Religion

The US Civil Rights Commission And Religious Liberty

The US Civil Rights Commission released a briefing report to the President entitled "Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties." It studied the conflict between the expanding Federal legislation and regulations on sexual identity and marriage vs. freedom of Religious organizations, institutions and individuals to practice their faith.

The Commission's recommendations are troubling, but telling

  1. Overly-broad religious exemptions unduly burden nondiscrimination laws and policies.
    Federal and state courts, lawmakers, and policy-makers at every level must tailor religious exceptions to civil liberties and civil rights protections as narrowly as applicable law requires.
  2.  RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) protects only religious practitioners’ First Amendment free exercise rights, and it does not limit others’ freedom from government-imposed religious limitations under the Establishment Clause.
  3. In the absence of controlling authority to the contrary such as a state-level, RFRA-type statute, the recognition of religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws and policies should be made pursuant to the holdings of Employment Division v. Smith, which protect religious beliefs rather than conduct.
  4.  Federal legislation should be considered to clarify that RFRA creates First Amendment Free Exercise clause rights only for individuals and religious institutions and only to the extent that they do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights protections against status-based discrimination.
  5. States with RFRA-style laws should amend those statutes to clarify that RFRA creates First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights only for individuals and religious institutions.
  6. States with laws modeled after RFRA must guarantee that those statutes do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights with status-based discrimination.

The full report (over 300 pages) is linked here Peaceful Coexistence.

 

Comments from Chairperson of the US Civil Rights Commission,  Martin R. Castro, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2011.

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian
religion.” —John Adams

 

CASTRO_Bio
Chairman Martin R. Castro

The phrases “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia,
Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.

 Religious liberty was never intended to give one religion dominion over other religions, or a veto power over the civil rights and civil liberties of others.

However, today, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality. In our nation’s past religion has been used to justify slavery and later, Jim Crow laws. We now see “religious liberty” arguments sneaking their way back into our political and constitutional discourse (just like the concept of “state rights”) in an effort to undermine the rights of some Americans.

This generation of Americans must stand up and speak out to ensure that religion never again be twisted to deny others the full promise of America.

 


Faith and the Full Promise of America

 

Lori
Archbishop William Lori


A Statement from Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

 

For the current Chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, religious liberty is reduced to "nothing except hypocrisy," and religion is being used as a "weapon… by those seeking to deny others equality." He makes the shocking suggestion that Catholic, evangelical, orthodox Jewish, Mormon, and Muslim communities are comparable to fringe segregationists from the civil rights era. These statements painting those who support religious freedom with the broad brush of bigotry are reckless and reveal a profound disregard for the religious foundations of his own work.

People of faith have often been the ones to carry the full promise of America to the most forgotten peripheries when other segments of society judged it too costly. Men and women of faith were many in number during the most powerful marches of the civil rights era. Can we imagine the civil rights movement without Rev. Martin Luther King, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel? In places like St. Louis, Catholic schools were integrated seven years before the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Jesus taught us to serve and not to count the cost.

Our record is not perfect. We could have always done more. Nevertheless, we have long taught that the one God, maker of heaven and earth, calls each and every individual into being, loves every individual, and commands believers to love and show mercy to every individual. The idea of equality, which the Chairman treats as a kind of talisman, is incomprehensible apart from the very faith that he seeks to cut off from mainstream society.

Today, Catholic priests, religious and laity can be found walking the neighborhood streets of our most struggling communities in places abandoned by a "throwaway culture" that has too often determined that quick profits matter more than communities. We are there offering education, health care, social services, and hope, working to serve as the "field hospital" Pope Francis has called us to be. We wish we were there in even greater numbers, but we are there to humbly offer the full promise of America to all. Rest assured, if people of faith continue to be marginalized, it is the poor and vulnerable, not the Chairman and his friends, who will suffer.

