Sunday, February 27, 2011


When I was in the seminary in the last half of the 1970's, one of the theologies that was developing was that of "dissent" from Catholic teaching if the teaching was thought to be non-infallible. But even "infallibility" was being tested and there was dissent from it too.

Academic theologians began to see themselves not only in terms of helping bishops to articulate the faith, but they saw themselves almost as a parallel magisterium. The political concept of "loyal opposition" became a battle cry for them as they developed the theological "loyal dissent" mode of teaching and helping people to avoid the hard moral, ethical and doctrinal issues of the day. In other words, it was/is a neo-protestantism.

I would have to speculate that this theology of dissent promoted in the late 1960's and onward is what has led to "Cafeteria Catholicism." Pick and choose what you like, agree with what you like and discard, denigrate and castigate what you don't like.

Progressive Catholics aren't the only ones who do this. Traditional Catholics do it also. Traditionalists want the pope and bishops to crack down on those who disturb the liturgy and manipulate it; They want dissident Catholics banned from Holy Communion and they want clear moral directives preached in a hell fire and damnation mode.

But when it comes to the social doctrines of the Church enunciated in many papal encyclicals that in some ways seems to support liberal politics, these very same traditional Catholics all of a sudden become cafeteria Catholics.

The bishops of Wisconsin have been urging the governor there not to trample on the rights of workers to organize. They are enunciating the best of Catholic teaching as it concerns worker's right and the right to organize unions.

That doesn't go over very well with those enamored with more conservative politics. In this case, they become like Nancy Pelosi but with a very different form of disregard for Catholic teaching, but disregard for it is exactly what it is.

But with that said, the following comment is very interesting too taken from an interview in the National Catholic Register:

Father Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, a free-market think tank, suggested that the bishops’ response to the union protests marked a new era of episcopal leadership and a more nuanced understanding of economic realities in the United States.

He noted that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had sought to reorient an overly politicized approach to social justice concerns and that new Catholic leaders had responded to this new direction. “Politics is not the governing hermeneutic of the Church,” said Father Sirico, “but for many years politics was the whole paradigm through which everything was seen.”

But he also suggested the Wisconsin bishops’ stance implicitly acknowledged “the changing reality of the American Catholic population as a whole. “The only sector of union membership that is growing is public unions,” he said. “That is highly problematic from a Catholic point of view, because these public unions publicly favor abortion rights and ‘gay marriage’ and seek to undercut the Church’s agenda on social questions.”


Saturday, February 26, 2011


The Collect (Opening Prayer) for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time. I report; you decide:


Grant us, we beg, O Lord,
both that the course of the world be set by your methodical peace producing plan for us and that your Church may be made joyful by means of tranquil devotion.


guide the course of world events
and give your Church the joy and peace
of serving you in freedom.


Grant us, O Lord, we pray,
that the course of our world
may be directed by your peaceful rule
and that your Church may rejoice,
untroubled in her devotion.

Friday, February 25, 2011


John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter. He's the one on the left, so to speak.

Although he writes for the ultra progressive and certainly "schismatic" National Catholic Reporter, John Allen writes great and is always fair and balanced and well attuned to the issues in the Church today.



Well, there he goes again! President Barack Obama slaps people of traditional faith and morals in the face again. He knows how to divide and conquer them. He did a masterful job of it at Notre Dame University but enabled by its priest-president. He presented a good case for the pro-abortion movement in American and dissidents in the Church. The only good thing I heard in that talk were the crying babies in the audience who gave voice to their unborn brothers and sisters and the physical, chemical abuse and torture millions of them have experienced under the guise of choice and legality. It makes the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church look like peanuts!

Now, our President will no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act signed by his predecessor President Bill Clinton. President Obama believes that this law of the land is unconstitutional as though he is now a dictator in the judicial branch of our government. Isn't that up to the Supreme Court to decide eventually, if I understand my basic Civics' Course from the 9th grade. Doesn't the President of the USA have to uphold the law of the land until it is decided to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court when a particular law is challenged in court?

I fear we are fighting a losing battle for traditional marriage in civil law. What's the Catholic Church going to have to do? Let me offer some of my ideas and opinions:

1. It is ridiculous given the secular trends today to allow the government to regulate a Sacrament of the Church in any way whatsoever. Why in the world should a Catholic who is free to marry in the eyes of the Church have to get permission from the state to do so? Why do they need a marriage license from the state. Do we require that for any other sacrament of the Church, for baptism, confirmation, for First Confession, First Communion, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders? Not just no, but hell no! Why do we allow the state to manipulate the sacrament of marriage?

2. If people want the union of two people to be recognized whether it is multiple partners, same sex partners or whatever, then let the state do its nasty business. Keep the Church out of it. The Church for her part should never refer to civil marriage as marriage. It should be referred to as a Civil Union. The Church only refers to the Sacrament of Matrimony.

3. Finally, the Catholic Church through canonical legislation should say that only marriages performed by a a Catholic bishop, priest or deacon are considered the Sacrament of Marriage. Marriages in the Church between a Catholic and an unbaptized person should be referred to as the "bond of marriage." Thus, any other marriage not sacramentalized by the Catholic Church would be considered the "bond of marriage" if it occurred in a protestant denomination. Protestants in fact do not teach that marriage is a sacrament or indissoluble. You can get married a second, third and many more times after a divorce in most Protestant denominations and in the Church! The question of Eastern Orthodoxy's canonical understanding of marriage as a Sacrament needs to be studied further. There is is a good case to accept their marriages as the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

4. In no case, should the church accept as the Sacrament of Matrimony any "civil union" "marriage" performed by the state!

Now, for what I think would be great about the separation of the Church and State when it comes to the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Once the nation gets out of the business of the Sacrament of Matrimony and only recognizes civil unions or legal partnerships (that some might euphemistically call marriage) that will enable me as a celibate priest to do the following and all while still being a chaste celibate and unmarried:

1. I will find another person, man or woman who has a good pension, a lot of insurance and control over a vast empire and enter into a civil union or partnership (aka, civil marriage) so that I can inherit his/her insurance, government pension/social security benefits and whatever else the law entitles me to have from his/her estate. Afterall, isn't government sanctioned civil unions (aka, marriage) all about legal rights and benefits and nothing to do with what the Sacrament of Matrimony is all about (sacramentalizing a sexual relationship that is unitive and procreative.) It has nothing to do with sex. So I would be safe in the eyes of the Church entering into this strictly speaking government union!

2. On the other hand, thank you Barack Obama and supporters of same sex unions recognized by the government!


I found this article which is from a talk that George Weigel gave a few years back at Boston College. It is long, but very good, insightful and challenging. I hope you read it completely.

Fidelity Crisis -- There's more to the American Church's travails than malfeasant bishops and criminal priests.


As the Long Lent of 2002 stretches into another year, it is reasonable to ask ourselves a question of proportion: Are Catholics in fact living through the most serious crisis in the history of the Church in the United States? What about the lay trusteeship battles of the pre­Civil War period? The struggles to assimilate immigrant communities? The Civil War itself (in which Catholics were the only Christian community not to divide into northern and southern branches)? The attacks by the Know-Nothings of the antebellum era and by the anti-Catholic bigots of the late 19th century? These were all genuine crises. But the Long Lent of 2002, which seems likely to continue for some time, is an even more serious crisis, I think. Struggles about the control of Church property have gone on for centuries; anti-Catholic prejudice has been a staple throughout history. This crisis is different.

