Wednesday, May 30, 2012


On Pentecost Sunday, Bishop Gregory Hartmayer, our new bishop, asked all the priests of the diocese to read a letter from him to our congregations. Since October, this has been his second letter to be read at all Masses concerning the HHS Mandate. The one on Pentecost Sunday was in support of the various dioceses and Catholic institutions bringing laws suits challenging the Mandate and asking for prayers during this very perilous time for our country.

My homily focused in on what I named the new pagan religion, godless secularism and its "most unholy trinity" that many Catholics and others are following and without question, accepting its "infallibility" in an uncritical, unthinking way. This most unholy trinity is:

1. The media in all its forms, especially the entertainment industry, news media and the internet. In the span of less than 20 years they have seduced Americans into buying into the new pagan religion, godless secularism and its moral and ethical "values" and many have accepted all of this as infallible.

2. The radical elements of today's political magisterium now wants to control the religion of the true God. Acting more monarchical and infallibly than any pope, they decree that the church will provide abortion inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception. This political magisterium wants to crush the last voice against this new pagan religion and its false moral and ethical teachings especially concerning human sexuality and gender roles and abortion and contraception and the redefining of marriage not to mention medical ethical concerns and euthanasia.

3. Academia supports both the media and political magisterium against true religion and is the scholarly brains behind the media and political magisterium corrupting the minds of young people by denigrating the true religion and the authority of the legitimate Magisterium.

A middle aged man at the Mass came up to me as I greeted people outside afterwards and said that the homily was an outright political screed against the Obama administration and went off in a huff. He had fire in his eyes because to him I had insulted what he held as sacred. His political affiliation seem to me to be more sacred to him than his religious affiliation and all that is truly sacred.

And then my mind went back to the rise of Nazi, Fascist and Communist ideologies where courageous Lutheran ministers and Catholic priests and other ministers spoke against the political regimes of their day and were threatened verbally and assaulted physically for their words by Catholics and other Christians who collaborated with the political system of that day and placed it above God and Church and all that is truly sacred.

Are we entering such a day in the USA? Not quite by a long shot. But who would have thought that a Democratically elected President and his administration would mandate that the Catholic Church must provide abortion inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives and use Catholics who collaborate with him to make it happen? I certainly didn't see that coming.

Does our Liturgy today in the Reformed Ordinary Form Mass make for strong Catholics who will stand up to the dictatorship of the state, any state? Does our revised Mass simply make Catholics who only want feel good religion impotent in the face of the real threats to religious freedom and freedom of conscience that our American government is now posing and in a very real and sinister way?

Are we in the early periods in this country where a state Church is being formed by a secular regime to promote the laws of that regime that oppose the Catholic Church's legitimate teachings in the areas of morals? And have we formed two generations of Catholics who could care less and will be willing participants in oppressing the true Church?


Mark Nel said...

Good on you. Wish I could have heard the whole homily. Here in South Africa our only Catholic newspaper has chosen to completely ignore the HHS mandate and the way in which the Obama administration is imposing its will on the Church. The only mention of the mandate is to accuse those US bishops who speak against it, as Bishop Jenky did when he used examples of Hitler and Stalin, of hyperbole. As for bishops speaking out in support of traditional marriage, well they are simply belligerent says our Catholic newspaper.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

So, all else aside, what is wrong with an "outright political screed against the Obama administration?"

rcg said...

You can tell you have found the splinter when the patient screams.

William Meyer said...

Well done, Father! I am so tired of homilies which ignore the crisis around us that I could scream.

The laity, at least those who I see each week, seem quite complacent. Perhaps what is forgotten is that though we are promised that the Church will survive, we are not promised anything about our homes, our countries, and so on.

I really think that weekly messages on the topic between now and election day would be simply good catechesis. Social justice is well and good, but it cannot be senior to Church doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if your homilies were based on the scripture readings of the day and not on Tea Party talking points, you could avoid such unpleasantness.

BMW said...

Same thing happened in my parish, only much, much worse. It actually became a screaming match during Mass, with a member of my choir chastizing Fr. during his homily. Finally, someone asked the man to leave, and he left, along with a few other parishoners. This was the worst thing I had ever seen, and I was very glad my two young sons weren't there that particular Sunday to witness the fiasco. We always tell them to talk quietly and be respectful during Mass...this would have really confused them.

It's unfortunate when "catholics" place their party before their Church, but this is nothing new. I just pray we can clean house and become a truly Catholic Church, not just in name, but in action as well.

I thanked Fr. after Mass for starting the cleansing process...

And thank you, Fr., for preaching something that some may not like to hear, but need to hear. Some of the best homilies are those that challenge us rather than merely make us feel good about ourselves.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I must say that if calling Catholics to uphold religious liberty and freedom of conscience is tea party talking points, that guilty as charged. But if I upheld the talking points of the radical far left wing of the democrat party, I would be guilty of heresy and apostasy. I'll take the tea party charge any day, even though the accusation is false.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anonymous, Get lost. Run on over to PrayTell or some Obama blog where you belong.

William Meyer said...

Are these articles from the CCC Tea Party talking points?
2241, 2271, 2272, 2273

If they are, then hats off to the Tea Party!

