Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Equal, not identical

A Catholic News Service piece from Dec. 18 records some of the discussion at a Dec. 15 Rome conference on "Feminism and the Catholic Church."

The event included comments from Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard law professor and the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences -- not a bad résumé. Overall, a good and needed reflection on the continuing need of reformation on the part of the institutional Church.


Unless the Catholic Church can show the world concrete models of male-female cooperation in positions of responsibility and decision-making, the church will continue to struggle against charges that it is chauvinistic, said Mary Ann Glendon.

The Harvard law professor and president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences said church teaching that women and men are equal, but not identical, is a healthy corrective to the feminism of the late 20th century, which, she said, promoted a "unisex society."

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She said changes in the right direction can be seen in parishes and dioceses where "more and more priests, inspired by recent popes and comfortable with women" are relying on their talents and working with them for the benefit of the community.

She and [Lucetta] Scaraffia [a professor at Rome's La Sapienza University] argued that in any social institution directives from the top are essential, but lasting change flows from the grass roots up.

"The problem with the church today is the lack of women in positions of responsibility at the Vatican," Scaraffia said. "This must change and I believe it will," she added, saying her argument "has nothing to do with the question of women priests."

For the next 30 days, get the whole story on our Criterion Web site.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

No bias here at all

When I saw this story today I couldn't help but post it to give props to my old Newman Center:

Newman Center at University of Illinois to expand

Here is an excerpt:

The new facility will address both an increasing demand for housing at Newman Hall -- a 300-bed residence hall built in 1929 that has a waiting list of nearly 200 -- and a lack of program space for outreach to the nearly 12,000 Catholic students at the University of Illinois.

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At a Nov. 21 press conference announcing the planned expansion, Bishop Jenky called St. John's "the premier Newman Center in America." It is staffed by six full-time priests and three women religious, and has a full-time lay staff of 55. In addition to the residence hall, it includes St. John's Catholic Chapel as well as the Institute of Catholic Thought.

"This project has statewide impact and a national scope because of the demographics of students at the University of Illinois," said Bishop Jenky, which he called "one of the world's best-known secular universities."

The 127,000-square-foot brick structure will have two wings, one six stories tall and the other three stories tall. Resident rooms will be a combination of suites, double bedrooms and single rooms configured in the latest style of college residential living, including private baths and commons areas.

The facility also will include a 300-seat cafeteria, a Newman Club, where nonresidents as well as residents can gather for study and relaxation, a fitness center, and various meeting rooms.

Monday, November 13, 2006

It's the end of the world as we know it

Not really, but this article from Catholic News Service provides a little bit of correction to those people that are always preaching the latest earth-death scenario: In scientific predictions, the only certainty is nothing is certain

Sometimes the great fun of science is knowing how small we are as human beings and how much bumbling around it takes to get to good, solid information. Think of the roller coaster ride that science has taken through the ages, all the theories that at one time were accepted by the world's scientists that ended up being at best in need of modification and at worst flat wrong. Usually they were the product of decent reasoning with a limited amount of knowledge or data. It makes religious look pretty even keel and sensible by comparison!

But, as the wise philosopher knows, its a good thing to know how little you know. We don't know the answers to many of life's scientific questions, and what we do know is subject to future revision. Still, the apple is tempting, and all too many politicians or scientists or other folks want to make absolute surety where there is none. From the article:

In an effort to remind science of the impact its predictions have on the public, the Vatican hosted a meeting on the limits and accuracy of predictability in science.

Dozens of scientists and several theologians from all over the world gathered for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Nov. 3-6 plenary assembly to discuss how far the eye of science can see into the future and when calculations might be considered certain, probable or highly unlikely.

On the one hand, most scientists want to give as much early warning as possible about impending dangers such as earthquakes or climate changes.

On the other hand, they know the earlier the forecast, the more likely the prediction can be wrong, and being wrong makes scientists run the risk of losing the public's trust.

I've always sort of wondered why environmentalists in particular seem tempted to this sin against science. In the past few decades we've see the infamous failures of the theories of global cooling or catastrophic overpopulation (and we've also seen the ill effects of pollution and reckless consumerism), both accepted by many of the world's scientists. And now it is global warming, and the suspicious claim that not only can we tell the world's future with certainly, but that we can narrow it down to precise years.

The scientists in the story talk about the conflict between making bad predictions and living with not making predictions at all. As for me, I don't know why it isn't enough to say, for instance, "the earth is warming, and there is a decent chance that we have something to do with it and that it's going to cause us some harm. We ought to begin to practice good stewardship and care for the earth the way God intended." It's always that there has to be a disaster looming, and not just any disaster, but the possible destruction of all human life...and soon!!! Maybe its our sinfulness or (particularly Western) sloth that causes the movers and shakers and thinkers to keep insisting that the next disaster is around the corner. That kind of thinking -- and those kind of stakes -- make for bad predictions.

That's why I generally avoid those charged conversations with others about how we suddenly know all there is to know about the gay gene or global warming or why (INSERT FOOD HERE) is bad/good or the surety of embryonic stem cell research. My favorite is astronomy. It's got all the grand theories and predictions -- and yes, the changes and discoveries of bad theory -- on a time scale that prevents apocalypse now and on a level that keeps the politicians and lobbyists uninterested.

So go read the story
-- it's a good balancing factor for us living at the end of the world as we know it.

Reflections from a young Catholic

Hands down, my favorite religious periodical out there is First Things, which bills itself as a "journal of religion, culture and public life." It's good stuff, and every issue is packed with much "meatier" articles than you'll find in a lot of other Catholic magazines.

This past October's issue featured a very long article by Joseph Bottum titled "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano: Catholic Culture in America." The gist of the article is a trace in the decline of a Catholic culture in America and the rise of post-Vatican II in-fighting between often self-described liberals and conservatives.

His contention is that, through mysterious ways, a new Catholic culture is beginning to come together, like loose stars forming a galaxy -- and part of the core and start of that galaxy is opposition to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on abortion. "The result," Bottum claims, "is the beginning of a new culture: a new Catholicism that, at its best, simply bypasses the stalemates of the 1970s."

While perhaps a simplistic theory, it's got many good points and insights. The whole article is well-worth reading and pondering, and is available free online. Of particular note to me, as a young Catholic, was what he said about us. He argues that there is a growing disconnect with young Catholics from older Catholics and leaders -- even bishops.

I quote quite liberally because he says it better than I could:

These were serious Catholic kids—daily communicants, pro-life marchers, soup-kitchen volunteers, members of perpetual-adoration societies. They were showing off a little for their guest, no doubt: taking stronger positions than they actually feel, arguing for the joy of arguing, the way college students do. It was revealing, however, that when one of them shyly mentioned the Tridentine Mass at the renegade chapel in Garden Grove, the others shouted her down.

Sure, they agreed, pretty Masses are better than ugly ones, and they all preferred high-churchy smells and bells to guitar services and liturgical dance: the things their parents’ generation, poor souls, fondly imagined would “engage today’s youth.” But the radical traditionalists seemed cut from the same cloth as the radical revisionists—and the students dismissed all that kind of 1970s stuff as simultaneously boring and infuriating: the self-obsession and self-glorification of the two sides that, between them, had wrecked Catholic culture in this country. We live with a million aborted babies a year, daily scandals of corruption in the Church, millions of uncatechized Catholic children, and this is what those tired old biddies are still squabbling over?

“You remember how, you know, the old hippie types used to say, ‘Never trust anyone over thirty’? Well, they were right. Only it was their own generation they were talking about,” the thin, quiet one in the back announced as we pulled up to the hotel. “You can see it clearly out here in California. That whole generation of Catholics in America, basically everybody formed before 1978, is screwed up. Left, Right, whatever....The best of them were failures, and the worst of them were monsters.”

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This quick, irritated impatience seems common in the emerging Catholic culture. You find it in the parishioners of the Polish Dominicans working at Columbia University, and in the conservatives gathered around the political theorist Robert George at Princeton. For that matter, it is present among the graduate students at such places as Notre Dame and Boston College, and among the younger theology professors around the country. The public figures of the new culture—the Catholic lawyers, magazine writers, and think-tank analysts—have it in spades: an intolerance, an exasperation, with everything that preoccupied an entire generation of American Catholics.

