judge Your people with justice, and Your poor ones with equity.  Let me so use the keys of the Kingdom of heaven that I may open to no one upon whom they should shut, nor close them to any for whom they should open.  May my intention be pure, my zeal sincere, my charity patient, my labor fruitful.
Let be gentle without weakness, severe without harshness.  Let me not disdain the poor; nor fawn the rich.  Make me kind that I may attract sinners, prudent in questioning them, adroit in directing them.
Grant, I beseech You, skill to lead them back from sin, zeal in confirming them in good, diligence in elevating them to better things.  Grant me good judgment in answering questions, correctness in counseling.  Give me light when things are obscure, wisdom when they are entangled, victory when they are difficult.  May I myself be not lost.
There is also this following Priest's Prayer After Hearing Confessions:
Lord Jesus Christ, sweet lover and sanctifier of souls, I pray You, through the infusion of the Holy Spirit, to purify my heart from ever dissolute feeling or thought and to replace, through Your infinite compassion and mercy, everything in my ministry which may be a cause of sin, due to my ignorance or neglect.  I commend to Your ammiable wounds all the souls whom You have brought to repentance and sanctified through Your precious blood so that You may guard them from every sin and keep in Your love all who fear You, promote in them each day more virtues, and bring them to everlasting life.  You who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for every and ever.  Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, receive this performance of my ministry with that surpassing love with which You absolved blessed Mary Magdalene and all sinners flying to You.  Whatever in the administration of this Sacrament I may have performed negligently and unworthily, deign to supply and satisfy.  I recommend to Your most Sacred Heart all and each who have now confessed to me, asking You to guard them from relapse.  After the misery of this life lead them with me into the joys of eternal life.  Amen.

A right-wing Christian fundamentalist?

The Anchoress examines the media coverage of the recent violence in Norway and questions the photographs of Anders Behring Breivik.

At Get Religion, Terry Mattingly does the same.

Please, pray for the victims that they may find, in union with the sufferings of Christ, healing and peace.

A note to my ohana

I will celebrate Mass and preach in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace on the following dates at the following times:
  • Saturday, July 23rd at Noon;
  • Sunday, July 24th at 10:30 a.m.;
  • Wednesday, July 27th at Noon; and
  • Thursday, July 28th at Noon
If you're able, I'll be happy to see you there.

And they said this wouldn't happen: the legalization of polygamy based on the legalization of homosexual relationships

Jimmy Akin passes on news from the New York Times of the following story from Utah where the law against polgyamy is being challenged based on the Supreme Court's decision in favor of homosexual relationships.
The text of the story follows, with my emphases and comments:
Kody Brown is a proud polygamist, and a relatively famous one. Now Mr. Brown, his four wives and 16 children and stepchildren are going to court to keep from being punished for it.
The family is the focus of a reality TV show, “Sister Wives,” that first appeared in 2010. Law enforcement officials in the Browns’ home state, Utah, announced soon after the show began that the family was under investigation for violating the state law prohibiting polygamy.

On Wednesday, the Browns are expected to file a lawsuit to challenge the polygamy law.

The lawsuit is not demanding that states recognize polygamous marriage. Instead, the lawsuit builds on a 2003 United States Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws as unconstitutional intrusions on the “intimate conduct” of consenting adults [at the time there were those who warned this day would come and we were told the day would not come]. It will ask the federal courts to tell states that they cannot punish polygamists for their own “intimate conduct” so long as they are not breaking other laws, like those regarding child abuse, incest or seeking multiple marriage licenses.         
Mr. Brown has a civil marriage with only one of his wives; the rest are “sister wives,” not formally wedded. The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon Church, which gave up polygamy around 1890 as Utah was seeking statehood.

Making polygamous unions illegal, they argue, violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, as well as the free exercise, establishment, free speech and freedom of association clauses of the First Amendment.

“We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs [we've heard this argument before, but from others],” Mr. Brown said in a statement provided by his lead attorney, Jonathan Turley, who is a law professor at George Washington University.

The connection with Lawrence v. Texas, a case that broadened legal rights for gay people, is sensitive for those who have sought the right of same-sex marriage. Opponents of such unions often refer to polygamy as one of the all-but-inevitable outcomes of allowing same-sex marriage [it seems we were right]. In his dissenting opinion in the Lawrence case, Justice Antonin Scalia cited a threat to state laws “based on moral choices” against “bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity” [he was right, too]. 

