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Catholic Charity and the Modern World: Let’s Start All Over

Archbishop Williamson E. Lori (from the Archdiocese of Baltimore website)

Archbishop William E. Lori (from the Archdiocese of Baltimore website)

Here we are with another fight on our hands, we Catholics.

“We’re going to prohibit all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against their LGBT employees.  America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people.”  So proclaimed President Obama when he signed his latest executive order, banning job discrimination against gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and trans genders without any accommodation for religious organizations.

“Unprecedented and extreme” was how Bishops William E. Lori and Richard J. Malone, Chairmen of the USCCB Committees for Religious Liberty and Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, respectively, characterized the action.

“With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent,” they continued.

But, as James Kalb points out in The Catholic World Report, “Today everyone respectable rejects the idea of natural order, especially with regard to sexual conduct.  People have been taught to view the concept as a high-toned rationalization for bigoted actions growing out of atavistic feelings of disgust.”  In other words, we are talking a different language than the zeitgeist.

Let’s step back a minute and realize something.  When the government pays for something, it can control that for which it pays.  When the government gets involved in something like health insurance, in which it has no business being involved, for example, it calls the shots.  Like the HHS Mandate.

The bishops, all Catholics and others of faith need to sit down and think about how and why things have changed in this country in the last 50 or so years.

As the California Healthcare Foundation points out, “Fifty years ago, Medicare and Medicaid did not yet exist, and about half of hospital care was not covered by insurance.  In 1960, almost 100% of the spending on prescription drugs came out of the consumer’s pocket, but by 2012, out-of-pocket spending was down to 17%.”

The government, through Medicare and Medicaid, controls a huge part of the medical industry.  Think about all the hospitals which have closed or gone bankrupt in the last 50 years.  Many of these were Catholic hospitals.  Catholic hospitals used to be subsidized by private donations.  As did Catholic orphanages and other charities.  The practice of contracting with the government as hospitals had to with Medicare and Medicaid, or providing adoption services among other things, and contracting with the government to do so, was simply not how it was done.

I suggest Catholics, most especially the bishops, consider the current situation, and stop promoting government action and, thus, interference in, what should be private charity.  Catholic hospitals have closed in huge numbers in the last half century.  Many Catholic adoption services have closed in the past few years.  Much of the blame can be laid at the door of socialized medicine and government interference such as President Obama’s most recent executive order.

At this stage, it is virtually impossible to turn back the clock.  So, we have to start all over again, in small ways, and locally.  Christian charity needs to be free of interference from the government.  He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Maureen Williamson

The Intelligent Catholic’s Guide News and Notes for Catholics

Mother Dolores Hart (From ewtn.com)

Mother Dolores Hart (From ewtn.com)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has published The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist  which covers basic questions and answers on Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, under the appearance of bread and wine…. Providence College professor Anthony Esolen’s Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity is a defense of traditional, natural marriage, and a deft exposition of “gay marriage” as an impossibility….Mother Dolores Hart talks about her life “From Hollywood to Holy Vows” on EWTN July 26….Looking for good spiritual books?  Trent Beattie has some recommendations in a National Catholic Register piece, Catholic Classics for Everyone….The Morgan Library and Museum in New York plans an exhibition featuring The Crusader Bible, an illuminated manuscript which the museum says is “renowned as much for its unrivalled and boldly colored illustrations as it is for its fascinating history.”  The exhibition runs from October 17 through January 5….Prayer Works! Getting a Grip on Catholic Spirituality brings the concepts and actual practice of prayer into sharper focus for Catholics.  Author is Matthew Leonard, the internationally known speaker, author, and Executive Director of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology founded by Dr. Scott Hahn.

Out of the Mouths of Unbelievers

The other evening my husband and I had dinner with a few friends, all of them involved in music in one way or another.  Three of us were Catholic; two were not.  The talk turned to the bad and banal and often irreverent  music in some Catholic churches.  (My husband sings traditional hymns and classical music at Mass at our parish.)  One of the non-Catholics commented that she had played the piano once at a Catholic wedding and been surprised to find that she was asked to play syncopated music.  Her husband, the other non-Catholic at the table, made an interesting comment.

The Catholic Church, he pointed out, is known for its tradition and formality, including the  music.  That is what outsiders expect, he said.  If you convert to Catholicism, that is what you expect.  He clearly saw the value of the lovely, reverent music from our Church’s heritage which all too few churches use these days.

Interesting isn’t it, that after years of awful music in many churches, the old-fashioned sacred music is still what outsiders perceive as being the Church’s music?   And what they respect?

