Jesuits Like This Guy Are Awesome and Why I Am Catholic

This Jesuit, pointed out to me by my colleague Anna Marie, reminded me of the Jesuits I met at Fordham. Take a look:

In my Fordham days my teachers, Fr. Elbert Rushmore, SJ, Fr. Gerry McCool, SJ, Fr. W. Norris Clarke, SJ and Fr Don Moore, SJ along with Fr Frank Stroud, SJ and Fr. John Mullin, SJ in Campus Ministry all upheld the Jesuit maxim of being a man for others. They challenged my assumptions and had the patience and sensitivity to give me confidence in myself. The lay teachers and diocesan folks at Fordham also embodied a similar mindset.

Fr. Norris Clarke, SJ was a fine teacher of Philosophy. For his class on the human person I got to write an autobiographical paper comparing events in my life with St. Thomas’ thought. It helped me to integrate the person I was becoming with my Catholic self. Looking back on the paper (which I somehow still have) I could see myself being led away from radio and into ministry even then. I remember re-reading the paper when I was considering a career move. This part stuck out:

“I am more than simply a broadcaster or someone who works broadly within the field of broadcasting. I am a human person who is affected by the stories I cover, sports or otherwise and in my work I must remember the human persons who I will cover, talk about on the air and represent in some small way to a larger contingent. God has created me with that sensitivity and I cannot avoid it–for it is who I am. God’s gift to me is that sensitivity and I must embrace it on this great circle of being and return that gift to the Father with all that I am. For if I do not…I fail myself.”

Not bad for a 21 year old.

A few years ago, Fr. Joe Currie, SJ, then director of Campus Ministry at Fordham had me over to the Jesuit residence for lunch. I asked about Fr. Clarke and was told that he was still alive. At that mention, Fr. Clarke, shuffled into the room. He was nearly 93 years old and still was sharp. I was happy to be able to go over and share a word of thanks to him for being my teacher so many years ago.

He was ever the graceful recipient of my own gratitude and asked several questions about my life today and generally made me feel like I was the only person in the room that he wanted to bother with. He epitomized the word “peaceful” to me. An old man and a young man, sharing grace over a lunch line. Who could think of a better scene?

Nearly a month or so later, he was dead. I was so happy to have been able to share just a brief moment with this Jesuit giant.

I think the Jesuits I have been privileged enough to spend time with, young and old, have allowed me to grow introspectively–to see “God in all things” as Ignatius would say, and more importantly, to be able to then say “so what” about seeing God’s grandeur in life’s busyness. What does God’s love for us compel us to do? How are we to live? If we find God hidden in some corner of life, what does God hope for us to find in that encounter?

I wonder what my life would be like without the Jesuits and I fear that it might be sadder, less full, incomplete. God used them to help me find myself and in doing so, they helped me also find God. Through education. through retreat, through ministering to me and enabling me to minister to others, I came to see myself in the light of God’s hope for me to be all that I am–nothing more, but more importantly, nothing less.

And for that, I am truly filled with gratitude.

Got Media Problems…Turn to Fox News to Fix ’em

Yeah…that’s the ticket!

From Deacon Greg’s Blog

The Vatican has brought in the Fox News correspondent in Rome to help improve its communications strategy as it tries to cope with years of communications blunders and one of its most serious scandals in decades, The Associated Press learned Saturday.Greg Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, the Vatican and Burke told the AP.

I shudder to think what press releases this guy will come up with.

A bit more on his Catholic background:

Burke, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement. Pope John Paul II’s longtime spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, was also a member of Opus Dei.

Good luck, Burke. You’re gonna need it. Here’s hoping that the Vatican will be a bit more “fair and balanced” than his last employer claims that they are.

UPDATE: Msgr. Lynn = Guilty of Endangerment but Not Conspiracy

Reuters has the early story:

Monsignor William Lynn was found guilty on Friday of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, making him the highest-ranking U.S. Roman Catholic official convicted in the church child sex abuse scandal.

