The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Just a Few Thoughts

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits [Mt 7:15-16].

Portland “Protesters” 

In Portland a man who apparently supported the president was murdered by an unknown assailant. Afterwards, the crowd of so-called protesters, made up largely of Black Lives Matter and Antifa Marxists radicals, were told by one of their leaders with a megaphone that, "I just got word, the person who died was a Patriot Prayer person...He was a f***ing Nazi. Our community held its own and took out the trash. I'm not going to shed any tears over a Nazi." The crown of Biden voters cheered. Really, do you think they’ll vote for the president?

These words, of course, were spoken by a woman who has no idea what the Nazis -- the National Socialist German Workers Party -- believed. Indeed, it's unlikely she even knows what she, as a Marxist, is supposed to believe. Her comments were echoed the following day in a video by one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter who told his followers: "I'm at a point where I'm ready to put the police in the f***ing grave! I'm at the point where I want to burn the White House down! I want to take it to the senators! I want to take it to the Congress!"

If you've been one of those passive supporters of BLM and Antifa, assuming they're simply peaceful protesters, I trust you've been disabused of that notion. There's a sad irony here. The rioters are ignorant, rootless young people, and as Russell Kirk wrote years ago, "The rootless are always violent, and the lonely and bored find riot a welcome diversion." 

Eventually, though, and this always happens in this country, the sanest of a nation's citizenry will refuse to accept the continued violence and destruction, and demand a response. Such a response, designed to stop senseless violence, will likely involve an acceptable level of directed, defensive violence. Violence always begets violence.

Far Left Democrats and Jews.

I'd call them anti-Semites, but I doubt if that label would bother too many of them, just as some seem to take pride in being called anti-Israel. It's really been an amazing transformation, watching the Democrat Party move so quickly from supporter of Israel and friend of the Jews to the party of the anti-Israel far left. Like the Islamists of al-Qaeda and Isis, many members of the far left wing of the party simply hate Jews. Sadly, these views seem to be moving to the party's so-called mainstream.

It's really quite disturbing, even for someone like me who has no ties to Israel. It's disturbing because it should be obvious whom we should support in the Middle East. The Muslim nations surrounding Israel are either authoritarian theocracies or just corrupt dictatorships; and most despise the United States. With only a few exceptions, they also teach their children anti-Jewish hatred, revenge, and extreme violence.

Do you support these nations, or do you support Israel, the only true representative democracy in the Middle East? Surrounded by its enemies, Israel must defend itself constantly from an insane degree of aggression. It's the kind of aggression that celebrates when Islamist terrorists murder a young Israeli family, stabbing them to death as they sleep. It's the kind of aggression that sends unguided rockets to strike random targets in Israeli cities and towns. Yes, Israel responds. Israel always responds. The nation must respond because its survival demands it and its sane citizens demand it. Just last week, Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon fired on Israeli troops on the border. This prompted Israel to send attack helicopters and other aircraft to strike Hezbollah targets. This was the first raid of its kind by Israel since the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Violence begets violence.

Black Lives Matter and Slavery.

Black Lives Matter protesters claim to be concerned about racial injustice and the legacy of slavery in the United States. But have you ever heard them protest the slavery that still exists in Africa today? Of course not. BLM, you see, really has little interest in the lives of black people, whether Americans or Africans. As a Marxist movement, it is concerned only with rewriting the history of the United States, undermining the nuclear family and religious values, and destroying our form of representative government. Injustice against blacks, which certainly exists but is far from "systemic," simply provides a handy excuse to take to the streets so they can continue their destructive work.

Slavery does exist today, and in some nations on a rather large scale. In the West African nation of Mauritania, for example, it is estimated that 20% of the population is enslaved; that is, they are "owned" by others who can do with them as they please. In fact, ownership of slaves in that country often passes from father to son. Given the Qur'an's rather explicit support for slavery, it's no wonder there's no Islamic abolitionist movement. And the left, Including Black Lives Matter, does not dare to criticize Islam. Christianity and Judaism are far safer targets.

Kamala Harris and Religion.

Senator Harris has made a career of attacking the religious values of her political opponents and others she hopes to  destroy in the public square. Her attacks on Catholics have been especially virulent. Two years ago she tried to block the nomination of a federal judge, Brian Buescher, because he was a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal and charitable organization. Such an attack, of course, violates the Constitution's prohibition of religious tests:
" religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." [Article VI, Clause 3]
The senator also smeared current Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, a Catholic, during his confirmation hearings.

Interestingly, though, when Joe Biden was accused of sexual assault last year, Senator Harris said this of Biden's accusers: "I believe them and I respect them being able to tell their story and having the courage to do it." And now, although she never retracted those comments, she's Joe's running mate. Do you get the feeling she might be a complete opportunist, lacking any moral or philosophical foundation?

