Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester

Theological Interpretations

April 19th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

In a re-post here I attempted to analyze the differing visual and emotional interpretations presented to us in paintings by Raphael Sanzio and Peter Paul Rubens.

There are different theological interpretations that can also be drawn from the two works.

(click on pictures for a clearer, sharper image)

Raphael Crucifixion

Raphael Sanzio’s Crucifixion

Raphael’s Crucifixion displays an ontological theology. In his view of the crucifixion, Christ has already risen and ascended back to the Father. Rather than the realistic cruelty of a fallen world we see before us a world of peaceful harmony attained through the Incarnation, the climax of which was the sacrifice of the Cross. The world in this interpretation of the crucifixion has been restored and is again at one with God. The event here is in God’s time. What originally took place in earthy time is shown to us to exist in eternal time, God’s time, once and for all. The un-bloody sacrifice of the Mass, celebrated in the church building on the altar below this painting in “real” time, taps into that “once and for all” sacrifice.

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Peter Paul Ruben’s Crucifixion

Ruben’s Crucifixion comforts us with another theological interpretation, the moment of the actual victory of the cross –victory in apparent defeat. Here the moment of climax has arrived symbolized by the thrusting spear piercing the heart of the Savior. Evil has spent itself, evil has exhausted itself. All is in horrible, violent, noisy confusion. Yet, there is the good thief with his arm visually attached to the Savior. He is with His Savior in the Kingdom as we who remain faithful will be, as a result of this victory.

Notice also, that the Cross and Christ’s Body in Ruben’s violent painting forms a mighty upright vertical line, standing triumphantly in the middle of the confusion withstanding everything attacking it.

Evil is defeated at the moment it seems to have conquered. There is the bad thief symbolizing evil, thrust aside, visually separated from the Savior by darkness and tumbling out of the picture.

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Two Contrasting Interpretations

April 18th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

From a Lenten series in 2011.

Previously here

 

Click on pictures for sharper images

“Mond Crucifixion” by Raphael Sanzio

“Christ Between Two Thieves” by Peter Paul Rubens

In this post we see two contrasting interpretations of the crucifixion, each coming out of a different historical period. The Mond Crucifixion (or Crocifissione Gavari; the names are of former owners) is a High Renaissance painting by Raphael Sanzio. The other a painting, Christ, Between Two Thieves by Peter Paul Rubens, is from the later Baroque period.

Reflecting the Renaissance interest in a rebirth of the Classical Greek and Roman intellectual values based on reason, Raphael’s Renaissance painting expresses idealized stability and harmony. Ruben’s painting, on the other hand, is exciting and dramatic, reflecting an interest in engaging the emotions. Raphael’s Crucifixion is serene and peaceful.  Ruben’s is calamitous and noisy.

Raphael deploys design principles in a typically Renaissance fashion to create his image. The design is balanced symmetrically; the right side pretty much mirrors the left in the placement of shapes and distribution of lights and darks. His composition carefully arranges forms to create a predictable pattern of vertical lines. Forms are subtly modeled and rendered in clear, ‘clean’ colors. The arrangement of shapes and forms reflects an underlying idealized geometric plan based on the triangle and circle.

Raphael shows us that even Christ’s horrendous crucifixion reflects God’s ultimate plan. All is well in this painting; all is for a purpose regardless of appearances to the contrary.

Rubens deploys design principles for a whole other purpose. He has been commissioned by the so-called Counter Reformation Church to counter the Protestant reformers’ attack on Catholic emotion, piety, practices, and use of art. He does so by upping the ante and dramatically stimulating the emotions. In contrast to Renaissance artists Baroque artists, like Rubens, use forms, shapes, colors, and all the other elements of design in a forceful, asymmetrical composition. Forms fall into diagonal arrangements trusting us into the action. Contrasting diagonals create tension. Light and dark areas dramatically contrast creating a kind of visual thunder. Bodies are twisted or contorted. Colors are mixed and textures contrasted. In these ways Rubens creates dramatic movement and an unstable environment that arouses interest in the viewer and invites emotional involvement. We enter into the event. The image invites not so much contemplation as emotional attachment and commitment.

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The Eternal Liturgy vs. Contemporary Worship

April 15th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

Here is a very informative and clearly written description of the biblical basis of the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Church. I think it also applies to the Latin Rite, as well, especially the traditional Latin Mass.  The comparison, however, is by far with contemporary Protestant and non-denominational worship.

Orthodox Worship vs. Contemporary Also OT eternal pattern

photo: from the Preachers Institute

by Robert Arakaki

 Within the past few decades, a new form of worship has become widely popular among Christians.  Where before people would sing hymns accompanied by an organ, then listen to a sermon, in this new worship there are praise bands that use rock band instruments, short, catchy praise songs, sophisticated Power Point presentations, and the pastor giving uplifting practical teachings about having a fulfilling life as a Christian.  This new kind of worship is so popular that people come to these services by the thousands.  They go because the services are fun, exciting, easy to understand, and easy to relate to.  Yet this new style of worship is light years away from the more traditional and liturgical Orthodox style of worship.  How does an Orthodox Christian respond to this new worship?  Is it acceptable or is it contrary to Orthodoxy?  How should an Orthodox Christian respond to an invitation to attend these contemporary Christian services?

 

According to the Pattern

First we need to ask: Is there a guiding principle for right worship?  St. Stephen, the first martyr, gave a sermon about the history of the Jewish nation.  In this sermon he notes that Old Testament worship was “according to... READ MORE

http://preachersinstitute.com/2012/09/14/the-eternal-liturgy-vs-contemporary-worship/

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Week 16 in Catholic Media, 2014

April 14th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This week we begin a new format, by which during the week we will be adding / archiving the week’s news stories.  

Check from time-to-time during the week to see if new stories have been added.  

Catholic Relief Services pro-abortion grantee wins UN Population Fund Award

BALTIMORE, MD, April 17, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) by Kirsten Andersen – A pro-abortion grantee of Catholic Relief Services has been announced as the winner of the 2014 United Nations Population Award.  The award is given to organizations that demonstrate outstanding effectiveness in population control efforts, including contraception, sterilization and abortion.  The grantee, Jhpiego, is a non-profit health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University. According to CRS’ 990s for 2012, the U.S. bishops’ organization gave Jhpiego a grant of $282,356 that year for “health.” As part of their work, the group has spearheaded national campaigns in the developing world to promote the abortifacient morning-after pill….Catholic Relief Services has often been criticized for their partnerships with groups that violate Church teaching on grave spiritual matters, but the organization says on its website that it is willing to overlook the sinful actions of certain grant recipients in order to fund the good work that they do. For example, grants given to the pro-abortion group CARE International were earmarked for agriculture, emergencies and general welfare, and were not supposed to be used for family planning.

A report released by American Life League in September 2013 revealed that 86 percent of CRS’ grants to domestic groups in 2012 went to groups that promote contraceptives, in addition to, in some cases, other evils such as abortion, the abortifacient “morning-after pill,” and homosexuality.  In 2013, the Catholic aid organization gave a $2.7 million grant to Population Services International, which markets a “Safe Abort Kit” in developing countries.

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The Resignation of Mozilla’s CEO:  Catholics Should Be Worried

“Now is the time for Catholics to express the truth about marriage boldly. Our jobs and our legitimate standing in the public sphere may soon depend on it.”   Rome,     Stephanie Pacheco, writer, blogger, speaker. 

Zenit ran up the storm-warning flag on the happenings at Mozilla.  The full story is here.   Highlight:  “The media storm swirls around Brendan Eich’s April 3 resignation as CEO from Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser. Eich is a talented programmer who invented the JavaScript programming language for the internet and who co-founded the Mozilla company. After fewer than two weeks as the company’s head, he was forced to resign over Silicon Valley furor regarding a $1,000 donation he made back in 2008 to California’s Proposition 8 law, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. To repeat, he was fired for holding unpopular— now socially forbidden—views. … Catholics should be up in arms, for at stake here is the freedom to work in a public capacity and hold orthodox views at the same time.

Pope to Seminarians: We Have Too Many ‘Half Priests’ Who Fail to Imitate Jesus

Vatican City,  

Pope Francis to Seminarians:  from regions around Rome, warn[ed] them that the Church has “many half priests” who fail to reach their potential because they are not “pastors in the image of Jesus.”  The seminarians are members of the Pontifical Leonine College of Anagni, a regional seminary for several of the dioceses around the city of Rome.  ”We have so many, so many half way priests,” the Pope told the young men. “It is a sorrow, that they do not succeed in reaching the fullness.  “They have something about them of employees, a bureaucratic dimension and this does no good to the Church.  I advise you, be careful that you do not fall into this!”  He continued, “You are becoming pastors in the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to be like Him and in His person in the midst of his flock, to feed his sheep.”

 

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Belgian intensive care doctors back involuntary euthanasia

April 14, 2014 by Michael Cook       Involuntary euthanasia is acceptable medical treatment, according to a recent official statement by the Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine. Although voluntary euthanasia is legal in Belgium under some circumstances, involuntary euthanasia is basically illegal. But the Society wants to be able to euthanize patients who do not appear to have long to live.  “Shortening the dying process” is a euphemism for administering a lethal injection.  Effectively the Society has declared itself to be above the law.   The Society also says that intensive care doctors should inform relatives of a decision to euthanize a patient, but it does not instruct them to ask for the relatives’ permission. The policy applies to both adults and children. The statement concludes by reassuring intensive care doctors that what they are doing is “not be interpreted as killing ….”

