Monday, August 29, 2011

Marriage amendment awareness campaign launched just outside Minnesota’s State Fair grounds

Within sight of the main gate of the Minnesota State Fair, Michael Blissenbach offered literature about marriage to people on their way to and from The Great Minnesota Get-Together.

Blissenbach and other volunteers were the point persons in the launching of what is expected to be a 15-month effort to inform voters in Minnesota about the importance of supporting an amendment to the state constitution that would preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The amendment will be on the ballot in November 2012.

“A lot of people are taking the literature,” said Blissenbach, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings. “And even if they don’t they’re very respectful about it. They’ll say ‘No thanks’ or ‘We don’t agree.’”

Volunteers handing out literature were organized by the Minnesota for Marriage Coalition, which successfully asked the state legislature to put the amendment on the ballot. With its booth set up on Midway Parkway in front of Holy Childhood Church, the group that includes the Minnesota Family Council, the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the National Organization for Marriage began what Cathy Deeds said is “ultimately a huge get-out-the-vote effort.”

Deeds is outreach coordinator for the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Early support present

“The goal is to talk to as many Minnesotans as possible about marriage and the marriage amendment,” Deeds said, “and to sign up volunteers and supporters to preserve marriage for one man and one woman from being redefined by future legislatures and courts.”

Early polling shows that most Minnesotans support the historic and traditional definition of marriage, Deeds said. Thirty-one of 31 states have voted to define marriage this way, the coalition’s literature notes.

“Marriage means husband and wife in all societies and cultures throughout history,” she added. “It’s for the benefit of children, not something for the rights of individuals.”

As important as marriage is to Catholics, Deeds said one doesn’t need to be a religious person to realize the importance of marriage to the common good.

Volunteer Andy Servi, from St. John the Baptist in New Brighton, pointed to the “wisdom of the ages” that he felt should be convincing. “Cultures throughout history found that marriage of one man and one woman benefitted society.” Servi was joined in staffing the coalition booth by his wife, Richel and their 20-month-old daughter, Riana.

Taken for granted

Gene and Gloria Hippe, Wilmar residents and members of St. Mary parish there, stopped at the booth Aug. 26.

“I don’t want to see marriage breakdown any more than it already is,” Gloria Hippe explained.

Gene Hippe added, “It comes down to a child needs a mom and a dad. It’s something so basic that we haven’t thought about it until it’s threatened.”

Mailers, TV ads, print ads and more can be expected as future elements of the awareness campaign, said Chris Plante of the National Organization for Marriage who is working for the coalition.

“The coalition’s job is helping Mrs. Jones talk to Mrs. Smith about why marriage is for one man and one woman,” he said. Catholic Spirit

For further information, see

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Myths vs. truths about Catholic grade schools

Bonita Jungels: As we look forward to a new school year, the St. John’s School Advisory Board recently discussed how to share the great news happening at our school.

We talked about the rumors that swirl around the community regarding Catholic schools and decided that we should dispel any myths that exist about St. John the Baptist Catholic School.

Myth: Teachers can be anyone plucked off the street.

Truth: All St. John’s school classroom teachers have teaching licenses. Three of our teachers have master’s degrees as well.

Myth: We can teach any curriculum we want.

Truth: St. John’s school follows the Minnesota state standards. We follow all of the same government regulations including testing that the public schools do. We use Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) testing to monitor student growth but do not give the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) or any other tests that do not benefit the students.

Myth: We are not accountable to anyone.

Truth: In addition to being accountable to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Office of Schools, we are accredited by the Minnesota Nonpublic School Accrediting Association and participate in a review every year as well as a thorough review every seven years.

Myth: Catholic schools are still using chalkboards and clapping erasers; additionally, they do not even know that the Internet was invented.

Truth: We have new iMac computers in our lab and integrate technology throughout our curriculum.

Myth: Catholic schools are only for Catholic students.

Truth: About 10 percent of our school population is non-Catholic.

Myth: Catholic schools have big, combined, multi-age classes.

Truth: Our class sizes are small – typically between 14 and 20 students each.

Myth: We teach willy-nilly academics.

Truth: St. John’s school graduates have been Jordan High School valedictorians in the following recent years: 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Most (and sometimes all!) of our 6th grade graduates find themselves on the honor roll in the middle school.

Myth: We are still in the old school across the street.

Truth: We have a wonderful new facility built in 2005!

Myth: Students bring bag lunches every day.

Truth: We have an awesome hot lunch program serving homemade lunches as well as soup and salads.

Myth: We are a separate entity with no support from the public school system.

Truth: The public school system shares resources with us (thank you!) such as special education, title and band.

Myth: Catholic schools have a top down model with no input from parents.

Truth: Parents are involved at St. John’s school in many ways including daily volunteering, the Family Association and the School Advisory Board.

Myth: We do not offer any sports opportunities.

Truth: In fact, we have travelling basketball for boys and girls, and a girls volleyball program.

Myth: We are too small to offer much enrichment.

Truth: We are fortunate to have many resources that allow for field trips to cool places from Wagner’s Apple Orchard all the way to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Orchestra Hall.

Myth: Wearing uniforms is a bad thing.

Truth: Parents and students alike love uniforms. They love the simplicity of getting ready in the morning and the beauty of minimized competition in the wardrobe arena.

We hope that if you have any other questions about St. John’s school that you will contact our school office for more information. Have a great school year!

Bonita Jungels is the principal of St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Jordan, MN
Church Website

Jordan News

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Worthington and SW Minnesota: Murphy, O'Shea and Mulligan - they didn't stay

It is said that when [Arch-] Bishop John Ireland died at St. Paul (1918) his funeral was attended by eight archbishops, 30 bishops, 12 monsignors, 700 priests and 200 seminarians.

Wow! [Archbishop Ireland, the "Consecrated Blizzard of the Northwest", was an extremely powerful person in the U.S. Catholic Church and it had been expected that he would have been made a Cardinal. But, among other things he got tangled up in the Americanism movement and never got the red hat].

We have been talking about Norwegians, Germans and Dutch in southwest Minnesota. Bishop John Ireland is largely responsible for the Irish in southwest Minnesota, and for the fact that there are not many more Irish.

Bishop Ireland, born in Ireland, was a founder of the Irish Catholic Colonization Association. Working with the Western railroads and the state of Minnesota, beginning in 1876, Bishop Ireland brought 4,000 Catholic families out of the slums of New York, Philadelphia and Boston and began efforts to settle his substantial flock on 400,000 acres of land in southwest Minnesota. Catholic settlement focused (among several prairie towns) on Adrian in Nobles County and on Avoca, Iona and Fulda in Murray County.

Southwest Minnesota might have been known to this day as Little Ireland. Trouble was, the Irish didn’t like it here. They wouldn’t stay.

Many Irish people, many Irish city dwellers, came to America in the time of the great potato famine. They and their children had limited training, and they faced great prejudice when they sought work:

NINA: No Irish Need Apply.

That prejudice is remembered to this day.

(As a current story goes, Murphy, O’Shea and Mullligan went for a construction job. They were told the foreman dislikes Irish. Murphy suggests they give English-sounding names. O’Shea enters the foreman’s office. The foreman asks his name. O’Shea looks out window, sees a JC Penney store and says his name is JC Penney. “Get out!” shouts the foreman. Mulligan looks out the same window, sees a billboard and says his name is B.F. Goodrich. “Get out!” shouts the foreman. Murphy is last. The red-faced foreman asks his name. Murphy takes a long look out the window and replies Ken. “Thank heaven,” says the foreman. “ Ken who?” “Tuckeyfriedchicken,” says Murphy.)

The early Irish immigrants, mostly jobless, lived in squalor in the shadowy slums of America’s eastern cities.

