Friday, May 31, 2013

Just Stating The Facts Again...

It seems Mgr Jacques Suaudeau's comments on Catholic politicians and abortion is creating a bit of a stir, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny is not happy.  Mgr Suaudeau is the scientific director of the Pontifical Academy of Life.  But while the media try to make meat of it, the words of the English bobby come to mind: "Nothing to see here".  There is nothing new in what has been said, just a reiteration of what the Church teaches, when her pastors are bothered to teach it.
Mgr Sauadeau puts it plainly: no Catholic can support abortion and, despite what Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail is insisting, the bill coming before the Dail is not pro-life, it is anti-life, and no Catholic can in good conscience vote for it.  The choice is simple: if the bill goes ahead then Catholic politicians must resign rather than support it.  If they do support the bill, then they must know that they have pushed themselves out of the Church by supporting a measure that is repugnant to the Christian faith. This is now a time for politicians to make up their minds and to accept the personal consequences of their decision. There is no room for spiritual schizophrenia or convenient categorisation of one's life.
As regards the Monsignor's reference to the Nuremberg defence - he is correct. However an historical point has to be made here.  While the defence of the Nazis had no standing in natural law, it did in positive law - they were only obeying the law of Germany at the time, although they were unjust and immoral laws.  However at that time natural law was already been excised from political and legal discourse as positive law began to contradict and breach natural law - abortion for example.  The trials soon became an unsavoury task for some because they knew that as things stood and as time progressed, positive law in some countries would require one to breach the natural law, and yet they convicted and executed Nazi leaders and German soldiers for crimes against humanity on the basis of natural law principles.
In a word: western states like Nazi Germany, put more emphasis on positive law than natural law and even if natural law judged certain positive laws to be unjust and immoral, the state still required citizens to obey them regardless of conscience.  No wonder prosecutors began to get uncomfortable.  For an excellent examination of this I would recommend a viewing of the movie Judgement at Nuremberg with Spencer Tracy - his best role I think. 

To Be A Praise of Glory

Our feast today is certainly one of the most pro-life: here, centre stage, two unborn babies "speak".  The Saviour, still "unviable" as some would say, begins his work touching St Elizabeth and St John the Baptist with his divine presence and his grace.  There can be no doubt that here in Our Lady's womb God-made-Man is present.  St John the Baptist, a little older in gestational time, leaps in his mother's womb as he responds to the presence of Jesus, and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit.
As we reflect on this we see, not only vibrant life in the womb, but how God has already called that nascent life - (human beings in the womb at various stages of development) to carry out certain tasks.  There is no doubt over their existence, no doubt as to who they are, and no doubt that they have a unique destiny. 
One of the points I was meditating on this morning before Mass was the relationship between the Magnificat and the life of those in the womb.  Our Lady's song is a great hymn of praise, of God's mercy; but also a hymn in which she recognises the call she has received from God and the heights to which he has raised her.  Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity came to mind - her reflection on our being "the praise of glory" for God sums up what Our Lady is saying in the Magnificat: we are all called to be the praise of glory for God through our lives, and even the unborn child in the womb is not excluded from this - our feast today reiterates that point.
We all have a destiny.  We are all called by God to something: not just to do something, but to be someone; and humanity is all the richer for that.  As each has a unique call, vocation if you like, if we do  not fulfil that then humanity is all the poorer.  If Our Lady had said no to the Lord, then what would have happened?  Would the Lord have found another way to redeem us?  Yes; but we would not have had Mary, vessel of grace, who brings joy to our lives through her love, maternal care and Christian discipleship. 
This is true of the unborn: each person conceived has a vocation, a call to enrich humanity in some way. If that child is killed in the womb, then we are all the poorer, not only because we have devalued life and murdered another human being, but also because what that human being was called to do may never be done.  The apocryphal story of Blessed Mother Teresa and Hillary Clinton serves as a good example.  I'm not sure if it happened, but it makes a point.  For those who do not know it: according to the story  Mother Teresa was sitting beside Hillary Clinton at some function, and Mrs Clinton was discussing women in politics.  She wondered why it was taking so long for a woman to become president of the US and who she might be.  Blessed Teresa was blunt in her reply: "Perhaps you have aborted her."
Whether the story is true or not I do not know, but the point is correct.  In the billions who have now been aborted there may have been great figures who would have made a huge difference to humanity: men and women gifted with that quirky view of life which often leads to great discoveries.  Perhaps among the dead we might find the baby who was to be the scientist who would find a cure for AIDS or cancer; perhaps a great peacemaker who would sort out the problems of the Middle East; a great teacher or philosopher. 
For us Christians we most certainly have lost vocations, perhaps Popes and even men and women who were destined one day to be canonised Saints.  And one thing for sure: in killing the child in the womb, we kill our future and we kill our hope; and for those who promote and carry out these abortions, they are killing their souls.  Many are offended when the Church warns pro-abortion people of the consequences of cooperation with this evil - they think the Church has no right to do so.  If believers, they think that they will go to heaven like everyone else.  Well, heaven is for the living, for living souls, those whose souls are dead through sin wander elsewhere for eternity.
So our reflection for today: the call to all who are conceived to become a praise of glory for God and enrich human life, to be a living Magnificat.  We who live in the world do so, and the child still in the womb also does so.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

To the Light of The Sun

Don Pino Puglisi

In 2005 a movie detailing the life of Blessed Pino Puglisi, Alla Luce Del Sole (To The Light Of The Sun) was released in Italy.  I am embedding the first in a series of extracts - one will lead to another if you want to watch it.  Be warned, it is gritty, as one would expect.  It will offer you a good insight into what Blessed Pino had to deal with. 
We sometimes forget that Saints were real people dealing with real problems - their sanctification is the triumph of grace.  One way of imagining the lives of the Saints is to see them facing life as we face it, but making better decisions than us, enduring with greater patience and trusting in God in a deeper way. 
Here's the movie.  Sit back and watch - it is Sunday, so you shouldn't be working.  Spend some of today with our new Blessed, and as you do ask him to pray for us poor priests who so often fall. 

I have ordered a copy of the movie and so hope to show it at the Dublin Film Club in the autumn.  Our next film, on the 18th June is Blood Money, a film on the abortion industry.  We then take a break until September.  Thanks to all who support the club.

Filippo Moves Over This Year, But.....

