Monday, August 31, 2009

Widows and Orphans and Funerals

James’ definition of “religion that is pure and undefiled” heard in yesterday’s epistle contrasts with the merely human “tradition of the elders” condemned by Christ in the Gospel. James writes:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

“Orphans and widows” seem a curiously narrow field of concern for the practitioner of pure religion. Yesterday, my pastor commented on that. He said that in James’ time, widows and orphans were the most defenseless members of society. Neither could support themselves, and in that society, neither had any to support them. Their condition placed them outside the normal protections of society. They were the helpless poor.

In our day, my pastor said, the unborn would be among our “widows and orphans”.

This is not a terribly shocking insight to a well-formed Catholic. But it would have been shocking to hear from the lips of Rev. Mark Hession, the homilist at this weekend’s funeral for Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Although he and other speakers mentioned the care of “widows and orphans” several times, none mentioned the unborn.

If anyone had mentioned the unborn as among the “widows and orphans” at that particular Mass, I expect they would have been widely condemned in some quarters. It would have been more than impolite. It would have been seen as a condemnation of the merely human tradition that equates pure religion with the lore and beliefs of a particular political culture. The tradition of the elders of that culture is what was celebrated that day. And celebrating that tradition meant the unborn had to remain with none to support them – not even the Church.

I’ve posted nothing about the death of Senator Kennedy. I think our chief duty to the dead is to pray for them and so I do.

I don’t know anyone’s heart but my own – and that imperfectly. What I can say is that I’ve done much evil and what good I’ve done hasn’t been untainted by ulterior motivation. I haven’t cared for the orphans and widows as much as I’m called to and I haven’t kept myself unstained by the world. Our faith assures us that pretty much anybody can say the same thing. So dear family and friends – Don’t celebrate me at my funeral. Pray for me – I’ll need it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bishop Tobin on ‘Archbishop Weakland’s Perplexing Pilgrimage’

I’ve got a dozen or so bookmarks to the Bishop’s Column pages at various diocesan newspapers I check on weekly. They’re selected because I find them particularly good teachers, like Bishops Wenski, Soto and Olmsted and/or because they can be counted on to be blunt – a quality I find refreshing and unfortunately rare in Church conversations.

Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin fits both categories, but I have to admit being surprised when I saw today’s column headline, “Archbishop Weakland’s Perplexing Pilgrimage”. Was I really about to read one bishop criticizing another publicly? Yes I was. To be fair, the column says many fine things about the retired Archbishop before launching in, excerpt:

It strikes me that critics of Archbishop Weakland should be at least a little restrained in their umbrage, for after all there are many redeeming qualities of the Archbishop’s life and ministry. He responded willingly to the Lord’s call to the consecrated life; he has served the Church generously in a variety of difficult leadership positions; he has shown a determined commitment to the progress of the Church and the implementation of the Second Vatican Council; and he has consistently reached-out to the poor, the weak and the disenfranchised members of the Church and society. If his service has been marred by human imperfections, so be it. So is mine, and so is yours.

On the other hand, supporters of Archbishop Weakland should also be able to recognize the self-serving inconsistencies and contradictions contained in his story.

For example, although the Archbishop always took pride in his liberal theological tendencies and his public pronouncements on controversial issues, he seemed to be genuinely puzzled, even hurt, when others labeled him a dissident.

He passionately promoted the dignity of the laity and their role in the governance and ministry of the Church, but had little hesitation about quietly using their money to cover-up his egregious sexual offense.

He disparaged the secrecy of the Holy See but for twenty years hid his own indiscretions behind the walls of the chancery, indiscretions that were not just a matter of personal behavior but also profoundly affected the reputation and welfare of the Church.

He railed against what he considered the authoritarian pontificate of Pope John Paul II, but clearly used his own persona and authority to impose his vision of the Church upon his own fiefdom in Milwaukee, easily dismissing those who opposed him as conservative, right-wing nuts.

In short, like many dissidents in the Church, throughout his life Archbishop Weakland benefited generously from the support of the institutional Church, but never hesitated to criticize the Church whenever it served his own purposes to do so.

This blog, it has been noted elsewhere, can have a stridently critical tone at times. But I have never used it to publicly criticize any bishop (unless you count an excommunicated moonie). I have a well-developed philosophical reason for not criticizing bishops, but the cynic could also fairly note who signs my paycheck.

Fraternal (even public) correction among bishops themselves has biblical and plentiful historic precedent and justification, but to my knowledge little contemporary usage. This is something new to me, hence my surprise. Readers can, and I’m sure will, take issue with the specific criticisms mentioned in Bishop Tobin’s column. There was however much clamoring, across ideological divides, during the clergy abuse crisis for fraternal correction among bishops. Is that the only area the practice is called for? (It should be noted that Bishop Tobin’s comments are in the context of reflecting on Archbishop Weakland’s published memoirs and public reactions to them.) Read the whole thing.

Archbishop Niederauer Heralds NorCal Prolife Effort

Dioceses across Northern California are encouraging parishes to do some actual hands-on prolife work in an effort heralded by the Archdiocese of San Francisco and Archbishop George H. Niederauer.

On August 24, Archbishop Niederauer sent a letter to every pastor and vicar in the three-county Archdiocese encouraging them to begin a Project Gabriel ministry in their parish. Archbishop Niederauer wrote:

As we continue to oppose abortion, we must also reach out to women in difficult pregnancies with real, concrete help. The Gabriel Project is a practical, effective way for our parishes in the Archdiocese of San Francisco to do this.

Describing the program, Niederauer wrote:

Through the Gabriel Project, parishes embrace each pregnant woman who comes to them as their daughter, sister and friend. When a woman calls the Gabriel Project's 800 number for help, the phone-line volunteer contacts the Gabriel Project Coordinator, who is a parishioner of the Church closest to where she lives. A trained mentor, one of the parish's "Gabriel Angels", is assigned responsibility for ongoing contact with the mother throughout her pregnancy and somewhat beyond. The parish community assists with unconditional love. Through them, mothers receive the spiritual, material and emotional support needed during pregnancy.

A number of parishes in the Archdiocese began the Gabriel Project under the leadership of former Archbishop, now Cardinal William J. Levada. And it worked tremendously well in places where the pastor was behind it. I know one suburban parish there that saved many lives and provided much support for pregnant women by putting up a large, welcoming Project Gabriel sign in front of the church. The pastor personally followed up on many of the calls that came in and the parish provided real support to women in difficult pregnancies.

Now every parish is being invited to start this ministry, and not just in the San Francisco Archdiocese. Bishops in neighboring dioceses are encouraging pastors and parishes to go to a training session in San Francisco to become acquainted with the Gabriel Project. In the Diocese of Sacramento, the invitation is the top and most prominent item currently on their website.

So if you’re in Northern California, here are the details:

San Francisco, september 12

"You can be an angel" and learn how to implement The Gabriel Project at your parish

The Archdiocese of San Francisco will host a special conference on Saturday, September 12, 2009 at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. The event occurs in cooperation with all northern California dioceses to offer parishes practical techniques regarding implementation of The Gabriel Project. This revitalized program for volunteers and pastors is an important ministry which offers support and unconditional love to women with unplanned pregnancies. The program begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m., and includes a continental breakfast and a buffet lunch. The cost is $20 (scholarships available).  Please RSVP by September 8.


Hat Tip to Fred D’Alessio who alerted me to this. Fred is a great and effective prolife advocate in the Golden State and he has more information on the Gabriel Project at his blog.

And remember to follow The Catholic Key on Twitter.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Paralytic Reflects on the Case of Christian Rossiter

Chelsea Zimmerman is a 26-year-old Catholic blogger from Holts Summit, MO. She’s also paralyzed from the chest down – the result of an auto accident when she was a junior in high school. Chelsea provides a tremendous witness in the ongoing clone-and-kill battles in Missouri, declaring she would not accept any cure for her condition that depended on the destruction of human embryos.

A couple days ago, she had a moving post hoping that Christian Rossiter, the 49 year old Australian quadriplegic who recently won the right to starve himself, wouldn’t go through with it.

@GiannaJessen, mentioned in the twitter conversation below, is a Catholic prolife activist and singer who was born alive following a saline abortion in 1977. She also has, and has recovered from, various physical limitations resulting from the abortion attempt. Chelsea’s twitter id is @czParalytic.

Here is some of Chelsea’s post on Christian Rossiter which she titled “The Beauty of Human Weakness”:

What is most heart-breaking about this story, of course, is the fact that this man thinks that his life has little to no value because of his physical limitations. In a statement read by his attorney Rossiter told the court:

“I am unable to undertake any basic human functions. I am unable to blow my nose. I’m unable to wipe the tears from my eyes.”

