Easy to Identify

But Difficult to Resolve

It has been a couple of months since my last post and the question still remains open -- Who will teach them?It is easy to identify the problems we are facing in the Church today, especially with regard to the catechetical illiteracy, but it is getting very difficult to find an avenue to resolve them. The reason, it seems, is that we are dealing with catechetically illiterate Catholics in large numbers and the illiteracy is now being handed on to successive generations, which means it is spreading. This fact should not produce fear but stimulate action on the part of those who love the Church for who She is.

It is a daunting situation when we consider the options needed to reverse this trend. How does one catechize two and a half to three generations of illiterate Catholics. Normally the answer is that it is not "one" who does so but many united in Christ. Yes, we need to have many literate Catholics working together to resolve the problem. But where are those Catholics and are they sufficient in number? The only thing that makes this challenge seem less intimidating is that the foundations of the Church were laid upon a small number, upon the Apostles. Finding the small number who are well-versed in Catholic Teaching and convinced of the Truth is essential at this point in history. Particularly in this light we must recall that unless the Lord builds, our efforts will be in vain, which is why the number involved is less important and the Grace of God more important.

From this small number, we need to reinvigorate a love for the Truth, a love that must begin with a reform of the clergy and religious. Only then can we begin a reform of our catechetical programs and begin to see the trend reverse. Among the essential elements in this reform will be time and patience. We did not get to this state overnight and it will not resolve overnight. We must pray that the seminary programs have weeded out the illicit teachings and are installing teachers whose love for the Truth is secure. We must pray for a reform of religious orders and hope they return to fundamental charisms. Fortunately we know that Christ will never abandon His Bride and the gates of hell will not prevail. For our part, we must regularly commit ourselves to conforming to the Truth as revealed by God. For any true reform to succeed, we must begin in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, where we will be immersed in the Truth that feeds us.

Who Will Teach Them?

The Time Has Come to Start an Aggressive Catholic Education Campaign

There are many examples today of Catholics who openly depart from the Church with regard to Her Teaching and the principles upon which this Teaching is built. The one that has garnered the most attention of late has been the issue of gay marriage. There have been a number of recent polls in which a significant percentage of Catholics admit they support gay marriage. As is the case with other surveys, there are differences between Catholics who attend church weekly and those who do not.

For the most part, the results given can be highly deceiving because it does not measure depth of knowledge, just personal opinion. When surveying an opinion, we must recognize that it is often tainted by the verbal engineering of the secular world. Of course, there have been similar polls conducted on abortion, euthanasia, contraception, and the like, all of which report similar results, particularly that there are those sitting in the pews each week who dissent from Church Teaching. What these polls do not show is the level of Catholic knowledge among the respondents on either side of the debate.

From such surveys, can one assume that those who attend Mass weekly have a better basis for making an informed decision? I would answer cautiously with a qualified yes. The caveat is that 36% of weekly Mass attendees disagree with the Church's Teaching on gay marriage and 30% say abortion should be remain legal. These percentages are not insignificant and seem to indicate that many regular churchgoers do not know the depth of the Teaching. This high percentage could be due to poor preaching in some parishes and certainly a result of the catechetical failure of recent decades. Fortunately, many who attend Mass weekly are favorable to the Church's position, which indicates that there is some level of understanding but what that level is remains unknown.

It would be interesting to question those surveyed with regard to the Church's Teaching to determine if they know the basis for the Teaching. Because we live in an era of catechetical illiteracy, it may well be they do not have sufficient knowledge. In all cases, I would venture to believe that few in either camp can clearly explain the basis. In short, how many realize that the gay marriage Teaching is not about homosexuality but about the nature of Marriage? How many realize the ontological structure of Marriage that requires masculinity and femininity, male and female, for this reality to come into existence? How many appreciate the good of procreation that is intrinsic to Marriage? Or with regard to abortion, how many realize that we are talking about the existence of a human being that will be murdered? How many understand that there are no situations that justify killing an innocent human being? How many realize that supporting abortion laws is a form of cooperation in the evil committed agains innocent human life?

In times past, everyone was taught how to formulate a proper argument by establishing an informed basis for the argument. It typically involved every person researching the positions generated by both sides and even being able to argue both sides. Today, in the whim-of-the-moment culture, many people make decisions on important issues on the basis of personal feelings, which is often tainted to favor a position without understanding the foundation of the position. Indeed, there are many emotional arguments made in favor of a particular issue but it is necessary for clearer heads to prevail in the long run. Generally speaking, the clarity is rarely expressed and the arguments dwindle into ad hominem attacks.

In of the hot button issues we face today, we see the effect of the dictatorship of relativism. When soon to be Pope Benedict XVI coined this phrase, most of the world had already been living under this dictatorship for quite some time. It is in this light that the world can no longer identify the depth of so many issues and would prefer facile discussions to in depth arguments. The dictatorship exercised by the secularists has taken its toll. It is good to recall Cardinal Ratzinger's words:

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

If we are to move forward today, all those who teach the Catholic Faith must first accept the devastation that has been brought about through by trend. Every religious, bishop, priest, deacon, catechist, and teacher should make this trend part of his or her daily renunciation and seek to take hold of the pearl of great price. As part of this process, we need all Catholic educators to develop a strong relationship with Christ so as to come to an adult faith. Having a large number of Catholics who have achieved an adult faith is essential for the present and future of the Church. We are not an institution built on whims-of-the-day but one founded by and on Christ, Who is THE Teacher, Who is THE measure of all existence.

Sadly, to achieve this goal may mean a contraction for a time. At some point, standing up for what we believe will have to take precedence over the numbers, which means we have to challenge those sitting in the pews to get off the fence. To be Catholic means that one believes all that the Catholic Church Teaches, which implies that one knows what She Teaches. To move forward at this point will require more priests to take up such themes in their regular preaching. Yes, many of the themes are quite controversial. But just because they are controversial does not lessen the need to catechize those before us and to proclaim the Truth. The key in preaching the Truth is to avoid opinion and love the doctrine, love the Church. To Love the Church is to Love Christ!

Salus Animarum

Are We Not about Salvation?

Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. It is also the Second Sunday of Easter where every year we read the resurrection story and St. Thomas' encounter with the resurrected Christ. An essential passage in today's Gospel needs to be highlighted:

Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."

It is with this passage in mind that I remind myself we are currently living in a culture that no longer values Christianity and certainly has little respect for religious freedom. Even worse is we live in a culture in which Sin has no place in any conversation. From Her earliest days, this passage serves as the mandate given to bishops, and by extension, to priests. Bringing God's Mercy to His people is at the heart of the ministerial priesthood, which means also that there must be a recognition of Sin. Two examples have risen in which a priest abided by Church Teaching, was trying to help by giving Catholic advice, and has subsequently been chastised publicly for it.

The first story is a campus minister in Washington DC who apparently advised gay persons who approached him to do their best to live celibately. Without having any further details, it appears the priest was following Church Teaching in the advice he gave and, for doing so, is being persecuted. Ironically, I am sure that this priest has given similar advice to the heterosexuals who approach him and express a desire to engage in unchaste activities. The difference is the latter does not make headlines in the secular news media.

The other is in New York where the pastor of a local parish had to ask an openly gay person to step down from various public ministries, which included being a catechist, after the individual "married" his partner. I would find it hard to believe that this individual did not know the Church's position in this regard and so far the local media has played it as a case of personal persecution. I must admit, this particular case is more difficult to deal with because it opens pandora's box on many other questions, such as the status of those divorced and remarried outside the Church or those in civil unions all of whom are involved in similar ministries in their parishes. As noted below, there needs to be consistency in such matters.

These stories bring about the need for several observations. The first observation is that the Church and Her magisterium exist for the salvation of souls. There is a task given to the hierarchy in which they are to proclaim the Truth revealed by God, particularly with regard to sins and that which impedes the salvation of the soul. The Teaching and proclamation, especially during the Easter Season, is that heaven is real and open to those who live a life of Grace. Christ died for our sins and that death is ordered to Resurrection. So too for us, we must order our lives for resurrection, which is why it is an essential statement in our Creed. The same Creed also makes clear that Christ will judge the living and the dead. This means that the resurrection hoped for does come with some conditions attached. Among those conditions is doing the Good and avoiding evil.

The second observation has to do with the notion of repentance. Those in the Church who are sinners, basically everyone, are called to repent, to turn away from their sins. This call was the message of Jesus throughout His time on earth. "Reform, repent, and change your life. The Kingdom of God is at hand." Yes, there are sinners sitting in the pews every weekend and even sinners sitting in the sanctuary. No one will ever tell a sinner to not come to church. But the presumption is that each sinner is aware of his or her sin and is working to overcome it. Every sinner must measure his or her life against the Gospel and not against worldly desires. A sin cannot be absolved in confession if the person shows no contrition or desire to repent. It does not mean a person will never sin again but just that he or she, at the point of confessing the sin, recognizes the sin for what it is and is making a firm purpose of amendment. Hopefully by his or her repentance in that moment he or she will not commit the sin again. This aspect of the sacrament is a forgotten fact by so many today.

The third observation is the lack of consistency by many today. For the record, the Church is not on some crusade to condemn any particular group of sinners. Her mission remains the same to them all. "Repent and reform your lives." No bishop or priest should preach any other message or ever give the impression that it is OK to continue sinning. Those who enter the Church today must do so with contrition in their hearts for the sins that offend God. God did not establish a Church of subjectivism and relativism. We do not get to pick and choose which sins we will repent of and which ones we can continue to do. Avoiding all acts of grave matter must be part of every catholic individual's repentance. The acts of grave matter are found in the objective order and it is from this treasury that the Teaching Authority in the Church draws Her specific Teachings. This is where the consistency is needed -- we must consider all sins with the same characteristic and need of repentance.

