Another arrow pointing in the same direction, from…

Another arrow pointing in the same direction, from Zenit:

In the wake of the meeting of U.S. cardinals and bishops here, the sex abuse scandals involving priests calls for a thorough reform in seminaries, the priesthood and the hierarchy, says Vatican Radio

If you read between the lines, and read what I was…

If you read between the lines, and read what I was told below, I think you’ll see that action is being taken on the seminary front already. Now whether the real problem is being addressed or exactly how it is going to be addressed is another issue entirely.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The cardinals return to the United States with plans for Catholic leaders to immediately begin visiting seminaries to assess the suitability of priests-in-training.

The cardinals’ final communique from the summit called for Vatican representatives to conduct special reviews of U.S. seminaries immediately. They are to assess whether Catholic teachings and principles, such as celibacy, are strictly followed. And they will review the criteria for judging candidates for the priesthood.

The editor of America, Father Thomas Reese, comments on this:

Some church leaders and others appear to think that homosexuals cannot be celibate, he said, though others say most gay priests are celibate

Fried foods cause cancer! Plus they make you fa…

Fried foods cause cancer!

Plus they make you fat, but you knew that already! I wonder if cartons of french fries will soon carry the surgeon general’s warning on them. From the Tampa Tribune:A new Swedish study announced Wednesday claims french fries, potato chips, bread, rice and other fried or baked high-carbohydrate foods may cause cancer.

The culprit may be acrylamide, “a probable human carcinogen” formed when potatoes are fried and breads are baked, according to Sweden’s National Food Administration, which did the preliminary research.

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 Seventh Step:

8- To honor all men (cf 1 Pt 2:17).

Often honor is confused with adoring or worshiping someone. For example when the commandment to honor one’s parents is rejected, what is usually rejected is the concept that I have to worship my parents, but that is not what honor means.

To honor someone is to respect them as an individual who is part of the whole. I honor you if I acknowledge the uniqueness that you bring to the human race. I honor you as a fellow human being, giving you all of the rights and respect that every human deserves. Added to this, is a deep respect for your person, your individuality.

Too often our problems with other people is rooted in our inability to see them and accept them as different from ourselves. The other is more introverted or extroverted—we want them to be like us. The other is too right brained or left brained—we want them to be like us.

Honoring an individual means first and foremost that we accept them as the unique individual that God has created them to be.

One would think that monks in a monastery would have little individuality. But in reality the monks I have been privileged to know in my life have exhibited the greatest individuality of any people that I have known. They all dress alike, their lives follow a similar ritual everyday, but their personalities and who God has created them to be shines forth.

The “true self” as Thomas Merton termed the individual who is not trying to live up to the expectations imposed outside of the self can only be freed up by a deep trust in God. We can nurture the “true self” in others by honoring them as unique individuals with a mission from God.

Update Since I posted the original message (see…


Since I posted the original message (see below) I had lunch with a priest friend. I mentioned the letter to him and lo and behold he told me that a priest friend who was at the same meeting had called and told him about it also. He said that originally the priest was going to fax him a copy of the letter, but then got cold feet and read part of it over the phone to him. The part he read, and the part that my source (a Bishop) mentioned to me was that the seminary was to enforce a missive that originally had been sent out in 1960. None of the parties that have heard this know what missive from 1960 is being referred to, but it could be this document that Rod Dreher refers to in his Monday column:.

Rome has explicitly discouraged the ordination of homosexuals since at least 1961. For the past decade, the Vatican has been ratcheting up the pressure against gay ordination — to little avail in most U.S. dioceses.

My priest friend seemed to think that the letter was sent just to the seminary that both sources say received it, but my source told me that he thought that it had been sent to every seminary in the US.

Again, the reason the letter (which supposedly was secret–but you see how well secrets are kept in clerical circles) was shared at the meeting was because the Rector evidently had no idea of how it was supposed to be practically enforced.

From my sources: A secret missive was sent to a…

From my sources:

A secret missive was sent to all seminary rectors in the United States last week, from the Vatican, ordering them to purge their schools of homosexual candidates for the priesthood.

My source told me that those in charge with carrying out this order have no clue how they are to carry out this command.

