Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bishop closes parish because of sacrilege

Parish closings are something not uncommon in this country -- but it is uncommon to hear of a parish being closed because of sacrilege.

But that is just what is happened in New Orleans.

The background for this story is here:

Citing "sacrilege" by demonstrators who disrupted a Mass, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans has ordered the removal of the Blessed Sacrament from historic St. Augustine Church and said it will be closed "for the foreseeable future."

The order came March 27, the day after sign-waving protesters repeatedly interrupted a priest trying to celebrate Mass in the church, causing the liturgy to be terminated.

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Following the recommendations of an archdiocesan pastoral plan in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Archbishop Hughes had earlier decided to close the small parish, merging it with neighboring St. Peter Claver Parish, but to keep the church building open for one Mass each Sunday.

Under the plan, announced in February, seven parishes in the archdiocese were closed and 23 others have been put on hold until enough people return to warrant their reopening.

It is a sad sight that too often today the Mass is seen as an opportunity to protest. This story is that logic carried to its extreme: that you would protest a bishop's decision at a Mass to the point that the Mass would actually have to be stopped.

It also shows, I think, a gap in the understanding of Catholics that some would not see the difference between a protest outside the chancery and the sacrilege of Mass -- the same principle was on display in St. Louis a few months ago when some Catholics quoted in the media clearly did not understand the difference between disagreeing with a parochial decision made by a bishop and the formation of a schismatic parish outside the Catholic Church.

It's a shame that now this parish in New Orleans will no longer even be open for Mass on Sundays, but the bishop had no choice in the matter.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Immigration Reform Resources

The USCCB has teamed with other organizations to produce a website that offers not only information about immigration reform in the United States but also specifically resources for parishes that have people asking about these issues.

Log on to the site at www.JusticeForImmigrants.org

Monday, March 27, 2006

Local Coverage on the Consistory

The March 24 edition of The Pilot, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, published this article about Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley's arrival in Rome for the consistory at which Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the honor of cardinal.

Excerpt:

The cardinal-designate, who admitted he is “still trying to take it [his appointment as cardinal] all in,” emphasized his desire to keep the celebrations “low-key,” in part because of all the archdiocese has been through in recent years.

“I deliberately did not organize a pilgrimage from the archdiocese,” he said. Yet, he seemed pleased that over 500 people are attending the consistory from the Boston area.

In addition, nearly 60 family members, what the cardinal-designate refers to as “the O’Malley clan,” will also attend the consistory.

“I don’t know if Rome is ready for this,” he joked.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hundreds of Chinese to attend consistory

The Web site of the Union of Catholic Asian News has posted this article about the large delegation of Chinese both from around the world and from mainland China itself that is descending on Rome for the consistory at which Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong will become the second cardinal to lead that diocese.

Excerpt:

The size of the Hong Kong delegation, now 141 persons, is six times larger than that of Cardinal Wu in 1988. About 20 Catholics went on the occasion.

Vicar General Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming of Hong Kong, who leads the Hong Kong group, told UCA News that the difference is partly because Cardinal Wu preferred a low-profile celebration and discouraged a big delegation.

Father Chan explained that Cardinal-elect Zen is "more of a high profile image," and that he accepted a proposal by the diocesan curia to organize the delegation so as to express the support of Hong Kong Catholics and to show the participation of the local Church in the universal Church event.

High profile indeed. It will be interesting to see in the coming months how the dynamics of the relationship between Cardinal-elect Zen and the Beijing government will play out. He has been an outspoken critic of it in the past.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More on the "Patriarch of the West" removal

One of my recent posts commented on how the Vatican had removed one of the pope's titles -- "Patriarch of the West" -- from the official Vatican Yearbook.

After a couple of weeks of media speculation, the Holy See has offered a clarification.

Read their explanation here

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Archbishop Naumann on ESC Research and Cloning

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, KS recently wrote about embryonic stem-cell research and cloning in his regular column in The Leaven, the newspaper of his archdiocese.