The jury acquitted Lynn, who oversaw hundreds of priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, on two other counts.

The jury deliberated 13 days before reaching a decision in the trial of Lynn, 61, who for 12 years served as secretary of the clergy.

He was accused of conspiracy and child endangerment in what prosecutors said was an effort to cover up child sex abuse allegations, often by transferring priests to unsuspecting parishes.

This seems like the right call to me. Msgr. Lynn certainly made some mistakes and endangered children but I don’t think he was part of a conspiracy. Perhaps some others higher up the ladder were, but I’m not sure he was privy to those discussions.

More to come. This will make Boston look like a day at the beach as I’ve stated before and sadly, it makes the Catholic Church look horrendous and backwards and priests will suffer greatly for this. Bishops once again will feel the scathing look of the public eye for their failure to protect children and instead protect the institution.

Chaput Shakes Up Philly Archdiocese

Hat tip to Deacon Greg who exclusively reported on this from the Catholic Media Conference in Indianapolis where Archbishop Chaput announced the following:


On Thursday, Chaput announced deep and drastic cuts for the church back here in Philadelphia, including 45 layoffs, the consolidation of several offices and ministries, and the elimination of its print newspaper, the Catholic Standard & Times, a very old reading habit for local Catholics.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Susan Matthews, a former Standard and Times editor who runs the website. “With over a million Catholics in the city, it was not only a source for news but for historical records.”

In a news release issued Thursday, the Archdiocese said it would be closing the paper and suspending the production of its monthly magazine, Phaith.

The diocese said the website would continue to be the official source of news for the Archdiocese.

We all know this is because Archbishop Chaput smartly is looking ahead in anticipation of further financial troubles down the road because of the sex abuse cases that will soon make Boston look like a day at the beach.

However, this further piece troubled me greatly and will go overlooked:

The Archdiocese will merge or combine 19 offices and ministries. The Office of Youth and Young Adults, which operates the Catholic Youth Organization, will close, though the Archdiocese said the youth sports programs will continue on “with no change on the local level.”

Right. Because God forbid kids can’t play soccer, while legions of 20 and 30 something adults go without an official office at the diocesan level and largely go ignored in parishes. I hope when he realigns these offices he smartly puts young adults and campus ministry together as opposed to youth and young adults which are hardly the same thing.

This is not a time to ignore the very group that has been affected by the sexual abuse crisis. And because Archbishop Chaput is a smart guy, I will trust that while the Archbishop has closed the young adult office he’s also transferring the responsibility of caring for youth and young adults to someone else’s job within the Archdiocese. Let’s pray that THEY make young adults a continued priority because their list of priorities is going to be lengthy.

That said, this also is an opportunity for Philadelphia’s young adults and individual young adult ministry organizations at the parish and vicariate levels. You need to step up and plan something big on your own to ensure that young people are heard in the diocese and more importantly to show your bishop that you can be self-sustaining in this time of trouble, financially and otherwise. Know of my prayers and know that my phone is always on for you should you want to bounce ideas off me. Busted Halo® has young adult ministry in a box which could prove to be a very valuable resource for you at this juncture.

So today let’s pray for Philadelphia Catholics. May they be able to be served well and trust that God will see them through the tough times.

Is An Abuse Victim Who Beats Up the Priest Who Abused Him Justified?

Take a gander at this:

From AP and the Huffington Post

Evidence will show the man on trial in the beating of an aging Jesuit priest was abused by the priest, but that still did not give him the right to take the law into in his own hands, prosecutors in Northern California said Wednesday in their opening statement in the trial of William Lynch.

Lynch, 44, is accused of beating the Rev. Jerold Lindner in 2010 in front of startled witnesses at a retirement home for priests.

Lynch has said Lindner abused him and his brother during a camping trip in Northern California.

