Catholic Stuff (2018-19)
(musings on matters of religion, faith and morals)

Misguided Principles: In the April 2019 issue of Northwest Catholic magazine, an article listed the Catholic Principles of Migration, claimed to be the "church's position on migration is rooted in the Gospel and the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching. Five principles to help formulate migration-related policy were outlined in 'Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope', a joint pastoral letter of the Catholic bishops of the United States and Mexico." It was interesting to me that Mexico (which has quite harsh policies for illegal immigrants) and America (which struggles with an invasion of illegal immigrants) could agree on a joint statement. It is puzzling that Canada's bishops didn't participate, even though the country has its own immigration problems.

Here are the five principles (my comments are listed in bold typeface):

1. Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland. All persons have the right to find in their own countries the economic, political, and social opportunities to live in dignity and achieve a full life through the use of their God-given gifts. In this context, work that provides a just, living wage is a basic human need. If immigrants are working, why do they need so much charitable and government assistance? It should be noted that 57.4% of Mexican immigrants are on some kind of welfare. Percentages are alarmingly high for all Hispanics from Central American countries. By comparison, welfare among English and German immigrants are 6.2% and 10.3% respectively.

2. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families. The church recognizes that all the goods of the earth belong to all people. Sounds like something Karl Marx would have said.

When persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right. Sovereign nations have the duty to put the needs of their own citizens first.

3. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders. The church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories, but rejects such control when it is exerted merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth. More-powerful economic nations, which have the ability to protect and feed their residents, have a strong obligation to accommodate migration flows. Only if it is the will of the people of said nation. One such nation, the United States, has a $22 trillion dollar national debt. It continues to grow because the expenditure on so-called entitlements and social services far exceeds its income. My back-of-the-envelope calculation indicates that illegal immigrants cost taxpayers over $800 billion annually. No wonder our national debt is out of control.

It should be noted that today's illegal immigrants are carefully coached on the ways of working the 'safety net' to maximize the government benefits obtained. Some of this coaching is provided by the Archdiocese of Seattle.

4. Refugees and asylum-seekers should be afforded protection. Those who flee wars and persecution should be protected by the global community. The global community - does this include China? India? And other prominent members of the global community - such as Mexico, by the way - who have very strict immigration laws?

This requires, at a minimum, that migrants have a right to claim refugee status without incarceration and to have their claims fully considered by a competent authority. And until the "competent authority" has time to determine if such claims are valid, these alleged 'refugees' need to be locked up - for the protection of legitimate citizens. Or, better yet, require all applications for asylum, or any other request to enter the U.S. be made at our Embassy in their home country. They can wait there until they get a hearing.

5. The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected. Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity that should be respected. Often they are subject to punitive laws and harsh treatment by enforcement officers from both receiving and transit countries. Government policies that respect the basic human rights of the undocumented are necessary. Baloney. 'Undocumented migrants' is a euphemism for Illegal Aliens. They are lawbreakers and, therefore, criminals.

Recently, Donald Trump tweeted, "Mexico is doing nothing to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants to our Country. They are all talk and no action. Likewise, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have taken our money for years, and do Nothing."

The number of illegal immigrants daily crossing the U.S. border has hit a decade-long record of 4,100, said border commissioner Kevin McAleenan. Agency projections have border apprehensions on pace to exceed 100,000 this month - an increase of more than 30%. By comparison, at the height of the last border crisis, in May 2014, agents apprehended more than 68,800 illegal immigrants that month."

The unrestricted flow of illegals is bankrupting the U.S. It is already negatively affecting citizens (native-born and naturalized and immigrants who have played by the rules and are legal residents.)

The late Richard John Neuhaus, a prominent Catholic priest, philosopher and author wrote, "Our God-given duties begin with those to whom we are most proximate and have the greatest influence: our family, friends, neighbors, church and the wider community that is our nation. American Christians in 2014 are specially called to serve our nation, to seek its material and spiritual health, to help it fulfill its global duties, and to strive to align it with God's purposes of holiness, justice and peace whenever possible." In other words, charity begins at home. Family first. (posted 4/12/19, permalink)

Toss Them Out: Nine alleged-Catholic Senators, including Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell - both Washington State Democrats, voted against giving medical treatment to babies that survive abortion. They not only support abortion but infanticide of abortion survivors.