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in New York, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, made a similar comparison on his blog on Thursday in an essay criticizing the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage and the possible “next step,” which could be “another redefinition to justify multiple partners and infidelity.”

Such arguments, often referred to as the “parade of horribles,” are logically flawed, said Jennifer C. Pizer, a professor at the law school at the University of California, Los Angeles, and legal director for the school’s Williams Institute, which focuses on sexual orientation law [apparently it is actually the logic of Professor Pizer that is logically flawed because].

The questions surrounding whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry are significantly different from those involved in criminal prosecution of multiple marriages [then why is the line of argument the same?], Ms. Pizer noted. Same-sex couples are seeking merely to participate in the existing system of family law for married couples, she said, while “you’d have to restructure the family law system in a pretty fundamental way” to recognize polygamy [not in a more fundamentally different way than is necessary for homosexual "marriages".  Her logic really is flawed.  The reality of the situation is right in front of her and she refuses to see it.  Where's that forest?].

Professor Turley called the one-thing-leads-to-another arguments “a bit of a constitutional canard,” and argued that removing criminal penalties for polygamy “will take society nowhere in particular” [that's what they said about allowing homosexual relationships, and that certainly does seem to have taken us somewhere in particular].

The Supreme Court supported the power of states to restrict polygamy in an 1879 case, Reynolds v. United States. Professor Turley suggests that the fundamental reasoning of Reynolds, which said polygamy “fetters the people in stationary despotism,” is outdated and has been swept away by cases like Lawrence [a similar argument was made in favor of homosexuality and in favor of "same-sex marriages."  It's a great wonder this is missed not only by the professor but also by the reporter].

Douglas Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University, said today’s courts might not agree with the sweeping societal conclusions of the 19th-century courts, but noted that more attention has been paid in recent decades to the importance of internal family issues as part of the public policy sphere. Questions of child abuse and spousal domination, he said, could figure into a judicial examination of polygamy.

“We’re more sensitive to the fact that a household can be quite repressive,” he said, and so reservations about polygamy “might be even more profound” [I regret to say that I doubt that, as much as I would like to believe it.  Similar arguments were made against homosexual relationships and "marriages" and have been routinely ignored].

Professor Turley disagreed, noting that “there are many religious practices in monogamous families that many believe as obnoxious and patriarchal [see],” and added, “The criminal code is not a license for social engineering” [perhaps not originally, but it seems to have become so].
Now I suppose we really do just have to wait for someone to sue to be legally allowed to enter into a relationship with his or her dog, or some other such animal.

An evening with friends

Friday evening I had the great pleasure of having dinner with three friends and fellow bloggers who live in Hawaii.

Esther, A Catholic Mom in Hawaii, Easter, of Spiritual Moms Apostolate, and Sarah, of Harbor of Aloha and I met at Bravos and spent a delightful evening talking story (as they say here in Hawaii) and laughing.

Easter posted a picture and brief account of the evening, as did Sarah.

22 July 2011

Blessed Bartolo Longo: A life of delicious and blessed irony

In his Apostolic Letter on the rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Blessed Pope John Paul II highlighted the example of Blessed Bartolo Longo, a satanic priest who became a devout Catholic and promoter of the rosary.

When he visited the Pontifical Shrine of Pompeii, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI also spoke of the life of Blessed Bartolo whom he called the Founder of the New Pompeii.

Writing for the Catholic Herald, Angelo Stagnaro visited the Shrine at Pompeii and has written a piece about Blessed Bartolo and his experience in the ancient and renewed city titled, "The Satanist on the path to sainthood."

Blessed Bartolo Longo, pray for us!

21 July 2011

My Brother, the Pope

Catholic World News passes on the news that the Reverend Monsignor Georg Ratzinger has written a new book titled My Brother, the Pope, to be released in German September 12th.  I hope it will be translated and published in English.

A few observations

Now that I have been back on the island of Oahu for two full days, I can offer a few observations that have come to mind.  I'll group my observations in two batches, first of Hawaii in general and second of me in Hawaii.