Do you throw out people who look like homosexuals (who may be heterosexuals who just are effeminate), do you throw out people that defend the rights of homosexuals (who may be heterosexuals who are interested in the rights of all people), or do you throw out someone caught in the act (most seminaries would do this already–so there really isn’t a change if that’s the case).

When I mentioned to my source (someone in a position of the Church’s authority), that seminaries should throw out anyone who is not chaste/celibate whether they be homosexual or heterosexual, he did not agree with me. I have problems with this, and I think this points to (as well as Cardinal George’s comments that sex between a priest and 17 year old girl is not all that bad) that celibacy is the problem because the bishops know that if they truly ordain men committed to a chaste celibate lifestyle that the numbers would quickly be reduced by at least fifty percent. But this is honest and true.

As to purging seminaries of homosexuals, you may wish to read my missive on the problems that exist in seminaries with regard to the faculty knowing the truth about those they are charged with evaluating, you’ll see I think that it is simplistic to think that this is an easy task.

Things that haven’t changed as a result of the Vat…

Things that haven’t changed as a result of the Vatican gathering:

The bishops still think they know best how to handle these situations, which if you read between the lines is not a lot different from how they have been handling them in the past. So expect the same in the future.

Secrecy is still the order of the day, (more on this above), for all of the talk about treating people with dignity–there is still the belief that lay people can’t “handle the truth.”

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 Seventh Step:

7. Not to bear false witness (cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20).

Lying about what we witness in life, is one of those sins that always has the appearance of not being all that serious, until it continues to escalate like a snowball growing bigger and bigger; until we are no longer sure of what the truth is. It is not in our interest or anyone else’s to not tell the truth.

Jesus identified himself with the Truth. If we are in communion with Jesus then we too will be fountains of the truth. But the temptation to choose other than the truth is a large one and it almost always has as an underpinning the sense that to do so is in our best interest.

It is not.

Many times our inability to tell the truth reveals a deep spiritual void within. We bear false witness because somehow it will make us appear better, which at it’s heart means that we feel that there is something wrong with us to begin with. The temptation to bear false witness about another or an event I have witnessed is an invitation for me to ask, “What do I feel is wrong with myself?”

Why do I feel the need to speak about an event or a person in an untruthful way? The answer is more self-revelatory than illustrative of any real happening outside of myself? My answer allows me to peer into the hole within my soul.

Oh God help me to see myself as a valuable part of your creation. Allow me to see that the life I experience is alive with your presence and that others will always benefit from it.

But what about the other reasons, like, I don’t want to hurt someone?

Does the truth ever hurt? The answer is a loud and thunderous, yes it can hurt terribly. But is that bad?

Pain is a fact of life and to try to avoid it only delays the pain. Confronting it and accepting it leads to resurrection. The cross is a daily visitor to everyone. The choice is often whether we love people enough to be honest with them not hurt them but to help them to face reality in life.

Perhaps there is nothing more definitive about salvation than the one word–reality. A person who experiences the saving grace of God lives in reality, the world as it is.

The unsaved person lives a lie, perhaps it is a world of their creation. It is their fiction. It is impossible for others to be invited into this world of theirs because it is a non-existent place that they themselves do not even exist in. There is nothing sadder then to experience this firsthand, but it is the lot of those who refuse to accept the pain of daily life.

There is the obvious consequence of bearing false witness that I have purposely left to the end. Consequences are of little matter here, but for many they are the guiding force of their daily actions. St. Benedict did not counsel in his maxim—“consider the end when giving a witness.” He did not do so because he has already laid out for us what the end-(the consequence of every action is)—it is God.

God is the consequence for anyone who sets out on this path. My concern is for doing what God commands. True compassion results.

All of our excuses and reasons for not doing so—usually rationalized from a concern for consequences, are derived from a lack of respect for others (Benedict’s second maxim). We do not believe in our neighbor’s right to “handle” the truth. This is very sad.

