31 October 2011

A plea to Gary Larson

For whatever reason, today I find myself in the mood for several good laughs from Gary Larson's The Far Side.  That simple comic strip is, in my humble opinion, the greatest comic the world has yet seen.  Many have attempted to follow in Larson's footsteps, but none have yet matched his wit.

I don't know when I first discovered The Far Side, but in 8th grade I was named by Mrs. Gage, my teacher, as "The Far Side Friend."  Every morning she and I would turn the page of the page-a-day calendar that sat on her desk and have a good laugh before classes began.

In high school, I had a page-a-day calendar of The Far Side on my dresser that I would turn before leaving for school.  In college, I had a page-a-day calendar of The Far Side that sat atop my television next to the door that I would flip with joy each morning (and sometimes at night, too).  And then the calendars stopped being published.

I miss those calendars.

I know Larson has created any new comics of The Far Side for some years now and I don't care.

Please, Mr. Larson, give us another page-a-day calendar.  Please.

Remembering the blood of Baghdad

One year ago today Islamic terrorists entered the church of Our Lady of Deliverance in Baghdad during the celebration of the Mass and massacred 58 Chaldean Catholics.  Among the martyrs were two priests:
Fr. Thair Sa’adallah was just beginning his homily after having read the Gospel," Fr. Shisha remembered. "When he saw the terrorists enter, he took the Gospel in hand and held it up, saying, 'In the name of the Gospel, leave them and take me. Me for them!" 
The attackers quickly killed Fr. Sa’adallah before turning on the rest of the congregation. Witnesses say they aimed particularly to kill the young men of the parish. In addition to the dead, more than 100 people were wounded. 
Fr. Wasseem Sabb'ieh was hearing confessions at the time of the attack. He managed to rush two families to safety through a secret door before turning back to face the attackers. 
“Before he closed the door, one of the people he helped said to him, ‘Father, leave them and come with us and you will be saved,’” Fr. Shisha recounted. “He answered, ‘I won't leave them like this,’ and he locked the door.” 
Fr. Sabb’ieh proceeded directly to the attackers, shouting: “What do you want from us?”  
He was killed with a bullet to the head while at the same time one of the attackers detonated a suicide bomb beside him [more].
A 3-year old boy named Adam followed the attackers through the church saying to them, "Enough, enough, enough."  He begged them, "Please, stop."  They killed him, too.

Speaking with Catholic News Agency, Leonardo Cardinal Sandri recalled the famous words of Tertullian that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of faith."  Cardinal Sandri said:
This situation in the Church is difficult — being a minority and being the object of terrorist attacks and violent acts even within the very church walls. But, it has also brought with it, on the other hand, the fact that the blood of those who have died will certainly be the seed of hope and life for the future.
This attack on what is called Black Sunday was not an isolated incidence:
The attack was one in a long series of attacks against the Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) in Iraq. Since June 26, 2004, when the first church was bombed, Assyrians have been subject to a low grade genocide perpetrated by Shiite and Sunni Muslims, as well as Kurds (report). 70 churches have been bombed since June 2004, 4 since Black Sunday. Thousands of Assyrians have been killed and nearly one half of Assyrians have fled to Syria and Jordan. 
Following President Obama's recent announcement of the coming withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq, the Assyrian International News Agency warns that "without the U.S. presence as a deterrent, Assyrians face the danger of unchecked Islamic persecution."

28 October 2011

Is Springfield a violent city?

A couple of weeks ago a report came out that called Springfield one of the most violent cities in the country (the 3rd most such, I think).

To many in Springfield the report is baffling, since the cities one typically associates with violence didn't make the top five cities on the list.
Having lived in Springfield now for ten months, I don't feel unsafe here and on hand I, too, find the report baffling.  But after seeing it, I have noticed stories of violence in Springfield more than I did before.
Consider these stories from the State Journal-Register over the past 2 days:
These are just the stories from the SJR's web site, which doesn't include all of the news found in the print edition.

Maybe Springfield is a violent city.

    Diocesan seminarian to be ordained a deacon

    Tomorrow afternoon His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, will ordain eleven men to the Sacred Order of Deacons in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary.  One of the men to be ordained, Scott Snider, is a seminarian for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
    A former Protestant minister, Scott entered the full communion of the Catholic Church in 2003 with his wife Pam and has been working as a Pastoral Associate at St. Gregory the Great parish in Chicago since 2004.
    After Scott completed his studies and formation for the priesthood at Mundelein Seminary, Bishop Paprocki requested the permission of the Holy Father to ordain Scott to the priesthood under what is known as “the pastoral provision.”
    Last week the Holy Father granted his permission; the timing of the response did not allow time to publicize the announcement.
    When Scott learned of the affirmative response of the Holy Father he asked to be ordained by Cardinal George, who was already scheduled to ordain ten men tomorrow to the diaconate; Bishop Paprocki granted his permission.
    Please keep Scott in your prayers.

    I will attend the ordination and hope to be able to provide a few pictures.

    Legislative absentee voters

    Illinois politics is often anything but boring.  Yesterday it seems 18 legislators voted on legislation when they weren't on the floor - in violation of an apparently commonly ignored rule - and Governer wants to know who did the proxy voting.  I wouldn't mind knowing, too.

    From the State Journal-Register:
    Gov. Pat Quinn wants to know who cast votes for about 18 Illinois House members who weren't on the floor when the utility rate-hike legislation Quinn opposes passed.

    Quinn on Thursday said nobody other than the House member should vote on such high-stakes legislation. He says the action should be investigated by the House, and he calls it a "violation of ethical conduct" [more].
    Is it really too much to ask that our elected representatives personally represent us?

    Persecution Watch: The United Kingdom

    The leaders of the 17 British commonwealths voted yesterday to allow the British Monarch to marry a Catholic spouse, overturning the Act of Settlement of 1701.   Among other things, the Act forbade a member of the royal family from marrying a Catholic, though it did not forbid them marrying a Lutheran, Hindu or Muslim.

    This is a welcome removal of anti-Catholic sentiment.

    Even so, because the King of Queen of England is also the Supreme Head of the Church in England - thanks to King Henry VIII - a Catholic cannot reign from the throne.

    Said Prime Minister David Cameron:
    Let me be clear, the monarch must be in communion with the Church of England because he or she is the head of that Church. But it is simply wrong they should be denied the chance to marry a Catholic if they wish to do so. After all, they are already quite free to marry someone of any other faith.

    Sola Scriptura?

    As Reformation Day draws nigh, Francis Beckwith, who entered into the full communion of the Catholic Church in 1997 is reflecting on his journey to the Catholic faith.

    Writing at The Catholic Thing, he says of his once held belief in sola Scriptura:
    First, in defense of the Protestant Old Testament canon, I argued, as noted above, that although some of the Church’s leading theologians and several regional councils accepted what is known today as the Catholic canon, others disagreed and embraced what is known today as the Protestant canon. It soon became clear to me that this did not help my case, since by employing this argumentative strategy, I conceded the central point of Catholicism: the Church is logically prior to the Scriptures. That is, if the Church, until the Council of Florence’s ecumenical declaration in 1441, can live with a certain degree of ambiguity about the content of the Old Testament canon, that means that sola scriptura was never a fundamental principle of authentic Christianity.
    After all, if Scripture alone applies to the Bible as a whole, then we cannot know to which particular collection of books this principle applies until the Bible’s content is settled. Thus, to concede an officially unsettled canon for Christianity’s first fifteen centuries seems to make the Catholic argument that sola scriptura was a sixteenth-century invention and, therefore, not an essential Christian doctrine. 
    Second, because the list of canonical books is itself not found in Scripture – as one can find the Ten Commandments or the names of Christ’s apostles – any such list, whether Protestant or Catholic, would be an item of extra-biblical theological knowledge.

