Monday, October 31, 2005

Former Pastor Found Not Guilty In Child Rape Case

(This story got a lot of coverage when Father Larger was accused; it's only fair that the acquittal get coverage, as well...)

A Tri-State priest accused of raping a young boy was acquitted Monday, News 5 reported.

Raymond Larger, convicted of sex charges two years ago, had been indicted on three counts of rape, two counts of sexual battery and one count of gross sexual imposition against a minor boy between 1995 and 1997.

Larger was a priest at St. James Church in White Oak at that time.

The 21-year-old man who accused Larger of molesting him is currently serving a sentence for breaking an entering. He testified all morning and most of the afternoon, but Judge Robert Ruehlman found that he contradicted himself several times in his account.

"There is so much doubt here, and before you can convict somebody, you've got to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt," Ruehlman said. "The testimony I've heard from this prosecuting witness does not come even close to that."

Ruehlman found the former pastor not guilty on all counts.

"I said that I was not guilty," Larger said. "It's a completely false accusation."

Christy Miller, of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests, disagreed with Ruehlman's quick dismissal.

"When it comes to child sexual abuse, there are no witnesses," she said. "It does happen on a one-on-one basis."

After Larger was indicted in August, Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk placed Larger on administrative leave and stripped him of his priestly duties for the second time.

"His position in the Archdiocese will be addressed when the pending civil suit has been resolved," a statement from Pilarczyk said Monday.

Pilarczyk had suspended Larger after he was arrested in July 2003 on suspicion of soliciting a male police officer for sex in a park in Dayton, Ohio. Larger, who was pastor of Our Lady of Visitation Church in Mack, pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor public indecency charges. He was fined $100, plus court costs, and placed on probation for one year, court records show.

Larger returned to active ministry in May 2004. He had been assigned to St. Peter in Chains Cathedral downtown.

Alito Papers Demanded by Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats demanded release of previously secret papers, written by Supreme Court-nominee Samuel Alito, early in his career, that may shed light on his true views on matters likely to come before the High Court.

"The American people have a right to know," declared Sen. Charles Shumer (D-NY); "if Mr. Alito's papers can show, for example, how he views the Commerce Clause, and the rights of endangered species, then Mrs. Alito must release them. Just what was 'Furry's Adventure'? Did Furry enter into interstate commerce? The stakes are just too risky."

Mrs. Rose Alito, stood firm. "I intend to invoke maternal privilege. And as far as those pesky Senators are concerned, I just have one thing to say: 'Better not mess with Mamma!'"

Bill Clinton's hand in the Alito Nomination

Kathryn Jean Lopez, at National Review Online, observed: "I just noted Clinton's hand. Couldn't keep his hand off Alito's daughter..."

Dems dusting off original Bork playbook

As everyone pretty much admits openly, the big issue in a Supreme Court nomination is abortion: just listen to the interviews, and see how quickly it -- or "privacy" -- comes up.

Judge Alito's vote to uphold restrictions enacted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in the case that eventually found its way to the High Court, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, will be "exhibit A" in the pro-aborts' complaints about him.

Less noticed is that he also voted to strike down a New Jersey law on partial-birth abortions (the argument in his defense is that he is a lower-court judge, bound by U.S. Supreme Court decisions); and he joined a decision that invalidated a stricter standard, enacted by Pennsylvania, deferring to the federal Secretary of Health and Human Services' interpretation of federal law in the matter. (The argument in his defense is that he was exercising judicial restraint in an area that belongs to the legislative arena, and in which federal authority legitimately trumps state action.)

Not being a lawyer, I won't attempt to parse these cases; but I'd say there could be reason for concern, on prolifers' part; on the other hand, it would be quite a stretch to expect a justice to ignore all other considerations in law and simply vote to block abortions. Call me a squish, but I don't want judges like that. They should act within the law.

But anyway, the pro-aborts won't say much about these other cases; it will be all-Casey.

But herewith a prediction: the main attack -- that is, the "cover story" -- won't be on abortion. It will come another way.

Why? Because unless I'm very mistaken, I expect Judge Alito will completely dodge any hint of how he'll vote on Roe--and since nothing has turned up, from his record, to reveal that, all the pro-aborts can point to is that he approved some rather modest restrictions, of the very sort that enjoy wide public support.

So the attack will come in a "Trojan Horse." If they can find a way to do it, they'll hit him with the Left's favorite attack: they'll slime him as "racially insensitive." (Recall they tried it on Roberts, but they couldn't make it stick.)

Also, expect the opposition to make something of Alito's vote to strike down the federal "Family Leave" Act. (Apparently, he did so on the basis that Congress trod on the authority and prerogatives of states, under the 11th Amendment.) In such circumstances, facts aren't what matter; what will matter is that the Left will scream that he's such a Neanderthal that he doesn't even think families should get unpaid leave from work in cases of illness or pregnancy!

And so it will go: mining his opinions for any basis to show how coolly, dispassionately, he watches widows and orphans marched to the workhouses, and minorities driven into ghettoes, etc.

In other words, stay tuned for the Left to run its original, classic "borking" play.

Will 'Hail Mary' replace 'All rise'?

The Volokh Conspiracy notes, as many will, that confirmation of Alito would give the Supreme Court a Catholic majority. (Thanks to Fr. Jim Tucker for the heads up.)

Poor Jack Chick; I can't imagine what the old man's going through right now. And on "Reformation Day," of all days!

Alito, Delighto

An excellent choice. Now we have a battle; but it's a battle for something we know is truly worthwhile.

One piece of advice (as if the White House cares!):

Tell him to smile...all the time.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Bad Sunday Night TV

Browsing for something to watch on TV, I came across this listing:

"The Final Conflict (1981): The 'Omen' Trilogy concludes as Satan's son (Sam Neill) eyes the presidency."

... like that hasn't happened before.

Several times.

Let us now praise Rosa Parks

I am very proud to see Ms. Rosa Parks honored by the nation tonight -- I am watching members of our nation's armed forces escort her mortal remains into the Capitol -- and I am glad to have something like this unite our country. (I have not heard any partisan manipulation of this situation, and I don't wish to -- I can imagine what it would be like.)

Rosa Parks is a true profile in courage. And it's worth recalling the circumstances: her courage, her choice, came not in some spectacular moment, but in an exceedingly ordinary moment. It might well have passed. How easily one could could let it pass. But for the ennoblement of our nation, she did not let it pass. Call it grace, call it providence, call it what you like -- but something inspired her to act at that moment, and it changed everything.

This is how most of us will be presented with opportunities for virtue and our own ennoblement, and opportunities to make others, our world, better: seldom in obvious, climactic moments; more often in tedious, beige-colored instances where we don't feel very heroic; we may not even realize or intend anything particularly brave or virtuous; we simply act out of the store of who we are: and we become a little more who we are meant to be.

May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

The Iran-Venezuela Connection

What do the "Islamic Republic of Iran" and Venezuela have in common -- other than oppression?

Both showed up on my "recent visit" list.

Stay strong: the light of liberty will come to your lands; your oppressors will be thrown down!

(Photo borrowed from Erik Fearn; I am assuming Mr. Fearn won't mind.)

Thuggery is not what Leo had in mind

Right to Work is, as readers know, a cause dear to my heart. I insist that the legitimate rights of working people to form and support unions must naturally include the freedom of individual workers to opt in, or out -- without losing their jobs, or being discriminated against.

This seems a fairly clear principle; and I invite an on-point response. Such on-point responses don't happen. People who believe in unions (which I don't quarrel with; I am affirming your right to choose a union) will, instead, change the subject, or simply manifest a massive blind spot to the fundamental issue of coercion. There is this sense of entitlement, on the part of many union activists, when it comes to thuggish behavior; so just is their cause that the rules don't apply to them.

Here's an example; those who say such instances are isolated are kidding themselves or simply naive. (Hattip to my neighbor in the blog'hood, Southern Appeal.)

It's frightening & wonderful to be a priest (Sunday homily)

Perhaps Protestant friends
or family members have asked you,
based on this Gospel passage:
“Why do you call priests, ‘Father’?”

I know people ask the question,
so I’ll answer it;
and then move beyond it.

If you look further in Scripture,
you’ll see that St. Paul the Apostle,
and St. Stephen, one of the first deacons,
both used the term “father”
in the way Jesus seems to say not to:
Paul called himself a spiritual father,
and Stephen called his persecutors “father.”

So, they did it—in Scripture!
What’s the fuss?

We still wonder why the Lord
said this startling thing:
Then we realize—that’s why:
to startle us—to get our attention.

I will tell you,
these readings certainly have my attention.

The honors the Lord describes—
a seat of honor,
greetings in the marketplace—
people often do that for me!

People are kind, they often insist.
And, yes, I like it;
and it’s easy to come to expect it.
So it’s good that Jesus
startles me with these words.

I need to remember that
it is not about “Martin Fox,”
but about “Martin Fox the priest.”

Whatever I do,
wherever I go, I’m a priest;
I’m a priest no matter what you call me.

We believe that some of the sacraments
change our fundamental state of being—
who we are at our very core.

Baptism does that:
it fundamentally changes us,
from someone “outside”
to someone united to Christ.