- - - - - - -

Still, in at least one sense, these Catholics seem right to reject the battles of the recent past. The greatest work of John Paul II may prove his reintegration of Vatican II into the history of the Catholic Church: a swerve, a changing of the trajectory that both sides in the 1970s had assumed could not be altered. Far too many in those days believed the Second Vatican Council had definitively broken the Catholic Church from its past. Whether they wept or cheered, whether they were traditionalists or spirit-of-Vatican-II reformers, they acted as though the new Church were no longer in continuity with the old Church.

I find myself all too often getting pulled into these battles, taking various side, letting myself get angry and worked up...I find myself stepping back -- or yanking myself back -- into remembering my "JPII heritage." Ultimately Bottum's point about the pro-life movement gathering together a new Catholic culture that is ready to change our culture is tied up with the efforts of Pope John Paul the Great to preach an authentic vision of the Second Vatican Council and of the nature of man.

For me as a young Catholic, and for the many, many other young Catholics I know, this is what it's about: seeking through Jesus Christ the wisdom that answers the two great questions we have, that is, Who is God, and What is man? College students embark on their journey with these questions and there is a certain sickness that I feel when I think of how many get the wrong answers -- even by Catholic priests and teachers of the faith.

Pope John Paul was, for so many of us, the living icon of this answer. He was the genuine leader in whose shadow you could trace the life and teachings of the One he followed. More and more Catholic young people are growing up with the benefit of his scholarship: we are people whose whole lives have been informed by a rich, Catholic view of who we are and how we are to live. For us, the Church's answers to the hot-button questions of contraception, homosexuality, abortion, ESC research, the death penalty and female ordination are beautiful -- and more than that, they are true. To say that the teachings on those subjects in particular are true and beautiful is more than a little scandalous to many older Catholics I know -- almost as though I've crossed some invisible line that has actually called my Christianity into question.

One of the hallmarks, in my opinion, of this new, growing breed of young Catholics is not so much the rejection of the warring camps that Bottum suggests, but the simple joy with which they embrace Jesus Christ and his Church, the happiness with which they live the tenets of our faith. Those same warring camps are always trying to drag us into their battles -- trying to make us fight on their terms and fit their stereotypes and have their motivations.

But another hallmark is what Bottum mentions and what many of the saints had: the "get out of my way" attitude toward silliness and stalemate rivalries that is what Christ demands. The world is in danger, as it always is: the devil and sin stand to devour the souls of our brothers and sisters, and we must stand in their way -- we must sacrifice and battle and answer the heavenly call to action. There is no time for us to fight a battle that isn't ours and that distracts us needlessly from the task.

In the end, we're trying to be saints and to follow Jesus Christ and prophetic voices like that of Pope John Paul the Great -- we shouldn't care about all the hip buzz terms in lay ministry or whether we're for a "cultic" priesthood or if we like to be under the thumb of Rome or if we lack a pluralistic mindset or why we're too divisive or any of the other endless arguments...we're trying to live for Christ and to love what Christ loves, even those parts that make our culture hiss. And power politics and Church theories and doctrinal fighting cannot stop that.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Religion and science, etc., etc., etc.

Whenever I hear of religion and science I tend to think more in terms of faith and reason, and the miraculous balance that the Catholic Church has achieved between them. It seems like media types aren't the only ones endlessly interested in prolonging a dead war between two allies...it's hard to pick who to shake your head at more: those philosophers and thinkers who, generation after generation, insist that we are in the last days of religion, or the Christians who insist that the only reasonable way to read Scripture is an utterly reasonless literal interpretation.

I was treated this morning to a few minutes of local talk radio with call ins debating how Adam and Eve's sons had children and how the story of the Tower of Babel accounts for the different races of the world. Adam and Eve, the fall of man, the drama of salvation -- these are the great themes that interest me to no end...unless the conversation falls into either an obsession with whether our first parents had belly buttons or how the mere thought of anything outside of Darwinian evolution is a threat to democracy.

Time magazine apparently has a story about the debate, titled provcoatively enough: God vs. science: Can religion stand up to the test? I was not aware that religion had anything to prove, nor that science was in the business of testing God. The link I provided is only to a summary; the real story must be paid for, thus I have not read it, but it seems like the usual back and forth, noting that those on the side of what could be called "evangelical atheism" have come into new prominence:

It is not an epithet that fits everyone wielding a test tube. But a growing proportion of the profession is experiencing what one major researcher calls "unprecedented outrage" at perceived insults to research and rationality, ranging from the alleged influence of the Christian right on Bush administration science policy, to the fanatic faith of the 9/11 terrorists, to intelligent design's ongoing claims. Some are radicalized enough to publicly pick an ancient scab -- the idea that science and religion, far from being complementary responses to the unknown, are at utter odds.

I would gladly point anyone interested to this most excellent series of articles on the question of Catholicism and evolution (which was, by the way, adapted for publication in Our Sunday Visitor).

But, as always, Pope Benedict cuts through the chatter with a much simpler, more brilliant summation than I could ever offer:

"Christianity does not posit an inevitable conflict between supernatural faith and scientific progress," he stressed, recalling how "God created human beings, endowed them with reason, and set them over all the creatures of the earth." In this way, man became "the steward of creation and God's 'helper.' ... Indeed, we could say that the work of predicting, controlling and governing nature, which science today renders more practicable than in the past, is itself a part of the Creator's plan."

"Man cannot place in science and technology so radical and unconditional a trust as to believe that scientific and technological progress can explain everything and completely fulfil all his existential and spiritual needs. Science cannot replace philosophy and revelation by giving an exhaustive answer to man's most radical questions: questions about the meaning of living and dying, about ultimate values, and about the nature of progress itself."

There seems to me something almost intrinsically dehumanizes about using "hard science" alone to determine your world view, or to demand that only those things with absolute empirical evidence be allowed into the public life of humanity. And the defense against such a mindset needs to be more than forcing philosophy into every biology textbook.

There is a living and true God who created the universe -- and to the great majority of men who have ever lived, this is common sense. And that same God endowed us with the marvelous ability to study that wide world and grow in our understanding of how it works. To me, the scientist that uses DNA and brain patterns to "prove" that religious sentiments are no more than impulses is as silly and guilty as the religious who claims that evolution isn't real because you can't see it happening in a lab.

To quote the late, great John Paul II: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth."

And to quote popular culture: come on, faith and reason, can't we all just get along?

(UPDATE: I saw on Amy Welborn's blog that she has a link to the whole text of Pope Benedict's comments to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The devil makes a good argument...

I was on Mark Shea's blog recently and saw a link to this story: "Parish cancels 'Catholic' drag queens' bingo games"

What is most interesting to me is not how the parish of the chancellor of the Archdiocese of San Francisco ended up renting its hall to the notorious "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence," or how the grassroots strength of Catholics from around the country called and wrote in on this matter until action was taken...no, the most interesting part was contrasting the sordid details of this story with the response from the "Sisters" upon their bingo event lease being cancelled. An excerpt:
The primary mission of The Sisters is involvement in and support of the local community. This includes working with and supporting many local community organizations whose ability to serve their constituency is dependent on contributions from charitable groups like the Sisters. Without the thousands of dollars raised by the consistently sold-out monthly bingo event, their services may be cut at a time when charitable giving is more critical than ever.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence believe that our commitment to giving is in alignment with the philosophy of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which represents a cross-section of the San Francisco population. It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that this appears not to be the case, and that our shared values cannot overcome our differences of opinion when it comes to how we serve the community.

Let's imagine that you only heard that a group gay "Catholics" holding a charitable bingo game had been kicked out of a Catholic parish, then read that group's response. It sounds pretty reasonable, pretty squeaky clean, pretty convincing almost...almost...

