40 Years Ago

The Smoke Rising

It is hard to believe that it has been 40 years since Pope Paul VI offered a homily on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in which he identified many dangers that the people of God were facing. For many people, the homily has been reduced to one line regarding the smoke of Satan entering the temple of God through some crack. However, his words were much deeper and richer than that. In the homily, he has a long section on the place and role of priesthood, both the common and ministerial, and he sees a tremendous loss in the spiritual practices of the whole people of God.

For the most part, the homily is better summarized in the line in which he stated, "We have lost the religious habit and so many other external manifestations of religious life." This loss of daily religious practice has left the people of God in "doubt, uncertainly, problems, restlessness, dissatisfaction, confrontation. People no longer trust the Church; they trust the secular profane prophet that speaks to us from some newspaper or from some social movement, running after him and asking him if he has the formula of real life. And we do not realize that we are already owners and masters of it. Doubt has entered our consciences, and it has come in through windows that ought to be open to the light." What concerned him is that it is this way of life had entered the Church.

The concern for many today should be the line of progression that the late pontiff identified. Indeed, there are many Catholics today that see the Church as a social institution. There are many who see Her teachings as burdensome and stifling. Yet they do not want to leave the pews because they know there is something unique about the Church, they just know not what. So they spend large amounts of time with the television gurus and form a worldview built upon news programs. The furthest thing from their mind is a life lived in communication with God. For this reason, we need steadfast shepherds more than ever -- we need a rebirth of religious life in which those who consecrate themselves to Christ see all things in His Light.

Consistently Inconsistent

The Media is at least Predictable

Imagine if a group of American diplomats were to openly deny the principles of democracy in the country where they serve. Imagine if those representatives of the United States were to openly support an oppressive military regime and state they believe in the Constitution of the United States but have to do what is best for the people where they find themselves. Imagine them undermining the United States efforts in combatting such unjust situations in the world. And imagine the outcry that would come from the media who would demand their immediate removal and would unilaterally avoid giving them a place to spread their message by denying them unchallenged interviews.

Yet the CBS Nightly News did just that to the Catholic Church in a report on "the Nuns on the Bus." The liberal media always loves a good persecution story and they see these dissenting women as an opportunity to undermine Church Teaching. Instead of reporting on the real issue, they prefer to present it as the big bad Vatican bullying innocent women who are merely trying to help people. The entire interview did not address the concerns presented by the Vatican and did not press the nuns on their dissent from Church Teaching. No one is saying that caring for the poor is a problem. In fact, it is good that the sisters are doing so.

The problem that the Vatican inquiry identified has to do with dissent and the fact they advocate for contraception and abortion as solutions to poverty or at least accept them as a necessary evil. As consecrated representatives of the Catholic Church, their message betrays the Church and their vows. The reporter did not even attempt to point out their obvious hypocrisy or they fact that they are rebelling against their legitimate authority. Although the media want to make this a women's issue and pit them against the male hierarchy, the fact of the matter is that the action taken by the Vatican has nothing to do with their being women. It has to with upholding Catholic doctrine as leaders in the Church. It has everything to do with living out the Catholic identity their consecration demands.

And for the record, lest anyone forget, similar inquiries have been done on seminaries and male religious orders. Such inquiries are not about "attacking" or "silencing" but about calling Catholic Institutions and Her representatives to embrace the fullness of Catholic identity. These examinations of Catholic groups are part of the work to reverse the catechetical failure and raise the level of catechetical literacy. If someone is going to represent the Catholic Church, he or she must publically uphold the Teachings of the Church. No one forced the nuns to take vows and no one forced them to be part of the Church. No one forced seminary professors to teach in the seminary and form future generations of priests. But if they wish to be public representatives of the Church, then they are asked to represent the Church as She is, not as what they want it to be. In many ways, it is that simple.


Leaving for a Marian Pilgrimage

Later today I will be leaving for a Marian Pilgrimage. I will certainly try to add updates as time allows but the limitations of access to the Internet may make it difficult.

Site Update

New Link

In an effort to organize the site, I have added a separate page for the Homilies and Audio uploads. From now on they will be on their own feed located here. This section will remain strictly for blog entries and general commentary.

News from Rome

New Bishops for our Diocese

The Vatican has announced that the Diocese of Rockville Centre will receive two new auxiliary bishops, Msgr. Robert Brennan and Msgr. Nelson Perez. They will be ordained on July 25, 2012. Please keep them and the diocese in your prayers.

Site Update

The Question of Sin

For the Season of Lent I published a series on the Question of Sin. Since that time I have been assembling it into a single document and preparing it for upload. I have finally had a chance to finish the process and post it to this site. Please note that the posted version is quite different from what was published in the bulletin, including an addition of the Introduction and Conclusion sections. To read the whole revised version, click here.

Dissent from the Pews

Like Sheep without a Shepherd

It is always interesting, and frustrating, when a Catholic layperson is given a broad audience to speak about matters of Church Teaching while having no clue about the topic upon which he or she is commenting. Bob Keeler is one of those self-styled relativist Catholics who does more harm than good. In yesterday's Newsday, Mr. Keeler wrote an editorial that comes across as if he is an authority in the Catholic Church and has the solution of how to fix the dwindling numbers of Catholics in the pews. Furthermore, he is not only an authority but uses his bully pulpit to demonize those who actually hold a teaching office in the Church as incompetent and inept.