I vote no as nobody should take the law into their own hands but I wonder how many comments along the lines of:

“He should be able to do things much worse to him.”
“Now he knows what it feels like to be abused.”
“This priest is a lower form of life, he deserves this and more. They should let the guy castrate him!”

Now before you rush to judgement on me for “making up outlandish quotes,” these were all told or written to me by people I know when we’ve discussed the abuse scandal. We easily forget that we are a religion of forgiveness when we are deeply wounded and offended. It’s why capital punishment is often looked upon as justified because many hold the view that criminals should be punished severely for their crimes.

As if that could change what they’ve already done.

I agree with the prosecuting attorney:

“The defendant beat this man up because he was angry and he wanted revenge,” she said. “The defendant planned and executed a violent attack against the man who molested him 30 years ago.”

But Gemetti said the molestation was not a defense to the charges. She called Lynch’s actions illegal “vigilante” justice.

So let’s not get into whether he can do this or not. Rather, regardless of where you fall on whether this guy should have the right to beat up his abuser-priest, do you think that he’ll beat the rap? I do.

Here’s why:

(Defense attorney) Harris also said he expects the priest to lie when he is called to testify. Lindner could be called to the witness stand as early as Wednesday afternoon and is expected to deny the rapes occurred. Harris told the jurors to take the priest’s credibility into account when deciding the case.

I hope that cooler heads prevail, but I have a feeling that revenge is what will win the day here.

And for that people should be ashamed of themselves.

Retrenchment or Renewal? How About Neither?

NCR has an excellent article by John C. Sivalon, M.M. on the upcoming “assault” that is expected on theologians as the Vatican starts the “year of faith.” Fr. Sivalon does a nice job in outlining how different factions in the church view Vatican II. Something we pointed out in a similar way here last week.

The hermeneutic of mission sees in the documents of Vatican II an attempt by the Church to rediscover in its past the kernels of fresh understandings and ecclesial structures that respond more authentically and relevantly to what the Council called the modern world. This hermeneutic sees the Council Fathers confirming tradition as a foundation upon which faith can continually build and grow as its context changes. It also sees God as continually present in history and culture, graciously offering new perceptions for understanding and interpreting the fullness of revelation.

The hermeneutic of retrenchment, on the other hand, sees in the documents of Vatican II the restatement of ossified doctrines in language that can be understood by the modern world. The hermeneutic of retrenchment regards tradition as a wall which functions to deter erroneous understandings. It also tends to see the modern context of the world negatively, often assigning to it labels such as secularism, relativism or pluralism. As Benedict says, “whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, …” The hermeneutic of retrenchment, hence, longs for the past; for an idealized age of Christendom.

Ricky Manalo, CSP, a Paulist priest recently pointed out at a gathering in New York. something valuable about Vatican II that we so easily forget. Vatican II was the church’s response to MODERNISM. But within that council, POST-MODERNISM was beginning to climb into their present day. In some ways, Vatican II was outdated before it even began to be implemented, and yet, much of it was such a breath of fresh air for the church and was well received not merely by Catholics but by the general population.

I have no pre-conciliar experience being born in 1970. My students also do not have that experience either. What we long for is not a retrenchment theology, which reaches back to a time before we could fathom. Nor do we long for renewal theology. Renewing modernism isn’t what’s called for here.

Fr. Sivalon continues his thought by bringing up what he believes is the Vatican’s next move towards insuring retrenchment:

Thus, the action against LCWR and the other actions against loyal voices of faithful Christians open to discerning God’s wisdom in modern culture, should be seen as initial forays of shock and awe to soften the strongest areas of resistance, before the actual onslaught begins. That major assault is scheduled for October of 2012, with the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” The first working paper (Lineamenta) for this synod clearly sets forth the target of “New Evangelization.”

But will this Synod be a reaction to post-modernism or just more thoughts on modernism? It seems to me that we’re still addressing matters from 100 years ago.

Guess what? Few care.