I find oftentimes that so much of my frustration comes with the oft-repeated human experience that the devil makes a mighty good argument...and distracts people from common sense. The common sense in this particular story comes in realizing who the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are, and how they were raising charitable funds. From the story:
The next game, featuring master of ceremonies "Peaches Christ" -- was scheduled for Thursday, All Souls Day, when Catholics typically pray for deceased loved ones.

The Sisters' motto "Go and sin some more" is indicative of their use of mockery to express opposition to Catholic moral norms. They are infamous for their offensive street theater, in which they use Catholic symbols and images to shock opponents and entertain allies. Catholics who walked in the West Coast Walk for Life in 2005 and 2006 report they were heckled and jeered with blasphemous catcalls by the group.

- - - - - - -

A Sept. 14 article by "Sister Dana Van Iquity" in the homosexual newspaper San Francisco Bay Times stated, "The long awaited return of the Castro's longest running Bingo – Revival Bingo —kicked off at Ellard Hall on Sept. 7 at 100 Diamond Street and 18th [the address of Most Holy Redeemer] in the heart of the Castro. The new home includes more space, more seating capacity, a big stage, and a brand new sound & video system (thanks to Dave the bear) with all players on one main floor instead of having to hang from the rafters at the old venue. … A gaggle of nuns -- dozens really -- opened the show, carrying candles and acting rather solemn with slow, marching steps. But when the sound system played 'Gonna Make You Sweat,' the Sisters commenced to clapping and dancing wildly down the aisles, getting everyone's energy up."

The article went on to describe sexual "punishments" meted out to participants whose cell phones ring during the game or who call a false bingo. Prizes distributed to winners, according to the article, range from "wines to porn DVDs to sex toys to toasters and more."

So the group basically stands in ridicule and intense mockery of nearly everything that the Catholic Church is, then feigns disapointment that "our shared values cannot overcome our differences of opinion." Well, there are differences of opinion and there are differences of opinion, apparently.

Go read the whole story to see it all

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

You know it's a slow news day when...

...you see this headline come through the wire at Catholic News Service:

Retired bishop has close encounter with squirrel

There's not much more to this story that what the headline says, but still, it made me laugh to read it...and since not much else of interest was posted by CNS yesterday it made the cut on The Criterion Online Edition.

So go read it and enjoy the small Halloween treat.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mother Theodore canonization coverage

Don't worry, the staff of The Criterion has not abandoned this blog. The past month and a half has consumed my efforts as I prepared to launch our new Archdiocese of Indianapolis Web site at www.archindy.org (an endeavor that included The Criterion Online Edition).

The other staff has been working hard to get ready for a coverage blitze of the canonization of Indiana's own Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin on Oct. 15 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.

We have a reporter in Rome on an archdiocesan pilgrimage and are sending two to the motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence near Terre Haute -- and all of the coverage is converging on our special event blog devoted to the canonization.

So, while we all hope to soon resume posting on this blog, for now, check out the Guerin blog on our Criterion site for all the latest updates.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

George Weigel on bad liturgical hymns

We've all probably got our favorite Mass hymns/songs, and the ones that we don't care for so much. George Weigel makes the case that there are some hymns, though, that simply have no place being sung in a Catholic church -- and some based on such silly poetry and phrasing that we should put a moratorium on their use. This was written a couple of years back, but still a fun read:

For classic Lutheran theology, hymns are a theological "source:" not up there with Scripture, of course, but ranking not-so-far below Luther's "Small Catechism." Hymns, in this tradition, are not liturgical filler. Hymns are distinct forms of confessing the Church's faith. Old school Lutherans take their hymns very seriously.

Most Catholics don't. Instead, we settle for hymns musically indistinguishable from "Les Mis" and hymns of saccharine textual sentimentality. Moreover, some hymn texts in today's Catholic "worship resources" are, to put it bluntly, heretical. Yet Catholics once knew how to write great hymns; and there are great hymns to be borrowed, with gratitude, from Anglican, Lutheran, and other Christian sources. There being a finite amount of material that can fit into a hymnal, however, the first thing to do is clean the stables of today's hymnals.

Thus, with tongue only half in cheek, I propose the Index Canticorum Prohibitorum, the "Index of Forbidden Hymns." Herewith, some examples.

Go check out the rest of what he has to say here

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Historical honesty

That's what Archbishop Charles Chaput wants in the current relationship between Christians and Muslims.

He wrote about this desire in this column recently printed in the Denver Catholic Register, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver, of which he is the leader.

Archbishop Chaput referred to a recent article in a secular newspaper in Denver where a Muslim leader was quoted as saying "it was European Christians, never Muslims, who tried to root out those who didn’t agree with them."

The archbishop then proceeded to list the instances of discrimination and sometimes outright persecution against Christians that span from the beginnings of Islam to the present.

Archbishop Chaput concluded his column with these words:

These are facts. The Muslim-Christian conflict is a very long one, rooted in deep religious differences, and Muslims have their own long list of real and perceived grievances. But especially in an era of religiously inspired terrorism and war in the Middle East, peace is not served by ignoring, subverting or rewriting history, but rather by facing it humbly as it really happened and healing its wounds.

That requires honesty and repentance from both Christians and Muslims. Comments like those reported in the recent news story I read — claiming that historically, it was European Christians, never Muslims, who tried to root out those who disagreed with them — are both false and do nothing to help.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The meaning of moderation

This is what George Weigel and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick have been debating lately in a rather public forum.

Weigel, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and biographer of Pope John Paul II, launched the interchange with this column, "Truth at the fifty-yard line?," which ran in several diocesan newspapers in the United States.


In a series of talks and interviews surrounding the announcement of his retirement as archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick frequently told his favorite John Paul II story: the story of the Pope walking up the center aisle of the Newark cathedral in October 1995, touching people on both sides.

This, Cardinal McCarrick suggested, was how priests and bishops ought to act --- sticking to the "middle," in order to be in touch with everyone. Or, as he told National Public Radio, "The job of a priest always forces you to the middle.… We've got to be in the middle so that we don't let those on the left or the right get lost." ...

It's not easy to know what Cardinal McCarrick means by his oft-repeated admonition to moderation...

To stand in the center of the aisle and claim to be in communion of mind and heart with people who both affirm and deny [that Jesus Christ is the Son of God] is to confess to severe intellectual confusion. Is a validly ordained priest necessary for the valid consecration of the Eucharist, or isn't he? It's hard to believe that Cardinal McCarrick would have wanted his archdiocesan vocation director to stand in the center of the aisle on that one...

Cardinal McCarrick, the recently retired archbishop of Washington, responded to Weigel's column with this letter to the editor that recently ran in the Denver Catholic Register.

The cardinal seemed offended at Weigel's column, describing it as "at the minimum, deceptive journalism." In the end, he responded to the charges against him that he felt Weigel had made in his column:

I will continue to call for moderation and civility, and to reach out and talk with everyone, regardless of what side of the aisle they are on. That doesn’t mean compromising our faith and our teachings, but it does mean that we treat each other with respect as befits the dignity of our brothers and sisters, avoid name calling and personal attacks and be careful that what we say is always true both in its expression and its implication.

In response to Cardinal McCarrick's letter, Weigel wrote one of his own, in which he attempted to explain the purpose of his original column:

My point — which seemed clear enough to the many people, from all states of life in the Church, who have thanked me for what I wrote — was that a pastoral strategy that encourages priests and bishops to stand “in the center of the aisle” may serve certain purposes, but cannot be effective when core doctrinal issues are at stake.

He also seemed to invited Cardinal McCarrick to review his original column, writing that a "fair-minded reading, or perhaps re-reading, of the column will, I hope, demonstrate" its purpose stated above.