I know it is Trinity Sunday and not the feast of St Philip Neri, but I feel I need to just remember this great Saint today - a true apostle of the Holy Trinity.  May he pray for all of us and bring us closer to the Lord he loved and served so faithfully in his life.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blessed Pino: Facing Down Evil With Courage And Love

When I was serving in a parish in the US as a seminarian, I remember one evening the pastor called me to go out for a drive. I gladly went - these little trips usually ended up meeting interesting people or visiting interesting places.  Normally the pastor told me where we were going, but on that evening he simply said, "Wait and see". 
We headed to the outskirts of the parish and travelling down one of the boulevards we suddenly turned left into a road through a wooded area.  About half a mile down the road the woods yielded to manicured lawns, designer gardens and a small estate of little mansions with luxurious cars parked outside.
"You know who lives here?" the pastor asked. 
I knew: "The mob?" 
"Are they your parishioners?"
"Oh yeh!"
Later that evening I asked the pastor if they ever came to church.  "Only for baptisms, weddings and funerals.  And First Communions and Confirmations of course!"
Of course.  It fits a pattern. 
"How do you feel when you see them arriving in looking for these ceremonies?" I asked.
We all know about the mafia, their crimes, their rackets and their strange attachment to their ancestral faith, Catholicism - a faith whose teachings they regularly breach as they pursue their unique line of business.  They are one of the extremes of those who claim to be Catholic but yet disregard the teachings of the Church and are involved in some of the most horrendous crimes.  
For decades the Church has been involved in a conflict with the mob, although some of her ministers have found themselves becoming almost unofficial chaplains to the mafia, for "pastoral reasons".  That conflict is, for intents and purposes, a war, and in that war individual priests have been murdered by fellow Catholics who believe that what they doing is right and the Church should just accept it as "business" and "nothing personal".
Today in Palermo the Church made a very strong statement about the mafia and its line of business.  With the beatification of a Sicilian priest who opposed the mafia and was murdered for his work, the Church has declared that this priest killed by fellow, unfaithful and murderous Catholics, was a martyr and he has been granted the honours of glorification in the sight of God for his heroic witness. Today the Church celebrates with joy the heroic witness of Blessed Pino Puglisi, a diocesan priest martyred because he preached the Gospel of life and love to fellow Catholics and they took offence and wanted him out of the way. 
Blessed Pino was a popular priest in Palermo.  Born in 1937 into a working class family, he knew all about poverty, need and injustice.  He discerned a vocation to the priesthood at an early age and he entered seminary at the age of 16, being ordained a priest for the diocese of Palermo on the 2nd July 1960.  He was assigned to various parishes and there among other problems he had to deal with the Sicilian curse of the vendetta.  He reminded his flock of the importance of living the Christian faith in its fullness, not picking and choosing those doctrines which suit us and disregarding others.  The vendetta had nothing to do with Christianity, and Christians should have nothing to do with the vendetta.
But Don Pino recognised a greater danger than the vendetta - the mafia.  At the time his own bishop considered communism a greater problem in Sicily, but Don Pino did not agree - the mafia was a bigger problem - its influence on the island far surpassed that of the communists.  At  times he came to blows with his bishop and the local church over this issue, but in all of his criticism he reminded people that he loved the Church and he was trying to draw her attention to a problem which needed to be addressed.  His stance did not alienate him, he was well respected by his superiors and fellow priests, and entrusted with important pastoral appointments, among them vice-rector of the seminary and vocations director.
In 1990 he was appointed as pastor of an inner city parish in Palermo, San Gaetano in Brancaccio, a parish which was difficult.  He had been offered other, more peaceful parishes, but he turned them down.  In San Gaetano he was now on the frontline in the battle against the mafia.  His parishioners lived in fear of the mafia which had a hold on the people and businesses of the area.  Don Pino threw himself into a mission to undermine this hold.  He set up projects for young people to keep them from coming under the influence of the dons.  He preached against the mafia, pleading with the local authorities to stand up to the criminality which was filling the coffers of the mob.  He challenged the silence of the local people.  In this mission it has to be said he received very little support from the archdiocese - he was on his own.
At first the mafia tried to bring him round.  They turned up for the local feast days and tried to be generous to Don Pino and his parish, offering money as a peace offering: Don Pino refused it.  When the heads of the mafia wanted their traditional places of honour leading the festival processions, Don Pino would not allow them to walk in the procession - to do so would be seen as a sign of approval.  When work needed to be done in the parish and certain firms were "suggested" by the mafia, he refused to consider these firms and engaged others.
It soon became clear that Don Pino was not going to be turned, not even recourse to "pastoral sensitivity" persuaded the dynamic pastor to give an inch.  He began to receive threats, at first subtle, but soon becoming more threatening.  Parishioners who supported the priest and helped him in his mission were targeted and harassed.

On the 15 September 1993, at 8.45 in the evening as he was standing on the steps of his church, he was gunned down: his killing had been ordered by mafia bosses, brothers Filippo and Giuseppi Graviano.  The gunmen had simply walked up to priest.  As he turned to them, Don Pino said, "I have been expecting you."  He was shot at point-blank range.  Unconscious, he was taken to hospital where he died.  It was his 56th birthday.  His murder sent shockwaves throughout Italy.  Although it was obvious that the mafia killed him, people were still afraid to apportion blame: even at the priest's funeral the Cardinal of Palermo avoided any question of the mafia being suspects.  However, people were not prepared to let this crime, and soon enough his killers were arrested, tried and convicted; today they are serving life sentences, among them the Graviano brothers who ordered his death.

Blessed Pino was a heroic priest.  He preached the Gospel of life even to leaders in the Church who were afraid to speak out against sin and injustice.  He teaches us that we must face down evil, see it for what it is and not try and convince ourselves that we can cooperate with it for "pastoral reasons".  He faced evil with courage and love and he paid the ultimate price.  As is obvious from his death he was not afraid to shed his blood in the battle against evil, and in this he offers all priests an example of true pastoral ministry: not fear, not justification, not avoiding the issue: but living and speaking boldly and laying down one's life. 

He teaches us priests not to be afraid to preach the Gospel even when people oppose us: to proclaim the truth is to love.
Here is a video about Blessed Pino, it's in Italian, but there are a few snippets of him speaking.  His feast day will be the 21st October.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Christians Are To Blame

For a minute I thought I was back in First century Rome and I was wandering through the burning embers of the city, but then I looked at the date on the newspaper - no, not AD 64, rather AD 2013.  It's not Nero, just the Irish Times being offensive to Christians...again.
The latest swipe is their headline on an article reporting on one of the Woolwich attackers.  I need not explain any further, I'll just quote the headline: "Man arrested for London killing from devoutly Christian family".  So we have "killing" and "devoutly Christian" jumping out at you - the Christians are to blame.
I'm sure the Irish Times will say that that was not their intention.  Well I say "rot" to that.  There were many ways to present this story and this is the way they chose, a way which implies, suggests, sneakily points the finger at devout Christians and I believe that is intentional. 
This is deeply offensive to Christians, it is snide, provocative and unprofessional.  It undermines the standards of journalistic integrity and objectivity.  And yes, it is now typical of the media in Ireland in general and of the Irish Times in particular. 
Aren't they lucky we Christians try to forgive and do not have jihad! 

