Today let us recognize the greatness of God’s generous gift to His people when He instituted this Sacrament of Holy Orders.
So when you see a priest, even if you don’t like him, thank him for his service to the priesthood of Jesus Christ,which saves your soul. St. John Vianney, the great Cure of Ars, the Patron Saint of Priests, wrote some things about the priesthood which is very timely and appropriate for us to hear. He wrote:
“What is the priest? A priest is a man who holds the place of God, a man clothed with all the powers of God. Go, Our Lord said to the priest, as my Father has sent me, so I also send you.
At the consecration the priest does not say, This is the Body of our Lord. He says, This is my body.
At the sight of the spire (or the steeple) you may say, What is there? The body of our Lord – Why is it there? Because a priest has been there and has said Holy Mass. The priest is everything, after God!”
Did you hear what this great Patron Saint of priests said? The priest is everything, after God!!
But St. John continues with a even more keen insight especially relating to our day and time in history. He said:
“When men want to destroy religion they begin by attacking the priest, because where the priest is no more, there is no more sacrifice of the Mass, and where there is no sacrifice, there is no more religion. The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus. When you see the priest think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So after hearing these words on how without the priesthood there is no Catholic Faith, and that only a person who is incredibly evil would ever gossip about, conspire against, or even think (let alone) carry out an attack on a priest’s good name or reputation, or even think, as a lay person, that they would have a right to tell their priest anything about their vocation or how it should be lived. And then when we look at this diocese and see an ever increasing lack of priests. I don’t think those of you who are unhappy with the priests you have fully understand that those of you who wish to practice the faith in the next few years may not be able to find a priest for miles, because you’re sure not going to find one here because there won’t be any
And with that in mind, let us wholeheartedly pray.
“O Lord, may your people come to understand the gift they have in the priests that You, Yourself have sent them and may they come to show them the respect they deserve for being and acting in person of your Son by always treating your priests with the same love and care in which we would hope they would treat your Son.” Amen.
The Gospel from Wednesday’s Mass (Wed. of the 33rd Week – Luke 19:11-27) is known as the “Parable of the Ten Gold Coins.” It has an ending so shocking that, when I read it at Mass some years ago, a young child said audibly to her mother, “Wow, that’s mean!”
I’d like to look at it and ponder its shocking ending.
Today’s parable is like Matthew’s “Parable of the Talents,” but with some significant differences. In today’s parable, ten people each receive one gold coin. We only hear the reports of three of them (as in the Matthean account): two who show a profit and one who shows none.
Another difference is the interweaving of another parable (let’s call it the “Parable of the Rejected King”) within the story. Here is a shortened version, including the shocking ending:
A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, “We do not want this man to be our king.” But when he returned after obtaining the kingship … [he said] “Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me” (Luke 19:12,14, 27-28).
In analyzing a text like this I must say that I was disappointed at the silence of most commentaries with respect to this ending. The shocking phrase “slay them before me” goes largely unremarked.
The Church Fathers seem to say little about it. I was, however, able to find two references in St. Thomas Aquinas’s Catena Aurea. St. Augustine said of this verse, Whereby He describes the ungodliness of the Jews who refused to be converted to Him. Theophilus wrote, Whom he will deliver to death, casting them into the outer fire. But even in this world they were most miserably slain by the Roman army.
Hence both Fathers take the verse at face value, even declaring it historically fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Josephus indicated in his work that 1.2 million Jews were killed in that dreadful war.
Historically fulfilled or not, Jesus’s triumphal and vengeful tone still puzzles me. If this verse does refer to the destruction of 70 A.D., then how do we account for Jesus’s tone here when just a few verses later He wept over Jerusalem?
As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Lk 19:41-44).
Certainly a variety of emotions can sweep over even the God-man Jesus, but let me also suggest some other contextual and cultural considerations that frame Jesus’s startling and “mean” words (Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me).
1. Jesus was speaking in the prophetic tradition – Prophets often spoke this way, using startling and often biting imagery and characterizations. Though many today try to “tame” Jesus, the real Jesus spoke vividly, in the prophetic tradition. He often used shocking and paradoxical images. He spoke bluntly, as prophets do, calling his hostile interlocutors hypocrites, vipers, children of the devil, whitewashed tombs, evil, foolish, blind guides, and sons of those who murdered the prophets. He warned them that they would be sentenced to Hell unless they repented; He laid them out for their inconsistency and hardness of heart. This is the way prophets speak.