How to handle a "scandal." I have personally witne…

How to handle a “scandal.” I have personally witnessed two potential scandals and two different ways of dealing with it. One involved a seminary rector and a number of bishops were involved (they covered it up for as long as they could –several years and then all hell broke loose), the other involved a principal at a Jesuit school (more on this below) where the Jesuit President of the school gathered the entire student body with teachers and we all found out about the allegation at the same time (hell never broke out–the students who were not noteworthy for comportment handled it like men). Cover-up I have found only leads to a bigger scandal, truth extinguishes scandal.

There is a news story today of another incident being handled by the same school I once taught at and if you read the story you’ll see the Jesuits are still doing it the same way (at least in the New Orleans province):

The announcement was met by stunned silence.

My take on the Karen Hughes departure: She says…

My take on the Karen Hughes departure:

She says it is for “her family” and if reports of terrorist threats against Washington, D.C. are true, who can blame her?

Report from the Seminary Today Currently I am a…

Report from the Seminary Today

Currently I am at seminary in the midwest. Since I am good friends with a Bishop who is on the Board of Trustees here, I have access to both the seminary and the seminarians that the press is not allowed. In fact, if I took out my wallet and flashed my PRESS pass, I am sure that I would be quickly ushered out the door. I may try that later today, when I’m actually leaving anyway, but now on to report my experiences yesterday.

I arrived at the seminary in the early afternoon. There were a number of television trucks parked near the entrance. One local news agency was setting up to do a live remote broadcast. When I came into the front entrance I was stopped, and asked why I had come. I responded to meet with one of the faculty members (an OSV author who I had an appointment with later in the day). She told me to have a seat. I asked if I might visit the chapel (to pray). She said someone would have to accompany me.

Now, I haven’t had the experience of “being accompanied” anywhere since I was a child and so I asked why this was the case. She explained that many of the priests and seminarians rooms were right outside the chapel and I would be invading their “privacy.” This explanation went on for some time as I raised a number of questions. Finally, a seminarian arrived, who had been summoned somehow (perhaps a secret button, like a bank teller might have?). He was to be my accompanier. I declined his invitation and asked the receptionist if my friend (the bishop) was out of his meeting.

All of a sudden she started apologizing. She didn’t know who I was, they had to be careful, they had some incidents (no explanation as to what these were), etc. She rang the bishop, he came down and for the rest of the day I had free reign of the place.

I was impressed. The main chapel had undergone the usual deconstruction but another chapel remained untarnished. In the untouched chapel, their were seminarians at prayer (a fair number), and preparations were being made for Eucharistic Adoration. There were students in cassocks, clerics and jeans. I’m guessing that each vesture represented an idealogy. It struck me later when attending Vespers (evening prayer) that they were evenly divided.

It was just before Vespers that I viewed the whole ensemble. They actually seemed to be the same mix of men you would have seen twenty years earlier. They came in all sizes and shapes, as well as ages. Most were young, though their faces bore more stress than one would expect–no doubt due to the approaching final exams and for some ordination.

No shocks, very quiet atmosphere, prayerful. No overtly effeminate men. I am impressed.

More later…

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 Sixth Step:

6. Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).

St. Benedict attaches a scripture passage to this maxim which in many ways points to where he has obtained the previous four. In Romans 13:9 the Apostle wrote, “The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself, (Romans 13:9, NIV).”

The simple rendering not to covet is intriguing. We probably are used to the formulation that we should not covet our neighbor’s goods or our neighbor’s wife, but here there is just the simple injunction not to covet. There is nothing more difficult in the culture that we live in than to rid ourselves of desire.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha (enlightened one), based an entire religion on ridding ourselves of what he discovered was the source of all ill. In his four noble truths he stated, that all life is suffering, the cause of suffering is desire, the way to rid the world of suffering is to extinguish desire, that experience is Nirvana.

I remember teaching basically the same truth to teen boys in high school, and receiving a predictable response—“if you rid yourself of desire you wouldn’t move—you would just lie on the couch.” They, mirroring the culture that we live in, saw desire or coveting as a good thing. It is the very fuel that propels one to have great goals and to achieve great success.

But is it?

Doesn’t our desire or coveting rather blind us to achieving our goals, creating a false sense of what is needed to make us happy? What if we were to live each day with a sense of purpose but instead of being concerned about our plan we primarily were focused on God’s will for us.