The Pope, The Devil, The Media And The Exorcism That Might Not Have Been

Papa Francesco prepara la Gmg "A luglio tutti a Rio de Janeiro"

I was wondering when our beloved media was going to tire of Pope Francis and realise that he is not the great white hope for dissenting Catholics, but rather a traditional and innovative Pontiff who is just quite simple in his way of life and his celebration of the liturgy.  I think it may well be happening now.  It seems the media are getting a little tired of the Holy Father's references to the devil. 
When it comes to speaking about the evil one I think Pope Francis has clocked up a modern Papal record.  Since his election he has referred to the prince of lies a number of times and, up until recently, while they may have been shifting uncomfortably in their seats, the people in the media have ignored it.  But, as you are aware, some are now getting a little irate.  Well, I suppose you have to hand it to them, they did endure the orthodoxy for longer than I thought they would, I thought the urge to scratch the itch would have provoked a reaction before now.  But it seems the scratching has begun.
The Holy Father is quite right to warn us about the devil and his activity.  I have no doubt Francis sees how much demonic activity is going on around us - and I think there is a lot.  Certainly here in Ireland the evil one is very busy prowling the corridors of power as he works on his plan of destroying human life.  We need to be aware that our main opponents in the struggle for life are not flesh and blood, but, as Jesus said in the Gospel, "powers and principalities". 
The way the devil works is to tempt men and women to do his bidding, he then helps them carry out his mission and destroy those who try to prevent this mission, and then he turns on those who served him.  His plan is for total destruction.  In the struggle against abortion he seeks to destroy nascent human life and those involved in the pro-life movement who stand for truth, which he hates; and then he turns on his servants and destroys them.  In doing all this he cares not a whit for men and women, he just wants to hurt God.  The devil wants to separate us from God, lead us to a point where in pride we turn away from God - this happens either by outright rejection, or, more subtly, convincing people that their idea of God is the true God and any doctrine that contradicts their opinion is rejected.  In this second tactic the devil is leading people into idolatry.  So the Holy Father is right to warn us: living in this relativistic age many have reinvented God to their own tastes and ideology.  This "god" is an idol and in worshipping this idol many are lead to implicitly reject the true God.
While some in the media are getting annoyed at Francis, others jumped on the story that he performed an exorcism in St Peter's Square. Some sources have said that the young man prayed over is troubled in some way, and I presume at the Audience the priest who accompanied him asked the Pope to pray over the man, providing the Holy Father with some details as to what the affliction was.  What happened, I think, was a simple prayer of blessing and the young man reacted, as those under the influence of the evil one tend to react.  There is no way the Holy Father would have performed an exorcism in full view of the world's media - these things are done quietly so as not to sensationalise what is a delicate ministry in the Church.  Now if the Pope's prayer of blessing (or simple prayer of deliverance) can actually liberate someone there and then, well and good.  It is possible for  the Vicar of Christ, who is a holy man, to liberate in such an easy way if it is what God desires.
Michael Kelly has an interesting article on the issue which is well worth reading.  I would reiterate Michael's last words: "He hasn't gone away".  We need to be aware of that - not fearful: the victory has already been won by the Lord Jesus.  But we need to be one step ahead, and we will be if we give ourselves to Christ, as Pope Francis has been advising us since the first day of his Papacy.

Mary, Help Of Christians

Maria Auxiliadora
Today is the feast of Mary, Help of Christians, so a happy feast day to all my friends, readers and viewers in Australia, whose Patroness she is; and to all the members of the Salesian Family who invoke our Holy Mother under that title.
St John Bosco, as we know, had a great love for this title of Our Lady, seeing in it not only a comfort for us the disciples of Christ, but also a message: why should we fear when Mary our Mother is our helper?  Don Bosco was a man of joy, and that joy was built on a confidence conferred by his love of God and his trust in Mary, Help of Christians.  Apart from his love and service, and the Salesian Family, Don Bosco's great gift to Mary under this title is the beautiful basilica he had built in  her honour in Turin.  This church is more than a building, it is a song of love to Mary, a celebration and a concrete expression in the world of her majestic and powerful intercession. 
And so taking our cue from that: what can we give to Mary as a sign of our love?  What sign can we construct in the world to honour her and to remind the people of our time of their Holy Mother who is always willing to help us and guide us to her Son?
Today, let us commend our prayers to our Holy Mother, our Helper and friend, as we wish her a happy feast day.
And to all in Australia and all Salesians: feast well and remember us all in prayer.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Romero Cause "Unblocked"?

Over the past few weeks we have been hearing in the news that the Cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero has been unblocked and his beatification is expected soon.   The reports, however, do not indicate as to how it was blocked in the first place - as far as we know, and as Pope Benedict indicated during his reign, work on the Cause is proceeding.  There may be difficulties and issues, the major being whether Archbishop Romero had links to, or supported, extreme Marxist Liberation Theology, but I did not hear of any attempt by Benedict or Blessed John Paul before him to block the Cause.  It is usual for problems and issues to emerge in a Cause, and most of them are ironed out as the investigation proceeds.    Some working on the Cause believe the Congregation for the Causes of Saints blocked the standard review of his writings, but that is coming from people working on a Cause, and I know from personal experience that when a process is going slowly people get frustrated and think someone in Rome is sitting on it.
An article in the Catholic Herald today seems to reiterate that the Cause was blocked, reporting on a visit by the President of El Salvador to the Holy Father.  The President brought a gift of a piece of Archbishop Romero's blood-stained chasuble as a thank you to the Pope for "unblocking" the Cause.  I notice in the photograph at the head of the article that the Holy Father is looking rather seriously at the reliquary - maybe that is just my interpretation.  Remember Pope Francis is no fan of Liberation Theology and got himself in trouble with various figures in South America because he cautioned priests and faithful. 
Personally I believe that during his life the Archbishop was trying to steer a middle course.  Like John Paul and the then Cardinal Ratzinger, he saw the injustices in his country and understood what Liberation Theology, in its orthodox Catholic dimensions, could do to help.  However, I believe he also saw the dangers and kept a distance from the extreme Marxist theologians who veered Liberation Theology in the direction of revolution.  Given that it was an age of great confusion, it was not always possible to differentiate subtle differences.  As the above article suggests, and as indicated by Pope Benedict, Archbishop Romero may well have been unjustly co-opted as a political figure: he was hijacked as a martyr for a left-wing cause.  Personally I think that happened, and so now there is a suspicion hanging over him.  We see another example of this in Blessed John XXIII who was hijacked by the "spirit of Vatican II" crowd who seemed to present the Pontiff as a screaming liberal who wanted to blow up the Church and rebuild it as a hippie commune.
I note at the end of the article Fr. Lombardi may well be slapping the wrists of those speculating on the status of Romero's Cause: he said the Cause is going forward according to Church rules and it is up to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to inform us about the process's status. And let's be realistic - the Church has to be careful when it comes to Saints.  If there are issues they have to be examined; if there are questions, those questions have to be answered satisfactorily.  Remember, Saints are raised up in God's time, not ours.  And just because our Pope is from Latin America doesn't mean he's going to throw caution to the wind and do a job for the boys back home.  If we have learned anything about Pope Francis since his election we know he has a wise head on his shoulders and he is very astute.  And let us not forget, he comes from that part of the world so he knows a lot more about the subtleties, the difficulties and the hidden agendas.  And if Archbishop Romero needs to be taken back from left-wing revolutionary groups who have co-opted him, then the Holy Father will know how to do that. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Not Just For The Desperate

