Thursday, January 31, 2013

Opus Bono Sacerdotii

Did you know that many priests are in trouble, even here in the U.S.?  There are priests in prison, some deservedly, some not; priests with legal difficulties, some deserved, some not; priests excluded from ministry, justifiably or not, who are without means of support; priests in spiritual, emotional or mental crisis; priests in financial trouble; and -- perhaps most heartbreaking -- elderly, infirm priests living in destitution because their dioceses do not, for one reason or another, take care of them.  Consider the testimony of one of these, Father Charles:
I’m 82 years old and have been a Catholic priest for a very long time. I am a priest in good standing and have been retired for some time now. Because of my infirmities (I am also blind in one eye), I am no longer able to offer Mass or administer the sacraments at the local parishes where I would receive a stipend to help supplement my Social Security of $670. I am paying rent on a small apartment. We are a small diocese and have no money to give priests like me who can’t work anymore at the parishes....I do have health insurance, but the co-pays for prescriptions and doctors visits are hard for me to manage. I am really afraid that I will have to stop taking my medicine. 
Why are so many priests in dire straits?  It is true that, like other men, priests can be their own worst enemies.  But whether or not particular priests are in distress through their own fault, it is also true that, good or bad, they are Other Christs, chosen and set aside to exercise His power on earth.  A bad priest will have a lot to answer for before God, but the Mass he offers is still valid; the Sacraments he administers are still efficacious.  When we are at death's door, we will be thankful to have a priest hasten to our bedside, and will not ask whether he has led a good life.  

Surely the reason so many priests are in dire straits is that we in the pews have stopped loving these men as the spiritual fathers that they are.  There is no question that many of the alleged "reforms" in the Church have served to obscure the special dignity and fatherhood of priests, and diminish their standing in the eyes of their flocks.  For example, did we have the problem of elderly priests living in penury and loneliness before pastors started being transferred from parish to parish?  Here indeed is some of the "fresh air" we let in by opening the windows of the Church onto the world: the contempt of society at large for fathers has infested the Church, until parishes resemble the broken, fatherless families increasingly prevalent in the West.  Instead of parishes having fathers, who by definition are permanent fixtures in healthy families, they have an endless parade of step-fathers.  With priests coming and going, neither they nor their parishioners have long-term stakes in each other’s well-being.  This is an inescapable reality, regardless of the good will of either priest or parishioners.  It’s time to re-examine this policy of constantly uprooting priests.  

The destitution of priests is also a fruit of secularization within the Church.  The priesthood is viewed even by some priests as a job or a career, rather than a calling, so that the priest is useful only for as long as he can continue in active ministry.  How many local churches have, for years and years, been run primarily along business lines, by bishops who act more like middle management bureaucrats than shepherds of souls?  Small wonder that charity runs cold, and trust in Divine Providence occupies the back burner, if indeed it is to be found on the stove at all.

But we shouldn't look to the chanceries for the solution to the problem of abandoned priests.  It is the laity's responsibility to support the Church and her ministers, and for too long, we have looked to bureaucracies, whether religious or secular, to handle problems that we should be taking care of ourselves.  Fortunately, some laymen who take their responsibility seriously have formed an association to come to the aid of priests in distress.  Opus Bono Sacerdotii -- Work for the Good of the Priesthood -- is an apostolate that reaches out to priests in need with concrete assistance, both corporal and spiritual.  Among other things, they provide financial assistance to priests struggling to support themselves; support to priests in prison; counseling for priests in crisis; consolation for friendless priests; even, in some rare cases, suicide watches for priests in despair.  This apostolate is worthy of support, and needs all the (tax-deductible) donations it can get.  

