Catholic Stuff (2018)
(musings on matters of religion, faith and morals)
Diluting Christianity: Kyrgyzstan Catholic Bishop Athanasius Schneider, when asked about the Catholic Church's call on nations to be "humanitarian" in dealing with illegal migrants, said, "The phenomenon of this so called "immigration" represents an orchestrated plan, prepared for a long time by the international powers to change radically the Christian identity of European populations. These powers are using the enormous moral potential of the Church and its structures to achieve more efficiently their anti-Christian and anti-European objectives. Towards these ends, the very concept of humanism and even the Christian commandment of charity are being abused." (posted 7/17/18, permalink)
Book Review: 'The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation' by Rod Dreher
In today's increasingly vulgar, secular world, how should Christians respond to a faith that is becoming increasingly marginalized? In this book, author and conservative columnist Rod Dreher proposes an answer: a return to the example of St. Benedict of Nursia, a sixth-century monk who created a monastic, simple way of life in response to the Dark Ages initiated by the collapse of the Roman empire.
Dreher encourages readers to ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism' by Ross Douthat
Conservative columnist (and Catholic convert) Ross Douthat relates the turmoil in the Church caused by Pope Francis' actions, writings and interviews. Douthat explains how this Pope has turned the papacy of John-Paul II and Benedict upside down and the danger he has created over giving sacraments to divorced & remarried Catholics and his prevarication over seemingly-settled issues such as homosexuality and abortion. Francis and his supporters seem to think, as the ... (more >>>)
The Irish And Abortion: Ireland is no longer the land of leprechauns, shamrocks and St. Patrick. Perhaps it never was. The Irish Republic was fictionalized and sanitized for American consumption in 'Darby O'Gill and the Little People' and a lot of old Barry Fitzgerald movies, such as 'The Quiet Man'. Or 'Going My Way' where Fitzgerald played elderly, curmudgeonly Catholic pastor, Father Fitzgibbon.
Once deemed "the world's most Catholic country," Ireland now has a population that is struggling in their relationship with Catholicism. Even though 84% of Irish claim to be Catholic, only about 18% of people in the Irish Republic regularly attend Mass, indicating a wide margin between those who claim to be Catholic and who are actively practicing. In 1984, nearly 90% of Irish Catholics attended weekly Mass.
In May 2018, Ireland voted decisively to repeal one of the world's more restrictive abortion bans, "sweeping aside generations of conservative patriarchy" and "dealing the latest in a series of stinging rebukes to the Roman Catholic Church," according to the New York Times.
Ireland now allows unrestricted abortion up until 12 weeks into pregnancy. In the past three years alone, Ireland has installed a gay man as prime minister and has voted in another referendum to allow same-sex marriage. The Irish may not have leprechauns anymore but they still have fairies.
By the time all the votes were counted, the 'yes' camp had taken more than 66% of the vote. About 64% of voters turned out. "Today is a sad day for Ireland and for people who believe in genuine human rights," said Cora Sherlock (no relation … as far as I know), deputy chairwoman of one of Ireland's biggest anti-abortion groups. "The struggle to defend the most vulnerable has not ended today, it's just changed. ... There's no doubt Ireland will be on the same slippery slope that other countries have gone down. Abortion works incrementally in the legal system, it becomes more widespread as the laws are loosened to allow for more and more cases." In an earlier interview, Cora opined that many Irish people "are in a dreamland if they think that there could never be sex-selection abortions, abortion on demand in Ireland or that babies with disabilities might be aborted."
The NY Times framed the election as a rejection of Catholic legacy. "The Church lost much of its credibility in the wake of scandals involving pedophile priests and thousands of unwed mothers who were placed into servitude in so-called Magdalene laundries or mental asylums as recently as the mid-1990s." Maybe. But the increased secularism of the Western world hasn't helped.
As to Ireland's slippery slope forecast by Ms. Sherlock, I would add that When Roe-v-Wade became U.S. law 45 years ago, abortion was promoted as an answer to unfortunate and tragic circumstances (rape, mother's life jeopardized, pregnant, severely-retarded women and the like). And, the aborted tissue was presented as nothing more than a group of cells - almost like one's appendix. But legalized abortion quickly became a form of birth control for the lazy and the careless. Later, "partial birth abortions" took the spotlight. This barbarous practice appalled many moderates who were formerly pro-abortion.
