Catholic Stuff (2013-14)
(musings on matters of religion, faith and morals)

More recent 'Catholic Stuff' postings can be found here.

Grinding Old Bones: Daniel Hannan, author of 'Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World', wrote about 14th Century theologian John Wycliffe, whose writings inspired part of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Wycliffe, a Catholic priest, opposed the selling of indulgences and other Catholic practices. He was one of the earliest opponents of papal authority over secular power. Wycliffe insisted that holiness an individual was more important than official office; that is, a truly pious person was morally superior to a wicked ordained cleric. The Church hierarchy was not pleased.

While he was saying Mass in the parish church on Holy Innocents' Day, 28 December 1384, he suffered a stroke, and died as the year ended. "The Holy See considered him such an abominable heretic that, 44 years after he had died, his bones were dug up, ground to powder and cast into a river." Shortly thereafter, the Catholic Church it also declared Wycliffe's follower Jan Hus - a Czech priest, philosopher and reformer - to be a heretic, defrocked him and had him burned at the stake.

So much for Rest In Peace. This is making me think twice about being buried in a Catholic cemetery. (posted 12/16/14, permalink)

The State Of Catholicism: Short version ... it's not too good these days. According to a 2013 Pew Research study, "Nearly one-third of Americans who were raised Catholic no longer describe themselves as Catholics. Overall, American Catholic churches lost 5% of their membership during the last decade, and the decline would have been much steeper if not for the offsetting impact of Catholic immigrants from Latin America."

Then there's the struggle that many Catholic parishes are having in recent years - the parishes' faithful financial supporters have moved away or died - and the Latinos who replaced them won't volunteer to help out with parish duties/activities the way Anglos did.

Cuban immigrants are and exception and have been great supporters of parishes, both financially and volunteer-wise. On the other hand, Mexicans fail to provide much in the way of volunteers or money. The authors make no reference to the parish financial difficulties caused when the mix changes from Anglo to Mexican. One usher I spoke to characterized the difference as "twenties versus dollar bills."

The shortage of priests is worsening. While the number of priests in the United States more than doubled to 58,000, between 1930 and 1965, since then that number has fallen to 45,000. By 2020, there will be only 31,000 priests left, and more than half of these priests will be over 70. Between 1965 and 2002, the number of seminarians dropped over 90% - from 49,000 to 4,700. Two-thirds of the 600 seminaries that were operating in 1965 have now closed.

Then there's the low rate of ordinations: In 1965, 1,575 new priests were ordained in the United States. In 2002, the number was 450. In 1965, only 1 percent of U.S. parishes were without a priest. Today, there are 3,000 priestless parishes, 15% of all U.S. parishes. The drop in female religious has also been precipitous: In 1965, there were 180,000 Catholic nuns. By 2002, that had fallen to 75,000 and the average age of a Catholic nun is today 68. In 1965, there were 104,000 teaching nuns. Today, there are 8,200, a decline of 94% since the end of Vatican II.

The U.S. has about 60-65 million Catholics. Catholic marriages have fallen 33% since 1965, while the annual number of annulments has soared from 338 in 1968 to 50,000 in 2002. Furthermore, about 30% of all Catholic marriages end in divorce. "Although the Catholic divorce rate is lower than the U.S. average, it is still a daunting figure," said Mark Gray of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

A 1958 Gallup Poll reported that three in four Catholics attended church on Sundays. A recent study by the University of Notre Dame found that only one in four now attend.

A 2014 Pew survey found that close to 85% of self-identified Catholics between the ages of 18 and 29 believe gays and lesbians should be accepted by society, according to a 2014 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. These younger Catholics are also supportive of legalizing same-sex marriages, with 75% throwing their weight behind the concept.

So, should the Catholic Church become more tolerant and liberal? Ask the Anglicans how that's working out. Out of 60 million people in the United Kingdom, home of the Church of England, only 1.1 million, or about 2%, go to church every week. Its U.S. counterpart, the Episcopal Church, is declining in membership at a rate of 1.4% per year.

On the other hand, the number of Mormons - belonging to a religion with conservative values - in the United States increased by nearly 50% between 2000 and 2010.