Speaking for myself, I would simply say that what I hope for is something that looks forward rather than back to the 1960s or long before that. What we need is an Ecumenical Council that meets not for renewal but for progression forward into a new age. The Post-modern age has moved well beyond modernism. A quick look at art world even show us how much. What I long for these days is a church that can stop arguing with itself and instead draft an argument for simply believing in Christ today. Why should anyone, young or old, consider Christ in a post-modern world? My students more easily chuck religion altogether in favor of rational science because religion these days, especially the Christian religion, looks quite irrational, from the loony evangelical Christians, to the inner fighting in Catholic circles, to the liberal Protestants who cam’t seem to define themselves well either. It’s why so many eschew religion and simply pick Jesus or some amorphous kind of deism to follow privately. While this lacks community, a needed element of religion in my opinion, participating in community often comes at too high a cost and the search for a good community takes too long and often falls well short of expectation.

Often a priest friend of mine likens his job as a pastor to being the first mate on a ship. The ship is sailing well and everyone’s having a good time on board doing their jobs or simply enjoying the ride. But then he looks back and finds the captain in the back of the ship with a shotgun blowing holes in the back of the boat. Now we’re taking on water and the ship in sinking and we’re going nowhere fast.

Not to point fingers, but it seems to me that there’s not much creative and exciting leadership on either side here. Instead we have one voice saying that the progressive nature of this council hasn’t yet been completely implemented.

To which I would reply “Great! That means we’re only about 150 years behind!”

The other side says, “Ugh! Why did we even have that council? They screwed everything up! We need to look back before the council for the true church and just wasn’t that a grand time for Catholics?”

To which I would reply, thanks for pushing us back another 100 years or so.

It seems to me that we need the young to rise above all the arguments from the past two generations and actually define what it will mean to be Catholic. The problem is that the co-opting has already begun with folks from both camps trying to snatch up folks from either side and keeping them firmly entrenched.

Perhaps what the church really needs is to not open a window as they did with Vatican II, but to open the doors and welcome the voices of the young who are outside of our experience for the most part and to listen to their longings and what they wish to express. The young will need a plan to bring the church into the PRESENT–not the future and certainly not the past—because we are the church right now and we need the church to address the problems of the present age, not the past.

So we need to let go of our agendas and simply listen. Time to drop the retrenchment and drop the renewals and move into progressive ministry that addresses Christ in PostModern culture.

Or we can allow the church, to become an old dinosaur that’s stuck in the mud, unable to move beyond itself or speak to a new age.

That indeed will be tragic. I hope I can continue to contribute to a more progressive conversation, but most of the time I’m labelled as “too conservative” by those in renewal camps or “way too liberal” by those who seek retrenchment.”

That leads me to believe that I’m on to something–and the students who are active and who keep out of the firestorm and simply worship, serve and profess their faith in so many ways in the postmodern world today, just might be able to save this church.

And I pray that they do.

Reminding Theologians of Their Worth in the Church

The Catholic Theology Society of America meets this week under much scrutiny from many sources. Last year the group meet in the San Jose diocese where they were welcomed by Bishop P.J. McGrath. I had the pleasure of meeting Bishop McGrath and the priests of his diocese several years ago and his words here to the Theology Society of America last year were profound.

Here is an example of the truth expressed in the ancient doctrine of the Communion of Saints — God touches us with human hands. We encounter and come to know our God though other human beings. Who we become is formed by our community with others. As Jesus’ parent, Joseph gave Jesus to our troubled world and silently receded in the giving.

In this way I offer the co-patron of our diocese to your reflection as the ideal and model saint. It is our task, like Joseph, to give Jesus to the world and recede in the giving.

Joseph is first among the legions of silent saints, the millions across two millennia, whose fidelity and faith have made it possible for us to encounter the gentle face of God in Jesus. This is the multitude of unknown saints who, like Joseph the silent, recede into history. But the fruit of their forgotten lives, the gift of Christ, lives on in those of us who have been formed by their living faith.