 

 

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Week 15 in Catholic Media, 2014

April 13th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

It’s time to visit again the recent low lights on Catholic College Campuses.  As we’ve noted before, the Cardinal Newman Society does a fine job of keeping on top of the state of Catholic education on real and make-believe “Catholic” campuses.  Why the local ordinary hasn’t removed the name “Catholic” from some of these schools is hard to comprehend.  Here are some recent reports (yes, all the schools mentioned are Catholic):

BAD NEWS

Jesuit Criticized by Vatican for ‘Erroneous’ Theology to Give Santa Clara Commencement Speech
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pointed out that certain propositions in Liberation theologian Father Jon Sobrino’s books are “not in conformity with the doctrine of the Church” including the divinity of Jesus Christ.  

Saint Peter’s University to Honor Mayor Who Officiated at Same-Sex Marriages
Mayor Steven Fulop of Jersey City will receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Jesuit University at its commencement ceremony next month.

crossCollege of the Holy Cross to Honor Former Obama Speechwriter at Commencement
Jon Favreau, a Catholic, compared a recent law in Kansas that protected the religious freedom of business owners to Jim Crow Laws.  On Twitter, he called the law “A tragically sad day in the history of Kansas, where the House just went Jim Crow on gay couples.” 

University of San Francisco to Honor Public Supporter of Same-Sex Marriage
John V. Roos will receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement speech on May 17 for the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Thousands in Donations to Planned Parenthood Overseen by Aquinas College (Mich.) Graduation Speaker
Aquinas College announced that its commencement speaker will be Kate Pew Wolters, a Trustee Emerita of the college.

But beyond the usual idiocy associated with graduation speakers, there seems to be more good news than bad news in the most recent report.

GOOD NEWS

francisPope Francis to Professors and Students: Theology Only Fruitful Done ‘On One’s Knees’ 
“Your Institutes are not machines for producing theologians and philosophers; they are communities in which one grows, and growth occurs in the family,” Pope Francis said to representatives from some Pontifical universities in Rome, according to Vatican Information Service.

Dioceses Revise Contracts, Expect Teachers to Uphold Catholic Teaching
Dioceses in Hawaii and Ohio have already made changes to their teacher contracts. Some expect similar changes around the country. And some are protesting.

New Online Guide Helps Parents Understand Key Issues, Concerns on Common Core
“This new Parents’ Guide to Catholic Is Our Core is in response to numerous requests from parents for assistance in looking into the Common Core as it applies to Catholic education,” said Bob Laird, the director of programs at the Newman Society.

universityThomas Aquinas College to Celebrate 60th Alumnus Ordination
Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., is asking for prayers for three alumni who will be ordained in the upcoming months.

AND — ON THE EDGE OF GOOD VS BAD — IS NOTRE DAME REFINDING ITS FAITH, OR NOT?

Notre Dame Petitions Court for Rehearing in HHS Mandate Case   The petition filed by the University argues that Notre Dame seeks to provide health coverage to its employees “in a manner consistent with its Catholic beliefs.”   

Notre Dame Students Petition University to Make Clear Stand for True Definition of Marriage  The petition was created by members of the newly formed Students for Child-Oriented Policy, made up of undergraduate and graduate students at the University named after Our Lady.”  

Notre Dame Honors Congressman Chris Smith with Evangelium Vitae Medal
“In their work and in their persons, Congressman Chris and Marie Smith are extraordinary witnesses to the inalienable dignity and matchless worth of every member of the human family, born and unborn.”

 

ScreenShot011And in the Rest of the World, showcasing CathNewsUSA, which has been criticized here before, there were a few articles of note this past week:

CatholicNewsUSA reports that the Catholic Church is the only institution still functioning in the war torn Central African Republic.

Two Catholic priests have been ordered to withdraw as candidates in elections in India.

OMalley at the border

George Weigel criticizes Cardinal O’Malley’s “Border Mass.”   George Weigel said exactly what I was thinking, which tipped the scales in favor of this week’s CathNewsUSA coverage.

Anytime the Mass becomes a stunt, a prop, a political statement, we are on the wrong track.  The Mass is to adore God, not for our own agendae.

To quote Weigel:

“To turn the Mass into an act of essentially political theater is something I thought we had gotten over in the Church, no matter how noble the cause might be.”

Border Mass ABorder Mass B

Border Mass Communion

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Week 14 in Catholic Media, 2014

April 9th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Starting next week, I will experiment with daily adds, i.e. more of a real-time post to the week’s news, updating the POST as the week progresses, which means more of a chronology as it occurs.  It will be an experiment to see if more people engage with the subjects, and which kind of posts create more interest.  COMMENTS are always welcome.

Kenyan bishops call on Catholics to stop funding the contraception-providing ‘Free the Children’ clinic 

NAIROBI, Kenya, March 31, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) by Peter Baklinski – Kenya’s bishops have called on Catholics in Canada and the USA to cease funding a clinic in their country run by secular charity Free the Children, which frequently partners with Catholic schools, because the clinic provides contraceptives…. “Considering the evil caused to families and society in Kenya by the use of contraception, Catholic Bishops in Kenya through Catholic Health Commission of KCCB request that donors in Canada and the United States direct their generosity to Catholic health facilities and not to contraception-distributing institutions and programmes such as Free the Children’s Baraka Medical Centre,” the bishops state in a March 26 letter addressed to one Ottawa resident and other “Christians of good will.”   Also see article  Kenyan bishops fear tetanus vaccine campaign is aimed to sterilize women

Catholic hospital that hosts abortion-referring center proposes removing pro-life Catholic trustees

LONDON, March 31, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) by John-Henry Westen - The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, which calls itself “the UK’s premier CatholicHospital,” is attempting to remove from it’s Trustee Company several orthodox Catholics. The hospital, despite

Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, London

Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, London

 taking “great pride” in its “Catholic ethos,” hosts a National Health Service clinic that refers women for abortions.  The Board of Trustees Company is expected to … end the hospital’s one hundred and fifty year relationship with the Order of Malta, … that the Board of Trustees Company will be reduced from 22 to 15 members, with all five representatives of the Order of Malta … losing their places on the board.  …. The matter was referred to the Holy See and an investigation was opened …. The hospital was known to be regularly performing “gender reassignment” surgery and concerns had been raised that the hospital was also providing referrals for abortion and providing a range of contraceptives, including those with a potential abortifacient effect, such as the “morning after pill.” ….  Lord Bridgeman suggested that the crisis could be resolved through the “secularisation of the Hospital’s constitution by removal of the Cardinal’s ‘ethics clause.’” The hospital would then become a secular institution “in the Catholic tradition,” which would mean that it was under no obligation to refrain from prescribing contraceptives, performing abortions, or carrying out “gender reassignments.”  Despite hosting an NHS clinic that prescribes contraceptives and refers for abortions, the hospital of SS John and Elizabeth still retains its official status as a Catholic institution. Campaigners have long called for the Archdiocese of Westminster to take action to ensure that the hospital retains an authentic Catholic ethos, which is inseparable from full adhesion [sic] to the moral law.

Furor at Catholic high school after nun presents Church teaching on homosexuality

CHARLOTTE, NC, April 2, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) by Kirsten Andersen– “A North Carolina Roman Catholic [high] school [met] to address the concerns of parents and students who say they are outraged about remarks a visiting nun made criticizing homosexuality, divorce, and sex outside of marriage during a recent speech.  Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, who often speaks to high school and college-age students on matters of sexuality, gave an hour-long presentation to students at Charlotte Catholic High School on March 21 called ‘Masculinity and Femininity: Difference and Gift.’   She [reportedly] spent about half her allotted time discussing homosexuality, blaming its rising influence in part on fatherless homes created by divorce and extramarital sex.  Sister Laurel is a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, often called the Nashville Dominicans, which is an order known for its fidelity to the Magisterium.”

charlotte_catholic-240x180“… students …  reacted to her remarks with shock and anger, launching both an online petition and a letter-writing campaign calling the sister’s words ‘offensive and unnecessarily derogatory.’”  Visit the above link to read the insipid, uncatechized comments, and more blaming of Pope Francis’s compassionate remarks as approving sin.   ”Parents have supplemented the students’ petition with an e-mail campaign targeting the Diocese of Charlotte, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Vatican with complaints about Sr. Jane’s speech.  Parents, alumni and students involved in the petition and letter writing campaigns are demanding that the school and Church apologize.”

“But not all students were upset by the nun’s presentation.  A group of students who adhere to Catholic teaching on sexuality have launched a counter-petition condemning the protesters’ actions.  ‘We are outraged that the topics talked about are being debated within a community where the shared faith teaches us what truly is holy and that anyone would stand up against a nun, who has given her life for the Lord, and blantly [sic] deny God’s teachings,’ the petition reads.”

“Reaction from local Church officials has been largely supportive of Sister Jane.