So-called pro-choice supporters frame abortion as "a women's health issue." Baloney. In most cases, abortions are not performed for health reasons. They are done to remove an inconvenient child. Meanwhile, scientific advances have made many early-term fetuses viable. Medical technology has vastly improved since 1973 and fetuses can now survive as early as 20 weeks - less than five months into the pregnancy.
The use of ultrasound has shown the public that very young and tiny fetuses look like babies, not blobs of protoplasm. The new queasiness over abortion is not simply due to increased efforts by the pro-life movement. Rather, it is because ordinary people now realize that abortion has run amok and the "tissue samples" being destroyed are, in actuality, children. Or near-children.
Regardless of how you feel about early abortion, after five months, it's a baby. As liberals like to say about climate change: "The science is settled." And, as scientific prenatal technology improves, the threshold of fetal survival will continue to drop.
Dr. Desmond Kelly of Westport, County Mayo, Ireland wrote, "Abortion is a final act. Its repercussions reverberate. Pregnancy is temporary and for mothers unwilling or unable to nurture their child there are thousands of couples willing to care for such children." (posted 5/28/18, permalink)
Is The Church Catholic Anymore? Western civilization and its traditional churches have lost their moorings. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI said that the spiritual crisis overtaking the West is the most serious since the fall of Rome near the end of the fifth century. He was right. Here are some recent signs:
• A large tableau, 'Christ of North Philadelphia', was restored and rededicated recently and is on display between side altars of Church of the Gesu in Philadelphia.
First erected in 1968, the tableau is intended to show that "Christ died for all men regardless of race." The scene shows a block of run-down row houses with a black Jesus, crucified on a telephone pole. "Christ on a telephone pole" sounds like an unfortunate expletive one might utter after accidentally whacking one's thumb with a large hammer. Black Jesus is wearing colorful surfer broadshorts in a Ghana Kente pattern, the kind of thing you might see if 'Beach Blanket Bingo' is ever remade with an all-black cast.
If the American Catholic Church wants to do Ethnic Jesus to pander to specific groups, why not do an Irish one? There are far more Irish-American Catholics than African-American Catholics. A large-headed statue of a red-haired, freckled man could be shown nailed to a giant famine-withered potato.
• Recently, I received an e-mail update from my Catholic high school. In the 'In Memoriam' section, names of former graduates and relatives were listed. Of the twenty or so listings, only one had a link to a specific obituary - J.D. McClatchy, Class of 1963. It turns out that he was a well-known poet. Mr. McClatchy also wrote poetry books about AIDs and other gay issues. The New York Times obit noted that "survivors include his husband, the noted book-jacket designer Chip Kidd, whom he married in 2013."
Couldn't the school link to an obit of someone who lived a more conventional life - one within the norms of Catholicism. (I had no problem writing positively about a deceased gay high-school classmate who lived his life quietly and productively.) And, if you're looking for a Catholic poet, there's always Elizabeth Jennings, thought by some to be England's best Catholic poet since Gerard Manley Hopkins.
• Then there's Pope Francis who recently wrote that, for a Christian, helping migrants was no less holy than opposing abortion. "Christianity is meant above all to be put into practice," he said. Francis once suggested that Donald J. Trump was "not Christian" for his desire to build a wall on the Mexican border. Ironically, the thick wall surrounding the Vatican was built by Pope Leo IV to keep out Muslim invaders.
The Church, at both Papal and Archdiocesan levels, has transformed the term 'migrant' - which once referred to temporary foreign workers who picked crops and then went back home - to its new code word for illegal aliens. Recently, the Archbishop of Seattle penned a piece, which began as an exhortation for peace on Earth (an unachievable goal so far in human history) and eventually drifted into the subject of migrants (illegals). Archbishop Sartaine invoked St. Frances Cabrini, who, during her lifetime, offered major support to Italian immigrants - legal ones - in the United States beginning in 1889. Mother Cabrini died in 1917 and was canonized in 1946.
• As for abortion, in January 2018, Pope Francis has conferred the title of 'Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great' on Lilianne Ploumen, a Dutch politician and vocal agitator for abortion rights. Last year, Ploumen founded a pro-abortion organization called 'She Decides', which offers funding and support for international NGOs that provide, facilitate or campaign for abortion. 'She Decides' is "a response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to cut off funding for overseas NGOs which facilitate abortion."
Pope Francis has also completely changed the composition of the Pontifical Academy for Life, removing almost 100 members and appointing 45 new ones. Shockingly, the Pope disbanded the Academy's mandatory pro-life oath that members previously were required to profess.