“Well,” said Bishop Ireland, “Let’s bring them to Adrian, or Avoca. Give them land and let them farm and may they live happily ever after.” Four hundred thousand acres of Irish farmers.

Trouble was — well, there were a lot of troubles. The Irish had no money, and even in the days of settlement it took money to begin farming. Most of the Irish had no kind of experience with farming; they didn’t know what to do. Life in a crude shack in a Minnesota winter seemed worse than life in a Boston slum. What is more, through all their days these people had lived with friends and kin, almost cheek-to-jowl. Now they lived alone, separated from other humans sometimes by miles.

The general reaction: “Let’s get out of here!”

The Great Irish Settlement was followed by the Great Irish Get-away.

Oh, not all of them fled. In his “History of Nobles County,” A.P. Rose has short stories of the lives of 737 Nobles County pioneers. Twenty-one are from Ireland.

Some stories told of the Irish settlers are memorable. Patrick Glynn was born in Ireland in 1845, the first year of the great famine. He was grown and living in Cleveland when he came upon an advertising folder prepared by Bishop Ireland which told, especially, of the colonization effort in Nobles County. On May 20, 1879, at the age of 34, Patrick purchased a quarter-section of land in Westside Township for $7 an acre.

The Glynn family lived on the farm near Adrian for 13 years. Patrick and his wife, Mary Kinsella Glynn, came to have nine children. Mary was a native of County Carlow, Ireland.

The children were Patrick’s special focus and concern. In his far corner of the prairie he judged school facilities were poor. He wanted the kids to have the best of educations.

In 1892, Patrick sold the $7-an-acre land and bought a $16-an-acre farm southwest of Adrian. The price was more than twice what he paid for the land on which the Glynn family had made their home, but there were better schools available. This was issue on which Patrick Glynn made his decision. Worthington Daily Globe

See this excerpt of James P. Shannon's book, "Catholic Colonization on the Western Frontier."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo to WYD: Ditch Evil Music


Shut Evil Music Off Because
It Can Play Constantly
In Your Head

Bishop Samuel Aquila used one of his World Youth Day catecheses to urge young people to scrub “evil” music from their iPods.
Bishop Samuel Aquila

“You need to look at the music you listen to and the words. Don’t fool yourself. It impacts upon you,” said the Bishop of Fargo, North Dakota, at his World Youth Day catechesis session on Aug. 19.

“There is good music out there that you can listen to, but there is also a lot of trash. And it is simply evil. It is the evil because it distorts the gift of human sexuality, the gift of sexual intimacy, the gift of human life.”

Bishop Aquila was talking to several hundred English-speaking pilgrims in the parish church of Virgen del Mar in the Madrid suburb of San Blas.

He told the youngsters how he was recently visiting a friend with two teenage sons who wanted to show him the music they had downloaded onto their cell phones. The title of one particular song grabbed the bishop’s attention.

“A few days later I read the lyrics of that song, and very honestly I was horrified,” he said. “The words used objectified women” and the woman the featured in the song “was very simply a toy for men and their sexual pleasure.”

Bishop Aquila said he’d then asked the two boys if they “would want your sisters’ boyfriends to treat them as the woman is being treated in that song?” That question “stopped the conversation completely, as these boys would defend their sisters to the hilt.”

He concluded by explaining to the young pilgrims that while the witness of a bishop can be effective, it was more important for young people to witness to each other when it comes to ditching “evil” music.

“Be not afraid to get rid of that sort of music from your iPods or your iPads or your iPhones or wherever you put that kind of music. And don’t be afraid to shut it off because it can play constantly in your head. Give witness to that.”

This morning’s catechesis session was only one of 220 being given in 27 languages all around Madrid.

The reaction to Bishop Aquila’s talk seemed overwhelmingly positive.

“I think that it’s important for the youth to hear what he said about music, because that sort of music is all over the place, it’s infected many levels, even young kids are listening to this stuff,” said 17-year-old Sean Palmer from Philadelphia.

“So it’s important that Catholics lead the charge and show the world what music is right and what music should be avoided because it affects our subconscious in ways we sometimes don’t realize,” Palmer said.

His friend, 17-year-old Andrew Parrish also from Philadelphia, agreed, saying that “music is really language and it can be used to express beautiful things or things that aren’t so beautiful.” He added, “it was important to hear that message from Bishop Aquila because you don’t hear it that often.” Courageous Priest

Archdiocese for Military Services reports surge in vocations for Catholic chaplains

Back on track after years of decline

The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA welcomes a steady increase in the number of young men entering Catholic seminaries who would like to become military chaplains and thanks the many Catholic bishops who have agreed to co-sponsor them.

When the 2011-2012 academic year rolls around later this month, the number of co-sponsored and military-affiliated seminarians will stand at 31, up sharply from just three in 2008-2009; 12 in 2009-2010; and 23 in 2010-2011.

Co-sponsorship means that a diocesan bishop agrees to accept the young man as a seminarian, and that the seminarian will participate in the Chaplain Candidacy Program of one of the branches of the U.S. armed forces. The bishop agrees to release him for service as a military chaplain after three years of pastoral experience as a priest in his diocese. When the priest leaves military service, he returns to the diocese.

Father Kerry Abbott, OFM Conv., Director of Vocations, said, “This is one of the ‘untold stories’ of the blessings of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and those Faithful fervently seeking to respond to the Voice of God. Catholic seminaries in the United States, and the Pontifical North American College in Rome, are straining to accommodate the influx of seminarians entering formation programs leading to presbyteral ordination and military chaplaincy. Many seminaries have found it necessary to convert guest rooms to seminarian quarters.”

The outlook for future vocations is just as bright. The archdiocese is currently processing hundreds of inquiries from prospective military chaplains. Father Abbott expects anywhere from five to 10 more to enter seminaries next year, with still more to come in years to follow.

The timing could not be better. The U.S. armed forces have seen a steady decline in Catholic military chaplains over the past 10 years as priests reach the military retirement age of 62. Their numbers are down from more than 400 active in 2001 to 274 this year.

Father Abbott says the increase in vocations is due mainly to the support of Catholic bishops, “for which this archdiocese is most grateful,” and successful recruiting over the past three years. The recruiting, which began under his predecessor, Father John McLaughlin, is taking place largely among a pool of candidates that has contributed substantial numbers to the priesthood in recent years -- the U.S. military.

According to a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, nearly 10% of men ordained as U.S. Catholic priests over the past two years had previously served in the military. Another 10% came from military families.

“When you think about it, this makes complete sense,” Father Abbott said. “Both the military and the priesthood rely on a largely common set of foundational values, including a commitment to service, self-discipline and a higher calling. So it should come as no surprise that so many of our seminarians come from a military background and a growing number are looking to go back to the life they know after ordination.”

For the archdiocese, the growing influx of new co-sponsored seminarians poses a dilemma -- that is, how to pay for its 50% share of their five-year education. The archdiocese splits tuition and related costs evenly with each diocese where the co-sponsored seminarian is educated and ordained. In just three years, the archdiocese’s annual seminary bill has climbed from less than $40,000 to more than $350,000. The Knights of Columbus recently announced a new “Venerable Father McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship” that will provide $200,000 a year over the next five years. The archdiocese is now in search of additional funding sources to make up the difference.

Father Abbott remarked, “What a delightful dilemma to have!”

For more information about Catholic priestly vocations in the U.S. military, Click Here.
California Catholic

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cardinal Di Nardo Establishes Traditioinal Parish in Houston, TX


Wonderful news for the faithful of the largest city in the great state: a full Parish, exclusively dedicated to the Traditional Roman Liturgy (the "Extraordinary Form" of the Roman Rite), is to be established by the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Cardinal DiNardo, as foreseen by Summorum Pontificum, art. 10. Cardinal DiNardo was formerly the Bishop of Sioux City, IA.

