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Reflections on Young Adult Ministry, Part 1

  /   Sunday, August 17, 2014   /   Comment(1)

Previously, I wrote a reflection on being a Catholic young adult.  Today, as I had mentioned, I want to write on Catholic young adult ministry.  I’m not so much writing as an “expert” but as a participant in some young adult ministry who has observed the needs around him and knows what he would like to see.  I’ve seen a ministry that was strictly catechetical and one that did nothing but social activities.  There were a few in which I was little more than an occasional participant, and a couple in which I spent a considerable amount of time doing work.  I was the webmaster for the Frassati Society of Memphis which disbanded in 2006. I want to write about my own suggestions as to what is needed, but first, I want to tackle some wrong ideas that I’ve seen circulating.

Should there be young adult ministry?

One of the hosts of a podcast that I have otherwise enjoyed actually said that it is impossible to really have a young adult ministry.  The lives of young adults, in his opinion, were just too diverse to have a ministry dedicated to such a group of people.  They are in just too many different states of life.

He has a point that there is quite a bit of variation on the state of life of young adults.  Some are married, and some even have children.  Some may still be in school, but, in my opinion, unless they are older than most other students or are not in school full-time, a good campus ministry may serve them better.  Some may have graduated college and are working in a profession.  There are others who have no idea what to do with their lives.  Some may have, quite honestly, made a pretty big mess of things.

However, there are two reasons why I think that we still have a need for young adult ministry.  First, there are some common needs of people in that age group.  There is a need for formation, for one thing, as well as a sense of community and belonging.  Second, people in different circumstances can support each other and be witnesses to each other.  The married can be an example of Christian marriage to the single people.  The people who are in their professions may be of help to people trying to find their place in the world.  It just takes a good community of people dedicated to Christian charity (and to not becoming a cliche).

With that being said, chances are most of the people who participate in the young adult ministry will be younger and single.  I’ve seen a ministry that was able to integrate married couples for a short time, but, once they have children, it has been very difficult for those to remain (including my wife and I).  Often the people most in need of the ministry are the people who are out of college, most likely working, but aren’t yet married or committed to another vocation.  It’s actually quite an unnatural state, but there are many reasons why someone may be in that state.  For me, a little more than ten years passed between graduation from pharmacy school and getting married.

It seems that people in the Church have a hard time figuring out how to reach and involve people in that state.  This time can either be spent in selfishness or as a time of service and spiritual preparation for one’s vocation.  Young adult ministry, when done right, can really give people in this state a sense of mission.

Group vs. ministry

When I first went to young adult activities where I lived right after graduation from pharmacy school, the local diocese had formed a young adult committee.  They had gone to some conference where some supposed expert told them that they need to make it clear that they don’t have a young adult “group” but a “ministry.”  Apparently, the problem with the idea of a “group” is that it implied membership and commitment.

My concern is not so much with whether someone says they have a “group” or a “ministry.”  I tend to regard those things a semantical games.  Membership and commitment, on the other hand, are essential for a successful ministry.  You definitely have to have a committed core group to run the ministry.  If people are expected to grow in their faith, they will need to commit to doing so.   In fact, lack of commitment has been the major reason for the failure of ministries that I have been involved in.  Granted, you can’t expect everyone to be ready to dive in right at first, but having a free for all with no one committed won’t get anyone anywhere.  Besides, Jesus himself requires a total commitment of our lives.  This is the a Gospel outreach that we are talking about!  Saying that you can’t expect commitment can easily suggest that Christ and his Church aren’t being taken seriously.

Membership is also essential to building a community and a sense of belonging that is so necessary for people who otherwise might not know how to find their place in the Church.  The key is to make sure it avoids becoming a cliche or a closed group that doesn’t reach out to others, or, worse yet, doesn’t really welcome new people.  Let people come and see what the group has to offer, and, be ready to have them register to be a member after they have been.

But we already do young adult ministry in things like marriage preparation, etc.