All nine should be publicly excommunicated for promoting infanticide. (posted 3/1/19, permalink)

The Future Of Catholicism? Father Matt Fish wrote that "working for the Catholic Church in America in 2019 feels something like working for Blockbuster Movies in 2005. We're still arguing about how we should display the DVDs, and meanwhile our current model and customer base is about to collapse.

Simply put: every diocese is full of parishes that have much smaller, now mostly older, congregations, in aging buildings with less money, and in a few short years we will hit the bell curve with both people and money. And we're barely talking about it. Our schools are closing, and those that remain are becoming "private" schools for those who can afford them, as we struggle to understand what "Catholic Identity" means for a student body, most of whom do not attend Sunday Mass. The average knowledge of the faith in most Catholic communities is at a low point, though it will probably get worse.

Meanwhile, the practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation has virtually disappeared, as have other traditions that had culturally marked Catholics in the past. No need to expand the laundry list. And the parishes and communities that are doing well are precisely exceptions that prove the rule. The point is, rather, how are we (especially Church authorities and leaders) not talking about this, addressing it, figuring out a plan?"

He added, "If you believe I'm exaggerating, just ask your diocese for the data from the last 40 years on weekend head-counts, offertory, and sacramental numbers. The change will shock you. And the numbers are about to hit an even steeper curve. … What we have here is the dying, if not decomposition already, of a large, once impressive, Catholic culture. What is needed is the birth and growth of a new Catholic culture. How the two relate I do not know." Me neither.

Of course, this is the opinion of only one priest but there are a lot of signs that he's on to something. Many parishes in big cities have closed; some reports attribute this to aging congregations mixed with a flight to the suburbs. The parishes being closed are usually 80 to 100 years old and neighborhood demographics have changed substantially during that time. Some parishes I know are actually expanding, so it's difficult for me to assess the condition of the American Catholic congregations overall.

Less than 22% of all self-identified Catholics attend Mass on Sundays, according to one study. Sixty years ago, that number was close to 75%.. Even worse is the ever-increasing shortage of priests. More than 20% of U.S. parishes do not have a resident priest or pastor. It used to be common for priests to visit the sick in hospitals. I've never encountered one during my various hospital stays over the past 13 years. I guess it's due to the shortage. But interestingly, I was visited on more than two occasions by a very nice Episcopal hospital chaplain while hospitalized in Portland.

Two years ago, I suggested remedies for the Catholic priest shortage. None have been implemented. (posted 2/25/19, permalink)

"The Road To Hell … is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path," said St. John Chrysostom, 4th Century Archbishop of Constantinople.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the archdiocese of New York is refusing to excommunicate Democrat New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the Catholic Church even after Cuomo signed into law new rules that permit babies to be aborted up to the day of birth. That's infanticide. When asked whether Communion should be denied to Cuomo at Mass, Dolan said such questions make him "restless," and he'd be "uncomfortable going into that" pastoral issue. Earlier, Cardinal Dolan had criticized President Trump's efforts to enforce immigration laws, claiming that the president "is not Christian."

Like her fellow nominally Catholic governor Andrew Cuomo, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, who is also nominally Catholic, supports legislation making abortions legal up until the moment of birth. Virginia has proposed similar legislation; its Democratic governor - a physician - has no problem with killing babies as they are born.

Judy McLeod wrote, "Cardinal Dolan, the governor and mayor are part of the deepening rot in the city known as The Big Apple. The cardinal, sitting elephant-like on Christian hearts and souls, will never excommunicate his buddy Gov. Cuomo. Though the current pope would never do it, it is Cardinal Dolan who should be excommunicated as well."