The future Parish will be staffed with priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), who begin celebrating daily Mass in the diocese already on September 4; their page adds: "A beautiful 40 acres parcel of land has been donated for this new Traditional Latin Mass Parish [near Breen and Fairbanks N. Houston - see Google Maps for surroundings] which will eventually have a full parish complex including a traditional style church, rectory, parish hall with room for a retirement facility, retreat house, and possibly a parish school."

Thanks be to God, and congratulations to Cardinal DiNardo, to the faithful of Houston and surrounding areas, and to the state of Texas, which will now host three personal parishes dedicated to the Traditional Mass (the first one being Mater Dei, in the Diocese of Dallas, and the second one St. Joseph the Worker, in the Diocese of Tyler). Rorate Caeli

St. Scholastica: Renewed interest growing in Mary's role in faith life, depiction in art

Renewed interest growing in Mary's role in faith life, depiction in art

Mary is depicted as Our Lady of Guadalupe in a modern painting. The genesis of this popular Marian icon is Mary's appearance to St. Juan Diego in 1531 in Mexico. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

There is renewed interest in Mary -- her role in lives of faith, how to interpret references to her in Scripture, how she is depicted in art and literature -- enough to spark a second "Mary in Our Day" conference, this one in Duluth and held on the feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15.

"Her call to holiness still echoes," explained Christian Brother Mark McVann. "Mary continues today to be a major spiritual force and resource in the modern world."

The College of St. Scholastica hosted this second exploration of the enduring significance of the Blessed Mother. The first was organized by St. Mary's College of California last year.

Brother Mark, a professor of theology and religious studies at St. Mary's, said the revival of interest in Mary and Marian devotions is evident in the volume of recent books on Mary, in the University of Dayton's "The Mary Page" on the Internet, and of enough significance that the History Channel has done a series (and now a book) -- "Visions of Mary" -- which he called excellent.

The fact that there are sparse references in the New Testament makes discussions of Mary complex and open to interpretation, he said.

In St. Luke's Gospel, we see a Mary as "open, intelligent, independent and faithful," Brother Mark said.

"Mary is more than an Old Testament saint," he added. "She is the first one to hear the Gospel. Mary is the first Christian disciple. ... When she appears at the foot of the cross, she becomes the model for believers."

Father William C. Graham, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth and theology professor at St. Scholastica, pointed out that the church teaches during the liturgy what Mary's role is. "The Roman Missal is a rich repository for us as we seek to reflect on and understand and teach what is acceptable on Mary."

Father Graham, who also spoke at the first "Mary in Our Day" conference and organized the one at St. Scholastica, gave examples of how the church's liturgical prayer through the year references Mary and reveals her role as the one who brings the Word to flesh. The Annunciation was one such instance.

"Mary's honor is in her courageous faith-filled reply to the angel Gabriel," Father Graham said. "The church's prayer aims to shape us in the same faith-filled, joyful trust."

Mary's role as the mother of Christ and mother of the church is clear, he added.

"Every feast, every act of devotion to Mary, finds its dignity in turning our hearts to God," Father Graham said.

Boston College theologian Nancy Pineda-Madrid put forward the case that the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531 is "an American Pentecost," a renewal of hope that, like the coming of the Holy Spirit both to the apostles after Jesus' ascension into heaven and continuing today, the miracle of Guadalupe is an ongoing event.

Pineda-Madrid drew parallels between the dashed hopes of the apostles and the downtrodden, even suicidal native peoples of 16th-century Mexico.

The emblazoning of Mary's image on the "tilma," or cloak, of St. Juan Diego left a rich symbol that not only "mediates a sense of the divine," she said, but in the cloak's combination of Aztec and Catholic symbols the native peoples "see a future for themselves and their children."

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pineda-Madrid posited, initiates a zeal for mission, crosses racial and ethnic lines, and continues God's promise that the presence of the Holy Spirit, will continue to be with and empower the faithful.

Brother Charles Hilken, also a Christian Brother and a history professor at St. Mary's in California, used images and likenesses of Mary to explain why she continues to be influential in the 21st century.

"Christian faith is one that overflows into images," noted Brother Charles, who was a curator for the "Vatican Splendors" exhibit that toured the United States recently. "Christian faith wants to express itself."

As a variety of images of Mary from various artists through the ages came up on a large screen, he made the point that Mary has been envisioned by all cultures.

"These images serve as openings to the inner life of God," he said. "An image of Mary prompts our memory -- it's shorthand for the faith we know," and it can open for us a door to prayer.

"Whatever Mary becomes for the individual Christian, whether she is mother of the church or Our Lady of the Rosary or our refuge and life's confidant or simply a repository of faith, her image defines for us beauty," Brother Charles said.

"It is she who shows us the way."

Benedictine Sister Lois Eckes said Mary is "a woman for our time, a woman for all seasons."

The prioress at the St. Scholastica Monastery added, "She's such a model for our faith, one who helps us know that God is in our world in all this mess."
Catholic News Service

Monday, August 22, 2011

Words to Live By from Papa Benedict


"Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Over-sexualizing Theology of the Body: the mystery of human and divine love can get lost

Bishop Jean Laffitte says the mystery of human and divine love can get lost.
The secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family said an overemphasis of the sexual aspect of the theology of the body runs the risk of eliminating the depth and “mystery” involved in human and divine love.

Bishop Jean Laffitte said in an Aug. 3 interview, “The problem is: If you focus only on sexuality, you can’t develop beyond that, and you don’t see that this beauty is a gift given by the Creator, but in a much wider context.”

The bishop, in Denver for the Knights of Columbus’ annual convention, said when interpreting Blessed Pope John Paul II’s teachings, it is essential to first understand God’s design in creating man and woman.

Bishop Laffitte said that although it’s normal to be attracted to “the beauty of sexuality and the beauty of the human body,” he doesn’t agree with emphasizing “the sexual phenomenon” without giving the whole perspective of “the mystery of creation and the mystery of God’s calling on human love,” as taught by John Paul II.

He recalled that when God created Adam and Eve from nothing he could have used the same method to create every other person in human history. Yet, instead, God enabled man and woman through their sexuality to participate in creating human life themselves.

‘Mystery of Sexuality’

“The Creator wanted the human being to be his own mediator in the action of creation — that’s extraordinary,” he noted. “From that moment, in his providential intention, the man and woman he created would be the mediators through which he would continue to give life.”

“That’s the mystery of sexuality,” Bishop Laffitte added, “the expression of divine and human love, which is integrated and interpenetrated.”

“It’s impossible,” then, “to isolate sexuality” from this integration and “to isolate the body from this mystery,” since this would ultimately “isolate the creature from the Creator,” he said.

Bishop Laffitte said that the mystery of sex encompasses “not only the unity of the bodies,” but a unity of bodies that “are animated by God and which express a spiritual love.”

“When Pope John Paul II talks about the body, we have to understand this,” he said.

The pontifical secretary also said that the term “theology of the body” is, in fact, an English translation of what is originally called “The Catecheses on Human Love.”

Although the English term is “not incorrect,” he said, it doesn’t necessarily portray “the entirety of the catecheses.” Theology of the body “is not a wrong expression, on the condition that we see the intention of John Paul II,” Bishop Laffitte said.

“He was talking about human love and not only the partial focus we could have only on the body and on sexuality — which is ultimately a bodily expression of love.”

“Certainly the body has a theological dimension, but this dimension is given by God’s design on human love and what, in the nature of man and woman, belongs to the fulfillment of the design.”

Narrowed Vision

Although Bishop Laffitte, former vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, praised the intent behind popularizing John Paul II’s teachings on human sexuality, he underscored the “risk” of transmitting an overly narrow approach. He stressed that in today’s world, human love and sexuality have been “disfigured” and Church teachings on the subject need to be spread as a means of evangelization, accessible to all people.