Perhaps if catechesis had not, for decades, been such a train wreck, more of the faithful would support what the faith teaches.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

With regard to item #2 in your post, Fr: I and some of my well-educated colleagues have begun advising young parents and families to shun college education for their children unless they want to be a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer (the Priesthood is a separate category of its own). In those cases, a college education is a necessary evil. Otherwise, we are counselling parents to spend the money earlier on private/parochial schools for their kids in HS. After high school send your kids to good Voc/Tech schools. In the same four years, and for a fraction of the cost of college, your child could, for instance, acquire Master Electrician's licenses, plumber's license, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration certs, and learn welding, brick laying. All of that in four years and for a fraction of the cost of college! Only physicians and hot shot lawyers make more money than many of those groups. I know because as a stock broker I held the accounts and knew the net worth of some electricians, plumbers, and AC folks who had their own businesses or did contract work for major industry.
It is time to take some of the power away from academics and universities that only serve to destroy our kids faith, morals, and patriotism and who are just as dogmatic and narrow-minded as the so-called Tea Party/conservative average citizen they hate.
Research this yourself as a parent and look at the cost vs benefits of a good technical education.
It does not matter anymore if Johnny and Susie do not know Shakespeare, Plato, or American and World History past HS because all of these things are being given revisionist/liberal interpretations by academics, anyway. They do not matter anymore, but not for the reasons post-Modernists think.
So, send your kids to private schools, make 'em go to Church, and send them to tech schools. Sleep better, save money, make libs mad.

Father Shelton said...

That poor fellow. Just imagine, walking into a Catholic Church only to have the priest speak in defense of Catholicism.
Seriously, why do people who don't support Catholicism subject themselves to Catholic sermons?
I would never go to a Communist Party rally and then become astonished when the speaker advocates the abolition of private property.

Anonymous said...

rcg is right on spot.."You can tell you have found the splinter when the patient screams."
The physician is doing his job correctly and the patient is being a cry-baby, not wanting to accept the treatment for his own benefit.

Sometimes the experienced physician sees a need to call the patient in for a follow-up visit.
I don't know how you feel about doing such a thing...but that person has a need to get something out of his system, and then he'll be ready to accept the medicine, albeit possibly in small doses. In a private setting, some good treatment may result.

Father, hope you let us know if this man has a turn-around story.
Kudos to you for having done your job!

Sometimes it's outright baffling how obstinately people hold on to their know-it-all pride.
Perhaps some catachesis on vices and their opposing virtues, such as the first one, Humility, can help fertilize the ground, or prep the patient. Gee Whiz

If I ever find out who that person is, I'll do my a loving way, probably ;-)

Again, hats off to you Father!

Pater Ignotus said...

Upholding religious liberty and freedom of conscience are American values, not belonging to any party, Tea, Democratic, Republican or, possibly, Libertarian, though I have my doubts about the latter. Libertarianism seems to me to be Pelagianism in political guise.

And defending the right to life of the unborn is one of our most urgent obligations.

But where in the CCC is the condemnation of the media, Father's first point?

And where in the CCC is the condemnation of "academia," Father's third point?

It is all well and good to uphold Gospel values, but to wrap it up absurd Tea Party talking points is worthy of scorn. It is political partisanship masquerading as religious sentiment.

Anonymous 5 said...

I've always thought it a mistake for the Church to accept 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. That status chills the Church's right to freedom of expression.

But as bad as the HHS mandate is--the Democratic party has shown that it will sacrifice literally anything to its abortion-on-demand agenda--it's both easy and truthful to point out Republican complicity in the abortion movement, and thus to remain nonpartisan. I've said for years that the two groups who bear the most blame for abortion being legal and ubiquitous today are 1) America's Catholic bishops and 2) the Republican Party. Most Republican appointees to the Supreme Court during the last thirty years have ended up voting pro-choice, at a time when even a single vote in the other direction would have let the Court overturn Roe v. Wade.

As for the academia argument--I'm a professor, and I can vouch for the accuracy of what Fr. McD said. I see it all around me every day. I have to keep my head down for fear of censure.

Henry said...

"Does our Liturgy today in the Reformed Ordinary Form Mass make for strong Catholics who will stand up to the dictatorship of the state, any state?"

The easy and seemingly obvious answer is "NO!"

However, without defending the admittedly questionable provenance of the Pauline missal, I really think the problem of recent decades has been less with our missal than with our priests and bishops (and their lack of adequate faith and formation).

Perhaps the missal can be faulted for its flexibility and optionitis that enables ill-formed priests to celebrate the Mass shabbily. However, I believe that where the OF Mass is celebrated faithfully and well--without variability over time--it can sustain the faith and inculcate vocations.

The difficult in proving this hypothesis is the paucity of examples where the condition is satisfied. Though one is St. Agnes Church in St. Paul (MN), where the OF Mass was never perverted in the spirit of Vatican II, and therefore has continued throughout the past four decades to produce many fine priests and numerous faithful bishops.

Steven P. Millies said...

In the words of my fellow godlessly secular liberal, Edmund Burke: "Politics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreement. No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty and civil government gains as little as that of religion by this confusion of duties. Those who quit their proper character to assume what does not belong to them are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave and of the character they assume."

Or, to put it a little more bluntly: it's an 'ignorantly' (Burke's word) hypocritical way to defend the Church from encroachments by the state, to defend that wall of separation that (bizarrely) the bishops have been referencing from Jefferson's letter to the Baptists of Danbury, by bringing partisanship into the Sanctuary as though there were no wall. Which is it? Wall, or no wall? Or, is it only for traditionalist Catholics and like-minded bishops to determine the rules of how Church and state interact? And, who needs to bother then with consistency?

It's fine, of course, to preach against abortion or gay marriage or even secularism as moral problems. That forms the conscience of Catholics, and it is that role Burke referred to. Preaching should be relevant. But, once the line has been crossed into partisanship, it seems to me the Mass has been profaned. Missa ita est, at that point. Charity has left the building.

Of course, I'm just one of those academics irritatingly pointing out facts and flaws to try to bring some rationality to the argument. Probably, I should be ignored or ridiculed (both?) again for that.