Now, I know, that raises a question:
what about those who aren’t baptized?
The answer is, God has other ways.
He’s commands us;
He doesn’t command himself.

Baptism changes us:
we become part of Christ;
we become “little Christs.”

Confirmation changes us--
we become more like Christ:
With Christ, we say to the Father,
“I’ll do this”;
I’ll accept the mission;
I’ll accept the Cross.

And priesthood changes a man:
he says,
“I’ll be united to Christ on that Cross:
I’ll be the one through whom
Christ offers the Sacrifice;
my life will be his altar;
my voice, my face,
my person, will be His.”

When I’m in the confessional, I say this:
“You could come in here,
alone, and tell God you’re sorry.
And God will forgive you.
I’m here so that
you can see Christ smile at you;
and, through my voice, hear Christ say,
your sins are absolved, and gone forever!”

Did you notice that first reading
singled out priests?
If I don’t listen to Him;
if I fail to give His teachings faithfully:
God says—to me:
“I will send a curse upon you”!

We all know the quote by Dante:
“The road to hell
is paved with good intentions”;
How many know what
St. John Chrysostom said?
“The streets of hell
are paved with the skulls of priests.”

Pray for priests;
pray for our priests here in Piqua.
Please pray for me.

I know you do; I thank you.

Does all this make me
regret being a priest?
not one bit.
Because the grace
of my baptism and confirmation,
made me want to answer his call,
whatever that means!
And any men here thinking about it:
Your full happiness will come
only in answering that call.

But I need these readings’ warnings.
My hope isn’t how smart I might be,
or how pious or holy I might seem to be.
I have to stand before Christ
as I truly am; we all do.

I still remember my very first Mass—
the very first time
I stood at the altar,
I spoke the words of Christ himself,
holding bread, and wine,
and knowing it became—in my hands!—
His Body and Blood.

I looked at the Host;
I looked at the Cup,
and I thought: God have mercy on me!
I get to do this—to be a part of this—
and my life isn’t totally changed?

I know I don’t have enough faith
for that moment;
I know that my response
is utterly inadequate for that reality.

The temptations are real;
I’m not immune to them.

If you’ve heard me stress,
on other occasions,
the power of God’s mercy—this is why!

It’s frightening and yet so wonderful
to be a priest!
Here’s why:

I look out, through my eyes;
I am what I am, Martin Fox.
I see with my prejudices, my impatience;
I see you—looking back:
you’re kind and generous and wonderful.

And then, every once in a while,
it dawns on me—
and there aren’t really words for this—
but I know: I’m seeing you,
through my ordinary self;
but you? You’re seeing Him!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

'Last Rites': what they are

This afternoon, I got called down to a nursing home to administer "Last Rites." Sometimes you'll hear contemporary-theology-minded folks tut-tut and say, "we don't speak of the Last Rites anymore"; but telling people you don't administer "Last Rites" isn't very helpful.

So just what are the Last Rites?

Broadly speaking, "Last Rites" refers to whatever the Church can provide someone, near death, to prepare him or her for death and what lies beyond, and to strengthen him or her in this situation. In reality, it's also about the family and friends who gather around the person--the comfort is for them, too.

Strictly speaking, the only part of the "Last Rites" that's exclusively "last"--that is, for death, are the "Apostolic Blessing," which only a priest or bishop can impart, and the prayers of commendation, which anyone can pray for the dying person.

The Apostolic Blessing is given by permission of the Holy See, and is a remission of sins, but it presupposes receiving absolution--so it's intended to apply to temporal punishments due to sin and hence, relieve the dying of any "debt" to pay in purgatory. Like absolution, it's not magic: it presupposes a response of faith to God.

The other parts of "Last Rites" should hardly be held to last: the sacrament of reconciliation, the sacrament of anointing, and the Holy Eucharist. If necessary, of course, "Last Rites" can include baptism and confirmation, if the one dying requests them, or--in the case of a child, the parent requests them.

Quiz time: If time doesn't permit a priest to do everything for a baptized Catholic, then what one sacrament is the most important to give?

a) Absolution
b) Anointing
c) Eucharist

The answer is "c," the Eucharist. (And that's if time truly is short: because the brief administration of penance and anointing is pretty brief!)

Which do you think is next in importance to give?

a) Absolution
b) Anointing

The answer is "a": Absolution. Hence, the anointing, while important to give, comes third.

The sad reality is that I often can't give Viaticum to the dying: either they're non-responsive, or, more often, they have tubes, or they simply can't swallow.

Here's the truly sad part of that: most of the time, I could bring Viaticum, if only people gave me some notice. What do I mean?

It is perfectly appropriate to bring the Precious Blood as Viaticum!
But we can't reserve the Precious Blood in the same fashion as we can hosts. The Precious Blood may, quite licitly, be reserved in the tabernacle; but only for a brief time, in anticipation of such a need. So, this takes extra planning and coordination.

At my previous parish, I began to spread the word about this option; and a lay member of the staff, who coordinated communion calls to the sick, went and found some eye-dropper bottles; we blessed them, and used them for this purpose. Occasionally, folks at daily Mass would see one of these small bottles on the altar, alongside the paten and the chalice.

So often, I'll be told (as I was earlier this afternoon, when I visited the nursing home), "oh, she can't receive anything by mouth." I've even been told that a drop of the Precious Blood would be a problem. Well, I really wonder how can a tiny drop of liquid, from an eye-dropper, be any problem? (If you have expertise in this field, please comment on this specific point.)

Unfortunately, not enough think of this; not enough priests, lay pastoral associates, health care workers, patients, or their families. My advice? If you, or someone in your family, is getting to this point, plan ahead, contact your priest, and make the request ahead of time. If your priest doesn't think he can do it, feel free to describe how I've done it, and refer him to me, if necessary.

Another bit of advice, which would, at least, be helpful for me: tell the priest the dying person is dying!

After all, just because the nurse, or the lay chaplain, says the patient is dying, doesn't mean the family, or the patient, is in that frame of mind; and it's hardly comforting to launch into "prayers for the dying" for someone who isn't ready!

Also, don't worry so much about "keeping the priest too long." For my part, I worry about staying too long, and wearying the patient, and intruding on the family's time.

The two most beautiful prayers, other than the sacraments themselves, are the Litany of the Saints, and the commendation of the dying: "Go forth, Christian soul..." goes one of the prayers. I want a priest to pray that prayer for me, when my time comes, and I trust it is comforting for those who realize they're dying and want a priest to be a priest for them.

I have to confess, this remains the most mysterious part of my ministry; nowhere do I feel least adequate, do I most fear to tread. I really don't feel very competent at this ministry, but--I know the sacraments speak for themselves, and their power communicates directly with the faithful. "Unless you know for sure what to say, don't say anything" remains good advice for such situations.

By the way--please pray for Eleanor, who I visited, her family, and all in such situations. Vaya con Dios

Friday, October 28, 2005

Who's afraid of Hallowe'en? A Catholic perspective

Last night, we had "beggars' night" in Piqua; and I noticed, here in Piqua -- unlike the bigger cities to the south -- that older children don't shy away from the fun of costumes and begging.

Many folks will wait until October 31 to celebrate All Hallows' Eve; and many pleasure-seekers will be at parties all weekend long. What should Christians make of Hallowe'en?

If you visit Christianity Today's website, you'll see how uneasy Evangelical Christians are with this holiday. Meanwhile, we Catholics, along with more secular folks, go for it with abandon.

Here's what I think (for anyone who cares!)...

1. I don't get too excited about the "pagan origins" of Hallowe'en. I'd remind readers of St. Paul's words, in his letter to the Corinthians (I think the first, but I'm not sure just now; you can look it up) about meat sacrificed to idols: we know that idols aren't anything real, there is only one God; but sometimes these things bother people, so be considerate of those scruples, even though you know the idol has no power.

I'd also point out that the whole world, at one time or another, we neck-deep in paganism. I'm not saying it's a good thing; it's (mainly) a bad thing. But a lot of it was a human thing; it was the human mind guessing about supernatural, and perhaps, divine things. A lot of those guesses were intriguing, fascinating, and even insightful. A lot of paganism was innocent; much of it contained, and expressed, virtue; and, of course, much of it "went over to the dark side."

One of the silliest arguments some Evangelicals make (I think I did, in that phase of my life) is that if something was "part" of paganism, then Christians should avoid it. Druids and witches celebrated Hallowe'en (actually something else on the same night), so we shouldn't; pagans had evergreen trees in their homes, so we shouldn't; etc. I'll bet pagans used fire; so I guess cookouts are out, huh?

2. Christ is all powerful -- and the true God is behind all goodness there is. These are simple statements, self-evident if you are a Christian, and yet how often Christians forget them. Whatever good might be found in paganism, comes from...where? It comes from God. Don't fight it; recognize it's true source. Likewise, don't quiver in fear about any of this; evil and good aren't equal forces (that is a blasphemy); good is so infinite that, next to it, evil, while something to reckon with, is comparatively next-to-nothing.

3. But evil is not--from our point of view--nothing. So our freedom in Christ is not license. The thing to concern us, about a celebration of Hallowe'en, isn't some mysterious thing, from the misty past: "do you know the origins of Hallowe'en?" goes the breathless introduction to the conversation. The matter of concern is right out there, visible to all: are you practicing and promoting vice or virtue?