In response to those who say the philosophical and anthropological topics involved in the late Pope’s teachings are too complex for the average person, the bishop suggested that anyone “of good faith can always be sensitive to mystery.”

“Even when a person cannot read and write, when he falls in love with someone, he enters into an extraordinary mystery,” the bishop said.

Regardless of a person’s level of intellectual knowledge, he “has the same experience” when he falls in love as even the most educated person.

Bishop Laffitte also cautioned against taking a casual or “vulgar” approach to discussing human sexuality in the context of Church teachings.

“Man and woman have sinned,” he explained, “and in our bodies, we bear the consequences of this wound in our nature.”
He said it’s ultimately “unrealistic” to think that we can discuss or treat the issue of human sexuality in a casual or indifferent way, ignoring the reality of sin.

He concluded, “There is a dignity” and a “respectful expression of love and design.” National Catholic Register

NCReporter: Protesters, pilgrims face minor confrontations on Madrid streets!!

I posted the following comment on the pages of a National Catholic Reporter story early this morning:

Protesters, pilgrims face minor confrontations on Madrid streets!!

You call adult, foul-mouthed, radicals confronting 14 year old Catholic children on a pilgrimage a minor confrontation?

You hypocrites should be so ashamed of yourselves for calling yourselves "Catholic" and a "Reporter." And your numbers are falling so much that I doubt if you qualify as "National" any more.

You're nothing but a political opinion sheet, fighting a losing battle against God and the Church.

Is there anything you like about the Catholic Church? Or do you just exist to steal money from aging Catholic dissidents?

Much of the protesting purportedly was about how much money the Spanish government was spending to subsidize the event. We won't know the offiicial figures for some time, but for 2005, when WYD was in Germany, the German government spend 15 million Euros to support an event with over one million in attendances. At todays rates, $1.5o, that's about $22 per adult and child pilgrim. I wonder how much money those adults and teenagers spent in German hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops and will spend in Spain? And Germany and Spain didn't have to spend a Euro promoting the event. NCReporter did write that article or the headline, but it is typical of their reporting. Nothing suipportive of the Church, just the complaints from old people that they aren't getting their way with the "millenial generation."

It doesn't look like Spanish youth doing the protesting in these Reuters photos. Just like here, aging dissidents.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Removal of Excommunications for having had an abortion

Father Z, (Fr. John Zuhlsdorf) has a long explanation today as to what's involved with having been excommunicated after having had an abortion.

If you should happened to need this information, I pray that you go over to his website when you have some time and read carefully.

I'm sure that this does not apply if you have performed or assisted an an abortion.

God Bless You!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Funeral Friday, 11:30 at St. Paul Cathedral for SO@ Nicholas Spehar, Navy Seal Team Five, killed in action in Afghanistan.

I initially posted the date of the funeral incorrectly. It is scheduled for Friday at 11:30 a.m.

Spehar, SO2 Nicholas Patrick Naval Special Warfare SEAL TEAM FIVE Special Operator Second Class Nicholas Patrick Spehar was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 19th, 1986. SO2 Spehar grew up in Chisago City, Minnesota, entering the Navy in March of 2007. After completing Navy Boot Camp, SO2 Spehar graduated Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL (BUD/s) Training and SEAL Qualification Training with Class 267. Upon checking into SEAL Team FIVE, SO2 Spehar deployed to the Philippines in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

He earned the coveted position of Honor Man in both Naval Special Warfare Lead Breacher and Naval Special Warfare Sniper School. SO2 Spehar then deployed to Yemen in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and immediately upon his return, volunteered for deployment to Afghanistan.

On August 6, 2011, SO2 Spehar was tragically killed in action while conducting combat operations in Wardak Province, Afghanistan. SO2 Spehar was an exceptional United States Navy SEAL; he was a leader by example, a tireless worker, and an elite warrior. SO2 Spehar had previously been awarded an Army Achievement Medal and a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

Nicholas led his life with dedication and integrity. He had a deep love for his family and his devotion to his parents and siblings was unparalleled. Nicholas had a deep Catholic faith. Nicholas is survived by his parents, Patrick and Annette, sister Marie (Anthony) Mielke, brothers, Luke and Jacob, and sister Lisa.

Mass of Christian Burial 11:00 a.m. Friday, August 19, 2011 at St. Paul Cathedral, 239 Selby Ave., St. Paul, Minnesota. Visitation 4-8 p.m. Thursday at St. Bridget of Sweden Catholic Church, 13060 Lake Blvd., Lindstrom, Minnesota. Interment at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Mpls. Grandstrand Funeral Home 651-257-4000

Nicholas was a nephew of Father Jeff Huard. The funeral will be a low-key family event, with no media or politicians invited.

Half-Aborted: Why do "reductions" of twin pregnancies trouble pro-choicers?


Hard core pro-choice women are having their consciences raised, at last.

According to Sunday's New York Times Magazine, demand is rising for "reduction" procedures in which a woman carrying twins keeps one and has the other aborted. Since twin pregnancies are generally safe, these abortions are largely elective.

Why, then, does reduction unsettle so many pro-choicers?

For some, the issue seems to be a consumer mentality in assisted reproduction. For others, it's the deliberateness of getting pregnant, especially by IVF, without being prepared to accept the consequences. But the main problem with reduction is that it breaches a wall at the center of pro-choice psychology. It exposes the equality between the offspring we raise and the offspring we abort.

What's worse than an abortion? Half an abortion.

It sounds like a bad joke. But it's real. According to Sunday's New York Times Magazine, demand is rising for "reduction" procedures in which a woman carrying twins keeps one and has the other aborted. Since twin pregnancies are generally safe, these abortions are largely elective.

Across the pro-choice blogosphere, including Slate, the article has provoked discomfort. RH Reality Check, a website dedicated to abortion rights, ran an item voicing qualms with one woman's reduction decision. Jezebel, another pro-choice site, acknowledged the "complicated ethics" of reduction. Frances Kissling, a longtime reproductive rights leader, wrote a Washington Post essay asking whether women should forgo fertility treatment rather than risk a twin pregnancy they'd end up half-aborting.

In comments on these articles, pro-choice readers express similar misgivings. "Even as a woman who has terminated a pregnancy, I totally understand the author's apprehension … something about it just doesn't feel right," says a Slate reader. A commenter at Jezebel writes that "if I were put in the position and decided to/needed to abort a single fetus, I could. But if I knew that I was keeping the baby and it turned out to be twins, I don't think I could have a reduction."

To pro-lifers and hardcore pro-choicers, this queasiness seems odd. After all, a reduction is an abortion. If anything, reduction should be less problematic than ordinary abortion, since one life is deliberately being spared. Why, then, does reduction unsettle so many pro-choicers?

For some, the issue seems to be a consumer mentality in assisted reproduction. For others, it's the deliberateness of getting pregnant, especially by IVF, without being prepared to accept the consequences. But the main problem with reduction is that it breaches a wall at the center of pro-choice psychology. It exposes the equality between the offspring we raise and the offspring we abort.

Look up any abortion-related item in Jezebel, and you'll see the developing human referred to as a fetus or pregnancy. But when the same entity appears in a non-abortion item, it gets an upgrade. A blood test could help "women who are concerned that they may be carrying a child with Down's Syndrome." A TV character wonders whether she's "capable of carrying a child to term." Nuclear radiation in Japan "may put unborn children at risk."

This bifurcated mindset permeates pro-choice thinking. Embryos fertilized for procreation are embryos; embryos cloned for research are "activated eggs." A fetus you want is a baby; a fetus you don't want is a pregnancy. Under federal law, anyone who injures or kills a "child in utero" during a violent crime gets the same punishment as if he had injured or killed "the unborn child\'s mother," but no such penalty applies to "an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman … has been obtained."