In speaking in this “mean” way, Jesus was firmly in the tradition of the prophets, who spoke similarly. Thus, in understanding these harsh words of Jesus’s, we cannot overlook the prophetic context. His words, which seem to us to be angry and even vengeful, were expected in the prophetic tradition from which He spoke; they were intentionally shocking. Their purpose was to provoke a response.
Prophets used hyperbole and shock to convey and frame their call to repentance.And while we ought not to simply dismiss Jesus’s words as exaggeration, we should not fail to see them in the traditional context of prophetic speech.
Hence Jesus’s words were not evidence of vengeance in His heart, but rather a prophecy directed at those who refused to repent: they will die in their sins. Indeed, their refusal to reconcile with God and their neighbors (in this case the Romans) led to a terrible war during which they were slain.
2. The Jewish culture and language often used hyperbole – Even beyond the prophetic tradition, the ancient Jews often used all-or-nothing language in their speech. Although I am no Hebrew scholar, I have been taught that the Hebrew language contains far fewer comparative words (e.g., more, less, greatest, fewest) than does English (and many other languages). If an ancient Jew were asked if he liked chocolate or vanilla ice cream more, he might reply, “I like chocolate and I hate vanilla.” By this he really meant “I like chocolate more than I like vanilla.” When Jesus said elsewhere that we must love Him and hate our parents, spouse, and children (e.g., Lk 14:26), He did not mean that we should hate them vengefully. Rather, this was a Jewish way of saying that we must love Him more.
This background explains the ancient Jewish tendency to use hyperbole. It is not that they did not comprehend nuances; they just did not speak in that manner, instead allowing the context to supply that “hate” did not mean literal hate.
This linguistic background helps to explain how the more extremist elements of prophetic language take shape.
We ought to be careful, however, not to simply dismiss things as hyperbole. We who speak English may love that our language allows for greater nuance, but sometimes we are so nuanced in our speech that we say very little. At some point we must say either yes or no; we must be with God or against Him. In the end (even if Purgatory intervenes) there is only Heaven or Hell.
The ancient Jewish way of speaking in a rather all-or-nothing manner was not primitiveper se. It has a refreshing and honest way of insisting that we decide for or against God, that we decide what is right and just.
Thus, though Jesus’s words were harsh they did make an important point. For either we choose God and live, or we choose sin and die spiritually. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
3. Jesus was speaking to hardened sinners – The audience here is important as well. As Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, He was entering hostile territory. The sinners and unbelievers He encountered were very rigid and had hardened their hearts against Him. Hence, Jesus’s words must be understood as strong medicine.
One can imagine a doctor saying to a stubborn patient, “If you don’t change your ways, you’ll die soon and I’ll see you at your funeral.” While some may consider this to be poor “bedside manner,” there are some patients for whom such language is both necessary and appropriate.
Because Jesus was dealing with hardened sinners, He spoke bluntly. They were headed for death and Hell and He told them so.
Perhaps we, who live in these “dainty” times, who are so easily offended and so afraid of giving offense, could learn from such an approach. There are some who need to hear from priests, parents, and others, “If you do not change your ways, I do not see how you can avoid being sentenced to Hell.”
4. A final thought—a theory really—that some have advanced – According to this theory, Jesus was referring to an actual historical incident and using it to disabuse His listeners of their fond thoughts of a new king. After the death of Herod the Great, his son Archelaus went to Rome to request the title of king. A group of Jews also appeared before Caesar Augustus, opposing Archelaus’s request. Although not given the title of king, Archelaus was made ruler over Judea and Samaria; he later had those Jews who opposed him killed.
Kings are often despots – Because many Jews thought that the Messiah (when he came) would be a king, some were hoping that Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem in order to take up the role of an earthly king. According to this theory, because the people were pining for a king, Jesus used this fearsome parable as a reminder that earthly kings are usually despotic. Jesus was thus trying to disabuse them of the idea that He or anyone else should be their earthly king.
While this theory has a lot to recommend it, especially historical precedent, it seems unlikely that the Gospel text would use such an historically localized event to make the point. Jesus was not just speaking to the people of that time and place; He is also speaking to us. Even if this explanation has partial historical context, the meaning needs to be extended beyond one ancient incident.
Well, there you have it. I am interested in your thoughts. Because the commentaries I consulted seemed rather silent on this, I am hoping that some of you have read commentaries worth sharing. Likewise, perhaps you know of some other quotes of the Fathers that I was unable to find.
