Friday, October 31, 2008


As long as many of you are in a prayer mood, in these final days prior to the election (I'm doing the 9-1-1 Novena!), why not try the NaPraGoMo: National Pray to God Month, for the month of November.

All that's required is 15 minutes more prayer a day. If your "deadly sin" is Acedia (Spiritual Sloth), then all that is required is 15 minutes a day.

That could be a fast Rosary, a slow Divine Mercy Chaplet. a passel of Litanies or pray for everyone you know, or for whom you think needs prayers.

The Ironic Catholic, a Theology Professor came up with the idea to counter those who plan on writing a novel in November. But the I.C. will be sending emails to all who sign up to encourage them and perhaps give them prayerful ideas.

See the web page here!

You also might want to look at Our Lady's Tears or So Many Devotions, two of the most prayerful blogs around.

Evening of Reparation

Cathy here. Sorry for the late notice but there will be an Evening of Reparation for Offenses Committed Against the Eucharist on Halloween. This is usually an annual event but I just got official confirmation it was still on this afternoon.

Tonight at the Church of St. Augustine in South St. Paul MN

7:15pm to 9:15pm Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - Benediction at 9:15pm
7:30pm to 9:00 Confessions
9:30pm - Holy Mass with Fr. Altier

Bishop Robert Carlson of Saginaw speaks out on abortion and embryonic stem cell research

Bishop Robert Carlson of Saginaw, formerly Bishop of Sioux Falls and before that Auxiliary Bishop here in St Paul and Minneapolis, has a powerful statement for Saginaw Catholics, and us too.

Father John Zuhlsdorf, as usual, does a great job of calling attention to the important points in Bishop Carlson's message "emphases" in black and
"comments" in red.

I. On Abortion and Catholic Voters

As the presidential election approaches, I want to respond to a few questions that many Catholics are asking themselves, and each other.

“Isn’t abortion the only issue in this election?” No. Any serious Catholic voter must be concerned about a great many issues in this election: the right to life, education, war and peace, how we treat the poor and the vulnerable, the economy. [Watch what he does.]

“Isn’t abortion just one issue among others in this election?” No. Any serious Catholic voter must recognize abortion as the premier threat to human rights and dignity in our day. The right to life is the right through which all others flow. [He is helping people prepare to respond to questions or objections in a conversation.]

“So, how’s a Catholic to vote?Let me put the matter as simply as I can: Abortion results in the killing of approximately 1 million children in the womb every year. A Catholic can, in good conscience, vote for a pro-choice candidate only if other issues outweigh this one in number and in kind. [I don’t think we have seen this approach from an American bishop yet. I am always, btw, delighted to see a bishop speak about anything having to do with "number and kind". We need to remind people that they must confess their sins in number and kind. These are very important distinctions.]

What do I mean by “in number and in kind”? Let’s take an example. The Church is opposed to the use of the death penalty. But the death penalty does not outweigh abortion because:

1) they differ in number: over 1 million abortions per year vs. less than 100 executions per year, and

2) they differ in kind: the directly willed death of the innocent vs. the directly willed death of those found guilty in a court of law.

Aren’t there other issues to be considered? Absolutely.

Immigration, the economy, the use of military force, the care of the poor, the use of renewable energy. These are all important issues in the life of the country. In good conscience, a Catholic voter must weigh them all.

But there is also a scale of values. [scale of values] In good conscience, a Catholic needs to recognize that all issues do not have the same weight. [Exactly.] The directly willed death of over a million innocent children each year certainly places a special burden on the conscience.

Can any other issue, or combination of issues, attain sufficient gravity to outweigh the directly willed destruction of 1 million children every year? That’s the question we must ask ourselves and each other as we weigh our election choices. [Clearly from this the answer is "No. They do not outweigh the willed destruction of the innocent in the millions."]

II. Finding Cures and Protecting Life [Making it more concrete.]

Proposal 2 asks us to amend the state constitution to expand the use of human embryos for the purposes of embryonic stem cell research.

Regarding the presidential election, there is the potential for Catholics to reach different conclusions in good conscience. Regarding Proposal 2, however, the duties of every Catholic voter are clear.

In the first place, Proposal 2 is scientifically unnecessary for following reasons.

1) The use of adult stem cells has already played a role in the treatment and cure of over 70 types of diseases, including sickle-cell anemia and various types of leukemia. The use of embryonic stem cells has resulted in 0 treatments or cures. (For more information, go to

2) Researchers prized embryonic stem cells because of their capacity to become any other cell in the body. (In scientific language, they are “pluri-potent” stem cells.) Scientific breakthroughs in the last year have made it possible to take ordinary skin cells from any adult and transform them into pluri-potent stem cells. (In scientific language, these are called “induced pluri-potent stem cells” or iPS cells.) The technique has already been used to cure sickle-cell anemia in mice. [Therefore there is no need to attempt this with embryonic stem-cells.]

In other words, there are other and better avenues for finding cures. In fact Dr. Field, the Director of the Field Neurosciences Institute (FNI), has made a statement that the FNI “will not be using human embryonic stem cells in its clinical or preclinical research projects. We believe that stem cell therapy has tremendous potential for treating brain and spinal cord damage due to trauma or disease, but that either adult-derived stem cells or inducible pluri-potent stem cells have the potential to provide therapeutic efficacy in this regard.”

In the second place, Proposal 2 goes too far as a piece of legislation. Proposal 2 would not only authorize the destruction of human embryos to obtain pluri-potent stem cells, it would take the drastic step of prohibiting any state or local law that would discourage such research. Even a regulation that required researchers to pursue all other options before turning to embryonic stem cells would be unconstitutional. In this respect, Proposal 2 is not only scientifically unnecessary, it simply goes too far.

In the third place, and most importantly, Proposal 2 is based on principles that are morally reprehensible, [morally reprehensible] namely:

1) Things like size, age, and location matter in determining whether a human life is to be accorded legal protection. If those who are very small, very young, and dependent on others for their existence are not to be accorded legal protection, it is hard to see why those who are very old, very infirm, and equally dependent on others for their existence should be accorded legal protection.

2) One group of human beings can be used to advance the well-being of another group of human beings. This is the same principle that justified slavery. [And Nazi human experimentation.]

3) We can sacrifice the lives of some individuals for the sake of research “because they are going to die anyway.” Those with advanced dementia are also going to die. That hardly justifies using them for research.

The reasoning behind Proposal 2 establishes dangerous moral precedents. In the words of one commentator, “If a principle is established by which some indisputably human lives do not warrant the protections traditionally associated with the dignity of the human person — because of their size, location, dependency, level of development, burdensomeness to others — it would seem that there are numerous other candidates for the application of the principle, beginning with the radically handicapped, both physically and mentally, not to mention millions of the aged and severely debilitated in our nation’s nursing homes.”

Finding cures for diseases is surely a great good. And science and technology are needed to show the way to those cures. But:

1) there are other avenues for research that protect life rather than destroying
it, and have a better scientific track record in finding cures, and

2) there are some things we must never do, like sacrificing our children’s lives to extend our own health and well-being.

Because it is scientifically unnecessary, because it goes too far, and because it is based on reprehensible moral principles, I call on all Catholics in the Diocese of Saginaw to oppose Proposal 2. [There it is!]

For more information on Stem Cells and Proposal 2, visit the following websites:,,, and

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson
Bishop of Saginaw

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Listen to Archbishop Nienstedt radio interview on voting your Catholic conscience

Archbishop Nienstedt did a 12 minute interview earlier this week with Relevant Radio (Twin Cities - 1330 AM) addressing the principles of our Faith that Catholics should consider carefully as we approach the voting booths next Tuesday.

The interview, which features direct questions from station manager Brian Acker can be heard this Friday morning on Relevant Radio during their "City Winds" program which begins at 9:00 A.M. It will also be rebroadcast Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday at 10:00 AM, just prior to the station's weekly broadcast of Mass at Saint Olaf Church.