Yes, it is true that marriage preparation or baptismal preparation, you are working with young adults, but what about people who aren’t about to get married or have a child.  Also, is this really the time when you are going to catechize someone?  If someone is looking to get married and is just then being formed in what Christian marriage is, it means that the person went through years of their life, dated, and selected someone to marry without having really understood how their marriage is part of their Christian mission.

The preparation better start before someone is even dating, or you are already really late in the process.  Someone receiving the formation during the years where they are likely to be trying to meet the person they wish to marry will be in a much better position to know what to look for and what to work towards and will be better able to enter into a solid Christian marriage.  Take a look at this document from the Pontifical Council for the Family. It talks about remote, proximate, and immediate preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage, and I wish this was how things were done.

Next time:  I’ll give my suggestions for good, solid young adult ministry.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic

Reflections on Being a Catholic Young Adult

  /   Wednesday, July 23, 2014   /   Comments(2)

My birthday is coming up.  Depending on how “young adult” is defined, I’ll either have one more year left as a young adult, or I haven’t been a young adult for a few years now.  I think I’ll take the former.  A few things have been on my mind as I reflect on the fact that I will soon make my exit from young adulthood.

The most exciting thing for me has been being a part of the movement of young adults who are embracing orthodox Catholicism.  We were able to find out the truth and beauty of the teachings of the Church that had somehow been lost when we were in CCD or PSR or PRE or whatever you called it.  There were many moments of “Why haven’t we heard this before?”  In a number of places, better catechesis is now available, but there is still a lot of evangelization work that needs to be done.

When I first attended religion classes in high school, I expected to be far behind the others.  Little did I know that there really wasn’t much doctrinal content in the course materials in use at the time.  In fact, I came to a disturbing revelation.  I knew more than they did.  When I went to campus ministry in college, it was mediocre at best.  I actually was jealous of evangelical Protestants because they seemed to be much more enthusiastic than most Catholics that I knew.

After graduation from pharmacy school, I joined a catechetical young adult group.  For the first time, I saw people who were concerned about following what the Church teaches.  I discovered a lot of good Catholic books and publishers that filled in what I had long misunderstood.  However, at this time, and in the place where I was, it still seemed that I had to figure a lot out for myself.  I didn’t always know exactly who to trust to tell me what is true. Apparently, my experience was not unique. I believe it was Colleen Carroll Campbell who mentioned in 2002 that college students were growing in their faith despite the official campus ministry. The same could be said of other official ministries.

This was the 2000s, and the young, orthodox, well-formed priests were just beginning to be ordained.  A lot of ministries and resources have since become available to help teach the faith that weren’t available just as I was coming of age.  For example, Ascension Press, if it existed at all back then, hadn’t yet published the Bible Timeline Seminar or the Theology of the Body resources.  Catholic Exchange started as e3mil sometime in that era.  The campus ministry group FOCUS was still in its infancy.  Catholic Answers had been around for some time, but for some reason I wasn’t as interested in them at first.  Thankfully, more ministries are being formed, and more resources are available to help teach the Faith.  Just watch Life on the Rock on EWTN, and you’ll hear about a lot of them.

Back then, my focus was mainly on apologetics, probably because I was put into a situation where I needed to learn to defend my faith.  Unfortunately, I was too focused there.  I was looking for just the right argument.  I really needed to learn more than that.  I can thank Incarnation Church in Collierville, TN for letting me join their RCIA team and forming me as a catechist.  They even let me teach some of the sessions.  In fact, I can’t thank them enough.

I now see signs of things becoming even better even better.  We still see some of the orthodox young adult Catholics in our area who are ten or more years younger than I am, and they are very faithful and joyful.  They seem to have received better formation, too.  However, I know that their experience and formation isn’t universal in the Church.  It needs to be.  We would set the world on fire if it were.  There is still a lot of work to be done in evangelizing my generation and the people who came after us, but we have more people who are in love with Christ and his Church who will bring others with him.

Next blog, I want to share my thoughts on young adult ministry . . .

