Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Archbishop Dolan, Say It Isn't So

In a radical departure from the normative practice of postconciliar bishops, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York gave a homily Sunday that many Catholics found both unkind and intolerant.  Speaking about the sexual immorality he finds so pervasive in the modern culture, Dolan said, "The one who with God's grace and mercy, tries his or her best to be pure and chaste is often thought of not as a hero, not a saint, but as a freak in our culture today."  

Archbishop Dolan hinted at the influence of popular TV shows like Jersey Shore, saying that society often reduces sex to "animal rutting" or it's "most popular contact sport."   He also lamented, "Anyone who tries his or her best to live (chastely) can expect a lot of temptation and even ridicule and criticism."

"That's ridiculous!" says "Bruce" a Catholic member of the production team for the TV show Glee.  "There are a lot of people in the show business community who live very moral lives.  Take Sarah McLachlan--who by the way is a fabulous singer--she has run herself ragged defending choice and raising awareness of animal rights.  What could be more moral than that?"

But don't closeted Catholics like Bruce find it hard to practice chastity in the hypersexualized atmosphere of Hollywood?  "Not at all.  What 'closet' are you talking about anyway?  I've been in a committed relationship with the same guy for the last two and a half years and the pastor of our church makes us feel very welcome when we attend Mass at Christmas and Easter.  Last year, he let us bring up the gifts at the offertory."

Some find the Archbishop's use of words like "pure" and "chaste" troubling at best.  Father Sammy, a chancery official in a Southern California diocese he prefers not to go on record with, says that such terminology is dangerous.  "Dolan is employing an outdated lexicon that would be laughable if it were not so hateful.  How can he honestly expect people in the modern world to adhere to such rigid, pietistic ideals?  This really shows a failure on his part to understand and teach the modern understanding of chastity as a liberating affirmation of our sexuality, be it Straight, Gay, Lesbian or Transgendered.  It's not about repressing urges any more.  It's about recognizing our innermost reflection of God and sharing that identity with the entirety of our bodies.

"Besides, if he (Archbishop Dolan) thinks that those priests in the archdiocese of New York are going to start playing morality police for him, he's got another thing coming.  All I'd have to do is make a couple of phone calls and he'd have hundreds of queens in Roman collars picketing St. Patricks next Sunday."

But it's not just New York and Hollywood Catholics that find Dolan's remarks irrelevant.  Josh Turbine, a student at a midwestern  college, says that hooking-up is part of the Catholic experience.  "I've met a lot of great Catholic girls at the Newman Center.  We'll spend the weekend together, then finish up by going to Mass.  The priests there know what's up and they don't mind.  They've taught us that our God is a God of LOVE and sharing that love is what it's all about."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Vatican II Apologetics 101

The Vatican would like Catholics to re-discover the lost art of explaining and defending the faith, namely “apologetics”.  According to a recent story from the Catholic News Service, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has asked for a more widespread effort to make apologetics materials, such as pamphlets and leaflets more available to Catholics.

But don’t go looking for titles by Karl Keating and Patrick Madrid in the racks of your church’s vestibule anytime soon.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is already working to make apologetics kinder and gentler.  A new committee has been formed and assigned the task of preparing parishes and dioceses to undertake the task of explaining and defending Catholic doctrine.  The USCCB’s Department of Ecumenical Fellowship and Lasting Theological Equality (D.E.F.L.A.T.E.) has the tough task of preparing Dioceses to get the people in the pews ready to share their beliefs.

Cyril Flipsby, O.P., a key member of DEFLATE thinks that the key to apologetics is getting Catholics to understand other religions better.  “There’s definitely a hunger out there for a greater understanding of why the New Springtime of the Church is taking so long to kick in after Vatican II.  We believe a renewed Ecumenical effort is the key.  As communities of faith, we are called to reach the world, so we want to encourage Catholics to reach out by attending services with other communities of believers, including Protestants, Jews, Hindus and, especially Muslims, since we have made them such scapegoats in recent years.”

But how does that help explain or defend the faith?  Sister Teresa Wobble, Director of Religious Education for 7 merged parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, thinks it’s important that apologetics reflect the modern realities of Catholic faith.  “This isn’t about what we believe any more.  The whole pre-conciliar idea of overcoming objections is futile.   We like to take more of a Dale Carnegie approach by agreeing with the objections because that's what keeps the conversation going.   And many of these people have a point.   There IS great injustice in a Church that still only admits men to its ministerial priesthood, denies women the right to choose, won’t recognize same-sex marriage and keeps electing conservative chauvinists as its pope.