So, what is the meaning of moderation in discussions in the Church and in the broader society? Share your views on the topic...with a moderate tone if you please.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pray for Cardinal George

According to this press release, Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, will undergo surgery today for what appears to be bladder cancer. Although his prognosis would seem to be good, please keep him in your prayers.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Politicians, religion and spiced up history

On July 17, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) spoke on the Senate floor regarding the recently passed, then vetoed, bill that would loosen federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Amidst bringing up the usual candidates (e.g. Galileo, Columbus, etc.) to show the evils of allowing science to be checked by any kind of morality, he mentioned this tidbit:

"Pope Boniface VII banned the practice of cadaver dissection in the 1200s. This stopped the practice for over 300 years and greatly slowed the accumulation of education regarding human anatomy. Finally, in the 1500s, Michael Servetus used cadaver dissection to study blood circulation. He was tried and imprisoned by the Catholic Church."

Around the same time, another Senator (Tom Harkin) let loose with similar claims after comparing the President's veto with the actions of an ayotollah:

Sen. Harkin ... claimed that Bush is now aligned “with people like Pope Boniface VIII, who banned the practice of cadaver dissection in the 1200s. This stopped cadaver dissection for over 300 years, over 300 years.”

The problem with both statements is that there isn't a shred of truth to them. Not only did Specter get the name of the pope in question wrong, but both senators were likely fed grossly inaccurate information which was corrected by this swift Catholic News Service story:

What's a 13th-century pope got to do with stem cells? Nothing at all

In his 1845 textbook "The History of Medicine," German author Heinrich Haesar said dissection of cadavers continued without hindrance during the Middle Ages in European universities, run under the direction of church leaders.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, in its entry on anatomy, says that Guy de Chauliac, considered the father of modern surgery, encouraged the use of dissection in anatomical studies in the 14th century and insisted "on the necessity for the dissection of human bodies if any definite progress in surgery is to be made."

Since de Chauliac was the personal surgeon to three popes and encouraged dissection while a member of the papal household, "this fact alone would seem to decide definitely that there was no papal regulation, real or supposed, forbidding the practice of human dissection at this time," the encyclopedia says.

And what of Michael Servetus, supposedly imprisoned for his cadaverous crimes by the Catholic Church? He was actually executed by the Calvinists for his opposition to certain doctrinal questions relating to the nature of God.

Read the whole story

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day of Prayer for the Middle East

The Vatican Press Office relates this:

"The Holy Father is following with great concern the destinies of all the peoples involved and has proclaimed this Sunday, July 23, as a special day of prayer and penance, inviting the pastors and faithful of all the particular Churches, and all believers of the world, to implore from God the precious gift of peace.

"In particular, the Supreme Pontiff hopes that prayers will be raised to the Lord for an immediate cease-fire between the sides, for humanitarian corridors to be opened in order to bring help to the suffering peoples, and for reasonable and responsible negotiations to begin to put an end to objective situations of injustice that exist in that region; as already indicated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Angelus last Sunday, July 16."

More here

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Franciscan sister ministers to carjacker

Not too unusual of a story. Religious men and women minister in prisons and jails all the time.

But in this case, the sister was the victim of the carjacking. And now, through her ministry, the perpetrator of the crime is renouncing his former life of violence.

Go here to read more about it.

Two states of religious freedom

Catholic News Service posted two stories yesterday that will be in our archives for the next 30 days. Each takes a look at religious freedom -- one in Russia and one in England. The state of religious freedom in either country is, depending on how things turn out, heading in separate directions. The once-repressive Russia is now opening more to religious freedom, while England may be one the verge of restricting it under the guise of the homosexual movement (as is happening in other western countries.

Excerpts follow...

Freedom stable for church in Russia, say religious liberty experts

While the Catholic Church still has problems in Russia, the religious freedom situation has stabilized, said officials of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom after returning from a fact-finding trip.

- - -

"The Catholic situation in Russia is rather stable," said Tad Stahnke, commission deputy director for policy.

He described the situation as "half on, half off."

As an example, he cited a Catholic church that had been turned into a library under the Soviet government. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the new government decided to keep the building as a library but gave Catholics permission to build a new church, he said.

"I went to the construction site. The church was half finished but no one was working on it," said Stahnke.

Kathy Cosman, commission senior policy analyst on Russia, said that there are no new problems in getting visas for foreign Catholic priests and religious to work in Russia, but old problems have not been resolved.

U.K. bishops worry rules to protect gays could hurt adoption agencies

Catholic adoption agencies in Britain could be forced to close if legislators pass regulations to give gays and lesbians more rights, said the bishops of England and Wales.

Church leaders are seeking exemptions to the British government's proposed sexual orientation regulations, designed to make discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation illegal in the same way as discrimination based on race or sex.

- - -

In their submission, the bishops also expressed concern about the implications of the regulations for Catholic schools, which they said would be limited in what they could teach children about the church's moral teaching.

The regulations also would force the church's marriage preparation and guidance agencies to cater to gay couples and would not allow parishes the right to refuse the use of their halls to groups at odds with church teaching. It could also become illegal for Catholic conference and retreat centers to refuse bookings from gay and lesbian groups, and the Catholic press would be unable to refuse certain advertisements, the bishops said.

They said they have "serious misgivings" about the regulations because they make no distinction between "homophobia" and a "conviction, based on religious belief and moral conscience, that homosexual practice is wrong."

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Plenary Indulgence for World Meeting of Families

This from the Vatican Information Service yesterday:

VATICAN CITY, JUN 28, 2006 (VIS) - For the occasion of the Fifth World Meeting of Families, due to be held in Valencia, Spain from July 1 to 9, Benedict XVI will concede Plenary Indulgence to those faithful who participate in any of the associated celebrations and in the closing ceremony, according to a decree from the Apostolic Penitentiary made public yesterday afternoon.

- - -

"The Supreme Pontiff," the decree adds, "grants Plenary Indulgence to the faithful under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin), if they participate in any of the solemn functions held in Valencia during the Fifth World Meeting of Families, and in the solemn closing ceremony.

"All other faithful who are unable to participate in that event, may obtain the same gift of Plenary Indulgence, under the same conditions, over the days the meeting is held and on its closing day if, united in spirit and thought with the faithful present in Valencia, they recite in the family the 'Our Father,' the 'Creed,' and other devout prayers calling on Divine Mercy to concede the above-mentioned aims."

Read the whole release

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sisters arrested for...evangelization?

Yes, that is what appears to have happened to four Missionaries of Charity when they went to visit patients in a hospital in Tirupati, India--something they've been doing for decades.

But on the evening of June 25, an estimated crowd of 300 Hindus followed the sisters on their pastoral visit. Police from the area later came and took the sisters, members of the order founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, to a nearby jail where they were detained for a few hours.

Actually, actions like this seem to becoming more common in India where religious tensions seem to be increasing.

They have caught the attention of Pope Benedict XVI and the new prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias, who have both spoken out publicly against the persecution of Christians on the subcontinent.

However, their words seem to have fallen on deaf ears in the Indian government, which reacted by essentially taking the line of the Chinese government regarding religious freedom, that Church officials shouldn't be meddling in the affairs of a sovereign state.

Read this article to learn more about the incident in Tirupati.


G. Alfred, executive secretary of Andhra Pradesh Christian Federation, told the press conference that the incident was part of increasing harassment of Christians by fanatic Hindu groups.

Alfred later told UCA News that activists of Hindu Dharma Parirakshana Samithi (forum for protecting the Hindu religion) engineered the crowd at the hospital. He said some of them verbally abused the nuns and even threatened to make the nuns wear saffron clothes like Hindu religious personnel do.

The Christian federation demanded that the government probe the incident and act against those who took the nuns to the police station. It also said Christian groups "cannot be mute spectators" to such abuses and threatened to launch a statewide stir if the government failed to act.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Future priests packing lightsabers

That's what you see in this video, made for a vocations camp held at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis. It features two seminarians for the Archdiocese of St. Louis who are in formation at Kenrick-Glennon. The credits show that the production work was also done by at least one of the seminarians

The Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary at Marian College in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis recently had their own vocations camp, which will be featured soon in both the print and online editions of The Criterion.

However, when yours truly went to it to do some reporting for the upcoming article, I didn't find any evidence of seminarians jousting it out with lightsabers in the hills of nearby Morgan County.

Maybe we could get more young men studying to be priests if they knew that there would be free lightsabers for each new seminarian...

