I’m working on another quick turn around project w…

I’m working on another quick turn around project with Father Benedict Groeschel, a book that will address the current crisis in the church and lay out a call to reform the church. Look for it to hit the bookstores in June.

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritua…

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the twelth Step:

(12) Not to seek after pleasures.

This is not a popular counsel in our culture. We may be the most pleasure seeking culture that has ever existed. Indeed it may well be that of all the maxims that St. Benedict gives us, this is the hardest. I suspect some will find it nearly impossible to accept even intellectually.

St. Benedict here is not counseling and individual to reject pleasure when it is experienced but rather he is saying that one should now seek after it.

Most of us actively look forward to experiences that we believe will give us pleasure based on our past experiences. As a child we looked forward to Christmas each year, because at an early age when gifted with presents that we had not expect, we were filled with pleasure. But something strange happens, when we start expecting the pleasure and actively seeking after it, the reality never seems to live up to our expectation.

The gift that we beg for arrives and quickly is seen for what it is–“a false advertisement”. The elusive relationship is finally gained but the reality never lives up to the fantasy.

The wise person learns this at an early age, but most of us become more creative in our explanations as to why our plans for pleasure are failing to pleasure us.When we seek after pleasure it become unattainable. Nothing ever lives up to our expectation. The act of seeking is a guarantee that we will not achieve the pleasure that we desire.

The longed after vacation, when it arrives, moves to quickly and is destroyed by the delays in travel, the lousy weather, etc.

If we are wise we will find that pleasure comes when we do not desire it but simply are present to the events of the present moment.

Our expectation is that God can come to us at any moment and this expectation will lead to pleasures and joy that we can not dream of.

The seeker lives in the past. He or she is trying to recreate the unplanned moment when everything seemed to be right. If only the moment could be recreated the pleasure would once again be experienced. But the reality is that that moment is past.

The reality is also that the future is ahead with all of its unexpectedness. “Seek first the Kingdom of God!” is the counsel of Jesus. Everything else is secondary. Everything else is illusion.

If I make it my goal to be totally present to the reality of the moment, rather than to be focused on some illusory happiness that lies in the future, I will find true joy right now.

The radical nature of this claim will find it’s confirmation when I am stuck in traffic or sitting in the waiting room of the doctor or dentist and I thank God for the extra time I have been given to relax, to read a magazine that I usually don’t have time for, to gently reflect on where God has led me in the past and how futile our my plans for anything without God’s co-operation.

“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the labors labor.” The future is ours only in so far as it is the Lord’s also. The pleasure seeker, seeks pleasure because they feel none in the present moment. In the seeking they suffer from their want.

Behind the news The priest mentioned in this CN…

Behind the news

The priest mentioned in this CNN story is a former classmate of mine. What they don’t mention is that he is Carlos Santana’s cousin:

The church is investigating whether Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, who died in 1963 after dedicating his life to the church, was responsible for curing a person of gangrene; another of diabetes, respiratory failure and heart failure; and a third of skin cancer, said priest Edward Santana, who is heading the investigations for the church.

The first two alleged miracles occurred in Rome’s Plaza San Pedro immediately after Rodriguez’s beatification a year ago Monday. The third, in Puerto Rico, allegedly occurred two months ago, said Santana, of the diocese in Caguas where Rodriguez was from.

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritua…

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the eleventh Step:

(11) To chastise the body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).

I work out in a gym about five times a week usually on my way home for work. There are a few regulars who are always there, both when I arrive and still there when I leave. They push their bodies to the absolute limit and their bodies show the results. Most people envy them but few are willing to put their bodies through the rigors required for such results.

I begin with this example for obvious reasons. When it comes to spirituality most people react negatively to the thought of monks beating themselves with flagelants or wearing hair shirts and I think rightly so, but as often happens when we reject a faulty interpretation, we seldom replace it with a correct one.