In regards to Hawaii and her people, I have noticed that
  1. fanny packs are apparently somewhat still in fashion here whereas they have gone the way of the dodo in most other places.  (Indicentally, have you ever noticed that fanny packs are never worn on the fanny?);
  2. the amount of traffic has increased dramatically since I was last here in February of 2010;
  3. skateboarding seems to be growing here in popularity; and
  4. having the sun set at 7:15 p.m. seems quite early, especially when it is dark by 8:00 p.m.
In regards to my being back in Hawaii, I have noticed that have now seemingly adjusted well to the Hawaiian lifestyle.  I know this for two reasons:
  1. when the sun sets I find myself reaching for a sweatshirt even though the temperature remains between 75 and 80 degrees (this isn't the first time this has happened here); and
  2. I find myself driving about five miles under the speed limit, whereas back home I often drive about five miles over the speed limit.
Those are a few observations that have occurred to me; I offer them to you for what they're worth.

20 July 2011

Directionally challenged

Those who know me well can testify that I am directionally challenged.  By that, I mean that routinely say, for example, "Turn right" while pointing to the left.  And vice versa.

I do not know why I do this but I have done it as long as I can remember.  It isn't that I don't know my right from left; somewhere along the way, in my excitement to give people the correct directions I point one way and say the other.

Incidentally, if you're ever around me when I do this, always go where I point, not where I say.

It seems that my handy GPS device for my car has now developed the same challenge, at least here on Oahu.  Several times now the map has shown me to go, for example, to the left while the kind computer lady, with her British accent, tells me to go right.

I've gone where the map indicates and have arrived at my intended destinations.  I hope when we get back to the mainland she becomes better with directions than me, as she has been in the past.

On guessing the future, and reading the past

With yesterday's appointment of His Excellency the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. as Archbishop of Philadelphia many are speculating as to what how the Bishop-designate will govern his new Archdiocese.

Many attempted the same with the election of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to the Chair of Peter, but they failed miserably and, quite honestly, defamed him.  They called the cards wrongly, so to speak, becuase they never read anything of what he wrote.  Many were surprised when Pope Benedict's first encyclical letter, Deus caritas est, focused on theme of the love of God; those of us who had read his works were not surprised at all.  The passages often cited in the encyclical were the very passages often cited in all of his writings.

At any rate, if you want to know the mind of Archbishop Chaput, it would be wise to read what he has written.  To that end, Matthew Schmitz has compiled a list (with links) of the Archbishop's thoughts written for First Things.  Those would attempt to predict his moves would do well to read them first.

Looking for a good music, CD or DVD?

Now through the end of August, Ignatius Press is holding a clearance sale with reduced prices on a number of good books.

Go browse through the list and grab yourself a few summer reads.

Come, follow me, and give me everything

At a recent Steubenville Youth Conference, Sister M. Consolata, F.S.G.M. addressed the gathered youth and spoke of discerning a religious vocation (you can hear the youth from our Diocese cheer when she mentions Alton, Illinois).

I can't post the video here for you, but you can see it on the blog of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George.

18 July 2011

Pro soccer player who entered seminary has no regrets

Three years ago I posted a story about a Chase Hilgenbrinck (who was born in Quincy), the professional soccer player who left the fame of the field to pursue the priesthood.
Recently the Washington Post ran a story about his progress in the seminary, with my emphases:
Chase Hilgenbrinck looks back on his first few months at Mount St. Mary’s and wonders how he did it.

His decision to leave behind a Major League Soccer career for the priesthood generated such enormous interest that between the interview requests and the speaking engagements, he hardly had any energy left for his studies.
Since then, Hilgenbrinck has curtailed his public exposure to devote more time to becoming a priest.
“It was crazy,” said Hilgenbrinck, who grew up in Bloomington, Ill. “But at the time, I thought that was normal. I thought that was normal for me because when I was a soccer player, I was doing interviews every day. ... I’m grateful for the wisdom of my [advisers] who said, ‘You can’t keep this pace up.’ ”

Many professional athletes have gone into the ministry, but few walk away from their sport in their prime, as Hilgenbrinck did in 2008 when he was a defender for the New England Revolution.

As Hilgenbrinck said at the time, his decision to become a priest was a gradual one. Now three years into his studies at the Emmitsburg, Md., seminary, he says he has no regrets.

That isn’t to say he doesn’t miss soccer. Hilgenbrinck, who also serves as the chaplain for the Mount St. Mary’s soccer team, trains with the team, keeps in touch with his former teammates and watches soccer on television.

“I certainly do miss it,” he said. “It is a part of me I’ll always love.”

Hilgenbrinck will be ordained in May 2014. Then it will be up to his bishop where he serves God. Of the many options, it is clear where his heart lies.