St Rita of Cascia is often invoked for "impossible situations" - when Anthony has not earned his fiver, or Jude has too many desperate cases on his books, people turn to Rita, the patron of impossible cases.  Now Catholic devotional history can be quirky at times, and yes it has been known to verge into the realm of the mad, the strange and the downright heretical.  So great care must be taken to keep us on the right road.
The first thing to note on the feast of St Rita is that it is God who answers our prayers - the Saints make intercession for us, and that intercession is most welcome for our lives, as is their friendship, their example and their writings.  Saints do have particular patronages, and we should indeed invoke the various Saints under their patronages, but we must be careful not to think that one Saint can trump another when it comes our requests.  God may well grant a request when a particular Saint is invoked rather than when another is invoked, but this is because God wants us to look at that Saint for a particular reason - for their example or for a lesson.
St Rita teaches us many lessons, one of the most important being endurance in faith.  She had her troubles, and what troubles!  An unhappy marriage, wayward children, opposition to her vocation, and then when she finally became a religious other problems emerged through her mystical life.  Yet in spite of it all she never lost her faith in God, nor stopped striving to love him more.  In this fidelity and love, she was sanctified.  Rita is indeed a Saint to invoke when we find ourselves with difficulties we may think are impossible to overcome. Rita reminds us that for God all things are possible, and if we put our trust in Christ we will be not be confounded and we will be delivered.  That is good news for today.
There are many beautiful stories too from St Rita's life - the story of the bees will appeal to the more ecological among us - how the bees gathered around her cradle after her birth and became a sign of the sweetness of the holiness which would mark her life.  The story of the twig is also lovely - how a twig she planted in the ground began to grow and became a vine which to this day produces grapes - that is most certainly a sign whose meaning we find in St John's Gospel.  
Her stigmata has attracted attention - instead of wounds in her hands, feet and side, she bore a single wound on her forehead, a wound from the crown of thorns.  This wound led to her isolation within the community because of its odour - some of the sisters could not cope with the smell, so Rita spent most, if not all her time, in her cell.  Often, those who are united to Christ and endure his suffering find themselves alone in the world either through misunderstanding, fear or even hatred.  St Rita teaches us that despite this, we should cling to Christ all the more and never stop loving our brothers and sisters regardless of how they treat us.  In reality, the more we conform to Christ, the more the world becomes suspicious of us.  Despite her isolation in the community because of the wound, Rita was still loved and her sanctity was obvious. Her suffering gained many graces for the sisters in her community and for those who asked her prayers: as followers of Christ we must always remember that suffering bears fruit, much fruit.
Today I greet all my Augustinian friends! St Rita is one of their great Saints, and as a true daughter of St Augustine and St Monica, she reveals in her life, both in the ordinary events of that life and the mystical, how to follow the Lord.  Like Augustine her heart was aflame with love and she sought to set others on fire with that love.  I pray today that her Augustinian brothers and sisters will continue to set hearts on fire with love for God; to help people remain faithful to Christ and his Church, and in the spirit of St Augustine, to explain those teachings which are often rejected by many but within which we find the way to true happiness.  Happy feast day to them all!
The body of St Rita exposed for veneration at her shrine in Cascia

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Sometimes the easiest answer is not always the most obvious....

Ma And Pa

The story of Adam and Eve has created difficulties for many in recent years: how do we square it with the scientific explanation of the creation of the universe and the human race?   Does the scientific account contradict our faith?  Does our faith fly in the face of science? 
Well, the answer to both questions is no.  Blessed John Henry Newman did not have a problem with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution when he published his research.  As Victorian England was reeling and many were losing their faith, Blessed John Henry, a man of faith and reason, read Darwin and could reconcile it with the faith of the Church.  Blessed John Paul II did the same and told us that evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive.
So, how do we approach Adam and Eve, our first parents?  Well, Fr Dwight Longenecker has an excellent post that sums up what I believe and I recommend it as a good read and as an apologetic.

A Friend To Help us In These Times

St Toribio Romo

Yesterday I was talking to a young Mexican woman who was telling me all about her great-grand uncle.  He was a priest in Mexico in the 1920s, a man devoted to the poor and to immigrants in particular.  For his fruitful priestly ministry, and his obvious holiness, he was murdered by anti-clericals in 1928 during the Cristero war.  He was canonised in the year 2000 and today is his feast day.  He is St Toribio Romo.
Today is the feast of holy Mexicans put to death for their allegiance to Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church.  The group is headed by the saintly pastor St Christopher Magallanes and consists of twenty-two priests and three laymen of various ages who were martyred between 1915 and 1937.   Speaking about them at a St Genesius prayer group last night, I was asked how Catholics could martyr other Catholics.  Well, the Catholics that were responsible for the martyrdom were lapsed Catholics: men and women who gave their first allegiance to an ideology that not only contradicted Christianity, but was deeply antagonised by it.  As these lapsed failed to convert their coreligionists, and as their hatred of their former faith grew, in their anger they saw only one way of dealing with the stubborn - persecute them even to the point of killing them. There are none so bitter and antagonistic towards the Catholic faith than lapsed Catholics. 
The parallels with our current situation are all too clear. Among the lapsed in Ireland there is the potential for persecution, although if one occurs it will not be as obvious as the Mexican and Spanish persecutions - it would be more subtle and insidious.  Sneakily, as only the Irish can do it. Our national virtues are great, but our national vices are dreadful.
A word on St Toribio.  Born in 1900, he entered the seminary at the age of twelve - not unusual at the time. He made a deep impression on his fellow seminarians and formators - he combined a devout soul with a mischievous personality.  He was ordained in 1922 and threw himself into the pastoral ministry.  As I said above he had a deep concern for the poor, and he was dedicated to the work of catechesis - that was enough to make him an enemy of the state.
On a personal level, Toribio had his trials.  He seemed to have experienced a dark night of the soul, revealing that he was troubled at times.  That said, he was a priest of intense devotion, making time for prayer and devotions.  He had a tender love for Our Lady, often leading the Rosary in public gatherings.  The centre of his life was the Holy Mass and the time he spent in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  When persecution heightened in 1927, these activities began to be curtailed as he found it more difficult to find a place to say Mass. 
In that year, 1927, he was sent to a factory in Tequila for safety, and there he lived with his sister Maria and his brother Roman.  A quiet life of prayer, secret priestly ministry and uncertainty followed.  On the 22nd February 1928 Toribio sensed that danger was coming.  Fearing for his brother's safety, he sent him away.  Three days later, after a hard day of work, he got to his bed at 4am.  As he was sleeping, at about 5am, government troops arrived and broke into the house.  As Toribio jumped up from his bed, the soldiers cried out "Here is a priest, kill him!"  Toribio responded, "Here I am, but do not kill me."  The soldiers had no mercy, but shot the young priest.  His sister had arrived at this time and Turibio fell into her arms.  As he lay dying, Maria encouraged him: "Courage, Fr Toribio. Merciful Jesus receive him! Long live Christ the King!"
The martyred body of St Toribio laid out before burial
St Toribio and his companions offer us Catholics an example of hope and courage in difficult times. While we can never trust other people, we can always trust God, and so in these times we must reaffirm our faith in Christ.  As the Scripture tells us - he is in our midst and as we are called by his name, he will never desert us (cf. Jer 14:9).  We have friends in heaven: St Toribio, like all the saints, is a friend to help us in these times.

Monday, May 20, 2013

In Case You Missed It....

In defiance of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life, a Jesuit priest confers an honorary doctorate from a Catholic College on Enda Kenny.  I doubt if St Ignatius would be pleased. 

