Last year on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), we had our first ‘virtual’ Mass. We meditated on this:
By believing in Christ, we share in His experience. The eternal Father has made Jesus the heir of all things. Our Lord receives His inheritance as the gift that it is. He offers it back to the Father as a sacrifice of love.
By believing in Jesus, we share in this divine communion of the eternal Father with His incarnate Son. Through thick and thin, we have our share in that communion.
On St. Joseph’s feast day last year (March 19), our bishop here publicly accused me of harming the Church’s unity. He provided misleading evidence to support the charge. Shortly thereafter, he suspended me from ministry and locked me out of my house. I have had to celebrate Holy Mass in solitude ever since. It’s been a year now since I celebrated Mass “with the people.” Not easy.
…Now, imagine the Lord sent an angel to speak with me. “Mark, you’ve had a rough year. What’s one thing we can do up here in heaven, to ease the burden for you a little?”
If that happened, I would not even have had the presumption to ask: “Can you make the Georgetown Hoyas win the Big-East tournament in Madison Square Garden?”
Our Father in heaven knows the good things we need, before we even ask Him. 🙂
On the other hand, I might have asked: “Could you have the bishop call me on Holy Thursday? And make him say, ‘Mark, it’s the day of the priesthood. I have thought things over. It’s been a year since the problems we had. I will give you your place back now.'”
Problem is, he might then say: “April fool!”
…A couple weeks ago, we kept the 1,985th anniversary of St. Peter’s arrival in Antioch, Syria, in the third year after the Lord Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. The word “Christian” originates from Antioch, which served then as the capital of the eastern Roman empire. Peter governed the Church from Antioch for a few years. Then he went to Rome and governed the Church from there. He suffered martyrdom under emperor Nero and thereby established Rome as the Apostolic See, the See of St. Peter, the city of the pope.
We keep an annual feast on the anniversary of Peter’s arrival in Antioch, February 22. To celebrate the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair, Dom Prosper Gueranger wrote:
Our Lord will not receive us as His children, unless we shall have lived in union with Him by the ministry of pastors lawfully constituted. Honor, then, and submission to Jesus and His vicar! Honor and submission to the vicar of Christ, in the pastors he sends.
…Yesterday the Vatican made an announcement, and a reporter at WFXR in Roanoke called me. The Vatican announcement hardly came as a surprise–namely, two people of the same sex cannot get married by a Catholic clergyman, and no bishop, priest, or deacon can “bless” the “union” of two men or two women.
The Vatican announcement did not engage the underlying question: Are physical relations between two people of the same sex always a sin? Church teaching has taken for granted from time immemorial that such relations cannot be right. But these days the question sits squarely on the table, with a lot of devout Catholics proposing that the answer might be more complicated. The magisterium of the Church has not addressed the matter since 1986.
One thing I said to the reporter that didn’t make it into the broadcast is this: I think a lot of people find it hard to credit the Vatican with honesty and good will on this subject. The prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, who issued the decree yesterday, himself ducked a subpoena to testify in a French court about his role in covering up sexual abuse by a Lyon priest.
Just in time for this little controversy, I finished reading Confessions of a Gay Priest by Tom Rastrelli. It is one of the most compelling and heartbreaking books I have ever read.
Rastrelli and I are contemporaries. He opens his book with the story of how a squirrel got electrocuted on a transformer outside the cathedral shortly before his ordination ceremony was to begin. They continued in candle light, without air conditioning. That was in June of 2002.
I had heard the whole story before, because I was in the same cathedral exactly a year later, for the ordination of a good friend of mine. Everyone was talking about the hot, candle-lit ordination of the year before.
Rastrelli and I both studied for the priesthood under the Sulpician Fathers, he at their seminary in Baltimore, me at their seminary in Washington. We both went to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in August, during our seminary years, and stayed with the priests there. Rastrelli and I know dozens of people in common.
In his book, Rastrelli communicates his experience of sexual abuse at the hands of priest “mentors” with crushing humility and honesty. He thought he was in love; in fact, he was being abused.
Rastrelli is such a good writer that he conveys all the confusion, all the self-doubt. As he put it in an interview about his book, “Most victims don’t know they’re victims at the time. That’s how predators operate, by that kind of mental manipulation.”
When you finally reach the end of Confessions of a Gay Priest, and then consider the stunning way in which the Church has not dealt with the McCarrick scandal, or with the sex-abuse problem in general, you’re left with this: The Catholic clergy is one big closet of confused, compulsive, and dangerous self-hating gays.
A lot of people think that, and we have given them good reason to think it.
Rastrelli has given us a gift. A painful one to receive, to be sure. I cannot exactly recommend reading the book; it made me both cry and vomit. But I salute Mr. Tom Rastrelli as a mesmerizing writer, a brother seminarian I wish I had known in person, and a truth teller with a message we need to consider with the greatest care.
Meanwhile, your humble servant believes more than ever that: the Holy Mass celebrated at our altars–the altars of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church–is the religion that God Himself gave us, by sending His only begotten Son to be our brother.
Someday things will make more sense. In God’s good time.