Rorate Caeli tweeted, "The case for the immediate excommunication of extreme abortion maniac Andrew Cuomo is so clear that the only explanation for Dolan's refusal to act is some kind of quid pro quo in favor of our corrupt hierarchy." Last week, a journalist asked Pope Francis why people are leaving the Catholic Church. "Hypocrites," the pope answered, possibly referring to himself. And/or Cardinal Dolan.

And, while on the subject of infanticide, it should be noted that Senator Patty Murray, D-WA and an alleged Catholic, blocked the unanimous passage of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a bill which would have required doctors to provide medical care to babies born alive during failed abortions. After Murray objected to the bill, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-IA, lamented on the Senate floor that this body "can no longer unanimously condemn murder."

J.J. Sefton wrote: "Patty Murray effectively killed a Ben Sasse bill that would protect children who survive the abortion murder process. It was brought up for unanimous consent but the shambling, bespectacled Moe-Howard-looking sack of lipids objected." And he posted a remarkable Photoshopped image of the obnoxious Murray.

When will Seattle Archbishop James Peter Sartain man up and excommunicate Patty Murray? (posted 2/5/19, permalink)

Is This Some Kind Of New Religion? The Church of England has encouraged its clergy to create baptism-style ceremonies for transgender people to welcome them into the Anglican faith.

"As a central part of the new service, called the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith, the minister lays their hands on the candidate or candidates, addresses them by name, and prays for them."

"This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in scripture, to enable trans people who have "come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life," to mark their transition in the presence of their Church family which is the body of Christ." Well … ummmm ... good luck with all that. (posted 12/18/18, permalink)

Proving The Obvious: A new study has demonstrated a high correlation between the proportion of homosexuals in the Catholic priesthood and the incidence of sexual abuse by the clergy. The study, conducted by Father Paul Sullins, a Catholic University sociologist, found that the percentage of homosexual men in the priesthood has risen sharply.

"In the 1950s, the homosexual presence within the American Catholic priesthood was estimated to be roughly twice that of the overall population; by the 1980s, it was eight times the level of the overall population. To buttress this estimate, the study notes that the number of young priests who reported encountering a homosexual subculture in the seminary doubled between the 1960s and 1980s." (posted 11/9/18, permalink)

Serious Greatness: Catholic blog Rorate Caeli opined that "Pius XII was the last truly great Pope." I remember him. He was a stern, dogmatic man - he didn't smile much or joke around. I don't think Pius XII would have approved of some of the casual dress at Mass these days, the off-the-cuff, situation-ethics approach to Christianity and the theologically-questionable, off-handed comments made by Pope Francis. Or rainbow flags. Or the Velvet Mafia.

Pope Pius XII has gotten a bum rap by certain "historians" who claim he was a secret Hitler sympathizer. Actually, Pope Pius saved numerous people from the Nazis during the war, maintaining links with the German Resistance and appointing several prominent Jewish scholars to posts at the Vatican to protect them. He deftly kept Mussolini from invading Vatican City. He was a staunch anti-Communist and would probably be appalled by the socialist pronouncements of the current Pontiff.

In 1953, Joshua Lionel Cowen, founder of Lionel Trains, had an audience with Pope Pius XII after presenting him with some Lionel electric trains and accessories for "the poor boys of Italy." Pius posed for photographs with a few of the trains, including a now-iconic Santa Fe diesel locomotive. While he seemed pleased, I doubt the pope ever played with the trains after Cowen left.

Popewise, it's been downhill since Pius XII. (posted 10/24/18, permalink)

The First Four Words … 'Pope Urges Clean Up …' sounded good until I read the entire headline: 'Pope Urges Clean Up Of Plastic Waste From Oceans'.

Francis called this an "emergency." Pedophilia in the Catholic church, apparently not so much. The Pope said efforts to fight plastics litter must be waged "as if everything depended on us."

He's worried about plastic in the oceans when young boys and adolescents are being scarred for life by the actions of those we are supposed to revere and turn to for guidance Anything to change the subject from the pedophiles who've taken over the Church, I guess. "Pay no attention to those sex abuse scandals over there: I'm dealing with a plastic straw crisis!"