Harris has repeatedly attacked pro-life advocates and led the fight to keep abortion legal right up to the time of birth. As the Attorney General of California, she tried to inflict pregnancy centers with regulations really designed to close their doors. Taken to court, she lost her case thanks to the U. S. Supreme Court. She also co-sponsored the so-called "Equality Act" that would not allow Catholic hospitals to be Catholic by destroying rights of conscience and free speech, and even the freedom to follow one’s religious values. Her support for Planned Parenthood, gay marriage, and transgendered rights, plus her denial of school choice, especially for the poor, has put the Catholic Church in her cross-hairs. 

Nancy Pelosi on Children.

Every so often -- and these days it's far too often -- I read something that makes me want to scream nasty words. Fortunately, Diane's presence softens me and (usually) forces me to think twice before letting the neighbors know how I feel. The words of Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), inexplicably the current Speaker of the U.S. House of Representative, are the most recent cause of my loss of verbal control. Here's what she said:
"My whole purpose in politics, the three most important issues facing the Congress: our children, our children, our children...that's the hill I fight on."
Yes, hearing these words from Nancy Pelosi is truly scream-inducing. She cares so much for "the children" that during her 33 years in Congress she has overseen the slaughter of tens of millions of unborn children. I'm sorry, Nancy, but the hill you fight on is indeed a huge hill, one made up of the dismembered bodies of more than 60 million American children. The hypocrisy of this woman, who constantly claims to be a "devout Catholic," is beyond comprehension.

How wonderful that this week Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, demanded that Catholic politicians "must stop promoting anti-life laws." He went on to say that "it is a great error" for Catholic legislators "to promote legislation favoring abortion or euthanasia." Encouraging the Catholic faithful to correct their errant political leaders, he said, "The Church has a great responsibility to help its members, first of all, to convert to the Gospel of life, to the beauty of life. It is important that we avoid the dirty work of death and carry out the beautiful work of life."

One can only pray and hope that our Catholic politicians, including Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, will listen and convert.

Homily: Monday, 22nd Week in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Readings: 1 Cor 2:1-5; Ps 119; Luke 4:16-30 


Some people just don’t like to hear the truth. Just look at our Gospel passage from Luke.
Jesus visits his hometown of Nazareth, enters the synagogue, and reads the words of Isaiah. He then makes that amazing claim:
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” [Lk 4:21].
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..."
At first the townspeople looked at each other in amazement, overcome by wonder and pride. Jesus, the young carpenter, the son of Joseph, is one of their own. He grew up and played with their children, went to synagogue with them. But how is it He speaks with such wisdom, such authority?
Nazareth was a small, quiet village, a place where nothing much ever happened, a village on the road to more exciting places. But on this day, the people heard Isaiah – the Word of their Fathers – claimed to be fulfilled right there.
Isn’t this the son of Joseph?
They’d heard of the miracles in Capernaum, the healings, and the crowds and probably hoped He’d do the same in Nazareth – perhaps much more. But they kept thinking: Isn’t this the son of Joseph?
If He’s a prophet, a miracle-maker, shouldn’t His own people be the first to benefit? After all, we’re his people! His family! His friends! God knows there are plenty of sick people here. How about some healings, a miracle or two? Then we’d know God is with him, with Him right here in Nazareth.
But what does Jesus do?
No miracles. Instead, He speaks of Elijah and the famine that spread throughout the country in those ancient days. Although the Chosen People were starving, God sent Elijah to a pagan widow of Zarephath, and it was she and her son whom Elijah miraculously fed.
And no healings. Instead, Jesus speaks of Elisha and the leper God sent him to heal, a pagan from Syria — this when Israel, too, had many lepers.
The people of Nazareth were in that synagogue to see and hear Jesus, this son of Joseph, who had done wondrous things. They hoped to be amazed by His words and to marvel at His mighty deeds. Yes, they wanted the hometown boy to be a prophet who’d bring them signs of God’s favor, one to do their bidding, not God’s.
But instead, Jesus told them stories of God’s grace poured out not on Jews, not on friends and neighbors, but on Gentiles, aliens and unbelievers. 
"...they were filled with fury."
Infuriated, they rose up, drove Him to the brow of a steep hill, hoping to hurl Him off the cliff. No, Jesus wasn’t their kind of Messiah.
Today you and I meet these Nazoreans across a vast gulf of time, traditions, language, and experience… and although these differences are great, perhaps we’re more like them than we know.
We ask for forgiveness when we fail to do God’s bidding, but then demand that he do ours.
We want a just and merciful God, as long as we’re the ones who benefit from his justice and mercy.
A truly omnipotent and omniscient God can be more than a little scary. Much nicer to have our God who conforms to our vision of what God should do.
So many, today, just like the people of Nazareth, want a God they can tame.
For on that day Jesus reminded his friends and neighbors that God’s ways are not our ways. God’s grace cannot be constrained by our boundaries or controlled by our prayers.
When Jesus spoke in the synagogue, he gave notice that his ministry would embrace the stranger and include the outsider. Indeed, He will embrace the sinner, those we’re so sure don’t deserve God’s forgiveness.
It’s a message both confrontational and comforting; a teaching both sharp and hard, and often so difficult to accept, or even hear. This is why so many today find Jesus and His Church unacceptable.
I remember walking with thousands of others on a “walk for life” in Boston many years ago. It was a peaceful event. And as we walked down Commonwealth Avenue in support of the unborn, the silence was broken only by the prayers and hymns of the participants…until we reached one corner. There a small group of protesters confronted us and fouled the air, screaming obscenities and blasphemies aimed at Jesus Christ and His Church.
You see, brothers and sisters, Jesus’ Word can be hard, and those who can’t accept and embrace it may find themselves filled with fury and standing on the brow of a hill ready to hurl Him, His message, and His Church headlong off the cliff.
Jesus didn’t go elsewhere because he was rejected; he was rejected because he intended to go elsewhere. That elsewhere beckons us, too; or at least it should, for we too are called. We have heard God’s Word. It has been fulfilled in our hearing. We are called to travel on hard paths, and to take up our cross, carrying it with us as we go.
How did Paul put it?
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” [2 Cor 2:2]
This is our God – our crucified and risen Lord, the God who lives, still bearing the wounds of His love.
This is our God, not a God to be tamed or controlled, but a God to be loved, a God who demands our complete trust.
This is our Christian calling, to abandon ourselves in trust, to abandon ourselves into His hands, allowing His will and not ours to be done in our lives.
To the world it appears as weakness; but believe me, it can be the hardest thing you will ever do.
The question is: Are you and I willing to do it?