I fail to see anything vicious about dressing up in costumes, going door-to-door in a cheerful fashion, collecting candy. What one does with the candy? That's different. What sort of costume one wears? Certainly. What sort of things one does at the Hallowe'en party? Can be wholesome fun or sinful behavior -- and the same can happen at a celebration of the Resurrection.

4. While I keep a sense of humor about such things, I think costumes that trivialize or glorify evil are problematic. The enemy of our souls and his minions are not to be taken too lightly. Again, one can have a sense of humor about such things, but -- there is such a thing as an unhealthy interest in morbid things.

5. My solution is to reconnect Hallowe'en with its true provenance: All Hallows. Encourage children to dress as saints (not that you penalize them for not doing so; but you set such a tone that dressing as the father of lies or "Jason" is understood to be out of bounds); inspire them by the saints' examples, and give them the encouragement of having so many friends to meet when, God willing, they reach heaven.

SS Simon & Jude

Today, we celebrate two of the Apostles, Simon & Jude.

One nice thing about having two of them on one day is that it reminds us that they were friends. The readings talk about friendship: their friendship with Jesus, and ours.

So the first reading said: “You are no longer strangers and sojourners”—that means traveler. We don’t wander about, alone—
we are friends: friends with one other, friends with Jesus.

Next Tuesday, we’ll celebrate All Saints Day. Today, we celebrate two of them, who—as we heard in the Gospel—were special friends to the Lord.

They lived with him, traveled with him, when Jesus walked on earth.

This friendship, that comes through Jesus—again, friendship with Jesus, and friendship with his friends, the Saints—we might wonder what’s special about it.

All of us have some friends. Some of us have more than others.

Sometimes, we don’t get along with our friends: maybe we fail to be a good friend; or our friends fail us. Maybe we fight with our friends, or let them down.

The friendship we see Jesus has with his saints is the model of what friendship can be.

Think about it: the Apostles, just like us, sometimes failed to be good friends.

While Jesus was hurt by that, he always reached out to help them be more than they were. Jesus saw in them not only their weaknesses, he also saw all that they could be: he saw that they could be saints,
before they were saints!

Jesus had faith in his friends, the Apostles; Jesus has faith in you and me!

And that brings me to another feature of friendship: friendship is never about excluding anyone. Jesus had his circle of 12 friends. But never did Jesus say: “Only these 12—no more!” Because then there wouldn’t be any place for us!

Do you see that artwork up here, under the tabernacle? Do you see what it is? It’s an image of Jesus with those first, 12 friends. It’s the first time anyone had Mass with Jesus: the first time anyone shared His Body and Blood.

If Jesus was going to say, “Just these friends—and no more”—what are you and I doing here, now? How can we share the same friendship?

The reason is, that Jesus doesn’t say, “Keep out”; rather, Jesus says, there’s room for more friends!

You and I called to treat people exactly the same way.

When you’re playing; when you’re working; when you are seated at the table, eating—Christ had room for us; you and I can make room for others.

Let me ask you—do you think Simon and Jude realized just how special a friend Jesus was?

Of course they did!

They—like all the saints—gave their lives to Jesus!
You don’t do that very often. That’s the deepest, closest friendship possible. They did it for Jesus, because Jesus changed their lives;
because he loved them that much. Their response was to give their lives to Jesus—from that moment on, they lived for him. And when someone said, “Deny your friendship with Jesus," they said, they’d rather die—and they did. That’s why we wear red on this day.

Jesus invites each of us to this same friendship. I don’t mean a mere acquaintance. A lot of folks are just “acquainted” with Jesus—
“Oh, hi, Jesus, how’re you doing?”

No, I’m talking about deep friendship—sharing everything; having someone to stand by you. He did for St. Jude and St. Simon.
And he can—and will—do the very same for you and me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What's so special about this church? (Feast Day homily)

Today is the anniversary of the dedication of this church: 140 years ago today, this church was first consecrated as a holy place of worship.

According to Church custom and law, this is a very solemn, special feast day!

In the first reading, Solomon prays, when his Temple is dedicated: “Can it be that God dwells on earth? If the heavens and highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple”?

The second reading describes even older events: when God appeared to his People at Mt. Sinai, they saw fire, and heard trumpet blasts,
and they were terrified. And really, God is so beyond us, and so holy, that we really should be awed, and overwhelmed.

But then, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews sets that all aside.

He says: you have not approached God that way! “No, you have approached Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.”

How do we do that?

You and I do that right here—at the celebration of the Eucharist.

Think of this way. We honor Mary so highly, among other reasons, because she became a true tabernacle: the God whom heaven could not contain, in Mary’s womb came to dwell! She is the God-bearer and Christ-giver, the all-holy Mother of God.

That’s why, in our Creed, we bow at these words: "by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

But the other great hinge of our faith is why he came: again, the Creed says, “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered, died and was buried. He rose from the dead…ascended into heaven. He will come again in glory… and his kingdom will have no end.”

Then he final part of the Creed talks about the Holy Spirit, the Church, baptism, and our hope to come.

So, while the Incarnation happened in Mary— and that’s a lot to celebrate—the whole mystery of our salvation—including the Incarnation, but also the Cross, the Resurrection, the outpouring of the Spirit, Christ’s reign in heaven and his coming again—all that is present and real to us in the Church.

We may not see it, but that’s the reality of our being members of his Church; that’s the reality of what happens at Mass.

What the second reading described really happens: “countless angels in festal gathering… the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven”—
that means, the saints, and it means us.

We’re limited by what we see with our eyes; but the angels and saints—all of them—are present with us around this altar! This altar—the Sacrifice offered here—is truly united to Christ in heaven!

Christ is God—and he is right here! And that began, for this church, 140 years ago today. That is what makes this such a special feast day for us.
Solomon said: the heavens cannot contain God; yet God has come to dwell in our midst!

(Posted 10/28/05)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Ups and downs

My popularity is rising...

Yet my share price on the blog stock market is taking a beating...

Victory for Human Rights in Brazil

I meant to post a comment earlier on this morning's good news: the people of Brazil decisively rejected a referendum that would -- according to NPR -- have banned guns.

Let there be no misunderstanding: owning a gun is essentially a fundamental human right.

Doubt this? Let us reason together.

1. A gun is a product of human ingenuity; it is an extension of the body, and of the will. Insofar as it realizes potentiality inherent in creation, it participates in goodness; otherwise, it is morally neutral. People who say things like, "guns are bad," show themselves -- at least on this subject -- lapsing from reason.

2. There is no question that every human being possesses the right of self-protection; and, moreover, the positive duty to act in defense of others who are threatened.

3. Obviously, such things are governed by reason, and prudence. I am entitled to use means necessary to repel an attack, not to annihilate my attacker. Regrettably, sometimes in the course of stopping aggression, the aggressor dies. I'm not permitted (per Catholic teaching) to intend to kill an attacker; but if he dies as a result of legitimate self-defense, that's his fault, not mine. Just as it would be unreasonable for me to respond to an assault with a stick by blowing up a city block, so it is also unreasonable for me to be obliged to be so delicate about the well being of the aggressor that the innocent (including oneself) are endangered.

4. So, one is obliged to be proportionate in acting to repel aggression, whether in matters of national defense, or personal defense. The principles are the same.

5. Even were I willing to sacrifice myself -- to be a martyr for utter non-resistance -- in no way am I obliged to do that.

6. Even were I willing to sacrifice my own life, rather than injure an aggressor, I am not entitled to make that decision for others. In short, if someone is attacking, not me, but someone else -- and I can act to assist that other person, my obligation to defend the victim seems very clear.

7. A pause to summarize: there is indisputably a right to defend oneself, and a duty to defend others, from aggression, based on reason and prudence, in relation to the threat.

8. So it's not that complicated: if I come after you with apparent deadly force, you are entitled to use force, sufficient -- as you can ascertain, given the uncertain situation -- to repel me. You are entitled to be sure, since you probably won't get a re-do.

9. Who can take this right away from you? Society can, if you are convicted of a crime, via due process. Update: I ought to have said merely that Society can constrict this right; see next point.

10. But, even were you cast into the darkest, meanest prison, even there you have the natural right of self-defense. If your keepers fail in their duty to protect you, you are morally entitled to do so in your behalf -- even if you break the rules: because no human law can trump fundamental human dignity.

11. So on what grounds does a government -- even a majority of ones fellow citizens -- decide a whole class of people (or everyone) can't have guns? On the prudential judgment that one doesn't need them; that one can safeguard oneself without them.

12. Ah, but since it is your life on the line, you get to exercise the final prudential judgment. And, however noble you may feel, refer to statement 6, above.

13. St. Thomas Aquinas said, an unjust law is really no law at all.

Time for a picture

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Married Priests? Big deal...

Not surprisingly, the discussion at the Synod of Bishops, in Rome, about possibly ordaining married men--viri probati ("proven men") to the priesthood gets folks all excited and interested.

Also not surprisingly, the bishops judged this was not the setting in which to launch such a change, as reported here and elsewhere.