The fourth observation has to do with public and obstinate sins as opposed to the private sins that are best dealt with in confession or with a spiritual director. Those whose sin is known by all in the community should not minister publicly in the church until it is clear that a true repentance has occurred. Yes, there are individuals who minister in parishes on a regular basis and are not in a state of grace. But in many of those cases the sin has remained a private matter and it is presumed there is contrition in the heart. The priest in Washington DC was giving private advice to someone who approached him. He did not make a public spectacle of the sin. He merely offered salvific advice. The individual must take that under consideration as he or she works out his or her spiritual game plan. Under the Seal, this entire process is a private and closed matter for the priest. It was the individuals who made the sin public and are obstinate in their sin. There seems to be no desire to repent and reform. In the case in New York, the sin was made public and, thus taken as obstinate, through the celebration of public nuptials.

The fifth observation follows from the two previous ones. There has been an inconsistency by the hierarchy when it comes to dealing with Catholics whose sin is public and obstinate. Take for instance, all the Catholic politicians whose policies or life situations express grave public and obstinate attachment to sin. How many of them are divorced and remarried outside the Church? How many are living with someone to whom they are not married? How many of them openly support a redefinition of Marriage? How many of them have voted favorably for abortion on demand laws? The list goes on and yet there has not been any voice of authority who has made a public statement about their ability to participate in any public way in the Church or participate in the sacraments.

There must be greater consistency here. No one can ever be told not to attend Mass. No one can ever be told not to enter a church and say prayers. But it must be said that there are those who should not make a pubic spectacle of the Holy Eucharist, especially with regard to manifest sin. Unless an official decree of excommunication is made, which does not apply to many of these cases, one must ask where is the statement that says these individuals should be actively self-abstaining from reception of Holy Communion until they publicly repent of the sin made public by themselves? To say one is personally opposed but not take the opportunity to change the laws when in a position to do so does not change the sin committed through formal and material cooperation in grave sins such as abortion.

The sixth observation is that as Church, we must always be able to proclaim the salvation of souls. This proclamation is ordered to the Truth and is never relative to individual whim. This is why free speech in our country was assured by the founders. This is why freedom of religion was assured as well. And this is why the attack on religious liberty has become so important. How long will it be before the state begins to tell the Church what She can preach or not preach? For the record, the Church is not against homosexual persons but proclaims the truth about homosexual acts. If a priest publicly speaks against the Teaching or betrays the Seal of Confession, then he should be taken to task for not being faithful to his vocation and the Church he claims to love. But if he is operating within the Church and stays within the bounds of Church Teaching, then does the state have the authority to silence him? And where are the articles that laud him for remaining faithful to the person he professes to be?

The last observation is that catechetical illiteracy continues to plague the members of our Faith and has made the task of proclaiming the Truth much harder. So many Catholics do not know the origin of our Teachings and will attach to the voices they hear. Thus far, the only voices speaking have been the secular voices of the media. Because of the rupture from the foundation of the Truth in the minds of many of our own, it seems that we will be facing a much smaller congregation in the future. Until bishops, priests, religious, catechists, teachers, and others responsible for handing on the Faith begin to consistently impart the rich Teaching and Tradition of our Faith, the salvation of souls will remain endangered for many in the world today.

In a Word


I have been searching for a word the past few days that could appropriately express my gut level reaction to the consumerist frenzy that is taking place. If it were merely about the economy, I could live with that. If it were about families coming together in a simple exchange, I could live with that. But the ardent secularists have completely highjacked the Christian ethos and made it a purely consumerist endeavor. There is no longer a consideration of God in anything because God would take all the fun out of our consumerist lust. And the word that keeps returning to me is disgusting. It is especially disgusting to see Catholics betray their own tradition by subscribing to the new order as contrived by the secularists.

In the new order they have established, we have a great number of things to be grateful for but no one to whom we can be grateful. We have a great holiday season but no real holiday to be named. In fact, Christ is to be left out all together. Even in the mind of Catholics, Advent is no longer a recognized season but shopping is. N.B. This change in perspective of Advent and Christmas has occurred in less than a century. What is most disturbing is the number of Catholics who have fallen prey to this trend and have no problem with it at all. In large numbers, Catholics now believe that Christmas is about giving and getting presents and December is about shopping and parties. For most Catholics, the weeks of December are to be spent in malls or at parties and gatherings to celebrate the season (yes, even Catholics now avoid the word Christmas).

Although I have resisted the trend and tried to speak up, I am often labeled a scrooge. If I advocate for a return from the shopping frenzy to Advent and penitential practices, most Catholics tell me I am out of touch and have no idea what it is like today. If I even dare suggest December be a time of prayer and repentance, Catholics respond that Christmas has nothing to do with that and even express perturbation at the thought. Even though we are in Advent, Catholics are already in the “Holiday” mode and are hoping the emotive winter magic occur for them. Case in point - there are already many who have put up trees, lights, winter wonderland decorations on the lawn, and, because they are Catholic, a small Christmas Creche with the Baby Jesus already in it. Heaven forbid you suggest holding off on the decorations and practice self-denial, patience, or waiting in joyful expectation for the Coming of Christ. In this regard, it is the Holiday Season and they will not be deprived one moment of indulgence or winter magic.

Furthermore, in large numbers Catholics have been duped by the transformation of St. Nicholas to Santa Claus by famous artists, Coca Cola, Macy’s and other consumer organizations. In large numbers, Catholics celebrate the secular santa at this time of year because it is all about the jolly fat guy in red whose sole purpose in life is to have businesses get in the “black.” Sadly, even priests preach santa as the reason to be good. Forget about even discussing who the saint really is behind the legend. The real saint has been totally disconnected from history. The modern lie is so entrenched almost no one really knows the actual story of St. Nicholas anymore.

I sometimes wonder if I am the only person left who is distressed by the widespread lying that takes place. We are told to believe in Santa and, once we are old enough and know he is not the one who brings all those gifts, we are coerced by others to perpetuate the lie so as to not spoil it for the children. When I point out to Catholic parents that lying is a sin and they should be truthful with their children, they tell me that it isn’t really a lie, is it? It is just good fun, isn’t it? These same parents will insist they do emphasize the Christmas story, even though the lie is more interesting to children than the truth and the santa figure is going to give them every toy or electronic device imaginable, but Jesus only brings salvation. And then there is the day when the bubble bursts and the lie is found out. What is to stop a child from questioning the veracity of the Jesus story? After all, his or her parents were good liars. And everybody in society went along with the lie. They were all pretty good at it as well. So maybe the whole Jesus thing is a lie also?

Today more than ever Catholics must unite and reclaim the Truth. Christmas is about the first Coming of Jesus and His Own did not recognize Him. Our celebration of Advent is a call to prepare through penance and mortification because Christ will Come Again, not through human birth but as Judge of the living and the dead. The standard for that Judgment has been set by God, not Man. The celebration of Christmas is just a reminder of this extremely important Truth. For those who have forgotten, hear what Linus has to say:

44 Years Ago

The Truth Proclaimed

It was 44 years ago today that Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae in which he proclaimed the Truth about the Transmission of Human Life and the moral status of contraception. Although many thought he would change direction on this issue, he did the only thing a pope could do -- he upheld the Church's long Tradition and Teaching on the issue. In this regard, no pope can change the Truth or issue a statement that contradicts the natural moral law.

It seems that today many ignore the Teaching and act in ways contrary to It. A recent Gallup poll found that 89% of the general population believe contraception is morally acceptable. More distressing is that 82% of the Catholics surveyed said they believe contraception is morally acceptable. While it would be easy to hold the people accountable for a mistaken view, the fact of the matter is that many simply do not know the Teaching in this area. The reason may well be the silence many priests and religious have kept on the issue.

In this regard, we again see an example of the catechetical failure that has hindered multiple generations with regard to the Truth. However, regarding Catechesis on the intrinsic evil of contraception, the failure has extended to priests and religious as well as popular theologians who claim the Teaching is mistaken. It is not just that the people are unaware but that, in some circumstances, they have been given misinformation. To correct this failure, more parishes and priests need to make note of initiatives like the National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.

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?

Vicious Circle

In the Realm of Catechetics

Quite frequently I find myself in a conversation in which the era of catechetical failure is discussed. In this regard, it has become very easy to identify and admit that there has been a failure in Catholic Catechesis that has left entire generations of Catholics catechetically illiterate. This is not to say that they learned nothing at all about the Faith but that they were not given the solid foundation upon which the Catholic Faith is built. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that these generations were given teachings they were lead to believe were Catholic when indeed what they received was nothing more than scholarly opinion.

Among the demonstrations of how widespread this illiteracy has become is the recent discussions regarding the HHS Mandate. In this context, I am not referring to the religious freedom aspect, which is important in itself and must be addressed, but to the grave moral evil of contraception. Based on the surveys being release, many Catholics do not know Church Teaching in this regard. Or better yet, they are vaguely aware the Church teaches it is immoral but have rejected it without much thought. In either case, the general Catholic populous does not acknowledge the gravity of the matter and believe that subjective factors determine the sinfulness of contraceptive use rather than its intrinsically evil object.

This error originates in an era in which we can identify the perfect storm. The period in which the failure grew rapidly was one in which errant approaches to Moral Theology were being developed and disseminated. In pervious generations, these theories would have been debated primarily in scholarly circles and eventually corrected before being disseminated to the larger population. Instead, by following a process of ascertaining approval through popularity, these theories were presented in classrooms as authoritative and thus convinced several generations that they were valid and even authoritative.