Is Jesus being mean here? No. Is He being blunt and painfully clear? Yes. And frankly, some of us need it. In these thin-skinned times we may bristle at such talk, but that’s our problem. Honesty and a clear diagnosis are far more important than our precious feelings.
Now that we have had some time to breathe and maybe to blow off some steam following the elections, it is time to focus. Each of us has something to do appropriate to our station in life. Here are a few thoughts on the gift and responsibility of the time we find ourselves in as Americans.
1) Yes, prayer comes first, throughout, and last. Don’t you dare roll your eyes and say, as some do, “Ok, but we have to DO SOMETHING!” “But”? As if the desire to just do something will automatically be fruitful even without listening to our Creator-whose grace alone will determine the outcome of this and every other moment. If we act without conversion we remain subject to the whims of whatever media we are listening to and our appetites.
Avail yourself of the grace Our Lord is trying to pour into your life, and ask for the intercession of Our Blessed Mother and all the saints. Do you think heaven is uninterested in how all of this plays out? Do not merely react or merely keep busy. Ask for the grace and peace to know how you and your community can play a role at this moment in time to advance the cause of life, family, religious freedom, and genuine solidarity in a very broken nation. Pray first. Receive the gifts of Sacramental Confession and Our Lord’s gift of Himself in the Blessed Sacrament and maybe unplug from the drama of politics for a while. Be still and hear what God is saying to you.
Become an Agent of God in Your Family and Community
2) Our nation and every person has a Savior, and it isn’t you or me. It is not ours to save the country. It is ours to work where we are and to be generous with the gifts we have been given by God. If you have made a commitment to grow in holiness and really develop your prayerful relationship with God, you will soon become an agent of his peace in your family and community. You will be more open to the opportunities He puts in front of you-concrete opportunities that require your generous response. For most of us, this will mean being present to others, engaging in grassroots efforts to communicate the beauty of the Faith, and the Church’s teaching on life and family.
Remember that the news out of Washington will vary widely-hopeful one day and crazy the next. This cannot matter to you, your work, or your prayer life.
And for those who have been blessed with financial resources, I need your personal commitment to our pro-life and family movement. With so many wealthy leftists like George Soros, Warren Buffett, and Bill and Melinda Gates proudly throwing tons of money at their causes, we need those who agree with us to generously invest in our efforts — to be proud of the cause for life and family! No one is permitted to sit on the sidelines in this crucial battle. We need every person and every available resource — working harmoniously toward the transformation of the culture.
No doubt there are now consequences that faithful Christians face even for their giving, but if fear guides your decision making, see #1 and look again at the state of our nation. If you’re waiting for a better time, you are not paying attention. Yes, choose prudently-throwing money at a bad idea is, well, a bad idea. But prayerfully do your research and get into the game. There are many excellent groups whose work is worthy of support at the international, national, and local levels. Of course, I am partial to one group in particular(!), but that you are generous, prudent, and courageous is the key both spiritually for yourself and practically for our nation.
Do Not Treat Worthy Politicians as Saviors and Unworthy Politicians as Demons
3) Do not make the same mistake as our opponents did in treating worthy politicians as saviors and unworthy politicians as demons. This is a common temptation, now practically the national pastime. It is true that with this election, many of the worst politicians were defeated, but some destructive state level laws were also passed, and even some of those we’ve elected have records about which we should be concerned. They still demand our constant vigilance.
It certainly makes sense to track national developments to the extent that it allows you to support worthy political and cultural efforts, but it also tempts many to despair or misplaced hope. Politics, as they say, is downstream from culture, and even if you have the politicians you want in place, if they can’t do anything due to cultural pressure, then their moves will be timid and all gains temporary. Remember the media, Hollywood, universities, and now even sports and cultural institutions are against us due to the decades long and corrupt diligence of the Culture of Death. Faithful Christians and supporters of natural law who work at the national and state levels of politics deserve our financial, prayerful, and active support. Just keep perspective and keep focused on what you can do where you are with your gifts. See #1.
Be Morally Good
4) America is great only to the extent that we are morally good. Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute put it succinctly in a comment that, to me, roseabove the noise and indignation following the election. The further we succumb to the poisonous ideology of the sexual revolution, the more we are at each other’s throats, treating politics as a death sport and opponents as enemies. The dictatorships of the 20th century intentionally set out to destroy the family by making sex predominant in their subjects’ lives-people obsessed with sex are much easier to control. And sex without reproduction is just the anti-God, anti-nature, anti-reason formula for control of persons and societies. Thus, the errors of Russia spread.
