Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why Go to Mass?

The Vatican Debacle

As has been reported in various stories through the past couple of weeks, it seems to be quite clear that the Roman Curia, the collection of Cardinals, Bishops, and others who oversee the governance of the Catholic Church from the Vatican, is rife with corruption.  Many have been shocked/surprised by the developments but I'm not.

Click here if you'd like to read a very thorough report of the wreckage from Italian journalist Sandro Magister.

First a question - does ordination to the priesthood/bishop ensure holiness or promise to do so?  NO!!!

Question 2: does ordination impart a character on that person's soul that deserves our respect? Yes.

Question 3: does that respect extend to someone who is a priest/bishop who is in the midst of a scandal and is not remorseful for their actions?  We still acknowledge the dignity of the OFFICE they hold, but they do not deserve any special treatment or protection or anything else, and if a priest commits a crime it should be the same sentence as anyone else, and if a priest/bishop has done something criminal or sinful, he should be forbidden from celebrating the sacraments until sufficient and satisfactory penance is done.

These reports are certainly sad.  Should they shake our faith in the Church...nope.

If you were the Devil, who would you try to lead astray desperately --- the clergy and people who, rightly or wrongly, serve, at least in most people's minds, as the public face of the Catholic Church?

If you were the Devil, wouldn't you try everything you could to get a priest/bishop/cardinal to commit some serious sin?  As a professor in the seminary once noted, there is a GIGANTICALLY different sound to "Dave the plumber committed a crime" and "Dave the priest committed a crime."  The difference is the scandal the latter causes - it is damaging and harmful precisely because some people WILL leave the Church because of the actions of some of these Cardinals and bureaucrats.

Again, I'm saddened by all this, but my faith isn't shaken here in the least - heck some popes of the past have had concubines and fathered children...compared to situations like that in the past, the types of things going on in the Vatican today are pretty darn mild.

We pray for Pope Benedict, we pray for those who are being tempted to sin, and, it appears, have given in to that temptation.

All of this is further confirmation that those who work for the Church are not the Church, that ordination does not prevent a person from sinning, and that there will likely always be, on this side of the veil, weak men who, despite their ordination, are distracted by the glamor of evil.

Sad - yes
Surprised - no
My Catholic Faith affected by this incident - no

Imagine Sisters

Here is an AWESOME video from some religious sisters spreading awareness about the call to religious life.  So much of the vocation work, inevitably, is devoted to attracting more young men towards the priesthood, but the role of religious sisters has also been indispensable and is SO IMPORTANT!  We need lots of young women stepping forward and answering the call that God is placing on their heart, and like the sisters keep saying - it leads to happiness!   If you really love your friend/daughter why not support them and even encourage them to pursue such a life?

It certainly seems like momentum is building among young women I have encountered in my priesthood, and becoming a religious sister is back on the table for lots of our young women, and as noted on here and many other places and many studies on the subject, the attraction is overwhelmingly towards those orders that desire to be in union with the Church and the bishops.

Do you know someone who might be interested or who you think would make a great religious sister and would find their ultimate fulfillment in such a life?  How about saying so to them directly, and maybe sending them this video or directing them towards the website for the movement (which can be accessed by clicking here)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cardinal Dolan Explains the Suit on CBS

Miley Cyrus' Theology of the Body

19 year old Miley Cyrus, formerly Hannah Montana, was on a talk show yesterday letting everyone know about her own version of the Theology of the Body.  Among the dimes that Ms. Cyrus dropped are the following:

1) "Your worth isn’t based on [sex],  Your worth is based on how you feel about yourself.”

2) "Sex is magic and it is when you connect with somebody."

3) Sex is magical and cool

I will agree with one thing she said - parents need to talk to their kids about it.

Parents, if you don't talk to your kids about sex (and more than once), if you don't teach them and show them how to be a responsible consumer of media, if you aren't in a proactive mode and are simply reacting to these issues, then know that your children ARE learning about it from people like Ms. Cyrus.  

