Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Married Priesthood, Religious life and ignorance in the Church

From an email I received regarding a sad situation involving a priest removed for an inappropriate relationship, nothing criminal mind you, but a moral lapse:


Ok, stop yelling at me! 

The following is an edited version of my reply:

Your comments regarding our vowed life present a misunderstanding of the life we are called to and seek to live faithfully as Dominican Friars. You mention that you believe priests should be allowed to marry. What is missing from your comment is an understanding of religious life. This is not new to us in this life and it is a very sad reality for the people we have served for many decades. They tend to not understand our life. If Holy Mother Church allowed priests to be married it would have no effect at all on our life as professed religious. We take vows and are not secular clergy like diocesan priests. 

Religious orders from the very beginning of their respective existences have embraced the celibate life in vows. This is different than the secular clergy, which most of the time came out of married life until the rule was made a regular part of church law around 1000 A.D. As you may know, one of the reasons this was done to eliminate the scandal of nepotism. The handing on of Church property from father to son and so on was a sad period in Church history.  

I am all for those who want to petition the Church to relax the celibate clergy requirement, I just wish there was a deeper understanding of the whole argument before making broad statements. I cannot count how many times I have been told that priests should be allowed to marry. This is followed by my explaining that it would not affect me if they did. Followed usually by blank stares from the person I am engaging in this conversation. 

As to your comments on poverty and obedience, let me just say that it is with complete freedom as a child of God that I entered into this life, was formed for it and give myself completely to the people of God for their salvation. Neither I nor any of the brothers of the Order are ignorant of what these vows mean and how we live them out. What might be helpful is to know that diocesan (secular) clergy do not take vows of any kind but promises of celibacy and obedience to the bishop along with a promise to pursue simplicity of life. They also are not ignorant of the gravity of their promises. 

In other words: no one lied to us, compelled us, twisted our arms, promised us trips to Disney World, or any other deceptive tactic to get us to say yes when we took our final vows. 

Our Yes meant Yes!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is There a Lack of Vocations?

As a vocations director, I often think about that long-standing opinion about the "vocations crisis" and that no one is stepping up and offering their lives to serve Jesus Christ and His Church.

Since we have eight novices this year, I will keep silent on my opinion of the fullness of a vocations crisis. Our crisis in the Order of Preachers looks more like a crisis of how to pay for the formation for all of the men joining us! Certainly other orders, dioceses and congregations have differing views on the question, but just the fact that some are getting many vocations tells me that there are many untapped vocations out there and we all need to get busy!

But since we know that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Jesus said that), the point I would like to make is that it is more of a question of resource management. This is strictly anecdotal and not scientific, so don't go crazy on me! But at a meeting this morning, I looked up the mass schedule of several parishes less than a mile and a half from where I live in Chicago. No less than nine daily masses are available in english or Spanish (or spanglish if you had me this morning) within less than 1.25 miles of my priory. That would be nine different priests celebrating mass at nine different parishes...and I just stopped at nine, there were more!

My point? I have several. But mainly, we are too congregational, especially in Chicago. My parish is more important than yours! Is it wise to spend money on keeping all these parishes open and staffed on shoe-string budgets instead of pooling resources and creating larger and more active parishes?

I don't know the full answer to the question, but I want the debate to start. I grew up in rural Minnesota, so you should know my opinion on the idea that I can walk from one parish church to another in less than 5 minutes. Madness!!!!!

Is this a good use of limited resources, both personnel and monetary? I doubt it. But someone help me understand why so many continue to blame the "vocations crisis" on why we are having such a hard time coming up with helpful solutions!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Is There No Room for Christians on This Planet?

"There is no place in the modern world for the closed minded thoughts of you or your people."

This statement was made today and has been made time and again recently regarding any number of issues that the Church holds as true. This one happened in the com box on Archbishop Chaput's Facebook posting in response to the judicial overturning of the definition of marriage in Pennsylvania.

