Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Minor Proposal

I lurk over at Fisheaters every now and then. The poster there named "The Harlequin King" made a point the other day on a topic that has long been a cause of my own, namely, the restoration of the minor orders.

Used to, the steps to the priesthood looked like this:

Of course, only the deacon and priest remain. Paul VI abolished the others in 1972. I have asked lots of people about this, but nobody seems to know why he took that step. It seems like this would be a pretty valuable thing, especially in the days of a priest shortage. Give men these kinds of offices and responsibilities to fill. We see a lot of permanent deacons, and a lot of guys who left the seminary. There is still a role for them to fill. Why not put them in a position to do it?

And maybe, just maybe, a return to this older model of preparation for Holy Orders would lend itself to more and better priests.

What say you, dear reader?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's The Feast Of The Holy Innocents

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Holy Innocents, pray for us.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Et Verbum Caro Factum Est

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Boldest Bishop Move In Some Time

Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix has revoked a hospital's designation as "Catholic." That takes guts. You might have heard a while back about how he excommed the nun who ok'd the abortion there. From the looks of things, the hospital didn't know when to quit.

Citing numerous and ongoing violations of Catholic teaching, including an instance of abortion, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix has declared that St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center can no longer call itself a Catholic institution.

The bishop announced his decision in a press conference at diocesan headquarters Dec. 21. It follows months of negotiations with officials for St. Joseph’s and its parent company, Catholic Healthcare West.

These talks, aimed in part at getting the hospital to admit its ethical wrongdoing in performing the abortion, reached an impasse last month. The bishop had given officials a Dec. 17 deadline to reach an understanding. When that date passed, he extended the deadline to Dec. 21

From what we've seen, the hospital attempted to find a theologian who would back the legitimacy of the infanticide that took place. This was the standard practice of many modern whackjobs who figure they can make up their own magisterium by finding enough people to agree with them. Bishop Olmsted's response was entirely appropriate:

In a letter he wrote this past November that was leaked to the press on Dec. 15, Bishop Olmstead voiced frustration with the hospital’s continued justification of the abortion and its refusal to cooperate with him.

“In effect, you would have me believe that we will merely have to agree to disagree,” he told Catholic Health Care West president Lloyd Dean. “But this resolution is unacceptable, because it disregards my authority and responsibility to interpret the moral law and to teach the Catholic faith as a successor of the Apostles.”

The bishop had been insisting that St. Joseph’s admit to its ethics violation, commit to avoiding abortion under all circumstances, and retrain staff members through an institution of his choosing.

Ultimately, the negotiations failed and Bishop Olmstead said he had concluded that St. Joseph “is not committed to following the teaching of the Catholic Church [and] therefore, this hospital cannot be considered Catholic.”

This is a remarkable show of courage, and Bishop Olmsted will no doubt suffer for it. The social justice types will come out of the woodwork to condemn him. He will likely be cast as a misogynist. All the cries of "patriarchal" and so forth will be raised from all the usual suspects (or whores, in the case of dissident theologians). Of course, you'll also hear crap about the sexual abuse scandals, as though that has anything to do with this case or with Bishop Olmsted.

I think it would be a mistake to view this incident in isolation from the broader American Catholicism, though. This is a very public step by a bishop in putting his foot down against the crypt0 (and not so crypto) heretics that have infected the Mystical Body of Christ. Imagine what could happen if others are heartened by this and follow his example. It doesn't have to stop at Catholic hospitals. Why not Catholic schools and universities as well? Why not in parish catechetical and liturgical life? Maybe this will show bishops they can't be so afraid that they fail to do their jobs.

Anyways, one would think that the opposing party here would understand their position, as well as the authority of His Excellency over that position. Alas, no:

In a statement, St. Joseph’s president Linda Hunt said the hospital was “deeply disappointed” by the bishop’s actions. She again justified the abortion and said the hospital “will continue through our words and deeds to carry out the healing ministry of Jesus."

Ah. I get it. We can carry out the healing ministry of Jesus by murdering kids then nursing our pride so that we can refuse to admit our wrong-doing and openly defy a Successor to the Apostles. Yeah, that makes sense.

This whole statement from the hospital can be translated in two words: Non serviam.

Another Good Story From Dallas

Thanks to Haskovec for sending this in from the Dallas Morning News report on Our Lady of Gaudalupe:

On Saturday and Sunday through cycles of Masses, hundreds of people brought roses – in hues of crimson, coral and cream. The offerings to the Virgin of Guadalupe kept church volunteers busy, as they trimmed stems and placed the flowers in rectangular vases.

The sweet scent filled the altar around Alma Rosales, who lifted flowers from plastic wrap. "It is so beautiful, and, every year, I come to help," she whispered.

Saturday night, so many flocked to the Ross Avenue cathedral that police closed off a portion of the street before 8 p.m. Crowds waited for midnight Mass to be recited by Bishop Kevin J. Farrell.