Saturday, August 29, 2020


A friend sent me the following definition -- a wee bit cynical, perhaps -- coining a new word:
Coronacoaster (noun): the ups and downs of a pandemic. One day you're loving your bubble, working out, baking banana bread, and going for long walks; and then you're crying, drinking gin for breakfast, and missing people you don't even like. 
Yes, indeed, although I can speak only for myself, the past few months haven't always been easy or enjoyable. Being forced to spend so much time at home, away from life's usual activities, is something I'll never really get used to. I've sometimes been accused of being a homebody, but this is ridiculous. Unable to get together with many of our friends, unable to enjoy those group dinners at restaurants, unable to travel, unable to see family...we're all just hanging out, not doing much of anything. What they used to call loitering has become the new normal. 

Of course, if you've been around a while, you'll remember that loitering was often prosecuted as a criminal act. I recall as a kid, back in the fifties, occasionally hearing about someone being arrested for loitering. We lived in an affluent New York suburb, so I suppose our town's finest did not look kindly on anyone just hanging around too long with no obvious purpose. Loitering, it seems, was considered the likely prelude to other, more serious crimes. 

Although those arrested in our town were never locals, I doubt if many were planning major crimes. Most were simply down on their luck -- men we then, unkindly, called "bums" -- and probably made their way to our town in the hope that someone might give them some work, some food, or a dollar or two. I can remember my mom making a nice, thick sandwich for the occasional wanderer who came to the door asking for food. This calls to mind the Gospel parable of vineyard workers who just hung out all day (loitered?) in the marketplace hoping to be hired [Mt 20:1016].
Serious Team Loitering
And remember the door-to-door salesmen -- the Fuller Brush man and others who walked from house to house looking for business? These were honest, hard-working men, but what a difficult way to earn a living! Mom always bought something from them. It might not have been very much, but it was something. They certainly weren't loitering, but today they've been banned in many communities -- a sign of the more dangerous and self-centered times in which we live.
The "Fuller Brush Man"
Back then, and perhaps still today, the criminality of loitering was dependent on one's position in the community. I suspect any of our town's notable citizens could have loitered with impunity whenever and however long they desired without fear of arrest. Few probably did so because they were too busy doing whatever it took to make the money that enabled them to live in our town. Yes, they were relatively wealthy, but most were good, hard-working, and generous people, who willingly supported many fine charities. But writing a check is one thing, while getting up close and personal with those in need is something else entirely. I think too many of our neighbors missed out on that aspect of our human condition.

Is loitering still considered a crime today? I really don't know, but I doubt if many people are arrested for just hanging out. Ok, maybe in Palm Beach, or apparently in Morristown, NJ (see below photo). But in most cities the police are probably far too busy dealing with murders, robberies, rapes, looting, arson, and other serious crimes to worry about loitering.
No Loitering in Morristown, NJ
I actually hope law enforcement has back-burnered loitering because it’s become one of my favorite activities since I retired. Maddie (our 12-year-old Bichon Frise) and I loiter a lot here in The Villages, but we do so innocently, without nefarious purpose. It seems, too, that the amount of time this sweet dog spends loitering is directly proportional to her age, another thing she and I have in common. Maddie’s loitering, of course, is purposeful. She must sniff and decipher the odors that attack her remarkable sense of smell. Because these attacks are constant, we don’t move very quickly and could easily be accused of loitering. 
Maddie, Ready for Our Morning Loiter
Unlike Maddie, though, I learn very little by sniffing, so I simply wait for her as patiently as possible. But I also use this time to examine the steady stream of thoughts that attack my brain as I observe the tiny piece of God's universe that surrounds us as we walk and loiter. One problem, though. Because we’re out and about, I’m unable to write down these reflections and by the time we get home, I’ve often forgotten them. Another sad consequence of aging.