Let me translate: You hate-filled catholics hold an opinion that is contrary to the liberal elitist modern mindset that dictates what you will think and what is to be held as true and undeniable. Therefore, because the world cannot tolerate such people, you must die!

This is where this type of thought ends up in the long (or short) run. We have no room for your thoughts, so we have no room for you, unless you shut up and keep your ignorant and stupid ideas to yourself. Then we might let you live with us...maybe. I truly wish people who say such things would really think through such elevated rhetoric. We have seen it in the past. When we whoop up the masses for our undeniable cause, we produce a level of violence that we may not intend.

I ask the question of those who oppose what the Church teaches regarding this one issue of same-sex marriage: do you really believe that those who hold this opinion do not deserve to live? If we believed this about everyone and everything contrary to what we hold as true, we would be the most vile of creatures.

The Christian response: We love and pray for you. We will not keep silent in the face of opposition from the evil one and his spreading of lies that will continue to harm all peoples, especially children. You can threaten us, we will only continue to speak the truth in love and kindness. The list of those martyred for the truth is a mile long, and we gladly join it. We will not deny our Savior Jesus Christ, and we will not deny our faith. I am willing to die for what I hold as good, true and beautiful...are you?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thoughts on Vocations and the Legionaries of Christ

It has been a while since I have updated this blog, I have another blog on our Province website that I use for vocations articles and issues and I was tempted to put this entry over there, but considering the opinions regarding the Legionaries of Christ, I will keep it only here on my personal blog.

There have been several article and interviews regarding the future of the Legion and Regnum Christi in the past few days. Having worked with them and having close relationships with some of them, I hesitate to opine too much regarding their difficult situation. I will gladly entertain their thoughts and corrections.

To be blunt, I think they should dissolve. Why? I can only answer this in reference to my Dominican vocations. I doubt I would be able to go forward as a Dominican if I found out Dominic himself had done the things that Maciel had done. It's as simple as that. It is my opinion, but it is the only thing that makes sense to me.

As a vocation director, I would gladly welcome the application for transfer from any LC priest. I believe they are incredibly faithful and desire authentic holiness in their lives. It appears that the poison that has infested their ranks and protected Maciel has been purged, so what I see of the remaining members is good stock.

I hold no animosity towards those that stay with them. That is their choice. I am just having a hard time figuring out why anyone would stay because of the scandal of their founder and those who protected him and why Holy Mother Church continues to entertain a reform of their constitutions.

From someone who holds so may of them close and as friends, all I can say is that you will live under a cloud of suspicion the rest of your lives if you stay with the current reality. I think it may be a good idea to stay together, but you need to change the name as much as you needed to purge Maciel from your history. The problem is, you cannot purge Maciel. He is the reason there is the Legion and Regnum Christi. You cannot hide from that reality.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Radio Interview

I was recently interviewed on the Radio Maria show "Here I am Lord" with Fr. Dan Hoehn. Listen to the entire hour-long show here.

Sisters in Crisis Revised Edition

I am reading the book reviewed by Fr. Dwight called Sisters in Crisis by Ann Carey and find it a fascinating read. The history of how the sisters ended up where they are today is eye-opening and alarming.  Lest we keep traveling down the same roads, this book is a must read for all interested in how we got here, and where it will all end up at the end of the day. Don't miss this updated book, it's worth your time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Martha, Mary, George and Trayvon

(This is an expanded and edited version of the preaching given at St. John of the Cross Parish on the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time)

This past week has brought us many news items that have caused quite a stir in our country. The greatest is the acquittal of George Zimmerman of second degree murder and manslaughter charges in Florida in the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. This is what I call another moment of distraction and confusion in a country that continues to have a very weak sense of self. Who are we as citizens of the United States? And this morning, who are we as believers in God and the Savior Jesus Christ? Ultimately, how does our faith inform our intellect and will as we respond to such a noteworthy event in a confused and divided culture?

