In Love with a Tattered Scarlet Rag

Trump Little Sisters Cardinal Wuerl White House religious freedom
far left

Donald Cardinal Wuerl loves. He loves his scarlet robe.

Not because of the Precious Blood of Christ, and the blood of Christ’s martyrs–which the robe fundamentally represents. Rather, Cardinal Wuerl loves the prestige. And the deference that the robe seems to demand from the sycophants who surround him.

But a painful fact gnaws at the Cardinal’s heart. Namely this: A little New-York leprechaun wore the robe before him. And that fork-tongued bastard sullied the robe. He covered it with dirt.

Theodore McCarrick wore the scarlet robe of the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, D.C. He, too, gloried in the prestige and the deference. He even stood in front of all the news cameras in 2002, to trumpet the ‘great achievement’ of the Dallas Charter.

And the whole time: he belonged in jail.

…Last month Cardinal Wuerl gave two interviews. To try to comfort the faithful upon the release of the Pennsylvania grand-jury report on clerical sexual abuse.

Nikki Battiste of CBS asked the Cardinal, “How does it feel, knowing that children were sexually abused at the hands of priests under your watch?” The Cardinal would not, or could not, answer the question. Instead, he said: “Well, that’s why, if that came to the light, we moved to remove that priest.”

linus security blanketI, for one, still want to hear the answer to the question that Ms. Battiste asked. (More on that below.)

But, if you’re the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, why express your own emotions? When you have the power to manipulate the emotions of those around you, who have no choice but to serve you?

In the second interview, referring to disciplining priests who had sexually abused children, the Cardinal said to Tom Fitzgerald of Fox 5 DC: “How we dealt with things in the late 80’s/early 90’s is different from the way we would today.” To which Mr. Fitzgerald responded: “What could possibly ‘evolve’ when it comes to understanding child sexual abuse?”

Dear reader, please go ahead and watch both of these interviews in their entirety. The second one is both long and enormously painful to watch. But click the links, and see for yourself. Then ask yourself this question: Who could come away from watching these interviews and think that this man is honest? Who could think that he has a grip on reality?

…The sitting Archbishop of Washington has the duty to help his people to cope with the gut-punch: his predecessor belonged in jail. During his entire tenure. The former Cardinal Archbishop of Washington. Should have been in jail the whole time.

Not easy to cope with. But someone has to master his emotions about it, and then help the rest of us cope.

Problem is: Cardinal Wuerl needs someone to help him cope. He obviously cannot cope. The thing he has loved for so long–his scarlet robe, with its prestige, and a cortege of sycophants trailing along–this treasured thing isn’t worth a damn anymore.

St Matthews CathedralWhy not burn the red cassock on the steps of the cathedral? And yell every curse word you can think of, in a fit of rage against the leprechaun from New York? All on camera. That would comfort the faithful a million times more than the two interviews above.

What we are witnessing in the Church of Washington is this: the pathetic spectacle of a delirious man, in love with a tattered rag, clinging to it with childlike desperation. And demanding that those around him pretend that the garment is still shiny and new and lovely.

Please, please, please: Step aside, your Eminence. Find a cozy, shaded sun-room somewhere, and do crossword puzzles. We need a man willing to cope with reality.

Sitting on the throne of St. Matthew’s Cathedral doesn’t mean prestige anymore. It means a long, hard, quiet struggle. People spitting in your face, and you saying in reply, “Bless you for your honesty.”

Advertisements

Coach’s Attempt at Clarity (in the Synod Aftermath)

“Father, when you talk you sound like a coach.”

Thank you.

We all play, all the time, the most challenging and sublime of all sports: getting to heaven.

The moral law never struck me as rocket science. God comes first. No sacrileges, swearing, disrespecting legitimate authorities, killing, adultery, stealing, lying, lusting, or being greedy.

The Sixth Commandment binds neither more nor less than any other commandment. That said, the Sixth Commandment certainly means: Husband and wife lovingly conceiving babies = good, sex otherwise = bad.