About a year ago I was giving a tour of a Benedictine Monastery, where I had attended college almost twenty years ago, to some visitors. Being a curious soul I know the place inside and out. Among the visitors was an author that I had worked with and her friend, along with another Benedictine Nun, all who were attending a conference at a nearby convent.

In the course of our tour we came upon the Chapter room of the monastery. The walls and ceiling of the Chapter Room were illustrated beautifully by a Swiss monk who had lived at the monastery in the early mid-1900’s. The ceiling contained the signs of the zodiac illustrating the whole of life, the walls illustrated some of the steps that St. Benedict mentions in his rule (the subject of this series).

He illustrated this step by showing several monks flogging themselves. I mentioned that this was from the rule and the Benedictine sister immediately said that it wasn’t. I mildly protested but she insisted. Later when we arrived at the bookstore, I openned the Rule of St. Benedict to the page and pointed out to her where it was. She was undetered, “It’s a poor translation.”

She mentioned another translation, but here again the wording was the same. Finally, she said,”well who believes that anymore?”

“Bodybuilders,” I answered.

Chastising our flesh is a way of mastering our bodies and our wills.

One of my favorite soon to be saints, Father Solanus Casey, jogged. I think I read somewhere that he did so to punish his flesh. Chastising the body can be a healthy enterprise.

A famous Franciscan friar, who is a little overweight and has had numerous heart problems, told me recently that he was finally taking care of his body since he saw hopeful signs in the church.

A recent country song perhaps gives us this point best in modern language, “She treats her body like a temple, I treat mine like a honky tonk.” If we believe that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, then we will maintain it in a way that show that we treasure it.

Amy made the front page of the local afternoon pap…

Amy made the front page of the local afternoon paper here in Fort Wayne on Friday. Neither of us knew anything about it until the Pastor of the parish we attend mentioned it in his announcements at the end of Mass today. You can read about it here:

A test of faith

Nancy Nall wrote it, you can read more from her here.

A seminarian, from a large midwestern seminary, re…

A seminarian, from a large midwestern seminary, responded to my query about the following items:

I noticed that you attend a seminary mentioned by Michael Rose in his book Goodbye, Good Men. Have you read or seen a copy of the book? Your seminary is one mentioned in the book and it claims that the formation team there is incredibly gay. Is that your experience?

I’d love to hear your comments on what your experiences are in there presently.

Are there a large number of homosexual seminarians?

How are you being formed to live celibately?

Do seminarians go out on weekends? Date?

Are most of the guys orthodox?

Here is his gracious answer:

First of all, let me say that I can’t (and don’t) speak for the seminary. I’m sending this to you to give you a quick impression that

differs markedly from the one you might have based on Goodbye, Good Men. I invite you and Michael Rose to come to visit if you want to investigate how things are here. I suspect that Michael Rose would be somewhat surprised by what he would find.

You asked if I had read the book. I have ordered it, but have yet to receive it. However, I borrowed a copy tonight in order to at least

read the chapter that speaks horrors referring to this seminary. I can’t call the seminarian quoted in that section a liar because I don’t know him, but I have been here for two years now, and I don’t recognize the seminary of my experience in his descriptions.

There has been a tremendous turnover in formation faculty, so I can’t speak of faculty members from the past. But today I would never describe the current formation faculty as “gay.” Nor has that been the way men who have been here for five years speak. (They do say things are getting better and better on the formation front, but that seems mostly a matter of their active investment in their role as formators of seminarians, not their “orthodoxy” or “straightness”.) I suspect that a few of the faculty members may be homosexual, but I have no suspicions that they are acting out or encouraging others to do so.

There is no tolerance for sexual acting out here, whether heterosexual or homosexual. The moral teachings of the Church are taught, and the expectations for students and faculty are that we will all live celibate, chaste lives. I have heard no rumors at all concerning

faculty acting out sexually with anyone, and no reports of faculty harassing students in any way.