To live in a parish and be a kind of shepherd of a flock and guiding people every single day in a daily Mass, meeting them in the most important times of their life — in baptism, in their marriage, in their death — being with someone their entire life, and getting to know families and leading them to holiness and a life with Christ, that’s what this is all about,” he said.

When asked what he enjoys most about being at the seminary, he says, “the peace that I feel in my life.

“I truly mean that. I feel a peace in my life now more than I ever have. When I was living my dream [of playing professional soccer], I thought I had everything that I ever wanted, and I wasn’t at peace like I am now.”

Around the blogosphere

An intermediate stop

After consulting my flight plans I noticed that I had a three hour layover in Denver before departing for Honolulu.  Not thinking the chances very likely, I approved the airline counter and volunteered myself for a delayed flight (and four $100 vouchers) if I could still make my connecting flight; another passenger on the flight to Honolulu did likewise.  The airline couldn't work it out so we both happily boarded the plane.  And there remained.

We landed in the Mile High City earlier than scheduled and had to wait for the gate to be prepared for us.  Once we exited the aircraft I found a horde of people all generally milling about in the middle of the obvious walkway.  It didn't help that a Starbucks happened to be in the middle in the gate waiting area.

After walking through some sixty gates I finally found the gate I would need to board the flight to Honolulu, but because it was crowded I continued on my way looking for a quiet place to have a bite to eat.  At the very end of the terminal I found one, ate a little pizza and returned to the gate I will soon need and found it quiet where I am at this moment.

I'm sure if you like large crowds of people who don't quite seem to know their way around an airport, Denver International Airport is the place for you.  It isn't, though, the place for me.

On my next return to the Aloha State, I think I'll fly through Dallas/Fort Worth again; if memory serves, that airport isn't too bad.  Besides, Dr Pepper is readily available in its terminals.

Responsible airlines

This morning, if it be God's will, I am to fly out of St. Louis to Denver on my way to Honolulu.  But there's a catch: my flight out of St. Louis is overbooked.

One might well wonder how a responsible airline could sell more tickets for a flight than there are seats.

Here's hoping for the best!

17 July 2011

Of errands and visits

The last few days have often found me behind the wheel of my car off on various errands and visits to the northern and western reaches of the state.

Thursday I made the drive to Chicago to stop in at The House of Hansen, an ecclesiastical tailor shop. I had a vest in need of new lining and the Bishop asked me to pick up a few items for him, as well.

They had a busy day that day, particularly with telephone orders. After I saw to my tasks I spent a few moments browsing – which is always risky there – and bumped into His Excellency Bishop-elect Alberto Rojas, who will soon be an Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. He was on the formation faculty at Mundelein Seminary when I was there. It was good to see him again. Do you keep him in your prayers.

I also had the good opportunity to visit with my college roommate. Since I had never been to Navy Pier ( despite living in the area for five years) and he hadn’t been in some time, we decided to spend the afternoon there. We ended up on an “extreme” boat ride on Lake Michigan; thankfully it was enjoyable, but too extreme.

When we parted ways I went to visit a classmate of mine who is now the pastor of St. Anne Parish in Lansing, Illinois.

All in all, the errands were run and, despite tremendous traffic because of construction, an enjoyable time was had.

Yesterday I went back to Quincy to celebrate my nephew’s fifth birthday. As it turns out, I seem to have a knack in choosing gifts he enjoys, probably because of my many years working in the toy store.

For Christmas, I bought him a plush Mario, when he clung to instantly. As he gets older, though, his gifts become a bit more a challenge, mostly because his mother doesn’t really care for the all of the fun gifts: drums, dart guns, etc.

I settled on, first of all, a collection of stories of Winnie the Pooh and, secondly and in his eyes firstly, two pull back Mario and Luigi race cars. They were a hit!

I was particularly surprised at how well they work and how much power they have. If you have a young nephew, or a particularly nerdy friend who needs a goofy toy for the office, I recommend them.

Today I will drive to St. Louis to visit a friend from high school who will drop me off at the airport and collect me again upon my return from Hawaii. For the next two weeks I’ll be in the car a lot again, but this time driving around Paradise.

13 July 2011

Another story, another detail

With each story I read on the recent decision in favor of Catholic Charities I learn another detail about the case.  It would be interesting to try to piece a full acount together, but I don't have time to do that at the moment.