Alone, this classroom model would most likely not have been sufficient to spread the error so far and wide. Concurrent to these theories were secular schools that promoted a highly subjective and relativistic approaches to morality. The errant Catholic theories were incorporating some aspects of the secular theories, which made it easier for the error to spread. Combine this with theologians who were publicly dissenting from Church Teaching and who were portraying themselves as victims persecuted by the Catholic hierarchy and one can see why it was easy to mainstream the error. Because social engineers were in effect affirming what was being taught even in some Catholic circles, many innocent Catholics came to accept the error as the norm.

Fast forwarding to today, we now have catechetically illiterate Catholics fully convinced that the error is correct and that it is possible to reject Church Teaching and remain a good Catholic. And it is such as these who are teaching in our schools and religious education programs. In this regard, it has become difficult to correct the error because so many are defensive of what they learned. And, of course, many would be partial to a theory that allows one to indulge passions rather than restrain them. The bottom line is that until the circle is broken, the error will propagate itself.

Further complicating the matter is that numbers mean everything today. Nobody wants to see the numbers go down. Yet challenging the error may well result in the numbers going down. The problem in America is that people like to vote with their feet and dollars. If they don't like what is being taught, they join another denomination or just stop coming to church. Or they "send a message" by withholding donations. This methodology is the core of the democratic process.

In all cases, it has become a delicate balance because the Church exists for the salvation of souls but such demands that the Church remain faithful to God and the Truth. Teaching the Truth is difficult and requires a level of patience. Such teaching must be clear and strong without being offensive even though it is reasonable to expect that some will be offended. But it also means that the numbers may have to drop for a period as key individuals begin building the foundation of Catechetical Literacy once again. This process must begin in the schools but the schools need to employ teachers who themselves are faithful to the Truth and the Church. Only then will the vicious circle be broken.

And So It Is

Hard to be Truly Catholic

We are certainly at a cross road in the Church. It is very difficult to determine where the line is drawn and whether or not it is time to take action. A priest made a decision based on the facts before him to deny Holy Communion to a lesbian who had made her orientation known to him beforehand. As is the general rule, unless there is the possibility of public scandal, anyone who presents himself or herself for Holy Communion should not be denied. The sad reality is that today there are many who receive Holy Communion while in an unworthy state (i.e., not in a state of Grace) while others use the opportunity to "make a statement." Those unworthy should not come forward to receive and certainly should not put the priest in a difficult pastoral circumstance, especially if he is aware of a person's state.

Canon 915 speaks of denying Holy Communion to someone in manifest grave sin. The key here is that the sin is public and there is no equally public sign of contrition or remorse. By the same token, the sin must be "manifest," which means that it is clear and obvious to others. If it is manifest, then something need be done. The hard question is "what?"

While there is not easy way to deal with such a situation, the Church needs to take the opportunity to catechize the faithful about Sin and being in the state of Grace in order to receive Holy Communion. Generally speaking, most people who should refrain from coming forward for Holy Communion still come to receive. In these cases, the sin may not be "manifest" and thus the person should not receive on his or her own initiative. But most today do not understand this to be the case and still present themselves nonetheless.

In this regard, the U.S. bishops have prepared a document meant to teach the faithful about receiving worthily. Like so many other teachings, this particular document should be entered into the growing database of what constitutes catechetical illiteracy. In the end, the responsibility remains on priests, religious, and teachers to work toward correcting the level of illiteracy in helping people attain the Kingdom of heaven. Unfortunately, the catechetical failure has been widespread and will take a long time to correct. It has to start somewhere and maybe this situation can be a starting point for many.

Two in One

The Issues of the Day

In recent weeks, the bishops of the United States have been mired in the conflict over conscience protection. Yesterday, in another battle lost, theUnited States senate voted against protecting the conscience rights of believers and the Catholic Church. This loss should ignite Catholics of all ages to send a message to the government that such actions and laws are not acceptable. In a country that preaches tolerance, the only acceptable intolerance is against Catholics. As anyone who understands war terminology, it is entirely possible to lose a battle but still win the war. But what is the war that is being waged? Are the battles being fought properly focused on achieving the ultimate end? In the former rite of Confirmation, the newly confirmed received a slight slap on the cheek and were sent forth as “soldiers for Christ,” a theology that remains to this day. Are all fully initiated Catholics in the United States members of Christ’s Army in these battles and war? If not, why?

There is no doubt that the real issues in the conscience protection fight are contraception and abortion, which are disordered human acts that violate Divine law and can never be supported by the Church. Digging deeper into what is at stake in this war, we must first recognize it is the beauty of human sexuality that will be ultimately compromised through the secular proliferation of abortion and contraception, which in many ways spawn from the same font of rebel human passions. Thus, as we examine the larger strategy that must be employed in this struggle, we must admit that abortion and contraception are symptoms of a much larger moral dilemma. Any battles fought on these fronts must be focused on promoting the fullness of human sexuality, which must include the fullness of what it means to be human.

Buried in the current rhetoric over conscience protection is the other public assault on human sexuality and marriage. As most of the attention centers on the mandate and violation of conscience, gay marriage continues to spread with little notice. As the bishops focus all their attention and energy on conscience rights, gay marriage continues to become the law of the land, state by state. During the time the bishops attention has been diverted, first
Washington, then New Jersey, and now Maryland, have put forward legislation that directly attacks the Sacrament of Marriage by legalizing gay marriage.

As was noted previously, the antidote to these assaults on the beauty of human sexuality and Marriage is the catechesis given by Pope John Paul II at the beginning of his pontificate. This catechesis was taken from a
book written before he was elected pope but had not been published. In it, he identified the core issue in the catechetical failure in the modern world -- the lack of an adequate anthropology. It is upon this base that he builds the proper understanding of human sexuality, one that is integrated into the ontological structure of being human. Yet many Catholics do not appreciate this depth and beauty, believing instead the secular approach in which pleasure is the only reason for sex. The end of sexuality being unitive and procreative, requiring the matter to be male and female, is no longer even considered as the basis for human sexuality.

For many decades now, the Church has been forming and confirming young men and women to be “good” Christians without giving them ammunition for the battle. Rather than preparing them to be soldiers for the Truth, we ask them to be nice to each other and to make sure they keep doing good deeds without any understanding of what the True Good is. In many ways, the reason so many Catholics are not engaged in the battle is due to the catechetical failure -- they do not know what the Church Teaches and have been given a counterfeit. This failure has occurred both within and outside of our own institutions. As the battles continue, we must arm ourselves with the knowledge of what is truly at stake these days -- the dignity of what it means to be human. How true today, then, are the words of Pope Paul VI in section 17 of Humanae Vitae:

Careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife. Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. These limits are expressly imposed because of the reverence due to the whole human organism and its natural functions.


The Snowball Grows

Once again, it is important to note that the recent HHS mandate has certainly crossed the line in the area of conscience violation. This violation is certainly one that must be addressed and will require great effort to have it corrected. But the underlying problem of the sin of contraception and the silence of Church leaders in this country continue to grow.

The recent testimony by a Georgetown (Jesuit run) Law student only points out how great the catechetical failure is. This student makes it clear that the university has, for all intents and purposes, become a brothel. Are the Jesuits at all concerned that a student is making a mockery of the Catholicity of their university in this testimony? Of course, this is the same university that makes news on a regular basis for betraying the Catholic Faith on campus so why would the revelation that large numbers of students are hooking up and want the university to pay for their contraception and abortifacients concern them?

The underlying fear in taking a strong stand seems to paralyze the institutions and the hierarchy. The fact of the matter is that this issue is not just a conscience issue. It is a moral issue, first and foremost, which has implications for eternal life. There are no shortage of Catholics who do not understand why mandating contraception is an issue because no one has taught them the Truth. Yet in all the rhetoric we hear each day, there is still no one talking about why contraception is immoral.

Standing up for the Truth may mean the numbers will drop, but so be it.

And So It Continues...

Conscience and Morality

The recent HHS mandate that clearly requires a violation of Catholic conscience continues to make headlines. Apparently everyone has an opinion and no one wants to pursue the Truth. The secular media has certainly mired the question in rhetoric and apparently refuses to allow the Church to present the problem as it truly is -- one of morality. Human sexuality is not a medical condition but a personal human act that must be guided by moral norms, which are ultimately established by God. Violating moral norms and conscience places one in danger of eternal damnation.

In this regard. the Church is not “anti-contraception” or “anti-healthcare” but pro-eternal life. The Church is not imposing Her “views” on society but rather engaged in the works of mercy that impels Her to instruct the ignorant and warn the sinner. Conscience must be pure in this regard -- every person must act “CON SCIENTIA,” that is, “WITH KNOWLEDGE.” The Church, established by Jesus Christ, is tasked with Teaching the fulness of knowledge, that is, knowledge that cannot come from a laboratory or some medical experiment or even a public debate. The Church is not offering a perspective or opinion but stating the Truth about human sexuality and its connection to moral living with an eye on eternal life.

Contrary to the secular claim that the issue is about access to family planning measures, the fact of the matter is there are other ways to plan the spacing and timing of children -- ways that are completely faithful to human nature and honest to the nature of the human sexual faculty called natural family planning. Contrary to the secular media rhetoric that we are dealing with a “health issue,” fertility is not a health “condition” but an integral part of the human sexual faculty, which is integral to the human person. It is not something that is “controlled” by human manipulation but relationally expressed through free human action, ordered to its own end and perfection. Fertility must always be integrated within the whole of human sexuality and understood as a good of Marriage. And sadly, the secular rhetoric has continuously left out this important aspect of the problem at hand.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not note that a great deal of this issue is the U.S. Bishops, Catholic priests, and other Catholic theologians fault. For too long there has been a deafening silence on the immorality of contraception in this country, evidenced in the arguments put forward of the number of Catholics who use artificial means of contraception and have no problem with it. Regardless of the moral and catechetical failure, artificial contraception is still an intrinsic evil and no Catholic can be said to be in “good” standing (aka, a state of Grace) if he or she uses any artificial form of it. This can be extended to anyone who cooperates formally and materially with those who do. It is within the latter that the Church cannot pay for contraception, even for non-Catholics who work in their institutions, as doing so is clearly a form of cooperation. Having heard all the rhetoric, it is extremely disappointing that no one is presenting a public statement with regard to the Truth and speaking of the morality that is at the heart of the issue.