It is different because it is self-generated, rather than caused by the Church’s external critics or enemies. And it is different because it is the product of another, deeper crisis—a spiritual crisis, a crisis of fidelity. Moreover, the crisis has become a major obstacle to the Church’s public witness at precisely the moment when the Church’s teaching about the dignity of the human person is so desperately needed in our society and culture.

In the thought-world of the Bible, “crisis” has two meanings. A crisis is a cataclysmic upheaval—the familiar sense of the term. But the Bible also speaks of “crisis” as opportunity, a moment ripe with the potential for deeper conversion. The cataclysmic aspect of today’s Catholic crisis is all too familiar: A scandal of clerical sexual misbehavior was transformed into a genuine crisis by a parallel failure in governance by the bishops of the Church. But what about the opportunity?

The opportunity embedded in this crisis is to complete the reform of the Church according to the teaching of Vatican II as authentically interpreted by Pope John Paul II. The opportunity, in other words, is for a genuinely Catholic reform of the Church—not the transformation of Catholicism into another American “denomination,” not Catholic Lite. Only the authentic reform of Catholic belief and practice will enable the Church to become what it must in 21st-century America: a vibrant evangelical movement that proclaims the Gospel in and out of season and that, in doing so, helps rebuild a culture of life capable of sustaining the great American experiment in democratic self-government.

What the Crisis Is
The scandal of clergy sexual abuse has many dimensions: psychological, legal, even political. But viewed from inside, as Catholics should view it—that is, considered theologically—the scandal of clerical sexual abuse and misbehavior is rooted in a crisis of priestly identity. A priest who truly believes himself to be what the Catholic Church teaches he is—an icon, a living representation of the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ—does not behave as a sexual predator. The crisis of priestly identity that followed the Second Vatican Council led to a crisis of priestly discipline, including sexual self-discipline.

But the crisis has also been one of episcopal leadership. It is instructive to note that the deepest anger of Catholics in the past year or so has been reserved for bishops—specifically, for bishops who seem to have done little or nothing to address the problem of sexual scandal; bishops whose primary efforts seemed directed at keeping the scandals out of the public eye; bishops who seemingly did little to reach out to victims.

Catholics intuitively understand that strong episcopal leadership is essential in the Church. Catholics similarly understand that with bold—even adequate—episcopal leadership, marked by a willingness to face facts and undertake genuine reforms, a pattern of clerical sexual scandal need not have developed into the greatest crisis in U.S. Catholic history. It did so because of the bishops’ failure to lead; and that failure was the product of a crisis of episcopal identity.

The failures of governance that turned a significant and urgent problem of clerical sexual abuse into a full-blown crisis touched all three of the bishops’ classic roles: to teach, to govern, and to sanctify. Too many bishops have failed to ensure that the true relationship of the Catholic priesthood to celibate chastity has been effectively taught in seminaries. Too many bishops have failed to move swiftly and decisively to see that clerical sexual predators are no longer a danger to the Church. Too many bishops have failed to act as pastors to the victims of clerical sexual abuse, and as agents of repentance and reconciliation in their local churches. Too many bishops, in other words, have reacted to the multiple problems posed by the meltdown of priestly discipline and the outbreak of sexual abuse as managers, not as apostles.

At its core, though, the Catholic crisis today is one of discipleship—a crisis caused by an insufficiency of saints, a deficit in sanctity. And because sanctity is every Catholic’s baptismal vocation, all of us have a responsibility to help turn crisis-as-cataclysm into crisis-as-opportunity.

We exercise that responsibility in different ways, and genuinely Catholic reform means recognizing that. Genuinely Catholic reform doesn’t involve lay Catholics becoming pseudo-clerics, or ordained Catholics becoming laicized in their understanding of what it means to be a priest or bishop. At the bottom of the bottom line, this crisis will become an opportunity if all people of the Church make it the occasion to live more thoroughly, intentionally, radically Christian lives—if Catholics believe that the adventure of orthodoxy, the adventure of fidelity, is the greatest of human adventures, and if Catholics live that belief daily.

The famous Gospel scene of Peter and Jesus on the Sea of Galilee is instructive. When Peter keeps his eyes fixed on the Lord, he can do what seems impossible: He can walk on water. When he averts his gaze from Christ, when he begins looking elsewhere for his security, he sinks. We, too, can do the impossible if we keep our gaze fixed on Christ—and that is as true of the Church as it is of individual Christians. When we look elsewhere, we sink. And a Church flailing about in the white water of late modernity is not the reformed Church that John XXIII called for in opening the Second Vatican Council, 40 years ago this past October.

What the Crisis Is Not
It is just as important to understand what the crisis is not as to understand what it is. This is not a crisis of celibacy, or a crisis caused by celibacy. At the most elementary level, and in its scandal dimension, the crisis was caused by men not living the celibate commitment they promised to Christ and the Church. To blame the crisis on celibacy makes as much sense as blaming treason on the Pledge of Allegiance.

It is similarly spurious to suggest that this crisis wouldn’t have happened if the Church had a married clergy. In the first place, denominations with married clergy have their own serious problems of clerical sexual misconduct and abuse, and some of the accounts that we have suggest that these problems are at least as bad as what we find in the Catholic Church. At a deeper, theological level, to suggest that marriage would “prevent” sexual predation traduces that covenant of mutual love and receptivity to a crime-prevention program.

Nor is this a crisis caused by the Church’s alleged “authoritarianism.” To begin with, a scandal of sexual misconduct was turned into a crisis precisely because of failures to exercise genuine authority by the ordained heads of local churches. Beyond that, the charge makes no sense because the Catholic Church is not an “authoritarian” institution. Rather, the Church is a communion of disciples formed by an authoritative tradition and accountable to that authoritative tradition.

So too, descriptions of this as a “pedophilia crisis” are misplaced. That tag quickly got applied to the crisis because of the Geoghan case in Boston, which did involve classic pedophilia, the sexual abuse of prepubescent children. Still, the fragmentary empirical evidence available from the cases that have been brought to public attention in the past year suggest that this disgusting form of sexual predation is not the most prevalent form of clerical sexual abuse, which involves the homosexual abuse of teenagers and young men by priests.

And despite charges by some Catholics here and around the world, this is not a crisis created by the media. The media have created distortions and exaggerations, to be sure: Giving the impression that the sexual abuse of the young was a major, ongoing, and widespread fact of life in Catholicism in the United States was a disservice to the truth. But there is also a case to be made that the Church owes some elements of the media a debt of gratitude for forcing to the surface issues that many Church leaders themselves seemed reluctant to deal with.

Finally, this is not a crisis caused by the Church’s sexual ethic. As with celibacy, the empirical case is clear: In its scandal dimension, this is a crisis caused by a catastrophic failure to live the truth of the Church’s sexual ethic. And that failure, in turn, was influenced by a failure to understand and celebrate the Church’s sexual ethic, which lifts up and ennobles the gift of sexual love within the bond of faithful and fruitful marriage. The truth of the matter, brilliantly displayed in Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body,” is that the Catholic Church has a more deeply humanistic view of human sexuality than the worlds represented by Playboy and Cosmopolitan—worlds in which sex has been reduced and traduced into simply another contact sport. If we take history seriously, can we doubt that the toxic effects of the sexual revolution have themselves played a role in the crisis of clerical sexual misconduct?