Anonymous said...

Father, it was all I could do to keep from standing and applauding when I heard your homily. (I'm not sure, but I am pretty that is bad form for altar servers in the EF) I thank God for you as the pastor of St Joseph's.

Anonymous said...

Since Gene has repeated his advice to young parents from the May 8 stream (See "There are three Culprits in the Secularization of America and the World") I feel it incumbent on me to respond once again to that advice in the same terms as I did then. Here, then, is the verbatim text of my response on May 8:

As someone who has spent almost his entire career in academia (at a postgraduate professional school but also collaborating with undergraduate faculty colleagues), I feel compelled to challenge Gene W’s advice to some extent. I do understand his concern about the cost of college education (newsflash – in my experience the cost is not because they are paying the faculty huge salaries!) and the risk of a “corruption of values.” However, my own response would not be to condemn all colleges but to advise discernment in selecting a college. I believe young people have to be exposed to (not indoctrinated in) all sorts of ideas but this has to be done in a disciplined and rigorous manner that will develop their powers of critical thinking and set them on the path to wisdom (which includes, of course, enabling them to relate those ideas appropriately to their Faith) . Such education will equip them to engage more effectively with the world and to play the chess Joe talks about. This is a better way to deal with the challenges of living in a pluralist society than allowing the media to be their teacher and is truer to our Catholic tradition of valuing higher learning for more than the purposes of technical career preparation. Gene has told us how much he valued his own education in the humanities. I am suggesting that such a quality education is still to be had if one knows where to look.

Gene, can we spare any readers who may be interested a repeat of the further exchange that then followed between us by just referring them to the May 8 stream?

Anonymous 5 said...

Steven P. Millies: There is much of merit in your statement. But doesn't the difference become merely semantic if you're not careful? If the personal is political (one of the great catch-phrases of late 20th century liberalism), and one party is utterly wedded to abortion rights while the other is not, and I as a priest tell you as an individual Catholic--without mentioning political parties, even impliedly--that you must not do anything to support abortion, and you and all other individual Catholics heed my injunction, then I have done nothing more that preach about moral problems (to paraphrase your statement). But the result of this preaching is a partisan impact in the political arena (again paraphrasing you). So on which side of the line would you put this hypothetical?

On a related note, I would characterize the statements/actions of the above priest as Burke's "Christian charity" since it is all about how to love (caritas) humanity (in this case the unborn and their mothers in particular). My guess is that Burke's concept of Christian charity, like that of the overwhelming number of people today, is of a simpering milquetoast Kumbaya "Lurv" that is long on sentiment and short on action, puts no skin in the game, requires nothing of its practitioners, and thus has no political impact. Maybe some watered-down mainstream Protestant denominations define it this way, but orthodox Catholicism and traditional Protestantism never have. In short, Mill's attempt to cage Christianity and morality and such within the individual heart fails to understand the whole point of morality. To quote Captain Kirk: "Isn't that the point, Bones? To make a difference?"

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Spoken like a true academic. Thanks for making my point...

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

So, Millie, who decides when the line has been Other academics? Ignotus and his ilk? It just so happens that conservative values and Catholic Christian values overlap quite a bit. Too bad that upsets you so much...Why don't you get out of your head and get a real job...learn brick laying or welding, you know, something useful. LOL!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

What is really amazing though, it that I had a traditionalist Catholic professor take a job at a Baptist university and found more acceptance there than he did in the Catholic college he worked for. I still contend that the highest form of clericalism (meaning privilege and comfort and living on the pedestal of an ivory tower) is not on clergy of the Catholic Church but in academia--but they are in complete denial about it claiming academic privilege!

rcg said...

Prof Millies, does this mean a rejection of objective Truth? The Burke quote rejects a religiously influenced opinion on civil liberty. Must we delay action until there is a purely secular basis for it? Conversely, and that is the case here, can we force action until there is a secular case for relief?

Steven P. Millies said...

So, let me reply a little selectively.

@Gene W--no reply. Where there is nothing other than ad hominem, there is no dialogue. No reply is needed. He only wants to hear he is right, so he only needs himself.

@Anonymous 5--I'll glide past the Star Trek reference because I think it's important to keep one 'canon' separate from the canon. (Apologies for a lame, punning joke for science fiction nerds. I never can resist.) But you raise the most interesting and most important issue. Let's stick to abortion for simplicity. What should be preached at Mass or taught in the public statements of the bishops? The faith. Simple. What does the faith teach? The faith teaches that abortion is grave moral evil. Simple. That topic should be preached on, explored, and explained. It's perfectly fitting. If we are Catholics, we must agree that abortion is grave moral evil. But there is a line where we cross over to politics and partisanship once we enter upon the question of how we should oppose abortion. That is what politics does. Partisans are people who disagree about those solutions. I might like one solution, you might like another. You might feel as though the best remedy is that abortion should be illegal. If you feel comfortably sure after careful thought and research that fewer or no abortions would occur in that case, that is a morally praiseworthy prudential judgment. I might feel that the question of whether abortion is legal or illegal is irrelevant because the crux of the moral question is whether abortions take place or not. If, after careful reflection and research, I should believe that fewer abortions would occur if we supported social policies encouraging pregnancies to stretch out to birth, that also is a morally praiseworthy prudential judgment. One of us might be more prudent than the other. One of us might have a better public policy prescription for solving this terrible problem than the other. But neither of us has a defective conscience. Both of us are equally opposed to abortion, and that is enough for us to be on the side of the angels. This is bedrock moral theology. Debates about the prudential question are proper, and we should have them. They absolutely do not belong in the Sanctuary. They broach a sort of division that has no place at the altar because, inevitably, people will disagree about these prudential questions. That is why the moral theology of the Church permits us to disagree about them, provided that our consciences are directed toward the morally right conclusion. (And, that is why, @Gene W, yes: we academics should say where the line is. We have studied to know where it is. There was a time when Catholicism praised study and careful thought. A pity we don't see that here instead of your petty anti-intellectualism that doesn't fit our Tradition.)