The Catholic Church's Lawsuit Meets Just War Criteria

In Catholic Just War Doctrine, there are four criteria that need to be met before a country can declare war. A country declaring war must show that

1) All other options (negotiation, dialogue, diplomacy) must have been exhausted
2) The damage inflicted by the aggressor must be grave and lasting (the aggressor shows no signs of letting up or turning back)
3) The country declaring war has to have a reasonable shot at winning
4) The collateral damage from the war has to be less than what would have happened had there been no intervention

To look at the classic just war, WWII on the European Front
1) Negotiations with Hitler were attempted at length
2) Hitler showed no signs of changing course
3) The U.S. and its allies had a reasonable shot of winning
4) It's clear that had Hitler been unchecked he would have caused far worse damage than what resulted from WWII

Now, with yesterday's news that basically the Catholic Church (dioceses, newspapers, universities) in the U.S. is suing President Obama, it is fair to say that this declaration of war, this "nuclear option" is just on the part of the Church.
1) We have tried negotiating with the President (some would say TOO long, i.e. President Jenkins at Notre Dame, who is, ironically, joining in the lawsuit as well. Is it angry to ask ND how the "dialogue" is going at this point?)
2) It is quite clear to everyone except E.J. Dionne and Sr. Keehan that the President isn't changing course one bit
3) The Catholic Church has a reasonable shot at winning this battle if we stand up and fight
4) Any political relationships that will be damaged through this lawsuit are going to be a far smaller loss than the damage done to the Church had we not stood up and done this.

I love that the Church here is going on the offensive. It will be really interesting to see how this war plays out. I, for one, am thrilled that the Church is standing up and drawing a line in the sand and finally pushing back as ONE. Whatever the result, at least we can tell future generations we didn't sit back on our hands and just hope for the best.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Catholic: "Even without the Bible, societies have always valued marriage."
pro-same-sex-marriage: "societal values change"
Catholic: "Well, what's to keep 4 people from marrying each other?"
pro-same-sex-marriage: "society has always understood marriage to be between two people."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Parish Closings? Priest Shortage? Vocations Crisis?

You might be asking yourself here, "What in the world am I looking at?"  This is a graphic produced and distributed recently by Fr. Steve Giannini, our Vicar for Clergy, the priest who helps oversee priests in the Archdiocese.  The graphic is actually simpler than it first appears.  This is a graph showing all of the priests currently serving in the Archdiocese.  Each number represents a priest, and it is that priest's birth year.  (I am the lone "'79er").  Each column represents a ten year grouping of priests by their age.  I, being 32, am thus in the "30-39" column.  The yellow are already retired, the green are active, and the gray are those that will likely be ordained the next two years.

What does this show?  Obviously, most of the priests 70 and above are retired, as is expected.  Some decide to keep serving in a limited way, but most of them are retired.  What ought to be of major concern for the people of the Archdiocese is the really tall bar.  That bar on the graph represents the 39 priests who are between the ages of 60 and 69 as of today.  What that means is that 10 years from now, 39 of our current priests will be retired.

I'll say it again, 39 priests will retire in the next 10 years.

Two things are happening this year in relationship to this
1) Next year we will not have any priest assigned full time or half time as a chaplain to our Archdiocesan and Parish High Schools (Cardinal Ritter, Bishop Chatard, Father Scecina Memorial, Roncalli, Providence, Father Shawe Memorial Madison, Seton Catholic Richmond)

2) the 4 deaneries of Indianapolis (North, South, East, and West deaneries) will begin asking the simple question of "is there a better way to structure our service to the people of Indianapolis than our current parish infrastructure?"  Some will say this is just a nice way of saying "what parishes should we close" but that really ISN'T the question.  I believe this is a question that needs to be asked even if we had a 100 more priests than we had parishes.  This question of "how do we distribute our priests and parishes throughout the city to best serve the Church" should always be examined, and one could make a case that this discussion has needed to take place for some time now.

When I say that we, as an archdiocese, ought to be asking these difficult question regardless of how many priests we have, I mean this: let's say we have a parish of 400 families that is 5 miles from a parish with 500 families.  Even if both parishes had a priest not working any other jobs, we should still, as stewards, be asking "is there a better way to set this up for greater effectiveness."  Does it make sense, regardless of a priest shortage OR surplus, to have two parish councils, two finance councils, two Churches with all of their maintenance, two secretaries, two youth ministers, two DRE's, two... could we combine those parishes to still have a very manageable parish of 900 families, freeing up the other priest to be more present in a high school or at a college or at a hospital or to send to a mission country?  We should be asking this question as an archdiocese ALL the time.

Add on to that the problem we face now where priests are largely ministering on their own and living alone, a scenario not even envisioned by the 2nd Vatican Council.  If you want healthy priests, then it is important to look for ways to isolate priests less, and bring them together, at least for the purpose of communal living, more and more.

All of this, again, is why we are having this discussion now.  In the next 10 years, 39 priests will retire.

