Not to be Alarmist, But We Need to Pray Hard

crater battle postcard

Humble yourself like a child. Look around you for good people, not partisan allies. When we serve Christ, everyone striving for honesty and goodness is an ally. (summary of today’s gospel reading at Holy Mass)

One of the things I have studied in some depth is: 19th-century American life. In the last part of the eighteenth century, all of the thirteen colonies ultimately managed to agree on a structure for a federalized republic of states, each with its own proper internal laws and governments. But as the decades of the nineteenth century wore on, it became increasingly difficult for northerners and southerners to communicate in any kind of constructive manner.

They did not have alternative cable-news channels. But they did have alternative versions of what each side saw as evident facts. And the two sides had different absolute loyalties, to two different cadres of political leaders. The different groups of leaders ultimately accused each other of the kind of treachery that only war can settle.

I don’t mean to be alarmist. But it occurred to me this morning that I may get shot.

I have been a zealous pro-life priest since the day I was ordained, and I was a zealous pro-life seminarian for years before that. During the 2016 campaign, I made no secret of the fact that I thought Hillary Clinton was a fundamentally dishonest politician who rose to prominence solely because of her long-time insider connections. In other words, she became a presidential nominee through pure cronyism, not by some feminist triumph.

But, also back in 2016, I made no secret of the fact that I agreed with Armando Fuentes Aguirre. He wrote in a Mexico-City newspaper that Donald Trump’s nomination for president of the USA was something for which the human race ought to feel ashamed.

I know perfectly well that there are semi-rational individuals who have, can, and will frequent our parish buildings, who already have in their minds justifications for doing me violence.

We Catholics have a head start in understanding the danger that we face as a nation right now. The reality of a President Donald Trump has divided our Catholic parishes and dioceses in ways that most of us never could have imagined six years ago. Both our parishes here were growing bilingual families, in the process of building up trust and friendship—back in 2015. But in 2016 a dark cloud of distrust descended. The process of growth in friendship has stood at a standstill ever since.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of hope for the long-term future. Because the young people all communicate perfectly well with each other. We have plenty of Mexican-American girls with white boyfriends, and plenty of Mexican-American men with black wives. Not to mention the intermarriages with Filipinos, Vietnamese, and other Latinos. I have baptized a lot of beautiful cappuccino babies.

But these noble young family-makers are powerless to put the brakes on a runaway train of political antagonism. We need to pray extremely hard. May we Americans find a way through the mess that we have made for ourselves, without more violence. Please, God: help us do so.

Prosperity Gospel? (Luke 15 and 16)

The fifteenth chapter of St. Luke’s gospel recounts three parables. We read them at Mass two Sundays ago… Lost sheep. Lost coin. Prodigal son. Images of Divine Mercy. Comforting, and not difficult to understand. Luke 15. [Spanish]

But Luke 16, on the other hand… First, the parable of the Dishonest Steward, which we heard at Mass last Sunday. And the painful tale of Lazarus and the Rich Man.

Lazarus Dives dogs feast

Dogs licking the poor man’s sores in this world. The rich man dying of thirst in the next life. A chasm between heaven and hell that no one can cross.

Lord Jesus addressed last Sunday’s parable of the Dishonest Steward, the first part of Luke 16, to His own disciples. But the Pharisees overheard Him. So then the Lord told the story of Lazarus and the rich man for their benefit, the Pharisees’ benefit.

It’s no accident that, in the story, the bosom on which Lazarus comes to rest belongs to Abraham. One way for us to understand all of Jesus’ dealings with the Pharisees is to grasp the fundamental question in dispute.

Namely: What does it mean to be a child of Abraham? God Almighty chose the children of Abraham as His own, His people. But what precisely makes you a child of Abraham, one of the Chosen?

Abraham lived before the ancient written law came down to Moses on Mount Sinai. Abraham lived way before Solomon built the Temple. But what Abraham had was: true humility, true faith in the Providence of God.

Now, most people know that life in this world isn’t fair. Bad luck can hit good people, and the wicked often prosper. The ancient pagans expressed this by inventing a special goddess, the goddess of Fortune. She spins the wheel of arbitrary and unfair fate.

Anyone ever heard of the “Prosperity Gospel?” If God loves you, and you’re good, then you will have a comfortable house, a shiny car, a well-padded bank account, and good teeth.  On the other hand, if you’re a loser, and can’t pay your bills, it’s your own fault.

