Friday, January 17

Let's see if we can connect a couple of dots that have emerged over the past day:

There's dissatisfaction with Catholic preaching and pastoral care. Priests are responsible for more and more, for bigger and bigger parishes..

Perhaps the two are related? Perhaps one of the many reasons Catholic preaching, as a whole, is deficient, is because priests find it quite difficult to find the time in their week to prepare a decent homily? Perhaps they might be assisted in this aspect of their vocation by more - rather than fewer- laity, deacons and religious - involved in parish ministries?

I'm not known as being terribly sympathetic to the complaints of priests about their lives (why? because if any or all of us take the Christian life seriously, all of our lives are equally challenging, a priest no more so than a married person with a vocation to follow Jesus in the secular world), but face it: when a person is occupied with counseling much of the day and meetings of every shape and size during almost every night of the week, as well as parish and school events he's expected to appear at, unless that person is very strict with himself, he's going to have a heck of time finding time to prepare a homily. My suggestion if your priest's homilies are unfailingly wretched? Encourage his staff to assist hiim in clearing his calendar at least one night or afternoon a week - help him delegate - so that he can take time to do what needs to be done.

You know, in these comments some have railed at the possiblity of priests being "relegated" to "just" sacramental ministry. Well, that's never going to happen - as long as people have problems and spiritual needs, they are going to be talking to priests. As long as priests have different skills and talents, they're going to be finding ways to use them - the gifted administrator here, the great teacher there, a passionate advocate for minorities or the unborn...and so on. But do you know what else? There is no "just" about sacramental ministry. Baptizing babies, bringing converts into the Church, celebrating prayerful liturgies, bringing Christ to the sick and dying, witnessing marriages, offering the can anyone say that's "just" anything? Maybe I missed something, but that is the core of priestly ministry and it seems to me that structuring parish life so that priests are enabled to dedicate themselves to that kind of ministry - to the circle of activity that starts with being present to people at crucial and ordinary moments - listening to how they encounter Christ and the troubles they have in doing so - and then shaping their celebration of the sacraments and their preaching with the intention of helping their parishioners open their hearts to Christ in the concrete realities of their lives, which he knows because he's been there - ,and not have to waste their time on meetings and micromanagement is not a bad thing.

From John Allen of NCR:

Given that the 30th anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court falls in this month, the abortion issue is sure to be back in public discussion. The Catholic Church is still struggling with how best to resist the normalization of abortion that Roe v. Wade symbolizes. One strategy is to fight for re-criminalization, or at least for the most restrictive statute possible. Another is to abandon reliance on the state to enforce personal morality, and to make the case for life through the culture.

These are not mutually exclusive methods, but there is perhaps a certain tension between them. The more time Catholic leaders spend lobbying and attempting to persuade legislators, the less time they may invest in winning the broader cultural argument.

[As if the two are mutually exclusive. They're not, of course. Anyhoo.]

This tension comes to mind while reading a recent news item in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading daily newspaper. On January 11, the paper reported that in the first nine months of 2002, some 9,196 abortions were performed in Roman hospitals, a number comparable to the country’s other large urban areas. (The number of doctors willing to perform abortions in Rome is smaller than normal, but the number of procedures is not). The statistic that hit home, however, was that at Rome’s Santo Spirito hospital, a complex located perhaps 500 yards from the Vatican, there are eight abortions performed every week, more than 300 a year. If any place on earth should be shaped by the Catholic pro-life argument, one would think a hospital in the shadows of St. Peter’s and named after the Holy Spirit would be it.

Even at a symbolic level, the reality at Santo Spirito suggests the church has some work to do.

Take a gander at this and tell me why Planned Parenthood is still a 501 (c) (3) organization.

Thanks to another Shaun Gallagher for the heads up.

Re/a comment about a priest "surrounding himself with women" -female volunteers and employees.

Don't know about the "employee" part, but the "volunteer" part is, er...voluntary. Don't blame the priest. Blame the men in the parish who are sitting in their pews doing nothing.

