The poor widow. She attracted no attention. But the Lord Jesus did not consider her a non-person. He measured her not by her wealth, nor by the extent of her entourage, nor by her influence over the affairs of this world. He measured her by the only criterion that ultimately matters: by the sincerity of her love for God and neighbor. [Spanish]

Every human being is a person: someone who can love and do good and become a heroic saint. A Christian has to see all people this way, penetrating beyond the outer veil of worldly considerations and finding the truth that will last beyond the grave.

What makes abortion so scandalously evil? It treats the unborn child as a non-person. What makes racism and xenophobia so scandalously evil? The immigrant, the non-English-speaker, the desperate refugee: non-person. What’s so horribly scandalous about an angry menace going into a synagogue, or a church, or a mall, or a dancehall–and shooting indiscriminately? The shooter thinks of these people as non-persons.

Tonight we mark the eightieth anniversary of Kristallnacht in Germany, the beginning of the Holocaust. Why is the Holocaust such a shameful stain on the history of humanity? Because the Nazis regarded the Jews as non-persons.

Now, this next step will prove painful and difficult for us to get through. But we have to. What is the unending Catholic Clergy Sex-Abuse Scandal about? Isn’t it fundamentally about the systematic treatment of particular vulnerable human beings as non-persons?

Last February a brave man in Buffalo, New York, publicly denounced a priest who had abused him decades earlier, but who had never faced public justice. And just last week, we learned that a man in New York City had summoned the clarity and courage to accuse a bishop of the same.

In both these cases–as in so, so, so many others–the abusing priests treated these teenage boys as non-persons. Instead of respecting the child of God–with a conscience, with ambitions and dreams for the future; instead of seeing this person, the abusing clergyman saw only a prop for use in his own desperate, twisted escapade; he saw an implement for satisfying his own evil appetites.

Now, this kind of abuse would scandalize us plenty, in and of itself. But the abusers were not the only ones who treated these young men (and, in about 20% of the cases, young women) as non-persons. So did the entire authority structure of the Church. For decades.

Over the past nine months, many secret Church records have finally come to light. What do they show? –The records that will continue to come out, as investigations all over the country run their course: What will they show?

That the Church as an institution has not respected sex-abuse victims as persons. The abusers saw them only as props for pleasure. And way too often, the bishops saw them only as public nuisances and legal liabilities.

Now, in this fallen world of ours, we have to face the sad fact: people treat each other as non-persons all the time. We disrespect each other, use each other. That’s what sinning against your neighbor usually involves.

But when we sinners realize that we have done this, we’re sorry. We apologize. We try to heal the harm done. We heal disrespect, de-humanization, non-personhood. With respect, humane treatment, personal attention.

And as common as it may be for us sinners to treat each other as non-persons, that doesn’t change this fact: Whenever a Christian clergyman treats a fellow human being as a non-person, it does deep damage. It compromises the integrity of the one institution that Jesus Christ founded to propagate His Gospel. The Gospel of the personal dignity of every human being. The Gospel of Almighty God’s fatherly love.

The soul-crushing fact of the Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal is this: whistleblowers and Attorneys General have pulled back the curtain to reveal the “wizard.” And we see that the whole authority structure of the Church has treated sex-abuse victims as non-persons. Consistently, for decades, despite numerous promises to the contrary.

Bishops here and there have actually done heroically beautiful things to try to deal with this problem. But the hierarchy of the Church, considered as a whole, has shown no real interest in truly redressing the wrong done. Instead, over and over again, the same question has dominated the minds of bishops, Cardinals, popes: Quick! What rug can we sweep this under?

Now, that begs the question. What would real redress for sexual abuse involve? Tough question to answer. Except: There is always one expert who knows. Namely, the person who suffered the abuse.

What will make things right for you? What could restore your faith in God, and His Church? What can heal your soul? What will make it possible for you to turn a corner?

The person who has suffered has the one right answer. No ‘policy’ will ever solve this scandal, because every case involves specific human beings. The Scandal will end when the pope and the bishops ask the victims these questions personally–in each and every case–and actually listen to the answers.

PS. This: To the Bishops Before Their General Assembly


Servility and the Prodigal Son

Rembrandt Prodigal Son

Let’s see who really knows their Bible. The two little parables that we read from Luke 15 at today’s Holy Mass: they serve as a kind of introduction to a larger, super-famous parable…

Right! The Prodigal Son.

So, let’s consider the question: Must we submit to God? Like servants or slaves? Parable of the Prodigal Son answers the question, by showing us how the mercy of God works.

When the prodigal son decides to return to his father’s house, does the young man have ‘pure’ motives?

Hardly. He intends to return as a servant, because he knows that the servants in his father’s house have it better than he has it, at the pig farm. He returns to his father’s house out of self-interest. He’s hungry. He knows his father’s servants don’t go hungry.

But not petulant or proud self-interest. Practical and realistic self-interest. He prepares himself to make a humble and genuine apology to his father for the wrongs he has done him.

It’s not like the prodigal son didn’t love his father. Even in the throes of his sinful passions, he loved him all along. He always took the goodness and kindness of his father for granted, as a given. He always loved the humane man. Life at the pig farm provided him with a contrast to gracious way his father ran his own household.

So the son always loved. But even as he approached his father’s house, the son still did not fully understand his father’s enormous generosity and kindness. He loved it and admired it, but didn’t understand it.

So the father truly took the son by surprise. When the old man would not even pause to hear the son’s full apology. And when the father would not remotely countenance the idea of the son entering the house as a servant. My son, a servant in my own home? No way, Jose. My son wears a ring on his finger, sandals on his feet, and a beautiful robe. Slaughter the fatted calf!

God knows nothing of slavish submission. He knows only pure freedom.

But for us to get there—for us to learn what pure freedom even is—we must humbly submit first. We must follow God’s law out of pure obedience.

And out of self-interest. Because a life of blind obedience to God beats the alternative.

The Call of God

Alaska on the lower 48

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:30)

Anyone ever read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer? A true story. Sean Penn made a move out of it. [Spanish]

In 1990 a young northern-Virginia man wandered west, into the wilderness, trying to unravel the mystery of life. He had nothing, lived on what came his way, experienced the enchantment of the earth’s beauty—as if every day could be the last. He shared a little bit of the total freedom of St. Francis.

This young man also thoughtlessly left his family behind—his parents, his beloved sister; his friends. He underwent a complete separation from all the ties that bound him. In order to find…? The truth. God.

The story utterly captivates me because Chris McCandless and I have so much in common. Born around the same time; grew up within twenty miles of each other; got good grades and ran cross-country in high-school.

And both of us did our share of hitchhiking around America in the years 1988-1992. In those days, not a lot of people thumbed it, like they had back in the 50’s and 60’s. So it was a little risky. That said, I suppose it’s a lot harder to get rides now than it was thirty years ago.

God. He’s everywhere. All the time. Silently omnipotent. Inscrutably immediate. What else could possibly matter, besides God? He calls. How could any of us truly be himself or herself without trying to listen, to follow, to find Him? Without abandoning everything for Him?

Everything comes from Him, and everything tends toward Him. He fashioned everything and governs all. Some fatalistic pagans think the whole cosmos and our lives are just a meaningless game that God plays. But that’s not fair—to us. We have a serious purpose. Vocational discernment is no meaningless farce. Each of us exists for a reason, and each of us must find that reason—or risk losing our very selves.

Into the Wild movie

Anyone have a wall map of the US? With a separate map of Alaska tucked into one corner? (Hawaii in the other corner.) Anyone ever bothered to compare the scales of the continental US map versus the Alaska map? You know: one inch = a hundred miles, or two hundred.

Anyway, on my wall map, the scale for Alaska is double the scale for the lower forty-eight. Alaska ain’t no chicken-scratch Canadian backyard. Texas, California, and Montana, spread out next to each other, could all fit inside Alaska. Alaska is 9/10th the size of Mexico.

At age 22, Chris McCandless hitchhiked, worked odd jobs, got to know people from all different walks of life—then wound up in solitude in the northern reaches of the Denali Nature Preserve in the Alaska interior.

Certainly a lot of us can relate to some of that. The business of coming of age, exploring the world, figuring out who you are. At age 22, I, too hitch-hiked, worked odd jobs, got to know people from all walks of life. But I didn’t wind up in Alaska. I’ve never been to Alaska. I wound up in RCIA.

The crucifix was my Alaska. A crucifix doesn’t encompass the size of California, Texas, and Montana combined. Rather, it’s the size of a single human being. Same size as all of us.

Yet the crucifix unites heaven and earth, eternity and time. It unites solitude and solidarity. Alaska is a lonely place—seems like one, anyway. But the Christian Church? No, not lonely. The crucifix unites God and man. Jesus Christ has united all of this—the whole cosmos He made—in love.

Finding God’s will. You have to follow the rules. Pray, go to Mass, obey the Commandments. But then your calling comes as a pure gift. At 22, by the pure grace of God, I knew He was calling me to become a priest. I knew that without any doubt. Though to this day I still can’t say that I fully know what a priest even is.

I know a priest lives from Jesus and for Jesus. Like everyone. Every human being who has ever lived and died, or who will ever live and die—all live from Jesus and for Jesus.

Jesus had a vocation: to live from the Father and for the Father. Jesus of Nazareth consummated human life as religion. When I was 22 my friends told me I was ‘strangely religious.’ By the time I joined the Church and then went to the seminary, they gave up on me as a fanatic, a madman.

But what else is there? Jesus wasn’t “too religious.” He lived a pilgrim life in which every single breath communicated eternal love. He lived His whole life on earth as one big crucifix of union with the Father.

Chris McCandless didn’t make it. He neglected to consider that Alaskan rivers swell a lot in the summer, as some of the snowpack melts off. He couldn’t make it back the way he had come; he ran out of provisions. He breathed his last six months before his 25th birthday. May he rest in peace. There’s a little, kind-of shrine to him, in Healy, Alaska. A few hundred people visit every summer.

At the exact same time—when McCandless was running out of food and strength—I met with a Catholic priest for the first time in my life and started to learn the Catholic faith and get ready to enter the Church. To God be the glory.

All-Souls I Corinthians 15 Reflection

Students of the New Testament know that I Corinthians 15 contains fundamental Christian doctrine of decisive importance.

st-paulThe apostle of Christ bears witness to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. He died on the cross, and He rose on the third day. People saw Him after He rose. Quite a few people, whose testimony establishes this particular fact of history.

The more-elderly among us know that the twentieth century (and the two centuries before it) saw some strange games played with this doctrine. But we have gotten past that now, thank God. We know that there is nothing “purely spiritual,” or “theoretical,” or “purely mysterious,” about the fundamental message of the Church of Christ. The son of Mary, the carpenter, the rabbi—He rose from the dead.

Bearing witness to that fact is the beginning of Christianity. “Christianity” as a term means nothing at all without our testimony to that simple, wonderful fact. He died; He rose.

What St. Paul blithely goes on to assert in I Corinthians 15 is this: The original fact—Jesus’ resurrection—establishes another equally certain fact: We, too, will rise. Our life is not a mere seventy or eighty years, or whatever it may be. No. We will rise from our graves on the last day, unto an eternal bodily life.

We may rise to glory. We may rise to condemnation. Which of those two fates awaits each of us individually? That remains to be seen. But the fact that we will all rise in the body—that fact, St. Paul insists, is as indubitable as the fact of Christ’s resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection is a fact. The Incarnation is what makes it a mystery of faith. The mystery of the Incarnation opens before our minds like an inexhaustible light.

But in I Corinthians 15, St. Paul explains clearly: one certain aspect of the mystery of the Incarnation is this: Death came upon the human race not because God willed us to live only for a few decades. No, He made us to live with Him forever.

God becoming man means: The curse of death which began after the Fall of Man has ended. Not just for the one man, Jesus. But for the whole human race.

We Christians can, and we do, dare to propose to the whole world: This, friends, is what makes life make sense. There is no other way to make sense out of life. This is it. We will rise in the body like our Lord Jesus Christ. Unto an eternal life. An eternal life of either pure sorrow or pure joy.

Days of Death

jackolanternWe have three holidays to deal with, October 31-November 2. Halloween. All Saints. The Day of the Dead. All these days have to do with… Death. And with our relationship with people who have died. [Spanish]

Celebrating Halloween as a pagan involves dark and evil things. But celebrating Halloween as a Christian means costumes, candy, and fun. Because we Christians do not fear death. Our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered the darkness of winter. He has conquered the darkness of night. He has conquered the darkness of the grave. The Holy Name of Jesus makes the demons tremble.

And the names of His saints make the demons tremble, too. Because the saints also have conquered death. They reign in the eternal splendor of God.

So on Halloween and on November 1: we rejoice at the altar. Because the saints conquered death by being poor in spirit, like Jesus. By being meek and merciful. Like Jesus. The saints hungered and thirsted for righteousness. They mourned the sin of the world. They endured persecution. They sought always to make peace. Like Jesus.

United with Jesus in His divine holiness, the saints share in Jesus’ conquest of human death. And we ourselves have an intimate relationship with these heroes who have gone before us. We know that they can help us. Like good friends with supernatural resources.

Among all the dead people, many are saints. We know for a fact that some of them are: namely, the canonized ones. Like the holy Apostles, St. Joseph, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Therese. That said, most of the dead people aren’t saints yet, because… They’re in purgatory. God is purifying them of their sins.

That’s the difference between All Saints Day and All Souls Day. On All Saints Day, we rejoice with delight over the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters in faith have made it to heaven. We do not pray for the saints; we pray to them. They don’t need our prayers. We need theirs.

On All Souls Day, on the other hand, we celebrate an extra, annual funeral for all our beloved dead. We take an extra chance to pray for them and commend them to God. Our relatives and friends who have died; our ancestors. And we pray out of the kindness of our hearts for all the souls in purgatory who don’t have any living relatives left to pray for them.

The nights get longer, and that makes us remember that this pilgrim life will end. But we have nothing to fear. Rather, we keep these holy days, staying close to Jesus at the altar.

Shunning Romanità

Fr. Boniface Ramsey

Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God… So do not be associated with them… Live as children of light. (Ephesians 5:5-8)

Impurity and greed involve idolatry. The Catechism explains:

Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and serves a creature in place of God [2113]. In his original sin, man preferred himself to God. He chose himself over against God, against the requirements of being a creature of God… Man wanted to ‘be like God,’ but without God, before God, not in accordance with God. [358].

Do not be associated with such idolatry, insists St. Paul. In other words: shun sin; shun sinners; preserve the integrity of your witness to God.

Two points on this:

1. I could shun wrongly. That would involve idolatrously worshiping my own self-righteousness. So when it comes to shunning anything or anyone, let me always preserve romanità.

What does that mean? Romanità means having a universal, cosmopolitan outlook. Always give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Assume I have fellowship in Christ with everyone. Never interest myself in another person’s sins unless I absolutely have to.

2. Today Fr. Boniface Ramsey—the original Theodore McCarrick whistleblower—published a lucid summary of what he knew about McCarrick and when, and what he did about it.

One thing in particular that moved Fr. Ramsey to action: Seeing other bishops—men who knew that McCarrick had preyed on seminarians–seeing them graciously and fraternally interact with McCarrick at the altar at major Masses, like big funerals, etc—seeing them interact with McCarrick and not shun him.

How can you men of God and successors of the Apostles not shun this man, knowing what you know? That thought moved Fr. Ramsey to act, to write, to pester the hierarchy. May God reward him for it.

In sum, then: Without romanità, we risk becoming unkind and self-righteous. But too much romanità, and we become: Compromised in our integrity.

Lord, help us to know when not to shun. And when to shun.

What the Steward Stewards

St. Paul in Prison by Rembrandt

Today at Holy Mass the gospel reading leaves a question on the table. And the first reading conveniently answers it.

In the gospel we hear a parable that applies to clergymen–and to everyone involved in spreading the faith. In this parable, “the faithful and prudent steward” distributes the “food allowance.”

But this begs the question. Lord, what “food allowance” do you mean, exactly? St. Paul provides an answer in the first reading.

What does the steward steward? He stewards the fulfillment of God’s plan, which is for us to live eternally in His love. The steward “brings to light what lay hidden for ages past in God Who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the Church.”

God is God, of course. All things unfold according to His plan. Christ has revealed that everything exists for the sake of our salvation and eternal life, which God planned before He created the cosmos.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains this verse of Ephesians like this:

It is like the case of a house. The concept of the house is in the mind of the architect. As long as it remains in his mind, it can be known to no one. However, once the house is constructed, anyone can learn from the building what was previously concealed in the architect’s mind.

Forty Years Ago Today

Pope John Paul II: His Remarkable Journey

Pope St. John Paul II began his ministry as the pope. Over the course of the ensuing quarter century, many of us came to revere John Paul II as a hero and a spiritual father.

During the 1980’s, when I was in high-school, some of us held on to the pope for dear life. It seemed like he alone, on the whole face of the earth, offered a brave witness to sexual sanity, to chastity–while everyone else was awash in condoms and broken marriages.

Many of us spent the 90’s reading John Paul II’s writings. He consumed himself with teaching the faith inherited from the Apostles. He traveled the world and used the power of his reverberating voice and magnetic charm to evangelize.

Technocrats and feminists hated his intransigence on artificial contraception, abortion, divorce, and the men-only ministerial priesthood. Political and aesthetic conservatives hated his rejection of the capitalist profit motive and his embrace of Vatican II.

But in the middle, we vast multitudes of spiritual children listened eagerly to the man we loved as a trustworthy father. A lot of us wept more bitterly on the day that he died than we had since we were babies. Mainly because we knew we wouldn’t hear the sound of his voice on earth again.

Looking back now with 20/20 hindsight, we can wish that JP II had applied himself more to the reform of the Roman Curia. We can wish that he had understood the sex-abuse crisis better–understood it more as a practical matter, rather than as a purely spiritual one.

st john paul ii

And we can recognize: The way Popes Paul VI and John Paul II defined the Roman papacy after Vatican II left a huge gap in authority. That gap has now brought the Church to the point of paralysis.

Bishops need a disciplinarian, too—just like priests, seminarians, doctors, nurses, accountants, lawyers, bricklayers, school children–everybody needs a disciplinarian. But the world’s Catholic bishops don’t have one. The whole post-Vatican II system of Church governance assumes that bishops will do right. But, as we now know all too well, often they do not.

So St. John Paul II had human faults, blind spots—which we did not want to see, as we listened to him heroically urge us on to holiness.

But let’s go back to October 22, 1978, to what he said in his homily that day. His words resonate today with even more force than they had then.

Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us, to gaze on the Lord and to immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself…

The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk….

Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ… Christ knows ‘that which is in man.’ He alone knows it.

…Man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart… He is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.

You Do Not Know What You’re Asking

St James Greater El Greco
El Greco St. James

You do not know what you are asking. (Mark 10:38) [Spanish]

James and John requested thrones adjacent to Christ’s at the coming of the Kingdom. Jesus replied: You do not know what you are asking.

Did not know what they were asking. Probably the greatest understatement ever. After all, as we confess in our Creed, Christ, risen from the dead, sits at the right hand of the Father. To sit at Christ’s left, then, would mean taking the place of the heavenly Father Himself.

But the Lord did not despise His friends’ request. He recognized their love for Him, the love that moved them to want to sit close. If it’s wrong to want to be close to Christ for eternity, then we’re all in big trouble.

No, the Lord did not despise James and John for their ill-informed request. Nor did Jesus pedantically point out that He had put St. Peter in charge, not them.

Actually, in responding to James and John, Jesus did not get into the matter of hierarchy at all. Rather, He said: Yes, you will share my baptism and drink my chalice.

The Church has her hierarchy, just as the world has hers. We all have our particular lot in life. Envying someone else’s position never really did anyone any good. But, by the same token, ambition for success is hardly a sin in and of itself. Go for the Silver! Or: Go for the Bronze! Not good mottos. God made us for a reason, and we fulfill His plan by striving to fulfill all our potential. Ambition gets a lot of people out of bed in the morning.

el greco st john evangelist
El Greco St. John

But the Lord has provided a great leveler, when it comes to success in this world. Almighty God drives a kind of existential bulldozer, which always rolls towards us, drawing closer with every passing day. Someday this great leveling bulldozer will knock down all the hierarchies that this world has set up. Every “Hall of Fame” will lie in ruins, forgotten.

Right now, the angels see the heavenly hierarchy; they see the holiness of people’s souls. Someday the hierarchy of holiness will be the only pecking order left. Because the great bulldozer will have plowed us all into the grave.

One of Christ’s shortest parables: A man grew rich and planned to expand his barns to hold all his vast treasure. That night, he died. And the Lord had only two words for the smug, successful entrepreneur, who had been on top of the world: “You fool.”

Now, even after Jesus told James and John that they would share His baptism and drink His chalice, the brothers still did not grasp what the Teacher meant. After all, the Jewish rituals of that period involved a lot of ‘baptisms’–ritual cleansings prior to religious observances. And the Passover Seder involved the drinking of multiple ceremonial chalices.

passover seder plateJames and John did not grasp that Christ’s “Baptism” was not a ritual ablution. The Lord meant His entire Paschal Mystery. Christ’s ‘chalice’ was the shedding of His Blood, during His bitter Passion and death.

To try to understand what Jesus meant when He said that James and John would indeed share His baptism and His chalice, we ourselves have to grasp that the word “Passover” does not fundamentally mean a ritual meal involving unleavened bread. No. The word “Passover” means: Christ passing over from mortal life to immortal glory. The true Passover is made through the door of death. None of our self-importance in this world ever fits through that door.

“You do not know what you are asking.” Quite the understatement, because: We do not know the glory that God has prepared for us. We do not know the joy and peace that even the lowest place in heaven affords. We do not know what resting for good really means–what it means to cease from striving after our ambitions; to cease from struggling and competing. We do not know what it means simply to flower fully forever. Heaven lies beyond our knowledge.

But not completely. Because Jesus has revealed heaven to us. We cannot see heaven from the inside, so to speak, but we can see it from the outside. Christ’s Sacred Heart is full of heaven. In Christ, we see what heaven does to the human soul. The Lord’s Jesus’ heavenly interior life made Him mild, humble, ready to serve. It made Him love others. It moved Him to give His life for the ones He loves.

It’s not that Christ didn’t fight during His pilgrim life; it’s not that He had no ambition. To the contrary, at crucial moments in His journey, we see His stern determination. He just never fought for low stakes. He never fought for the silly trophies of this world.

No. Christ’s ambition always was and always will be: life, eternal life. He fought not for earthly glory, but for the everlasting glory of God. Let’s strive for a share in that glory.

We can leave it up to our heavenly Father where exactly we ought to sit.

Missionary Martyrs

Fr. Jayme martyred
The Death of Father Luis Jayme at Mission San Diego, November 4, 1775

In Christ you were chosen to exist for the praise of God’s glory…You have heard the word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation. (see Ephesians 1:11-14)

Missionaries evangelize. They proclaim the Gospel and initiate pagans into the life of Christ and His Church. Missionaries give up everything and risk everything. They make friends with people who speak another language, with unfamiliar customs. All in order to share the heavenly life of Jesus.

Missionaries often get themselves killed. In New York and Ontario, the French Jesuit martyrs we commemorate at Holy Mass today met death at the hands of Hurons and Iroquois.

In San Diego, California, the Kumeyaay killed a Franciscan named Luis Jayme during a night raid of the mission. In 1597 the Guale killed five Franciscans near Savannah, Georgia. Here in Virginia, eight Jesuits died as martyrs in 1571.

One thing many of these martyrs have in common is this: They loved the native Americans and learned their languages and customs, but they would not compromise with polygamy. As we know from reading the holy gospels, the Son of God preached a Gospel involving monogamous marriage for life. The early missionaries of these lands practiced ‘enculturation’ like nobody’s business. But the Gospel always requires some change in people’s lives. Like renouncing polygamy.

Anyway: While the martyrs of what is now the USA shed their blood here, the life of the Church had all kinds of issues in Europe. Don’t know if they had federal grand jury investigations in those days. But plenty of secular authorities clashed with corrupt bishops and priests.

Meanwhile, the missionaries here bore their pure and loving witness to the urgency of conversion to Christ. Mankind needs the Gospel, and Jesus, and His Church. Internal ecclesiastical problems don’t make that need less clear; they make it all the more clear.