Raymond Arroyo interviewed one of the prominent Synod-on-the-Family Fathers last week. “Two different Cardinals interpret paragraph 86 in polar-opposite ways, Your Eminence. One says divorced-and-remarried can receive Holy Communion without an annulment. The other says no way. Explain, please.”

moses_ten_commandmentsRaymond’s expression, as the Archbishop of Washington replies that disagreements like this “are just a part of life”–priceless.

Here’s the thing: We priests need to know what we are about when we hear people’s confessions. People sin against the commandments all the time. People sin against the Sixth Commandment all the time. God forgives. Christ shed His Precious Blood so that we could be forgiven.

That said, in order to give absolution, we confessors have to hear a resolution like this: “I’m sorry I did it, and I won’t do it again.” One of the fundamental ‘dynamics’ of a confession, if you will.

Now, as noted above, sex is either 1) marital or 2) sinful. Between “I’m married to him/her” or “I am not married to him/her,” we do not find any middle categories. I really do not intend here to wax rhetorical. And Lord please preserve me from being obtuse. For me, this is a purely practical matter. The question simply is: How is a priest supposed to give absolution to someone who confesses sex outside of marriage, but does not intend to stop?

Yes: Plenty of people receive Holy Communion without also practicing the equally important habit of going to Confession regularly. And maybe some people exercise “discernment in conscience” about their marital status without going to a priest to confess. I have nothing to say about any of that, other than: Everyone should go to confession once a month. (I try not to make it my business to judge the actions of people who don’t ask me to judge them.)

But I feel like I am completely missing something when high-ranking prelates suggest that maybe I could handle penitents somehow differently…??? Doesn’t a penitent’s marital status determine everything, when it comes to the Sixth Commandment? And doesn’t it really go without saying that neither the penitent nor I have the authority to settle disputes about someone’s marital status?

I don’t think I exaggerate if I say: If either the penitent or I thought that we could unilaterally annul marriages, then we really might as well not bother with the business of a confession in the first place. After all, have I not received the authority to absolve sinners because of a public ceremony in front of an altar involving an irrevocable commitment on my part? If public commitments, entered into as acts of religion, do not really bind, then… well… ah… consecuencias muy malas.

“Pastoral accompaniment,” “reaching out,” “emphasizing mercy.” What do these shibboleths mean? I enjoy visiting people in their homes; I enjoy sitting and talking at coffee hours. I have never refused Holy Communion to any adult who approached either with hands folded and mouth open, or with two hands open and ready.

But if someone comes to confession and mentions having sex outside of marriage, what am I supposed to say? You have to make a decision to live without that, at least until it’s not a sin anymore. What kind of coach would I be, if I said anything else?

I think that, perhaps, the more genuinely merciful thing for us to say, when we speak about things like divorce, would be:

We believe marriage is for life. We believe in big families. The world might greet divorce with a ho hum. But we weep. The world might think weddings mainly mean clothes, cake, and photos. But we think a wedding means an unbreakable covenant with the Lord of life.

Also, when we human beings recognize that the game we play ends with death, and we win by getting to heaven, then whether or not I get to have sex with this or that person right now becomes a matter of relative insignificance.

PS. I still think the most truly and fundamentally confusing thing that has happened in decades/centuries is what happened on February 11, 2013. If we find ourselves confused now, it’s because somebody took a liberty that does not really belong to us shepherds, on that particular day.

Also, my man Ross Douthat can count me in as one of his spear-chuckers on the 21st-century R.C. battlefield.

Evening Homily for Second Advent

This is my prayer, that your love may increase more and more, in knowledge and every kind of perception. –Philippians 1:9

These were St. Paul’s words to the Christians in Philippi, when he wrote to them from prison.

Moses with his "horns"
The church in Philippi was the first that St. Paul founded in Europe. It was the community that was most dear to him. The purpose of his letter was to beg the Philippians to comfort him by persevering in faith and love.

Let’s pay careful attention to what the Apostle wrote: “This is my prayer…that you may increase in knowledge and every kind of perception.”

St. Paul did not write to the Philippians to correct them. They had not abandoned the true faith, nor gotten confused, nor slipped back into paganism or into Judaism. The Philippians were on the right track, and St. Paul rejoiced in it.

But he prayed that they might increase in knowledge and discernment. A few moments ago, we made a similar prayer for ourselves. At the beginning of Mass, we prayed: “Father, let us share the wisdom of Christ.” Let us share the wisdom of Christ.

