Richmond Report + Is the Church a Corporation?

Update: The Heart of the Matter


If you say to me, Socrates, this time you shall be let off, but upon one condition, that you are not to inquire and speculate in this way any more, and that if you are caught doing so again you shall die— If this was the condition on which you let me go, I should reply: Men of Athens, I honor and love you, but I shall obey God rather than you.

Socrates, to the jury, as quoted in Plato’s Apology

I received a letter from my bishop on Wednesday. Bishop Knestout wrote:

Father White:

The restoration of your priestly ministry will be dependent on your taking down your blog, as you were directed by decree, specifically:

Reverend Mark White is to cease from this moment in disseminating his opinions by means of any social media: in print, by audio, or video, or any digital means… Any previous posts are to be removed from all social media and the account is to be closed.

In the exercise of his pastoral office, Father White is to refrain from all assertions against, or judgments about, the hierarchy of the Church.

Every pope for the last sixty years has endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media.

I thank Bishop Knestout for putting the matter so clearly.

Faith, Obedience PLUS Personal Cris-de-Cœur re: Pope

If you obey the commandments of the Lord, loving Him and walking in His ways…you will live, and the Lord will bless you. If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, you will certainly perish…Choose life then! (Deuteronomy 30:16-19)

Our beloved Holy Father has chosen to relinquish his pastoral office. He will not give us his promised encyclical on faith.

I will try to step unto the breach, dear friends. My Lenten-Vespers talks will attempt to convey the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas on the virtue of faith. Let’s make a little start now.

Henry V Once more unto the breachWe Catholics propose that Almighty God has personally commanded us to do certain things and avoid certain things. Sacred Scripture contains many explicit commandments. Pre-eminent among all of these commandments are, of course, the world-famous Ten. The wise man emblazons the Ten Commandments on his soul, like an interior tattoo, by frequent meditation on them.

But: Where in the Scriptures do we find the explicit commandment to believe in God? He says, “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no others.” But this is a commandment against false religion, rather than a commandment to believe.

St. Thomas points out: Anyone who makes laws makes them for those who fall under his or her authority.

Now, God knows perfectly well that everyone and everything falls under His authority. But that was not really His point when He made laws for us. He had no need to remind Himself that He is in charge. More to the point: The matter of those who are obliged to obey Him…

We strive to obey the commandments because we believe in the One Who made them. He does not explicitly command us to believe, because we would hardly be listening to Him anyway, if we didn’t believe.

steering wheelLong and short of it: Man stands free before God. He has the authority; we do not. But His authority does not impose itself on us, like the authority of a driver imposes itself on a car.

To the contrary, we remain free either to embrace reality as it is—namely that God is God, and everything else He made for the purposes which He spells out in His commandments—or we may retreat into foolish fantasies of our own, in which we trick ourselves into thinking that we retain control.

Seems like it makes more sense to believe. And, when we believe, the only thing that makes sense is to obey.


Continue reading “Faith, Obedience PLUS Personal Cris-de-Cœur re: Pope”

Humbling and Impossible

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25)

One school of interpretation has it that the “eye of the needle” to which our Lord refers in this simile is a very low gate in the ancient wall of Jerusalem, the only gate that was kept open at night. An armed guard would stand watch at this gate. He would allow a mounted man through, provided the rider identified himself as a citizen or a friend. To pass through the low gate, however, his camel would have to kneel down and crawl.

Apparently, this nighttime gate may sometimes have been called “the eye of the needle.” Thus, the Lord Jesus’ audience could have thought of a kneeling, crawling camel, humbly bowing low to enter the city, when they heard His simile about the rich entering the kingdom of God.

Continue reading “Humbling and Impossible”

Proton-Torpedo the Devil

What actually is the great drama? The decisive conflict? North Carolina vs. Duke? Republicans vs. Democrats? Dog people vs. cat people?

The strong man, fully armed, guards his palace…

We know that Mother Nature possesses many frightening powers. Tornadoes can level whole towns. Tsunamis can drown cities. Hurricanes can cripple coastlines.

All of these forces of natural destruction, however, look like so many wavelets lapping in a kiddie pool, when compared to the power of Satan.

All the volcanic eruptions in the history of the world cannot ruin a single human soul. If and when the sun explodes, the force of the blast will not of itself bring about a single sin. But even Satan’s least powerful minions have been known to turn whole television networks into sin factories, with minimal effort.

Who can fight with more strength than Lucifer? Who has more powerful weapons than all the riches of the world, all the pleasure of the flesh, and all the pride of human pomp and splendor?

The great drama, the great conflict. Satan vs. the well-read carpenter.

The conflict began in the beginning. Satan, immeasurably stronger, smarter, and more beautiful than Adam and Eve, hated us. He hates our race. We look like worms to him. And yet God treats us like His children. Satan burns with an uncontrollable, unending jealous rage, like Glenn Close boiling the bunny forever.