This sort of thing can be useful, if it gets people discussing the subject seriously. Unfortunately, too often folks just say things like, "if only they ordained (pick one): married men/women/extraterrestrials/etc., and we wouldn't have a priest shortage..."

Herewith some thoughts about this...

1. If Rome said yes, this would NOT mean a change in doctrine, but rather in discipline. The Roman Catholic Church has always recognized that married men may validly receive holy orders, but has, for many reasons, and for most of her history, limited the priesthood and episcopacy to celibate men.

2. Many Protestant bodies presently ordaining not only married men, but also women -- and not expecting a lifetime commitment, and paying far better -- also have a shortage of clergy.

3. Per ancient and universal tradition, for an ordained man to be married, he must be married prior to ordination -- and if widowed, may not marry again. This would, it seems to me, cause men thinking about a priestly vocation to postpone such a decision -- perhaps for many years indeed. I.e., first he'd want to court and marry the right woman; then start a family; then have to build his career and savings. You're not likely to see such married men enter the seminary in their 20s--more likely in their 40s or 50s. (Update: a married man also would have to consider his wife's career, as well.)

4. The sacrifices entailed in entering the seminary after being established on your own -- giving up a career, selling a house, rearranging ones life -- aren't easy and are real. But when it's just yourself, that's one thing; when you have a wife and family, how much harder must that be? Hard to imagine men entering the seminary (as we know it) while they need to support any children.

5. Married priests would hardly live in existing rectories with their families, on existing priests' salaries. Many parishes would be in for sticker-shock; and what if a parish said, "no thanks--we want a cheaper (i.e., celibate) priest"?

6. Married priests would not easily relocate from parish to parish; they would likely be less available.

7. Divorce is sadly very common among married clergy. It would be only a matter of time before we'd have divorced priests.

8. In Protestant congregations with married clergy, the spouse of the pastor has a curious, sometimes vague, sometimes defined, role. Like it or not, the pastor's wife--or husband--can become a power-center. This will affect parish life in unexpected ways. Are we ready for parishes to have a "first lady"? Would a pastor be free to put her on staff? Remember nepotism?

9. The effect of having some substantial share of priests be married, while others are celibate, on the collegiality of the priesthood, is unknown. There will be frictions, have no doubt, beginning whenever a celibate priest calls a brother priest, asking him for help on this or that, only to be told: "I can't, because of my family." The "we're all in this together" comradery of the priesthood would suffer as each group, said of the other, "they don't understand what it's like." I suspect we'd have, unofficially, two priesthoods. The effects on morale, for either group, are unknown, but could be seriously negative.

10. Once celibacy became optional, I suspect the result would be active discouragement of celibacy. After all, what inference might be drawn about men who nonetheless embraced celibacy prior to the priesthood? I suspect most men would be encouraged to wait and see, since "this is your only chance to marry"--i.e., beforehand. Unfavorable suggestions would be made, a little more directly, about men who embraced celibacy anyway: "they must be gay."

11. The seminary system would change, perhaps totally. Common life among seminarians would be very hard to achieve; they'd hardly move in and live full-time in the seminary with their wives and families! Accountability and scrutiny would be harder; seminary faculty would be shaping, not one person's life, but the lives of several people, the rest of whom aren't fully consenting to that reshaping, as the candidate for orders does.

None of this is to deny arguments for ordaining married men. I merely offer these thoughts as food for thought.

Love God, Love Neighbor: they go together (Sunday homily)

Today, we hear Jesus call us to “love”:
Love God, love our neighbor.

That doesn’t sound so hard, does it?
Yet, they are the hardest commandments of all.

Today, I want to talk about
love of God, love of neighbor,
and the importance
of keeping them together.

St. Paul reminds the people of Thessolonika
that they had to turn from false gods—idols—
to embrace Jesus Christ.

The false gods of St. Paul’s time
are the same as now:
Money, work, sex, pleasure, power.
But all the false idols really come down to one:
Our own selves!

Let me give you one example of how we do that—
it may surprise you:
We do it when we worry.

I mention this because many people
come to me afflicted by worry.
It fills their thoughts and fills their time.

Worry—by definition—is unproductive!

If I see you carrying bags of groceries,
I can worry about it:
“Oh, my—what a heavy load!”
Or, I can come and help you!

Worry is not prayer,
because prayer means entrusting it to God.
Turning it over—trusting Him—
letting God be God.

The sad and funny thing is,
I tell people this.
Nothing changes.
People who worry keep worrying.

I say this as one who worries too much.
Sometimes I lose sleep.
But I’ve tried to learn
to turn it over to God:
I’ve prayed many times:
“Lord, no use both of us
staying up all night!”

Instead of worry—do something,
No matter how small.
Another way to let God be God,
is to let Him decide
the value of your “small” gifts.

That brings us to the second commandment:
Love of neighbor.

The first reading reminds us our neighbor
includes the stranger and the foreigner.

As you may know, more and more folks
from Central and South America
are finding their way here.
There’s a growing community
of Spanish-speaking folks,
not only in Cincinnati and Dayton,
but here in Shelby and Miami counties.

At Holy Angels, in Sidney,
they have Mass in Spanish.

One of these days,
we may have to have Mass—
La Misa—in Espanol.
Or CCD—or RCIA—in Espanol.

Well, “isn’t the Mass in Sidney enough?”
A lot of the folks we’re talking about are poor—
they don’t have cars!
The Protestant churches are very happy
to reach out to Hispanic Catholics.
Shall we allow Evangelical churches
to do a better job of loving
our own brothers and sisters, than we do?

This is how love becomes concrete.
And it costs something.

¿Puede imaginar una Misa—sola una—
in Espanol?
Imagine mi homilia in Espanol—
¿Puede entender usted
lo que digo en este momento?

Who knew what I just said?
Now you know what it’s like
for nuestros hermanos hispanos—
our Hispanic sisters and brothers.

One more thing:
Love of God and love of neighbor:
We have to keep the commandments together.
Because when they are separated,
ugly things happen.

God will not accept love of him,
if there is no love of neighbor.
It is an offensive offering in his sight.

By the same token,
“love of neighbor,” apart from God,
very quickly gets corrupted.
Think about how much evil is done
in the name of lifting up humanity.

Our society is at the point where it says,
“I love you”…as it kills people!
In Europe, and in parts of this country,
old people, and now children,
with disabilities,are being “euthanized”—
that’s a fancy word for kill. Murder.

In this country,
we especially do it through abortion:
Prenatal testing identifies
children with disabilities,
and parents are pressured hard
to get an abortion.
Of all places,
the Washington Post this week
had a column by a mother
of a girl with Down Syndrome.

She says, “I don't know
how many pregnancies are terminated
because of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome,
but some studies estimate 80 to 90 percent.”

She adds: “I don’t understand…
how we as a society can tacitly write off
a whole group of people as having no value.
I'd like to think that it's time
to put that particular piece of baggage
on the table and talk about it,
but I'm not optimistic.

“People want what they want:
a perfect baby, a perfect life.
To which I say: Good luck. Or maybe, dream on.”

She asked how society can do this?

By disconnecting “love of neighbor”
from love of God.
By making ourselves—our choices—our god.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Another busy, crazy week

This has been a busy week -- hence no blogging.

On Sunday afternoon, we will have a special, Solemn Mass with Archbishop Pilarczyk to consecrate a new altar. This Mass -- and the dinner following -- serves to commemorate our parish's 150th Anniversary.

The parish was founded July 3, 1855, but I had just arrived, so I wasn't able to put anything together for that date. The present church was dedicated October 26, 1865 -- hence is 140 years old -- but that was a suitable anniversary, so I invited the Archbishop, and he agreed.

My original fear -- that we might not attract a full house -- has turned into something very different: we expect at least 500 people, which will fill every seat in church, and be more people in the Caserta Center for dinner than we've ever had.

The new altar angle is interesting.

Our parish has a very nice wooden altar, made by a parishioner. But I was thinking, as I looked at it back in July (when I got here), that it would be nice if there were stone involved -- stone being preferred material for an altar -- and it would be nice if, after our celebration of the anniversary, there were some permanent memento of the occasion.

Then came the idea: what if we cut a piece of marble to be just larger than the existing altar, and made it the new surface of the altar?

Well, everything checked out. I guessed it might cost several thousand dollars -- instead, less than a thousand. A stone company in Dayton had a beautiful slab in stock and could cut it in about 10 days. Everyone I consulted in the parish was positive about the idea. (Yes, I did ask for advice on whether the existing altar would support the stone -- and the floor beneath, as well!)

Would our Worship Office sign off? Would the Archbishop say this was "kosher"? Yes and yes.

So, in a few minutes, I'm walking over to our parish hall to help set up the tables for the dinner. I'm sure there will be any number of last-minute things to attend to. And tomorrow will be crazy. But Monday is a day off, not only for me, but for the staff members who have worked really hard on this, as well.

Monday, October 17, 2005

St. Thomas More wants your kids to smoke!

Court Won't Let Bush Push Tobacco Penalty
By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court refused Monday to allow the Bush administration to pursue a $280 billion penalty against tobacco companies on claims they misled the public about the dangers of smoking....

The fight at the high court was over the amount of money the companies would have to pay, if the judge rules that they violated a federal anti-racketeering law known as RICO....