This reminds me of a “conversation” I had on Twitter recently:

@giannajessen: i wonder how long i will be considered valuable? i have already been told to my face (at 14) that i’m “a burden to society”….

@czParalytic: I hear you…I was once told by someone that they would kill themselves if they were in my situation

@giannajessen: people don’t know how beautiful physical weakness can be. within it are eternal lessons that can be learned in no other way.

@czParalytic: “My grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness. I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinth 12:9-10

The beauty of physical weakness that Gianna mentions is that the awareness of the limits of our human nature is meant to lead us to put all our trust in God who wants us to rely on Him for absolutely everything. When we place our trust in God alone His divine power will shine forth in us, sustaining us in our weakness (St. Josemaria, Friends of God, 194). In other words, Jesus uses our weakness to reveal His glory.

How difficult this is for such a prideful world to see!

Read on the see how Chelsea sees it and check in at her excellent blog, “Reflections of a Paralytic,” often for lots of great reflections and reporting.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Obama - God Merger Near

From Iowahawk, excerpts -
WASHINGTON (Iowahawk Business PR Wire) -- U.S. Government CEO Barack Obama announced today that his firm had embarked on a new joint venture with metaphysical industrial giant God, saying that "We are God’s partners in matters of life and death." . . .

. . .The announcement came before the annual GodCon trade show in Las Vegas, where Obama gave a product demo of the iGod health care rationing device, the first of what he said would be "many development projects" between US Government and God. He encouraged independent God developers to support the closed-source iGod / iGov health care platform, warning that "woe be unto the unlicensed app developer, for he shall be smote by a vengeful hail of ACORNs."

Read it all.

USCCB Pro-life Office on ‘End of Life’ Section in Health Bill

Some very reasonable analysis of the much discussed Section 1233 in the House Bill from Richard Doerflinger at the USCCB:

Health Care Reform and a Dispute About Dying

By Richard M. Doerflinger

            Congress’s effort to enact health care reform legislation has sparked a vigorous debate.  From a Catholic viewpoint the underlying issue is clear: Tens of millions of Americans lack basic health coverage; many more risk losing what they have as costs rise.  And this is a matter of justice.  As Pope John XXIII said almost half a century ago: “Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care…” (Pacem in Terris, no. 11).  A society that does not ensure basic life-affirming health care for those in need is failing in a basic responsibility. 

            Since the right to health care is based on the right to live, it is also clear that what attacks life is not health care at all, and not a legitimate goal of health care reform.  The Church insists that reform is too important and legitimate a goal to be hijacked by destructive agendas such as government-mandated abortion coverage.

            But concerns have also been raised about the way health care reform may treat people at the other end of life, specifically through Section 1233 of the current House bill on “advance care planning consultations.”  Supporters say it is a harmless provision to ensure that elderly patients will have their wishes respected when they can no longer speak for themselves; some opponents see the ominous hand of government nudging grandma over the cliff.

            The truth, I think, lies somewhere between.  This section says that if doctors talk with Medicare patients about “end-of-life services and supports,” the benefits of advance directives such as “living wills,” etc., Medicare will reimburse them for their time. 

            One worry here is that government or doctors may have agendas in tension with patients’ goals and interests.  When a federal official first proposed that the government encourage seniors to sign living wills, in 1977, this was part of a memo on how to cut the government’s health costs – earning a rebuke from Catholic bishops and others.

            Another problem is the assumption that documents like the living will are a positive good no matter what they say.  The evidence suggests they are imperfect instruments that do not always serve patients’ interests (see the report Taking Care by the President’s Council on Bioethics,  The consultations will also promote whatever advance directive serves as a model in the patient’s home state – and some states’ documents do not make careful distinctions between ordinary and extraordinary means.  Patients may not realize that signing some forms could prompt the denial of even ordinary care like nutrition and hydration during a chronic, non-terminal illness.  (Section 1233 lists “artificially administered nutrition and hydration” among the topics for discussion).

            Such concerns have persuaded key drafters of the Senate health care reform bill to drop this provision -- prompting a reaction from the nation’s leading proponent of physician-assisted suicide, the Hemlock Society (now renamed “Compassion and Choices” to mask its zeal for poisoning the elderly).  The group said it had “worked tirelessly with supportive members of Congress” to insert the provision, and lamented that it might be dropped due to “misinformation” that it would “promote euthanasia.” 

            A hint to supporters: If you want to calm concerns that the provision could promote euthanasia, don’t boast that it is backed by groups promoting euthanasia.  It now seems Section 1233 will have a quiet and dignified death, and we can continue trying to agree on how to cover people who lack any health care at all.

Mr. Doerflinger is Associate Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Go to to learn more about the bishops' pro-life activities.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

I’m Not Giving to the Annual Appeal till this Ars is Out of My Parish

The longer I work for the Church the more I am confirmed in my decision not to pursue a priestly vocation. Let me state that more positively – The more time I spend with priests the more I admire them and realize I am not suited to their heroic vocation.

I cannot imagine running a parish. I’m not the type of person who even wants to know 2,000 people, much less be their spiritual father, sick visitor, gripe-bearer, grief-sharer, teacher, admonisher and occasional punching bag.

Priests, even the best, get an awful lot of grief from parishioners. Occasionally, it is quite legitimate. Often it’s petty. Sometimes, it is just dead wrong. For both good and ill, pastors get lots of complaints. Baker Bishop Robert Vasa even speculates that “if St. John Vianney himself were in many of our American parishes there would be an abundance of letters from concerned parishioners about the direction in which he was taking the parish.”

I expect he’s right. The quote is taken from Bishop Baker’s column this week titled,We must encourage prayer and sacrifice for our priests”.

Let the Bishop explain:

It comes as no surprise to any pastor that St. John Vianney was severely abused and derided because he called his people to chastity when debauchery was the norm, to sobriety when drunkenness was rampant, to holiness when secularity was much more popular. Because he loved, however, he did not cease to challenge sinfulness and call his people to repentance. He did this at great personal cost because of his determined love for souls. I strongly suspect that if St. John Vianney himself were in many of our American parishes there would be an abundance of letters from concerned parishioners about the direction in which he was taking the parish. This in no way implies that letters about priests to chanceries all across this country are not sometimes warranted and it in no way implies that our priests are comparable to St. John Vianney. It does imply that most of us do not respond well when the sinfulness of our own lives is challenged.

The old adage about the need to “hate the sin but love the sinner” makes perfect pastoral sense but the situation is often made very difficult when the sinner has such a solid affection for and attachment to and even defense of the sin that any attack on the sin is deemed an unjust and indefensible attack on the sinner. In some ways the adage has been revised for American sensibilities so that its present rendering might go something like: “Love the sinner, condone the sin.” It can also happen that what is determined to be sinful by the pastor, in accord with Church teaching, is not seen as sinful at all by a significant number of the faithful due to their ill formed consciences or due to a false understanding of conscience. This makes preaching about sin difficult. It is all the more difficult when there is a sense that such preaching is likely to fall on deaf ears. It is not at all uncommon to encounter members of the faithful whose personal conviction is that something that is really sinful, and in many cases seriously sinful, is not sinful at all for them. This is a clear symptom of a seriously defective formation and understanding of conscience. As the American view about the apparent acceptability of artificial contraception, homosexual union and abortion gets ever more firmly entrenched the Catholic conscience is gradually eroded and thus fails to recognize any of these serious evils as sinful.

Read on. Pray and sacrifice for your priest during this Year for Priests. And give him a break (just for this year).

‘Thank You’ Gov. Nixon for Supporting Alternatives to Abortion Program

Back in July the Missouri Catholic Conference asked Missourians to contact Governor Jay Nixon (D-MO) and ask him to restore funding for Missouri’s excellent Alternatives to Abortion Program. The program had been targeted for axing by the state’s Department of Health.

Lifenews picked up on the story and we asked readers here to contact the Governor. It was a strong and bold campaign by the MCC and today they report:

Missouri Catholic Conference Applauds Gov. Nixon’s Commitment to Fully Fund Alternatives to Abortion Program

August 20, 2009, JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Today Governor Jay Nixon committed to fully funding the Alternatives to Abortion (ATA) program for state fiscal year 2010. Cuts were proposed by the Missouri Department of Health in June in response to the current state budget crisis.