A Coadjutor for St. Paul-Minneapolis?

Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis has confirmed that he has requested the Holy See appoint coadjutor bishop to assist him in his pastoral mission in his archdiocese and who would then be slated to succeed him upon his retirement.

This confirmation came in this article recently published in The Catholic Spirit, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

The reason for the request, according to Archbishop Flynn, was fairly simple:

“Here’s the scoop,” Archbishop Flynn said. “When a bishop is over 70 and he needs an auxiliary, Rome is not inclined to give him an auxiliary, but rather a coadjutor. I’m over 70. I’ve lost an auxiliary. We need another one. I wrote for an auxiliary. Rome said, ‘No, you have to have a coadjutor.’ So I wrote for a coadjutor.

Archbishop Flynn also offered his reflections on what he has found fulfilling and a challenge in his episcopal ministry:

“I think I enjoy most going to parishes and being with the people of God — celebrating with them the great liturgy that is ours, speaking with them afterward and simply being with them,” he said. “I come back re-created, renewed, rejuvenated and ready to take on any week.”

Less enjoyable have been the administrative duties that are a large part of a bishop’s responsibilities. “I’ve never had the inclination toward administration,” he said. “That part can be toilsome for me.”

Archbishop Flynn reflects on several other issues facing his local Church as well as the broader Church in the article. Check it out.

Black Catholics for Life

Deirdre A. McQuade, the director of planning and information for the U. S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, wrote this column recently that appeared in the Colorado Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

In it, she places the debate on abortion squarely within the ongoing struggle to defend the civil rights of all people, a struggle led so admirably in the 1950s and 1960s by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. never lived to see the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, but state abortion laws had already started becoming more permissive in his lifetime. His niece, Alveda King, recalls his words: “The Negro cannot win as long as he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for comfort and safety.”

Ms. King takes her family’s civil rights work to its logical extension, fighting for the most basic civil right, the right to life. She calls for faithfulness to the principle of nonviolence: “How can the ‘Dream’ survive if we murder the children?...Abortion is at the forefront of our destruction…By taking the lives of our young, and wounding the wombs and lives of their mothers, we are flying in the face of God.”

In her column, McQuade also makes reference to the National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life. Go here to check out their Web site.

Monday, June 19, 2006

We need your opinion!

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis (www.archindy.org) is preparing to launch a newly designed, interactive website with lots of new features and information. We would like your input as to what you'd like to see on the new site.


The questions are simple, and you can answer as many or as few as you want. Once you've filled out the fields, click the "Submit" button at the bottom of the page.

While we can't follow every suggestion, we will take them into consideration. We hope to launch the site this fall.

Changes in the Mass

From Catholic News Service:

Bishops approve new Order of Mass with U.S. adaptations

In what Bishop Donald W. Trautman called "a truly important moment in liturgy in the United States," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a new English translation of the Order of Mass and adopted several U.S. adaptations during a national meeting June 15 in Los Angeles.

The new translation of the main constant parts of the Mass -- penitential rite, Gloria, creed, eucharistic prayers, eucharistic acclamations, Our Father and other prayers and responses used daily -- will likely be introduced in about a year or two if it is approved by the Vatican, said Bishop Trautman, a Scripture scholar who heads the Diocese of Erie, Pa., and is chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy.

He said he thought the bishops would wait until they have approved -- and received Vatican confirmation of -- an entire new Roman Missal in English before implementing the new Order of Mass.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Bureaucracy! What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing! Say it again!

(with apologies to the late Edwin Starr)

Such seems to be the basic argument of Catholic commentators of various stripes regarding bureaucracies at all levels in the Church. They claim that these staffs eventually turn away from the mission of evangelization that they were created to support and become entities that simply defend their own existence.

Writers as varied George Weigel and John Allen made such cases in their respective books God's Choice and The Rise of Benedict XVI, where both authors speculate that the current pope might make major changes to the Roman Curia in order to make the body more truly mission-oriented.

Closer to home, the U. S. bishops, who will be meeting in Los Angeles next week, may take an important step closer to a significant re-organization and reduction of the bureaucracy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, sharply reducing the number of its committees from 35 to 14. Go here to read more about the plan.


One goal is to reduce the national operating budget at a time when many dioceses are feeling a financial crunch because of weak investment returns, rising insurance costs and a variety of other factors. The restructuring plan envisions a more modest, mission-driven role of the national conference in the work of the bishops.

But in this recent article from the St. Louis Review, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Archbishop Raymond Burke is seen taking a positive approach to the archdiocesan staff that serves under him. We don't see him taking out the scalpel in order to make it more focused on evangelization.

I've done some searching and haven't seen reports about staff reductions in St. Louis. Perhaps it was relatively small or was relatively faithful to its orginal purpose to begin with.

In any case, the article in question shows Archbishop Burke meeting with some 250 employees, exhorting them to consider how they are called upon to participate in the New Evangelization, how they are to show Christ each day to those whom they serve.


The June 1 session at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury was the first of what Archbishop Burke and many members he met with — hope will be periodic meetings to discuss how the administrative staff can engage in "the new evangelization." That was a term often used by Pope John Paul II in encouraging people to live their faith with the spirit of the first disciples, Archbishop Burke said.

"This mission is not something new; it's the mission of Christ and his Church through the centuries," Archbishop Burke told the curia. "The way to accomplish the mission is also not new; it is Christ himself," the archbishop said, reinforcing his theme of allowing Christ to work through those who believe in him.


Archbishop Burke reminded those present that one of their functions was to serve the people in parishes.

"Our work should lighten their burdens, not increase them; our response to frustration should not increase the frustration," he said.


He spoke of the need for good stewardship of the archdiocese's resources in serving its people. And the archbishop spoke of the need for the curia’s members to serve "with humility and confidence."

He noted the need for them to take stock at the end of each day of what they have done. "If we are true to our calling and our work, we must ask ourselves each day, How have I brought Christ to others today?" he said.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Unusually blunt

Cardinal Walter Kasper, who serves in Rome as the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has a sensitive job and tries in all things to bring Christians together -- to bridge the divides of schisms and the Reformation.

Which is why this story, "Vatican official to Anglicans: Women bishops would destroy unity," caught my eye. In it, Cardinal Kasper is quoted as saying some rather direct things to members of the Church of England.

The background to his comments is this: "His remarks came in a speech to a private meeting of the Church of England bishops in Market Bosworth, England, just four months after the bishops agreed to set up a working group to outline a process through which women might be consecrated as bishops.

Although three of the world's Anglican provinces have already agreed to consecrate women as bishops, Cardinal Kasper said decisions made by the Church of England had a "particular importance" because they gave a "strong indication of the direction in which the communion as a whole was heading." "

Such a move would effectively end any hope of the Catholic Church ever coming to recognize Anglican holy order (bishops and priests) as valid.

And what were the cardinal's direct comments? Here are a few:

"shared partaking of the one Lord's table, which we long for so earnestly, would disappear into the far and ultimately unreachable distance."

the goal of restoring full church communion "would realistically no longer exist"

this meant that the Anglican Communion would no longer occupy "a special place" among the churches of the West

The ordination of women bishops, Cardinal Kasper added, would "most certainly lower the temperature even more; in terms of the possible recognition of Anglican orders, it would lead not only to a short-lived cold, but to a serious and long-lasting chill."

Go read more of the story for yourself. This is just one of the things going on in the Anglican Communion these days that have the eyes of ecumenists watching.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Into God's hands

A special exclusive from an upcoming issue of The Criterion:

Put family tragedy ‘in hands of God,’ pastor says

By John Shaughnessy

In his mind, Father Michael O’Mara can picture the two boys proudly standing in front of the altar on May 21—the two brothers preparing to receive their first Holy Communion while their parents and their extended family beamed with the joy of this special moment in the life of a Catholic.

In his mind, Father O’Mara tries to imagine the horror and the suffering that these two brothers endured less than two weeks later when they were shot and killed in their eastside Indianapolis home, along with their parents and three other family members.