Permit me to suggest, then, that Catholic universities and colleges where the Catholic sexual ethic is treated intellectually as a curious medieval artifact, and where the Church’s sexual ethic has no discernible place in the ordering of college life, are not institutions from which we can expect adequate analyses of the current Catholic crisis, or adequate prescriptions for genuinely Catholic reform.

How the Crisis Happened
The roots of today’s crisis are obviously complex, involving both institutional and personal failure.

Let me suggest, though, that the best way to understand why this happened when it did and how it did is to understand it as an ecological crisis: a crisis caused by a deeply damaged Catholic ecology that, like all damaged ecologies, eventually produced mutations and diseases. The damaged ecology of the Church has multiple causes, but we can begin to get a grip on the problem by recognizing that a culture of dissent in the Church, which broke out in earnest in the wake of the 1968 encyclical on contraception, Humanae Vitae, led to a kind of invisible schism in Catholic life—a rupture that was to have profound behavioral consequences.

Let me be quite clear about what I mean here. By “culture of dissent,” I do not mean that normal and healthy questioning and probing of the truths of the faith that is the lifeblood of theology. Nor do I mean the struggle all of us experience to be faithful disciples, a struggle that is part of the dynamics of the spiritual life. Rather, by “culture of dissent” I mean the claim, advanced by theologians, priests, religious, and some bishops, that in certain matters (such as the morally appropriate means to plan one’s family and regulate fertility) the Church’s supreme teaching authority was in fact teaching falsely and misleading the people of the Church.

It is one thing to say of a matter of doctrine or moral teaching, “I do not understand” or “perhaps we need to think about this truth in a more refined way” or “perhaps the pastoral implications of this truth need to be more carefully explored.” It is something else entirely to say, “The teaching authority is teaching falsehoods and leading the Church into error.” To say that is to make more than an intellectual judgment. To say that is to declare oneself out of full communion with the Church. As we have come to see, that invisible schism has had all sorts of consequences.

In many American faculties of theology and seminaries after the Humanae Vitae controversy (and then again after the 1994 apostolic letter on the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis), men learned to lead lives of intellectual and spiritual self-deception. Because most bishops were not prepared to ordain men who were public dissidents, candidates for the priesthood (and sometimes the bishops who ordained them) learned to lead a form of double-life, overtly accepting, or at least not publicly challenging, official Church teachings—on conjugal morality, on sexual morality in general, on the possible ordination of women—that they did not accept and had no intention of teaching or promoting in pastoral life. This self-deception had enormous consequences. Unwilling to enforce doctrinal and moral discipline, bishops came to think of themselves as discussion-group moderators, whose primary task was to keep everyone in play and reasonably happy; and we have seen the results of that. Some priests’ consciences became deadened, as intellectual self-deception helped prepare the ground for behavioral self-deception; and we have seen the results of that. Lay Catholics, and indeed some priests and bishops, came to think of Catholic truth as a kind of smorgasbord from which one could pick and choose as tastes dictated. The net result of all this was that the ecology of the Church was damaged severely, as Catholic Lite displaced classic Catholicism, and the Church got comfortable (or so we thought) living with the reality of fractured communion.

That is not all that happened, of course, to create today’s crisis. Clerical predators and malfeasant bishops made choices for which they, not “the times,” are responsible. Clericalism was also at work in the erosion of priestly discipline and episcopal governance. And yet, if we take history seriously, it becomes clear that the culture of dissent is a very large part of what happened. Historically knowledgeable and realistic people can understand that clerical sexual corruption has been and always will be a problem in the Church. But there is no explaining the breadth of the corruption that was brought to public attention in the past year or so, or the lack of effective leadership from some bishops in responding to it, without taking full account of the invisible schism that the culture of dissent created in the Catholic Church in the United States. To be sure, that schism first took place privately, inside the minds and souls of many clergy and some bishops. What has now been made unmistakably clear are the schism’s grave institutional effects.

The Path to Reform

So, what is to be done?

Let me focus on two points: seminary reform and the selection of bishops.

Some seminary reform has taken place in the past decade and a half, with good results. A further step forward would be to reform vocation recruitment procedures so that the first questions asked about a man’s candidacy for the priesthood have to do with the quality of his discipleship, not with his scores on the Myers-Briggs personality profile. Is this man a converted Christian disciple who has given his life to Jesus Christ? Has he manifested a capacity to deepen others’ relationship to Christ, or to introduce others to the Lord? Returning such questions to the fore means confronting the degree to which vocation work in the United States has become dominated by psychological and therapeutic, rather than theological, categories and concepts in the past several decades. I am not suggesting that personality screens and psychological testing are not important parts of the recruitment process. I am suggesting that when the basic questions of effective discipleship are not put first, a skewed evaluation process results.

Similar reform is needed in the process of forming men to lead chaste celibate lives in seminaries. In recent decades, education for chastity has been dominated by seminary psychologists and psychiatrists. This must end. The insights of such professionals are helpful, but it is holy, chaste priests who will best form other men for lives of chaste celibate witness in the Church and the world. That formation must be intellectual and spiritual; throughout the formation process in seminaries, theology must once again take precedence over psychology as the crucial intellectual framework.

Then there is the question of reforming theological education itself. Seminarians formed in an intellectual climate in which it is simply assumed that modern thought is superior to all previous forms will not view Augustine, Aquinas, and Bonaventure as men they should get to know. Seminarians to whom it has been suggested, subtly or directly, that “tradition” is a synonym for “obfuscation” will never get a sense that the Church’s tradition lives and develops as a conversation across centuries and cultures—and they will not be able to present it as such to their people when they are priests. Intellectually ill-formed priests contribute, overtly or inadvertently, to the notion that every issue in the Catholic Church is really an issue of power, when in fact the serious issues being contested are all issues of truth.

These confusions must be remedied if the future priests of the United States are to speak intelligently to one of the most well-educated Catholic populations in the Church’s history. The remedies include securing faculty members for seminaries who are unimpeachably orthodox, who understand the distinctive nature of theological education in a seminary, and who themselves lead lives of holiness as priests, religious, or lay Catholics. It is not a matter of intellectual repression but of common sense to insist that every member of a seminary’s teaching and formation faculties accept, and be prepared to defend, the most bitterly contested teachings of the Catholic Church today, including the Church’s teachings on the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood and the Church’s sexual ethic. Nor is this a matter of banning speculative theology from seminaries; seminarians must understand that theology is a developing science. But all such speculation must take place within a determined conviction to “think with the Church,” and within a clear understanding that the rule of faith is determined by the Church’s pastors, not by the Church’s theologians.

The second area of reform that I would highlight has to do with the criteria that guide the nomination of bishops. The current criteria are obvious from the form letter that the papal nuncio sends to the bishops, priests, and lay people asked to comment on a prospective candidate, in which questions are asked about a priest’s character, his fidelity to the Church’s teaching, his spiritual life, his habits, and so forth. All of this is unexceptionable. It is also insufficient.