Here's my three-point suggestion for the Catholic Church: 1. Stick to your values. 2. Preach your values and 3. Practice your values ... three things those pervy priests and whack-job liberal clergy seem to have forgotten. (posted 11/19/14, permalink)

Christianity, Medical Care, Islam And The Mid-Term Elections: The Catholic Church is the oldest institution in the Western World and the originator of 'hospitals'.

Just as the Syrian Christian Church did in the East, the Catholic Church in the West pioneered putting into practice the words of Jesus: "I was sick and you visited me'." And "Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, so you have done unto me."

Some ancient cultures had some medical/superstitious practices, they were primarily for the rich and royal. Healthcare for the poor traces its roots to Christianity.

In the 4th century, under the ministry of St. Jerome, a wealthy Christian widow named St. Fabiola gave money to build a hospital for the poor in Rome and cared for the sick herself. Around the same time, St. Basil distributed food to the poor of Caesarea, then built a poorhouse, hospice, and hospital.

In 325 AD, the Council of Nicea directed that every city having a cathedral should also have a hospital, as people traveling on pilgrimages would often arrive ill. In the 6th century, the Benedictine Order had every monastery establish an infirmary. With the invasion of Islam, hospitals needed to be defended, giving rise to the order of Knights of Hospitallers, during the Middle Ages.

The word "hosp" is Latin for "traveler," the root word of hospital, hospitality, host, hostel and hotel. Hospitals were staffed by religious orders. The Benedictine Monastery in Salerno, Italy, founded the oldest and most famous medical school.

At the request of President Abraham Lincoln, over 200 Sisters of Charity served during the Civil War on battlefields and in military hospitals. During the Civil War most of the nurses were Catholic nuns. At Gettysburg, a dozen Daughters of Charity practiced nursing on the battlefield. They had a priest with them, as well to comfort the injured and give Last Rites to the dying. In Gettysburg, St. Francis Xavier Church became a battlefield hospital. Stained glass windows in the church depict scenes of wounded soldiers being cared for by Catholic nuns. The celebration of an outdoor field Mass commemorating the dead and wounded has long been a tradition for the parish.

Charity Hospital run by the Sisters of Charity in New Orleans, along with the Upjohn company developed the plasma system in the 1930's that saved so many lives in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and in the Middle East now. Today, one out of five people in this country receive their medical care at a Catholic hospital.

When the Catholic Church was founded, there were no schools. Today, the Catholic Church teaches 3 million students a day, in its more than 250 Catholic Colleges and Universities, in its more than 1,200 Catholic High Schools and its more than 5,000 Catholic grade schools - just in the U.S.

Every day, the Catholic Church feeds, clothes, shelters and educates more people than any other organization in the world.

Recently, Barack Obama said, "The USA is not a Christian Nation." He is wrong - we are a Christian Nation founded on Judeo-Christian values allowing all religions in America to worship and practice freely ... something that Islam will never do. Obama celebrates Ramadan, spends our money on expensive Feel-good Muslim programs at NASA and elsewhere, while filing lawsuits against the Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the 'purest' charities in the world.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has asked Obama, "Mr. President, when did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church? ... The bill that is being voted on this floor, if it were adopted, would fine the Little Sisters of the Poor millions of dollars unless these Catholic nuns are willing to pay for abortion-producing drugs for others."

"Let me make a basic suggestion," Cruz continued. "If you're litigating against nuns, you have probably done something wrong, and the Obama Administration is doing so right now. Mr. President, drop your faith fines. Mr. Majority Leader, drop your faith fines. To all of my Democratic colleagues, drop your faith fines. Get back to the shared values that stitch all of us together as Americans."

In a 2014 interview, Cardinal Raymond Burke said that Obama "promotes anti-life and anti-family policies."

"It is true that the policies of the president of the United States have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies," said Burke. The former archbishop of St. Louis stated that Obama is trying to "restrict" religion.

Burke took a swipe against Obama's Affordable Care Act over the law's birth control mandate, saying "such policies would have been unimaginable in the United States even 40 years ago."

Now let's talk about Islam, the religion that Barry O. always bends over to please. What about Muslim heritage, education and culture in America? Have you ever been to a Muslim hospital, heard a Muslim orchestra, seen a Muslim band march in a parade, know of a Muslim charity, ever seen Muslims shaking hands with a Muslim Girl Scout or ever seen a Muslim candy striper volunteering in a hospital?