So how much longer do we wait before we start Teaching again?

Catechesis Desparately Needed

Our Own Need to Know More

So many issues in the public forum today indicate the lack of Catholic Formation in many today. In reading the online articles, comments, and blogs on the recent HHS mandate it is evident that our own do not understand the depth and breadth of our Catholic Faith and Teaching. Some comments state that there are “rules” that must be abided by and the rules are made by the pope. Others claim that the prohibition against contraception is not in the Bible and the Church’s Teaching is not binding. Others claim that we are dealing with a health issue, as if sexual activity and pregnancy are diseases. The most common mistake is that many make claims to support the mandate which rely on opinion polls that include Catholics. Yet this latter mistake is the one that is most distressing in that it indicates how many Catholics do not know the Church’s Teaching and that the Teaching is not based on popular vote.

For too long we have not provided a solid foundation in the catechetical programs, leaving many Catholics ignorant of the Truths of the faith. Many of the recent proposals to overhaul Catholic Schools speaks about restoring the Catholic identity to the institutions. However, this identity did not deteriorate overnight and will not be restored overnight. Thus we are dealing with multiple generations of Catholics who are “lost.” The overhaul is very much welcome but will need time and effort to put things back on track. The hard question is -- are those putting the plan into effect qualified enough to address the failure and do they actually have a plan. To say something needs to be done is one thing but to get that accomplished is a whole different problem.

It is at this point that we must always recall that the Church was founded by Christ, is sustained by Christ, and will always belong to Christ. May we all make an offering of these weaknesses we find in the Church today to Christ and ask that He restore the Church through His Grace.

The Ironic Illogic

The Curious Pattern

Under the Dictatorship of Relativism, many people have come to believe that their own opinion is the final authority, especially when that opinion is verified by a so-called expert. In fact, today more than ever, people seek to inform their opinion with information from the plethora of authorities in a given arena. If there is something happening in the world that involves psychology, they get information from a survey of psychologists. If there is an issue that involves medicine or physical health, they get information from physicians and medical doctors. If there are problems of pollution or other issues in nature, they get information from ecologists, botanists, geologists, and biologists. The list is endless in this regard. And each individual has little problem accepting the information as valid and authoritative, effectively making the information part of their own “opinion” on a given matter. In this modernist approach, expert opinions are sought but, generally speaking, are not taken as the final authority on a particular issue. The gauge today is “does it resonate with MY experience.” And that which does not resonate is rejected.

Yet when it comes to issues of Faith or Truth, the last source of information people usually consult is from theologians or the Magisterium. The Catechism is not seen as something helpful and is often rejected because it is “out of touch with reality.” This is particularly the case in issues of morality, which ultimately has to do with salvation. In these cases, they prefer to survey outside opinions on a given issue, e.g., contraception, and find the one that bests matches their own. Such has left many Catholics under-informed and misinformed with regard to our responsibility to the Truth. Opinion is one thing and facts are another… But Truth transcends all that and all are to remain oriented to the Truth if they are to achieve the salvation of the soul. Thus, when the pope or Magisterium teaches, they are not in the process of expressing an expert opinion. While there are places for theological opinion and debate, authoritative statements within the hermeneutic of reform/continuity reflect the depth and beauty of Truth. Those who hold contrary opinion to the Truth fail to realize that Truth is not under the auspices of opinion. When something is taught authoritatively, even though it may not resonate with a particular individual, all are responsible to accept it.

This is the struggle we have within the Church today and clearly the reason we need to be evangelizing our own. So many modern Catholics are more modernist than Catholic. Those tasked with teaching must hold fast to the Truth, even if it means the “numbers” will take a hit. The first order of business at this point has to be a revival of Catholic education, which first means a revival of religious teaching orders. Here is an interesting homily from a group that is taking the Catholic Faith for what it is -- a way of life:

New Year?

Merry Christmas!

For weeks people were wishing one another a “Merry Christmas” to help combat the secular degradation of the great Feast. The practice is laudable although out of sync with the Church. In this regard, people were wishing a Merry Christmas as early as Thanksgiving weekend and took every opportunity in the weeks leading up to Christmas as they engaged in feeding the consumerist beast. These wishes were extended all throughout Advent, which effectively makes Advent a non-season. By January 1st, many decorations had been taken down and all were making a fuss of the secular feast of New Year’s Eve and Day. Interestingly, more Catholics know the secular rituals for celebrating New Year’s than the Catholic rituals for celebrating Christmas.

On January 1st, the eighth day in the Octave of Christmas, which concludes one of the highest liturgical celebrations of the year, not one person wished me a Merry Christmas. The chorus at the doors of the church were “Happy New Year!” And believe it or not, parishioners were angry and agitated when I responded to their triumphant “Happy New Year” with “Merry Christmas!” When they repeated their wishes, I politely mentioned that the Church celebrated its New Year weeks ago and explained that we were still in the Octave of Christmas. I went on to remind them that these 8 days were to be celebrated with the same honor and dignity as Christmas Day. The puzzled looks were well worth earning the various titles people bestow on someone like me. Sadly, I do not believe any of them got the point and instead will make the issue an
ad hominem attack rather than allow it to be a learning experience.

So many today proudly display signs that call for all to keep “Christ in Christmas” while Catholics are not keeping Christmas in the Christmas Season. It is so sad that even when we attempt friendly and simple correctives to the catechetical failure of the last few generations the response is one of desired ignorance and anger. Today, we have so few opportunities to catechize and evangelize our own and, when we take those opportunities, the response is anger and resistance. If we try to do it in the classroom, no one comes.

So when and how are we to address and correct the mistakes flowing from the era of catechetical failure?


A New Rector

As the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington and St. Joseph’s in Yonkers prepare to merge the seminary formation program, an announcement was made that the new rector of Immaculate Conception will be Msgr. Richard Henning. The seminary in Huntington will become an ongoing formation for clergy and the lay formation center for the downstate dioceses. Congratulations on a fine choice!

Take Another Vote?

School Closings

Dioceses throughout the Northeast have all been announcing the need to close schools as part of addressing the serious reality they all face. While each diocese has different reasons, the one common theme for closing schools has been declining enrollment coupled with increased costs. It is very painful and difficult to make these decisions and, once made, those who made the decision do realize the tremendous impact the decisions will have in the lives of many students, parents, and teachers. It is terribly sad and distressing that the Church is in this position but it is reality that dictates in these cases.

Once again, the local media is making it seem that such decisions were born of capricious whim and would be better served through a democratic process. Lost in the report is the long and arduous process that has lead to the decision. Lost in the report is the role of legitimate authority. Lost in the report is all the trends that have made such decisions inevitable. The Church is at a crossroad and in order to remain true to itself the leadership will have to make some very difficult decisions that will not be popular but will be the best course of action for the future.

Weeds and Wheat

The Seeds Have Been Sown

Admittedly there has been great focus placed on Catholic schools every time we talk about Catholic Education. However, there is a danger of becoming myopic in regard to Catholic Education by believing that it is the sole responsibility of the schools. Indeed, the schools have become an icon of Catholic Education but we must take great care of limiting the discussion to schools alone. Often lost in the conversation is the fact that the parents are the primary educators and formators of their own children. Priests, religious, educators, and catechists must always accept their secondary status in the process. However, the latter are tasked with the preservation of the Truth in the overall education process, which requires an ownership of that Truth in daily life.

In the thirteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel we find a series of parables and Jesus’ explanation of them. This chapter marks a midpoint for the Gospel of Matthew. In this chapter are two parables regarding the sowing of seed. The first deals with the soil in which seed is sown and the second with an enemy who secretly sows weeds among the wheat. In the first parable, responsibility is placed upon the cultivator of the soil to ensure the soil is properly disposed to receive the seeds of Grace sown by Christ. In the second, the fruit of what is sown by Christ must be preserved amidst the deceptions of the enemy.

For many decades, the devil has been sowing weeds within the Church. Obviously when dealing with parables it is imperative that we keep in mind the Truth the story is communicating. Wheat and weeds are not interchangeable yet Jesus makes it clear that the good seed are the children of God and the weeds the children of the evil one. Those who get the point can easily see that the difference between the two has to do with morality and Truth -- virtue and vice. Anyone can be a child of God through Baptism. But to remain in that state requires a virtuous life that is frequently infused with Grace. What constitutes a virtuous life is not under the domain of Man as in the objective order its content has been established by God. The wheat is all who are in a state of Grace and remain committed to a life of virtue as established by God.

Anyone can be a child of the evil one by renouncing the Grace of God and rupturing the connection to Him through Sin. Only a repentant soul can receive Grace and bear fruit in virtue. The enemy sowing seeds does so by using deceit. In the field of the Church, the seeds of deceit have been sown and many even believe that the weeds are good. Yes, there are those who today point at weeds and call them wheat. As silly as that sounds, there are those who uphold sins that are clearly contrary to God’s Commands as something good. Easy examples today are abortion and contraception, sterilization and in vitro fertilization, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality and fornication, etc. All of these are contrary to the Law of God and yet many Catholics embrace them as normal and good.