The criteria must be expanded and sharpened so that the selection process takes better account of the cultural climate faced by any man who would teach, govern, and sanctify as a Catholic bishop in the United States in the 21st century. That climate is saturated with fears about being considered “intolerant” or “insensitive”—labels readily attached to anyone asserting moral truths that cut against the grain of freedom-misunderstood-as-license. Moreover, it is a cultural climate deeply influenced by bureaucratic models of governance, which affect everything from the local scout troop and parish council to General Motors, the United Auto Workers, and the Pentagon. It is, in sum, an atmosphere in which it is very easy for a bishop to think of himself as a mitered referee, whose primary responsibility is to keep “the dialogue” going and everyone reasonably content.

This is not a model of episcopacy that would have made sense to Ambrose or Augustine, Athanasius or John Chrysostom, Francis de Sales or Charles Borromeo. It is a model of episcopacy that is wholly inadequate to the deep reform of the Catholic Church in the United States according to the mind of the Second Vatican Council. Authentically Catholic reform is going to require bishops of vision, determination, and grit, willing to challenge the flaccidity of our culture and the effects of that softness on the life of the Church.

The object of the selection process is to find apostles, men with the convictions necessary to undergird their own courage to be Catholic and the evangelical fire to inspire that courage in others. With that goal in mind, the following should be added to the standard list of questions asked of knowledgeable people about a prospective candidate for the office of bishop:

• In his life and ministry, does this priest manifest a personal conversion to Jesus Christ and a deliberate choice to abandon everything to follow Christ?

• Does this priest preach the Gospel with conviction and clarity? Can he make the Church’s proposal to those who do not believe? With charity, can he instruct and, if necessary, admonish Catholics who have embraced teachings contrary to the Gospel and the teaching authority of the Church?

• Has this priest ever been a pastor? Did the parish grow under his leadership? If his primary work has been as a professor in a seminary, did his students flourish under his tutelage?

• How does this priest celebrate Mass, in concrete and specific terms? Does his liturgical ministry lead his people into a deeper experience of the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen?

• How many men have entered the seminary because of this priest’s influence? How many women have entered consecrated religious life? Does he encourage lay movements of Catholic renewal and the development of popular piety? In sum, is he a man who can call others to holiness because he manifests holiness in his own life?

• Does this priest have the strength of character and personality to make decisions that will be unpopular with other priests and religious, because those decisions are faithful to the Church’s teaching and liturgical practice?

• Is this priest well-read theologically? Does he regard theology as an important part of his vocation? Can he “translate” the best of the Church’s theology, ancient and contemporary, into an idiom accessible to his people?

Answers to these more pointed questions will help the responsible authorities of the Church determine whether a candidate is a man of conviction and courage. A 21st-century Catholic bishop in the United States must have the courage to be countercultural, but in ways that call the Church and the culture to conversion. The task is not to find men who will lead us into the catacombs. It is to find men who will be apostles, leading the Church toward a springtime of evangelization.

Beyond the question of criteria for choosing bishops, the past year has made clear the need to evaluate critically the structure and functions of the bishops’ national conference, which was unable to deal with the scandal of sexual abuse effectively in the 1990s, and whose actions this past year have not been without serious problems. Is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as now constituted an aid or a hindrance to effective episcopal headship in the individual dioceses? Does its thick bureaucracy impede sharp-edged analysis of the Catholic crisis? The norms for dealing with abusive priests that were approved at the bishops’ meeting in Washington, D.C., last November—norms that should have been adopted a decade ago—have given bishops instruments to deal with the most noxious weeds in the Catholic garden. But is the conference capable of addressing what must be done to revitalize the soil of our garden, so that it is less likely to produce noxious weeds in the future? I doubt it, and so, I believe, do perhaps one-third of the bishops of the United States.

A Call to Excellence
In the mid-1930s, as totalitarian shadows lengthened across Europe, Pope Pius XI memorably said, “Let us thank God that he makes us live among the present problems. It is no longer permitted to anyone to be mediocre.” That saying, a favorite of Dorothy Day, might also be our watchword in the months and years ahead.

We all fail, sometimes grievously. That is no reason to lower the bar of expectation. We seek forgiveness and reconciliation, and we try again. Lowering the bar of spiritual and moral expectation demeans the faith and demeans us. So does Catholic Lite.

Catholics today are capable of spiritual and moral grandeur, and indeed want to be called to such greatness. That is what Vatican II meant by the “universal call to holiness,” and that is what is available to all of us in the Church, whatever missteps the institution of the Church makes. Sanctity is available. And sanctity is what will transform crisis-as-cataclysm into crisis-as-opportunity.

In that universal call to holiness, and in the generous response to it that can be forthcoming, lies the future of genuinely Catholic reform.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


In a nutshell, all dogma is clearly and infallibly defined doctrine. In the process of being defined a dogma, either by an ecumenical council in union with the pope or by a pope alone, there can well be the development of doctrine.Papal infallibility is one such case defined at the First Vatican Council! However, no new doctrine can develop as the last "revelation" occurred with the death of the last apostle.

All doctrine and consequently all dogma flows from Scripture and Tradition. Nothing new can be added, only clarified and developed.

For example, the dogma of the Real Presence of Christ has been believed since the time of Christ and the Last Supper. However, the explanation of this dogma developed over the years. The Council of Trent defines Transubstantiation which is a philosophical hermeneutic to explain a "Mystery" which is not just a doctrine but a dogma--the Real Presence of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist. Transubstantiation was a new "metaphysical" way to approach this teaching, but the teaching is not new it is ancient.

Let's look at Limbo. Loosely speaking we can say it is a doctrine, but not very coherent and never defined by the Church as a dogma. It appears it never will be. But could it be? Yes, but there would have to be a great development of theology to formulate a doctrine that is coherent and shows that it was believed by the Church since the founding of the Church. Will that occur. I doubt it, but it could.

Now let's look at moral doctrine. There is not one case that I am aware of where moral doctrine has been defined as dogma. I stand corrected if anyone can point that out to me. What is defined dogma is papal and magisterial authority (both ordinary and extraordinary) in the areas of faith and morals.

Thus there is only social doctrine, but no social dogma.The circumstances may change but the principles don't. Thus doctrine can use ancient principles of Catholic moral teaching that go back to Scripture and Tradition and the early Church. But none of the specifics of morality are dogma.

What are the unchanging principles of the Church's teaching on morality applied to any number of circumstances? Natural Law, which cannot change, Scripture and Tradition.

Even Canon Law has elements of Divine Law that cannot change or be changed by the Church. But there are other purely human laws in canon law that can change. But what won't change it the Church's authority (meaning the magisterium, pope and bishops in union with him) to legislate canon law, the bind and loose, as it were.

I hope this clarifies the debate on doctrine and dogma. When new situations in morality occur the Church must use Scripture, Tradition, Natural Law and magisterial authority to apply these three legs of the stool of moral teaching to the new or developing situation.

Is Humane Vitae a dogma, and therefore infallible? No! It is a well development moral doctrine on the subject. The Holy Father did indeed use defined dogma (Scripture, Tradition, Natural Law and his own personal magisterium and the wider magisterium and authority) to write this encyclical. It cannot be disregarded by someone who calls themselves a practicing Catholic.