Not bad. While I don't sanction illegal immigration, I do wonder from time to time how much of the political uproar on the topic is attributable to the fact that most of these immigrants are Catholic. It's not like such a thing is unheard of:

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Right To Die For The Unborn

I'm still looking for details on this, but apparently, the Belgium Court of Appeals has ruled that unborn children may, in some cases, have a right to be killed. How they can have this right, while lacking the right to live, is a mystery.

Per Zenit:

Abortion advocates have long argued for a woman's right to control her body and to be able to dispose of the unborn child if she wishes. In a bizarre decision, a Belgian court has extended that reasoning to say that a child has a right to be aborted.

A Belgian journal, "Revue Générale des Assurances et Responsabilités," has just published the decision handed down by the Brussels Court of Appeal on Sept. 21 regarding the case of a child born disabled after an erroneous prenatal diagnosis, according to the Gènéthique press review for Nov. 29-Dec. 3.

The court ruled that the child's parents could claim damages from the doctors who failed to detect the disability. They said that by making therapeutic abortion legal, the legislators intended to allow women to avoid giving birth to seriously handicapped children, "having regard not only to the interests of the mother, but also to those of the unborn child itself."

Thus, the judges considered that the child would have had the "right" to an abortion if his disability had been correctly diagnosed.

The report on the decision did not explain how the court could consider an unborn child to be able to be the subject of rights, and why that right was only one to be killed and not to live.

This is a remarkable step for the culture of death. To come right now and say what we've suspected all along, namely, that death is the ultimate marker of identity and liberty in a manner in direct opposition to basic logic is huge. Grossly evil, as well, but still huge.

Now Reporting From The Obvious Department

New report shows prime-time TV trend of sexualizing underage girls

No freaking way! Has someone called the White House about this? Somebody get the Congressional Committees set up! Notify the UN!

A new study showing that teen girls are depicted sexually on prime-time TV more than adults has critics condemning the trend as a sinister fixation on underage young women...

While only 29 percent of adult characters were viewed in sexual incidents in these shows, 47 percent of the characters involved were underage females. Of the young girls that were depicted sexually, only five percent communicated any dislike or opposition to the situations they were in. Additionally, a whopping 98 percent of the time, sexual encounters involving the girls were shown as taking place outside of any form of a committed relationship.

I'm guessing this was probably true (sans any homosexual encounters involved) 10 years ago. Why it's being promoted as news now is a bit of a mystery, but it's been on Fox and ABC at least. I haven't seen much from anyone yet as to what the response to this as to why such treatment of girls is ok. Given how obvious it is, I'm not sure that we'll see one. Most of the world's problems are way out in the open. People know they exist. They just aren't all that interested in solving them.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The New Letter To China

Back in 2007, Pope Benedict sent a letter to Catholics in China. The Vatican just sent another one in response to the recent communist outrages against the Church. This one carries something of a different tone. Per Zenit:

1. With profound sorrow, the Holy See laments the fact that from 7 to 9 December 2010 there was held in Beijing the Eighth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives. This was imposed on numerous Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful. The manner in which it was convoked and its unfolding manifest a repressive attitude with regard to the exercise of religious liberty, which it was hoped had been consigned to the past in present-day China. The persistent desire to control the most intimate area of citizens’ lives, namely their conscience, and to interfere in the internal life of the Catholic Church does no credit to China. On the contrary, it seems to be a sign of fear and weakness rather than of strength; of intransigent intolerance rather than of openness to freedom and to effective respect both of human dignity and of a correct distinction between the civil and religious spheres.

2. On several occasions the Holy See had let it be known, first and foremost to the Bishops, but also to all the faithful, and publicly, that they should not take part in the event. Each one of those who were present knows to what extent he or she is responsible before God and the Church. The Bishops in particular and the priests will also have to face the expectations of their respective communities, who look to their own Pastor and have a right to receive from him sure guidance in the faith and in the moral life.

3. It is known, moreover, that many Bishops and priests were forced to take part in the Assembly. The Holy See condemns this grave violation of their human rights, particularly their freedom of religion and of conscience. Moreover, the Holy See expresses its deepest esteem for those who, in different ways, have borne witness to their faith with courage and it invites the others to pray, to do penance and, through their works, to reaffirm their own will to follow Christ with love, in full communion with the universal Church.

4. Addressing those whose hearts are full of dismay and profound suffering, those who are wondering how it is possible that their own Bishop or their own priests should have taken part in the Assembly, the Holy See asks them to remain steadfast and patient in the faith; it invites them to take account of the pressures experienced by many of their Pastors and to pray for them; it exhorts them to continue courageously supporting them in the face of the unjust impositions that they encounter in the exercise of their ministry.

5. During the Assembly, among other things, the leaders of the so-called Episcopal Conference and of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association were appointed. Concerning these two entities, and concerning the Assembly itself, the words written by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 Letter to the Church in China continue to apply (cf. nos. 7 and 8).