Instead, I'll post the following article from Life Site News, with my emphases and comments:
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, July 13, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An Illinois judge has blocked the state’s attempt to end its contracts with Catholic Charities after they refused an order to participate in same-sex adoptions and foster care placements. The move would have affected nearly 2,000 foster children.

“We’re not going to be removing children from homes,” said Judge John Schmidt of the Sangamon County Circuit Court, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I can’t be any clearer.”

Judge Schmidt ruled that the state’s contracts with Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Joliet, Peoria, and Springfield, which ran out June 30th, will continue until a full hearing on August 17th.

On Friday, the state’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) informed the agencies that the state would not accept their contracts for fiscal year 2012 because they had “made it clear” that they would not comply with the new Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which took effect June 1st.

The bill’s promoters had actively campaigned to dispel the “myth” that it would affect faith-based adoption agencies. But an amendment to specifically protect faith-based agencies proposed by the Act’s sponsor, Sen. David Koehler, who became alarmed after the Act was used to target such agencies, failed in April.

During the hearing, Judge Schmidt said the DCFS’ Friday letter had the “appearance of gamesmanship” [I thought so, too, together with a great deal of presumption].

“This is a great win for the 2,000 children under the care of Catholic Charities, protecting these kids from the grave disruption that the state’s reckless decision to terminate would have caused,” said Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel of the Thomas More Society, who are representing Catholic Charities.

We will continue this fight until all young people in need now and in the future are guaranteed their right to receive the high-quality foster and adoption care that the Catholic Church has provided for over a century to Illinois children.”

Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria said he was “encouraged by the judge’s recognition today of the grave harm that would result if Catholic Charities was forced out of its long-standing mission of serving children in foster care and adoption.”

“We continue to believe we can adhere to our religious principles and operate within Illinois law,” he added. “Our focus has always been on living the Gospel mission by serving and protecting vulnerable children throughout our communities, and we will continue our faithful mission building a future filled with hope.”

Persecution Watch: United Kingdom

From Life Site News comes this intriguing story, with my emphases:
LONDON, July 12, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In what is being interpreted by some as an abrupt “u-turn,” the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said that Christians are being treated too harshly by judges in legal battles, mostly over complaints brought forward by homosexuals.

Commission lawyers say they are concerned that rulings against Christians already made by UK and European courts have created “a body of confusing and contradictory case law.”

Judges have interpreted the law too narrowly in religion or belief discrimination claims,” said a statement posted to the organization’s website.

The EHRC also said that it will ask leave to intervene in upcoming cases at the European Court of Human Rights. In several cases Christians who have come into conflict with homosexualist activists under the UK’s recently installed Equality laws, are pursuing their complaints at the Strasbourg court. These include Lillian Ladele, the marriage registrar who refused to perform same-sex civil partnerships, and Gary McFarlane, a relationships counselor who said he could not in conscience treat same-sex partners.

If given leave to intervene, the Commission says it will argue that the way existing human rights and equality law has been interpreted by judges in recent decisions is insufficient to protect freedom of religion or belief.

The courts have “set the bar too high” to prove discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, the statement continued. The EHRC contends that it is possible to “accommodate expression of religion alongside the rights of people who are not religious and the needs of businesses.”

John Wadham, legal director at the commission, said, “Our intervention in these cases would encourage judges to interpret the law more broadly and more clearly to the benefit of people who are religious and those who are not.

“The idea of making reasonable adjustments to accommodate a person’s needs has served disability discrimination law well for decades. It seems reasonable that a similar concept could be adopted to allow someone to manifest their religious beliefs.

The continued existence of the Commission, a “quasi-nongovernmental organization,” or quango, created three years ago to administer the country’s new equalities laws, is starting to be in doubt. Throughout its brief history, the Commission has come under criticism as a hastily constructed, Labour era financial white elephant dedicated to an outdated and discredited set of political ideologies.

A recent audit of the Commission’s finances has raised questions about its ongoing feasibility, with Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, expressing concern over the organization’s lack of financial understanding and competence. The audit found that salaries at the Commission, which has a staff of 540 and a £63 million budget, are too large for its budget and it is paying too many unauthorized salaries. The audit revealed that the Commission had breached government pay guidelines by £570,000. All together, the quango had spent £1.5 million without authorization.