Lately, however, I’ve been spending a lot of time in waiting rooms while Diane undergoes rehab or dental work. (Because of her still recovering shoulder, she is unable to drive, so I've become her personal chauffer.) In fact, at the moment I'm loitering in the waiting room of her rehab facility. With my iPad resting on my lap, I am able to capture and reflect on the thoughts that manage to slip past my defenses.

This leads to another question. Can one loiter while seated, or is loitering strictly a standing around activity? I suppose it depends on the venue. Loitering in a bank is probably a stand-up offence. Unlike hotel lobbies, bank lobbies usually don't have chairs and sofas scattered about. Bankers, concerned about potential robberies, probably wouldn't want to make loitering (aka, casing the joint) too comfortable. 

Bus stations are different. I recall, back in 1963, sitting in a near empty Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan. On that cold, Sunday afternoon in February, I waited impatiently for a bus to take me back to Washington, D.C. A freshman at Georgetown U., I'd been invited to spend a weekend with a young lady and her family at their ritzy, Central Park West apartment. (She went to Vassar, probably out of my league.) I think our brief relationship came to a screeching halt when I said I'd have to take the bus since I didn't have enough cash to pay for the Eastern Airlines shuttle flight.

Anyway, as I sat in the terminal waiting, I witnessed a man being arrested for what I think was loitering. Of indeterminate age, he was stretched out on the next bench, and would occasionally waken to take a sip from a bottle cleverly disguised as a paper bag. He didn't bother me at all, because when I'd arrived he actually sat up, said, "How ya doin', kid?", and offered me a swig out of the bag. Naturally, I declined but thanked him for his offer. A nice man living a troubled life. 
Waking Up the Homeless
After about an hour, just as they announced my bus was ready for boarding, two large Port Authority policemen approached the man, gently lifted him up by his arms, and literally carried him off, telling him he was under arrest. At first it saddened me because this generous man seemed so harmless, so tired, and so comfortable dozing on his bench. But later I realized they had likely taken him to a cell where he could sleep it off, a far better and safer outcome than just throwing him out into the cold. 

We live in a strange world, one so very different from the world in which I came of age. I think I prefer those earlier years when things at least appeared to be more clearly defined. Today we don't seem to know what to do about the homeless, the mentally ill, the addicted, and the chronically unemployed. No human society, including our own, past and present, is perfect. Maybe we need to turn to the Gospel and let God show us how to love the least of his brothers and sisters in ways that lift them up from the condition in which the world has left them.


Finally, brothers, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people, for not all have faith [2 Thes 3:1-2].
The upcoming election will certainly highlight the vast policy differences that define the Democrat and Republican platforms. And if we dig a little deeper we'll also encounter major differences in the underlying principles that form these policies. From a political and societal perspective, perhaps the most basic principles are those that describe how best to organize human communities and activities.

As I pondered this the other day, I couldn't help but turn to a principle the Catholic Church has long considered key to the proper establishment and function of any human community: the principle of subsidiarity. Here's how the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes this principle:
Certain societies, such as the family and the state, correspond more directly to the nature of man; they are necessary to him. To promote the participation of the greatest number in the life of a society, the creation of voluntary associations and institutions must be encouraged "on both national and international levels, which relate to economic and social goals, to cultural and recreational activities, to sport, to various professions, and to political affairs." This "socialization" also expresses the natural tendency for human beings to associate with one another for the sake of attaining objectives that exceed individual capacities. It develops the qualities of the person, especially the sense of initiative and responsibility, and helps guarantee his rights.
Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good" [Pope John Paul II, Centsimus Annus, 48].
God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.
The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order [CCC: 1882-1885].
Subsidiarity, then, is really a simple principle: if something can be done well (or better) by a smaller, simpler organization, it should not be done by a larger, more complex organization. In other words, opt for decentralization when it comes to the actual work performed. Note, too, that the Church bases this principle on the action of God Himself. In other words, subsidiarity has divine roots.

As I used to tell managers during my consulting days: 
“Get decision-making down to the level where the real work of the organization is done. As managers, your job is to develop policies that support the organization’s ends, to set the boundaries of action for those who do the hard work, to give them the freedom they need to work within those boundaries, and to monitor the quality of work so you can adjust policies and provide the necessary resources.” 
Managers in most small- and mid-sized companies usually understood and accepted this, but I often encountered resistance from executives of large corporations. Too many didn’t trust their frontline people, so decision-making moved to higher levels, away from those who did the work and understood the real needs of the company's customers. 

Socialism, in all its forms, rejects the principle of subsidiarity. Socialist governments, by their very nature, seize power from the people and grant decision-making authority to ideologically pure elites. Personal freedoms disappear and government becomes essentially unlimited in scope. It begins as a seemingly benign welfare state, but moves inexorably toward totalitarianism. Socialism, then, is the very opposite of the federalism upon which our nation was founded.

The principle of subsidiarity, therefore, is a bulwark, a key protector of limited government and personal freedom. It's implementation conflicts with the power-focused desire for centralization and the mindless bureaucracy characteristic of the ideological left. 

