Do I detect the beginning of an episcopal spine?

Looks like Archbishop Lori may just have a spine after all. During the USCCB meeting he said he would support a vote to deal with the sex abuse crisis, despite the pope forbidding such a vote.

I’m not 100% convinced that this would have been the right thing to do, as it would be disobedient to the pope. But I’m pretty sure that the matter of what they can vote on in the USCCB meeting is not something they owe obedience to the pope in, anyway.

You can read the article here:

The pope didn’t want the bishops to meet at all. He wanted them to go on a retreat. And who can argue with that?! A retreat before the meeting would have been a fantastic idea. I suspect most (or at least many) of the bishops don’t do enough praying. Things would be a whole lot different if they did.

So putting the kibosh on the vote was his way of dealing with them. My initial reaction was one of dismay, but on further consideration, I think he may have been right. I’m still not convinced his motives were the right ones, though. But even a broken clock is right twice a day.

I guess we’ll have to wait until February, after the meeting of the heads of all the world’s bishops’ conferences, to see if the pope had some sort of grander plan to effectively deal with the crisis. My bet, though, based on his past behavior and performance, is that this was just his way of getting back at the U.S. bishops, at the expense of even more children, seminarians, and vulnerable adults being molested and raped. I truly hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think so. What I expect to come out of February’s meeting is exactly… nothing.

In any case, Archbishop Lori could implement these policies and procedures in the Archdiocese of Baltimore on his own initiative and authority, without any vote by the USCCB.

So my question for him is, why won’t he open up the archdiocese’s records in the Fr. Maskell (The Keepers) case? That would be a pretty good step towards showing that he finally, truly, “gets it.”

Democrats and Murder Rates

If lowering the murder rate in your city is your primary goal, you might want to consider not electing a Democrat.

I saw something on Facebook the other day that sparked me to do some independent research. This is what I found:

Out of the 10 American cities with the highest per capita murder rate, 9 of them have mayors who are Democrats. Not only that, but all nine of them have had Democrat mayors for long periods of time. On average, for about the last 30-40 years. The shortest amount of time is about 16 years.

The other city is Las Vegas, which has had an independent mayor since 2011. However, before the current independent mayor, they had exclusively Democrat mayors going back to the early 1970’s.

Let me be the first to point out that correlation is not causation. I’m not saying that having a Democrat mayor causes a high murder rate. I’m not saying it doesn’t, either.

But there’s certainly a lot of proverbial smoke there. So here are some possible explanations:

1. There’s no causality involved at all. Possible, I suppose, but there’s still a lot of smoke that needs to be explained.

2. Cities with higher murder rates simply tend to vote Democratic. Worth considering. But then, that begs the question about why that would be true.

3. Republican mayors implemented policies that led to higher murder rates, and the Democrats are still cleaning up the mess. This doesn’t seem plausible to me. Given the length of time the Democrats have been in office, one would think that there would be some significant progress in lowering the murder rate by now.

4. The Democrat mayors implemented policies that led to higher murder rates. This isn’t to say that they intended to do so. Just that the policies have some unidentified side effect that results in higher murder rates.

There are probably other explanations.

But one thing seems crystal clear to me: Whatever good Democrat policies do for cities, they do not lower murder rates.

The Soul of the Apostolate

I came across this quote from a book called The Soul of the Apostolate, by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O. For those who have eyes to see, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation is possible. Read the whole thing. And ponder it in the light of the current state of the Church.

“If the apostle has not humility, he will go to one of two extremes. It will be either a matter of careless and excessive familiarity, with all its free-and-easy licenses, or else of domineering over everybody else. The latter case is the more likely.

“Leaving questions of doctrine to one side, let us suppose that the apostle has enough sense to protect his mind from an unlimited tolerance on one hand and, on the other, from a harsh and bitter zeal of which the excesses would be very displeasing to God. Let us credit him with good, sane principles and correct knowledge. When all this has been granted, we still affirm that without humility, the apostle will not be able to hold a middle course between the two extremes, and that this behavior will either betray weakness or, more likely, overweening pride.

“On the one hand, he will yield to a false humility and become timid, allowing the spirit of charity to degenerate into weakness. He will be ready to make any exaggerated concession, to seek conciliation at any price, and a thousand pretexts will serve to overcome his zeal for maintaining his principles. He will be prepared to sacrifice them for any motive of human prudence, or any immediate material gain, without a thought for the ultimate consequences.

“Or else, on the other hand, his purely natural way of doing things, and the misdirection of his will, will bring into play his pride, his touchiness, his Ego. There will follow any number of personal dislikes, attempts to lay down the law, bitterness, spite, rivalries, antipathies, jealousies, a purely human desire to get ahead of everybody else, calumnies, backbiting, sarcastic talk, a wordly spirit of partisanship, great harshness in defending his principles, and so on.