These saints, like us, are fragile, struggling and sinful people. Yet it is on the likes of these that the Spirit of the Risen Christ depends in order to live in our world. And it is these silent multitudes who made it possible for us to encounter the Lord.

In her book Truly Our Sister, Elizabeth Johnson reminds us that the living community of saints is the only real reliquary of Jesus, the way the Spirit’s power enables the risen Christ to live in history. (103)

In each succeeding generation believers have enabled the Risen Christ to live in ever-changing circumstances. Under the guidance of the Spirit, on every continent, among every nationality and race, the faithful have found ever-changing ways to live in communion with the Risen Lord.

This evening we fragile saints gather to place our humble gifts at the Spirit’s service. You, members of the Catholic intellectual community, offer your unique talents and work to the Lord. Your efforts to probe and enlighten our faith are important, indeed essential to the life of the Church and the work of the Spirit.

In your reflections on this doctrine I do not want you to neglect your own participation in the communion of saints precisely as theologians. The theological vocation is essential to Christ’s presence in the world. For how can people of varied times and places encounter the Risen Christ if his life and mystery are not translated into and enriched by history’s ever-changing circumstances?

The story of theology is familiar to us all. During the Patristic period the great theologians in the Church were the bishops. The theological achievements of saints like Ambrose and Augustine were their pastoral work, the way they made the Risen Christ live for the congregations entrusted to their care. It was necessary to express the Gospel in ways their contemporaries could grasp. And new questions, unknown to earlier Christians, had to be addressed if the Risen Christ was to live on.

So today, go find a theologian…read their books and articles and rejoice in who they are.

They might even just need a hug.

Are We Certain That We Are Certain?

A recent video showed a nun stating that she knows that she’s doing the will of God in her life and that because of her vow of obedience she “doesn’t live with any uncertainty” and that brings her joy.

I’m sure this sister is a great and holy woman and I hesitate to criticize because I’m sure in her heart of hearts she loves being a sister and her commitment to her vows have led her to discern that this exactly where God wants her–just as I’m sure that God wants me to be married to my beautiful wife and to be a lay minister in the church.

But living without ANY uncertainty? C’mon, sister, let’s not overdo it.

As Thomas Merton says:

The fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

I often say that anyone who makes any kind of certainty claims is someone who is probably dead wrong about whatever it is that they are so certain about. It seems to be a bit haughty to claim to know God’s mind and many young people today struggle with living within uncertainty. It’s why they are tied so much to black and white thinking—frankly, it’s easier to live that way and less complicated. But faith is never certain. It’s actually not faith if it is certain. Faith is always risk. It’s even a gamble to choose at all. Our response is: “This may or may not be true, but I’m going to believe in it anyway because of how I have experienced God working in my life.”

Nobody has a stranglehold on certainty. Usually when you think you do, something happens to upset that little applecart and crisis looms large. While I hope this particular Sister never faces a “dark night of the soul” as did almost all of the great saints in our tradition and Jesus himself from the cross, I do hope we can keep each other in our prayers.

Perhaps that’s one certainty we can always count on.

Pope to SSPX: No Worries on Vatican II

The Society of Saint Piux X which has been not in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church precisely because they don’t agree with some changes that have taken place as a result of the Second Vatican Council said today that “Rome no longer makes total acceptance” of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council a condition for full reconciliation with the church.

Here’s a clip from CNS:

In the interview on the SSPX website, Bishop Fellay said, “We are still not in agreement doctrinally, and yet the pope wants to recognize us. Why? The answer is right in front of us: there are terribly important problems in the church today.”

The reconciliation talks, he said, are a sign that the Catholic Church has begun to recognize it needs to recover traditions and traditional teaching eclipsed by the Second Vatican Council. If the SSPX were to reconcile fully with the church, Bishop Fellay said, its members would continue to denounce “doctrinal difficulties” in the church, but would do so while also providing “tangible signs of the vitality of tradition” in its growing membership and vocation rate.