“We thank Gov. Nixon for securing ATA funding during these difficult economic times. The Alternatives to Abortion (ATA) program is very important for thousands of women and their children, born and unborn,” said Deacon Larry Weber, Executive Director of the Missouri Catholic Conference. The ATA program, which has spanned a dozen years and four gubernatorial administrations, has proven year in and year out to be an effective means of providing help to pregnant women who may be at risk of an abortion.”

The ATA program is allocated $1.9 million, which represents a very modest investment toward saving unborn children and assisting women in crisis pregnancies. Research shows that providing alternative services encourages more women to carry their unborn child to term thereby reducing the number of abortions.

Missouri has been a leader in reducing abortions and the ATA program has been a key-component of that pro-life effort. The Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) would like to congratulate the pro-life citizens for their hard work and voices heard in support of the program.

“We are extremely pleased that Gov. Nixon has committed funding the ATA program which has greatly reduced the number of abortions in Missouri as well as provided valuable case management to these women in need,” said Mike Halterman, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities of Kansas City – St. Joseph. “Catholic Charities is very proud of the ATA program because it speaks to Catholic social teachings and our mission.”

Sam Lee, Director of Campaign Life Missouri, said, “We are very pleased that Gov. Nixon is fully funding this valuable and proven program that helps pregnant women and their families in need and saves the lives of the unborn.”

The Alternatives to Abortion program provides services during pregnancy and for one year after the birth of the child including prenatal care, medical and mental health care, parenting skills, newborn and infant care, education services, housing, clothing, food, supplies related to pregnancy, newborn care and parenting and adoption assistance. Catholic Charities of St. Louis and Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph are among a consortium of faith-based agencies that provide these vital services.

So why not thank him:

Contact Gov. Nixon

PO Box 720

2nd Floor State Capital Bldg

Jefferson City, MO 65102

Phone: (573) 751-3222


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Obama Lies about Abortion Coverage at Staged Event with Fake Faith Groups

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United were among other DNC fake faith-shingle groups today to sponsor an entirely staged "conversation" with the president about health care reform. For the best report on the lecture by telephone couched as a conversation see Tom McFeely at the National Catholic Register, excerpts:
1st post:

In less than an hour, I’ll be listening in on President Barack Obama’s BlogTalkRadio discussion about his health-care reform plans. But while this event is being organized by religious groups who purport to represent the “American Faith Community,” the groups are all pro-Obama, and, consequently, it’s doubtful he’ll face any hard questions about the health-care reform bill’s abortion mandate and other anti-life elements in the reform plan that are objectionable to faithful Catholics.

2nd post:

. . .in response to the direct question posed about abortion funding, Melody Barnes, director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, provided what appeared to be a deliberately misleading response. . .

. . .“You know, I’ve heard lots and lots of rumors about what the bills do or don’t do. I really want to be clear about this. The president has said that it’s longstanding policy that federal funds won’t be used for abortion coverage. Health reform, and our health reform efforts, are not intended to force Americans to purchase health insurance that includes coverage they don’t want, and they should be able to purchase coverage that reflects their values and basic needs. And it’s not intended to reduce insurance coverage that Americans already have.“ . . .

. . .Speaking at the conclusion of the carefully scripted BlogTalkRadio session, Obama cited the claim of funding of abortion as one example of the false claims that are being circulated by critics of his health care reform initiative. . .

. . .There’s a way for Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress to put the matter to rest, of course. That could be done by including wording similar to the Hyde Amendment in the health-care reform bill, specifically prohibiting any federal funding of abortion services or of health benefit packages that include coverage of abortion.

You've got to see this whole post. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Melody Barnes was a board member of EMILY's List, the most radical pro-abortion lobby in the land.

Here's some other reaction to the staged call-in. From Marjorie Dannenfelser at the Susan B. Anthony List:
"Public support for abortion is on decline, and the President knows that openly advancing an abortion mandate in health care reform is unpopular with the American people. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Obama's statements conflict with the proposed legislation. Americans demand an explicit exclusion of abortion coverage, not more obfuscation and confusion from the President and his allies."

And Douglas Johnson at the National Right to Life Committee:
Emboldened by the recently demonstrated superficiality of some organs of the news media, President Obama today brazenly misrepresented the abortion-related component of the health care legislation that his congressional allies and staff have crafted. As amended by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 30 (the Capps- Waxman Amendment), the bill backed by the White House (H.R. 3200) explicitly authorizes the government plan to cover all elective abortions. Obama apparently seeks to hide behind a technical distinction between tax funds and government- collected premiums. But these are merely two types of public funds, collected and spent by government agencies. The Obama-backed legislation makes it explicitly clear that no citizen would be allowed to enroll in the government plan unless he or she is willing to give the federal agency an extra amount calculated to cover the cost of all elective abortions -- this would not be optional. The abortionists would bill the federal government and would be paid by the federal government. These are public funds, and this is government funding of abortion.

In 2007 Obama explicitly pledged to Planned Parenthood that the public plan will cover abortions (see the video clip here). Some journalists have reported that Obama "backed off" of this commitment in an interview with Katie Couric of CBS News, broadcast July 21, but Obama actually carefully avoided stating his intentions -- instead, he simply made an artful observation that "we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care."

It is true that there is such a tradition -- which Obama has always opposed, and which the Obama-backed bill would shatter.

On August 13, NRLC released a detailed memo explaining the provisions of the pending bills that would affect abortion policy, with citations to primary sources. Many of the "factcheck" articles that have appeared in the news media in recent weeks reflect, at best, unsophisticated understandings of the provisions they purport to be explaining, and also give evidence of a weak understanding of Obama's history on the policy issues involved. The memo is downloadable in PDF format here:

The administration's ploy throughout the campaign and his presidency has been to seek or invent amenable decoys for the actual voices in faith communities that oppose his radical anti-life agenda. Many of these decoys are pure hacks like the folks at Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance. This is a shameful exercise by an American administration to displace legitimate political opposition by substituting staged conversations with supporters faking as faith groups - and presenting an in-house love fest as consensus building.

Two Very Different Healthcare Reform Videos


And from the Catholic Health Association:

Both express a certain sense of urgency. Without any outside help, can you tell what the message of each is?

Bishop Olmsted on the Devil and John Vianney

Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted says a lot of things in his column this week that would have got him labeled a loon in my high school Theology class. But that was in the 80s when the real loons were teaching high school Theology.

We were taught not to take stories of miracles or the existence of the devil as literal. Such beliefs and talk were “mysto-babble” and indicative of an immature faith. We needed to get to the allegorical sense and to help us there we were given exhaustive naturalistic explanations of the miracles in the Bible. (note: My school was not in this diocese.)

It’s not surprising then that most of my classmates ended up thinking the Catholic Church was a lot of bull – That’s what we were taught.

Happily for the people of Phoenix, they have a very different kind of teacher in Bishop Olmsted. Continuing his series on the Year for Priests, Bishop Olmsted looks at the devil in the life of St. John Vianney, excerpts:

Satanic attacks were commonplace in the life of Fr. John Vianney. For 35 years, the devil taunted and harassed him, not only in spiritual ways but even in tangible and audible ones. These latter, demonic acts normally are quite rare. But, by the influence of the devil, the Cure of Ars’ bed was moved about, crashing noises resounded, fires were ignited, and other harassments occurred, all in an effort to stop or at least to curtail the priestly ministry of Fr. Vianney. . .

. . . Fallen angels, also known as devils and evil spirits, try to hinder all of us in our pursuit of holiness. Their ordinary ploy is by means of temptations, which God allows so that we can make good use of our freedom in resisting them and thus growing to fuller maturity in Christ.

In addition to these ordinary ploys, demons resort to other extraordinary acts, on rare occasions, with the same intention of thwarting the plan of God and undercutting our filial trust in Him. These harassments can be of three kinds: infestations, obsessions and possessions.

With infestations, the devil makes use of noises, outcries, rattling, apparitions and other extraordinary outbursts of some sensible nature aimed at terrifying people, intending to undercut their confidence in God. He used these repeatedly on the Cure of Ars, sometimes to keep him from getting badly needed sleep, at other times to disturb his peace of mind and to try to shake his trust in God. All these were aimed at disrupting the effective ministry of this holy priest.

Early on, Fr. Vianney became aware that these infestations were most outrageous just before an outstanding action of grace was about to occur through his priestly ministry, usually the conversion of a sinner. In fact, he remarked that the worst assaults of the devil happened when he was on the verge of “landing a big fish,” by which he meant welcoming back a baptized person who had fallen far into the darkness of despair. With this insight, Fr. Vianney calmly ignored the infestations, and looked forward with joyful hope to the next victory of grace about to occur through the Sacrament of Penance.

