Monday, January 30, 2012

Fr. Barron on HHS/Obama Mandate - As Always, Very Well Done!

Compilation of all of the Responses from Bishop's on the Obama/HHS Atrocity (I Will Continue to Update)

I know I'll miss some, so if you know of another letter or statement from a (arch)bishop send it to me in the comment box.

USCCB statement - click here to read

Bishop Olmsted, Phoenix - click here to read

Archbishop Gomez, Los Angeles - click here to read

Bishop McFadden, Harrisburg - click here to read his letter

Bishop Lennon, Cleveland - click here to read his letter

Bishop Zubik, Pittsburgh - click here to read his letter titled "To Hell With You!"

Bishop Blair, Toledo - click here to read

Archbishop Wenski, Miami - click here to read

Archbishop Schnurr, Cincinnati - click here to read

Bishops Vann and Farrell, Dallas Fort Worth - click here to read

Bishop Jugis and Burbridge, North Carolina - click here to read

Bishop Malooly, Wilmington - click here to read

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Atlanta - click here to read

Bishop Sample, Marquette - click here to read

Bishop Ricken, Green Bay - click here to read

Bishop Taylor, Little Rock - click here to read

Bishop Vlazny, Portland - click here to read

Bishop Jackels, Wichita - click here to read
click here to read Bishop Jackel's homily

Minnesota Catholic Conference click here for their response

Bishop Bradley, Kalamazoo - click here to read

Bishop Lori, Bridgeport - click here to read his statement
click here

Archbishop Carlson, St. Louis - click here to read

Bishop Jenky, Peoria - click here to read his letter

Bishop Conley, Denver - click here to read

Bishop Nickless, Sioux City - click here to read

Bishop Loverde, Arlington - click here to read

Thomas Peters takes up the compilation and has many other names on his site, which you can access by clicking here

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Planned Parenthood Victory Dance

This is literally a video that Planned Parenthood produced in celebration of the fact that Obama and HHS are going to force Catholics to violate their consciences. You have to watch it to believe it!

Health-Care Brainstorm

This time next year, what surgeries and operations will your health care plan NOT be required to cover even though President Obama will be forcing every insurance to cover getting a freaking vasectomy??? Leave a comment in the inbox and let's see if we can't create a list.

Side note - anyone know of a person in the United States who can't afford contraception?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Great Fulton Sheen Quote

Thanks to Kevin Shook who passed this quote on to me...very appropriate...perhaps it is Bishop Sheen's next miracle?

"Since a week ago last Saturday, we can no longer expect them to defend the law of God. These sects will work out the very logic of their ways, and in 50 or 100 years there will be only the [Catholic] Church and paganism. We will be left to fight the battle alone, and we will."
--Then-father Fulton J. Sheen, March 1931, reacting to the United States Federal Council of Churches of Christ endorsement of the use contraception by married couples

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

We Shall All Hang Together Or We Shall All Hang Separately

The title of this post is a famous quote from Benjamin Franklin that applies to Catholics today just as much as it did to the North American British Colonies in the 1770's.

President Obama has done exactly what every Catholic knew he was going to eventually do (every Catholic except Sr. Carol Keehan and the editors of U.S. Catholic), and that is he is going to force Catholics to violate a core, fundamental, bed-rock teaching of the Faith. There is a conscience-exemption in the new legislation that requires organizations to cover contraception (even the types which cause abortions), but the exemption hardly applies to anyone because it is so narrow. Organizations that employ non-Catholics will not be exempt. Even Fr. Jenkins from Notre Dame is now worried about the direction Obama is heading. All Catholics should be really alarmed when Fr. President Jenkins starts getting nervous about an Obama policy (by the way, Fr. Jenkins, how's the "dialogue" that you so proudly began going now?)

