Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bishop Finn Leads Pilgrimage to Holy Land – Part 2

Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn is leading a Kansas City pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The pilgrimage began yesterday and will last till November 10. Claude Sasso, Ph.D., Vice-Chancellor of the Diocese, will be sending occasional dispatches on the visit. Below is the second installment. Tomorrow I’ll post the third which has pics.

Our second day on the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land took place on Friday, 30 October and began under sunny skies but a much cooler day in the 60's.  We traveled by bus to the Dome of the Ascension on the Mt. of Olives, which is situated east of the Old City of Jerusalem and looks down upon the Kidron Valley and Old Jerusalem.  The site is sacred to Christians because it is where the Ascension of Jesus took place forty days after his Resurrection. 

Bishop Finn gathered everyone inside the small dome and read from the Gospel of Luke concerning Christ:  "And it came to pass as he blessed them, that he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem" (Lk 24: 51-52). In the first chapter of Acts, which was also read, it is recorded that "he was lifted up before their eyes and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing up into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white garments and said to them, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall come in the same way you have seen him going up to heaven’'" (Acts 1: 9-11).  After praying we learned that the first Christians worshipped in a cave on the sight until a chapel was constructed in 380 A.D. It was a round building open to the sky but it was converted into a Muslim shrine after the conquest by Saladin in 1187 A.D. and was considered sacred to Moslems, whose Quran has one line affirming the Ascension (Surah 4:158). The footprints formed in the dust inside the dome were considered to be those of Christ and the right print still remains today.

We walked from there a short distance to the Church of the Pater Noster, which is believed to be the place where Jesus responded to the request to teach us to pray, by teaching the Our Father. The Church was built by Constantine and construction supervised by St. Helena, his mother.  The Constantian church was destroyed by the Persians in 614, but the Crusaders constructed a small oratory amidst the ruins in 1106. The present Church and Carmelite monastery was built between 1868-1872 by French Princesse de la Tour d'Auvergne.  Tiled panels inscribed with the Our Father prayer are found all around the grotto area in over 100 languages. Bishop Finn read from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 11, where it recounts Jesus’ teaching.  We pilgrims prayed the Our Father in the Grotto and then entered the Chapel of the Carmel.

We then walked down the sharply declining road on the hillside which Jesus used on Palm Sunday a short distance to the Dominus Flevit Church, a small Franciscan church located on upper western slopes of the Mt. of Olives. This church commemorates the tears Jesus shed as he approached Jerusalem looking out towards the Temple, which the Romans destroyed during the civil war with the Jews in 70 A.D. along with the city. 

The Church of Dominus Flevit, which literally translates, "the cry of the Lord," was constructed by the Italian architect Anton Barluzzin in the shape of a tear drop. It has four large jars on the exterior corners to symbolize the Jewish custom of catching the tears of one who is mourning. As we entered the small church the altar decoration of the mother hen gathering her chicks catches the eye as does the beautiful window behind the altar, which provides a panoramic view of Old Jerusalem from the East in general and especially the Dome of the Rock. It was here we celebrated Mass.  In his homily Bishop Finn noted that Jesus was not thinking of his own glory on Palm Sunday but weeping for those who will be lost. He said that Jesus' constant prayer was that we be one. He urged the pilgrims to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to participate in the work of peace and unity.

As we further descended the Palm Sunday road we observed a vast grave yard on the hillside where many Jewish people have been buried in the belief that they are close to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, where they expect mankind to be resurrected on the Day of Judgment. Our last stop was the Garden of Gethsemane, with its eight ancient olive trees, the garden where Jesus spent a sleepless night praying before his arrest and crucifixion. The Franciscans maintain the Basilica of Agony, which was built in 1924.  This beautiful church was our last stop and Mass was being offered there as we arrived. This was our last stop before lunch at the Notre Dame center and a free afternoon to see things on our own.

The first installment can be read here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hoax - Pope Condemns Halloween - Updated

Earlier today, the UK Telegraph ran a story “Vatican condemns Hallowe'en as anti-Christian.” You’ve got to drill down 4 paragraphs of sensationalism to get to the source of the claim:

The Vatican issued the warning through its official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, in an article headlined "Hallowe'en's Dangerous Messages".

The paper quoted a liturgical expert, Joan Maria Canals, who said: "Hallowe'en has an undercurrent of occultism and is absolutely anti-Christian."

Now there is a fellow named Fr. Joan Maria Canals, CMF, a liturgy official with the Spanish Bishops’ Conference who has been pushing the idea that as Spain appropriates this U.S. holiday it ought to do so in a life affirming way as opposed to celebrating the occult and death. Catholic News Agency wrote about that effort and similar efforts in France and Chile. I expect L’Osservatore wrote a similar report. I’m certain the Pope didn’t comment in the article. Unfortunately, L’Osservatore does not archive their articles, so the first sensational or misrepresentative press piece about any article in L’Osservatore becomes the source – no other source being available.

Then it descends from there. One Spanish priest is quoted in L’Osservatore and soon enough, The Daily Mail blares the headline:

Halloween is 'dangerous' says the Pope as he slams 'anti-Christian' festival

The Mail’s original article has been significantly altered so as to remove the false references to the Pope it originally contained. If you click through, you’ll notice they also toned down the headline. But too late, the American press has picked up on it and is running. We’ve had press inquiries from local affiliates here wanting explanations as to why the Pope is condemning Halloween and what we’re going to do about it.

I think there are two lessons here:

1. If your going to re-report on what another news organization has reported, you should check their sources.

2. If you’re going to be a news source as significant as the Vatican’s newspaper, your articles shouldn’t disappear after 24 hours.

UPDATE

The Times (U.K) takes the cake, combining the aforementioned sensationalism with the ignorant anti-Catholicism now apparently commonplace in England. I lived and worked in London 97-98 and didn't notice much anti-Catholicism, but things must have changed. The article begins, my emphases:

When Victoria Romero, 6, dressed up as a witch for a Hallowe’en party this week she could hardly have imagined that she was provoking the wrath of God by attending a celebration akin to a Black Mass — at least in the eyes of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church in Spain.

Wearing skeleton suits, dressing up as vampires, witches or goblins or slapping on fake blood is not far removed from communing with the Devil, according to the country’s bishops.

However, the bishops, with Vatican backing, have reserved their venom for the millions of parents who allowed their children to celebrate this “pagan” festival.


Later in the story we find the sole basis for the charge of Vatican venom against millions of parents:
“Children dress as witches, vampires, ghosts, masks, corpses, skeletons, and parents favour this type of festivity which plays with elements of death,” Father Canals said. “But when a relative dies they prevent them from seeing the dead relative.”

So a very mild and probably true cultural observation by a priest in Spain, when quoted by L'Osservatore, translates to Vatican venom against millions of parents.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bishop Finn Leads Pilgrimage to the Holy Land – Part 1

Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn is leading a Kansas City pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The pilgrimage began yesterday and will last till November 10. Claude Sasso, Ph.D., Vice-Chancellor of the Diocese, will be sending occasional dispatches on the visit. Below is the first installment. Pictures will follow. They certainly had a busy first day:

The Pilgrimage Tour arrived at David Ben Gurion Airport on October 28, 2009, tired but excited to be in the Holy Land.  On Thursday, October 29th, the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land began its first full day in Israel from our Jerusalem hotel, the Knights Palace.  We traveled south a short distance by bus from Jerusalem and arrived in Bethlehem about 8:30 A.M.  There we visited the Holy Grotto of the Nativity.  But before visiting the Holy Grotto, Mass was celebrated for the 42 pilgrims by Bishop Robert Finn in the Franciscan Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, which is adjacent to the Grotto.  We thus began the first of our daily pilgrimage Masses with a Christmas celebration of the birth of our Lord.  After Mass we moved over to the Greek Orthodox Church built over the Holy Grotto of the Nativity and descended the stairs inside to the Grotto area.  Each pilgrim in turn lay prone to kiss the spot where the Savior was born in the candle-lit Grotto. Memories of the scene of the Manger and the love of our Savior flooded into our minds and some emerged in tears.

Then we moved over to the adjacent cave area where St. Jerome spent thirty-four years between 386-420, which is now separated from the Nativity Grotto by a wall, but was not at that time. Here St. Jerome, who had recently finished his translation of the New Testament, began to learn Hebrew from local rabbis so that he could translate the Old Testament into Latin.  The end result of all his labors was the Latin Vulgate Bible, which was the Bible of the Western Church for over one thousand years.  Along with his other writings it established Jerome as the greatest of Bible scholars.  He is remembered for his saying that "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."  The beautiful little Grotto with its altar and holy images on the wall is maintained by the Franciscans.

The pilgrims then visited Bethlehem university, which is administered jointly by the Christian Brothers and Muslims.  The Christian Brothers came in 1893 to establish a primary and secondary school, which became Bethlehem University in 1973.  This Vatican sponsored university has over 300 Palestinian students, about 30 percent of whom are Christians.  While visiting their beautiful chapel, we heard students singing hymns in preparation for the noon Mass. The Christian Brothers were very hospitable to us and provided a lunch which was prepared and served by students, some of whom addressed us and ate with us after our tour of the campus.