You might want to keep this in mind when you exercise your right to vote this November.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Julie Barrett, R.I.P.

On Monday one of our long-time parishioners, Julie Barrett, 88, returned to her true home and is now in the embrace of our loving God. Julie had always been an inspiration to me, a woman to whom I listened because what she had to say was always worth hearing. But more than that, it was always said kindly and with a smile.

In addition to our shared faith, Julie and I shared a few interests. We both served in the U. S. Navy, Julie as a Navy photographer and I as a helicopter pilot. We were, of course, separated by quite a few years, so we never served together. As an amateur photographer, I always flew with my old Leica IIIf camera with me, in the event I happened on something worth a photograph. On a few rare occasions I actually took an interesting photo. But it was from the pros, the Navy photographers, that I learned what little I know about good photography. During my Navy career it wasn't unusual to have an official photographer aboard my helicopter to take photos of everything from returning space vehicles to Soviet ships and aircraft to aerial views of major events in which the Navy had an interest. I learned early to respect those Navy photographers who seemed to know instinctively how to capture a scene perfectly and to ensure I flew them to the right place at the right time. Julie and I, then, were both avid photographers. But there was one huge difference between us: Julie was a true professional while I simply dabbled, and not particularly well.

In 2004 when I was assigned to what then was a rather small St. Vincent de Paul Parish, I volunteered to take photos of parish events, ministries, people, liturgies...whatever was needed. Some of these photos were okay, but others...well, let's just say they were less than perfect. But then Julie arrived and I was relieved (as were many parishioners) of my photographic duties. We now had a professional aboard and the quality of parish photos improved dramatically. One of my favorites was one she took at a Good Friday service during her first Holy Week with the parish. Our large team of deacons surrounded Fr. Peter Sagorski, then our pastor, and filled the small sanctuary of that earlier church. A friend kindly sent this photo to me the other day, but Julie had given me a copy years ago.
Deacons Galore on Good Friday
But Julie was far more than a photographer. She was the mother of a wonderful daughter, Theresa Campbell, whom I've also known for years, and a loving grandmother. A woman of deep faith, Julie attended Mass daily and always had a kind word for everyone. She will be greatly missed.
Julie Barrett with her daughter, Theresa Campbell
Rest in peace, Julie. We will pray for your beautiful soul and for the family you leave behind, and trust you will plead for us before the throne of our merciful God.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Cardinal Pell, Suffering Apostle

Given the climate in most dioceses today, I thank God that we still have men who respond to God's call to the priesthood. All that's needed to destroy permanently a priest's (or a deacon's) reputation is a single "credible" charge of sexual abuse. Such a charge leads to the immediate removal of the priest from his ministry, and even if that charge is investigated and the priest is cleared of any wrongdoing, it's unlikely he will ever again return to pastoral ministry. Guilty until proven innocent...and then never really innocent, but always guilty in the minds of many, certainly in the secular media.   

All of this exists in a cultural environment where the Catholic Church, as well as Christianity in general, is not just under attack, but despised by the media and political elites. The media has framed the story as one of pedophilia, so the public will assume it's all about priests abusing young children. The truth is something quite different. The vast majority of cases concerning priestly abuse of minors involve not young children but post-pubescent teenaged boys. That's right, it's really all about predatory homosexuality. But this would conflict with the zeitgeist that extols the "normality" of homosexual behavior. 

In recent decades far too many bishops have ignored the blatant homosexuality of candidates for the priesthood and have ordained men who have gone on to become predators. Others live lives of near open homosexuality in total opposition to Church teaching. In writing this I am not merely reporting what others have written; no, I can speak here from first-hand knowledge. And it's not limited to seminarians and priests; sadly, active homosexuality of the Cardinal McCarrick kind, is a trait possessed by more than a few of our bishops. It took over 20 years before the bishops decided that maybe their draconian policies should perhaps apply to bishops as well. 

In the face of this, the prevailing culture, then, must conjure up abuse allegations against those who most strongly support and preach the Church's orthodox beliefs. The culture's most famous victim is George Cardinal Pell, who for years had been, and remains, one of my ecclesial heroes. Cardinal Pell was convicted of several counts of child abuse despite hard evidence that should have exonerated him. After serving 13 months of a six-year sentence he was finally freed in April when Australia's high court unanimously overturned his conviction. 
George Cardinal Pell
About his trial and his time in prison, the Cardinal said, "I was quite confident that my small sufferings -- and they weren't enormous -- were something that could be offered, with Christ's suffering, for the good of the Church...I knew I was innocent, I knew logically and forensically that I had a very strong case, that I would be vindicated. But in a spectacular failure, the most senior judges in Victoria were unable to see that." (It was a 2 to 1 decision.)  Ultimately, the nation's high court recognized the injustice that had been committed, and unanimously acquitted him. 

Cardinal Pell, as every Christian should be, is the ultimate optimist: "The irony of it is -- and it's demonstrated in the Catholic world in Belgium, Holland, Quebec, and to some extent in Switzerland and Austria -- the more you adapt to the world, the faster the Catholic Church goes out of business...but aversity is not necessarily bad for the Church. Adversity can bring the best out of us." 