We still need a reform of the "reforms" of the last half-century in the Church.  In addition to the reforms in the liturgy and in the government of the Church that our present Holy Father has introduced, I vote we also get rid of the game of musical pastors.  Priests should resume their status as spiritual fathers by staying in one parish permanently, and living in the rectory. Then, when a priest gets older and his health begins to fail him, he should not be ruthlessly put out of the way to make room for fresh blood, but continue to live there as a mentor to younger priests, exercising his ministry to the extent he still can, for as long as he can, all the while having his needs looked after by his spiritual children, in whose loving care he dies. That would be in line both with charity and subsidiarity.  

Meanwhile, we should not wait for reforms in canon law to take care of our troubled priest.  We can, and should, support Opus Bono Sacerdotii with both alms and prayer, right now.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Illusion of "Private Life"

Thomas Aquinas receives the cincture of perpetual chastity after overcoming temptation.  He has just been using a burning brand to chase away a prostitute sent by his family to seduce him from his Dominican vocation.

What we do in the privacy of our own bedrooms really can't be separated out from the rest of our lives.  Our private actions do impact other areas of our lives, and do have public consequences, even when nobody sees what we do behind closed doors.  There are the obvious consequences to children conceived in unsanctified unions; but even when no children are conceived, there are repercussions.  The sin of lust lies at the bottom of most, if not all, disordered lives.  Show me somebody who can't stay out of trouble with the law, and I'll show you somebody who is a stranger to purity.  

And here is why, as explained by a solid young priest of the FSSP, citing extensively to Aquinas' Summa Theologica.  You can read the passages he's referring to, from the Second Part of the Second Part, here (Question 153) and here (Question 154).

Thursday, January 24, 2013


A couple of weeks ago, we had a snow storm here in the Treasure Valley, which dropped about 3-4 inches of white stuff.  This was followed by one of our famous inversions, featuring temperatures ranging from zero to the teens, coupled with bad air quality -- until last night, when we got frozen rain.  This morning, everything was encased in ice: very slick, very treacherous.  And I was dumb enough to go out to work in it, sprained ankle and all.

Looking at the 10-day forecast, it appears we will soon have a tropical heat wave with highs in the high thirties, though my hopes for temperatures in the forties appear to be dashed.  But even in awful weather like we've been having here, Divine Providence does not call in sick:

-- I have a walker with brakes to use over dangerous ground, and steel-plated hiking boots for support to my ankle.

-- I have Rock Star Parking at the courthouse -- and this morning, when the parking lot lay under about half an inch of solid ice, there, waiting for me, was the closest non-handicapped space in the whole lot.

-- My next-door neighbor has been good enough to de-ice the walkway out to the carport, and even cleared away all the ice from in front of my door.

Yes, I have a few things to be thankful for -- good practice for the eagerly-hoped-for coming of milder weather.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Unseen Holocaust

Since the Roe v. Wade decision 40 years ago, there have been approximately 55,772,015 abortions in the United States.  This is to say nothing of the untold number of babies killed by abortifacient contraceptives and "morning after" chemical abortions like RU-486 and "Plan B."  That translates to roughly 1.5 million abortions per year; over 3,300 per day; 137 per hour, every hour.


Total number of people killed in World War II: estimates range from 50 million to 70 million.

Total number of people killed in World War I: 37 million.

Total number of people killed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia: 1.5 million.

Total number of people killed by Stalin: estimates range as high as 60 million.

Total number of people killed in Mao's Cultural Revolution in China: estimates range as high as 20 million.

Total number of soldiers killed in the American Civil War, both Union and Confederate: 625,000.

Number of people who have died of AIDS (as of 2009): 30 million.

Think of it.  Since Roe v. Wade, we have had, in our abortion mills, the equivalent of one Second World War.  One and a half First World Wars.  37 Cambodian genocides.  Almost one Stalin regime.  2.7 Cultural Revolutions.  89 Civil Wars.  1.85 AIDS epidemics.  The only distinguishing feature is that the victims are nameless, utterly defenseless, and have never seen the light of day.

