Wednesday, June 30, 2010

'WE have a Father. We must never forget it.'

I was going to save this for the Bishop’s column in the paper, but since most of the readers here don’t live anywhere near Kansas City and don’t get the paper, I’m sharing it now. This reflection on the life and message of St. Josemaria Escriva by Bishop Finn is quite inspiring. Even if you are devotee of the Dan Brown version of Opus Dei or think you don’t care for the movement, you’ll benefit from this reflection:

Homily for Mass of St. Josemaria Escriva
June 26, 2010 – Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

josemaria Dear Friends,

Once again we come together in praise and thanks to God on this Feast of St. Josemaria Escriva, to thank God for the prayers and example of this simple priest – a man of our own time, who nonetheless is a saint for all ages.

I know that one of the primary things that has attracted me to St. Josemaria is his humble devotion, his fidelity to the Church at a time when there was much upheaval, and his simple plan to help us see all of our most everyday tasks and efforts, our daily work, as a path to holiness.

You know so well, you who have read the Way, the Furrow, the Forge, that these little bits of sage wisdom – always consonant with the Gospel, represent a thousand little ways to holiness in the midst of the world. St. Josemaria, as a young priest, prayed fervently, “ut videam!,” Lord, that I may see! And he was given such a profound God’s-eye view of the way that ordinary men and women, lay faithful, family men and women, and diocesan priests as well, could be holy in accord with God’s plan: not by leaving the world but precisely by living close to God in the world – and offering all that happens, and all they do as a gift to God for the end of sanctification.

The unique insight of our saint was that he knew quickly and with a supernatural resolution that all were called to holiness. We need not go to a monastery – though some may indeed be called by God to go there. We need not become ordained, though we ought not resist if God calls us to the clerical state. We can reach heaven surely and safely by being contemplatives in the middle of the world. This is so important because, in fact it is the vocation of probably 95% of humanity!

Yes, understandably we give a lot of prayer and attention to the vocations of priesthood and consecrated life. Please don’t stop praying for these vocations. But what is God’s plan for the spiritual transformation of the world? It is for all of us to live a way, a path, a ‘plan of life’ which constantly reminds us of God’s presence, steeps us in prayer, many small mortifications and loving sacrifices, interior conversion, sound direction, growth in virtue, life of the Sacraments, good reading of Sacred Scripture and other holy books.

Emblematic of the simplicity and depth of St. Josemaria’s vision for holiness is the truth that God is our Father. You recall perhaps the story of St. Josemaria, traveling on the streetcar after a long day with many challenges,

“In mid-October, 1931, while in a streetcar ‘I felt the action of God, bringing forth in my heart and on my lips, with the force of something imperatively necessary, this tender invocation: Abba! Pater! (‘Abba! Father!’). Probably I made that prayer out loud. And I walked the streets of Madrid for maybe an hour, maybe two, I can’t say; time passed without my being aware of it. People must have thought I was crazy. I was contemplating, with lights that were not mine, that amazing truth. It was like a lighted coal burning in my soul, never to be extinguished.’”

Dear friends, Jesus, of course, gave this to the world. One of His greatest revelations was that He has a Father, and that we can call Him “Our Father.” But in this moment the power of this light struck the Founder, and He could never be the same. But this truth is not for a few. It is for all the sons and daughters. It is for you and me. WE have a Father. We must never forget it. We must, again and again, surrender ourselves onto His lap, into His arms.

One of the virtues that St. Josemaria talks about frequently is “naturalness.” It is not exactly in St. Thomas Aquinas’ list of virtues, but it is a combination of humility and joy, detachment and generosity. We should live and work within the world, not thinking it evil, but desiring to make it holy. We don’t want or need any extravagant things, but always beautiful and well-ordered. We don’t cultivate any idiosyncrasies. We don’t want to appear odd or flamboyant. We are just quietly at home in doing our work, in caring for others’ needs, in reaching out in apostolate, in being cheerful and not giving in to self-pity or sadness.

Think about how you can grow in this virtue of naturalness so that God can use you without drawing any attention to yourself. In our holiness we must have zeal and piety, but never in such a way that we want to draw attention to our self. We are, as St. Josemaria said, Like God’s donkey, quietly pulling the load and doing the work.

Pope Benedict has used this same image in the bear tamed by St. Corbinian. An ancient tradition tells that the first Bishop of Freising, St Corbinian (died in 730), set out for Rome on horseback. While riding through a forest he was attacked by a bear that tore his horse to pieces. Corbinian not only managed to tame the animal but also to make it carry his baggage to Rome. Bishop Joseph Ratzinger placed this image on his coat of arms, saying he himself was that bear. The pack saddle is the burden of his Episcopate. You and I must be willing to carry the load for love of God and love of the Church. We are God’s pack animals, his donkey, St. Corbinian’s bear.

