Can we make this guy a Bishop?

In a seemingly level headed move today, the Superior of the Holy Cross Fathers has sent a letter to President Obama:

ROME (CNS) — The head of the Holy Cross religious order that founded the University of Notre Dame has written to U.S. President Barack Obama and asked him to rethink his positions on abortion and other life issues.

U.S. Father Hugh W. Cleary, Holy Cross superior general in Rome, said that when Obama receives an honorary degree from the Indiana university and delivers the commencement address in May, he should take to heart the objections of Catholics who have been scandalized by the invitation.

Father Cleary asked the president to use the occasion to “give your conscience a fresh opportunity to be formed anew in a holy awe and reverence before human life in every form at every stage — from conception to natural death.”

The 13-page letter, dated March 22, was made available to Catholic News Service in Rome. Father Cleary also prepared an abridged version of the text as an “open letter” to the president, which was expected to be published on the Web site of America magazine.

Catholic News Service has more here.

Also from Sunday’s Washington Post with a hat tip to Deacon Greg:

On the dais at Notre Dame, Obama will find a familiar face: Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, Bush’s ambassador to the Vatican, who will receive this year’s Laetare Medal in part for her peerless defense of human life. It’s important that the president hear her message as well as deliver his own. It is equally important that this kind of engagement take place at a university devoted to both faith and reason. Where else but in a university setting should we expect this kind of principled presentation of issues?

I’d pay good money to watch the two of them slug it out–the way it should be done in a principled and respectable debate.

The Platoon Porno

Blogging today wouldn’t be complete without sharing one high school story that I still tell at dinner parties from time to time.

My friend Doug, was sort of the class clown. When we were in high school the movie Platoon came out (Yes, I know I’m officially old). Somehow Doug got a copy of the movie on VHS and told our history teacher that he had it. She agreed to let all her classes watch the film to learn about the Vietnam war. So Doug went home and got the tape but there was a bit of room left on the end of the tape–so he decided he was going to tape some footage of the Playboy Channel on the end of the tape and then cue the tape up to that point and tell our teacher to “just hit play” we’re all set.

And so the die was cast. Doug and I had an English class first period right next door to the history class that was about to view the movie. Doug had let me in on the joke. What he didn’t plan (And this made the joke even better) was that our high school was a trade and technical high school and the first period history class was filled with a bunch of rowdy guys who were specializing in Carpentry as their trade. When the teacher hit play–and that tape engaged we heard a huge ROAR come from the class. Moments later 3 of the hugest guys I have ever seen come bursting into our english class: “DOUG! You are in some serious trouble, dude!” The history teacher came in and started hitting him with the tape and Doug came clean and told her the movie was actually on the tape and she just needed to rewind it.

Doug, ironically, did not get suspended. In fact, he got into NO trouble whatsoever.

Sometimes a good joke is in fact well played–and deserves some respect. In this case we all doff our caps (and nothing else!) to Doug for one of the greatest practical jokes of all time–that we still talk about 20 years later.

High School Memories

On Saturday night, I got together with 7 high school friends and my wife who was a real trooper for hanging in there as the plus one and enduring all of our high school memories.

One particular moment stuck out in a very personal way. My friend Karen, who was easily one of my best friends in high school said: “I feel so bad because I really think you took a lot of abuse in high school.”

Well…I suppose I should go and thank my therapist and spiritual director since I seem to be so well adjusted by now.

But I have to admit Karen’s feelings were accurate. And the fact that she’s absorbed a lot of the pain that I probably didn’t really myself touched me very deeply–especially because I think Karen probably took a good deal of abuse herself. In fact, a great moment of reconciliation came when our friend Doug apologized to her for picking on her in high school.

We do hold on tightly to things from our formative years, don’t we? And while my own awkward high school years were filled with a sense of under-confidence–a feeling that I often have trouble shaking even today–I think I’ve been able to put those feelings aside and remember high school as being mostly a good time of my life–even with all the abuse. I learned a lot in high school and had a lot of special teachers and friends. We wished that more people would have been able to make our dinner on Saturday–but I was really looking forward to dinner with these 7 people–3 of whom I was pretty close with in high school in particular and one of whom I have known since kindergarten!

So thanks for the memories, folks! Go Saunders and thanks for a great evening.