Reduction destroys this distinction. It combines, in a single pregnancy, a wanted and an unwanted fetus. In the case of identical twins, even their genomes are indistinguishable. You can't pretend that one is precious and the other is just tissue. You're killing the same creature to which you're dedicating your life.

Sophie\'s Choice is a common theme in abortion decisions. To give your existing kids the attention and resources they'll need, you have to terminate your fetus. This rationale fits the pro-choice calculus that born children are worth more than unborn ones. But in the case of reduction, the child for whom you\'re reserving attention and resources is equally unborn. She is, and will always be, a living reminder of what you exterminated.

This is what tortures pro-choicers. "I just couldn't sleep at night knowing that I terminated my daughter's perfectly healthy twin brother," says a commenter in the Times story. A Jezebel reader worries about "all the poor surviving twins who will one day find out that their other is missing." Another Jezebel reader writes:

I\'d have a much easier time aborting a single baby or both twins than doing a reduction. When you reduce, the remaining twin will remain a persistent reminder of the unborn child. I think that, more than anything would make killing that fetus feel like killing another human, even though it wasn't fully developed. It would feel that way because you would have a living copy of the person you killed.

That\'s the anguish of reduction: watching the fetus you spared become what its twin will never be. And knowing that the only difference between them was your will.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Homosexual Leaven in the Liturgical Lump [Narcissism on the Altar]

As debate surrounding the recently published John Jay Report (Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010) continues, more and more Catholics are coming to the unavoidable conclusion (contrary to “official findings”) that the overwhelming majority of abuse cases were directly related to homosexuality.

One may further deduce that the historical spike in such incidents also likely coincided with an increase in the relative number of homosexual men in the priesthood — a proposition too unsavory (not to mention too politically incorrect) for many to acknowledge.

Those who are willing to look at the situation with eyes opened wide are left to ponder, not just the aforementioned abuse crisis, but also the broader implications of homosexuality in the priesthood.

I would submit that the impact of homosexual priests has perhaps been brought to bear in a particularly profound way in the liturgical life of the Church, and I would ask the reader to keep in mind as we proceed the warning issued by St. Paul: “Know you not that a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump?” (1 Cor. 5:6)

Let’s begin by considering that the priest who celebrates Holy Mass does so in persona Christi – in the person of Christ – such that he “does nothing of his own power” when he carries out his liturgical duties; rather, it is the Lord Himself who is present and active in offering the Holy Sacrifice (cf St. John Chrysostom – Homily on the Holy Pentecost).

Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, is uniquely present and made visible to the faithful in the person of the ordained minister at Holy Mass (cf Sacrosanctum Concilium – 7) – a reality that compels the celebrating priest to personally surrender to Christ after the example of St. John the Baptist who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

The cleric who suffers with homosexuality, however, will necessarily find this liturgical submission-of-self a most challenging proposition.

Psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a consultant to the Vatican Congregation for Clergy and a leading expert with more than 35 years of clinical experience treating priests and others who suffer with Same Sex Attraction (SSA), said in a recent interview with regard to homosexuality in the priesthood, “Narcissism – a personality disorder in which an insatiable need for admiration often leads to attention-seeking behavior – is prevalent among men who struggle with homosexuality. This conflict results in a need to draw attention to his own personality in the liturgy rather than to surrender his personal identity in favor of Christ.”

While narcissistic behavior certainly isn’t the exclusive franchise of homosexuals, Dr. Fitzgibbons’ insights speak directly to the reason why homosexual men are ill-suited for the priesthood – a truth that comes into ever sharper focus when viewed through the lens of the sacred liturgy.

“The male who suffers with deep-seated homosexuality has difficulty in being Christ visible in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for a number of reasons,” Dr. Fitzgibbons continued. “For instance, a number of well-designed studies have documented that the homosexual man struggles with weaknesses in male confidence, which in turn makes it difficult for him to give of himself fully in the ministerial roles as a spouse to the Church and as a spiritual father to Her children as the priest is called to carry them out in persona Christi at Mass.”

The Council Fathers tell us that Christ is the ultimate expression of the human person; He reveals to mankind who he really is (cf Gaudium et Spes – 22).

This, of course, is true for both men and women, but we must not fail to recognize that Christ also reveals in a uniquely profound way what it means to be “male,” and the reality of Christ’s maleness is made expressly manifest in the Mass where the Sacrifice willingly offered by Jesus in love for His Bride and their beloved children is re-presented.

(The reader may also wish to consider how this factors into the Church’s inability to confer Holy Orders upon women.)

The priest at Holy Mass is called to visibly model, in willing cooperation with grace, the quintessential father and husband who protects, provides and sustains those who depend on him for their very survival. This presupposes in the ordained a healthy appreciation for his own God-given maleness, but whenever this requisite level of self-awareness is deficient, the priest is ill-prepared to render such service to his spiritual family.

According to Dr. Fitzgibbons, “The insecurity inherent to SSA could also predispose the homosexual cleric to seek the approval of the laity by treating the liturgy as performance or by otherwise calling attention to himself. Furthermore, the underlying anger and disdain for authority that is also endemic to homosexuality could lead to rebelliousness and a determination to ‘do his own thing’ with the liturgy.”

To view this from a more spiritual perspective, consider that when the ordained minister who is called to serve as “father” chooses instead to use the Mass (and by extension the assembly) as an occasion to meet his own needs (e.g., a need for approval and adulation), he is guilty not just of liturgical abuse, but in a certain sense of no less than spiritual child abuse.

A quest for self-fulfillment on the part of the priest is the antithesis of the spirit of the liturgy, but according to Dr. Fitzgibbons, homosexuals often tend “to see and to treat their own pleasure as the highest end.”

This being the case, a substantial degree of tension can exist between the homosexual cleric and the liturgy properly celebrated, one that is overcome only with resolute determination to engage in intensive therapy and prayer, and even then with great difficulty.

Setting aside “chicken and egg” arguments for the time being, it would seem that the apparent increase in homosexual orientation among the priestly population, coupled with the liturgical crisis that emerged in the decades after the Council, has created a perfect storm.

Prior to Vatican II, Holy Mass was commonly celebrated in Latin in the ad oreintem posture in which both priest and people faced east, even if only a “liturgical east.” As such, the personality (and underlying emotional health) of the priest was of little consequence in the celebration, and so “losing himself” in order to make room for Christ in the liturgy was far more easily accomplished by the priest than it is today.

In the Novus Ordo, however, the priest most commonly offers Holy Mass in the vernacular versus populum (facing the people) wherein his personality (and at times his emotional health) is unavoidably on display. Aware of the impact that his liturgical persona can have on the experience of the assembled faithful, the priest often feels tremendous pressure to draw upon his personal resources to “perform” his duties in a compelling way. Even in the best of circumstances, it is quite natural for the priest to feel moved to so meet the expectant eyes and ears of the faithful such as they are ever cast upon him in the newly configured rite.

For the priest who also struggles with an underlying inclination toward narcissism, the temptation to use the liturgy as a venue for seeking attention and personal gratification can be all but overwhelming.

Given the fact that the Council Fathers encouraged neither the dramatic change in the priest’s posture toward the people nor the construction of free-standing altars to accommodate the practice, it is reasonable to wonder what sorts of influences and pressures within the priestly population itself may have allowed for such a radical liturgical innovation to take hold so quickly.

Now, I don’t propose to offer an exhaustive treatment here, but I would suggest that at least one contributing factor among many may be suggested in the data found in the John Jay Report.

In a graph that plots “Incidents of Sexual Abuse by Year of Occurrence” (on pg. 8 ) one finds a steep increase in cases of abuse (which again, are overwhelmingly homosexual in nature) taking shape just as liturgical experimentation was gathering worldwide momentum in the mid-1950s.