Have you ever seen a Muslim do much of anything that contributes positively to the American way of life? I didn't think so.

Obamacare, with its various life-killing anti-Christian regulations will smother religious charities. Taxpayers would have to make up the loss. All Catholic adoption services will come to an end ... a human disaster.

There are more than 77 million Catholics in the USA. It takes an estimated 50 million Catholic votes to elect a president.

Whether you are Catholic, Christian or Jew, when you go to the polls to vote in the mid-term elections this November, vote against those politicians who align themselves with Obama's evil agenda. Do this even if they claim to be "supporters" of Judeo-Christian values. They are liars. I'm thinking of prominent CINOs (Catholics In Name Only), such as Nancy Pelosi, Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Dick Durbin, Pat Leahy and Joe Biden - Democrats and pro-abortionists all, although not all of them are up for reelection this cycle. (posted 9/12/14, permalink)

Aging And The Futile Quest For Earthly Immortality: There's a famous Woody Allen quote, "I want to achieve immortality through not dying." Over at the Sippican Cottage blog, Gregory Sullivan wrote wisely, "Sooner or later it's not your turn anymore. People take your place. You may not like it, but it's the way of the world.

You could be like Ray Kurzweil, self-absorbed and dreaming of paying bemused men in lab coats to Ted Williams your noggin after you shuffle off this mortal coil, but you're wasting your time. Believe me, Ray, no matter how much money you pay those guys to Birds Eye your head, they'll get high after lunch and accidentally kick out the plug while they're playing hacky sack, plug it back in when they sober up and realize what they've done, and when they finally defrost you and sew your head on a used Japanese sex doll with a Pentium chip where your heart used to go, you'll be about as useful as a Kardashian."

You want eternal life? Pray, live a good life and help others. If you do, your soul will survive bodily death, continuing in the possession of an endless conscious existence with God in Heaven. This is the basis for the Christian faith.

An agnostic friend once asked me, "How can you be sure there's an afterlife?" I told him that I'm not sure. But, there's no downside to being a Believer. I mean, if it turns out that I'm wrong and there's Nothing - if everything just Fades to Black, it's not like a ghostly Nelson Muntz is going to appear and mockingly guffaw, "Haw Haw."

I hope that the afterlife is more like Jim Benton's cartoon.

Mr. Sullivan continued, "Elderly people should command respect for what they've accomplished. That's different than trying to play T Ball when you're forty. Young people are a barrel of beer and old people are a fine liqueur - if they're smart enough to keep distilling their whole life." That's part of the Living a Good Life thing.

In 'Profiles of the Future', Arthur C. Clarke predicted that mankind would achieve earthly immortality by the end of the 21st Century. But Arthur's dead now and I doubt that Gregory Sullivan or I will be around to experience this technological phenomenon. It's just as well; I doubt that my Individual Retirement Account would last for eternity.

I don't think earthly eternal life would be much fun if you're broke. How would I get gas money for my '39 Plymouth coupe? (posted 8/29/14, permalink)

The War On Catholics: While politicians, especially President Obama, bend over backwards to appease Muslims, the war on Christianity continues, especially for Catholics and Southern Baptists.

joe sherlock blog

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) criticized Senate Democrats and their legislation to circumvent the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision by explaining that their bill would impose "faith fines" on groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who refuse to subsidize abortion-inducing drugs, and asked, "Mr. President, when did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church? ... The bill that is being voted on this floor, if it were adopted, would fine the Little Sisters of the Poor millions of dollars unless these Catholic nuns are willing to pay for abortion-producing drugs for others."

"Let me make a basic suggestion," Cruz continued. "If you're litigating against nuns, you have probably done something wrong, and the Obama Administration is doing so right now. Mr. President, drop your faith fines. Mr. Majority Leader, drop your faith fines. To all of my Democratic colleagues, drop your faith fines. Get back to the shared values that stitch all of us together as Americans."

The Catholic Church should show its displeasure by excommunicating 'Catholic-in-name-only' politicians such as Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. And suggesting that Barack Obama may be the anti-Christ. That should get some press. (posted 7/22/14, permalink)

The View From Rome: The Vatican's chief justice feels that President Barack Obama's policies have been hostile toward Christians.