Abp. Nienstedt: Obama's Freedom of Choice Act is bad legislation

The Freedom of Choice Act will be considered by Congress (S. 1173, H.R. 1964) when it reconvenes in January.

Contrary to its deceptively clever title, FOCA would create a “fundamental right” for a woman to “terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability” or to “terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.”

No governmental agency at any level (federal, state or local) could “deny or interfere with” this right nor discriminate against the exercise of this right “in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services or information.”

Devastating effects

If enacted, this would become the first time in our nation’s history that abortion is established as an “entitlement.” This, in effect, would move our country beyond even the Supreme Court’s decision of Roe v. Wade.

It would also do away with a large number of existing state laws on abortion, substantially impede the ability of states to regulate abortion, and override nearly 40 years of jurisprudential experience on the subject of abortion.

Legal experts say it would likely invalidate informed consent laws, parental notification laws, laws promoting maternal health (if they result in an increased cost for abortions), abortion clinic regulations (even those designed to make abortion safer for women), laws prohibiting a particular abortion procedure (such as partial-birth abortion) and laws requiring that abortions only be performed by a licensed physician.

It is hard to imagine a more radical piece of pro-abortion legislation. FOCA would have a devastatingly destructive impact on the government’s ability to regulate abortion.

I urge our readers to contact their senators and representatives and tell them to vote against this bill.

Now is the time to reduce, not increase, the incidence of abortion.

Cardinal’s warning

Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said on the occasion of last month’s Respect Life Sunday:

“FOCA establishes abortion as a ‘fundamental right’ throughout the nine months of pregnancy, and forbids any law or policy that could ‘interfere’ with that right or ‘discriminate’ against it in public funding and programs. If FOCA became law, hundreds of reasonable, widely supported, and constitutionally sound abortion regulations now in place would be invalidated.

“Gone would be laws providing for informed consent, and parental consent or notification in the case of minors. Laws protecting women from unsafe abortion clinics and from abortion practitioners who are not physicians would be overridden. Restrictions on partial-birth and other late-term abortions would be eliminated. FOCA would knock down laws protecting the conscience rights of nurses, doctors and hospitals with moral objections to abortion, and force taxpayers to fund abortions throughout the United States.

“We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot tolerate an even greater loss of innocent human lives. We cannot subject more women and men to the post-abortion grief and suffering that our counselors and priests encounter daily in Project Rachel programs across America.

“For 24 years, the Catholic Church has provided free, confidential counseling to individuals seeking emotional and spiritual healing after an abortion, whether their own or a loved one’s. We look forward to the day when these counseling services are no longer needed, when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. If FOCA is enacted, however, that day may recede into the very distant future.”

In effect, FOCA would certainly be a boon to the abortion industry with the government forced to condone and promote such procedures. Now is the time to reduce, not increase, the incidence of abortion. Now is the time to work for the defeat of the Freedom of Choice Act.

God love you!
The Catholic Spirit

Thank you, Your Excellency!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Election Prayer by Father John Hardon, S.J., 1992

Election Prayer

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Lord Jesus Christ, You told us to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. Enlighten the minds of our people [in] America. May we choose a President of the United States, and other government officials, according to Your Divine Will. Give our citizens the courage to choose leaders of our nation who respect the sanctity of unborn human life, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of marital relations, the sanctity of the family, and the sanctity of the aging. Grant us the wisdom to give You, what belongs to You, our God. If we do this, as a nation, we are confident You will give us an abundance of Your blessings through our elected leaders. Amen.

Composed by Father John Anthony Hardon, S.J.

Imprimatur: +Rene H. Gracida, Bishop of Corpus Christi, July 7, 1992
Published by Eternal Life in 1992
Tip O' The Hat to Father Z!

Monday, October 27, 2008

New York City's Cardinal Egan Compares Abortion Crimes to those of Hitler, Stalin


By Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York

The picture on this page is an untouched photograph of a being that has been within its mother for 20 weeks. Please do me the favor of looking at it carefully.

Have you any doubt that it is a human being?

If you do not have any such doubt, have you any doubt that it is an innocent human being?

If you have no doubt about this either, have you any doubt that the authorities in a civilized society are duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if anyone were to wish to kill it?

If your answer to this last query is negative, that is, if you have no doubt that the authorities in a civilized society would be duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if someone were to wish to kill it, I would suggest—even insist—that there is not a lot more to be said about the issue of abortion in our society. It is wrong, and it cannot—must not—be tolerated.

But you might protest that all of this is too easy. Why, you might inquire, have I not delved into the opinion of philosophers and theologians about the matter? And even worse: Why have I not raised the usual questions about what a "human being" is, what a "person" is, what it means to be "living," and such? People who write books and articles about abortion always concern themselves with these kinds of things. Even the justices of the Supreme Court who gave us "Roe v. Wade" address them. Why do I neglect philosophers and theologians? Why do I not get into defining "human being," defining "person," defining "living," and the rest? Because, I respond, I am sound of mind and endowed with a fine set of eyes, into which I do not believe it is well to cast sand. I looked at the photograph, and I have no doubt about what I saw and what are the duties of a civilized society if what I saw is in danger of being killed by someone who wishes to kill it or, if you prefer, someone who "chooses" to kill it. In brief: I looked, and I know what I saw.

But what about the being that has been in its mother for only 15 weeks or only 10? Have you photographs of that too? Yes, I do. However, I hardly think it necessary to show them. For if we agree that the being in the photograph printed on this page is an innocent human being, you have no choice but to admit that it may not be legitimately killed even before 20 weeks unless you can indicate with scientific proof the point in the development of the being before which it was other than an innocent human being and, therefore, available to be legitimately killed. Nor have Aristotle, Aquinas or even the most brilliant embryologists of our era or any other era been able to do so. If there is a time when something less than a human being in a mother morphs into a human being, it is not a time that anyone has ever been able to identify, though many have made guesses. However, guesses are of no help. A man with a shotgun who decides to shoot a being that he believes may be a human being is properly hauled before a judge. And hopefully, the judge in question knows what a "human being" is and what the implications of someone's wishing to kill it are. The word "incarceration" comes to mind.

However, we must not stop here. The matter becomes even clearer and simpler if you obtain from the National Geographic Society two extraordinary DVDs. One is entitled "In the Womb" and illustrates in color and in motion the development of one innocent human being within its mother. The other is entitled "In the Womb—Multiples" and in color and motion shows the development of two innocent human beings—twin boys—within their mother. If you have ever allowed yourself to wonder, for example, what "living" means, these two DVDs will be a great help. The one innocent human being squirms about, waves its arms, sucks its thumb, smiles broadly and even yawns; and the two innocent human beings do all of that and more: They fight each other. One gives his brother a kick, and the other responds with a sock to the jaw. If you can convince yourself that these beings are something other than living and innocent human beings, something, for example, such as "mere clusters of tissues," you have a problem far more basic than merely not appreciating the wrongness of abortion. And that problem is—forgive me—self-deceit in a most extreme form.

Adolf Hitler convinced himself and his subjects that Jews and homosexuals were other than human beings. Joseph Stalin did the same as regards Cossacks and Russian aristocrats. And this despite the fact that Hitler and his subjects had seen both Jews and homosexuals with their own eyes, and Stalin and his subjects had seen both Cossacks and Russian aristocrats with theirs. Happily, there are few today who would hesitate to condemn in the roundest terms the self-deceit of Hitler, Stalin or even their subjects to the extent that the subjects could have done something to end the madness and protect living, innocent human beings.