“The glory of God, instead of remaining the true end in the pursuit of which our passions can be sublimated, will be reduced, by such an apostle as we are describing, to the level of a pretext and a means of supporting and encouraging and excusing his passions in all that is weakest and most human about them. The slightest attack upon the glory of God, or upon the Church, will be the signal for an outburst of anger in which the psychologist will be able to see that the apostle is rushing to the defense of his own personality or of the privileges of his religious caste in society, insofar as it is a human group, and not showing devotion to God’s cause, which is the sole reason for the existence of the Church insofar as it is a perfect Society instituted by Our Lord.

“Correct doctrine and good judgment will not be enough to preserve him from these aberrations, because the apostle without interior life, and, therefore without humility, will be at the mercy of his passions. Humility alone, by keeping him to the path of right judgment and preventing him from acting on impulse, will maintain a more perfect balance and stability in his life. It will unite him to God, and so make him participate, in a sense, in the changelessness of God. In the same way, the frail strands of ivy become strong and stable with all the unshakable strength of the oak when, with all its fibers, it clings to the sturdy trunk of this forest king.

“Let us therefore not hesitate to recognize that, without humility, if we do not fall into the first error, our nature will carry us into the second; or else we will float in and out with the tide, according to circumstances or to the impulsion of our passions, now towards one extreme and again towards the other. We will bear out St. Thomas’ words that man is a changing being, constant only in his inconstancy.

“The logical result of such an imperfect apostolate will be either that men despise an authority that has no strength, or mistrust, and even detest, an authority which does not give forth any reflection of God.”

The Soul of the Apostolate. Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O. Tan Publishers. pp. 133-135. Copyright 1946. The Abbey of Gethsemane. Copyright 1974. The Trustees of the Merton Legacy.

The Case for Ad Orientem Worship

I came across an interesting article that neatly sums up my thoughts about ad orientem worship in the Catholic Mass.  What does ad orientem mean?  It’s the opposite of versus populum.

There are three variations of the Mass in the Roman Catholic Church.  From oldest to newest, they are:

  1. The Tridentine.  This form is also known as the “Old Latin Mass,” the “Tridentine Mass,” or the “Extraordinary Form.”  This is the way Mass was said before the reformed liturgy that was created after Vatican II.  In this form of the Mass, the priest is required to face the altar.  It’s not that he has his back to the people.  It’s that he is facing God in the tabernacle.  The whole architecture of the church building is based on the architecture specified in the Bible for the construction of the temple in Jerusalem.  As required in the Jewish temple sacrifice, the priest faces the “Holy of Holies” as he sacrifices the bread and wine.  The symbolism is very, very deep and powerful.
  2. The Novus Ordo.  This is the form most Catholics today experience every Sunday. It is more commonly known as the “new Mass.”  The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM), which is church’s law for how the Novus Ordo is to be celebrated, actually assumes the priest is facing the altar (i.e., ad orientem) most of the time, including specific instructions for him to turn to face the people at specific times, such as at the Sign of Peace.  It does, however, allow him to say Mass facing the people (i.e., versus populum).
  3. The Divine Worship Missal.  This is a form of Mass based on the way Mass has been said for centuries in the Anglican church.  It was approved for use in parishes designated as “Anglican Use” parishes by local Roman Catholic bishops.  These parishes are intended generally for Roman Catholics who used to be Anglicans or Episcopalians.  It is also the official liturgy of the three “personal ordinariates” for former Anglicans.  The Anglican Use Mass is celebrated ad orientem.

So in all three of three forms of Mass in the Roman Catholic Church, Mass is celebrated facing the altar (ad orientem).  In only one form is the option of facing the people available.  But it is an option that has become the norm.

It’s amazing that there has been such a kerfluffel in the Catholic world about Cardinal Sarah’s encouragement of a practice that is actually supposed to be the way it’s done–even if it’s generally ignored by almost all priests.

All Cardinal Sarah encouraged is that priests “face east” more frequently, and that Advent would be a particularly meaningful time to re-introduce Catholics to this practice, with the symbolism of commonly “looking to the east” for the advent of the Lord.

But the narcissim so prevalent in society seems to make such thoughts seem to most people to be almost ecclesiastical hate speech.

But here’s an article that makes the case more effectively:  I suggest you read it to understand why it’s so important.