“We’re not interested in rules, doctrines or dogmas.  Just ask any of the kids in our excellent programs.  We abolished using any kind of catechism years ago.  It’s not important that they understand stuffy concepts like ‘transubstantiation’ or the Immaculate Conception.  Our focus is on what unites all people, not on rigid concepts like sin or salvation.  We will defend the Church by proclaiming justice and peace and uniting ourselves with our sisters and brothers of ALL faiths.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Visitation Will Result in Organic Solution

Mother Mary Clare Millea, Vatican-appointed Apostolic Visitator in charge of he Vatican’s three-year study has filed her report with the Vatican and released a summary statement to the media:

“Although there are concerns in religious life that warrant support and attention, the enduring reality is one of fidelity, joy and hope…As I learned and observed firsthand the perseverance of the religious in the United States in their vocations, in their ministries and in their faith… I have been both inspired and humbled,” she said after submitting her report to the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

But if everything is going so well with women’s religious orders, what was the point of the visitation?  No one at the Congregation for Consecrated Life would go on the record about the visitation and what motivated it.  However, a phone message was left by an anonymous priest using the name “Fr. Vincenzo”, who works in the Congregation:

“We must respond to the complaints from America.  America good country, generous people, nice hotels and restaurants.  Clean bathrooms.  American Catholics don’t like it seeing so many, how you say—rough women--taking over convents and teaching witchcraft to children.  Sister Millea, nice lady, had to make statement, so we write her a statement.  But she can no say the truth.  And the truth is we not gonna do nothing.  We discover that orders of rough ladies all old ladies too.  They die soon.   New young nuns take over, problem solved.”  

His message was interrupted by two men shouting in Italian, followed by Fr. Vincenzo hanging up. 

Readers may recall that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a paramilitary agitprop organization devoted to the secularization of Catholic education and the election of pro-choice politicians, opposed the visitation from the beginning.  Sister Gladys Renfrew, spokesman for the conference said that she’s glad it’s over.  “The inquisition has poked around here for three years now and they got nothin’!  NOTHIN’!   Now this ‘Mother Mary Clare’ can pack up her habit and go back to making rosaries.” 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Real Fake Catholics

There is a dispute over the canonical jurisdiction in the ongoing controversy of Real Catholic TV and the Archdiocese of Detroit.  Even though Michael Voris lives in the Archdiocese, RCTV’s owner, Marc Brammer, lives in the Diocese of Fort Wayne, -South Bend, which apparently has no problem with RCTV.

Detroit’s Archdiocesan Communications Director, Ned MccGrath, says the archdiocese simply wants RCTV to drop “Catholic” from its name, although he cannot think of any other case in the history of the archdiocese where such a demand has been made of any other organization.

However, a high level source from the Detroit chancery has admitted that there were several concerns which led to the archdiocesan crackdown:  “The biggest concern is that we preserve the unity of the Church.  We are a Church for ALL Catholics, not just those who accept the Magisterium of the Church.   What would it look like to the dissenting theologians who teach in our Catholic universities and seminaries if we allow RCTV to call themselves ‘Catholic’?  How can we expect the ongoing renewal of our liturgy to continue when Michael Voris denounces the beauty of the diversity in liturgical expression that exists in our various parishes?  What would the women in the local churches think if we operated according to the preconciliar paradigm that Voris espouses?  There are a lot of very good Catholics who support a woman's right to choose.  If we allowVoris to blast them with his oppressive rhetoric, how much longer will they continue to support us?”

Fr. Eddie, an associate pastor from one inner-city parish thinks the problem could be solved if Voris would just leave Detroit.  “We never asked for some young smart-aleck with all that hair to start telling us how to do our job.  We’ve worked long and hard to renew and realign our parishes to reflect the New Church and we can’t let some know-it-all come in here and tell us we are wrong.”

“Molly” an anonymous employee at Real Catholic TV, says that the group is considering a name change, but they cannot agree on a new name.  “We’ve been tossing around ideas, but none seem to fit the bill.  I proposed ‘Follow the Pope TV’ and one of my assistants suggested ‘Reality TV for Dying Parishes’.  We are also considering ‘Whatever Happened to Objective Truth TV’, ‘Appoint Orthodox Bishops TV’ and “Anti-Heretic TV’.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The New Blessing of Catholic School Closings

The continuing trend of Catholic School closings is getting media attention in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where it was recently announced that Conwell-Egan Catholic High School will be closing its doors this June as well as 44 parish school in the suburban areas of the archdiocese.