    These are good points to remember when discussing the notion of 'Scripture alone' with others.  Be sure to read the rest of his thoughts.

    27 October 2011

    Paprocki: The State has created an unnecessary crisis

    His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki issued a statement today following the decision by the appellate court to deny Catholic Charities a requested stay:
    Today’s appellate court decision denying an emergency stay for Catholic Charities to continue to provide foster care and adoption services is regrettable. The State’s insistence on forcing Catholic Charities out of foster care and adoption services has created an unnecessary crisis. For months, children have been denied access to hundreds of experienced, licensed Catholic Charities foster homes across the State and this unethical decision by the State to prevent placements in these homes is doing irreparable harm to children. The losers in this wholly preventable situation are the children and families who have been served and who might have been served in the future by agencies that reflect their own core values.
    The Bishops of Belleville, Joliet and Springfield will confer with their advisors to determine the next step, specifically, whether to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. We are also closely watching the progress of Senate Bill 2495, introduced in the Illinois General Assembly’s fall veto session by State senator Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) which, if passed, would strengthen the religious freedom guarantees of agencies such as Catholic Charities.

    Persecution Watch: Egypt

    Following the recent brutal attacks by the Egyptian military against peaceful Copts, Pope Shenouda III met with a military leader to no avail.

    The Vatican Insider reports:
    Pope Shenouda III met in the Orthodox Cathedral of San Marco with a representative of the Supreme Council of the armed forces, who presented his condolences for those who died in the massacre of Maspero. During the meeting the representatives of the Church, ran a video showing how military armored vehicles ran over the demonstrators, crushing them. The documentary, according to the sources of the Church showed "all the events of that day" proving that the march "was peaceful" and "that the demonstrators were not armed."  
    What is more, a Muslim-Christian committee has been working to attempt to established safe-guards for Christians and their builtings, to little success:
    The committee met in the headquarters of Al-Azhar, and asked the Christian authorities in Egypt to provide recommendations and suggestions for a law that regulates the construction of churches, so as to replace the code in force, which denies Copts the right to build places of worship unless there is a decree from the head of State or his representative. But no guarantees of any kind were offered, even though the topic was discussed during the meeting that Pope Shenouda III had with the delegates of the Military Council [more].

    26 October 2011

    Veni si amas!

    The Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George hosted this past weekend a few days for women to Veni si amas (Come if you love) and experience something of the life of their community.

    From their blog:
    Twenty-nine women from around the country joined us for the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation, prayer, talks, recreation, silence and time with the Sisters.
    God be praised!

    You can view  photos from the days on their web site.

    25 October 2011

    To emulate Gabriel

    Currently I am in Indianapolis visiting our seminarians at Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary. While they are away at classes I have answered a good bit of e-mail and am working my way through the current issue of Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies.

    In it, Susanna Fein has an interesting article titled, "Mary to Veronica: John Audelay's Sequence of Salutations to God-Bearing Women.". She says,
    In late-medieval Christianity, Christ's human nature and the saints' proximity were beliefs deeply ingrained in the conceptual world of the faithful."

    In our own day, we would do well to recover this conceptual world; it is, after all, reality.

    In speaking to the saints, she says,
    Such a poem is more than a prayer, however: because utterance of the first Ave allowed Jesus to be made flesh, salutation commemorates a core doctrine of medieval piety. When Gabriel enunciated, "Ave Maria gratis plena" (Hail Mary full of grace), God's Word entered Mary and grew in her womb. The form ( of addressing saints) is therefore modeled on hallowed utterance. Ave. A momentous word, marks the moment of Christ's incarnation and carries salvific import. In an exemplum preached by John Mirk, Mary is said to feel the thrill of her Son playing in her body whenever one utters the Ave phrase, "God is with thee.". Second only to the Paternoster ( Our Father) among all prayers, the Ave Maria is the premiere way to address Mary. To say "Ave" is to emulate Gabriel. Take up your rosary, then, in this month of October and emulate the Archangel.

    24 October 2011

    On legal sense, or the lack thereof

    Last week I received an e-mail from the Diocesan Office for Insurance which read:
    Recently you received a letter from MedTrak outlining prescription drug coverage and Medicare. If you currently have Medicare as your primary insurance and HealthLink as secondary, please know that MedTrak offers excellent prescription drug coverage and it is not necessary for you to sign up for Medicare Part D.
    If you are not Medicare eligible, this informational letter does not pertain to you.
    Thinking perhaps too logically, I replied with the following question:
     If I'm not Medicare eligible, which I'm not, why I did get the letter?
    The answer came back this morning:
     The law requires us to send the letter.
    I'm sure that makes sense somewhere.

    Read this book

    The book is well written and though it delves into the deep mystery of the Eucharist, it is a readable book and flows easily, even for one unfamiliar with the Church's teachings on the Eucharist.

    Pitre begins first with a discussion of the Last Supper and moves then to examine the messianic hopes of Israel and their connections to the Passover.  From their he moves to the worship of the Temple and back to the Last Supper.  I found his writings on the Bread of the Presence fascinating.

    This will be helpful book for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of and faith in the Lord's Real Presence in the Eucharist and will be useful for catechists and preachers, as well, as they seek to unpack the Lord's words.

    You can read a quick outline of the book here; that should whet your appetite enough to grab the book.

    22 October 2011

    Bring on the eschaton!

    Good morning, dear readers.

    Since we're awake this morning it seems the doomsday prediction of Harold Camping has amounted to nothing more than the raising of a false alarm.

    Not that I believed his prediction - I tend to stick with what the Lord himself said - but part of me hoped he was right.

    We've been waiting some 2,000 years for Jesus' Second Coming, and some of us are tired of waiting (not that I've been waiting for 2,000 years; you get the idea).

    One of my favorite phrases from The Lord of the Rings is "here at the end of all things."  There is something both peaceful and moving in those words; it is a phrase that speaks to my heart.  We are, in fact, already living during the time of the end of all things.  The Lord of time and history ushered in the final days when he rose triumphantly from the grave; now we await the culmination of the end of all things: the Second Coming.

    For those who strive to live a life worthy of him who died for us, the Last Day holds nothing to fear; it is, rather, a day of great joy when the One whom we love will stand before us and say, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father: inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

    Come, Lord Jesus!

    21 October 2011

    Occupy Wall Street and a fool's paradise

    As I ponder the curiosity of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, it seems to me that as they demand social change - even if they cannnot quite say what change it is they desire - they ignore one crucial aspect of the situations they condemn: the reality of sin.

    It is as if they think that from man's own will a just system can emerge where greed will have no place, if only the newly created system is fair.  Herein lies the great danger of the OWS, the great dange of which I have yet heard no one speak.