One party is rather transparently the vehicle for this ideology-its most famous supporters reaching to disgusting new lows each election cycle to get people to vote, elevating sexual pleasure as a “right”, setting mothers against their babies as a matter of “health”, and using the courts to undermine the most fundamental and natural institutions of marriage and family. Even many Christians still see this party and its government-first mentality as the vehicle for “solidarity”, even as its attacks on life, faith, and family grow ever more open.
This election cycle exposed the great chasm within the identity and mission of the Church. We heard from those claiming to be Catholic while promoting agendas and moral behaviors diametrically opposed to the teaching of Jesus and His Church. As we move forward, we should not ignore this division. The need to evangelize even among Catholics is never more needed, but it must be an authentic evangelization anchored in amendment of life, conversion, and spiritual renewal. Genuine life in Christ is the only path that leads to a genuine cultural transformation – God or nothing.
In order to move forward, we need to seek the path of healing. The division within the nation – and within the Catholic Church in the US – has caused ill feelings, resentment, confusion, and uncharity from both sides of the political lines. We cannot stop what others say, but we choose how we respond. Our personal conversion and attitude is crucial in this cultural transformation.
Take this question to prayer: How can Our Loving God use you to change their hearts and minds? Hint: it won’t be by sarcastically reminding them for weeks how evil their party is and who won the election.
Pray Even More
5) See #1. Commit to renewed prayer, fasting, acts of reparation, and courageous, unapologetic witness to the love of Jesus Christ for every one of His children. The president-elect and his team must be surrounded constantly by prayer for their protection and ongoing conversion as we seek our own. Many seem to think Mr. Trump is himself a prophet, overlooking a host of alarming things about his behavior and his record. It is absolutely true that no one is beyond saving while he is alive, and it is true that Mr. Trump has also sought the advice of many faithful Christians during his campaign. The choices we had for our nation are an indictment of how far things have fallen.
Yet with God there is hope, and it is unquestionably a good thing that Mr. Trump’s main opponent was defeated. Those who agree on both what is most important in our nation and to Whom all glory must be given must now come together and forgive one another rather than demand concessions. Stop looking for ways to say I told you so and look for ways to say Let’s do this! This, too, can only happen in a genuine way if we put God and His will before our own, and make every effort to listen to what He would have us do.
Brothers and sisters, our nation is in a very bad way, and we’ve made it a priority to export our decline to the rest of the world. We do have a genuine opportunity here if we can proceed in humility, making God’s will our first desire and giving Him room to work through us.
How can we not be grateful, even among the tribulations? The alternatives are ever more clear: follow Christ or follow the world. The middle ground continues to drop away and God in His goodness has given us an opportunity for real change even at the political level. Let’s not spoil this moment with gloating and condemnation, or waste it in mere activism. In love and truth, let’s make our lives an invitation to live in the truth.
You Cannot Vote One Who is a Champion for Abortion
Rev. Robert L. Marciano
By Rev. Robert L. Marciano:
Now there are those I know who say that political talk does not belong in the pulpit and they cite the separation of church and state. They are wrong. In fact, a recent article by a leading historian in the The New York Times called for this phrase to be removed from the public discourse since it does not portray the intent of our Founding Fathers who had fled an oppressive government that dictated their religion in order to build a home on these shores that allows the basic human right of religious freedom. The separation of church and state means that those who govern can not and must not tell us how, who, and where to worship.
In fact, those early leaders welcomed the voices of religious leaders in all matters political. Oddly enough, I never hear a whimper of complaint from our Southern friends (Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and their band of rebels) when certain political leaders are invited to stand in Southern Protestant and black church pulpits to spread their message. This includes the present Democratic nominee and her husband when they rally those same church crowds to their cause. Hence, our discussion here in this church this morning of the critical matters of this election is just about as American as it gets.