Catholic social service workers, volunteers and pastors don't count the cost in financial terms or even in personal safety. But, we must count the cost to our own faith and morality. We do not seek to impose our morality on anyone, but neither can we sacrifice it in our own lives and work. The vast majority of those who speak up for religious liberty are merely asking for the freedom to serve others as our faith asks of us. We ask that the work of our institutions be carried out by people who believe in our mission and respect a Christian witness. This is no different from a tobacco control organization not wishing to hire an advocate for smoking or a civil rights organization not wanting to hire someone with a history of racism or an animal rights group wishing to hire only vegetarians.

In a pluralistic society, there will be institutions with views at odds with popular opinion. The Chairman's statement suggests that the USCCR does not see the United States as a pluralistic society. We respect those who disagree with what we teach. Can they respect us? We advocate for the dignity of all persons, a dignity that includes a life free from violence and persecution and that includes fair access to good jobs and safe housing. People of faith are a source of American strength. An inclusive and religiously diverse society should make room for them.

 

 


The President, The Inquisition and The Crusades

Sunday homilies are constrained by length and by the understanding there are children of all ages present at most liturgies. They are never “speeches” or “talks” and even those that convey new information are not to be lessons or lectures. One of my pastor mentors in seminary used to say that a homily should always end with something we can do.  With that understanding, here is last Sunday’s homily.

 

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 1:29-39

Jesus heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law

 

Any week the President of the United States

Uses Christ’s name twice in one speech

In the same context with the

Inquisition and Crusades

Serious Catholics have some

Praying to do

 

My responsibility isn’t to criticize

The president

But his speech has left some sickened

 

My responsibility is to lift us up

With the gospel truth

Of Jesus Christ

Just as Christ raised up

Peter’s mother-in-law

From her sickbed

To full health

 

Don’t let anyone keep you

In a sickbed about your faith!

Read, study, know the truth

A few moments on the two issues

The president raised in his prayer breakfast speech:

 

In 1998 John Paul II made these concluding remarks in a speech about the Inquisition

       Yet the consideration of mitigating factors does not exonerate the Church from the obligation to express profound regret for the weaknesses of so many of her sons and daughters who sullied her face, preventing her from fully mirroring the image of her crucified Lord, the supreme witness of patient love and of humble meekness. From these painful moments of the past a lesson can be drawn for the future, leading all Christians to adhere fully to the sublime principle stated by the Council: The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it wins over the mind with both gentleness and power.

 

The modern synthesis of the Crusades in many academic and political institutions is that the soldiers of the First Crusade appeared without any warning to pillage and plunder the Holy Land and slaughter non-Christians.

  In truth, well before 1095 the year of the first Crusade which came to the aid of the Byzantine emperor in the West who feared Constantinople would fall to the Muslims, wars of Islamic aggression had already seized control of the formerly Christian territories of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa, Spain, most of Asia Minor and Southern France. Italy was under assault, Sicily was eventually taken. Muslim invasions would be led into Europe.

3 of 5 Christianity’s primatial sees had already been captured: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria. Constantinople would eventually fall. Only Rome escaped…narrowly.

Any war, primitive or modern, is gruesome and brutal.

 Here is John Paul II’s prayer during a celebration of the Great Jubilee in 2000:

 Let us forgive and ask forgiveness! While we praise God who, in his merciful love, has produced in the Church a wonderful harvest of holiness, missionary zeal, total dedication to Christ and neighbour, we cannot fail to recognize the infidelities to the Gospel committed by some of our brethren, especially during the second millennium. Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions.

 

The silence of Islamic religious leaders

       Asking forgiveness for wars of aggression

       or disavowal of the acts committed by some

       in the name of their prophet

       is deafening

 

Our Christian baptism

does not put us on a “high horse" as the president said...

Far from it

We are touched by Christ

For service and to be his disciples

 

After today’s gospel miracle

       He set out on a preaching mission

       Throughout the whole region

 

We are empowered to

       Preach about Christ’s church

       His gospel message

And to condemn

       The abuse of human rights

       And religious freedom

       Wherever they occur

 Not because the church

       Can claim its members

       Are sinless saints

       But because

       Christ and his church

       Are the world’s best hope

       Not its greatest threat

       As some media pundits

       And militant atheists

       Would have us believe.