As for the students, there are some who are effeminate, some I suspect may be homosexual, and some I hear are homosexual. But the sum of these impressions and reports does not add up to a large percentage. Those who are effeminate or who are assumed to be homosexual are not harassed, nor are heterosexuals harassed by them. To use common parlance, this seems neither a “homophobic” nor a “gay-friendly” place. No one speaks about changing Church teaching about homosexuality, even if there is an

acknowledgment by faculty and students that there are homosexuals as well as heterosexuals in formation here. In sum, I believe that the vast majority of men here are committed to living chaste, celibate lives.

There is no doubt that the current scandal in the Church has increased the explicitness with which we are attending to matters of sexual integration, human formation, and talking about pastoral responses to homosexuality. I count all of this as a benefit of the current situation.

The program of formation includes attention to matters of sexual integration, human formation, and other relevant topics, like the

ongoing challenge of celibacy. Teaching about celibacy is comprehensive, and focuses us on learning what it takes to live out our

“committed love” to Christ and the Church. It is not simply about ways to ensure continence and self-denial, but a holistic way for priests and religious to express their committed love.

You asked about “dating,” and I simply don’t hear about seminarians doing so. That is not to say that men don’t do things socially with one other and with male and female acquaintances in the area, but “dating” is not an accurate description. It’s what you might expect: friends doing things together, just as you would find in any social context.

I can’t think of any seminarians who openly challenge Church teachings about faith and morals. And, to my mind, that makes them quite orthodox. Differences among seminarians are most conspicuous at the level of personal piety. The differences do not revolve around fidelity to the Magisterium.

I have never heard any faculty members say or teach anything that challenged or contradicted the Church’s moral teaching. In fact, the academic faculty is exceptional. They provide both intellectual and spiritual nourishment in their classes. They are men and women (mostly priests and religious) of faith who know their subjects well and have great pedagogical skills. They teach from the standpoint of faith, with an eye to helping us become priests after the heart of Jesus Christ.

In sum, I am very glad that I am in formation here. It would be hard to imagine a better academic faculty at a Catholic seminary. And I see continued improvements in the attention that will be given here (and I suspect at every American seminary) to issues of human formation, celibacy, and sexual integration, among the other areas spelled out in Pastores Dabo Vobis.

I am glad that the heat is being turned up on the entire Church, and that increased attention (in part because of Rose’s book) will be paid to American Seminaries. I count that as a potential benefit of the tragedy. If a seminary were in fact the sort of place Rose describes in his book, radical changes would be in order. And there may well be such places, and they need to be

reformed. But this seminary is no longer among them, in my estimation. If there have been major changes, that makes me think that this Archbishop and this Rector “get it.” May God be pleased that the situation will be similar across all the dioceses and seminaries in our land!

p.s. I am admittedly a bit troubled by the salacious tone of Rose’s book. After thumbing through it, I wondered if the book isn’t a bit too sensationalist for its own good. The men who are informants seem, to a man, to have axes to grind.

p.p.s. FWIW, I think there are some men who are too rigid in their embrace of ORTHODOXY to have any sense of mercy in their role as priests. I know some men back home who are immature in their orthodoxy. They are unable to tolerate sinners (and differences of

opinion), and therefore would be ineffective in the work of evangelism and ministry. All of that to say that “kicking someone out” for being “too orthodox” may not always be as bad as Rose seems to think.

Those who have been here (especially those who have been here longer than I) and are aware of this book are angry about its contents. They feel (justifiably, I think) rather defensive. However, I trust that even this off-balance book will help us all in the long-run, even if I am troubled by his method, tone, and assumptions.

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritua…

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the tenth Step:

(10) To deny one’s self in order to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).

Denial has come to mean, not facing reality. This is not the type of “denial” that St. Benedict is promoting. Rather it is just the opposite, it is to deny the falsehood of the self that always feels threatened. This false “self” does not exist but is the result of Original Sin and we all struggle with it throughout our lives.

There is a part of us that feels that we must always be vigilant unless someone get one up on us. It is the part of our personality that puts up walls, that is afraid to be our true selves. Simply it is that part of us that fears being embarrassed, thought ill of or that we secretly fear is the definition of who we really are and we work tirelessly to keep everyone from learning the truth.