This move by Obama wouldn't even make sense to a cold-hearted power-hungry win-at-all-costs Machiavellian. As Michael Gerson notes in the Washington Post, the move doesn't even make POLITICAL sense:

"It is also politically incomprehensible. Obama’s Catholic outreach is being revealed as a transparent ploy a year before he faces reelection. A portion of the Democratic coalition — including civil libertarians and pro-choice activists — has decided to attack and marginalize Catholic leaders and institutions."

People sometimes accuse the Church of being overly-dramatic and alarmist in nature when it comes to "political" issues (this is clearly a moral issue as well, but no one calls it that). However, I will say unequivocally (and you can call me crazy all you want) but if priests and bishops don't speak out against this and make a stand, we're done. I don't mean the Church is done, but I mean, without hyperbole, that the persecution discussion will be a matter of "when" and not "if." It might already be too late now anyways.

A major part of the problem, though, is how we got to this point in the first place. Obviously this law didn't spring up in a vacuum. When I'm begging priests to do SOMETHING on this issue, I don't just mean to raise the alarm on this specific law. I also mean we have to preach about contraception to people who have never heard it preached before; we have to preach it to people who have only heard about the Church's teaching on contraception from the enemies of the Church. This is an uncomfortable vocation, but then again, I heard a lot in the seminary that we were to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

Thomas Peters quotes on his blog a member of the Catholic Democrats, Patrick Whelan, trying to defend President Obama's decision. Whelan notes - “…we know Catholic women, and by extension their families, use oral contraception at the same rate as the overall population. For over half a century, since the issuance of Humanae Vitae, Catholics and Catholic theologians have taken issue with the Church’s teaching on birth control.”

There we have it. Because a large percentage of Catholics disagree with a key teaching of the Church, it's apparently okay to force those who DON'T agree with it to violate their consciences. Note the evidence Whelan is PRECISELY the DISSENT of Catholics in the pews. It has to be preached and explained and taught from the pulpit and through classes and by bringing in pro-life doctors and experts, it has to be a NEW EVANGELIZATION. It may be too late, but we have to try anyways.

Let me share a genuine thought that crosses my mind often, and not just when stories like this continue to come down the pipe - there is a general sense of authentic dread that hangs on the horizon for me about the direction we are moving in as a society, and specifically about the way our society views the Catholic Church. The more history I read, the more similarities I see with the other eras of persecution that the Church has undergone.

So, are priests and bishops going to take a stand, or are we, as a U.S. Church, going to keep talking about happier things and continue to cozy up to those who are ever more brazenly moving our society closer to a point where the Catholic Church is underground in our country?

We will all hang together or we will all hang separately. Let's hang together!

UPDATES: Cardinal Mahony, typically found closer to the President's policies than not, has come out blasting the President's decision. Cardinal Mahony notes: "I cannot imagine that this decision was released without the explicit knowledge and approval of President Barack Obama. And I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience than this ruling today. This decision must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic Community can muster.” Click here to read the entire story. This ought to be received as a gigantic shot over the bow of the President.

Also, Cardinal Wuerl has spoken out on the issue and believes we can still win the contraception battle. Click here for the story.

As a priest friend of mine asked, "is this the incident that finally wakes Catholics up to the reality and importance of this issue?" If the past two days are any indication, it seems that perhaps a fire has been lit in the Catholic world.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mark Wahlberg - FANTASTIC Video on Faith, Going to Church Every Day, etc.

Fascinating interview - especially worth listening to the last minute and a half! This is coming from a guy who's seen both sides of life, and doesn't just rap about them!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why I Hate "Why I Hate Religion and Love Jesus", but Love My Religion

Although I hesitate to bump this guy's Youtube counter, here is the video everyone is talking about if you haven't seen it yet

So we have once again been subjected to the diatribes of a guy with a video camera. Let's look at some of his statements one at a time.