It is high time to stop pretending that we do not know what this nation of ours is allowing—and approving—with the killing each year of more than 1,600,000 innocent human beings within their mothers. We know full well that to kill what is clearly seen to be an innocent human being or what cannot be proved to be other than an innocent human being is as wrong as wrong gets. Nor can we honorably cover our shame (1) by appealing to the thoughts of Aristotle or Aquinas on the subject, inasmuch as we are all well aware that their understanding of matters embryological was hopelessly mistaken, (2) by suggesting that "killing" and "choosing to kill" are somehow distinct ethically, morally or criminally, (3) by feigning ignorance of the meaning of "human being," "person," "living," and such, (4) by maintaining that among the acts covered by the right to privacy is the act of killing an innocent human being, and (5) by claiming that the being within the mother is "part" of the mother, so as to sustain the oft-repeated slogan that a mother may kill or authorize the killing of the being within her "because she is free to do as she wishes with her own body."

One day, please God, when the stranglehold on public opinion in the United States has been released by the extremists for whom abortion is the center of their political and moral life, our nation will, in my judgment, look back on what we have been doing to innocent human beings within their mothers as a crime no less heinous than what was approved by the Supreme Court in the "Dred Scott Case" in the 19th century, and no less heinous than what was perpetrated by Hitler and Stalin in the 20th. There is nothing at all complicated about the utter wrongness of abortion, and making it all seem complicated mitigates that wrongness not at all. On the contrary, it intensifies it.

Do me a favor. Look at the photograph again. Look and decide with honesty and decency what the Lord expects of you and me as the horror of "legalized" abortion continues to erode the honor of our nation. Look, and do not absolve yourself if you refuse to act.

Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York

It's time for a Spiritual 9-1-1 Call!

If you find yourself in dire need of help from God pray the following prayers with as much trust as you can muster. This trust, or childlike confidence, is of extreme importance. In a sense the more you trust God, the more you permit Him to help you.

NOTE: All prayer is centered on Jesus Christ. Know with absolute certainty that all that we give to Mary, she takes to Jesus.

With great trust pray:

9 Memorares. “Remember, o most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to Thy protection, implored Thy help, or sought Thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, o Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To Thee do I come. Before Thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in Thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.”

1 Rosary.
Pray 5 decades of the Rosary (Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, or Luminous Mysteries. The choice is yours). Try to meditate well on the Mysteries, bringing them into your own life. Pray the prayers of the Our Father and Hail Mary with great love and trust. The prayer of the Rosary is the prayer of the Gospel. That is why it is so powerful. When we pray the Rosary, we are praying the Gospel. The Gospel or “Good News” is Jesus Christ: Infinite Power!

1 Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
This is an age especially in need of God’s mercy. Jesus gave this prayerful devotion, dedicated to His Infinite mercy, to Saint Faustina. Once again, pray with trust, even if it hurts. Just do it! It is not a feeling. It is a decision. An act of the will. The prayers “Eternal Father, I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity, of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world;” and “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world,” are filled with power. The ending prayer “Holy God, holy mighty One, holy immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world” call down Gods grace and mercy on us and all of our brothers and sisters. So, you have a direct line to God. Call to heaven with the Spiritual “911” when you need to send a distress call for heavenly help. It will take less than an hour in most cases. If you don’t have that much time, make the solemn intention to do it as soon as possible. God loves you and will help you. He may not remove the problem, but he’ll always give you the strength
and means to triumph over it.

9 "Memorare's"
1 Rosary
1 Chaplet of Divine Mercy

Father John Corapi has called for a Nine Day Rosary Novena before Election Day, starting today.

Vincenzo suggests that we make it into a 9-1-1 call: add a Divine Mercy Chaplet and nine "Memorare's" for good measure.

It's the Catholic Church, Not "Catholic, Inc."

Approaching the Church with a business-school mindset ignores that the priesthood is a calling and not a career, says BW reader Thomas Szyszkiewicz


A co-founder and the president of Catholic Radio International, Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz is a regular reader of A freelance writer in the Catholic press for the last 18 years, he is based in southeastern Minnesota. Tom also has a blog, Epiphany, where he posts occasionally, probably because he'd rather get paid for his writing.

Catholic bishops are having a hard time finding candidates who can manage as well as they preach, but they're also finding it hard to find ones who can preach, period. The preaching is primary, and management way down on their list of priorities. After all, Jesus didn't say, "Go out to all the world and manage well."

That's not to say the Catholic Church should ignore sound business practices. Contrary to common perception—and some of the readers who responded to Douglas MacMillan's "A Business Plan for the Catholic Church" (, 9/30/08)—the Church has had human resource and finance "departments" for her entire 20 centuries of existence.

If you think of Peter as the first "shop floor manager" and Judas Iscariot as the CFO for Jesus and the Apostles, then Judas showed no loyalty to his CEO and betrayed the whole enterprise during the high point of the world's most famous company retreat. The Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul's letters record numerous instances of collections, the buying and selling of houses, and other monetary transactions by the first Christians. Monasteries became and remained places of production and commerce, as witnessed by the enormous success of the Cistercian monastery in Sparta, Wis., that started LaserMonks.

So the Church is not inexperienced when it comes to financial and management issues. Indeed, some people wrongly think it's just the opposite: that the Church's reason for existence is to have money and its attendant power.

Centuries of "Who Moved My Cheese?"

It's worth noting, then, when someone like former Freddie Mac (FRE) board member Geoffrey Boisi wants to bring modern-day management techniques to a Church that has been coping with "who moved my cheese?" for 2,000 years. True, changes within the Church since the Second Vatican Council necessitate a new look at some issues. With the decline in the number of clergy and the increase in laity to pick up the slack, the Church has new HR realities to consider. Bishops must be concerned with insurance policies, adequate pay for lay employees and their families, hiring and firing, and every other personnel issue imaginable.

There is no doubt that Mr. Boisi and the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management (NLRCM), which he started, mean well. Indeed, the group's executive director, Kerry Robinson, says they love the Church. However, what isn't clear is what their understanding of "the Church" is.

In Catholic theology, the Church is distinguished by four marks: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Within this structure, bishops are the successors of the Apostles, that group of 12 men whom Jesus gathered around himself. He gave this rather motley crew of fishermen, tax collectors, twins, and zealots his own authority to go and tell the world a specific message—that God created the world and we mucked it up, but he had come to redeem us from a mess of our own making and bring us to eternal life with him. Jesus invested the Apostles, the Church's first bishops, with the exclusive authority to teach, to sanctify, and to govern.

Entrusting the Trustees

It's this last area where the NLRCM seeks to help. Governing gets into the nitty-gritty of everyday Church life and not every bishop is like Bishop John LeVoir of New Ulm, Minn., who was a CPA before entering the seminary. So it's reasonable that the group would want to help bishops in this task.

However, despite NLRCM's claims to the contrary, there are indications that helping is not all that some at the roundtable have in mind. For instance, in a 2004 meeting that was a precursor to the roundtable, Jesuit Father Donald Monan, chancellor of Boston College and an NLRCM board member, suggested that dioceses follow the examples of Catholic universities and hospitals that have lay boards of trustees to run them.

This seems to suggest a return of the parish-based lay trustee movement that ran for nearly the entire 19th century and led to some nasty confrontations between the laity and bishops, and even to schism. Only Father Monan seems to want it on a diocesan, and not merely a parish, level. Is this what NLRCM wants?

Sensitive Personnel Decisions

Lay control over a diocese would raise touchy personnel issues, especially when it comes to priests. Can executives from Korn/Ferry International (KFY) really advise a bishop on what good priestly character is? And if a bishop decided to ordain a priest against the advice of the consultants, what would NLRCM advise the consultants do?

As Pope Benedict recently pointed out, the Church "is not a human association of ideas and common interests, but a call made by God." And therein lies the essential difference between the Church and the companies run by NLRCM's board members. Adobe Systems (ADBE) is a good company, but God didn't start it, and the Church, which God did start, can't be treated like it. The Church can learn from Adobe and others, and they can teach good lessons.