Fortuna and wheel
the goddess Fortuna

The Prosperity Gospel lets comfortable, self-centered people like the rich man in the parable sit at their tables, while a neighbor starves–without thinking twice about it.

But the arbitrary spinning of Fortune’s wheel does not deal out justice on earth. That’s not what believing in God’s Providence means. Material prosperity does not measure interior virtue. Being wealthy doesn’t make you one of God’s Chosen.

God has given us sinners a means by which to purify our selfish hearts. We have to do battle with something. The concept of “mine.”

What did the rich man discover, when he went to meet God? He learned that all the stuff he thought was his was only temporarily his. He didn’t own his wealth. He had the stewardship of it, for a time.

scales_of_justiceHe thought he had enjoyed his money thoroughly. Turns out he stewarded it very poorly. He actually owed some of it to the poor man Lazarus. And Lazarus didn’t ask much; he would have been happy with the scraps that fell from the table. But the rich man loved his sumptuous lifestyle so much that he did not even know that Lazarus existed.

We conquer our selfishness by giving things away. In this fallen world, the children of Abraham, the children of God, learn to forget the word “mine” by giving away stuff, giving away time and energy for other people’s benefit.

I think the most haunting part of the gospel passage is the end. The rich man, suffering in hell for his selfishness and gluttony, begs Abraham to send Lazarus back. ‘Let him warn my selfish, gluttonous brothers!’

Abraham answers: ‘But they already have the words of the prophets to warn them. They should know better. Just like you should have known better.’

‘No, no,’ cried the rich man in hell: ‘They will listen; they will repent; they will turn to God and live generous lives—if someone rises from the dead. If someone comes back from the dead and teaches them that only self-sacrificing love can get you to heaven!’

The thing is: It happened. That teacher has risen from the dead. The poor man of Nazareth.


from the Council of Trent file…

Luther Theses by Ferdinand Pauwels
Luther and his famous theses on indulgences

In 1967, Pope St. Paul VI wrote:

The practice of indulgences has at times been improperly used either through untimely and superfluous indulgences, by which the power of the keys was humiliated and penitential satisfaction weakened, or through the collection of illicit profits by which indulgences were blasphemously defamed. (para. 8 of Indulgentiarum Doctrina)

In the 16th century: Lutheranism, Protestantism–the whole mighty conflict–began. And it began with: Indulgences.

During my Protestant youth, my good instructors in religion, including my dear mother and aunt, often repeated the story of the indulgence-preacher Johann Tetzel, who declared, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Luther explicitly condemned that sentiment in his 95 theses.

Let’s try to sort this out.

God wills to befriend us for eternal life with Him. But that requires reconciliation with Him, with His pure goodness and holiness. Because we do not possess pure goodness and holiness.

Our reconciliation with God involves two dimensions:

1. Becoming God’s friend through Christ. Simple forgiveness of the eternal punishment we all deserve. The eternal punishment we all deserve = not being God’s friend forever. But, even though we don’t deserve His friendship, He offers it to us anyway.

2. Making up for all the bad effects of sin. Reparation. Doing penance. Serving a punishment that isn’t eternal. (Therefore, temporal.)

Trent Duomo nave rose window
Trent duomo rose window

If we die lacking the first dimension of reconciliation with God, we wind up in… correct: Hell.

If we die having the first, but lacking the full term of the second aspect of reconciliation, we wind up in… you got it. Purgatory.

Now, only I, myself, me–responding freely and courageously in faith to the promptings of my conscience, by the grace of Christ–can avoid hell. I myself have to love God and regret my sins, in order to be a friend of God in Christ.

God forgives the penitent soul through the ministry of His Son’s Church. But the individual penitent soul must undergo that ministry. No one can go to confession on someone else’s behalf. No one can decide for someone else to love God and regret sin.

And no one will make a successful appeal on judgment day to someone else’s contrition for his sins. “My mom was sorry that I stopped writing her. She went to church a lot and prayed for me to get paroled. Isn’t that good, Big Guy?” Ah. No.

Hell awaits all unrepentant sinners who die.

But: When it comes to the second dimension of reconciliation with the perfect holiness of God–that is, a friend of God serving a just sentence for the bad effects of his or her sins–in that business, we can help each other.