 

 We must be careful

       Not to let criticism of religious extremism

       turn to religious indifferentism

       Or hostility to

       Persons of any religious faith

 

But this is not a time for Christianity

       To be in bed with the flu

       Or to be weakened

       By medicinal doses of guilt

       Whether served up to us

       By the media or our president

 

Out of an abudance

       Of political correctness

 

Should our voices for an end to

       Senseless violence against civilians

              Men, women and children

              And graphic, public executions

              Be silenced?

 

Can we at least agree to condemn

       Beheadings, crucifixions

And slave markets

       Of Christians?

  

Can we condemn

Cowardly acts of terrorism

       Defend against them

       And try to make the world

       A safer place?

 

We must.

 

Lent is almost upon us.

A perfect opportunity

       To express our grief in ashes

       And our hope in Jesus Christ

       To pray, fast and do penance

       And work

       For peace.

 


Thought Provoking Article by Theologian Stanley Hauerwas - "The End of American Protestantism"

"The End of American Protestantism" by Stanley Hauerwas

Preacher_10
This article via Bioedge Newsletter was originally published on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) by Professor Stanely Hauerwas, now of Duke University.

Entitled "The End of American Protestantism," it decries the dissolution of faith in God, or at least in the American god Protestantism had created from "a synthesis of evangelical Protestantism, republican political ideology and commonsense moral reasoning." Hauerwas' analysis of the peculiar secularism in which we now find ourselves comes from the unravelling of the moral consensus we previously held on the importance of faith in republican democracy and the common sense of the average American. 

Hauerwas begins his article by exempting American Catholicism from his analysis, but I'm not so sure we have escaped the melting pot of America's new god - freedom of choice. Look at the first two paragraphs of his essay and see if they would intrigue you, as they did me, to read the entire piece:

Catholics in America know they do not belong, which is why they are so determined to demonstrate that they are more American than the Americans.

All you need to know to understand America is that the FBI is made up of Catholics and Southerners. This is because Catholics and Southerners have to try to show they are more loyal than most Americans, since Southerners have a history of disloyalty and Americans fear that Catholics may owe their allegiance to some guy in Rome. That is why the FBI is given the task of examining graduates of Harvard and Yale - that is, high-culture Protestants who, of course, no longer believe in God - to see if they are loyal enough to be operatives for the CIA.

The related phenomenon is what I call "the New York Times Catholics." These are Catholics, usually clergy, a New York Times journalist has learned to call after the Pope has issued an encyclical or given a speech that seems offensive to American sensibilities. They call a Catholic, whom they have previously identified as a critic of the church, to have confirmed that whatever the Pope has said, Catholics in America are not required to obey, or even if they are so required, Catholics will not take what the Pope has said seriously. From the perspective of the New York Times, therefore, a good Catholic is one that would be regarded by the Vatican as a bad Catholic.

 

To emphasize the point even more strongly, it seems that several of the most well published writers critical of the Catholic church and its teachings identify themselves as Catholics. 

In a fascinating analysis of why American divorce and abortion have become widespread, Hauerwas asks if the "person on the street" would agree that someone should be held responsible for something they promised when they didn't know what they were doing. Of course not, would be the likely reply. So how could you possibly make an unconditional promise of marriage, or be held to deliver an unwanted child to put the child up for adoption? The dysfunctional marriage or the unplanned pregnancy are circumstantial evidence that at least two persons didn't know what they were doing. Either the marriage or the child can be dismissed.

Don't look for Catholics to save the day warns Hauerwas, for Catholicism in America has become another variety of Protestant Christianity. The laughable assertion that " I believe in Jesus as Lord, but that's just my personal opinion," is likely to be the sentiment of the average politically correct American Catholic. Similarly, a chorus of Catholic elected officials will carefully explain the dinstinction betweeen their "public" and "private" morality in an effort to reassure the electorate they will ignore Catholic doctrine at the office. Should we call this their belief in the Kennedy-Cuomo Doctrine?

The article is thought provoking commentary on modernity, pluralism and religious freedom. It makes interesting companion reading with Pope Francis' Encyclical "The Light of Faith."