Pontius Pilate Should Throw Out the First Pitch

The Detroit Tigers have stupidly scheduled their opening home game right smack in the middle of Good Friday.

Traditional Christian belief says Jesus hung on the cross from noon to 3 p.m. on Good Friday.

All 30 American and National League teams play April 10, but the Tigers’ 1:05 p.m. game against the Texas Rangers is the only one during holy hours.

“It’s sort of an insult for Catholics,” said Michael Ochab, a 47-year-old Tigers fan. He said he’ll miss his first opener in 20 years this year to attend services at St. Florian Catholic Church in Hamtramck. “I’m still hoping the Tigers will change the time.”

Tigers spokesman Ron Colangelo said Major League Baseball has a “monumental task” putting together a season’s schedule. Detroit’s climate makes a night game unrealistic this time of year, Colangelo told the Detroit Free Press.

“Fans have come to know that our home opener is always a day game,” he said.

The Rev. Ed Vilkauskas of downtown Detroit’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church said the game at nearby Comerica Park will keep people from services.

“Nobody is saying baseball isn’t big, but Good Friday is really big,” Vilkauskas told The Detroit News. “It’s 2,000 years old.”

Since the Tigers got shellacked by the Cardinals the last time they went to the World Series in 2006 is this their way of getting revenge? And since Detroit’s team has not won the Fall Classic since 1984 perhaps they’ve traded their souls for a World Series title ala Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees?

Here’s the real irony: Manager Jim Leyland’s brother is a priest. Albeit a priest who has had his fair share of controversy.

We’ll see how it all shakes out in the end.

Catholics don’t care

While I’m not a bishop, I’ve been saying this for years:

“Too many Catholics just don’t really care. That’s the truth of it. If they cared, our political environment would be different. If 65 million Catholics really cared about their faith and cared about what it teaches, neither political party could ignore what we believe about justice for the poor, or the homeless, or immigrants, or the unborn child. If 65 million American Catholics really understood their faith, we wouldn’t need to waste each other’s time arguing about whether the legalized killing of an unborn child is somehow ‘balanced out’ or excused by three other good social policies.”

— Archbishop Charles Chaput, March 21, 2009,
delivering the keynote address at a conference marking the Year of St. Paul in Detroit.

Our biggest sin: indifference. We don’t really care about our next door neighbors that much, as long as they stay out of our hair and play their music at a reasonable level. If we can’t care about our own families and people in proximity to us–what chance do the homeless, immigrants, victims of genocide in Africa and the unborn have?

Annunciation: How can this be?

Awesome homily from Deacon Greg on the Annunciation today. It’s really from Advent in December but well worth a repeat performance today.

Gabriel comes to a virgin and tells her something stunning. She will bear a child. It is an event she never anticipated, one she never planned for. She’s practically a child herself, in a poor town, and she is being told that God wants her to play a critical role in salvation history. The angel makes clear: what is about to happen to her will change the world.

And in that moment, Mary utters her first words in the gospel…words that speak for all of humanity, in all our confusion:

“How can this be?”

She seeks an answer, an explanation, some plausible reason for something so implausible.

How many of us have asked the same question?

How often have we struggled to understand God’s plan in our lives?

How many of us have been blindsided by events we never expected – a twist on life’s path that we never saw coming, for better or for worse — and asked ourselves, in fury or despair or bewilderment:

How can this be?

And here Mary is told, simply:

“Nothing is impossible with God.”

Pope to Young Angolans:

The Pope’s full message to Young Angolans can be found here. But here are just three quick snips:

At present though, and even in our midst, I see some of the many thousands of young Angolans who have been maimed or disabled as a result of the war and the landmines. I think of the countless tears that have been shed for the loss of your relatives and friends. It is not hard to imagine the dark clouds that still veil the horizon of your fondest hopes and dreams. In your hearts I see doubt, a doubt which you have expressed to me today. You are saying: “Here is what we have. There is no visible sign of the things you are talking about! The promise is backed by God’s word — and we believe it — but when will God arise and renew all things?” Jesus’ answer is the one he gave to his disciples: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (Jn 14:1-2). But you persist, dear young people: “Yes! But when will this happen?” The Apostles asked Jesus a similar question, and his answer was: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). See how Jesus does not leave us without an answer; he tells us one thing very clearly: renewal starts from within; you will receive a power from on high. The power to shape the future is within you…

