Thursday, August 08, 2002

Motor City, Here I Come

I'm in Detroit today, visiting my alma mater, Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Later today, at 4:00 PM EDT, I'll be on the Al Kresta Live show to talk about my review of Goodbye! Good Men.

Tune in if you can!

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

From the Shameless Self-Promotion Department

Tomorrow, that is Thursday, August 8, I will be interviewed on the Al Kresta Live radio show. The interview is scheduled for 4:00 PM EDT.

The subject of the interview will be my recent review of Goodbye! Good Men, the book by Michael Rose which is being touted as an expose' of the problems in American seminaries. The review was published in the May issue of Culture Wars. I have been quite critical, in my review and here on my blog, of Mr. Rose's book, and of some of his actions subsequent to the publication of my review.

Al Kresta Live is a daily national Catholic radio talk show, which addresses a wide variety of topics and contemporary issues from an orthodox Catholic perspective. The show is syndicated nationally by the Ave Maria Radio network. If you have a Catholic radio station in your area, chances are they carry Al Kresta already, so tune in! If they don't, then ask them to start carrying Al's show.

Pro-Abort "Catholic" Granholm wins Primary

Gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Granholm won Michigan's Democratic primary yesterday by a large plurality.

Ms. Granholm calls herself a "Catholic", even though she is a staunch advocate of a woman's so-called "right" to kill her unborn children. Her public and visible support for abortion, and denial of the fundamental Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life, has excited no comment, much less criticism, from the hierarchy in Michigan.

Granholm's victory was no doubt helped along by people like Fr. Doc Ortman, a priest at her home parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in Plymouth, Michigan. His strangely-reasoned and mawkish tribute to Ms. Granholm can be read at Mark Shea's or Amy Welborn's blogs. Although she is a source of open scandal in that parish and in the Archdiocese of Detroit, the good fathers at OLGC think so highly of Ms. Granholm that her public position on abortion hasn't prevented them from allowing Ms. Granholm to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. There's nothing like putting one's sacrilege into action!

Now that we have yet another pro-abort Catholic running for office, I'm sure we'll be treated to another round of blatherings from newspaper columnists, Richard McBrien and the NCR crowd, America and Commonweal. They'll try to tell us how one can reconcile Catholic teaching on abortion with a "pro-choice" position, how abortion is just one part of a "larger teaching" about life, and how the Big Bad Church will try to stomp on the freedom of thought of such "dynamic" and "farsighted" politicians like Ms. Granholm.

What I'd like to know is if the bishops will continue their tradition of impotent silence or pusillanimous mumblings about politicians like Ms. Granholm, who proclaim their "Catholic" identity to the world while ignoring or thumbing their nose at Church teaching.

Anyone willing to lay odds?

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Quisling Alert

Reader, get thee to Mark Shea's blog, and read the fawning encomium to Michigan's pro-abort Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Jennifer Granholm, written by a priest at her parish. Then take his advice and write or call Cardinal Maida's office at the Archdiocese of Detroit and complain about this disgusting betrayal of Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life.

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about priests and bishops who were more concerned with being good Democrats than being good Catholics, but this latest example stands Catholic teaching on its head in a despicably dishonest way.

When you're done with Mark and the Cardinal, then come back here and finish reading me...

Stability, the Shibboleth of American Foreign Policy

I haven't commented previously on matters of politics or American foreign policy, not because I have no opinions on such matters, but because I have been preoccupied with other things, and felt that others were saying the things I believed better than I could have.

But I urge all of you to read a brilliant article by Ralph Peters titled Stability, America's Enemy, which appeared in the Winter 2001-02 issue of Parameters, the US Army War College Quarterly. I am grateful to Lane Core at The View from the Core for bringing this article to light on his blog.

In this article Peters deftly exposes the self-destructive fallacy that has been pursued by our government for the last century, the fallacy of supporting so-called "stability" in our international relations rather than remaining true to our own professed values and priorities. This pursuit of a false stability, he writes, is what led to our dismal record in South America and Africa, and has gotten us into trouble in the Mideast as well.