Maybe the proverb many of us learned in our youth (perhaps taught by a nun) "better to light one candle than curse the darkness" needs a modern day Catholic revision - important to curse the darkness but keep lighting candles anyway.


Christians Persecuted Worldwide

Persecution of Christians is increasing all around the world noted Catholic Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomassi during an interview on Vatican Radio.

The bishops of the United States have asked all Catholic parishes to participate in the Fortnight for Freedom, a prayer and petition crusade to protect religious liberties, especially here in the United States. 

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/05/29/vatican-spokesman-claims-100000-christians-killed-annually-because-faith



Holy Cross Parish will again participate in the petition signing and will have petitions available at all our masses. More details to follow.

 


Sacrament of Reconciliation

Reconciliation with child
Today, Fr. Cody and Msgr. Zaccardo helped me hear the confessions of our school children. Classes are brought in one or two at a time so that the children do not wait too long. 

I was delighted at their level of preparation and attentiveness. Their confessions gave evidence of a good, age-appropriate examination of conscience and many children were quite thoughtful and thorough in their remarks.

Thank you to all teachers, parents and parish staff for your efforts to instruct our children how to follow faithfully in Jesus' footsteps.

 


Sacramentals

 

Our 5th grade is studying the sacraments and sacramentals and they raised some interesting questions with me this week.

There is an online version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

CoverThe Catechism of the Catholic Church has relatively little to say about sacramentals. It names "blessings" as the most important sacramental and as you may know, there is an entire Book of Blessings with readings and prayers for various kinds of blessings.Strangely enough, exorcisms are treated in the same section as sacramental blessings.

The catechism then states:  

" The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals,180 etc."

While enthusiasm for some sacramentals waned and was even discouraged after Vatican II, a proper use of sacramentals in our daily life seems to be developing. It's interesting in this day and age of collecting autographs and memorabilia of all kinds, tracing anecestry and innumberable other ways of making connections with our world, that the proper use of sacramentals isn't endorsed and ecouraged more frequently.

One practice I remember as a child was that of keeping (and using) holy water in the home. My grandmother always had some in a special glass-stoppered bottle. Many families kept small holy water stoups in the children's bedrooms to use when blessing themselves for night prayer, or leaving for the day of school. The holy water was dutifully replenished from the font in the church each week.

At Holy Cross we give a small bottle of baptismal water to each family from the baptismal font on the day of their infant's baptism.

An inappropriate use of sacramentals draws attention away from the priority of the sacraments themselves and can flirt with superstitious practice. The sacramentals themselves have no power and our use of them should be quite distinct from practitioners of the occult who believe that the use of certain items along with precise incantations and rituals guarantee certain results, e.g. love potions, magic spells, curses, etc.

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Proper use of sacramentals focuses attention to the grace flowing from the sacraments themselves and  to Jesus Christ and His Church. They help us weave a sacred theme into our daily lives and elevate our minds and hearts to God.



 


The First Precept of the Church

Mass Attendance

You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.  First Precept of the Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church

The issue of mass attendance and our attempts to encourage it by using stickers imprinted with images from each week’s gospel has been percolating a bit lately, especially as we begin a new school year with a new principal, so let me share with you some thoughts as pastor.

Family attending mass The importance of weekly worship as a community and the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist cannot be overstated. This is especially true in a parish community with a school. Parents, parishioners and parish staff make incredible sacrifices to ensure that our students are well formed in the practice of the faith – not simply the knowledge of the faith, but its practice. A parish’s religious education program is also an indication of how dearly the parish esteems the Eucharist and the liturgy. Our CCD program has evolved over the last few years to include an important emphasis on the gospel of the week and the importance of attending mass. The classroom teaching component is not the only, nor in my view, the most important part of faith formation. It is crucial that our young people understand that Catholics go to mass.

Surveys indicate this is not the typical practice among American Catholics, even though mass Empty-church-pewsattendance is higher in the United State than in many European countries. Our children are in a formative period of their faith and it is incumbent upon us to see that they are given the best opportunity to integrate the practice of their faith into their daily lives from the youngest age.