    This evening, as I prepare for tomorrow's class on the Creed, I stumbled upon a quote from then Cardinal Ratzinger that seems to apply well to the OWS (with my emphases):
    To fight against suffering and injustice in the world is indeed a thoroughly Christian impulse.  But the notion that one can produce a world without suffering through social reform, through the abolition of government and the legal order, and the desire to achieve this here and now are symptoms of false doctrine, of a profound misunderstanding of human nature.  Inequality of owernship and power, to tell the truth, are not the only causes of suffering in this worldAnd suffering is not just the burden that man should throw off: anyone who tries to do that must flee into the illusory world of drugs so as to destroy himself in earnest and come into conflict with reality.  Only by suffering himself and by becoming free of the tyranny of egotism through suffering does man find himself, his truth, his joy, his happiness.  We are led to believe that one can become a human being without conquering oneself, without the patience of renunciation and the toil of overcoming oneself; that there is no need to withstand the hardship of perseverence or to endure patiently the tension between what man ought to be and what he is in fact: this is the very essence of the crisis of the hour.  If a man's hardship is taken away and he is led astray into the fool's paradise of his dreams, he loses what is distinctively his: himselfA human being in fact is saved in no other way but through the cross, through acceptance of his own passion and that of the world, which in God's Passion became the site of liberating meaning.  Only in that way, in this acceptance, does a human being become free.  All offers that promise it at less expense will fail and prove to be deceptive.  The hope of Christianity, the prospect of faith is ultimately based quite simply on the fact that it tells the truth.  The prospect of faith is the prospect of truth, which can be obscured and trample upon, but cannot perish (Credo for Today, 196-197).
    Without a recognition of the reality of sin and a call for true repentance and conversion - both of the so-called 1% and of the 99% - the Occupy Wall Street movement will crash in upon itself, in much the same way as the French Revolution.  The 99% will become the 1%.

    True and perfect joy

    For the joy announced to [Mary] is not the banal joy clung to in forgetfulness of the abysses of our being and so condemned to plunge into the void.  It is the real joy that gives us the courage to venture the exodus of love into the burning holiness of God.  It is the true joy that pain does not destroy but first brings to its maturity.  Only the joy that stands the test of pain and is stronger than affliction is authentic.

    - Pope Benedict XVI
    As we wait today to see if Harold Camping is correct about the Lord's Second Coming, we might do well to consider, briefly, the end of the world.

    As Pope Benedict XVI has noted, throughout the centuries Christians have looked both to that final day with joy crying out, "Maran atha (Our Lord, come)!" and also as the dies irae (day of wrath).  There is something of truth in both of these views, but we must always remember "it is not a stranger who judges us but he whom we know in faith."

    What is more,
    On that day of fear the Christian will be allowed to see in happy wonder that he to whom "all authority in heaven and on earth has been given" (Matthew 28:18) was the companion in faith of his days on earth, and it is as if through the words of the Creed Jesus were already laying his hands on him and saying: Be without fear, it is I (Credo for Today: What Christians Believe, p. 120).

    NFL must "man up and bring the truth to light"

    So says Matthew Hanley concerning the NFL's support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Writing at MercatorNet he says:
    The linchpin uniting the reproductive risk factors is their relationship to the hormone estrogen. Overexposure to estrogen is carcinogenic – which is one reason why oral contraceptives and Hormone Replacement Therapy leads to more breast cancer. And in the early phases of pregnancy, a woman is exposed to massive amounts of estrogen, which triggers a proliferation of the types of breast lobules (Type 1 and 2) most susceptible to cancer. It is only in the weeks prior to birth that other hormones begin to help transform those vulnerable lobules into (Type 3 and 4) cancer-resistant lobules. A woman who terminates her pregnancy thus experiences a dangerous spike in estrogen without acquiring the protective tissues that emerge only by bringing a child to term. 
    Most pink campaigns avoid any hint of these factors like the plague; the Susan G. Komen Foundation, a prominent advocacy and fundraising group, vehemently and unequivocally denies the link between abortion and breast cancer, citing Beral’s shady “study”. Komen is evidently content to ignore mounting epidemiological evidence along with current knowledge of breast physiology which makes such a link all the more creditable. 
    Curiously, Komen also funnels millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood – already a recipient of considerable governmental largesse. By doling out tons of contraceptives and providing for more abortion than any other outfit in the country, Planned Parenthood virtually ensures that the breast cancer epidemic will persist, not shrink. 
    You don’t have to be a cynic to find this cozy relationship a bit fishy.
    His entire piece is worth reading, especially since he offers links to demonstate the truth.

    20 October 2011

    LIFE Runners video of Kansas City marathon

    Illinois Bishop Runs Kansas City Marathon

    The Catholic News Agency has published a story on the marathon Bishop Paprocki ran this past Saturday in Kansas City.

    Think pink?

    I don't know about you but I'm very tired of seeing pink wherever I go and hearing people telling me to wear pink and using something pointless phrases as, "Think pink."

    Brease cancer is certainly a serious issue and a cancer for which we have, thanks be to God, several remedies.  By no means am I suggesting we should ignore the issue.

    That being said, there are two things I am saying:
    1. Breast cancer is not the most prevalent form of cancer, neither is it the most deadly.  Prostate cancer is the most common cancer and colon cancer is the most deadly.  Why are the campaigns to erradicate these cancers not nearly as prevalent nor nearly as financially supported and forced upon the public as that against breast cancer?
    2. We know that if a woman has an abortion or uses contraceptive drugs, her likelihood of contracting breast increases exponentially, yet these is never publicly addressed during Breast Cancer Awareness Month nor really admitted by the Susan G. Komen Foundation refuses to acknowledge this link.
    By "thinking pink" and donating to the SGKF, one does little to erradicate breast cancer and in fact helps spread it.

    The SGKF is a significant contributor to Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading provider of abortions and the leading dispenser of contraceptive drugs.  By contributing to SGKF, you contribute to the problem you seek to solve.

    This makes precious little sense to me.  It's time to abide by a few simple principles.

    What is a teacher to do?

    On Saturday I will be teaching a class for the lay ministry formation program with the topic, "An Overview of the Catholic Faith."  It is, essentially, a class on the Creed done in about six hours time.  All in one day.  It is, really, an impossible task.

    I have set aside today and tomorrow to do my last minute preparations for the class.  Here I find myself torn.

    On the one hand, I would very much like to have detailed notes, lectures and handouts for the students.  This best suits my personality and would help to ensure all of the material is covered, even if only in a cursory fashion.

    On the other hand, preparing in such a way is not only tedious but, from my past experience, not altogether helpful as it could tend to force things along rather than moving along at a pace in keeping with the students' knowledge and questions.  In the past, I have simply made a few introductory observations about creeds and faith and then open the Catechism and go through it one article at a time, stopping for questions and comments and seeing how far we get.

    Most of my previous students for this class have enjoyed this method, but there are always one or two who complain that the day wasn't structured enough.    This criticism is fair and not without merit, but I don't know how to resolve the dilemna without turning into a taskmaster for the class, which will make for neither a pleasant learning nor teaching experience.

    What is one to do?  As I sit down this morning to put a few things together I am conflicted: I know I will work best without a formal plan, but I feel guilty for not having one prepared.

    19 October 2011

    We have a Nuncio

    Today the Holy Father Benedict XVI appointed His Excellency the Most Reverend Carlo Maria Vigano Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America.  Congratulations, and welcome, Archbishop Vigano!

    The Catholic News Service has an article with some background information.

    18 October 2011

    A Prayer of St. Thomas More

    Lord, grant me a holy heart that sees always what is fine and pure and is not frightened at the sight of sin, but creates order wherever it goes.

    Grant me a heart that knows nothing of boredom, weeping and sighing.

    Let me not be concerned with the bothersome thing I call "myself".