As a political scientist, let me suggest that a statement like, "one party is utterly wedded to abortion rights" is (a) too general to be true, and (b) off the point. First, there are plenty of pro-life Democrats. You can forget "utterly." Second, as I've argued above, being "wedded to abortion rights" is distinguishable from being morally comfortable with abortion. I know that involves subtlety, and I'm sorry for it. But it's true. (Continued…)

Steven P. Millies said...

Intellectually, Burke was formed by the Catholic tradition and I'm quite comfortably convinced (after more than a decade of reading him) that Burke intended exactly the sort of distinction I described above. Burke knew that political conversation means prudential disagreement, and disagreement does not belong in the Sanctuary. There is no need to descend to aesthetic objections about contemporary liturgy (which really are prudential matters, too, I think) in order to apply Burke well and accurately to this conversation. He means exactly what I suggested he means. No homily should suggest a political or public policy course of action. Ever. And, for the best reason of all: there will be some number of parishioners who will decide you're in the bag for one party or the other, and you'll lose your ability to reach them. There will be pastoral costs.

This is just what has happened to the US Bishops, and it is horrible. It is a horrible, horrible blow to the public witness of the Church because everybody knows they are in the bag for the Republicans. It's gotten so bad that they'll admit to being "partisan" (see +Chaput's op-ed in the 2/12 Philly Inquirer). But it's also empirically provable. How many Catholics in the United States have heard homilies given and letters read from the pulpit about the dangers of Obamacare in the last 4 months? Hundreds of thousands, if not millions. How many Catholics have heard a homily given or a letter read explaining why contraception is immoral, and why the Church teaches it is sinful? Some, surely. Not me. Nobody I know at any of dozens of parishes all over the United States. I've been asking. So singularly focused on defeating the President and his healthcare initiatives are our bishops, so much are they acting like partisans and lobbyists, that they've overlooked the small matter of teaching the faith to the faithful. It sickens me down to the soles of my feet.

And, it is exactly why they should stay out of politics and partisans, and focus on being ministers of the Gospel.

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Father - For what did this Catholic professor find acceptance at the Baptist college? His right-wing politics, or his belief in the Immaculate Conception? If the former, that's no surprise. If the latter, then the Second Coming is nigh.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

It was his belief in the core teachings of our faith and morals, not anything political. I think it had to do with the divinity of Christ, marriage to one man and one woman and his love for Latin; he is a Latin teacher.

Anonymous 5 said...


I agreed with much or your first paragraph, but you lost me at the second. My hypothetical is just that: a hypothetical. I normally start with an extreme black and white for ease of analysis, and then I back off to grayer issues. The extreme is a party "utterly wedded to abortion rights." You, not I, were the one to assume I was referring to Democrats. (But as a practical matter, how many times has the Democratic Party taken as a whole done anything to retard abortion on demand at the national policy level? Have pro-life Democrats really accomplished much, if anything?)

As to your first paragraph, you imperfectly state Catholic teaching. You ignore, for instance, the whole issue of the sinfulness of formal and material cooperation with evil while formulating your prudential arguments, as well as the Canon Law provision (1398) that provides for latae sententiae excommunication for procurement of abortions, which may prevent Catholic congressmen from voting to legalize some abortions as a way of limiting the evil of more abortions. Likewise with a Catholic president who rescinded the Mexico City Policy. You further fail to address double effect. In short, your statement of Catholic teaching and its relation to policy is as simplistic as you make my hypothetical out to be.

In this case the HHS mandate issue is clear-cut. The HHS mandate is forcing the Church to cooperate in a grave moral evil in apparent (I would go so far as to say prima facie) contravention of the Sherbert/Gonzales Rule. I don't see how any prudential approach could allow Catholics to accept that mandate on either theological or constitutional grounds. But even if one could, I as a priest could still mention the HHS rule and then in the next breath remind Catholics of the Church's teaching on abortion. Or does that still cross the line? What if I say nothing about HHS but I "happen to" preach a sermon on abortion the day after the mandate is announced? Obviously the mandate instigated my sermon. What if I preach a sermon on it in a country that happens to have been legally pro-choice for years, and was motivated to do so by the fact of the government's pro-choice stance? Again, is that enough of a connection to say I've crossed the line into advocating policy? I bet plenty of people would argue that it did and thus attempt to muzzle the priest on those grounds.

In the end I bet that there's no way the Church could get remote enough to satisfy Burke. No way around it: the personal is the political, as I noted.

Live long and prosper.

Anonymous said...

Gene said (12:09 p.m.): "Spoken like a true academic. Thanks for making my point"

Gene, if this is directed at my 11:44 a.m. response to your 9:13 a.m. post, once again I refer readers to the May 8 stream for the continuation since I believe this is how our further exchange began then (references to sounding like a college catalogue, etc). I aplogize in advance if it is directed at something else.

Steven P. Millies said...

@Anonymous 5-- Seriously? My last post wasn't long enough?

1) This ("how many times has the Democratic Party taken as a whole done anything to retard abortion on demand at the national policy level?") is a good example of a category error. Just because the whole has a characteristic doesn't mean the parts share it. Don't tar pro-life Dems with the deficiencies of the DNC.