Thus, it is not necessary to look beyond the walls of our own Church to see that such is the case and that it has been documented repeatedly over the last few decades. The doctrine of the evil one begins with the loss of a sense of Sin. But notice also how this loss is also connected to the loss of a sense of God and a later apathy toward the Church and Truth. Today, many Catholics simply do not care about what is True virtue and what is Sin. If seeds of deceit are to be sown, then it would require weeds to be convinced that they are wheat, even though they are not.

Today more than ever Catholics need to work on purging themselves of the doctrine of the evil one that has them convinced they do not sin and have no need for reconciliation. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is central to providing wheat with what it needs to be wheat. Yet the evil one has even weekly churchgoers convinced that they do not need the Sacrament of Reconciliation as only about 12% go to confession more than once a year and only 2% monthly. It is not that this situation developed overnight or that it will disappear overnight. The seeds have been sown and have grown over time. But the first step to turning this trend around will have to come through the priests and religious who will have to regain control of the Catholic Education process by themselves becoming wheat. One cannot give what one does not have.

As noted previously, to get the education process on track, the messenger needs to own the message. Priests and religious must own the message of reconciliation and the only way to do so is to be regulars of the Sacrament themselves. Without frequenting the Sacrament themselves they fall prey to the doctrine of the evil one and may eventually become the weeds of deceit. From the priests and religious who own the message, then the educators, the primary ones being the parents, the catechists, and the faithful will also come to own the message. To own the message, priests, religious, educators, and the faithful must all be making a concerted effort to being wheat themselves, first and foremost. Without such a commitment, the spiral downward will continue.

Particularly in the post-scandal era of the Church, we must become more aware than ever of the need for repentance and the lingering effect that Sin can have on a community. It is not that priests sinned or broke the law that need to be highlighted any longer as that has been documented. It is the ensuing call to repentance and a return to Grace that should begin to form the message today. Without repentance and the Grace of Reconciliation the weeds will continue to strangle our Faith and impede the ability of the Church to bring souls to Christ, which is what must be at the heart of all Catholic Education. Those entrusted with the formation of souls to be wheat in the field -- priests, religious, parents, educators, and catechists -- must be wheat themselves. As Jesus tells us, “why worry about the speck when there is a plank of wood…”

And so we hear the Baptist’s cry from the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.” The message of repentance issued by John the Baptist is as imperative today as it was then! Before any reform of Catholic Education can take place, those tasked as leaders in the formation process must heed the call to removing the plank through the Grace of the Sacrament. And the key to the whole process is to remember that we are never done repenting…


The Strategic Plan Implemented

On the Feast of St. Nicholas, the Diocese of Rockville Centre announced the next phase of its strategic plan for Catholic Education. In September of this year, the plan was first presented to pastors and school administrators in the summary report from the commission. Even then it was known that in the implementation phase there would be schools closed and/or consolidated. No one wants to see Catholic schools close but reality trumps desire in this case. The fact of the matter is that the population in the schools has dropped dramatically while the costs have risen dramatically.

With much sorrow, the announcement revealed that, in the implementation phase, six elementary schools would close at the end of the school year. These closures will directly affect the lives of many people, which made coming to the decision very difficult. Yes, it is very sad but no, it should not be surprising in the least. For decades, the catechetical failure of the 70s, 80s, and 90s has rendered generations of Catholics who know little about the Faith and it is Catholics from these generations that are now in charge of forming new generations. Even from these venerable institutions of Catholic Evangelization have come scores of Catholics who like the concept of church but are not well versed in the Teachings of Catholicism or striving to live these Teachings. Although no one wants to admit it, most Catholic schools today are nominally different from public schools. A few Catholic practices are maintained and occasional prayers are said but the reality of Catholicism is not lived out by most who are in the buildings.

Thus far, as plans come and go, it does not appear that the root problems are being addressed. Addressing demographic and economic downturns have obvious solutions which do not require extensive analysis. Rather, instilling what is missing in lost generations is far more difficult and to do so will require more than a mere program or reorganization. The problem at hand requires far more than shuttering a few buildings and reallocating resources. If anyone truly believes that doing the same thing on a smaller scale is the solution, then we are in for more of the same in the not too distant future.

Until Catholicism is the definitive way of Life for all involved with the schools and the standards of Catholic Teachings upheld, we will be hard pressed to provide rationale for investing tremendous resources in these institutions. The schools should be the avenue for evangelization but for evangelization to occur, the messenger must own and live the message. This includes all the Teachings that comprise the message. In this regard, it may well be time to regroup and flesh out the remnant faithful Catholics so that the process of Evangelization can truly begin.

More to Discuss?

Two Species at Mass

In the years following Vatican II, there was a frenetic move by many dioceses in the United States to restore the supposedly lost tradition of distributing Holy Communion under both species. The practice had stopped some eight centuries previous, quite probably for good reason. In the centuries leading up to and since the initiation of the practice of distributing Holy Communion under one species, a solid theology developed and this theology, which is now called concomitance, was concretized by the Council of Trent. Thus, for centuries there has been a continuity of theology and practice in the Church. And now today this is one of those practices that has the power to divide rather than unite.

For good reasons, the council fathers at Vatican II did raise a question regarding the so-called fuller sign and called for a very limited restoration of distribution under both species. The fact that the practice became so widespread so quickly would indicate that it is more from the hermeneutic of discontinuity than of true reform. While a discussion was certainly needed and the limits of good practical sense, the widespread establishment of the practice should have been held in abeyance at least until the discussion was complete. Instead, particularly in the United States, the practice went from obscurity to commonplace seemingly overnight. A careful reading of the documents indicated a need for a concurrent suitable catechesis on the Teaching of concomitance to accompany the reinstitution of the distribution, if it were to be reinstituted at all.

Where things have fallen apart is that the practice was being added in parishes around the country during a period in which catechesis was generally falling into total disarray. Simply put, as the catechetical failure took hold, the practice took off. And the result is that so many today truly believe that they are receiving more when they receive both and are being cheated of something if they are not offered both.

Also, as a result of the catechetical failure, there are more and more Catholics today who do not believe they are truly receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament (the percentage varies depending on the study consulted and the frequency of Mass attendance). Yet this important doctrine and the practice of distributing Holy Communion under two species must necessarily go hand-in-hand. And both are currently suffering from the catechetical failure.

The fact that the practice outstripped the catechesis is why so many think today that the discussion of Holy Communion under both species should continue. While the practice has merits and should have a highly limited scope, the reality is that a great number of so-called practicing Catholics believe they are more fully communicated when they receive both. These are the same Catholics who may attend Holy Mass weekly or more yet hardly ever go to Confession. These are the same Catholics who say they believe in the real presence yet have no problem holding idle conversation before the tabernacle and never come to Adoration. These are the same Catholics who say they are in union with the pope yet promote and/or use contraception. These are the same Catholics who say they espouse the Ten Commandments yet have no problem with abortion.

The irony in this discussion is that those who do attend Mass weekly believe that doing so makes them a better and fully informed Catholic and we priests should be happy they are still there. These would be members of the generation that are victims of the catechetical failure and yet think they know more than enough about the faith. This would be the same generation of Catholics that do not attend adult formation classes or, when they do, come with a chip on his or her shoulder.

So is it a further discussion that is needed or better catechesis?

The End of an Era

The Seminary of the Immaculate Conception

The bishops of the three downstate dioceses in New York have announced the formation of a new inter-diocesan seminary that will take effect next year. There is no doubt that the move was necessary and long overdue. The new union will be a great benefit for all those in formation as it will allow the three dioceses to put the best of their resources into future priests.

The sad reality is that these two great institutions that were once filled to overflowing have been reduced to one institution that still will not be filled. Yes, it is a good move. Yes, it is also a sad commentary on the state of priestly vocations.

The Harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for His Harvest! - Matthew 9:37-38

Case in Point

When and Where Do We Start?

As we prepare for the New Missal later this year, it is also a good time to begin teaching the faithful about Liturgy and correcting the errors that have been propagated for too long. For instance, holding hands during the Our Father. Having recently said that this is not the practice of the Church, someone replied, “Is it really worth upsetting the people who just don’t know better?” This is the position many take today as if to say that the Catechetical failure should remain the norm.

So if not now, when?

Pro Multis

Why Not All?

Not too long ago the Church maintained the Index of Prohibited Books with the intent of helping the faithful to avoid reading anything that contained theological error. Since the index was abolished in 1966, it seems many believe that there is no danger of theological error and so all views are equal. Of course, this is not the case and the task of vetting works for theological error was given to local ordinaries. Unfortunately, we live in an era in which there are many different avenues of spreading error and many local ordinaries have not invested the time and effort to identify these errors.

One of the more common sources of theological error has been the liturgical music that has swept through parishes over the last 40 years or so. Without giving much thought to it, many parishes now sing hymns that are filled with theological error and thus mislead the faithful. One such hymn, All Are Welcome, has recently been identified as suspect by Bishop Morlino. As pastor of a local parish, it is very difficult to deal with these hymns as so many have grown accustomed to them and think they are so “beautiful.” Asking that they not be played only creates tension because surrounding pastors do not see the problem and continue to use them. Today, more than ever, we need more bishops who are willing to make sure that what happens in parishes truly meets the standards of Truth.

Part of the problem with songs like this one is that we have been somewhat mislead by the poor translation of the Roman Missal. While there is much theological debate regarding the translation of the words “Pro Multis” in the canon, the fact of the matter is that the Church realizes the importance of expressing the Truth and has directed episcopal conferences around the world to use the words “For Many.” We know that Jesus extends the possibility of Salvation to all but not all will be saved. That is why Jesus Himself used the words FOR MANY. Unfortunately there are many Catholics today who think all are in the circle, and this is solidified by errant songs like All Are Welcome.