    Lord, give me a sense of humor and I will find happiness in life
    and profit for others.
    - Saint Thomas More

    This looks enjoyable

    A small, tiny herald of great doom...and verifications

    Prior to my visit to Paradise (i.e., Hawai'i), I tolerated winter; since those first few minutes after exiting the plane at the Honolulu International Airport, I have despised winter.  This is no secret.  Already my gloves are out and I may pull out a scarf this evening.

    It may be wimpy, but so be it.  I hate winter.

    It is against this backdrop that a sight outside the back door of the cathedral rectory yesterday made me ill at ease: a woolly caterpillar.  A black, all black caterpillar.

    I saw him - or her - again today, still all black.

    Thinking back to my childhood days and those we learned, I couldn't quite remember what a black woolly caterpillar was to portend, but I didn't think it was good.  This afternoon I did a little hunting and was able to confirm what my bones have for weeks been telling me.

    For some time now I have suspected - and felt in my joints - that this coming winter will be worse than last winter.  Some of you may be skeptical on this, but this is more than a hunch.

    Anyway, the legend, if you will, of the woolly caterpillar says that the wider the brown strip the milder winter will be.  The caterpillar is all black...  He is a herald of great doom.

    There are also additional signs that point toward a harsh winter.  The Farmers' Almanac lists several factors that foretell winter conditions [with my comments]:
    * Very thick onion skins or corn husks [I'm not sure about these]

    * Woodpeckers sharing a tree [I don't see a lot of woodpeckers in the city]

    * Early arrival of crickets on the hearth [I don't have a hearth]

    * Spiders spinning larger webs [I'm told they are]

    * Lots and lots of acorns [we have oak trees at the Pastoral Center, and there are lots of acorns]

    * Raccoons have thick tails [I've seen a lot of dead raccoons lately on the streets and highways, but I haven't paid attention to their tails]

    * Squirrels gather nuts early in the year [they've been busy this year]

    * Pigs gather sticks [I don't know about this one, but I've just recently finished re-reading Lloyd Alexander's Prydain chronicles so pigs have been on my mind]

    * Frequent halos around the sun or moon [I haven't noticed this, but I haven't been looking]

    * Heavy and numerous fogs in August [I remember these with little fondness]
    Here come six months of misery.  I'm not ready.

    You have been warned.

    The results are in

    Some have asked how Bishop Paprocki did at that marathon he ran this past weekend.  He completed the race in 4 hours and 8 minutes.

    He ran with the LIFE Runners, 170 of whom were present from 20 different States.  Together they raised some $35,000 for various pro-life causes.

    Bishop Paprocki raised $3,700 for local pro-life causes.

    A mockery of justice, but a moral success

    Writing On the Square, Alex Ozar has a powerful reflection on the coming release of 1,000 Palestinians to secure the release of 1 Israeli soldier.

    First he provides a quick backstory to the situation:
    Over five years ago, on the morning of June 25, 2006, several Palestinian militants infiltrated an Israeli army base on the Gaza strip border, killing two, wounding three, and abducting 20-year-old corporal Gilad Shalit. Since that day he has been held in captivity in unknown conditions, deprived even of access to the Red Cross and contact to his family-basic rights due to prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. A bleak situation, to say the least.
    The compromise that has been reached is, he says, "not without its downside":
    To be sure, the news was not without its downside. To free Shalit, the Israeli government had to agree to the release of over 1,000 prisoners, not a few of which are convicted terrorists with innocent Israeli blood on their hands. Setting loose so many proven murderers poses an obvious danger, and though I trust the Israeli security community-unfortunately driven, by painful necessity, to proven excellence-to handle the situation with competence, ensuring that the prisoners released will not pose any direct threat to life, the risks involved surely cannot be disregarded as entirely negligible. It is a blow to all those who suffered at these mens hands, who deserve to see justice done. Politically, the deal will embolden Hamas, tilting the scales of Palestinian opinion away from moderation and charting a course further down the road of fanaticism and violence. The deal rewards terror, and in trading 1,000 criminals for a single innocent man, concedes success to a cynically twisted, warped moral position.

    But after all has been said and all arguments heard, the editorials written and the debates run their course, there really is no question here: When it comes to the value and dignity of even a single human life, there can be no calculations of utility, no negotiation of practicalities. Whatever the pros and cons, they cannot hold water against the infinite worth of a person and the sacred regard owed to it by us all. And thats to say nothing of the loyalty due Shalit as a soldier, citizen, son and brother.
    After considering the circumstances, he concludes:
    That hundreds of terrorists must be released to save a single person is a moral travesty and a mockery of justice, but it is also a profound moral success, a resounding victory for life, goodness, and our assuredness in the incalculable value of a human person.
    Be sure to read the rest.

    16 October 2011

    "Occupy Wall Street" protesters desecrate Roman church

    The "Occupy Wall Street" protests, as you know, have spread across the United States of America in the last several weeks, leading to the arrests of hundreds of the protesters.

    Now the "movement" of angry men and women has spread to Europe, where in Rome yesterday the protesters forced their way into the church of Saints Marcellinus and Peter and desecrated it:
    The 18th-century church of Santi Marcellino and Pietro is near St John Lateran square where much of Saturday’s violence occurred. 
    “When I came down, I saw the entrance door had been smashed in,” the church’s parish priest, Father Giuseppe Ciucci, was quoted by Italian media as saying. 
    “The Virgin Mary’s statue, which was at the entrance, had been taken away and I saw it had been thrown into the street and smashed,” he said. 
    “I went into the sacristy and I saw the door there was also destroyed. The large crucifix at the entrance had been vandalized,” he added [more].
    And this movement wants to be taken seriously and with respect?

    Thirty-three years ago today: Habemus Papam!

    15 October 2011

    She's done it again

    Susan Boyle is soon to release her newest album, Someone to Watch Over Me, which you can pre-order here.

    She has recently released the music video for "You Have to Be There":

    As with her previous recordings, the power of Susan's voice is very moving and she sings with great emotion.

    I like particularly like this song, rich as it is with Biblical imagery.  Those who have known tragedy of one kind or another will likely find the lyrics resonating within them.

    Thank you, Susan!

    Capello tip to Deacon Kandra.

    A short letter

    Though I have long been a fan of e-mail, I still enjoying receiving letters in the post.  There's something particularly nice about finding a real letter in the stack of bills, catalogs and junk.

    Yesterday I received a letter from a former student who is training for the Marine Corps.  It was a short letter written last Sunday, but with a good explanation for its brevity:
    Father, sorry this isn't a long letter but I'm going to church.
    If only all short letters had such a reason behind them.

    14 October 2011

    The aftermath in Cairo: move violence against Christians

    Christians have long endeavored to united their sufferings to the sufferings of Jesus Christ to "complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, Church" (Colossians 1:24).  Today we can unite our sufferings with those of our brothers and sisters in Cairo after Sunday's brutal attack by the Egyptian military.

    The Assyrian International News Agency reported two days ago - I'm slow in reading the report - that bricks were thrown at the Coptic mourners after the hospital in which many of the dead Copts were:
    In Cairo, thousands of Copts marched to attend the funeral of the victims of what they termed the "October 9 Military Massacre." They congregated in front of the Coptic hospital where most of the dead and injured were transported, and which was attacked the night before by Muslims, who hurled bricks and Molotov Cocktails at the victims' families.
    As if this weren't bad enough, it seems the government is purposefully disguising - or lying - about the cause of death of many of the victims so the guilty will go free:
    According to priests and Coptic lawyers who were present at the Coptic Hospital, where the victims were brought, the death certificates issued by the authorities were misleading and did not reflect the true cause of death, which might let the assailants get away with the crime. Certificates showed the cause of death as being "stab wounds" and "cardiac arrest caused by fear."
    But the man conducting the autopsies, Dr. Maged Lewis, had never see corpses such as those of the dead copts.  "Bodies were mashed and bones were crushed," he said; "many had fractures and laceration of the intestines; while in others, death was caused by gun shots."