2) This ("Have pro-life Democrats really accomplished much, if anything?") is a good example of our problem. First, I could reverse the question ("Have pro-life Republicans really accomplished much, if anything?") and the answer would be the same "No." Second, to 'accomplish something' is a goal, but it is a secondary goal behind being good, faithful witnesses of the Gospel. Temporal justice follows Christian commitment, but Christian commitment comes first. The early Church 'accomplished' little in terms of changing Rome. It accomplished much through martyrdom. Too often we treat political action like it's our purpose. It is, but it doesn't come first.

3) You're right to delve deeply into the theological complexities since I've opened that rabbit hole. But there is another problem you don't address. Grave sin is defined (CCC 1858) as a sin against the Decalogue. The Decalogue prohibits killing, but it also prohibits false witness. Your Catholic congressman is stuck in a Catch-22 by your reasoning. We can either construe his vote as cooperation in evil or we can construe it as keeping his oath to "support and defend" a Constitution whose jurisprudence protects a right to abortion. Grave sin either way, and at bottom a prescription for Catholic political inaction...unless you're arguing that your congressman should privilege the Eternal Law above the one he swore to "support and defend"--though even that would violate his oath, I think. My reasoning gives him a way out because it characterizes cooperation in a more realistic way under our political circumstances.

A better answer to the whole problem is that our political involvements inevitably taint us and implicate us in moral evil. We cannot escape it. Did you withhold your taxes so as not to pay for the torture of terror suspects? It was U.S. Gov't policy. (It's not as murky as the unjust war we paid for, which is really a question of prudential judgment. But I'd hold that example up, too.) Torture is grave moral evil (CCC 2297), right there with abortion. 28 states already mandate contraceptives in health coverage. Where was the bishops' outrage before Jan. 20? Added to which, double-effect works to my argument's advantage here. A woman can take contraceptives licitly if she is not taking them with a contraceptive intention, in the presence of some other medically compelling reason. Those reasons exist. They're why contraceptives have been categorized as preventive care.

I think a lot of the arguments we're hearing would only be phony if they weren't shredding the public witness of the Church. But, as it is, it's worse than phony. It is deepening the division between the Gospel and culture, not closing it. We're becoming a laughably irrelevant sect, and we're cheering all the way down.

Steven P. Millies said...

@Anon 5-- Last. I forgot to cover this.

I think you can and should preach on abortion any time it's appropriate to the readings. And, that connection would rarely be difficult to make. If you preached it the day after the HHS mandate came down, your parishioners probably would draw the conclusion that the two things were connected. Of course they would. That's why you'd do it. I don't think preaching should lack a point of view. Quite the reverse. But it seems to me it should follow something like the old McCain-Feingold rules: avoid phrases like "vote for," "vote against," etc. Stay out of the business of writing policy prescriptions and just help people stay grounded on what the Gospel teaches us. If their consciences are well-formed by good preaching, they'll get to the right conclusions without being told which policy is right or wrong by you or anybody else. Prudentially, they may decide on a different path to the same goal. But the same goal is what matters.

Besides. I've never known anybody who's ever tried to "muzzle" a priest for anything he's said. Nobody, that is, except a bishop.

Anonymous said...


Please do not post the correction. I had the date right the first time it seems! Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Well Mr. Millies and ilk, So what do you have to say about U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stepping outside of HIS role to speak to Black Pastors to give them talking to points and tell them that it is their duty to preach certain things, that happen to support the Democratic agenda?
Since when is the US Attorney General the appropriate person to tell pastors what to preach?
Pastors cannot talk politics, but Obama's buddies can talk theology???
Can you say Double Standard? Snake in the Grass? Wolf in Sheep's clothing? Crossing Another Line?


Anonymous said...

By the way Mr. Millies...
no need for you to type that a preacher shouldn't say "Vote For" etc.
In the U. S. that's a given.

Know that this blog's author never says such things.
But I have heard him say with refreshing clarity that the Obama adminstration is pro-abortion, etc. and that one's first allegiance is to Jesus Christ, not any political party. And that if you think differently you need to go to Confession.
Deo Gracias that I get to be in his parish!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Now, Millie, there was no ad hominem in my post. I asked you a legitimate question...who gets to draw the line? Further, how is it decided where the line is? Typically, as do all liberals, you refused to answer the question and changed the subject. Now, all you parents pondering your kids' education beyong HS, read Millie and Anon carefully and decide if you want your child exposed to four years of intellectualized, academic morality based upon Enlightenment rationalism gone sour in a "post-Christian" environment(academia).

Millie, I'd really rather do ad hominem to your face because it is more fun that way. But, since we will likely never meet, I'll just have to settle for some occasional fun here. LOL!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

"No sound should be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity." Well at least we know that Burke was no theologian. What a stupid statement...never thought I'd be talking like that about Burke, but, too bad about that.

OK, then...the government should butt out of our lives and only guard the coast and deliver the mail.

Anonymous 5 said...


1) I'm not tarring the Dems with anything. You argued that there are pro-life Democrats; I concede that and I counter-argue that for purposes of achieving pro-life results, that fact is irrelevant if not actively counterproductive since they aren't the ones controlling Dem policy on this point. We can debate that if you want, but it certainly isn't a category error. Again: my original hypothetical was just that: a hypothetical. I'm starting to get the sense that you're refusing to accept that because you don't like where that hypothetical would lead you.

2) Don't peg me as a Republican apologist, for I'm not a Republican. If you go back and read the thread, I stated well before you did that Republicans bear major blame for abortion's legality. Additionally, by bringing in the need for Catholics to be witnesses to the Gospel, you 1) obfuscate by raising an issue that I took to be assumed--that we are Catholics, not social activists--and b) that social activism isn't witnessing to the Gospel. As a Christian, I wish to stop the slaughter of my fellow humans. How am I failing to be Catholic by making and acting on that statement?