 It is quite sad to see so many funerals at Holy Cross for the most ardent, faith-filled Catholics whose children have been assimilated not to Christianity, but into a kind of religiously indifferent American multi-culturalism. What can we expect if they are not taught the vital practice of attending mass, receiving the Eucharist and nurturing their ties with the local Catholic parish? It is irresponsible to accept the premise that most children attending Catholic school do not attend mass.

 

Report CardIt was quite possible to read, study and achieve good grades in religion without ever having heard the gospel for Sundays. Families accepted completing homework, service projects and passing tests as an expected component of religious formation. Trouble is, sometimes it became emphasized as the only component of faith formation for our children, and many schools and Religious education programs lost sight of the ideal of weekly mass attendance.

 

Here at Holy Cross, our school students were invited to daily mass, began to experience prayer at Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and helped create Stations of the Cross during Lent. Weekly reflections on the gospel were introduced into the classrooms. The parish prints stickers with clipart from each Sunday’s gospel to serve as the nucleus of discussion, even for children who cannot read. Students keep a reflection journal into which the sticker may be placed along with a one or two sentence summary of that week’s gospel in their own words, or their own drawings.

PewAfter the parish community and the teachers in both our school and volunteer Religious education teachers became empowered to discuss our obligation to attend weekly mass, mass attendance was eventually taken in Religion class and CCD. The old copper cross which stood atop Holy Rosary Church for so many years has been refurbished and is awarded weekly to the class with the highest mass attendance and the class with the most improved mass attendance.

 Mass attendance at Holy Cross among our school children and religious education families has more than doubled…for some months it has tripled. Occasionally one class can proudly and rightfully boast of 100% attendance. The expectation that we should attend mass is no longer a well-kept secret and is spoken about openly and frequently. The obligation as parents, parishioners and catechists to insist that our children participate fully in their faith formation by attending mass is gradually becoming better understood.

 

 The stickers still truly annoy some parents, obviously those whose children rarely if ever attend mass, but interestingly, some of those who do. While I’m not sure surrendering our responsibility to assess how our school and parish is doing with one of its primary missions should exactly be called “the honor system,” I get the point. Are we to abolish attendance taking in the classroom for religion class and Religious education classes, homework, quizzes and projects for religious formation as part of the honor system as well? What about tracking student tardiness for class, grades and exams in all subjects, extracurricular activities and requirements for participation in sports teams? Strident conscientious-objection to mass stickers or gospel journaling by mass-going families seems to miss the point, or at least underestimate the need to ensure our children attend mass. After all, we never see the children who aren't here, except perhaps on Christmas.  The stickers aren’t the point, are they?

Crowded church



Tuesday's Religious Education Classes Blown Away

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As you know, our first session of Religious Education classes for the Tuesday groups was cancelled due to the changeable weather. The gusts of wind and occasional rain made for potentially hazardous driving conditions and so it seemed prudent to postpone the classes. I guess rather than "snow days" we should simply call them "weather days" when we build flexibility into our schedules for missed school and work.

We are excited to get our Religious formation program started again, and are sure many teachers and students were disappointed to postpone their first day back.

 


So What Did Sebelius Say?

Fortnight-for-freedom-montage

After all the furor over the ill-advised invitation by Georgetown University to Kathleen Sebelius to speak at the "non commencement event," and the predictable deaf ear turned toward it by the University administration, what did she say?

Well, pretty much work hard, work for the common good, keep your idealism, Carpe diem. She was pretty heavy on the Georgetown sports metaphors (the transcript of the speech I read doesn't transcribe whether there was any hooting or hollering when the teams were mentioned). Which ideals she meant for the graduates to hold onto wasn't clear, but strongly implied that elders don't have them anymore.

She used the word "Catholic" once in referring to John Kennedy's presidential campaign but did not identify herself as one. And she repeated the poorly understood phrase "separation of church and state" which has often been used in an attempt to silence public discussion about moral issues.  (Some critics have noted there was little to fear Catholicism would influence anything Kennedy did, public or private.)  

Some of then-Senator Kennedy’s opponents attacked him for his religion, suggesting that electing the first Catholic president would undermine the separation of church and state, a fundamental principle of our democracy. The furor grew so loud that Kennedy chose to deliver a speech about his beliefs just seven weeks before the election.