After leaving the town of Bethlehem we descended into the countryside close by to visit the Shepherd's Fields of Boaz.  It was here that the angel appeared to the shepherds by night and said, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all the people; for today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord."  A multitude of the heavenly host appeared saying, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men of good will" (Luke 2:10-14).  They went in haste thereafter climbing the high hills to see the divine child in the manager in Bethlehem.

Late in the afternoon the pilgrims returned to the Old City of Jerusalem by bus and prepared to walk from the Knight's Palace hotel to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as the sun was setting.  After the singing of beautiful hymns in Latin by a half-dozen Franciscans friars, one of them welcomed us to the holy site and told us they were praying that our visit to the tomb of Jesus would deepen our faith and our commitment to share the good news of His Resurrection and Gospel with others when we returned home.  Led by Bishop Finn, who was followed in procession by the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher among the pilgrims, we entered single file a few at a time to offer our heart-felt prayers to our Savior. It was to say the least an eventful day for the 42 pilgrims led by our Bishop, who led us in prayers throughout the day, beginning on the morning bus ride to Bethlehem and finishing at the dinner at the hotel that night.

USCCB Requests Nationwide Parish Action on Healthcare

The USCCB has kicked into high-gear urging a nationwide effort by Catholic parishes to ensure abortion coverage is removed and conscience protection included in health care reform. The bottom line message from the bishops:

The U.S. bishops’ conference has concluded that all committee approved bills are seriously deficient on the issues of abortion and conscience, and do not provide adequate access to health care for immigrants and the poor. The bills will have to change or the bishops have pledged to oppose them.

AmericanPapist reported earlier today that an action item was sent late yesterday to all diocesan pro-life directors asking them to help disseminate bulletin inserts and pulpit announcements to every parish in their diocese.

Every bishop in the country has received the same request and also late yesterday, Helen Osman, Director of Communications for the USCCB, sent the same request to diocesan communications directors and made the inserts available as ads for diocesan papers. I have not seen this level of coordinated effort by the bishops’ conference in nearly 20 years of church work.

In response, the Vicar General and the Chancellor of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph sent the following to all pastors today:

In unison with the U.S. Bishops, Bishop Finn is urging all parishes to take part in a nationwide campaign to educate and advocate for health care reform that is consistent with Catholic social teaching.  The USCCB has prepared parish bulletin announcements, pulpit announcements, and suggested prayers of the faithful to assist with this endeavor.

As you know, Bishop is out of the country. We spoke with him, and he is in agreement with this plan to engage our parishioners. With this message, we are forwarding the materials developed by the USCCB.
We encourage you to distribute the bulletin announcement on Sunday, November 1; otherwise, this must be accomplished by Sunday, November 8.  We thank you for all that you do to carry on the work of God in our diocese.

Here is the bulletin insert and a possible ad as jpgs so you can read the action item. The insert is available as a printable pdf here:

health care info for parishes Oct28 _Page_2

health care info for parishes Oct28 _Page_3

And here are the pulpit announcements and suggested prayer:

To be announced at all Masses on the weekend when the Bulletin Insert is distributed: 

Congress is preparing to debate health care reform legislation. The Catholic bishops of the United States strongly support genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all, from the moment of conception until natural death. However, all current bills are seriously deficient on abortion and conscience rights, and do not yet provide adequate access to health care for immigrants and the poor.

In your pews/bulletins today, you’ll find a special flier/bulletin insert from the US Bishops Conference asking you to please contact your Representative and Senators immediately and urge them to fix these bills with pro-life amendments. The flier/bulletin insert includes a web address that allows you to send an email message to Congress with a click of a button. The bishops have asked for our swift action and the commitment of our prayers for this critical effort.  Thank you for your help.  We can help make sure that health care reform will be about saving lives, not destroying them. 

To be announced at all Masses on the weekend following the Bulletin Insert distribution:

Congress is preparing to debate health care reform legislation. The Catholic bishops of the United States strongly support genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all, from the moment of conception until natural death. However, all current bills are seriously deficient on abortion and conscience rights, and do not yet provide adequate access to health care for immigrants and the poor.

Last weekend you received a special flier/bulletin insert from the US Bishops Conference asking you to please contact your Representative and Senators immediately and urge them to fix these bills with pro-life amendments. The flier/bulletin insert included a web address that allows you to send an email message to Congress with a click of a button. Additional fliers/bulletin inserts can be found at___________ (back of church, etc.).   The bishops have asked for our swift action and the commitment of our prayers for this critical effort.  Thank you for your help. We can help make sure that health care reform will be about saving lives, not destroying them. 

Suggested Prayer of the Faithful:

That Congress will act to ensure that needed health care reform will truly protect the life, dignity and health care of all and that we will raise our voices to protect the unborn and the most vulnerable and to preserve our freedom of conscience. We pray to the Lord.

Additional resources and commentary are posted at AmP. And if you’ve got a blog or website, you can grab the code for the graphic below here. The graphic will take you to the Action Center where you can easily send an email to your representatives and senators. It’s also available in different sizes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bishop Finn Encourages Marriage Encounter

Following is Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn’s column from the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

Help Turn a Good Marriage Into a Great Marriage

World Marriage Day at the Cathedral – February 14, 2010

By Most Rev. Robert W. Finn

When I was a seminarian in Rome in the late 1970s, a New York pastor, Father Joe Champlin, who had been part of Marriage Encounter spent a year at the North American College. It was the occasion for me to first participate in Marriage Encounter. A few years later, in my “rookie” parish assignment I had the joy of gathering with three “M.E.” couples every month for prayer and discussion. For nearly three years we got together using a series of questions to write and share on our own relationships – with Jesus Christ – according to our vocations. Thirty years later I often reflect on those happy, sometimes challenging, get-togethers. What a blessing it was in my young priesthood.

About 800 weddings are recorded in our diocese each year, and our pastors and parish staffs do many things to help these couples prepare for the most important moment in their life together. Many couples have found and continue to discover, in Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a wonderful program of “ongoing formation” for marriage.

A Marriage Encounter Weekend is not a retreat, or a marriage clinic, or group sensitivity, or a substitute for counseling; but a time for spouses to rediscover their love for each other in a new way, and to invite Jesus Christ more deeply into their vocation: “to help turn a good marriage into a great marriage.”

With so many weddings each year, and because marriage and family are at the very core of human society, it is a wonderful benefit to have such an opportunity to deepen couples’ understanding of their vocation and sacrament. Husbands and wives owe it to themselves and their families – and in some ways – they owe it to the Church and society to become better, holier couples. This is clearly one of the goals and benefits of Marriage Encounter Weekends and follow-up programs.

In our Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, we have an Office for Marriage and Family Life, under the direction of Deacon Ken Greene, to assist and coordinate opportunities to strengthen marriage. We also have a Diocesan Coordinating Team for Worldwide Marriage Encounter: married couple - (Deacon) Tony and Barb Zimmerman, and Father Ron Will, CSsP, Pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in St. Joseph.

In the coming year we have four Marriage Encounter Weekends planned. The dates are provided here, and Tony and Barb, and Ken Greene would be glad to receive your reservation and answer your questions.

As bishop, and as a priest who learned something meaningful about married love through my participation with Marriage Encounter couples, I hope you will prayerfully consider taking this step to make your marriage stronger: in love with each other and with our Lord.

Inviting You to a Special Mass - For nearly 30 years, Worldwide Marriage Encounter has held an Annual World Marriage Day. This year our Diocese and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas will celebrate a special Mass together on that day, Sunday, February 14, 2010, at 3:00 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. I plan to be there, as will Archbishop Naumann. We would like to invite not only all couples who have made a Marriage Encounter Weekend at some time, but also other couples, to join us in asking God to bless and strengthen your individual marriages, and also the sacrament and vocation of marriage in our community. I hope you will join us!

Marriage Encounter Weekend Dates for 2010

February 12-14 Branson/Springfield

April 9-11 Kansas City

October 15-17 Branson/Springfield

November 12-14 Kansas City

Contact: Tony and Barb Zimmerman at 816-741-4066

or

Deacon Ken Greene at the Diocese’s Office of Marriage and Family Life

816-756-1850

Find out about Marriage Encounter at www.wwme4youandme.org

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anglican Bishop Confirms St. Therese is Behind Anglican Ordinariate

Yesterday we conveyed the suspicion of former Episcopal and now Kansas City Catholic priest, Father Ernie Davis, that the intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux was behind the Vatican’s move to provide a structure to welcome Anglicans into full communion. Now, the Anglican Catholic Bishop of Canada strongly confirms that thought.