  • “Fr. Tim Reid, pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, sent out a mass email which said in part, ‘She represented well the Catholic positions on marriage, sex, same-sex attraction and proper gender roles. … The Church has already lost too many generations of Catholic schools students to … a very muddled and watered-down faith.’”
  • “Fr. Roger Arnsparger, diocesan vicar for education, stated, ‘Our students are bombarded with confusing messages about sexuality. Our task in religious formation is always to help people understand the meaning of love and relationships.’”

It would be incomplete to run this story without reporting results from the April 2nd meeting:

Charlotte diocese backs nun who gave school talk promoting Church teaching on homosexuality

CHARLOTTE, NC, April 7, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) by Kirsten Andersen – “The bishop of Charlotte is backing a Dominican nun who has been at the center of a fiery controversy since last month when she gave a speech promoting Catholic teaching on sexuality to students at Charlotte Catholic High School.

Sister Jane Dominic Laurel

Sister Jane Dominic Laurel

After a public meeting with diocesan and school officials turned ugly, with parents and students alike shouting at administrators over what they perceived as ‘hateful’ remarks criticizing homosexual behavior, divorce and extra-marital sex, a spokesman for the diocese told LifeSiteNews that the nun in question, Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, did nothing wrong and will be welcome to speak on the issue again if she chooses.”

“’Nothing in Sister’s talk opposed Church teaching,’ Diocese of Charlotte Communications Director David Hains told LifeSiteNews in an email. ‘Sister would be welcomed to speak in the diocese in the future.’”

“Hains said Bishop Peter Jugis is expected to make further public comment on the situation soon.   Sr. Laurel’s critics have complained about a section of her talk in which she discussed scientific findings related to the causes of homosexuality. “

“’I was in attendance at the same presentation when given on Long Island, NY a few months ago,’ Dr. Gerard Nadal told LifeSiteNews.  ‘In that meeting, Sister Jane gave medical and scientific data that came from reputable sources and were presented as examples of the consequences for human behavior that contravenes the moral magisterium of the Church. As a Ph.D. in medical science, and as a Catholic schooled extensively in my faith, I saw no contradictions, but rather a seamless presentation.’”

“The Diocese of Charlotte’s newspaper, the Catholic News-Herald, reported that the meeting was acrimonious, with those who dared to speak out in support of Sr. Laurel or the Church being shouted down by an angry mob.  The paper’s sources called the atmosphere ‘disrespectful’ and ‘hate-filled.’  Fr. Kauth said he brought Sr. Laurel to the school because he felt students at Charlotte Catholic had been poorly catechized and were suffering from spiritual darkness, particularly around the issue of sexuality.   To read Fr. Kauth’s full statement regarding Sr. Laurel’s presentation click here .”

And let us pray for courageous people like Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, and the clergy who backed her up, for their Christ-like witness.

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Common Core (and the alternative) in the local media

April 3rd, 2014, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

From the from the un-common core school

The Common Core is much discussed these days, as you know. People want to know about other options for educating their children.

This is a golden opportunity for letting them know about Catholic Classical Education. Last week SJBS was featured on Time Warner Cable News, and this week we have two more media spots being recorded.

Tuesday, April 1 between 12 noon and 1 PM on WXXI 1370 AM
Connections with Evan Dawson will feature St. John Bosco Schools as an alternative to the Common Core.

Thursday, April 3 at 8 PM on WXXI-TV on Need to Know Rochester
Helene Biandudi Hofer will feature St. John Bosco Schools in a discussion of pros and cons of private schools not using the Common Core.

WXXI-TV can be viewed over-the-air on Digital Television channel 21.1 as well as on Time Warner Cable channels 11 (Standard Definition) and 1221 (High Definition).

Visit our website: www.johnboscoschools.org
Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/StJohnBoscoSchools

The radio program already happened, but can be listened to here. Colleen Richards, the headmaster of St. John Bosco, comes on the air about halfway through.


Also, check out these two videos on the problems of common core and why classical education is better here and here.

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Archbishop Gregory’s Letter

April 1st, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Pope Francis’ personal style has, by example if not by explicit dictum, set expectations for the luxury level acceptable for Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and priests.  The conclave which elected him knew full well his penchant for riding public transportation and for cooking his own meals, so there should have been no surprises, even at the very public actions of paying for his own room, and rejecting the Apostolic Palace in favor of guest quarters.  Even the media-dubbed “Bishop of Bling” should not have been surprised when summoned to the Vatican, relieved of his duties, sent to a monastery, and subsequently removed from office.  Money and its use matters a lot to Pope Francis.

At least two American prelates had taken their own actions of stepping down their luxury quotient prior to Pope Francis’ election:  Cardinal O’Malley in Boston and Archbishop Chaput in Philadelphia, although both were admittedly done in order to pay for sexual abuse claims against priests in those dioceses, prior to their taking office.  Nevertheless, their personal willingness to forego the almost institutionalized luxury for simpler accommodations could not have been unnoticed by Pope Francis, and Cardinal O’Malley is rightfully viewed as closest to Pope Francis, being chosen as the only U.S. Cardinal on the committee to reform the Curia, and Archbishop Chaput also having been recently appointed to a special committee of the Pope.  It is a bad time for Cardinals and Bishops to be seen as engaging in their own luxury, both because of the expectations of His Holiness, but also because of the re-formed expectations of the media, and of the laity which doubtless sees some privation as atonement for the abomination of sexual abuse of minors.  It is understandable if many prelates are not yet up-to-speed on this ‘new world view’ of personal indulgence — not as a validation of success but as an indictment of failure.  Yet, we should remember, that priests (except many order priests) do not take vows of poverty.  Often the laity is surprised to learn this fact about diocesan priests:  Obedience, yes.  Celibacy, yes.  Poverty, no.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Atlanta Diocese

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Atlanta Diocese

And, so it was, that Archbishop Gregory of Atlanta got caught in the vise, not vice but vise of lacking sensitivity to the pincers of media attention and the flock’s opinion.  Early reports attacked His Excellency and not without some justification, but justification covered by media drool, nevertheless.  As we need to be so often reminded, we can judge the fruits, but not the motives.   Early emails from friends who followed this story were tinged with outrage at one more seemingly over-indulgent bishop.  It was easy to feel annoyed, offended, outraged, shocked.  But we only know the man and his motives when he chooses to communicate them.  And here is the difference.  In a most humble letter, Archbishop Gregory did more than apologize.  He bared his soul.  Rarely do we see such a modern version of repentance, of humility, of voluntary communication.  No spin-meister could ever have written such words.  It is a lesson that goes far beyond which apartment the Pope chooses for his living space and whether he wears red shoes or uses a Mercedes or a Taurus.  It is a lesson in humility of soul, which is what all repentent actions should reflect, rather than being performances.  And, so, Archbishop Gregory’s letter deserves wider distribution, which is only slightly reported in the media’s excerpts of his apology, cherry-picking words that fit the media agenda.

Archbishop Gregory’s Letter in The Georgia Bulletin of the Archdiocese of Atlanta Newsletter

“’We are disturbed and disappointed to see our church leaders not setting the example of a simple life as Pope Francis calls for. How can we instill this in our children when they see their archdiocesan leadership living extravagantly? We ask you to rethink these decisions and understand the role model the clergy must serve so the youth of our society can answer Jesus’ call. Neither our 18- or 14-year-old sons understand the message you are portraying.’

So went just one of many of the heartfelt, genuine and candidly rebuking letters, emails and telephone messages I have received in the past week from people of faith throughout our own Archdiocese and beyond. Their passionate indictments of me as a Bishop of the Catholic Church and as an example to them and their children are stinging and sincere. And I should have seen them coming.

Please understand that I had no desire to move; however, the Cathedral Parish has a problem, albeit a happy one. The Cathedral of Christ the King is one of our largest, most vibrant and fastest growing parishes—but it is landlocked. The site of the current rectory could be used for expansion if the priests could be moved to a new rectory nearby. Because of the proximity of the Archbishop’s house to the Cathedral and the way it is configured with separate apartments and common space, the rector of Christ the King one day summoned the courage to ask me if I would give some thought to letting the parish purchase the residence from the Archdiocese to repurpose it for its rectory. It made more sense for them to be in walking distance to the Cathedral than I, so I said yes, knowing full well that literally left the Archbishop without a place to live.

Soon thereafter, the Archdiocese and the Cathedral Parish received a generous bequest from Joseph Mitchell, including his home on Habersham Road, to benefit the whole Archdiocese, but especially his beloved parish, the Cathedral of Christ the King. Through the extraordinary kindness of Joseph Mitchell, we had a perfect piece of property nearby on which to relocate the Archbishop’s residence.

Some have suggested that it would have been appropriate for the Cathedral Parish to build a rectory on the Habersham property and have the priests each drive back and forth, and in retrospect that might be true. At the time, though, I thought that not giving up the Archbishop’s residence, which was so close to the Cathedral Parish, would have been perceived as selfish and arrogant by the people at the Cathedral Parish and might damage my relationship with them!