A second highly important reason that I post this graphic is because it illustrates the idea that we have a vocation to the priesthood problem that needs more from our local parishes than the occasional Sunday petition.

I was SHOCKED when I went to the seminary and found the number one obstacle for most men to enter the seminary was the resistance from family, especially parents.  How can that be?  Some of the same people who have discouraged their children from becoming priests will be complaining if their parish is closed someday.

I firmly believe every parish has multiple people God is calling to the priesthood and religious life at any given time.  As in most areas of our life, we often don't really understand that something is real until it impacts us.  Well, the impact is coming.  The Terre Haute and Batesville deaneries have already had the tough conversation and have made tough decisions in revamping the Catholic presence in those dioceses, and now Indianapolis is up for its turn.

What we need to do is
a) keep praying for holy priests "The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few"  I think we need some petitions to address the parents and community as well - "that God may grant us a spirit of generosity of love that we be a people who SEEK to FOSTER and NOURISH those that God is calling to serve Him as priests and religious in our midst...let us pray to the Lord..."

b) ACTIVELY seek out young men and women and physically tell them "you would make a great priest/sister."  The NUMBER ONE reason guys enter the seminary is because someone suggested it.  We have to get over any embarrassment we might feel and just start saying it, and saying it to multiple people.  Over the next ten years, let's see if we can't get two people in formation for the priesthood from every parish

c) If you are parent, let your children know that if they pursue religious life and/or the priesthood that you would support them fully in that decision.

39 priests retire in the next 10 years.

Is someone from your parish studying for the priesthood?  My challenge is for every Catholic to find 5 people that they think would make a great priest or religious sister and simply tell those 5 people that.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Farewell Homily to Cardinal Ritter HS

I’d like to begin with an announcement

This is my last all school Mass where I’ll be presiding as your priest.

Of course I’ll be here through the end of the school year, and I’ll have the baccalaureate, but this is my last chance to address all of you during Mass.

The Bishop has asked me to move on and become the priest at three parishes next year

And my vow that I made on the day of ordination was that I would always say yes to whatever the bishop asks of me.

I can honestly say that I would have been perfectly happy staying at Ritter the rest of my life, but I promised on the day of my ordination to go where I’m asked

I did want to take part of this time, though, to say a few words to all of you.

I almost cried this weekend three different times at Mass reading the Good Shepherd Gospel because it forced me to think about my time here at Ritter. Jesus says “A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.” If I can say anything, I can say I tried my best to point out the wolves that are constantly seeking to attack all of you.

I have tried my best to help you see those threats. Another comment here about fatherhood. People have commented to me through these years – “when you preach, you kind of seem intense.” “intense”, I think, is short hand for “mean” or “unfriendly”.

But I think Good parents have always been that way, including God the Father. In the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament as well, He was always warning people “DON’T DO IT!!!” “YOU’LL REGRET IT!!!” “IT HARMS YOU!!!” “IT LEADS TO SADNESS!!!” But what was God’s approach to anyone who actually has sinned – Love, compassion, forgiveness, …and I think if you talk to anyone who has approached me one on one through the years, especially when wanting to talk about struggles, they would say it was the latter. A great saying about priesthood is this – “a priest should be a lion from the pulpit, and a lamb in the confessional” I was always direct with you talking about issues that matter and that are real and I was intense with you because you aren’t babies and you live this stuff every day, and you needed to hear, in a very clear way, that sin = misery. If you still think, right now, that I was intense or direct or stern with you just because I have anger issues, I hope that some day, maybe not until the day when you are a parent yourself, that you will realize that what has always motivated me, from the day I stepped foot on this campus, has been love.

Also, I want to say one last time that my one goal in celebrating Mass is that it never be about me. It is VERY tempting for a priest to make Mass about himself instead of Christ…to be funny emcee guy who makes Mass tolerable by telling lots of jokes, looking around at everybody, smiling, doing his own thing…that repulses me because the Mass ISN’T about me, it is about the Eucharist, and Christ coming into our midst. I hope you know that when I have celebrated Mass with you, I’ve always tried as hard as possible to get out of Christ’s way, and I think you have mostly understood that – I hope when you get older you will appreciate it more.

These last three years have been, hands down, the best years of my life, and I have all of you to thank for that.

I’m confident that wherever else my priesthood takes me, there will never be anything like Mass with all of you. I’m not a crier, but I teared up after my first Mass with all of you three years ago because I was blown away by your respect and reverence, and you have continued that on for the last three years.