Maybe it is time for dioceses around the world to get serious about correcting theological error in all its forms. Bringing back the Index will not do it as too many would simply ignore it. What is needed today is acknowledgment of the Catechetical failure, which includes the formation given many priests and religious, and begin working on establishing a fundamental catechesis for all believers. Those who reject the catechesis, that is, who reject the Truth, should be informed that their rejection could potentially leave them outside the Many.

A Needed Renewal

The Catholic Identity

So many today speak of the need to recapture the Catholic Identity in our schools and in our Church in general. Has anyone asked when and how that identity was lost? Unfortunately this Catholic amnesia has been growing for decades and the problem has become systemic. The reality is that many Catholics either do not know the Church Teaching on many key moral issues or have rejected the Teaching. To reverse this trend, much will have to be done.

The recent strategic plan for the schools in the diocese has mapped out its goals and the first part is to deal with Catholic identity. By far, this part of the renewal is the most important and needs to have all concerned parties on board with the Truth. If the key individuals are not 24/7 on board with the whole message, the renewal will fall far short of expectations and may even be hindered.

We should call to mind a few of the statistics from the year 2000 with regard to the beliefs held by Catholic School Religion Teachers: only 10% agreed with the Church’s teaching on Artificial Birth Control; 26% fully agreed with the Teaching on Abortion; 33% agreed with an all male priesthood; 54% agreed with the Teaching on the indissolubility of Marriage; 63% believe in the Real Presence.


A Lost Identity

Every caricature of a person with amnesia portrays someone who has effectively lost his or her identity. Often it is the result of a traumatic experience or blow to the head. The most frustrating part for the individual is the loss of identity. The person yearns to remember who he or she really is.

Today it seems this image can be applied to many Catholics. Generally speaking it seems many Catholics have lost their identity and there is a great frustration on the part of many who are trying to remember who they are. The reality is that the Church Herself has not lost Her memory or identity but that many in the Church have. This loss can be directly linked to the catechetical failure and it would behoove Catholics to find out more about our identity.

The hardest part these days is that most Catholics do not attend any classes, even though they are offered, and many only attend an occasional Mass. It is within this framework that the amnesia continues to spread and the identity continues to be lost. Clearly more needs to be done in getting Catholics to know their own identity.

Shepherds Today

The Last Bargaining Chip

Many pastors and parishioners today want to create or recreate their parish in a worldly image. For decades the Church has been besieged and infiltrated by the dictatorship or relativism and the effects have been devastating. It is imperative that Catholics take note of the process and admit how it has impacted. It is even more important that priests and pastors keep focus on the Nature of the Church in every moment of every day and remain faithful to Her alone.

The first problem many note is that they come to Mass but are not being fed. When asked, they complain that the homily was not good or they could not understand father. Such statements betray the catechetical failure in that being fed at Mass is with regard to the Grace communicated through the Eucharist. The starvation comes from those who approach unworthily and such seems to be expanding exponentially. Unfortunately, many priests take such comments as part of a popularity contest and try to “attract” more people to “his” Mass or “his” parish through entertaining the people in the pews. But playing with the liturgy and only giving “feel good” homilies betrays the reality of why Christ instituted the Mass in the first place.

The fact of the matter is that Christ established the Church and it is He Who acts at the Mass. It is His sacrifice on the Cross that feeds us. It is His Blood poured out that sanctifies. All priests and Catholics must begin from this position and accept the Truth. We are not in a sales game as the Church is not a product to be consumed or a place to be entertained. It is the vehicle for Salvation. Unfortunately too many priests in recent decades catered to the whims of those before them in an attempt to avoid offense and possibly drive people away. Yet more have left the Church during that period and the numbers continue to drop. Could the problem have stemmed from negotiating with the world rather than pursuing Salvation.

The problem today is that we have Americans sitting in the pews and, in many cases, not true Catholics. They approach the parish as a consumer and believe that they should get what they want. For decades, pastors and priests “negotiated” with aspects of the Mass and chose to entertain relativistic notions rather than uphold what the liturgy is.

Now, those who are dissatisfied with one aspect or another believe that they must take action if their wants are not met. This usually plays out in the numbers game... The two most common final bargaining chips made by parishioners today are: “I guess I have to changes parishes,” or “I am going to have to withdraw my financial support.” These are American bargaining chips, not Catholic. If all parishes and parishioners were truly Catholic, there would be little or no difference from one parish to the other and if such chips are played the result would be the individual endangering his or her own Salvation.

If all things Catholic are up for debate then playing the last bargaining chip would mean that Salvation is not the reason for the Church. Is this the Church people want?

A Shifting Standard

Got Engineers Anyone?

So the City of New York Education System is expanding the process of engineering a more moral city. It seems at every turn, the secularists expand a process that is myopic at best and shortsighted in every way. They are so focused on obtaining data for their experiments that they go to any length to get the results they want. Of course, this is very shortsighted in that they really do not have an idea of what the results will be -- only what they want the results to be. Yes, they can claim that they will make a difference in a particular direction but they are never quite sure that it will work as they propose or that the results are a True Good until the manipulation is complete.

Yes, this is the same group that has been promising a more moral future for decades. The engineers of this so-called moral future are instrumentalists seeking to develop a norm that does not yet exist. The flaw in the logic is from the instrumentalist approach to ethical standards -- the belief that the good must be discovered and then constructed. In their model, the good is dependent upon desired outcomes and if the outcome is achieved, then it is good. The flaw is that the outcome may not be a True Good ordered to THE Good and to keep experimenting with future generations is disastrous at best. To make any attempts at cultivating the Good in future generations requires vision of THE End and Good desired. Any other model will just wander through existence in search of an end and will attach to whatever appears good.

It is time for Catholics everywhere to “Wake Up” and recognize the seismic ground the secular approach to morality stands upon. True morality and direction must be built upon solid Rock, that is, the Church founded on Peter. Anyone who takes a journey must know the destination before planning the trip. Our time on earth is a journey to God but those who consistently do not follow the plan outlined by THE Engineer will not get to the desired destination. Only those who stay focused on the True End will be able to choose the appropriate means necessary for arriving at the Final Destination.

Formation of Catholics

Baptism and Indoctrination!

One of the expectations that the Church has for someone to be Baptized is that they be properly trained in the way of the Faith as a condition for being initiated. In the case of adult initiation, this takes place before the Initiation itself. The Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) has been the standard since the earliest days of the Church. In this regard, if the person seeking Baptism is not fully prepared, the initiation into the Church should be delayed indefinitely until such time that the candidate is fully prepared. As is the case even today, there is a fully initiated Catholic who “walks” the journey with the candidate and is tasked with determining the suitability of the person for entrance into the Body of Christ, which includes a solid grasp on the Teachings of the Church.

In fact, every Sacrament has some requirement attached to it that those seeking it be properly formed for the particular Sacrament. As part of the Ordination ritual, the responsible formator is asked if the candidate is judged worthy. For those who wish to Marry, they must make a statement of intention as part of the ritual. At Confirmation, the pastor, who is tasked with overseeing their preparation, presents the candidates to the bishop. At the Initiation of an adult, the “sponsor” presents the properly formed candidate to the priest.

However, as we all are well aware, the initiation of infants has become the common practice in the Catholic Church. The presenters of the “candidate” are the parents in conjunction with the godparents and they are told that in seeking Baptism for the child they must raise the child in the ways of the Faith. In this statement we see the reason for the Canonical requirement that there is a “founded hope” the child will be raised Catholic. This founded hope requires a level of indoctrination (in the positive sense of the term) into the Faith as a way of life.

Yet today, in order to keep the numbers up, we are often asked to ignore objectively disordered situations in the lives of the parents that certainly challenge that there is a founded hope. Not attending Sunday Mass, divorce and remarriage, having a child out-of-wedlock, and same-sex unions are all instances of situations in which the lives of the formators of the newly Baptized are clearly problematic. Today, it is often the case that they are not challenged and questions are not asked lest they be alienated further from the Church, as if the objectively disordered situation of their lives has not already done so.

Should we not be more more concerned with the quality of the formation the child will receive and the extent to which the formator is living the Teachings of the Catholic Church in the objective order?

Access to Priests II

Why is it hard to admit?

There have been several recent “secular” responses to the dwindling numbers of priests but the distressing aspect of these responses is that they have come from internal Catholic circles. In this regard, many still call for the pseudo-solution to the problem and call for ordaining just about everyone under the sun. This error had been influenced by the instrumentalist school of thought that forms the secular part of our education system today. To identify it, this errant line of thought has many sentences that begin with the phrase, “if only.” For instance, there have been those recently who would claim that the problem would disappear “if only they would ordain married men.” Or they may say, “if only they would ordain women.” And the solution would be, “let’s give it a try and see what happens.”

These pseudo-solutions sound good because they offer a knee-jerk reaction to the numbers problem. But they do not admit the deeper problem and the need for experimentation is dangerous because failures in the Church endanger the salvation of souls. When we speak of a vocation crises, we need to admit that it is not just the priesthood and religious life to which we are referring. It has to do with the universal call to holiness and the failure we are now experiencing across the board. The effects of the crises are seen in all the walks of life within the Church. We not only have a problem with the number of priests and religious, the married are also manifesting a real crisis. Tie this in with the lack of Catholics in the pews and the result is what we see before our eyes. For this, there is no quick fix.

Could the problem really be that the faithful are generally not praying and coming before the Lord enough? Could the problem have something to do with the general catechetical failure?