From there we see cases of abuse spiking to unforeseen levels that are then roughly maintained over a 10+ year period beginning in the late 1960’s — the very point in time during which the push to create a liturgy celebrated versus populum reached critical mass and found favor in so many places.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but then again maybe not.

As the percentage of homosexuals within the ranks of the presbyterate rose, one may reasonably argue based upon Dr. Fitzgibbons’ clinical insights that so too did the group’s overall receptiveness to a versus populum liturgy featuring the priest-as-centerpiece.

In other words, it would seem naïve to discount the role that clerical homosexuality (like leaven) may have played in promoting a liturgical agenda that dovetails so comfortably with the emotional neediness that comes with the territory.

Let me be clear – I am not suggesting in any way that priests who favor the versus populum orientation today are necessarily struggling with narcissism, much less homosexuality. Many such priests, I presume, are simply caught up in the current liturgical “lump” as we know it, albeit some more willingly than others.

The John Jay Report also gives us reason for hope as it indicates a steep decrease in the incidence of homosexual abuse beginning in the early 1980s, continuing downwardly right up to this very day when the numbers are below that of 1950.

One might see in the current trend, along with the elevation of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the Chair of St. Peter, the makings of a potentially new perfect storm – one that will eventually usher in at long last the Council Fathers’ authentic vision of a liturgy renewed.

Perhaps this will one day include a large scale return to ad orientem worship at Holy Mass; a posture that Cardinal Ratzinger described as a “fundamental expression” of the liturgy’s true nature (Spirit of the Liturgy – Ignatius Press – 2000).

While certainly not an ecclesial cure-all, it could go a very long way toward curing much of what ails our perception and experience of the sacred liturgy, “The font from which all of the Church’s power flows” (SC 10).

It could also go a long way toward curing much of what ails the priesthood in our day by reaffirming its true nature – both for the benefit of the laity (some of whom are being called to a priestly vocation) and for the ordained minister himself – as the ad orientem posture gives bodily, visible expression to the sacramental reality of the priest as that Perfect Male who lays down His life on behalf of His family: Provider, Protector, Sustainer, and ultimately, Husband and Father.

It might even serve to strengthen those clerics who are currently struggling against homosexuality, aiding them in taking the difficult steps necessary in order to address their inner conflicts — to make room for the Divine Physician who alone can heal all wounds. Catholic Exchange

Author and speaker Louie Verrecchio has been a columnist for Catholic News Agency since April 2009. He recently launched Preparing the Way for the Roman Missal: Where the New Translation Meets the New EvangelizationTM. Learn more at Verrecchio’s work, which includes the internationally acclaimed faith-formation program Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II, has been endorsed by, among others, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia; Bishop Emeritus Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster, England; and Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa. For information go to

Monday, August 15, 2011

As the Spirit Moves Me: Brick by brick, Rochester's St. John's remains strong, vibrant

To write a story about Church of St. John the Evangelist, Rochester's first Catholic church, we must reach back nearly 150 years to a time shortly after Minnesota became the 32nd state in 1858. Through the decades, building anew and renovations, the church's location at 11 Fourth Ave. S.W. remains the same.

Being formed in 1863, the first church building was dedicated Dec. 1, 1872, at a cost of $40,000. At that time, the Rev. James Morris had purchased three lots near the old courthouse as a site for the church. The courthouse has long been gone, but the three lots never moved, and neither has St. John’s.

By the turn of the century into the 1900s, a growing St. John’s parish felt the need for expansion. A new cornerstone was set Oct. 12, 1900, and the new house of worship was dedicated on April 27, 1905, at a cost of $60,000.

Because the city was growing rapidly, it’s likely some of the parishioners at St. John’s wondered when they would need to build again. Many efforts were turned to education during the next 50 years.

In 1913, three new schools were completed and opened for classes in September. First, there was a grade school for boys and girls. Soon there was a high school for the girls known as St. John’s, taught by the Sisters, and Heffron High School for boys.

Heffron High School was named for the Most Rev. Patrick R. Heffron, bishop of the Winona Diocese from 1910 until 1927.

Another name that always raised my curiosity was Cotter High School in Winona. That school was named after the first bishop of the Winona Diocese, the Most Rev. Joseph B. Cotter.

Another Catholic milestone was the opening of Lourdes High School in January 1942. The Rev. Louis D. O’Day came to St. John’s from St. Thomas parish in Winona and started plans to replace the 1905 church building. Within two years, another dedication, this time a Mass by Father Joseph Mountain on Jan. 27, 1957.

A fine story teller, Father James Mc Cauley became the church priest in 1991, leading up to the Rev. Msgr. Gerald A. Mahon, who has led this congregation of 1,350 households for the past 16 years.

This has been a time for a complete turnaround for St. John's. Following a needs assessment survey in 1998, showing many concerns, it was determined that more space was needed to provide education for liturgy and environment.

The liturgical committee had a vision with a long list of “needs” to make everything about St. John’s the Evangelist Church perfect. Some of the suggestions included were to provide a separate sacred space for small liturgical celebrations and personal prayer, improvement of lighting and acoustics, handicap accessibility to all areas of the parish facility, and to provide a separate area for funeral luncheons and other functions.

Another is the beautiful baptismal spot where families can gather while little ones are baptized.

In response to their vision statement in 1999, architects developed a final proposal. This created a gathering and fellowship area in the old school gym and added a chapel to the Fourth Avenue side of the church. This made available an entrance for church members and hundreds of folks coming from Mayo Clinic.

A new subway connects St. John’s and Mayo Clinic. Church renovation began in 2001 and the dedication at the new sanctuary took place May 19, 2002. This was the Feast of the Pentecost.

Old friend Bishop Bernard J. Harrington (now retired) was at this celebration as he served the Diocese of Winona as bishop.

On May 5, 2002, Father Mahon wrote in the church bulletin, “During the past five years our dream has unfolded in front of us brick by brick and we are prepared to be a strong, vibrant parish community for the next 100 years.”

Now the oldest Catholic church in Rochester, St. John the Evangelist, known as a “Welcoming Catholic Community,” is preparing for its 150th anniversary in 2013. Rochester Post Bulletin

Chicago UFO Stuns Viewers, Especially Stuns Media Outlets into Silence


Not a word in the Chicago Tribune nor the Sun-Times. Maybe they were "raptured."

One has to be filled with joy when you see some of the inspiring public demonstrations of faith taking place in Chicago, largely due to youth and leaders at St. John Cantius parish.

On Friday, August 12, a giant 75-foot floating Rosary rose skyward above Chicago’s Michigan Avenue Bridge.

The Rosary was the craft of 20 imaginative elementary-school-aged girls and their counselors participating in a summer camp at a Chicago Catholic parish. The girls prayed the Rosary in front of a Washington Avenue abortion business. They then carried the Rosary, cross-first, through downtown Chicago’s peak traffic to the honks and cheers of onlookers.

A six-foot-gold cross hanging from the Rosary sparkled in the sunlight as it ascended between the Tribune tower and the Wrigley building. The Rosary of helium-filled yellow balloons bearing the word LIFE then floated down Michigan Avenue over the Hancock Tower.

“It was the prettiest rosary I have ever seen. I liked how it would float up and sit and then float up and sit. It looked pretty against the buildings and the sky,” said one participant.

The LIFE balloon Rosary was the latest in a series of public demonstrations, prayer vigils, and flash mobs utilizing the yellow balloons across the U.S. Tim Drake in the National Catholic Register

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The GIRM requirements for the Communion Rite: Section 80

This is a comment that I made on the Pray Tell blog today:

RE: The Communion Rite 80 “Faithful who are properly disposed”

The Communion Rite
80. Since the celebration of the Eucharist is the Paschal Banquet, it is desirable that in accordance with the Lord’s command his Body and Blood should be received as spiritual food by those of the faithful who are properly disposed. This is the sense of the fraction and the other preparatory rites by which the faithful are led more immediately to Communion.