In particular, the present College of Catholic Bishops of China cannot be recognized as an Episcopal Conference by the Apostolic See: the "clandestine" Bishops, those not recognized by the Government but in communion with the Pope, are not part of it; it includes Bishops who are still illegitimate, and it is governed by statutes that contain elements incompatible with Catholic doctrine. It is deeply deplorable that an illegitimate Bishop has been appointed as its President.

Furthermore, regarding the declared purpose to implement the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church, it should be remembered that this is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes the Church to be "one, holy, catholic and apostolic". It is therefore lamentable also that a legitimate Bishop has been appointed President of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

6. This is not the path that the Church must follow in the context of a great and noble nation, which attracts the attention of world opinion for its significant achievements in so many spheres, but still finds it hard to implement the demands of genuine religious freedom, despite the fact that it professes in its Constitution to respect that freedom. What is more, the Assembly has rendered more difficult the path of reconciliation between Catholics of the "clandestine communities" and those of the "official communities", thereby inflicting a deep wound not only upon the Church in China but also upon the universal Church.

7. The Holy See profoundly regrets the fact that the celebration of the above-mentioned Assembly, as also the recent episcopal ordination without the indispensable Papal mandate, have unilaterally damaged the dialogue and the climate of trust that had been established in its relations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China. The Holy See, while reaffirming its own wish to dialogue honestly, feels bound to state that unacceptable and hostile acts such as those just mentioned provoke among the faithful, both in China and elsewhere, a grave loss of the trust that is necessary for overcoming the difficulties and building a correct relationship with the Church, for the sake of the common good.

8. In the light of what has happened, the Holy Father’s invitation – addressed on 1 December 2010 to all the Catholics of the world to pray for the Church in China which is going through a particularly difficult time – remains pressing.

This might be the most strongly worded document I've seen come out of Rome in my lifetime. God willing that more will follow in an effort to promote the Catholic Faith to the fullest extent possible.

Cardinal Kung, pray for all of us, but especially our brethren in China.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Profundity Of Community

I'm not sure if any of you watch the NBC program "Community." If you don't, you really should. It's one of the most consistently funny shows I've seen in a very long time. The Community Christmas special was a spoof of past stop-motion animated items. It was very well done, but it also had, in my opinion, a very profound message that speaks to modernity's abuse of Christmas and anything else that's sacred.

The whole point of this episode was that one of the characters, Abed, was attempting to discover the true meaning of Christmas. Yes, it is trite and cliche, that's the point. I'm not going to spoil things, so I'll skip to the chase. When Abed receives his epiphany, it is in the form of the following:

"I get it. The meaning of Christmas is . . . the idea that Christmas has meaning, and it can mean whatever we want."

This was sort of alluded to in the Glee Christmas special (yes, I know I watch too much TV), when every 4th line was "Christmas is about forgiveness/being thankful/spending time with friends/whatever." It's also alluded to in every other secularized bit of holiday claptrap.

What we have these days is a situation where the essence of things, what they really are, no longer matter. Our exaltation of ourselves and the attending elevation of our subjective opinions to the level of universal truths makes it really easy to just ramble off that kind of nonsense without even thinking about whether or not we might be wrong.

Sure, I suppose that life can be a whole lot easier when we just define things how we want and ignore reality. It leaves said life a bit vapid and empty, though, not to mention destructive to the soul and intellect. It reminds me of the exchange between Alice and Humpty Dumpty:

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all.'

The weird part is that folks will laugh about this dialogue and acknowledge how ridiculous it is. Then they'll turn around and do the exact same thing whether it's with Christmas or even God Himself.

Kudos to shows like Community for demonstrating this absurdity to a contemporary audience. You can watch the episode for free on Hulu.

"Harsh Conclusions"

Iraqi Christians are beginning to understand that help isn't coming.

With Christmas fast approaching, Iraqi Christians are coming to the hard realization that there may be a day when there are no more Christians left in their homeland.

“Christians are being extinguished in Iraq, while Iraq remains Muslim,” said Father Georges Jahola, a Syro-Catholic priest from Mosul, Iraq currently studying in Rome.

Those who remain want to leave because they do not feel safe, he said. “They see that there is no longer a place for Christians in Iraq. Even for us as a Church, we cannot deny it.”

It's a wacky thing. The blood of the martyrs is seed. We know this. We also know that, at some point, things will cease to get better. We also know the modern track record for Islam is to exterminate or dhimmify everyone, without leaving anywhere for seed or anything else to grow. Just ask Lebanon. It remains staggering, though, that the birthplace of Christianity is to be without Christians.

It's also amazing that the world can find time to be outraged at threats to burn the Koran whilst carrying what appears to be a complete lack of concern for the current religious persecution against Christians, not just in the Middle East, but worldwide.

Fr. Jahola said that since the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, every effort to protect Christians has failed. He criticized the walled compounds erected by the Iraqi government around church buildings as a sign of the government’s “incapacity” to keep the situation under control.

Meanwhile, the “decimation” of Christians continues, Fr. Jahola said. Their numbers have been more than cut in half from a population that 10 years ago was estimated around 1.5 million.