In an interview with Polonia Christiana magazine, Cardinal Raymond Burke said that Obama "promotes anti-life and anti-family policies."

"It is true that the policies of the president of the United States have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies," said Burke. The former archbishop of St. Louis stated that Obama is trying to "restrict" religion.

Burke took a swipe against Obama's Affordable Care Act over the law's birth control mandate, saying "such policies would have been unimaginable in the United States even 40 years ago."

"In a democracy, such a lack of awareness is deadly," Burke related. "It leads to the loss of the freedom which a democratic government exists to protect. It is my hope that more and more of my fellow citizens, as they realize what is happening, will insist on electing leaders who respect the truth of the moral law as it is respected in the founding principles of our nation." Amen. (posted 3/31/14, permalink)

Separated At Birth? Every time I see Pope Francis, I'm reminded of the late comic Ed Wynn.

I guess you have to be of a certain age to remember Mr. Wynn; he was a popular American comedian and actor noted for his Perfect Fool comedy character. He hosted a popular radio show, 'The Fire Chief', during the 1930s; it was sponsored by Texaco gasoline. He was often photographed wearing a too-small firemen's helmet. Wynn was offered the title role in MGM's 1939 film, 'The Wizard of Oz', but turned it down.

Ed Wynn was often seen on early television, either hosting his own show or as a guest on other popular shows. Wynn provided the voice of the Mad Hatter in Walt Disney's film, 'Alice in Wonderland'.

I wonder what the Pope would look like if he swapped his Papal Mitre for a little fireman's hat. (posted 3/12/14, permalink)

The Power And The Glory: Pope Francis has urged his religious flock to drive "humble" and avoid ostentatious cars. The Pope said, "It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model year car; you can't do this."

Apparently, Pope Benedict's own choice for transportation within Vatican City is a modest Ford Focus.

I dunno. I haven't seen any priests driving ostentatious autos lately. When I was growing up, I remember seeing Philadelphia's Cardinal arrive at an event in a glorious black Cadillac 75 limousine but, heck, the guy was the head of a large and wealthy Archdiocese. The big, powerful Caddy was usually driven by a priest - the Cardinal's assistant. I often wondered if that was a coveted job or not. On one hand, you were close to the center of power. On the other hand, I can imagine the guy mumbling, "I spent ten years studying theology so I could spend my time at the Cadillac dealership waiting for the oil to be changed - are you kidding?"

In those days, bishops were often seen piloting large black Buick or Cadillac sedans.

In the 1950s and '60s, most parish priests drove dark-colored (often black), ordinary cars - base model Fords, Chevys, etc. The pastor of our fairly-prosperous parish drove a seven year-old black Nash Statesman. Nuns traveled in groups and seemed to be found filling up nine-passenger, entry-level station wagons, often humble black Plymouths.

In the 1980s, there was a bishop serving as pastor of our Oregon parish. He drove a charcoal Honda Accord sedan. Didn't seem ostentatious to me. Still doesn't. (posted 7/12/13, permalink)

When Pope Nancy Pelosi Kicks Me Out Of The Catholic Church .... I guess I won't look at becoming an Episcopalian: "St. Mark's Church in the Bowery holds Christian services in its sanctuary every Sunday morning at 11 am. Unlike most churches, on the last Sunday in June, the Episcopal church hangs the disco ball, turns up the music and invites a disco diva to lead their music ministry for the annual Gay Pride Disco Mass."

"The Disco Mass at St. Mark's is a longstanding tradition that offers the church a way to celebrate Pride weekend festivities in a worship style that has ranged from camp and drag to liberationist," explains St. Mark's pastor, the Rev. Winnie Varghese, herself an out lesbian.

"The service invokes the community feel of the era of gay liberation before AIDS. We open with 'Love Train', use the readings assigned for the day, which always seem to work out well.

We include 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' as the preparation for communion, and end with 'We Are Family', which turns the sanctuary floor into a dance party."

Ummmmmmm .... no, thanks, Winnie. And don't let that big disco ball hit ya in the ass on the way outta 'church'. (posted 7/8/13, permalink)

Heretical Harridan: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi condemned a bill that would prohibit abortions during the final four months of pregnancy with exceptions for when the life or physical health of the mother was at stake.

