Shaking Up the Church

A recent batch of WikiLeak documents reveals high-level Clinton campaign officials and supporters suggesting that that political forces should engineer a so-called “Catholic Spring” to rebel against the “middle-ages dictatorship” of the Catholic Church (folks like me, I’d guess). The emails also indicate that organizations have been formed and funded to divide the Church, apparently with the approval and support of these same high-level operatives.

Various writers have ably pointed out how egregious are such plans to interfere with the inner life of the Roman Catholic Church. They explain that this represents a serious breach in relations between Church and state, a disregard for basic human rights and liberties, and a special mark of contempt for Catholics as well as Evangelicals. I agree with these views. I also have to note at the outset the across-the-board moral bankruptcy of the current presidential campaign. At the same time, I’d like to take the discussion in another direction.

WikiLeaks revealed political operatives hoping to shake up the Church so that it would be conformed to their view of the world. Truth to tell, the Church does need to be shaken up, but not in the way these politicos imagine. It’s Pope Francis who’s shaking up the Church in a good way through an approach far different from that of these operatives. If we follow the Pope’s lead, not only will the Church be strengthened, so too society will become a more just, peaceful, and merciful place. Let me offer a few examples.

All it takes is a look at a recent report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to know that powerful political forces insist that the Church’s social service institutions be mere extensions of the government, with a moral compass indistinguishable from that which drives government policy. But Pope Francis insists that Catholic charitable and social service institutions must be more than mere NGO’s (non-governmental organizations). Rather, they must bind up the wounds of society with the compassion of Christ who alone fully reveals the dignity of each person. The Pope teaches us to think of the Church as a field hospital, and his arresting image highlights what Catholics bring to our public work: love of our neighbors rooted in our love of God. That’s not something on offer from the government.

Powerful political forces seek to provoke strong opposition to the Church because of its teaching on marriage as between one man and one woman. Yet Pope Francis called not one but two synods on marriage because it’s urgent that we strengthen the vocation of marriage and family life. His beautiful exhortation on marriage, “The Joy of Love,” guides married couples, the young, and the Church’s pastors in renewing marriage and family in our day. In fact, he’s jolting us out of our complacency as the true meaning and purpose of marriage are obscured and family life continues to break down. Pope Francis knows that it’s the young and the poor who will suffer disproportionately if this societal trend continues. Healthy societies and a healthy Church rest on healthy families.

Powerful political forces ridicule the Church’s teaching that one’s biological sex and one’s gender cannot be separated. They would force the Church to abandon a most elemental teaching of faith and reason: “male and female He created them.” But Pope Francis has forcefully challenged contemporary gender theory because he knows it’s the potential undoing not only of marriage but of a right understanding of human identity and dignity. When young people were told “you can be anything,” it used to mean that a wide range of careers was open to them. Now it means you can be a man or a woman or some other version of sexuality and that you can, God-like, create your own alternative universe. Pope Francis knows this is false and he wants us to make sure we know it, too.

Powerful political operatives have suggested that well-educated, professional people embrace the Catholic religion because it is more acceptable than the evangelical churches, thus insulting both faith communities. They have derided Catholics who take seriously the Christian formation of their children, who have had their children baptized in the Jordan River (where Christ was baptized), and who advance principles of Catholic social teaching such as subsidiarity (which stresses the importance of addressing problems and issues at the local level when possible). It doesn’t seem to occur to these political operatives that many people embrace religious faith because they actually believe it to be true and good.

Here, too, Francis is out to shake up the Church by calling us to authenticity, to become missionary disciples who go out to the margins. He’s challenging each of us truly to encounter the living Christ and to embrace the Gospel with enthusiasm, prompting us to compassionate action outside the sanctuary, at risk not only to our social standing but even to our personal security. He is urging us to be not only true believers but indeed the Lord’s messengers who bring the joy and healing of the Gospel to the peripheries of society.

These political operatives aren’t seeking to shake up the Church; they’re seeking to domesticate it. Pope Francis wants to revitalize it. Where the tactics of these operatives reveal a view of religion as something to be informed by political values, the Holy Father, in his book “On Heaven and Earth,” makes the case that religion should be informing politics with values, not engaging in partisan politics. Let’s follow his lead, not theirs.

Faith, Sexuality, and the Meaning of Freedom; Remarks, Panel Discussion: The Demands of Faith

“Warmest thanks for the opportunity to be part of the broader discussion on faith, sexuality, and the meaning of freedom. At the moment we are focusing on one aspect of that discussion, namely, the “demands” of faith in a dynamic cultural setting.

“A clarification of the word “demands” might be in order. I would suggest it can mean three things: First, it refers to conditions under which people of faith and their ministries flourish so as to accomplish what they see as their God-given mission, a mission that often includes proclamation, worship, education, charity, and advocacy. Second, it means the legitimate expectation of people of faith that they and their religious institutions will be fully accorded the protection of their God-given religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

Read the Archbishop’s complete remarks HERE.