Yesterday’s statement is being interpreted by homosexualist activists as a “u-turn,” given the Commission’s history of general antipathy towards the rights of religious people. Ben Summerskill, head of the politically influential homosexualist group Stonewall, said that the Commission’s statement “has apparently been made by officers without consulting its board,” and “confuses a settled legal situation that is currently clear.”

Recently, EHRC head Trevor Phillips surprised observers by issuing a statement in which he denounced Christianity, the official state religion of the UK, as “more militant” and “homophobic” than Islam. Phillips said that Christians need to “integrate” better into Britain’s “modern liberal democracy.”

At the same time, Phillips said that in some cases, Christians have borne the brunt of heightened anti-religious language by militant atheists.

Did the State of Illinois lie about the civil unions bill?

Writing for the Catholic Key Blog of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Jack Smith argues that the State of Illinois lied about the Civil Unions Law.

His text follows, with my emphases:
When a bill creating civil unions in Illinois was signed by Governor Pat Quinn in January, sponsors and activists for the law agreed that its provisions would not affect religious social service or adoption agencies. Now, quite predictably, it has. Today, the AP reports that Governor Quinn has determined the State of Illinois can no longer contract with Catholic Charities for adoption and foster care services because the charities don’t comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act.

The reason for “religious freedom” preceding “civil union” in the title of the law now appears to have been entirely cosmetic. Opponents of the bill charged that creating civil unions would impinge on religious freedom. The bill’s proponents went out of their way to say it would not – in order to get it passed.

According to an op-ed in the Quad City Times,

The bill sponsor, Sen. David Koehler, clearly promised in his Senate floor testimony that the law would not impact “the social services” or the “adoption agencies” of religious organizations.
Equality Illinois, a major proponent of the bill, even put together a widely distributed Q & A on the bill intended to dismiss “myths” about the bill’s intentions. One question read:

5. How would the Act affect religious affiliated adoption agencies?

Answer: The Act would not impact faith-based adoption agencies or adoption procedures. The Act does not amend the Adoption Act, which governs both public and private adoption agencies.
But then the bill passed, and religious freedom went out the window as some in state government, the Catholic governor included, began to argue that the passed bill does not in fact exempt Catholic Charities from facilitating adoptions to those in civil unions.

The position of the state government on the religious freedom provisions of the law was so contrary to the rhetoric leading up to the bill’s passage, that in April, original sponsor Sen. David Koehler introduced an amendment to make it absolutely clear that:

“A child welfare agency that is religiously based or owned by, operated by, or affiliated with a bona fide religious organization may decline an adoption or foster family home application, including any related licensure and placement, from a party to a civil union if acceptance of that application would constitute a violation of the organization’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Under fire for introducing the amendment, Koehler said he had to keep the guarantee he made on religious freedom when he was championing the civil unions bill. “No group should have to go against what its religious principles were and that included organizations that were involved in adoption,” he told WBEZ radio.

Koehler’s amendment failed 7-6 in the Senate’s Executive Committee. For Illinois civil union supporters, the time for supporting guarantees of religious freedom had passed. With civil unions now the law, civil unions will also be the hammer against religious freedom that anybody could have predicted they would be. Everywhere civil unions or same-sex marriages have become the law, they have been used to shut Catholic Charities out of adoption and foster care services. And there is no reason to expect they won’t be used to erode other religious freedoms down the road.

Other states would do well to consider Illinois’ experience. When it comes to the hierarchy of freedoms in a post-civil union/same-sex marriage state, the desires of same-sex couples for affirmation trumps every other right – no matter how well you craft your legislation. It is far safer not to consider civil unions at all.
Capello tip to Father John Malloy, S.D.B. at A Shepherd's Voice.

Jenky and Paprocki respond to favorable court decision

From the Catholic News Service comes this story on two Illinois Bishops' responses to Judge Schmidt's decision yesterday in favor of Catholic Charities, with my emphases:
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two Catholic bishops praised an Illinois judge's ruling late July 12 that the state's termination of its contracts with Catholic agencies providing foster care and adoption services risks causing "irreparable injury" to the nearly 2,000 children involved.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., said he was encouraged by Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt's "recognition today of the grave harm that would result if Catholic Charities was forced out of its long-standing mission of serving children in foster care and adoption."

Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield said he was grateful "for the sake of the children in our Catholic Charities foster care program" that the services will be allowed to continue.

Schmidt issued a temporary injunction allowing Catholic Charities agencies in the dioceses of Peoria, Springfield, Joliet and Belleville to continue providing state-funded foster care and adoption services, despite July 8 letters to each agency from Erwin McEwen, director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, effectively canceling those contracts as of June 30.