The seven murders on June 1 marked the worst mass killing in Indianapolis history. And like most people who were shocked and horrified by the killings, the murders left their mark on Father O’Mara—the priest who gave the homilies at funeral Masses for family members on June 6 and 7.

As he prepared to give the homilies, the Indianapolis priest called upon his memories of the family while he tried to make sense of the deaths.

Read the rest of the story | See photos of a streetside memorial

Vatican document on the family

Today's Vatican Information Service report contained the following:

"The Pontifical Council for the Family, founded 25 years ago by John Paul II with the Motu Proprio "Familia a Deo Instituta," and presided by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, today published a document entitled: "Family and Human Procreation."

. . .

This theme is then developed over four chapters covering "procreation; why the family is the only appropriate place for it; what is meant by integral procreation within the family; and what social, juridical, political, economic and cultural aspects does service to the family entail" The fifth chapter presents the theme "from two complementary perspectives: the theological, in that the family is an image of the Trinity; and the pastoral, because the family lies at the foundation of the Church and is a place of evangelization." "

Read the rest of the news report

Thursday, June 01, 2006

George Weigel on the ongoing discussion at Notre Dame

A large portion of Weigel's column is taken up by excerpts from Holy Cross Father Wilson Miscamble's open letter to University of Notre Dame president Holy Cross Father John Jenkins. Yet we still have here another significant voice in the contemporary Church in the United States weighing in on the ongoing discussion about academic freedom at Notre Dame.

Go here to read the column. Go here to read the text of Father Miscamble's open letter.

Excerpt from Weigel's column:

After a campus wide debate, Father Jenkins announced that "the creative contextualization of a play like The Vagina Monologues can bring certain perspectives on important issues into a constructive and fruitful dialogue with the Catholic tradition." Therefore, Father Jenkins decreed, the V-Monologues could continue to be produced on campus.

It was difficult, bordering on impossible, not to read Father Jenkins' decision as a surrender to the most corrosive forces eating away at the vitals of Catholic higher education.

This is what the apostolate is all about

It's about using the specific gifts with which God has blessed you to extend the kingdom of God in this world.

A Puerto Rican-born OB/GYN living now in the Archdiocese of Atlanta is successfully using his professional expertise to promote the use of adult stem cells gained from umbilical cord blood.

Go here to read an article in The Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, about the man and the foundation he established to carry on this important work.


TUCKER—Call it God’s natural gift to scientists of regenerative medicine. And in that context, the Babies for Life Foundation can be considered a divine instrument of distribution. This highly unique foundation collects donations of this “diamond” mine of stem cell–rich umbilical cord blood, linking new mothers, researchers and patients in need.

For the past five years Dr. Gerry Sotomayor of BFL has collected umbilical cord blood from newborns, sending it to cord blood public registries to help patients worldwide with the 65 diseases now successfully treated with umbilical cord adult stem cells—not to mention the at least 97 diseases that can be treated or cured by the various types of adult stem cells found throughout the body. The foundation, established by Sotomayor, has developed a systematic way to collect units at 10 participating Georgia hospitals from women who agree to donate cord blood at no risk to themselves or their babies, thus facilitating a newborn’s first act of charity. Reflecting the wonder of God’s handiwork, each birth provides 1.5-2.5 million cord blood stem cells. These and other adult stem cells are regenerative, unspecialized cells that are able to differentiate into various specialized cells that form tissues.

Friday, May 19, 2006

So what did you think?

Have you seen The Da Vinci Code? If so, feel free to share your reaction to the film in the comment box? If you chose not to see it, feel free to share your reasons for staying away.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Da Vinci Code Resources

Posted at The Criterion Online Edition

The page includes a news story posted today by Catholic News Service about the premiere of the movie at the Cannes Film Festival, local stories both current and past, and a collection of links for more information.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Anniversary of Fatima and Pope's assassination attempt

This past Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II (May 13, 1981). A special ceremony at the Vatican marked the occasion.

The day is also the 89th anniversary of the first appearance of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

The similarity between the two events is striking -- it was the famed "Third Secret of Fatima," hidden for years and known only by the popes and the last surviving child whom the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to, the eerily predicted the assassination attempt on the life of a pope (which turned out to be John Paul II). The late pope attributed the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima to narrowly saving his life on that fateful day -- claiming that she diverted the course of the bullet fired into him.

Even more interesting to note, I've found, is that the pope was at his weekly audience and about to announce the founding of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family, which has since gone on to be a driving force in spreading his "Theology of the Body" and fighting the culture of death that has gripped the West.

The same institute recently sponsored a plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family. This all comes at a time when questions of bioethics and the family are becoming the major moral dilemmas facing countries and cultures.

Archdiocesan Pilgrimage to Poland

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein is leading a pilgrimage to Poland May 12-21, and has provided the intentions for the Mass that he will celebrate each day. Catholics in the archdiocese are encourage to pray with him.

I've also posted an article (available for the next 30 days) about a Marian shrine in Poland. Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting the country later this month.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Taiwanese ambassador to the Vatican converts

The percentage of Christians in the overall population of Asia is still relatively small. That is a major reason why it is looked upon by many in the Church as the last great frontier in evangelization.

Although there is in every conversion something that is unique and unrepeatable, there are also commonalities that we can learn from, especially when we are seeking to proclaim the faith in a culture as distinct as that as in China.

And so this interview with Chou Seng Tou, the ambassador of Taiwan to the Vatican, following his recent conversion to Cathoicism, might be instructive. In any case, it is interesting to hear this one man's story of his journey into the Church.


What is there in the Christian faith that is missing from Chinese culture that made you convert and get baptised?

I did not adhere to any religion before. Like many Chinese I followed Confucian precepts. I can say I am a disciple of Confucius who has become Christian. I have studied Confucius quite a lot, learnt how to be a good man, morally upright, respectful of others . . . He, too, like in the Gospels, said: “Go unto others as you would have them do unto you”. On many levels, Confucianism and Christianity have many things in common. If China gave Christianity freedom, many Chinese would convert. But in Christianity there is something unique. When you pray for example, you establish a personal rapport with God, one of closeness to Jesus. In Chinese culture there is silence, meditation, but it is a rapport with oneself, not God. Through praying, saintly intercession and that of the Holy Mother, one can realise one’s wish for holiness. Man’s moral solitude comes to an end.

Archbishop Niederauer on "The Da Vinci Code"

Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco is in a good position to comment on The Da Vinci Code, having earned both graduate degrees in theology and in literature. In a recent issue of The Tidings, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, he lays out the various truth claims that lie barely under the surace of Dan Brown's novel and its coming motion picture adaptation and show how they don't stand up to the facts of history. Go here for the article.


DVC: "Jesus as a married man makes infinitely more sense than our standard Biblical view of Jesus as a bachelor." [Here's why] "Because Jesus was a Jew, and the social decorum during that time virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried." " ... according to Jewish custom celibacy was condemned." "If Jesus was not married at least one of the Bible's Gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for his unnatural state of bachelorhood

TRUTH: Jesus was unmarried, as were the prophet Jeremiah, John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and members of the Essene community. The words of Jesus from the Cross, entrusting his mother to the care of John the Apostle, suggest the truth of this assertion.

Brown stresses the importance of the social decorum at that time. If "social decorum" had been a high priority for Jesus, he wouldn't have healed people on the Sabbath, talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, knocked over the moneychangers' tables in the Temple, or socialized often with public sinners.

As for a Gospel explanation for Jesus' "unnatural state," here is Jesus' teaching on celibacy, from Matthew's Gospel: "Some are incapable of marriage because they are born so; some, because they were made so by others; some because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it" (Mt. 19:12).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Catholic Flash Drive

This headline from the Catholic News Agency caught my attention: Austrian diocese sending USB hard drives with Church info as gifts to young people

Turns out that the Diocese of Graz, Austria, has taken to giving 18-year-olds a birthday gift with a purpose:

Since the start of 2006, the Austrian Diocese of Graz has begun sending a curious gift to all young people who celebrate their 18th birthday: a USB hard drive with information about the Catholic Church.