Category: Catholic, News on My Life

The Respect Due People with Same-Sex Attraction vs Gay Rights

  /   Sunday, July 13, 2014   /   Comments(0)

A few weeks ago, President Obama has promised to sign an executive order prohibiting companies who do business with the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  This order is likely his attempt to implement, as much as possible, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act that failed to pass the House of Representatives last November.  The order hasn’t been made public yet, but it is expected soon. Needless to say, this could create a myriad of issues depending on how broadly  “discrimination” and “doing business with the federal government” are defined.

Believe it or not, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does mention, in paragraph 2358 (scroll down near the bottom), that people with same-sex attraction are to be treated with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” We are to avoid “every sign of unjust discrimination” against them.  If I were a business owner, I could not in good conscience arbitrarily refuse to hire someone simply for having this inclination.  However, does this mean that there should be anti-discrimination laws in place?  Let me explain some things here.

If you haven’t noticed, in the paragraph above, I used the term “people with same-sex attraction” rather than describing such people as gay, lesbian, or homosexual.  I referred to them as “having this inclination.”  For some reason that I can’t understand, people with same-sex attraction often bind their identity up with their inclination and say that it is “who they are.”  However, people, regardless of their condition, are far more than their inclinations.

People who have such an inclination probably didn’t actively choose it.  There may be some responsibility for strengthening the inclination in one’s mind once it is noticed, but even then there may be reasons why a person isn’t fully morally responsible for this.  There is debate as to whether the inclination can be eradicated, and my own opinion is that it depends on how deep-rooted it has become.  Some may be able to eradicate the inclination, reduce it, or at least have a somewhat normal relationship with a person of the opposite sex.  Others may not be able to do any of that.  However, regardless of the above, having such an inclination doesn’t destroy a person’s worth and dignity in the eyes of God.  People with same-sex attraction still have a need to make a living and be able to function as they can in society.  This shouldn’t be denied arbitrarily.  However, it does not follow that there aren’t cases of just discrimination against them.

Notice that, up until now, I’ve been talking about having an inclination towards the same gender.  There’s a difference between having the inclination and acting upon it.  The inclination isn’t in and of itself sinful.  However, like I said, despite what the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association now say, it is a disorder, just like anxiety, depression, anorexia.  How do I know (apart from Church teaching, of course)?  The desire to have a sexual union with someone of the same gender has no natural means available to accomplish it.  Two men or two women cannot unite their bodies anatomically in the same way that a man and a woman can.  Our bodies just weren’t made for it.  It’s also completely impossible for it to accomplish the biological end of sexual relations – the generation of offspring.  Having the disordered desire is not in and of itself sinful, but acting on it is seriously sinful.

In fact, a case of discrimination is most likely to occur is if a person is, in fact, openly acting on it. Even then, there are a lot of situations when someone’s conduct can be tolerated.  If I were a restaurant  or store owner, an argument can be made that someone’s homosexual activity is not directly contrary to the mission of that particular business.  This is true even though I would run my business according to my Catholic faith.

However, it’s another story if we are talking about a Catholic school or university, charity organization, or even a for-profit whose purpose is to, for example, publish Catholic books.  Someone known to be deliberately acting directly contrary to the teaching of the Church in such a serious matter, with no known intention of changing the situation, would be acting directly contrary to the mission of such an organization.  Requiring that organization to employ such a person makes a mockery of its mission.  Would PETA be required to employ someone in a key position who ate bacon off the clock?

One major threat that an anti-discrimination law could pose would be to require Catholic employers or even institutions of the Church to recognize homosexual unions and provide spousal benefits to homosexual couples.  It’s one thing to tolerate such activity; it’s quite another to give official recognition or even the giving of benefits.  It’s still another to force the granting of recognition upon people whose long-standing religious beliefs would be violated in doing so.  Let’s not forget that we’ve already had a lawsuit against a Christian baker who did not want to make a wedding cake for a homosexual wedding.  The court ruled against him despite the fact that homosexual marriage isn’t legal in that state.  This is a real threat against religious freedom.