“It is alarming, that an ethnic people — a people who speak the ancient Aramaic language and have Christian roots — is being made extinct in the world. And no one intervenes,” he said.

And why is this the case? Why is there such concerted internation apathy?

To be continued...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Iran To Execute Christian Pastor For Renouncing Islam

The headline says it all:

Youcef Nadarkhani, a 32-year-old Protestant pastor who became a Christian at the age of 19, has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam. Nadarkhani maintains that he did not practice any faith before his conversion to Christianity.

Not much else to really say, is there? I'm sure I will be attacked or mocked for the comparison to the Holocaust, but just think about it. The Middle East is coming to a point where centuries of slo-mo annihilation is sort of winding up now. Christianity is pretty much completely destroyed now. Everyone is either dead or has run away. Why exactly has nobody seemed to have cared about any of this?

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Back To The Time Of Mao"

Does this phrase strike you as the sort of thing that one says lightly? Considering that Mao's murderous reign wiped out far more people than Hitler even imagined to kill in the Holocaust, I would think anybody invoking the Chairman's spectre would do so with a fair amount of seriousness.

So check out John Allen's piece here:

New government pressures on the Catholic church in China, including the election of an illicitly ordained bishop as the new president of a government-controlled bishops’ conference, threaten to “turn the clock back to the times of Mao Zedong,” according to an influential Vatican China-watcher.

Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, director of the “Asia News” agency and a longtime Vatican advisor on Chinese affairs, said Dec. 10 that the results of an early December assembly of Catholic groups recognized by the country’s Communist government, but not by the Vatican, “reaffirms the power of the Party over the church” and “risks reopening the wounds of division within the church.”

Our Lady of She-Shan, intercede for them!

Back to the story. Things had been going fairly well (relatively speaking) for some time. The recent illicit consecration was part of a shift in policy, something confirmed in this article. The new president of the bishops’ conference is Giuseppe Ma Yinglin of Yunnan, who was ordained without papal recognition. Another illicitly ordained bishop is among the vice-presidents, and Jincai is among the newly chosen vice-presidents of the Patriotic Association.
The new president of the Patriotic Association, Bishop Johan Fang Xinyao of Linyi, was ordained with papal approval, but is also seen as a figure willing to cooperate with the government authorities.

According to Cervellera, the presence of so many illicitly ordained bishops at the top of the country’s official Catholic agencies “raises the fear that from here on, it will be impossible to ordain pastors for China who are in communion with the Holy See.”

In effect, Cervellera said, it seems to be deliberate policy of the Chinese government “to want to create chaos in the church,” while also “extending the control of the Community Party over the entire official church.”

Now, we have to ask ourselves why this is. If we've learned anything from the behavior of past whack-job communist scum regimes, it's that moves like this are basically reactionary in nature. Considering the bad publicity this could generate (if the mainstream media gave a crap), I doubt seriously that Hu Jintao just woke up one morning and decided to REALLY start oppressing the Church. Something has been going on that has generated some fear among the party-types in Beijing. If I was to guess, the real Church has been making some in-roads in places where it isn't welcome. Having done so, the authorities feel the need to publicly put the Church back in its place, lest people start taking this Pope guy seriously.

What sort of stuff am I talking about? How about this?

Another sign that Chinese Catholics at the grassroots are chafing at government pressure came in recent days in a seminary in Hebei, where a hundred seminarians protested against the nomination of a new vice-rector, a member of the Communist Party, by the local ministry for religious affairs. The reaction was so strong, according to local sources, the nomination had to be withdrawn.

Yeah, there's something big going on over there. Check the mention of the bishops' part in all this consecration stuff:

News reports, for example, suggest that several of the 64 “official” bishops who attended the meeting did so only under strong government pressure. According to a report in an Italian newspaper, one bishop apparently fled by car rather than attend the session and is now being sought to face criminal charges.

God bless these men and their flocks. Please pray for them. And the hard part- pray for Hu Jintao and the rest of these murderous nutbags. Pray for their conversion. It's stuff like this that makes loving our enemies tough, but The Master called for us to do it anyway.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Story Of Claude Newman And The Miraculous Medal

I had thought about this while writing the Russ Ford post from a few weeks back. Please read it in its entirety. It seemed a fitting story for today.

The True Account of Prisoner Claude Newman (1944) by John Vennari, from the March 2001 issue of “Catholic Family News.”

[Edited by Catholic Dispatch]

The following true story of Claude Newman took place in Mississippi in 1944. The account was told by Father O’Leary, a priest from Mississippi, who was directly involved with the events. He has left for posterity an audio recording it.

Claude Newman was a negro man who worked the fields for a landowner. He had married when he was 17 years old to a woman of the same age. One day, two years later, he was out plowing the fields. Another worker ran to tell Claude that his wife was screaming from the house. Immediately Claude ran into his house and found a man attacking his wife. Claude saw red, grabbed an axe and split the man’s head open. When they rolled the man over, they discovered that it was the favorite employee of the landowner for whom Claude worked. Claude was arrested. He was later sentenced for murder and condemned to die in the electric chair.