Case in Point

The Failure is Obvious

Although many who live in New York are discussing the recent legislation regarding gay marriage, it seems few want to discuss what it means to be a “good” Catholic. Senator Grisanti, who claims to be a good Catholic, stated that he had to take the Catholic out of his vote. To do so also means he must take the “good” out of his Catholic.

Based on the principle of cooperation, it should be easy enough for the Church hierarchy to publicly reiterate the Teaching that support of civil laws that betray the moral law are sufficient to render the person in a dubious status with regard to being Catholic. His vote is not a private matter and the New York State Catholic Conference should be issuing quotes that answer the question of what it takes to be a “good” Catholic.

Jesus said to his disciples, "Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Luke 17:1-2)

Yes, Sin is real and all the faithful must be aware of it. We are sinners but we do not have to be controlled by Sin. The key to being a good Catholic is that we repent of the sins committed AND help others to avoid sinning, not pass laws that allow Sin to proliferate.

So are we ready to admit that there has been a catechetical failure? Now is the time to begin working more closely on evangelizing our own.

Other Factors Anyone? II

The Numbers Game IV

While Jones poses an important question with regard to the actions taken by the U.S. bishops, the real focus has to be on the catechetical system and what has been or can be done about the failure in this area since the council. Briefly stated, Jones reports that, at all levels of Catholic Education, from 1965 to 2002 there was a 94% drop in sisters teaching, an 89% drop in priests teaching, and an 86% drop in brothers teaching. For the most part, Catholic Education was supported by those were 24/7 on board with the message into the 1970s.

As the priests and religious left, they were replaced by competent lay professionals. These educators were certainly well trained in the area of educating youth but were they prepared as Catholics? At least in the beginning they were but in a survey from the year 2000 (page 79), “lay religion teachers in Catholic elementary schools” predominantly do not agree with the Church’s Teaching on Birth Control (90%), Elective Abortion (74%), Infallibility of the Pope (73%), and the Real Presence of the Eucharist (37%). In addition, nearly half do not believe in the indissolubility of Marriage and 70% do not accept a male priesthood. Yet the Second Vatican Council did not change any of these Teachings and clear statements have been made about these issues since then.

Again, it is important to look at generational statistics, which do indicate that older Catholics are more likely to know the Church Teaching in these areas than younger Catholics. If the bishops are to work toward a new evangelization, it will have to start with education.

Other Factors Anyone?

The Numbers Game III

The best we can say about the numbers Jones reports is that there is a real problem. Throughout the Twentieth Century, the total number of Catholics increased dramatically -- from 17.7 million in 1920 to 65 million in 2002, with 45 million in 1965. The most rapid increase was from the Second World War to the Second Vatican Council. Missing in the report on Mass Attendance is a breakdown by generation. Who are the ones going to Mass in the year 2000? This particular stat is missing but if one can guess, it is the older generations who were catechized much better.

When Mass Attendance is examined by generation, there is a clear difference by age. If the changes in the Mass were the reason, logic would say that the oldest group (the Pre-Vatican II generation) would be the most disillusioned by the change and would fall away. As Dr. Gray notes on the link above, “Pre-Vatican II Generation Catholics grew up in an era where deliberately failing to attend Sunday Mass or other day of obligation, without good reason, was quite clearly communicated as a mortal sin. For the Vatican II and Post-Vatican II generations this has not been emphasized to the same degree.” However, the teaching in this regard was not changed at Vatican II and still remains in effect today.

Should we then be asking if there is another factor? Has there been a catechetical failure in recent decades?

Marriage Anyone?

The Vote Looms

The issue of gay marriage is in the spotlight in New York State and there have been some, albeit late, statements from the New York state Catholic bishops, particularly from Archbishop Dolan. Of course, we are living in a time under the dictator so such statements will be marginalized for the most part. When dealing with the secular world and the media, such is to be expected as those who wield power and influence are able to set the rules. Yes, the rules are not just and do not take the Truth into consideration. But, as has been noted here already, the media will always spin the issues to their favor.

The distressing part is that the catechetical failure has left the bishops in an unenviable position. Their eleventh hours statements are not being met with the respect from Catholics they deserve. As authentic teachers and shepherds, in some cases their own do not follow them and will even publicly chastise them. This failure can be seen in the discussion “comments” attached to the online postings of the bishops’ statements. Fortunately on the Catholic sites there are others who attempt to set the record straight but generally speaking there are supposed Catholics who not only disagree with the Church but make comments that outright betray their Catholic identity. The fact that there are so many Catholics divided on critical moral issues only points out how serious the problem is within the walls of the Church.

At the heart of the issues today is the fact that many Catholics do not understand what is meant by Truth and have not been properly catechized to accept the Truth. There has been a silence in many cases in which there is a fear of alienating the “masses” of Catholics. This silence, coupled with the catechetical failure, is the reason why so many supposed Catholics are more secular in their views and believe the Church should embrace those views as well. To further complicate the problem, it seems that the bishops have come to the game a bit late in that such statements and teaching should have started some time ago. It is not as if this issue and upcoming vote are a surprise. It is good that the bishops speak out but unfortunately they are speaking to Catholics who do not have the catechetical foundation to understand what is being said and that they are not just offering a valid opinion amongst a variety of valid opinions.

So why is it so hard to admit the catechetical failure and take a hard line stand with Catholic politicians and other misguided Catholics? Is it time to open a window and let the smoke of satan out?

New Evangelization

The New Evangelization

The Catholic Church is currently preparing for a synod in October of 2012 that will deal with the need for a New Evangelization. There is no doubt that more needs to be done in spreading the Gospel but in order to be successful, the underlying causes need to be addressed and a system put in place to promote it.

It is very easy to identify the “symptoms” of the problem but much harder to admit the causes. Yes, there is a real apathy in the world toward the Christian message and this apathy has grown within the nihilism of the modern world. But apart from the world, the pope also identified another symptom that he called a “phenomenon.” In the world today, there are many “who belong to the Church but who are strongly determined by a vision of life that is opposed to the faith.” This particular symptom is more disturbing because it speaks of those who are in the Church.

It was Pope Paul VI, in his homily on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in 1972, who noted that “Satan’s smoke has made its way into the temple of God through some crack.” He went on to say that there is “doubt, uncertainty, problems, restlessness, dissatisfaction, confrontation. People no longer trust the Chuch; 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 ope to the light.” The late pontiff was not talking about those outside the Church but those within who have bought into the counterfeit.

The content spread by social engineering throughout the twentieth century and has produced the skepticism that is now the vision many believers have about what life should be like. The utilitarianism and hedonism that is prevalent is the root of the problem and countering it is substantial because it is widespread. This paradigmatic shift has been underway for quite some time and its tenets, to the dismay of Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius X, have been embraced by many Catholic theologians, priests, and religious. To make matters worse, there is the ongoing catechetical failure within the Church that has produced “those who belong to the Church” yet want to live a life different from the Gospel message.

As long as there are Catholic institutions of higher learning that spread the modernist message, there will be Catholics that oppose the Gospel message and will even be convinced that what they have been given is authentic. As long as the teachers in any Catholic institution of learning are steeped in the worldview of the social engineers, there will be Catholics that do not even know the authentic Gospel message.

For the New Evangelization to take hold, there will be a need for many Catholic institutions that are fully staffed with those who are 24/7 on board with the Gospel message. Where these staffs will come from is the heart of the problem.


The Council of Trent...

For some reason when the Sacramentary was translated into English and promulgated in the United States a decision was made to add a “rubric” regarding the distribution of the Precious Blood. Anyone who spends a few moments and actually reads the section of the General Instruction referred to in this added “rubric” will find that there was no intention to have the Precious Blood made available to every congregant at every Mass. In fact, the General Instruction refers the reader to the Church Teaching handed down at the Council of Trent with regard to Concomitance and charges the pastor with the responsibility of making sure the faithful are well instructed in this regard. This Teaching clearly states that anyone who receives one of the species has received the fullness of the Body and Blood of Christ. They are in no way deprived of any of the graces necessary for salvation.

Our catechesis and liturgical practice has been off base for so long that there is an “anonymous person” who claims he or she is being “denied” something when the Precious Blood is not distributed to the congregation at Mass. In fact, the person continues by suggesting we can use “disposable cups or cups that are washable” which would be “a great idea.” There are just too many errors present to even begin to list them and refute them.

Even now the bishops of the United States would prefer to raise this error to the level of norm. While there is a value to be discussed in the distribution of both species, there is a greater question involving the hermeneutic of continuity and the precision of Eucharistic Theology. If a “sign” is what it is in itself and the fullness of Body and Blood is contained under one or the other, it cannot be the “sign” itself that is any fuller under the distribution of both. Why not just spend more time teaching rather than changing?

However, we should ask the all important question, “Is this anonymous person an icon of a lost generation?”

A Gift Rejected

To Fear or not to Fear?

A Catholic school student and candidate for Confirmation listed the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit calling the last one “wonder and awe.” When politely corrected and told it is “fear of the LORD,” he quickly responded that the teacher told him that there are some old timers who say that but they are out of date. He was told the new list was “better and more accurate.” He was told to always say wonder and awe.

It is so good that we have these new and improved teachings that have revised the errors of all those centuries. Such revisionism of Church Teaching and Scripture should be questioned... and the question would be, “Why do you fear the Fear of the LORD?” Or better yet, “Why not just teach what the Scriptures say and the Church teaches?”

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1831) - The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the LORD.

Proverbs 1:7 - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; wisdom and instruction fools despise.

Sirach 1:12 - The beginning of wisdom is Fear of the LORD...

Isaiah 11:2-3 - The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.


Living the Truth...