A Blessing And A Curse

The Holy Eucharist has come up for discussion again, and the media are trying to create a storm over the possibility that the Bishops may well enforce canon 915 when it comes to Catholic TDs and Senators who vote for the abortion legislation.  I explained this canon and what could happen in an earlier post, so I'm not going to do so again here.
There are, however, a few things which need to be said with regard to this issue.  If you follow me on Twitter you will have seen earlier today that I tweeted part of a text sent into a radio show this morning.  The full text read: "How dare the Church decide who receives Communion in this day and age". 
In response.  First "this day and age" does not matter, a period of time does not decide what is true and what is not.  Murder was wrong in the 5th century, it is still wrong in the 21st. God's law is as true in the 21st century as it was in the 1st - it is only human arrogance which disputes that. 
It is the Church's prerogative to refuse the Eucharist to certain individuals in accordance with the divine law.  Without the Church there would be no Eucharist - so it is a bit rich, and I suppose the result of pure ignorance, to suggest that the Church should mind her own business when it comes to the Eucharist. While all Catholics have the right to receive the Eucharist, that right is a qualified right - those who through schism, for example, have removed themselves from communion with the Church no longer have the right to receive Holy Communion since receiving the Eucharist is a sign of communion with the Church - a communion that exists now and not one which may exist in the future.
But there is another point which must be made in this regard, one politicians should carefully note.  The Church refuses the Eucharist at times for the sake of the person seeking it.  To receive the Body and Blood of the Lord is indeed a blessing - the greatest of blessings, but for those who receive it unworthily it becomes a curse, a curse because in the unworthy reception a serious desecration is committed.  St Paul puts it quite bluntly in his First Letter to the Corinthians (see 1 Cor 11:27-29). This is a text our pro-abortion Catholic politicians should read very carefully before they get on their high horses and denounce the Church for her position.  To have the curse of God upon you is not a nice thing and the Church wants to spare even her worst enemies this blight. 
Now there will be those who say that such a thing is ridiculous - God is a God of love, he would never curse anyone, and he will forgive.  Yes, he will forgive - he will forgive all those who are truly penitent, but let's face it a politician who votes for abortion and then defends why he or she voted for it is certainly not penitent, and if they maintain that position at their death then they may well be lost.  (At this point we need to remind ourselves that death can come suddenly, and that we tend to die as we live - deathbed conversions are rare) 
When it comes to the curse, we curse ourselves because we have had the arrogance to presume that we can lay hold of the sacred even though we are in a state of serious sin.  Those things which are holy overpower those things which are evil; when a person has willingly given themselves over to evil, as in the case of providing for and defending the killing of the innocent, then contact with the All Holy will have devastating results.
And for those politicans who try and laugh this off, let them remember: one day they will stand before the throne of God for judgement, the same God who has told us we should not kill, and they will have to answer for their part in killing of every child who dies as a result of the forthcoming legislation - every child.  Political waffling will not save them.  These are matters of life and death - salvation and damnation, why make things worse by desecrating the Eucharist? 

The Holy Name

The Irish have a dreadful habit of taking the Holy Name of Jesus and using it as an expletive.  For many it is a habit and they do so without thinking.  We need to regain veneration for this Holy Name, so perhaps we might ask our Saint today, the Saint of the Holy Name, St Bernardine of Siena, to pray for those who treat the Name so casually, or failing that to pop down out of heaven and deliver a good thump to the offender!  All is grace, as our Therese would say. 
Happy feast day.
PS: St Bernardine's writings are being studied at the moment to see if he might merit being declared a Doctor of the Church.  Now it seems to be taking a long time; perhaps when he's down he might deliver a few thumps to the dozing theologians and get them to speed up the work.

Gosnell And Kenny

In the last couple of weeks every time I tried to get down to write a post something popped up and distracted me, so apologies for the silence.  I try not to leave it too long because I see this blog as part of my ministry, as suggested by Pope Benedict.  Now it may not be a very successful ministry, but I try.  
But what a couple of weeks!  So much has happened, and is happening.  First Dr Kermit Gosnell was found guilty - it was great news: a triumph, if only minor, for the pro-life cause.  We have a long way to go: there are many other doctors, politicians and abortion rights activists who have yet to stand trial for their part in the mass extermination of the unborn and the destruction of women.  It will take a major shift in society for that to happen, a major conversion in people's hearts and that is difficult. 
That said, I was disappointed that some people who described themselves as pro-life were demanding the death penalty for Gosnell - that is not being pro-life!  The late Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago spoke of the "seamless garment" when it came to pro-life issues.  Now I know that has been used by liberals to distract and highlight social justice issues at the cost of the struggle against abortion, but he was right: to be pro-life means we seek to protect life at all stages.  All people have the right to life regardless of what they have done.  We believe in the mercy of God and the possibility of even the most hardened sinner to convert. 
The pro-life movement is not about vengeance - it is about saving lives, even the lives if those who kill in the abortion clinic.  Let us never forget that one of the great modern apostles of life was Dr Bernard Nathanson, a man who not only aborted tens of thousands of children, but was instrumental in the campaign to normalise abortion in the US.  As Scripture reminds us, we must never take pleasure in the death of the evil person, but rather we should seek to rejoice at their turning back to God. 
Our Taoiseach Enda Kenny is soon to receive  his honorary doctorate at Boston College.  Speaking as a Catholic Irishman and a priest, I am deeply disappointed at the Jesuits's decision to honour this man at a Catholic college.  As with Notre Dame's honoring Barack Obama, this is a betrayal of our Catholic values.  It will also be seen as support for Kenny's aggressive plan to impose abortion on our country.  It is a scandal in many ways, but one of them is that it affirms Mr Kenny's view that you can be a good Catholic/Christian and still support abortion.  He rejects the Pope and orthodox Catholic teaching in many areas and yet he still sees himself as a Catholic in good standing.  In this honour from one of the main Catholic institutions in the US his error is reinforced and an opportunity to help his conversion has been missed.  I also think that those in Boston College who have decided to defy the Church and confer this honour now share some responsibility for Kenny's actions.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley has once again shown himself to be a true pastor in the midst of this.  He made the right decision, not only in not going to Boston College for the Commencement, but also in explaining why in a public manner.  In doing this he is simply fulfilling his role as teacher in his diocese.  He has been attacked for doing so, and some journalists have been scathing, among them Niall O'Dowd, founder of the Irish Voice, an Irish-American newspaper.  O'Dowd, a confirmed Democrat and personal friend of the Clintons, said that the Cardinal broke his promise to Boston College. It seems the College did not want to create an issue and so while accepting the Cardinal's decision, wanted him to remain silent.  Well, if the Cardinal had originally agreed to remain silent he was wrong to do so: as a pastor of souls he could not remain silent in face of this scandal.  O'Dowd accuses the Cardinal of embarrassing Enda Kenny.  Well, Kenny seeks to do worse to the unborn children of Ireland. 
What O'Dowd seems to be saying is that we do not speak the truth for fear of embarrassing people, or embarrassing his pro-abortion allies anyway.  Well, I think Jesus said and did differently in his ministry - he did not spare the Pharisees when he spoke the truth.  Of course as any Irish person will realise it is quite ironic to accuse the Cardinal of breaking a promise to Enda Kenny - that same Taoiseach has left a trail of broken promises since his election, the most serious being that to the unborn of Ireland when he assured us he would not legislate for abortion if he were elected.  Pro-life people believed him, and in the hindsight we see how foolish we were to do so; we know better now.
Silence is one the pro-abortion movement's great tactics.  They hide the reality of abortion from the eyes of the general public; they are silent about the child which they refuse to acknowledge; they demand silence from those who oppose them; they attempt to silence public representatives through fear.  They silence the women who fell for their arguments about "choice" and now suffer psychologically, spiritually and physically from the trauma of abortion - these most "compassionate" abortion providers have no time for the women hurt by abortion.   And when things go wrong in the clinic, which they do at an alarming rate, they cover it up.  The tragedy of the Gosnell case for them was that it broke that silence and so they had to come up with a feeble response and an objectionable accusation - it was the pro-lifers's fault.
No, Cardinal O'Malley was right not to remain silent, he was right to expose the fact that Boston College are defying the Church and defying Christ in honouring a man who seeks to destroy human life.   Silent no more; lies no more, but truth.  Time for people to see abortion for what it is.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Congratulations, Bishop-Elect!