Let me make this very clear, I am no fan of Mr. Trump and the recent media firestorm over his inappropriate and vulgar words is reprehensible. But he is not running for Pope! And let me remind you that his vulgar comments reflect a vulgar society. Our world has all but collapsed because of behavior that is now acceptable—behavior that you and I often turn a blind eye to in our own families and in our own homes. Have you ever been stopped at a red light with the car next to you blasting music that uses every foul word imaginable over and over again? Have you gone past the Halloween costume store on Airport Road or near the malls and watched the people going in and out and wondered whether they were buying costumes or already wearing dark costumes? Have you heard the First Lady’s reflections about the bands and music that she and her daughters of violence and death to police and is laced with vulgar words and phrases words that make one cringe and offend those of us who are trying to livedecent and kind lives. Our society has gone off the cliff and these pre-election days are proving it.
Do Not Leave Your Catholic Faith at Home
But let us get to the topic at hand: in just a few days you and I and citizens of patriotic devotion across this nation will step into voting booths to choose our leaders on both a local and national scale. I am asking that you not leave your Catholic faith at home. Bring it with you to make those choices. I am not asking that America be Catholic. I am asking that Catholics be Catholic! As for our president, I cannot vote for the Democratic nominee who believes that abortion, right up to the very moment of birth, should be legal. It’s called Late-Term Abortion and it’s a platform of her campaign and an example of her brand of democratic principles. I find it shocking and disingenuous that a woman who touts her life and campaign as one dedicated to women’s rights would support and mandate the killing of women, since more than half of those innocent little ones that end up in a garbage bin are girls. I cannot vote for Mrs. Clinton since my immortal soul would be in peril by cooperating in the destruction of innocent human life.
Don’t Forget the Supreme Court
Further, a vote for her will also allow her the power to recreate the Supreme Court in the years ahead. And our laws, already on the cliff of immorality, will go over the edge for this generation and for the next. And let’s be clear that she, her party, and her leaders (including the current administration of these past eight years) hate us. They hate Catholics. Let me say it again: they hate Catholics. They hate everything that we stand for and the virtues and values that we hold as sacred. They hate the Church and the Divine Master that we love and serve. And we have the evidence of this in the email traffic from her top leaders saying that they must infiltrate and topple the Catholic Church, and do it from within, to bring us up-to-date with their immoral principles and ways of living. How despicable and bold is that? That in our country built on the basic human right of religious freedom, these potential leaders who claim to be liberal and accepting of all things would draw the line on Catholics like you and me.
In fact, the President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops for our nation, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, when discovering the intent and content of these emails said this:
“We … expect public officials to respect the rights of people to live their faith without interference from the state. When faith communities lose this right, the very idea of what it means to be an American is lost.”
As for Mrs. Clinton’s years of public service—another platform on which she builds her campaign—well, as you know, a few weeks ago I finished a military career of 36 years. I would never have reached that milestone had I done what Mrs. Clinton did with classified material when she served as Secretary of State. I would have been court-martialed and perhaps even jailed. The only people the Clintons have served are themselves and their spirit of unbridled entitlement as they line their coffers with cash from donors who stand against us and openly oppose our values. Do you want more evidence? Take a look at the lawsuit brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington, D.C. who refused to apply the Obamacare mandates of contraception and abortion coverage to health coverage for their employees and won the first round before the Supreme Court.
Be Informed by Our Faith
My friends, these are critical decisions. These are critical days. You and I must use the power of our vote as Catholics informed and supported by our faith to make the correct decision and to rescue this republic from the abyss of destruction. As the late great Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “What the world needs most is a voice that courageously speaks the truth, not when the world is right, but a voice that speaks the truth when the world is wrong.”
The time is now to speak the truth, vote the truth, and save the nation that we love and we call home. My friends, my name is Father Bob Marciano and GOD approves this message!
It started with Fr. John Lankeit’s viral homily with over 1.6 million views. That is by far the largest number of views for a local parish homily in the history of the world. Now we have three more “hold nothing back” pro-life homilies. Email subscribers must go to the website to listen to the homilies.
Fr. Robert Fromageot, Critique of the Democratic Platform
The Church continues to teach this essential truth because we know that the poor in various parts of the world have been targeted for decades with population control – contraception, sterilization, and abortion. In economically developed countries, there is a radical anti-birth mentality, which is exported to other nations as if it were a form of cultural, economic, and social progress. In addition, many private institutions, NGOs, and governments consider development and population control as symbiotic – linking legitimate development aid to the imposition of birth/population control. Their verbal engineers call this “sustainable development.”
HLI has confronted this situation since our inception and, in collaboration with the local Catholic Church and international pro-life leaders, continues to fight this radical mentality that attacks the inalienable dignity of the human person. What makes things more difficult and scandalous is when we learn of anti-life agencies working with the support of the Catholic Church, directly or indirectly.