If you'd like to read more about legal issues surrounding this apostle's journey in the midst of today's world, read this article by Gerard V. Bradley, law professor at Notre Dame: Cardinal Pell Acquitted

Ignatius Press plans to publish the Cardinal's prison journal early next year, a book that is already being praised as a likely classic. Read about it here: Spiritual Classic.

Is there a message in all this to our bishops? From my limited and lowly perspective I would encourage our bishops to turn to the Apostles, to be Apostolic in their approach to the world. The Apostles gave their lives for the faith. They didn't fear bad publicity. They didn't fear the loss of federal funds. They didn't fear the loss of tax exemptions. They didn't turn to their lawyers, asking, "What should I do?" No, they proclaimed the truth, constantly, loudly, and boldly, but always mercifully. They listened to and followed the Lord Jesus' command:
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the ned of the age" [Mt 28:19-20].
Pray for Pope Francis and our bishops.

My Unsightly Pile of Books

During a phone conversation about a week ago, one of my friends, who knows me all too well, asked, “What’s in that stack of books on the table next to your easy chair?” He likes to know the books I’m reading so he can argue with me about them and their authors. He also knows that, at any given time, I’m usually reading about a half-dozen books. This is nothing to brag about; indeed, it’s a failing, a sign of a lack of focus. 

Sometimes, especially with good fiction, I’m enjoying a book so much, I hate the thought of finishing it. And so, I put it aside for a few days and return to it when I can resist no longer. Other books demand more than my aging brain can handle and must be read and digested in small bites. These call for more and deeper thought than I can usually conjure up as I read. So I set them aside, occasionally think about what they’re trying to tell me, and then return to them when my mind seems ready to dive into them once again. And then there are the books that simply conflict with whatever my current mood might be. These include poetry, short stories, or books of a certain genre, for example, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and what are often called, “ghost stories.” Yes, indeed, I enjoy all them all, but only if they’re well written and I’m in the mood. These, then, are the reasons for the “unsightly pile” (Dear Diane’s words) of books on my end table. 

What books now reside in this pile, and who are their authors? I’ll start from the top and work my way down. Here goes...

The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey (1896-1952).

Okay, in truth, I finished this book yesterday, so it shouldn’t still be in the stack with the others. After closing its cover, I just plopped it down on top of the pile, thinking I’d find a spot for it in a bookcase today. But I enjoyed it so much I just had to tell you a little about it. Anyway, my friend asked his question a week ago, so the book should still qualify as a true member of the current pile. 

Josephine Tey (a pen name of Elizabeth MacKintosh) was one of those classic British crime writers of the first half of the twentieth century, authors like Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, E.C. Bentley, and so many others. The Daughter of Time (1951) is among the more unusual of her Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard mystery novels, in that Grant investigates a centuries-old crime from a hospital bed in which he is recovering from severe injuries. The crime? The fifteenth-century murder of the “Princes in the Tower” that historians and many others (including William Shakespeare) long attributed to King Richard III despite a lack of any real evidence. (Spoiler Alert!) Naturally, as a lifelong fan of Richard III, I agree with the good inspector’s ultimate conclusions. The real killer probably acted on orders from King Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs, but really just another murderous member of that family. 

Richard, who lost his life and his crown 535 years ago (yesterday) at the Battle of Bosworth on August 22, 1485, has had his reputation restored by a number of current historians who actually examined the evidence. Among my favorite biographies of this misunderstood and mistreated king is Richard the Third, by Paul Kendall, first published in 1955, and still in print. 

The most recent news about Richard III involves the remarkable 2012 discovery of the king's body beneath a parking lot in Leicester, the site of what was once the Franciscan Grey Friars Church. It's a remarkable story and you can read the short version here: Finding Richard III. If you want the whole story by the woman who led the team of archaeologists who found Richard, read Philippa Langley's book, The King's Grave (another book in my current pile).

As you might suspect, I'm a bit obsessed with Richard, and have been for decades. This last great Catholic king of England was systematically defamed by his Tudor successors. The Franciscans had buried Richard in their friary church shortly after his death in battle. The friary church and Richard's tomb were demolished by Henry VIII in 1536 as part of his sacrilegious dissolution of the monasteries. To me, the final insult was Richard's re-burial in 2015 in the Anglican Leicester Cathedral. The Anglicans despised and defamed this good king for centuries, but now that he's fashionable, they lay claim to him. Thankfully, Vincent Cardinal Nichols, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, celebrated a funeral Mass for King Richard at Holy Cross Priory in Leicester. 

Four Quartets, by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965). 

This poetry, by one of my favorites, was Eliot’s final major poetic work. Originally written in 1943, the year before I was born, Four Quartets applies equally to today’s confused world. Here for example...ponder these words from the third part, The Dry Salvages:
There is no end, but addition: the trailing
consequence of further days and hours,
While emotion takes to itself the emotionless
Years of living among the breakage
Of what was believed in as the most reliable — 
And therefore the fittest for renunciation.
I’ve read Four Quartets several times, as well as much of Eliot’s other poetry and prose. While he's sometimes unsettling and confounding, he never disappoints me.