Although the circumstances that led him to write on this topic were related to political debates in neighboring Missouri, what he wrote is relevant for Catholics everywhere.

Excerpt:

The Catholic Church opposes human cloning for the same reason it opposes in vitro fertilization. The church believes that every human being has the right to be conceived in love by a mother and father. Human beings, even if it is scientifically and technologically possible, are not meant to be manufactured in petri dishes and laboratories.

Even though couples can be well-intentioned in their efforts to conceive a child, in vitro fertilization is always a serious moral evil. One of the reasons it is such a serious evil is that the process often requires the manufacturing of several human embryos, most of which are destroyed or preserved indefinitely in frozen storage.

In the case of embryonic stem-cell research, scientists want to manufacture human embryos with the intention of never allowing any of them to proceed with normal human development. These scientists want to manufacture these tiny human beings to use their cells for their laboratory studies and experiments, which they hope may one day lead to some effective human therapy. Although, as was pointed out last week, in 25 years of animal experimentation, scientists have yet to demonstrate a successful therapy.

Read the whole column.

(Go here to listen to a podcast of Archbishop Naumann's column.)

Remembering St. Patrick's Day

At least a couple of diocesan newspapers used last week's St. Patrick's Day to profile the faith of Irish Catholics living in the United States.

The Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee ran in its March 16 edition this feature article about Derry Hegarty, a legendary Irish-born bar owner in the Wisconsin city.

Excerpt:

Like the pleasing lilt of his Irish brogue, Hegarty’s Catholic faith is an integral part of who he is.

“I have great faith,” said Hegarty. “My mother was a very saintly person. She always made sure we went to Mass. I feel very happy, very faithful to my rosary beads.”

Hegarty was born and raised in the Irish countryside, east of the village of Drinagh, located in County Cork. On Sundays his parents, Cornelius and Susan, would drive their family of two boys and four girls four miles to attend Mass in Drinagh.

“When we were young kids, we traveled by horse and buggy” to church, he said.

The March 17 edition of The Criterion ran this article by John Shaughnessy about the importance of the faith in the lives of Irish Catholics in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Excerpt:

As they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Irish Catholics will do more than savor corned beef and cabbage or raise a glass in song and cheer.

They will also draw sustenance from the stories and memories that capture the three essential elements of their lives: their faith, their family and their Irish heritage.

Here are three stories of the way that trinity of influences has touched the lives of certain Irish Catholics in the archdiocese...

Monday, March 20, 2006

A great collection of talks

The website for Peter Kreeft, a a professor of philosophy at Boston College and phenomenal Catholic writer, not only has a collection of his writings but also a large collection of presentations that he has given (in free, downloadable audio files).

The sound files can be found here -- do yourself a favor and download a few and see if you don't get hooked. My favorites so far are "How to Win the Culture War" and "10 Uncommon Insights into Evil from Lord of the Rings."

Is God a tempter?

Father William Saunders writes a column called "Straight Answers" that I heartily recommend that appears in the newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

One of his more recent offerings deals with that phrase in the Our Father: "Lead us not into temptation."

A passage:

Upon first hearing, this petition of the Our Father does sound like we are asking God not to lead us into temptation. (The Our Father is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.) In this sense, the petition sounds like God would purposely place us in temptation and set us up for a fall to sin. The literal translation of the Greek text is indeed, as we recite, "and lead us not into temptation."

Consequently, we must understand this petition in its context. The preceding petition asks our heavenly Father to forgive us our sins as we forgive others — a very positive petition imploring an outpouring of God's healing grace. The petition in question must also be viewed positively: it asks the Father not to lead us into temptation, but not in the sense of God putting us into temptation. St. James reminds us, "No one who is tempted is free to say, 'I am being tempted by God.' Surely God, who is beyond the grasp of evil, tempts no one" (Jas 1:13). Our Lord would never set us up for a fall to sin.