The Supreme Court is already hearing a case involving the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and whether the law can be used against anti-abortion protesters. The law, aimed primarily at fighting mobsters, has both criminal and civil provisions. [Emphasis added.]

Reading that article, I thought of this familiar passage from Robert Bolt's play "A Man for All Seasons," where Sir--and Saint--Thomas More argues with his ambitious underling, Roper:

More: There is no law against that.

Roper: There is! God's law!

More: Then God can arrest him.

Roper: Sophistication upon sophistication.

More: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal, not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal.

Roper: Then you set man's law above God's!

More: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact - I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I'm a forrester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God....

Alice: While you talk, he's gone!

More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

Roper: So now you'd give the devil the benefit of law?

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that.

More: Oh, and when the last law was down, and the devil turned on you, where would you hide, Roper, all the laws being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, man's laws not God's, and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- do you really think that you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

Yes, I'd give the devil the benefit of the law, for my own safety's sake.

(Thanks to Geoffrey Landis's interesting page for this quote.)

A couple of notes for those who may not catch the implications I see in this:

1. Keep this example of loosey-goosey use of law in mind the next time someone asserts how solid President Bush is in his respect for law, the Constitution, and strict construction thereof.

2. Lest you think this an isolated example, recall how the Bush admistration came out in favor of racial preferences -- hedging, qualifying, but in favor -- rather than simply say all race-preferences in law are wrong; and recall that President Bush signed the First Amendment restricting "McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance" law, despite saying, while campaigning for President, that he was against it and it was probably unconstitutional.

3. Please note how eagerly government officials reach to use a law beyond its original intention and justification: RICO was enacted to fight the Mob; but in time, prosecutors eager to make a name for themselves, used it against abortion protesters, and now against purveyors of a -- read carefully -- legal product.

4. Please keep point 3 in mind in all disclaimers from all lawmakers and law-enforcers that their new laws will be applied in limited ways: e.g., the aforementioned McCain-Feingold assault on the First Amendment, the so-called "Patriot Act" (note: just the name of the law ought to set off warning bells -- if you're against it, you're not a patriot; since when is it treasonous to question the wisdom of legislation?), "hate crime" laws, etc.

5. Please note the rachet effect at work: when RICO was passed, objections were raised that it might be misused; scoffing ensued. Once passed, the next step was justified on the basis of existing law. (A similar argument was used in the "Patriot Act" debate.) The underlying question -- is this good? is this right? -- was largely ignored.

6. Anyone who somehow infers this as an endorsement of, or being soft on(choose one) -- smoking, cigarette makers who do evil things, terrorism, etc., has almost completely missed the point of this entire post.

(Portrait of St. Thomas More courtesy of Catholic Culture)

Moral Clarity on Stem Cells

The Washington Times published this article today on attempts by scientists to get something like embryonic stem-cells while allegedly getting around the ethical problems.

The two methods mentioned in the Times' article are as follows: first, extracting material from embryos without destroying them; the second is to clone an embryo that cannot be implanted in a womb.

I am skeptical that the second idea originated from "ethical" concerns: rather, I believe this is yet more evidence of the truly sinister aspect of this whole slimy business: what do you do if you're so successful that the "surplus" embrionic human beings aren't enough fodder for your indusry? Hence cloning.

For those who find this area murky, there are three questions to ask that help clarify the whole matter, morally.

1. Would you do what you propose to do to a human being at a later stage of development? In the first instance, the answer is "No" -- we don't do invasive surgery on people without their consent.

2. If we're talking about procreation -- about bringing a new human life into existence -- then is the child being procreated in a human way? And to spell that out very plainly, are a man and woman, married to each other, conceiving this child through a natural, human sex act?

Catholic teaching doesn't say technology can't be used: remember, per Aquinas, all technology is itself a fruit of God's creation, and hence has a good purpose which we should seek to realize. But the purpose or meaning of technology is to serve he purpose and true end, or telos, of human existence.

So, technology that facilitates truly human means of procreation are commendable -- that is, until the humanity of the act of procreation is itself violated: hence, when conception moves from the intimacy of conjugal relations to a laboratory (recall that's where all those "surplus" embryonic human beings came from!)

All the frenzy about artificial means of conception would be really funny if it weren't so tragic, because it reveals our schizophrenia as a society: on one hand, we act as if we had a conception-deficit; simultaneously, we spend incredible engergy on combatting the conception-surplus, with human pest-control (contraceptives and abortion). The only real crisis is our frustration at not being our own gods.

3. No human being can ever be treated as a means to someone else's ends.

Pro-creating a human being that he or she may serve the advancement of another human being is always wrong. Always. A L W A Y S.

One final point.

You often hear the claim: we should keep morality/religion out of science.

Challenge that slogan every time it crops up, because it's really a lie, and here's why.

What is really at issue is not, free science vs. science-yoked-to-religion-or-morality, but rather, two competing moral/religious frameworks for scientific endeavor.

I very much doubt those who repeat this slogan really would defend Joseph Mengele, who performed experiments on the people imprisoned in the Nazi death camps. But the moment one says what he did was "wrong," that's a -- say it with me -- "MORAL JUDGMENT."

When people justify experimentation on embryonic human beings, pursuit of cloning, they argue for . . . wait for it . . . "all the good it will do for us." Well, if we extract out all moral reasoning from scientific enterprises, how do we assign any meaning to the word "good" in that last statement? In the end, one arrives not at a scientific idea, but a moral one: it's "good" to help people (be healthy, wealthy or wise) -- but why? Why, for example, shouldn't human beings be sacrificed for the flourishing of animals and plants? (Don't kid yourself -- some people believe they should be.)

So the truth is, WHOSE moral vision will govern? That's the issue.

And one reason to stand our ground, as Catholics, on preserving the natural order of procreation, and to refuse to use any human beings as instruments of others' well-being, is precisely because such moral principles are clear and timeless, and work for everyone. They are expansive: that is, they err on the side of including people in the embrace of dignity and rights, rather then err on the of exclusion, which is the problem of legal abortion, manipulation of embryonic human beings, etc.

They are non-discriminatory: regardless of race, economic status, disability, sex, religion, nationality, culture, language, sexual orientation, or what-have-you, you are protected: you have the same essential dignity as everyone else.

Yes, we Catholics derive these moral absolutes from God and his Church, but also from reason, and from Natural Law which is discovered by reason -- informed by faith, but not dependent on it. But we can -- and ought -- to appeal to others on the basis of their reason and their prudential value: i.e., even if you don't like the source of this principle, do you like the effect? It protects you, too.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

You a sucker for these quizzes too?

"Cultural Catholic"

You are related to longshoremen or teamsters. When
people make jokes about nuns and rulers, you
don't laugh; you get that "thousand yard
stare" instead.

See you at the next Knights of Columbus social.

Provided by Tischreden

Are You A Cultural Catholic?
brought to you by Quizilla

Go here to see all the results and I dare you to come back and say it's not funny.

'Called, anointed & sent' (Sunday homily)

Our first reading talks about
being called, anointed, and sent.

Later today, I’m going to meet with
our 8th graders preparing for
the sacrament of confirmation:

“Called, anointed, and sent”:
sounds like a good summary
of what confirmation is about.

But that applies to all of us as a parish.
We are all called, anointed, and sent.

Next week, as I hope you know,
we’re going to celebrate a very special event.
This is the 150th year of our parish.
Next Sunday we commemorate that anniversary.

And, as I hope you’ve heard by now,
part of that celebration will be
to consecrate a new altar.

Let me explain just what’s going to happen.

I know you can’t see into
this north sacristy,but there is a cut,
polished slab of marble here.

Next week at about this time, after this Mass,
we will take this piece of marble,
which is slightly larger
than the surface of this altar,
and set it on the top of this altar.
It will be a permanent addition.

Then, during the Mass at 3 PM that day,
the Archbishop will consecrate this
as a new altar—
because it has a new, stone surface.

Now, why stone?
Because the altar is a place of sacrifice:
altars in the Scriptures
were always made of stone;
so the Church, while allowing altars of wood,
such as this beautiful altar,
encourages the use of at least some stone.

So, I believed a new,
stone surface on this altar
would be a beautiful
and lasting addition to our church,
to mark 150 years behind us;
and a pledge to our future!

When the Archbishop consecrates
the new altar, he prays,
calling the Spirit down upon the altar,
and then he will pour chrism—
the same blessed,
fragrant oil used for baptisms,
confirmations and ordinations—
onto the altar, anointing it.

That’s when the lights will go on;
all the candles will be lit—
because then we have an altar:
that altar, where the Sacrifice of the Eucharist
is offered to heaven, and shared with us—
that is what makes this a Catholic church.

The anointing of the altar stands for
the anointing on each of us, and on our parish!

God has called and consecrated us:
sent us here, to Piqua—why? To do what?

Just what Paul told us in the second reading:
to share the hope we have in Jesus Christ;
sharing the Gospel not “in word alone,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit
and with much conviction.”

This 150th Anniversary of our parish
is not about looking backward, or inward;
but about looking up: to God;
looking out: to our community;
and looking forward: to our future!

