Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The dumbest "sociological" conjecture of all?

Every 5th grade science fair entrant knows that you make a hypothesis, and then you either prove or disprove the hypothesis with data (facts)

Of all the crazy hypotheses that have magically gone from conjecture to fact without ever having gone through the fact stage, perhaps the dumbest of all is the hypothesis that people "had children, up until our modern age, to help with farm work."

You see that statement everywhere!  Everyone used to have kids to help on the farm, and that's why they had so many kids, because they needed a lot of help farming.

Now, it is perfectly okay to HYPOTHESIZE aloud "I bet one of the motivations for people to have kids was to help farm"


But to say that we KNOW that's why people had kids up until "modernity"is because of farmwork....that's simply conjecture masquerading as fact.


Do we have ANY evidence of this?


Have we unearthed a diary from anyone over the past 4,000 years suggesting that the hypothesis has any merit?


Dear diary, me and Helga are really trying to conceive a child so that 8-10 years from now, we'll have a cow milker!

Sincerely,
Jedidiah


Not only do we not have any evidence that would suggest that people had kids to help with farm work, I think it is also worth questioning the conjecture itself.  Was the hypothesis put forward by anyone who has actually worked WITH a kid doing farmwork?  I remember the productivity of my brothers and I working and "helping" in my Dad's garden, and I am sure that our "help" fell into the category of "Dad probably being better off without the help"

So Helga and Jedidiah were willing to risk the mortality rate for mother AND child in child birth, then feed a "useless" mouth for 6-8 years, to risk and put forward all that in order for the CHANCE to get a teenager, 10 years later, who could help milk the cows?



It seems that to me, rather, that in order to justify our own society being the coldest bunch of utilitarians the world has ever known, we have to also project our frigid utilitarianism on everyone that came before us as well.

So, to make ourselves feel better, our child-farming hypothesis needs to very quickly become not a hypothesis but a fact.  I KNOW that farming is why everyone had kids for the first 4,000 years of civilization.


Maybe, just maybe, though, at least some people for the first 4,000 years (and maybe even most people) just loved each other as husband and wife, and were open to their marital love begetting children despite the risk of giving birth.

Maybe, just maybe, some of the people who predate modernity didn't just sit around and coldly calculate how many children it would take to produce X gallons of milk per week and then set out to make love according to that calculus.


Maybe they DIDN'T do it that way, even if people today would

Monday, May 15, 2017

As a member of our Archdiocesan College of Consultors...

...I am not sure but I am assuming we get a consultative vote soon on what we think of the next slate of priest assignments that would take effect the first week of July.

I have not seen the slate, but I am assuming that if it is something close to what I think it will be, I will not vote in favor of it for several reasons:

1) The vote is simply consultative, and so even if all the members voted against it, it could still be implemented

2) My spiritual director told me, when I was struggling over this past year or so, that St. Benedict said that as a priest or monk, you follow the assignment given to you by your superior, and if the assignment is bad/wrong, then that is on the superior.  Well, I will never have anything to do with assigning any priest to two parishes

3) I also can not support leaving any/all of our Archdiocesan high schools without a full time diocesan priest

4) I also can not support leaving any/all of our colleges and universities without a full time diocesan priest



People might say here: "give it time, the situation of 108 Masses within 7 miles of Monument Circle will get fixed, but it takes time."

Sorry, but no.

I had Mass every Friday with Archbishop Buechlein at his home right up to the time he moved back to St. Meinrad.  He said several times, in conversation, that he should have closed/reorganized parishes but that he just couldn't do it.

Archbishop Tobin pulled me aside when he first arrived at the Archdiocese and said "Fr. John, I know you pray, and I trust your feedback here.  Are a lot of the younger guys upset that I didn't close enough parishes in our cities?"  I told him Yes.  He said that he felt like there were ways to fix the issues without closing parishes.  5 years later, we can say that nothing along those lines happened.

Granted both of those men are great father figures to me, and I can only imagine all the pressures a bishop is under.

But my spiritual director has given lots of retreats for bishops around the country, and he said that a lot of bishops around the country know what needs to be done, but lack the courage to do it.