• The New York Times wrote that "it is Francis' prioritizing of social justice over culture-war issues such as abortion that has caused the sharpest internal divisions, with a small but committed group of conservative cardinals publicly suggesting that he is a heretical autocrat leading the faithful toward confusion and schism. … But the main rallying point for conservatives has been the doctrinal opposition to the pope's exhortation, 'Amoris Laetitia', which contained a footnote that seemed to open the door for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion."
• Then there is the issue of Fake Catholic Bishops in China: "In an unprecedented act that appears to be an act of surrender to China's communist regime, the Vatican has asked legitimate Chinese bishops to step down from their post in order to make way for the installation of new, illegitimate bishops, hand-picked by the atheistic government. … The genuine Catholic Church in China has, and continues, to operate underground, while the government runs the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a counterfeit church of communist-approved and monitored clerics. Bishops and priests of the underground church, which have been loyal to the pope and not the communist government, have faced imprisonment for their loyalty to the successor of Peter."
• Writing in The Federalist, Stella Morabito noted that "same-sex marriage, transgender acceptance, gay adoption all are being mainstreamed ... why should we care? Because erasing gender distinctions, especially as they apply to childbearing and rearing, would serve to legally un-define what it means to be human. A new legal definition of human - as neither male nor female - would apply to you whether you like it or not. Already, there is social pressure for everyone to comply with the gender theory notion that biological facts are mere "social constructs." … While Americans have been distracted by same-sex "marriage," transgender activists have been quietly changing laws all across the nation to redefine humanity on their terms. … As we navigate the labyrinths of identity politics, we must never forget that forcing changes in our language forces changes in our thoughts. And in the case of gender identity, this means accepting language that universally redefines - or perhaps more accurately, un-defines - us all." It is another sign of the West's decline. Asia and the Middle East are laughing at us.
I'm not recommending a return to the Middle Ages, when a simple visit to a Catholic confessional might have produced a harsh penance requiring a quick change into sack-cloth, ashes and sturdy sandals for a lengthy pilgrimage to St. James shrine in Spain. I am suggesting that Catholic and other Christian churches toss aside moral relativism and tacit approval of perversion and return to the basic principles of Christianity. (posted 5/16/18, permalink)
In Decline: An updated survey from Gallup, which it has conducted every 10 years since 1955, shows that only 39% of Catholics and 45% of Protestants attend church weekly. Back in 1955, about 75% of Catholics went to Mass every week. For Protestants, about 42% went to church weekly.
Church attendance has remained pretty steady for Protestants - although they are fewer in number now than in 1955 - but church attendance for Catholics has declined dramatically and, as Gallup reports, continues to fall. In 1955, Gallup found only 2% of the U.S. claimed no religious identity. In 2016, the same survey found that proportion had grown 10 times, to 20%.
The steepest drop for Catholics occurred between the 1950s and 1970s, caused by the upheaval of Vatican II's liberal reforms. Many, including me, are sick and tired of 'Kumbuya' folk music and "invented" ceremonies, that turn every low Mass into a time-wasting crap-songfest, excessive hand-holding, hugging and other creepy detritus.
Catholic church attendance in the United States fell an additional 6% between the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, the sharpest drop in decades. The largest decline is among older Catholics - 40 years-old and up, who are dismayed by the contrast between conservative Benedict and liberal Francis, who is known for making startling off-the-cuff remarks about moral questions. And wants us to be more like socialists. American Catholics between the ages of 50 and 59 saw the sharpest decline in Mass attendance between the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, dropping from 46 to 31%.
It is not just American Catholics: Ross Douthat wrote that record numbers of Italian Catholics "took steps to disaffiliate from the Church in 2015. In Brazil, the decline of Catholic numbers steepened in the Francis era, with nine million fewer Brazilians identifying as Catholics in 2016 than just two years before.. Likewise Australia: What had been a gentle decline in Catholic identification under John Paul and Benedict has accelerated in the 2010s."
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, primarily Mexico. But Mexi-centric parishes alienate many traditional Anglo Catholics, with the Spanish language Masses, unfamiliar ceremonies and celebrations. Some find more traditional parishes elsewhere; others simply drift away.
It has often been pointed out that Latinos won't volunteer to help out with parish duties/activities the way Anglos do/did. Based on discussions I've had with various parishioners in parishes throughout the U.S., 'Latinos' is too broad a classification. For example, Cuban immigrants are 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. One usher I spoke to characterized the difference as "twenties versus dollar bills" in the collection plate.
There are other problems as well:
• Today's Catholic churches are noted for lengthy, rambling, poorly-written homilies. I wish all sermons were restricted to five minutes. If you can't get your point across in that time, you're trying to cover too much ground. Or bloviating.