Asked what the moral difference is between what Dr. Kermit Gosnell did to babies born alive and aborting those same infants moments before birth, Pelosi got annoyed refused to answer.

"As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this," Pelosi said. "I don't think it should have anything to do with politics."

This deplorable woman is a CINO - Catholic In Name Only. I wish her bishop had the guts to excommunicate her. She has given him numerous reasons to do so. Pelosi is the poster child for all those who claim to be Catholics but publicly speak against its very principles.

As a popular Democratic politician, she probably has a concierge-level reservation in the Kennedy Wing of Hell. (posted 6/18/13, permalink)

car blogCongratulations ... to my cousin, Tommy Lyons, who just received the 2013 Golden Hawk Award from St. Joseph's Preparatory School in Philadelphia.

The Prep released a statement, noting that Tom Lyons (Class of 1960) "may be the walking definition of a 'Man for and with Others'. Throughout his life, Tom has worked to ensure that his success directly benefits his fellow man.

A native of Northeast Philadelphia's Oxford Circle section, Tom attended St. Martin of Tours. As a student at the Prep, he was a member of the freshman crew, acted in Cape and Sword and was a class officer. He then attended Saint Joseph's University, where he received a Bachelors degree in Marketing. After serving two years in the Army, he attended Temple University, where he earned a spot in Beta Gamma Sigma, the business honors society while attaining an MBA.

His professional career was spent in the Marketing Department of Astra Zeneca. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pharmaceutical Marketing and Research Association. He also served as an adjunct professor at SJU, West Chester and University of the Sciences. After retiring from Astra Zeneca, he and a colleague formed AIM (Answers for Issues in Marketing) where he worked for five years.

That, however, does not adequately measure Tom. He has been giving of himself in service to others his entire life. He was named Wilmington School District's Mentor of the Year and was President of the School Board and CYO Athletic Director at St. Margaret's Church in Narberth. He is also active in Aid for Friends, bringing food and companionship to an elderly home bound man.

Since retiring, Tom has remained active. He wrote a book, 'You Can't Get to Heaven on the Frankford El', with the proceeds going to defray the tuition for students at St. Malachy's, Sacred Heart and a school in Nicaragua. He is a member of the SJP Man for Others, which published a book about Fr. Rob Currie, S.J. '58, with proceeds supporting an award for a Prep junior. Tom is a contributor to The Prep News, the Irish Edition and The Spirit. He is on the board for the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute and the historical committee at St. Ann's Church.

Tom is extremely loyal. He serves on the Prep's Board of Governors and organizes many semi-annual class events. He and his wife Pat have three sons, TJ '87, Drew '89 and Sean '93.

It is for these reasons and many more that the Prep honors him."

I'm proud to be Tommy's cousin. And what a cousin he is - he and I are second cousins, meaning we have grandparents who were siblings. In our case, we are triple second-cousins, because three out of four grandparents were siblings. I also lived next door to Tommy when I was growing up - twice. From 1944-47 and 1955-62. He and I used to car-pool with teacher Nick Kueny to high school every day.

Tommy's award is well-deserved. He's a great guy. And a great cousin. (posted 6/12/13, permalink)

Book Review: 'Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians' by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea

This is not a pleasant book. It contains documented accounts of the persecution - harassment, abuse, torture and murder - of Christians in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and former Soviet nations. A woman caught with a Bible is publicly shot to death. Priests, ministers and lay religious are abducted and never seen again. Three buses full of students and teachers are struck by roadside bombs. These stories of persecution and martyrdom will break your heart and make the book a difficult read at times.

The two major sources of anti-Christian persecution in the world are Islam and Communism. Christians are the world's most widely persecuted religious group, according to studies by the Pew Research Center, Newsweek, and the Economist.

Recently, Vatican spokesman Monsieur Silvano Maria Tomassi said, "Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year."

The U.S. government keeps telling us about our "friends," Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but these friends have decidedly anti-Christian attitudes. Saudi Arabia with its radical state religion, Wahabism, is one of the worst offenders. It's where al Qaeda movement began.

It is worth remembering that ... (more >>>)

Papal Bull: Pope Francis has attacked the "dictatorship" of the global financial system and warned that the "cult of money" was making life a misery for millions.