Father Davis, who leads St. Therese Little Flower parish in Kansas City which hosts an Anglican Use community, wrote of the news from the Vatican:

Anglicans and Catholics flocked to visit the relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux as they made a very recent pilgrimage to England. Her relics rested on her 2009 feast day at York Minster, the Cathedral of the Anglican Archbishop of York. When I read about that, I told the people here at St. Therese Little Flower that she was working on something big. In other words, preparations for this Apostolic Constitution have been in process for 170 years, and some of the preparations have been made at levels that are higher than popes.

The Traditional Anglican Communion Bishop of Canada saw the claim and sent an email today to Father Davis with remarkable details of St. Therese’ intercession. Here’s the email:

Dear Father Davis,

Your story about the Anglican Ordinariate and St Therese (which came to me via England this morning) is very interesting. And I can tell you another connexion with her.

I am the Anglican Catholic Bishop of Canada in the TAC. I was present at the Synod of TAC Bishops in Portsmouth England in October 2007 which voted unanimously to ask for full communion, and signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The first full day of the Synod was October 1st, the 'new' date of St Therese's feast, and the actual vote to ask for full communion was taken on October 3rd 'old' date of her feast.

I also accompanied the Primate and Bishop Robert Mercer CR to deliver the Letter to the CDF where we had been directed by the Holy Father. My friend Mother Teresa of the Carmel in Edmonton had given me some holy cards with a piece of cloth touched to her relics. Each of us carried one of these cards, and we asked St Therese's prayers on our venture. We also had similar cards from Poland of the Servant of God John Paul II.

I have continued 'to bother her' about a favourable response to our request, and now thanks to the generosity and love of the Holy Father who has taken a personal interest in us for many years, and the prayers of St Therese, something wonderful has come about.

God bless you,

+Peter Wilkinson, OSG
Bishop Ordinary
Anglican Catholic Church of Canada
TAC

Father Davis has posted the letter at his blog, which is also on our blog roll. He's been quiet for a while, working on a book, but I'll bet it'll be worth checking in there as things progress.

Fred Thompson to Headline Pro-life Fundraiser in Kansas City

Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson will be the featured guest and keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner this Saturday for Vitae Caring Foundation. Vitae is a non-political organization that actually saves lives from abortion. Through TV, radio and billboard ads, Vitae targets non-judgmental pro-life messages to abortion minded women encouraging them to seek out help from local crisis pregnancy centers.

They research their work and they know it works. We do too. Whenever Vitae has a campaign in the Kansas City area, calls to CPCs go way up – Women are helped and babies are saved. Here’s what Dr. Laura Schlessinger says about Vitae:

"I am a great fan of [the Vitae Caring Foundation] ads: They use an intelligent, thoughtful approach to speak to women in crisis pregnancies in a way that doesn’t threaten or badger them, but persuasively points out that there are other options besides abortion."

And Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann:

“The Vitae Caring Foundation has developed and implemented a bold, Pro-Life, mass media educational initiative that has had a tremendous impact. Vitae’s commitment to produce well-researched Pro-Life media messages, aimed at audiences who are not already Pro-Life, has proven not only to be effective in shifting public opinion but in saving lives. The Vitae Caring Foundation has found a practical method to respond meaningfully to the late Pope John Paul II’s challenge to build a culture of life.”

Seats are still available for the dinner. If you’re anywhere near Kansas City, you can make a real difference by joining us. Details for making a reservation for this Saturday’s dinner are at the end of this release:

FRED THOMPSON IS COMING TO KANSAS CITY OCT. 24 TO SUPPORT

AN EFFORT TO REDUCE ABORTION NUMBERS

American politician, actor, attorney, lobbyist, and radio host, Fred Thompson, will be in Kansas City to speak at the Vitae (Vee-tay) Foundation’s Annual Pro-Life Benefit Dinner on Saturday, October 24th at the downtown Marriott. The benefit raises money to help reach out to women facing unplanned pregnancies and connect them with local resources where they can make an informed decision.

Vitae is partnering with local Pregnancy Centers to launch a Call-for-Help media campaign this fall in the greater Kansas City area. Vitae will be phasing in a total of 90 billboards over the next 30 days that advertise FREE Abortion Alternatives and list phone numbers connecting women with a local Pregnancy Center where they can get free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, confidential options counseling, and many more services.

Many women feel scared and confused when facing an unplanned pregnancy. Vitae’s goal is to use advertising to connect these women with local Pregnancy Centers where they can find caring support and resources to make an informed decision. Not only do these Pregnancy Centers provide the information and resources to make that decision, but they also provide assistance throughout and after their pregnancy such as material support for mother and baby, and parenting classes.

Fred Thompson is coming to extend his support in Vitae’s mass communications effort to reduce abortion numbers. In an effort to build this campaign even larger, so that more lives can be saved, Vitae is asking for support as they develop a strategy that will reach out to those women and babies who are most in need of help.

Carl Landwehr, President of Vitae Foundation stated, “The good thing about Vitae is that we are not constrained by politics or debates over legislation. Vitae works directly with the staff of pregnancy support centers who are “in the trenches” to reach abortion-minded women and provide them with information about their options and the availability of local resources. By reaching out to these women on a personal level and providing them with good information about all of their options, Vitae is impacting their decisions and as a result, lives are being saved, and abortion numbers are decreasing!” Landwehr added, “Vitae ads work, but we need immediate help getting them before the women of the greater Kansas City area during this critical time. Please join us to learn how you can make a difference in the lives of young women and their unborn babies.”

The dinner and program will begin at 7:00 PM at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown – Muehlebach Tower on October 24th. Reservations will be accepted by calling 800-393-5791 with a registration fee of $50 per person ($25 is tax-deductible). Seating is limited, so make your reservations soon. Please visit www.vitaecaringfoundation.org for additional information.

And if you’re not near Kansas City, visit their website and consider a donation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

St. Therese, the Anglican Ordinariate and More

UPDATE BELOW

Father Ernie Davis is a former Episcopal Priest who "came home" to the Catholic Church and was ordained for the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph in 2002. He is currently administrator of St. Therese Little Flower Parish in Kansas City.

Last year, a small Anglican parish in Kansas City decided to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. They were received by Bishop Robert Finn and they now make their home at St. Therese where they continue to receive converts. St. Therese is probably unique in the Catholic world in that it celebrates both its historic Gospel Mass and now an Anglican Use Liturgy every Sunday.

Fr. Davis was overjoyed at yesterday's news of the upcoming Apostolic Constitution creating personal ordinariates for the reception of Anglicans into full communion. In an email he sent out yesterday, he speculated that the patroness of his parish may have had something to do with what he regards as a miracle, my emphases:

I have three questions/observations from the point of view of our little flock dedicated to Our Lady of Hope here at St. Therese.

Who could have hoped for as much as has been offered? Is the miracle of medical healing attributed to the intercession of John Cardinal Newman any less spectacular than the healing of the divisions in the church? Wasn’t it clear that something amazing was about to happen when the relics of St. Therese spent her feast day at York Minster?

Today he sends another email in which he explains how this development differs from the Pastoral Provision and where he rejects some of the "sound bite" judgments being made by the U.S. punditry:
First, the Pastoral Provision is local while the Apostolic Constitution is universal. The Pastoral Provision is in effect in the United States and provides a process by which former Episcopalian or Anglican priests may be considered for ordination in the Catholic Church, temporarily suspends the discipline of celibacy during the lifetime of the priest's wife, and allows for groups of former Episcopalians to retain some of their liturgical traditions using an approved modification of the Book of Common Prayer called the Book of Divine Worship. The Pastoral Provision is also in force in Great Britain, but British bishops have not approved an Anglican based liturgy. The Pastoral Provision does not apply in the rest of the world, although individual priests may convert and be considered for ordination on a case by case basis.

Second, the Pastoral Provision has a limited but indefinite time-frame. Its purpose was to allow Episcopalians and Anglicans to be absorbed into the Catholic Church. The Apostolic Constitution is being issued at a much higher level of authority and is not intended to be time-limited. It appears that the Pope envisions that an Anglican community will exist within Catholicism for quite some time and even provides the possibility of separate Anglican tracks within Catholic seminaries to provide for future continuity.

The new Apostolic Constitution can apply anywhere in the world, and it provides the possibility of much more autonomy for former Anglicans. They will not have the same level of autonomy as our sister Eastern Rite Catholics, but there will be some similarities. The Anglican Ordinariate will remain within Western Rite Catholicism, part of the Roman Catholic Church.

This Apostolic Constitution is a very, very generous gift, made in response to petitions from as many as fifty different Anglican bishops around the world. It was said earlier this year that the Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth was discussing such a move. They have since separated themselves from the Episcopal Church, but have not said definitively that they want to join the Roman Catholic Church. Locally, several small Anglican parishes in Kansas City may be members of the Traditional Anglican Communion that made a petition to become Catholic. The TAC is a worldwide body. We will have to wait and see what happens locally. Bishop Finn has established an Anglican Use community as part of St. Therese Little Flower Parish which is already receiving converts to the Catholic Church and using the Anglican Use liturgy from the Book of Divine Worship.

Most news outlets will reduce this to conflicts between liberals and conservatives about women and gays. The truth is much richer. Let me ask, was John Henry Newman a liberal or a conservative?