In related news, American Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who's been implicated in the Pennsylvania abuse cover-up, gave a Sunday homily on the current crisis in the Church. At least one parishioner "had the courage to shout "Shame on you!" during this tepid utterly unworthy sermon."

This week, the pope tweeted, "Sister Water, simple and useful for life like nothing else on our planet. Precisely for this reason, care for water sources and water basins is an urgent imperative." (At first, I thought Sister Water was a nun.) This week, near the water in Florida, two Chicago-area priests were "charged with Lewd and Lascivious behavior and Indecent Exposure after being caught performing a sexual act inside a car parked on a Miami Beach street."

Remember Ezekiel 25-26: "There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them."

Perhaps Ezekiel 31 is a prophesy: "Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God."

Father Michael Orsi, a Catholic priest parochial vicar of St. Agnes Church in Naples, Florida, wrote, "Some bishops and some cardinals have to go. Maybe the pope has to go, too. Because when you start telling people 'Who am I to judge?', that's where the problem is. Nobody wants to make a judgment anymore of what's right or what's wrong."

Earlier this week, Pope Francis said that silence is the best response to people who ask you about credible claims that you covered up for a sex abuser.

The Pope is stonewalling. Angels are weeping. (posted 9/4/18, permalink)

J'Accuse: In an 11-page written testament, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former apostolic nuncio to the United States has accused several senior prelates of complicity in covering up Archbishop Theodore McCarrick's allegations of sexual abuse, and has claimed that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them. Archbishop Viganò calls on Pope Francis and all of those implicated in the cover up of Archbishop McCarrick's abuse to resign, including the smooth and unctuous Cardinal Donald Wuerl, McCarrick's successor as Archbishop of Washington D.C.

Archbishop Viganò stated that Pope Francis "knew from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator," but although "he knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end." Never before has a former papal ambassador accused a sitting pope of complicity in what would amount, if true, to a criminal cover-up.

Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, the former first counsellor at the apostolic nunciature in Washington D.C., has said that Archbishop Viganò, told "the truth" in his statement.

Viganò's multi-page document portrays a Church whose highest echelons are dominated by old men who apparently don't believe, or at least don’t take all that seriously, what the Catholic Church has taught about human sexuality for two millennia. And others who are willing to cut corners to protect their decadent brethren.

The blog 'Rorate Caeli' tweeted, "A house divided against itself cannot stand. The Catholic Church will either be completely homosexual or will condemn homosexual acts as the grievous sins they are. It can either be the Catholic Church or the Gay Church, it cannot be both at the same time."

Most recently, the focus has been on abuse allegations in Pennsylvania. But the sexual abuse scandal is much wider than that. I was reminded of that fact when I read of the death this week of Thomas J. O'Brien, Bishop of Phoenix from 1982 to 2003.

In 2002, Maricopa County (AZ) prosecutors initiated a grand jury investigation into charges of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the diocese of Phoenix. Bishop O'Brien was a target of that investigation for allegedly covering-up allegations against other priests. The prosecution ended when the bishop admitted he had sheltered abusive priests. O'Brien agreed to cede his authority over diocesan sexual abuse policy in exchange for immunity from indictment for obstruction of justice. Less than two weeks after signing the sexual abuse agreement with prosecutors, O'Brien struck and killed a man. He resigned as Bishop several days later. He was eventually found guilty of leaving the scene of a fatal accident after a three-and-a-half-week-long trial. O'Brien was sentenced to four years' probation and 1,000 hours of community service, and required to surrender his driver's license for five years.

In 2017, it was announced that a civil lawsuit was filed against O'Brien over allegations that he sexually molested a boy on several occasions.

As a Catholic, I am appalled at these unending reports of abuse. I first posted about the sexual abuse by clergy in the Philadelphia Archdiocese in 2005. Back then I wrote, "I would say that the time is ripe for a schism - a complete break from an old, corrupt Church and a movement to start a Reformed Catholic Church based on true Christian principles. Something not seen since the Reformation." In 2018, things are riper than ever. (posted 8/30/18, permalink)

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. George Burns once said, "The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending … and to have the two as close together as possible."

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)

More 'Catholic Stuff' can be found here.

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