But at a certain point, the essential difference will come into play and the bishop will have to exercise his authority—authority not merely invested in him by a board, but given to him by God as a successor of the Apostles for the stewardship of his diocese. And God will hold the bishop to account for the proper exercise of that authority, not a board. NLRCM would do well to keep that in mind. Business Week Tip O' the Hat to The Deacon's Bench

N.B. It appears that Tom is the only Minnesota blogger who dares show his real face on the Internet. Are the rest of us so unsightly? Of course if Business Week or anybody else would care to pay me for my blogging, I would be very happy to post a current picture (maybe with a few cosmetic tweaks by Vincenzo the Magnificent, of course).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

La Crosse Catholic Times: The House is on Fire!

I don't know when Father George Welzbacher, pastor of St. John of St. Paul parish, former pastor of St. Agnes in that same city, gets time to read. But he found a keeper of a column in "The Catholic Times", the newspaper of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

The House is on Fire!
By: Christopher Buff
The Catholic Times--October 16, 2008

In a talk on faithful citizenship in a parish the other day, I offered the following analogy.

Imagine you are living in a house that has several issues in need of attention. There is a broken window that needs to be repaired. 'I'he insulation is bad, leading to high heating bills in winter. Paint is peeling ftom the window and door trim. And the roof leaks during rainstorms. Obviously these are problems that need to be addressed.

Oh But did I mention The house is on fire!


Suddenly, all the OTHER issues, pressing as they might be, become less compelling. The broken window can wait. LIVES are in immediate and mortal dangerfrom the burning house, and that is clearly where our attention needs to go.

Our nation has many problems and challenges. Recent attention has been focused on ECONOMIC difficulties and the Wall Street bailout, and these NEED to be addressed, along with so much else.


Abortion has snuffed out the lives of 45 million innocent children since the Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973. Let's try to put this in perspective:

1. The number of U. S. casualties in all wars since 1776 is 654,000. That means abortions outnumber all war casualties in U. S. history 77 to 1.
2. The U.S. population today is just over 305 million; the number of deaths from abortion thus equals more than one seventh of that population.
3. Finally the world remembers with horror the Nazi holocaust in which 6 million Jews were slaughtered. The slaughter of the unborn is equal to the Nazi holocaust TIMES EIGHT!
4. These abortion statistics are for the U.S. alone. When the figures for abortion worldwide since 1973 are calculated the estimate leaps to somewhere around 1. 5 BILLION. What will it take to rouse us from slumber and get us out of the burning house?

IT COULD GET WORSE. One of the legal initiatives being promoted by some during this political season is the "Freedom of Choice Act" or FOCA. If the house is on fire now, FOCA is a can of gasoline ready to ADD fuel to the blaze. That is why the BISHOPS of this country are SOUNDING THE ALARM.

On September 19, Justin Cardinal Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote a letter to EVERY member of Congress, opposing this piece of legislation. "Despite its deceptive title," he wrote, "FOCA would DEPRIVE the American people in all 50 states of the freedom they now have to enact modes trestraints and regulations on the abortion industry. FOCA would COERCE all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars. And FOCA would COUNTERACT any and all sincere efforts by government to REDUCE abortions in our country.

Cardinal Rigaii noted that supporters of FOCA say it "would SWEEP AWAY HUNDREDS of anti-abortion laws (and) policies" that are presently in effect because they have not been judged to conflict with Roe v. Wade. These include bans on public funding of abortions as well as "modest and widely supported state laws" protecting women's safety, informed consent and parental rights.

After observing that EVEN POLlTICIANS WHO ADVOCATE FOR abortion rights CLAIM TO WANT TO REDUCE the incidence of abortion, Cardinal Rigaii wrote, "We can't REDUCE abortions by PROMOTING abortion .... No one who sponsors or supports legislation like FOCA can credibly claim to be part of a good-faith discussion on how to reduce abortions."

Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO., also wrote about FOCA in an Oct. 1 column in his diocesan newspaper. He noted that FOCA, if passed and signed into law, would reverse many of the gains won by the pro-life movement in the United States in the last 20 years. It would overturn in one stroke:
1 . All 50 states' abortion reporting requirements;
2. 44 states' laws concerning parental involvement;
3 . 40 states' laws on restricting late-term abortions;
4. 46 states' conscience protection laws for individual health care providers;
5. 27 states' conscience protection lawsfor institutions;
6. 38 states' bans on partial-birth abortions;
7. 33 states' laws on requiring counseling before an abortion;
8. 16 states' laws concerning ultrasounds belore an abortion.

Without mentioning any candidate by name, he wrote that "When a candidate ... promises to promote ... the Freedom of Choice Act, Catholics and all people of good will have cause to question the sincerity of the candidate's determination to reduce abortions."

Referring to a pastoral statement he co-authored with Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas on September 8, Bishop Finn went on to reiterate:

"We can never vote for a candidate because of his or her permissive stand on abortion. At the same time, if we are inclined to vote for someone despite their pro-abortion stance, it seems we are morally obliged to establish a proportionate reason sufficient to justify the destruction of 45 million human persons through abortion.

If we learn that our 'candidate of choice' further PLEDGES - through an instrument such as FOCA -TO ELIMINATE ALL EXISTING LIMITATIONS against abortion, it is that much more doubtful whether voting for him or her can EVER be morally justified under ANY circumstance."

Fr. O'Connell of the Basilica lauded for early response to clerical abuse issue

The Rev. Michael O'Connell has gotten plenty of public acknowledgment for launching the Basilica Block Party, a concert designed to raise awareness and money for the Basilica of St. Mary that in the process has turned into an annual musical highlight.

Now he's finally getting accolades for something he did in private. On Sunday afternoon at the basilica, he will receive a Priest of Integrity award for leading the charge in dealing with clergy sexual abuse issues, not only in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis but also nationwide.

"It was through his efforts that this archdiocese was one of the first to have a policy on education of all church leaders as well as clear steps for reporting any abuse," said the Twin Cities chapter of the Voice of the Faithful, a Roman Catholic lay group, in nominating O'Connell for the award. "Had other dioceses moved as quickly and openly, perhaps the abuse would have been mitigated much sooner than it was."

O'Connell calls the abuse problem "one the most serious issues the Catholic Church has faced, perhaps the most serious one it its history." But any discussion of the program he launched is quickly steered away from himself and toward others who were and still are involved in the program. He calls himself a "figurehead," although he's still not convinced that that merits getting an award.

"I caught him at a weak moment," said the Rev. Tom Power. "I told him, 'Michael, a lot of people don't know about your hidden ministry.' He worked behind the scenes to create a new system for how we deal with the victims, how we set up a reporting system and how we train the clergy and set boundaries for what's acceptable."

They struck a deal: O'Connell will be at the basilica at 1:30 p.m. for the ceremony, but he won't give a speech. The speaking duties will be handled by Judge Michael Merz, chairman of the National Review Board, an arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Given his druthers, O'Connell, 67, would just as soon spend Sunday afternoon sitting outside, preferably by a lake, enjoying the fresh air while reading. Then again, given his druthers, he would rather not have spearheaded the sex abuse mission in the first place.

"It wasn't the job I signed up for," he acknowledged in an interview at the Church of Ascension in north Minneapolis, where he is serving as pastor since retiring as the rector of the basilica last year. "In June of 1984, I was appointed by Archbishop [John] Roach to be the Moderator of the Curia, which sounds like a title made up by Gilbert & Sullivan. It basically means that I was the chief operating officer for the archdiocese. On July 1, the first clergy sex abuse lawsuit was filed. Archbishop Roach handed it to me and said, 'Look into this.'"

Steep learning curve

Many of his reflections about what followed embrace the "if we only knew then what we know now" theme.