Well, tending to the Lord's vineyard means at times having to prune things so that they can remain healthy.


Someone else might say "hey, our diocese is getting ready to go through a planning process to work on some of this."  Pardon my skepticism, but we just finished a 7 year process that costs tens of thousands of dollars and saw the number of Indianapolis Masses go from 121 to 118...so that means we probably spent in excess of 10,000 dollars per Mass canceled.

If we need another "planning process" to cancel another three Indy Masses, then that would put us on pace for 20 more "planning processes" if we do in fact need to cut 60 Masses in Indy.

So we are currently on pace for losing three Masses every 8 years of planning, thus putting us on a 160 year path to getting close to what we need to do to make the Masses we offer line up with the number of people who are coming in the Indianapolis area.


Or, instead of taking 160 years, a shepherd can come in and fix it now.


But anyway, in the meantime, I would never symbolically vote for something that would give the appearance that I am somehow for the status quo

Priests are Burning Out

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A pro-life t-shirt

This was created by a former student of mine from Cardinal Ritter High School.  Help out a starving artist!



https://www.etsy.com/listing/512488802/pro-life-tshirt?ref=shop_home_active_2




Hell on Earth and the Good Shepherd

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An urgent recommendation for what needs to be done in our diocese (and probably yours too)

For all the talk about the Church embracing modernity, we are still often structuring our American dioceses as if people don't have automobiles


Problem: our priests are spread too thinly.  Many of our priests who have left active ministry in recent memory have left as a pretty direct result of being given multiple parishes.  There is no doubt that being a pastor of a giant parish with a huge staff presents its own challenges, and I have great admiration for our priests pastoring our mega-parishes, but there is something really problematic in having priests be pastors of multiple parishes

Related Problem: Vatican II said priests ought to live in community.

Related Problem: priests pastoring multiple parishes is not sustainable (the assignment of guys to being pastors of multiple parishes is often being done by people who have never been a pastor of two parishes.  It is not a healthy situation)

Related Problem: we have 17 seminarians

Analysis
            
            Within 7 miles of Monument Circle in Indianapolis there are 118 Masses on the weekend

I took the seating capacity of each church and added the numbers up

Our presbyterate is saying Mass for 71,210 seats within 7 miles of Monument Circle

Those parishes have 27,678 registered families

Most parishes see about the same number of people on the weekend as they have registered families

Using this as an approximation, there are a couple of amazing ways to frame the same stat:
a.       Our presbyterate is saying Mass each weekend for 44,000 empty seats within 7 miles of Monument Circle
b.      We are saying over twice as many Masses as we need within 7 miles of Monument Circle
c.       We could cut out roughly 70 of the 118 masses and still have a seat for everyone that is currently coming to Mass within 7 miles of Monument Circle
d.      Those 70 Masses we don’t need mean we have approximately 20 priests within 7 miles of Monument Circle saying a weekend’s worth of Masses we do not need

This is not just an Indianapolis thing.  The figures are even worse in the only other place I looked – Terre Haute city.  6,950 seats each weekend for 2,352 attendees.  That’s 66% of the seats unfilled each weekend (4 Masses at St. Patrick’s each weekend would cover every Catholic Mass attendee in Terre Haute with 600 seats to spare each weekend.  Terre Haute currently has 15 Masses).

As priests we are asked to demonstrate business skills – the Lilly Grant/pastor’s toolbox/the book we were all mailed by Patrick Lencioni and Amazing Parish that encourage priests to become more business savvy.

That’s Great!!!!   My classmates and I asked for this repeatedly in the seminary, and we noted it as a weakness in our class exit interview from our seminary.

But it isn’t just priests that could benefit from thinking corporately.  The diocesan leadership needs to also put some corporate principles to work as well, in my opinion

Solution: Studies show that 70 -90 percent of Catholics are walking away from the faith from 18-34.  What company would learn that it is losing 70-90 percent of 18-34 years olds and would not have alarm bells going off and having emergency board sessions?
            
