Sunday, November 24, 2013

Still waiting...

Six years ago, I asked in this blog why Nancy Pelosi had still not been denied the Eucharist for her public, clear, and defiant persistence in supporting abortion in her congressional votes. Back then, we Catholics were told to be patient because the then-Archbishop of San Francisco was taking a "pastoral" approach to her correction.

Six years on, and Ms. Pelosi is still flaunting her leadership against even the slightest limitation upon abortion. No statement condemning her behavior has been forthcoming. No statement noting her self-excommunication under Canon Law and consequent inability to receive the Eucharist has been forthcoming. No repentance. Not even an acknowledgement that her actions are in contradiction to Church doctrine.

How long, O Lord, how long?

My JFK thoughts

I thought I'd wait until most of the noise surrounding the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination had dissipated, before adding my own reflections.

Most reminiscences from us Boomers start with where we were when we heard the news. But I don't have many strong memories of that day; just a bewildering announcement on our car's radio. What I do remember much more vividly are two incidents from the autumn of 1960, during the campaign.

The first memory is a conversation with a couple of neighbor boys I was playing with. They solemnly informed me that their public school teacher had told them that if Kennedy were to be elected, all Americans would be forced to convert to Catholicism. Despite the grudging respect that the Church had earned in 20th-century America by raising up great men like Fulton Sheen, that's the kind of casual Protestant anti-Catholicism that Kennedy, and all of us, still had to live with.

The second memory is being allowed to accompany my mom to a Kennedy campaign rally in Long Beach, California. I don't remember anything about his speech — not surprising, I guess, for a 10-year-old —but I do recall how tanned his face was, and how broad and sincere his smile looked. Our seats were only about 50 yards away from him. Closer than the sniper in Dallas.

I think he set a bad precedent in his famous apologia (to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association) for being a Catholic candidate, seeming to banish the Faith from the public square. This attitude of the Kennedy Democrats, after all, morphed into that of the Cuomo Democrats not long after, when Roe v. Wade was handed down: personally opposed to grave evil, but unwilling to "impose our morality" on others. At, Sheila Liaugminas quotes both Peggy Noonan and George Weigel at length about this; these will give you better background than I could.

Despite the many sins that drag down his legacy, he left behind many great statements that will always buoy it up. I'll just imitate Sheila, and close with this:
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. 
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.

Pope Francis on Life, for real

Our liberal friends in the Catholic Church thought they heard a major policy change in Pope Francis' widely-quoted off-the-cuff remarks back in September, when he seemed to downplay the importance of the issue of abortion. Too bad they weren't paying attention the very next day, when, speaking with carefully-chosen words to a gathering of Catholic OB/GYNs, he said:
The third aspect is a mandate: be witnesses and speakers of this "culture of life" . Your being Catholic entails a greater responsibility: first of all to yourself, to be committed to being consistent with the Christian vocation; and then to contemporary culture, to contribute to recognising the transcendent dimension in human life, the imprint of the creative work of God, from the very first moment of conception. This is a commitment to the new evangelization that often requires going against the current, at a cost to the person. The Lord counts on you to spread the "Gospel of life."
Read the rest:

It bears repeating that even in the earlier casual statement, the Pope was simply reminding Catholics that preaching Christ must always come first, before we try to advance any social issue.

"Without Me, you can do nothing," Our Lord said, and Francis was just reminding us that He meant it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


A pundit with whom I usually agree recently asserted that Christ "empowered" his disciples, in the sense of accomplishing great works, and even miracles. While this is true, it deserves a little reflection to understand rightly.

I can't think of an instance when Christ performed a miracle without giving thanks to the Father first. I can't think of an instance when Christ accepted Satan's dare to show power in some prideful way; that's the lesson of the temptations at the end of the 40 days' fast in the desert. Turn the stones into bread? No. Leap off the top of the temple so that He could summon a host of angels to save him from the law of gravity? No. And at the end, save Himself from the unbearable agony of the cross? No, not even that, though I think we can all agree that the very human temptation to do so must have been enormous.

