Monday, July 29, 2013

Did Pope Francis Change Church Teaching on Homosexuality Today?

The Pope didn't change anything today - he reiterated the same things we've always taught...

1) The attraction is different than acting on it
2) Catholics don't judge
3) Catholics welcome people living with same sex attraction
4) Catholics welcome people ACTING on same sex attraction, while not shying away from continuing to proclaim what God taught to be right actions and wrong actions

Simple.  End of story.  

100 dollars that the headlines will read "Pope Francis Changes Church Teaching"

Wow, do we need a film like "Unnatural Law?" !!  Confusion continues to reign.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

To Love or To Use? Humanae Vitae at 45

Pope Francis at World Youth Day

I've been following World Youth Day on Catholic Radio as I've been driving around, and there really is no other way to describe it other than to say Pope Francis has been hitting it out of the park.  He's given amazing talks to bishops, priests, civil leaders, the world, and of course, the youth.  Here is his talk to the youth from last night's adoration:

Dear Young Friends,

We have just recalled the story of Saint Francis of Assisi. In front of the crucifix he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him: “Francis, go, rebuild my house.” The young Francis responded readily and generously to the Lord’s call to rebuild his house. But which house? Slowly but surely, Francis came to realize that it was not a question of repairing a stone building, but about doing his part for the life of the Church. It was a matter of being at the service of the Church, loving her and working to make the countenance of Christ shine ever more brightly in her.

Today too, as always, the Lord needs you, young people, for his Church. Today too, he is calling each of you to follow him in his Church and to be missionaries. How? In what way? Well, I think we are able to learn something from what has happened these days: how we had to move this vigil from Campus Fidei in Guaratiba because of the bad weather. Would not the Lord be willing to say to us that the real area of faith, the true campus fidei, is not a geographical place but are we that very place? Yes! Each of us, each one of you. And missionary discipleship means to recognize that we are the Campus Fidei of God! Starting with the name of the place where we are, Campus Fidei, the field of faith, I have thought of three images that can help us understand better what it means to be a disciple and a missionary. First, a field is a place for sowing seeds; second, a field is a training ground; and third, a field is a construction site.

A field is a place for sowing seeds. We all know the parable where Jesus speaks of a sower who went out to sow seeds in the field; some seed fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and could not grow; other seed fell on good soil and brought forth much fruit (cf. Mt 13:1-9). Jesus himself explains the meaning of the parable: the seed is the word of God sown in our hearts (cf. Mt 13:18-23). This, dear young people, means that the real Campus Fidei, the field of faith, is your own heart, it is your life. It is your life that Jesus wants to enter with his word, with his presence. Please, let Christ and his word enter your life, blossom and grow.

Jesus tells us that the seed which fell on the path or on the rocky ground or among the thorns bore no fruit. What kind of ground are we? What kind of terrain do we want to be? Maybe sometimes we are like the path: we hear the Lord’s word but it changes nothing in our lives because we let ourselves be numbed by all the superficial voices competing for our attention; or we are like the rocky ground: we receive Jesus with enthusiasm, but we falter and, faced with difficulties, we don’t have the courage to swim against the tide; or we are like the thorny ground: negativity, negative feelings choke the Lord’s word in us (cf. Mt 13:18-22). But today I am sure that the seed is falling on good soil, that you want to be good soil, not part-time Christians, not “starchy” and superficial, but real. I am sure that you don’t want to be duped by a false freedom, always at the beck and call of momentary fashions and fads. I know that you are aiming high, at long-lasting decisions which will make your lives meaningful. Jesus is capable of letting you do this: he is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Let’s trust in him. Let’s make him our guide!

A field is a training ground. Jesus asks us to follow him for life, he asks us to be his disciples, to “play on his team.” I think that most of you love sports! Here in Brazil, as in other countries, football is a national passion. Now, what do players do when they are asked to join a team? They have to train, and to train a lot! The same is true of our lives as the Lord’s disciples. Saint Paul tells us: “athletes deny themselves all sorts of things; they do this to win a crown of leaves that withers, but we a crown that is imperishable” (1 Cor 9:25). Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup! He offers us the possibility of a fulfilled and fruitful life; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, eternal life. But he asks us to train, “to get in shape,” so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith. How do we get in shape? By talking with him: by prayer, which is our daily conversation with God, who always listens to us. By the sacraments, which make his life grow within us and conform us to Christ. By loving one another, learning to listen, to understand, to forgive, to be accepting and to help others, everybody, with no one excluded or ostracized. Dear young people, be true “athletes of Christ!”