According to the Kath.net news agency, the portable hard drives contain information about the Diocese of Graz presented in a manner that is attractive to young people, as well as texts about the Catholic faith and a series of basic Christian prayers.

Pretty cool -- a great way to use powerful new technology in a simple, easy-to-use way, and at the same time to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

News on Chinese episcopal ordinations

The Beijing-government approved Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), which is not in communion with the Holy See, recently ordained two men to the episcopacy.

A statement issued by the Holy See in reaction to the ordinations stated that Pope Benedict XVI received the news with "profound displeasure" and that they are a "a grave wound to the unity of the Church." Go here to read the statement in its entirety.

An official of the CCPA said that the ordinations took place because more than half of the 100 Chinese dioceses do not have a bishop at present.

Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong reacted strongly to the ordinations, calling for a halt to all future CCPA episcopal ordinations that are not approved by the Holy See.

Go here to read more about the CCPA's explanation, Cardinal Zen's statement, and more analysis of the situation.

Friday, April 28, 2006

News from Rome on Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin

Today, Pope Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation of the Causes of Saints to promulgate several decrees regarding the causes of several holy men and women. Included among them was a decree verifying a second miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin, the 19th century foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods.

Go to this page on the Web site of The Criterion Online Edition to read a Vatican Information Service bulletin regarding the decrees.

Go here to read about an artist commissioned by the Sisters of Providence to create a six-foot statue of Blessed Mother Theodore who was baptized and received into the full communion of the Church at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Terre Haute on April 15 during the Easter Vigil.

Go here to read about a press conference held in February at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods about the progress in Blessed Mother Theodore's canonization Cause.

Go here to read about the miracle that is at the root of the pope's decree.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis' Web site has this page with more information about Blessed Mother Theodore and her canonization Cause.

Bishop D'Arcy issues "Pastoral Response"

Shortly after University of Notre Dame president Holy Cross Father John L. Jenkins issued his "Closing Statement" in the months-long dialogue regarding the relationship between academic freedom and his Catholic college's religious identity, Bishop John D'Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend issued a brief response. It can be read here.

More recently, Bishop D'Arcy has issued a more lengthy "Pastoral Response" to Father Jenkins' Closing Statement. It can be found here.


My pastoral concern is not only because of the decision not to ban the play, but because of the rationale that accompanied the decision. It fails to give room to the great truths of the faith. The teaching of the church on sexuality, on academic freedom, on the relationship between a man and a woman and on the human body is hardly mentioned, except to admit that the play stands apart from, and is even opposed to, Catholic teaching. The truths of faith seem not to have been brought to bear on this decision. Is this an omission that will mark the future of such decisions for this school so blessed by Our Lady and by countless scholars and students over the years? I pray that it not be so; for that would, indeed, mark it as a mistake of historic proportions. As a shepherd with responsibility to Notre Dame, I must point out to her leaders that this judgment and the way it has been explained calls for further, more informed consideration.

Holy Cross Father Wilson Miscamble, an associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, has joined the list of other Notre Dame faculty members who have made public responses to Father Jenkins' Closing Statement. Father Miscamble's open letter to Father Jenkins can be found here.


You must know that in taking this decision you have brought most joy to those who care least about Notre Dame's Catholic mission. You have won for yourself a certain short-term popularity with some students and certain faculty but have done real damage to our beloved school and its distinct place in American higher education. By your decision you move us further along the dangerous path where we ape our secular peers and take all our signals from them. Knowing you and having conversed with you on matters relating to Notre Dame's Catholic mission in the past, I suspect that you recognize this in your own heart. Yet, you seemingly have let the possibility of some protest cause you to back off your own stated position. You were called to be courageous and you settled for being popular. This is not your best self. This is not genuine leadership.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Vatican and Condoms

The blogging world has been afire with news reports back and forth on the topic of a possible Vatican document regarding the use of condoms within a marriage for people who don't want to give AIDS to their spouse.

I haven't posted on it much because their simply isn't much to know. A document like this, based on a study now underway by theologians, would be entirely up to the pope in the end. Endless speculation and assumptions about what Humanae Vitae would say did immense damage to the Church in 1968 and beyond. Likewise, too much conjecture about a document like this and what it might mean and the direction it might point is almost entirely useless, especiall at this time.

Still, you can read a CNS story that I posted that is fairly balanced.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More feedback on Fr. Jenkins' closing statement

Professor John Cavadini, chair of the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, has issued his response to closing statement Holy Cross Father John Jenkins in the school's discussion on the relationship of academic freedom to its Catholic identity.

Professor Cavadini doesn't address the issue of future performances of The Vagina Monologues but rather the broader topic of the relationship of Notre Dame to the Church upon which, in his opinion, the discussion about academic freedom and Catholic identity is based. In his letter he expresses his concern that those participating in this increasingly public dialogue are forgetting this crucial aspect of it.

Its text can be found here, on the Web site of The Observer, an independent newspaper at Notre Dame and nearby Saint Mary College.


The President's statement, as a way of going forward, seems to ratify our unspoken declaration of independence from the Church, to permit it as the "default" mode of operation, and to invite the reduction of any model of the university which entails any explicit relationship to the magisterium of the Church as a "seminary" model (pace all intellectually rigorous seminary programs, including our own). This is to invite and to cultivate an intellectual tradition that is not moored to any ecclesial community or authority that could have a claim on defining that intellectual tradition. It is to invite and to cultivate an intellectual tradition in which "Catholic" is not normed by accountability to any incarnate, historical body but only to the disincarnate, a-historical church of the mind.

Fr. Jenkins' closing statement may have marked the end of his participation in this discussion. (Although one might hope that he would respond to some recent statement's by the school's faculty.) But it would seem that the discussion is going on...and on...and on.

...and on it would seem. Go here to read a letter to The Observer by Franciscan Father John Coughlin, a professor in Notre Dame's School of Law.


I think we ought to be honest and acknowledge that many, and perhaps most, members of the faculty are skeptical about the validity of Catholic truth claims based upon faith. Likewise, many would be suspicious about faith claims as proper participants in public discourse. Vatican II rightly urged that the Church be open to the world. The on-going dialogue continues to bear fruit for all the participants. It must be admitted, however, that the effects of the ensuing dialogue with secular culture have not always been beneficial to the life of the Church. When secular culture rather than the Church begins to serve as the primary formator, the effects are not likely to foster the gospel life. The Catholic intellectual life here at Note Dame has not been immune from the negative effects of the dialogue as it has transpired in the Church over the course of the last four decades. ...

Given the less than ideal state of Catholic intellectual life at Notre Dame, how might the president of the University respond? To be sure, he should not retreat from the dialogue as it was intended by Vatican II. Whoever the President of the University is at this perilous yet promising time, he would be well advised to come to terms with reality, drink deeply from the living fountain of faith and act with all in his power to strengthen Catholic intellectual life. Unfortunately, nowhere in his Closing Statement does Jenkins affirm that Catholic belief is necessarily normative within the Catholic intellectual community.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

More on academic freedom at Notre Dame

Last week Fr. John Jenkins, the president of the Universtiy of Notre Dame, issued his closing statement in the dialogue on academic freedom that he had initiated some months earlier on the northern Indiana campus.

This general topic had been focused a bit around issue of whether or not the play The Vagina Monologues should be performed at the Catholic university.

In his closing statement, Fr. Jenkins said that future productions of the play would be allowed on the campus provided that it happen in an academic context where Catholic teaching on human sexuality could also be presented.

This decision surprised some who have followed the story because Fr. Jenkins had previously expressed misgivings about the play because of it portrays human sexuality in ways that run counter to the Church's teaching on this topic.

In the days following the issuing of Fr. Jenkins' closing statement, David Solomon, a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, wrote this op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal.


Although Father Jenkins called his announcement the "Closing Statement," the debate is unlikely to go away. More is at stake than the fairly standard, indeed humdrum, questions about "censorship" and "free speech" on campus. To some of us--and I speak as a Notre Dame professor--Father Jenkins's decision is one more step in a long process of secularization: It has already radically changed the major Protestant universities in this country; it is now proceeding apace at the Catholic ones.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House

I went for a walk with a bird on March 22 at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.