Since I became president of HLI in 2011, we have attempted to work with leaders at Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the bishops on its board of directors to resolve the situation and strengthen CRS’s mission and work. HLI has respectfully sought the path of subsidiarity in this conversation, attempting to avoid further scandal to the faithful who want assurance that CRS is acting in accord with Church teaching. Sadly, our attempts have produced no fruit. Instead, we have often been marginalized and shut out of the conversation by those who are deeply invested in the secular development model or who believe that such problems could not occur.
It saddens me that the Lepanto Institute has again found a clear case of CRS disregarding its moral obligation to ensure that those receiving funding are in compliance with Church teaching. This public disagreement was not HLI’s first choice, but given our mission, and the very high stakes both for the Church and for those who are harmed by these programs, we cannot in good conscience be silent.
With the latest Lepanto Institute report, faithful Catholics also have a responsibility. You didn’t ask for this responsibility, and you may want this scandal to simply go away. But it will not go away as long as the status quo remains. Those who are concerned but don’t know what to think are put in the unfortunate position of having to do some research and not simply resort to ideological “camps” who simply take their own side’s word as fact.
To put our cards on the table: we at HLI are convinced that CRS has been caught several times implementing projects that are not only utterly incompatible with Catholic social and moral doctrine, but are also destructive for those supposedly “helped.” Challenged on these reports, CRS routinely misleads the bishops and its supporters, issuing denials that assume great ignorance on the part of the reader as to how these complicated projects occur. Further, when such challenges are raised, CRS attacks the messenger’s motives and credibility, dragging good bishops into the fray with statements that are untrue.
This is our position, but again, we do not ask you to take a side in this scandal (sadly, yes, there are now sides) based merely on a short position statement. In order to understand, more work must be done.
Many say that to understand what’s going on one must “follow the money.” Surely the funding is relevant, but that’s different than proving the case, so one should also not draw a conclusion on this alone. Still, it is worth asking: Who has more at stake in this battle?
CRS receives hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the federal government, and tens of millions more annually from massive NGOs who not only disagree with the Church on these matters, but also together invest billions annually opposing the Church. CRS receives over 80% of its huge annual budget from a government and organizations that believe population control is the primary development priority today, and these organizations don’t hide this—they don’t think they have to. CRS then receives about 3% of its annual income from the Rice Bowl and other pew collections from Catholics, though Catholics certainly give more via other fundraising channels.
By way of contrast, the party exposing the government documents showing CRS’s participating in this destructive program, the Lepanto Institute, made less than $100,000 last year. Population Research Institute has also initiated previous investigations and, like HLI, has publicly expressed its concern about CRS when private outreach has failed. To our knowledge PRI’s annual budget is less than half that of the lone project that is the subject of the latest controversy. Same with HLI, as much as I wish it were different!
It is our mission at HLI to preach the Gospel of Life around the world, focusing on education, outreach and advocacy. This is why we are reluctantly involved in this debate: Most of the over 80 nations in which we and our partners are currently engaged are in the developing world, and suffer greatly from the imposition of population control programs disguised as legitimate development and health concerns. That’s how the multi-billion dollar aid and development industry works. It’s also why the NGOs who comprise it have such enormous budgets and so little to show for their decades of work: If the intention was to see these nations develop rather than remain dependent on wealthier nations with their own designs, then those responsible for decades of fruitless efforts would have been replaced long ago.
Sadly, though we believe most in the aid industry do indeed have good intentions, the point of the industry is not to succeed and thus put itself out of business, but rather to keep itself in business by perpetuating the corruption of governments that are unaccountable to their own people, but very responsive to massively funded Western development efforts. It’s economics 101: when your revenue is not tied to the productivity and genuine progress of your own people, but rather is tied to complying with the directives of wealthy parties who have their own priorities, you will never see authentic, integral development.
To the most recent case, then: Documents published by the federal government show CRS as an implementing partner in a six million dollar project in the Democratic Republic of Congo; a project whose stated goal was to improve maternal and child health. Not one single person who knows how these projects work would deny that they entail birth/population control as a matter of course. This one was no different — requiring detailed quarterly reports of the receipt and storage of contraception (including abortifacient methods), as well as measurement of the program’s effectiveness in getting more women to use various methods of artificial birth control. The project’s reports show Catholic Relief Services receiving, storing, and helping to distribute 2.25 million units of contraceptives, then reporting the program’s “success” in getting almost 850,000 people to use the methods in the region for which CRS had responsibility.