"Started so many wars." - Really? Which ones? To quote David Bentley Hart "There is something inherently absurd in persistently speaking of these...wars of succession as "wars of religion" as though they were fought principally over matters of doctrine by parties whose chief concern was the propogation of one or another version of the "true faith." to paraphrase - the mercenary armies in wars throughout history have at times carried flags of different religious affiliation, but they were in name only. Never has an actual war been fought over transubstantiation or some other doctrine of religion.

He "raps" about single moms that have had a divorce - I don't even know what he's saying there, but then he says in the Old Testament God called religious people "whores." What? Was he looking for a word that rhymed with "divorce"? What could he possibly be referencing from the Old Testament that could at all be construed as demeaning religiously minded people.

"Build Churches while hungry people starve" - Oh boy, here we go again. The Catholic Church is the single largest provider of charity in the world. Mother Teresa is the greatest example of a person working with the poor, perhaps forever. Guess what - MOTHER TERESA WAS A PRACTICING CATHOLIC. Not only that, she went to Mass daily, prayed a Rosary every day, did two holy hours every day, and, the best part, when she would build a new house for her sisters in a new area the house would be DIRT POOR - EXCEPT...YOU GUESSED IT...THE CHAPEL! She would get gold chalices, nice vestments, and make sure that everything surrounding the celebration of Mass was beautiful. Why, because Beauty (note the capital B because it refers to Christ) will save the world. I celebrate Mass in a nursing home with some of the poorest of the poor in our society. We are intentional about having music, vestments, candles, a nice chalice and so forth. Should I instead sell my chalice, divide the 1,000 dollars up among the residents, and give that to them? Would that make their life any better? "Hey, Louis, here's 34 dollars, Father sold all his nice stuff he uses for Mass. Isn't this 34 dollars a life-changer?" This is absurd, ridiculous, and something uttered only by people who have never actually worked with the poor or downtrodden and think that money fixes everything.

"religion never gets to the core" - really? It does if you get out of its way! It can remain a surface-level reality - God always allows Himself to be rejected, even when people portray it as "wanting to get closer to His Son!"

"I aint judging" - no of course not (sarcasm alert) you are simply saying anyone who is a member of a religion is a buffoon and has never actually read the Bible. Where would anyone get the impression that you are actually judging someone?

"Jesus hated religion" - here we see the absolutely ridiculous claim that is the "rappers" thesis - but if Jesus hated religion, I wonder why he was a practicing Jew, and why he told Peter "on this rock, I will build my Church." Does that sound like a man who hates religion - he's founding a Church.

"If he came to your Church would they actually let him in" - Every Catholic Church I've ever been to lets everyone in. I've never seen a person turned away from Church my entire life.

"Church = Man made invention" - See Jesus (the guy who the "rapper" claims to love) telling Peter "on this rock I will build My CHURCH"

"Religion makes you blind" - what was that earlier about not judging anyone?

Here's the real deal with all of this - some people, in their naivete, can't stand the fact that bad people pretend to be good. Where better to hide if you are a bad person and want to pretend to be good than in the Church? Some people can't handle that fact, and note that neither could the people who wanted the weeds and the wheat separated in the Gospel, but Jesus said "No! It will happen at the end." Some people can't handle messes and the intermingling of good and evil, and they can't handle being in a big Church with lots of people, some of whom do really heinous things, so these types of people make their own room, a fantasy world like little children make, and they call that room "the me and Jesus room" and no one else can come in, and its just me and Jesus in there, and its warm and cozy and no bad people can get in. Problem is Jesus said "get out there in the world among people," and he prayed that we be one in His Church, but some people don't want to do that, which is why this video is viral on the internet.

Marky Mark's a Catholic - but the Bishops Say Avoid His Film

Although Marky Mark is a daily communicant, his movie this weekend got the dreaded "morally offensive" review by the bishops. To read why Catholics are encouraged to find another film, read here.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
This movie has been tagged as "L" limited to adults, and some adults may find it offensive. Click here for the review

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Catholic? Understand Technology? Want to Make a Lot of Money?