The drama—the conflict—will end when history ends, not before. Man on earth can never altogether escape the Enemy’s depredations. His weapons are everywhere.

But: In the little corner of the world where camels make their way between Egypt and Arabia, the carpenter doled out the Holy Spirit with flashes of infinite power. Then the stronger Man deployed the decisive weapon.

He went nuclear. He shot the proton torpedo into the Death Star’s thermal exhaust port.

What did He do? What fire-forged sword can actually overpower the strong man who made the earth his palace back in the days when fruit grew in the Garden of Eden?

Obedience. Humble, brave, serene, faithful obedience. The Messiah did the will of the Father. They nailed His gentle hands to the cross. At that point, Satan was toast.

Big East + Listening to His Enormous Demands

Final day of the Big-East men’s basketball season.

Which means that the only really important sporting event on earth will take place this week, in the Garden.

Hoyas square-off in Milwaukee this afternoon. Do I care that it’s Marquette “Senior Day?” Let them weep through it.

This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.

Saints Peter, James, and John heard these words spoken from heaven. Listen to Him. Do what He says and avoid what He prohibits. Nonetheless—even though God Himself, in no uncertain terms, told them to listen to Christ—the Apostles had a hard time obeying Him.

Is it any wonder, then, that we have a hard time bringing ourselves to obey the Son of God?

After all, it would be one thing if Christ said, “Love your friends and let your enemies go to the dogs.”

Or if He said, “Don’t worry about Judgment Day. My Father doesn’t really care how you treat other people, especially the people you don’t like.”

We might listen to Him more eagerly if He said, “Blessed are the likable, good-looking people. Blessed are those with nice cars. Blessed are you when you finally make it, and vest your retirement plan, and get nice, big, fat bank statements in the mail. Rejoice and be glad, because heaven belongs to the people with 70-inch flatscreens.”

BUT: To listen to the Son of God, Who says, “The meek will inherit the earth.”

And “The rich cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without passing through the eye of a needle.”

And “Even the pagans pray for their family and friends. You must love and pray for the people who curse you and hate you.”

To listen to this Teacher…Let’s put it this way: We do not come into the world able to do it.

Continue reading “Big East + Listening to His Enormous Demands”

Three Ways to Hear His Voice

He taught them as one having authority. (Mark 1:22)

From of old, the Almighty promised that a voice would ring out which would carry the divine guarantee of truth. He made this promise to a people like us: a people seeking the Promised Land, needing to hearken to the divine voice in order to find our way.

What if no voice of truth guided us? What if the only source for truth was me myself?

That would be a sketchy situation. I would want to have one set of rules when I was in one mood, and a different set when I was in another. Hungry? One set of rules. Angry? A different set. Eyes fixed on a toy I want to play with? Another set. Life without the voice of God would leave a person fat, friendless, and maxed-out with credit-card debt.

Thank God, then, that He speaks to us. With authority. He speaks to us with the authority of the final judge, before Whom we will have to answer for everything done or left undone.

Continue reading “Three Ways to Hear His Voice”

Two Temptations

Today the Church commemorates two occasions when the devil came to tempt somebody.

In the first, Satan came to tempt two people, Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden. They had everything they could ever have wanted without having to work for it. They never got sick. They were destined to live forever and go to heaven without dying. Perhaps most unimaginable for us, Adam and Eve were married to each other, and yet there was nothing that would cause them to have any difficulties in getting along: no bad habits, neither of them were messy, or crabby, or lazy.

In the second instance, the devil came to tempt the Lord Jesus. The situation was completely different. The Lord was not in a garden; He was in the desert. He did not have everything He wanted to eat and drink; He had nothing to eat and drink. The Lord Jesus was not in a state of leisure and ease. Rather, He was desperately hungry, struggling physically in every way, because He had been fasting for forty days. And our Lord did not have a human companion. He was completely alone.

The devil came into both of these two very different situations in order to lure his victims into disobedience.

In the garden of Eden, God had expressed His will very clearly. He told Adam and Eve: Do not eat from this particular tree. There were countless other trees, heavy with delicious fruit. Just don’t eat from this one. The devil came to trick them into eating it from it anyway.

When Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation, it was not a matter of human weakness. Before the Fall, human nature was not weak. When they sinned, it was not because their weak flesh faltered. They just willfully disobeyed.

What happened? How did Satan pull it off? The devil suggested to Adam and Eve that God is not to be trusted. God had demanded obedience to one simple law. The Devil put the idea into our First Parents’ minds that this was an infringement on their proper rights. God was making them His slaves. Previously they thought that they had everything. The Devil then tricked them into thinking that they would not have everything until they had total independence and got out from under the law of God.