Peters also exposes the self-delusion that the goal of our foreign policy is somehow to spread "Democracy" to those poor benighted nations which don't yet have it. This sort of thinking was most succinctly articulated by Woodrow Wilson's slogan "Make the world safe for Democracy" (in my opinion Woodrow Wilson should go down as one of the most deluded and destructive men in history). This way of thinking is nothing less than the idolatry of Democracy, which Dr. Russell Kirk called "Democratism." Peters points out that "Democracy is a highly evolved mechanism for maintaining the society we have achieved, but it is not a tool for creating a society worth maintaining." Democracy is a result, it is not a means or method to obtain a result. Peters adds, " Democracy must be earned and learned. It cannot be decreed from without." We must face up to the fact, PC mantras and populist flag-waving aside, that some nations and peoples are not yet ready for democracy, and would be far better off having the experience of a couple of centuries of feudal monarchy or hereditary oligarchy under their belts before attempting the formation of a democratic republic. If we had learned that lesson, perhaps South and Central America wouldn't be in the mess it's in, and Russia wouldn't be in a state of near-anarchy, with its de facto rulership by warring criminal mobs.

Thanks to Ralph Peters for an outstanding political-historical study, and again to Lane Core for bringing the article to my attention.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Today is the Feast of the Dedication of St. Mary Major Basilica

This is the oldest church dedicated to Our Lady in Rome, having been built by Pope Liberius in about 352 AD. Our Lady appeared to a Christian Roman nobleman on the night of August 4, and she asked that a church be built in her honor on the Esquiline hill. She told him there would be a sign to accompany this dream: that the exact location of the Church would be marked out in snow. Pope Liberius was granted a similar vision that same night, so that he would know of Our Lady's request.

Upon awakening, John and Pope Liberius rushed to the Esquiline and saw the miraculous snowfall which had traced the form of the basilica on the hill. Many other people were there to see the snow which had miraculously fallen in the August heat (anyone who has ever experienced the sauna that is Rome in August will know just how miraculous such a thing would be).

The basilica was completed on that spot within two years and consecrated by Pope Liberius. When the Council of Ephesus defined Mary as Theotokos, the God-bearer, in 431 A.D., Pope Sixtus III (432-440) rebuilt and embellished the basilica. From the seventh century onward, it was referred to as St. Mary the Great or Major. Because of the miraculous snowfall, it is also sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Snows.

Today's Feast is marked at the basilica by a special procession in which white flower petals are droppd from the ceiling of the church to commemorate the miraculous snowfall. On this day, traditionally, the Pope is presented at the basilica with his flock of Papal sheep, which he gives a special blessing. These are the sheep from whose wool the pallia (singular= pallium) are made. The pallium is the white woolen cloth, decorated with black crosses, worn by Metropolitan Archbishops around their neck over their vestments when they celebrate Mass. The pallium is a sign of the Archbishop's communion with the See of Peter and is presented to new Archbishops on the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, June 29. Bet you didn't know the Pope had his own special flock of sheep! The sheep are raised at Castel Gondolfo, the Pope's summer residence.

On a note of pure diversion, at Castel Gondolfo is also the Papal herd of cows. I have seen the Papal cows myself and taken part in the unusual tradition of serenading the Pope's cows. The song which one sings to the Pope's cows is, of course, in Latin, though the text is not ready to hand. I took part in this curious custom when I was studying Latin in Rome in 1997 with Fr. Reginald Foster, OCD, who is known as "the Pope's Latinist". Reggie regularly takes his students out to Castel Gondolfo to take part in this pilgrimage of Papal animal-lore.

Getting back to Saint Mary Major, also there is the Praesepium, the relic of the manger in which Christ rested:

The chapel of the Praesepium is granted a singular privilege: In that chapel any priest may, on any day of the year save Good Friday and Easter Sunday, celebrate any of the Masses of Christmas. It's Christmas everyday there! I intend on my next visit to Rome, which will be the first since my ordination, to visit that Chapel and celebrate Midnight Mass there. Being Catholic is great, isn't it?

As one might gather from my enthusiasm, this feast is special to me. It was in this Basilica, as a seminarian, that I put away some doubts and difficulties I was having in persevering, and rededicated myself to seeing through my vocation to the priesthood. Also, by God's providence, this day is the day I was privileged to be able to offer my First Mass at the Cathedral of St. Augustine in Kalamazoo. That day, the oldest known prayer to Our Lady became a special and personal prayer for me. The music director at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Mr. Calvert Shenk, has written a sublimely beautiful motet on this text, which I hope he has published:

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus,xxxxxxxxxxWe fly to thy patronage,
sancta Dei Genitrix: nostras deprecationesxxxxO holy Mother of God. Depise not
ne despicias in neccestitatibus:xxxxxxxxxxxxxour petitions in our neccessities,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,xxxxbut deliver us always from all dangers,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxO glorious and blessed Virgin.

Comments, Anyone?

Well, I've gone and done it! I've added a comment feature to my blog. It seems to be pretty much de rigeuranymore. So please, comment away! Debate about what I or other bloggers have written. Argue about things (always with charity). Tell me if I said something really stupid.

