Why People Hate Catholics and Others in the Pro-Life Movement

Perhaps you haven’t heard of the story of the teacher who was dismissed in Montana from a Catholic School for having a child out of wedlock.

It seems there is a morals clause in her contract to uphold Catholic teaching and in that instance the superintendent felt he had no choice but to dismiss her.

Several of my colleagues have thought this could have been handled better. Deacon Greg Kandra has a great take on this today in which he cited the need for the diocese to support her in a variety of ways and yet still uphold the right to terminate her as a teacher. The latter part of that I vehemently disagree with the good deacon, but he’s at least making an effort to be charitable.

I’m calling for the Superintendent to resign because he has failed to uphold three central Catholic principles:

1) It Violates Our Pro-life Principles: How is this decision pro-life? It isn’t. Which violates Catholic teaching in a variety of ways. He has places a pregnant women in danger of being in poverty and at risk of choosing an abortion over bringing her baby to term. He’s also failing to care for a child and mother beyond term and at this point even with pre-natal care. In short, he’s cut her off from her source of money and health care.

2) It Violates Our Call to Love: How is this a loving response? It is not. Which violates Catholic teaching by not responding to sin with love. As Deacon Greg notes:

…though she has violated her terms of the contract does not mean we abrogate our responsibility as Catholic Christians. To that end, we are going to pay Mary Jane the severance required by the terms of her contract. But we are also going to go beyond that. We will continue to pay her health care up to the time of her delivery. We will also work to help her find employment, so that she can fulfill her obligations to the life she is bringing into the world. None of this is required of us in our contract with her. But we are doing this, as I indicated, out of Christian charity and out of our support for the most precious gift of all, the gift of life.
It is our sincere wish that in taking these actions, our school will serve as a witness to the world, standing up in defense of the unborn and in support of women making this most difficult choice. It is important that these mothers know they are not alone.
Discussing this among parents and faculty, again and again people have said that this is a teachable moment. But what, exactly, do we want to teach?

We wish to teach LOVE.
I also find it interesting that the MALE chancellor could have gotten a woman pregnant and hid that fact and not a word would have been said. But that’s a whole other column.

3) It Violates Our Call to Mercy: Which the POPE reminds us is the CENTRAL teaching upon which our entire faith rests. Mercy, Mercy and more Mercy. Guess someone missed that memo.

On a personal note, my 7th grade teacher got pregnant after her husband had left her and she began a new relationship. She was not married to the father and indeed, she lived in fear of being fired when she discovered that she was expecting. In his wisdom, the Pastor of my church at the time, supported her and allowed her to keep her job. One would ask “How did the students and parents respond?” They responded with love and care for a new child in the parish and great concern for the teacher.

I’d also say that I once heard the story of a parent who brought her 15 year old daughter to her pastor and told him “Well, she’s gotten herself pregnant, Father!” (which is an interesting term to begin with–it’s not like she acted alone in getting pregnant!) What was the pastor’s response?

“CONGRATULATIONS! That’s great!”

The mother nearly blew a gasket. And the priest pulled her aside and told her something very wise. “Look, we all know she made a mistake. And we’ll hold her accountable for that. But right now she cannot look at this child as a burden, because she will treat that child as something unwanted and burdensome for the rest of that child’s life. It will be unloved and unwanted and YOU will end up having to care for that child. Right now, we need to show her love and mercy and go back to her and say ‘Let’s go make plans for the Baptism!'”

Amen! And that’s what should have been the response here. Two things should happen. One is that the teacher should have been retained out of mercy for her and her baby. Two is that the community should have worked together to support this woman under the mantra of “We all make mistakes” and now we have to live with our mistakes with love that can always solve any situation that we may be in. We come to God sinful, sorrowful and yet, hopeful as forgiven people.

This was a teachable moment. And the superintendent chose the wrong lesson to teach. His lesson actually violates 3 Catholic principles. Perhaps he should be publicly shamed 3 times as much?

But that wouldn’t be very forgiving, now would it?

There’s a great scene from my favorite TV show, The West Wing where a politician is looking to shame the President’s chief of staff for his past use of alcohol and drugs. It was a mean-spirited approach used to gain political capital. Here’s a clip:


By the way, does anybody have an address for this mother, I’d like to send her $50 that I can’t afford because unlike you, Mr. Haggerty, I’m OK with being a bit uncomfortable while upholding my principles.

