Integrity of the Womb and the Confessional

confessional“Who but God alone can forgive sins?” (Mark 2:7)


Sin involves corrupting the pure integrity of God’s beautiful plan. A plan for the salvation and glorification of all things.

We pray for the marchers up in Washington. We share their zeal. In the womb, God knits together an unfathomable plan. It’s like a little Garden of Eden. May no hand of violence ever desecrate that garden.

God, the pure One, can forgive the sins of us impure ones. He even uses some of us impure ones as His instruments of mercy. The Son of God entrusted “the power of the keys” to His Church. He gave His Apostles and their successors in office the authority to forgive sins in the name of God. To continue the Incarnation, so to speak. Jesus, when He walked the earth, had the authority to forgive sins. Bishops and priests have that same authority, as ministers of Christ.

But a profound responsibility accompanies that authority, doesn’t it? When we go to confession, we go with faith in the power of the keys. But we also need to have confidence in the human integrity of the confessor. We have to trust that the priest who hears my confession will respond according to true discipline, guided by holy teaching.

That is: He won’t distort my own conscience by calling good evil or evil good. He won’t betray God’s mercy by being too hard on me, or betray God’s justice by being too easy on me.

My point is: The supernatural grace of Holy Orders means that even a sinner can offer Christ’s sacraments. But in the confessional, our faith in that supernatural grace has to meet a representative of a human institution with integrity. Yes, all priests are sinners, too. But a confessor receiving penitents cannot be a liar. He cannot be a swindler or a sodomite. He cannot be an atheist or a heretic.

unborn…On March-for-Life Day, the young Catholic Church in America takes Her vigorous stand. Faith, hope, and love show up on Constitution Avenue.

But She limps this year. Her faith God invigorates Her as always. But Her inability to trust in the fundamental integrity of the clerical hierarchy saps Her strength.

Our faith in the triune God does not contradict reason. But, at the beginning of 2019, we cannot rationally claim that our clerical hierarchy has integrity. If we did claim that, reasonable non-Catholics would make arguments to the contrary. And we would have no answers.

May God send us leaders to get our footing back. It will take a long time. But we can do it, if we hold on. We sinners, who want to live honest lives.

An Open E-Mail to Cardinal Dolan

Your Eminence,

I’m sure you won’t remember me; we met for two seconds at the North American College in Rome in the spring of AD 2000, when you kindly expressed your wishes that we seminarian visitors from Washington, D.C., had enjoyed our spaghetti. But I have admired you for two decades; I devoured your rector conferences when they were published in Priests for the Third Millennium.

priests-for-the-third-millenniumAnyway, yesterday I found myself crying for joy from one eye, and for sorrow from the other.

There I stood, at the rally beginning my 19th March for Life, having just greeted an old friend from a former parish with his 13-year-old son, who was born between my sixth and seventh Marches—and here was the Vice-President of the United States speaking to us in person. The vice-president of the United States is one of us. And another one of us is “Counselor to the President!” Tears of euphoria. We can reasonably hope for an end to Roe v. Wade!

On the other hand, right beside me stood, among the fifty people on the bus from my parish, a little group of undocumented Mexican immigrants, marching for life here with me, with us—dedicated pro-lifers whose fruitful presence in our blessed land our pro-life president seems hellbent to do away with. Bitter, miserable tears of fear.

Anyway, I just want to tell you that, having admired you for two decades, I have never admired you more than during your Sanctuary Homily at the Basilica. I thank you for it, dear brother, from the bottom of my heart.

–Fr. Mark White


Striving to Rest


The promise of entering into his rest. (Hebrews 4:11)

St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews offers us the definitive interpretation of Psalm 95. And Psalm 95 must be important, since we priests recite it every day, first thing. It is the daily opening of the Divine Office.

The psalm exhorts us to sing praise to the Creator, to acknowledge His universal sway, and to submit to him like sheep submit to their shepherd. “Today, listen to the Lord!” Soften your hearts. Because the stubborn will not enter into his rest.

Interpreting all this, St. Paul exhorts us: “Let us strive to enter into that rest.”

A paradoxical thing to say, to be sure. Strive! To rest. Since I am a runner, and therefore know that there is nothing more relaxing than running many miles, I can feature this paradox pretty well.