I like this column by Andrew Greeley:

I'm worried about our church, the woman said to me; do you think it will survive? We've made it through the barbarians and the Reformation and the French Revolution, I said. I think we'll get through this mess, though this time the enemies are all from within.

Yes, she replied, but the priests in my parish don't want the laity around, they've never said a word about the sex-abuse scandal, and the homilies and liturgies are terrible. I read in the paper about people who say they're not going to church anymore. I wonder why I'm still going. Fortunately, she's the stubborn kind who won't let the idiots drive her away from a heritage she prizes.

Unfortunately, the situation my friend described is all too typical. Tied up in the cinctures of clerical culture, many priests still don't get the importance of the sex-abuse scandal and apparently will never understand how angry their laity are at bad homilies, dull liturgy and insensitive and unprofessional ministerial care.

If one studies the data from the recent Los Angeles Times survey of the priesthood, one is struck by the responses of priests to the sex- abuse crisis. They blame the bishops, the lawyers, the victims and the media. But they wash their hands of all personal responsibility. The majority think that it is not the worst crisis in the history of the American church (one wonders what was) and that many of the charges are not true. They are still demonizing the victims and denying the truth of the charges.

In fact, many priests knew about what was happening and did not lift their voices to stop it. True to the demands of clerical culture, they blinded themselves to the obvious facts and still do. They echo the cry of Cardinal Bernard Law that the police and the psychiatrist had cleared the accused.

My only quibble is with Greeley's use of "boredom" and "uninteresting" as a paradigm. Those are dangerous words, a sell-out, however unintentional, to the culture of entertainment. Let's replace "boring" with "not prayerful" and call it ourselves in agreement.

An observer of Catholic churches in the Orlando diocese writes in regard to our discussion on priests and lay ministers:

Holy Name of Jesus, Indialantic, isn't much better off. The pastor is 71, has an associate and has topped 12K. Six masses every weekend, SRO in a building built for 1200 just five years ago that was thought to last for ten-twenty years. Ascension in Melbourne is roughly the same size and has one. Our Saviour in Cocoa Beach is a bit smaller, has only one -- he's
the guy that was attacked last year and beaten by a mentally disturbed man.He's recovering but has some permanent damage due to head injuries. There was no one to come in and take his place or give him relief. He came back to work ASAP, and recovered on the job.

Barbara Nicolosi writes to ask me to let readers know that the Act One Program for Christain screenwriters is now taking applications for the 2003 session.

Update: As a reader notes, the site seems to have been hacked. I guess if you're interested, check back in a couple of days to see if it's back up the way it should be.

Via Holy Weblog:

Adult store offers clergy discount

Ramesh Ponnuru takes a thoughtful look at the status of abortion in America today.

Lieberman: sabbath not a campaign hurdle

Lieberman's logistical obstacle with his Sabbath schedule became quickly apparent as local Democrats began scheduling a series of "cattle calls" that occur mostly on the weekends to parade candidates in front of party activists.

Lieberman's staffers describe him as "an observant Jew," while others describe his beliefs as "modern Orthodox." Lieberman strictly observes the Jewish Sabbath by refusing to campaign from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday.

"It has always come above politics over the long term and I obviously hope people will respect that," Lieberman said Monday of his faith. "I will have to work harder on the other six days."

There are times Lieberman can attend a Saturday evening campaign event by traveling to the location on Friday and observing the Sabbath in the same place as the political event. He also can communicate at events through a surrogate or with use of a videotaped message.

In Boston, church lawyers to question therapists

hree months after the Archdiocese of Boston publicly reached out to sexual abuse victims and promised to pay for their counseling, church lawyers this week began requiring therapists who have been treating the alleged victims to answer questions under oath about their patients' emotional condition.

That step, though it is standard practice for trial lawyers, provoked outrage yesterday from advocates for sexual abuse victims and the attorneys who have asked for jury trials for two of the more than 500 people who allege they were abused by priests in the archdiocese.