Anglicans have been converting to the Catholic Church since the reformation. Since the 1840s, some Anglicans have been working and praying for reunion. In the late 19th century an Anglican religious order, the Francisan Friars of the Atonement (Grayfriars) in Graymoor, New York joined the Catholic Church to pray and work for reunion from within Catholicism and since then have provided the leadership for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Since Vatican II, Anglicans and Catholics have been in high level discussions aimed at creating the kinds of mutual understandings that would someday lead to reunion. Vatican II paved the way for Catholics to make the kinds of concessions Pope Benedict made that will allow Anglicans to retain some of their liturgy and spirituality, recognizing that Catholicism is enriched and not diminished by this kind of diversity. John Henry Cardinal Newman, the famous 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism who helped pave the way for Vatican II, will be beatified in 2011 when the Pope visits England. If miracles of healing can be attributed to his intercession, you can’t convince me that he hasn’t had a hand in preparing the way for this new Apostolic Constitution. Anglicans and Catholics flocked to visit the relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux as they made a very recent pilgrimage to England. Her relics rested on her 2009 feast day at York Minster, the Cathedral of the Anglican Archbishop of York. When I read about that, I told the people here at St. Therese Little Flower that she was working on something big. In other words, preparations for this Apostolic Constitution have been in process for 170 years, and some of the preparations have been made at levels that are higher than popes.

The news reports are right. The Anglican Communion, which understands itself to be part of the Catholic Church already, is convulsed with issues of fundamental sacramental theology and ethics. Constituent parts of the Anglican Communion are arriving at opposite answers. Constituent parts are fragmenting. I concluded that the Anglican Communion is not equipped to deal these issues, that the Anglican claim to be part of the Catholic Church is a beautiful illusion, and that these issues cannot be resolved apart from the Church that is undoubtedly Catholic. Does that make me and many other converts liberals or conservatives?

There's no way that all that can fit into a sound bite.
UPDATE:

Anglican Bishop Confirms St. Therese is Behind Anglican Ordinariate

Bishop Finn Urges Prayer on Priesthood Sunday

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

October 25: Priesthood Sunday in the Year For Priests

By Most Rev. Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City – St. Joseph

We have in our Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph quite a number of fine folks actively engaged as members of the Serra Clubs. Founded under the patronage of Blessed Junipero Serra, the Franciscan Friar who founded the missions in California, these clubs have as their focus the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and Religious life, and the prayerful support of priests, sisters, brothers, and seminarians. Several local Serra clubs meet in different parts of the diocese, and they do so much to encourage our clergy and Religious. Recently in what has become an annual event, Serra and many others, hosted the Priest and Seminarian Appreciation Golf Tournament and dinner. They honored our priests from KCSJ, and our neighbor, the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas. It was clear to all of our priests that these good friends really do care about them.

Serra Club International is sponsoring Priesthood Sunday this weekend, October 24 and 25. They are inviting all of us to thank God for the gift and grace of our priests, to pray for them, and perhaps even to tell them that we love them and support them. This year’s observance is extraordinary because it falls within the Year for Priests called by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

All of our parishes have been given prayer cards to distribute, which have a special Prayer for Our Priests. You can find the text on this page. I hope you will pray this prayer, or offer your own prayer with special devotion throughout this year (and beyond!)

One thing that has been very apparent to me from the beginning of my time as bishop is the awareness that I am being supported spiritually by your prayers. I am completely convinced that my mistakes and imperfections as bishop would be even greater except for your prayers. I thank you for this gift, and I ask you to please lift up your parish priest in prayer, and all our priests, living and dead. We need this for our own holiness and as a source of strength and perseverance in our vocation.

In speaking of the Year for Priests the Vatican has said that it ought to be a “period of intense appreciation of the priestly identity, of the theology of Catholic priesthood, and of the extraordinary meaning of the vocation and mission of priests within the Church and society.”

The Pope in his declaration for this Year stressed that “the correct appreciation of the ministerial priesthood, focused on the mystery of the Incarnate Christ at the center of His people, reminds us that without this ordained priesthood, there would be neither the Eucharist, nor even the mission, nor the Church herself.” Without our priests we could not have the Eucharist. The priests’ ministry of the Word, likewise, has a special efficacy. They participate uniquely in the bishop’s ministry to “teach, lead, and sanctify” the people of God. I could not fulfill my responsibilities without them.

The Pope, very mindful of our weaknesses as human beings, has asked us to pray for the purity of priests (and bishops). As we seek to live out our calling in a far-reaching and generous love, a celibate love for each person entrusted to our care, we need God’s help. Our service must be humble and unselfish, looking for every opportunity to assist people in reaching the goal of heaven. In docility to the Holy Spirit, and in faithful obedience to the Magisterium, we must offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments in a manner that inspires holiness, and builds unity.

With you I am thankful for all the priests who have helped me come to know and love Jesus Christ. I am grateful to our priests who day after day are with us, and available to us, in the most wonderful and the most difficult circumstances of our lives.

I wish to thank Serra for promoting Priesthood Sunday as an occasion for us to honor our priests: servant-leaders, spiritual fathers, and pastors of our souls. I commend them to Mary, Mother of Priests, and pray that God will bless them now and always.

A PRAYER FOR OUR PRIESTS

We thank you, God our Father, for those who have
responded to your call to priestly ministry. Accept
this prayer we offer on their behalf: Fill your priests with
the sure knowledge of your love. Open their hearts to the
power and consolation of the Holy Spirit. Lead them to new
depths of union with your Son. Increase in them profound
faith in the Sacraments they celebrate as they nourish,
strengthen and heal us.


Lord Jesus Christ, grant that these, your priests, may inspire
us to strive for holiness by the power of their example, as
men of prayer who ponder your word and follow your will.
O Mary, Mother of Christ and our mother, guard with your
maternal care these chosen ones, so dear to the Heart of
your Son. Intercede for our priests that, offering the
Sacrifice of your Son, they may be conformed more each
day to the image of your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus
Christ. Amen.


St. John Vianney, universal patron of priests,
pray for us and our priests.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Manliness Question

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

The Manliness Question

By Santiago Ramos

Manliness is in. Not necessarily as a characteristic of the average American male, but as a preoccupation of the same — and of women, too. Are we as manly as we used to be? Should we be? Have we gone soft? All of these questions can be grouped into a unified worry which we can call the Manliness Question.

The Manliness Question permeates many corners of American culture. It arises in unlikely places - as in whenever someone tries to explain why suburban high schoolers listen to “gangsta rap.” The answer often is: they are attracted to the rapper’s raw masculinity. (Sharing in the Manliness Question, the rapper Jay Z, in a hit song from his latest album, scolded his fellow rappers this way: “[Your]…jeans [are] too tight, your colors [are] too bright, your voice too light…”) The same reason is marshaled to explain the popularity (among women) of the adulterous and ambitious Don Draper in the television show Mad Men - he’s a “man’s man”; he doesn’t crack too many jokes, and you laugh nervously in his presence if he accidentally says something funny; he drinks like a sailor and has the arms of a carpenter.

But Don Draper (and Jon Hamm, the actor who plays him) is a manly exception. In her monthly column in Salon.com, the culture critic Camille Paglia often complains that Hollywood actors today are not as manly as they were in the Golden Era, mainly because instead of beginning their adult lives working in factories (like Marlon Brando), today’s actors go to acting school (like Sean Penn). A recent study at the University of Sheffield in the UK (reported with great philosophical liberty in the British tabloid, Daily Mail) claims that one of the long-term side effects of the birth control pill is that it has “put women off masculine men,” and that this side-effect explains why we have gone from Brando to Penn to Zac Efron.

In the last few years, many books have come out dealing with the Manliness Question. A more serious tome by the Harvard political philosopher Harvey Mansfield, Manliness (2006), links the term to the Greek idea of andreia, which is confidence in the face of risk. Brad Miner, a former editor of the National Review, has published a book titled The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man’s Guide to Chivalry (2004), representing the Renaissance ideals of manliness for our own, effete time. His book, I’ve been told, is popular in some Catholic circles.

That’s because the Manliness Question is also being asked within the Catholic world.

The website Inside Catholic, the Internet reincarnation of the defunct magazine Crisis, reposted two weeks ago a cover story from 2007, “The New Catholic Manliness,” by Todd Aglialoro. While Professor Mansfield writes that the virtue of andreia, a masculine virtue, is also possible within woman (his favorite example is Margaret Thatcher), Aglialoro writes explicitly about the differences between male and female spirituality, writing about how the differences play out in Church bureaucracy. He finds an answer for the new manliness in a new approach to Christian anthropology and in military metaphor: “Every one of my sources spoke of a battle against the temptations and obstacles the modern world puts before men, a war against the false, cheap version of manhood it whispers in our ears.”

These sources have, apparently, reached the pews. Last year, I met a guy who told me that he and his Catholic men’s group scheduled a day for the celebration of manhood, wherein they (among other things) eat steak and watch Rocky. He also wrote about this in his blog, which I am not sure is a manly thing to do.