So I agreed to sell the West Wesley residence to the Cathedral Parish and set about looking for a different place for me and my successors to live. That’s when, to say the least, I took my eye off the ball. The plan seemed very simple. We will build here what we had there—separate living quarters and common spaces, a large kitchen for catering, and lots of room for receptions and other gatherings.

What we didn’t stop to consider, and that oversight rests with me and me alone, was that the world and the Church have changed.

Even before the phenomenon we have come to know as Pope Francis was elected to the Chair of Peter, we Bishops of the Church were reminded by our own failings and frailty that we are called to live more simply, more humbly, and more like Jesus Christ who challenges us to be in the world and not of the world. The example of the Holy Father, and the way people of every sector of our society have responded to his message of gentle joy and compassion without pretense, has set the bar for every Catholic and even for many who don’t share our communion.

As the Shepherd of this local Church, a responsibility I hold more dear than any other, certainly more than any configuration of brick and mortar, I am disappointed that, while my advisors and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia.

I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services.

I failed to consider the difficult position in which I placed my auxiliary bishops, priests, deacons and staff who have to try to respond to inquiries from the faithful about recent media reports when they might not be sure what to believe themselves.

I failed to consider the example I was setting for the young sons of the mother who sent the email message with which I began this column.

To all of you, I apologize sincerely and from my heart.

We teach that stewardship is half about what you give away, and half about how you use what you choose to keep. I believe that to be true. Our intention was to recreate the residence I left behind, yet I know there are situations across the country where local Ordinaries have abandoned their large homes, some because of financial necessity and others by choice, and they continue to find ways to interact with the families in their pastoral care without the perception, real or imagined, of lavish lifestyles.

So where do we go from here? Read the rest of this entry »

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Monthly Prayer Requests for Priests – April

April 1st, 2014, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

It’s time to print out your April calendar. Thanks to the good folks at mprp-roc.org for providing these freely available to all on the Internet.

Also, the Holy Father’s prayer intentions for April:

Universal: That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.

For Evangelization: That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

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Week 13 in Catholic Media, 2014

March 31st, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Nine weeks ago, in Week 04, we ran a story here about the role of priests in the civil disturbance / uprising / revolution (all depending on ScreenShot059one’s viewpoint) in the Ukraine.  Much has occurred since, resulting in Russia’s annexing Crimea.  But even if the Russian machine has technically stopped at the remainder of the Ukraine’s frontier, it is far from over.  And the recriminations between the Russian Orthodox hierarchy and the “Uniates,” seen as Western-leaning and favoring Rome, probably has barely begun.   So we add another news source to the CF site:  www.AsiaNews.it (from Italy, but available in English.)

If you have a few minutes, it is worth a read just for a little exposure to the enormous and intertwined complexity of the issue.  The latest edition isn’t pulling any punches.  An excerpt of the article is shown above, and expounds on the religious intrigue.

Key provisions of Texas pro-life law upheld by appeals court

NEW ORLEANS, LA, March 27, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) by Ben Johnson– Two key provisions of Texas’ hotly debated pro-life law have been upheld by an all-female panel of judges from a U.S. Appeals Court … The panel of judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles and to follow the FDA-approved use of abortion-inducing drugs “on its face does not impose an undue burden on the life and health of a woman.”

A group of Texas abortion providers filed Planned Parenthood v. Gregory Abbott to challenge these aspects of H.B. 2, the bill Governor Rick Perry signed into law after a marathon filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis.  The abortion giant, aided by the ACLU, did not challenge the law’s limiting of abortion to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, nor its provision requiring abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety standards as other ambulatory surgical centers.  But it did state that the other provisions would close abortion offices and effectively deny Texas women the ability to obtain an abortion.  The ruling allows the law to go into effect in its entirety.  There is no question the law has devastated the abortion industry [in Texas].  

Cardinal O’Malley: “The Church will not change her teaching”

Sean Cardinal O'Malley

Sean Cardinal O’Malley

ROME Mar 24, 2014 13:59 EST (LifeSiteNews.com) by Hilary White

One of Pope Francis’ council of eight cardinals has denied that the Church will ever change its teaching or practice on divorce and civil remarriage.  Cardinal Sean O’Malley … told an American newspaper that any rumours that the Church will admit divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to Holy Communion without changing their lifestyles are untrue.  The National Catholic Register quotes the Cardinal saying “The Church will not change her teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.” 

 

 Nigerian bishops defend same-sex ‘marriage’ ban

ABUJA, Nigeria, March 25, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) by Thaddeus Baklinski

Archbishop Kaigama of Nigeria

Archbishop Kaigama of Nigeria

The president of the Nigerian Catholic Bishops’ Conference has made a strong defense of the bishops’ support for a bill banning same-sex “marriage” against critics who allege the bishops’ position is out of touch with Pope Francis.    “It is a mischievous and faulty generalization to reason that because we resist same-sex ‘marriage’ we differ from our Pope, who said, ‘If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge?’”  Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos said in his opening remarks at the bishops’ recent plenary meeting.

“The position of the Catholic Church in Nigeria in respect of same sex union and other moral vices is in consonance with that of the universal Church and in conformity with the social teachings of the Church,” Archbishop Kaigama said.  “Our compassion for the weak, the marginalized and those who suffer discrimination is unwavering and uncompromising. We minister to all,” he said, stressing that, “Nigerian Catholics do not hate men and women who are of biologically gay orientation, but strongly affirm that gay unions or ‘marriages’ are simply not in conformity with our Christian theology or traditional Nigerian morality.”
 
In a letter to Jonathan, the bishops had praised the government’s decision “not to bow to international pressure in the promotion of unethical and immoral practices of same sex union and other related vices.”  They called the government’s stand “a courageous one and a clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand shoulders high in the protection of our Nigerian and African most valued cultures of the institution of marriage and protection of the dignity of the human person.”  In his remarks at the bishops’ plenary, Archbishop Kaigama said they sent the letter “to uphold the age-long biblical and traditional morality of our people that marriage has always been a union between a man and a woman.”

“Same-sex unions or so-called ‘marriages’ are alien to us and we resist the idea but we will always extend compassion of Christ to men and women with biological orientation that is gay or lesbian and defend their rights just as we have constantly defended the rights of all persons discriminated against,” … “We stand for the promotion and protection of human rights which are consistent with our religious and cultural values. Legalizing same-sex ‘marriage’ will open the flood gates to so many moral issues that can seriously compromise our African culture and becloud our evangelization efforts in Nigeria.”

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“Restlest Heart” April 3

March 24th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

web poster Flyer

 

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Week 12 in Catholic Media, 2014

March 24th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Knowing What is Important, and What is True:  One Story and a Broader Context

The hype around Pope Francis continues, with pop-culture still positioning him as being on the brink of changing much that is Catholic to conform more to the secular wish-list.  The UN has taken a position that the Church should “change” its teaching, as if that were possible, on same-sex marriage and on abortion, for example.  Sniping from the side-lines against Church Teaching is nothing new, even from within the Church, of which German Cardinal Kasper is only the most recent example of rubbing two sticks together to spark the flame of dissent.  And, realistically, that exactly describes the recent push by Cardinal Kasper to urge a ‘methodology’ for return of divorced and remarried Catholics to full Communion.  We won’t know the damage of Cardinal Kasper’s efforts until the smoke clears, but his addressing the College of Cardinals would seem to have added some inappropriate level of legitimacy, raising further concerns, and increasing the need for urgent clarification.  Partly, those who advocate changing Christ’s Teaching for His Church seem to gain some secular popularity, much like the unjust steward in the Bible Story, who hoped to be welcomed into the houses of those to whom he gave what was not his to give.

The Rochester Diocese over the years has not been a stranger to that phenomenon.  One of the most horrific and long term examples has been Father Charles Curran’s advocacy for a wide range of sexual permissiveness in contradiction to the Church’s moral teaching.  Although his mandatum to teach at Catholic colleges and universities was revoked (sending him off to a Methodist University to teach), he has long been beknighted by St. Bernard’s and, on occasion, invited to preach even to the unsuspecting people in the pew!  The damage done to souls, especially in Father Curran’s encouraging contraception during the waning days of Vatican II, is known only to God.

If we had to name the age we are in,  it might be called ”The Licensing of Personal Sin,” which is greatly attractive to those who want to be validated in their own sin by mutual permissiveness.  What is especially disconcerting is when members of Church Hierarchy become the perpetrators rather than the defenders.    And it is surprising that more key members of the hierarchy are not speaking out strongly in support of Church Teaching in the subject matter addressed by Cardinal Walter Kasper to the College of Cardinals, under the guise of “pastoral care.” One has to wonder why there hasn’t been a very outspoken rejection of Cardinal Kasper, among other Cardinals in particular.  But we have two!

Two members of the Heroic Hierarchy who spoke out in defense of Church Teaching last week:

LifeSiteNews’ Hilary White reported:  “Italian cardinal says allowing Communion for civilly remarried is impossible“  ROME, March 17, 2014  – “Not even a pope can change Catholic teaching or practice on marriage, including on the prohibition against reception of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, a prominent Italian prelate has said.  carlo_caffarra1-240x193 Cardinal Carlo Caffara, the cardinal archbishop of Bologna, told an Italian newspaper this weekend that this teaching comes to the Church from Christ Himself and cannot be changed by anyone, either by a pope or a synod.  [Cardinal] Caffara said, ‘Do not touch the marriage of Christ. It cannot be judged case by case; you do not bless a divorce and hypocrisy is not ‘merciful.  The popes have always taught that the power of the Pope does not come to this: over a ratified and consummated marriage, the Pope has no power,’ said the cardinal.” 