Want to know more? Read the column

"America's Cathedral"

If you had to guess what "America's Cathedral" is for Catholics, what answer would you give? New York? Los Angeles? George Weigel has an answer -- and for those interested in history and architecture, cool news about the future:

St. Patrick’s is, arguably, the most famous Catholic cathedral in the United States. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is, arguably, the most beautiful. But Baltimore’s Old Cathedral, now the Basilica of the Assumption, is indisputably the most historic.

It was conceived by Archbishop John Carroll, the founder of the American hierarchy, whose diocese originally encompassed the entire United States. Archbishop Carroll wanted the first Catholic cathedral in the new republic to embody the nation’s commitment to religious freedom and turned to Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the U.S. Capitol (and son of a Moravian minister), the leading architectural practitioner of the day.

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Baltimore’s Old Cathedral is undergoing a massive restoration, the completion of which will be marked with appropriate ceremony in November. The dome’s skylights are back, and their restoration, combined with a brave decision to restore the original plain glass to the basilica’s windows, will let 21st-century Americans experience the luminosity that Carroll and Latrobe intended.

Get the whole article via the Denver Catholic Register

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Kids helping kids

That's what is happening in Missouri in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Kids in Catholic middle schools there have been learning about the Church's teachings on social issues and in turn have spoken out to their state representatives calling for better adoption procedures in the state.

Excerpt:

KANSAS CITY - More than 500 sixth-graders from 18 Catholic schools heard two state lawmakers promise to help speed up the adoption process and a diocesan official promise to help shine light on the plight of nearly 2,000 children in Missouri waiting to be adopted.

"You guys are on the right track in moving this issue," said Rep. Kate Meiners, a Kansas City Democrat, who sat at the rally's head table with Rep. Jerry Nolte, a Gladstone Republican, and Father Robert Murphy, diocesan vicar general.

The children are participating in "That's Not Fair," a school year-long program developed by the Bishop Sullivan Center social service agency to teach middle-schoolers the basics of Catholic social teaching.

Go here for the full story.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Archbishop DiNardo addresses his flock

Following the recent resignation of Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza (who had reached the canonically required age for episcopal resignation of 75), Archbishop Danield DiNardo became the leader of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. He had served as a coadjutor bishop in that southeastern Texas archdiocese for approximately two years.

This transfer of pastoral authority in the nation's newest archdiocese was covered in this article in the most recent edition of the Texas Catholic Herald, Galveston-Houston's newspaper.

Archbishop DiNardo also recently addressed the faithful of his archdiocese in this pastoral message.

Excerpt:

In this first article I write to you as Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, I want to express my thanks to all who have sent their greetings and support. I am honored to be chief shepherd here and humbled by the enormity of the task. Please keep me in mind in your private prayer as well as at Mass.

I am deeply grateful to Archbishop Fiorenza for his outstanding Episcopal ministry the past twenty-one years. He has wisely and prudently guided a diocese that grew practically twice in size during his time as Ordinary...

"Jesus Decoded"

A Catholic News Service story reports that a "new Web site sponsored by the U.S. bishops' Catholic Communication Campaign has been established to provide accurate information about the life of Jesus, the origins of Christianity and Catholic teaching to counter claims made in the best-selling novel 'The Da Vinci Code' by Dan Brown."

The site, which is coming out about two months ahead of the debut of a film version of the book, can be found at: www.jesusdecoded.com.

Catholic Charities in Boston draws a line in the sand

Catholic Charities in Boston has recently been at the center of a firestorm over the matter of placing children in adoptions to gay couples. While the agency has done it about a dozen times in its history, the bishops of Massachusetts have called for an end to it -- and the state has said that Catholic Charities must continue adopting to gay couples as part of keeping with anti-discrimination laws. On top of that, there have been rumblings that United Way would cease funding Catholic Charities if they did not comply with the state.