Here is something I've been kicking around for a few months, and an email today from a St. Malachy parishioner inspired me to throw this idea out there.

With the new translation, song books, inserts, etc. now more than ever Catholics are juggling worship aids.

I've also realized, as a baby priest, how much conversion could take place if people could more easily follow the words being said at Mass. As a priest, especially during the Eucharistic prayer, I try to go slow (but not monotonously slow) in order for people to process the words, but I know from my own experience as a seminarian that the ability to follow along greatly increases the internalization of the prayers being lifted up at Mass.

The "daily Missal" is nice if yo can afford the 55 dollar cost. I had one in the seminary, and it was a big step forward for me with regards to my "praying the Mass" as opposed to "going to Mass." The downside of the "daily Missal" is that you have to know how to navigate it. The typical daily Missal is about 2,000 pages, and so you have to know how to find the prayers for the day on your own. Often times which Eucharistic Prayer will be used isn't known until the priest starts.

The other problem with a daily Missal is that you still need a separate book for songs.

Here's how someone could make a lot of money.

Make a website where a priest can click on a couple of options for the weekend (which preface, which Eucharistic Prayer, which hymns) and then, based on those, Every single word and song could be emailed as a pdf to the entire parish. The parishioners could then put them on their cell phones/Kindles/Ipads or print them off and bring the document in.

I know the "hymn" part might be an issue, and I'm no guru of copyright laws, but 99% of the parishioners don't need the actual hymn sheets with notes - at Ritter we just put the words to the hymns in our programs, and because so many people can't read music anyway, it works.

We've also learned at Ritter that it is HIGHLY more likely that people will follow along if everything is in one place. For our first Mass with the new translation, we put every word in our program and paid a little extra for the printing, but it was TOTALLY worth it. You could FEEL the interior participation of the kids and you could look out and see them following along throughout the entire Mass. People are curious and want to follow, but our Catholic parishes often make it very hard to follow along. Imagine being a guest for a weekend as well. Would you have any idea where to go to in order to follow along?

If you know of someone with some business/technology savvy who would be interested, pass this proposal on to them. I'd be happy to connect with the person and share more ideas.

I would love it if parishioners could have an easy way to follow along with the words of the Mass; what a way to encourage interior active participation!!!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Devil Inside - Worst Movie of All Time?

My "worst movie of all time" short list had a few vying for top honors for several years now. "Cobra" with Sly Stallone, "Godzilla" with Matthew Broderick, and all three of the latest Star Wars Films - say hello to your newest challenger - "The Devil Inside"

Before I get to deeper theological issues that would make this a must NOT see, let me say that the teenagers who packed the theater tonight wanted their money back after the film, and I fully support their protest. By the way, if you ever want to see people freak out socially, go with a priest to an exorcism movie. Completely packed theater, but I had TWO SEATS ON EACH SIDE OF ME OPEN!!!!

As far as "non-priest" film commentary, let me say that everything in the film that was scary is in the trailer. Of course there is the exorcism in the basement (do they happen anywhere else?), the contortion, the sliding across the room, all of which you knew was going to happen because of the trailer.

the film had elements of the "Blair Witch Project", but it had none of the elements that made "Blair Witch Project" scary. When I saw The "Blair Witch Project" in college, I was scared out of my mind because it had the effect of watching live footage, but this film was edited, cut, had subtitles etc. so it was first-person documentary, but it wasn't. Plus, things just continue to escalate in "Blair Witch Project", but this film has a ton of boring down time, or, as you'll see below "agenda time" where, through "interviews with the priests" the film boringly and preachily crams an anti-Catholic agenda down the audience's collective throat.

The film also had parts of Denzel Washington's "Fallen", whereby the demon can be passed from person to person like the flu. This is absolutely idiotic for one, but it also has already been done, so rehashing that plot "twist" was really terrible.

Anyway, to the deeper issues.