While he was in jail awaiting execution, he shared a cell-block of some sort with four other prisoners. One night, the five men were sitting around talking and they ran out of conversation. Claude noticed a medal on a string around another prisoner’s neck. He asked what it was, and the Catholic boy told him that it was a medal. Claude said, “What is a medal?” The Catholic boy could not explain what a medal was or what its purpose was. At that point, and in anger, the Catholic boy snatched the medal from his own neck and threw it on the floor at Claude’s feet with a curse and a cuss, telling him to take the thing.

Claude picked up the medal, and with permission from the prison attendants, placed it on a string around his own neck. To him it was simply a trinket, but he wanted to wear it.

During the night, sleeping on top of his cot, he was awakened with a touch on his wrist. And there stood, as Claude told the priest later, the most beautiful woman that God ever created. At first he was very frightened. The Lady calmed down Claude, and then said to him, “If you would like Me to be your Mother, and you would like to be My child, send for a priest of the Catholic Church.” With that She disappeared.

Claude immediately became terrified, and started to scream, “a ghost, a ghost”, and fled to the cell of one of the other prisoners. He then started screaming that he wanted a Catholic priest.

Father O’Leary , the priest who tells the story, was called first thing the next morning. He arrived and found Claude who told him of what had happened the night before. Then Claude, along with the other four men in his cell-block, asked for religious instruction, for catechism.

Initially, Father O’Leary had difficulty believing the story. The other prisoners told the priest that everything in the story was true; but of course, they neither saw nor heard the vision of the Lady.

Father O’Leary promised to teach them catechism, as they had requested. He went back to his parish, told the rector what had happened, and returned to the prison the next day to give instruction.

It was then that the priest learned that Claude Newman could neither read nor write at all. The only way he could tell if a book was right-side-up was if the book contained a picture. Claude had never been to school. And his ignorance of religion was even more profound. He knew nothing at all about religion. He did not know who Jesus was. He did not know anything except that there was a God.

Claude began receiving instructions, and the other prisoners helped him with his studies. After a few days, two of the religious Sisters from Father O’Leary’s parish-school obtained permission from the warden to come to the prison. They wanted to meet Claude, and they also wanted to visit the women in the prison. On another floor of the prison, the Sisters then started to teach some of the women-prisoners catechism as well.

Several weeks passed, and it came time when Father O’Leary was going to give instructions about the Sacrament of Confession. The Sisters too sat in on the class. The priest said to the prisoners, “Okay, boys, today I’m going to teach you about the Sacrament of Confession.”

Claude said, “Oh, I know about that!”

“The Lady told me,” said Claude, “that when we go to confession we are kneeling down not before a priest, but we’re kneeling down by the Cross of Her Son. And that when we are truly sorry for our sins, and we confess our sins, the Blood He shed flows down over us and washes us free from all sins.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!

Father O’Leary and the Sisters sat stunned with their mouths wide open. Claude thought they were angry and said, “Oh don’t be angry, don’t be angry, I didn’t mean to blurt it out.”

The priest said, “We’re not angry. We’re just amazed. You have seen Her again?”

Claude said, “Come around the cell-block away from the others.”

When they were alone, Claude said to the priest, “She told me that if you doubted me or showed hesitancy, I was to remind you that lying in a ditch in Holland, in 1940, you made a vow to Her which She’s still waiting for you to keep.” And, Father O’Leary recalls, “Claude told me exactly what the vow was.”

This convinced Father O’Leary that Claude was telling the truth about his visions of Our Lady.

They then returned to the catechism class on Confession. And Claude kept telling the other prisoners, “You should not be afraid to go to confession. You’re really telling God your sins, not this priest, or any priest. We’re telling God our sins.” Then Claude said, “You know, the Lady said [that Confession is] something like a telephone. We talk through the priest to God and God talks back to us through the priest.”

About a week later, Father O’Leary was preparing to teach the class about the Blessed Sacrament. The Sisters were present for this too. Claude indicated that the Lady had also taught him about Holy Communion, and he asked if he could tell the priest what She said. The priest agreed immediately. Claude related, “The Lady told me that in Communion, I will only see what looks like a piece of bread. But She told me that THAT is really and truly Her Son. And that He will be with me just for a few moments as He was with Her before He was born in Bethlehem. And that I should spend my time like She did, in all Her time with Him, in loving Him, adoring Him, thanking Him, praising Him and asking Him for blessings. I shouldn’t be bothered by anybody else or anything else. But I should spend those few minutes with Him.”

Eventually they finished the instructions, Claude was received into the Catholic Church, and the time came for Claude to be executed. He was to be executed at five minutes after twelve, midnight.

The sheriff asked him, “Claude, you have the privilege of a last request. What do you want?”

“Well,” said Claude, “you’re all shook up. The jailer is all shook up. But you don’t understand. I’m not going to die. Just this body. I’m going to be with Her. So, can I have a party?”