    After burying their dead, the Copts were again assaulted:
    On their way back after the burial the mourners were attacked by armed thugs who blocked the way and hurled Molotov cocktails at them; gun shots were heard. They sought shelter and called the army emergency phone line for help, they waited until the morning but no one came.
    Please, pray for the Christians in Egypt as those in authority refuse to come to their aid.

    T. G. I. F.? Is Katy Perry right?

    T.G.I.F.  Thank God it's Friday.  We hear this phrased used so commonly today it has all but lost all meaning.  Why do we thank God that it is Friday?

    From societal clues, it seems we are grateful simply because the weekend has arrived, two days that we can sit around and do whatever we like, or nothing at all.

    Katy Perry has a song out now called "Last Friday Night" and part of the song involves a chanted refrain of sorts of "T. G. I. F."  The song itself describes what she and her friends (or at least the voice of the song) did last Friday night, which includes, among other things, this little list:

    There's a stranger in my bed,
    There's a pounding in my head
    Glitter all over the room
    Pink flamingos in the pool
    I smell like a minibar
    DJ's passed out in the yard
    Barbie's on the barbeque
    Is this a hickie or a bruise?
    Most regrettably, this seems to be a common experience of what Friday night has become, nothing less than a time for drunken revelry.

    After singing of other questionable - and rather immoral - behavior from last Friday night, Perry sings:

    This Friday night
    Do it all again
    This Friday night
    Do it all again
    So many people seem to be living for this sort of activity today, which now even begins on Thursday, if indeed it ever ceases for a day or two.  Too many find themselves caught in this animalistic behavior that brings them no real or lasting happiness, which is why they have to do it all again.  Maybe this time the feeling of euphoria will last.  Maybe.

    To live in such a way that your only glimmer of hope is a party-filled Friday night of which you do not remember much the next day seems to me a very sad life.  There is surely little reason here for which to be thankful.

    Thank God it's Friday?  If all Friday entails is this repetitious cycle of  drunken antics, I'd rather Friday never come.

    From the nascent days of Christianity, Christians have rendered thanks to God on Friday's because it was on a Friday - the one we call Good - that Christ Jesus shed his blood for us.  By his death on the Cross, the Lord "took away the guilt of [our] sin" and "fill[ed us] with the joy of salvation" (Psalm 32:5, 7).

    Because of the self-sacrificing love of the Son, we can indeed thank God it's Friday; it is only because of him that Friday has any real importance.

    Let each of us then spend time reflecting on the Passion of the Lord and use Friday - as Christians have always done - as a day for prayer and penance.  Then the words of the Psalmist will rightly be lived in us: "Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you just; exult, all you upright of heart" (Psalm 32:11).

    13 October 2011

    Do you think anyone would notice?

    Capello tip to the Facebook page of my friend, Jonathan.

    Calling all hypocrites?

    Last evening Bishop Paprocki and I drove through the small town of White Hall (Illinois) where outside of a Protestant church (it might have been Baptist, but I can't remember) with a marque sign along the road.

    Now, I'm never been much of a fan of these signs where silly statements are posted in an attempt to lure people into the church.  Typically they only speak part of a theological truth and thus are very questionable, at best .  At other times they spout off historical inaccuracies (such as, "Under same management for 2,000 years" when the particular denomination has only been in existence for 140 years).  I often think of Rich Mullins' great line: "Save me from trendy religion that makes cheap cliches out of timeless truths."

    This isn't to say that Baptist's (or whatever denomination it was) is trendy.  It might be, it might not be; I've never been there.  Still, I don't like gimmicky religion; it seems all too fake to me.

    At any rate, the sign read something to this effect:

    Come in and join us.
    One more hypocrite
    won't hurt.

    Perhaps someone in White Hall can give the full quote.

    Call me silly, but I'm not sure what the purpose of such a statement is.  If it is intended to draw people in, this seems hardly a good way to do so, especially since people so dislike hypocrites.  The sign not only insults the person reading it - by calling him a hypocrite without an evidence - and insults the congregants - by calling all of them hypocrites.

    Too many people today are too quick to throw out the label of, "Hypocrite!" as if every sinner were a hypocrite.  There is a distinction: a hypocrite is a sinner who refuses to acknowledge he is a sinner.  Such a person isn't likely to be drawn in by a silly sign.  A sinner who acknowledges he is a sinner is not a hypocrite, but simply a sinner.

    At the very least, I can safely say this slogan will not be found on the next vocations poster.

    The truth behind condoms and "safe sex": It isn't

    From Joe Carter, writing On the Square, with my emphases and comments:

    A few weeks ago, the promoters and supporters of World Contraceptive Use Day received the latest news of their continued failure. Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals released results of a survey that questioned more than 6,000 young people from 26 countries on their attitudes toward sex and contraception. The report revealed, among other findings, that over the past three years the number of young people having sex without a condom with a new partner increased by 111 percent in France, 39 percent in the U.S., and 19 percent in Britain.

    In response to the report Jennifer Woodside, spokeswoman for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, replied, “What young people are telling us is that they are not receiving enough sex education or the wrong type of information about sex and sexuality.” She’s absolutely right. Many teens have been receiving the wrong type of information about sex and sexuality because groups like Planned Parenthood have conspired to withhold the truth from them.

    For over twenty years the pattern has been the same: Whenever surveys and studies reveal a rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies, the advocates of “comprehensive sex education” feign surprise and stammer that the results prove that we need to double down on an approach that has consistently proven to be a failure. Any evidence presented to show that pro-condom sex-ed is failing is seen by them as evidence that condoms need to be promoted even more [because, you know, they've worked so well in the past].

    A prime example is the reaction to the separate reports issued in 2004 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of North Carolina. Both organizations found that in 2000 there were 9 million new cases of STIs among teens and young adults aged 15 to 24. The response by Planned Parenthood’s Guttmacher Institute was to double-down and claim that that sex education that includes information on condoms was vital to preventing STIs. James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, added that, “Given the prevalence of STDs, young people need all the facts—including medically accurate information on condoms.”

    But the Clinton Administration had pushed “safe sex” education for nearly a decade prior to the results. Why had years of “medically accurate information on condoms” led to such a growth in the rates of STIs? An examination of the evidence by the pro-comprehensive sex-ed advocates at the University of California, San Francisco showed that lack of knowledge wasn’t the most significant factor:

    • In 1999, 51% of high school seniors said they had been sexually active within the last three months. (p. 3)

    • From 1991 to 1997, the use of a condom during the last sexual intercourse increased from 46% to 58% (p. 6) Condom use declines, though, as young people get older. Also, the longer a sexual relationship lasts, the less likely they are to use condoms.

    • 52% of teens say that one of the main reasons that teens do not use birth control is because their partners don’t want to.

    53% of teens say the main reason teens do not use contraception is because of drinking and drugs.

    66% would be suspicious of their partner’s sexual history if they suggested using a condom.

    • 30% want more information about how to use a condom.

    Why would 70 percent of the students not want more information on condom use? Perhaps because they already know how to use condoms. (How long does it take to learn all you need to know?) The problem is not a lack of education but a lack of application.