Even someone who is not acting on the inclination may not be suited for certain occupations, possibly depending on the severity of the inclination.  A Vatican document came out several years ago stating that men who practice homosexuality or have deep-seated tendencies cannot be ordained as clergy.  There may be some other situations in which such an inclination would affect how well they could do the job, and employers faced with such situations need to retain their right to make a reasonable judgment unhindered by political correctness.

The bottom line is that people who have an inclination towards people of the same sex are still loved by God, and they need our care and compassion.  Treating them with contempt is simply wrong.  However, allowing them to act upon the desire and pretending it is normal is doing them a great disservice, just like enabling an alcoholic would be.  People with such inclinations, even those acting on them, should be able to obtain what they need to live just like anyone else.  However, making them a protected class, especially in today’s society, is a dangerous move and needs to be stopped.

Category: Catholic, Morality, Response

Will Religious Freedom Create Corporate Anarchy?

  /   Tuesday, July 01, 2014   /   Comments(0)

It’s all over the news now. It’s on the Internet, so it must be true. Pfizer, Wal-Mart, and Apple are raising religious objections to paying taxes (warning: link contains vitriol). GM now has religious objections to paying employees, so they are going to stop. Rite Aid has religious objections to laws requiring a prescription in order to dispense medication, so now everyone can go there and get the “good stuff” any time. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that Hobby Lobby can’t be forced to provide insurance coverage for abortifacients contraceptives, they can all get away with this stuff, right? If not, maybe they could at least become Jehovah’s Witnesses and stop covering blood transfusions or something like that.

That’s what you might be led to believe if you listen to all the nonsense that is out there in the media about this, including the dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg wrote that the ruling was of “startling breadth” and would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law to which they raised a religious objection. Well, now, according to her, corporations that don’t want to follow the law now need only make up a religion and decide that following the law will be against their beliefs. Surely they will get away with it even if there is zero evidence of any such beliefs (or any beliefs at all) predating this ruling.

Well, actually, the more “startling breadth” is really in Ginsburg’s dissent. Indeed, I’ve read similar stuff from some columnist who spouted out that he was “in favor of religious freedom” as long as they “obey the law.”  If so, this logic could be applied against any challenge to any law based on religious freedom. They seem to forget that we have a Constitution that dictates that certain laws can’t be made in this country. This is the issue that was at stake. Does the Department of Health and Human Services have the right to issue this mandate? If a law can’t be challenged because it’s an unnecessary infringement on one’s Constitutional rights, then the Constitution isn’t worth squat. Further, if protecting a company’s rights has broad implications, then so does not doing so. Are we going to give the government the power to require companies to pay for cosmetic surgery, tanning sessions, or Botox to remove wrinkles?

A compelling interest must exist in order to limit religious Freedom, and it has to be done in the least restrictive manner necessary. Sadly, the issue of a compelling interest was basically sidestepped even in the majority ruling. You could find compelling reasons to require coverage of vaccinations, blood transfusions, and psychiatry, but contraception is not essential health care despite what the left wants it to be. It is a lifestyle choice. The “need” for it can be eliminated by simple self control.

It also defies logic to say that for-profit businesses do not have rights. Businesses in this country tend to be owned by human beings. If a business doesn’t exist to serve customers and make a living for its owners, all of whom happen to be people, then why does it exist? No business is an impersonal entity, even though some corporations may seem that way. Owners have rights, too.

Are we to say that, the moment you are out in society to make a living, you have to leave your very mission and purpose in life behind? Can someone not start a business to further his/her mission and make a living doing it? This would basically reduces one’s faith to a random, arbitrary thought or personality quirk that has no place in the “real” world. It would be fine to have those beliefs, as long as you don’t actually take them seriously when running a business. I’m always amazed at how people who accuse others of blindly following a religion will blindly assume that religious beliefs are all arbitrary and cannot be substantiated.

The way some of those protest signs read (eg “Keep my boss out of my bedroom.”), you’d be forgiven for thinking that his case was about whether your boss could search your house for condoms and packs of Ortho Tri-Cyclen. It isn’t. It’s about whether your boss can be forced to pay for your contraception (or at least the premiums to cover it). Your boss shouldn’t be able to control what you do outside of work that closely. However, not being required to pay for something does not give that person control over someone’s life. No one is trampling any rights here, as though there were a right to contraception. The mandate to cover contraception was going to do little more than ensure that only people without morals (or at least without any that they take seriously) can run a business. We have seen enough problems in our nation without barring people of real faith from leadership in the business world.