In fact, in that business, the friends of God are all in it together. Christ our Head, and all His members, including our Lady and all the saints, share resources in order to overcome the effects of sin and achieve total honesty, total purity, total readiness to meet God face-to-face.

Obtaining an indulgence involves sharing in those resources, the “treasury” of the Holy Church, the holiness of Christ and His saints. Only a friend of God can receive an indulgence. And all of us friends of God need the help.

[Click HERE to read the full official Vatican handbook of indulgences. If offers very consoling reading.]


The Mitered Mafia, Impeachment, and the Savior

Jesus, the Christ, the man completely consecrated by the Holy Spirit of God, the eternal Word incarnate—He was rejected, and suffered, and died, and rose again on the third day, in order to redeem us and become our…


We need a Savior. The human race, the world, needs her divine Savior. The one and only Christ, Jesus, founder and sanctifier of His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Everybody remembers the Pennsylvania Grand-Jury report of thirteen months ago. A couple weeks ago, the Missouri Attorney-General released his report on clergy sex abuse, the first of many more that will come this fall and winter.

The Missouri report makes a lot of thoughtful points. One of them is: Why did the current bishops let all the cases which had gone unresolved in the 80s and 90s sit around unaddressed? They had files full of information about those cases. Yet they did nothing. And now we find ourselves in this situation, with attorneys general and grand juries having to do it instead.

Everyone remembers the Theodore McCarrick case. A year ago, we all wondered: For God’s sake, what happened? How did this man manage to wind up running the Church in the US during the last sex-abuse scandal, while he himself was guilty?

We have no answers.

Some have accused the bishops and pope of being a homosexual mafia. Maybe. But the obvious fact is that they are a mafia of obtuse narcissists.

Over the course of the past forty years, most Catholic priests in the US have exercised our ministry in a basically steady manner. Yes, our parishes have had their ups and downs about “liberal/conservative” issues. But catastrophic pastoral mistakes, leading to moral and financial bankruptcies? Hasn’t happened very often, on the parish level in the US.

church_drawingNonetheless, the reputation of the Catholic clergy lies in an utter shambles. So catastrophically damaged that most people find it difficult to imagine that they should go seeking their Savior in a Catholic church.

We parish priests didn’t do this. Yes, a large number of us did wrong—but the numbers show: it’s not a larger proportion than among high-school teachers or gymnastics coaches. Just like most high-school teachers and most gymnastics coaches have shambled along all these years, trying to do right, without sexually abusing anyone–same goes for the overwhelming majority of Catholic parish priests.

The priests didn’t destroy the reputation of the Catholic Church. The bishops, governed by the pope, did, over the course of a generation. By making catastrophic pastoral mistakes, over and over again. Now we face widespread diocesan bankruptcies, and the total moral bankruptcy of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. That’s where we are now.

Congress wants to impeach the crooked president. May they have at it.

But the greater crisis involves mankind’s access to its Savior. The Church has no impeachment process for bishops or popes. But they are supposed to be Christian men who care about the salvation of souls. Why haven’t they resigned? I ask honestly. For well over a year, it has been obvious that they should allow themselves to be replaced by a random selection of parish priests, and step aside. So we can start over.

But we just keep going in circles. And Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, lies hidden behind the organizational catastrophe that the mitered Mafia of Obtuse Narcissists has wrought.

Second Temple and Our Temples

Ezra read the Law by Dore.jpg
Ezra Reads the Law to the People, by Dore

First reading at Holy Mass today moves the heart to exultation. Ezra acknowledged before God that the Israelites deserved their bitter exile from the Holy Land, because of their sins. But now God has, in His mercy, restored a remnant of the people to their homeland. They can build the second Temple. They can worship the one, true God without fear.

So the Old Covenant continued, after the Babylonian exile, marching toward its fulfillment. Then the Christ came, the son of a second-Temple Jew, the Blessed Virgin Mary. And, as we read in our gospel reading today, He sent His Apostles to found the Church in every city and town. The New Covenant changed the direction of holy worship. It no longer involves going up to Jerusalem. Rather, from Jerusalem the new and eternal covenant now extends out, to the ends of the earth.

As Ezra put it, “God has brightened our eyes” with a place to worship Him. We have our parish churches, sanctuaries in which we can celebrate the rite which the God-man instituted, when He walked the earth in the flesh.