But lest I sound too glib and knowing, I should expose myself a little bit and admit a personal interest in the Manliness Question. I was born in Asuncion, Paraguay, South America. My father killed birds with a slingshot while prowling the streets of Asuncion, and I never did. I played Nintendo and rode my bike in a cul-de-sac in Lawrence, Kansas. I am softer, surely. But it’s also true that my father wasn’t forced into military service in Paraguay, while my grandfather worked as a medic in the Great Chaco War.

I agree that there are virtues that we need to recapture. I would side, with some qualifications, with Mansfield’s argument in favor of andreia. But the Manliness Question needs to be placed into a proper perspective.

Let’s get some historical perspective. In 1940, in his essay, “Inside the Whale,” George Orwell complained about the generation of Englishmen from the 1930s:  “‘Cultured’ middle-class life has reached a depth of softness at which a public-school education - five years in a lukewarm bath of snobbery - can actually be looked back upon as an eventful period.” Now let’s go down to Buenos Aires, Argentina, back in the year 1926. That was the year that the great tango, “Tiempos viejos” (“Old Times”), was written by Manuel Romero and Francisco Canaro. The lyrics of this immortal song begin this way: “Do you remember brother? What times were those!/ They were other men, more men, our own.”

England and Argentina, the 1930s and the 1920s, my grandfather, my father, and me. Times change, but the Question of Manliness remains. Either we are spiraling downward to ever-greater wimpiness, or there is a deeper concern behind this perennial worry.

Three quotations come to mind when thinking about all this. First, from the Vatican II document, Gaudium et spes, “Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.” Second, from the Roman orator, Marius Victorinus, “When I met Christ, I discovered I was a man.” Lastly, from St. Irenaeus, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” In all three of these quotations, the Latin word used for man is not the masculine vir, viri, but the general term for a human person, homo, hominis.

In the first two quotations we see the same logic: Christ reveals to humanity what it means to be a human being. In the third, we see the desire that precedes the revelation, and that is fulfilled as a consequence: the desire to be fully alive, to be a man - or woman, as the case may be. For a Catholic, any concern about manliness finds its origin, and the beginning of a resolution, in those quotations.

Everything else is a discussion of secondary or tertiary effects - the toughness, the courage, the slingshots. That all comes later. First, we should try to formulate the Manliness Question into something more profound and interesting.

Santiago Ramos is a graduate of Rockhurst University in Kansas City and has written for First Things (online), Commonweal, The Pitch, Traces, Image Journal and various blogs. He is currently studying toward a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Boston College.

Friday, October 16, 2009

USCCB - Time for Administration to Weigh in on Federal Abortion Funding Ban

Susan Wills with the USCCB Pro-life Secretariat has out a new column today urging the “Administration to weigh in on a federal abortion funding ban,” and to stop hiding behind the Hyde Amendment. It is “exceedingly clear” she writes, “that the Hyde Amendment does not apply to any of the health care reform bills.” Read on to see why. (note – at the time of this post there was not yet a link for the column)

Federal Abortion Funding:

What Some People Want to “Hyde” from You

By Susan E. Wills

Addressing health care reform in his September 9 speech to Congress, President Obama assured the American public that “under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”

This was truly a welcome pledge. Up to this point, one Congressional committee after another has rejected pro-life amendments to do exactly this.

At press time for this column, we are approaching the eleventh hour. Five bills have been reported by Congressional committees, and all five would permit or mandate the use of federal revenues for health coverage that includes elective abortions.

Now would be an excellent time for the Administration to weigh in on a federal abortion funding ban. Such a move would make sense politically as well as morally. A September 2009 survey commissioned by the Catholic bishops’ conference found that 67% of Americans oppose “measures that would require people to pay for abortion coverage with their federal taxes” while only 19% favor such measures; 68% said they do not want abortion in their own insurance coverage while 24% said they do. Earlier this year, Catholics mailed over 30 million postcards to Congress, asking their elected representatives to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act “and retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion.”

But recent comments by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs suggest that the Administration may not be lobbying Congress for a funding ban. Twice Mr. Gibbs took issue with letters the Catholic bishops have written urging Congress to remove abortion funding from the health care reform bills.

In one letter the bishops noted: “So far the health reform bills … have not met President Obama’s challenge of barring the use of federal dollars for abortion.” Asked if the President agreed, Mr. Gibbs responded: “I would mention there’s a law that precludes the use of federal funds for abortion. That isn’t going to be changed in these health-care bills.” He refers, of course, to the Hyde Amendment, which Congress has reaffirmed every year for over three decades.

Two days later, a reporter asked Gibbs if the President will “call on Congress to have an explicit prohibition of abortion funding.” He replied: “My answer isn’t different than it was on Wednesday. There may be a legal interpretation that has been lost here, but there’s a fairly clear federal law prohibiting the use of federal money for abortion. I think it is – again, it’s exceedingly clear in the law.”

Contrary to Mr. Gibbs’ assertion, however, it is “exceedingly clear” that the Hyde Amendment does not apply to any of the health care reform bills. Here’s why:

Between 1973 and 1976, courts interpreted broadly-worded language on health benefits in the Medicaid statute to include abortion. Taxpayers were forced to pay for the abortion deaths of about 300,000 children annually. In 1976 the Hyde Amendment was passed, as a rider to the annual Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill. Hyde prevents federal funding of elective abortions and of health benefits packages that include such abortions. But it is not permanent law, and it applies only to funds appropriated under the annual HHS bill, not to funds appropriated under other statutes. So specific prohibitions on abortion funding have been written into laws governing other federal programs, such as federal employee health benefits, foreign aid, and military hospitals. An explicit prohibition must also be included in the final health care reform bill to avert a huge expansion of federal abortion funding. Without it, and notwithstanding their strong support for health care reform, the bishops will have no choice but to oppose the final bill vigorously.

Please contact Congress today to state your opposition to expanded federal abortion funding. A visit to www.nchla.org will allow you to send a message to your Senators and Representative with just two clicks. For more information on supporting genuine health care reform that respects the life and dignity of all, go to www.usccb.org/healthcare.

Susan Wills is assistant director for education and outreach, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

‘Requiem for Peace’ to premiere at Cathedral of Immaculate Conception

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

By John Heuertz

Special to The Catholic Key

KANSAS CITY - The Requiem Mass has stimulated composers as varied as Mozart, Gabriel Faure and the modern English composer Herbert Howells. And now, a brand-new work inspired by the Requiem's traditional form will receive its world premiere at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 7 p.m. Thursday, November 5.

mario organ2 "'Requiem of Peace' is the title, and that title makes a very big difference to understanding what it's all about," says Dr. Mario Pearson, the Cathedral's music director and the new work's composer.

A Requiem's traditional purpose is to ask God’s mercy on the dead by granting the dead eternal peace. But Pearson's new work extends that prayer to the living – by adding a reminder to the traditional prayers that peace is still possible in our world today.

Lasting about 45 minutes, or roughly the performance time of a Romantic-era concerto or symphony, the "Requiem of Peace" is scored for a choir of about 40 voices and an 18-piece orchestra of strings with clarinet, French horn, chimes, tympani and piano.

Its 10 sections include the traditional seven sections of the Requiem and three extra sections: a setting of the peace prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, a setting of the Dona Nobis Pacem, and an instrumental interlude written in memory of the victims of 9/11.

All ten sections are joined thematically by a recurring motif. "Sometimes it's taken up by the strings, sometimes by the choir, sometimes by the chimes, and so forth," Pearson says. "It just helps us be mindful of the whole idea, which is a sort of a musical plea for peace in this world."

Pearson was studying composition at Stetson University in Florida on September 11, 2001, "and that's where the whole concept for the Requiem of Peace came about," he says. "Seeing the chaos of 9/11 reminded me once again of the need for peace in this world."

It was a reminder to one who was already quite aware of the need for peace. Pearson was born and raised in the Archdiocese of Cape Town, South Africa, and saw first-hand from childhood what chronic violence does to a community and to a nation.

"I grew up living with a lack of peace," he says. "I remember, very well, me as a teenager playing the organ for so many funerals of teenagers and young children killed in the crossfires.

"Seeing first-hand the violence of the apartheid system as a child made me recognize the need for peace in the world. So actually, it's a very personal story too."

The November 5 service is a multi-media event. The music will be accompanied by PowerPoint slides, including slides of heroes for peace like Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Cathedral's choir, the Diocesan choir, and the choir of Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral downtown will join forces for the performance, which is part of an ecumenical liturgical service of readings and hymns called "Requiem and Remembrance."

Pearson says its purpose is "to remember all of those who have gone before us in faith." He will conduct the ensemble and Canon John Schaefer, his counterpart at Grace and Holy Trinity, will be the organist for the service.

"It's a nice piece of music, very attractive" Canon Schaefer says. "It's very accessible to the listener, but also it very profoundly expresses what Dr. Pearson is trying to communicate."