So, in reply, Catholic Charities in Boston will cease its adoption services. Archbishop Sean O'Malley had this to say:

Most Catholic Charities in the United States had their beginnings in providing adoption services for children from Catholic working class families who had lost their parents. Prior to Catholic Charities providing adoption services, the state might have placed these children in non-Catholic homes. Excercising constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom, Catholic Charities stepped forward to provide placement for orphaned children in a manner that was in accord with the faith and religious practice of the children´s parents.

Over time, Catholic Charities expanded its adoption services so as to provide placement services for children of many faiths and circumstances, always seeking to care for the children.

Sadly, we have come to a moment when Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston must withdraw from the work of adoptions, in order to exercise the religious freedom that was the prompting for having begun adoptions many years ago.

The archdiocese has also posted this article, which I found be of great use in explaing, quite simply, the position of the Catholic Church on this issue:

Catholic scholar explains Church’s position on adoption by same-sex couples

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Canadian religious orders criticize Church

Sometimes it is shocking to see a real world example of just how much disagreement there are in some parts of the world -- mostly the western world -- with what the Church rightly considered settled doctrine, such as the teaching handed down from Jesus himself that divorce and remarriage is wrong in all cases but those involving invalidity.

Catholic News Service posted a story yesterday that was one of those real world examples -- a letter on behalf of more than 200 religious orders in Canada was sent to the Canadian bishops to criticize the Church's teaching on sexual morality (what else?), the role of women, the rigidity of the bishops' teaching authority and their adherence to policies orinating from the Vatican.

Franciscan Sister Louise Stafford, a Canadian Religious Conference spokeswoman, did say that the letter was intended to be part of private dialogue and that it was leaked to the media. On that point, I at least admire her a bit -- there is quite a difference between a private dialogue with the Church and a public challenge, which this unfortunately has become.

Still, one wonders how far religious orders in Canada have strayed from the truth of the Church's teachings to challenging them on so many fronts.

Bishop Gilles Cazabon of Saint-Jerome, Quebec, president of the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops, had this to say about the whole affair:

"We welcome any views they would like to express," he said. "Sometimes, though, in reading their message, I had an impression that they speak to the church ... as if they are not in the church.

"We are not antagonistic bodies. We are, together, the church. So I'm afraid what comes out of their document is that they don't come across as being very self-critical," the bishop said.

In response to the criticism that the bishops are aligned with the Vatican, Bishop Cazabon said: "When it comes to the basic doctrinal content, of course, we are all one. When it comes to more disciplinary aspects, we are one on the main things. On the other hand, we as bishops, we are members of the college of bishops, and the head of this college is the pope. So we always try to accomplish our ministry with our brother bishops and with the pope.

. . .

Bishop Cazabon said he hoped the pope's first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est" ("God Is Love"), would help dispel the image of the church as legalistic, another criticism in the letter.

Read the whole story

Monday, March 06, 2006

Vatican analyst on Christian-Muslim relations in Europe

The recent controversey regarding and violent protests related to editorial cartoons featuring images of the prophet Muhammed have highlighted significant tensions in both Christian-Muslim relations and the relationship between many Muslims and the secularized portions of Western society.

The Denver Catholic Register recently published this article in which noted Vatican analyst Sandro Magister, who recently delivered a lecture in Denver, was interviewed about these tensions:

The answer is not, as some believe, said Magister, to ban religion from the public square — as in the failure to mention Europe’s Christian roots in the European Union’s Constitution and the likeminded push for secular forms of Islam — but to integrate religion into the civil order. ...

Integration will begin, he added, by acknowledging both the Christian and Muslim roots of European civilization.

“In spite of differences and conflicts, Islam has always been part of Europe, and is one of its constitutive elements,” said Magister, noting Moorish influence in its architecture.

“Christianity and Islam are inseparable in Europe,” he said. “There are five and a half million Muslims in France, and it is projected that their number will double within 20 years. There are already more of them than there are French Catholics who go to Mass every Sunday.”