Category: Catholic, Response

Where Are We?

  /   Thursday, June 19, 2014   /   Comments(0)

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I were on vacation visiting family.  As we always like to do when we visit this city, we took a walk through the attractive/upscale shopping and dining area.  It’s just a beautiful place to take a walk.  This time, I noticed something I didn’t remember seeing before.

Down one street I found the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist.  Across the street from there was a Unity Temple.  The Christian Scientists were a sect founded by a woman named Mary Baker Eddy based on some supposed insight on healing.  They are the ones who don’t believe in the use of medicine.  The Unity Temple is some kind of church that seeks a “unity” and “peace and harmony” that doesn’t appear to be based on anything but just letting people believe whatever they believe.  Their web site, which I won’t link to here, has as a principle that we create our life experience through our own thoughts.

From that location, I decided to search for the nearest Catholic Church.  This would be a place that could really use a place to encounter our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.  To my dismay, I found that the nearest Catholic Church was the Cathedral four miles away.  It’s not too far, but it’s not too close either.  So, I had to ask, where are we?

Why aren’t we there?  It just reminded me more that we need to be where the people are, trying in whatever way we can to bring people to an encounter with Our Lord.  If someone doesn’t help feed the hungry, they will seek whatever food they can find.  Sadly, that food will never satisfy like the fullness of truth.  Just imagine if there were a church or chapel there where people could stop and pray in the presence of the Eucharist.  Maybe they could go to Confession and be reconciled with God.  We could even leave some materials where interested people could discover the Catholic faith.

One place where evangelization is badly needed is simply among where ordinary activity of people takes place.  We should be there, not to try to shove something down their throats, but to engage them, inform them, and ultimately challenge them to explore the truth.  If other groups are there, why aren’t we?

Category: Catholic, Response

Profit from Your Faults

  /   Thursday, January 16, 2014   /   Comments(0)

Sometimes I need to post something because I myself need to hear it.  This one is a tough one for me.  I try to avoid sin in my life and certainly don’t relish those moments when I find myself in it.  However, God does allow evil.  He allows it so that he can bring about a greater good.  In this case, he can even use our sin to bring us closer to him.  This doesn’t mean that we should be careless about sin.  In fact, this will really only work for those who wish never to offend God but fall into sin anyway.

For a good primer on this, take a look at this article from Catholic Exchange. For a longer treatment, try reading Scepter Publisher’s How to Profit from Your Faults by Joseph Tissot.  The main thing to realize is that we should not be surprised or upset by our faults but should trust in God’s mercy and hurry back to God when we sin.  I’ll summarize here what can be gained from our faults:

  1. We can grow in love for God when we realize the great mercy and love he has for us despite our faults.
  2. We can grow in our determination not to offend God again by our contrition for our sins.
  3. We can grow in humility.  We realize what we are and will do without the grace of God.  We learn to distrust ourselves and depend on God.
  4. By growing in humility, we will be more understanding of the faults of others around us.

Definitely read the article I linked to above.  It’s one of the best, most concise treatments I’ve read and something that will be a great help to every struggling Christian.

Category: Catholic, Spirituality

How Can a Good God Permit Evil?

  /   Saturday, May 11, 2013   /   Comments(0)

In my last post, I wrote about why I was going to raise my children to know God. However, there is one thing that deserves special attention, especially in the light of the recent shooting at the school in Newtown, Connecticut and the Boston Marathon bombing. The author to whom I was responding stated that God does not protect the innocent, and this was a reason why she didn’t believe in him. Back when the Newtown school shooting was news, I saw some Facebook postings about how the existence of such an evil was the “most deadly argument” against the existence of God. While there is no way I can make definitive statement on why God allowed any specific thing to happen, I can offer some reflections that I hope will be helpful.