3) Your third point assumes a legitimacy for Supreme Court opinions that many an American politician has decried. Marbury was bootstrapping, remember. By your rule Lincoln betrayed his sworn duty as president by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation; further, when he made the statement "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong" he was being downright subversive of the Constitution (as well as a hypocrite; look up the whole quotation to see how he had acted on this personal judgment in freeing CSA slaves). And what of Jackson's argument in his Maysville Road veto message? Further Americans have been known to appeal to natural law; Seward and Garrison in the slavery issue and . . . what was his name . . . Jeffer-something (unless you want to just write off the Declaration as propaganda). I think you need to read up more on the Catholic understanding of natural law if you really see that congressman as breaking an oath.

Since we can't escape evil, then why don't we just become Lutherans and sin boldly (or Calvinists and admit that we're depraved)? Quit worrying about it and act as if our actions don't matter to our salvation? Your statements show either mere lip service to or ignorance of teachings concerning cooperation with evil.

Re "deepening the difference between the Gospel and culture"--that's rich, considering that it was the heterodox liberals of the '60s and '70s--the generation that championed the sexual revolution and foisted abortion on demand upon us--that was so heavily into the idea that social action/social justice was the very essence of the gospel message. Now, when pro-lifers throw that argument right back at them (or in this case you), the response is that we should disengage from social activism and work on being "real" Christians, there inside the church building where we stay out of politics and public mischief.

Re additional post:
I don't disagree with you on this point as far as it goes, but you are still skirting the hard issues. Can you imagine any situation at all in your Burkean scenario--no matter how extreme or hypothetical--in which a priest would be justified (either under Catholic moral theology or under American law) in telling a parishioner how to behave in a political context? If you can't, then you and I have nothing left to discuss.

Anonymous 5 said...

Re your third post: You keep trying to shift this to prudential ground. I admit that there is a lot of prudential wiggle room in a lot of issues that concern Catholics. I think the bishops' constant trumpeting of the need to admit illegal immigrants is exactly the sort of thing you mention.

But what I'm trying to discover is whether you will concede the existence of any situation in which there isn't such discretion--that a public question may be so blatantly black and white that the Church may (nay, must) tell the laity that it must or cannot take a particular public stand. Again, if you can't, we have nothing more to discuss. But as for your reliance on Burke: I wasn't aware that he was a Doctor of the Church (although he noted that when the government messes with a people's religion, as the HHS mandate does what Catholicism, unpleasant things may happen). If Burke, or the American civil religion, tells me I'm out of line as a Catholic to argue and act as a Catholic against the HHS mandate, so much the worse for Burke and the American civil religion. I don't take my moral cues from either of them, while I suspect that--as was JFK--you're simply an American who happens to be Catholic, and not vice versa.

Anonymous 5 said...

Anon at 5:32: The First Amendment tells me that a priest can say "vote for" all he wants to. The question is whether he should. Of course, the bishops, in their greed for cash, have mooted the issue by accepting the imperial muzzle of 501(c)(3). perhaps this has worked to the advantage of the Church's social welfare programs up to now, but the time is fast approaching when the bill will become due.

Anonymous 5 said...


In your exhortation to parents, I'm sure you didn't intend to lump my diatrib--er, discourse--in with the "intellectualized, academic morality" that you condemn. I'm sure you meant to hold me up to parents as a paragon of rapier-sharp analysis that their children would be only too lucky to encounter so that they would be equipped to wrestle manfully with the Deep Questions of Life.

Right? :-)

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Burke, an Anglican convert from Catholicism (and probably some kind of Deist), most likely expresses an Enlightenment/Rationalist view of Christianity...that it is merely useful as an exhortation to practical morality and the "big issues" of political morality (a striking oxymoron), political philosophy, and government should be left to the State and political philosophers such as himself(even as Burke conceived of it, it is still the State). Likewise, historiography and political anthropology have no room for anything like "salvation history" or eschatology (horror of horrors!). In fact, the Catholic Church and her understanding of man is in many ways contradictory to the Enlightenment rationalism upon which all of modern Europe and the US is founded. We hear a lot about this nation being founded upon Christian principles, but any such association is merely coincidental or a thin veneer. The US Constitution and the Declaration are Enlightenment documents through and through. They need some de-mythologizing based upon the Catholic historical-critical method...LOL!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon 5, Yes, you are correct. You remain one of those rara avis in the academic world that has not succumbed to the spine-dissolving rhetoric of that nest of bloated castrati. You may consider yourself exempt from any of my comments other than "when shall we have lunch or coffee again?"

ytc said...

It seems music and fiery homiletics are the most comment-grabbing topics on this blog!

vateken tew

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

ytc, Music and fiery homiletics...sounds like a Protestant revival...LOL!

Anonymous said...

Gene wrote (5:38 p.m.): "Now, all you parents pondering your kids' education beyong HS, read Millie and Anon carefully and decide if you want your child exposed to four years of intellectualized, academic morality based upon Enlightenment rationalism gone sour in a "post-Christian" environment(academia)."

I cannot speak for Steven Millies (he is very able to speak for himself) but I endorse Gene's suggestion that pondering parents "read . . .Anon carefully." Then they can decide for themselves whether Gene's characterization of the four years is a view that I either advocate or reflect. Again, I refer to the stream on May 8. Sorry to be so persistent, Gene, but you are. I do not mean to be disrespectful but I cannot simply let your sweeping generalizations go unchallenged.