Ezra did not take it for granted. Let’s not take it for granted, either. Let’s give the Lord our thanks, that we have a church, in spite of our own sins. And let’s honor those who have gone before us, whose sacrifices made it possible for us to celebrate Christ’s sacraments in peace.

Let’s follow in our forebears’ footsteps. Let’s try to prove ourselves worthy of their sacrifices, rejoicing in the Lord and thinking of those who will come after us.

Hustle Like the Dishonest Steward

old-booksMost gospel commentators agree: Of all the Lord Jesus’ parables, the Parable of the Dishonest Steward is the hardest to understand.

First-century Palestine had a corrupt farming economy. Absentee landlords. Exploitative sub-leasing arrangements. Dishonesty at every level.

The Lord addressed the Parable of the Dishonest Steward to His disciples. This is not a parable about converting from serious sin to a life of obedience to God’s commandments, like the parable of the Prodigal Son we read at Sunday Mass last week. The Parable of the Dishonest Steward is for people who are already trying to follow Christ to heaven.

In other words: dishonesty and double-dealing are bad, we know that. That’s not the point here. The thing we have to focus on is this: this steward thought quickly and acted practically. He honestly identified his own difficult situation. He took decisive action to prevent personal disaster.

So, with this parable, the good Lord asks us to think of the worldly people we know, the people bent on seeking pleasure or wealth or fame. Their goals are not worthy. And yet look at how energetically and how cleverly they pursue them! Look at their dexterity and skill!

Meanwhile, you so-called disciples of Mine say that you are committed to living for My glory, You say you seek heaven–something infinitely more worth seeking than what the children of the world are after. And yet you sit around slack-jawed and passive, like Homer Simpson staring at the tv.


How can we mope around clueless and idle, while Satan’s servants are filled with uncanny zeal? We should be a hundred times more creative, more resourceful, more realistic, more prudent in rendering faithful service to God than the children of this world are in chasing after the shadows of selfishness and greed.

The Lord added: I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Throughout His life and ministry, Christ certainly preached the message, “God is love.” No doubt about it. That God is love was Christ’s message. But He also preached another message, which went hand-in-hand with the “God is love” thing. We have to open our ears to this other dimension of Christ’s teaching, too. God is love. True. But guess what else? Life is short.

Don’t be a woolgathering, slack-jawed, passive disciple. Be a disciple who is more clever than the cleverest Las-Vegas hustler. Because everything we have in our hands now, everything about which we even can be clever now–it will all pass away. Everything we see or touch now will pass away. Life on earth will end. And only our acts of genuine love will endure. Only the pure love we share with God and our neighbor will endure. Everything else is just so much straw.

It’s not a sin to have a million dollars. The sin would be to think that a million dollars will do me any good after I die–which I will soon do. It’s not a sin to hold power and influence in this world. The sin would be to think that I have any power over death and judgment. Death and judgment will come when they will come, whether I like it or not.

Let’s use a Las-Vegas metaphor. God holds the cards. All the cards are His. He deals me a hand to play in this short life. And He tells me, “Son, play your hand to win friends for eternal life. Play your hand so that when the game is over–which it will be, very soon–the other players will say of you, ‘That’s a kind person. That’s a God-fearing person. That’s a person who listens before he speaks and gives with no thought of taking.’”

The steward in the parable thought of his future, and it put the present into perspective. The Lord asks us to do the same. Life is short. Pray hard. Love. Let go of everything else.

St. Januarius’ Blood

If you remember, last year we briefly discussed St. Januarius’ martyrdom during the persecution of the Roman emperor Diocletian. Naples—which means “New Town”—was actually an old city by then, in AD 305.

When they beheaded the bishop Januarius, a Christian woman preserved some of the blood in a vial. The church of Naples preserves that vial to this day, in the cathedral. The blood miraculously liquefies on the anniversary of Januarius’ martyrdom. Almost every year.

Not that we Christians would ever fall into superstitions about things like this… But it is true that in the years when St. Januarius’ blood failed to liquefy miraculously, some bad things happened.

Like the year when the blood failed to liquefy, and World War II started. Or three years later, when it failed to liquefy, and the Nazis occupied Italy. Or a few decades later, when the blood failed to liquefy, and Naples suffered an outbreak of cholera. Or a few years later, when the miracle didn’t happen, and there was an earthquake.