Why is this never discussed? Far and away, the greatest liturgical abuse is the reception of Holy Communion by, in most parishes, virtually 100% of the congregation. Yet Confession lines are minuscule in most parishes.

Most recipients of Holy Communion are committing sacrilege in the U.S. (I’ve noticed in congregations with lots of Hispanics that 100% participation doesn’t seem to be the practice). There must be no spiritual benefit to the Church as a whole of most attendance at Mass in the American Church. ‘

In case you question how I could know that people might not be in the state of grace, surveys show that 90% of Catholic couples use artificial birth control, for one. 100% of Christmas/Easter Catholics receive Holy Communion when they do attend. For two.

No wonder Mass attendance is so low and young people in many parishes are non-existent. Subliminally, they must be aware of the hypocrisy and figure it can’t be that important.

I was reminded today that our Bishops have excused us from attending Mass on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the B.V.M. Our Bishops keep making Catholic teachings easier and easier, and our Catholic parishioners keep pushing the envelope to make life even more easy for themselves.

Archdiocese repeats what it said last Fall (but some didn't listen): Holy Cross to retain Polish heritage


Archdiocese says Holy Cross to retain Polish heritage

Holy Cross protest

Dave Berger of Our Lady of Victory in Minneapolis joined about 50 others to express their concerns about parish mergers during a rally held at the Cathedral of St. Paul Aug. 6. Most of the protestors are members and/or supporters of Holy Cross in Minneapolis who said they fear the Polish-ethnic nature of the parish would be lost in a merger. A statement issued by the archdiocese attempted to alleviate those fears.

While some 50 people protested the merger of northeast Minneapolis parishes Aug. 6 at the Cathedral of St. Paul and the archdiocesan chancery across St. Paul’s Summit Avenue, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis responded by attempting to straighten out the facts and alleviate parishioners’ fears.

Under the archdiocesan strategic plan announced in October, St. Anthony of Padua is the receiving parish for three other parishes in northeast Minneapolis — Holy Cross, St. Clement and St. Hedwig.

Archbishop John Nienstedt later confirmed his original decision with some modifications, including that the combined parish community would be named Holy Cross and the effective date of the merger would take place upon the retirement of St. Clement’s pastor by July 2013. The archbishop also reaffirmed the Polish nature of the combined parish community, including the continued offering of Mass in Polish.

During the rally, homemade signs pointed out the concern that the Polish heritage of Holy Cross would be lost in any merger.

Barb Maciejny of Holy Cross, who attended the rally with her husband, Anatol, said, “We are asking [Archbishop John Nienstedt] to do a new decree — not merging…. He should leave us just as we are.” She said she has written letters protesting the merger both to the Vatican and to Archbishop Nienstedt.

The archdiocese released the following statement in response to the concerns of those who attended the rally: “Holy Cross Catholic Church will continue as a proud and strong center of the Catholic faith and the Polish culture of Northeast Minneapolis as it has been for more than 125 years. Mass will continue to be offered in English and in Polish at Holy Cross Church. Polish programs such as Polish Sunday school will also continue. Any rumors to the contrary are unfounded. Holy Cross’ pastor and lay leadership are fully supportive in all these matters.”

Other mergers underway

In addition, the archdiocese clarified that as of July 1, 2011, nine parishes have merged with six neighboring parishes under changes announced in the strategic plan.

Another merger between two Minneapolis parishes [St. Philip and Ascension], which happened outside of the planning process for financial reasons, is under appeal with the Vatican.

Five of the remaining nine mergers have been appealed to the Holy See. Holy Cross and St. Austin, both in Minneapolis; St. Columbkill in Belle Creek; St. Mary in Bellechester; and St. John in St. Paul remain in the hands of the Holy See.

The mergers of St. Thomas of St. Thomas with St Anne of LeSueur; St. Andrew with Maternity of Mary both in St. Paul; St Francis de Sales with St James, both also in St. Paul; and the merger of St. Benedict, St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph and St. Scholastica with St. Wenceslaus, all in the New Prague area, were made official Jan. 1, 2011. The mergers of St. Augustine with Holy Trinity in South St. Paul and St. Thomas the Apostle with Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul took effect on July 1, 2011.

Plan adjustments already made

Along with holding listening sessions across the 12-county archdiocese and meetings with priests and ministry leaders before any of the strategic plan was proposed to Archbishop Nienstedt, the archbishop has accepted some ideas for adjusting the plan since it was first released last October.

In November 2010, in response to information received from parishioners in their petitions to reconsider parish merger decisions, Archbishop Nienstedt modified two of the original 14 mergers, namely the one involving Holy Cross, St Anthony of Padua, St Clement and St Hedwig in northeast Minneapolis and the one involving St. Thomas of St. Thomas.

A merger decision does not necessarily mean that the merging parish’s church building will close. Decisions regarding the church buildings of the newly combined parish community will be made by local leaders in consultation with the archbishop and Presbyteral Council, a representative body of priests. Catholic Spirit

Archbishop Nienstedt: Archdiocesan Plan Also Calls for Strengthening Catholic Schools


My staff likes to make sure that I have plenty to do while away for vacation, so this year they presented me with the report and recommendations of the Catholic Schools Commission, which I convened last December as part of our Archdiocesan Strategic Plan.

The document was the size of a small phone directory, full of important data and research. I am grateful to the 17 members who made up the commission for the thoroughness and professionalism of their work as well as their wide ranging consultative process.

Call to holiness

The church’s mission is to communicate the love of God to all men and women, drawing them into a relationship with God and with their fellow believers. The “Dogmatic Constitution of the Church,” from the Second Vatican Council, calls the church a “sacrament — a sign and instrument of communion with God and of unity among all men” (par. 1).

The same council states in its “Constitution on the Liturgy” that all the church’s activities are directed toward the sanctification of human beings and the glorification of God. This is our call to holiness, given to us in baptism and developed throughout the rest of our lives.

Holiness means living in, with and through Christ. It is a dynamic relationship that is nurtured and strengthened by the church’s teaching, her sacramental celebration, her apostolic outreach and her ecclesial communion.

One of the means that the church uses to accomplish her mission is her Catholic schools. These have been an effective instrument for doing so in this archdiocese for the past 160 years.

Changing times

Today, more than 30,000 students attend our 95 Catholic elementary and high schools. This is quite a contrast to the situation here in 1965 when we had nearly 90,000 students in 180 Catholic schools within the archdiocese.

Much has changed in those intervening years: Society has moved from close-knit, urban neighborhoods to spread-out suburban communities, leaving urban areas in a state of decay. Our classrooms, once filled with students of Irish, German, Italian or Polish immigrants, now reflect more mainstream middle- or upper-class backgrounds as well as minorities and new immigrants who are a gift to our church, our schools and our community.

Teaching staffs were then made up of religious sisters in habits, who have now been by and large replaced by lay men and women. Technology has advanced, replacing blackboards with smart boards and computers.

And, of course, the price of Catholic education has also changed. Today the approximate average cost for Catholic elementary school education is $5,237, while the average tuition charged per pupil is $3,377.

Thus, parishes and school administrations are faced collectively with bridging the elementary education gap of more than $30 million through parish subsidies, grants, gifts, endowments, local fundraising and archdiocesan support through the Catholic Services Appeal.

Making recommendations

Faced with the challenges offered by this changed reality, the Strategic Plan asked all schools to review their sustainability.

The Catholic Schools Commission complemented this work and has recommended criteria for long-term viability with the goal of making a high quality Catholic school education available to every family that desires it. They did so by focusing on the areas of Catholic identity, governance, educational excellence, advancement and funding models/financial management.