Anyone who has ever listened to me has heard me brag about you and about this staff and about this place. I’ve told you before but there is a buzz throughout the archdiocese about this place – it is a place people are talking about in a good way, and I hope you thank God for the chance to be here. Perhaps the best thing I can say is that there was never a day where I woke up and thought “I don’t want to go in to Ritter”

Any guy who gets married and has a child is called a father a long time before he figures out what in the heck it means to be a father. You figure out how to be a dad on the fly, and I certainly feel it has been the same for me. People have called me Father these past three years, but I’m still just like any other Father trying to figure out what that means and how I live that out to the best of my ability.

I had an experience just recently where it finally hit home in a big way that I was not just a priest but also actually becoming a father to all of you. My Mom told me a few years ago that when my brothers and I would be out late some night, maybe we were home for the Summer from college or something, she’d stay up and just pray for us and for our safety because there was nothing else she could do for us in terms of teaching us or guiding us anymore.

Well, the night of prom, I went to St. John’s to do some of my daily prayers. Now I’m not normally a Catholic who lights a lot of candles – I’ve maybe lit four or five in my lifetime. As I was praying for all of our prom attendees, I got the urge to go light some candles. I lit 14 dollars worth.

How awesome would it have been if some pious lady had come up and asked, “Fr. why are you lighting every candle in Church? … Well mam, I’m lighting these praying that my students have a good time and also that they not grind on each other!”

I lit some candles by the statue of St. Joseph and some by the statue of the Blessed Mother, and I felt that wave wash over me as if God was saying, “You’ve done what you can, now trust me to take care of them.” I felt very much like a parent at that point who has to simply watch and trust. As I leave next year, it will be that same feeling all over again – a lot of saying “I did what I could, I’m sure I made mistakes. I tried to fight the good fights, and now I entrust these young people to God and the saints for their prayers and protection.”

All I ask in departure is this – give whoever comes in here next year as your priest the benefit of the doubt. There will always be things that I liked to do that the next guy won’t know how to do, and there will be lots of things that the next guy will be good at that I failed miserably at.

Give the next guy a chance for me if for nothing else. Trust me, whoever comes in here next will be more intimidated and nervous with the assignment than you will be nervous or intimidated by him.

I could start thanking people by name, but that would go forever, and I’d leave people out – so let me just say – from the bottom of my heart – thank you very much and it has been an honor to be your priest.

So how in the world could we tie May Crowning into all of this? On a day like this we look at two people, the king of Heaven and the queen of Heaven. That’s why she got a crown, as the book of Revelation notes, she got a crown because she is the queen of Heaven.

They show us what we can and should be, and they do that by doing something – they SACRIFICED

I will not be in a high school next year largely because we are running lower and lower on priests. Many people say “ah ha! The Church needs to start ordaining women” or “the Church needs to start letting priests get married” but other Christian religions that let those things go on have just as much of a crisis as the Catholic Church. And the crisis doesn’t even just apply to clergy. JP II correctly notes “what we see isn’t just a crisis of people considering priesthood or religious life,…we experience a crisis of people considering ALL vocations, marriage included.”

Christ is the model for all of us to follow, men included. Christ, in his maleness, provides a great example of the key trait for men who seek to really live a Christian life – sacrifice!!! We see a decrease in the number of men today who are willing to sacrifice for other people, an uptick in narcissism and a general unawareness that it is even what God asks of them. Men have it written on their heart that they are supposed to sacrifice for other people. What does every great male hero in movies do --- he sacrifices. Batman, Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, General Maximus, Harry Potter. Although women can do these things too, it seems to be part of a man’s DNA to serve in the military, to fight fires, to police the streets, to protect and serve. All of these things have at their core a willingness to sacrifice for others. Young men, that is your task, and that is what will make you happy. The priesthood is one way to do that, and certainly so is marriage. We need more men who will act like men, and when that happens, the priesthood shortage and the husband shortage will take care of itself. There aren’t just a few of you being called to the priesthood, there are a lot of you, but any call from God can be silenced or ignored. Will you ignore it?

In Mary, we see a feminine slant on sacrifice – not sacrifice in the way of protection or fighting but a sacrifice in order to nurture others, a willingness to put aside one’s own desires and to instead give of one’s self for the good of others. Because of her sacrifice, Christ found a home to grow up in

When we see people who live for themselves, and reality TV has let us see that a lot, we realize how truly disgusting living for one’s self is. We may watch the shows, but it isn’t because they are entertaining, often we watch for the same reason that we look at car wrecks.