"We were doing everything by the seat of our pants," he said. "As we progressed into the 1980s, the most important thing we came to know was how much we didn't know."

He eventually realized that he was looking at the tips of two icebergs. One was the extent of the abuse: "We had no idea of the depth or breadth of the problem," he said. The other was "the depth of the pathology. The scientific thinking at the time was that this was like any other addiction, that a person could be rehabilitated and then go back to whatever they were doing so long as someone checked on them every now and then.

"Of course, that turned out to be completely wrong; this isn't like other addictions. There's no way we would have returned these priests to service if we had known that they still posed a danger."

He was also blindsided by an offhand remark by a St. Paul detective. It opened his eyes to the fact that this wasn't just an internal issue for the church.

"He said something about how the seminary didn't train us to investigate crimes, and that's when it hit me," he said. "We had been thinking about it in moral terms. We would sanction the priest and say, 'You must go on a retreat and reflect on your behavior, seek counseling and do penance.' We hadn't thought about the fact that it was a felony."

From that point on, every time O'Connell got a report about abuse, he immediately notified police.

Support from the top

The aggressive approach was fully supported by Roach, he said.

"I was very lucky in that I had an excellent relationship with the archbishop," O'Connell said. "He wanted to know the truth. I heard from some of the people who had my job in other dioceses whose bishops would say, 'Oh, no, here comes more bad news' every time they showed up. Those bishops didn't want to know everything. But Archbishop Roach did. We'd close the door to his office at 5 o'clock in the afternoon and I would tell him what I had heard and whom I was investigating.

In 1991, O'Connell was assigned to the Basilica of St. Mary. The seven years of investigating abuse charges had taken a toll on him.

"I was having chronic back pain," he said. "The orthopedists were recommending surgery. Then I took the job at the basilica, and I haven't had a single problem with my back since."

Not that life at the basilica was all roses, but he was able to put it into perspective.

"I arrived at the basilica in August of 1991 and was told that I had to immediately raise $6 million, a number that soon went up to $10 million," he said. "And I thought, compared to what I've been doing, this is going to be a piece of cake."

After all, he'd heard from a former seminary classmate who had just let a rock band repay a debt to his Chicago church by holding a concert. Maybe if they tried something like that at the basilica. ... StarTribune

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bishop Aquila of Fargo: Has America Lost Its Way

header_original_modBishop Aquila on Returning to Nation's Foundations

FARGO, North Dakota, OCT. 24, 2008 ( Here is an excerpt of the homily given Sunday by Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo at the Cathedral of St. Mary.

* * *

Today, Catholic politicians and individual voters on both sides of the aisle have lost the sense of this fundamental principle that underlies every just and enduring society. Most especially, they have lost the sense of the inalienable right to life for the unborn child. Even without considering God in the equation, human life, for every human being, begins at the moment of conception. That is when human life begins. That is when your life began. And that is when Rep. Pelosi’s life began. That is when Sen. Biden’s life began. That is when Sen. Obama’s li! fe began and Sen. McCain’s life began.

Sadly, the dignity of human life from the moment of conception is lost today. The truth nonetheless exists. Our forefathers recognized it but present day politicians and voters do not.

Furthermore, we have lost too this fundamental principle in what it means to pursue happiness. We see the attempted pursuit of happiness without God and the collapse of this pursuit in Wall Street and the economics of today. Greed has guided the hearts of men and women, in which a 40 million dollar bonus is not enough in one year. When you take God out of the equation and life is lived as if he did not exist, the only thing left to pursue is materialism, because there is no life after death, there is no judgment. And so greed guides the hearts of men and women when we lose that basic essential understanding of the presence of God.

We see that abandonment of God’s presence, too, in the area of human sexuality. Fifty percent of marr! iages end in divorce. Women are treated as sexual toys and objects. People proclaim a “good” in same sex unions, living promiscuously, and moving from one intimate relationship to the next.

Once we lose God in the pursuit of happiness, and once we lose the sense of the dignity of the human person and the God in whose image and likeness we are truly created, then we lose all sense of any moral compass or any moral standard. Without God, can there be any morality at all? Or is it set by the thinking of the day that can change from generation to generation, rooted in no truths that are valid for every person in every generation?

We as a nation stand at a crossroads. There is a fork in the road between the culture of life and the culture of death. The culture of death made great inroads with activist judges in the 1973 court that created a so-called right to abortion. They, like the pharisees and the Herodians, hid behind lies, they hid behind deceit, they ! hid behind a lack of reason and the majority said, “It is okay to destroy human life in all nine months of pregnancy.”

Judges, politicians and voters who went so far as to state that human life may be destroyed at the beginning are now attacking human life at its end by support for assisted suicide. The next step will be to deny healthcare for the elderly and handicapped because they are no more of any use to society. Once the right to life is no longer understood as a gift from God, but attributed to people by the state, the road to further atrocities against human life is a spiral downward quite rapidly.

What many Catholic politicians and citizens have done by their actions and votes today is to sell their souls, because what they have done is to say, “We will be created in the image and likeness, not of God, but of a Democratic platform, of a Republican platform -- that’s whose image and likeness we will embrace.” There is neither ! reason nor logic in their statements, but anything to gain power and this compromise leads only to blindness and darkness.

My sisters and brothers, you and I are not created in the image and likeness of Obama or McCain or a political party. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We must, as our forefathers did, place the God-given inalienable rights first, beginning with the right to life from the moment of conception until natural death. As bad as the economy is, as bad as the war is, the destruction of innocent human life, especially in the womb, is a greater evil, and correction of this grave evil must take place. Each of us has a role in making this correction in our duties as citizens. To say that “the battle is lost” is to condone an intrinsic evil that will only lead to further evils.

A hundred years from now, this election will just be a moment in history. A hundred years from now all of us, or certainly most of us, will be dead. But I as! sure you, a hundred years from now, if we continue as a society on the course that we are on, embracing a culture of death, our society will no longer exist, because tyranny will have its way, as will atheism.

When there is no recognition of the primacy of God and human beings decide what is good and what is evil, anything can be justified. All we have to do is look at history and the atheism of China, the atheism of Russia, the atheism of Cambodia, and the atheism of Nazi Germany. Countries that embrace atheism reveal the truth -- that is, if we do not embrace, as our forefathers did, the laws of nature and nature’s God, we will eventually collapse as a society.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Just why can't I vote for Obama if I think his position on the War is better?

If I were to become a Catholic all over again, I would choose as my RCIA leader John Martignoni, a lay apologist from Alabama who has a wonderful newsletter and gives his CDs out for free to anybody who asks for them. The man really knows how to communicate. This post is taken from his Bible Christian Society Newsletter No. 100 that come out faithfully every week. You can see his website here. Check out his free CDs and Newsletters. Listen up, Home Schoolers!

If you have friends who still think they will be voting for Obama because of his "social justice" positions and who believe that they are permitted to do that, discuss this with them.


From the Website: Roman Catholics for Obama/Biden '08:

“This website is part of our own fulfillment of civic engagement as Catholic American citizens. We believe Barack Obama should be the next President because America desperately needs a President who will give voice to our better angels. Senator Obama will look for common ground in addressing some of the most pressing needs of our time -- among them alleviating poverty, protecting the environment, making peace and, we believe, creating a culture of life. We are confident, having reviewed the Bishops' statement [Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship], that responsible Catholics can vote for Barack Obama – and we think they should!