This week Bishop Murphy’s weekly article in the Long Island Catholic makes some very good points that all Catholics should seriously ponder. In it, he uses the expression “dictatorship of opinion” which is certainly a reference to Pope Benedict’s expression “dictatorship of relativism.” Both of these expressions identify the larger problem we face today and the reason the Truth is so misunderstood and rejected, even by the committed faithful.

It is not that the Truth has changed or can be lessened because one rejects it but rather it is the rejection that endangers the eternal soul of the one rejecting It. Shepherds committed to the Truth ought to recognize the rejection and work to correct it. Such correction is also rejected because the rejector has been mired in a relativism that obfuscates the vision of the Truth to which the shepherd is leading. And because even shepherds are sinners, the dictators have cultivated their subjects to confuse the message with the messenger so that if the messenger has made a mistake in his or her life, the message must be flawed as well and has to be treated with skepticism.

While the bishop rightly does not place the complete fault on the media for this state of affairs that has developed under the yoke of these dictators, he does point out that this situation is widespread and occurring within the ranks of the Church. It seems that what is really at issue is the cultivation and formation process that these dictators use each day and the fact that people across this nation are completely immersed in that process. It is not that someone knows it is happening to them... it is because they trust the formator who is steeped in this relativistic worldview.

Unfortunately, there is nothing currently in place to counter this pervasive process and so inevitably the methodology has and will continue to enter Catholic circles. Here is one of those areas where the Catholic Education system should be making countercultural strides but is failing. As long as those entrusted with the formation and education process in Catholic schools are themselves being formed by the minions of the dictators, the end result will be the same. Without a cultivation and formation process that is committed to the Truth and living the Truth, the dictators will control the direction and outcome of the discourse and its methodology.

Could it be that Bishop Murphy subconsciously realizes that the dictators are controlling the direction, which would allow him to conclude that, “The triumph of the dictatorship of opinion in the Catholic Church has not yet occurred?” Is his use of the word “yet” indicative that he believes the triumph is merely being delayed?


The Call!

Getting the Message out there! Subscribe today...

We know the word “vocation” has Latin roots and simply means “call”. Today, many use the word “vocation” in the plural as if there are many different calls with all being equal. However, Catholics should know that there is really only one “call” and it is to holiness. How that vocation is lived out may take several different paths and those paths are not all the same and are not all equal. The “call” is always the same and for some it will follow the path of priesthood or consecrated life. This particular path is very different from the path of marriage and it should not be viewed as a “choice” between equals -- the two are not the same path and are not equal.

Maybe this is one of the areas in which we are missing the mark -- we are busy with “programs” that cater to the “choice” generation -- programs that focus on helping young men and women make choices about their “path” in life. Yet, such “choices” must flow out of a life of holiness, out of a life of prayer and discernment.

A prayerful young person being reared in a well formed domestic church does not feel the burden of making a life “choice” because a prayerful and holy person remains close to God and is capable of discerning God’s Will. To follow the path of religious life or priesthood will require a person to completely focus on God. To believe we can make such life “choices” on our own is part of the reason our seminaries and convents are now empty. Only God knows the future and ONLY He can guide a person along the right path. Only God provides the grace necessary to live the Spousal commitment a religious path demands.

There are many efforts and programs in place to help young people discern God’s will and to hopefully understand that the path of priesthood and religious life is one initiated and sustained by God. Our diocesan vocation office is putting together some videos which will hopefully answer some questions. Feel free to take a look or join the youtube channel they have established:

Heart and Soul

Catholic Anima...

The soul of Catholic Education has been on life support for some time as the “Heart” has been showing signs of failure. As we look around ourselves today, the distinctive Catholic difference has been all but eliminated. Catholics in general do not really understand what the Church Teaches and many disregard the Teaching Office of the Church, considering Her “view” out of touch. For some time, this has been developing due to the catechetical failure in many parishes and Catholic Institutions of learning. In reviewing the catechetical guidelines and textbooks, one often finds “Catholic Light” or some heavily watered down version thereof.

In the exodus of Catholic Doctrine from our schools and catechetical offices it was as if the soul of Catholicism was exhaled, which was like a “Heart” attack to the body. No longer are new generations of Catholics being catechized by those committed to the Good News, that is, those willing to bet their lives on the message of Christ, those whose obedience is certain. Instead, it has been handed over to the doubtful and skeptical, the modern day educators whose sole purpose is social engineering based on instrumentalist principles. No longer is faithfulness to Catholic Doctrine seen as the “Heart” of our existence.

While we have been able to keep the body alive on life support, the anima that is Catholicism and Her Teachings must be restored if a revival or resuscitation is to occur. The subtlety of this “heart” failure makes it hard to distinguish when and if a “heart” attack has occurred... but we must ask at what point we anoint?


The Modern Day Exodus...

During Lent the Office of Readings in the Breviary recalls the story of the Exodus. At this critical juncture of the Old Testament, God’s Chosen People are delivered from slavery and enter the desert for 40 years. Throughout the sojourn, God provided for His people and sustained them with the promised end of their pilgrimage -- entrance into the promised land.

In the 1960s and 1970s, there was an exodus of a different type. Those in Catholic Schools in our diocese remember well the exodus of the religious. Within a few short years, many brothers and sisters left the schools and left their order. Following that exodus, many of the faithful have left the practice of the faith as well. The difference with this exodus from that of the Chosen People was that this one was not preceded with miracles from God and has not followed a vision or plan from God.

What we see in its wake could be considered the beginning of the end of Catholic Education and the practice of the Catholic Faith. Some 40-50 years later, the classrooms are empty, the pews are empty, the confessionals are empty, and the number of Baptisms and Weddings are falling rapidly.

At this critical juncture of Catholicism and Catholic Education, do we really believe that raising more money alone is the solution? Or could it be that many Catholics do not know what Catholicism is as we are coming out of the desert of Catechetical aridity?

Catechetical Failure

Defending the Faith...

There was a time when the discipline of apologetics was for the Church to offer non-believers an explanation for our Faith. Today it seems the discipline is for defending the Faith to Catholics. It is very disturbing how many Catholics who attend Catholic schools or universities are taught that, for the most part, the Catholic Faith is indefensible and therefore every aspect of Her Tradition must now be doubted. The same secular arguments against the Bible and many of the Teachings of the Catholic Church are being taught to our young people today -- in Catholic institutions.

The teachers and professors, many of whom were educated in secular institutes or progressive Catholic universities, do not accomplish this in an overt manner and may not intend to do it... but many young people in Catholic high schools and universities are being taught to doubt the Bible and reject the Teachings and Tradition of the Church -- in the name of education. The arguments and theories being taught follow the same line of thought the developed in the enlightenment and engages in the same heavy handed methodology that secularists use today in the public forum. It is distressing because it is happening in Catholic schools, even in subtle ways at the elementary level. Those who should be able to give reasons for our Hope are instead formed to give reasons for doubt.

Yes, there is a place for scholarly endeavors and those endeavors should remain in the advanced academic circles. Theories in the science of Theology need to be tested and measured against the Truth, which is ultimately under the dominion of God and entrusted to our Mother and Teacher. Sadly, there are many Catholic schools that have become bastions for the dictatorship of relativism and are making new subjects for its dominion each day. Quite often, parish priests have to spend great amounts of energy trying to undo and set straight what has been put in motion in these “institutions of learning.”

So why should a parish priest have to defend the Teachings of the Church to Catholic high school students or graduates of a supposed Catholic university who keep quoting their “theology” teacher or assigned text book? The catechetical failure keeps growing and it appears the powers to be are spending a great deal of time and effort rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.


Opportunity Missed...

One month ago a Canon Lawyer, Dr. Edward Peters, cited Canon 915 and section 2390 of the Catechism as to why Governor Andrew Cuomo should be denied Holy Communion. The new governor’s public persona has certainly tested the limits of what constitutes “manifest grave sin” and has made it very difficult to claim that his religion is a private matter. Interestingly, it is OK for the sin to be public but the challenges are to remain private. On this specific issue, there have been many who commented on it and made it clear that there are sufficient grounds to hold the governor accountable, as well as many other notorious Catholic figures whose public policies and lives make a mockery of the Church’s Teachings.

While issues of faith and morals are difficult in the public forum and need to be treated with proper sensitivity, the bishops of New York State were once again given an opportunity to teach the faithful and did not take it. Many of the faithful today have not been taught the sinful gravity of “public concubinage” and sexual relations outside of the Sacrament of Marriage. This is the result of decades of failed catechesis. Regardless of the specific circumstances regarding the new governor and the many reasons why he and other Catholic politicians should not receive Holy Communion, public situations like this one are prime opportunities for instructing the faithful.

Marriage is a primordial reality that was established by God at the very beginning of Human existence. Its permanence and indissolubility are part of the constant teaching of the Church. In an era where this teaching is being questioned daily and there are calls to “redefine” marriage, there has not been a clear statement by the bishops with regard to why these politicians are in violation of Church Teaching. As public as the sin should be the Teaching. The depth of the Church’s Teaching on Marriage is relatively unknown by many of the faithful and it is time to make this Teaching clear. Case in point, the new Governor has publicly declared his support of gay marriage, a stance that further betrays his Catholicity.

Strong statements on the gravity of acts that betray Marriage are needed now more than ever and the bishops should use these opportunities to instruct the faithful. Unfortunately the bishops often engage in the “numbers game” and fear a mass exodus if they were to challenge Catholics on issues that disparage Marriage. In this regard, however, there are many Catholics who are not living out the Faith in its fullness and have already objectively separated themselves from the Church.

Maybe it is time once again to recapture the spiritual work of mercy and begin instructing the ignorant.