Maureen Williamson

IMPORTANT: Write Your Senators

The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, which works closely with the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is asking us to write our two United States senators urging them to vote against a bill called the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act (S. 2578).  The NCHLA reports that:

“The bill states that an employer has no right to opt out of a federal mandate for any specific benefit, for any employees or their ‘covered dependents’.  In the future this could include RU-486 or elective surgical abortions.  Employees themselves, and women and men buying individual coverage, also have no right to object. The Act overrides RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] and ‘any other provision of Federal law’ that gets in the way.  Crippling penalties could be imposed on sponsors and issuers of insurance who provide generous coverage, but object in conscience to a specific ‘item or service’.”

I also urge you to contact your senators.

Maureen Williamson

Another Assault on the Church

Yet another assault on the Catholic Church and religious freedom  This time the issue is the Seal of Confession.

The Diocese of Baton Rouge accuses the Supreme Court of Louisiana of having “run afoul of the constitutional rights of both the Church and [Fr. Jeff Bahyi],” and says the Court “has violated the Establishment Clause and the separation of Church and State under the first amendment.”

The issue at hand is a ruling that, according to the nola.com, “demands  that a hearing be held…to determine whether or not a confession was made.”  The case is one of child abuse involving a girl who was 12 at the time of the alleged abuse and an adult male who was a member of her parish.  The man who is accused died some time ago. The girl in question has testified in court to what she says Fr. Bahyi told her in confession.  Fr. Bahyi has been ordered to testify about the confessions.

Nola.com reports that the “Louisiana Supreme Court said in its ruling that the priest’s confidentiality can only be claimed ‘on behalf of’ the confessor, so the priest can’t claim confidentiality to protect himself since the girl waived her privilege.”  The Diocese of Baton Rouge reacted swiftly to the ruling stating unequivocally that the issue, “assaults the heart of a fundamental doctrine of the Catholic faith as relating to the absolute seal of sacred communications (Confession/Sacrament of Reconciliation)”.

“A foundational doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church for thousands of years mandates that the seal of confession is absolute and inviolable.  Pursuant to his oath to the Church, a priest is compelled never to break that seal.  Neither is a priest allowed to admit that someone went to confession to him,” said the Archdiocese in its July 7 statement.

As we know, Fr. Bahyi is compelled by Church law to go to jail rather than testify.  What the courts will do remains to be seen.  But, little by little, our religious freedom is being challenged and will continue to be challenged.

Maureen Williamson

 

This Little Black Dog Is One of the Most Endearing Characters in Children’s Literature

Angus and the Ducks

A couple of weeks ago I saw a boy walking a black Scottish terrier and thought, “That looks like Angus!”

Angus, for those who have never read the books, was an enchanting dog featured in three lovely children’s books by Marjorie Flack, who also wrote The Story about Ping.   I mentioned the books to a couple of others and in both cases got the same reaction:  “I love Angus.”

Written in the early 1930s, Angus is one of the most endearing characters in children’s literature.  The first book in the series,  Angus and the Ducks, introduces us to a puppy “whose name was Angus, because his mother and his father came from Scotland.”  Angus is curious about everything; but most especially the strange noise that comes from the other side of the hedge.  A noise that sounds like “Quack! Quack! Quackety! Quack!”  One day Angus gets out of his yard and his adventure ensues.

As he grows up Angus learns many things – just like children who find out what they should and should not do as they get older.

The other two books in the series are Angus and the Catand Angus Lost, both as charming as the first book.

Anyone who has pets knows that animals have facial expressions that are most expressive and the illustrations in all three books, by Miss Flack herself, capture Angus’s expressions perfectly and thus bring him to life in a way that makes him real and lovable.  It is my favorite aspect of the books.

The Angus books are still available from Farrar Straus Giroux.  I recommend them.

Maureen Williamson

This Fourth of July Is a Little Different

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz (from the Archdiocese of Lexington website)

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz (from the Archdiocese of Lexington website)

“Freedom of religion, like freedom of speech, must stand for all Americans, for all time.”

These are the words of a coalition of U.S. religious leaders from different faiths including United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, in a letter to Congressional leaders affirming their “staunch support for maintaining all of the existing provisions and protections of the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.”

It is frightening that on the eve of the Fourth of July we should be addressing this issue.

In light of the Supreme Court decision affirming Hobby Lobby’s right to choose not to provide abortifacients as part of its medical insurance coverage, there is now talk of repealing the FRRA.  In fact, today’s New York Times includes a full page ad by the Freedom from Religion Foundation promoting this.  If you get a chance to look at the ad, you’ll also note that it complains about the Court’s “All-Male, All-Roman Catholic Majority” denying women their “rights.”  And, that’s not the only place where I’ve seen this complaint about a court where six out of nine justices are Catholic, five of whom are men.  Replace “Roman Catholic” majority with almost any other group and you can imagine what would happen – think the resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich.