On Islam: a Chronological Record, 2002-2018, by James V. Schall, S.J. (1928-2019). 

Father Schall, who died last year, was one of the few good things to come out of Georgetown University in recent decades. A prolific author -- all of his many books are worth reading -- and political philosopher, Schall takes a hard look at Islam during the years immediately following the 9-11 Islamist attack on New York City and the Pentagon. I found the book especially interesting because it covers those years through which we all lived, but does so by looking deeply into the very heart of Islam and its worldview. Few others, including many of the West's political, religious, and social leaders, understand Islam and its deep-rooted aims, leading to predictably ineffective responses. The book also includes a commentary on Hilaire Belloc's prescient writings on the nature of Islam, writings that, 50 years ago, had a major impact on the evolution of my own thinking on Islam.

Lord Peter, by Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957).

Back again to those British mystery and crime writers. Although Dorothy Sayers was also a Christian apologist and translator of Dante, she was best known for her Lord Peter Wimsey mystery stories. I've always believed if you truly like something, you might as well get it all. This book, then, is the "complete" collection of Lord Peter Wimsey stories, most written in the 1920s and 1930s. (It does not, however, include the many Lord Peter novels.) If you haven't read any of these stories, you might have watched a few of the TV adaptations produced by the BBC some years ago and aired on PBS here in the U.S. Short stories are far more easily adapted to the television medium, and the BBC actually did a fairly good job with Lord Peter. But no TV show will ever be as good as the original.

Lord Peter, though, isn't everyone's cup of tea. The English aristocrat and amateur sleuth is a bit odd, at least for American tastes, with his strange mannerisms, his monocle,  and his upper-class manners. But one grows to like him and his valet, Bunter, along with many other of the stories' recurring characters. Wimsey and Bunter served together in World War One and the latter's care for his "lordship," who suffered from what today we would call PTSD, adds more than a little touching poignancy to many of the stories. 

Unbelievable, by Michael Newton Keas (2019). This book's subtitle says it all: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion. Published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), an organization that offers a wide selection of books, all worth reading. Keas, a historian of science and a senior fellow at the Center for Science and Culture has written a readable and well documented book addressing many of the most pernicious myths that have infected and distorted much of modern thought. Most of these myths (can we simply call them lies?) seem to have one goal: the undermine Christianity in general, and specifically Catholicism. This is one of those books that you should send to every high school and college student you know.

How to Read Buildings, by Carol Davidson Cragoe (2012). Now, this is a book that falls well outside my usual interests, and represents a field of study about which I know far too little: architecture. Although I've traveled extensively during these almost 76 years, and seen a lot of buildings from many historical periods, I haven't always been able to identify one architectural style from another. Yes, I can tell the difference between Gothic and neo-classical, but when does Romanesque end and Gothic begin? What unique features really separate the two? How did one evolve from the other? And did you know that there are many different kinds of buttresses in those Gothic cathedrals? Can you identify the various kinds of columns or arches or vaults? Assuming you, too, are plagued by an inability to answer these questions, and would like to be able to answer them, this is the book for you. Given its subtitle -- A Crash Course in Architectural Styles -- this was one of those bookstore impulse purchases I couldn't resist because it offered a quick, down and dirty overview of building architecture as it has developed over the centuries. It's enabled me to sound much more broadly educated than I really am. It's also well illustrated and published in a very handy size that I can take with me on my travels -- a wonderful little book.

That's the extent of the current "unsightly pile" of books. It will no doubt undergo major changes in the days to come.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Kerry at the Convention

Good heavens! I thought John Kerry had taken his wife’s dowry and completely retired to his little mansion on Nantucket where he could contemplate his lifetime of public failures. But no, just as he did back in his Vietnam days, he resurfaced and made headlines. Of course, as a young officer on swift boats in the Mekong delta, all John Kerry did was convince his peers that his primary mission was to shop for medals. These were the same medals he publicly tossed away at that antiwar rally while he cozied up to Ho Chi Minh’s favorite actress, Jane Fonda, and told nasty lies about his comrades in arms. But then, just when you thought he was permanently out of sight, John appeared at the virtual Democrat convention to speak fondly of himself, of Barack Obama...Oh, yes, and of Joe Biden. 
A Protesting John Kerry

As he has throughout his political career, Kerry told several whoppers last night. The biggest? He reminded the nation how he and Obama, and presumably with the blessing and moral support of Joe Biden, "eliminated the threat of an Iran with a nuclear weapon." This was, of course, a lie and Kerry knows it. If he doesn't, he's a bigger fool than most of us think. The agreement with Iran -- a, non-binding, unconstitutional agreement since it did not receive Senate ratification as a treaty -- asked Iran only to delay its development of nuclear weapons. It certainly did not "eliminate the threat." In return for this meaningless delay, Obama-Kerry removed all sanctions and gave the murderous Iranian regime a huge pile of untraceable cash subsequently used to finance terrorist activity throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. The result of the agreement? Iran continued to develop nuclear weapons and delivery systems while supporting worldwide Islamist terrorism, and did all these wondrous things thanks to funds provided by U.S. taxpayers. Aren't we proud?