Irish Church lost influence by conforming to culture, Archbishop Martin says
February 23, 2011

Catholicism is a “minority culture” in Ireland today, according to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

In an address at Magdalene College, Cambridge, the Primate of Ireland explained that secularism has taken a heavy toll on the faith in Ireland for years, to the point that most people—even those who identify themselves as Catholic—no longer order their lives according to the principles of the Catholic faith.

Archbishop Martin told his Cambridge audience that several years ago, Pope John Paul II asked how Ireland had suddenly become secularized. The Irish archbishop said that he respectfully disagreed with the Pontiff, telling him that the change had not come suddenly:

Secularisation, whatever that means exactly, had been on the Irish radar screen for many years. It was not all negative but it was not an overnight wonder. It was there, but not recognised. It was there but the answer of the Irish Church was for far too long to keep the same show on the road, not noticing that there were problems with the show and that the road was changing.

Years earlier, Archbishop Martin recalled, a sociology professor had told him that Catholicism was already a minority culture in Ireland. At the time the argument seemed outlandish, he said, but in time he came to understand the professor’s point. Now conceding that Catholicism is a minority culture, the archbishop said: “The challenge is to ensure that it is not an irrelevant minority culture.”

Archbishop Martin said that the Church has failed to capture the attention of young Irish, so that “there is a missing generation—and perhaps more than one.” He said that the Church must undertake greater efforts to reach young people.

On the public scene the influence of the Church has lapsed considerably, the archbishop continued, noting that “in the current political discussion in Ireland is increasingly marginal.” With elections approaching, he noted that none of the country’s political parties had made an effort to gain support from the Church.

Archbishop Martin said that the process of secularization was accelerated by the efforts of Church leaders to conform to the culture. He explained:

The paradoxical thing is that the farther the Church goes in adapting to the culture of the times, the greater is the danger that it will no longer be able to confront the culture of the time. It will only be able to speak the language of the culture of the day and not the radical newness of the message of the Gospel which transcends all cultures. It could become a type of civil religion: politically correct, but without the cutting edge of the Gospel.

My comments:
Some have commented that the schismatic bishop of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay may be right.

But what may the bishop be right in? Certainly he is not right to separate from the See of Peter or set himself and his society as the true Church.

But he may very well be right in saying that the Catholic Church, meaning clergy (bishops too) and laity have lost their Catholic identity. We can say that too about Martin Luther, many of his reforms were to call the Catholic Church of his period back to its true Catholic identity, but obviously he went overboard! Isn't this what Archbishop Martin of Ireland is saying about Irish Catholicism? The Irish and many other Catholics throughout the world were cooked slowly in the crock pot of secularism. They slowly lost their Catholic identity and allowed it to become an addendum to their lives rather than the substance of their lives.

Just look at just a few American Catholic politicians and the Catholics who support them. Have they seriously taken Vatican II's teaching that the laity bring the Catholic faith and their Catholic identity to the secular world to evangelize it as they dialogue with secularism? What has happened these past 50 years is Catholics being cooked and evangelized in the toxic stew of secularism and then trying to bring secular evangelism to their Church.

Let's name just a few of these politicians. Should we first start with John F. Kennedy. Then let's jump to Nancy Pelosi, Mario Cuomo, Vice President Biden. The list goes on and on.

Let's look at the clergy too while we are at it. How have we secularized and Polyannaized the liturgy where the prophetic message of the Gospel is watered down and the prophets look like clowns?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


A change of heart is possible! Of course she was never ordained, it was a "simulated" sacrament by a simulated "bishoppress."

Norma Jean Coon's Document of Renunciation of Ordination to Diaconate

On July 22, 2007, I was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Patricia Fresen, of Germany and South Africa who was ordained by three male bishops in Germany for the group called Roman Catholic Women Priests. The ordination took place at the Santa Barbara Immaculate Heart Spiritual Center. Because neither Patricia Fresen nor myself were given permission for the ordination by Pope Benedict XVI, the ordinations were illegitimate and not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Thus an excommunication process called Latae Sententiae occurred, excommunicating oneself by failure to observe the Canon Laws of the Church.

I wish to renounce the alleged ordination and publicly state that I did not act as a deacon as a part of this group except on two occasions, when I read the gospel once at mass and distributed communion once at this same mass. I withdrew from the program within two weeks of the ceremony because I realized that I had made a mistake in studying for the priesthood. I confess to the truth of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis . I confess the authority of the Holy Father on these issues of ordination and recognize that Christ founded the ordination only for men.

Formally, I relinquish all connection to the program of Roman Catholic Women Priests and I disclaim the alleged ordination publicly with apologies to those whose lives I have offended or scandalized by my actions. I ask God's blessings upon each of these folks and their families.

Norma Jean Coon, RN, MFCC, PhD
San Diego, California
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Holy God, I ask your blessings on my Bishop and my pastor and priests in Rome who have assisted me in the process of being re-instated into the Roman Catholic Church and I forsake all connection with the Roman Catholic Women Priests program via Internet or otherwise.

I thank you for the efforts of my family in my behalf and ask for Jesus' Light and Love to pour over my husband of 47 years and my five children.

Forgive me my Beloved Jesus and Mother Mary for pursuing my own will in this matter of ordination and as I consecrate myself to your Divine Will through the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I ask you to pour out Light and Love upon any who have placed themselves outside of your Love and Light Bless us, O Lord, for these thy gifts and place us in the Heart of the Father, as we pray for more priests to serve in our church and for vocations to enrich our Church in the United States.

Forgive us for failing in obedience and enrich us in your Holy Love, I pray through Jesus and Mary. Fiat+


After a long, brutal winter, spring has finally arrived in Macon. It was in the low 80's Monday and Tuesday! And two of our lovely trees are blooming away in brilliant pink flowers. These blooms will last about two weeks before these produce leaves. And the pollen is making its presence felt in many ways. How's spring in your neck of the woods, as lovely I hope!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


The reforming monk who tried to teach the pope a thing or two, Martin Luther

Catholic reformer, Bishop Bernard Fellay, who wants to teach the pope a thing or two

The Holy Father gets it on all sides. The ultra-conservative, neo-schismatic St. Pope Pius X Society disagrees with Vatican II altogether, not just the reforms of the liturgy. Pope Benedict has been trying to reconcile this group to the Church, but progress is stymied by the intransigence of this ultra-conservative group's leader, Bishop Bernard Fellay.

John Thavis of Catholic News Service writes the following from Bishop Fellay:

"Is Vatican II really a stumbling block? For us, no doubt whatsoever, yes!" he said. "Until now Vatican II was always considered as a taboo, which makes the cure of this sickness, which is the crisis in the church, almost impossible."

Fellay said the society has presented its doctrinal arguments in writing to the Vatican, followed up by theological discussion. "It is really a matter of making the Catholic faith understood in Rome," he said.

At Praytell Blog, Fr. Anthony got into a spat with me when he accused me in a comment I made over there that people should stop complaining and just implement the new translation which we must on the First Sunday of Advent of this year. He wrote that I was telling people to stop talking which I never did, since his is a blog and people are writing, not talking, and how in the world could I get people to stop talking, I mean writing, anyway on a blog that is meant to generate liturgical discussion on the progressive side of things and in which I am allowed to participate? In a way I felt like I was being silenced! (In other words there was a strong case for him projecting on to me what he does with people of my ilk and that is "silencing the discussion." But I digress.)