This is why people hate us. This is why some of my students won’t darken the door of Campus Ministry and I have to bend over backwards in order to get them to trust me and believe that I won’t have a judgmental attitude about them. This is why people assume that Catholics are right-wing nutters (which is different from being conservative or republican) who are fundamentalists and non-negotiable in their dealings with others that they consider sinners.

THIS is why.

One last note: I wonder what the Diocese’s pregnancy crisis centers think about all this. He’s just made their job ten times harder.

Nun: I Had No Idea I was Pregnant

Fans of Discovery Health’s “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” will love this: a Salvadoran nun gave birth in Italy this week, claiming she had absolutely no idea she was pregnant.

She said she was in her convent in Campomoro when she felt stomach cramps and was rushed to a hospital in the nearby city of Rieti, AFP reports. She ended up giving birth to a boy.

Italian news agency ANSA reported that the 31-year-old nun named her son Francesco, which also happens to be the name of the current Pope.

I’m not buying this. The Nun in question is 31.

Her superior said “It seems she was not able to resist temptation.”

Apparently. I’m glad they are caring for mother and child. Hoping that we don’t find out that the nun was assaulted.

Silent Night Without Jesus

So this isn’t even smart, never mind how offensive it might be. A choral director at a school decided it would be a good idea to perform Silent Night without any references to Jesus or Mary in order to be more inclusive.

Here’s a video of the performance:


First of all, this violates so many principles of logic, never mind any religious reasons.

So exactly why is it a silent night? Why not make it a silent day? At least that would’ve been creative. And if I don’t believe in Christ, or God? Why is the night a “holy night”? And then you went on and mentioned glories streaming from heaven. Well, you offended people that don’t believe in angels.

And lastly, just who the heck is sleeping in heavenly peace!!!???

LEt me further the point by saying that this song was actually someone’s prayer. And by changing it, you are denigrating the author’s intentions. In your effort to be politically correct you probably offended more people than if you had done nothing at all.

When politically correct …goes politically stupid.

Some days I can’t believe how stupid decisions like this get made.

Ahem…now back to my usual calm Christmas demeanor.

Who’s the Hero of the Government Shutdown?

It’s a guy you may have never heard of named Barry Black. He happens to be the Senate chaplain and he’s the VOR.


He’s a 7th Day Adventist Minister, a PhD in Psychology and a retired rear Admiral in the Navy.

Check him out on ABC’s This week:

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Dahlia Lithwick has more on Slate:

he’s been unloading fistfuls of rhetorical whoop-ass upon the folks who have cavalierly broken the government the way little boys burn ants. Black, who has been chaplain for the past decade, has used the crisis of the shutdown to say to the government what the rest of us have long been thinking: “Save us from the madness,” he begged God in one prayer. “Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable,” in another. Last week, after hearing of the delay of benefits for military families, Black prayed, “It’s time for our lawmakers to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” before asking God to “cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness.”

Yikes! This guy is really eloquent at speaking truth to power and he’s got the pipes of a James Earl Jones too.

Let’s hope that the news of this madness finally stopping actually happens.

Burying St. Joseph

Well, I did it! I can’t believe I did this because I’m not much for Catholic superstitions but I’m desperate.

I buried a St. Joseph statue upside down and facing South-East in my front yard, because for the third time my co-op apartment in Queens (part of New York City) has failed to sell.

Now I pray for 9 days to the foster-father of Jesus in hopes of selling the apartment.

I should have taken a video of this but here’s the spot in the front yard that I buried this tiny statue of one of my favorite saints.

I cheated a bit. We had to dig up our front yard earlier in the year because tree roots attacked our sewer line. We’ve been waiting until Spring to re-do the yard. The ground is still a bit soft so I didn’t even need a shovel. I just pulled up some soft earth and slid St. Joseph slowly into the mushy earth below (wrapped in a plastic baggy of course).

Now I pray a 9 day novena to St. Joseph and then after the apartment sells, we dig the statue back up and place it in an honored place in our Buffalo home.

It’s become harder and harder to hold on to our co-op. We’ve settled here in Buffalo (well, Amherst, a suburb–we live in a tiny neighborhood called Eggertsville to be exact) and now, we are finding it difficult to pay the bills for this apartment. We had a renter for some time but he can no longer rent the place. We’d prefer to sell it and use the money to pay down some debts and repair our bathroom which needs an overhaul in our new home. There’s nothing wrong with the apartment. The bathroom could use an update but nothing major and the co-op is a good on and the neighborhood is wonderful. A great tree-lined street near shopping and the subway but also far enough way to avoid lots of noise.