News has come through that my former Parish Priest and friend, Fr Denis Nulty, has been appointed Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.   It has come as delightful news, and I can only wish Bishop-Elect Nulty every blessing and grace as he begins his episcopal ministry.  
Following my ordination, I was appointed to St Mary's, Drogheda, under the care of Fr Denis.  He was a great pastor to work with.  I found, and still find him, a great teacher in the way of parish ministry, a wonderful friend and great fun.  He was loved by his parishioners and in his time as Parish Priest he made many improvements to the parish.  He will be missed.
The people of Kildare and Leighlin are getting a marvellous pastor, one who will love his people and his priests.  Fr Denis, who has had a number of diocesan appointments here in Meath, always had a special concern for his brother priests and he is very much loved by the clergy of the diocese.  To be honest, part of me is disappointed that he is going to Kildare and Leighlin as many of us had hoped that he might one day become Bishop of Meath.  But the Lord has other plans.
We will remember the new Bishop-Elect in our prayers, that the Lord may support and guide him in his years of service to the people and priests of Kildare and Leighlin.   He leaves Meath with an abundance of love and best wishes, and with our continued prayers and support.

We place him under the care of St Brigid, the Patroness of his new diocese and secondary Patron of Ireland; St Lazerian, and his holy predecessor bishop St Conleth.

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Monday, May 6, 2013


The media has been reporting in the last couple of days that pro-abortion Catholic TDs are being threatened with excommunication if they vote for the abortion bill.  Now perhaps a bishop has said something and I am not aware of it, but I do not think the issue has been raised by anyone in the hierarchy, not in public anyway.  As far as I can see the only thing that was said was that comment by Cardinal Brady in which he said that he did not want to politicise the Eucharist.    To be honest, I would be surprised if an Irish bishop mentioned the imposition of canonical penalties at all seeing as they have avoided any such measures for the last fifty years even in cases where they were required.
For one thing, I do not think a politician can be excommunicated for voting for an abortion bill, not at first anyway.  The norm, according to canon law, the famous canon 915 (most cited, often ignored), is that they must be refused the Eucharist, but only after certain conditions have been applied.  Here is the canon:
Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.
Now a quick examination of this canon in the present context.  If a Catholic TD or Senator votes for this legislation (I believe Catholic members of the cabinet have already voted for this bill, so this canon now applies to them) they have not been excommunicated, nor are they under interdict, as of yet, so the first part of the canon does not apply yet.  However, the second part will.  To vote for the bill will be a grave sin which will require sacramental confession, personal penance and, I would also say, public repudiation of their vote and public penance of some form. 
If a TD or Senator votes for the bill, it will be the duty of his or her bishop to contact the politician and inform them of the serious nature of their act and to tell them that until they have confessed and repudiated their vote, they should not present themselves for Holy Communion.  If a politician ignores or dissents from this, the bishop has a duty to contact the politician again to call them back and admonish them.  If the politician continues to reject this, then they will be considered to be "persevering in manifest grave sin" - manifest because their vote is well known and their continuing to present themselves for the Eucharist will also be a public act.  At this point the bishop must formally inform the politician that if they continue to present themselves for the Eucharist they will be refused. 
The bishop must then inform all of his priests of the situation and direct them to refuse the politician communion; all Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in the diocese are bound by this directive also.  (As an aside: this may present difficulties for lay Extraordinary Ministers, but they have no choice but to follow the directive.  When training laypeople for this ministry they must be informed that they may be required to refuse the Eucharist at times.  Indeed one good way of discerning candidates for this ministry is to see if they would obey such a directive.)  Now if a politician continues to ignore the directive, does not repent, then things could develop and he or she may face excommunication. 
This may seem like a long process - it can be, but must not be dragged out either.  The process must allow for space and time for reflection - a politician must be given time to repent.  The Church imposes penalties not for revenge, but to help bring a lost sheep back to their senses - she is concerned with reconciliation.   The process also puts the onus on the bishop to fulfil his duty to guide and teach his flock.   If a bishop fails to do this, leaves matters as they are in the hope that they will sort themselves out, or for spurious "pastoral reasons", he will be not only be failing in his duty, but also endangering a soul for lack of direction and, yes, admonishment.   For this omission the bishop will have to answer to God.  Charity and gentleness are required, but these virtues should never be confused with fear or inability to act.
So let us be careful when we hear the media speak of excommunication - remember the media are trying to get this abortion legislation through and so want to destroy those who oppose it.  In reporting on excommunication the media wants to show the Church as interfering in the political process.  We must not let the media set the agenda.  Nor force our shepherds into silence either.  Again, the Lord's teaching on doves and serpents applies. 

Prudence Now! Things Have Changed.