At any rate, Fr. Anthony had been involved in developing the new translation of the Mass. He was outraged when the 2008 translation which was approved by the American Bishops and then accepted by Pope Benedict XVI subsequently underwent a rather secretive adjustment changing some of the 2008 translation in some rather weird ways. Who gave the authority to do this and why was it not done in a more open way. These are good questions that really haven't been answered to my knowledge in any satisfactory way. The bishops themselves seem to be mum on this too. I wonder if they are puzzled if not angered by these changes from "on high."

Fr. Anthony now has an agenda to change how the Church exercises authority but doing so from the bottom up. This is what Fr. Anthony wrote in challenging something I wrote:

"The issue is not simply the quality of the translation. The issue is a broken system of church leadership. The translation is but a symptom of a larger problem."

In other words, like Bishop Fellay, one could say that one of Fr. Anthony's goals is to make Vatican II understood in Rome.

Two very differing attitudes about the exercise of Church authority and the interpretation of what and how the Church should be the Church. What's a pope to do? What are the laity to do?

For my part, I'm a papist. Maybe administration isn't a strong suit of the Church or of many bishops in union with the pope, but at least union with the pope is at the center of Church unity. But ironically enough the papacy has always been a lightening rod for disunity. But I think Jesus was too.

(update to this post, I read the following written by Fr. Anthony Ruff on Pope Benedict and his reform. I was pleasantly surprised by it because it is actually rather flattering of the Holy Father and certainly it is very accurate in terms of what the Holy Father has done and is doing. You can read Fr. Anthony's post on it HERE FROM THE PRAYTELL SITE!)

In a sense, you can see that come hell or high water, Bishop Fellay is going to do his thing and if Rome doesn't see it his way, well, Bishop Fellay is going his way. You know what you are getting with Bishop Fellay.

With progressives in the Church, they prefer a more "in house" subversive approach, like the bottom up kind of letting Rome know who's in charge. One's never sure who's in charge and who's doing what with this sneaky approach. They are more stealthy.

However, the progressives think that if it worked in Egypt and maybe in Libya, it will work in the Church. Progressives are really secularists at heart, aren't they?


Is Limbo a Catholic doctrine? From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

(Late Latin limbus) a word of Teutonic derivation, meaning literally "hem" or "border," as of a garment, or anything joined on (cf. Italian lembo or English limb).

In theological usage the name is applied to (a) the temporary place or state of the souls of the just who, although purified from sin, were excluded from the beatific vision until Christ's triumphant ascension into Heaven (the "limbus patrum"); or (b) to the permanent place or state of those unbaptized children and others who, dying without grievous personal sin, are excluded from the beatific vision on account of original sin alone (the "limbus infantium" or "puerorum").

From the Associated Press in April of 2007:

AP - Pope Benedict XVI has reversed centuries of traditional Roman Catholic teaching on limbo, approving a Vatican report released Friday that says there were "serious" grounds to hope that children who die without being baptized can go to heaven.

Theologians said the move was highly significant - both for what it says about Benedict's willingness to buck a long-standing tenet of Catholic belief and for what it means theologically about the Church's views on heaven, hell and original sin - the sin that the faithful believe all children are born with.

Although Catholics have long believed that children who die without being baptized are with original sin and thus excluded from heaven, the Church has no formal doctrine on the matter. Theologians, however, have long taught that such children enjoy an eternal state of perfect natural happiness, a state commonly called limbo, but without being in communion with God.

"If there's no limbo and we're not going to revert to St. Augustine's teaching that unbaptized infants go to hell, we're left with only one option, namely, that everyone is born in the state of grace," said the Rev. Richard McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.

"Baptism does not exist to wipe away the "stain" of original sin, but to initiate one into the Church," he said in an e-mailed response.

My comments: In the AP story, apart from reporting the facts of the story, Rev. Richard McBrien emails a "half truth and some outright lies, which is sad for a priest and a theologian.
Baptism indeed still exists today to wash away the stain of sin, either original sin, or both original and actual sin if one is of the age of reason to have committed actual sins prior to baptism. Yes, through Holy Baptism, Christ initiates a person into the Church, but sanctifies this person in the process and infuses sanctifying grace into the soul. Christ also gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to the person.

Despite the Vatican clarification on a theological construct, I would contend that no one is forbidden to believe in limbo for infants. But I do believe that we are forbidden not to believe the "limbo" that those of the Old Testament who were awaiting the coming of the Messiah, were in the "abode of the dead" what we call in the Credo "hell" as in "He descended into Hell."

In terms of moral doctrine, I don't believe there are any infallibly defined truths or dogmas in moral teaching that applied in each and every single case. There is always some kind of exception for some kind a situation. For example, in Africa when raiding marauders of bandits were invading convents of nuns and raping them, the Church did allow under a pastoral privilege or exception, for them to use artificial birth control. I could be wrong on that and I would stand corrected if someone has evidence to the contrary.

We also have the allowance of what is called "indirect" abortion because one chooses a path of treatment of a serious disease where the medication could cause indirectly an unintended abortion. The abortion comes indirectly.

In other words, defined dogma only pertains to immutable truth and are always the same no matter what. How these dogmas are explained in theology might change, but not the dogma itself.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I got into an argument with a priest once about the Church Triumphant, you know, the Church (saints) redeemed in heaven where they are gathered around the throne of the Most Holy Trinity along with the choirs of angels:
1. Seraphim
2. Cherubim
3. Thrones
4. Dominations
5. Virtues
6. Powers
7. Principalities
8. Archangels
9. Angels

and can only see God through the visible mediation of the risen and glorified Body of Jesus Christ.

The Church teaches that if through no fault of one's own, a person does not know Jesus Christ as the Son of God, incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary and does not know that the Church is the true Church founded by Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, when that person dies, in order to get into heaven, will they be purified and enlightened as to the truth of Jesus and His Church and will they experience purgatory where God makes them members of the Church by fully initiating them into her? In other words, does God then make them Catholic so they can join the Church Triumphant in heaven and see God face to face in the Risen Divine Person of Jesus Christ?

In other words, is the Church Triumphant in heaven Catholic, east, west, north and south? And do Protestants become true Catholics if they get to heaven by God's grace and their faith?




Grant, we beg, Almighty God,
that we, meditating always on rational things,
may fulfill those things which are pleasing to You
by both words and deeds.


Father, keep before us the wisdom and love
you have revealed in your Son.
Help us to be like him
in word and deed.


Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that, always pondering spiritual things,
we may carry out in both word and deed
that which is pleasing to you.


The following is my homily for last Sunday (6th Sunday in Ordinary Time). There have been so many cry babies in the Church since 1968 when Pope Paul VI didn't give Catholics moral permission to use artificial birth control. They thought Catholic teachings on this was just too hard and put too much of a burden on Catholics. They found the teaching outrageous. I wonder if they felt the same way about Jesus' call to us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. If you ask me that's more outrageous than Humanae Vitae!

