Anniversaries and Things that Don’t Change

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?”

Georgetown Hoyas Big East tournament champions

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.

Dom Prosper Gueranger
Dom Gueranger

…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.

Tom Rastrelli photo credit Frank Miller
Tom Rastrelli (photo by Frank Miller)

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.

Laetare pic 2021
Laetare Sunday, 2021

Ugandan Martyrs, 12 Years Later

In the 1880’s, the king of Uganda demanded that his pages submit to his homosexual advances. The holy martyrs of Uganda, strengthened by devotion to Christ, refused. This led to a wholesale persecution in the country. The African blood that consecrated today as a Memorial was spilt 129 years ago.

Twelve years ago today, the Apostolic See of Rome published a brief “Consideration Regarding Proposals to Give Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons.”

lwangaThe Vatican calmly foresaw that the compromises regarding ‘gay marriage,’ which were fashionable a decade ago, could never last. “Civil unions” were just a euphemism for homosexual ‘marriage.’

Pope St. John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger calmly pointed out that allowing homosexual couples to adopt children contradicts the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. They re-iterated what the Catechism teaches, that it is un-Christian to treat a homosexual person unjustly. And that, like all Christians and all decent people, homosexual people are bound by the law of chastity.

Probably the most remarkable thing about the Vatican document of twelve years ago is this: It soberly acknowledges the de facto legal toleration of homosexual acts. In other words, it says: marriage is marriage; the Gospel calls us all to chastity; let’s operate discreetly and prudently to try to help people live a chaste life. Tolerance of evil, humble dedication to good.

The movement that has changed the definition of marriage in so many places since 2003: it does not have to do with tolerance. Tolerance means: accepting something regarded as evil.

We regard homosexual acts as evil, just like pornography and masturbation are evil–because they get in the way of a life of true love. We have a message of Christian chastity to offer.

The “Gay Marriage” movement regards our teaching as evil. But it has nothing to offer, really, other than intolerance of our message.

Shoes for Both Feet in San Francisco

san-francisco1

Click HERE for a Wall Street Journal op-ed that summarizes nicely the state of affairs in the city of the poverello of Assisi.

If I might, the key questions, as I see them…

1. Does the Archdiocese go too far in stipulating that teachers at Catholic schools may not publicly advocate for grave evils identified in the Catechism?

I do not count myself as Member #1 of the Archbishop-Cordileone Fan Club. But it would seem that the answer to this question is No.

Everyone is entitled to his or her private opinion and private life. Employees of Catholic institutions who privately act immorally face the judgment of their consciences, not the boss. (And, as the boss of a couple venerable, albeit small, Catholic institutions, I tend to consider Facebook private, because the last thing in the world I want to do is fuss about people’s facebooks. That said: Anyone who facebooks in order to serve the mission of the Church, please don’t contradict the Catechism!)

unhappy labronSo private is private. But: Employees of the various levels of government, and of private companies, face stricter restrictions on public expression of their personal opinions than the Archd. of SF imposes.

Labron cannot openly root for the Lakers. State-Department employees don’t get to take sides publicly in the Obama-Netanyahu debate. If you want to make public statements about the Iran negotiations, don’t work for the State Department. If you think the Catechism is wrong, why sign up to participate in the educational mission of the Church?

And, as for identifying objectionable public positions, what standard is Abp. Cordileone supposed to use, other than the Catechism? Who could question that the Catechism serves as the fundamental reference point for what the Church, in all Her institutions, stands for?

Which brings us to the second–and, I think, decisive–question:

2. Is the morality or immorality of homosexual acts a settled matter?

According to a lot of well-bred people, the matter has been settled. To suggest that homosexual acts are inherently immoral–this suggestion is itself immoral, according to the assumptions of the solons of San Francisco. As I have proclaimed dramatically a few times, I am ready to go to jail, if these people want to throw me in. They do not make sense.

All of this said, though, let’s put the shoe on the other foot, too.

Individual archbishops have no authority to determine whether questions of morality remain open or stand closed. Abp. Cordileone, it seems to me, does right to insist that the Catechism must be the guide. Primary and secondary Catholic education is not really the place for the discussion of disputed questions of morality. (Although I know a few juniors and seniors who could definitely write a good and thoughtful paper on this subject.)

On the other hand, though, the Church must always have a forum in which people get to ask questions like: Is it conceivably possible that homosexual acts might, under some circumstances, actually be perfectly moral? In such a forum, the questioner has every right to follow up the question with arguments in favor of an affirmative response.

Now, I do not hold myself out as particularly knowledgeable regarding this debate in morals. I think some Episcopalians consider themselves to have had this debate, and solved the problem. I’m not so sure they have. Speaking for myself: Homosexual acts seem immoral to me on the grounds that they amount to nothing more than mutual masturbation. Pouring time and energy into such things is, at best, a terrible waste.

The argument has been proposed that some people are ‘gay’ by the will of God, since they experience homosexual inclinations without having made any choices that would stimulate such feelings.

That argument fails. Not with respect to the claims of experience, which can hardly be denied. But because it does not take the Fall, and the corrupted state of human nature, into account. The experience of homosexual desires does not indicate the will of God any more than other disordered appetites do. A diabetic can’t claim that God wills him or her to want to drink 24 Cokes a day.

Also: the way babies get made would seem to leave homosexual acts out, in an outer orbit of weirdness.

All that said, the Church has a forum for arguments to the contrary. People who want to make such arguments can and should make them. And any reasonable Catholic should listen and consider.