In reading the article, it is quite clear that Mr. Keeler, while a talented writer and faithful relativist, is catechetically illiterate with regard to Catholic Teaching. Throughout the editorial, which we must remember is a personal opinion that is vetted differently for publication than a normal article, he does not address Catholic Theology once. Instead, he offers an emotive argument that he sees as the be all and end all of the exodus of lapsed Catholics. In his article, he notes there are "small settings apart from Mass" where women have a voice. Does he forget the large numbers of religious and lay women who teach in our schools? Does he not think the 40 hours per week that women spend with the majority of young Catholics in classrooms would not wield more influence than the 10 minutes a homilist gets each Sunday?

As his fellow secularists in the liberal media are wont to do, he builds an ad hominem attack rather than one which demonstrates clear understanding of the issue. In this regard, it does not help to characterize the hierarchy of the Church as "not caring about what women think" or to state that the words in canon law are "wrongheaded," as if canon law were written by the whim of a few with the goal of oppressing women. Believe it or not, the ten words he finds "wrongheaded" represent a much deeper theological tradition with regard to the Sacrament of Holy Orders and Liturgy. Canon law is not a book of theology, and thus does not go into the theology that underlies the law, but represents a code built upon theology and Tradition. To erase ten words from canon law would mean that thousands of volumes of theology would also have to be erased. The one who is wrongheaded is the individual who writes an article as if he knows better than the wisdom of the ages or those tasked by Christ Himself with the preservation of the Truth.

And so Mr. Keeler, I thank you for only making the problem worse and inciting anger where none is needed. While you may be able to fill some columns in a newspaper with your latent anger toward the Church, what you have ultimately done is misguide souls with regard to the Truth (based on the comments that are being added to your online article). Despite your attack upon my fellow priests and me who apparently bore you, know that we pray for your conversion to the One True Faith and ask God to have mercy on your soul.

What are Words For?

Communicating Truth

In a recent column, George Weigel revisited the question of translations of the Bible and Liturgy. Especially since the new translation of the Roman Missal was announced, many have been questioning the method of translating. Mr. Weigel's article was republished in our local Catholic Newspaper and since has set off a conversation from a guest columnist, bishop Emil Wcela who is a Scripture professor, and letters to the editor.

The guest columnist's article questioned Mr. Weigel on several points and built a progressivist argument with regard to language. This argument reveals the problem we have today in that the idea of progress means everything keeps changing and we must change with it, including language. Yet in language, what is revealed is what something is. While what we come to know about what something is may grow, what something is remains the same in itself. Yes, language may have adapted over time but what it reveals has not changed or adapted.

In addition to this progressivist argument, there was a letter written by one of the diocesan priests who rejects using certain translations depending on the audience before him. This argument is based on speaking the language of the common man, which also is where the changing element of language finds root. This argument is captured today in expressions such as, "give it to me in layman's terms." In other words, dumb down what you are saying to help me understand. But we must always remember that doing so has not changed the reality of what one is trying to communicate and the original words remain the norm. The problem in this approach is that the dumbed down version does not accurately capture what was being communicated and should not be the norm for expressing a reality. In this approach, the translation should not be changed but should always have an explanation to assist the listener.

In the middle of the discussion has been the word "consubstantial," which was restored in the new Missal. This word is indicative of what the heart of the problem actually is -- Catechetical Illiteracy. The problem is not the word chosen by the comminicator but the lack of understanding by the listener. What something is, it always is and when a word is chosen to reveal it, that word should be used. The responsibility falls to the communicator to assist the one listening to understand the meaning of the word, possibly depending on layman's terms, but should in no way allow the precision to be replaced by inaccurate language. Precision is important and, rather than lower the precision to the level of the listener, we all have a responsibility to raise listener to the level of the precision being communicated. Such is what the education process ought to be instead of what it has become.

The discussion that has ensued identifies exactly why Catholics are effectively illiterate today -- we have inundated them with language for "the common man" and not with the language of God. We tend to communicate in description and euphemism and not with precision. We no longer expect the faithful to work at understanding and, it seems, the more we dumb down our Teaching, the more the Teaching sounds dumb. A correct understanding of the Bible requires education, not simplification. A correct praying of the Liturgy requires precision, not description.

Now that it has been more than half a year with the new translation of the Roman Missal, the Beauty of linguistic precision is shining through. It is not a simple or common language. It is a precise and lofty language. Ironically, the criticism of the word consubstantial given by Bishop Wcela in his guest column is the most telling. He rhetorically asked, is it that people "understand it or that they can say it?" While we all love to demonize precision in language, everyone said "one in being with the Father" for decades and they still did not understand it -- because of the catechetical failure. And pointing this out does not even address the theological inaccuracy in the former translation. Consubstantial is specific and is the word used for centuries. Thus, the problem is not translation but education.

Of all the questions I have received since the new translation was implemented, the most common one has been, "what does the word consubstantial mean?" And from there the catechesis begins…

So is the real problem a fear of catechizing and precision or translation methodology?