    And yet we are pulling priests out of precisely the places where these kids are found.  In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis no priest is assigned just to a college.  No priest is assigned just to a high school.  I was assigned to a high school in my first few years, but the Archdiocese pulled all of its high school chaplains out of the high schools and replaced them with part time priests who are supposed to do high school ministry as a part of their slate of other jobs.               

Corporations pay attention to their key demographic, their future, and it is pretty clear we are not paying attention to that demographic.  Investing in FOCUS ministries on our college campuses has been a good start, but even FOCUS will tell you that there is no substitute on a college campus for a full time priest chaplain. 

Putting some kind of limit on the number of Masses at parishes would free up priests to be present to the generation that will provide us with our next generation of priests, nuns, and faithful lay Catholics

Doing something about the number of Masses HAS to come from the diocese and the bishop.  We would get killed as the boots on the ground pastors if we canceled Masses.  But if it came from the diocese we’d be okay. 

And here’s the thing – every parish I’ve gone to has had to cancel a Mass in order for me to only say 5 Masses each weekend.  They’ve all grumbled, but because it came from Canon Law (a priest can only say 5 Masses a weekend), they accepted it.  They’ve all reported liking it better several months later
A)     A full Church
B)      Better music
C)      Seeing people they didn’t know because they went to an earlier Mass

Addressing this issue of having about twice as many masses as we need in our Archdiocese would both

1)      alleviate the extraordinary and sometimes unsustainable burdens on our current priests

2)      Help provide more presence to our young people thus helping increase the number of priestly vocations, helping with priest numbers in the future

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Parish Video

This is a video we put together for one of my parishes.  Please keep our campaign in your prayers!



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ouija Boards and Demonic Oppression

I spoke with a young man who was battling authentic demonic oppression for over twenty years after being in a room where a Ouija Board was being used when this young man was in seventh grade.

He shared that he felt something come into him and that from that point on in his life, he knew he was battling a Demon that had considerable ability to harm him (head aches and weariness) and to suggest things to him denigrating himself, his family, discouraging him from going to Church, discouraging him from confession and priests, and much more.


Stay away from fortune telling, Ouija boards, Tarot Cards, and all that other garbage.  EVIL IS REAL.  


“All forms of divination are to be rejected:  recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future.  Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.  They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone”
- Catechism 2116


Note that Deuteronomy compares all these evil consultations with killing children: “Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortuneteller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead."
- Deuteronomy 18: 10-11

St. Paul and Deuteronomy note that those who engage in these types of acts commit mortal sins.  It is SUPER SERIOUS 


As noted from this particular young man's story, even those AROUND this type of activity can be harmed in serious ways.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Baby Boom Changes to the Church

I ask this with all do respect: If the generation in the wake of Vatican II, in order to try to bring the Church and Christ to others, got to make lots of changes to things that the Church didn't ever say should change, why can't our generation change things around in order to try to bring the Church and Christ to others?


If baby boomers got to throw out stuff from their parents Catholicism without the Church ever saying those things should be thrown out, why can't we throw out stuff from OUR parents' Catholicism?


Perhaps our motivation here is not just anger towards baby boomer Catholicism.  I wonder if it could be considered that perhaps what is motivating our generation of Catholics is that we are looking around and we see 75-90% of our peers walk away from Catholicism as it was being practiced by baby boomer suburban Catholicism, and perhaps we want to do something about it and are trying to find things that might work, and are discussing among ourselves about would work and are in the trenches with fallen away Catholics --- maybe that is what is motivating our generation of young adult Catholics.  Could that be considered by other generations?  


So maybe what is motivating young adult Catholics today is not anger toward baby boomers but an attempt to do something that we genuinely feel might bring back the Faith to a culture for which the Faith has largely died out


The baby boomers got to do all their experiments and make the Church the way they wanted it, and it never seems to be asked if the new Church worked for anyone else but them.  I hear a lot from the generation of the Catholic revolution that "we really like what we created" - but I don't hear many of them asking if the remade Catholic product as that generation refashioned it is working for any other generation.