No one disputes these facts.
CRS has, however, issued a response asking bishops to ignore the Lepanto Institute’s report and direct pastors to support CRS. In its statement of “refutation,” CRS ironically does not even attempt to refute a single charge. They simply, categorically, deny that they had anything to do with any element that was against Church teaching, providing as proof a letter from the sponsoring agency’s director, who says that CRS was clear on this point.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds this an odd way to “refute” the carefully vetted reports from the same parner, in which they claimed the opposite.
The problem, CRS says, is that its sponsoring partner forgot that CRS insisted that it wouldn’t promote anything against Church teaching. Somehow the reporting partner mistakenly got the idea — after receiving CRS’s own quarterly reports — that CRS was itself storing, distributing, and measuring the acceptance of contraception among the targeted population in the region for which CRS was responsible, according to the documents.
Tellingly, CRS does not acknowledge in its response the video showing its project director (a medical doctor shown wearing a polo shirt with both USAID and CRS logos) describing the full range of the project’s concerns and its success in getting almost 850,000 people to use new methods of “family planning.” While this may be dealt with in a second response from CRS, the current strategy seems to include the hope that the bishops and you will not actually read the Lepanto Institute report or look at the government documents and video.
Again, I want to avoid questioning motives here and ask that you read both the Lepanto Institute report and CRS’s letter of response. If you are going to express an opinion on the matter, it should be an informed one.
To be perfectly honest, I find CRS’s explanations of its partner’s “errors” insulting (an explanation they rely on quite a bit in their explanations of previous problems), including the fact that they don’t address the majority of documented concerns before turning to attack the motives of CRS critics.
I also don’t want to participate in bashing the bishops on this. I think most would agree that a crucial element of accountability is missing when the only means of verifying claims of wrongdoing is through the agency accused, but I understand the desire to trust and how limited resources can inhibit such accountability. When this does not happen, the faithful who see and understand the problem will fill the gap, out of love for the Church, and they do not deserve to have their characters and motives maligned. This is a further injustice that requires immediate remedy.
As a confessor, I have been blessed to share the Lord’s mercy with penitents who, caught in a situation of their own choosing, hit bottom and seek reconciliation. Our Lord’s mercy is bigger than any problem we’ve gotten ourselves into, and we avail ourselves of His mercy when we turn back to Him in truth, ask for forgiveness, and firmly resolve to amend our lives. Returning to truth can be incredibly painful, but it is a necessary step for healing to begin. Without this honest and crucial step, problems fester, putting souls at risk.
The Church, led by her faithful shepherds, certainly has a role in evangelizing and working for authentic, integral human development. We sincerely want to help them resolve this scandal that is being perpetrated by an organization that is acting in their name. We at HLI remain ready to consult with any bishops who do not understand how the development industry operates and are looking for ways to engage in this essential work without these problems continuing to recur. Let us go forward together in both charity and truth and end this ongoing scandal.
Re-reading my lecture notes on Eucharistic Theology: “The way a priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass affects the way the congregation participates in the sacrifice; if the priest offers the Mass reverentially then the congregation participates reverentially too.”
Recently, I went through my seminary lecture notes on Eucharistic Theology, and these are some of the gems of liturgical propriety that refreshed my mind:
Say the Black, Do the Red
The way a priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass affects the way the congregation participates in the sacrifice; if the priest offers the Mass reverentially then the congregation participate reverentially too.
When offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, slow down and be deliberate in your action and words; every liturgical action is done and completed before the next. A successful celebrant never rushes; he does things reverentially and complete.
Do exactly what the red letters in the Roman Missal say, and say exactly what is in black; no more, and no less. Our actions define what we stand for and what we are committed to.
Any intentional deviation from these instructions, among many others, becomes an abuse of the liturgy and a personal act of disobedience rooted in pride and vanity…and carelessness.
Though he has local roots in the Kansas City area, I have never met vice presidential candidate, Senator Tim Kaine. From those who do know him, I understand that he is a very affable and likable person.
In the Oct. 4 vice presidential debate, Senator Kaine acknowledged he was blessed with great Irish Catholic parents and grew up in a wonderful faith-filled family. He also mentioned proudly that he is a graduate of Rockhurst High School, crediting the Jesuits with instilling within him a desire for public service and a commitment to advocate for the poor. I wish that was the end of the story.