Anonymous said...

Please excuse a naive question from a lowly "bloated castratus."

I would like to ask Father about the USCCB document "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship." Specifically, does it urge Catholics to form their political consciences after considering a wide range of different issues that are relevant to "a consistent ethic for life" and human flourishing? If so, what are the implicactions of that for the present discussion?

Thanks in advance for your help with this.

Lovel said...

The lithmus test will be this November election. A simple analogy if you will. Given that you are a catholic, if you will vote for:
ROMNEY ~ pro-life/pro man & woman only marriage ~ with the bishops and the Church ~ real catholic.
OBAMA ~ pro-abortion/pro gay marriage ~ against the Church ~ not really a catholic.
These two non-negotiable issues (abortion and homosexual marriage) MUST be the top pre-requisite in choosing a candidate, for serious practicing Catholics.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I always find it interesting how some Catholics make documents of various committees of the USCCB into infallible law of the Church. Liturgists did this with the very flawed documents of the USCCB on music and environment, reading into to these limp documents all kinds of excesses to the point of making our churches look like a Puritan's meeting hall and the music anything but Catholic--but they were following these documents as though infallible. The same is true of Faithful Citzenship. This is now a dated document but has some good points to ponder. However, when you have a candidate for the Presidency of the USA that has forced the abortion issue to the point of now mandating the Church provide abortion inducing drugs and other things that go against the authoritative if not infallible moral principals of the Church (natural law, not to mention the 10 Commandments)and now a candidate who has made an "infallible" decree concerning his personal opinion on same sex marriage and using Christian teaching to manipulate Christians, we have a very different kind of presidential election and Faithful Citizenship seems to come from the playbook of it a candidate is going to do some good, like make the trains run on time, then overlook his other fascist tendencies. This is not the moral high ground in my estimation!

ytc said...

USCCB documents are generally glorified newspaper opinion pieces. They really have very little clout and practically no power, unless their statements are endorsed and upheld by the Holy See or the individual diocesan bishop.

For example, the GIRM originated from the USCCB. It has been approved and commanded for use by the Holy See.

However, the vast majority, probably upwards of 99%, of USCCB material contains no exercise of power or authority whatsoever.

They have some very nutty things in their liturgical section. Or, they used to.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon, "form their political consciences after considering a wide range of different issues that are relevant to "a consistent ethic for life and human flourishing...." Did you just say something? In typically academic fashion, you phrase a vague and empty question because you just can't believe that some things are cut and dried. What you wrote could be a line from any political speech, liberal or conservative. By the way, "political conscience" is some kind of oxymoron, isn't it?

Anonymous 5 said...

Anon. at 8:56:

I think Gene's point is this. Between three and four thousand human beings are being killed every day by their mothers (and thus also being denied the possibility of baptism), with no actual or legal method for defending themselves. When that many died on 11 September 2001 and 17 September 1862--both of them one-offs without indefinite daily repetitions--it was viewed as a national tragedy. But in this instance it is viewed largely with indifference.

It would be hard to imagine how evils occurring in relation to "other issues" of the ethic of life come close, even in the aggregate, to equalling or outweighing this one monstrous evil. (Nuclear war would, but that's only potential and not actual. Even so, in any given single month, the number of abortion deaths equals the number of people who died at Hiroshima). Therefore if abortion isn't at the top of someone's list of things to consider, he's fundamentally misunderstanding this "ethic of life" business at its very core.

Further, for the bishops to set this formula forth in the face of such a monstrous problem raises the grave question that they aren't taking abortion seriously.

Steven might want to get into the prudential aspect of it--for instance, that a Catholic has more chance of achieving positives with his vote in "other issues" than he does on abortion. Given the blood on Republicans' hands re abortion through their Supreme Court appointments, I won't entirely disagree with him. But the sheer quality and quantity of the evil of abortion suggest to me that a Catholic who doesn't make this a priority in deciding how to vote is electing to bury his head in the sand, especially since we've been hovering within a single cote of overturning Roe v. Wade for thirty years now.

William Meyer said...

I shall offer one final observation on the issue of Church, State, and the grossly misunderstood separation of the two.

The 1st Amendment declares that "Congress shall make no law...". This is, as with other elements of the Constitution, a limit on government, not on the rights or powers of citizens. Bishops are citizens, too, and to muzzle them in any way is a violation of their rights. They are arguably more effective when speaking on matters of faith, morals, and principles, though it is also true that the majority of the laity may suffer from lack of proper education and lack of proper catechesis, both of which leave them largely bereft of skills in logic and reason. In such cases, I believe that the bishops have little choice but to be specific.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon 5 has nailed it. However, I have the following question...just what is "political morality?" Anon (academic) has phrased his statement in such a way as to imply that there is some separate class of "morality" that applies specifically to the political realm. I shudder to think what this might be, but it does raise several issues. Are we to believe that a Catholic, for instance, once elected to office suddenly is guided by a different moral compass? The Catechism and the Magisterium are pretty clear on the moral imperatives in our lives. So, what changes?

Does a Catholic politician receive some kind of different dispensation if he "forms his political conscience after considering a wide range of issues" and decides that abortion in the case of a threat to the life of the mother, for instance, is acceptable? What if after considering a wide range of issues he decides that going to war in the Middle East because there is oil there is just cause for killing civilians and destroying property? Or what if he considers the same wide range of issues and decides it would be life affirming to knock up an intern?
Hey, folks, there is no "wide range of issues." Catholic morality is about as clear as it can be. Are there moral dilemmas for the Catholic? Of course there are...but the measures by which we struggle to make difficult decisions are quite clear. No, we do not always make the right ones.