And I and many other young adult Catholics, looking around at our friends, our peers, the sociological data, and looking at the larger society we find ourselves in believe strongly that what we need is not a tweaking of suburban baby boomer Catholicism, but something that is, at least on many levels, radically different.


I don't think many in my generation on the front lines are calling for a return to 1955, but we are sifting through the rubble of American suburban Catholicism and saying what, moving forward, do we need from the distant past, the more recent past, and from the present to practice the Faith that was handed on to us from the Apostles in a way that starts to make a dent in the problem of 93% of our peers walking away from the Faith.






7 Reasons Why Your Smartphone Is Bilbo's Ring






1) You randomly worry that you don't have it, check your pocket, your heart rate quickens, you check your other pocket, find it, and then slowly calm back down again




2) Your phone is powerful and magical.  10 years ago, if you told someone all the things your phone would do, they would have thought of it as magic.  Your phone also gives you the power to do everything you would need to do to run a Fortune 500 company for weeks from thousands of miles away.




3) You think sometimes of getting rid of your phone, but every time you get ready to throw it away, you step back from the edge and change your mind

Image result for frodo wearing the ring
"I can't believe I was thinking of  getting rid of this thing!"




4) To the observer at a distance, for hours on end each day, you look at it, make faces at it, touch it and stroke it and talk to it.

Image result for bilbo my precious
"It's mine.  My own. My precious"



5) Your phone, as studies suggest, through the course of months and years, slowly changes you into a different version of yourself



6) Your phone gives you the impression that you have great power and are in control (see number 2 above) but it actually ultimately gives much more power to "the great eye" (i.e. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung) who, as everyone knows, is storing and cataloging and quantifying every move we make and every single act we perform with our phones, handing over to such corporations an ability to "dominate all life"



7)  When you use your phone, you disappear to all those around you and are instantly transported to something that is like reality, but is a warped and clouded version of it

Image result for frodo wearing the ring
"It's like living in reality, only different"


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday Homily: Realizing I was supposed to have stayed in Rome




I realized in prayerfully walking the streets of Rome last week that 11 years ago when I left the seminary in Rome, I should not have.

If I had known then what I know now about Christian suffering, I wouldn't have left

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Apostles of Wonder

Living in an age where the majority of people are leaving Christianity because of "science" (I.e. "I only believe in the measurable and observable and you can't measure or prove God so I'm out with regards to Christianity") I think perhaps our challenge is to be apostles of wonder

The Church loves science but says there is more to life than the measurable, and, frankly, to think that all that is real is what is measurable and quantifiable is not wisdom it is insane.

Aristotle wrote hundreds of years before Christ and he (and many before him) wrote much about "metaphysics" meaning BEYOND physics. The Church doesn't deny physics (the measurable) but says there is CLEARLY more to life than JUST the measurable.

Take the concept of love. No one who says "I just believe in science" should be able to say "I love you" because you can't measure or prove, with science, that loves is real.

So our job as believers, then, is to be apostles of wonder. To help people who are so focused on measuring, quantifying, weighing and experimenting to step back and see that every moment of life contains an infinite number of miracles happening, that every moment of existence itself is a mystery.

Sometimes we can be so buried in the facts that we miss the miracles. Our world is much like the Pharisees in today's gospel. "So, young man, you were blind and now you see. We have 100 questions for how this happened"

Similarly, we need to be like the blind man speaking to the rigid and overly scientific examiners of our day. Sometimes you just have to step back away from the data and the experiments and say "I think you're missing the miracle here. The big take away from my story should be that I was cured of my blindness. And frankly, having been blind my whole life, I don't give a rat's rear end about how it happened. That your hung up on HOW it happened is pretty amazing. I don't care how it happened. I want to go celebrate the reality that it DID happen!"

May Those who are focused only on what is measurable be gently nudged by us to see the bigger picture - that reality extends BEYOND physics. This reality beyond physics is something we can all sense, even as children (perhaps EASIER as children) and that which is beyond physics we can come to know if we take some time to put down our beakers and rulers and look at a child or a sunset and ask not what the child weighs nor what atmospheric chemistry causes the particular colors but instead ask "why are there babies and sunsets in the first place? Why does all that I can see exist at all?"