It was painful to listen to Senator Kaine repeat the same tired and contorted reasoning to profess his personal opposition to abortion while justifying his commitment to keep it legal. He said all the usual made-for-modern-media sound bites: It is not proper to impose his religious beliefs upon all Americans. He trusts women to make good reproductive choices. And when all else fails, there is always: Do we really want to criminalize and fill our jails with post-abortive women?
With regard to the imposition of religious beliefs, Senator Kaine appears to have no qualms with his public positions conforming with his religious beliefs with regard to such issues as the church’s opposition to racism or our preferential option for the poor. He appears not to be conflicted with our public policies mirroring the Ten Commandments with regard to stealing, perjury, or forms of murder, other than abortion.
The founders of our nation actually dealt with this issue 240 years ago in the Declaration of Independence, in which they articulate certain self-evident and inalienable rights that government does not bestow but has a responsibility to protect. Our founders actually believed that the right to life is given to us by our Creator, not by the Supreme Court.
Of course, religion will speak about fundamental human rights issues. However, to understand that the government has a right to protect human life is not dependent on religious belief. As the founders’ stated, these are self-evident truths. They are accessible to everyone through the use of reason. They do not require faith.
Why is Senator Kaine personally opposed to abortion, if he does not believe that it is the taking of an innocent human life? I hope in his science classes at Rockhurst he learned that at the moment of fertilization a new human life has begun with his or her own distinct DNA — different from the genetic code of both the child’s mother and father.
It is difficult to imagine that Senator Kaine has not seen the ultrasound images of his children and grandchildren when they were in their mother’s womb. Is the senator unaware that abortion stopped the beating hearts of 60 million American children aborted legally since 1973?
If he knows these truths of biology, why would he believe that anyone has the right to authorize the killing of an unborn human being? This is where the reproductive choice euphemism breaks apart. Does anyone really have the choice to end another human being’s life? Our choices end where another individual’s more fundamental rights begin.
As far as Senator Kaine’s fear that if abortion is made illegal, our prisons will be teeming with post-abortive women, we actually have decades of legal history in our own country when this was certainly not the case.
Before the late 1960s when abortion was illegal in every state, except for the life-of-the-mother cases, it is difficult to find a single instance of a woman imprisoned for abortion. The laws were enforced against the abortionists. Our own legal experience shows clearly that it is possible to develop public policies aimed at protecting children, not punishing women.
Actually, I wish Senator Kaine would take the time to talk with some of the post–abortive women that are assisted by Project Rachel and other post-abortion ministries helping women and men find healing, hope and mercy after an abortion. Our current permissive abortion policies, placing the entire burden of responsibility for the abortion decision upon the mother, results in millions of women experiencing an inner imprisonment where the bars keeping them from freedom and happiness are the guilt and unresolved grief that inevitably ensues from abortion.
It is interesting that Senator Kaine expressed his personal anguish when as governor he enforced capital punishment sentences. He gave the impression that he attempted unsuccessfully to convince Virginians to abolish the death penalty. Yet, with regard to legalized abortion, I am not aware of Senator Kaine making a similar effort to convince his constituents to work for public policies that protect the lives of the unborn. Instead, he appears eager to champion not only maintaining the status quo, but actually expanding abortion rights.
It is ironic that Senator Kaine expressed such profound concern about imposing his religious beliefs on others, while supporting efforts: 1) to coerce the Little Sisters of the Poor and other faith-based ministries to violate their conscience by including abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilizations in their employee health plans; 2) to put small business owners (e.g., florists, bakers, photographers, etc.) out of business with crippling fines if they decline to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies; and 3) to force every American taxpayer to help fund abortion.
This presidential election presents all Americans with a difficult choice. Both major political parties have nominated very flawed candidates. In making your decision as a voter, I encourage you to think not only of the candidate, but who they will appoint to key Cabinet and other powerful government positions if he or she becomes president. We are choosing not just a president, but an entire administration.
Finally, be wary of candidates who assume to take upon themselves the role of defining what Catholics believe or should believe. Unfortunately, the vice-presidential debate revealed that the Catholic running for the second highest office in our land is an orthodox member of his party, fulling embracing his party’s platform, but a cafeteria Catholic, picking and choosing the teachings of the Catholic Church that are politically convenient.