Juniper Serra tombWe all can, I think. Back in the day, before Roe v. Wade, the few weeks before Ash Wednesday had a sleepy, restful feel in the typical American parish, and naps were allowed. But we cannot rest in late January now. We have to go on a pilgrimage and stand up for human rights.

So we strive, in order to enter into rest.

Speaking of striving and entering into his rest: Father Junipero Serra, Apostle of California.

Perhaps you recall that some brother priests and I followed in Father Junipero’s footsteps for a week last winter. The California missions he founded wrap the pilgrim up in prayerful quiet and devotion to God even now, 200 years later. I prayed for all of us at Father Serra’s tomb.

The very-exciting news for us American Catholics: Holy Father will canonize Junipero Serra this fall! When Pope Francis comes to visit the U.S. Really wonderful news.

Cuomo and Capitol-Hill Cold

Mario Cuomo Funeral
St. Ignatius parish, Park Avenue, Tuesday


Very cold today. Feels like March-for-Life weather.

In precisely two weeks, we will freeze–or get wet, or get snowed on, or slog through the slush. Whatever the good Lord has planned, we will endure it–to march up Capitol Hill, and bear witness, in front of the marble buildings that are supposed to house noble statesmen who vindicate human rights.

Why? What cavalcade of fools would subject themselves to such winter discomforts, year after year, to fight a battle that seemed lost forty years ago?

This seems like a particularly poignant question to ask after Gov. Mario Cuomo’s funeral, celebrated Tuesday in the parish church of the Kennedy’s, on the upper East Side, NYC.

Poignant because Governor Cuomo the Elder bequeathed the ‘privately pro-life, publicly pro-choice’ position to a generation of politicians—a generation whose day has pretty much altogether ended now. Nobody, on the left or right, buys the Cuomo line anymore.

mario-cuomoIn 2015, “pro-life” stands for something, something that cannot be kept private. And the pro-choice status quo survives solely on apathy and disenchantment. “Pro-choice” has no real intellectual content. In 2015, ‘pro-choice’ simply means ‘Who cares?’

“Privately pro-life, publicly pro-choice” has gone to the grave with Governor Cuomo the Elder.

“Culturally Catholic,” “Kennedy Catholicism.” Dead. Buried. Something for the history books. The world has moved on, turned a page.

…We take on the cold, and march for the truth with real joy, because the whole thing is nowhere near as complicated as the St. Ignatius Park Ave. tribe has made it out to be.

If you believe in God, you have to be pro-life. If you believe in God, you know that snuffing out the life of an innocent human being is always the wrong thing to do. If you believe in God, you know that He has a plan–and that plan never involves going to get an abortion.

Not complicated. Obstetrics and mothering and fathering and adoption and early childhood education and universal health care and fighting poverty and a lot of other important things are plenty complicated. Politics is certainly complicated. And it gets more and more complicated, the less honest (and less intelligent) the politicians become.

But facing the cold on January 22? Simple—beautifully, wonderfully simple.

No killing innocent unborn children.

March for Life 2013

Not Too Cold

March for Life 2014

The sun shone on us on Wednesday. We had cold feet literally, but not figuratively. The snowstorm and bitter cold temps kept some pilgrims away. But that only brought us diehards who showed up closer together.

Every life is worth living. Every mother deserves love and support and care–not life-threatening surgery in nasty conditions to kill her child. We are each others’ keepers. And being each others’ keepers is what gives us true joy. To love our neighbor is the only real, enduring joy.

Wednesday’s march was the march of the diehard survivors of the Age of Abortion in America. The Pro-Life, Pro-Chastity Generation. We have seen the light of day, while a quarter of our would-be friends and neighbors, possible husbands and wives, co-workers and associates, never made it. Died on the battlefield of a more human way of life.

We are the generation that lives with these ghosts, who could have been the fathers and mothers of our own children, but never got the chance. We recognize our fallen comrades for who they are: human beings, killed out of human ignorance and hopelessness. How could we pretend that they don’t matter?

It will be a much colder day in hell than it was in Washington on Wednesday before we diehard lovers of the life God gives give up on turning Roe v. Wade into a dark chapter in the history books. Instead of what it is now: a living scandal on the face of the earth.