Of course, the truth is that this is not who we really are at all.

We are just the opposite of the Son of God. Jesus was God but as St. Paul says in Philippians, “did not deem equality with God.” Jesus ate and drank with sinners, he associated with some very ungodly people.

None of us has to battle such odds. We are not God, but as the fruit of original sin we have all inherited the notion that we are supposed to be God. So most of us spend our lives not exercising the talents and gifts that God has blessed us with because we fear that we will fail to use them perfectly.

I wonder how many there are who have been graced with the gift of healing the sick but who never reach out to the sick because they fear the embarrassment that might come their way? Or how many talented leaders stand idly by while those not gifted lead?

Denying oneself means letting go of the fears that we do not possess abilities of god proportions and stepping out in faith knowing that God will provide what is lacking to our talents as we exercise them for the good of humanity.

Perhaps the most commonly told parable by Jesus about the Kingdom of God is that of the King or landowner who passes out talents before taking a trip. Those who invest in their talents are praised upon the Master’s return whereas the one who buries his talents is condemned.

Why did the servant bury his talents? Because he was afraid.

Why does Jesus tell the parable? So his followers will not fall into the same predicament. Yet how many Christians will hear the words, deny yourself and immediately interpret the Lord’s words as though he were advocating burying one’s talents? Unbelievable!

Deny the fear of making a mistake, taking a risk of what might happen if you follow Our Lord to Jerusalem. The disciples told Jesus that if they went to Jerusalem he certainly would be killed, did he not fear for his life? Thomas often cast as the doubter but in fact probably the supreme believer says, “let us go to die with him!”

When we let go of the fear of what others think about us when it comes to using the talents and abilities that God has given us then we will truly build the Kingdom of God. Denying that part of ourselves that would bury our talents our of fear is true humility.

Several readers have written to say that I should …

Several readers have written to say that I should have included a link to the First Things defense of Father Maciel (see next entry). I have already written and linked to this some week ago and you can read about it here. It is the Friday, March 29th entry.

Nothing new here, but a rehash (and slap on the ha…

Nothing new here, but a rehash (and slap on the hand by Cardinal Ratzinger) on ABC’s 20/20 last night–Sexual Abuse Allegations Covered-Up by Vatican:

The alleged victims say the Vatican knew of the allegations against Father Marcial Maciel and chose not to pursue them.

In fact, the pope has continued to praise 82-year-old Maciel, a Mexico native, as an effective leader of Catholic youth, despite detailed allegations sent to the Vatican four years ago saying the man was also a long-time pedophile.

Maciel denies the charges and said the men made them up only after leaving the Legion of Christ.

Maciel is the founder of the little-known but well-connected and well-financed Legion of Christ which has raised millions of dollars for the Church. Operating in the United States and 19 other countries, the Legion of Christ recruits boys as young as 10 years old to leave their families and follow a rigorous course of study to become priests.


Vaca is not alone. He is one of eight former students, now all in their 60s, who have signed sworn affidavits submitted to the Vatican that they were abused by Maciel.

When they were members of the Legion, the accusers were devout followers of Marciel. But for the last eight years, they have been trying to get the Vatican to listen or even acknowledge their detailed allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of Father Maciel. They say they have not heard a response from the Vatican.

If nothing else, I think this case shows a reluctance on the part of the Vatican (which other bishops are merely following) to pursue these type of cases. If true, who knows how many victims there could be who are still in the order.

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritua…

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the ninth Step:

(9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).

The Golden Rule is well known across cultures. At an early age we are taught to treat others in the same way that we wish to be treated. Has this rule fallen on deaf ears though in our time?

Could it be that we no longer think about others or care about them? What is it that has desensitized us from the needs of others?

Forty years ago people marched upon the towns and villages of the south to protest the way people of color were still being treated; almost a century since the cessation of slavery. Something of the Golden Rule motivated those marches and when television cameras broadcast those images to the rest of the nation soon others changed their opinions too.