Sr. Claudette Schiratti, the diocese's Associate Music Director, will be the pianist for the Nov. 5th performance. Monsignor Robert Gregory, Rector of the Cathedral, and the Very Reverend Terry White, Dean of Grace and Holy Trinity cathedral, will co-preside at the service.

"The world is so full of contradiction, cynicism, division and animosity, and that's just in conversations between people," Msgr. Gregory says. "We hope the beauty of this music will touch people to be people of peace, and to remind people that peace is still possible in this world for those who seek peace."

There will be a candlelit procession to Grace and Holy Trinity for a reception after the service. Admission is free. "No one will be turned away," Dr. Pearson says.

November’s performance is the third annual choral collaboration between the two cathedrals. A free-will offering will be taken to help pay for the orchestra and to help fund another joint choral venture next year.

"I do hope that parishioners from all over the diocese will come and we have a packed cathedral to pray for peace," Pearson says.

"There are never enough occasions for people to do that. At least I hope that's what people take away from it."

Pic – Dr. Mario Pearson at the organ of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Michael Sean Winters' Whopper

The Hyde Amendment is nearly as settled law as is Roe,” Winters writes today over at NCR. You can go there to see the full context of the remark. I’m not interested in entering the specific argument over a public option. Rather, I’d like to point out that in the service of his political policy preferences Winters is capable of the most enormous whopper.

Here is what I’m certain Mr. Winters knows about the relative weight of Hyde versus Roe.

Roe v Wade is a Supreme Court decision. It supersedes and invalidates all existing or future democratically or legislatively enacted laws which the Court itself deems in conflict with it.

Overturning or even modifying Roe would require an amendment to the Constitution. To pass a Constitutional Amendment requires the approval of two-thirds of a quorum of both the House and Senate followed by ratification of three-fourths of the States.

The Supreme Court itself is the only other agent which can overturn or change Roe. That would require an alteration of the membership of the Court in a way one party is resolutely opposed to and the other has only unreliably attempted. At any rate, it would require a different President and a different Senate committed to appointing anti-Roe Justices. Then they would have to wait around for a sufficient number of pro-Roe Justices to retire. Then you’d have to wait around to see if the Justices you nominated are really as anti-Roe as you hoped.

Roe is about as settled as settled law gets. It is as settled as the Constitution, because the Court has said it is the Constitution.

The Hyde Amendment on the other hand is about as ethereal a law as can be. It is a limitation amendment to an annual appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services. It expires every single year and must be renewed, debated and passed each year to remain a law. The language of the amendment itself has also changed over the years. The only thing necessary for the Hyde Amendment to disappear is for it not to be renewed.

Also contrary to Mr. Winters’ claim, the purpose of the Hyde Amendment has been thwarted by courts. Since the Federal government has been barred by the Hyde Amendment from providing funds for most abortions through Medicaid, several courts have forced States to do the dirty work. Currently, thirteen states are required by courts to provide abortion funding for low-income women. Another five do so voluntarily.

For a good run down on the Hyde Amendment, as well as its complete irrelevancy to the public option debate, see this memo from Douglas Johnson at the NRLC.

UPDATE: Deal Hudson has background and update on this post over at InsideCatholic.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Saint Jeanne Jugan, Intercede for Us!

Following is Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn’s homily given at a Mass celebrating the canonization of St. Jeanne Jugan. The Mass was celebrated on October 11 at the Jeanne Jugan Center Chapel in Kansas City:

Dear Bishop Boland, Father McCormack and brother priests

Dear Mother Therese Marie and the Little Sisters

Dear Residents of Jeanne Jugan Center

Dear Board members, friends and benefactors of the Little Sisters

Friends in Christ all,

Jeanne Jugan – the humble, holy foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor has been declared a Saint! Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, in an exercise of his infallibility as Vicar of Christ on earth, has made this solemn and definitive declaration in St. Peter’s Basilica this morning. Referring to her under her title in Religious life, Marie de la Croix, or Mary of the Cross, the Pope raised her to the “honors of the altar” today with four other new Saints: Saint Zygmunt Felinski, a Polish archbishop; Saint Francesco Coll y Guitart, a Spanish Dominican priest; Saint Rafael Baron, a Spanish Cistercian; and Saint Damian de Veuster, renowned for his life and death among the lepers in Molokai, Hawaii. Jeanne Jugan, the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor, is a saint! Thanks be to God!

As a young woman, Jeanne knew that God was calling her. Many years would go by; she would wait until middle age before discovering how He would use her. “God wants me for Himself,” she said, “He is keeping me for a work which is not yet founded.”

And this foundation would begin very simply, with some other friends she welcomed an elderly blind woman into her house, giving up her own bed. Little by little others called to serve God in this way would join her. Her holiness, her prayer, the docility to the Holy Spirit, the action of charity, especially for the elderly poor, would take shape and be finally affirmed as the fundamental elements of the Order. In a heroic way, she fulfilled our Lord’s call in today’s Gospel: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor; then come, follow me.”

It does not seem there were mystical visions. There weren’t supernatural miracles early on – but some gracious experiences of God’s Providence: locating a lost treasure; a person once neglected now finding consolation and joy. There were no monumental gifts of money, though many small and generous signs of support.

“Making the elderly happy; that is what counts!” she said. This is the way of love in Jesus Christ that Jeanne learned and taught. It is difficult to imagine how many men and women have come to experience God’s Providence in the homes of the Little Sisters. It is weighty to think how many might have died alone and in agony, or even despair, were it not for these happy families: the Centers like this one, named for Jeanne Jugan in Kansas City.

How many people’s faith has been renewed and strengthened here? How many have been helped to heaven through the prayers and faithful love of the Sisters of little Jeanne Jugan?

St. Jeanne herself spent years in anonymity in her own house – but her holiness was preserved. How her soul must have been like glowing coals – a powerful furnace of God’s quiet mercy – while the work was growing and spreading quickly like a fire. It was burning also in the hearts of those called to this consecration as Little Sisters, though St. Jeanne herself went unnoticed. And this fire of God’s love never stopped providing warmth and care for the elderly sick who learned that they are great in God’s eyes; that they would not be alone; that these holy friends would be with them to the moment of death.

What holiness she had; what great trust. “Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel,” She insisted. “Go to Him when your strength and patience are giving out, when you feel lonely and helpless. Say to Him, “My dear Jesus I have only you. Come to my aid …’ And then go your way. And don’t worry. It is enough to have told our Good Lord. He has an excellent memory.” He did not forget His little Saint. Today He holds her up as an example for us all.

This confidence is the victory of God in the life and work of St. Jeanne Jugan. The work continues, simply, the same way: not by means of an endowment, a government program, or an elaborate corporate plan; but through begging – total dependence on God, and a humble, daily reliance on the gifts of so many benefactors.

We might say Jeanne Jugan found her “niche.” And on the pedestal of that niche she placed You, her poor, her friends, her Sisters, her Lord. A few hours ago in St. Peter’s Square thousands, including some of our own local pilgrims, heard her proclaimed as Saint Jeanne Jugan. As she takes her place in the Litany we ask her, “Pray for us!” Through her intercession there is much important work to be done.

In a recent interview, Mother General Celine de la Visitation, spoke of the dangerous trends we see in our culture – not only the neglect of the aged poor – but also the agenda of euthanasia and assisted suicide which seems to be gaining momentum in various countries, even in our own where two states have laws allowing assisted suicide. St. Jeanne Jugan, Intercede for us!

The care of the dying is a work of mercy entrusted to all Christ’s disciples. That we may persevere in heroic friendship and be willing to spend the necessary time to be with those in their final struggles, St Jeanne Jugan, Intercede for us!

So often talk about “the quality of life” fails to see the transcendent magnificence of the human soul and the supernatural power of God’s grace: So that we will never reduce human worth to practical utility, St. Jeanne Jugan, Intercede for us!

We ask The Lord of the Harvest that the consecrated vocation and the apostolate of loving care for the elderly may be stirred up in the hearts of many young women, and that they will respond to His call, St. Jeanne Jugan, Intercede for us!

Today, dear friends, the words of the Holy Father’s proclamation resound throughout the world. They are the cause of great joy and profound praise: She is a saint.

Sister Mary of the Cross;

Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor;

Patron Saint for old age and every age;

St. Jeanne Jugan, Pray for us!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Would It Be Better to Say St. Damien Celebrated Mass with His Back to the Lepers

or that he celebrated Mass facing God with the lepers? We know what he thought he was doing.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Health Care Reform Should Follow Missouri Model on Abortion Coverage

Today, the Missouri Catholic Conference proposed that any federal health care reform should follow Missouri law with respect to abortion coverage. Under Missouri law, a separate insurance rider is required for abortion coverage. So in effect, only people who want abortion coverage pay for abortion coverage. The premiums of other people and the subsidies of any government program would not.

Please see the Related Urgent Action Item below this release:

Health Care Reform Should Follow Missouri Model


October 9, 2009, JEFFERSON CITY, MO – The health care reform legislation currently under consideration in congress will force people to subsidize abortions through their insurance premiums, according to Missouri Catholic Conference’s (MCC) Interim Director, Mike Hoey.