He said free-market capitalism had created a "tyranny" and that human beings were being judged purely by their ability to consume goods. He also said that money should be made only to "serve" people. Presumably other people, as opposed to the ones making the money.

When you sit on a golden throne, I guess it's pretty easy to lecture people that money is the root of all evil. Like many of his predecessors, this Pope is clueless about basic economics. The fact is money is simply a way to convert the fruits of one's labor into a tradable form.

Francis called for countries to impose more control over their economies to prevent "absolute autonomy" and foster the "common good."

Good luck with that. Such a policy has already been tried in his beloved Argentina. "It has driven millions of Argentines into poverty by destroying the value of their savings, both through raw expropriation as happened in 2008 with private pensions (the money was taken under the aegis of helping "the poor"), and by repeated currency devaluations - the product of a government printing money to pay for its expansion of power after there was nothing left to steal."

The fact remains that free market capitalism has pulled more people out of poverty than any church has ever done. It promotes freedom and opportunity. Take it away and you turn into 1950s China. Or present-day Cuba. Both of which, I would remind the Pope, became godless nations. And poverty-stricken.

How poverty stricken? Here's a sample: Cuba's supposedly "emancipated" women are still boiling their babies' diapers over fires and washing machines, when available in Cuba, cost an entire year's salary (versus about 2.5 days' earnings for the average American). (posted 5/23/13, permalink)

Why Bother Going To A Catholic College Anymore? Gonzaga University will not allow students to organize a Knights of Columbus chapter because the group only admits Catholics – a violation of the school’s non-discrimination policy.

Gonzaga, a Jesuit Roman Catholic university in  Spokane, had concerns over the requirement that "all members of a student Knights of Columbus group must be Catholic."

"These criteria are inconsistent with the policy and practice of student organization recognition at Gonzaga University, as well as the University's commitment to non-discrimination based on certain characteristics, one of which is religion,” wrote Sue Weitz, the university's vice president for student life – in a letter obtained by the Cardinal Newman Society.

Once upon a time, non-Catholics eagerly enrolled at Catholic colleges because of the quality of education. They were exempt from mandatory religion classes and often couldn't join any Catholic-only social organizations. But, these differences never stopped them from getting a good education and enjoying most of the school's social functions.

Gonzaga students told The Cardinal Newman Society they had been trying to get university approval for the group for about a year - but school officials have been less than helpful. But, if a Transgendered Dwarf Society wanted in, they'd probably be approved lickety-split and given their own restroom with miniature toilets. Sigh. (posted 4/11/13, permalink)

A Graceful Exit: Pope Benedict XVI is leaving the building, citing age and health reasons for stepping down as leader of the Catholic Church. Despite all the rumors about Vatican political in-fighting - such infighting predates even the 16th Century Medicis, I take Benedict at his word. It is said that the 85 year-old Pontiff is blind in one eye, going deaf and has become gaunt. Perhaps he has a terminal disease. Or the beginning of Alzheimer's.

The world watched as Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, went through his final, painful decline. Many - including me - wondered if his decay in physical faculties was matched by a drop in mental acuity. It's good that Benedict is relinquishing his papal powers before this happens.

If you believe the prophesies of 12th Century prophet and Irish archbishop St. Malachy, the next Pope will be the last. Malachy supposedly wrote of the Last Pope: "In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit ... Peter the Roman, who will nourish the sheep in many tribulations; when they are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The end."

That sounds ominous. On the other hand, the Mayans weren't so good at predicting the end of the world. (posted 2/28/13, permalink)

Pasta Miracle: If you're cooking spaghetti and you notice white steam, you may have elected a new Pope. (posted 2/22/13, permalink)

Another Twisted Tale: Sadly, we live in an age where pervy priest stories have become almost everyday news. Headline: 'Cross-dressing meth priest liked sex in rectory'.

Here's how the article begins: "The Catholic priest busted for allegedly dealing crystal meth was suspended after church officials discovered he was a cross-dresser who was having sex in the rectory at Bridgeport's St. Augustine Cathedral (in Connecticut). Monsignor Kevin Wallin was relieved of his duties in May, but the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport had continued to pay him a stipend until his Jan. 3 arrest - a day he was planning to fly to London on vacation."