Integrating Muslims into Europe, Magister said, is absolutely essential. He proposed two steps to achieve that integration — “the self-reform of Islam and the education of minds.”

Friday, March 03, 2006

A call to disobedience from a Cardinal?

This story is probably only starting, but it's certainly with interest to follow it -- after all, today's New York Times editorial bills this as a call from a Cardinal of the Catholic Church to violate a U.S. law should it be passed. That may be a bit extreme or premature, but it's what some people are saying.

Read for yourself: Cardinal says to use Lent to oppose hostility toward immigrants

Here is one of the pertinent excerpts:

In interviews with the Los Angeles Times and The Tidings, the archdiocesan newspaper, the cardinal harshly criticized a recent bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that emphasizes enforcement measures against people who are in the country illegally.

Cardinal Mahony called the House legislation, which would penalize people who aid illegal immigrants, a "blameful, vicious" bill.

"Anyone who does anything for someone here who doesn't have documents would be a felon under this bill," the cardinal told The Tidings.

"And it targets everybody, churches included. So on its face value, it means that anyone coming for Communion or baptism or to be married, I should stop and ask to see their legal papers," he said in an interview that appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of The Tidings.

"That's absurd, and we're not going to do it -- even if Congress says we have to. We're not going to be immigration officers. Our role is spiritual and pastoral, and that's going to prevail. But the foolishness of this whole out-of-control thought process is just astounding," he said.

It's always surprised me how much hostility and debate this topic brings up between Catholics. Yet with the other "hot-button" topics of the day, the discussion about immigration reform can get pushed to the back burner. If you want to know more about this, check out these links to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles:

Immigration proposals: Contentious debate looms

Cardinal Mahony Calls On Catholics To Fast For Immigration Reform This Lenten Season

Lenten message of Cardinal Roger Mahony

This link was provided as well: Justice for Immigrants Campaign

Pope drops one of his nine titles

One thing that most of us in The Criterion's offices love is good Catholic trivia. A question that came up about a year ago was: What are the nine official titles of the pope? The answer was in the offical Vatican Yearbook, which describes the pope as:

-Vicar of Jesus Christ
-Bishop of Rome
-Successor of the Prince of the Apostles
-Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church
-Patriarch of the West
-Primate of Italy
-Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Province of Rome
-Sovereign of Vatican City State
-Servant of the Servants of God

According to a recent Catholic News Service story: "The last time the list of titles was changed was with Pope Paul VI's publication of the 1969 edition of the yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio. Pope Paul added the title 'servant of the servants of God' and deleted the phrase 'gloriously reigning.' "

Now, Pope Benedict XVI has made another change -- he removed one of the titles. Any guesses?

If you want to know which one, and the guesses as to why he did it, follow the link below:

Vatican removes title after pope's name

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bishop Joseph A. Adamec on "The reality of miracles"

In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis there has been much attention given lately to miracles.

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, was recently affirmed by the voting members of the Holy See's Congregation of the Causes of Saints. It is likely that Blessed Mother Theodore will be canonized a saint in the late fall.

Bishop Joseph A. Adamec of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in Pennsylvania recently reflected on the meaning and potential faith-giving power of miracles in this column in his diocese's newspaper, The Catholic Register.

It's an interesting reflection in which the bishop recalls miraculous stories from the Andersonville Prison in Georgia during the American Civil War, Flight 93 on 9-11, and from Lourdes, France.

Check it out.

To learn more about the canonization Cause of Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin, go here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Wednesday

This Ash Wednesday we're launching a special Lenten page as a resource to Catholics.

The page, located at www.archindy.org/lent, contains links to the daily readings, a column by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, the Lenten regulations, suggested links and the Stations of the Cross.

As Lent progresses I will add more links to the page as I come across them.

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UPDATE: You can find pictures from the Ash Wednesday Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis here.