The MCC is advocating that the national legislation follow the example of Missouri law. Missouri law requires a separate insurance rider for abortion coverage (Section 376.805 RSMo).


“A separate rider ensures that people pay for an abortion with their own money and my insurance premiums do not subsidize someone’s abortion,” Hoey said.


The Senate Finance Committee recently rejected an amendment by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that would have required an insurance rider for abortion coverage. Under the bill approved by the finance committee, the secretary of health and human services would determine the cost of abortion coverage, which could be as little as one dollar per month.


“This is a phony pro-life fix,” Hoey observed. “What is needed is explicit language requiring a separate insurance rider.”


The MCC is also advocating that explicit language be added to the health care reform legislation to ensure that no public monies are used to fund abortions. As proposed, the reform bill references the annual appropriation restrictions on abortion – no publicly funded abortions except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother. These abortion restrictions are commonly referred to as the Hyde amendment after the late Congressman Henry Hyde, R-Ill.


“Congress can refuse to re-adopt Hyde next year and then all the pro-life protections disappear,” Hoey said. “Hyde needs to be made permanent law not just an annual appropriation amendment. Only in this way can Congress reassure pro-life citizens that abortion will be kept out of health care reform.”


The MCC is mobilizing Catholic citizens and parishes to contact their U.S. senators and congresspersons with a very basic message: “Keep abortion out of health care reform.”


“The bottom line is people need to tell their senators and congresspersons, “I do not want my tax dollars to fund abortions” and “I do not want my insurance premiums to subsidize someone’s abortion.””

A real easy way to contact your representatives and senators is through this portal from NCHLA. This is already set up with letters asking congress to allow pro-life floor amendments. You can add material from the letter above to the letters.

Related Urgent Action Item

MCC is asking folks to urgently contact Senator Claire McCaskill.

Dear Senator Claire McCaskill:


Soon the U.S. Senate will consider historic legislation to reform the nation's badly flawed health care system. I strongly support health care reform and appreciate your support for reform. Too many people work for businesses that don't offer health insurance or lose their health insurance when they fall ill.


But I, along with most Missourians, do not consider abortion another form of health care.

I do not want my insurance premiums to subsidize abortion.


I do not want my tax dollars to fund abortion.


There is a profound moral contradiction in expanding health care for the needy while expanding access to abortion that kills an innocent unborn life.


You have sought to reassure Missourians that health care reform will not include abortion. I take you at your word - this is what you sincerely believe. Your position is similar to President Obama's promise to a Joint Session of Congress on health care on Sept. 9 when he promised that "under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion, and federal conscience laws will remain in place."


But the Senate Finance Committee recently defeated amendments to explicitly prohibit insurance coverage for abortion. Why, if the intention is to keep abortion out of health care reform, were these amendments defeated?


There are two steps you can take to address these concerns. First, the federal legislation should follow Missouri law that requires a separate insurance rider for those wanting coverage for elective abortions. (See Section 376.805 RSMo.). This is the way to ensure that people pay for abortion with their own money and my insurance premiums do not subsidize someone's abortion.


Secondly, the federal legislation should make the Hyde abortion restrictions - no publicly funded abortions except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother - a part of permanent law. The proposed legislation simply references the annual appropriation rider to Medicaid and similar programs, which can change annually. If Congress fails to adopt Hyde next fiscal year, health care reform suddenly becomes a vehicle for the expansion of abortion.


As someone who has President Obama's ear and who has earned the respect of your colleagues, you can play a pivotal role in ensuring passage of historic health care reform. By working to keep abortion out of health care reform, you can improve its chances for passage and keep the measure on the law books for many years to come.


Sincerely,


_____________ (your name)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

USCCB to Congress - Fix Health Bills or We'll Oppose

This just in from the USCCB Pro-life Secretariat. The bishops are throwing down the gauntlet over failed amendments to fix abortion, conscience, affordability and immigrants in health care bills. This letter is dated October 8 and was sent to all members of the House and Senate:


Dear Member of Congress:


On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), we are writing to express our disappointment that progress has not been made on the three priority criteria for health care reform that we have conveyed previously to Congress. In fact, the Senate Finance Committee rejected a conscience rights amendment accepted earlier by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill. We remain committed to working with the Administration, Congressional leadership, and our allies to produce final health reform legislation that will reflect our principles.


We continue to urge you to


1. Exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion. It is essential that the legislation clearly apply to this new program longstanding and widely supported federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, and protections for rights of conscience. No current bill meets this test.


2. Adopt measures that protect and improve people’s health care. Reform should make quality health care affordable and accessible to everyone, particularly those who are vulnerable and those who live at or near the poverty level.


3. Include effective measures to safeguard the health of immigrants, their children and all of society. Ensure that legal immigrants and their family members have comprehensive, affordable, and timely access to health care coverage. Maintain an adequate safety net for those who remain uncovered.


We sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria. However, we remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes. If acceptable language in these areas cannot be found, we will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously. Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity. Much-needed reform of our health care system must be pursued in ways that serve the life and dignity of all, never in ways that undermine or violate these fundamental values. We will work tirelessly to remedy these central problems and help pass real reform that clearly protects the life, dignity and health of all.


Sincerely,


Bishop William F. Murphy
Diocese of Rockville Centre
Chairman
Committee on Domestic Justice
& Human Development


Cardinal Justin Rigali
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Chairman
Committee on Pro-Life
Activities


Bishop John Wester
Diocese of Salt Lake City
Chairman
Committee on Migration

Here’s a link to the pdf.

Archbishop O’Brien on the Apostolic Visitation of Women Religious

When the Vatican released a public report on the Apostolic Visitation of U.S. Seminaries earlier this year, I wrote about it for the National Catholic Register (subscription only). Archbishop Edwin O’Brien (now of Baltimore) headed up that visitation, and when I asked him how the visitation and report were received, he said the response was “overwhelmingly positive.”

There were naysayers at the beginning of the process and certainly not everyone was happy at the end – but most were. I spoke with visitors and the visited and Archbishop O’Brien’s assertion that the reaction was “overwhelmingly positive” did, in fact, check out. Father Michael Sweeney, O.P., President of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, even said that the report his institution received was “so glowing that I’m actually using it in our fundraising.”

Of course, not every institution’s report was so glowing, but the point is, the visitation of U.S. seminaries was not the slash and burn operation some had anticipated.

In his column this week, Archbishop O’Brien turns his attention to the ongoing Apostolic Visitation of U.S. Women Religious. He has just met with representatives of religious congregations in his diocese who expressed concerns about the visitation and he relays his response:

Having played a role in the 2005 Apostolic Visitation of Seminaries and Houses of Priestly Formation (the second such seminary visitation since the Vatican II Council), I cannot help but see some reactions on the sisters’ part which were very similar to those on the part of formation and seminary personnel at the announcement of both prior Visitations: Why us? Why now? Why the secrecy? Have we done something wrong? In time, once the process gained momentum, most of the seminaries accepted the Visitation and in the end even found it most beneficial.


I hope and pray the same will be said about the current Visitation.


I was not in a position to answer all the concerns of the FORUM members satisfactorily, but I did assure them of my full support and, indeed, of my admiration of the women religious serving in our Archdiocese. During my two years of pastoral visits I have been inspired by our sisters’ selfless service in every area of ministry, including in our schools, health care institutions and parishes. Likely because of their embrace of the vow of poverty, so very many of them, in the Spirit of Christ, instinctively reach out to the poor, hungry and homeless. The admiration they have won from both Catholics and non-Catholics for more than 200 years is a jewel in the crown of the Church in Baltimore.


As far as I can see, our women religious have nothing to fear from an Apostolic Visitation, and I will do all I can to assist in making this a positive experience for all involved.


This is not to say that all is perfect, as our sisters readily admit. The fact that some communities are receiving few if any vocations, for instance, is of real concern to them and the whole Church.


As in seminary life, so in religious life, the Second Vatican Council brought about many changes and involved, in some cases, experiments into forms of life and ministry which might depart from the founding purposes of the community in question. Canon law reserves for the Holy Father the authority to monitor such developments, “to take care that the institutes grow and flourish according to the spirit of the founders and sound traditions.” An apostolic visitation is one way the Church carries out this responsibility. Might not a fresh, objective and reflective look into religious life over the last 45 years be of some help?

Now, some of the more liberal Catholic publications have decided that the Apostolic Visitation of U.S. Women Religious is a heavy-handed, unwarranted inquisition and witch hunt and they have given voice to a handful of sisters with extreme views on the visitation and on the Church itself.  It is not unfair to characterize some of the reaction as seething, hysterical and condescending. For some good commentary on these pieces see this post at Mirror of Justice by Father Robert Araujo, S.J.