One concerned group of parents is trying to do something about the freefall in Catholic education.  Formed in 2010, the Office of Undoing The Catholic Academies and Schools Tanking (O.U.T.C.A.S.T.), has sent investigative teams to find the reasons for the decline of Catholic education in Pennsylvania.

One of those investigators, Bart Symczyk, believes that the problem can be traced to three major factors:  The decline of women’s religious orders, depletion of funding pay sex abuse settlements and a huge jump in tuition fees.  “The nuns just aren’t there anymore.  At the schools that do have nuns, it’s usually just one or two and you can’t even tell they’re nuns.  You can’t hire laypeople to do a job at low wages as a substitute for a vocation to teach.  Dioceses just aren’t funding the schools as well either, since all the extra money is paying attorney’s fees and settlements for the bad priests we’ve had for the last decade or two.  Finally, most parents just can’t sacrifice more than 10 percent of their income to pay tuition.  It’s a triple whammy.”

Sister Bertha Rhys O.B.W., former vice-principal of the now-defunct St. Cedric’s elementary school in North Philadelphia, couldn’t disagree more.  We had a dynamic pool of entry-level teachers rotating in every year who were only too happy to add “Catholic Educator” to their resumes before moving up.  The problem is that sexist dinosaurs like Mr. Symczyk cannot accept the updating and renewals we have been blessed to introduce since Vatican II.

“For instance, we took all the Baltimore Catechisms and collected them as part of the paper drive at our very first Earth Day celebration back in 1971.  Since then, we’ve managed to collect Catholic readers, Douay-Rheims Bibles and various books from TAN publishers to keep all their outdated stuff out of circulation.  We also introduced Gay Pride Awareness Week, and Ecumenical Outreach Club where we met twice a month with Muslim schoolchildren and a sex education program that was second to none in the country.  Our children’s liturgies were also on the cutting edge, introducing liturgical dance and student-composed liturgies far in advance of most other dioceses.”

One longtime pastor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Catholic parents should not be so negative, but look instead for the hidden blessings of Catholic School closings:  “This greatly relieves the financial burden of parents who were scraping by now that they can just release their kids into the public school system.  The stigma of being a Catholic student is, happily, disappearing and students are finding acceptance with mainstream society as they become more like the mainstream themselves.

"Now that money can be spent on better vacations.  In fact, since I no longer have to concern myself with a parish school, I’ve taken several vacations and am looking forward to next month when three other priests and myself will be making a pilgrimage to Bangkok.  We’re all members of the diocesan theological commission, so we’ll get a chance to relax, compare notes and enhance the seminary experience for the next generation of priests.”

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Statute of No Limitations

Because of a spate of new sexual abuse lawsuits, California's Supreme Court is considering yet another lifting of the statute of limitations for legal actions taken against Catholic Dioceses, so that victims and attorneys that missed out on the last cash-giveaway can have a second chance.  

Speaking on Condition of anonymity, a high-level operative at the California Catholic Conference said that the state's bishops conference is already considering new strategies should the court open the door for a new round of lawsuits.  "We have had several new bishops appointed in the last few months, changing the character of the state's episcopal landscape.  Our legal team is working with the new prelates to insure a smooth transition and more consistent bankruptcy filings from diocese to diocese.  We are also close to finalizing a plan to lease the California Missions to a concession service that will provide interactive historical entertainment, refreshments, souvenirs, rides and site-rental for private events.  So even if we are forced to pay more settlements, our revenue outlook is positive."

Wayne Velour of the California Teachers' Association is hopeful that the court will overturn the statute in the interests of justice.  "These self-righteous Catholics have not created a safe, welcoming environment in their places of worship for GLBT children and they have done irreparable harm to the communities by continuing to perpetuate their religious myths and halt social progress.  It's time to make them pay, and this is a good place to start."

Most Catholics do not want the embarrassment of more lawsuits and one parish is doing something about it.  Sister Butch McClenny is the pastor of Our Lady of Continuing Renewal in San Bernardino.  Since taking over the parish in 1997, she has been a pioneer in updating pastoral ministry and has the only parish in the United States that forbids priests on its grounds except for Sunday Mass.  "When the guest priest arrives each Sunday for Mass, he is met by six of our altar girls and a Eucharistic Minister to chaperone them.  They escort him the entire time he is here, never letting him out of their sight.  After Mass, he is escorted back to his car.  So far, we've had no allegations made against any priests in this parish.  It's really win-win for the priest, our parish and the diocese."

The Diocese of Riverside-San Bernardino did not return requests for comment.