Read on to see why Bishop Olmsted believes, “It could be said that the priesthood is not fully understandable except in contrast with the work of the devil.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sisters Still Chasing Burglary Suspect - With Prayer

By Kevin Kelly

Catholic Key Associate Editor

INDEPENDENCE — Kansas City media had a field day.

“Nun on the run, pursuing justice,” read the headline in the Kansas City Star daily newspaper.

“You don’t mess with nuns from the Sisters of St. Francis,” said one TV reporter.

“Thou shalt not steal — especially within sight of a convent,” said another.

DSC_6380Now for the rest of the story, a story that is just beginning.

There is a 17-year-old man confined in the Jackson County Jail as he awaits serious felony charges who now has an entire community of sisters — not nuns, an important distinction — praying for him. If he needs any help to turn his life around, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist will provide it as best they can.

But he should know now that he is loved, said Sister Connie Boulch, one of the two sisters who helped police capture the burglary suspect as he tried to cut through their motherhouse property in northern Independence.

“I hope we get a chance to talk to him,” said Sister Connie, the community’s vicar who also works as the director of the Office of Consecrated Life for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

“I would like to tell him that he was on our property not by accident, but by providence,” she said.

“All sorts of people wander onto our property,” Sister Connie said. “They are all prayed for, and hopefully because of that, their lives are better.

“This young man has his whole life ahead of him,” she said. “He has the opportunity to change. I know that the prayers of the sisters will be with him for a long time.”

Sister Connie rose at 5 a.m., as she always does, on Aug. 13 to pray in the motherhouse chapel before reporting to work at the diocesan chancery.

Shortly before 7 a.m., she opened a window in her non-air-conditioned office, not far from the chapel, to let in the cool, early morning air for herself and Sister Catarina da Silva.

Sister Catarina saw a young man walking through the soybean field on the 82-acre property.

“We saw him dragging something. We thought he was poaching deer,” Sister Connie said.

The sisters got in Sister Connie’s car, drove to the edge of the field and called the young man over. He immediately dropped what he was dragging, but approached the sisters to talk still carrying a small tree limb saw and a pair of red boxing gloves. The item he dropped was a shotgun, and all three items were later discovered to be stolen from a nearby residence.

At no time did the young man threaten the two sisters in any way, Sister Connie said.

“He walked right up to us,” Sister Connie said. “I asked him what he was doing, and he told us he was cutting through to a friend’s house. I asked him to tell me the name of his friend, and he couldn’t do it. I told him that he shouldn’t be on our property and we were going to call the police.

“He panicked and ran,” Sister Connie said.

Sister Catarina, 49, a native of the Brazilian jungle where the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist long had a mission, gave chase, wearing a pair of flip-flop sandals on her feet, and her modified brown habit, while Sister Connie called police.

She caught up with him after a few hundred yards near the convent.

“He wasn’t a cross country runner. He was completely out of breath,” Sister Connie said.

Sister Catarina said the Franciscan life of manual labor keeps her in shape.

“Reporters asked me what I do to exercise. I told them I work. That is my exercise,” she said.

Sister Catarina told the young man to wait, but just before police began to arrive, he ran again into a nearby woods.

Soon, the property was full of police, search dogs and helicopters hovering overhead.

Using tracking skills she learned as a child, Sister Catarina led an officer in a patrol car to the area where the young man entered the woods. As they continued their search, Sister Catarina saw a baby deer caught in a barbed wire fence at the property’s border.

She insisted that the officer stop. The officer told her that getting out of the car would be dangerous with all the search dogs, unfamiliar with the sister, in the area. She insisted.

Sister Catarina and the officer abandoned their search for the young man, and cut the fence to free the tiny deer.

“He was only seven or eight months old, but he was strong,” Sister Catarina said. “There was a line of deer off in the distance. When he was free, he made a little noise to call his momma, and ran to those deer.

“The policeman said to me, ‘We did some holy work today,’” Sister Catarina said.

The young man was captured about a mile from the sister’s property, hiding behind a barn. He was taken back to the convent, where Sister Connie and Sister Catarina identified him as the young man they confronted earlier.

“He was shaking, he was so afraid,” Sister Connie said. “Never once were we afraid of him.”

Police asked both Sister Connie and Sister Catarina several times if the young man ever pointed the shotgun at them, or threatened them in any way.

Sister Connie said they told police officers, several times, that the young man never made a threatening gesture nor spoke a threatening word to either one of them.

The police asked Sister Connie if the sisters wished to file trespassing charges.

“I said, ‘No, I think he is in plenty of trouble already,’” she said. “Then I started praying for him.”

As police took the young man away, Sister Catarina turned to Sister Connie and said, “I hope he learns something from this and changes his life.”

Stories in the Kansas City media contained the admonition against private citizens confronting suspects. Sister Connie said she and Sister Catarina didn’t confront a suspect. They confronted a child of God.

And they had no reason to fear. God has always looked after the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist.

“We have had lots of things happen over the years, and no one has ever gotten hurt,” she said.

The sisters, who moved to the property that was once totally isolated and surrounded by farms in 1982, have made only one concession to safety. After a few acts of vandalism, they installed a front gate on their private drive that is closed only at night.

“Before we decided to move here, Msgr. (Martin) Froeschl and Msgr. (Bernard) Koenig heard we were looking at this property, and they buried St. Francis medals here, hoping that would bring us here,” she said.

“Sister Lucy (Lang, the community’s elected “sister servant” leader) and I have also blessed every corner of this property,” Sister Connie said.

“It has been holy ground for us,” she said.

At 5 p.m. Mass that evening at the motherhouse chapel, the community continued to pray for the young man.

They recognize that the God-given dignity of the young man’s life can never be taken away, said Father Steve Hansen, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Lexington who celebrated Mass for the sisters that day.

“Christians see dignity even in criminals,” Father Hansen said in his homily, after a Gospel reading from Matthew 18: 21-35 that just happened to center on the power of forgiveness in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

The larger community will be confronted with a powerful lesson when it learns that the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist are praying for a young man who is facing years in prison.

“Jesus cared for the prisoner,” Father Hansen said. “People are going to see that and experience it by what you are doing.”

(Sister Catarina da Silva and Sister Connie Boulch – Kevin Kelly/Key photo)

Bishop Finn - What Laity Must Do in Battle for Life

Following is Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn's address to pro-life volunteers at an August 16 Respect Life Banquet held at St. Pius X High School in Kansas City (headline is mine):

Dinner for Pro-Life Volunteers
August 16, 2009 – St. Pius X High School
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Dear friends in Life,

It is wonderful to be here with so many of you who have led so many aspects of our Diocese’s apostolate for Life. What a beautiful mission we have: to bear witness, even to the point of some suffering, to the truth of the innate value of human life, and the dignity of every human person. In persevering in this sacred work we bring glory to the Eternal Father who has created us, to His Son Jesus who lifted up our flesh in the Incarnation, and redeemed us through His own dying and rising. We want to be moved and docile to the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies us for a supernatural work – dare we say it?, a BATTLE wherein we already know the final outcome – namely, that Christ has indeed already conquered sin and death, and life will be victorious!

Be careful of this last point, the “battle.” There are some who don’t want you to know we are in a battle, even while they themselves never cease to attack. Friends, when we do get attacked and clobbered, then let us know that Christ has gone before us. He told us, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world’” (Jn 16:33)

As we come together this evening, your presence and your untiring work is a great inspiration and consolation to me. You are accepting your authentic call to draw close to Jesus Christ, to grow in holiness, and – as a leaven in society – you are beginning to transform the Culture of Death into a Civilization of Life and Love. Particularly as laity, you will fulfill this vital work in every common endeavor and setting, in the workplace and marketplace, in law and journalism, science and healthcare, technology and business, in the daily conversations you have with other men and women, in what and how you teach your children. Life!, life in Christ!; Human life must be safeguarded from its very first moment, through all the travails, joys and challenges we share, even to the moment of natural death.

For just a few moments tonight I want to address the theme of moving from ideas to action. This is our work in common and, in it, our Lord can use each and any of us to accomplish great things. We must be courageous and respectful; daring but reverent. We must be trusting of God and generous in His service. God asks, “Who will go in My name to announce and defend the timeless truth?” And we must be ready to say, “Here I am Lord, send me!”

As bishop, I accept my part, as I must, in this work for the sake of human life. I asked myself in preparing, “How do I see my role?”