Letter from a Daughter to Her Mom:


When we’re talking candidates running for office and economy, taxes, etc. that is politics. When we’re talking about the candidates view on abortion, that’s life. When you write about Obama it’s almost venomous. He did state no one is for abortion. I do not like anything about MCcain expect [sic] for the fact he is pro-life. But boy did he take the easy way out during the debate last night. As a catholic I have to vote for McCain but I’m not happy with his war decisions, economy plan, healthcare plan and every other area that affects us. I hope and pray if he overturns Roe v. Wade, the rest of the world falls into place but that will not completely stop abortions. Obama did have a good point when addressing education and abstinence for our country so if we deal with the root of the problem, society, media, etc. telling our kids it’s right to have pre marital sex, maybe we can prevent unwanted pregnancies and thus abortions. Either way it’s not about party, it’s about people!”


U.S. Conference of Bishops’ Statement: “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”:

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate's opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

37. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate's commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue. In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching."


Bishops of Dallas and Ft. Worth Clarification of “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”:

Last November, the Bishops of the United States issued a document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in which we and our brother Bishops issued clear moral guidelines to aid the faithful in proper formation of conscience with regard to the many issues we face in our nation today. Through this joint statement to the faithful of Dallas and Fort Worth, we seek to briefly summarize the key points and dispel any confusion or misunderstanding that may be present among you concerning the teaching contained in the document, especially that which may have arisen from recent public misinterpretation concerning this teaching.

1. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly teaches that not all issues have the same moral equivalence. Some issues involve "intrinsic evils"; that is, they can never under any circumstance or condition be morally justified. Preeminent among these intrinsic evils are legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and "marriages", repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research.

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly states:

"There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called ‘intrinsically evil' actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, ‘abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others' (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed." (22)

2. The destruction of the most innocent of human life through abortion and embryonic stem cell research not only undercuts the basic human right to life, but it also subverts and distorts the common good. As Pope John Paul II clearly states:

"Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good... It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop..." (The Gospel of Life, 72; 101)

3. Therefore, we cannot make more clear the seriousness of the overriding issue of abortion – while not the "only issue" – it is the defining moral issue, not only today, but of the last 35 years. Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, more than 48 million innocent lives have been lost. Each year in our nation more than one million lives are lost through legalized abortion. Countless other lives are also lost through embryonic stem cell research. In the coming months our nation will once again elect our political leaders. This electoral cycle affords us an opportunity to promote the culture of life in our nation. As Catholics we are morally obligated to pray, to act, and to vote to abolish the evil of abortion in America, limiting it as much as we can until it is finally abolished.

4. As Catholics we are faced with a number of issues that are of concern and should be addressed, such as immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror. As Catholics we must be concerned about these issues and work to see that just solutions are brought about. There are many possible solutions to these issues and there can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how to best approach and solve them. These are matters of "prudential judgment." But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils. No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweigh a candidate's unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of "abortion rights."

As Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship states:

"The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed." (28)

5. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in paragraphs 34-37, addresses the question of whether it is morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil – even when the voter does not agree with the candidate's position on that evil. The only moral possibilities for a Catholic to be able to vote in good conscience for a candidate who supports this intrinsic evil are the following:

a. If both candidates running for office support abortion or "abortion rights," a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done; or,

b. If another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion. While this is sound moral reasoning, there are no "truly grave moral" or "proportionate" reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.

To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or "abortion rights" when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible.

6. In conclusion, as stated in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the decisions we make on these political and moral issues affect not only the general peace and prosperity of society at large, but also may affect each individual's salvation. As Catholics, we must treat our political choices with appropriate moral gravity and in doing so, realize our continuing and unavoidable obligation to be a voice for the voiceless unborn, whose destruction by legal abortion is the preeminent intrinsic evil of our day. With knowledge of the Church's teaching on these grave matters, it is incumbent upon each of us as Catholics to educate ourselves on where the candidates running for office stand on these issues, particularly those involving intrinsic evils. May God bless you.

Faithfully in Christ,

Most Reverend Kevin J. Farrell, Bishop of Dallas

Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Fort Worth


My Comments:

As we see from the comments on the “Roman Catholics for Obama/Biden ‘08" website, and in the letter from the pro-Obama daughter, the issues usually cited as the reason to be for a pro-abortion candidate (whether Obama or someone else) and against a pro-life candidate (whether McCain or someone else) have to do with one or more of the following: the war, the economy, immigration reform, the environment, healthcare, and the poor. And what these folks are quite often doing these days, is pointing to certain statements in paragraphs #34 - #37 (see above) in the Bishops’ Statement, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, and saying, “See, this allows me to morally vote for a pro-abortion candidate. The Bishops say abortion is not the only issue one needs to look at when deciding how to vote.”

Some of the statements these folks will point to are: #34 “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position.” They’ll say, “We’re opposed to abortion and it is not our intent, by voting for Obama [in this instance], to support his position on that. We’re voting for him for other reasons and in spite of his pro-abortion stance, so we’re not violating what the Bishops said.”

Another sentence from Para #34 that they’ll cite is: “At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate's opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.” They’ll say, “See, the Bishops are saying you can’t be a one-issue voter, you have to weigh all of the candidates moral positions when deciding how to vote.”

Or, they’ll point to this sentence from Para #35: “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.” They’ll say that the war in Iraq, or the war on poverty, or universal healthcare are “grave” moral reasons to vote for a pro-abortion candidate.

Or, they’ll say that they’re only voting their conscience as the Bishops say to do in Para #37: “In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching."

Do any of these statements hold moral water? Well, I think Bishop Vann and Bishop Farrell, from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, answered these objections in a clear and unequivocal manner. These Bishops wrote their statement in direct response to people who were using the Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship document to justify a vote in favor of a pro-abortion candidate for office. They said that they wanted to, “...dispel any confusion or misunderstanding that may be present among you concerning the teaching contained in the document, especially that which may have arisen from recent public misinterpretation concerning this teaching.”

The Bishops are very clear that abortion is not just one moral issue among many that must be considered: “Therefore, we cannot make more clear the seriousness of the overriding issue of abortion – while not the 'only issue' – it is the defining moral issue, not only today, but of the last 35 years.” It is THE defining moral issue of the last 35 years!

Bishops Vann and Farrell go on to specifically cite the issues that are mentioned above that pro-Obama voters use to justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate - “immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror.” But, they then quite rightly state: “There are many possible solutions to these issues and there can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how to best approach and solve them. These are matters of ‘prudential judgment.’ But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils.”

See, this is the real crux of the issue, and Bishops Vann and Farrell nailed it on the head. If you are for Obama because of your concern for the poor, for example, can you state with 100% certainty that his policies in dealing with the poor will leave them better off than McCain’s policies in dealing with the poor? No, you can’t. It is a matter of prudential judgment that you believe Obama’s policies will benefit the poor more than McCain’s policies, it is not economic fact. The next thing to consider, is whether or not McCain’s policies in dealing with the poor are inherently evil. Are they? No. Does he want to kill the poor? Does he want to deny them housing, or medical care, or food? No. Can you say that McCain’s policies on welfare issues will lead to people starving to death, or to dying from exposure because they couldn’t find shelter, or any such thing? No.

Now, you might say, “Well, tens of thousands of people have died in Iraq because of the war and McCain supported that and Obama will pull the troops out immediately while McCain wants to leave them over there and let the killing continue.” Well, the first thing to realize, is that most of the deaths have come after Saddam Hussein was overthrown and resulted from the hatred between the Sunni and the Shia and the Kurd, not because of direct U.S. military action. This internecine killing amongst the Muslims would very likely have happened whenever Saddam Hussein lost power and it can be argued that it would have been much worse in a complete power vacuum than it was with the U.S. military there to eventually reign it in.

Plus, the overthrow of Saddam undoubtedly saved thousands and possibly tens of thousands of lives - he was well known for having his enemies tortured, raped, and killed. And, it can further be argued that if we pull U.S. troops out of Iraq prematurely, there may still be a huge bloodbath in the future. So, whose stance on the Iraq War, as it currently stands, will actually lead to fewer deaths in the long run? No one can say with any moral certainty.