“What do you mean?”, asked the sheriff.

“A Party!” said Claude. “Will you give Father permission to bring in some cakes and ice cream and will you allow the prisoners on the second floor to be turned loose in the main room so that we can all be together and have a party?”

“Somebody might attack Father,” cautioned the warden.

Claude turned to the men who were standing by and said, “Oh no, they won’t. Will you fellas?”

So, the priest visited a wealthy patron of the parish, and she supplied the ice cream and cake. They had their party.

Afterwards, because Claude had requested it, they made a Holy Hour. The priest had brought prayer books from the Church and they all said together the Stations of the Cross, and a had a Holy Hour, without the Blessed Sacrament.

Afterwards, the men were put back in their cells. The priest went to the chapel to get the Blessed Sacrament so that he could give Claude Holy Communion.

Father O’Leary returned to Claude’s cell. Claude knelt on one side of the bars, the priest knelt on the other, and they prayer together as the clock ticked toward Claude’s execution.

Fifteen minutes before the execution, the sheriff came running up the stairs shouting, “Reprieve, Reprieve, the Governor has given a two-week reprieve!” Claude had not been aware that the sheriff and the District Attorney were trying to get a stay of execution for Claude to save his life. When Claude found out, he started to cry.

The priest and the sheriff thought it was a reaction of joy because he was not going to be executed. But Claude said, “Oh you men don’t know. And Father, you don’t know. If you ever looked into Her face, and looked into Her eyes, you wouldn’t want to live another day.”

Claude then said, “What have I done wrong these past weeks that God would refuse me my going home?” And the priest said that Claude sobbed as one who was brokenhearted.

The sheriff left the room. The priest remained and gave Claude Holy Communion. Claude eventually quieted down. Then Claude said, “Why? Why must I still remain here for two weeks?”

The priest had a sudden idea.

He reminded Claude about a prisoner in the jail who hated Claude intensely. This prisoner had led a horribly immoral life, and he too was sent to be executed.

The priest said, “Maybe Our Blessed Mother wants you to offer this denial of being with Her for his conversion.” The priest continued, “Why don’t you offer to God every moment you are separated from Her for this prisoner so that he will not be separated from God for all eternity.”

Claude agreed, and asked the priest to teach him the words to make the offering. The priest complied. At the time, the only two people who knew about this offering were Claude and Father O’Leary.

The next day, Claude said to the priest, “That prisoner hated me before, but Oh! Father, how he hates me now!” The priest said, “Well, that’s a good sign.”

Two weeks later, Claude was executed.

Father O’Leary remarked, “I’ve never seen anyone go to his death as joyfully and happily. Even the official witnesses and the newspaper reporters were amazed. They said they couldn’t understand how anyone could go and sit in the electric chair actually beaming with happiness.”

His last words to Father O’Leary were, “Father, I will remember you. And whenever you have a request, ask me, and I will ask Her.”

Two months later, the white man, who had hated Claude, was to be executed. Father O’Leary said, “This man was the filthiest, most immoral person I had ever come across.” His hatred for God, for everything spiritual,” said the priest, “defied description.”

Just before his execution, the county doctor pleaded with this man to at least kneel down and say the Our Father before the sheriff would come for him.

The prisoner spat in the doctor’s face.

When he was strapped into the electric chair, the sheriff said to him, “If you have something to say, say it now.”

The condemned man started to blaspheme.

All of a sudden the condemned man stopped, and his eyes became fixed on the corner of the room, and his face turned to one of absolute horror.

He screamed.

Turning to the sheriff, he then said, “Sheriff, get me a priest!”

Now, Father O’Leary had been in the room because the law required a clergyman to be present at executions. The priest, however, had hidden himself behind some reporters because the condemned man had threatened to curse God if he saw a clergyman at all.

Father O’Leary immediately went to the condemned man. The room was cleared of everyone else, and the priest heard the man’s confession. The man said he had been a Catholic, but turned away from his religion when he was 18 because of his immoral life.

When everyone returned to the room, the sheriff asked the priest, “What made him change his mind?”

“I don’t know ” said Father O’Leary, “I didn’t ask him.”

The sheriff said, “Well, I’ll never sleep if I don’t.”

The Sheriff turned to the condemned man and asked, “Son, what changed your mind?”

The prisoner responded, “Remember that black man Claude – who I hated so much? Well he’s standing there [he pointed], over in that corner. And behind him with one hand on each shoulder is the Blessed Mother. And Claude said to me, ‘I offered my death in union with Christ on the Cross for your salvation. She has obtained for you this gift, to see your place in Hell if you do not repent.’ I was shown my place in Hell, and that’s when I screamed.”

This, then, is the power of Our Lady.

We see many parallels between these facts of Claude Newman story and the Message of Fatima in 1917. There is the emphasis on:

Sacramental Confession,
Holy Communion,
Making sacrifices for Sinners,
the vision of Hell.
“Many souls go to Hell” said Our Lady of Fatima, “because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them.”