The Catholic Church, following the words of Christ, does not recognize divorce, and in the eyes of the Church, a person who has been married, divorces and obtains a second marriage in the civil sphere, is committing the mortal sin of adultery. The teaching of the Catholic Church has always been that a Catholic in an objective state of mortal sin cannot receive Holy Communion until he has repented, given up the sin in question and received sacramental absolution in confession.  According to Cardinal Caffara, “If the Church admits [them to] the Eucharist, we must give an opinion on the legality of the second marriage. It is logical. But then what about the first marriage?  The second [marriage] cannot be a true second marriage, since bigamy is against the word of the Lord.”

ScreenShot045Another prominent figure taking a strong stand in defense of Church Teaching is Raymond Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.  The blogspot “rorate-caeli” quotes Cardinal Burke in an interview by Raymond Arroyo: “There are many difficulties with the text of Cardinal Kasper in addressing the College of Cardinals [at the Synod Preparation meeting]… it’s a error…. I trust that the error of his approach will become ever clearer.”  In the 2 minute video, Cardinal Burke states:  “…it’s creating a great deal of potential disillusionment….we are talking about the very words of Christ Himself….He taught the indissolubility of marriage….”  He confirmed there was much disagreement at the meeting too.

 

For a detailed rebuttal of Cardinal Kasper’s proposal, see the Zenit Report of the arguments of a renowned theology scholar, Professor (Father) Juan Jose Perez Soba, Ordinary Professor of the Pastoral Theology of Matrimony and the Family at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for the study of Marriage and the family at the Lateran University, Rome, pointing out multiple weaknesses in Cardinal Kasper’s arguments.  His expose’ deserves close reading, but here are some significant quotes disassembling Cardinal Kasper’s proposals:

“An unjust mercy is not truly mercy. One cannot undermine human dignity in the name of mercy. Consequently, to speak of mercy in the context of marriage one must first understand precisely the reality, born out of  human dignity, which is involved in this institution. There could be no true mercy, if one were to attack that reality. This reality, this good, is what the Christian tradition calls the bond of marriage, and it is precisely this bond that imparts the property of indissolubility  to marriage.”

“It is  …  surprising to observe that the Cardinal [Kasper], referring to this indissoluble bond which he attributes to St. Augustine, makes no mention whatsoever of the link between  marriage’s indissolubility and its foundation which is of divine origin. “

“The protection of this bond, even to the point of indissolubility is, therefore, the way in which God offers his mercy in marriage.”

“It is clear, however, that, for a Christian who wishes to live his or her faith, establishing a new relationship over and against the ‘sacred bond’ of marriage is an act of grave injustice against the divine bond which is already in existence.”

“This consideration is so important that Blessed John Paul II himself mentioned it in his catechesis on human love, referring to ‘the redemption of the heart’ to indicate the presence of grace in marriage which makes it possible to live out the demands of this vocation…. Analogously, Benedict XVI confirmed that ‘Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love.’”

The line of reasons explained above is not unfamiliar because it originates in the last two pontificates. Both of which gave ample consideration to the role that mercy plays in the New Evangelization. [Kasper's] singular absence of any trace or allusion to this teaching [of the last two popes is] all the more puzzling [until] one in fact finds phrase lifted word for word from the book that Kasper wrote about the family more than thirty years ago (in 1978) and whose argument he follows, and from which he takes the proposal which he is now presenting…. Kasper’s recent address is, therefore, an old formulation, which predates Familiaris Consortio and which ignores almost all of the intervening magisterial teaching and theological scholarshipThe author states that [Kasper's argument] threatens to wreak havoc in the Church. “

“It is simply wrong to present this question as a matter of pastoral tolerance which does not extend beyond a casuistic debate between rigorism and laxity.  In reality, this question puts under discussion the already settled doctrinal patrimony of the Church that is unanimously witnessed to by more than a thousand years of the Church’s Tradition.”

“By way of a conclusion one can observe that is seems evident that Kasper’s address puts in question the existence or otherwise of the indissoluble bond of matrimony; this, however, is no longer just a pastoral argument. …. In short, theologically speaking, Cardinal Kasper’s proposal is a misstep because he has hidden the underlying question. In reality he has opened a profound doctrinal question and it is necessary that every bishop who will participate at the Synod understands the key elements, and their implications….” 

Without prompt correction, there is a threat to souls who are caught up in unrealistic hoping for impossible change, or even leaping ahead to take a decision themselves, expecting their situation will change.  (Just like the contraception position endorsed by Father Curran, with people marrying under the assumption that Pope Paul VI would approve “the pill.” )  But one aid to rationality (not rationalization!) is a biblical quote which brings focus to the Cardinal Kasper discussion and to the perspective of what will or will not happen; i.e. the guidance from St. Paul to the Galatians 1: 6-12.   St. Paul wrote:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel–not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of  Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.  Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of  God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.  For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel.  For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The hierarchical split between powerful Church leaders is apparent, and both can’t be proclaiming what St. Paul called the Gospel of Christ.   Such splits are exactly the way heretical breakaway sects begin.   There is no point in linking to articles where members of the hierarchy have come out in support of Cardinal Kasper, since that would merely be scattering false rumors and more angst.    

But a few inane quotes might be useful.   One Italian archbishop told local media last week that he felt the “new paradigm” would shortly lead to the Church accepting both homosexuality and heterosexual cohabitation and premarital sex, and another outlet reported the quote:   ’I have seen and experienced many situations … and I am convinced that it is time for Christians to open themselves to diversity.’”  LifeSiteNews last week reported:  “Two Catholic bishops in the UK have expressed hope that the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the Family, to be held in Rome in October, will bring about massive changes to the Church’s approach to marriage and human sexuality.”

Let us all pray for the Unity for which Christ prayed the night before His Passion.

 

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Breathing With Both Lungs

March 22nd, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

There are many differences between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches but usually it is a difference of emphasis rather than (in my view) serious substance. Most often the differences are complementary. We need both views to understand more completely.

The most common subject dominating the apse wall behind or over an Orthodox altar is the Holy Virgin of the Sign or a slight variation of it –the Madonna holding the Christ Child in her lap. In Western (Catholic) churches the single most used subject is the crucifixion. Protestant churches almost always employ the plain cross.

view toward apse and iconostasis screen cropped

Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit, Rochester

Saint Stanislaus Catholic Church, Rochester

Saint Stanislaus Catholic Church, Rochester

The different imagery reveals the different emphasis each places on the same economy of redemption and salvation.

In the East it is the Incarnation as a whole that effects redemption. Man was redeemed when God took on human flesh, lived a human life in all respects except sin, suffered the worst death, and resurrected and ascended back to the Father. With the Incarnation, human flesh became capable of deification (sanctification). It became possible for man to enjoy eternal life with God in heaven.  The icon of the Incarnation in the East is the Virgin of the Sign or the Holy Virgin holding her Son in her lap. It is the Eastern iconic image of redemption.

weepingmotherofgodofthesignatnovgorod

“Mother Of God The Sign”

The Western Church does not believe something different but she most often chooses a specific moment, the moment of Christ’s horrible death, to symbolize the redemption. Catholics and Protestants emphasize an atonement theology as part of the Incarnation; that Christ paid for our sins through His sacrificial death. This is especially true in Protestant churches.

protestatnt

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Pierrefonds

Catholic churches, in addition to the crucifixion, have a very rich tradition of highlighting other images of redemption (including images of the “Virgin of the Sign”) behind or above the altar, such as scenes from the life of Christ and images of the sanctified –the saints.

"The Conversion of Saint Paul" Caravaggio, 1610, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. Besides the Crucifixion Catholic chancel imagery often displays snapshots from the history of redemption or salvation.

“The Conversion of Saint Paul”, Caravaggio, 1610, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. Besides the Crucifixion which is the most represented subject, Catholic chancel imagery often displays snapshots from the history of redemption or salvation. Here we see an analogy to that history; brilliant Divine light pierces the darkness of Paul’s pre-Christian life as Christ’s Incarnation deified fallen flesh.

The Eastern Church chooses to display as its most important icon in the church building an image that views redemption as a whole piece. In the Western tradition redemption appears as a crescendo climaxing in the sacrifice of the cross. Neither emphasis diminishes the importance of the other. We should see them as complementing each other  –”breathing with both lungs”.

We Westerners, especially Protestants, may be puzzled or even scandalized by the prominent emphasis of the Holy Virgin in Eastern Orthodox or Byzantine Catholic churches until we realize the meaning behind the icon.