Coupla Principles for Our Forward March

The Church welcomes everyone. Christ loves everyone in His Sacred Heart. He died on the Cross for everyone, so that everyone can get to heaven.

That said, the Lord has clearly indicated in the gospel that the Church will encounter conflicts. Situations will arise in which we have to shake the dust from our feet and move on.

Of course, love must always motivate us, even when we shake the dust off.

I think we can safely propose that genuine love moves us to affirm two principles that bring us into profound conflict with many of our contemporaries.

We can stand with patience and peace on these two principles. Their truth can be established by arguments from every possible rational point-of-view. We would be fools if we ever thought that these principles could “change.” They can’t change. So we stand on them and move into the future with confidence.

Our contemporaries do not openly deny these principles, so much as they obliquely hold them against us as being objectionable.

The two principles I have in mind are:

Continue reading “Coupla Principles for Our Forward March”

You-Can’t-Do-It-ville

More deluded state legislatures have enacted laws permitting “same-sex marriage.”

Faithful souls may long to hear from their shepherds a resounding condemnation.

If I might, I would like to take a few moments to explain my personal point-of-view on this matter.

Marriage between two men or two women falls into the category of impossible. For two people to marry, they must act (in the distinctive way) as husband and wife, following their verbal commitment to each other. Two men cannot do this; two women cannot do this. This is bird-and-bees stuff of the most basic kind.

No one enjoys a civil right to do the impossible. Legislatures which try to make the impossible possible only succeed in rendering themselves laughingstocks. But that hardly seems unusual or even particularly remarkable.

That said, it is our bounden duty to oppose such legislative nonsense. A vademecum about opposing ‘same-sex marriage’ can be found by clicking here.

A summary of Vatican teaching on this matter can be found by clicking here.

Click here for a homily I gave shortly before the District of Columbia legalized ‘gay marriage.’ Click here for a homily explaining the Church’s authority to govern marriage.

Here are my ruminations after I sat through hours of testimony at the District building.

‘Gay marriage’ lives in fantasy-world. In the realm of the possible, we find such things as…friendship, sincerity, kindness, creativity…The Lord never laid down a law against any of these things. All are encouraged.

Also in the realm of the possible, we find…sodomy. Even though sodomy so obviously offends everything that is good and dignified about mankind, some people nonetheless experience an inclination to it. The existence of such an inclination shows us that our human nature has been handed down to us in a confused and broken state. Same-sex attraction is a particularly vivid sign of original sin. The inclination is not, however, in and of itself, a personal sin.

My sense is that actually performing acts of sodomy falls deep within the city limits of You-Really-Cannot-Do-It (Ever!)-ville in the minds of everyone who hears any homily I ever give. Therefore, it would serve no purpose for me to give a severe “Gay Marriage is an Abomination” Sermon.

People who might avail themselves of “Gay Marriage” in New York, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., or anywhere else, are our misguided brothers and sisters. We should do everything we lovingly can to help them come to their senses, do the good (kindness, love, friendship) and avoid the bad (sodomy, lesbianism).

That said, I find the whole ‘same-sex marriage’ business to be less an abomination and more a regrettably silly sideshow, best ignored. Give me an earful if you disagree!

Discussion Q’s for the Weekend

shaq

Next Attorney General of Virginia?
The next Virginia Attorney General?

(Click through to the links if you need more information.)

1. Is Shaq actually a LIABILITY for the Cavaliers?

2. Is it okay for a Christian to go trick-or-treating on Halloween?

3. Is Ken Cuccinelli a bigot because he said that homosexual acts are intrinsically wrong? Or do good people oppose same-sex marriage?

4. Is this, or is this not, the best motto a person could have:

I life would wish, and that I might
Waste it for you, like taper-light.

(from the Prologue of “Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” by Wm. Shakespeare)

5. Is Kelly Clarkson just about the most awesome pop singer out there?

kelly clarkson concert

Strength, Sadness, Etc.

anaxagorasSomeone once asked the ancient Greek philosopher Anaxagoras, “What were you born for?”

He replied, “For seeing.”

More on this later…

…In the nineteenth century, the King of Uganda kept a large court of young male pages.

On Ascension Day in 1886 (123 years ago yesterday), King Mwanga had some 25 of these pages burned alive.

Continue reading “Strength, Sadness, Etc.”

“The rain it raineth every day”

Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch
Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch
–William Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night,” Act V, Scene 1, line 415.

Now, before you accuse me of being random in this blog, consider this:

The Bard himself wrote a play named after January 6th, and there is not a single reference to Epiphany or Christmas in the entire play. Not one! Talk about random.

“Twelfth Night” is an upstairs, downstairs play.

Upstairs, there is a bizarre love triangle. The Duke of Illyria, Count Orsino, longs to court the Lady Olivia. But she mourns for her dead brother, refusing all suitors.

Viola masquerading as Cesario
Viola masquerading as Cesario
The shipwrecked Viola puts on men’s clothing and masquerades as Cesario to work as Count Orsino’s messenger. Viola promptly falls in love with the lovelorn Duke.

When Orsino sends Cesario to beg Lady Olivia to consider his suit, Olivia falls in love with Cesario!

Meanwhile, downstairs (where we witness the drinking of much wine): Olivia’s uncle Sir Toby Belch has recruited Sir Andrew Aguecheek to woo niece Olivia. But Sir Andrew cannot manage a coherent sentence even with the lady’s maid, Maria.

Aguecheek is so exquisitely funny that he makes Sir John Falstaff look like cookie-cutter, central-casting comic relief by comparison.

Continue reading ““The rain it raineth every day””