The first recommendation was to establish an Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council, made up of visible and supportive leaders for our Catholic schools. This council’s focus will be primarily to continue the strategic planning in the five areas mentioned above, assisting me and my staff to implement the recommendations made by the Catholic Schools Commission.

I look forward to the work of the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council beginning in September. In time, we also hope to have an advisory council with clear roles and responsibilities in each of our parish schools, engaging lay leadership in the mission of those schools.

It is clear to me that these steps have the potential of giving our Catholic schools the direction and resources that they need and deserve.

It is also clear to me that these schools benefit all of us, whether our home parish has a school or not. Educating the next generation in our Catholic faith, forming them to live holy lives in Christ, and preparing them to be virtuous leaders in the church and society as a whole are fundamental to what we do as church.

We simply must succeed at fulfilling that mission. Catholic Spirit

Genetic Patents: Moral Concerns


Last week the Federal Circuit Court handed down what seemed to many a funny decision: that human genes are patentable. Myriad Genetics owns patents for two tumor suppressor genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 (mutations of these genes are correlated with increased incidence of breast cancer, making them of great interest to doctors and scientists). Myriad was sued by doctors and researchers who claim that genes fall into the category of “products of nature,” which makes them unpatentable, but the court disagreed.

Myriad’s patents allow it to charge licensing fees to doctors who wish to screen their patients for BRCA1/2 mutations, and also to researchers developing drugs that would target BRCA1/2 abnormalities in breast cancers. Myriad claims that its patents allow it to recover the costs of identifying the two genes, and so are just like the patents for Velcro, ShamWow, or the Segway. Aside from the legal dispute—i.e., the majority’s facially risible argument that “the molecules as claimed do not exist in nature,” since bits of the BRCA1 gene aren’t floating around in ponds—there are two problems with the patenting of genes: a moral one and a practical one.

In his Acton monograph The Social Mortgage of Intellectual Property, David H. Carey addresses intellectual property rights vis-à-vis the distribution of medicine. He focuses on the AIDS epidemic and infectious diseases in the Third World, and presents the Vatican’s 2001 argument that the principle of solidarity supersedes patent rights where the lives of the poor are at stake, even though the long-term consequences of a suspension of intellectual property might be severe.

Admittedly, personalized cancer treatment in the United States alters the moral calculation, but the American public has made its consideration, and by the establishment of the National Cancer Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health), has decided to fund early stage cancer research publicly. Certainly in order recoup the billions of dollars of testing required to bring a cancer drug to market, companies need the assurance of patent protection, but the sequencing of a gene comes years before any drug begins testing (Myriad filed for its patents in 1994).

As Francis S. Collins, head of the NIH, explained in a recent book,

The information contained in our shared [genome] is so fundamental, and requires so much further research to understand its utility, that patenting it at the earliest stage is like putting up a whole lot of unnecessary toll booths on the road to discovery.

Whether the Supreme Court reverses the Federal Circuit’s decision, or Congress passes a law making clear the proper extent of patent protections, this intellectual property mess must be untangled. Acton Institute Power Blog

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Whatever Happened to Stem Cell Research? -- a Short History


Whatever happened to stem cell research? Well, plenty. But it does not dominate our political conversation anymore. What’s more, it has moved into morally acceptable avenues. And for that we can thank President George W. Bush.

Ten years ago this week, he made his first prime time speech and, remarkably, it was about this wedge political issue, with much elite opinion stacked against him. Yet he remained firm.

The scientific and political communities were giddy about stem cells’ potential to treat and cure ever since they were discovered in 1998. Embryonic stem cells would allow us to grow whole organs. The lame would walk, the blind would see, the deaf would hear.

And then came George Bush, that Neanderthal Christian. All that was needed for medical miracles was federal funding. Everyone wanted it, Congress, the American people, Chris Matthews.

President Bush began protracted dialogue with experts from many different fields. He met with scientists, ethicists, theologians, medical doctors, and philosophers. To many, of course, this was a no-brainer: we should just use embryos left over from in vitro fertilization.

Bush stood before the microphones on the evening of August 9, 2001 and called embryonic stem cell research “one of the most profound (issues) of our time.” He added, “most scientists, at least today, believe that research on embryonic stem cells offers the most promise because these cells have the potential to develop in all of the tissues of the body.”

Bush then addressed the ethical problems, especially two main questions. “Are these frozen embryos human life and therefore something precious to be protected? And, if they are going to be destroyed anyway, shouldn’t they be used for a great good” He had received conflicting views on each question.

There was genuine tension at the time because no one knew what he would do. He said, “At its core, this issue forces us to confront the fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science. It lives at a difficult moral intersection, juxtaposing the need to protect life in all its phases with the prospect of saving and improving life in all its stages.”

Near the end of this eloquent speech, Bush announced he would allow federal funding of research on sixty stem cell lines that already existed, that the U.S. government would not be about the killing of embryos. He would also fund federal research into alternative methods, and he would create a presidential commission to explore these issues and advise him.

The president speaks: August 9, 2001

The backlash was immediate, fierce, and long-lasting. Though relieved that Bush did not permit the death of hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos, even the Catholic Bishops complained that paying for experimentation on embryos already killed for their stem cells, still cooperated in evil. Many said Bush was gambling with his reelection.

His policy did not end the political controversy. Recall the speeches at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Almost every one mentioned embryonic stem cell research. John Kerry announced he would fully fund it and received thundering applause. Even Ron Reagan Jr. was invited to speak in favor of embryo-destructive research. The Democratic Party was certain they had a social wedge issue all their own.

But something was already happening, something the Bush policy nurtured. William Hurlbut of Stanford was circulating an idea he called Altered Nuclear Transfer (ANT), a form of cloning he postulated would create pluripotent stem cells without a human embryo.

Hurlbut was invited onto the President’s Bioethics Commission, along with such stalwarts as Professor Robert George of Princeton, but also with opponents like Michael Sandel of Harvard and Michael Gazzaniga of UC-Santa Barbara. When Hurlbut presented ANT to the Commission, Gazzaniga mocked him, “So, we’re going to take the soul out and put it back in later?”

Hurlbut’s ethical proposal was not the only one. Donald Landry of Columbia University said we could medically recognize embryo death and then harvest their stem cells ethically, not unlike organ transplantation. At the same time, a whole host of scientists were having multiple successes with adult stem cells. Here were actual scientists grappling with profound ethical questions and working within ethical boundaries.

Often, a lack of rules results in wider chaos while narrow rules result in greater creativity – and even beauty. That is Bush’s great contribution. He encouraged scientists – and gave them room – to catch up to the ethics.

The political pressure remained, but Bush was at his bravest. Congress passed an embryo-destructive stem cell funding bill in 2006. Bush stood in the White House again, this time surrounded by “snow-flake babies,” children adopted as frozen embryos and implanted in adoptive mothers. He said, “These boys and girls are not spare parts.” A veto override was defeated the next day, largely owing to Hurlbut’s idea that embryonic stem cells could be derived ethically.

Not long after, Shinya Yamanaka announced that he had derived pluripotent stem cells (iPS) from the manipulation of adult stem cells that were reprogrammed into embryonic stem cells. The original discoverer of embryonic stem cells announced that embryos were no longer needed for research.

Game, set, match? Not by a long shot.

Hurlbut says many technical problems remain with ANT and with iPS. How could there not be? We are dusting for the finest fingerprints of our creation as humans. He says stem cells derived from embryos are still seen as the “gold standard” and that a biotech firm, Geron, has raised $200 million for such research.

But we would not have had a chance if President Bush had not stood firm on that night ten years ago this week – and remained firm through the years. Without him, this fight for human dignity would have been lost a long time ago. It is still far from over, but thanks to him and many others, we stand a very good chance of winning. The Catholic Thing

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.