1) First: I believe, as you do, in the truth of life’s dignity and I believe passionately, as you do, that we must continue to pray, speak and act: Always with love, peacefully, and within the parameters of lawful justice. We believe. We invite all people of good will to join us in the fundamental convictions of the natural law, written in every human heart: We all want to live. The lives of other persons is something as important as our lives. We may not directly take another innocent human life.

Our Christian/Catholic faith teaches us even more: That our life is a gift from God and therefore He alone is its master. We have a destiny to live with Him forever in heaven; Jesus made this possible by the supreme act of His love: His death and resurrection for our redemption.

2) Second: What we believe – what has been entrusted to us about life - must be taught. We must be patient and persevering teachers of these basic truths, in what we say and how we act. We somehow have to get across, first and foremost, that there is such a thing as objective truth; that there is such a thing as right and wrong. This is no easy task in a culture of “choice;” in a society that values a kind of personal dogmatism – whatever I think is true, is “true” FOR ME! This becomes very threatening when those who have a voice can determine what happens to those who do not. Even within the community of believers, we must be careful of the notion of “subjective conscience,” because an ill-formed conscience can give license to destructive tendencies within our lives, and can even cause people to neglect, or take advantage of others – particularly those who are vulnerable. We must teach, and we have a Holy Mother, the Church, from whom we take our lead.

3) Third: It is important that we keep in mind that we are involved with something that has a supernatural dimension. Man, wounded by sin, is subject to temptations: to comfort and convenience, for example, that even allow him to disregard the sanctity and inviolability of human life – and so we must pray. The conversion of hearts takes place under God’s grace. Prayer must be a very big part of our efforts.

4) Fourth: We must find ways to act: We must both, do good and actively seek to eliminate what is evil. We must win hearts through charity; we must do advocacy; we must vote responsibly - to change laws which allow the wholesale destruction of life and disregard its true value. We must do even more than we have already done, to provide alternative paths to persons in desperate situations. I have to be willing to get involved, even if it costs me something, even if it means that I have to sacrifice my convenience, or risk being misunderstood.

So these are the basics: Live my beliefs; teach the truth; pray hard; and be willing to get involved.

Dear friends, I don’t think you will be surprised if I now suggest that these are essentially the same things that you must do! You may be surprised if I say that these are, in some ways, more YOUR responsibilities than they are mine! In some ways, mind you, I believe this is true. At the very least I want to assure you of my conviction that I cannot accomplish the work without you. God wishes to use me and you. Are you willing to do each and every one of these things?

Think first about your passionate beliefs. As we do so, we must make an examination of conscience to see where our beliefs are strongest, and where we still have doubts. Is the life of the unborn child precious, but what about the heinous criminal on death row? – is he of value in God’s eyes? Is he beyond hope of redemption? What about the foreigner? The poor and homeless? It is true that, in some instances, the horror of the injustice may not be as vital; as immediately life threatening; affecting as many lives. It is right to think of the priority of issues, and, for example, every edition of the U.S. Bishops’ document on Faithful Citizenship makes such distinctions. Nonetheless, when we do our examination of conscience, we must ask ourselves if we love each person as a child of God. We must purify our love. We must ask the Holy Spirit to teach us. We want to live and act as people of integrity, of consistency.

You must be teachers. You must explain the truth about human life to your children. Here is where your deep beliefs about the life and dignity of each human person will be most convincing. Teach and learn from those you love most – and then you will be able to go out in conversation with your work associates, or even go out to a broader audience, or to a stranger in need. Write or speak in accord with your God-given abilities.

Pray – Pray a lot. One modern day Saint used to say that when we are trying to change a person’s heart for the good, pray 80% and talk or act 20%. Pray for the conversion of any and every heart you encounter in this work for life. You don’t know who will become, by God’s grace, your greatest ally in the cause of life.

Pray as you begin an effort, large or small. Pray while you work. Invoke your Guardian Angel and the Guardian Angel of those you are encountering. This was a favorite strategy of Pope John XXIII, now “Blessed,” from the time he worked in the Vatican’s Secretary of State as a nuncio.

One of the most powerful prayers we have to push back evil is the rosary, centered as it is on the very mysteries of life conquered by Christ. And, of course, Mary, the Queen of heaven and earth, the Mother of God, the Mother of Life, and our Mother is our most powerful intercessor and ally.

Pray in atonement, in reparation (to repair) the tragedy of abortion and the other sins against life. There is so much hurt and damage that has been done – almost countless crimes against human life, and yet each one is held as a deep wound in the heart of persons, individuals and family members. They need our prayer for healing and we must beg God to forgive and reconcile; to join our sufferings to those of Jesus Christ, so that they can become redemptive rather than cause despair and lasting bitterness. A most powerful prayer for atonement is the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Here we offer to the Father in heaven, the one perfect sacrifice that atones for sins. We unite ourselves with the offering of the saving Body and Blood of Jesus, whose sorrowful passion is the one acceptable offering for our sins.

Don’t forget that if we are to be agents of a supernatural transformation, we must live in Jesus Christ. We must be repentant of our own sins. We must live and act in the State of Sanctifying Grace as a means of holiness and a fortification against the devil. We must use confession frequently and receive Communion worthily or our efforts will be merely human. They will fall short in a battle which is supernatural.

And now you must act. I must act but you, also. I’ll tell you a secret: I cannot do it without you. I am shepherd and I must lead. The Holy Spirit will speak also to you – precisely to act in consonance with the Church, never contrary.

What are the “marks” of the Church? She is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. What we do flows from holiness, it must flow from the apostolic succession to whom was promised a special grace of the Holy Spirit. But then – and this I have said over and over again to thousands of high school students presented to me for Confirmation: You must be apostles! You must be witnesses for Christ in every circumstance and to those you meet each day. I cannot be there when a work associate or school mate is in need. You may be called – indeed you are – to be Jesus Christ at that moment. You will save lives.

I said we must take initiative. Our Lord said to the apostles in the boat after they had fished all night unsuccessfully, “Duc in altum! – Put out into the deep!” Every week I get calls or emails, “Bishop, I think we should do this … Here is a great program I have heard was successful. I think you should start this.” I know Adrienne gets these calls also. Our Office for Respect Life has done so much and I know we will persevere in doing all we can. But I say to you: Take initiative. Make sure, first, that what you do is in accord with the principles of our efforts and the teachings of the Church. Then, check out the proposal with some good level-headed friends. If it reflects on your parish directly, get permission from your pastor. Never act contrary to your pastors, to whom I have entrusted a most solemn responsibility. But then, do little things, and do great things! Act to accomplish some good when and how you can. Don’t be reckless, but be daring! IN the Gospel passage I mentioned, after the miraculous catch of fish, when the nets were full, St. Peter realized what had happened. In humility He begged our Lord to leave him. “I am a sinful man.” Jesus said rather, “Don’t be afraid. You will be catching men!”

In our work we must do much good and – just as important - we must act against what is clearly evil. We must take this responsibility. It is possible to commit sins of omission where there is grave responsibility. The US bishops, for more than thirty years have held a strategic principle that Roe v. Wade must be overturned. Why is this? Because it is a grave evil that has become a fundamental element of law in our country. It must be opposed. We always seek to do it legally, but with the fervor of American freedom, and the fiery insistence born of the Holy Spirit. We must overturn unjust laws. Obviously and with great urgency, we must change a law that exposes human life to the terror of abortion. It seems a long road. Progress is so slow. Through many courageous and hard-fought battles we have put in place – particularly in the States – some small but important limits on abortions: waiting periods, parental notification requirements, use of ultrasounds, alternatives counseling, etc. We have also been able to establish limits on tax dollars used for abortion, and conscience protection for individuals and, for example, for our Catholic Health Care institutions.

Before I go further, it is very important to note: We, the Catholic Church, continue to do MORE than any other private institution – bar none – to support life at every stage. We do more to help the poor, the sick, the hopeless, certainly women in difficult pregnancies and those with young families. We will never stop doing these things. We must not. We will do them out of a conviction about the dignity and value of every human person, and out of a motive of love of Christ. But these things are NOT enough! We have to stop evil where we can. We must defeat or overturn destructive laws. As private citizens, we have to support elected officials who support life and defeat or remove those who boldly declare a pro-choice, anti-life agenda.

Because the efforts to dislodge what is evil are so arduous – we know that evil will not give up without a fight; It shouldn’t surprise us that certain groups – even those under the banner of “Catholic,” have set a different agenda, one that while supporting a public work of assistance to those in need, nonetheless chooses not to address unjust and destructive laws that take their daily toll of thousands of human lives. They seem to tolerate and even support, at times, a program that systematically continues its clearly declared strategy to remove all limits on access to abortion. They say, “Let us forget about Roe v Wade – concede it, because we have not yet been able to defeat it. … Let such evils run their course. We will try to do some good and this will be enough.”