So with the pressure of the sale ensuing, it makes sense to pray to St. Joseph for this just from the standpoint of him being a carpenter. (I should probably pray to him when I remodel my bathroom soon too). But more importantly, because he had to handle the day to day affairs of managing the family. With infant mortality and Herod going nuts and killing little boys, Joseph had quite a job to do in raising Jesus in poverty and with a madman on the loose. The pressures of our age are things he can often relate to and perhaps he has a special call to comfort us and to bring our prayers to God.

Today’s prayer also reminded me that Joseph does much of this work hidden from our site and our scripture. He’s a silent saint, one who doesn’t have any lines in the bible. Today we ask him to bless our lives, no matter how hidden and simple they may be and to let all that we do be done with love.

And if you know anyone who wants an apartment in Queens. Check out this link and send me a buyer…

Or at least your prayers.

Young Adults and the Weary Church

The 40th Chapter of Isaiah talks about depending on a God despite weariness and that God never grows weary.

That would include growing weary of us.

What do we grow weary of? For me I grow weary of the constant infighting in the church. Here’s one good example:

There were two stories written of late about young adults in the church, young adults being defined as people in their 20s and 30s.

The first was called The Church Young Adults Want, by Annie Selak which makes several good points and takes many issues that divide young adults who have been distanced from the church. Issues like interfaith dialogue, the ordination of women and homosexuality. She cites the need for the church to be relevant. Calling the reason that many fall outside of the church the fault of a church that is out of touch with the concerns of younger Catholics for inclusion. But I fear that there’s still many more young adults who don’t fit into her categories for many reasons.

The second one is The Church Young People Really Want by Bad Catholic, a patheos blogger, an often funny, too often mean-spirited and most often one that tried way too hard to be what he thinks is clever.

Much like Ms. Selak, Bad Catholic uncovers some truth (emphasis on some). He describes a group of young adults who want a different kind of Church. Bad Catholic makes the case that young people want what he terms the transcendentals, the mystery that life is not about us, but rather about the mystery beyond us. He goes on to say that the young are actually attracted by “the good and the beautiful” a centerpiece of Balthazarian (Hans Ur Van Balthazar) theology.

Ms. Selak would tend toward Rahnerian (Karl Rahner) theology which responds to the “signs of the times” and engages science in dialogue and admits that they have something to contribute as opposed to being diametrically opposed to their school of thought.

And I don’t doubt that in the circles that each of these authors run in, that these are the types of young adults that they find. But I believe that young adults are far more varied than either of these articles make them out to be, especially when you look outside the usual Catholic enclaves of Catholic Universities and Catholic parishes. Bad Catholic describes young adults who show up at mass each week and have grown up in Catholic enclaves or have had serious conversion experiences. Selak describes Catholics who find value in the church and probably have grown up in the church, but find it hard to square their youthful religious formation with adult critical thinking.

But few young adults fall into these groups directly.

Sociologically speaking, many young adults are at best nominal Catholics. Some not only find the church irrelevant, they find it ridiculous. Many are frustrated with what they find to be the hypocrisy of religion, or better stated, religious people, who claim to follow the gospel and yet most often, disregard the needs of others. People they perceive who represent religious entities in general are often looked upon as mean-spirited, awkward, or just plain goofy.

Most of them are not concerned about the relevance of Catholicism, most are unconcerned about religion in general and don’t plan on seeking out a religious path anytime soon. I’m finding more and more Catholics within this circle and my colleagues are finding that this is true as well. The truth they seek comes more from Richard Dawkins than Rahner or Balthazar.

But they are not necessarily hostile towards religion, they just don’t want to be part of an institution that lends itself to so much hypocrisy.
The sex abuse scandal didn’t help and the fact that often we seem less likely to dialogue with others who are in their world (in science, politics) only seems to exile religion farther away from the mainstream.

Simply put, most young adults simply don’t want a church that makes them weary. The endless arguing internally in the church divides young people further from us. The constant focus on one issue, abortion, isn’t beyond their respect for our tenacity, but also falls short of their holistic expectations of caring for mothers beyond birth, pregnancy prevention, the danger of AIDS and STDs and the need to openly talk with teens and young adults about the power of sex and how it may hurt them if they take this too lightly.

The Catholic focus on freedom is something that widely attracts them once they find out about it …the freedom needed to become the person God hopes we cooperate with–that frees us from our prejudices, biases, bad experiences and most of all, our fear. Our fear that God may not really love us because of our failures. Our fear that God may not exist at all and that the neo-darwinists may be right. Our fear that God isn’t enough for us and so we turn to sex, consumerism and anything else that we think might fill that hole in our lives. But instead, what is most often found is the minutia of political infighting.