 

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Revisiting Some Personal Proposals

March 21st, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

While researching for a new post I came across a couple of old chancel proposals I had put up on Cleansing Fire. I think they are still pretty good so I thought I’d post ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos again to see if there are any new reactions to them. The “after” photos are edited photos of existing chancels. In each case I was trying to make the chancel “more obviously Catholic”.

click on photos to see better images

Existing Chancel

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

(Original Post Here)

(L) BEFORE     (R) AFTER

(L) BEFORE                                   (R) AFTER

 (Original Post Here)

 

(L) BEFORE (M) AFTER (R) alt AFTER

(L) BEFORE         (M) AFTER        (R) alt AFTER

(Original Post Here)

 

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Top: Church of the Good Shepherd in Henrietta

Middle: Sacred Heart Cathedral

Bottom: Saint Paul’s in Webster (?)

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Becket Fund Lecture UofR – 3-27-14

March 19th, 2014, Promulgated by Hopefull

ScreenShot041

Two days after it is heard by the Supreme Court of the United States, the Becket Fund through its President, William M. Mumma, will be heard at the Interfaith Chapel at the University of Rochester.  The Becket fund has been a tireless and courageous force is opposition to infringement on religious liberty, including the better known cases for the Little Sisters of the Poor, and for Hobby Lobby which will be pled on March 25.  It seems ironic that SCOTUS would assign the Feast of the Annunciation to hear a case sharpened by ignoring religious convictions, especially convictions opposing contraception and abortion.  Doesn’t it seem a sure sign we need to earnestly pray to our Holy Mother for her help?

William M. Mumma will deliver the Newman Lecture “Religious Freedom: The American Problem,” exploring religious freedom and how it is protected, applied and lived in a democratic society by houses of worship and businesses in 21st century America.  The lecture is sponsored by the Catholic Newman Community and John Henry Newman Chair of Catholic Studies, and begins at 7:30PM on Thursday, March 27th, in the U of R Interfaith Chapel.  Free parking is available. For more information, see  www.urnewman.org.

The Rochester Community is getting a “twofer,” as the following morning, Friday, March 28th, at 9:30 AM at Murphy Chapel at St. John Fisher, the St. Thomas More Lawyers Guild will present a Natural Law Symposium on “Marriage between a Man and a Woman.”  For additional information on those outstanding speakers, please see http://cleansingfiredor.com/2014/03/we-are-invited/

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Week 11 in Catholic Media, 2014

March 19th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

The following highlights and links are all from LifeSiteNews, an organization truly worthy of our financial support: www.LifeSiteNews.com and here is the link for contributions:  http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=3b519162c561a81f1ee4736a3&id=f317c46648&e=1ad6c33a4e    At this point in their fundraising campaign they have raised only $24,000 of the needed $150,000.  It would be a shame to lose such accurate and timely reporting, when there is virtually no source of current events reporting (let alone Catholic!) that does anything near the breadth and depth of what LfeSiteNews does, and all minus the fluff.  Just the prompt FACTS.  And they have faced enormous risks in the courtroom, corporately and personally, to continue such daily reporting.  Please think about it.

ScreenShot348

 

 

 

And the world became still a little bit more dangerous for babes in the womb last week:

ROME, March 10, 2014:  “The International Planned Parenthood Federation has scored a major victory against conscientious objection laws in Italy at the Council of Europe. The council’s European Committee of Social Rights voted …  to uphold IPPF’s complaint against Italy that too many doctors are allowed to refuse to participate in abortion.”

LONDON, March 10, 2014:– “Amnesty International, an organization founded to defend those imprisoned for political crimes and to fight human rights abuses, launched a new campaign last week dedicated to promoting unrestricted access to abortion.  The global campaign … was launched … in response to what the increasingly pro-abortion and homosexualist lobby group says is the failure of governments around the world to defend sexual and reproductive rights.”

NEW YORK CITY, March 13, 2014:– “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believes it is a ‘bedrock truth’ that abortion restrictions hamper human progress, and any efforts to improve women’s rights must begin with increased access to contraception and abortion.  Addressing the United Nations for International Women’s Day, Clinton told her audience, ‘There is one lesson from the past, in particular, that we cannot afford to ignore: You cannot make progress on gender equality or broader human development, without safeguarding women’s reproductive health and rights.  That is a bedrock truth.’  … Clinton said that even the United States, which has some of the most lenient abortion laws of any developed Western nation, falls short when it comes to giving women free access to abortion-on-demand.  ‘This remains the great unfinished business of the 21st century,’ Clinton said. ‘No country in the world, including my own, has achieved full participation.’”

International Bullying of African Countries prohibiting same-sex “marriage” / National Sovereignty Threatened

ABUJA, Nigeria, March 14, 2014: – “European Parliament voted to recommend heavy economic sanctions, the denial of travel visas, the withdrawing of foreign aid, as well as force the isolation from the international community of African nations that refuse to heel to the EU’s homosexual agenda.  During the debate at the European Parliament, French socialists … laid blame for the pro-family laws in Nigeria and Uganda on ‘evangelists from the United States.’   Addressing the UN delegation in Nigeria, the attorney general of the Nigerian federal government, Mohammed Adoke, emphasized that Nigeria’s laws ‘do not criminalize individual sexual orientation,’ but explained that the focus of the law is ‘the discouragement of same-sex marriage which is a reflection of the overwhelming beliefs and cultural values of the Nigerian people.’”

In a 2013 national opinion poll, 92 percent of Nigerians polled rejected same-sex “marriage.”  The Nigerian Catholic bishops and the Muslim community in Nigeria also publicly supported the law as a reflection of their cultural beliefs and as an integral part of the defense of Nigeria’s moral health.  The bill, called the “Same-sex Marriage Prohibition Act” was signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan in January.  Since then, the EU, a vast array of international organizations and the United Nations have attempted to force the international community to take drastic measures in order to impose the homosexual agenda upon Nigeria and other African nations that have resisted the push to normalize homosexual conduct.  The Nigerian law prohibits homosexual marriages or unions, adoption by homosexuals, and the dissemination of homosexual propaganda.

Mr. Mohammed emphasized that far from being something that Nigerians desire, the promotion and normalization of homosexuality could ‘bring down any government should the government toy with the opinion of the vast majority of the people.’  The UN High Commissioner stated that the Nigerian law ‘may deter LGBT persons from taking up HIV education, prevention treatment and care services as well as civil society and religious groups from implementing such services.’  Yet [the article states] scientific findings show that ‘no other group of comparable size in society experiences such intense and widespread pathology’ as homosexuals.”

“On a day when the European Parliament still could not come to any consensus on the imposition of any real sanctions on Russia for the geopolitical crisis in Crimea, it appeared clear that the European Union would continue to attempt to force African nations to adopt its homosexual agenda with every tool at its disposal, including harsh economic sanctions.”

Catholics Causing Scandal

TORONTO, March 11, 2014 – “The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association took another step in its promotion of the homosexual agenda Monday as it announced it would march in Toronto’s WorldPride parade on June 29.  The association, which represents the province’s 45,000 teachers and plays a large role in their professional and spiritual formation, passed a motion this weekend to organize a delegation for the homosexual activist event.”

OTTAWA, March 11, 2014 – “As the Ottawa Catholic School Board defends their partnership with Free the Children and refuses to answer parents’ questions about whether the secular charity distributes contraceptives in the developing world, LifeSiteNews obtained a letter Free the Children sent to the school board in October admitting one of its clinics does in fact ‘stock and provide contraceptives to patients.’  Critics are calling it a ‘cover up’ and a “major Catholic scandal,’ and accuse the school board of knowingly ‘cooperating with evil.’”

Access to School Information

March 12, 2014 (STOPP) – LifeSiteNews reported that it hears “almost weekly from anxious parents who want to know whether Planned Parenthood is in their children’s school. Some have already started making phone calls and sending letters to the school district … Others are at a loss where to start.  Here is their resource to help you find quick answers about the prevalence, source, and format of sex education in your geographical area.

Courageous Catholic Hierarchy

Bishop Philip Egan

Bishop Philip Egan

PORTSMOUTH, England, March 13, 2014 – “When people are not in communion with the Catholic Church  on such a central thing as the value of life of the unborn child and also in terms of the teachings of the church on marriage and family life –they are voting in favor of same-sex marriage – then they shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion,” said Portsmouth Bishop Philip Egan in a wide-ranging on-camera interview….  Bishop Egan explained that rather than a punitive measure, the denial of Holy Communion is ‘always an act of mercy.’  It is done, he said, ‘with the hope and prayer that that person can be wooed back into full communion with the Church ….  Nobody is forced to be Catholic. We’re called by Christ and He’s chosen us, it’s a free choice. We live under the word of God. It’s not my truth, its God’s truth,’ he said. … One would hope that in that case it would encourage someone to come back to seek communion with the Lord with the truth and say I’m sorry I got lost.””

Bishop Robert Vasa

Bishop Robert Vasa

SANTA ROSA, CA, March 13, 2014  – “Courage,” an official apostolate of the Roman Catholic Church, often faces criticism from Catholics and non-Catholics who believe it is a harmful part of the Church’s doctrine on marriage. In Santa Rosa, California, however, Bishop Robert Vasa is ignoring these criticisms in their entirety.  Last week, Vasa sponsored a program that included a presentation by former homosexual porn actor Joseph Sciambra to the local arm of Courage.  Sciambra, who has a book on his experiences and how they led him to embrace the Church, believes that homosexual relationships are devastatingly harmful to the bodies and souls of men who engage in sex with other men. 