I have worked with, for, around, been taught by and visited in convalescence numerous religious women whose congregations are represented by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The vast majority have been faithful to their vocation and the Church. The vast majority have in fact been tremendous role models of faith, fidelity and charity. Almost none have expressed the views and attitudes of the women highlighted at NCR, Commonweal and America. The only exceptions in real life have been encountered in the university, academic setting. Beyond that, such attitudes are encountered more often in print than in encountering actual religious.

It is a disservice to highlight such angry, dissenting voices as these three publications have simultaneously done. It misrepresents the religious women of the U.S. It causes undue fear among the religious. And I’m sure it provides no ease to the women who have accepted the responsibility to lead the Apostolic Visitation.

Let us rather hope and pray, as Archbishop O’Brien has suggested, that this Apostolic Visitation will be “overwhelmingly positive”.

Archbishop Chaput on Lepanto

Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput dedicates his column this week to a description of the Battle of Lepanto leading into an exhortation to remain vigilant in defending religious freedom. It’s a great read and you should see the whole thing, but I’d like to pull out one salient point for our atheist-chic age (my emphases):

Lepanto can’t be reduced to a clash of commercial interests.  It was clearly a contest of beliefs; of very different ideas about God, the human person and the meaning of human society.  For the Ottoman Turks, conquests in Europe were an expression of Islamic jihad.  Conquered peoples were pressed to convert.  If they didn’t, they paid a heavy price in discrimination or outright persecution.  As for the Holy League, the name speaks for itself.  Modern secular, post-national thinkers may look back dismissively on the religious struggles for the identity of Western civilization, but the free ground they stand on was won with the blood of Christian believers.  The history of Europe, and therefore of our own nation, could easily have been very different.  It wasn’t.  Lepanto is one of the reasons.

Read on.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On What Makes 'Mad Men' Worth Watching

I have never seen Mad Men, but I thoroughly enjoyed this review which appears in this week’s Catholic Key. Whether or not you’re familiar with the show, I highly recommend reading through to the end of this piece by our very own Santiago Ramos. I think he’s really hit on a wound in the American psyche shared by, pretty much, all of us.

Mad Men

Review by Santiago Ramos

MediaPicOct9 Too much of the hubbub and fanfare concerning the AMC television series Mad Men has been, literally, superficial. One of the main attractions of the series — which follows the lives of men and women working at a Madison Avenue advertising firm in the early 1960s — are its sets and costumes, which meticulously reproduce the colors and contours of that ever-fascinating decade: the pastels in the suits and ties, the typewriters, the horn-rimmed glasses, the chinoiserie, the turtlenecks. Many reviews —including one appearing last year in the Star — have focused almost exclusively on this impressive but screen-deep dimension of the show.

I say almost exclusively, because there is another main attraction which is mentioned more often than are the sets and costumes, and that is the banal observation that Mad Men shows us “the changes of the 1960s.” Season one takes place in 1960 and ends with the election of John F. Kennedy; Season two takes place in 1962 and ends with the Cuban Missile Crisis; Season three, which is currently in session, takes place during 1963. All throughout the series, smaller signs of those times appear: a polio survivor on crutches; mute, marginalized African-Americans working the elevators; a woman — Peggy —becomes the first female adwoman; a Jesuit priest starts playing guitar in his room; a middle aged Brooklynite Irish Catholic lady mourns the death of John XXIII.

But in order to hone in on what makes this show worth watching, we have to move beyond the sensuous appreciation of its surfaces and the frisson that everyone seems to get when we recall the exciting events of the 1960s. What makes this show worth watching is the dilemma that it creates for its characters, all of who have to choose between being good and having fun. This, of course, is a false dilemma, and it causes problems for anyone who wants to live a truly happy life. One wonders how many people really see things in this way. This show is a case study in a way of seeing the world that makes happiness impossible.

The main character of the show, Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) is a high-powered adman who heads the creative department in the Sterling-Cooper Ad Agency. He married Betty (January Jones), once a model in Manhattan now a housewife in a nice home in suburban Ossining, New York. He has two kids, a car, and a lawn. Of course, that’s not the whole story. We are shown his private, secret side from the first episode onward: his affairs with the independent, Beatnik artist; his other affair with a Manhattanite Jewish woman who thus far is the only serious, well-adjusted character in the show; his heavy drinking; and his greatest secret of all, that his name is really not Don Draper, but that D.D. is a name he stole from a corpse when he was fighting in Korea.

For Don to stay at home with his family is “good.” Seeking out illicit adventures in the Manhattan high-life is “fun.” Duty or anarchy; neither is fulfilling. And the greatest sadness is that Don doesn’t even seem to be striving for something close to happiness — he just shuttles back and forth from duty to “fun,” and no one is able to articulate for him the idea of fulfillment. The structure of the story is set against the characters. But it’s not a universe we have to believe in. Indeed, it’s a universe we have to confront.

One character who actually is striving for fulfillment is Peggy Olson (played by Elisabeth Moss, who previously played the president’s daughter on The West Wing). She starts off as Don’s secretary, but her intelligent comments during a focus group study for a brand of lipstick got her a job on the creative staff. By the third season, she has her own office and secretary. At first, we root for Peggy Olson, because she is hard-working, guileless, and honest. That she abandoned her child to her mother and sister is problematic to her character. But more problematic, I think, is that as she fights a noble fight for equal treatment and pay, she also takes on some of the bad habits of the Mad Men — as if proving that to succeed, you have to be like them.

Roger Sterling, one of the partners of Sterling Cooper, when forced to choose between duty and fun, tries to have both. He divorces his wife and marries a secretary barely 20 years old. The third season is partially about this misadventure, and the fact that he has lost his old friend Don’s respect is something that, so far, doesn’t faze him. But we can be sure that it eventually will. All plans fall flat in this show, all the characters fall on their face.

With such a bleak set of stories, no wonder most reviewers focus on the sets and costumes. The show depicts life in a certain way, and if you really think that life is like this, then you don’t want to spend too much time thinking about life.

But the life we really want is one where we don’t forsake the things we know are good — family, fidelity, honesty — but where we find meaning in them, a meaning that leads to happiness. Finding the meaning of the events of life, learning how to judge the events of life in order to find a meaning, is something that no character in Mad Men does. Who can teach them how to do it? Who can propose a different way of looking at life that doesn’t pit duty against fun, a life that is an integrated whole? Unfortunately, the priest in the show, while well-intentioned, doesn’t have many interesting things to say.

Producer Matthew Weiner and his team of writers have accomplished a remarkable achievement in bringing to life an era of prosperity and artistic and social ferment. But more than a period piece, this is a tragedy; the age that it depicts is one in which we Americans started thinking of life as game that must be played alone and won in secret.

Santiago Ramos is a graduate of Rockhurst University in Kansas City and has written for First Things (online), Commonweal, The Pitch, Traces, Image Journal and various blogs. He is currently studying toward a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Boston College.

Monday, October 5, 2009

It’s 'Weapon of Mass Conversion' Month

Catholics have abandoned the Rosary “to their spiritual impoverishment” and should once again take up this “powerful weapon for the spiritual warfare that is part of our daily life,” Orlando Bishop Thomas G. Wenski counsels in his column this week.

October is the Month of the Rosary and Bishop Wenski has that too-rare talent of being able to make prayer, conversion and piety sound like masculine endeavors. Here’s more:

Yet, in the contemplative prayer that is the recitation of the Rosary, Mary has given us a simple yet powerful weapon for the spiritual warfare that is part of our daily life in this “valley of tears.” It is not a weapon of violence or intimidation but rather one of peace and healing for praying the rosary leads us to a more intimate relationship with the Mother of Mercy, our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope. In a world still threatened by weapons of mass destruction, we have in the rosary – as Mary indicated to the shepherd children of Fatima – a weapon of mass conversion. Indeed, the rosary sustained many of God’s faithful caught behind the Iron Curtain during decades of communist oppression and atheistic indoctrination. Deprived of freedom to practice their religion openly and oftentimes impeded from assisting at Mass, these faithful Catholics found in the rosary the strength to persevere. And should we not recognize in the unanticipated events of 1989 when the Berlin Wall was taken down and the communist regimes of Eastern Europe dismantled the evidence of Mary’s powerful intercession?

This revered prayer of devotion in no way detracts from the Church’s official prayers that are found in the liturgy. Indeed, the rosary can help us to prepare for and participate more fruitfully in the liturgy, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is the “source and summit” of our Christian life. For the rosary is, in the words of Pope John Paul II, simply the contemplation of the face of Christ through the eyes of Mary.

The rosary, then, as a prayer that has us gaze upon Jesus through the eyes of Mary, can help us embrace life: to understand that life is not a burden to be endured but a gift to be shared. In this way, the rosary is a powerful antidote against the “Culture of death” of our contemporary society – a culture in which the dignity and the right to life of the unborn, the disabled and the aged is increasingly discounted. The quiet witness of those who pray the rosary outside of abortion mills testifies to the efficacy of this prayer as a weapon to oppose what Pope Benedict has called the “new dictatorship, that of relativism and the domination of technology.”

See the whole thing. I’d also recommend his last column on Angels.