First, let’s keep in mind that God created the world and everything in it. In other words, God made all of those scientific laws that it has taken man thousands of years to discover. What does this mean? It means that God is far, far, more intelligent than we are. He is infinite. We are finite. This also means that God can and will do or allow things that we won’t be able to understand. We need to be careful not to make the mistake of not believing just because our human minds cannot understand something.

Now, the world God chose to create is a real world. We are not puppets in the divine puppet show. We have the real ability to choose, and the choices have real consequences. Ultimately, God gives us the ability to choose to love him or reject him, and he will allow us to get what we choose. If we choose the good, the true, and the beautiful, we will possess it forever in his presence in Heaven. If we choose something less, then we end up separated from him in Hell. God’s judgment is nothing other than the choice we made in this life. This applies to other choices as well. If a husband and wife do not cooperate in helping him bring new life into being, it won’t happen. If we don’t do our job at work, either it won’t be done, or someone else will have to do it. The work God gave us to do in this world is real, and we have the freedom to choose to do it or not. This is also how we have the capacity to really love. We could only have this if we had the ability to choose not to do so.

God’s gift of free will does also mean that our choices can affect others. Let me explain that I firmly believe that God is infinite goodness. He never does evil, but he does allow it. He allows it only to because he can bring some greater good out of it. How can that be? Well, God’s perspective is eternity. He is looking for what can bring about our eternal salvation in the end. In the end, his justice will win. In the end, good will win because God, who is infinitely good, will win.

Let me give an example, but, before I do, let me qualify this by saying that this is only speculation. We cannot know for sure in this life what God has brought out of any event unless he definitively reveals it to us. In 2007, I was in a serious car wreck that could have killed me. The other driver (who slid across the median of an interstate in front of me) was killed. A priest whom I knew told me that it was possible that he was allowed to die because, if he died now, he would go to Heaven. God may have known that, if he had lived on, he would have rejected God and gone to Hell. Remember, we don’t know this for sure, but it is a possibility. Of course, there’s the humbling possibility for me that I might not have made it to Heaven if I had died then. God may have spared me only because I wasn’t ready for Heaven. It’s equally possible that God left me on this earth for some other mission. After all, the circumstances of that wreck also led to my vocation of marriage and family. So, does this mean that God caused the wreck that I was in? No, but he did allow it to happen. Then, he took it and brought good out of it.

We have to remember that this world is passing away and that our true home is with God in Heaven. God’s ultimate desire is for us all to get there. There is no suffering in this life that can be greater than the joy we will experience of seeing him face to face in Heaven.

Category: Catholic, Response, Spirituality

Why I Will Raise My Son (and any other children we have) With God

  /   Friday, April 19, 2013   /   Comment(1)

A mother of two teenagers posted this article on CNN on why she wants to raise her children without God. I read some time ago and felt that God was asking me to respond. Yeah, I’m really late with this one, but here we go. In a nutshell, this is why my wife and I will raise our son, and any future children, to know God.

The reason why I want our kids to know God can be summed up very succinctly – because he exists and is deserving of all of our love. As philosopher Peter Kreeft has said, “There is only one reason to believe anything – because it is true.” I’ve never understood why some atheists call themselves “freethinkers.” When I hear that old “think for yourself” line, it seems to me that the person is saying that “It doesn’t matter if what you think about is true or not as long as you came up with it yourself.” As for me, give me the truth.

The mother who wrote the article calls God an “inconsistent and illogical legend.” Well, imagine if I told you that this article was the result of a power surge at the data center where my site was hosted. No one would take me seriously. However, some people will take seriously anyone who thinks that the universe, with all its order and complexity, was the result of random explosions and chemical reactions. One might argue that the randomness took place over billions of years, but even then, there are way too many “chance” events that needed to happen for the universe to be a random series of events.

Even if one won’t be easily convinced that there is a God, one might consider that there is really nothing to gain by not believing. This is also known as Pascal’s Wager. If I die believing in God when he doesn’t exist, I’m never going to know. If I die refusing to accept a God who does exist, I’ve got major problems. Atheism is simply a losing proposition. Knowing God allows us to know that we are here for a purpose, and that we have hope that we are not just here for a while, for no reason, only to cease to exist.