I assure you, evil and selfishness looks for us to drop our guard. The Freedom of Choice act has not been enacted; but piece by piece all its elements are finding their way into our law. The efforts that had been won painstakingly over the last generation – limits on abortion that can be shown, statistically, to reduce the number of abortions in our country by hundreds of thousands per year - are today being nullified. We must do much charity, much work in mercy, and develop more safety nets for those who are in need. But, at the same time, we must work for the change of what is unjust. Our first call is to provide and protect justice – and the primordial human right is life – for those who are most vulnerable, who have no voice of their own. We will act with respect and we will not ever, ever, resort to violence, but we must not cease to work actively against evil, anymore than we would abandon the initiatives of active charity that mark the work of Jesus Christ. You and I must do these things. I am counting on you!

A year or so ago I didn’t know what a “Community organizer” was. I’m still not so sure. But perhaps you must become community organizers, provided that the organic foundation of what you do is of the Holy Spirit; that it is an authentic work of the apostolic Church. Do everything prayerfully, faithfully, peacefully, but with courage and the fire of the Holy Spirit. Work together so that the ONEness of the Church is notable in your efforts. Do the truth in love.

This evening we will spend some time – as I understand – to plan out some of the principles and initiatives that must guide us in the next year. In doing so I am very conscious of a significant transition that is underway in the work in our Diocese. Mrs. Adrienne Doring is soon to give birth and, as you know, she has reluctantly decided to step down as the founding director of our diocesan Respect Life office and apostolate. Adrienne’s was a trial by fire, as she entered this apostolate in the height of the “cloning debate” and the effort against Amendment 2 – a state constitutional amendment that tragically placed unfettered human embryonic stem cell research under the protection of the law. Outcomes aside, Adrienne became known throughout Missouri – and in many parts of our country - as a true dynamo of energy, authentic faith, and powerful witness for life. She has lead us to Washington and helped to set in motion all the initiatives about which I spoke. I talk. She does it! Adrienne has helped to recalibrate the moral compass of our community. Your own untiring efforts are more focused, better organized and more effective because of the faith-filled electricity generated in the heart and soul of our Adrienne Doring. Thanks be to God. Thank you, Adrienne, and God bless you, Greg, and baby Doring, now and always!

Friends, thank you for your prayers and work which so much please God, cause you to grow in holiness, and prosper the defense of life and the promotion of human dignity. May our Blessed Mother assist us to love more deeply every human person as an unrepeatable child of God after the image of Christ.

Back Home and Blogging

Sorry for the past few days of unannounced silence. I've been in Santa Barbara for my brother's wedding.

The weather there was foggy and cold with falling wildfire ash. The ash is typical this time of year, while the fog was a real surprise.

We flew in to San Francisco and stayed with my folks, then drove down for the wedding. I've driven 101 down to Santa Barbara countless times in the past, but this was the first time in about 10 years. The big change is the formerly boring stretch of nothing from about Salinas to San Luis Obispo. Now the whole thing is planted with grapes.

I'm trying out a new blog editor today. So if this or subsequent posts are strange-looking, that's the reason.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cardinal Rigali Tells Congress Health Bill 'Unacceptable' Without Changes

Cardinal Rigali uses the strongest language yet opposing the current provision of abortion in HR 3200. As amended by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Cardinal Rigali said the bill gives "the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to make unlimited abortion a mandated benefit." Today, that would be Kathleen Sebelius, probably the most extreme protector of abortion in the country. In a letter to House Members today, Cardinal Rigali re-iterated the Church's call for health care reform "that will truly serve the poor and needy and uphold the dignity of all." (emphases original:
August 11, 2009

Dear Representative:

As you continue deliberations on the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act” (H.R. 3200), I urge you to consider the overall priorities and concerns presented by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Bishop William Murphy’s July 17 letter to Congress ( The bishops’ conference views health care as a basic right belonging to all human beings. We therefore have long supported health care reform that respects human life and dignity from conception to natural death; provides access to quality health care for all, with a special concern for immigrants and the poor; preserves pluralism, with respect for rights of conscience; and restrains costs while sharing them equitably.

As this debate continues we will share our perspectives on positive and negative features in this and other health care reform legislation. In this letter I am writing specifically about our fundamental requirement that such legislation respect human life and rights of conscience in the context of abortion. Much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an “abortion rights” agenda or reversing longstanding policies against federal funding and mandated coverage of abortion. In this sense we urge you to make this legislation “abortion neutral,” by preserving longstanding federal policies that prevent government promotion of abortion and respect conscience rights.

As amended by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 31, H.R. 3200 addresses two aspects of the abortion issue: The Act will not preempt certain state laws regulating abortion, and will have no effect on existing federal conscience rights on abortion. These changes are helpful improvements. Especially welcome is the committee’s approval of the Stupak/Pitts amendment, prohibiting governmental bodies that receive federal funds under this Act from discriminating against providers and insurers who decline involvement in abortion. The bishops’ conference had urged approval of this amendment, which applies the policy of the Weldon amendment (approved by Congress every year since 2004 as part of the Labor/HHS appropriations bill) to the health care reform bill.

On two other fundamental issues, however, the Act remains seriously deficient:

1. The legislation delegates to the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to make unlimited abortion a mandated benefit in the “public health insurance plan” the government will manage nationwide. This would be a radical change: Federal law has long excluded most abortions from federal employees’ health benefits packages, and no federal health program mandates coverage of elective abortions.

2. Because some federal funds are authorized and appropriated by this legislation without passing through the Labor/HHS appropriations bill, they are not covered by the Hyde 2 amendment and other federal provisions that have long prevented federal funding of abortion and of health benefits packages that include abortion. The committee rejected an amendment to extend this longstanding policy to the use of federal subsidies for health care premiums under this Act. Instead the committee created a legal fiction, a paper separation between federal funding and abortion: Federal funds will subsidize the public plan, as well as private health plans that include abortion on demand; but anyone who purchases these plans is required to pay a premium out of his or her own pocket (specified in the Act to be at least $1.00 a month) to cover all abortions beyond those eligible for federal funds under the current Hyde amendment. Thus some will claim that federal taxpayer funds do not support abortion under the Act.

But this is an illusion. Funds paid into these plans are fungible, and federal taxpayer funds will subsidize the operating budget and provider networks that expand access to abortions. Furthermore, those constrained by economic necessity or other factors to purchase the “public plan” will be forced by the federal government to pay directly and specifically for abortion coverage. This is the opposite of the policy in every other federal health program. Government will force low-income Americans to subsidize abortions for others (and abortion coverage for themselves) even if they find abortion morally abhorrent.

Please consider the broader context. No federal program mandates coverage for elective abortions, or subsidizes health plans that include such abortions. Most Americans do not want abortion in their health coverage, and most consider themselves “pro-life,” with a stronger majority among low-income Americans. About 80 percent of all hospitals do not generally provide abortions, and 85 percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider. By what right, then, and by what precedent, would Congress make abortion coverage into a nationwide norm, or force Americans to subsidize it as a condition for participating in a public health program?

As long-time supporters of genuine health care reform, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is working to ensure that needed health reform is not undermined by abandoning longstanding and widely supported policies against abortion funding and mandates and in favor of conscience protection.

I urge you to help ensure that any legislation that comes up for a vote in the full House does not include these unacceptable features. Please support amendments to correct them, and oppose any rule for consideration of H.R. 3200 that would block such amendments. By your actions on these issues, you can advance urgently needed health care reform that will truly serve the poor and needy and uphold the dignity of all.

Cardinal Justin Rigali
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Chairman USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities

KofC and SBA List on Death of Eunice Kennedy Shriver

The Knights of Columbus and the Susan B. Anthony List have both made statements on the death of pro-life champion Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Shriver was also a supporter of Democrats for Life of America and for her work with Special Olympics, she became the only woman to appear on a U.S. coin while alive.

From the Knights:
(NEW HAVEN, CT) — The Supreme Knight of the 1.78 million member Knights of Columbus, Carl A. Anderson, today issued the following statement on the death of Eunice Kennedy Shriver:

"Knights of Columbus everywhere mourn the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. While she made many contributions to society throughout her life, her greatest legacy is the creation of Special Olympics. Our involvement in, and support of, Special Olympics began 40 years ago, on the day that she and her husband, our brother Knight Sargent Shriver, held the first Special Olympics games in Chicago.