But forty years later it seems that the multiplicity of those images along with the dramatization of similar images has lessened the impact of reality. Like a collective hypnosis we seem not to be affected by the plight of our fellow human anymore. Like a callous that develops from constant friction, the flood of images of suffering and hurting individuals has dampened our ability to care.

I suppose that recognizing this, is the first step to diagnosing it as a problem that is destroying us as a society. St. Benedict’s maxim can serve as a corrective. The first step is to really feel, what it is that I feel.

How do I feel when someone smiles at me? It feels good, I feel important or at least that this person is well disposed toward me which is also a good feeling. If this is so I should offer a smile to those who life cast in my path today.

How do I feel when someone treats me in a manner that makes me feel that my existence is inconsequential to them? Probably not very good, then I need to even in a small way acknowledge everyone as an important part of God’s plan for me today.

We tend to be a society in touch with their feelings. It is a small step to return back to a more civil manner of existence where I believe that there is not just “me” but us on this planet. Everyone is important in God’s plan. My feelings are the key to defining how I should treat others in the way that God wants me to do.

A reader writes concerning so called Catholic Hosp…

A reader writes concerning so called Catholic Hospitals:

St. Francis Hospital in Trenton, NJ is giving the “Spirit of St. Francis” award to the state Democratic Chair, abortion extremist,

planed parenthood funded and supported, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman….2 times she voted against Parental Notification. She is the chairperson for appropriations money. St. Francis “sold the farm and the mission.”

They no longer have a maternity wing.

Actually a ‘blog” could help us with a phone campaign. The Bishop is silent (now there’s a surprise) . He has not responded to any letters.

Irony….the gala affair where the award will be given is Mother’s day weekend

One wonders why the bishops don’t step in and strip both hospitals and universities of the “Catholic” title? I know of a bishop who himself is under fire in Florida who has threatened small Catholic bookstores in this regard, but wouldn’ t dare to do the same to a hospital or university.

Emily Stimpson has quoted the same reader as I hav…

Emily Stimpson has quoted the same reader as I have (he must have emailed all of the Catholic blogs he could find) and has written a number of entries that follow along the same theme. While I admire the motivation behind her point–that the Church is the Body of Christ, I think she is missing the point… in the same way that she feels my wife Amy is missing the point.

The notion of the Church as the Body of Christ originates with Saint Paul. The same Saint Paul said:

You have become news with a case of immorality, and such a case that is not even found among the pagans…(referring to the man who had taken his stepmother as a wife)…

And you feel proud! Should you not be in mourning instead and expel the sinner. For my part, although I am physically absent, my spirit is with you, as if present. I have already passed sentence on the man who committed such a sin. Let us meet together, you and my spirit, and in the name of our Lord Jesus and with his power, you shall deliver him to Satan, so that he loses everything and his life, but his spirit be saved on the day of Judgment. (1 Cor. 5:1,2-5)

Elsewhere, Our Lord also using the image of the body said:

If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better to enter life without a hand than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out. And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot than with both feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye makes you fall into sin tear it out! It is better to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than, keeping both eyes to be thrown into hell where the worms that eat them never die, and fire never goes out. (Mark 9:43-48)

This passage follows the one most quoted during the current crisis:

If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck. (Mark 9:42)

What bothers most people about this issue is that this surgery on the Body of Christ has yet to be done.

Granted patience is necessary, but there comes a point where some still are way too “proud,” even though they have sanctioned and facilitated certian members of the clergy in their commission of the most unspeakable acts. God speaks to us in the Holy Scriptures about what is necessary.

Good people are people of prayer. They do not need to be called to prayer and repentance–they already are praying. I attend Mass daily, recite the rosary daily, pray the liturgy of the hours daily and do spiritual reading daily.