Always, He lifts His eyes to Heaven and gives thanks to His Father. There in the Father's hands, He taught us, is where real power comes from, the kind that doesn't just tinker, but transforms.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pope Francis puts one over the fence

I've often criticized Pope Francis' careless statements in recent months, but this time I have to say he hit one out of the park:
During his homily at Mass on November 18, Pope Francis called the first chapter of the First Book of Maccabees “one of the saddest pages in the Bible” because “a great part of the people of God withdraw from the Lord in favor of worldly proposals.”
Well, that sure sounds like it could have been ripped from today's headlines.

He continues:
“We would do well to think about what happened in the Book of Maccabees, he continued, about what happened step by step, before we decide to follow an ‘adolescent progressivism’ and go along with what everyone is doing,” the L’Osservatore Romano report added. “We would also do well, he said, to ponder the consequences of their infidelity, to think about the ‘death sentences, the human sacrifices’ which followed thereafter. He then asked those present: ‘Do you think there are no human sacrifices today? There are many, many of them. And there are laws that protect them.’” 
The rest can be found here. H/t

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Catholic Brand

Why is it that non-Catholics know what constitutes the outward signs of Catholic culture, but Catholics often don't?

Take this little bit from Stieg Larsson's bestseller The Girl Who Played with Fire:
...Bublanski felt an urge to talk to God about the case, but instead of going to the synagogue he went to the Catholic church on Folkungagatan. He sat in one of the pews at the back and did not move for over an hour. As a Jew he had no business being in a church, but it was a peaceful place that he regularly visited when he felt the need to sort out his thoughts, and he knew that God would not mind. There was a difference, besides, between Catholicism and Judaism. He went to the synagogue when he needed company and fellowship with other people. Catholics went to church to seek peace in the presence of God. The church invited silence, and visitors would always be left to themselves. (pp. 376-377 of the Vintage paperback edition)
Catholics seek peace in the presence of God. Yes, that's exactly the atmosphere that ought to imbue every Catholic church building, both when nothing is going on, and when Mass is being offered. But in most American parishes, Catholic worship no longer invites silence; it treats silence as an enemy. If no one is doing anything or saying anything or singing anything, it means that people aren't actively participating. Oh, the humanity!

But why did Larsson, a thoroughly non-Catholic author, understand that silence is a part of the Catholic "brand" but most Catholics don't?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Coming to a girls' restroom near you: boys!

Here in California, Assembly Bill 1266 has been signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. On January 1, students in this state who self-identify as transgendered are free to "use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's records." Thanks, Jerry.

To see the trouble we're about to enjoy, look to Colorado, fast becoming the California of the Mountain Time Zone.

Parents in Colorado are pushing back against a public high school's decision to allow a boy who sometimes identifies as a girl to use the girls' restrooms. Of course, they're being vilified by LBGTQ advocates as hateful and ignorant. Nothing untoward would ever happen if such a policy became widespread. Nope. Nothing to see here. Move along, hater.

And yet... whatever happened to the indignation over being pushed around by a tiny but powerful minority — all that "We are the 99%" stuff —during Occupy Wall Street? Back then, I thought we were being told that the perceived welfare and will of the 99% trumped the right of the wealthiest 1% to keep their wealth. 'Occupy' was much praised in media and academia, so this principle must be right. [For the humor-impaired, this is sarcasm].

But see what happens when a different 99% insists that its welfare and will should hold sway on a subject that the Left doesn't like? That's different. You're trampling on a minority's rights, they say, and that cannot stand. How is it different, you ask? It just is, you'll be told.

Nothing is ever about logic or consistent principles with such people. It's all about power. And they're very close to putting a lock on that.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Tone. Deaf.

Watch this video of a variety show in St. Peter's square last week, attended by Pope Francis and a raft of clergy. Then please tell me why some Vatican event planner thought that an entertainment featuring several bare-torsoed young men would make good PR for an institution that had a certain amount of recent unpleasantness involving priests and young men?

Monday, November 04, 2013

Since they asked

I attended a parish function the other day on the subject of the legacy of the Second Vatican Council. At one point, we were invited to fill out a little blue paper with this question:

I am grateful for the work of Vatican II because ________________.

I thought for a while, without success. Then Joni Mitchell came to my rescue:

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got till it's gone