As Americans we love our sports and our athletes. We love the super bowl, the Olympics and the World Series. We love watching champions become champions. We all know that the greatest athletes in the world have a gift from God; their abilities are written in their genes. But we also know that “good enough” just won’t cut the mustard; they must go beyond being good and work for athletic perfection whether as individuals or as a team. They have to push themselves to the very limits to achieve the championship of their sport and athletic prowess. They have to strive for perfection given the gifts of good genes they have.

As Catholic and therefore as Christians, we are called to moral perfection. Good enough just won’t do, by God’s grace we are to become moral champions as Catholics.

The pursuit of moral perfection is written on our soul by Jesus Christ through the gift of Holy Baptism, in other words it is written in our spiritual genes.

Like athletes working on perfection and thus being champions, we too must strive by God’s grace to be perfect.

Most of you are too young to remember 1968. I can barely remember it. But in 1968 the world was upside down by political and sexual revolution. Because of all of the changes in the Mass and in the Church that Vatican II had begun just three years earlier, many progressive Catholics thought just about everything about Catholic teaching could be and would be changed. Many Catholics caught up in the sexual revolution, and the advent of easy forms of artificial contraception fully believed that the Church would give them permission to use these; that it would not be a sin. Pope Paul VI however issued his famously infamous encyclical Humane Vitae that said, no, the Church would not give permission to use artificial contraception because to do so would go against natural law and Catholic moral Tradition. Catholics, both clergy and laity and even some bishops were outraged and protested this encyclical and said the Church was asking too much of modern Catholics and turning a blind eye to scientific advancements. It was just too much.

But today the more I think of it as a priest the more I have to agree with the high moral teaching of Humane Vitae when it comes to the marital act and artificial contraception. It is part of the call to moral championship that Jesus himself teaches us in his sermons. It is the call to perfection.

Jesus teaches us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Really? Is He kidding? That’s just too much. I want to be a public dissenter from that teaching. It’s too much, places too much of a psychological pressure on people and will make them always feel guilt ridden for not being able to achieve that kind of moral championship. I’m kidding of course. We have to strive for perfection in the moral and spiritual life, because it is a teaching that comes from God and must be taught by the Church and has ramifications for us all and touches every aspect of whom we are, even the most personal aspects of our human sexuality and ways of relating to others. There is nothing within the human being, including bodily functions that is immune to God's grace and redemption which Jesus' call to perfection is all about--redemption and salvation.

We will be judged by God on how well we have used the gifts of grace, the sacraments and our participation in the Church to allow God to achieve moral perfection within us. Nothing artificial will due; we have to be authentically moral perfectionists. Don't we jeer athletes who use artificial means to develop their physical perfection, like steroids. It is easier to use steroids isn't it. These are scientific advancements that makes being an athlete easier, right? But when it comes to moral perfection, some want the Church to abandon Jesus' call to perfection and allow for artificial forms of contraception to assist in the redemption of human sexuality. Isn't that kind of odd to you?

One of my favorite shows on TV is “House Hunters” on HGTV. It is a reality show, which I normally despise, but in this case done very well. But to show you just how far we have gone in accepting “flabby moral attitudes” rather than championship moral attitudes, I was watching one show where a very nice young couple were looking for a new home to buy, their very first together. They must have been in their early 20’s. They were not married but were buying a house together and there was no compunction on their part in not telling the world of their intention to live as public sinners. They were totally clueless about our Judeo/Christian heritage in this regard. In other words they were moral pygmies, not moral champions and could care less about achieving moral superiority like an athlete would pursue physical superiority.

The Old Testament Book of Sirach is very clear. If you choose you can keep the commandments; they will save you. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him. However, God does not give permission to anyone to act unjustly nor does he give us permission to sin. Then our Savior Jesus kicks it up a notch. We are asked to use our free will to choose rightly. But the choice here is not between good and evil or life and death. Our choice is whether or not we will use our freedom to reach beyond the 10 commandments and follow the far more challenging law of love, the way of perfect moral championship that Jesus will reiterate elsewhere in the Gospels. It’s a call to perfection which makes Humane Vitae look like child’s play! There is no room for dissent in Jesus’ moral teachings.

Our religion is so morally challenging, we need Jesus grace to assist us at everyday and every moment of our lives. We need Sunday Mass, daily prayer and the Sacrament of Penance. Let us look to Jesus crucified, who knows that perfection for us comes at a great price for Him, the price that only a true “Champion” could pay and achieve for Himself and for us.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Granted that the image below is a pietistic, devotional, artistic rendering of the three forms of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church present at every Mass, but I wonder how many Catholics today realize this about the Mass? Very few I suspect.


Don't get excited, this is not a Catholic Mass, but Episcopalian. But the story in the link below is about a Presbyterian Minister who is allowed to "concelebrate" a Catholic Mass and even distribute Holy Communion. The priest who allowed it is a "CLOWN" and he has been suspended and could even be involuntarily laicized. That's not clowning around!



PRESS HERE to read this good commentary on the CARA Report on vocations to Religious life.

And after you have read this good report, watch this parody on 1970's and 80's liturgical music. This music and how it affected our piety, reverence and understanding of the Mass may well account for the drop in attendance at Mass over the years (who can take this liturgical puff seriously) as well as the drop in vocations, especially since these songs were very prominent in convents, although convents chose songs even more hideous, sappy and saccharine than these; and yes, unfortunately, that is possible!:

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Fr. Pierre Paul, maestro di cappella (chapel master) at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City celebrates the 11:00 AM parish Mass at Saint John Cantius in Chicago. Are you able to tell from the photos which form of the Mass he's celebrating?

The direction of the Mass, the Roman Chasuble and the lifting of the chasuble at the elevations should be a dead give away!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Bishop Raymond W. Lessard, Retired Bishop of Savannah

I suspect some people might think that I disagree with the documents of Vatican II, especially as it regards liturgy. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I disagree with is the "theology of dissent" promoted by many theologians and rank and file Catholics that cannot be found in Church teaching, especially Vatican II.

I disagree with the wrong implementation of Vatican II when that implementation is a rupture with the pre-Vatican II expression and promoted as though the post Vatican II Church is some kind of new Church unshackled from its pre-Vatican II roots.

I would say that one of my main mentors after I was ordained was our former now retired bishop, Bishop Raymond W. Lessard. He understood the documents of Vatican II better than anyone else I have known personally. He understood what collegiality meant. He understood what liturgical reform should include and not include. He was very much into "saying the black and doing the red."

While Bishop of Savannah, he tried to model on the diocesan level what should be going on in the parish level. He had a strong staff with delegated authority; he developed a diocesan pastoral council and expected strong pastoral councils on the parish level as well as committees to assist the pastor in his role. He was very much into consultation, although there was never any doubt about where the buck stopped and who has the final decision after the collaborative approach. He also scrutinized what his staff was doing and gave proper direction and criticism in the appropriate venue.

Here's an article on Bishop Lessard back in 2005 regarding Vatican II and some issues that were dear to his heart. He currently teaches at St. Vincent de Paul seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Collegiality in the church: Vatican II debate continues today

By Jerry Filteau

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Of the many debates that took place during the Second Vatican Council, one of the most important and complex -- and one that still goes on today -- concerned collegiality, or the role of the college of bishops in leading, guiding and teaching the church.