You do not lack generosity — that I know! But the idea of risking a lifelong commitment, whether in marriage or in a life of special consecration, can be daunting. You might think: “The world is in constant flux and life is full of possibilities. Can I make a life-long commitment now, without knowing what unforeseen events lie in store for me? By making a definitive decision, would I not be risking my freedom and tying my own hands?” These are the doubts you feel, and today’s individualistic and hedonist culture aggravates them. Yet when young people avoid decisions, there is a risk of never attaining to full maturity!

I say to you: Take courage! Dare to make definitive decisions, because in reality these are the only decisions which do not destroy your freedom, but guide it in the right direction, enabling you to move forward and attain something worthwhile in life. There is no doubt about it: life is worthwhile only if you take courage and are ready for adventure, if you trust in the Lord who will never abandon you. Young people of Angola, unleash the power of the Holy Spirit within you, the power from on high! Trusting in this power, like Jesus, risk taking a leap and making a definitive decision. Give life a chance! In this way islands, oases and great stretches of Christian culture will spring up in your midst, and bring to light that “holy city coming down out of Heaven, from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”. This is the life worthy of being lived, and I commend it to you from my heart. May God bless the young people of Angola!

Notre Dame and the Pro-choice President

MSNBC has the latest on the number of Notre Dame alumns and students who object to having President Obama come to give the commencement address this May on the campus. The issue is of course, abortion.

“We are not ignoring the critical issue of the protection of life,” (University Present Fr. John) Jenkins, CSC told campus paper. “On the contrary, we invited him, because we care so much about those issues, and we hope … for this to be the basis of an engagement with him.”

Amen. Here’s my take on this. Look at the statement from the USCCB here:

In 2004, the United States of Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a policy statement called “Catholics in Political Life,” which says, with reference to pro-abortion politicians, “They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

The question arises whether having a President speak at a University elicits support for his position on abortion in particular, or perhaps on any other position for that matter?

I would not only say that the answer is unknown and that at best a survey could reveal whether that was the case–but more importantly, it would deny the university ANY opportunity to engage the President on these issues to refuse him a visit. Perhaps the honorary degree can be given to him for a specific issue he’s worked on–say, his work for peace or for the environment and then an explicit reference can be made to the Catholic principles that those positions espouse? Perhaps he can speak on those positions but not receive an honorary degree? There are tons of solutions to that issue. But here is where I really think the opportunity lies:

What is Notre Dame doing with regard to promoting life? What initiatives are those who are complaining about the President’s visit taking on that they can show the President while he’s there? You have world-wide media coverage at the time of his visit–give them something to cover! I would think that meeting with three of Notre Dame’s student athletes who have participated in “life-changing” direct service opportunities offered by the University’s monogram club including one who worked directly with pregnant teens would be quite a way to show their support for the unborn in a personal and straightforward manner and may indeed even sway the President to consider a new plan in taking care of poor women and teens who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. One student’s experience:

“The women and girls who live (at Elizabeth House) form an incredibly supportive and devoted family … Each girl is responsible for cooking a dinner for the house and house chores. These factors make it very much a home, rather than a shelter or program. I truly felt welcomed and part of this larger family, an amazingly funny, loving collection of unique women from all walks of life. …

“By providing a supportive family during the pregnancy, yet respecting a mother’s rights as an adult and promoting independence, the staff truly empowers the women. (The mother’s) often begin as troubled teens brave enough to make an important life decision, yet terrified and excited at once. They emerge as strong, confident mothers with resounding hope for the future.

We will only win converts when we show them that we are Christians by our love, by our love. For the complainers, I’m with you. But what I’d like to challenge you to think about is the following:

“While the law says abortion is OK. What have you done for the unborn today other than complain loudly to a faction unlikely to listen? How have you SHOWN your support to people by helping to change a circumstance of someone who is pregnant and therefore made an impact on the life of the unborn. Even saving one life is important enough.

We need to lobby our President, congress, the courts and most especially the world stage through the media. How do we do this most effectively? I think it’s by putting our actions where our teachings direct us.