The issue regarding the war is: What is the best way to end the conflict in Iraq with the minimal loss of life in the long run? And, again, this is an issue involving not an intrinsic evil, but a difference of prudential judgment. McCain’s position on ending the war cannot absolutely be said to be better or worse than Obama’s...only history can make a final judgment on that. One can only make a prudential judgment on the answer to that question in the present.

And, the same can basically be said for all the areas where McCain and Obama differ - the economy, the environment, education, illegal immigration, and so on. The same cannot be said, however, on their positions towards abortion. Obama supports an intrinsic that has resulted in the deaths of almost 50 million babies in this country alone in the last 35 years...McCain does not.

Furthermore, Bishops Vann and Farrell go on to state: “No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues [immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror], it does not outweigh a candidate's unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of ‘abortion rights.’"

In other words, even if we could say with certainty that Obama’s positions on these other issues are more “right” than McCain’s, they still do not hold the moral equivalency that the abortion issue does. They say that if there was another intrinsic evil which outweighs the evil of abortion, then it would be okay to vote for a candidate that supported abortion if he was against this other intrinsic evil. But, they go on to declare: “While this is sound moral reasoning, there are no ‘truly grave moral’ or ‘proportionate’ reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.”

Which means that folks who use a candidate’s positions on issues other than abortion, to justify their vote for a pro-abortion candidate, are gambling with their souls. “To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or ‘abortion rights’ when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible.” They go on to say, in essence, that your vote for a pro-abortion candidate could affect your eternal salvation.

Think of it this way: Let’s say you had a candidate that held all the exact same positions that McCain has, running against a candidate that has all the same positions that Obama has, with one exception - instead of being pro-abortion, this latter candidate was in favor of legalized slavery. How many of the Catholics for Obama do you think would vote for the pro-slavery candidate? How many would say, “Well, I disagree with him on the slavery thing, but I’m going to vote for him because of his position on the war in Iraq and his welfare policies toward the poor?” I venture that not a single pro-Obama Catholic would vote for such a candidate.

Or, given the same scenario, but the one candidate who holds all the same positions as Obama was in favor of legalized lynchings. How many pro-Obama Catholics would vote for such a candidate? None!

In other words, Catholics who vote for a pro-abortion candidate are, for the most part, a bunch of hypocrites. They really don’t care about the unborn as they claim. You might like the pro-abortion candidate better than the pro-life candidate, as the young lady who wrote to her mother above, but you are still morally bound, according to the Bishops, to vote for the pro-life candidate, even if you have to hold your nose to do so. And, if the young lady quoted above actually does that, then she is to be congratulated on following her moral conscience before her political conscience. The reality is, that if every Catholic eligible to vote in the U.S. would vote for pro-life candidates, then we could end the slaughter of millions of unborn children in this country in very short order.

I'll close with a couple of quotes for your consideration:

"No other issue, not all other issues taken together, can constitute a proportionate reason for voting for candidates that intend to preserve and defend this holocaust of innocent human life that is abortion." Fr. John Corapi

“The regret and anguish of the damned will be useless, for it will not be on account of any hatred of evil, but on account of grief over being punished for allowing it to proliferate.” St. Thomas Aquinas

The Last Catholic Novelist: The grace-filled fiction of Minnesota's Jon Hassler

the cover of America, the Catholic magazine

W hen Jon Hassler died last spring at the age of 75, he was the last “Catholic novelist” in America. A long time ago a controversy raged in Catholic journals about whether a “Catholic novel” was possible. The “right” contended that a novel could be called “Catholic” if it presented orthodox Catholic teaching and edifying Catholic people (no “bad” priests) and was written by a “practicing” Catholic author. The “left” said that any quality novel was by definition “Catholic,” like James Joyce’s Ulysses. Read the rest by Father Andrew Greeley in America

Minnesota will rely more on immigrant workers

Why don't demographers, economists and politicians talk about abortion and birth control as instruments of state planning? And how 'bout family subsidies? There are hundreds of thousands of children who would be thrilled to have another brother or sister.

An aging population in Minnesota will mean more reliance on immigrant workers in the coming years, State Economist Tom Stinson said at a economic conference in St. Paul Friday.

The conference, titled “Election Year Economics,” which was held at Metropolitan State University, gave a prominent role to immigration, a subject that’s largely been overshadowed this election cycle by the nation’s larger economic woes. But Stinson said the issue would return to the spotlight, both nationwide and in Minnesota.

“We are entering a long era where the dependency ratio of the number of people being supported by people in the work force is going to increase, so this is a situation that’s of concern, especially for Minnesota because worker productivity is what we have going for us,” said Stinson, who didn’t advocate for one political party over the other. “We must make the fullest use of everyone’s talent in the economy.”

Beliefs about immigrants’ cost to society, such as the idea that they don’t pay taxes, are not supported by fact, Stinson said. Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, tend to pay their fair share of taxes, Stinson said, citing sales, property, and withheld payroll taxes as unavoidable to anyone living, working and owning property in the state.

“Everybody pays sales taxes,” Stinson said. “You’re not exempted if you’re an immigrant or if you’re undocumented.”

Historically, Minnesota has been a state of immigrants, said state demographer Tom Gillaspy. In 1910, the state had more foreign-born people, 550,000, in it than it does today, 475,000, although the current numbers are rising. And out of all the options for replacing the aging work force, Gillaspy said immigration is the most viable.

“We do believe that immigration will be an increasingly important component. That depends not only on what’s happening here, but what’s happening everywhere else. [The Minnesota of the future] is more diverse, international, global and high-tech than our world. We need to understand that difference.” Mpls-StP Business Journal

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

If it's Tuesday, it must be quiz time - Women of the Bible

I just came across a list of the the ten most popular women in terms of the frequency of the appearance of their names in the Bible. I'll give you a bit of a hint, only one of them has gone down in history and culture as maybe a fallen woman.

Others have tried these quizzes and it takes a lot of the fun out of it if someone gets the answer right away. So I will shut off comments for this post and give the answers on Thursday.

Extra credit points for having them in the correct order.

Jeff Cavins on Reading the Bible

More Than Just a Book (Part 1)

ST. PAUL, Minnesota, OCT. 20, 2008 ( The Bible isn't just any book, and as such, it has to be read, studied and approached differently than other books, says Catholic apologist Jeff Cavins.

The Catholic author and speaker told ZENIT that the starting point for approaching Scripture has to be one of faith.

Cavins is president of The Great Adventure, a practical interactive Catholic Bible study system used in 2,400 parishes throughout the United States that enables students to understand the chronological flow of Scripture.

The Great Adventure currently hosts, a site dedicated to providing the latest news and information on the world Synod of Bishops.

The assembly, under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26, is reflecting on the theme "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

Cavins, who is also the director of the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute in St. Paul, discusses the synod in Part 1 of this interview, and its usefulness for the average Catholic.

Q: You have created to help the faithful follow the synod on the Word of God. How important is it for Catholics to have knowledge of what is going on at the synod?

Cavins: I think it is very important for the laity to know what the Church is focusing on during this historic synod for two reasons:

1) Sacred Scripture speaks to how we live our lives. The laity's response to God's divine revelation is what the Catechism calls, "the obedience of faith": "By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God" (CCC 143).

Whatever the outcome of the synod, laity should be predisposed to respond in some way to the Holy Spirit's lead.

The synod's title itself, "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church" should interest the laity, because the life and the mission of the Church is our life and mission. As Catholics we do not separate ourselves from the Church when determining the direction of our own lives. What happens in Rome will manifest in our home.

2) Knowledge of what is happening now in Rome offers the laity the ability, along with the synod participants, to contemplate, render thanks for, meditate upon and proclaim the Word of God. Our awareness of the happenings of the synod will enhance our participation through prayer.