In the short time I’ve been your pastor,
one question several have raised is this:
“Father, what’s our future as a parish?”

Let me say this:
I’m not going to decide that: you will!

I know we’ve had a lot of change
in recent years,
and we know there will be more changes,
as the parishes in this area—
St. Mary’s, St. Theresa, and St. Boniface—
work more closely together.
Right now, we have five priests between us,
but that won’t always be true.

This is a reminder of how urgent it is
that we all pray for, and encourage,
more men to become priests.
As we go forward,
you’re going to hear more from me about that.

But look at our beautiful church,
which I know you love so much.
It is 140 years old this year.
The parish is 150:
this church was dedicated on October 26, 1865,
Ten years after this parish was founded,
in 1855.

Now think what was happening in 1865:
the bloodiest war in American history,
the War Between the States,
was grinding to a close.

Down in Cincinnati,
they postponed the building
of the Suspension Bridge.

But the people of this parish
did not postpone
the building of this church!
Do you think they had hope and conviction
in the power of the Holy Spirit?

I think they did! I think the knew they were
Called, anointed and sent!

So what is our future?
I’ll say it again—you will decide that!
But I believe it is as solid and permanent
as the stone altar we’ll consecrate here,
next week!

Because you and I are
called, anointed, and sent!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

My stock is soaring!

When I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing, I "play the market" at Blogshares, where my blog and many others are listed on a blog stock exchange.

You can't believe how fast I've made money: I've turned an intitial $500 into over $270,000 -- in a week!

Oh--did I mention it's all play money? Sorry, I forgot to tell you that.

Anyway, its fun; and my own blog has soared, from a price of $.20/share to over $36 per share. Buying opportunities abound! Catch a rising star!

Oh, and if you buy stock in me, and link me, you make the stock more valuable (hint, hint)!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

When will Bob Taft & the GOP stop kissing the feet of Big Labor?

Here in the Dayton, Ohio, area, the big news is the bankruptcy of Delphi, a maker of auto parts: Delphi employs 5,700 people in the Dayton area, and the loss of those jobs is frightening.

But it is part of a long and dreary story: the slow decline of the economy of Ohio. And a major factor is the cowardice of the reigning GOP in facing the rampaging elephant in the room: Big Labor's outrageous coercive power.

Talk to people involved in recruiting industries to site in their states: they'll tell you that industry gravitates to Right to Work states. Why? Because a Right to Work law, which provides that workers can't be forced to pay union dues, facilitates a more cooperative work environment, instead of the class-warfare, hate-the-boss slash-and-burn tactics favored by the extremists who seem always to end up in control of union locals.

Meanwhile, the nation's 22 Right to Work states do better in every regard: they draw more industry, create more jobs, and their economies are growing faster. They weather inevitable downturns better; they are more diverse and more resilient.

By the way, Right to Work states do fine on wages, too -- contrary to what you may have heard. Adjusted for inflation and taxes, Right to Work states perform better on wages than forced-unionism states.

I hear the outrage: "you're bashing unions!"

No, I'm bashing coercion: and it's so revealing that those who go ballistic at any discussion of Right to Work conflate the terms "union" and "forced-union."

But I am bashing Governor Bob Taft and the Ohio GOP. The GOP has been running things for quite awhile -- both houses and the governor's mansion. Sixteen years of GOP governors and a GOP legislature almost as long. But when it comes to Big Labor, Taft and his crowd haven't got the courage God gave a mouse. As President Theodore Roosevelt said of a member of the Supreme Court: "I could carve a better backbone from a banana!"


Journalist Robert Lynd has the measure of us:

"By virtue we merely mean the avoidance of vices that do not attract us"

When I hear complaints that Father ____ never preaches on ______ (fill in your favorite sin), I think of Lynd's comment.

From Catholic Sensibility

The real climax of Mass: hint--it's not the homily!

At her Open Book, Amy Wellborn has been posting on the Synod on the Eucharist underway right now in Rome. She posted this comment from Archbishop Gregory:

"Archbishop Gregory makes an excellent point. Seems as if he's listening to the arguments back home.

Increasingly, the faithful expect better homilies from celebrants at the Sunday Eucharist. Bishops must lead by our own good example as well as our admonitions to improve the quality of Catholic preaching at the Sunday Eucharist. Ritual precision alone will not bring back those who do not attend Sunday Mass."

I want to comment on Archbishop Gregory's point, about the importance of preaching, in relation to precision of the celebration of the liturgy...

I may be wrong, but I am concerned by certain hints I pick up from many active Catholics whose comments suggest that the homily is the main thing for them, at Mass.

Is anyone else hearing such things?

The priest I know very well (wink) does try to offer good homilies, and can't help being gratified when people express appreciation. He tries to elicit specific comments, so as to know what's working, what's resonating, etc.

But the main event of the Mass is not the homily.

If we think of the two parts of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, each one has a climax:
the climax of the Liturgy of the Word is the proclamation of the Gospel...

The Gospel itself is the climax, hence we stand, we greet it with Alleluias (the sequences are extended alleluias), we have a procession, perhaps with incense, and there is an option to chant it; and only an ordained minister may proclaim the Gospel. And the Gospel is kissed--by the bishop, if he's present.

The homily, the Creed, and the prayers, are a response to the Gospel; and then we begin building to a new climax, this time to the Seed of Christ, the Word in our midst, doing something new and wonderful among us.

Some have compared the Gospel procession and proclamation to the event of the Incarnation, in contrast to the Liturgy of the Eucharist bringing us to the Passion, Death, Resurrection (and glorious return) of Christ.

Thus, the Eucharistic Prayer would be the second climax--different folks could disagree on the exact moment, but I'd say you have a series of climaxes, each rising higher: the entering into the Holy of Holies, with the Sanctus; the Epiclesis, calling down the Spirit, Christ's own words of insitution; the offering of this Sacrifice (following the "mystery of faith" acclamation), to which we join all our prayers, all summarized in the concluding prayer: "Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever. Amen!" If memory serves me right, St. Ambrose described this amen as "thunderous" -- as it should be.

The subsequent parts of the Mass are, again, our response: we "pray with confidence" the Our Father, we acknowledge Jesus our Peace present on the altar ("Lord Jesus Christ, you said..."), and--if we have been made worthy, we receive the Eucharist--and then Mass concludes very quickly, as we are sent.

We might see the Agnus Dei and the Fraction as the climax; but look at the Roman Canon: at one point, the priest bows, and prays, "Almighty God, may your angel take this Sacrifice to your altar in Heaven...then as we receive from the altar..." -- i.e., the Fraction and sharing the Eucharist are a "coming down" from heaven, and the power derives from the summit of the Offering of Jesus eternally for us.

As I say, others could see it differently; but all this is to say: a good homily, devoutly to be wished for, is subordinate to the real power of the Mass, which is the Sacrifice.

(I posted this comment first at Open Book, but thought you might like to read and comment on it here as well.)

Monday, October 10, 2005

My fame is spreading...

I note that I have regular visitors from "down under" -- from Australia and New Zealand (question: do y'all get along well with each other, or is it like a cross-town college rivalry?), and I have had several visits from France, and now from Sofia, Bulgaria!

Thanks for visiting!

Let us all praise Christopher Columbus!

Happy Columbus Day, especially to all brother Knights!

Beautiful words about Our Eucharistic Lord

From this morning's interventions at the Synod, an Australian bishop:

Consider the fact that the Author of the Universe took human nature to himself, was born of a Virgin, had (and still has) a human body and a human soul, lived, died and rose again on this tiny planet we call Earth. He did all of this for us and our salvation. And his presence remains with us substantially and really in the Eucharist. This Mystery staggers the mind; is beyond our full comprehension. But the human heart can know it and love it and accept it in true humility in the act of conversion.

We know that the Eucharist is the Father's pledge of fidelity to and love for the human race. Our faith is audacious and bold in its vision. It comes from God as a gift. We, who are its teachers, must mirror its staggering beauty in the way we speak of the Eucharist, in the way we celebrate the ritual of the Eucharist, and the way we live the Eucharist.

Thanks to Amy Wellborn for posting this.

I wanted to post it, primarily so that I can find it later, in case I choose to use this as part of a future homily.

I especially like the last part: "we...must mirror its staggering beauty in the way we speak of the Eucharist..." -- oh, how I cringe when anyone speaks of "the wine"! I recall having a "dry Mass" (not a Mass at all, just an instructional run-through) for RCIA participants, and I said, very strongly as I recall, "there's no wine served at Mass; no one ever tastes even a drop of wine..."

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Link me!

As I mentioned below, there is a blog "stock exchange," called "blogshares" (there's a button at the bottom of the page if you want to go there). It's a lot of fun "playing the market."

Turns out, if you link me, the value of my blog goes up.

Not that it's important (it's utterly UNimportant!), but it's fun! me (please)!

What is American Food?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a priest as a guest: Fr. Leo, a priest from Uganda, studying in Pittsburgh. He was in our parish as a "mission" speaker, inviting my parishioners to support the work of his home diocese.

After the Saturday evening Mass, I took him out to dinner, and I took him to one of the nicest restaurants around, an Italian restaurant in the next town to the south. As we sat outside, enjoying a very nice evening and a nice meal, he commented, "I'd like to try 'American food'--but I never get the chance. Always German, Italian, Chinese, Mexican..."