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Icon of “Mary the Teacher” © Copyright 2004 Brother Claude Lane, OSB Mount Angel Abbey

I am grateful to Br Claude in addition for the following footnote:

The promise Fr. O’Leary made to Our Lady in 1940 from a ditch in Holland (the proof Claude gave the priest that Our Lady really was appearing to him) was this: that when he could, he would build a church in honor of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception. He did just that in 1947. He had been transferred to Clarkesdale, Mississippi in 1945 when a group Black Catholic laymen asked to have a church built there. The Bishop of Natchez had been sent $5000 by Archbishop Cushing of Boston for the “Negro missions.” The church is still there today.

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception to you all.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

An Honest Question.

Do you agree with the following statement?

Dogmatic, dictatorial churches do not resound with today's spirituality, and young people are not clamoring to join them. So sending a message that says, in essence, "Follow my rules or go to hell" might be a good way of retaining older parishioners used to such harsh boundaries. But as elderly parishioners die off, they take the church's message with them.

It's from this article by Bonnie Erbe. Her basic point is that the Church is dying off, and it's because it espouses certain beliefs and has a celibate priesthood.

For a moment, let's ignore the colossal stupidity of her overall thesis, namely, that Truth can be whimsically sacrificed in favor of popularity. Just look at the paragraph above. What do you think?

I'm personally a bit torn over the issue. I see the hipster churches roping in lots of people (young and old). "Today's spirituality" is a system of egoism driven by good marketing and vacuous, Oprahish, platitudes. It is utterly bankrupt of substance, yet it seems to be thriving in many circles. Yes, I know that it frequently changes faces, but that's beside the point. It continues to grow. Don't believe me? How many preacher channels are on your satellite dish, with pretty much every person on them specializing in "today's spirituality"?

On the other hand, I look at the places where I go to the traditional liturgies or even the Pauline Masses with strict doctrinairians at the helm. There are youth all over the place. They far outnumber the elderly there. Their priests are all so young, and there seem to be more of them all the time. In so many occasions, it seems that Pope Benedict has young people hanging on his every word. Granted, these are folks who are already Catholic, but I certainly can't see any of them leaving the Church for the Erbe alternatives.

What's it like where you are?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

And if you don't know why he's a saint worth celebrating, re-visit our post here for a friendly reminder.

Making a list, indeed.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

The NYT article is Catholics in Belgium Start Parishes of Their Own. It's good reading if you've swallowed poison and are in dire need of emesis. If you'd like to examine the mind of the enemy, though, check it out. It is a startling look into the willingness of people to displace God in favor of self-worship.

Hey, if only we could all have liturgy to the theme of John Lennon (writer of paens to atheism). Think of how high we could be getting right now.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The China Thing

Here's another one of those stories bigger than the condom issue. The Chinese government conducting illicit consecrations of bishops. Religious freedom being such a buzz-phrase, I'm surprised there hasn't been a bit more concern over this. National churches are very much despised in America, and given the usual story told about our roots that's understandable (sort of, in that people know the story and not so much the facts). Here's Zenit with the story:

. . . Father Joseph Guo Jincai "has not received the approval of the Holy Father to be ordained as a bishop of the Catholic Church."

Father Jincai is the vice secretary-general of the Catholic Patriotic Association. The Chinese government currently permits religious practice only with recognized personnel and in places registered with the Religious Affairs Office and under the control of the Patriotic Association.

This explains the difference between the "national" or "official" Church, and the faithful who oppose such control and who wish to obey the Pope directly. The latter constitute the non-official, or underground, Church. . .

UCANews reported today that the bishops designated to participate in the ordination include Bishop Peter Fang Jingping of Tangshan, Bishop Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning, Bishop Joseph Li Liangui of Cangzhou, Bishop Peter Feng Xinmao of Hengshui, and Coadjutor Bishop Francis An Shuxin of Baoding.

Bishop Jingping is slated to be the presiding celebrant.

To make it worse, we have this:

UCANews reported that Bishop Pei is "unable to contact other bishops," and will be escorted to Chengde by religious officials.

It added that the other prelates are believed to be in Beijing at present, although the faithful of their communities have been unable to contact them.

In other words, this is probably not high on Bishop Pei's list of things that he wants to do. Pray for him and the other guys involved in this, whether of their own free will or not. They should be prayed for regardless. We all like to think that we could stand up and be martyrs. It's a different thing to actually be in that situation.

As usual, I'm going to plug the Cardinal Kung Foundation as a cause worthy of your support. If you are unfamiliar with the situation in China, check out this article from InsideCatholic or hit the labels on this post for more entries on this topic.

Our Lady of She-Shan, protect them!

The Pope's Interview: Just Another Gripe

This one is from the Foxmanites who, despite the mountains of evidence from Jews and Gentiles alike, are absolutely obsessed with smearing the name of the Venerable Pope Pius XII.

A newly released interview with Pope Benedict XVI revives a bitter Catholic-Jewish dispute over whether the Roman Catholic Church did enough to save Jews from Hitler.