"Her personal dedication to transforming society's view of people with intellectual disabilities inspired generations of Knights and their families to volunteer millions of hours of their time to this unique approach to affirming the fundamental human dignity of every person.

"Her approach to this and all of the causes that she pursued was distinctively Catholic, and the depth of her faith, which she shared with her husband throughout their lives together, has been an inspiration to every Knight. We express our heartfelt condolences to Sargent Shriver and the entire Shriver family."

And from the Susan B. Anthony List:

Susan B. Anthony List President Praises
Pro-Life Leadership of Eunice Kennedy Shriver

"She was consistent in her championing of every vulnerable human life.”

Washington, D.C. Former Susan B. Anthony List Advisory Committee Member Eunice Kennedy Shriver died today at the age of 88 at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Massachusetts, surrounded by her family. Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a sister of President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, and mother of Maria Shriver, the first lady of California. She founded the Special Olympics in 1968.

“No one more than Eunice Kennedy Shriver understood better the power held by the most vulnerable in our society,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “She fought for those hidden in the shadows of life, while acknowledging that they teach us far more than we could ever offer them. She was consistent in her championing of every vulnerable human life.”

On July 14, 1992, Eunice and Sargent Shriver joined Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey (D-PA) and many other influential pro-life leaders in signing a full-page ad in the New York Times protesting the Democratic Party’s embrace of the abortion-rights agenda. The ad, titled The New American Compact, called for support of policies that embrace both mother and child. The ad concluded with the following statement:

We can choose to reaffirm our respect for human life. We can choose to extend once again the mantle of protection to all members of the human family, including the unborn. We can choose to provide effective care of mothers and children.

And if we make those choices, America will experience a new birth of freedom, bringing with it a renewed spirit of community, compassion, and caring.

“Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s heart for the most vulnerable among us will be deeply missed,” said Jane Abraham, General Chairman of the Susan B. Anthony List. “She fought for the dignity inherent in every human life, born and unborn. Her legacy will serve as a life-affirming example to young women everywhere, and for that we are so blessed.”

Eunice Kennedy Shriver was an early supporter of the Susan B. Anthony List and its mission to advance, mobilize and represent pro-life women in the political process. She and her husband, Sargent Shriver, also lent their time and talents to the efforts and activities of Democrats for Life of America and Feminists for Life.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Prominent Catholic Sister Endorses Planned Parenthood Bailout Bill

Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have had a hard time selling their "Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act (HR 3312)" as a "common ground" approach to reducing abortion. That's because they haven't found any prominent pro-life leaders to join NARAL and Planned Parenthood in supporting the bill. They've had to resort to calling Ryan "pro-life", when in fact, he has the same National Right to Life score as Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) - ZERO.

In fact, Catholic leaders have condemned the bill. The USCCB Pro-Life Office called HR 3312, the "Planned Parenthood Economic Stimulus Package of 2009."

Youngstown Bishop George Murry, SJ said of the bill:
“This act is based on the mistaken belief that greater access to contraception reduces abortions and, in addition, some contraceptives may have an abortifacient effect. Numerous studies as well as life experiences have shown that taxpayer support of contraception does not reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions. For example, a 2006 study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute presents evidence that those States which are aggressive in promoting contraception also have the highest abortion rates.”

And we've reported here that the Ryan-DeLauro Bill actually undermines the USCCB endorsed Pregnant Women Support Act - a solid effort by pro-life Democrats to support pregnant women and their families, instead of funding abortion providers.

But if the purveyors of the Culture of Death need an official-sounding Catholic counter-witness to the bishops, someone is sure to step up to the plate. And the list includes a some names familiar to readers of this blog. From a CNS report at The Catholic Review of Baltimore (links are mine):
Among the groups or individuals with Catholic ties who expressed support for the legislation were the National Coalition of American Nuns; the national Catholic social justice lobbying group Network; Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; Lisa Sowle Cahill, a theology professor at Boston College who is a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America; and Charles C. Camosy, an assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University in New York and coordinator of the university’s Curran Center for American Catholic Studies Conversation Project. . .

. . .“This legislation gives me hope that we can finally begin to move beyond using pregnancy as a political wedge issue and to focus instead on providing women and families with the resources they need for healthy pregnancies and babies,” said Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service who is executive director of Network. “It is time to work together to eliminate political posturing on this issue.”

That's the same Simone Campbell who a couple of weeks ago was urging Congress to pass a health bill NOW instead of getting bogged down by "insignificant details".

Friday, August 7, 2009

At Lourdes - 'God didn't heal Julie's heart, He opened it'

The Kansas City Star ran a really beautiful story on the front page today about a local 12-year old Catholic school girl, excerpts:
. . . family game night. They were playing “Life” when Julie, nauseated, went to her room to lie down. Her family heard a thump, then Julie tumbled down the stairs. They rushed her to the hospital.

Doctors listened to her heart, checked lab results, asked questions. They told her parents the news: Their daughter’s heart and lungs were shutting down. They couldn’t be fixed. She had maybe two weeks.

Doctors discover they can slow the disease a bit but can't cure it. Julie's school mates at St. Agnes in Roeland Park, KS raise $12,000 to send the whole family to Lourdes.
In May they went to Lourdes. Pam Garcia hadn’t expected an instant healing for Julie. But she was overjoyed when they returned. Julie seemed a little better.

She no longer needed her oxygen tank or the wheelchair, and the doctors took her off several medicines.

“God didn’t heal Julie’s heart,” her mother said. “He opened it.”

How so? Julie later got the chance for a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She initially wanted to visit Arnold Schwarzenegger, who the Star reports, was too busy.

So she asked Make-A-Wish for something no child had yet asked them. Go here to find out what.

Kudos to the Star for a great story.

USCCB Prolife Chief Draws 'Lines in the Sand' on Healthcare

The Executive Director of the USCCB Prolife Office today demands explicit exclusion of abortion from any health care reform proposals. He makes the very good point that Medicaid had funded 300,000 abortions a year at a time when "abortion" was not even mentioned in the Medicaid statute. It took the Hyde Amendment to stop abortion in Medicaid.

Explicit language forbidding abortion coverage in the healthcare bill is required if the USCCB is going to support it.

The USCCB has been the top advocate for healthcare reform for decades, but they are prevented from supporting the current proposals because coastal Congressmen like Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are more committed to expanding abortion than expanding healthcare.

Now is the time to be calling our representatives to demand a healthcare bill that expands access for the uninsured. That's the goal. Expanding healthcare should not be a vehicle for funding liberal, coastal social experiments in death.

Here's the column from the USCCB:
Lines in the Sand

By Tom Grenchik

As members of Congress head home for their August recess, we now have a better picture of where everyone stands on health care reform. While the U.S. bishops support genuine health care reform, there is a clear line in the sand between our bishops and some congressional leaders.

On July 17, Bishop William Murphy, Chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, wrote to Congress saying: “The USCCB looks forward to working with you to reform health care successfully in a manner that offers accessible, affordable and quality health care that protects and respects the life and dignity of all people from conception until natural death.” Then Bishop Murphy drew a line, declaring that “no health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion.”

Some seemed surprised at this, since abortion was not specifically mentioned in draft health care bills until recently. Those with longer memories may recall that the Medicaid statute doesn’t mention abortion either, but it was funding 300,000 abortions a year in the 1970s until we put a stop to that with the Hyde amendment. In any case, numerous amendments to keep abortion out of health care reform have been defeated in committee, and it is now apparent that some leaders have every intention of threatening the health care reform process by forcing Americans to accept abortion mandates and/or fund unlimited abortion in their health coverage.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, followed up with a July 29 letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, declaring that “much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding current policies against federal abortion mandates and funding.” The Cardinal urged Committee members to preserve longstanding federal policies that prevent government promotion of abortion and respect conscience rights.

But Bishop Murphy and Cardinal Rigali are not the only ones drawing lines. Millions upon millions of American Catholics are with them. Earlier this year, dioceses across the country broke all previous records by ordering more than 34 million postcards so their parishioners could urge Congress to “retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion.” Now that members of Congress are heading home, they need to be reminded of this message at the local level, in the context of health care reform.

As Congress takes its vacation, various proposals have been left behind. These proposals need to be examined to see how well they provide accessible, affordable and quality health care and how they impact immigrants and the poor. But one thing is certain. The bills approved so far by House and Senate committees include mandated abortion coverage and abortion funding, and that is a line we can never cross.