So I guess it shows that my heart partially remains in Italy: the first thing I did when I awoke this morning was to check the internet to make sure that St. Januarius blood liquefied in Naples, on schedule.

It did. We can all relax.

Seriously, though. We can do more than relax. We can lavish our love upon Jesus Christ, like the woman who anointed his feet with oil and wiped them with her hair.

St. Januarius imitated her by offering his very life for Christ. The annual miracle of Januarius’ blood is secondary. The main thing is that he shed it willingly for Jesus in the first place.

“Four Majors” of Venice

Hopefully everyone knows that Rome has four major basilicas.

A pilgrimage to the Apostolic See of St. Peter involves visiting these four churches: 1. St. Peter’s tomb at the Vatican. 2. St. Paul’s tomb, at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. 3. The cathedral of Rome, St. John Lateran. 4. St. Mary Major.

The pilgrim who visits all four obtains an indulgence. I have had the privilege of leading pilgrims to the four majors not once, but twice, in 2006 and 2008. Also, I have visited them as a private pilgrim on three other occasions.

Far be it from me to suggest that Venice stands as a kind of ‘second Rome.’ Yes, you don’t have to evade speeding motorini in Venice; you just listen to the burbling of vaporetto propellers in the canals–which many travelers probably prefer. But only Rome is Rome. Only the bishop of Rome is the pope. Only Rome has four official major basilicas.

I would like humbly to suggest, though, that Venice also has four major basilicas. For the pilgrim to visit.

Unofficial “majors.” Rome has the tomb of St. Peter, prince of the Apostles. But Venice has the tomb of St. Mark–briefest of the Evangelists, which has to count for something.

Granted: Most of the people who trundle themselves to Venice do so in order to ride in gondolas and take selfies. But some venture there as pilgrims, out of devotion to God and His saints.

So I propose these “four majors” of the Serene City.

I include these four because they stand on the major islands of the city, rather than on remote, secondary islands.

St. Mark’s and Santa Maria della Salute face each other across the opening of the Grand Canal, which flows like an S through the city, and divides it into two parts. The Frari and San Zenipolo stand on opposite sides, buried inland, deep in the neighborhoods.

1. St. Mark’s marks the center of Venice. All the canals, and all the alleyways, ultimately lead there.

per san marco sign venice

(No reasonable person tries to use a map in Venice. The alleys have names, but it’s practically impossible to know what those names are. You just follow the signs for either San Marco or the Rialto, and eventually you wind up somewhere good.)

Saint Mark's Venice

Believe it or not, I found the interior of the basilica that houses my baptismal patron’s relics rather underwhelming. Yes, the gold mosaics glitter all over the walls.

St. Mark's Venice interior
(most of these photos come from Wikipedia)

But the church seems considerably more impressive and mysterious on the outside than it does on the inside. Inside, to be honest, St. Mark’s seems a little dingy.

2. Santa Maria della Salute sits right on the water, across from San Marco. The early seventeen-century Venetians built this octagonal geometric masterpiece to thank our Lady for saving them from the plague.

Santa Maria della Salute on the water

Dome of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy.

3. Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari sits on the same side of the Grand Canal as Santa Maria della Salute.

Frari Venice exterior

Frari main altar Titian Assumption of the Virgin Mary
Titian’s world-famous Assumption hangs in the apse
Frari Venice choir stalls.jpg
the choir stalls stand in the middle of the nave, behind a stunning rood screen

Frari Venice rood screen

4. Santi Giovanni e Paolo, aka San Zenipolo (back on the San Marco side of Grand Canal)



the stained-glass windows in the apse fill the huge church with light

…Venice has other basilicas that a pilgrim could profitably cross the earth just to visit. Like San Giorgio Maggiore, which looms across the lagoon from Piazza San Marco, on an island all its own. Or San Pietro di Castello, the original cathedral of Venice, which I mentioned in an earlier post.

I never made it to Guidecca island to see the Redentore, or to Torcello island to see the really ancient cathedral (going back to before Venice became Venice), with it’s world-famous apse mosaic:

Torcello cathedral Venice apse mosaic Virgin Mother

Also, Venice has other, smaller churches aplenty, many of which deserve encomiums beyond my ability to produce.