And that friends is the stuff of weary young adults. And it makes the church they want an impossibility. A church where they can overcome fear through dialogue and searching for answers to age-old questions. They seek a church where all are welcome and gifts are honored. They seek a church that spends more time outside the four walls caring for those most disenfranchised in society than inside caring for themselves. And yet they want the freedom to talk with spiritual mentors about their journey, fears and questions and they hope they’ll have patience and time for each one of them.

But right now, those we’re not reaching that we are called to inspire are not finding us. Because most of the time we’re too busy with maintenance of a church that doesn’t speak to their experience or inspire them greatly and a church that doesn’t listen to all of them, but only those in the club who tend to make the most noise.

I’m most weary of that. And soon we won’t have to worry. Because young Catholics aren’t choosing between Rahner and Balthazar…they are choosing between religious practice in a community and chucking a spiritual search altogether in frustration. We spend too much time talking about those on the extreme ends of the Catholic Young Adult Spectrum. In doing so, we miss the vast middle, who long to be inspired.

And that, friends, makes the church a weary one.

Don’t They Know It’s the End of the World

So apparently today will mark the end of the world. So if you’re reading this, which I’m posting at 11:11 which is the dreaded time of said destruction then, I guess the Mayans were wrong.

I have to say I was tempted to go to confession yesterday. Y’know, just in case.

But the truth is that a last-second confession isn’t what you really need at the end of time. What is needed is to be genuine. Because we can’t change who we have been and to do so would be an attempt to change our essence, an impossibility to be sure. God knows who we are already and knows all of it, even the dark stuff that we hope nobody ever finds out about us.

So who we are at the end of time is not our deepest worry. Rather, who we are right now, at this moment, gives us pause. What opportunities do we have to be our best self in this present moment?

A friend one time said to me that it would be quite humbling to get to the end of the world and find that the God we have believed in didn’t exist, or perhaps was a vengeful unforgiving God. Indeed. But I’m sure that it will be humbling regardless of what we find because none of us have lived perfect lives. So even if God is pretty close to what we expected, we’ll never capture His essence entirely and more importantly, we’ll certainly have some ‘splainin’ to do about the times we chose not to be our best selves.

And the truth is that none of us know the day, nor the hour that our world ends. Because our world indeed ends often. When someone dies, the world ends as we know it and we enter into something new, scary even, unknown. When we lose a job or something unexpected happens, we face an uncertain future. Think of how many people have had unexpected things happen to them recently! Parents lost children just for sending them to school. Skiers faced an avalanche after hoping to just spend some time on the slopes relaxing. People have lost jobs, careers, marriages.

Sure sounds like doomsday for a whole bunch of people.

But God is there through it all and our unshakable belief must be that God is not indifferent. God not only understands and feels our suffering, but also can redeem that. Therefore, the indifference belongs to us. It matters not what happens to us because God will see us through it anyway.

If we can believe that, even if it seems unlikely, we’ll become our best selves. We’ll live with hope in tragedy and light in darkness. We’ll comfort the afflicted and feed the hungry because we know that the present moment is all we really have and that the future belongs to God.

So bring it on Mayans! We are not afraid! And while it’s unlikely that an apocalyptic day is here, we don’t know what else is in store for us. All we know…is that in order to be ready for any kind of shift in our world, we need to live as our best selves now.

Wait! Maybe they didn’t mean Eastern Standard Time!

Jesus: In or Out

So the debate rages on in our house regarding this Christmas tradition:

Do we put the baby Jesus in the manger or do we wait until Christmas for the bambino to make His appearance?

Here’s my wife, Marion’s take. “No. You wait until Christmas Eve and when you come home from Midnight Mass you put him in!”

Mind you, it’s hard to find a “Midnight Mass” that’s not at 10PM anymore, which by the way, is my all time biggest pet peeve. You’ve ruined a great joke: A guy calls the rectory and asks: “What time is Midnight mass, Father?”

“Um, Midnight?”

Not any more! Even the Vatican has moved the time back. We’ve taken one of the most identifiable Catholic traditions in the world and blown it all to bits. And for what? An extra couple of hours of sleep for our choirs and staff? It’s once a year people! There’s just something about Mass at Midnight and I long for it.

So back to the manger. My second point is that I love my wife but about five years ago, she insisted on keeping the baby out of the crib and every time I’d put the figurine in, she’d take him out. So what did she do to fix my wagon? She hid the baby Jesus! But she ran into one small problem.