A field is a construction site. When our heart is good soil which receives the word of God, when “we build up a sweat” in trying to live as Christians, we experience something tremendous: we are never alone, we are part of a family of brothers and sisters, all journeying on the same path: we are part of the Church; indeed, we are building up the Church and we are making history. Saint Peter tells us that we are living stones, which form a spiritual edifice (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). Looking at this platform, we see that it is in the shape of a church, built up with stones and bricks. In the Church of Jesus, we ourselves are the living stones. Jesus is asking us to build up his Church, but not as a little chapel which holds only a small group of persons. He asks us to make his living Church so large that it can hold all of humanity, that it can be a home for everyone! To me, to you, to each of us he says: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Tonight, let us answer him: Yes, I too want to be a living stone; together we want to build up the Church of Jesus! Let us all say together: I want to go forth and build up the Church of Christ!

In your young hearts, you have a desire to build a better world. I have been closely following the news reports of the many young people who throughout the world and also here in Brazil who have taken to the streets in order to express their desire for a more just and fraternal society. They are young people who what to be protagonists of change. I encourage them, in an orderly, peaceful and responsible way, motivated by the values of the Gospel, to continue overcoming apathy and offering a Christian response to the social and political concerns present in their countries.

But the question remains: Where do we start? What are the criteria for building a more just society? Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked what needed to change in the Church. Her answer was: you and I!

Dear friends, never forget that you are the field of faith! You are Christ’s athletes! You are called to build a more beautiful Church and a better world. Let us lift our gaze to Our Lady. Mary helps us to follow Jesus, she gives us the example by her own “yes” to God: “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me as you say” (Lk 1:38). All together, let us join Mary in saying to God: let it be done to me as you say. Let it be so!

Friday, July 26, 2013

No Other Name

NO OTHER NAME from Hillsong Church on Vimeo.

This is a great video the guys from Blackstone Films introduced me to while we were in Denver yesterday doing some interviews for "Unnatural Law" 

GREAT stuff!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The REAL St. Francis

St. Francis is probably the most misunderstood and abused saint in the history of the Catholic Church.

To hear some tell it, St. Francis would be found somewhere in this photograph:

Let's look at a letter St. Francis wrote, and see if he's just a hippy who just loved God, and thought the Church was a big bureaucratic disaster:

“Let all of us who are clerics be conscious of the great sin and ignorance which some have regarding the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His most holy written words which consecrate the Body.  We know the Body cannot be present without the words of consecration…Let all those however who minister such most holy ministries consider within themselves…how unbecoming are the chalices, corporals and linens on which are sacrificed the Body and Blood of our Lord…by many It is left in wretched places, carried about disrespectfully and received unworthily and indiscriminately administered to others.  And His written words (missal, etc.) are also sometimes kicked around underfoot because the sensual man does not perceive the things that are of God.  Does not our sense of reverence move us in respect to all such things since the good Lord Himself places Himself in our hands and we hold Him and receive Him daily by our mouth?”

St. Francis of Assisi
“A Letter to Members of the Clergy”

Remember: St. Francis had a human skull in his cell.  Hippy "Catholics" should stop blaming their craziness on St. Francis.

Let's end with a few of the most famous portrayals of St. Francis in the history of art

Hippies don't look at skulls and keep death daily before their eyes in prayer

My Oath of Fidelity

"With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgement or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed. 

I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act."

Pray for the priests who have forgotten or ignored their oath of fidelity!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Can You Help With an Informal Study

I'm a math guy...I like numbers.

I need some help with an informal study.

If you are at a parish that has switched to all-male altar servers, what was the increase/decrease in teenagers serving at Mass after the switch was made.

Feel free to leave a reply or send me an email if you have some data for me.  Thanks!


Monday, July 15, 2013

Should I Buy a BMW?

Inspired by Vin Diesel and the success of the Fast and Furious movie franchise, I was in the market for a Maserati....until Pope Francis had to burst my bubble!