Wartime Pope Pius XII was a "righteous" pope who "saved more Jews than anyone," Benedict told German journalist Peter Seewald in a book out today, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.

But Jewish Holocaust experts sharply disagree.

"If the Catholic Church had any evidence, it would long ago have been taken out of the dustbins of the Vatican and shown to the world," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. He noted that Pius XII saved Jews in Rome in 1944, "but where was he (from 1939 to 1943)? … He could have made a critical difference."

I'm not even going to give Foxman's tripe the dignity of being reproduced here.

First, I guess we can place Rabbi Hier in the category of being either an amnesiac or living in a cave for the last couple of decades. Second, ignoring the inaccuracy of his comment, it's great how he has to admit that the Pope did save Jews, but not with sufficient timeliness or fashion.

And we should get used to this because this is what the world does to the Supreme Pontiff. Even when they act heroically, it will never be enough. Someone will always find a way to criticize and excoriate them. Note the scrutiny of Pope Benedict regarding the abuse crisis.

We'll have another martyr pope someday, and the press who isn't rejoicing over the occasion will no doubt focus on how poorly the Holy Father went to his death.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Non-Catholic Influence At Vatican II

We've spoken a bit about the non-Catholic "observers" who were invited to the Council. As you read through the ongoing (really, it is) series about Vatican II, I pull a lot from Robert McAffee Brown, who was one of those very guys.

On a similar note, Rorate has put up a bit about an article published that attempts to quantify how much influence non-Catholic groups actually had, albeit indirectly. No surprise, it looks to have been quite a bit.

A new analysis of voting patterns among bishops at the Second Vatican Council points to the indirect influence of non-Catholic churches in the Council’s liberalization of the Catholic Church.

Melissa Wilde, an associate professor of sociology in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, led a team of researchers that investigated data from the Vatican Secret Archive to determine the critical factors influencing how bishops voted at the Second Vatican Council.

Their findings are outlined in “Religious Economy or Organizational Field? Predicting Bishops’ Votes at the Second Vatican Council,” published in the August issue of American Sociological Review.

The researchers found that the relationship between the church and state as well as changes in the institution’s situation in relation to other institutions, particularly a loss of dominance and the presence of and relationship with other religious institutions, were crucial factors in predicting whether religious leaders would be open to change and also what kinds of change they would prioritize.

I haven't read the article, but I'm going to try and get my hands on a copy. Sounds like interesting stuff.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Benedict Stuff Lost Amidst The Rubbers

The press is far too worried about trying to change Catholic teaching to talk about it, but you can see a few other quotes from Pope Benedict's interview with Seewald over at The Tablet.

A few of my favorites:

On barring gay men from the priesthood

Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation. Otherwise, celibacy itself would lose its meaning as a renunciation. It would be extremely dangerous if celibacy became a sort of pretext for bringing people into the priesthood who don’t want to get married anyway. For, in the end, their attitude toward man and woman is somehow distorted, off centre, and, in any case, is not within the direction of creation of which we have spoken. The Congregation for Education issued a decision a few years ago to the effect that homosexual candidates cannot become priests because their sexual orientation estranges them from the proper sense of paternity, from the intrinsic nature of priestly being… The greatest attention is needed here in order to prevent the intrusion of this kind of ambiguity and to head off a situation where the celibacy of priests would practically end up being identified with the tendency to homosexuality.

If the condom thing doesn't take off like they want it, my prediction is that "the Pope is a homophobe" will be the new headline.

On what led to the abuse crisis

The Archbishop of Dublin told me … that ecclesiastical penal law functioned until the late 1950s; admittedly it was not perfect—there is much to criticize about it — but nevertheless it was applied. After the mid-sixties, however, it was simply not applied any more. The prevailing mentality was that the Church must not be a Church of laws but, rather, a Church of love; she must not punish. Thus the awareness that punishment can be an act of love ceased to exist. This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people…

Of course the intellectual climate of the 1970s, for which the 1950s had already paved the way, contributed to this … The thesis was advocated—and this even infiltrated Catholic moral theology — that there was no such thing as something that is bad in itself. There were only things that were “relatively” bad. What was good or bad depended on the consequences. In such a context, where everything is relative and nothing intrinsically evil exists, but only relative good and relative evil, people who have an inclination to such behaviour are left with no solid footing. Of course paedophilia is first rather a sickness of individuals.

In other words, the Church stopped disciplining people, plus the folks in charge were playing God with what's right and wrong. Reversing these two trends is basically the remedy for everything wrong with the Church today, not just the abuse crisis.

On claiming to have the truth

It is obvious that the concept of truth has become suspect. Of course it is correct that it has been much abused. Intolerance and cruelty have occurred in the name of truth. To that extent people are afraid when someone says, “This is the truth”, or even “I have the truth.” We never have it; at best it has us. No one will dispute that one must be careful and cautious in claiming the truth. But simply to dismiss it as unattainable is really destructive.

And this is why the world hates the Church.