Thursday, February 25, 2010

Welcome Bishop Pates

When I was in seminary, two men were ordained as auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. One of those men was named Richard Pates. I didn't know much about him. From my priest-supervisor, I learned that Bishop Pates had had several assignments in his time as a priest and had proved himself very pastoral throughout them all.

Little did I know that Bishop Pates would be assigned to a neighboring diocese (Des Moines) and would be coming to celebrate mass here for the college students. I'm very excited. There's something exciting about having a successor to the Apostles celebrate mass for you. I hope he helps the Des Moines students feel more connected to the church by visiting them here and hope they take up his offer to pilgrimage to World Youth Day!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From a magazine for liturgy

I'm in the process of preparing a response to an article in a Catholic Liturgy magazine exhorting the need to move toward a new model of church. I usually just laugh at these magazines but I really feel like this type of attitude needs to be addressed. Here's what got my blood boiling...

"...The ongoing process of ecclesial renewal is impoverished when all issues are reduced to one: namely, abortion. I detest this evil because it contradicts the biblical tradition that creation of life is God's business, and humanity is not empowered to interfere in God's business. But the behavior of some in the Christian community on this issue echoes the self-righteousness of the fundamentalist: 'I am right and you are wrong.' This has become such a banner cry for some church leaders that abortion as a pro-life issue is morphing into a pro-fetus movement and the violent rhetoric fuels lynch mob hysteria. This does little to restore respect and confidence in the hierarchy who practiced a different form of pro-choice when they chose to harbor pedophile priests rather than provide pastoral care to sexual abuse victims. voices loud in defense of the unborn but silent in defense of the living whose lives were emotionally aborted in childhood as victims of sex abuse are not grounded in a Christology that teaches a Jesus who never ridicules the violence or injustice he seeks to change. An ecclesiology with a biblically rooted Christology is the tradition that will push a model of church as dysfunctional family to become a model of church as healthy family."

Here are a few of the obvious errors:
1. Saying that the bishops shouldn't make a stand on abortion because of the sexual abuse scandal shows extreme desperation on the part of the author to avoid an issue he doesn't want to deal with. If anything, the bishops need to be encouraged to stand up for those whose lives are being destroyed (the powerless) over those who are choosing an occupation or a "normal life" over life (the powerful).
2. To my knowledge, pro life bishops haven't ever convened a lynch mob and characterizing things like the National Right to Life March as a lynch mob shows that this author has no idea about a largely lay movement in the church.
3. We believe that the fetus is alive. You don't have to choose between advocating for the unborn and the living. This is what philosophers call a false dichotomy.
4. The danger of saying that Jesus never said something is that there's always someone who will point out that he did. Luke 13:34-35 for instance, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned. (But) I tell you, you will not see me until (the time comes when) you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

I hope to have a complete critique worked up for this particular magazine article by the end of the week and sent off. But I ask for your prayers. It's often hard for me to be charitable in these types of endeavors and I tend to give up easily fearing that I'll come off looking like the jerk. But I think it's important for me to try to articulate a few criticisms so that the publishers may be more hesitant to offer anticlerical rants in the future.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Christ is the man who knew human suffering

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ

Grace and peace in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you in fellowship with the Holy Spirit. On Friday night, I had an opportunity to hear Boston College Philosophy professor Peter Kreeft talk in CY Stephens Auditorium on the problem of evil and suffering. To be honest, I wish I would have advertised for it in our bulletin because he did a superb job of articulating what I believe to be the Catholic understanding of evil and pain, an understanding that is also consistent with our readings today.

Part of what Dr. Kreeft was addressing was the relationship of faith with the existence of suffering or how can an all good God exist in a world where there is the evil of pain. Dr. Kreeft talked about four statements from C.S. Lewis that, in the mind of most atheists, cannot all be true. 1 God exists. 2 God is all powerful. 3 God is compassionate. 4 and Suffering exists. If God exists and he is all powerful and compassionate, then we shouldn’t have suffering. If God exists and is compassionate but we have suffering, than he cannot be all powerful. If God exists and he is all powerful and there is evil, than he must not really care about us. And, the atheists favorite, if God must be all powerful and all loving as we Christians believe he is and yet there is still suffering in the world, the suffering for instance of the Jewish people from the first reading who suffered under the Egyptians as slaves, then God must not really exist.

How do we Christians believe in God, believe he is all powerful and all loving and yet explain suffering in the world, whether it be the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti or the suffering of the parents of missing Iowa State student Jon Lacina? The remarkable thing that Dr. Kreeft said was that we cannot know why these things happen. And, in fact, if we did know than it would contradict the very notion of an all powerful God. Suffering is a mystery. We have to trust that, in the end, there is meaning to it even if we don’t know what it is.

As I read over the gospel for today, I couldn’t help but think how true this is. Jesus didn’t run away from suffering. He starved himself for forty days, just like Moses and Elijah had done before him, and he suffered hunger. He walked out into the desert, a place where thieves, the sick, and demons hung out. Even before he began his ministry, he wanted to be with and know the pain and suffering of being in the desert. And, while in the desert, he felt temptation to alleviate his suffering. But, he refused, even when the devil used scripture as a temptation. This man, whose life is nothing but mystery, taught us all about the mystery of suffering, both in life and in death. He taught us about the all powerful God who exists and loves us so deeply that he is willingly enters into the suffering with us, to know it firsthand.