Critics of Bishop Vasa and Sciambra have abounded. However, the bishop has been a source of relief to serious Catholics. While critics say that having an abstinent man with same-sex attractions present to Courage harms acceptance of homosexuals in the Church, orthodox Catholics find the push against the permissive American culture a welcome change.   Bishop Vasa’s prioritization of Church teachings over public opinion is nothing new. For years, he has emphasized Church teachings about sexual morality and life, and has long been a leader among orthodox Catholics for his adherence to Church doctrine.

Bishop Dorick Wright

Bishop Dorick Wright

BELIZE CITY, March 14, 2014 – “Belize’s Roman Catholic Bishop Dorick Wright issued a directive to the country’s Catholic schools stating that ‘organizations whose activities and positions are actively opposed to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and which endanger the souls of the People of God, cannot be welcomed under any circumstances in our schools.’  The bishop’s letter specifically named the Belize Family Life Association (BFLA), the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), the National AIDS Commission and the Red Cross program called ‘Together We Can,’ according to Amandala News.  Bishop Wright charged these groups with promoting ‘the First World’s errors and problems’ among ‘unsuspecting people,’ such as the notion of ‘sexual rights’ among children, as well as abortion and homosexuality, and warned that they ‘foster programs that ultimately undermine our Catholic values.’”

“These organizations often present themselves as champions of some apparent good, whether it be to educate on sexuality and reproductive rights, AIDS, or to administer certain medical treatments or shots to our children, but despite some apparent good, you must, nevertheless, respectfully decline any and all invitation or association with any such organizations. I make this directive to all local managers of Catholic Schools, assistant local managers, all administrators, principals and teachers,” Bishop Wright said.

“Stressing that Planned Parenthood is an international billion-dollar business that profits from the killing of babies through abortion, Bishop Wright said, ‘BFLA, the operational arm in Belize of International Planned Parenthood, is an instrument of the most serious crimes against life and our Christian morality.’  He also warned school officials that, ‘BFLA’s entreaties are sometimes made in such a way to confuse us, fooling some to believe that their work is endorsed by the Church…. Besides whatever good they might do,’ the bishop stated, ‘they nevertheless promote ‘sexual rights’ for children as young as 10 years of age, including a supposed ‘right to privacy’ from even their own parents and guardians, and in particular, their right to abortion without parental notification…. This agenda of sodomy, abortion, and sexual gender redefinition is seeking to radically change Belize’s Christian character.  I call on all of you to be vigilant with me against this threat to Belize’s moral foundations and family values.’”

AMEN!

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Questions about the Anglican Ordinariate

March 16th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

 

Location of U.S. Ordinariate communities

Location of U.S. Ordinariate communities

In 2009, Pope Benedict issued what one day may be properly regarded as a stunning achievement of his papacy, “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” which paved the way for groups of Anglican laity and pastors to become “Catholics,” in the truest and most complete sense, i.e. as community.  They ARE Catholics, folks.  They are WE.   Somehow,  Anglicans returning to Catholicism 480 years after the first Act of Supremacy by Henry VIII of England, has produced more of  a yawn,  a ‘huh?,’ on the part of many cradle Catholics, reverts and other converts.  And what has been true of the laity has also been true of some priests as well, who all don’t quite understand that those returning really are no longer Protestants! What happened to the celebration?  The shepherd who leaves the flock in the field to go find the stray celebrates when he brings it home.  The loving father who embraces his prodigal son throws a big feast for everyone.  And I remember the day I came back to the Church, I was acutely aware that all of heaven was rejoicing over just one soul that had returned!  Where has been our celebration? our joy? our rejoicing?  Sometimes it feels more to me like our returning brothers and sisters have been given the key to the side door, and asked not to make a mess.  Goodness!  they have come home after 480 years!  Praise God!

Early in March, 2014, was the first time all three ordinaries (what we would call bishops) of the three world areas (ordinariates — like big dioceses) were together, in Rome.  Cardinal Mueller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, met with the Ordinaries and reminded them that the unity of the Church was the ostensible reason for the establishment of the ordinariates.  He called them to the “all-important task both to preserve the integrity and distinctiveness of your parish communitiies and, at the same time, help your people integrate into the larger Catholic community.”  The Zenit link, shown above, disappointed me in that it didn’t seem to recognize that there is a corresponding obligation of hospitality on the part of the Catholics already in the pew. 

Some have ventured to opine that Pope Francis may not be the fan of the Anglican Ordinariates that Pope Benedict was.  However, just a few months after becoming Pope, he relaxed further the membership requirements, making it easier for baptized Catholics, who had not received First Communion or Confirmation, to become members of the Anglican Ordinariate.  Read of that postive sign on Fr. Z’s blog here. 

Church of the Good Shepherd, Henrietta

Church of the Good Shepherd, Henrietta

Regardless of “membership,” all Catholics can attend the Anglican Ordinariate Mass and fulfill their Sunday “obligation.”  Don’t worry about “what to do,” as you will receive a hymnal, missalette, and the readings.  The first pew is used as a Communion rail, and one may receive under both species, or not.  Most Catholics will feel very comfortable and welcome among these brother and sister Catholics.  Sunday Mass is at 12:30 PM at Good Shepherd Church in Henrietta (Route 15A).  How about trying to attend at least once in the coming year?

Whether or not we choose to attend the Anglican Ordinariate (Catholic) Mass, IMO it behooves us as Catholics to at least know a bit more.  Attached is the content of a trifold brochure distributed by the St. Alban Fellowship in Henrietta, short and easy to read.  In addition, the pastor, Fr. John Cornelius, has graciously consented to answer questions right here.  Just post a question, in a comment, and he will respond. 

Meanwhile, click through for the brochure, and click on image to enlarge.    Websites are shown at the end. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cardinal Dolan to man who comes out, “Bravo”

March 10th, 2014, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

Cardinal Dolan was on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday (full transcript here). Here is the snippet for discussion:

DAVID GREGORY:

Michael Sam, from your home state, the football player– revealed that he was gay, first in the NFL. And you saw the celebration from the President, the First Lady, and they were saying what a courageous step that was. How did you view it?

CARDINAL DOLAN:

Good for him. I would have no– no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya. I don’t think– look, the same– the same bible that tells us that– that– teaches us well about the virtues of chastity and– and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say, “Bravo.”

One of the most successful strategies that the homosexual lobby has employed over the years has been to keep the issue at a completely surface level and to refuse in-depth argumentation. If you attempt to make an argument against the homosexual agenda you are immediately labelled a bigot and your argument, no matter how rational, is considered invalid before you even start. One way they’ve solidified this strategy is by the use of the “coming out” ceremony (Rorate has an interesting post using Courage’s example). To embolden the “coming out” ceremony homosexual activists attack and deceive Christians by twisting Jesus’ words about “judging not” to mean something other than the way they’ve been interpreted by Christians for 2,000 years. One needs to look no further than Haydock to see this:

Ver. 1. Judge not,[1] or condemn not others rashly, that you may not be judged or condemned. (Witham) — St. Jerome observes, Christ does not altogether forbid judging, but directs us how to judge. Where the thing does not regard us, we should not undertake to judge. Where it will bear a favourable interpretation, we should not condemn. Magistrates and superiors, whose office and duty require them to judge faults, and for their prevention to condemn and punish them, must be guided by evidence, and always lean towards the side of mercy, where there are mitigating circumstances. Barefaced vice and notorious sinners should be condemned and reprobated by all. (Haydock) — In this place, nothing more is meant than that we should always interpret our neighbor’s actions in the most favourable light. God permits us to judge of such actions as cannot be done with a right intention, as murder. As to indifferent actions, we must always judge in the most favourable sense. There are two things in which we must be particularly on our guard: 1. With what intention such an action was done. 2. Whether the person who appears wicked will not become good. (St. Jerome)

But isn’t the Cardinal simply following Pope Francis’ lead with the famous quote, “Who am I to judge?” Absolutely not. Pope Francis (whether you think his strategy a good one or not) provided this response to a much different question. The question Pope Francis was answering regarded a cleric who was known to have homosexual tendencies, but who the Pope thought to be living a chaste life. In other words, the Pope rightfully stated that no one ought to judge the man’s heart. In the case of the young man’s “coming out” that Cardinal Dolan is asked about, there is no circumstance in which this action should be applauded1.  It is objectively wrong and will lead the man further away from true happiness.

lifesitenews.com reports that:

The Archdiocese of New York told LifeSiteNews.com such criticisms are misguided.

Communications Director Joseph Zwilling told LifeSiteNews that it would be “wrong for anyone to say, or even imply, that the Cardinal’s words on Meet the Press meant that he was unconcerned about Church teaching on homosexual activity (or any other immoral behavior).”

He said “Bravo” to evil. A reprimand isn’t what is needed. A clarification isn’t what is needed. A retraction is what is needed. How powerful would it be for the Cardinal to admit, “I was wrong. I said the wrong thing and I shouldn’t have”? Everyone would understand. Anyone who’s had to decline a wedding invitation or be present while any sort of immoral activity is celebrated knows how easy it is to slip up and say “congratulations” when you know you shouldn’t have. It happens. But when the stakes are this high, mistakes like this ought to be fixed.