Living for yourself is gross, using other people is gross --- I can promise you that I’ve learned one thing in my priesthood – living for others, even imperfectly as I have, will lead you to happiness. It is a beautiful thing to sacrifice yourself for other people. Will you follow Mary’s example? Will you follow Christ’s example? Or will you live only for you?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Young Man With Same Sex Attraction Bullied

The Indystar had a heart-wrenching front-page story about a young man at a local high school who has been bullied his whole life for "feminine behavior."  His mother had had enough and gave her son a stun gun, which he finally fired into the air at school as a warning.  Now the young man who used the stun gun is potentially going to be expelled because it is obviously illegal to have a stun gun in school.

Some will bring up this story and blame Catholics for speaking up about same-sex attraction and homosexual sex, and will say it is somehow the Church's fault that this young man is being bullied.

1) I would bet my last penny that those harassing this young man don't have the first clue what the Church or Bible says on homosexuality

2) Any Catholic's first response to a person like this young man who is openly and publicly struggling with same-sex attraction should be one and only one thing - love.  That I or any other Catholic would treat this young man as any different than any other human person is reprehensible and untrue.  A person who would in any way treat this person differently than any other human person would be forsaking their Catholic faith.

The Church notes: "The characteristic concern and good will exhibited by many clergy and religious in their pastoral care for homosexual persons is admirable, and, we hope, will not diminish. Such devoted ministers should have the confidence that they are faithfully following the will of the Lord"

3) A difference does need to be noted here between the Catholic Church and the various protestant religions.  The Church is the only Christian Faith that I've encountered that does NOT believe that homosexual attraction is a sin.  Even Joel Osteen, who strikes me as one of the more financially driven of the televangelists and most likely to water theology down to appeal to as many as possible, said on a Sunday morning news show that he believes that homosexual ATTRACTION (not just the action) is a sin.  This, to me, illustrates yet another example of why we need the Church to help us understand HOW to implement the Scriptures in our daily lives.

This is a horrible situation, and we have to strongly defend those in our midst who are being mistreated.  Bullying is such a horrible thing and must be condemned as strongly as humanly possible.  Also, it needs to be very clear that the Church can in no way be blamed for things like this and anyone who would pretend that the Church would in anyway condone such behavior, or that the Church's teaching in any way points to such behavior as somehow being appropriate shows a complete lack of understanding of what the Church actually does teach. 

Let's pray for this man, his family, and those who are bullying him.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

IVF in Fort Wayne

Many people have asked for my comments/thoughts on the IVF case that has made national news the past week or so.  I will be happy to talk about the Church's teaching on IVF; in fact, as soon as I can get my act together, I'll make a "warp speed" catechetical talk on the matter.

The reason I don't feel comfortable talking on the specific case is because there is a lot that I don't know, and it just has the feel of something that a priest shouldn't weigh in on without knowing all of the facts.

I think this Today show piece does a nice job of explaining the situation (write this date down - when have I ever said that before???), but again, probably not prudent to comment on something like this with so many questions left unanswered.  Pray for all involved.

St. Athanasius - Proof that Poser Catholics Have Had Influence Before

Today the Church celebrates St. Athanasius, whose title in the Church is "Father of Orthodoxy" (tell me that isn't the best title of all time!).  St. Athanasius was also the MVB of the Council of Nicea (Most Valuable Bishop). 

The Council of Nicea was called to clear up doctrine on Church teaching.  A guy named Arius was running around telling everyone Christ was only a human being and not the 2nd Person of the Trinity.  The Aryans, though, weren't some schismatic group on the fringes...they held tremendous sway and   The Aryans had enough influence to get Athanasius jailed FIVE different times.  The Aryans also had a tremendous following just based on shear numbers as the controversy nearly saw the Church torn in two (it wouldn't have actually been torn in two, there would have been the real Church and a fraud, but you get the point).

Sound familiar?

It should because we see a similar phenomenon in our own Church today, although the new schismatics would never care to fight over something as blatantly dogmatic as the Divinity of Christ - they prefer to ambiguously muddy the waters about ALL teachings of the Church. 

We need new St. Athanasiusses!  We also need a deepening of the knowledge of the laity so that they can refute the modern day folks who would seek to tear off a huge chunk of the Church (some by "working within the Church")!  We need priests as well who can teach and lead people to that level of deeper understanding.  We need some more homilies on things that actually matter.  St. Athanasius --- pray for us!