Like Santa Maria dei Miracoli, which sits quietly by a small, largely un-used canal, unassumingly waiting to send you into a rapture upon entering…

Santa_Maria_Dei_Miracoli_interior Venice

…So, yes: Venice is not Rome. But it does indeed have some seriously major basilicas and churches. Worth going on pilgrimage to pray in.

I Timothy 3:16

Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion.

The mystery of godliness. They mystery of Christian faith.

God has become man. The Creator, manifested in the flesh. He suffered and died. Vindicated in the spirit: He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, body and soul. The angels behold and praise the eternal Word, made flesh in time. Heaven has Jesus at the center.

The Church of Christ proclaims Christ to all the nations. The Christian people have believed. We believe in God. We believe in God made man, the conqueror of human sin and death, the source of all glory, in Whom we share a glorious destiny.


They mystery of faith. We cannot explain the absolute unity of the three distinct divine Persons. We cannot explain the absolute unity of the divine and human natures of the Son of God. These mysteries, Trinity and Incarnation, surpass all human understanding. By them, God has revealed His own life and love; He has opened His Heart.

But we can explain this: Our faith rests in Jesus Christ. He’s real. He lives. He is our way to God; He is our God.

We hope in Him. In this world, we will have troubles. We will fight to apparent stalemates with evil. But He has overcome the world. He has brought the highest good out of what looked like defeat at Satan’s hands.

We behold the mystery of devotion–God crucified–and we recognize: This is how much we human beings have failed. Human affairs have gone awry. We have fallen into unfathomable wrongness.

But God does not fail. And He became a human being, to redeem all human beings from the failures of the human race. Compared to Jesus Christ, measured by His cross, we obviously stink. But He did not become one of us to stand against us; He became one of us to stand with us. So, yes, compared to Christ crucified, we have no love, we have no goodness; we stink. But with Christ crucified, we have love, we have goodness; we don’t stink.

The Church for our Mother

No one can have God for a Father without having the Church for a Mother. –St. Cyprian of Carthage (who suffered martyrdom 1,761 years and two days ago.)

On the occasion of my first-ever trip to Venice, Italy, I read T. Adolphus Trollope’s book about the year-long period when Pope Paul V forbad the celebration of the sacraments in the city and territories of the Venetian Republic. Over 400 years ago.

T Adolphus Trollope
T. Adolphus Trollope

In his book about the controversy, Trollope makes an assumption that many of our contemporaries also make. Namely, that Church authority inevitably operates in an ultimately malevolent manner. True religion must mean absolute personal freedom in relating to God.

Trollope makes Father Paul Sarpi the hero of his tale, since Sarpi stood up to the unreasonable pope. But Trollope faults Sarpi for missing the full significance of his own heroism, since Sarpi refused to join the Protestants. Instead, Sarpi lived out his days as a steady Catholic priest.

Even after the pope apparently tried to have Sarpi assassinated. The assassin ambushed Sarpi on a Venetian bridge and stabbed the priest in the ear. As he bled, Sarpi joked, “I recognize the style of the Roman Curia.” In the Latin he used, style was a play on words, since it meant both ‘style’ and ‘dagger.’ He survived the attack.

…We invoke St. Cyprian by name in the ancient canon of the Roman-rite Mass, which Father Sarpi prayed every day. It occurred to me yesterday while I was saying Mass: if we didn’t have the Church for a mother, we wouldn’t know how to pray.

Paolo Sarpi statue closeI don’t mean that in a theoretical sense. I mean: I literally would not know what to say while standing at the altar, to bring about the consecration. I know what to say because I read the words that Holy Mother Church prescribes, in the Missal.

Se we rely completely on Mother Church for the very words of the Mass. And the Mass expresses and exercises our Christian faith in a way that nothing else ever could. Plus, the Mass unites us and makes us Christ’s Church. We celebrate it out of simple obedience to Him. Do this in memory of Me.

You can’t have a Mass without some kind of ‘Church authority.’ A Mass needs a priest to preside, to stand at the altar in Christ’s place. The priest is automatically in charge, for good or ill. There’s no changing that.

So, yes: Priests, bishops, even popes abuse our authority sometimes, if not frequently. But absolute personal freedom in religion doesn’t work, either. It just leaves a soul isolated and clueless.

St. Cyprian was right: To have God as a Father, we need the Church for a Mother.