There is an event from the life of the Servant of God Cardinal Terence Cooke which I would like to share with you - one which has an interesting lesson for us in these times.  Cardinal Cooke lived in a difficult age. As a Catholic pastor he tried to proclaim the Gospel faithfully in the midst of the worse excesses of the sexual revolution, in a city that was in decay, not just physically, but morally and spiritually.   As Archbishop of New York he was, for all intents and purposes the leader of American Catholicism, and so when it came to various issues the whole country looked to him.
In April 1970 the New York State legislature passed an abortion bill, but in a manner that proved controversial and, according to the biographers of Cardinal Cooke, treacherous.   The Cardinal, in his dealings with the State, believed that a informed electorate should influence legislators.  As a priest and bishop he did not wade into political matters, however he did accept that he had the right to inform the electorate about issues which related to life and morality, and he did so as any responsible pastor would.  When it came to his bill he reminded the faithful that it was repugnant on a human level and on a moral level.  Those pushing the bill were not pleased, and when they looked at the numbers in the legislators they saw that many had listening to the Cardinal's arguments and seemed ready to vote against the bill.
Then something strange happened.  On the morning of the 10th April 1970 a rumour began to circulate: the Cardinal had done a deal with the Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller: the Cardinal would "soft-pedal opposition" to the abortion issue in return for the safe passage of legislation concerning Catholic schools.  Pro-life advocates who were picketing outside were informed by an unknown official that the Cardinal did not want a protest outside the State Capitol and told to go home.  Meanwhile members of the legislature who were struggling with their consciences found a way out of their struggle, and so when the bill came before the house it was passed 31 to 29. 
Now no deal had been done: Cardinal Cooke would never have made such an arrangement - to do so would, in his mind, be an act of betrayal to the unborn.  When news of what had happened got to him, the normally mild mannered and gentle man was furious.   He was advised to expose the lie and attack the Governor whom, it was suspected, had a hand in it.  But that was not the Cardinal's way.  He did attack the bill, he later called for a boycott of the abortion law and issued a Pastoral Letter condemning the legislation and the practice of abortion.  He also established new pastoral initiatives to assist women with crisis pregnancies and those who had abortions and were now suffering the trauma which results from it.  It also became clear that the rumour was actually a lie.
Soon afterwards the Cardinal was due to attend a dinner in Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in which Governor Rockefeller was to be an honoured guest.    This was his opportunity: he refused the invitation, but sent two Monsignori instead.   They arrived, passed on the Cardinal's greetings, but were instructed that when the governor arrived, they were to walk out, and they did so.  The message was given loud and clear.
Petty?  No, I think it was very wise.  Cardinal Cooke was not a man for conflict - he was no Blessed Clemens von Galen, but he had his own way of making a point, and given that he was admired by all for his holiness, people got the message very quickly.   The Cardinal was deeply hurt by what had been done, but he also understood that he had to be careful with politicians.   They are the ultimate opportunists and will try and communicate their message to their voters in whatever way they can.  That can be positive.  However, when a politician is doing something which is wrong, he or she will try and repackage it in a way that shows him or her in a positive light.  Cardinal Cooke was aware of the power of the image, and so he knew that if a photograph was taken of him with the governor it would be used to the governor's advantage, give credence to the rumour and indicate that "in spite of differences, we're all still friends, and things will be alright - no big deal".   The Cardinal was not going to fall for that.
Why do I tell this story?  I do so because yesterday at Knock the politician, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who is trying to force legislation on abortion through, did what Governor Rockefeller wanted to do: he posed with a Catholic Archbishop, all friendly and pally and communicated the message that, in spite of differences, we are all friends and, at the end of the day, things are still the same, nothing has changed.   The media broadcast this image all day and it has undermined the Catholic Church's opposition to the abortion bill.  Indeed, watching footage on the news, it is obvious that the Archbishop was making his way over to greet the Taoiseach, queuing up to shake hands with him.
A word of advice: please, bishops, priests, lay faithful: in these days be very careful with our pro-abortion TDs and Senators.  They know they are doing something which is repugnant to most Irish people and they want something to hold on to, not only to save their careers, but also to legitimise what they are doing.   They will want to communicate that all will well and we'll get over this - they want to normalise - but must not let them do that. 
There is a problem at the heart of Irish political life - a politician ties to catagorize his or her life: they do their legislating and then when they clock out expect to have normal relations with people, even those they are betraying.   So, a politician can vote for abortion and then hug and kiss the local bishop or parish priest at a GAA event.  Or, another example: a politician can vote for abortion and then turn up at Mass and receive Communion, be praised by local clergy and be invited to preside at Church social functions.  While we do not want to be uncharitable and unchristian, prudence and consistency would dictate that this should not happen.
Cardinal Cooke offers us a marvellous example on how to deal with pro-abortion politicians - he never renounced his Christianity, but he was no fool either.  He was pastoral, but he had to deal with members of his flock who did things which were repugnant to human life and faith.  The time has come for the Catholic Church in Ireland to get real and realise that the pally-pally relationship with government and politicians may well be over, and that "normalisation" may well play into the hands of those who are committed to the destruction of life and the Church.  The Lord's teaching on doves and serpents now applies.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

For The Record

My homily at Masses today. I am posting it for your information and as a record should it be reported on.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 15:1-2,22-29; Apocalypse 21:10-14, 22-23; John 14:23-29

Our Lord’s words in the Gospel are truly comforting today. As he asks us to keep his word, he promises to send the Advocate – the Holy Spirit, to teach us, guide us and help us. We can then have peace in our hearts for God is with us. With this beautiful teaching Jesus continues his reflection on love. Last week he commanded us to love and offered himself as an example for us, showing us how to love. Today he fleshes out that command and shows how, in practical terms, we show our love for God: by keeping his word – his teachings and commandments. To love as Christians, then, is simple: to love our neighbour as Christ loved us –embracing sacrifice and being concerned for their salvation; and loving God by keeping his word – following his teachings, living his commandments. If we do this, then life is ours. St John of the Cross once said that in the evening of life we will be examined on our love – if we listen intently to the Lord today and do what he says, then we shall pass that exam and enter into life.

Of course as Christians living in the world we know that is not easy, and that is why Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit and the help he wishes to give us. In our lives we will meet many challenges, and each of these challenges is an opportunity to live what the Lord asks. At times we will have to pay a price to do so – in worldly terms, but in terms of eternity we earn a heavenly reward. We are living through one such challenge at this time: now we find ourselves facing the reality that the direct and intentional killing of a child will be enshrined in the laws of this land.

During the week the draft legislation for the introduction of abortion was published and despite assurances from the government, in reality this legislation is the first step in the introduction of abortion on demand – as inadvertently revealed by two TDs. I would urge you all to read the legislation. But in summary there are many difficulties with this bill not only for unborn children and women in crisis, but also for religious freedom. First of all we need to bear in mind that many legal figures have told us that there is no need for this legislation – clarification of procedures will help protect women in difficult medical situations. Despite what pro-abortion groups claim, abortion is never medically necessary to save a woman’s life. Just a few weeks ago our nation’s doctors confirmed this, and rejected the idea of legislation. Even more recently one third of our psychiatrists issued a joint statement rejecting the idea that abortion was a solution to a pregnant woman contemplating suicide – objective research and experience show that abortion actually increases the risk of suicide. Yet the government, for some reason, has chosen to ignore the advice of the experts in this area. This legislation is not necessary and is not based on legal, medical or psychiatric grounds – it seems to be a purely ideological exercise.

There are other issues. Under this law abortion will be permitted up to birth. All hospitals which deal with obstetrics will have to perform abortion regardless of ethos – in other words this law will force Catholic hospitals and institutions to carry out abortions. Doctors, nurses and midwives may avail of a conscience clause but only if they themselves arrange for others to replace them – that amounts to cooperation in abortion. However administrative and ancillary staff are not covered by the conscience clause, and so they will be forced to cooperate materially with abortion. These are just a few concerns.

This act, it is obvious by reading it, is the first step to more liberal provisions for abortion, as we see happened in Britain and other places. It is obvious too that a Catholic cannot support this legislation and remain in good standing in the Church – to vote for this bill constitutes a grave sin and if not repented may well lead to canonical penalties. In their statement the Bishops have described this bill as "morally unacceptable" and it is.