Speaking to members of the SSPX who are wary of reconciliation, Bishop Fellay said “one of the great dangers is to end up inventing an idea of the church that appears ideal, but is in fact not found in the real history of the church.”

“Some claim that in order to work ‘safely’ in the church, she must first be cleansed of all error. This is what they say when they declare that Rome must convert before any agreement, or that its errors must first be suppressed so that we can work,” he said.

OK, so here’s my take: It seems that some in the Vatican are backtracking on whether the Second Vatican Council is an ecumenical council (which is binding on everyone) or just a local one (which isn’t necessarily binding). That distinction will make a big difference. They’ll probably point to confusion of some sort because one Pope started it and another Pope finished it (John XXIII and Paul VI). It’s ridiculous if that’s the case. It surely was intended to be an Ecumenical council and many traditionalist were up in arms at the time because it was precisely an ecumenical council.

Is the church changing in this regard? Regrettably, some would say so. Even the SSPX’s Bishop Fellay says in his article that they have not changed as a group but Rome has.

An interesting point to consider is that often on matters of belief and tradition many will say that the church must consider how change might effect the entire church and not just some small faction of it. For example, how would ordaining women to the diaconate be received in Africa? But by the same token, how would saying that the tenets of the Second Vatican Council need not be accepted, be received in the United States?

In fairness, because I’m the king of fairness, the issue at hand is really one of media literacy (again!). How many nominal Catholics or even Catholics who attend mass regularly can even name the tenets of Vatican II? I’d presume not a whole lot. How many people under the age of 50 even have had an experience of what Vatican II meant for the church? For most, Vatican II is the only experience of church that they’ve had. They haven’t had an experience of what the church was like before the council, so they have no experience of a Pre-Vatican II church. Even those who esteem things like a Latin Mass, it’s not nostalgia that they seek. Perhaps it’s more curiosity than anything else in these cases or a desire for silence in a world of noise or engaging with mystery.

With this in mind the Vatican is gambling that Americans, in particular won’t put up much of a fight about eschewing with some of the tenets of Vatican II. This may in fact be at the heart of Benedict’s “smaller and more pure” view of the church. They’ll assume that most will just go along with them because it doesn’t effect their lives all that much. For most, just attending mass is their only participation and it doesn’t seem like the Pope is going to change having mass in the vernacular, but rather will make the option of Latin mass for those who want it more available (which has already been done).

I doubt that this will go smoothly, especially since the SSPX are so controversial, but more importantly, it seems like they are back-pedaling on Vatican II and that we should not stand for as an informed laity. The informed will be the ones who need to stand up against this. The only question I have is “Will they?” and “How many will?”

Regardless, this should be interesting as we move into the summer months.

Just Love, By Example

Sr. Margaret Farley whose book was deemed as not being in conformity with Catholic teaching released the following statement yesterday:

I have received the official Notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published in Rome, June 4, 2012. By it, I understand that my book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, has been judged to contain positions that are not in conformity with the hierarchical teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. I appreciate the efforts made by the Congregation and its consultants, over several years, to evaluate positions articulated in that book, and I do not dispute the judgment that some of the positions contained within it are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching. In the end, I can only clarify that the book was not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teaching, nor was it aimed specifically against this teaching. It is of a different genre altogether.

She is the epitome of her book’s title and clarifies further on her site at Yale. When we disagree, we need to get to the heart of the disagreement. While certainly disappointed she opened up the possibility that the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and her book are simply of two different aims and doesn’t purport the book to be trying to teach Catholic doctrine, rather it lays out possibilities for sexual ethics that readers can judge for themselves.

Apparently the CDF has judged that these positions do not represent a Catholic position and Sr. Farley’s response is simple. “That’s fine and thanks for reading my book. You have assessed it critically.”

The goal of any book! Glad that this resolution was peaceful for once and we should thanks Sr. Farley for her work here in the regard.