Hmmm, I thought; then I told him, well, I guess "Soul Food" would be true "American Food"; and I thought of ribs, and told him I'd have loved to take him somewhere for ribs, but alas, that would be a long drive. I also mentioned fried chicken, but I found myself still thinking about it now a couple of weeks later.

What is American food?

One thought occurs to me: we Americans are like the Romans of old; we absorb all sorts of things from other cultures, and give them our own flavor, and style, and often, make them better. I don't know if the ancient Romans were innovators in cuisine, but they were accomplished in the sorts of things at which we Americans excel: power, government, technology, and efficiency.

My other thought is that we haven't been around -- as a distinct culture -- all that long, so our cuisine hasn't had enough time to develop.

Of course, having said that, I realize we have many interesting regional cuisines; but is there a national, "American" cuisine?

Your comments...

The Meat'normous Sandwich: Over-the-topism

What is "Over-the-topism"?

That's my name for a curious, sometimes-discouraging, often-humorous aspect of American culture. It might be described with the phrase, "anything worth doing, is worth doing grotesquely."

You see it especially in restaurant food.

"Do you have Chocolate cake?" No, double-chocolate; no, double-chocolate with mocha ganache; no, deep-double-chocolate-decadence cake; no, deep-double-chocolate-decadence (note its no longer worthy of the pedestrian "cake") in a raspberry bath, with creme fraiche...and so it goes.

Now comes the latest monument to Over-the-topism: Burker King's "Meat'normous" (TM) Sandwich!

Here's what you get:

a huge sandwich with two omelettes, three slices of bacon, two slices of ham, and a sausage patty (what? no cheese? the bun better be buttered!); 770 calories and 47 grams of fat; the sandwich weighs 10.5 ounces.

All for $3.49.

According to the Detroit Free Press, it's available for a limited time only!

Hmmm . . . I need to get to Burger King!

Welcome Scandinavians!

I notice I'm getting readers from Sweden and most recently Norway. Welcome!

(Re) teaching myself Latin

It may surprise some to hear it, but Catholic priests ordained in recent years do not necessarily know a lot of Latin. We all get exposed to a fair amount, and some of us naturally have more aptitude and interest; but it is not taught in the fashion it used to be.

Some may put this down to yet another example of the decadence of the Church, or the horrors of Vatican II, or what-have-you, but it's not that simple.

People don't realize that in the "old days" for which some pine, Latin was taught, not at the graduate-level, but in high school and somewhat in college. (At least so is my understanding.) But high-school are pretty much no more, and college seminaries are rare. Most seminarians enter post-college -- that is, at a point when, in the "old days," they would have already had plenty of Latin.

Having said that, seminaries could do more, I think, to acquaint future priests with the universal language of the Church. So could Catholic high schools, who usually offer Latin, but do not always require it. (Of course, I can imagine the protests of some, and perhaps many, parents to such a requirement.)

Ironically, I was required to take Latin--in a government school! Walnut Hills High School, alma mater mei, still requires Latin--mirabile dictu!

Alas, when I was there, I lacked motivation, so the fruits I have to show for Latin studies are meagre. But my time in the seminary did see me revive my Latin (and learn new pronunciation: VEINy, VEEdee, VEEchee, not WAYnee, WEEdee, WEEkey), and I have continued to work on my Latin since then, currently learning to pray the Office(Liturgia Horarum) in Latin.

One added reason: it keeps my mind agile!

That "gays in the seminary" story again

As is being widely reported, the much-expected document from Rome on whether a man's sexual orientation will be a bar to admission to the seminary appears not to be what many hoped.

According to John Allen, who writes for the National Catholic Reporter (can any good thing come from the NCR? John Allen may be it), the document will not absolutely bar any and all same-sex-attracted men from the seminary. Rather, it will call for barring those who:

* have not demonstrated a capacity to live celibate lives for at least three years;
* are part of a "gay culture," for example, attending gay pride rallies (a point, the official said, which applies both to professors at seminaries as well as students);
* have a homosexual orientation sufficiently "strong, permanent and univocal" as to make an all-male environment a risk.

Of course, given that this is at best third-hand, given that I haven't seen the document, neither has John Allen, and for all we know, neither has the "senior Vatican official" who is his source. But since so many are getting so excited about this, I might as well pass along this information.

I am tempted to say what I think about this; but there may be yet more twists and turns, so let's just see what comes first. Roma non locuta est--yet!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Sunday Homily on Justification*

Did you notice what happened in the Gospel:
Someone gets thrown out of the party
because he wasn’t dressed properly.

Maybe you thought what I did:
“but he was pulled in at the last minute.
How could he be expected to dress properly?”

But notice he had no response.
That is the key.

Yes, he didn’t get advance warning,
but that’s the point:
when our summons to the Kingdom arrives,
we may not get advance warning!
So be ready!

What does that garment represent?
Clearly not ordinary clothing;
it’s not even the good appearance we make.
That’s the point of the “no warning”:
If we have warning,
we’ll make sure we look good.

We might say, “I’ll do good deeds,
I’ll go to church: God’ll be impressed.”

No he won’t!
The garment isn’t about putting on a good show;
it’s about who we are.

The choices we make form us
into the people we truly are.

Someone might say,
“Father, I have a problem with lying.”
I might ask,
“Someone who tells lies, over and over—
what do we call that person?”
“A liar.”

The choices we make form us into who we are.

Like each blow of a chisel
on a block of stone:
The statue isn’t a product
of a single strike,
but of many, over time.

So: who will we be found to be
at any given moment?
At any given moment, are you and I ready
to be ushered immediately into the Kingdom?
Now, if you were dozing up to this point,
wake up now and listen to this part!

Can we be “good enough”?
Can we make ourselves “worthy?”

If you only half-hear what I’m saying,
you might think this is about
what we do to get God on our side:
how we “prove ourselves”;
how we win God’s favor.

No…No! No!
Yes, we have to change.
Yes, that change is necessary
for us to be saved.

But the alternatives are not,
“I change, God loves me,” versus
“I don’t change, God hates me.”

No. Instead it’s like this:
God loves you and me to start with:
Either I respond to that love,
and He changes me;
Or I don’t respond to that love,
and I am lost.

Whoever is in hell, God loves them!
The problem is,
they don’t love him back.
And that is what makes his love
a torment to them!

So that wedding garment represents us made perfect.
“Made perfect”: that is, God does it;
“Made perfect”: meaning,
the holiness Jesus calls us to is total.

And if that sounds impossible—you’re right!

The sooner we accept that,
we realize it’s about living in relationship
with Jesus Christ,
living in his Holy Spirit day by day.

It’s not something
we can put off to another day;
It’s not something
someone else can do for us.
That’s what will shape us,
purify us, lead us deeper;
The Spirit in us is our courage
to embrace whatever hard choices
come with following Christ.

Is it tough? You bet—tougher than anything.
Because it means for every one of us,
Something will be nailed to the cross.
Our pride, our control,
our deepest desires;
Something—and ultimately, everything—
is turned over to him
that we may have eternal life.

I’m sure you’ve seen
the commercials for the military:
This young man climbs up a mountain,
its hard and dangerous. Why does he do it?
So that, at the summit,
he can be one of
“the few, the proud, the Marines.”

God bless the Marines, we need them.

I’d love to run an ad like that
for being a priest—being a nun—
being a mother or a father—
being a Christian!

The question is,
what will you and I let Christ do,
What will we sacrifice, that you and I
may be counted among “the few, the humble,
who died to themselves, the saved”?

* Anyone who wants to know in what way I'm discussing justification in this homily, please don't hesitate to leave a comment.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Invest in this Blog!

Here's something fun: someone has created a "blog stock market" called Blogshares. This link will take you to my page there, where you can -- if you wish -- buy and sell shares in this blog!

Don't worry, it's not real money: you create a free account, you get free "blog dollars" and you can invest in the blog of your choice.

Stock tip: The "analysts' report says, "This is a growing blog (BUY)"; and "This stock is underpriced (BUY)"

The Rosary: the weapon of our warfare (daily homily)

Boy, those readings are tough,
pretty grim, aren’t they?

The prophet Joel describes a battlefield;
In the Gospel, our Lord Jesus
describes a battle as well:
The battle that we face inside our hearts.

Sometimes we talk about how good it feels
to follow Christ.

But today’s readings remind us:
following Christ sometimes means
hard choices, making sacrifices,
and fighting battles.

Think of the men and women
fighting—right now—in Iraq.
They’ll tell you: that’s a situation
where your faith
becomes as real as real can get.

Someone is lying out there on the battlefield;
Will I go out—under fire—to save him?

No, you and I aren’t facing that.
But we still face a battlefield: in our hearts!

And those choices can be just as frightening.
They can be harder in one respect:
Because in the battlefield of our hearts,
We can be lulled into thinking
we don’t have to face it;
“There’s no battle;
there’s no sacrifice; don’t worry!”

We all face these battles;
The question is,
what kind of people will we be?

Every day a hundred choices are given us
Either to be people of courage,
and sacrifice, and virtue;
Or to be people who take the easy path,
who shrink back.