In that talk to Protestant ministers, Kennedy talked about his vision of religion and the public square, and said he believed in an America, and I quote, “where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against us all.”

Kennedy was elected president on November 8, 1960. And more than 50 years later, that conversation, about the intersection of our nation’s long tradition of religious freedom with policy decisions that affect the general public, continues.

 

Indeed it does. Except under Sebelius' watch, it's the federal regulations that are being imposed on Catholics. 

In support of the US Catholic bishops call for faithful Catholics to be heard, Holy Cross will have petitions available for parishioners to sign which call for the protection of religious liberty in the United States.


Be Afraid then Write, Email and Call

Legs_stilts_92557

A Real Three Ring Circus

The media circus over Obama's HHS mandate that religious institutions provide health care coverage for artificial contraception, abortifacients and surgical sterilization grows daily. The cast of characters streaming into the Big Top would be amusing, except that this three ring circus is deadly serious.

Did you know: Every Christian denomination denounced artificial contraception prior to 1930.

Did you know: "The Morning After Pill" prevents pregnancy in some cases by preventing implantation of an already living and multiplying human life?

Did you know: That Natural Family Planning is more effective at preventing pregnancy than female chemical contraception and equally effective as male barrier contraception?

Why do some of our elected representatives feel as though they have the right to challenge the legitimacy of the teaching authority of our bishops by misinterpreting polls on artificial contraception? What about if we put each of the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes to a vote? Or how about if we nullified each commandment we routinely break? Our chuch teachings are ideals to help us strive for holiness, not a political party platform. Jesus himself lost at least one crucial poll...the crowd chose Barabbas. 

The brazen attempt to both minimize the theological objection to artificial contraception and ridicule or ignore the teaching authority of our bishops is bad enough. But coverage for abortifacient drugs and surgical sterlization are also mandated by the HHS directive. 

Bad when politicians turn theologians or preachers, worse still when they challenge our own.


Archbishop Chaput: HHS Mandate "... belligerent, unnecessary and deeply offensive to the content of Catholic belief"

Everything Archbishop Chaput writes is lapidary and clear. The Archbishop's response to President Obama's latest assault on our religious freedoms is no exception:

ArchbishopChaput2
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) refused on January 20 to broaden the exception to its mandate that nearly all Catholic employers must cover contraception, abortifacients and sterilization in their health care plans.