The vast majority of Catholic priests are facing the wrong way

Some good news… about pornography

I have an email list I sometimes send interesting articles to.  It’s composed of a group of Catholic men I know.  The only qualifications to be on the list are that I know them, they’re Catholic, and they haven’t asked me to take them off.  I hadn’t sent anything to the list in several months, nor posted on this blog during that time.  I’ve just had other things on my mind.

But today I came across this article (linked below) and thought this would be a good one to send on.

Pornography is a crucial battle of our times.  The scientific evidence is overwhelming that the availability and prevalence of both soft and hard pornography, unique to our time in history, is having a devastating effect on marriage, family life, the happiness of single people, and society as a whole.

It can be an awkward conversation to have with our friends and sons, but it just may be one that puts them on the road to breaking the addiction so many have.  Of course we all have to be on our guard at all times.  Just because some of us are getting older doesn’t mean we don’t face temptation and don’t occasionally fall.  We have a grave responsibility as fathers and friends to encourage our sons and friends to live a life of purity.  It’s so crucial for their own happiness and salvation, and the happiness and salvation of their families and friends!  This is one of the things for which we will have to answer to God.

So how do we live out this responsibility?  First, by fighting the fight ourselves!  We live it by our example.  By having very high personal standards for what we watch on television and the internet.  By developing a habit of averting our eyes when we see scantily clad women.  By watching our speech for signs of coarseness and sexually-laced humor.

But one of the most effective means will be having occasional frank conversations with our friends and sons, in which we openly acknowledge that we’re all tempted to impurity and have failed in this regard.  We don’t have to give all the details, especially with our sons.  But a conversation like this opens the channels of communication and camaraderie, helping them see that they’re not alone in this struggle, that they’re not bad men because they’ve succumbed.  It gives us an opportunity to encourage them to immediately get back up, dust themselves off, get to confession as soon as possible, and to begin again.

It has been my experience that most men who have any substance to them want to be better men than they are, and are actually relieved to have such a conversation with a friend.  They know what they’re doing is wrong, they feel bad about it, they feel isolated, and they think their friends can’t actually be struggling with the same thing, especially if their friend is known to be a practicing Catholic who takes their faith seriously.  They think the priest will be shocked if they confess it.

But the devil is the father of lies, isolation, and darkness.  The guilt, isolation, and embarrassment are the tools he uses to keep us chained in this sin.  We have to help our friends and sons see that the liberation we experience by confessing these sins to a priest and receiving absolution is worth any embarrassment we might feel.  We have to help them learn how to use the other means to overcome this sin, too:  devotion to the Blessed Mother (especially through the practice of saying the Rosary each day and three Hail Marys every night for purity), daily examination of conscience, and frequent reception of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, provided they’ve first confessed their serious sins, including pornography.  We have to help them understand that it will be hard to break the habit, and that victory won’t be immediate.  But they can achieve freedom from this sin, and the effort is worth it!  But we can do this only if we have open and frank discussions about this rather embarrassing topic.

I hope the article below gives you some encouragement to know that society is beginning to acknowledge the harm pornography causes.  Nevertheless, it’ll certainly be a while before our culture provides the support men need to live lives of purity, but the tide seems to be turning, with acknowledgment at the highest levels of government that pornography is a serious societal problem.

I also hope that if you are personally struggling with this sin, or any other serious sin, that you go to confession, telling the priest all your sins, being completely open with him, regardless of the embarrassment you feel.  If you are too embarrassed to go to your parish priest, then go to a priest who does not know you.  I guarantee you he will not be shocked.  On the contrary, he will rejoice that you have returned to the Lord.  Remember that the Prodigal Son didn’t even have time to finish that little speech he had prepared to give to his father before his father ran to him, embraced and kissed him, put a ring on his finger, and ordered the fatted calf to be prepared for a feast, celebrating that his son had returned.  This is the welcome we can always expect when we return to the Lord after wallowing in the mud of sin, no matter how long it’s been, and no matter how badly we’ve sinned.

You don’t have to fight this fight alone.  If you try, you’ll probably fail.  Ask your friends for their prayers.  And pray for them.  Go to confession.  Ask the Lord to wash you in His Blood.  Have confidence that He loves you more than you can imagine, no matter what you’ve done, and that He wants to make you clean, welcome you home, and restore you to your former dignity.

The article is on LifeSite News.  It is entitled Be encouraged: There is some surprisingly good news about porn.  I hope you all take the time to read it.

One of the guys on the list responded with a link to a short video about The Science of Pornography Addiction.  I haven’t been able to get it to load, but there’s the link, just in case it works for you.

Regarding that list of Catholic Men I occasionally send emails to… I’m willing to remove requirements 1 & 2.  If you’d like to be on the list, just send me an email at: