Say Some Prayers, Please

Crystal City immigration court
Immigration Court building, Crystal City, Virginia

Tomorrow will find your unworthy servant in a courtroom, along with a score of my beloved people.

One of them faces possible deportation. But tomorrow’s hearing could put him on a path to full American citizenship.

The rest of us will testify, one after another. We will explain a. our dear friend’s exemplary character, and b. the extreme hardship that his family will face if the government separates them.

Please pray for a good outcome! Thank you!

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The McCarrick Report

Just put a letter to Archbishop Gregory into the mail…

St Matthews Cathedral

Your Excellency,

In 2001, when Theodore McCarrick took possession of the Archdiocese of Washington, he did so as a criminal fleeing justice. He had sexually abused seminarians and at least one minor.

By late 2004, Donald Wuerl and Joseph Ratzinger, among others, knew beyond any reasonable doubt that the sitting Archbishop of Washington was a criminal. No written law explicitly condemned what they knew McCarrick had done to some of his seminarians. But every honest churchman would have recognized the criminal acts. As Pope John Paul II so famously put it, in 2002: “There is no place in the priesthood for those who would harm the young.”

The Apostolic See had a clear duty: put McCarrick on trial. Didn’t happen.

By this time of year in 2006, McCarrick had turned seventy-five, Ratzinger had become Pope Benedict, and the nuncio called Donald Wuerl. Everyone involved entered into a dishonest pact.

Just a few years earlier, Wuerl had participated in the common promise of the American bishops never again to cover-up clerical sexual abuse. Pope Benedict had been a party to that promise as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But in the case of Theodore McCarrick, they broke their recent promise. Pope Benedict, Pope Francis, and Donald Wuerl proceeded to cover-up the crimes of Theodore McCarrick for the ensuing twelve years. They ended the cover-up only when forced to do so, by circumstances beyond their control.

If Donald Wuerl were an honest man, he would have told Pope Benedict back in the spring of 2006: I will not accept the Archdiocese of Washington as my pastoral charge until we make good on our promise and deliver public justice against McCarrick. Had that happened, Wuerl could have entered St. Matthew’s cathedral without dishonesty. As it was, he sat on the throne in Washington with a lie under the cushion for twelve years, complicit in that lie with two popes.

Sir: Do not enter St. Matthew’s with this same lie burdening you. Insist that the pope acknowledge these known facts. Recognize that the Apostolic See has grievously wronged the faithful of Washington. From at least 2004 until 2018, Rome failed to exercise due vigilance over Theodore McCarrick. Pope Francis must openly acknowledge this, and Donald Wuerl must openly acknowledge his complicity in it. Neither of these men deserve anyone’s trust until they publicly acknowledge these known facts.

Until these admissions take place, do not enter St. Matthew’s in the company of Donald Wuerl, and do not accept the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis. I know you didn’t ask for my advice. But I advise you as a brother, anyway.

Christ always offers us a fresh start. But we have to live in the truth. The truth: McCarrick entered St. Matthew’s a dishonest criminal. Donald Wuerl entered a liar. Two popes lived in this lie for years.

Don’t walk in as another liar.

 

Yours in Christ, Father Mark White

Homily to Start Passiontide

Ten Commandments Charlton Heston Red Sea

We have reached the holiest time of year, when we study the death of Jesus Christ. [Spanish]

For the ancient Israelites, these opening weeks of spring meant focusing on the death of the Passover Lamb, whose blood marked the homes of the chosen ones. The people marched across the bed of the Red Sea, to freedom. Then the water swallowed up their enemies, to the glory of God.

That was the annual rite in the days of the Old Covenant. But at Holy Mass on Sunday we hear the prophet exhort us, in the name of God: Remember not these old exploits of mine. Don’t dwell on what I did for your ancient fathers. After all, I will do great things for you! I make a way through the desert for you to walk, and the very jackals and ostriches will chant like a choir as you pass down the highway to the Promised Land.

This highway opens before us. It invites us, beckons us. With beautifully obscure clarity. With shimmering darkness. With enticing terror. Because the highway to heaven is the cruel and agonizing death of Christ.

adam-eveWe read at Holy Mass on Sunday: They came to test Him, so that they could have some charge to bring against Him.

From the beginning, our Creator asked only for obedience. ‘See! I set you in a garden of happiness. Just acknowledge reality, bow before your Father Who made you, and I will provide for you.’

But we replied, ‘No, thank You! We’ll try our own luck with our own knowledge and pride. Thanks anyway.’

We began to sin at the beginning, we children who God made for Himself. But the true enormity of our original sin—the extent of its utterly foolish malice—only became evident when the Creator came to be with us, one of us, sharing in our human weakness.

The scribes and Pharisees looked, and trawled, and went fishing for something against Him. “Won’t you condemn the adulteress, rabbi?”

“Will you?”

They quailed at Christ’s serene, God-like silence. They knew that they, too, had broken faith.They slunk away.

But then the pride and malice of our original sin truly showed itself. Those who would trap the Christ slunk away, but not for good. Our loving Creator loved us, mercifully loved us. But we did not love Him. We did not see that He would, in fact, give us all good things, and heaven besides.

No, in return for His love, we crucified Him.

You figure this constitutes a pretty overwhelming condemnation of the human race: Guilty of killing our Maker. He walked among us as an innocent lamb, pouring out at every turn the infinite love with which He began the whole business of our existence in the first place. And we killed Him for it.

So we stand guilty not just of saying, ‘No, thanks,’ to the peaceful garden He offered us in the beginning, if only we would acknowledge Him—but guilty, also, of spitting in His face, pummeling His ribcage with blows, lacerating His flesh, and reviling Him unto death.

What is human sin? This.

Grunewald the Small Crucifixion

How bad sinners are we, really? Bad enough to scourge our Creator, crown His beautiful head with thorns, nail His hands and feet to wooden beams, and leave Him to die in bitter agony, with crows circling.

We stand condemned—condemned by these cold, hard facts of history. We crucified God.

Here we are, Lord, like the woman caught in the act of adultery. Our love for You has not been faithful, like Yours has been for us. The Law of Moses prescribes stoning. We deserve to die. What do You say?

We hear Him say it at Sunday’s Mass. ‘I do not condemn you.’

St. Paul puts it so well for us (in Sunday’s second reading):

Everything else is so much rubbish. I don’t care about it at all. If only I can be found in Christ. He is my justice, my righteousness, my holiness.  He is my wisdom. I gladly embrace my share in the mystery of His death. I gladly give myself over completely to the One Who died for me.

Let me just believe in Jesus, and press on down the holy highway. I hope, with the hope of a child, that in the end I will share His glorious resurrection.

May our church observances of the coming weeks draw us closer together as a people. And closer to Christ, the Savior of sinners.

The New Donald Wuerl

mccarrick and wilton gregory

Archbishop of Atlanta to be transferred to: Archbishop of Washington.

Seems like a demotion. Fewer Catholics in Washington than in Atlanta. Fewer parishes. The Metropolitan of Atlanta exercises vigilance over three entire states–Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; the Metropolitan of Washington, D.C., presides over part of one state, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But for whatever reason, the ecclesiastical mafia will view Archbishop Wilton Gregory’s transfer as a promotion. Meanwhile, blind Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, or those who listen only to the radio or to podcasts, will not notice any change, from the old Archbishop to the new one.

I re-read Archbishop Gregory’s statement regarding Theodore McCarrick, from last August. The incredible thing: Nothing has changed since then. Seven long months have passed. McCarrick still lives the same life, in the same place. If we know more about the hidden evils of our bishops now than we did then, no one currently serving in the hierarchy did anything to enlighten us.

But, wait, Father! The pope defrocked McCarrick!

Okay. But: Why? According to what evidence, and according to what legal criteria? [crickets]

Meanwhile, in Australia, the court of the State of Victoria also convicted a Cardinal of sexual abuse. Why? According to what evidence? According to what legal criteria? The judge spelled it all out, in detail, for the public to understand.

Some have argued that George Cardinal Pell never abused anyone. Perhaps he did not. He has appealed the ruling against him.

But the legal procedure according to which George Pell was found guilty and sentenced–there is no question of that procedure’s fundamental soundness. We know what happened. The jury believed the accuser and convicted Pell according to clear laws.

What happened in the Vatican trial of Theodore McCarrick? What laws? What facts? We have no earthly idea.

pope francis head rub

…Yet a third Cardinal was convicted in court. In a civil court in Lyon, France. Not for criminal abuse, but for failing to report criminal abuse, in accordance with the law.

Perhaps one reason why Cardinal Barbarin did not report the abuse: The Cardinal Prefect in Rome (the same one who presided over McCarrick’s Vatican trial) had written to Barbarin, telling him to avoid scandal. The court had subpoena’d the Vatican Cardinal who wrote the letter. The Vatican refused to deliver the subpoena. Barbarin took the fall.

shakespearebetterAfter his conviction, Cardinal Barbarin traveled to Rome to offer his resignation–like a man of some honor might do, under the circumstances. The Pope refused to accept it, citing “the presumption of innocence.” (The Cardinal had already been found guilty.)

…I had a chance conversation with a Mexican friend the other day and learned this: Six years and four months ago, in a diocese northeast of Mexico City, the civil court found a priest guilty of pederasty. They put him in jail. The bishop had tried to cover the whole thing up; Pope Francis promoted the bishop to a larger diocese anyway. The priest will soon finish his jail term, and he will receive a new pastoral assignment…

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, we find a commentary on the relative speeds of youth and old age. Regarding her dear, old nurse, Juliet says:

Had she affections and warm youthful blood,
She would be as swift in motion as a ball…
But old folks, many feign as they were dead;
Unwieldy, slow, heavy and pale as lead. (Act II, scene 5)

The irony is: Pope Francis has just written a long letter to “young people.” He addresses the sex-abuse scandal. He writes:

The irresponsibility and lack of transparency with which so many cases have been handled have to be challenged. (para. 98)

Indeed, Your Holiness. They must be.

 

The Law of Christian Faith

Lord Jesus said to the royal official in Galilee (with an ailing child), “Your son will live.” Reminds us of when the Lord said to Martha of Bethany, “Your brother will rise.”

Which brother? Correct: Lazarus.

Did Martha believe Christ, that her brother Lazarus would rise from the dead? Yes. She said to Jesus, ‘I believe that You are the Messiah. I believe You when You say, I am the resurrection and the life.’

Did Lazarus rise? Yes. Did the royal official’s son live? Yes. Thus the royal official and his whole household came to believe.

El Greco Christ blessing croppedBelieve what? In God, and in the One Whom God has sent. At the Last Supper, Jesus told His Apostles, “You have faith in God. Have faith also in Me.”

We will go to the mat for this. The Incarnation. Jesus is God. As Pope Francis put it, in his first encyclical:

Christian faith is faith in the incarnation of the Word. (Lumen Fidei 18)

The Christian faith is a gift from heaven that, as St. Paul taught us, liberates us from the ancient law. But the Christian faith also has a “law” within it, so to speak.

Namely, that we must hold fast to our faith in the Incarnation; that we must hold fast to the entire mystery of Christ—no matter what. Even if you or I face the choice between betraying Christ and dying for Christ.

A Christian would never seek martyrdom. But every Christian must be prepared for martyrdom, and must welcome martyrdom, if it comes. That is the law of Christian faith.

We submit ourselves to that law! Christ reigns over us as our immortal, heavenly King. All of us have to die sooner or later anyway. To Jesus Christ be the glory, whether we prosper or suffer; whether we succeed or fail; whether we live or die.

The Prodigal Son

Bartolome Murillo Hijo Prodigo
“La despedida del hijo pródigo” by Bartolome Murillo

The son asked for his inheritance, and the father let him go. Maybe the young man sought adventure. He wanted to see, to experience, to know about the world.

If going off for an adventure were a sin in and of itself, then the father would not have allowed it. But he gave his son the money. ‘You are a free man, my son. Go as you wish. The world is yours.’

This father, perhaps, knows something of the world himself. He knows that the world is dangerous. And hard to navigate all by yourself.  But also beautiful and full of enchanting mysteries.

How can we not like the adventuresome son? He starts out full of himself, to be sure. He’s insensitive to the feelings of his father and brother.  He is tragically unrealistic about himself. But he has courage. He has energy. This world has something to offer, if only we go looking for it!  Let’s have some fun!

Likable, yes. But what’s missing? Self-respect. The one thing he doesn’t see is that the most wonderful place in the wonderful world is his own home.

Let’s imagine the prodigal son in the first tavern he comes to, along the road. Someone there says to him, ‘Hey, you’re a barrel of laughs, buddy.  But aren’t you…aren’t you Lord Such-a-one’s son? The most noble, gracious, and beneficent man in this country—isn’t he your father? Don’t you and your brother stand to inherit the great estate?

‘Gosh, here you are carousing with us. But couldn’t you have champagne and music right there at home? I remember reading in the paper that you were supposed to marry Lady So-and-so—beautiful, virtuous, mysterious, and demure.

‘Isn’t that who you are, buddy?’

Murillo Prodigal Son Among Cortesans
Murillo’s “La disipación del hijo pródigo”

So the son crept out of that tavern and proceeded to travel farther away, to find a place where no one would know his family.

Our rebellion: The heavenly Father built this house for us, full of light—this world. We get to share the house with people who really are not so altogether annoying–each other. This house has order and peace, because our heavenly Father governs it. He gives us what we need.

Above all, He gives us a certain hope: Everything that we want, the desire that grips us in a way we can’t even understand: We will have it. We will be satisfied.  The real adventure of this life starts with faith. We salute God’s sun every morning. We do our daily work, say our prayers, and love our neighbors—we do this, in this pilgrim life, and then all will be wonderfully well, forever, in the life to come.

We can see where the son got his prodigality. The father himself gives with prodigal generosity–lavishly, extravagantly.

But somewhere deep in the darkest basement of our souls, a sinister voice whispers: ‘You don’t deserve it.  It’s too good for you. You aren’t really a prince of this realm. Take a walk, and find your own kind. In the gutter.’

In the end, the adventuresome son’s money ran out. In the sty with the unclean beasts, he thought to himself: ‘What kind of adventure is this?’ The world runs its course, and its pleasures do not satisfy.

But the lovable young man still had one thing left: himself. He paused. He stopped. He found a moment of silence and truth. And he saw into the center of himself, where he finally found the true basis of his self-respect: a compass pointing to his father.

goodshepherdThe compass had always been there; the son just hadn’t looked at it. He had ruined himself by seeking pleasures that were beneath him. But now he took notice of the inner compass, and he remembered that his home stood waiting for him. He could still find shelter under his father’s beautiful roof. And he finally understood that his own home really was the most wonderful place in the world.

Here’s a question. Where is the image of Christ in the Parable of the Prodigal Son?  Aren’t the parables supposed to include an image of Christ?  After all, we see Christ clearly enough in the Parable of the Lost Sheep, which can also be found in the 15th chapter of the gospel of Luke.  In the parable of the Lost Sheep, Christ is the shepherd.

But where is Christ in the Parable of the Prodigal Son?

Christ crucified actually lights up the parable of the Prodigal Son so that we can see what’s there. We see the lordly father, so prodigally generous that he won’t even listen to his son’s entire confession of sin. Instead, he just starts the music and pours champagne, because he has his son back home again.

How do we know that this unfathomably gracious and loving father is our Father? How is the face of the infinitely merciful heavenly Father revealed? One way: Christ crucified. Christ crucified is the light that shows us that the prodigal son’s father is our Father.

New Commandment of Charity

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of Jesus

At Holy Mass today, we read:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)

Some points on this, from the Catechism

1. Charity = love God above all things, and love my neighbor as myself, for the love of God.

2. We learn what charity is from Jesus. He showed the divine love by loving His own chosen ones to the end. “Love one another as I have loved you.”

3. We must love our enemies.

4. “Charity is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

5. Charity makes a Christian a child of God. We obey Him not out of fear, or for the sake of some short-term gain, but because we love Him as our Father.

6. Divine love makes us joyful, peaceful, and merciful. Also generous and friendly. And willing to correct others.

Disproving the Existence of God?

On Annunciation Day, the New York Times published an attempted philosophical demonstration that our idea of God is incoherent.

God cannot be all-powerful, because He cannot create an unliftable stone. If He can lift it, it’s not unliftable. And if He can’t lift it, He’s not omnipotent.

Also: God can’t be all-pure and all-knowing, because He would know what we know. And we know sins–like lust, envy, or even cold-blooded malice. Being human means knowing sin. If God is morally perfect, then He doesn’t know about being human.

egg…Challenge accepted, sir.

The Stone

God has certainly created plenty of stones that no human being can lift–even with the help of a backhoe or crane. But things like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can move some of those “unliftable stones.” And, according to plate tectonics, the earth has long-term forces within her that produce mountains out of mole hills–by moving “unliftable” stones.

So maybe we have to say that the only “stone” that no force on earth can lift is: the Earth itself.

But the Earth does move, as we deduce from astronomical observations. (Plus the few people who have visited outer space have seen this with their own eyes.) A force exists which moves even our entire planet.

So maybe the sun is “the unliftable stone?” Well, no. Apparently, the solar system moves; galaxies move.

So the only “unliftable stone” is: the entire universe.

But hold on. Yes, the universe does not have another location to which it can be moved, so it cannot be moved from place to place. But it has “moved” in another way. Its existence is not absolute. It could not exist. Therefore, something–some force–moves the universe to exist, as opposed to not existing.

That is God. The only “unliftable stone” is: God Himself.

Therefore, the argument “God cannot be all-powerful, because He cannot create an unliftable stone” actually means “God cannot be all powerful, because He cannot create another all-powerful God.”

But this is no argument against God’s omnipotence. Create means: produce a creature. Creatures and the Creator are not commensurate things; God is infinite, while creatures are finite. Among finite things, there can be multiple instances of the same type of being. You can have one, two, or a dozen eggs. But there cannot be multiple instances of infinity; that makes no sense. God not being able to double His own infinite power doesn’t make Him anything less than infinitely powerful. The unity and indivisibility of the infinite God pertains to His omnipotence.

God’s “Morality”

“One cannot know lust and envy unless one has experienced them,” writes the philosopher.

Ok. But even we limited human beings regularly experience lust, envy, and other sins, without committing those sins. We can know lust, envy, or malice by falling victim to acts of lust, envy, or malice by someone else. Or we can experience temptations to lust, envy, malice–but not actually sin. We can resist such temptations.

So even limited, human experience shows that the argument against divine omniscience–on the ground that moral purity means ignorance of sin–doesn’t hold water.

But there’s an even deeper problem with this argument against God’s omniscience. It presumes that God’s “moral” perfection–his sinlessness–involves moral choices like the moral choices we make. That He would achieve moral purity by avoiding sin–like we try to do.

We make moral choices–either for good, or against the good–because we finite creatures grow over time (hopefully towards a good goal.) But God does not grow; He does not change. His unchanging, pure goodness is the good goal of the human moral life.

God knows that we defect from Him, and how we do, and why we do; He knows our sins much better than we know them ourselves. But that does not make Him guilty of them.

 

 

No Seders? But We Must.

passover seder plate

This morning I read something by a rabbi, admonishing Christians not to do Passover Seders during Holy Week. It’s not our ceremony to do. (I came to the same conclusion myself a couple decades ago.)

But… We cannot altogether abide by this. Holy Mass is, after all, a Passover seder. Every Holy Thursday, to commemorate the Last Supper, we solemnly read a part of the Torah instructions which command the annual celebration of the Passover and the Seder.

Inquirers into Catholicism often ask a very good and honest question: How do you explain the transition from the “Old Law” or “Old Alliance” to the New Covenant? How do you know which Old-Testament laws remain in effect, and which do not?

mosesA good question, since at Holy Mass today we hear Lord Jesus declare that He did not come to abolish the Law. But we also will read, in a few weeks’ time, the account of the Apostles determining that you need not undergo circumcision to enter Christ’s Church.

The most basic answer to the transition question is: The moral law expressed in the Ten Commandments remains in effect, since it is not just another written law, for one particular nation. Rather, the laws of the Decalogue pertain to human nature itself. On the other hand, the ancient Israelite ceremonial laws no longer bind us.

Ok. A decent answer. But not complete.

The Old Law requires the annual commemoration of Israel’s liberation from slavery, the Passover. Jews fulfill that fundamental law by ridding the house of leaven and conducting a Seder.

But that same “ceremonial” law binds us Christians, too. Just as much as “I am the Lord your God” binds us, and “Thou shalt not kill.” We must keep Holy Week and Easter. Holy Week and Easter do not constitute some kind of optional ceremonial vestige of ancient Israelite religion.

It was a Passover: Jesus of Nazareth came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. And it was His Passover—His suffering, His death, His resurrection from the dead.

This holiest feast will soon be upon us, and we must keep it. Not by pulling out haggadahs and fixing matzoh sandwiches with horseradish and charoset. But by celebrating the Church’s Sacred Liturgy with solemn attention.

Being Catholic on Annunciation Day, 2019

annunciation-merode

This is the will of God: Your sanctification. (I Thessalonians 4:3)

God wills our holiness. Our salvation. Our union with Him.

In the unfolding of this unimaginably kind divine will, God became man in the womb of the Virgin. She freely submitted to God’s will, to become God’s human mother. Her free submission echoed the free submission of the eternal Son, Who, becoming man, declared to His Father: ‘Behold, I come to the earth to do Your will.’ He said it again thirty-three years later. ‘Father, let this chalice of suffering pass from me! But not my will, but yours, be done.’

We had a parish-cluster discussion yesterday afternoon about Pope Francis’ ministry. We had various opinions among ourselves on a number of subjects. But we all agreed about the challenge we face:

One the one hand, we know that our membership in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church includes loyalty to St. Peter’s successor. There is no other sure way to belong to Christ’s Church, the family of faith founded on God’s incarnation in the Blessed Mother’s womb.

But on the other hand: From outside the Church, people see this very institutional loyalty of ours as morally unsound. How can you continue to associate yourselves with such a corrupt institution?

We cannot dismiss this question as anti-Catholic bigotry. To the contrary, human decency and genuine honesty motivate the question. Our institutional loyalty to the Church looks dishonest and indecent to non-Catholics, and we have no solid argument to offer them in rebuttal. Our only arguments involve appeals to realities of faith, which we cannot reasonably expect non-Catholics to accept.

We have to live here. We have to face this challenge. We will not blindly deny that the house is on fire, and that no competent firemen have yet arrived at the scene–at least as far as we can tell.

But we also will not abandon our faith in the unfathomably kind divine will, which Mary fulfilled on this holy day. And which Jesus fulfilled. And which is, simply: Our salvation.