Tomorrow we’ll watch fireworks, go to barbecues, visit with friends and family; but somehow this year, as we have to continue to fight for the basic freedom to act according to our religious principles, it seems a little hollow.

Maureen Williamson

“Justice Has Prevailed’

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz (from the Archdiocese of Lexington website)

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz (from the Archdiocese of Lexington website)

“Justice has prevailed.”

Soproclaimed Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, after the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the right of family owned for-profit corporations not to provide contraception coverage to their employees as required by the government’s HHS Mandate.

This decision bodes well for those religious entities like the Little Sisters of the Poor and many other charities, schools, and hospitals who are also going to court to preserve their freedom of religion and not provide contraceptive or sterilization services to their employees as part of their medical insurance coverage.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia released the following statement on the decision:

“The outcome of the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products cases is heartening. The decision appears to reaffirm the founding fathers’ vision of a country where religious believers may live out their convictions in everyday life without undue government interference or coercion.

On behalf of the charitable entities affiliated with our Archdiocese and the Archdiocese itself, we hope that today’s decision will have a positive impact on our own pending litigation related to the HHS mandate.”

“Much work remains to be done to protect the religious freedom of all citizens from the ill-conceived HHS mandate, but this decision in favor of the owners of Hobby Lobby is certainly progress,” said Father Sean O. Sheridan, president of Franciscan University.

As Archbishops Kurtz and Lori said in their statement:  “Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build a culture that fully respects religious freedom.”

Maureen Williamson

Two Bishops on Mass and the Blessed Sacrament

Bishop Thomas Paprocki (from the Diocese of Springfield website)

Bishop Thomas Paprocki (from the Diocese of Springfield website)

Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, IL has directed the churches in his diocese to place the tabernacle in a prominent place in the sanctuary, preferably in the center, and told them that they may no longer place it in what he refers to as “obscure and remote rooms that in some cases were previously supply closets.”

The idea of putting the tabernacle which houses the Blessed Sacrament off in a room out of sight has always appalled me.  After all, what distinguishes a Catholic church from any other church is the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.   So, bravo to Bishop Paprocki.

On the other side of the world Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines has criticized priests who greet parishioners during Mass with “Good morning.”  In an article posted on the website of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines, the Cardinal is quoted as saying:

“With all due respect, my brother-priests, but I do not see the need for saying ‘good morning’ and similar greetings when God’s presence in the Holy Eucharist alone suffices….Is not the expression ‘The Lord be with you’ more than enough?”

I heartily agree.  I have gotten so used to priests saying “Good morning”, that I had forgotten how it annoyed me when it first started.  Good morning is fine before and after Mass; but during the Mass a certain formality should be maintained and as, the Cardinal pointed out, the Eucharist is what is all-important.

Maureen Williamson

When a Catholic Country Isn’t

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk (from  www.premier.gov.pl)

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk (from
www.premier.gov.pl)

It’s bad enough when a secular country like the United States tries to force Catholics to act against their beliefs as our government is trying to do with the HHS Mandate; but when it happens in what used to be a Catholic country it is particularly unsettling.  Poland has long been one of the most Catholic countries in Europe.   Yet, a brouhaha has arisen there over a Catholic doctor, Bogdan Chazan, who refused to provide an abortion to a woman whose fetus had serious defects.  According to a Zenit story the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk said:

“Regardless of what his conscience is telling him, [a doctor] must carry out the law.”

“Every patient must be sure that…the doctor will perform all procedures in accordance with the law and in accordance with his duties.”

Lifesite News reports:

“Dr. Chazan is one of 3,000 Roman Catholic doctors, nurses, midwives, and medical students who have signed a Doctors’ Declaration of Faith saying that they will conduct their professional duties according to their religious beliefs.”

The Polish Catholic bishops, of course, support this Declaration of Faith as does Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reported Lifesite News, quoting the Cardinal as saying:

“Developing theories today that the law of the state is above ethics and morals, or that it is a source of proper ethics, regardless of its wording, and that, for example, the state can compel a doctor – contrary to his conscience – to kill an unborn child, and to be threatened to be thrown out of work, are criminal and monstrous.”

As I noted above, Poland is certainly one of the most Catholic country in Europe.  The fact that they have a law that allows abortions at all – albeit, a more narrow one than most countries – is distressing.  To threaten prosecution of a Catholic doctor who refuses to perform one, adds to the distress.

Maureen Williamson

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