Continue reading “Evening Homily for Second Advent”

Archbishop’s Decree

stbernardine-elgrego
St. Bernardine of Siena holding the insignia of the Holy Name of Jesus

This is what His Grace handed me:

For the welfare of the people of God, I appoint you, Reverend Mark D. White, pastor of Holy Name parish, Washington, D.C.

I hereby commit to you the full pastoral care of souls in this parish…May God grant you the grace and health to carry out this charge of priestly service for souls.

Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington

I am unworthy of such trust. Please pray for me. May the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, who together gave our Savior His Holy Name, watch over me and all the people of “Capitol Hill extended” and Trinidad.

Holy_Name_Church_and_Rectory
Eleventh & K Sts., N.E.
Bernardine with ihs
Click AMDG above for more info
Old map--does not include National Arboretum
Old map--does not include National Arboretum

Pastoral Charity

st-peter

In his letters, St. Peter referred to the fact that his job was to remind his people of things they had already learned. They learned them when they first embraced the Catholic faith.

St. Peter also promised to make sure that there would be someone else to remind them after he had died (II Peter 1:15).

mosesThere is an unbroken succession of Popes from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. The succession from one pope to the next began with the fatherly love of the first Pope for his people…

…Please say a little prayer for me. The Archbishop has asked me to come to his office this afternoon. I am afraid he might do something rash, like entrust one of his parishes to me.

Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

…I am working on a new special-edition Bests list, to be published soon. In the meantime, here is an extra:

Best Bobby Darin song:

Three Years Our Shepherd

crozier wuerl

Three years ago today, Donald Wuerl took the crozier in hand to guide the Archdiocese of Washington.

Here are a few words about bishops from the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council:

Christ the Lord, Son of the living God, came that He might save His people from their sins and that all men might be sanctified. Just as He Himself was sent by the Father, so He also sent His Apostles. Therefore, He sanctified them, conferring on them the Holy Spirit, so that they also might glorify the Father upon earth and save men, “to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), which is the Church.

In this Church of Christ the Roman pontiff, as the successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the feeding of His sheep and lambs, enjoys supreme, full, immediate, and universal authority over the care of souls…

The bishops…, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls. Together with the supreme pontiff and under his authority they are sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ, the eternal pastor. Christ gave the Apostles and their successors the command and the power to teach all nations, to hallow men in the truth, and to feed them.

Bishops, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them…

illuminated-bibleBishops…have been taken from among men and appointed their representative before God in order to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Bishops enjoy the fullness of the sacrament of orders…Therefore bishops are the principal dispensers of the mysteries of God, as well as being the governors, promoters, and guardians of the entire liturgical life in the church committed to them —Christus Dominus

May the good Lord prosper the endeavors of our father and shepherd, Archbishop Wuerl.

…Want to learn more about the Bible? Are you within striking distance of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, U.S.A.? Come to Scripture Study this evening at St. Mary of the Assumption School, starting at 7:30 p.m.!

Archbishop Wuerl’s Points

 

 

 

 

Here are the points which Archbishop Wuerl asked all of us priests to make in our homilies at Holy Mass today.

1.  The Pope together with the bishops speak for the faith of the Catholic Church.  “For a Catholic, there are sure answers to life’s great questions.  Jesus offers them.  His Church proclaims them.  The bishops in their teaching office explain them.”  A well-formed conscience is our sure guide in making decisions.  A “well-formed conscience” is explained here:  http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt3sect1chpt1art6.shtml

In the controversy about the morality of abortion, not all opinions have equal weight.  “Christ established in His Church the office of bishop charged with teaching and guarding the authentic faith.”

2.  Abortion is a great moral evil.  The Church has always taught that abortion is gravely immoral.

3.  Empirical evidence obtained by scientific investigation clearly indicates that human life begins at conception.  From the moment the sperm meets the egg, a member of the human race lives.  This is why not only abortion, but also embryonic stem-cell research (which involves killing the embryo), are gravely evil:  They involve the destruction of an innocent human life.