An "accommodation" offered Friday by the White House did not solve the problem. Instead, it triggered withering criticism from legal scholars like Notre Dame’s Carter Snead, Harvard’s Mary Ann Glendon, Princeton’s Robert George and Catholic University of America president John Garvey, along with non-Catholic scholars like Yuval Levin, the religious liberty law firm The Becket Fund and numerous Catholic and other organizations.
Many Catholics are confused and angry. They should be.
Quite a few Catholics supported President Obama in the last election, so the ironies here are bitter. Many feel betrayed. They’re baffled that the Obama administration would seek to coerce Catholic employers, private and corporate, to violate their religious convictions.
But it’s clear that such actions are developing into a pattern. Whether it was the administration's early shift toward the anemic language of "freedom of worship" instead of the more historically grounded and robust concept of "freedom of religion" in key diplomatic discussions; or its troubling effort to regulate religious ministers recently rejected 9-0 by the Supreme Court in the Hosanna Tabor case; or the revocation of the U.S. bishops’ conference human trafficking grant for refusing to refer rape victims to abortion clinics, it seems obvious that this administration is -- to put it generously -- tone deaf to people of faith.
Philadelphians may wish to reflect on the following facts. The Archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Human Services spends $278,000,000 annually on services to the community. About 4,000 employees comprise our Secretariat’s work force. Catholic Social Services is the largest social service agency in Pennsylvania and the largest residential care/social service sub-contractor with the Department of Human Services of the City of Philadelphia.
There’s more. Archdiocesan Catholic Health Care Services is the largest faith-based provider of long-term-care services to the poor and elderly in the five-county area, and the seventh-largest nationally. And our Nutritional Development Services ministry serves more than 8 million meals a year to school children, summer programs and child care centers. It also provides 2 million pounds of non-perishable food to needy families and the elderly through its Community Food Program.
Much of the money used by these ministries comes from public funding. But of course, the reason these ministries are trusted with public funding is that they do an excellent job. The service relationship works well without compromising the integrity of either the government or the Church. In fact, in a practical sense, government often benefits more than the Church.
It’s also important to note that many millions of the dollars disbursed are resources directly donated by faithful Catholics to carry out their Gospel mission to serve the needy. For the Church, this makes perfect sense: As a believing community, we share our resources freely and gladly. We’ll cooperate with anyone in service to the common good, so long as we are not forced to compromise our religious beliefs.
But the HHS mandate, including its latest variant, are belligerent, unnecessary and deeply offensive to the content of Catholic belief. Any such mandate would make it morally compromising for us to provide health care benefits to the staffing of our public service ministries. Moreover, we cannot afford to be fooled -- yet again -- by evasive and misleading allusions to the administration’s alleged "flexibility" on such issues. The HHS mandate needs to be rescinded.
Many critics are focusing on the details of this or that particular version of the HHS regulation -- the narrowness of the religious exemption, the breadth of the mandate, the hollowness of the grace period. As useful as this approach may be, it risks wandering into the weeds. The White House response on these points is ambiguous and weak. The true magnitude of the issue is getting lost as just another debate about details.
In reality, no similarly aggressive attack on religious freedom in our country has occurred in recent memory.
The current administration prides itself on being measured and deliberate. The current HHS mandate needs to be understood as exactly that. Commentators are using words like "gaffe," "ill conceived," and "mistake" to describe the mandate. They’re wrong. It’s impossible to see this regulation as some happenstance policy. It has been too long in the making.
Despite all of its public apprehension about "culture warriors" on the political right in the past, the current administration has created an HHS mandate that is the embodiment of culture war. At its heart is a seemingly deep distrust of the formative role religious faith has on personal and social conduct, and a deep distaste for religion’s moral influence on public affairs. To say that this view is contrary to the Founders’ thinking and the record of American history would be an understatement.
Critics may characterize my words here as partisan or political. These are my personal views, and of course people are free to disagree. But it is this administration -- not Catholic ministries or institutions or bishops -- that chose the timing and nature of the fight. The onus is entirely on the White House, which also has the power to remove the issue from public conflict. Catholics should not be misled into accepting feeble compromises on issues of principle. The HHS mandate is bad law; and not merely bad, but dangerous and insulting. It needs to be withdrawn -- now

Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM


 

 

Catholic News Agency post 2/11


Archbishop Chaput on the Vocation of Christians in American Public Life

Vocations of Christians in American Public Life

Kennedy-cover   Archbishop Chaput's most recent speech on the role of Catholic faith in American public life traces the unhealthy division between a politician's private moral beliefs and their public voting records to the speech President Kennedy made about his own Catholic faith during his run for the presidency.

In erroneously viewing the history of our republic as purely secular, and reassuring the public that if elected he would not be a Catholic president, (or perhaps even as a president who was truly Catholic,) Kennedy established the principle that politicians should divorce their private moral and religious beliefs from their public advocacy. 

The Archbishop calls Kennedy's landmark speech "sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong.  Not wrong about the patriotism of Catholics, but wrong about American history and very wrong about the role of religious faith in our nation’s ."

In this far reaching and thoughtful speech, Chaput emphasizes the importance of Catholic witness in public life decrying ecumenism based on polite behavior instead of truth as empty, and a lie.

Look at the short list of issues the Archbishop identified that confront us, and notice how many depend precisely on our beliefs as Catholics:
abortion; immigration; our obligations to the poor, the elderly and the disabled; questions of war and peace; our national confusion about sexual identity and human nature, and the attacks on marriage and family life that flow from this confusion; the growing disconnection of our science and technology from real moral reflection; the erosion of freedom of conscience in our national health-care debates; the content and quality of the schools that form our children.
Read the entire text of the Archbishop's speech on their diocese's webpage by following the link at the top of this post.