Epiphany 2017 Homily

“A few years ago, when I served as Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, I celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany in a large multi-cultural parish. St. Peter’s on Colorado Avenue was predominately Spanish-speaking, with parishioners from Mexico as well as Central and South America. There were also parishioners from various countries in Africa as well as a small community of Iranian Christians.

“For most of those parishioners, Epiphany was a bigger feast than Christmas and it was certainly celebrated with a lot of solemnity and joy. It always included a pageant depicting the arrival of the three kings and gifts were distributed to the children of the parish after Mass. The Associate Pastor at St. Peter’s had a distinct aversion to incense. It’s not that he was allergic, he just didn’t like to use it. So I deliberately used lots and lots of incense and caught his eye. We both smiled; after all, incense was one of the gifts the magi offered Jesus.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Saturday before Epiphany, Discernment Retreat

“Dear brother priests, dear sisters, dear friends and discerners: I’m glad to join all of you who are making this discernment retreat and to offer Holy Mass with and for you during these days when, in a very special way, you seek the will of God in your lives. In particular, I thank the Lord for your openness to the distinct possibility that God may be calling you to serve Him and His Church as priests.

“Seeking God’s will, of course, is not something we do on our own. God’s will is often not identical with our preferences. His plans for our lives are often at odds with our plans. And the objections we raise are not God’s objections but ours. So it is that you and I ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to the Word of God, for it is by listening attentively to God’s Word that we are able to sort out the conflicting influences in our lives and all the complexities we create, so as to discover God’s will and to do his will, for, ‘in his will is our peace’ (Dante). With that in mind, let us now turn to the Scripture readings just proclaimed.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Mary Mother of God Homily

“Every Christmas night, long after gifts were exchanged and the dishes were washed, mom and dad would gather us together to look at old family photographs – some neatly stowed in albums, others waiting patiently to be put in an album. Those photos always brought back memories, along with laughter and tears. They brought to mind treasured remembrances of persons and events near and dear to our hearts.

“In the Gospel, we read once again of that wondrous night when Mary gave birth to Jesus, our Savior. There were no smart phones with cameras to capture Mary’s loving smile and her tears of joy. No lens caught the tenderness and concern of St. Joseph for Mary and Jesus. There were no videos of the shepherds keeping watch or the angels singing. Indeed, there was no need for a camera. For the Lord’s birth and all the mysterious events surrounding it impressed themselves deeply in Mary’s heart. The Gospel tells us that ‘Mary treasured all of these things in her heart.'”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Christmas 2016 Homily

“Sometimes I think accessibility is the name of the game. You can’t construct a new building without making it accessible to one and all. When we need a ride, we expect an Uber car to pick us up in a matter of minutes. When we go on the internet or use an app, we expect to access the information we need almost instantly. Access and accessibility have woven their way not only into our vocabulary but also into our way of thinking and our expectations.

So, let us ask: Is God accessible to us? Sometimes God is portrayed an impersonal force incapable of relating to us. And sometimes God is seen as far removed from our everyday lives and struggles. Many people have concluded that the search for God is futile.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

4th Sunday of Advent, St. Mark Parish Homily

“Many years ago, when I was a newly ordained and inexperienced priest, I visited a parishioner in the hospital. She was suffering terribly, and to tell you the truth, I was lost for words. I think I stammered something about trying to find God in the midst of her suffering as I fumbled around for the Oil of the Sick and the ritual so that I could anoint her.

“Sensing my discomfort, this wonderful woman of faith, smiled at me, took my hand, and she said to me, “Oh, Father, don’t you worry about me. I’m not trying to find God in this hospital bed; he’s trying to find me. And you know what? I think he’s finally got me!” It was a “eureka” moment in my life as a Christian and as a priest. a thought I’ve returned to hundreds of times over the years in my prayer: Yes, we search for God but not half as much as God searches for us.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

4th Sunday of Advent; Installation of Fr. Colin Postin Homily

“It is a joy to be with all of you so near to the feast of Christmas and on this joyful occasion of the installation of Fr. Collin Postin as your pastor. Thank you for warmly welcoming him as he began his pastoral service here at St. Anthony’s and at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. And thank you, Father Collin, for your pastoral generosity in embracing both of these parishes as a good and loving shepherd of souls.

“It turns out that today’s Scripture readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent offer us real insight into Father Collin’s role as your pastor. That role has two main components: first is pointing out the presence of God in our midst and being the instrument of God’s presence; and second is helping us to acknowledge and respond to God’s presence with an obedient faith in every aspect of our lives. Let us reflect on these two points for a few moments.”

Read the complete homily HERE.