The people who need to “repent” are the people who are heading in the wrong direction. Some of these are not interested in turning back to Christ who is the Truth, but rather they are interested in protecting their “place” as I have written about in other places on this blog, which of course is a reference to the High Priest in John’s Gospel:

What are we to do? For this man keeps on giving miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, all the people will believe in him and, as a result of this, the Romans will come and sweep away our Holy Place and our nation. (John 11:47,48)

The man is Jesus Christ–the TRUTH, and you can replace the “Roman” with the “press or media.” A day of prayer of healing for all those who have suffered at the hands of evil men is a good idea, after the evil men have been excised from the Body of Christ–let them retire to a monastery, let them join the faithful in prayer but not as leaders but as penitents.

From a writer to this blog: I’d like to make a …

From a writer to this blog:

I’d like to make a suggestion, though I have no forum for doing so: We should have a national collection to pay monetary restitution for the claims that have and will arise from the current scandal. For if we don’t, how many fine institutions will be hurt? The money has to come from somewhere – do we want to see schools close, programs be cut back, already-strained retirement funds tapped?

I would also like to make a suggestion, something that could set the mood for a national day of penance:

Sell all the Catholic Hospitals in the United States. They are no longer “Catholic,” they no longer serve the poor, and they perform medical procedures that are at odds with the teaching of the Church. Remove the name of whatever saint is associated with the hospital and let them continue to exist as private hospitals for the wealthy. The religious orders who run them now, can be freed from the responsibility and use the money to take care of their elderly sisters or brothers.

Sell all Cardinal’s residences. Let the Cardinals live in public housing if they do not want to live in a rectory like other priests. All the proceeds from the sale of these mansions should go to victims of abuse. Along with the sale of these mansions, should be the selling of anything of wealth that the Cardinals have personally acquired over the years. We need leaders who resemble Christ not Queen Elizabeth.

All Archbishops and Bishops should hold a convocation in their dioceses of victims where victims are allowed to voice their concerns publicly to the bishops who will adopt a penitential stance toward this. I’m not advocating a public stoning, but I am advocating a public humiliation of the bishops hearing a list of the abuse that people have suffered because they have not acted in their role as shepherds who should protect their charges from wolves, rather than moving the wolves around to prey on more sheep.

What about the rest of us? Should we finance abuse settlements?


Let the riches of the Church be sold, they are a scandal in and of themselves. Let bishop’s divest themselves of mitres and vestments that separate that are holdovers from the days when princes occupied episcopal sees…let us return to the Church where the Church imitates it’s founder and the simple Galilean fishermen who were the first bishops!

Michael S. Rose has created a new site CRUX NEWS.C…

Michael S. Rose has created a new site CRUX NEWS.COM. Currently the site has a variety of posts related to current scandals in the Church. The site which is free now has information saying that it won’t debut until August and then will be a pay site.

Thanks to E.L. Core of The View from the Core for …

Thanks to E.L. Core of The View from the Core for this link to CNS which gives the details of the 1961 directive alluded to below:

Archbishop Bertone said that while the homosexual inclination is not sinful in itself, it “evokes moral concern” because it is a strong temptation to actions that “are always in themselves evil.”

He defined the homosexual inclination as “a temptation that, for whatever reason, has become so predominant in a person’s life as to become a force shaping the entire outlook of the person.”

“Persons with a homosexual inclination should not be admitted to the seminary,” Archbishop Bertone said.

In 1961, a Vatican document on the selection of candidates to the priesthood said much the same thing. The instruction was issued by the then-Sacred Congregation for Religious and concerned those entering religious orders.

“Those affected by the perverse inclination to homosexuality or pederasty should be excluded from religious vows and ordination,” it said. It said the community life and priestly ministry would constitute a “grave danger” or temptation for these people.

The document recommended that any person with serious unresolved sexual problems be screened out, saying that the chastity and celibacy required by religious and priestly life would constitute for them a “continuous heroic act and a painful martyrdom.”

The 1961 document has never been abrogated, so is still technically valid, officials said. But now, the Vatican is considering a reformulation of these principles, so that the message gets through more clearly to local churches.

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