I look forward to doing a better job of trying to be an apostle of wonder. We've got work to do, but as Tolkien and Lewis and Chesterton knew, it is the fight of our age.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Devil's Playbook. Or Why the World is Winding Down

There is warranted concern on the part of some that we can't say that the state of things in the United States means that the world, through all of history, might be winding down to its conclusion.  That can sound prideful on our part to make such a statement: "Because things are bad around me, the world must be ending" certainly sounds as if a person has an unhealthy belief about themselves in relation to the center of the universe.


That being said, however, we do well to look at the TYPE of assaults on God coming from our nation and the first world.

(There was news yesterday that Chinese scientists have found a way to "scrub" human dna in an embryo of "imperfections"...and some scientists around the world have admitted to blending human embryos with animal DNA)


I submit that you will not find MORE theologically revealing chapters of Scripture than the first three chapters of Genesis.  


Let's look, broadly, at what God does, and the order that God does it:

1) "Let us make man in our (the Trinity's) image and likeness" (Genesis 1:26)

2) "Created male and female" (Genesis 1:27)

3) Establishment of marriage (Genesis 2:24: That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.)


SO....

These three things, established in the very beginning of Genesis, in a particular order, are the most foundational aspects of humanity.  God doesn't do things out of order.


SO...

If you are going to try to attack God's creation because you can't actually attack God Himself, you would work to peal off the layers of God's work.  

And throughout the history of humanity, outer layers of God's creation have been assaulted.  His Church has been persecuted, people have abused the poor, slaughtered millions through war, etc.


BUT...

These last three layers, mentioned above, have not been attacked, EVER, until the past 2-3 years


Voltaire, who certainly played the part of antichrist quite expertly, whilst celebrating his black Mass of mockery in the Cathedral of Notre Dame at the height of the French Revolution whilst people were being murdered by the thousands each day...Voltaire would have never imagined 

1) that two men could marry one another
2) that men, if they believed it emphatically enough, might be women
3) that it might be possible to go in and alter human dna in a human embryo such that a human being would then be made in OUR image and likeness


That all three of these most fundamental truths have been assaulted and violated within the last three years in the United States and in the first world cause me to believe that although we will never know "the day nor the hour" that the world will come to its rapid and immediate conclusion, we might be able to take a pretty good guess at the month or at least the year

Monday, March 13, 2017

Married Priest Part 2

As a sort of follow up to my previous post, I think, as Canonist Ed Peters points out, a question that needs answering not just by Pope Francis, but by the Church in general in response to moves made by the LAST TWO popes as well is, to put it crassly, can permanent deacons, married priests (permitted by JP II and Benedict XVI) have sex with their wives?


Canon 277.1 says, clearly, NO


So do all of these (just some of many quotes from our tradition that say NO as well)

The bishops declare unanimously – “it pleases us all that bishops, priests and deacons, guardians of purity, abstain from conjugal intercourse with their wives, so that those who serve at the altar may keep a perfect chastity.”
If priests do not behave as if they had no wife, they will be rejected from ecclesiastical duty.
Conciliae Africae a.345-525 ed. by C Munier in Corpus Christianorum, Servus Latina 149 (Turnhout, 1974):13

And this

Council of Elvira in the 4th century:
“It has seemed good absolutely to forbid the bishops and priests and deacons to have sexual relations with their wives and procreate children; should anyone do so, let him be excluded from the honor of the clergy.”
Hermann Theodor Bruns, Canones Apostolorum et Conciliorum sae. IV-VII, 2 (Berlin, 1839): 5-6

And this:
Pope Leo the Great in 456:
“Once ordained what had been permitted is not so. That is why, in order for their union to change from carnal to spiritual, they must, without sending away their wives, live as if they did not have them.”
Jaffe, 544. PL 54, 1159

and this:
St. Jerome: "In his “Treatise Vigilantum” in 406 – “Ministers of the altar must live in perfect continence.”
Stickler, The Case for Clerical Celibacy, 39