This may seem too idealistic and we might retort, “How can I know God’s will for me today?” The spiritual writer Jean-Pierre De Caussade in his great spiritual work Abandonment to Divine Providence gave a simple guide to answering the question. The will of God can best be discerned by a simple acceptance of whatever the day brings and to a focus on that.

My spiritual director Benedictine Father Lambert Reilley once mirrored this thought when I complained about all the distractions that I was suffering from. “People keep showing up and interupting the work that I am trying to get done.”

“Why look at them as distractions?” Father Lambert asked me. “Instead see them as people that God is sending to you.” What Father Lambert (who now is Archabbot Lambert) was saying to me was mirrored in the Rule of Saint Benedict’s injunction that the monks were to welcome the stranger as though Christ himself were arriving at the monastery.

So this notion of coveting, covers not only material things and the relationships that others have, it also covers are very time and the way we view it. Time is the biggest culprit in the whole business of ridding ourselves of coveting. We want and desire to have _______________(fiill in the blank) right now rather than waiting until it comes our way.

If it is our health, we want to feel better now, so we take drugs that in the long run ruin our immune system. If we are trying to lose weight, we want it now so we may injure our health seeking a quick solution. If we want material items why wait, put it on credit. All in all, coveting is a rejection of the world that we live in as it is, and the message of the Gospel is just the opposite, the world is not changed by wishing it to be otherwise, but rather by confronting the world as it is and dealing with it.

Why would we not sit around on the couch, if we rid ourselves of desiring? Because we would realize that we have work to do and it needs to be done now! The very act of coveting if we conceptualize it is that of a dreamer, not someone who is immersed in reality.

The opposite of coveting is acceptance.

Step # 5 of the 73 5. Not to steal… It ma…

Step # 5 of the 73

5. Not to steal…

It may seem strange that stealing is so high on St. Benedict’s list, but there is nothing more destructive in communal living than mistrust and there is nothing that can destroy trust like living with thievery. Once something no matter how insignificant is stolen everyone around becomes the potential thief.

There is a story I have heard so many times and so many versions of that I am not even sure where it is originally from but it goes something like this: An abbot of a monastery had become very disenchanted with the way the monks in his monastery treated one another. He ventured off to seek out the advice of an holy monk who lived as a hermit deep in the woods.

After the holy monk had listened to the abbot’s concern, he raised his hand and asked the abbot to wait while he prayed about this situation. Several hours passed and finally the hermit reappeared in the cell and made his solemn announcement to the abbot. “When you go back to the monastery tonight gather all of the monks into chapter and then announce to them what I have to tell you.” He then revealed what he had learned in prayer to the abbot.

That night the abbot did as the holy man had instructed, when the last of the monks had taken their place in the room, the abbot arose and announced to the gathered assembly, “The holy hermit has announced to me and asked me to inform you that God has revealed to him that the messiah is in our midst.” Afterwards the monks treated each other with great respect, wondering and not knowing if the monk they were dealing with might be the messiah.

The way we treat others and their property is largely based on how much we respect and hold them in awe. If we had a deep sense of love, respect and awe of each and every person we would never take anything from them. But too often we lack this basic sense of dignity that others deserve from us.

We reason that someone is wealthy and they won’t miss this or that item so we take it as though our attitude about someone else is reality. We reason that we have paid a just fee and that entitles us to more than what we know it does. All of our reasons are aimed at justifying something that we know is wrong and the very act of trying to rationalize our behavior makes us less not in God’s eyes but in our view of ourselves.

It is useful to remember that the men nailed next to Jesus on the cross are often referred to as thieves. The so-called good thief acknowledges that his sin has merited so horrible a death. There was something of the presence of Jesus that made him realize that. If we put ourselves into the presence of God we will come to the same conclusion that taking what does not belong to us is wrong.

The irony of the title and scripture quote (see th…

The irony of the title and scripture quote (see the right column) of this page is how well it fits both my own life but also the current crisis facing the Catholic Church. We both have imitated Zechariah more than Mary in the way we handle the grace and angelic visitations we have been blessed with…

THANK YOU!!!! A big THANK YOU to whoever bought t…


A big THANK YOU to whoever bought the ad off of this page…

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