20 C + M + B 14

In the malls and on tv, they immediately move on from Christmas–in order to exploit the next event for profit. But in church, we linger with Christmas for 2 ½ weeks. We meditate on the great mystery. And we try to get a grip on the year to come, for what it really is: a holy year of grace. The 2,014th year of Christ’s unfathomable grace.

In May, Pope Francis will visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem. He begins his trip on the 11th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood! In the fall, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, and Holy Father will preside over the first part of the Synod on the Family! Too wonderful just to be a conincidence: This year in the cluster we already have four weddings scheduled, and there could be three or four more, on top of that!

john paul superstar time magazineBefore all this, on this coming Friday evening, our Francis-of-Assisi youth will co-sponsor a coffeehouse in Roanoke to help people get married! Get married at the proper time and in the proper way, that is.

Two weeks from today, we will go to Washington to stand up for the innocent and defenseless unborn babies!

Then, on the following day, our Francis-of-Assisi delegation will travel to Haiti to visit Father Serdieu and our twin parish in Trianon.

It is never too cold to do the will of God.

If you paid attention to the Epiphany proclamation on Sunday, you know that Lent doesn’t start until March 5 this year. So we get to go up the whole way through the Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time between now and then!

On April 27, Pope Francis will canonize John Paul II on the ninth liturgical anniversary of his holy death!

We read about the Lord marvellously walking on water. When someone does marvelous things, sometimes we say, “He walks on water!” Well, it appears as though 2014 will “walk on water”–that’s how amazing a year it will be. Jesus will walk on the water of time through AD 2014.

So we pray. We stay close to the Lord through the Mass and all the sacraments. We pray that the human race won’t destroy the environment, that global warming will be prevented. But we also pray that it will get a little warmer during 2014 than it is right now.

PS. Not to mention: Immigration-Reform information session at St. Joseph, Martinsville, this very evening at 6:00pm, with a screening of “The Dream is Now.”

Weather in Washington

during the March for Life today is terrible. Cold wintry mix as we ascend Capitol Hill and draw near the Supreme Court.

…I have run into lots of people I haven’t seen in years. Like a huge family reunion…

hey hey ho ho Roe v. Wade has got to go

…People singing, praying the rosary. Catholic University campus chaplain on the bullhorn. “CUA!” –Is pro-life! “CUA!” –Is pro-life!!

Our parish-cluster peeps are charging onward in little pockets. We got separated in the crowds…Meet up at the bus by the Air & Space…

[Looks like a smartphone weblog update, doesn’t it? But my beloved new phone is a dumb old flipper. I wrote this ahead of time, and scheduled it to pop up. March for Life is always the same: Crappy weather and absolutely wonderful.]

Hey hey ho ho in Washington

This year, Martin Luther King day will be observed six days after what would have been his 84th birthday. And, in fact, its observance coincides with Inauguration Day. And of course March for Life Day is four days after that.

So let’s talk civics, and rights, and politics for a minute. Let’s talk Washington, D.C. subjects. Lincoln-Memorial, Supreme-Court-building subjects.

us_supreme_courtLet’s presume that all of us will be marching For Life next Friday, either physically marching, or accompanying the March spiritually with prayers and support.

Why? How do we explain what we will be doing?

1. Killing an innocent and defenseless human being is wrong. But cheating on a seventh-grade vocab. quiz is also wrong, too, and we don’t march about that.

Abortion is not just wrong; it’s criminally wrong. When the Supreme Court declared on January 22, 1973, that no state of the Union could outlaw abortion, that was one of the gravest legal mistakes ever made by mankind. Forty years of advancement in gynecology, obstetrics, and neonatology has only made the Supreme Court’s decision that day look all the more blind.

2. We live in a free country. Free in a relative sense, of course; not absolutely free. I do not have the freedom, as a US citizen, to walk across an ice-covered parking lot with no fear of falling down on my tuckus. I do not have the freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want to do it, with no thought regarding the welfare of others.

But we do have the freedom to travel to the front door of the Supreme Court and yell, Hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go.

mlk_photoIt’s got to go because it’s wrong. It is wrong by any honest standard of judgment.

When Martin Luther King took a stand against the degradation of an entire race of people, based on their skin color alone, he appealed to the same fact:

By any honest standard of judgment, it’s wrong to degrade a fellow human being, just because he or she is black.