As a pastor of souls speaking to my brothers and sisters in the Christian faith I want to remind you that as citizens of this republic you have the right to make your views known to your elected representatives. As men and women who believe in the cause of life, for mothers and babies, and learning from medical science that one life need not be destroyed to save another, we acknowledge that there is another way. I would urge you to do what you can for the cause of life so this legislation does not become the law of the land. Let us listen to the Lord’s word on the sanctity of human life, on the little children. Like the Hebrews in the desert, Ireland now faces a choice: life or death. Let us choose life

Friday, May 3, 2013

"Morally Unacceptable"

The Bishops have issued their preliminary response to the government's abortion bill.  I am posting it in full for you:

Preliminary response by the Catholic Bishops of Ireland to Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013

The Catholic bishops of Ireland stress once again the importance of continuing to provide a health care service in Ireland which ensures complete respect for the sacredness of the life both of the mother and her unborn baby. The bishops express their appreciation of the work carried out day by day in this ethos by doctors, nurses, midwives and other health personnel. Through Cura, the Church’s crisis pregnancy agency, help is available to any woman facing a crisis pregnancy.
The Heads of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 published by the Government on Wednesday would, if approved, make the direct and intentional killing of unborn children lawful in Ireland. The Bill as outlined represents a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law and is unnecessary to ensure that women receive the life-saving treatment they need during pregnancy.
The Gospel of Life is at the heart of the message of Jesus; the deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of life is always morally wrong. We uphold the right to life as the foundation of every other human right. We encourage a deeper understanding of the inviolability of the right to life of both a mother and her unborn child, in all circumstances. Accordingly, at this crucial time, it is essential that all who share these beliefs make them clear to their legislators.
The Bill also appears to impose a duty on Catholic hospitals to provide abortions. This would be totally unacceptable and has serious implications for the existing legal and Constitutional arrangements that respect the legitimate autonomy and religious ethos of faith-based institutions. It would also pose serious difficulties for the conscientious beliefs of many citizens.
Abortion, in the sense of directly killing the unborn child, is never a remedy for suicidal ideation and therefore should never be cited as a justification for the direct killing of an innocent human being. It is a tragic moment for Irish society when we regard the deliberate destruction of a completely innocent person as an acceptable response to the threat of the preventable death of another person.
We invite all who cherish human life to support the Vigil for Life which is taking place in Knock tomorrow. We encourage everyone who can attend the Vigil to do so or to join in prayer with us. Cherish both mother and baby! Choose life!
In related news Cardinal Sean Brady, our Primate, was asked if the bishops would implement canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law should Catholic politicians vote for abortion: his response seems to amount to a "no".  I pass you over to Catholicus for a reflection on that decision.

Fathers of Our Ancient Faith

Two of the more obscure of the Apostles, SS Philip and James the Less, whose feast it is today, deserve to be better known and celebrated. 
Poor Philip is often portrayed as the one who failed to see the Father in Jesus, yet if he wasn't for his request of Jesus to see the Father, we would not have had that wonderful teaching from the Lord on the Holy Trinity.  Philip preached the Gospel in Greece and Turkey and he was martyred in Hierapolis.  According to the legend he was crucified and as he died he used his cross as a pulpit to continue his preaching - there's determined discipleship for you.  The lesson we learn from this: our sufferings can provide us with opportunities to proclaim the Gospel.  When we proclaim the truth in the midst of our pain we have a credibility that few can ignore.  Remember the example of Blessed John Paul II - his teaching on the dignity of human life was never so eloquent as in his last years when he carried his cross for all to see.
James the Less, the son of Alphaeus, was believed to be related to Jesus.  He is said to be the James who was bishop of Jerusalem, presiding over the first Council of the Church which took place there, and the author of the Letter of James in the New Testament, though some scholars dispute this.  In his lifetime he was venerated by Christians and Jews alike for his holiness and austerity of life.  He too was martyred - thrown from the Temple by Pharisees and then stoned to death.  St James teaches us that we need to be wary of our reputation, even it is honestly gained.  Though he was seen to be holy, it did not stop some from killing him - indeed his reputation for holiness may have been enraged his enemies.  James was unconcerned - his focus was Jesus his Lord, and he sought to serve him.
The tomb of SS Philip and James is in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles in Rome.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Saint For Our Times

St Athanasius image
What a week of feasts! And what a feast today - the great Athanasius - the Doctor of Doctors, the defender of Christ's divinity in an age when even many in the Church were tempted over to Arianism.  Talking to a friend last night, Athanasius came up in the conversation: "Ah yes," my friend said, "the Saint for our times."  And indeed he is.  Struggling as we do in this most secular, anti-life age, Great Athanasius is a model of fortitude and a welcome intercessor as we too try to proclaim the truth and suffer for our fidelity.  
Athanasius, as you know, endured savage opposition, oppression from the secular rulers of his day and was deprived of his diocese and his home for his preaching.   As with St John Chrysostom after him, the emperor and his allies tried to break Athanasius down, yet they could not for the power of God sustained this humble servant of Christ.  Despite all their efforts Athanasius just kept coming back.
There is good news for us in this.  If we abandon ourselves to the power of Christ, if we stay faithful to him and with open hearts be prepared to "endure whatever comes" for love of Christ, then we will ultimately triumph.  That triumph may take some time to come, we may not see it ourselves on this earth, but it will come.  Like Athanasius we must be witnesses to hope and see, even in our suffering and exile, a joy and peace that can fill our hearts and souls.  In the end, God is in charge, we are mere servants.
A few thoughts to share with you.  Exile was part of Athanasius' suffering - exile from his dear people.  Exile is an experience many of us may have to face in these difficult times - perhaps not a physical exile, but a psychological one.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that we who seek to be faithful to Christ, to be true to the Gospel of life, may find that we are gradually becoming strangers in our own native land. 
Ultimately we must remember that we have no abiding city on this earth.   As the ancient writer Diogenes reminds us even our motherland is a foreign country - we will never fit in - at least we should never fit in.  We are pilgrims here, and though we must do what we can to make this "vale of tears" a better place, and it is the crucible in which we work out our salvation, we are still only passing through.  
That said we have a responsibility for our brothers and sister who are here - we must help them on their pilgrim journey, and so our concern for this world is ultimately a concern for our brothers and sisters, their welfare, their salvation.  For them and for God we must preach the Gospel and be servants of the truth.  So, as Christians, while we do not make our home here, we are engaged here for the sake of salvation.
St Athanasius reminds us of this too - he was at home in the desert with St Antony and his monks as he was in his native Alexandria. He was concerned about souls, and so should we, even the souls of our enemies.  This helped him to be generous in forgiveness while strident in his preaching and writing.  As we face the present difficulties, we should learn from him.  We do not resign our responsibilities, we do  not turn our backs on the world because our brothers and sisters live in the world, and the world was created by God for us: we may be pilgrims, but the road we walk was laid out by God - it is his footpath, and we need not yield it to God's enemies human or otherwise.
And with Athanasius we must pray for those who persecute us.  In my conversation with my friend we reflected on the members of our government - one day they will have to stand before God and answer for what they are doing.  Indeed if they do not repent, they will have a difficult end.  Reading the lives of tyrants is always insightful: many of them had dreadful ends and many of them seemed to have died without repenting of the evil they did.  While we can say to ourselves that they deserved it, if we truly care for the salvation of souls the loss of one soul is a tragedy and we must do what we can to prevent it.  There is no greater sorrow for God than the loss of a soul. 
We may not like our legislators very much at the moment, but we must pray for them, and do so generously so they will repent and not be lost.  I remember one day in prayer I was offering the whole pro-life struggle to God and I sensed in my heart that the ones I had to pray for were those who promoted and facilitated abortion - they were the ones at most risk, not the little ones who were killed.   The triumph we seek is salvation.
The body of St Athanasius in the Church of St Zaccaria in Venice