McEwen said the contracts would not be renewed because each agency "has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act."

The law, which took effect July 1, permits civil unions for same-sex couples and stipulates that they would have the same rights and benefits as married couples in the state, including the right to adopt and provide foster care. July 1 also marked the beginning of fiscal year 2012, when the new contracts would have begun.

The Catholic agencies only place children with married heterosexual couples or single people who are not cohabiting. State officials have said the law would not allow the agencies to refer same-sex couples to other agencies, as they have done for decades.

The decision will affect 1,997 children in foster care -- including some in the process of being adopted -- under the supervision of the four Catholic Charities agencies, said Kendall Marlowe, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. But the change will only be in the agency supervising their care, not the home in which they are placed, he added.

He said approximately 15,000 children are presently in foster care in Illinois.

"We cannot enter into a contract with anyone who has publicly, affirmatively stated that they will not follow the law in performing services under the contract," Marlowe told Catholic News Service before the judge's decision July 12. "These agencies have made their choice, and we must now plan to transition these cases with the least disruption possible for the kids."

But Bishop Paprocki said in his statement that "it is the state of Illinois that is violating ... the law by seeking to force us to act against our religious beliefs."

The law specifically says that "nothing in this act shall interfere with or regulate the religious practice of any religious body," he noted.

"If these services of religious organizations like Catholic Charities are terminated, it would be the children who would suffer because some politicians have put their political agenda ahead of the best interest of the children, who have been served by the top-quality, nurturing care of Catholic Charities since 1921," Bishop Paprocki said.

In issuing the injunction, Schmidt said in his Springfield court, "We're not going to be removing children from homes. I can't be any clearer. ... We're going back to June 30."

The judge set the next hearing in the matter for Aug. 17.

Marlowe said two other faith-based agencies had been following the practice of referring same-sex couples to other agencies for foster care and adoption services.

Lutheran Child and Family Services has stated that it will abide by the civil unions law and will continue its contract with the state, he said. Evangelical Child and Family Agency has said it will not comply with the civil unions law and its contract is "under review," Marlowe said.

Catholics and foster kids in Illinois

Over at Get Religion, Bobby Ross, Jr. examines the present situation regarding Catholics and foster kids in Illinois.

Go read his post; it'll be easier than me trying to copy it here and keep unconfused the distinction between newspaper stories and his comments.

Participation in the sins of others

We are often all too eager to see the sins of others.  Sometimes we are ready to acknowledge our own sins.  But very rarely are we ready and willing to acknowledge the ways we take part in the sins of others.

To help us is in this endeavor of greater holiness, Father Zuhlsdorf has a great post on participation in the sins of other people.

The entire post is worth a read, but he boils our participation down to nine areas:
1. Counsel: If you tell or advise another person to do something sinful, so that they do it, you have sinned by participation in that person’s sin.

2. Command: If you have authority over another, and you forced that person to commit something which is sinful, while that person might have mitigated guilt, you don’t.

3. Consent: If you are asked if you think a sin is good thing to do, and have some power over the situation, and if you permit or approve or yield to the commission of the sin, you’ve sinned.

4. Provocation: You badger or drive or dare a person to do something such that he does it.

5. Praise of flattery: Pretty clear. This is another way of prompting a person.

6. Concealment: A person commits a sin and then you help that person conceal the evidence or the action.

7. Partaking: Another person is the principal person involved, but you are right there helping the actual sinful deed. For example, a person helping a doctor commit an abortion, a politician helping an aggressive governor or president or speaker of the house drive through recognition of contrary-to-nature “marriage” by providing a vote.

8. Silence: There is an old adage that “silent implies consent”. If a person with great authority or moral authority is in a position to stop a sin from happening, and yet stays silent and doesn’t get involved, then that may constitute participation in the sin committed. This is trickier to figure out, but it isn’t rocket science. There may be attendant mitigating circumstances, such as the probable invasion of Vatican City, the capture of the Roman Pontiff and destruction of the Church in many places. In the meanwhile one could work quietly. One cannot, however, do nothing.

9. Defense: Pretty clear. You defend or justify or give an apology in favor of the sin committed. This is not the same as what a defense lawyer does in the case of a person who is guilty.
You might use this list to help when you next examine your conscience, which is wise to do each evening before falling asleep.