''This is the ultimate bait-and-switch strategy,'' said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. ''It's terribly disingenuous and hurtful to say to victims, `Come see us and we'll give you help,' and then turn around and use their private therapy sessions against them. It is every survivor's worst fear.''

The first of the pretrial depositions of the therapists, taken on Tuesday, appeared to catch some archdiocesan officials by surprise. Barbara Thorp, the official in charge of the church's victim outreach program, has expressed anger that the therapists are being questioned and forced to turn over notes of their counseling sessions, according to an adviser to the archdiocese.

Kerry rejects Vatican guidelines

Vatican to issue glossary

The Holy See will soon publish a new glossary of 90 words related to sexual and family issues, according to Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, director of the Pontifical Council for the Family.The "Lexicon of the Family and Life" will also clarify the Catholic Church's teachings on birth control, sex education, assisted procreation and homosexuality. The work intends to clarify "neologisms, ambiguous terms and difficult concepts in frequent use." Those terms include "voluntary interruption of pregnancy," "reproductive health," "matrimonial indissolubility," "sexual education" and "conjugal love." When bandied about in a global forum, they can cause "grave moral confusion," the lexicon states.

Detroit sister a leader in adult literacy work

For Sister Marie Schoenlein, the goal has been the same since 1988: to wipe out adult illiteracy in Detroit. That year, she presented a plan to the Catholic Archdiocese and major religious superiors to tutor adults who could not read, thus improving their lives, the lives of their children and the lives of their community. "We had so many retired sisters who would not want to be in a classroom, but would be energized by that kind of work," Schoenlein said. Her plan became the Dominican Literacy Center, which has trained nearly 2,500 volunteers to give the gift of reading to more than 2,400 adults, aged 19 to 91.

Maryland pro-life legislators plan strategy

With the new Republican governor providing a backdrop of cautious optimism, about 30 anti-abortion legislators met yesterday in Annapolis to discuss what abortion-related bills they will propose this session.Although those who attended described the meeting largely as a brainstorming session, the lawmakers did agree on some guidelines: They won't push for anything too controversial and instead will concentrate on one or two anti-abortion measures they believe are supported by most Marylanders.Those include tightening loopholes in parental-notification laws for minors seeking abortions and possibly a bill banning late-term abortions. They might also try to remove public funding of abortion in certain cases through a floor amendment to the state budget.All are ideas that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. either voted for as a legislator or has said he supports - providing a starting point for Maryland's anti-abortion lobby.

Beatification will test Vatican's ties to Islam

John Paul II is likely to offend many Muslims with his decision to beatify Father Mario D'Aviano, who defended Christian Europe against invading Turks in the 17th century.

D'Aviano, a Capuchin friar, inspired Christian forces to rout the Turks, who were besieging Vienna and threatening to overrun Europe. As a champion of Europe's Christian identity, he is not appreciated by contemporary Islamic fundamentalists: security measures will be particularly rigorous when he and five other people are beatified at St Peter's on April27.....Born in the Venetian republic in 1631, he left his Jesuit college to join the republic's forces fighting Turkish invaders. On the way to the front he had to seek refuge in a Capuchin monastery, where he decided to become a Capuchin friar rather than a warrior.

.....He became famous as a preacher and a healer, and was appointed an adviser to the Habsburg Emperor Leopold I.

When Turkish forces that had already conquered Belgrade besieged Vienna for two months in 1683, D'Aviano, at the behest of Pope Innocent XI, joined the irresolute Leopold outside Vienna, where he strengthened the emperor's resolve, persuaded the divided and outnumbered Christian forces to choose Jan Sobinski, the Polish king, as their leader, and preached to the Catholic-Protestant-Orthodox forces on the importance of defending Christian Europe.

On the night of September 11, 1683, the Christians forced the Turks, 20,000 of whose troops had been killed, to raise the siege.


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