The task of the interpretation of Scripture has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. As laity we can pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to assist those who are meeting in the synod.

Q: The assembly has a week to go. What have been the highlights to this point?

Cavins: The first half of the synod has focused on Scripture in the life of the Church. One highlight is the relationship between theologians and exegetes [interpreters]. The Pope felt that a new direction must be given to Catholic biblical scholarship.

We must move beyond the post-enlightenment perspective of treating the Bible like any other book. The Catholic scholar must make the starting point as the Church's Faith. This is contrary to the common approach of some leading Catholic exegetes who talk about adopting a so-called "neutral or objective" view and claim that historical criticism is to be a theologically neutral and free enterprise.

In sharp contrast, the Holy Father's intervention in the synod called for the starting point of Catholic scholarship to be the Church's faith. Faith has to be our starting point because we believe Scripture is God's Word, and so it has to be handled in a manner far different than how we read, study, and approach any other book.

Another highlight is the reverence for sacred Scripture. Everything flows from the mystery of Scripture being not only human words with human authors, but above all, by the mystery of God's inspiration, Scripture is God's sacred Word. This is the first principle of understanding Scripture.

The great privilege of hearing God taken up by the venerable tradition of "lectio divina" -- another recommendation being made over and over by the synod fathers -- depends on Scripture being his Word. Here too, we heard that the focus of homiletics should be centered on hearing and proclaiming the Word of God that we hear in the liturgy as God's word.

It would appear that the second half of the synod will move more of its focus to the role of Scripture in the mission of the Church, where a call for a new evangelization will be a vital part of the conversation.

Two keys here are: First, the new evangelization must bring renewal to current Catholics and the Church by a living encounter with God through his Word using disciplines such as "lectio divina." Then, we have to be able to share with the world God's story of salvation history that has been revealed in Sacred Scripture. The world is desperately searching for a plan that makes sense out of life.

Second, people need to be introduced to the Bible in a way that gives hope of understanding the basic message. For the laity this has been very difficult, as many have been introduced to the Bible from an academic perspective rather than a pastoral one. Often times they are left with literary analysis, void of spiritual exegesis.

Due to time constraints and the basic questions of life, laity want to obtain answers to life's daily issues. In short, they are looking for a plan. Paragraph 1 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church informs us that God has a "plan of sheer goodness" for humanity, whose destiny is the Beatific Vision, life with the Trinity forever. The 73 books of the Catholic Bible contain the outline of God's plan.

The difficulty that many encounter is that the Bible is not written in chronological order. Bible studies such as "The Great Adventure: A Journey Through the Bible" utilize a narrative approach by guiding the laity through Scripture in such a way that the plan becomes clear. The Scriptures suddenly become not only a source of direction for daily living, but also a roadmap we can offer to those who are seeking the true meaning of life, including former Catholics or non-Catholics.It is often difficult to invite the uninitiated to Mass, which is for the converted, but it is much easier to invite them to a Bible study. A Bible study is a common entry for us all to God's plan of sheer goodness.

More Than Just a Book (Part 2)

Reading Scripture has the power to change lives when people are able to see their own story in the story of salvation history, says Catholic apologist Jeff Cavins.

The Catholic author and speaker told ZENIT that "after discovering God's plan of sheer goodness in the Scriptures," the faithful are led to greater participation in the sacraments and in the life of the Church, even taking on leadership roles.

Cavins is president of The Great Adventure, a practical interactive Catholic Bible study system used in 2,400 parishes throughout the United States that enables students to understand the chronological flow of Scripture.

The Great Adventure currently hosts, a site dedicated to providing the latest news and information on the world Synod of Bishops.

The assembly, under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26, is reflecting on the theme "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

Cavins, who is also the director of the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute in St. Paul, discusses "lectio divinia" in Part 2 of this interview, as well as the faithful's growing interest in the Bible.

Q: In the synod there is much talk of "lectio divina." What is "lectio divina" and how important is it for the average Catholic?

Cavins: "Lectio divina" -- divine reading -- is the ancient art of praying the scriptures in a contemplative way. It first begins with reading and listening to a scripture passage. The discipline of listening was the center of the spiritual life of the Hebrew people as seen in Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel."

Second is meditation upon the Scripture. When a particular passage gains the attention of our heart, we begin to meditate upon it. Meditation is best understood by the image of a cow chewing its cud. We linger and ponder that which has arrested our attention.

The next is prayer, which is a loving conversation with God where we allow his word to deeply touch our heart. Finally, "lectio divina" concludes with contemplation, a quiet wordless rest. As a husband and wife can enjoy each other's presence without saying a word, so can the Christian enjoy the presence of God.

"Lectio divina" is important for Catholics because it is an accessible means of not only fostering a deep relationship with God, but of personalizing the love letter written by their heavenly father. It is simple, intimate, and fruitful.

On, we have an entire page dedicated to "lectio divina" where one can find not only detailed descriptions in both print and video, but also videos and podcasts that guide the viewer through "lectio divina."

Q: You talk of the Bible as a story. How effective has this approach been to helping people connect with the contents of Scripture?

Cavins: It has been extremely effective as evidenced by the thousands of studies currently going on in the United States. People who have grasped the narrative story of the Bible have discovered the narrative thread to their own lives. They have come to know their story in his story, which is the true history of the universe. We have heard so many testimonies of lives that have changed. We hear of husbands and wives who are discussing the Bible with each other for the first time in their marriage.

There is a dramatic increase in Church life both in sacramental participation and volunteerism. We have observed that many people have become leaders after discovering God's plan of sheer goodness in the Scriptures. These are people who would otherwise not have stepped in to leadership roles. It was the sheer joy of knowing God's will that moved them to serve others.

In addition, once Catholics understand the basic story of salvation history, the systematic and organic presentation of the faith as outlined in the Catechism becomes accessible.

Q: Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, said at the beginning of the synod that biblical images are no longer a part of popular culture. What effect does this distance from Scripture and its stories have on the faith of Catholics?

Cavins: When we lose the narrative thread of salvation history, we also lose the ability to communicate to the next generation the critical signs and symbols of faith. With an absence of biblical images, people are forced to search for and adopt new images, which most often are secular and unrelated to their true calling to be sons and daughters in a covenant relationship with God.

These secular images are popularized by a host of TV celebrities and books. Because these secular images often seem accessible and easily understood, they are adopted. Consequently the Christian images that our grandparents understood now seem foreign and old-fashioned.

Q: On the Great Adventure Web site one sees hundreds of Churches throughout the United States involved in Bible study. What has led to this renewed interest in the study of Scripture?

Cavins: While humanity has made great strides in the area of medicine, technology and communications, our spiritual growth has not kept pace, and people are feeling the effects of it with a palpable void in their heart. It is not a surprise to me to see our heavenly Father drawing people to the Church, the pillar and support of truth.

Now that there is a growing number of Bible studies offered in the Catholic Church, people are responding with eagerness to see what God has for them. With the incredible growth of the Bible studies that we are experiencing, our attention will be given to leadership training. Most of growth comes from one person telling another about their experience.

Q: Are Catholics catching up with Protestants in their knowledge of Scripture?

Cavins: From the perspective of a former pastor, the issue of biblical illiteracy and lack of understanding is not solely a Catholic problem. It may appear that our Protestant brothers and sisters understand more of the Scriptures than Catholics, but I have found that many of them know specific verses, but not the entire narrative, which leaves them with a pocket full of promises rather than a comprehensive plan.

In fact, many non-Catholics who have gone through The Great Adventure came to an understanding of the Catholic faith as they saw the plan of God revealed. They have a deeper appreciation of the Scriptures when they realize that Scripture comes from within the Church, and it is to be read and interpreted in the context of the Church.

Jeff Cavins Fall 2008 Courses in the Twin Cities Area