With that, I’d like to follow Diane’s lead and share some good news to go along with the bad news.

  • Penance is God’s gift to us By Bishop Salvatore R. Matano
  • Check out this sermon from Archbishop Sample’s recent Pontifical Mass
  • If you don’t keep up on CF’s comments, you might not have noticed that Bishop Serratelli responded to Diane
  • The Liturgical Year is an amazing work available for free.  It is absolutely amazing how blessed this generation is to have so many resources available at our fingertips.  You can read about the history of Lent and keep up with the Church’s feasts/saints.  (It’s a little trick because many of the dates have moved around, but it’s not hard to find something relevant).

 


UPDATE 2014-03-10 9:53 PM:

A friend noted this shortly after this posting:

The only point I would raise with you is that we know having a homosexual tendency is not a sin, but since the gay/lesbian lobby regards ‘coming out’ as equivalent to being sexually active with the same-sex, it is reasonable to expect that the usual coming out and the applause accompanying it (as from Cardinal Dolan) also is not differentiating being same-sex attracted from its accompanying sexual activity.

My response:

That’s a good point. I honestly didn’t even consider this – that’s how closely tied “coming out” is with actively practicing homosexuality. So I guess my blanket “no circumstance” isn’t entirely accurate, but Michael Sam would certainly be pulling one over on everyone if he were to later state, “what I meant to say is that I’m a chaste man with homosexual inclinations.”

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Week 10 in Catholic Media, 2014

March 10th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris
V. P. Biden blesses himself after receiving communion at St. Patrick's.  Cardinal Dolan looks the other way.

V. P. Biden blesses himself after receiving communion at St. Patrick’s. Cardinal Dolan looks the other way.

Oh, yes…there is NEWS for Week 10, some of it quite challenging, haunting and daunting.  But when the drama and mystery is cleared away, and tragedy acknowledged in many diverse events and circumstances, and when the portents are reckoned rationally by assessing the likely outcomes, there is nothing, yes I do mean NOTHING, as significant this week as the content of Ben Anderson’s post on the latest lapse of Cardinal Dolan  as a prelate of the Catholic Church.  Do not miss the outstanding Michael Voris recap here [link corrected] which lends much credibility and perspective to a stream of such abuses by Cardinal Dolan since his arrival in NYC, against the essence of Catholic morality and against the souls of faithful Catholics influenced by what he says, and the cavalier way in which he says it.   Now, by mimicking the words of Pope Francis, Cardinal Dolan claims an inappropriate legitimacy for his opinions.

Contrary to a year-old rebuttal  defense of Cardinal Dolan, inserted here for balance, Voris’ attack is not an ad hominem attack, but rather is directly about the “fruit.”  Is it fair to judge Cardinal Dolan on what he says and does?  Yes, it is the only way to judge fairly–to judge not the man but the results.  Matthew 7:20 reads:  “Thus you will know them by their fruits.”  And Luke 6:4 says:  “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit.”  Those who would say “judge not” on such vital matters are ignoring Christ’s clear words about the importance of fruit inspection.

I cannot help but sense there is something seriously amiss in the second largest diocese in the country.  Michael Voris generously attributes these failings in the public square to incompetence about handling the media.  Where the line falls between media incompetence and a character issue remains open for debate.  Yet, after 40+ years of abortion rampant in New York, we might also remember the old aphorism:  “People get the leaders they deserve.”  Unfortunately, there is little recent history of disciplining prelates who go astray, although recently Pope Francis sent the luxuriating Bishop of Bling to a cold monastery in Bavaria for the winter or maybe longer.    Where do Cardinals go who don’t teach what the Church teaches, who are intoxicated by the limelight, and who make fools of themselves, the Church, and those trying to be faithful?  Only Pope Francis can say and, as long as Cardinal Dolan remains Archbishop of New York, he answers only to the Pope, and, of course, ultimately to God.  But, in the meantime, as laity, we do have the obligation to care about the souls of our brothers and sisters in the Faith.  And that is why this story is more important than even, sadly, the missing Malaysian aircraft.   Even if/when it is found, with concomitant loss of life,  we remember what Christ has told us: in Matthew 10:28:   “…do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” 

With a few exceptions, stories sorted for the weekly update tend to be those which most endanger souls, whether it is German home-schoolers having their children taken away, or tribal warfare in Africa, or the weakening of Catholic Colleges.  Here are a few Week 10 highlights:

Update on Catholic Colleges in Lent from the Cardinal Newman Society:  

“On Ash Wednesday, Georgetown University wrapped up its “Sex Positive Week,” including a pole dancing class. LeMoyne College plans a drag show on Monday. Loyola Marymount University is hosting a speaker who supports abortion rights, and Merrimack College is hosting an outspoken critic of the Church. ”

Breitbart Exposes Disney pro-Gay Culture

Parents could easily stumble into this one unknowingly.  Last year, as we know, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) caved in and began to allowing same-sex attracted youth to become scouts.  At age 18 they were to leave scouting, and the assurance at the time, in order to secure enough votes, was that no “gay” leaders would be permitted.  But the slippery slope is never satisfied to allow one to perch there, defying the mire.  The only question is who will give the next push down the slippery slope.  And, somewhat a surprise, especially to parents who buy all those cute character toys and matching pajamas, Disney gave the push.  On Monday, March 3, Breitbart (on-line) published an expose’ on Disney:  in which it seems that Disney thinks the BSA haven’t gone pro-gay enough.  Here are a few excerpts:

“Mickey Mouse is not happy with the way the [BSA] are treating gays.  The Walt Disney company will not be providing any type of financial support or grants to local troops and packs over the organizations policies.  According to a letter from Robert Utsey, BSA’s Central Florida Council Board President, ‘Disney World’s views do not currently align with the BSA.’” …. In addition to citing the restriction on same-sex attracted men over 18, Disney objects to the policy that the youth can’t wear their Boy Scout uniforms in so-called “gay-pride parades.”  [This may not continue to be an issue, because in some areas the marchers are pushing for nudity from the knees up.  See LifeSiteNews article here about Toronto.]  “[Disney] does not provide grants to institutions that operate or support activities that are counter to the policies of The Walt Disney Company.”  In a sense, this should all not be too surprising since the entertainment industry is a major source of pushing for broad acceptance of sinful lifestyles.  It’s just that we don’t often think we have to pick up every rock to peek under it.  Especially rocks with which we’ve become comfortable.

And, for their part, the Boy Scouts of America, having fallen away in their own moral issues,  now feel pressure they never had before when they strove to be “morally straight,”  when they had principles to uphold, and when even the Supreme Court upheld those principles.  When the backbone is gone, what is left to hold up values?  Playing to the approval of the masses, whether for a scouting organization or for a cleric on TV, can never be a successful strategy.

 Indisputable Pro-Abortion Argument — NOT!

In a LifeSiteNews article last week, author Matt Walsh tongue-in-cheek (but not without great forensic argument) gives 10 reasons the “autonomous body” argument (“It’s my body; I can do what I want with it!”) is wrong, all without referring to Church teaching, the Bible, etc.  This is the kind of apologetics / evangelization adult Catholics need in order to stop dodging  arguments from friends and family, and speak up.  It is a short, easy-to-read article but well worth the read.

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The Virgin’s Three Stars

March 10th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie
Icon of the Theotokos "Odigitria" ("Directress"), painted by the Fathers of Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos

Icon of the Theotokos “Odigitria” (“Directress”), painted by the Fathers of Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos

(Click on Pictures to see sharper images)

“And was Incarnate of the Holy Spirit

and the Virgin Mary”

In many icons of the All Holy (“Panagia”) Virgin she appears with three stars on her. Most westerners probably do not notice them as anything more than decorative accents but they are an important visual code to those of the Eastern Orthodox, and Byzantine Catholic Churches.

Do you know what they signify?

Christ’s incarnation is a great mystery. Christ was not conceived in the way that men are conceived. The conception took place from the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Consequently, a man did not participate. We can see this if we study the event of the Annunciation of the All-Holy (Panagia) Theotokos (see Luke 1:26-38). The Virgin Mary is called the Theotokos,which is a Greek word, used by the Fathers. It means Birthgiver of God. This is because she gave birth (tokos) to God (Theos)and not to a mere man (Jesus is one Person not two Persons, but of/in two natures, completely human and completely divine). The third Ecumenical Council concerned itself especially with this point. The Panagia was a virgin before the conception, virgin after the conception and virgin after the birth.

Comnenus Mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Hodegetria Madonna, Comnenus Mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

We see this in every icon that represents the Panagia; she is depicted with three stars on her, one on her head and the other two on each shoulder. The Panagia was completely pure. In the Holy of Holies she had achieved theosis. The purity of Panagia was due to the grace of God, her own personal ascetic effort, and the successful purification of her ancestors. All the purifications in the Old Testament had the Panagia in view. Indeed, the Panagia’s parents conceived her with prayer, fasting and obedience to God; this is why the seed of Joachim (the father of the Panagia) is called “immaculate seed”.  –Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos, Entering the Orthodox Church”.

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