    Although I’m in favor of abstinence-based education, I believe that if sex education teaches about condoms then “medically accurate information” should be provided. And what is the most accurate medical information about condoms?

    In 2000, a Federal panel surveyed the published epidemiology literature and found there was not enough evidence to drawn an adequate conclusion. In other words, while we have sex educators claiming that condoms can “effectively reduce” the spread of STIs, we have known for a decade that there is no scientific basis for that broad-based claim.

    What the evidence does show is that men and women who always use a condom can reduce their risk of being infected with HIV and men can limit their exposure to gonorrhea. When it comes to chlamydial infection, trichomoniasis, genital herpes, syphilis, and chancroid, and gonorrhea in women, the evidence is inconclusive. And there is no evidence at all that condoms can prevent the transmission of the HPV infection.

    Additionally, three percent of couples that reported “perfect use” every time they used a latex condom will be surprised to find themselves pregnant.

    The “medically accurate information on condoms” is that while they are adequate for preventing the spread of HIV, nobody really knows how effective they are for most other STIs. In addition to this risk, you have a three percent chance of getting pregnant if you use condoms “perfectly.” No wonder the sex-ed advocates conspire to downplay this information. Telling kids that using condoms is only moderately safer than unprotected sex is not an appealing message, especially in an age when STIs like gonorrhea are becoming uncurable.

    When the report was released, Tom Coburn, who at the time was a Congressman, told the Secretary of Health and Human Services, “this report means that when condom use is discussed, it is no longer medically accurate—or legal for the CDC—to refer to sex as ‘safe’ or ‘protected’.”

    Of course, truth in advertising is not a priority for the propagandists. Ten years later their program to mislead the public about condoms has been effective while the actual effectiveness of condoms to prevent disease has not. Each year millions of teens are surprised to find they contracted an STI even though they were “protected” and “practiced safe sex.” What they should have been told is the truth: The only completely effective method for avoiding an unwanted pregnancy or STI is for both partners to abstain from sexual intercourse prior to marriage. There are no other options. There is no magical contraception that will allow you to have all the sex you want with whoever you want and remain perfectly healthy. Reality doesn’t work that way.

    The fact is that while you have almost no chance of getting an STI by being abstinent, you have a high probability of acquiring some type of disease if you are sexually active. Rather sobering, isn't it? Maybe instead of keeping a condom in their purse or wallet a teen should carry a photo of genital warts. Look at those types of photos enough and abstinence will seem a more rational option.

    Joe Carter is Web Editor of First Things and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator. His previous articles for “On the Square” can be found here.


    National Institutes on Health, Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Prevention [PDF]

    WCD 2011: Clueless or Clued Up media report

    Reuters, Half of young Americans to get sex diseases

    University of California, San Francisco, Abstinence Only vs. Comprehensive Sex Education

    Reuters, More youngsters having unsafe sex: global study

    BBC, UK doctors advised gonorrhoea has turned drug resistant

    12 October 2011

    Urgent action needed: Support the "Protect Life Act"

    From the USCCB:

    The health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), was signed into law in 2010. On January 20, 2011, Reps. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358) to bring PPACA into line with policies on abortion and conscience rights existing in other federal health programs. Later, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the companion bill in the Senate (S. 877).

    In the House, Committee consideration of H.R. 358 is completed. House floor action is scheduled for the week of October 11. Please urge your Representative to support H.R. 358 on the floor and to oppose any hostile weakening amendments.

    In a letter to the House of Representatives, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged Members to support the Protect Life Act, which will do the following:
    • Ensure that all PPACA funds are covered by the policy of the longstanding Hyde Amendment (no funds for abortion except in cases of life endangerment or rape/incest).
    • Prevent federal funds from subsidizing health plans that cover abortions beyond the Hyde exceptions, so that PPACA will follow the policy of other federal health insurance programs.
    • Uphold rights of conscience related to abortion, ensuring that governmental entities receiving federal funds under PPACA will not discriminate against health care providers who decline involvement in abortion.
    • Close a loophole in PPACA’s non-preemption clause, so that state laws restricting abortion or protecting conscience rights will not be preempted, and states will not be able to override PPACA’s provisions ensuring that health plans without elective abortion are available in each state. See: http://old.usccb.org/healthcare/cardinal-dinardo-HR358-ltr.....
    ACTION: Contact your Representative by phone, e-mail, or FAX letter:
    • Send an e-mail through the CapWiz Action Center or print a pdf here.
    • Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 202-224-3121 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, or call your Representative’s local office.
    • Additional contact info can be found on Representatives’ web sites at: www.house.gov.
    MESSAGE FOR HOUSE: “During floor consideration, please vote for the Protect Life Act, H.R. 358, and oppose any hostile weakening amendments. This bill will amend the health care reform law to preserve longstanding federal policies on abortion and conscience rights.”

    WHEN: It is anticipated that the House will take up H.R. 358 during the week of October 11. Please act today! Thanks!
    Updated 10/6/11

    11 October 2011

    Double Standards

    Capello tip to The Crescat (via her Facebook page).

    Two years ago today

    ...I was in Rome for the one of the happiest moments of my life: the canonization of Saint Damien de Vuester, the Leper Priest of Moloka'i.

    Saint Damien, pray for us!

    British Journal of Psychiatry shows woman have 81% increased risk of mental health issues following an abortion

    From Life News:

    A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has concluded what pro-abortion groups have tried to discount for decades: abortion substantially increases a woman’s risk of mental health problems. More specifically, post-abortive women experience an 81% increased risk of having subsequent mental health issues. Hundreds of published studies have demonstrated the distinct correlation between induced abortion and the devastating psychological issues it has on women [more].

    Cathedral wins mayoral award

    Last evening the Springfield Historic Sites Commission presented the 2011 Mayor's Historic Preservation Awards at the Edwards Place.

    It was a very nice evening and a fitting celebration of the good work done by so many lovers of local history and architecture.

    The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois was presented an award for "Preservation Efforts by a Not-For-Profit Organization or Agency" for the recent restoration of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

    Mayor Mike Houston presents the award to Bishop Paprocki and Father Harman

    Is it sectarian?

    Terry Mattingly has rightly called for the end of the use of the word "sectarian" to describe the recent violence toward Christians in Egypt in favor of the more accurate reporting of actual events.

    Zimbabwean President knows religious history

    The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury recently visited with Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe.  During the meeting, President Mugabe reminded Archbishop Williams that the Anglican Church is "a breakaway group from the Roman Catholic Church."

    Cue the crickets.

    Capello tip to Fr. Z.

    Persecution Watch: Pakistan

    From Catholic World News:

    Amid a conflict over disputed land, mob of 50 armed Muslims attacked Christians near the east-central Pakistani city of Khanewal, leaving one dead and 20 injured.

    “They arrived on motorcycles and tractors,” said the treasurer of the local Methodist church. “They tortured women and stole livestock” [more]. 

    Persecution Watch: Nicaragua

    The staff of The Vatican Insider have brief piece looking at the sharp rise in violence against Catholic clergy in Nacaragua while the police do little to curb the violence.

    The Archangel Song

    Egyptian Christians call for religious freedom in wake of violent persecution

    In an interview yesterday with Vatican Radio following the horrible military violence against Coptic Christians in Cairo that left 35 Christians dead and more than 300 Christians wounded, the Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop, Rafic Greiche, said:

    At the time of the old regime, of Mubarak, there were also churches being burned and so on but the security services always used to take care of us. Now, even the government does not give a damn about what is happening.