Dubbed 'Monsignor Meth', Wallin was selling upwards of $9,000 of meth a week, according to his indictment. "In his post-priesthood, Wallin, 61, bought an adult specialty and video store in North Haven (CT) called Land of Oz that sells sex toys and X-rated DVDs. Investigators believe the shop helped him launder thousands of dollars in weekly profits."

While pastor of St. Augustine's, Msgr. Wallin often disappeared for days at a time; and rectory personnel became concerned and "notified diocese officials when Wallin, sometimes dressed as a woman, would entertain odd-looking men, some who were also dressed in women's clothing and engaging in sex acts."

Here's the most appalling part of the story: "In addition, diocese officials found bizarre sex toys in Wallin's residence, the sources said. Diocese officials consulted lawyers about the situation and were assured none of Wallin's behavior appeared illegal."

It is an indictment of Church hierarchy that their priority was consulting with lawyers rather than immediately throwing this pervert out of the Catholic Church. (posted 1/24/13, permalink)

Under The Front Lawn: The 1944 film, 'Going My Way' won seven Oscars, including Best Picture. You can usually find this Irish-Catholic celluloid epic playing on one of the movie channels around Christmas and St. Patrick's Day.

The film focuses on Father Chuck O'Malley (Bing Crosby) who rescues the fictional St. Dominic's parish in NYC from financial ruin while the elderly, curmudgeonly pastor, Fr. Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), fights O'Malley's new-fangled ideas as well of his love of golf. Best line of the movie comes from Fr. Fitzgibbon: "A golf course is nothing but a poolroom moved outdoors."

Nevertheless, O'Malley's savvy helps him connect with a gang of kids looking for direction and handle the business details of the church's building fund, eventually winning over Barry Fitzgerald's character.

The film is a poignant reminder of the way Catholic parishes used to be - when everyone knew each other and the pastor stayed on until he died and was interred in the parish graveyard (if there was one) or beneath the church (if it had a crypt) or on the front lawn.

We have several friends who have buried favorite pets in the front or back yard. We've done this, too. Getting buried in the yard is, it seems, a reward for good pastors and good dogs.

Pastor John P. McHugh was pretty much the founder of St. Martin of Tours parish, on Roosevelt Boulevard near Oxford Circle in Philadelphia. Ordained in 1909, Father McHugh faithfully served as assistant in several locations before being rewarded with his own parish in 1923. He had to start from scratch, fund-raising to build the necessary stone structures: church, school, convent and rectory at St. Martin. Fr. McHugh had already constructed the first floor of a new, larger church (the upper portion couldn't be completed due to a shortage of materials during World War II), when he died in 1948 at age 66.

By all accounts, Father McHugh was beloved by his parishioners and, accordingly, was entombed on the lawn in front of the rectory. He was a favorite of my grandparents, parents and various uncles and aunts who were members of the parish.

His successor, Father Walter A. Bower (he became a monsignor in the 1960s), served longer, from 1948 until his retirement in 1974. When Monsignor Bower died in 1994, he was interred in a Catholic cemetery in Redding, PA. Front yard burials had become passé.

It's not just the burial policy that's changed within the Church. Since the 1960s, most U.S. bishops have placed 'term limits' on pastors, moving them every 4-10 years. Priests and pastors must always go where they're needed and, with today's shortage of Catholic priests, you will likely have less access to clergy if your area is losing population. And the ones you do see will be shuffled around like musical chairs as dioceses struggle to deal with diminishing resources. No more lifetime tenures, like Fr. Fitzgibbon. Or Fr. McHugh.

I have no memory of Father McHugh, although I'm sure I met him, since he was a frequent visitor to our home. He died when I was only five years old.

Growing trees and shrubs have put Rev. McHugh's tomb in shadow and, I suspect, few of the current parishioners of St. Martin's remember him or know much about him. The parish is in shadow too, having gone from a fairly prosperous Irish and Italian semi-suburban parish to a poor Hispanic urbanized one which struggles to meet its monthly overhead.

Nevertheless, if John McHugh merited burial within St. Martin of Tours parish grounds, he did much in his life to deserve it. God rest his soul. (posted 1/10/13, permalink)

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Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.