First we win the battles of our hearts
before we ever face the struggle of a real war.

Put it another way:
If we have embrace courage day-by-day,
In the little choices of life,
We’ll have it if and when
we face some titanic struggle.

Do we stay silent,
or speak the truth no one wants to hear?
Do we let someone be mistreated,
or stand up for what is right?
Do we take a stand for Christ,
or go along with the crowd?

Now maybe you’re thinking,
“Gee, I know how often I lose those battles!”

I understand: me too!
What I’m saying is,
those are the battles you and I,
and all of us, are given
so that we may become people of virtue and courage.
And the good news is,
there are powerful weapons available
to strengthen us in those battles.

And here’s one of them: the rosary!

Now that may not look like much of a weapon.

But I guarantee you, there are soldiers in Iraq,
clutching their rosaries as tight as their guns!
Because you can’t use a gun against the fear
that invades right here, in the heart!

Let me tell you a story about the rosary—
It could be ripped straight from the headlines.

A powerful army and navy gathers to invade a nation.
It is an army dedicated to Islam,
to conquer and kill Christians
in the name of Mohammed.

This happened on this day, in 1571,
about 450 years ago.
The Christians were badly outnumbered;
They had very little hope.

But what was at stake was freedom,
including the freedom to worship Christ;
because where Christians
had already been conquered,
the faith of Christ
was being squashed and stamped out.

The pope appealed
for Christian nations to act together,
Both militarily—on the battlefield—
But also to fight the battle of prayer.

And the pope asked every Christian
to pray the rosary
that the invaders would be turned back.

The battle shouldn’t have been won—but it was!
It was won through prayer.

And that’s why this is
the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

And the rosary is just as powerful in all our battles.

Guys, do you think the rosary isn’t for you?
That “real men” don’t pray the rosary?
No: “real men” know how much they need to pray;
And they don’t care what anyone thinks!
Because they know the battles they face
in their hearts and they refuse
to be conquered on that battlefield!

Girls, do you think you don’t have time for prayer?

As we grow into adulthood,
We recognize and accept
our responsibility to do our part.
And I know you agree, because you did that
a few weeks ago for the victims of the hurricane.

Will you accept your responsibility for prayer?
Not just when we adults bring you to Mass—
But on your own—on the battlefields of your heart?

None of us wants
to face these battles; but we do.
The question is:
do we want to be people of courage,
People who accept the cost
of being a soldier of Christ,
Rather than those who shrink back
and flee the battle?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Senate Has Bare Anti-Roe Majority; stronger majority for an anti-Roe nominee

After a discussion with some friends today about this, I remembered some comments I posted at Confirm Them last month, on just how the Senate breaks out on upholding v. overturning the execrable Roe v. Wade.

Here's what I posted:

You know, we actually have a record vote on this. In 2003, Sen. Harkin brought a non-binding, “Sense of the Senate” resolution to a vote on upholding Roe. It carried 52-46. The two that failed to vote, Biden and McConnell, presumably make it 53-47. In the next election, the GOP added four Senators, to a 55-45 majority. The net prolife pickup was three seats, making it 50-50.

Now, that may sound iffy: but let’s look at that record vote in 2003, and let’s look for who might be “swing” votes on this, in relation to a confirmation vote:

We find 8 pro-Roe Republicans: Murkowski & Stevens of Alaska; Collins & Snowe, Maine; Specter, Pa.; Chafee, R.I.; Hutchison, Tex.; Warner, Va.;

We find 2 anti-Roe Democrats: Pryor, Ark.; Ben Nelson, Neb.; plus:

Four pro-Roe “red-state” Democrats: Lincoln, Ark.; Bill Nelson, Fla.; Bayh, Ind.; Landrieu, La.

Those two anti-Roe Democrats are surely good targets for a confirmation fight: they not only voted against Roe, they are from red states. Take two from that 50 “pro-Roe” total, now 48;

Now: I happen to think those last four are legitimate targets — take 4 votes out of those 48 “pro-Roe” votes, now 44.

Of those eight pro-Roe Republicans, I doubt Specter, Hutchison or Chafee cross the President on this one. Specter would lose his chairmanship; Hutchison is from Texas, and Chafee faces a primary challenge from the right and wants the White House to help him. Take three more from the “pro-Roe” total — now 41.

Five more GOP Senators who could bolt. I grant you lose some: Warner voted against Bork, for example, and maybe Collins and Snowe; Stevens and Murkowski, harder to see them going against the White House; and any GOP Senator is vulnerable to White House pressure.

So where does that leave us? We know we have 50 votes, based on that record vote of 2003, plus 2004 pickups. Plus, I’ve just come up with three probable GOP votes, five more possible GOP votes, plus a few Democrats certainly in play.

No, it’s not a landslide. But my point was simply to show, with some hard facts, instead of unsupport rhetoric, that its invalid to assume an openly anti-Roe nominee can’t be confirmed. Sure he can: I just showed you the votes.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Michael Luttig has a blog too...

Apparently, Michael Luttig isn't happy being passed over a second time...

Is Harriet Mier's nomination about religion?

One of the things we're learning about the new nominee to the High Court is that she is an Evangelical Christian. (One claim I picked up somewhere is she might be a former Catholic.) "Protestant Pope" James Dobson was on FOX just now, touting Ms. Miers, noting specifically that she's an Evangelical Christian, "the first in decades" to the Supreme Court.

One of the arguments made -- unofficially -- for Chief Justice Roberts was that he was such a devout Catholic, attending a parish with such a reputation for being orthodox.

A similar argument has begun to be made -- unofficially -- for Ms. Miers. Is this why we're being told, "Don't worry, trust us"?

Harriet Miers' Blog

Very insightful...

Why conservatives should be angry about Harriet Meirs

Rush Limbaugh interviewed the Vice President today. The conversation yielded the following noteworthy comments:

RUSH: Is there a reason why conservatives' known quantities about whom the president's supporters wouldn't have questions, were not chosen -- Michael Luttig, Edith Jones and others? I mean, they've got records and the president wouldn't be facing questions he's getting today from his supporters. Any reason why those names were left off this time?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I wouldn't take this as negative on anybody. We looked at a very broad range of candidates and, frankly, I hope we have additional vacancies down the road that the president will be able to fill and some of those people you mention will be, I expect, on everybody's short list. But the president sat down and looked at all of the options and all the alternatives. He spent a great deal of time on this himself. He's convinced Harriet will do a great job on the court, as am I, and you'll find when we look back ten years from now that it will have been a great appointment.
(Highlighting added.)

Before getting to what's good or bad about Miss Meirs, let me respond to the Vice President's claim: PUHLEEZE!

Maybe Roberts and Meirs will be everything the Bush White House promises; and if so, we'll all learn to live with that. But don't tell me Edith Jones, and folks of her caliber, have any serious chance at a Supreme Court seat. It's like when Michael Corleone confronts his brother-in-law Carlo after the baptism, about fingering his brother Sonny: "but don't tell me you're innocent! It insults my intelligence, and makes me angry."

If the President wanted Edith Jones, or Janice Brown, or Luttig, or McConnell, etc., on the court, he'd have named that person by now. Yes, I suppose a freak accident could wipe out everyone else, leaving Bush with a choice between Edith Jones and, say, Johnnie Cochran; at which point Edith has a good shot. Or Jesse Helms' heretofore unknown 10 clones get elected to the Senate from different states next year. Or maybe Arlen Specter and Ted Kennedy return from an Ignatian Retreat they took together, newly converted to the prolife cause; so, yeah, it could happen...

Then there's the Vice President's closing comment:

"You'll be proud of Harriet's record, Rush. Trust me."

Yeah--like we haven't heard that before.

So, to return to the theme of my headline: why should conservatives be angry?

Because it is simply unacceptable that sound, originalist jurisprudence should be treated as the crazy aunt to be hidden away in the attic when company comes; it is simply unacceptable for conservative jurisprudence to be told to pretend to fit in, as if we have something to be ashamed of.

It is the same condescending -- and deeply offensive -- approach once taken toward Jews and African-Americans: try to "pass" -- if you can.

RUSH: Is there a desire in the White House because of current poll numbers or this Katrina response that just doesn't want the fight with the Senate Democrats at this time?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we've never backed off from a fight with this Congress or any other Congress.

Right -- especially when its about expanding the power or reach of government. Remember what the Bush White House fought hardest for in Congress, twisting arms the hardest? The creation of a brand-new, mega-gazillion prescription-drug entitlement.

"Well, we've never backed off from a fight with this Congress or any other Congress."

Very true, Mr. Vice President -- not when it was something you actually cared about.

Harriet Who?

It took me awhile to post on the President's nominee to the Supreme Court, because I had to think about how to spell BLEAGHHHHHHHH . . .

Apparently, the lesson the White House learned from the Robert's nomination was that he wasn't stealthy enough...

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ola, Hola, Ciao, Hello

I'm fascinated and flattered to learn that I have regular readers checking in from Portugal, Brazil, Italy, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, in addition to many repeat visitors from many places in North America. I know people have visited from many other places, including Israel, Poland, France and elsewhere. Did I miss anyone? Let me know! And to all: thanks for visiting and god bless you.