Thursday, July 10, 2003

Sometimes the Purpose of Your Life Is To Serve as A Warning to Others

I know I said I'd be scarce for a day or two, but I couldn't resist sharing this little tidbit with you:

Britney Spears Acknowledges Having Sex

After years of saying she'd wait until she was married to lose her virginity, Britney Spears is acknowledging that she had sex with her ex-boyfriend, Justin Timberlake..."It was two years into my relationship with Justin, and I thought he was the one," she pauses, then adds, "But I was wrong!"

Now you may, as I initially did, react by thinking "So what? So she had sex?" But look at her attitude after the fact: I'd call her statement an expression of regret. She thought Justin was "the one." But she was wrong: she was living in an illusion.

Object Lesson #1: You do not and cannot know that someone is "the one" for you until and unless they make a covenant with you in marriage before God and the community. No other so-called "committment" simply has any reality. To give sexual intimacy to someone to whom you aren't in a covenant is to willingly subject yourself to living in unreality: a pretense of something that isn't really there.

The most painful thing I've ever experienced was that breakup," Spears says. "We were together so long and I had this vision. You think you're going to spend the rest of your life together."

Object Lesson #2: The inevitable result of the collapse of the illusion (Britney's "vision") created by sexual intimacy outside of marriage is pain. One of my philosophy professors was fond of saying (pardon the crass language) "Reality's a bitch: she always collects." If someone lived under the illusion that the Law of Gravity didn't apply to him, we would expect that person to be in for a painful lesson in the Reality of Gravity. The moral law is every bit as real as those of physics, and the consequences of ignoring the moral law are even more devastating than those of ignoring the physical, because the moral law's consequences have eternal implications.

Britney lived in an illusion that her relationship with Justin was permanent when in fact it was not so. She gave a gift to him that he didn't deserve because there was no covenant. When you give someone a gift he/she doesn't deserve, they will frequently misuse it. Furthermore, when her illusion collapsed, Reality came to collect, and now she has pain and regret.

It seems to me that Britney's experience here has the quality of a lesson in morality, albeit a lesson taught according to the via negativa. In my conversations with teens, it is sometimes discouraging to me how many teen girls have swallowed, hook-line-and-sinker, the attitude that "if we're really in love then sex is OK." Perhaps some of you may be able to use this story about Britney to serve as a warning to the girls you have or know.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I'm Going To Be Scarce For The Next Day or Two...

As I have deadlines for a couple of articles I've committed to write (I'm actually past deadline on one of them...). And that's, of course, on top of my parish responsibilities, which are temporarily a little heavier as my pastor is on vacation.

But in the meantime, here are a couple of things for you to chew over...

Help a Future Seminarian

Steve Schultz, formerly of Catholic Light, has been accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. Congratulations, Steve, and may the good work God has begun in you find fulfillment!

He could use your prayers, as well as a little help in finding a good home for his cats. Not being a cat lover myself (I'm more of a dog person), I'm not really suitable to help in that respect. But maybe someone out there is looking for a little bundle of fur?


I'm starting a Gregorian Chant schola here at my parish, and we had our first rehearsal last night. Eight people showed up, all eager to learn and give glory to God. So I taught them a little bit about reading chant notation: some of the basic notes (called neums) and basic chant rhythm. Then we started learning the Kyrie Orbis Factor (B), which is one of the more commonly sung settings. They did a pretty good job, and next week I'll teach them a little more, and hopefully we'll have a few more people join up along the way. My goal is to have them sing for the first time at some of the liturgies for the Feast of the Assumption, and so fittingly honor Our Lady. Next week I'll start teaching them the Communio from the Vigil Mass for the Assumption, Beata Viscera. Wish us luck and say a prayer for the success of our Schola!

Monday, July 07, 2003

New Auxiliary Bishops For Detroit

Today the Holy See announced the appointments of three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Detroit. The three are Msgr. Walter A. Hurley, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington, MI, Msgr. John M. Quinn, director of the Department of Education of the archdiocese, and Fr. Francis R. Reiss, pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Allen Park, MI.

Of the three, I know only Msgr. Quinn in any personal sense: He was the professor for my Trinity class at Sacred Heart Seminary. He was a good teacher: he obviously enjoyed teaching and had a deep grasp of theology and the Tradition. He also was highly regarded by many seminarians as a spiritual director.

Msgr. Hurley has been the Archdiocese of Detroit's "point man" in dealing with the priestly sexual abuse crisis. In that capacity he has come under some criticism for not being sufficiently pro-active or aggressive in rooting out pedophiles and other sexual predators from the ranks of the Detroit clergy.

UPDATE [7/07/03 10:20 PM] A well-placed source in the Archdiocese of Detroit has informed me that those aforementioned "criticisms" of Bishop-elect Hurley's handling of the sex-abuse cases in Detroit have been, at best, ill-informed. My source is irreproachable in orthodoxy and integrity, and is in a position to know whereof he speaks. According to my source, Hurley has acted with due prudence and justice in dealing with these cases, and always with respect for Church teaching and Canon law. I for one am glad to hear it.

I simply know nothing of Fr. Reiss.

Detroit has lost 4 auxiliary bishops in as many years to other sees: Bp. John Nienstedt to New Ulm, Minnesota, Bp. Bernard Harrington to Winona, Minnesota, Bp. Kevin Britt to Grand Rapids, and most recently, Bp. Allen Vigneron to Oakland, California. In the meantime it has only ordained two auxiliaries: Leonard Blair and Earl Boyea. Furthermore, Bp. Moses Anderson will be retiring shortly, and Bishop Gumbleton does not take an active part in the administration of the Archdiocese. So that would have left Detroit with only two active auxiliaries.

Whatever the backgrounds or "qualifications" of the bishops-elect may be, I think it is instructive to note their ages: Hurley is 66, Reiss is 63. Given that the mandatory retirement age of bishops is 75, it is unlikely that Hurley's or Reiss' appointments will be "stepping stones" to eventually becoming ordinaries of their own dioceses. In all likelihood, they will stay in Detroit. In my opinion, based stricly on their ages, the only one likely to eventually get his own see is Quinn, who is 58.

There has been some criticism, from quarters as exalted as Cardinal Ratzinger, of an incipient careerism in the hierarchy: part of the "bishop as CEO" mentality afflicting our bishops is the tendency to view the hierarchy as a sort of career stepladder: Msgr. Jones is appointed auxiliary bishop of Greater Podunk; if he does well, or at least doesn't screw up, in about 5 years he is made bishop of Littletown, and if he does well there or makes a name for himself in the USCCB, he gets made archbishop of Bigcity, and maybe even gets a red hat as well. This kind of "career path" encourages bishops to treat their sees as means to advance their own careers, and to make decisions with a view to how it will play, rather than what is best for the diocese. It does not encourage bishops to view their see as their sacred trust, or as the bride to whom they are joined, like Christ, in a nuptial relationship. It may be the case that one way to get around this temptation is to appoint priests as auxiliary bishops who are unlikely, by reason of age, to be "moved up."

Another way to combat careerism (and solve some other problems as well) would be to break up the big mega-archdioceses in this country into smaller dioceses. But that will have to be a subject for another post...