 My new car...until Pope Francis had to go and ruin it all!

In the Catholic "blogosphere" Pope Francis has caused yet another stir with his recent discussion about how he is saddened with priests who drive the latest make and model of vehicle. 

Some blogs by priests betray a definitive frustration with the Holy Father over the comments, but I wonder if it isn't the old saying that - "Christ came to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable."

Certainly diocesan priests do not take a vow of poverty, but it should be noted that it would seem this is more of a practical matter than anything else.  If I, as a diocesan priest, took a vow of poverty, then I would literally have to ask for permission to buy ANYTHING I needed to purchase.

I'd have to get permission each time I purchased gas, groceries, shoes, pencils, clothing, etc.  If I made a vow of poverty I'd have to get permission to go to the movies, or to a sporting event, or to buy a gift.

Diocesan priests, it seems to me, don't take the vow of poverty mainly for the sake of saving a lot of hassles.

Pope Francis' comments have raised an important issue for us as priests.  While we do not take a vow of poverty, we are still called to the Gospel simplicity that every Christian is called to.  Therefore, it can certainly be said that I've seen my fair share of ridiculously luxurious cars purchased by priests, as I've seen a lot of other things that are probably over the line of Gospel simplicity, and I think that is what Pope Francis is getting at.

Where's the line????  Well, bad news, there isn't a line...and, contrary to popular opinion, there isn't a line with a lot of the stuff of our Faith.  Don't murder, go to Church on Sunday, fast twice a year, don't use the Lord's name in vain, use sex only its proper context...those are about the only lines in the sand that Catholicism draws.

Other than that I have to fall back on good old prudence - the virtue of being able to make a holy decision by consulting my conscience in a spirit of prayer. 

I know priests who are in areas that need 4X4 vehicles.  If I needed 4X4, I'd buy a new car as well, and wouldn't think twice about it. 

I wouldn't use my money, ever, to buy a BMW.

Somewhere in between a Chevette and a Mercedes is what the Pope is getting at, and I think he's dead on.  Sometimes it is good to have a Pope rattle our cages and get us thinking about new things. 

Three Women Talk About Having Their Consciences Violated

The real "War on Women"

Friday, July 12, 2013

My Teacher Who Became the Pope's Theologian

When I studied in Rome, one of my professor's was Fr. Wojchek Giertych, OP.  As the Roman education system permits, Fr. Giertych's class would often have lots of people from all over the city who would come just to hear him lecture - they weren't even enrolled in the class!  Some of my friends at nearby seminaries would come over ON THEIR BREAK to hear Fr. Giertych!

In the middle of one of our classes (Fr. Giertych taught us moral theology) the dean of the university came in and said he had a special announcement: "I'm very excited to announce that Pope Benedict has announced today that Fr. Giertych will become his personal theologian!"

My jaw hit the floor!  The papal theologian is a priest or theologian who is around to read over speeches and documents and is there for the Pope to discuss important topics with.

Fr. Giertych also let us know he would keep teaching our class through the semester.  I chuckled thinking about how the Pope's theologian would be reading my papers, and then going to the Vatican and reading Pope Benedict's papers!

Fr. Giertych has also done a great job of participating in the new evangelization and has been in lots of interviews and videos.  He hails from Poland, but his English is excellent.

Fr. Giertych recently sat down with John-Henry Weston of Lifesite News and talked about the hope that he sees in America.  It is worth a listen!

You can read Lifesite's entire article on the interview by clicking here

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What Every Real Catholic Must Do Once In Their Lifetime

There is a battle that has been raging for a long time over Catholic Church history.  As one of my favorite Church historians, Regine Pernoud has put it:

"It is so easy, in fact, to manipulate history, consciously or unconsciously, for a public that is not knowledgeable about it…The Middle Ages is privileged material: one can say what one wants about it with the quasi-certitude of never being contradicted.”

Catholics are routinely bludgeoned by "historians" who usually don't know much about history themselves.  That's why every Catholic must, at least once in their life, read a book on Church history that has been written by a Catholic.
I was recently asked to review two books on Church history that were published by Ignatius Press.  Both of them are excellent.