As long as we continue unrepentant in this course, we have no right to expect blessings on this country, and every reason to expect nothing but disaster.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Yet Jericho Thrives

Today, I attended a Mass so appallingly dreadful as to be barely recognizable as Mass. I could comment extensively on the many liturgical abuses, but will confine myself to saying that the only thing it lacked was a troupe of scantily-clad, middle-aged women prancing around the altar.  I'm sure if I were to stick around that parish long enough, I would see that.

This highly-feminized, quasi-New-Age version of the Mass got me to thinking about Joshua throwing down the walls of Jericho.  The excellent Douay-Rheims glosses tell us that the destruction of the city of Jericho in the sixth chapter of the Book of Joshua is a type of the proclamation of the Gospel.  Jericho symbolizes iniquity.  The seven trumpets are the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The priests blowing the trumpets symbolize the priests of the New Covenant preaching the Gospel; the throwing down of the walls of Jericho stands for the conversion of sinners.  You will also recall that the Ark of the Covenant, which was carried around the city of Jericho, is a type of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mediatrix of Grace and the Exterminatrix of Heresies.  Joshua pronounces a curse on those who would re-build the walls of Jericho.  We hear an echo of this curse in the Gospels, when Jesus says that it would be better for one who scandalized any of His little ones if a millstone were tied around his neck and he were cast into the sea.

Yet, in our time, Jericho's walls are rebuilt, and Jericho not only thrives but prepares great strokes against us.  We shouldn't wonder at this.  Half a century ago, we decided to open the windows of the Church to the world, and in came the Zeitgeist.  In came the chill blast of modernism; secularism; hatred of established authority, coupled with authoritarianism under the guise of "tolerance"; the contraceptive mentality; tight-lipped parsimony; and socialism under the guise of "social justice."  Our faith is watered down; we build ugly houses for the Eucharistic Lord in Whose Real Presence we no longer believe; we discarded as "primitive" and "immature" our devotion to the Mother of God; and our worship has eroded to little more than a weekly cocktail party.  Our priests are no longer blasting trumpets at the walls of Jericho.  They are blowing kazoos.  Even a house of cards could withstand such an assault.

It is time, and past time, to take up the trumpets again.  Bring back traditional worship, and the authentic Catholic faith.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Lesson on Mystics and Private Revelations

In this unsettled age, when so many seek spiritual consolations, and so many fake seers and visionaries rise to meet this demand, it pays to re-examine the devil's most notorious deceits.  Read here the story of Sr. Magdalene of the Cross, a 16th-century Spanish nun who, as a child, had entered into a pact with the devil and for decades had a lot of people going with her alleged miracles and prodigies.  Even monarchs and high prelates were fooled.  

There are many lessons to be drawn from the story of Sr. Magdalene of the Cross.  First, we need to know our Faith well, so that we have a true yardstick against which to measure alleged marvels and revelations.  Second, we need to remain in the state of grace, so that we have the divine assistance we need when our natural powers fall short.  Third, we need to remain under the mantle of the Church's authority, which is instituted by God and is a sure protection against deceit, even when it leads us in directions not to our liking.

Fourth, we need to pray constantly.

Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio; contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperat illi Deus; supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae coelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute in infernum detrude. Amen.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Haven't Fallen off the Face of the Earth...

...but I have indeed fallen, and started off 2013 with a nice ankle sprain.  I have suffered many ankle sprains since high school, but, until Saturday night, I had managed to go quite a few years without one.  On Sunday, it hurt so much to walk that I had to miss Mass.  Happily, the ankle was not broken, but apparently, it is arthritic.  So goes the aging process.

There is currently a lot of ice and snow on the ground here, so it's a good thing my father is able to lend me a walker with hand-brakes that had been gathering dust in his garage.  The walker not only gives me confidence over treacherous ground, but also allows me to carry stacks of files around the courthouse, which would have been impossible with crutches.  Plus, when parked at home, it serves as a handy cat perch.

But overall, sprains really stink.  Folks, if you deliver phone books for a living, for the love of God, do not set them directly in front of people's doors.