Two Strike Outs and a Home Run

Untitled Those were Grant Desme's at bats in his last game as a hot minor league prospect for the Oakland Athletics. The 23 year old outfielder told reporters on a conference call that he truly felt called to the priesthood and will enter a Catholic seminary, St. Michael's Abbey in Orange County California next year. St. Michael's Abbey is home to a monastery of Nobertine monks.

Desme had been seriously considering a call to the priesthood for 18 months and played this last season almost to test his resolve to leave baseball. Despite his success this year in being named the Arizona Fall League MVP, he became more convinced than ever that God was calling him to be a priest. "I love the game, but I'm going to aspire to higher things," Desme said.

His family, teammates and many fans have been supportive of his decision which will involve at least ten years of study and formation before ordination.

Grant's decision was carried in the San Franciso Chronicle, which has an online blog open for comments. The eighty-one comments recorded so far are a commentary, a sad one, on the public's perception of the priesthood today. Read the article and comments here.

Pray for Grant and other young men and women to gather the courage to answer God's call and enter priesthood and religious life, especially during this Year of the Priest.


Practically Catholic

Canterbury_cathedral My mother's mother was the 11th child of twelve and spent her childhood in upstate New York and later in Brooklyn. She came from a long line of Protestant settlers who made their way down from Conneticut after emigrating to the "New World" in the sixteen and seventeen hundreds. (Though not on the Mayflower.)

I remember my grandmother telling stories about how she had to "convert" to marry my grandfather and how nobody but the two of them seemed happy about it. She was "disowned" for quite a while by her own family and looked upon with suspicion by her Catholic in-laws. Grandma said she and Grandpa's wedding ceremony was supposed to take place in the sacristy or the rectory, but somehow they managed to exchange their vows in the sanctuary.

When her sister and brother and law would finally visit, I remember lots of conversation about the deacons in the Episcopalian church (before the permanent diaconate was restored in the Catholic church) and that their clergy could be married. I always got the impression from my great uncle that the Catholic church was newer than his older, more traditional church - they were "high" Episcopal. Meantime, my grandmother would confide, don't worry, Episcopalians were "practically Catholic."

Well, with Benedict XVI's decision last week to welcome Anglicans into the Catholic church, that turned out to be truer than she knew. Many commentators from the right are heralding the pope's move  as the most important ecumenical step in decades, while some on the left are deriding it as homophobic and misogynistic. I suppose it displeases those who always imagined that ecumenism meant the Catholic church would abandon some or all of its teachings or disciplines, or those who deride any clear cut theological doctrines or liturgical practices. It will certainly be interesting to see how things work out.

Meantime, I admire my grandmother's courage and applaud her common sense. I hope she's smiling in heaven that Pope Benedict shares her point of view.

Canterbury Cathedral


The Green Eyed Monster Which Mocks the Meat It Feeds On

Lectionary Readings 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Eye

Green connotes many good things like spring, hope, new growth, youth, life, vitality, ordinary time, but since the time of Shakespeare, also the especially negative emotions - jealousy and envy.

The green of jealousy or envy is thought to derive from the idea that those who harbor such emotions have too much bile, and so a sickly pale. Envy is the desire for something someone else has, while jealousy is the fear that someone or something we have will be taken away if we share.

Jesus challenges both emotions, but in today's gospel and in the Hebrew Scripture reading from Numbers, jealousy takes the limelight. 

The anointed 72 who resent the prophesizing of the absent-from-the-commissioning-meeting-without-explanation Eldad and Medad are chastized for their jealousy by Moses; Jesus likewise challenges the disciples who resent that outsiders are using Jesus' name to work exorcisms.

All of us tend to create "in" groups and "out" groups. Not everyone is a member of my family, or my neighborhood, not everyone lives in Rumson, not everyone is Catholic, not everyone is my friend, not everyone is my race, not everyone suits my personality. It natural for us to make distinctions, but sinful to deny someone their human dignity because of an arbitrary decision on our part. And we diminish our enjoyment of whatever we have by jealous fear.

How can I open a circle I belong to, how can I be less afraid I will lose by sharing, less jealous?