This appeasement of Iran brought to mind a comment by Winston Churchill, the statesman most despised by President Obama:

Another lie involved his claim that the Obama administration put together that multi-nation coalition to destroy ISIS. Yes, there was a coalition but it had little effect on ISIS, and certainly didn’t “destroy” it. In fact, by pulling out of Iraq, the Obama administration turned the “J-V Team” into the Varsity that went on to control large parts of the Middle East and extend its terrorist activities. It took the aggressive anti-ISIS policies of the Trump administration to destroy ISIS. And how about Libya, Mr. Secretary of State? Oh, yeah. I guess that debacle occurred under your predecessor, the equally incompetent Hilary Clinton. All that “leading from behind” can be a real challenge if the folks in front decide to go in a different direction. Like Russia invading the Ukraine and taking over Crimea while the US watched and did nothing to help. How did Obama put it to Russian President, Dimitri Medvedev, back in March of 2012? “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” And two years later, after that election, Russia invaded.

There’s also Kerry’s ludicrous claim that the Obama administration stopped Ebola before it became a pandemic. Talk about apples and oranges. Unlike COVID-19, that was airmailed to us and the rest of the world thanks to the policies of the Chinese Communist Party, Ebola was pretty much confined to parts of West Africa. I believe there were less than a dozen U.S. cases. 

Rewriting history is always a dangerous game, especially when those who lived it are still alive and can refute revisionist claims. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Homily: Monday 20th Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Ez 24:15-23 Dt 32:18-21 • Mt 19:16-22
Our readings are especially meaningful today, not only because of the troubles plaguing our world and yes, even our Church, but also because here, in this community, we are far more likely to experience deep loss in our lives.
We first encounter the prophet Ezekiel, who faced a personal loss, the sudden, unexpected death of his wife, whom God lovingly refers to as "the delight of your eyes" [Ez 24:16]. Aren’t those beautiful words? – “the delight of your eyes” – words that offer a glimpse into the love that must have bound these two.
God tells Ezekiel not to mourn her death openly; more sadness is coming; he must be the example:
“You shall be a sign to them, and they shall know that I am the Lord” [Ez 24:27].
This exchange between God and prophet brought to mind a close friend who died several years ago.
On our way north to visit our children, Diane and I stopped by to Scott and his wife, Marnie. Scott was a retired admiral and he and I had flown together back in our Navy days and remained good friends. But now Scott was dying of cancer and we wanted to see him once more.
That day, as we ate lunch together, Scott’s drawn face suddenly filled with peace. He smiled and said, “You know, Dana, I’m so looking forward to seeing our Lord, I can hardly stand it.”  Scott died exactly one week later. And that comment, made over a salad at a Longhorn restaurant, was a gift. Several weeks later, Marnie told us, “Scott saved me from a lot of grief because he was so joyful about the life to come.”
Do you see how our lives, and how we live them, how our faith, and how we profess it, can have a deep impact on others. Ezekiel ultimately accepted his wife’s death as a blessing that spared her from the calamities about to befall God’s People. It also freed him to do God’s work in the world, to approach his calling worry-free, unaffected by the world and the troubles it so often brings.
Babylon’s long siege of Jerusalem would end in the slaughter of God’s people, the destruction of the city, and the desecration of God’s Temple. The survivors would be carried off into exile. God gave Ezekiel the task of leading the people as they faced these tragedies. “What does this mean for us?” they asked him.
Today as we look at our world, we find ourselves asking the same question. But then God answers with Moses’ words in our responsorial.
“You have forgotten God who gave you birth" [Dt 32:18].
Yes, too many in our world have forgotten God; and we, who are faithful but still sinners, turn to our God and ask, “What does this mean for us? What shall we do?” I can only repeat what Ezekiel told God’s People: Continue to turn prayerfully to our merciful God and ask for the strength to begin again. That’s right! We must begin again as the Church has many times over the past 2,000 years.
800 years ago, our Lord commanded St. Francis: “Go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.” It was a time to begin again. The Church has faced many calamities, but Jesus promised:
“I am with you always, until the end of the age” [Mt 28:20].
Today we are led by another Francis, a man who must continue the ongoing task of rebirth. Pray that God gives him and his fellow bishops the will and the strength to confront the challenges to this one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
Sadly, some in the Church will turn away. Like the rich young man, they will turn away in sadness, others in anger, unable to accept the Gospel without compromise.
50 years ago, when Pope Benedict XVI was a young Father Joseph Ratzinger, he made some prophetic comments in a radio broadcast:
“From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.
“But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world.
“The Church will be a more spiritual Church… It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek.”
We’re on our way, brothers and sisters. We must become the Church of the meek, a Church of the humble that approaches God in repentance. It’s what we’re called to do.
We, the faithful, are called to “start afresh…from the beginning,” to forgive sinners and embrace and console the innocents, to share the Good News, and do so in faith, in humility, and in love.