Not Above My Pay Grade

 

 

 

 

In the U.S. Congress, the Speaker of the House must have a higher salary than a junior Senator.  The Speaker undertook to catechize the country ( http://www.catholicexchange.com/2008/08/26/113593/ ) on a question which the democratic nominee asked for more money before he would give an answer (http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20080818/pl_politico/12602 ).

 

Archbishop Wuerl has written to us priests, asking us to explain Church teaching on abortion at the Holy Mass this Sunday.  It is pretty unusual for him to tell us what to preach on.

 

I thought it might be illuminating to try to break the matter down into discrete kinds of questions, so that we can see what is certain and what is not certain.  There are two distinct kinds of questions involved.  The first kind aim at things that exist; the second kind aim at the right thing to do.

 

When precisely did each of our lives begin?  When did our souls come into existence?  When we were in our mothers’ wombs, what happened?  None of these are questions about what we ought to do or not to do.  Some people might say these questions are just idle curiosity, needless philosophizing.  They are speculative questions.  They are not for everybody; most people do not worry about trying to answer speculative questions of this kind.

 

One reason for the unpopularity of these questions is:  Getting an irrefutable answer to any profound speculative question is very difficult.  “Is my dog asleep right now or awake?” is a speculative question; it can be answered just by looking at the dog.  But “When does the human soul come into being?” is not so easy.

 

As Cardinal Egan and other Catholic leaders have pointed out since Speaker Pelosi’s confusing catechesis last Sunday, we have recently developed remarkable means by which to observe pregnancies.  We can now see pretty well what is going on, and we can analyze the biological processes with great precision.  All this gives us a clear answer to the following question (a question which perplexed people for many centuries):  Is there a stage in the process of development when the guest of the womb changes from one kind of thing into another kind of thing, from an inanimate type of thing to an animate type of thing?  Or:  Is there a moment we can pinpoint when what does not appear to have been human now becomes human?  The clear answer to these questions is:  No.  No such moment has ever been discovered.  It would seem highly unlikely that it ever will be.

 

Still we have not touched the question of the soul, nor have we considered what ought to be done or not done.

 

Souls are invisible.  Sonograms and other studies show us that what began as one cell eventually grows into a recognizable baby.  Something makes this happen, some organizing power that keeps all the molecules from separating from each other into some kind of soup.

 

Speculative questions like this are endlessly interesting, so it is rather presumptuous for anyone to claim that he or she has the final answer.  The Church does not settle speculative questions.  When needed, She settles questions regarding what we believe and what we are to do or not do.

 

Sacred Scripture teaches us to believe that God has a plan for everyone to get to heaven, and that plan begins in the womb.  God loves the occupant of the womb, and He will always provide for him or her.  We believe this with certain faith.  There is no doubt about it.

 

Now let us get to the practical questions.  Should any pregnant woman ever have an abortion?  Should anyone ever perform an abortion, or co-operate with an abortion in any way?  When Rick Warren asked about when an unborn child acquires human rights, this was a somewhat convoluted way of leaving the speculative realm behind and transferring the debate to the moral realm.  Someone who has rights cannot be killed.  So Rick Warren’s Saddleback Forum debate question really was:  Must the law prohibit abortion?

 

Moral questions have to do with what you or I do or don’t do.  Unborn children die in their mothers’ wombs all the time in miscarriages, but a miscarriage is not a moral matter; it didn’t result from what someone did or didn’t do.  Moral questions are confined to you and me and what we choose.

 

Answering moral questions is generally easier than answering speculative questions, especially when the speculative questions involve invisible realities.  Moral questions require moral certitude, because we either act or we don’t; we either do something or we don’t do it.  For me to do something, I have to be sure that it is not gravely evil for me to do it.  For the law to permit something, the legislator must be sure that it is not the slaughter of innocents.  There is no doubt that it is morally wrong to take risks when it comes to the life or death of innocent people.

 

Moral questions are not beyond us, like some speculative questions are.  We can always know what to do or not to do, either by reasoning things out carefully from basic principles like the Ten Commandments, or by submitting to the authority of the Church.  We do not have to know everything about the situation; we only have to know what to do or avoid.

 

In the case of the moral questions here, there is no doubt whatsoever.  It is never okay to have an abortion.  It is never okay to co-operate in an abortion.  It is never okay for the law to permit abortion.