By extension, the collegial principle affects how parishes and dioceses are run, as well as how the church operates on the regional, national and worldwide levels.

Retired Bishop Raymond W. Lessard of Savannah, Ga., who worked at the Vatican during and after the council, told Catholic News Service that collegiality is at the heart of "the ongoing question of the relationship between the local and the universal church, which brings up a host of questions: centralization, the (Vatican) bureaucracy running things too much, but there's also the other extreme of isolationism of a local church -- the local bishop, for example, being too autonomous and independent."

Collegiality is also a central concern in the quest for church unity. At an ecumenical forum on the papacy at Georgetown University in September, several theologians of different faiths said they would welcome a papal ministry serving the unity of all Christians, but that one of the chief obstacles to such unity is the apparent lack of collegiality in the way papal authority is exercised currently.

The theologians participating in the forum extended that to the issue of conciliarity or synodality at every level of church life: the role of pastoral councils giving laity a say in parish life and of similar councils at the diocesan and national levels giving laity, deacons and priests a say in the life of the diocese or the church across the nation.

Bishop Lessard, who now teaches ecclesiology, or the theology of the church, at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Florida, distinguished between what theologians and church documents refer to as "effective collegiality" and what they call "affective collegiality."

Effective collegiality is what the council describes in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church when it says, "The order of bishops is the successor to the college of the apostles in their role as teachers and pastors, and in it the apostolic college is perpetuated. Together with their head, the supreme pontiff, and never apart from him, they have supreme and full authority over the universal church."

The document says that since early Christianity the collegial character of the body of bishops has been evident in the union of all bishops with one another and with the pope in "unity, charity and peace." It also was evident in the ancient church practice of the church's bishops meeting in council to settle "all questions of major importance," it says.

Affective collegiality refers to the sense of unity with the pope and the world's bishops that ought to pervade the ministry of each bishop individually and the common actions of groups of bishops. Even though they do not act with the full authority held by the entire college of bishops gathered in council under the pope, bishops acting as individuals or in groups always "are related with and united to one another," the document says.

"While theologically there's a key concept of effective collegiality, to me just as important is that of affective collegiality, which cannot be spelled out so clearly in canonical norms or directives because it's more of a feeling, an instinct. But to me that's of crucial importance," Bishop Lessard said.

He said that underlying the notion of collegiality is the understanding of the church as a communion of the people of God. To the early Christian theologians, what was important about that communion was "how it is felt and lived," he said.

To make collegiality a living reality in the church "Paul VI was quite determined to carry out the conciliar directives," the bishop added. "I'm thinking now on the practical level of the initiatives he took by extending faculties to bishops for things they were restricted from doing before, and of course of the development of national (bishops') conferences."

During and immediately after the council, as a staff member of the Vatican's Consistorial Congregation and then its successor, the Congregation for Bishops, Bishop Lessard saw firsthand the efforts of Pope Paul to advance the understanding and practice of collegiality around the world.

He also cited Pope Paul's establishment of the Synod of Bishops as "a pioneering step" in advancing collegiality. Through the synod, the pope consults periodically with representatives of the world's bishops on major issues facing the church.

At the September forum on the papacy, panelists from the Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran traditions saw the Synod of Bishops, bishops' conferences and diocesan and parish pastoral councils as steps toward more decentralized authority and more consultative and participatory decision-making in the Catholic Church. But they thought those conciliar structures need to be strengthened further and the primacy of the pope reinterpreted before the papacy can be seen as exercising a ministry of unity for all Christians.

One panelist, Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, former dean of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York, summed up the tension between no central authority and too much central authority: "Hierarchy without conciliarity is tyranny. ... Conciliarity without hierarchy is anarchy."


In a post below this one, I posted John Allen's piece on the Pew Report concerning Catholics who leave the full communion of the Church. Some of these leave and join no other denomination or religion, they are "agnostic" or become "atheists" preferring the social trends in terms of secularized morality. This hinges on free access to artificial birth control, abortion based on choice, a denial of the need for natural law to guide morality, the desire for equal rights for homosexual persons especially as it regards marriage and equal rights for active homosexuals in society and even the Church.

This group is really a minority who leave the Catholic Church. By far the great majority that leave for Protestant denominations, a smaller number do so because they join the Protestant denomination of their spouse and do so for marital and family harmony.

The larger group leaves because they are not properly catechized in the Catholic Church's sacramental theology and spirituality, especially as it concerns the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Holy Eucharist. They are also looking for more traditional, conservative family values which they see lacking in their experience of post-Vatican II "spirit of Vatican II" parishes.

This group, the largest by far, join Protestant evangelical denominations that have lively worship, strong fellowship programs that connect people to each other and a strong sense of conservative, traditional family values and how to live one's life in the world. In other words, based on the Word of God, they nourish people who are looking for strong direction in their lives, a sense of conversion and redemption from the values of the world and a strong sense of fellowship and community.

Has the post Vatican II Church as experienced on the parish level let these Catholic down, the ones who have joined Protestant conservative, lively evangelical traditions?

Let me put it another way. If a Catholic truly believes in the necessity of the Sacrament of Holy Orders for the valid celebration of the Mass; if a Catholic truly believes that Almighty God is present on the altar through the ministry of the ordained priest at Mass and that this comes about through "transubstantiation"; and if a Catholic believes that in the presence of God one should be in awe and wonder and give God one's best and seek God's mercy where sin has corrupted the soul; and if one receives God in a humble fashion, free of mortal sin, with the utmost reverence (which is emphasized when one kneels) then would a Catholic leave the Church for fleeting emotions and strong fellowship with others? Wouldn't that be idolatry to place feelings and fellowship above Jesus really present on the altar, "Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity" as well as His one Sacrifice made present too and all through the ministry of the Sacrament of Holy Orders?

And if a Catholic doesn't know the traditional, conservative family values of the Catholic Church and the direction these give us in the world in which we live, just why is that? What has happened to Catholic catechesis on the Word of God and Sacred Tradition these past 50 years?


It rightly has been pointed out that the cappa magna is not a liturgical garment. It was never outlawed outright by Vatican II or any post-Vatican II mandate, but it did fall into disuse for bishops in the New Order of the Mass. It remains as a part of the rubrics for a Pontifical Solemn Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

The actual law addressing the post Vatican II usage is:

It is now rarely used, since the 1969 Instruction on the Dress, Titles and Coats-of-arms of Cardinals, Bishops and Lesser Prelates lays down that:

The cappa magna, always without ermine, is no longer obligatory; it can be used only outside of Rome, in circumstances of very special solemnity. (§ 12)

However, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem still uses the ermine-lined winter cappa, because he is bound by the complex and unalterable rules of the status quo, an 1852 Ottoman firman which regulates the delicate relations between the various religious groups which care for the religious sites in the Holy Land. This anomaly is most evident at the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem. The cappa magna is also still used among groups using the Tridentine Mass.

However, liturgical garb of the post-Vatican II "spirit" of Vatican II variety still looms out there and no progressives ever blink an eye at it. In fact they encourage it because, well, it is so progressive.

So look at the non-liturgical vesture and the liturgical one and tell me which one is more likely to be seen for the complete celebration of the Mass rather than just at the beginning and the end. Again, of the two, which would you axe?