• The seemingly never-ending sexual abuse crisis was engendered by a hierarchy that has too often blamed the victims, not dealt with perpetrators in a swift and decisive manner, and the image of the clergy that has been tarnished by scandal.
• A worsening shortage of priests has reduced pastoral interaction with parishioners. 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 less than 37,000. More than half of these priests are 70 or over. Between 1965 and 2002, the number of seminarians dropped over 90% - from 49,000 to 4,700. Only 548 new priests were ordained last year and more than two-thirds of the 600 seminaries that were operating in 1965 have closed. More than 20% of U.S. parishes do not have a resident priest or pastor.
• More than ever there is the irresistible appeal of secular hedonism to healthy, well-educated populations. People are busy - with work, hobbies, etc. - and no longer consider church as a "social outlet" as in the past. Social media has become the new social outlets. Writing in the New York Times, funeral director Thomas Lynch noted that "times formerly spent in worship or communion are now spent shopping or Web-browsing or otherwise passing time. Many Americans are now spiritual tourists without home places or core beliefs to return to."
• Twenty percent of Americans now have no religious identity. In 1955, Gallup found only 2% of the country claimed no religious identity. In 2016, the same survey found that proportion had grown ten-fold.
• Modern society offers too many non-judgemental shades of gray. William Donohue of the Catholic League wrote, "The ascendancy of moral relativism - the denial of moral absolutes - has engulfed society. The nation's cultural elites are responsible for this outcome, including, sadly, some religious leaders."
Possible answers can be found by examining those churches which are thriving. Most are conservative. The number of Mormons - a religion with conservative values - in the United States increased by nearly 50% between 2000 and 2010. Looking at churches which are not thriving reveals that most are liberal, changing-with-the-times ones, such as the Anglican Church. Episcopalians have one of the lowest church attendance figures of all Christian denominations. But they are trendy - a New York Episcopal church offers an annual Gay Pride Disco Celebration with a mirrored disco ball, music and a disco diva to lead their music ministry.
Of Catholic parishes, David Warren wrote, "More-or-less all the 'New Mass', adaptive, modernist congregations are declining, with churches closing every day. And more-or-less all the 'Old Mass', rigid, traditionalist churches are growing, in congregations and vocations both. Those 'dinosaurs' out there are also having lots of children. It seems to me that the Holy Spirit is sorting us out, after all."
Perhaps a return to its traditional, conservative roots will turn the tide for the Catholic Church. (posted 4/24/18, permalink)
Hell, Yes! Pope Francis has declared, "There is no Hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls … those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear." But, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of Hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into Hell, where they suffer the punishments of Hell, 'eternal fire'. The chief punishment of Hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs."
In 1971, John Lennon - who some idiots think is God - sang, "Imagine there's no Heaven … It's easy if you try … No Hell below us … Above us only sky." Maybe there is a Hell, John: think of a small room full of two-dozen caterwauling Yokos. Sounds like Hell to me.
As for me, I know there's a Hell, because PBS travel guru Rick Steves has already visited it.
John Hinderaker offered a logical argument for its existence, writing, "Hell is philosophically and theologically important, because it is Hell that makes it irrational to be evil. Without Hell, monsters like Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, Ted Bundy, Fidel Castro, Vladimir Lenin, Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler would have the last laugh. They got away with mass murder and paid no penalty. Eternal oblivion? A painless coda to a lifetime of homicidal bliss." (posted 4/2/18, permalink)
Breaking The 'Render To Caesar' Rule: The Archdiocese of Seattle is running a series of 'Know Your Rights' workshops which seem to me to be tailored for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Last week, one was held at St. John the Evangelist Church in NE Vancouver, WA - about a 10 minute drive from my house.
The event, presented in Spanish, was attended by about 300 people, which was "held in the church sanctuary, with kids spilling out to the foyer and other rooms to watch a movie so their parents could concentrate on the presentations."
Immigration lawyer Larkin VanDerhoef "offered advice for immigrants on dealing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including:
• If immigration officers come to your door, they must have a warrant signed by a judge. Demand to see the warrant, but don't open the door. The officials can slide it under the door.
• If an immigration officer stops you on the street, you don't have to answer questions."
This is why I am rethinking my participation in the Archdiocese's Annual Catholic Appeal. I don't want my money used to facilitate lawbreaking. America is a nation of laws; had I known about this event in advance, I would have contacted ICE and alerted them. (posted 3/12/18, permalink)
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