    He also enumerated three simple demands the Christians of Egypt have:

    1. the government of Prime Minister Essam has to go
    2. Christians must be allowed to build churches
    3. a law against discrimination that would protect Christians
    These demands seem simple enough, but the fruits of the Arab Spring on which so many had placed their hopes seem to be quite different.

    10 October 2011

    Sibelius "at war" with pro-life supporters

    Addressing members of NARAL Pro-Choice America at a luncheon last Wednesday Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary for Health and Human Services, said, "We are at war" with oppenents of abortion funding.

    Cairo hopsital attacked following military violence against Christian protesters

    Writing for The Arabist, Ursula Lindsey notes that following yesterday's extremely violent attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt in which at least have 35 Christians have been killed and more than 300 injured, she visited a hospital in Cairo:

    Visited the Coptic Hospital this morning, and were told that while the bodies of 17 dead protesters lay inside, it was attacked by gangs last night and Christian men in the neighborhood had to defend it for hours. The footage below is of those clashes, from Al Masry Al Youm [more].

    Please, pray for peace, and for the safety of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Illinois Bishops establish Defense of Marriage Department

    From the Catholic Times, with my emphases:

    In light of ever-increasing threats to marriage, the bishops of Illinois have recently created a Defense of Marriage Department within the Catholic Conference of Illinois (CCI).

    Zach Wichmann, CCI's director of government, heads the new department, with each diocese appointing advocates who seek to promote the church's love and solicitude toward marriage, families and children, and defend against public policy encroachments.

    In the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Carlos Tejeda, associate director of the Office for Marriage and Family Life, has been appointed the diocesan representative to the Defense of Marriage Department. He has begun attending quarterly meetings with Deacon Richard Hudzik from the Chicago archdiocese, Laurie Edwards from the Belleville diocese, Michael Brummond from the Joliet diocese, Tim Roder from the Peoria diocese, and Mary O'Grady from the Rockford diocese.

    "The formation of the new department comes on the heels of Illinois' new civil unions law and same-sex marriage proposals in other states," said Mary Massingale, director of communications for CCI. "Additionally, the refusal of the Obama administration to defend the Defense of Marriage Act creates a sense of urgency in preserving the status of traditional marriage as outlined in USCCB President Archbishop Timothy Dolan's letter to (President Barack) Obama."

    Massingale refers to Archbishop Dolan's 800-plus word letter, dated Sept. 20, that urged the president to keep the Defense of Marriage Act strongly in place.

    "This past spring the Justice Department announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court, a decision strongly opposed by the Catholic Bishops of the United States and many others," Archbishop Dolan wrote in his initial paragraph. "Now the Justice Department has shifted from not defending DOMA — which is problem enough given the duty of the executive branch to enforce even laws it disfavors — to actively attacking DOMA's constitutionality.

    "My predecessor, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, and I have expressed to you in the past our strong disappointment about the direction your administration has been moving regarding DOMA," he wrote. "Unfortunately, the only response to date has been the intensification of efforts to undermine DOMA and the institution of marriage. ...

    "The Catholic Bishops stand ready to affirm every positive measure taken by you and your administration to strengthen marriage and the family," he continued. "We cannot be silent, however, when federal steps harmful to marriage, the laws defending it, and religious freedom continue apace." Archbishop Dolan also attached an analysis prepared by his staff that detailed the various executive "activities of late" that have warranted the bishops' "increasing apprehension."

    Wichmann said both the letter and the development of the new department reflect the bishops' intention to keep the church in the public square and in line with the Catholic faith's mission. In Illinois, the Defense of Marriage Department will advocate marriage as the proper home for human sexuality, as it serves as an expression of love and cooperation in God's creative design.

    "The purpose of the quarterly meetings is to develop suggestions and action points for the bishops to consider ... how to generate organic grassroots efforts for the preservation of marriage," Tejeda said. "We have a very great need to catechize the faithful as well as explain conjunctly to those outside the faith why we believe what we do and why that's, in fact, good for society."

    Wichmann acknowledged that the new department will be fighting an uphill battle against current social trends. "The teachings of the church are not overwhelmingly popular everywhere, nor are they always easily explained," he said. "But our message will be proclaimed for the sake of stronger families, secure children and enriched spiritual life."

    He noted that the new civil unions law is really just the tip of the iceberg as the historically cooperative relationship between the church and the state of Illinois has begun to dissolve. The recent decision by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to cancel contracts with Catholic Charities because of the organizations' refusal to place children with cohabitating couples — including those in civil unions — reflects a growing tension between the church and state.

    "The government is not obliged to embrace church teaching," Wichmann said. "But the insistence that Catholic organizations discard that teaching undermines our mission and severely narrows opportunities for public ministry."

    However, the Defense of Marriage Department is not meant to deal solely with the civil unions law, Tejeda said. "In 2009, the bishops came out with the pastoral letter Marriage, Love and Life in the Divine Plan. The whole USSCB approved this pastoral letter in 2009. One of the threats to marriage specifically outlined in this document — it is the second one — is same-sex unions."

    The other threats against marriage, according to the bishops, are contraception, divorce and living together without marriage. "So certainly any time we speak about threats to marriage we need not just to send this one issue of same-sex unions. We need to preach with charity about the threats that contraception, divorce and cohabitation are to marriage," Tejeda said.

    "Once we realize that we can understand that we don't have an agenda against those who experience same-sex attraction. What we have is a desire to journey with everybody who is tempted in difficult ways," he said. "So when an engaged couple desires to live together to save money before marriage we have the same very strong things to say — why that is not good for them and why that is not good for society."

    Tejeda says in today's "sound-byte culture," it is important that the general public understand the true meaning of the Catholic Church's thoughts about marriage. In other words, what lay people see on television or read in secular papers doesn't provide the entire explanation of what Catholics really believe.

    "Inevitably, if all people hear us talk about is fighting same-sex union legislation then it is very reasonable for them to make that conclusion (that the church is solely concerned about same-sex unions). So, on our part, we need to do just what the bishop's did and say, 'Look, in contemporary America there are four very constant threats to marriage, one of which is same-sex unions.'"

    Tejeda said he hopes good things will come with the creation of the Defense of Marriage Department. "This is new territory for everybody. Hopefully the faithful of the diocese will see more resources being brought to their attention about why we understand marriage to be a sacrament between a man and a woman open to new life," he said.

    "And once they are exposed to more of those resources about our understanding about the sacrament of matrimony that they can in turn vote a certain way and have informed conversations with their family and friends. That's really our hope and desire. We have to help our own faithful understand the sacrament more so that in turn society can have leaven and salt in the midst of it."

    Editor's note: The entire content of Archbishop Timothy Dolan's letter to President Barack Obama can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/dolan-to-obama-doma-letter-sept-20-2011.pdf.

    A little humor is always good

    Capello tip to Deacon Kandra.

    Why we should worry about Egypt

    Yesterdays violent outbreak against Christians in Egypt gives us many reasons to worry about the so-called Arab Spring, which are well summarized by The Arabist (with my emphases):

    The clashes that broke out a few hours ago at Maspero, the large Downtown Cairo building near Tahrir Square that houses the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (basically, state TV and radio), are a deeply worrisome turn in Egypt’s fledging transition.

    Worrisome because they started off at a protest of Christians (joined by some Muslims) over restrictions on church-building and have taken on a more sectarian overtone than anything we’ve seen so far.