Of course, I still love to get e-mail. So talk back!

The Priesthood: Fraternity or Club?

At the ordination of Fr. Fleckenstein Saturday I saw in a new way what the fraternity of the priesthood is really supposed to be about, and, at its best moments, truly is. For those of you who have never attended and ordination, you should know that after the bishop lays hands on the ordinand to impart the gift of the Holy Spirit, all of the other priests present lay hands on him to express the unity of the priesthood and our sharing in the one high priesthood of Christ. As I laid hands on John in turn with the other priests, I realized that I gained a new brother. For all of us who share in the high priesthood of Christ are brothers.

I have seen this brotherhood at work in different ways since my ordination. A few months ago I was having a difficult time with a situation in my parish and I was really discouraged by it. I called one of my priest friends to talk about it, and he dropped everything the next afternoon to drive almost 2 hours to have lunch with me and spend most of the afternoon talking with me and giving me encouragement. That is brotherhood. And conversely, if I or another priest says or does something out of line, or is headed down the wrong path, we are usually the first to call one another to account.

Some bloggers and readers have voiced their concerns that I, by trying to set the record straight about Fr. DeVita, have given the impression that the priesthood is a sort of club whose members rally around one another no matter what. I imagine that the priesthood, like any other human organization, can devolve into a sort of "in-group" interested primarily in its own prerogatives. I have seen parishes that function that way, and it is very disordered. A presbyterate that decayed into an "in-group" or club would be very disordered indeed. And perhaps that is what happened in places where priest-abusers got shuffled around and no one seemed to pay attention or care.

I have not experienced the priesthood as a club, but as a brotherhood. And when I speak of the priesthood as a brotherhood, I am not thinking of some sort of metaphorical or symbolic brotherhood. If anything, the spritual brotherhood of the priesthood may be more real than natural brotherhood, because it is a participation in the Person of Christ. When my brother priests are honored or advanced (such as my friend Bishop-elect Earl Boyea), I rejoice with them. And when one of them experiences sorrow or grief, I grieve with him. When one of them is discouraged, I try to encourage him. And if one of my brother priests should fall, I am filled with sorrow and pity for him. And, as we now know has happened far too often, if one of them should go so far as to abuse his office in order to vicitmize those under his care, I am moved to anger and a sense of personal betrayal, because the priesthood he has betrayed is my priesthood as well.

If anyone has been led to believe by my remarks concerning Fr. DeVita that I am somehow defending abuse or abusers, then I am truly sorry, for that is the last thing I intended to convey. I would never defend anyone's wrongdoing, be he priest or layman. Anyone who has read my previous ruminations (for example, here or here) regarding The Situation knows that I am no defender of abusers or those who protected or enabled them. But just as I would never defend wrongdoing perpetrated by anyone, so too will I always demand that wrongdoers, be they priests or anyone else, be treated with justice: no more, and no less than justice. And I will always plead that any wrongdoer, be he a priest or anyone else, be shown mercy.

If anyone of you had a brother who committed a grievous crime, would you cease to love him? Would you cease to desire his redemption and restoration? I would hope not. I feel precisely this way about a brother priest, such as Fr. DeVita, who has sinned and sullied the sacred trust he was given. In his particular case I (and my bishop) believed him to be redeemed and reclaimed. So I ask "what does 'restorative' mercy look like for someone like Fr. DeVita?" It is my concern for living out this value of "restorative" mercy that prompts me to think that some form of active priestly ministry may still be possible for him.

It may be the case that restorative mercy for priests like Fr. DeVita doesn't include continuing in some form of active ministry. The bonds of trust may be too badly shatttered by his crime. But what does restorative mercy look like, then? Is restorative mercy something we should expect to see in this life, in this world? I would hope so, especially within the Church. Is a restorative mercy that includes the possibility of continued active ministry is a false mercy?

I am aware of the danger, as Fr. Greeley warned, of priests showing false compassion towards their offending brothers. But it does not demean the victims or make light of their pain, as some have implied, to demand justice and plead for mercy for offenders. Justice and mercy are not some kind of zero-sum game where to give them to the offenders is to take them away from victims. Ultimately it is for the victims' good that offenders are given no more and no less than justice. And restorative mercy, which brings healing and restoration, is all of a piece. Why? because it is a quality of God, who is one. There isn't one sort of divine mercy for victims and another sort for offenders. There is one divine mercy which is generously given to all. So the question for us is "How do we show restorative mercy that is in some way unitary for victims and offenders? How do we show mercy that restores communion?" When we find the answer to that question, we will be doing the greatest good for victims, offenders, and the whole Church.