Unfortunately for some, it is a moment to call for blood, to rally the troops, to make death threats against the acquitted and his parents, and to call for civil disobedience, as one Chicago priest has done, or to make the justice system out to be a failure, and in doing so, pushing our society closer and closer to riots and anarchy, which have occurred in many places since the verdict was read.

Sadly enough, as of the writing of this article, there have been 32 homicides in Chicago in July alone, most from gun violence. And during the trial of George Zimmerman, there have been dozens and dozens more murders and shootings in the Chicagoland area alone, with most of them getting no news reports or much inch-space at all in the local newspapers. So why does this case rise to the top as the big story throughout the country and not the murder of 16 year-old Joseph Brewer, Jr. of Chicago, who was shot to death on July 14th? Why?

Here is my opinion, you can take it or leave it: Because of these two senseless killings, one could be used to divide our nation by “massaging the facts”. One was seized by the talking heads and do-nothings in our culture to sew discord and even more violence. One showed an opening to falsely shout "racism" where there actually was none. Why do I boldly state such things from the pulpit and the pen? Because other preachers are just as bold in proclaiming provable lies from their pulpits and pens. What I believe to the very core of my being and as has been taken up as a motto by many thinkers great and not-so-great: error has no rights.

This is especially true when the errors being proclaimed threaten the well being of individuals and, of course, the common good! Error has no rights, and with all my supposed well-thought-out opinions, it was this week that I discovered I was wrong on many counts regarding this case. I point you to the article “You are Not Trayvon Martin” written by Will Saletan accessible on Slate.com.

If you read only one article about this sad case, please read this one. In it he states:
The problem at the core of this case wasn’t race or guns. The problem was assumption, misperception, and overreaction. And that cycle hasn’t ended with the verdict. It has escalated. 
And there we make the connection to our Gospel today. I will let you read from the author himself how he sees these three realities in this case, but suffice it to say, I believe he is completely correct in his observations. For all of us, those three words from Saletan’s article are spot-on with Martha and Mary: assumption, misperception, and overreaction.

As is evidenced in this tragic trial, the author makes a strong case that these three words define more of our culture than we care to admit. One way to read this Gospel passage is that Martha assumes that Mary is being lazy and avoiding work. Martha also assumes the work she is doing is the most important thing to be done. This may be culturally true in her mind, but it's Jesus! Don't you want to just spend time with Jesus? But Martha did not have the rest of the story that we have now, so she gets a pass on this one. It can be argued that Martha misperceives what is actually happening between Jesus and Mary, so much so that she does not join them in discussing the "one thing" that is necessary. Her misperception cost her time with the Savior! Finally, Martha certainly overreacts in telling Jesus…yes, telling the Lord of All to command her sister to stop lolly gagging and to get to work! And Jesus answers, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her. “

What is the better part? In sitting with the Lord and learning from Him, we try to see the world through His eyes. And knowing that we are not God and do not have all the answers, we pray for wisdom, we pray for peace, and we pray for truth. As Jesus commands of all of his believers: we pray for those who are our enemies and for those who persecute us. But, no believer is Jesus must ever become the persecutor. We never call for violence, and we take the time to learn the truth as much as possible in every situation.

Only someone who chooses the better part can do this well though. How do you take up the better part? Put down the newspaper and shut of the TV and sit and read the Bible particularly the Gospels! Pray and then pray some more. Pray the Rosary or whatever pious devotion you want to pray. Engage in contemplation, meditation or lectio divina.

 Just. Sit. With. God!

The truth we all must live with is that in both of these situations--Trayvon and George, and Martha and Mary--we weren’t there. We don’t have all the facts. We have some, but not all. And the default position of the Christian is always to suspect the good. But more importantly to exercise mercy. As we know well, it is only the mercy of God that allows our entry into heaven, and it should be our greatest desire to imitate our Lord in this most excellent manner.