She hid Him so well that she LOST Him! We had no baby Jesus that year which I’m certain equates to like 4 millennia in purgatory for her and maybe for me for causing her to hide Him in the first place! In fact, we never found Jesus again. I sang amazing grace when we put up the manger the following year. Stand ins for Jesus included some kind of Lego Jesus, a snoopy figurine (which I immediately removed!) and some other kind of baby figurine in a stroller. I finally went out and got a new one a few years ago. Truth be told he’s bigger than Joseph, which can’t be good for his ego and I can clearly hear the Mary figurine saying something like “That kid had a head like a basketball!” (But her labor pains are a whole other post)

My take is simple: The Mary and Joseph figurines are kneeling. Why might they be doing that? For their health? Praying for no labor pains? (Again, that’s a whole other post!). The scene is the Nativity and without Jesus there IS no scene. So put that baby in the manger please!

But perhaps my view is indeed more reflective and theological? Removing Jesus from the manger would be much like what we often try to do: Control God. We want God when we want Him–only exactly when we need Him, even if we’ve forgotten about God for some time. Most of the time, Jesus can be out of the way until we call for him and that suits us just fine.

A manger scene calls to us a simple truth. We are not in control, and God comes to us to experience our humanity in all of it’s fragility. As a baby! God knows our life intimately. God becomes a baby at a time when infant mortality was likely to be quite high. Joseph probably had his hands full in protecting this child and Mary probably worried non-stop.

Taking Jesus away from the manger eliminates the need for the rest of the players with the possible exception of the animals who lived in that manger.

And speaking of animals, I hope you notice the sheepdog (Ripley!) and the Chihuahua (Haze) in our manger scene. So see, I’m not so inflexible with the scene that I won’t take a bit of poetic license. Besides, every kid should have a dog or two.

Friends who agree with my wife say that I’m denigrating the whole purpose of advent by “not waiting” for Jesus. But God is already with us. Maybe it’s God who waits for us? Maybe God is calling us to pay attention to His own vulnerability, reminding us that there are so many vulnerable in the world who live in poverty just like this Holy Family?

Whatever your thoughts are on the manger scene, I hope that the baby Jesus inspires you this Christmas season. And that leads me to one final question:

Three Kings? In the manger or on the other side of the room, getting closer each day?

Then Jesus said, “My Wife”?

Did Jesus marry? At least one historian is claiming a definite maybe.

From today’s NYT:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’ ”
Enlarge This Image

Evan McGlinn for The New York Times
Professor Karen L. King, in her office at The Harvard Divinity School, held a fragment of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a reference to Jesus’ wife.

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The finding was made public in Rome on Tuesday at an international meeting of Coptic scholars by Karen L. King, a historian who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation’s oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity.

The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous. Until Tuesday, Dr. King had shown the fragment to only a small circle of experts in papyrology and Coptic linguistics, who concluded that it is most likely not a forgery. But she and her collaborators say they are eager for more scholars to weigh in and perhaps upend their conclusions.

While this certainly does not come from a source that the hierarchy considers to be canonical, it indeed is quite a find and should presume that we certainly don’t know everything there is to know about the historical Jesus. Only what those who learned from the four major evangelists tell us.

The question, therefore, would remain: Why do the canonical Gospels not speak of a wife at all? Ironically, it could be because women were not considered reliable witnesses and after Mary Magdalene sees Jesus the men have to come running to confirm this “crazy women’s” story. Essentially, women didn’t count for much. so why mention them at all?

This will bring up much controversy in the media because clerical celibacy has been on the books because traditionally it’s been taught that Jesus also did not marry. But perhaps a more useful thought on the subject would be one based on commitment. Could a parish priest really be committed to a family AND a parish? Wouldn’t one predominate over the other?

I don’t pretend to know the answer to that. I do know plenty of doctors who are on call often and somehow juggle the demands of family along with the job and plenty of Protestant Ministers as well. However, I would also say I know a good deal of people in careers that are high on the commitment scale that have gotten divorced as well.

And that might be the larger reason why clerical celibacy still exists. Simply put, the church doesn’t want a clergy that seeks divorce and the danger in that is that pastoral care of a parish is a demanding job. I somehow manage to do this with my ministry but, we also don’t have children. I can imagine that being quite challenging as I see my colleagues who are parents doing quite the juggling act.

Regardless, it’s a cool find for Harvard. I’m sure we’ll here more but one thing is for certain.

This does not mean that Dan Brown is right and that the DaVinci Code was onto something. What it means is that there may be more to the historical Jesus’ life that has remained hidden.