Now, the mother I’m responding to has also made some arguments from the problem of evil (and why the innocent suffer). I’ll address those in another post.

Category: Catholic, Response

The End of a Pontificate

  /   Friday, March 01, 2013   /   Comments(0)

Yesterday, at 1 PM Central Standard Time (8 PM in Rome), the Holy See became vacant.  I have been a fan of Pope Benedict XVI ever since I started to really learn the Catholic faith (while he was still Cardinal Ratzinger).  It was like a dream come true to find out in the middle of a work day that he had been elected as the new Holy Father.

I must admit that my gut feelings were giving me a hard time viewing his resignation as an act of humility or even for the good of the Church.  However, I will not think otherwise of our now Pope Emeritus.  He has given himself in service to the Church for many years and has done great work in defending the Catholic faith from people who would distort it.  I’m sure he prayed much about the decision and knew what he was doing.  The Holy Spirit will protect the Church.  While Pope John Paul II would tell us that “Christ never got off the cross,” Pope Benedict XVI took a different path in believing that it will be best to have someone in better health who was better able to do the job that he was.

Good bye, Your Holiness, and thank you for all that you have done.

Category: Catholic, News

Hey, Why Are They Bothering Us

  /   Friday, July 06, 2012   /   Comments(0)

Whenever we hear of a bishop or pastor in the Church taking action on some doctrinal or liturgical problem, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say “why are they bothering with x when we have clergy who are abusing minors?” I’ve seen such comments attached to anything from a bishop who is addressing abnormalities in the way Mass is celebrated in some parishes to, most recently, the Vatican call for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. With this comes the charge that the Church is more concerned about something the author wrongly believes to be trivial than about the clergy abusing young children. At best, such comments are lacking in perspective.

I do remember the scandal becoming big news in 2002. About three years prior, I was just beginning to really learn the Catholic faith. One of the things that became clear to me with the scandal was that sexual abuse committed by clergy, while indeed a serious problem, was only one aspect of a larger problem in the Church. Simply put, there was a scarcity of enforcement of almost anything. Sometimes, we just saw more norms issued when norms were being violated. For example, on the liturgy, we’ve seen Inaestimabile Donum, Redemptionis Sacramentum, and numerous other clarifications written.

The American bishops did meet and propose norms for taking care of sexual abuse by clergy, some of which were ratified by the Vatican as particular law in the US. Even before then, in 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) took on the investigation in his own office of clergy sex abuse cases (Congregation of the Doctorine of the Faith). It might be worth knowing that many of the bishops in office at the time are no longer in office today. They have been replaced by Pope Benedict XVI appointees.

Fortunately, we are seeing more bishops who are not afraid to preach the Gospel and even take action. This may take the form of anything from calling out names to actual disciplinary removal from a position. We’ve recently seen the USCCB committee on doctrine issue a statement on Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s theology text that contains much false teaching. Archbishop Naumann has asked Kathleen Sebelius not to present herself for Communion. Bishop Braxton of Belleville, IL, has accepted the retirement of a priest who refused to say Mass according to the rubrics. Pope Benedict has even gone so far as to remove Bishop William Morris from the Diocese of Toowoomba for spreading false teaching (and later, he removed others). Of course, we are also seeing both an apostolic visitation of the women’s religious orders in this country, as well as the Vatican-ordered reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The sex abuse scandal is a very serious problem that is not to be taken lightly in any way. While one can argue that more needs to be done, it is being addressed. It would be just as wrong for a bishop to address doctrinal or liturgical issues while ignoring sexual abuse by clergy as it would be to promote social justice issues while being silent on abortion or even pro-abortion.  Expecting the bishops not to handle other problems because of the scandal would be like asking a school to stop worrying about what the students are being taught because they found out that some of the teachers are criminals.  The Church still needs to carry on her true mission.  Fortunately, we have bishops who realize the full problem and aim to resolve it.

Category: Catholic, Response

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