First of all, I was asked to review "The Seven Big Myths About the Catholic Church" by Dr. Christopher Koczar.  This book is great for a couple of reasons.
A) It is super short
B) It directly confronts the lies and deceptions that people so often get away with and refutes them.  Those who follow this blog know that I'd much rather confront a topic head on than dance around it.

Dr. Kaczor takes on seven myths
1) The Church hates science
2) The Church opposes freedom and happiness
3) The Church hates women
4) The Church banned contraception because it is opposed to true love
5) The Church hates homosexuals
6) The Church opposes same-sex marriage because of bigotry
7) Priestly celibacy caused the crisis of sexual abuse of minors

This book is also great because it goes back in time to look at how history has impacted issues relevant to our own day.  This book is a MUST for your high school or college-aged young person.  It is a handbook anyone can turn to amidst the attacks that regularly assault Catholics.

The other book I was asked to review is Dr. James Hitchcock's "History of the Catholic Church."  You may have seen Dr. Hitchcock providing tireless and invaluable commentary during EWTN's coverage of Pope Benedict's resignation and the subsequent papal conclave.  

Dr. Hitchcock's book is not something that most people would likely read cover to cover because it is 530 pages.  However, it is organized in a way that I've not seen any other Catholic history books.  Instead of long and lengthy narratives or chapters, the book goes through history in paragraph spurts.  In addition, to make it even easier to read, there is a word in the margin that sums up what the paragraph is about. Here's an example:

This book would be a solid addition to any Catholic's library, and would make a solid and quick reference source that one could easily and quickly turn to to get a glimpse at the historical setting of just about anything Catholic that has happened over the course of the last 2,000 years.

Dr. Hitchcock's book is another indispensable tool for people looking to actually learn about authentic Church history, warts and all, while at the same time recognizing that the cartoonish view of Church history that dominates our current cultural landscape is false and is the work of the Devil.

Other books I strongly recommend on the subject of Church history would be
"Those Terrible Middle Ages" by Regine Pernoud,
"Triumph" by H.W. Crocker III,
"The Stripping of the Altars" by Eamond Duffy,
"How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" by Thomas Woods Jr.,
"To Quell the Terror" by William Bush,
"France and the Cult of the Sacred Heart" by Raymond Jonas, and
"Seven Lies About Catholic History" by Diane Moczar.

Learn how to fight back against JV historians!

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Priest is Not His Own

Two weeks ago, I had the honor of speaking about the priesthood at my good friend Fr. Jonathan Meyer's 10th anniversary of ordination celebration. 

That night I shared the following reflection:

"A Priest is Not His Own"

It seems like most people, especially those outside the Church, assume that priests live on one planet and all other people live on a different planets, and that people know nothing about what life on the other planet is like.

I've realized something though - the priesthood and married life have more in common than some suspect.

Husbands can be annoying
Wives can be annoying
Priests can be annoying
and parishes can be annoying

Husbands can bicker
Wives can bicker
Priests can bicker
and parishes can bicker

Husbands are called to sacrifice
Wives are called to sacrifice
Priests are called to sacrifice
and parishes are called to sacrifice

A book that changed my life and really formed me as a seminarian was a book by Archbishop Fulton Sheen - "A Priest is Not His Own"

That is what priests have in common with all people - God is asking us not to live for ourselves

Because of that commonality priests can be inspired by the laity who do not live for themselves and the laity can be inspired by priests who do not live for themselves.

Priests often fail to realize how important they are for the laity, and the laity do not realize very often how much of a witness they are to priests and the rest of the world. 

Jesus tried to tell us 2,000 years ago that "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat...but if it dies it bears much fruit"

He tried to tell us, but we so often need to see other people put it into action...and those people are the saints.

The saints show us that falling to the ground and dying to one's self, not being one's own, is not the boring and terrible way of life that it is often portrayed as but is instead a most enjoyable fall.

Fr. Meyer's priesthood has showed us all that when a person doesn't live for one's self, much fruit is born - crazy things like obstacle races, dancing altar boys, crazy homilies, parish festivals, restored churches, Saturday Night Lives, World Youth Day car raffles, and New Year's Eve lock-ins. 

Thank you, Fr. Meyer, for showing us that priests (and people) who are not their own are not blind and boring rule followers, but are people who live thrilling lives of love.