Christ also lived under a law. The Father had not openly spoken a law to His incarnate Son. But in the depths of His human mind, Christ knew the will of the Father. We know this because Christ had said early on: “The Son of man must be rejected, and suffer, and die, and on the third day rise again.”

In the desert, the Lord Jesus was hungry and He was lonely, but the devil did not temp Him to gluttony or vanity. If Jesus had eaten some bread, it would not have been gluttony. If He had gone to Jerusalem and let Himself be admired and served by everyone there, that would not have been vanity: He is the King of kings and Lord of lords Whom everyone is bound to admire and serve.

Perhaps the difference between the two episodes of temptation—the garden and the desert; our First Parents and Christ—the difference lies in understanding what obedience to God is. Adam and Eve had everything, but they let themselves be deceived into thinking that they didn’t have everything since they had to obey God. On the other hand, the Lord Jesus had nothing—nothing except what He called “the food that sustains me:” namely, doing the will of the Father. The Lord Jesus knew that if He had this food of obedience, He in fact had everything. He didn’t need anything else at all—not food, not glory, not even His bodily life.

Satan is very intelligent and very wily, but Christ turned the tables on him. Long ago the devil had reduced the human race to slavery, so he naturally thought that he had come to tempt one of his slaves. But in fact, the devil came to tempt the new, incorruptible Adam, who was filled with the infinite strength of the Holy Spirit. Satan did not find a slave in the desert. He found the omnipotent One Who is absolutely free.

This is the special grace of Lent: Christ gives us a share in His immeasurable strength and His perfect freedom. He beckons us out for forty days in the desert with Him. In the desert, He teaches us the joy of His obedience.

Scripture sings of the sequel to these days of training:

Who is coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?
Under the apple tree I awakened you.
There your mother was in travail with you.
There she who bore you was in travail.
(Song of Solomon 8:5)

Christ’s Holy Cross takes us back to the Garden of Eden. Beneath the Tree of Life, where our human nature fell into weakness and suffering because of disobedience, we find our obedient Beloved. We can lean on Him forever.

Springtime Revelations

Here is my Palm Sunday homily to my beloved Northeast Washington flock. Perhaps you websurfers will get something out of it…

Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. But not my will, but Yours be done. (Luke 22:42)

Not everything is immediately visible to the eye. It takes time for some things to be revealed.

Admit it: When I first arrived here at Holy Name, you thought to yourself: What in the world is this tall, quiet, nineteen-year-old white boy doing here as the pastor of our parish? You know you were thinking this.

With time, though, I hope something that was hidden has been revealed. I may be a stiff, quiet, young-looking white man. But: You can count on me to get up here and put the Word of God on you. I am going to preach Jesus Christ to you as much as any man—old, young, black, white, yellow, or red.

St. Albans School
Maybe this was hidden at first. Hopefully it has been revealed now.

God did not give you Barack Obama to be your pastor. Young-looking Father White–upper-northwest St. Albans boy, crewcut, glasses, goofy nerd—I am the pastor God gave you, and the white boy is just the one you need.

So we see: With time, hidden things can be revealed.

This happens every spring. Springtime comes. All the beauty of the earth, which has been hidden through the winter—that beauty is revealed to our eyes.

The Lord Jesus was conceived in His mother’s womb in the springtime. Our Lady consented to the Archangel Gabriel on March 25. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her, and the Word became flesh in her womb.

As soon as the Son of God became one of us, He declared His obedience to the Father. Christ prayed in Mary’s womb and said, “Behold, Father: I come to do your will.”

Throughout His pilgrimage on earth, the Lord Jesus always did the will of the Father, down to the most minute detail of His life.

“My food is to do the will of the One Who sent me…I do only what I see the Father doing…The Father works, so I work.”

But the full extent of Christ’s obedience lay hidden for most of His life. Everyone who knew Him saw that His will belonged to God above. But no one could have imagined just how perfect Christ’s obedience really was.

It was in Holy Week that the full measure of Christ’s submission was revealed. What was hidden in the Virgin’s womb was made visible when He went up to Jerusalem for the last time.

In the womb, He had said, “Behold, Father, I come to do your will.”

Then, in the Garden, He said: “Father, if it be possible, let this most bitter cup of suffering pass from me. But not my will, but Yours be done.”

Festival Day

Hail, thee, festival day!

Fr. Andrew White, S.J.
Don’t forget that this is the 376th anniversary of the first Holy Mass in the English-speaking colonies.

It was offered on St. Clement’s Island in the Potomac River by Fr. White!

…Annunciation Day and Holy Week are always in the spring.

In the spring, many things that have lain hidden finally come into view. The goodness of the earth reveals itself.

In the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the instant when He was conceived and became man, the Word of God declared to the Father: “Behold, I come to do Your will!”

For many years, this perfect obedience lay hidden within the soul of Christ.

Then, during Holy Week, it was fully revealed.