I'll start with the biggest problem. This is the first exorcism "film" that has somehow still managed to make the Church out to be the bad guy. The thing I talk on this blog about all the time actually seems to be the central thesis of the film - the demonic notion that there are two different "churches" - the "Bureaucracy" which is full of paper-pushing clerical ladder climbers, and the "good church" - the spiritual nest of people outside the walls of the Vatican.

As the film opens, Maria Rossi is possessed and kills three people at an exorcism. She is hospitalized in Rome, and her daughter, twenty years later, decides to investigate. While in Rome, she meets two priests who "have been ordained exorcists" (for crying out loud, have a Catholic watch the film to clean up the absolute blundering of certain basic verbage - even if it is some Catholic who hates the Church, just get somebody who knows that you don't get ordained an exorcist, that you don't wear a purple stole during baptisms, that priest collars are not actually made of mangled athletic tape, etc.) Anyway, the two priests try to help Isabella, and eventually try to perform an exorcism on her Mom.

Here is where the insane anti-institutional narrative kicks in - the two priests are like rogue Ghost-busters, because, as they note, the Vatican often leaves people out to dry by denying them exorcisms. Yes, you read that correctly, according to the film, the Vatican approves or denies EVERY application for exorcism in the world, every day!

Of course, the Church is then the arch-enemy, "denying" Isabella's mother an exorcism. This is so asinine, but just in case you aren't sure how it really works, every diocese has at least one exorcist who the bishop allows to perform exorcisms. The bishop doesn't "review applications" for exorcism, LET ALONE ROME! Unbelievable.

Throughout the movie, then, the filmmakers bombard the audience with constant commentary on how "the Church covers things up, that's what the Church always does" and "The Church is really against this, that's why I know this is right" and the same mindless babble you hear from Church haters every day.

The film contains violent and vulgar scenes during the exorcism, which, ironically, is the one thing the film gets right. If you read true accounts of exorcisms, exorcists consistently note the profanity, often sexual in nature, that the demon(s) utter - anything to distract the priest. The demon(s) in the film also accurately try to use the sins of those present to distract them, which is also a true element of exorcisms. These few truths, however, are not treated or discussed but rather simply take place without explanation.

Again, I can talk details of the film all night, but please know that I simply want my money back, and I hope to spare anyone else from being cheated out of their money.

If you want to know what exorcisms really are, read "The Rite" or "An Exorcist Tells His Story." Don't wait for Hollywood filmmaker wannabes to get it right, because it will never happen.

Do You Want to Save Your Catholic School? Make It CATHOLIC

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia today announced the shuttering or merging of 44 of its Catholic schools.

Dioceses, and big ones at that, are heading towards the same types of moves, with (soon to be Cardinal) Dolan apparently honing in on a massive "restructuring" of New York's Catholic school system as well.

Despite the fact that I run this blog, I know that I don't know much about much, but one thing I believe I do know is the direction that a Catholic school will need to go in if it wants to remain viable.

People bemoan massive school closings as if they signal the death of the Church in this or that (arch)diocese, but its not! Look at every corporation or industry that has been around for more than 20 years - the businesses in that industry that don't shutter their doors remain open because THEY ADAPT!

I firmly and passionately believe, as I've said here before, that if schools don't integrate Catholicism into their entire curriculum, they ought to start prepping retirement plans for their employees.

You have to look a little down the train tracks in order to be an organization that adapts, and I believe wholeheartedly that the curve that a school needs to jump out in front of if it wants to be successful and remain open and viable a few years from now is the Catholic identity curve.

I guarantee that as Archbishop Chaput looked over the list of schools in his Archdiocese and had to make hard calls on closings, while some of it was clearly based on economics, I also know that a big part of it also came down to which schools are passing on the Faith in all that they do, and which ones simply give Catholicism a head nod. Especially in tough-call situations, where most everything else was equal, surely the schools that emerged from today are the schools with strong Catholic identity throughout their curriculum.