Dr. King never said all black people are good. He never said all black people are going to heaven. He just appealed to the basic principle of honest judgment. Can anyone honestly say that just because someone is black, they’re no good, or less good—just because of that? No. Can anyone honestly say that it’s okay to kill a baby in the womb? No.

Dr. King quoted the Bible all the time. But you didn’t need a Bible to grasp his fundamental point. And you don’t need a Bible to know that Roe v. Wade has got to go. You don’t need a Bible to know that anyone who pressures a woman to have an abortion is a villain. To stand up against Roe v. Wade is to stand up for women, as well as for unborn babies.

There are plenty of forces at work in our country to “ghettoize” our Catholic Church, to make Catholicism seem foreign, strange, and murky. We know, of course, that it is none of these things.

And one of the best ways of showing it is to appeal to the fundamental principle of honest judgment, just like Martin Luther King did, when it comes to the innocent and defenseless unborn.

80’s Baltimore, the King, and the Babies

The Bedroom WindowFor a Holy-Name-of-Jesus homily (and some other enjoyables), click HERE.

For an early-bird experience of this Sunday’s homily, read on below…

For a thoroughly captivating mid-1980’s glimpse of Lady Grantham when she was still a young waitress in Fells Point, back when Mt. Vernon Square was still on the way to an Orioles game, and shimmered with cigarette ash, and driving around Baltimore could make any movie worth watching, and some scripts still coursed with drama of Hitchcockian richness, with characters that taught you things about yourself, if you are over 18, consider downloading/renting/honestly obtaining “The Bedroom Window.”

“Where is the king?” (Matthew 2:2)

The question fell a little awkwardly on the ears of the courtiers in Jerusalem. Because these eminent foreigners, thoroughly powerful and renowned, had asked the king where the king is. Awkward.

Where do we find the king? Might be a little awkward if we showed up in Washington and asked around, with the same question. Hey, Mr. President. Hey, Senators, Congressmen, Where’s the King?

Might be more than awkward. We might find ourselves locked-up. Citizens! This is a democracy. No king here. Spend some time in this padded room thinking about it…

The wise men sought the king. They knew Herod was not he. We, too, know perfectly well that the king we seek does not do cable-news interviews on any network.

But the human soul seeks her king, and always will seek Him, until she finds Him. That fact is no less true now than it was 2013 years ago. Doesn’t matter if we human beings live under a hereditary monarchy, or a republican democracy, or as islamist theocracy, or a communist-party oligarchy, or a dictatorship of relativism. We have no real peace until we find the king and do Him homage. Until we find Him, our own souls gurgle and froth with ungoverned chaos, like a destabilized nation ripe for a coup d’état.

The wise men, as you know, did not simply ask, Where is the king? They asked, “Where is the king of the Jews?”

Continue reading “80’s Baltimore, the King, and the Babies”

ἐπορεύθησαν Pro-Lifers

Huge Hoyas game today. In Morgantown WV. Against the Brokeback Mountaineers. If you need emergency pastoral care in Franklin or Henry counties, please make sure it’s not between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. Thanks. (Kidding.)

After their audience with Herod, the magi set out for Bethlehem.

Literally, the magi eporeuthesan. Whenever this Greek verb appears in the New Testament, it indicates a journey of some distance, a removal from one’s usual location. The word suggests a pilgrimage.

The 2,012th year of grace lies open before us, like a spiritual New World to discover. Where will we go? Where will the star of Christ lead us?

The Lord expects us to share the attitude the magi had:

Lead on, heavenly light. We will follow. Shine wherever you will. We won’t complain about the rigors of the trip, about sore feet or weary bones. We will not lament the comfortable homes we left behind to follow after you. No. To reach You, O Christ of God—to reach You will reward every effort we make. All the hardship will seem like nothing.

Of course, the magi knew what they were doing when they left their homes to follow Christ’s star. After all their long journey, what did they find? They found a beauty beyond what they could have imagined. God, the Lord of the heavens, had become one of us. And He did not sit on a terrible throne, lording it over His subjects with wrath and fire. No. He lay in a manger, a cooing child, smiling up at them.

Continue reading “ἐπορεύθησαν Pro-Lifers”