Templar said...




That was wonderful. Can't wait until we host another round of spank the Heretics.

Anonymous said...

Here are my responses to various comments:

(1) To Gene (7:01 a.m.and 1:03 p.m.).

(a) “Did you just say something?” Yes, I did – “consistent ethic of life” (orthodox Catholic teaching, repeated almost every Sunday in the Prayers of the Faithful), “human flourishing” (orthodox natural law thinking straight out of Aristotle and St. Thomas). But I suspect you already knew that.

(b) “In typically academic fashion, you phrase a vague and empty question because you just can't believe that some things are cut and dried.” Gene, I feel as if you are treating me as the enemy here. I am not. What I am is someone who is trying to explore what it means to take the Bishops’ call to “develop a well formed conscience” seriously in a situation of complexity that requires prudential judgment (practical wisdom) when making choices regarding a wide range of “cut and dried” moral issues (not just one or two) that will inevitably conflict in the context of political decision-making, as the Bishops also recognize. If you (re-)read the document, you will see what I mean by “political conscience.” The moral evaluation of each issue taken separately may be cut and dried, but that does not mean the political choice among them is cut and dried.

(c) I thought it was my duty as a Catholic and as a citizen to proceed in this way. I am neither Democrat nor Republican but regard myself as an Independent. Sometimes I vote Republican, sometimes Democrat (for President too). My judgment depends on the situation at the time. As a Catholic who regards himself as a Burkean conservative, and an admirer of Russell Kirk (one of the founders of modern American conservatism), I do not unquestioningly support any political Party and I reject ideology as a complete approach to political questions (although I recognize that ideology can be a helpful starting point for practical reasoning).

(2) To Anonymous 5 (at 8:56): Yes, the “prudential aspect” is precisely what we are talking about – for example, judgment regarding the most effective means of ending the intrinsic evil of abortion, judgment regarding the balancing of the abortion issue against other issues (including how those other issues might themselves be part of the very means to eliminate or reduce the intrinsic evil of abortion), judgment regarding the likelihood that litigation may render certain issues moot, judgment regarding the honesty, integrity, and/or good judgment of candidates, particularly in light of their previous record (e.g., Roman Catholic and Republican Paul Ryan’s declared admiration for a woman (Ayn Rand) who regarded Jesus Christ and the Sermon on the Mount as “evil,” or Roman Catholic and Democrat Vice-President Biden’s public repudiation of the clear teaching of his Church regarding the legal recognition of same-sex marriage (civil unions may be different)) .

(3) To Father MacDonald (at 5:11 a.m.) and ytc (at 5:33 a.m.): I know that the “Faithful Citizenship” document was originally issued in 2007, but wasn’t it re-issued in 2011? Was it re-issued with revisions and updates, or just in the original form? I brought it up because it appeared in our Bulletins again within the last few months (am I remembering correctly?) and in the spirit of respecting the pronouncements of the Magisterium. As I indicated, perhaps my question was na├»ve. Perhaps the document is indeed just a cynical ploy to maintain tax-exempt status. If so, I would be very disappointed and would prefer that the Church forgo that status and simply speak Truth instead of dissembling. To do otherwise is just confusing to those of us who are grappling with the hard issues in good faith as we try to “develop well-formed consciences” for discharge of our responsibilities as citizens.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I should clarify my position on Faithful Citizenship. It is the only document that our bishop has approved to be placed in the hands of the laity by the parish, any parish. There are other documents out there by various special interests groups that are not approved officially by the USCCB or local bishops, although I suspect a local bishop could authorize a different document by one of these groups. Ultimately what is promoted has to come from the bishop as he is the one who would ultimately have to answer any IRS concerns if a parish or priest endorses a particular party or party platform or candidate. I will use Faithful Citizenship in our parish and make it available as far and wide as possible but also Cardinal Mahony's words.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon, Thank you. You have made yourself much clearer and I now understand you better. It is too bad I had to make you angry for you to let go of the academy talk and tell me what you believe. Thank you.

Now, we clearly are more allies than I had begun to suspect. However, I still assert that Catholic moral imperatives are cut and dried. The fact, as you state, that the political arena involves difficult choices does not change that.
I find this dilemma reminds me of Kant's Categorical Imperative that one always tell the truth. The favorite reductio of that argument is the old example of the man knocking on your door asking you to hide him from a murderer. You hide him in the closet and, when the murderer knocks and asks are you hiding him in the closet, you must say "yes." Of course, this is to misunderstand Kant...the presumption is that we create a society in which, as Kant says, everyone lives as though we are in a Kingdom of Ends...where everyone is treated as if they are an end in themselves. If we lived so, everyone could indeed tell the truth all the time.
I find this type of "duty ethic" to be about as close to a "Christian ethic" as philosophy can get (I once wrote a paper on it). We are called to live as though everyone is an end in Christ, but it is an eschatological image. If Christians lived so, Christ's Kingdom would rule on earth. But, it will only be brought to fruition with His return and our resurrection. I apologize for the philosophical digression.

Anonymous said...


I agree with everything you say. I particularly like your insight about Kant, who now makes much more sense to me on that point. So no need to aplogize for the digression.

And I apologize for any anger I may have displayed in my comments.

BTW, I would love to read your paper if you still have it.

rcg said...

Anon, you'll love it. It got five stars and has been on his refrigerator ever since.

These sorts of ideas are important. Perhaps political beliefs are what the rich man would not give up to follow Christ.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

It was ice cream, RCG. The rich man would not give up ice cream to follow Christ. The paper is locked in my grad school advisor's safe. Geraldo is searching for it as we speak...