Now is the time to take action. Contact congressional members through e-mail, phone calls or FAX letters. E-mails can be sent by visiting and clicking on the Health Care Reform Action Alert. You can also call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, attend town hall meetings in your local district, or call the local offices of your representative and senators. Full contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at and

The message is simple: “Support genuine health care reform that respects the life and dignity of all. A fair and just health care reform bill must exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and uphold longstanding laws that restrict abortion funding and protect conscience rights.”

Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to to learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

KofC Resolved - No Abortion in Healthcare, No Platform for Pro-choicers

Resolved today by the Knights of Columbus meeting in Arizona, my emphases:

WHEREAS, during an audience with the Supreme Board of Directors in October 2008, Pope Benedict XVI personally appealed to the Knights of Columbus to “defend the moral truths necessary for a free and humane society, including the fundamental right to life of every human being;” and

WHEREAS, that fundamental right to life is under attack throughout the world in rich and poor countries alike; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Congress is now considering health care legislation that would accomplish by stealth many of the aims of the so-called Freedom of Choice Act, including federal funding of abortions for the first time since adoption of the Hyde Amendment in 1976; and

WHEREAS, a Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll conducted in May 2009 shows that 86 percent of the American people favor placing restrictions on abortion; and

WHEREAS, the Canadian Parliament will soon consider a measure to legalize assisted suicide; and

WHEREAS, international governmental and non-governmental agencies are attempting to force countries like Mexico, Poland and the Philippines to permit abortion on demand; and

WHEREAS, many other means of attacking and devaluing human dignity, including assisted suicide, euthanasia, and embryonic stem-cell research are becoming more widespread;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Knights of Columbus reaffirms its commitment to unconditional support for the right to life and full protection in law for every human being from conception to natural death; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly oppose any effort to repeal the Hyde Amendment and other restrictions on taxpayer funding for abortions in the United States, and oppose any health care reform legislation that does not explicitly exclude abortion coverage for any health insurance plan, public or private; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call upon legislators everywhere to adopt legislation protecting the religious conscience rights of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, guaranteeing their right to refuse to participate in abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide or any other practice that is destructive of innocent human life or that conflicts with their sincerely-held religious beliefs; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we reaffirm our long-standing policy of not inviting to any Knights of Columbus event, persons, especially public officials or candidates for public office, who do not support the protection of unborn children against abortion or who advocate the legalization of assisted suicide, euthanasia and other violations of the right to life, and of not allowing such persons to rent or otherwise use facilities over which we have control, and of not bestowing on them honors or privileges of our Order of any kind, inviting them to serve as honorary chairpersons of events, celebrations or committees, speak at Knights of Columbus events, or hold any office in the Knights of Columbus.

Sr. Carol Keehan - Catholic Health's $856,093 Nun

Since the election and during the buildup toward health care reform, Sister Carol Keehan and the Catholic Health Association she leads have come up for sharp criticism from prolife advocates. For her public support of the president's pro-abortion appointees to her campaign to enact health care reform now, she is accused of being at odds with the USCCB and the prolife cause, both of which have serious reservations about current health care proposals.

Part of this uproar is due to confusion over the nature of the Catholic Health Association and Sister Carol's role.

CHA is not a repository of Catholic social teaching with regard to health care or an association of moral theologians or a charity in service of the poor. It is a trade association. There is nothing wrong with a trade association, but too many reporters, including members of the Catholic press, have sought comment from CHA without recognizing they are primarily an organization with a vested financial interest in the outcome of the health care debate.

CHA does not represent patients or the poor. Their board is composed of, and Sister Carol represents, the very highly compensated chief executives of large health care conglomerates throughout the country. Lay-led corporations such as San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West and St. Louis-based Ascension Health run dozens of hospitals across numerous states which at one time were directly operated by religious orders.

The executives at these companies are compensated as you'd expect the heads of large corporations to be compensated. In the last year figures are available, the head of Ascension Health made $1,756,790 plus $599,744 in deferred compensation and benefits. Catholic Health East's top exec made $1,185,000 plus $693,000 in deferred compensation and benefits. Both execs are on the board of CHA, where they are joined by numerous execs from similar health systems.

But the biggest fish is Lloyd Dean, former Chair and current Speaker of Membership Assembly on the Board of Trustees at CHA. Dean is head of Catholic Healthcare West with 41 hospitals and clinics in California, Nevada and Arizona.

In 2006, the last year figures are available, Dean made $4,001,892 and the Chronicle of Philanthropy named him the second highest paid non-profit executive in the United States. Dean's compensation, according the the Chronicle of Philanthropy, is based in part on "improvements in the organization's finances". As well it should be. Dean also has made gobs in his position on other boards, including Wells Fargo & Co. Dean is non-Catholic and a donor to both the DNC and the Obama campaign.

This is not to begrudge these executives their salaries. It is only to point out that it is their interest that Sister Carol serves. And she serves them very much as a peer.

Sister Carol is a former longtime health executive herself, and her compensation at Catholic Health Association is $856,093. This in an organization whose expenses are only $17,660,797. Three other employees at CHA each make more than $300,000.

You can compare that compensation with the total program expenses and top executive pay at other national non-profits:

World Vision Intl.
Expenses $1,497,032,856
Top Exec. $281,316

Food for the Poor
Expenses $1,037,301,081
Top Exec. $301,200

American Medical Association
Expenses $234,654,866
Top Exec. $696,521

American Bar Association
Expenses $171,780,689
Top Exec. $791,472

Catholic Health Association
Expenses $17,660,797
Top Exec. $856,093

Sister Carol does not keep her salary. It goes to her order. It's noted here to demonstrate that her compensation at CHA is much more in line with a trade association lobbyist than the head of a charity.

Reporters and news consumers should keep that in mind when soliciting CHA for comment on health care reform. Moral concerns are not their bottom line. The bottom line is.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cardinal Levada - 'We Do Not Build Heaven On Earth'

There has been much coverage of Cardinal William J. Levada's homily at the ongoing Knights of Columbus Convention in Arizona. Much of it, I think, has missed the most controversial phrase in his talk, which is the title of this post.

On a very obvious level, this statement stands opposed to the Catholic left's 70s utopian vision of "church" immanentizing the eschaton. But in my old boss from San Francisco's language, it also stands against market ideologues and American exceptionalists on the Catholic right.

Sadly, too many American Catholics find themselves located in these two very American, but not terribly Catholic camps. Here are his relevant comments, my emphases:
Although we sometimes sing about building the City of God, in fact our task is more modest: we do not build heaven on earth, we simply prepare the site to welcome the new Jerusalem which comes from God.

This is an important lesson for us Americans. Our nation has been blessed with many gifts and resources, and at times that abundance can blind people to our utter dependence on God, and the need to seek to do his will. We Knights of Columbus are dedicated to fostering both faith and patriotism in your members; and you experience the tensions when our religious ideals come into conflict with a society that is becoming increasingly secular. The Christ who lives in us is truly “a light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel”, but he is also “a sign that will be contradicted”. (Lk 2:32, 34) Like Mary, we too will be pierced by that sword of opposition if we are faithful to Christ. That is the cost of discipleship. As American Catholics, we can and we should work with all people of good will, regardless of their religious beliefs, to improve the lot of others. But we must also bear witness to our conviction that the American “city set on a hill”, no matter how remarkable its scientific accomplishments or technological advances, will always be a barren patch of earth without the life-giving refreshment of the word of God.
You can read his full homily here. We'll have other snippets from the K of C convention later. Here though is one fun bit from Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted:

In AD 1880, Arizona got connected to the rest of the world. The first telephones were installed that year, and on March 20, 1880, the Southern Pacific Railroad reached Tucson. It was a momentous occasion. The Mayor of the town, the Honorable R.N. Leatherwood, was so thrilled that he sent telegrams to the President of the United States and other dignitaries. He even sent a telegram to the Holy Father in Rome. The text of the telegram read as follows:

“The mayor of Tucson begs your honor of reminding your Holiness that this ancient and honorable pueblo was founded by the Spaniards under the sanctions of the Church more than three centuries ago, and to inform Your Holiness that a railroad from San Francisco, California, now connects us with the entire Christian world.
R.N. Leatherwood, Mayor”

We don’t know if the pope ever got the Mayor’s message. However, some pranksters of the town, learning of the telegram to the pope, crafted a reply of their own, forged the signature of His Holiness, and sent it to the Mayor. It read as follows: “His Holiness the Pope acknowledges with appreciation receipt of your telegram informing him that the ancient City of Tucson at last has been connected by rail with the outside world, and sends his benediction, but for his own satisfaction would ask—where in hell is Tucson?”