    Worrisome because, while the initial spark to the confrontation between the protestors and the army is still unknown, the army crackdown was quite brutal, as these videos show. This marks the first time that the army has taken such an aggressive posture against a predominantly Christian protest, which will easily lead the framing of today’s events as the first time that the military chooses to kill protesting Christians.

    Worrisome because state television has behaved thus far tonight much as it did during the 18 days of the Egyptian uprising this winter. In other words, it has deployed propaganda, unverifiable allegations, talk of “foreign agendas” and “outside hands”, and extremely partial reporting. It has repeatedly used sectarian language, with presenters referring to protestors as “the Copts” and using sentences such as “The Copts have killed two soldiers.” On top of this, the military cut off the live TV feeds of several satellite TV stations, including 25TV, al-Hurra, and at a later point al-Jazeera, reducing the independent reporting of an unfolding event. And most of all because TV presenters were urging Egyptians to “protect the army from the Copts.”

    Worrisome because many appear to have responded to that call, and tonight on one of Cairo’s main thoroughfares you could see young men marching to that chant of “There is no God but God”, or a woman being attacked simply because she was wearing a cross, or simply because sectarianism has reared its ugly head again after last May’s Imbaba church arson.

    Worrisome because this is all happening at a time when the political class is in crisis, its confidence in the SCAF at an all-time low, and the general population is so fed up of all the uncertainty and chaos that it is having buyer’s remorse about the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

    Most worrisome of all because, taken altogether, this paints a picture of the Egyptian military as resorting to sectarian impulses almost reflexively. It is the flipside of its continued unwillingness, after the sectarian clashes (between civilians as well as between police, military and civilians once fighting had already broken out) of earlier this year, to end once and for all the official discrimination that Copts face when building, expanding or renovating places of worship. SCAF, which rules by decree, could have acted, but did not — and acted weakly in the face of the arson of a church in Aswan last week, which was the cause of today’s protests. And because from so many sides we are getting the old passing of the buck to “foreign agendas” and “foreign hands” in what was

    We’ll get a clearer picture of what happened tonight in the next few days, when heads will have cooled and the Twitter-fed hysteria and emotion will have died down (I mean really: you had people on Twitter talking of civil war or another January 28 — it's not). Video evidence already suggests that while the protestors may have been aggressive, the army response — notably running over people at high speed with an armored vehicle — is utterly unnaceptable. And far too reminiscent of similar images in late January of this year.

    Persecution Watch: Egypt

    Yesterday 35 Coptic Christians were killed in Cairo amid protests stemming back to the destruction of a church.  They were killed by the Egyptian military.  More than 300 others were injured.

    Not only did the army open fire upon the Christians, but also ran over them with military vehicles.

    Commenting at his coffee house, my friend Brian makes this observation:

    Despite the lazy sectarian framing of the Reuters excerpt above, this is not sectarian violence, but violence of the regime against its citizens and an ongoing quest to use the threat of instability to preserve its own power. What's more, it has a lesson for those who argue that current regimes are good for religious minorities: Dictators make fickle friends.

    The Assyrian International News Agency offers the following description of the events (CAUTION: a graphic image of the violence follows the jump):

    According to witnesses, the army forces were waiting for the Copic rally to arrive at Maspero, near the state television building. "They arranged a trap for us," said Father Filopateer. "As soon as we arrived they surrounded us and started shooting live ammunition randomly at us. Then the armored vehicles arrived and ran over protesters."

    Are Mormons Christians?

    The simple answer is no.

    Terry Mattingly takes a good look at the current political climate surrounding Mitt Romney's Mormon faith and takes a look at what separates Mormons from Christians.

    The perfect priest?

    A recent survey shows that 90% of priests describe themselves as happy, compared with just under 50% of "normal" people.

    Priests are happy - moreso than others - despite the unrealistic expectations many people put upon them, summarized by this humorous - and somewhat true - caricature of the perfect priest:
    The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect priest preaches exactly fifteen minutes. He condemns sins but never upsets anyone. He works from 8:00 AM until midnight and is also a janitor. He makes $50 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50 weekly to the poor. He is 28 years old and has preached 30 years. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all of his time with senior citizens.

    The perfect priest smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls daily on parish families, shut-ins and the hospitalized, and is always in his office when needed.
    Capello tip to Father Z.
    Yesterday afternoon I travelled with Bishop Paprocki to Effingham for the Knights of Columbus' Vocation Mass and Banquet.

    More than 450 people were present for the banquet which had as its focus the promotion and encouragement of vocations, particularly of those to the priesthood.  It was a an excellent event all around and the tremendous support of the Knights of Columbus is most appreciated.

    At the conclusion of the banquet, we prayed for the following Prayer for Vocations:

    Heavenly Father, bless your Church with an abundance of holy and zealous priests, deacons, brothers and sisters.

    Give those you have called to the married state and those you have chosen to live as single persons in the world the sepecial graces that their lives require.

    Form us all in the likeness of your Son so that in him, with him and through him we may love you more deeply and serve you more faithfully, always and everywhere.

    With Mary, we ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

    The blessing of Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger, SSND

    Yesterday morning I went with Bishop Paprocki to Teutopolis to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in that part of the Diocese.

    At the conclusion of the dinner following the Mass, the Sisters offered a blessing from their Foundress, Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger, SSND:

    I entrust you to the Holy Spirit.

    May God care for you and keep you faithful in your holy vocation.

    May Jesus deliver you from all harm; may He be the way you walk, the truth you follow, the life you lead.

    May the Holy Spirit preserve you in love and grace.

    May Mary take you into her loving, motherly heart and standy by your always.

    09 October 2011

    Solictor General recognizes Church's right to all-male priesthood, for now

    From Catholic World News, with my emphases and comments:

    In argument before the Supreme Court on an anti-discrimination case, the solicitor general—representing the Obama administration—said that the government would uphold the right of the Catholic Church to preserve an all-male priesthood, but only “because the balance of relative public and private interests is different in each case” [that clause is worrisome].   

    The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, in which a woman charged that she was wrongfully dismissed from a teaching position at a Lutheran school. School officials countered that the teacher had been dismissed because she did not accept the teachings of the church. The case turned on the “ministerial exception” that is traditionally according to religious bodies, allowing them to set the standards for their own religious personnel.

    Leodra Kruger, making the case for the solicitor general, questioned the “ministerial exception” directly. When questioned by Chief Justice John Roberts on whether religious groups should have the right to judge the qualifications of their own key employees, she replied: “We don't see that line of church autonomy principles in the religion clause jurisprudence as such.”

    When Justice Stephen Breyer pressed the issue, asking specifically whether the Catholic Church should be allowed to bar women from the priesthood, Kruger replied: “The government's general interest in eradicating discrimination in the workplace is simply not sufficient to justify changing the way that the Catholic Church chooses its priests, based on gender roles that are rooted in religious doctrine.” But by casting her legal argument in terms of the government’s interests, rather than the unchanging language of the First Amendment, she left open the possibility that at some future date, under different circumstances, the government could side with women seeking ordination as Catholic priests [this is very worrisome].

    Several justices expressed qualms about Kruger’s legal reasoning during the oral arguments [as well they should!]. When they eventually issue a ruling on the Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC case, the Supreme Court justices may reject the solicitor general’s logic and affirm the “ministerial exception.” But their decision could also making Hosanna a landmark case in the interpretation of the First Amendment—and in the Church’s defense of the all-male priesthood [more].

    I think this is good news.