During a break from a Lenten day of reflection presented by Msgr. Paul Koetter, pastor of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, I went outside to enjoy the beautiful retreat center grounds and pray on the prayer labyrinth.

Several inches of snow covered the ground, and sunshine sparkled on the ice crystals. Birdsong served as a reminder that spring was just around the corner.

A robin who probably thought he had migrated north too soon landed on the sidewalk, which had just been shoveled, and walked a few feet ahead of me all the way around the exterior of the retreat center chapel and over to the prayer labyrinth. It was fun to watch him hop along the path on his little bird feet. He didn't seem at all concerned that I was just a few feet away from him.

Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House offers a variety of spiritual retreats on weekends and days of reflection on weekdays at 5353 E. 56th St. in Indianapolis. For more information about their retreat program schedule, call 317-545-7681 or log on to their Web site at www.archindy.org/fatima.

I hope you will make time for a spiritual retreat there sometime this year. Maybe you will even have a chance to go for a walk with a bird.

New Priests for Life blog

If you like to read blogs, check out Father Frank Pavone's new pro-life blog on the Priests for Life Web site. Here's his invitation to visit the site.

I have started a blog! Please stop in at www.priestsforlife.org/blog.

I hope you also will decide to participate in an archdiocesan Helpers of God's Precious Infants Mass and rosary on the third Saturday of the month. Due to the Easter Triduum, the next Mass is scheduled on May 19 then every third Saturday throughout the year.

St. Michael the Archangel Church, 3354 W. 30th St., Indianapolis. Helpers of God's Precious Infants monthly pro-life ministry, Mass for Life by archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry, 8:30 a.m., drive to Clinic for Women (abortion clinic), 3607 W. 16th St., Indianapolis, for rosary, return to church for Benediction.

If you would like to participate in pro-life volunteer projects, call Servants of the Gospel of Life Sister Diane Carollo, director of the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry, at 317-236-1521 or 800-382-9836, extension 1521, for information about Birthline, Project Rachel, the Gabriel Project and other ways you can help work to end the culture of death in secular society.

For more information about a variety of pro-life issues, log on to the Human Life International Web site at www.hli.org (you can also register for their e-mail newsletter) and the Priests for Life Web site at www.priestsforlife.org.

And thanks for all that you do through prayer and service to help save the lives of preborn babies.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Immigration Rally

An estimated 15,000 people marched from St. Mary Church in downtown Indianapolis on April 10 to the City-County Building as part of protests around the nation to mark a "Day of Action for Immigrant Justice."

See photos of the event here. A story, especially regarding Catholic involvement in the rally, will be coming in an upcoming issue of The Criterion.

Compendium of the Catechism released

The English translation of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was released on March 31. You can purchase it through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or at Amazon.com (for cheaper, I might add).

A much shorter version of the full Catechism, this paperback is composed of 598 questions about the faith that each have answers that average 2-4 sentences -- extremely compact, concise, clear and accurate answers about what we believe as Catholics. It really is a special gift to be able to simply explain concepts that "unpacked" could be studied for a lifetime. I'll give you an example:

53. Why was the world created?
The world was created for the glory of God who wished to show forth and communicate his goodness, truth and beauty. The ultimate end of creation is that God, in Christ, might be "all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28) for his glory and our happiness.

The Compendium also makes use of full-color sacred art from across the history of the Church, as has a list of common prayers in the back that are in both English and Latin.

I would recommend that every Catholic household -- especially those with children -- get a copy. The Catechism was called a "gift" to the Church when it was published more than a decade ago -- and this is another such gift.

(Note: This is our 100th post on this blog, and I'm pleased that it could be about something as wonderful as this new Compendium.)

The "Gospel" of Judas

Posted on Friday was this story from Catholic News Service: Found 'Gospel of Judas' paints alternate portrait of Jesus' betrayer

This is, of course, a story that has been thrown about in the secular media for several days now. Taken from the CNS story:

The document, a third-century Coptic translation of what had originally been written in Greek before 180 A.D., paints Judas in a more sympathetic light than his well-known role as Jesus' betrayer in the canonical Gospels.

In it, Jesus said Judas would "exceed all" of the other disciples, "for you will sacrifice the man that clothes me" -- a reference to Judas' impending betrayal of Jesus. It is also an allusion to gnostic belief that held the spirit in higher esteem than the body, and that, through the liberation of Jesus' body, his spirit would be freed.

The Gospel of Judas was mentioned in a book condemning heresies that was written by St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, France, in 180 A.D.

A news brief from the same day deals bluntly with the find:

The Gospel of Judas was unimportant to most Christians when it was written hundreds of years ago and it is unimportant today, said a Jesuit professor who has convoked a series of ecumenical studies of the historical Jesus. Jesuit Father Gerald O'Collins, a longtime professor of Christology at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, said the text, like the gospels of Mary Magdalene and Philip, "does not merit the name 'Gospel.'"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bishop D'Arcy on "The Vagina Monologues" at Notre Dame

Bishop John M. D'Arcy is the leader of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, in which sits the University of Notre Dame. He issued the following statement yesterday regarding Notre Dame president Holy Cross Father John Jenkins' announcement that the play The Vagina Monologues would continue to be allowed to be performed on the school's campus:

As pastor of the diocese with the sacred responsibility for the care of souls of all our people, including the young men and women at the University of Notre Dame, and with pastoral concern always for the Catholic identity of Notre Dame, as is my obligation, I am deeply saddened by the decision of Father John Jenkins, CSC, to allow the continuing sponsorship of the Vagina Monologues by Notre Dame, the School of Our Lady.

For further understanding of my position on this matter, I refer all to my statement found in the February 12, 2006 issue of Today’s Catholic, and in my statements of the previous two years. All these statements may be found on the diocesan website.

Go here to read Bishop D'Arcy's column on the play in question.

Go here to read Bishop D'Arcy's Feb. 13, 2005 statement regarding Notre Dame's "Queer Film Festival."

Go here to read Bishop D'Arcy's Feb. 14, 2004 statement regarding the performacy of The Vagina Monologues at Notre Dame.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Catholic identity and academic freedom

The relationship between these two concepts have been much discussed over the past several weeks on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. The discussion began with a series of addresses on it given by Holy Cross Father John L. Jenkins, the school's president (go here to read the address given to Notre Dame's faculty).

Father Jenkins has now given his closing statement in the discussion. It is a statement in which he lays out principles on how topics that conflict with Catholic teaching will be discussed in a public forum on the campus in a way that promotes a substantive engagement of those who hold the contrary view with the Church.

In particular, Father Jenkins addressed future performances on the campus of the play The Vagina Monologues, which he characterized as promoting "portrayals of sexuality [that] stand apart from, and indeed in opposition to, Catholic teaching on human sexuality." He said that future performances would be allowed but must happen in the context of a broad discussion of human sexuality, a discussion that must include the Catholic perspective on this topic.


Some of the individuals I’ve talked with are adamantly opposed to the performance or expression on campus of a work, play, book, or speech that contradicts Catholic teaching. To them, we must say, with all respect: "This is a Catholic university." We are committed to a wide-open, unconstrained search for truth, and we are convinced that Catholic teaching has nothing to fear from engaging the wider culture.

Others I talked to were appalled that we would raise any question about the content, message, or implications of a work of art, drama, or literature here on campus. To them, we have to say, with the same respect: "This is a Catholic university." It is founded upon our belief that love of God and neighbor are eternal teachings that give context and meaning to our search for truth. As I said, Catholic teaching has nothing to fear from engaging the wider culture, but we all have something to fear if the wider culture never engages Catholic teaching. That is why the Catholic tradition must not only inspire our worship and our service on campus; it should help shape the intellectual life of the university. Our goal is not to limit discussion or inquiry, but to enrich it; it is not to insulate that faith tradition from criticism, but to foster constructive engagement with critics.

(emphasis in original)