Having strong Catholic identity doesn't really translate to dollars - YET. Not a lot of parents are out there saying, "I've got to find an authentically Catholic school" for my kid. I know a lot of people who simply look for the word "Catholic" in the title of the school, and their investigation stops there.

That being said, I think in ten years we are going to see two things
a) a lot more parents doing their homework on the Catholic identity of a school
b) bishops who really make Catholic identity priority number 1 (we're already seeing this one pan out on the East Coast and elsewhere in the U.S. in the first tremors of a nationwide shake-up).

Some schools may look around and assure themselves of their economic viability and sleep well at night not having to worry about such issues. Well, most schools receive lots of aid from their dioceses and parishes, and those sources can vanish in a flash (i.e. 25 priests suddenly accused of abusing children) and even the once-economically-stalwart schools may find their heads on the chopping block.

We have got to start encouraging and helping teachers incorporate the Catholic faith into their classes. Most don't right now for one simple reason: they don't get paid anymore to put in the extra effort. If I'm running a Catholic school, I would start offering VERY lucrative prizes to teachers who do incorporate the faith in their "non-theological" classes. If I were still teaching math at Chatard, and the principal came out and said "we are going to give 5 1,000 dollar bonuses to the five best lesson plans this semester that incorporate Catholic identity into their classes" you can bet I'd suddenly be motivated.

It is this kind of encouragement that schools will need to start providing their teachers if "Catholicism across the curriculum" is going to take hold (just as "technology across the curriculum" and "writing across the curriculum" programs have taken hold in the past 5-10 years as well).

The question here is which schools will get out in front of the curve, and which schools will stick with the status quo?

Let's all pray for the thousands of teachers who today learned of their job loss, and let's pray that, through the forward thinking of our many many school leaders and teachers, other dioceses may be spared this pain.

The Devil and Art

With the release of the movie "The Devil Inside" as a high school chaplain I am bombarded with questions about the Devil. One of the things that has been most unexpected in my priesthood is the fascination of young people with the Devil - they want to know about exorcisms, possession, spirits, hauntings, etc. - it is as if the only thing that still stirs them to an awareness of eternal realities is movies and shows about exorcisms - and I am thankful that at least something is still performing that awakening for them.

I ran across a beautiful talk that Archbishop Chaput gave two years ago on the Devil and, ironically, art and beauty. The entire reflection is worth your time, but I found this passage to be relevant to the questions the young people bring:

"If we do not believe in the devil, sooner or later we will not believe in God. We cannot cut Lucifer out of the ecology of salvation. Satan is not God's equal. He is a created being subject to God and already, by the measure of eternity, defeated. Nonetheless, he is the first author of pride and rebellion, and the great seducer of man. Without him the Incarnation and Redemption do not make sense, and the cross is meaningless. Satan is real. There is no way around this simple truth."

The entire talk can be accessed by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Video on the Actual Star of Bethlehem

This is a video I showed to my class a few years ago on the Star of Bethlehem. I first saw the show on EWTN and was really impressed.

This weekend is the Epiphany - the visitation by the wise men from the East. This is a pure case of science and religion aligning with one another.

The video is produced by the same person that produced the Passion of the Christ and I think you will really enjoy this.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Great Article on Whether Vatican II Was a Break With the Past

This is a bit technical at times, but the article is brief and very well written - some may find it a beneficial read. It is short and to the point, and, as a bonus, it uses math concepts! (nerd alert: I was a math major in college). Click here to read the article.

Good Article on Sports and Reality

I continue my Christmas break pattern of not writing anything original, but at least passing on things that are written by other people!

This is a really good article on sports (which I and the author both love) and the need to balance sports with reality - or perhaps we should say to NOT BALANCE sports with reality, but to instead make reality and real issues weightier than the entertainment provided by athletics.

Click here to read the column by Norman Chad (the Slouch)