Our gathering for Holy Mass this morning is a joyful praise to God for a Godly man who taught so many everyday folks a way to work for God. His name “Josemaria” makes us think of the Holy Family, Joseph and Mary, who, in obedience to God’s plan, made a home for the Savior of the world. With the prayers of Mary and Joseph and of our patron St. Josemaria Escriva, may we persevere in whatever God asks of us. Let us renew our joy in doing always the Work of God.

St. Josemaria, pray for us!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Elena Kagan is thoroughly Totalitarian

I know it's the ultimate redundancy to post something that's already flashed on the front of Drudge, BUT, this cannot be spread far enough. I've been ignoring the SCOTUS nomination because I figure she's gonna get the go ahead no matter what. And even if she doesn't, the president will appoint another pro-abort activist who thinks most power under the Sun is reserved to the federal government.

But with this nominee, Obama has put forward a totalitarian who thinks even the power to decide your dinner menu is absolutely Uncle Sam's. Please watch and urge your senator to reject Elena Kagan:

Bishops Urge Senate to Remove Abortion Amendment from Defense Bill

This just in from the USCCB. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has written members of the Senate urging them not to pass the National Defense Authorization Act unless a committee amendment authorizing elective abortions at military hospitals is removed. Cardinal DiNardo wrote the Senate on behalf of the USCCB in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities. The full text of his letter follows, emphases original:

June 29, 2010

Dear Senator:

When the full Senate takes up the National Defense Authorization Act for 2011 (S. 3454), it should remove from the bill a misguided committee amendment to 10 U.S.C. §1093 that authorizes the performance of elective abortions at military hospitals in this country and around the world.

Archbishop Broglio of the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services wrote to all Senators on June 17, urging Congress not to impose this tremendous burden on the consciences of Catholic and other health care personnel who joined our armed services to save and protect innocent life, not to destroy it. On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops I wholeheartedly endorse his plea, and want to offer some additional considerations in terms of longstanding government policy on abortion.

First, the committee amendment is titled a “restoration of previous policy” on use of military facilities for abortion. But in fact, the Department of Defense has barred use of these facilities for elective abortions since 1988. President Clinton reversed the policy in January 1993, but in 1995 Congress voted to restore the ban, and it has remained intact for the last 15 years. During the brief period when these facilities were told to make abortions available, scarcely any military physician could be found in overseas facilities who was willing to perform abortions. Proposals for hiring private physicians from outside the system, or for taking a more coercive attitude toward military physicians and nurses, were never implemented because Congress acted in a timely way to restore the morally sound policy.

Second, pro-abortion groups claim that the longstanding current policy somehow treats military personnel differently from other Americans. On the contrary: Other federal health facilities also may not be used for elective abortions, and many states have their own laws against use of public facilities for such abortions. The vast majority of public and private hospitals in the United States do not provide elective abortions, and 88% of U.S. counties (97% of non-metropolitan counties) have no identifiable abortion provider.

Third, and most disingenuously, the claim is made that the committee amendment is somehow a moderate policy, because Sec. 1093’s ban on use of federal funds for the abortion procedure will remain in place – that is, patients will have to pay the facility to perform the abortion. But this is disingenuous, to say the least. Which is a more direct governmental involvement in abortion: That the government reimburses someone else for having done an abortion, or that the government performs the abortion itself and accepts payment for doing so? In fact, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld bans on use of government facilities and personnel for abortions, on the same basis as it upholds laws against government funding of abortion. In one such decision, citing a consistent line of decisions going back to 1977, the Court memorably observed that “the State need not commit any resources to facilitating abortions, even if it can turn a profit by doing so.” Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490, 511 (1989).

In short, this amendment presents Congress with the very straightforward question whether it is the task of our federal government to directly promote and facilitate elective abortions. During the recent health care reform debate, the President and congressional leadership assured us that they agree it is not. The Senate should not approve this legislation until the original version of 10 U.S.C. §1093 is restored, maintaining the longstanding current policy on abortion as the House version of this legislation has already done.

Sincerely,

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Missouri Bishops on Federal Healthcare Insurance Mandate and H.R. 5111

In early May, the Missouri Legislature voted overwhelmingly to place a proposition on the State ballot which would reject the insurance mandates passed under the federal healthcare reform bill. The bishops of Missouri have issued a joint statement explaining their neutral stance on the measure and encouraging voters to “exercise their best prudential judgment as they vote on this issue in August.”

Further, the bishops of Missouri join the USCCB in encouraging support for H.R. 5111, the Protect Life Act, sponsored by Congressman Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania. Following is the bishops’ statement:

Joint Statement Concerning Proposition C Addressing the
Federal Healthcare Insurance Mandate

On August 3, 2010, Missouri voters will be the first in the nation to express their opinion about a provision in the new federal healthcare reform law that requires individuals to purchase healthcare insurance or pay a penalty. As passed by the Missouri General Assembly, the statute would state in part that: “no law or rule shall compel any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.”[1] On the ballot the proposal will be known as Proposition C.

The Catholic Church in the United States has actively provided health care through its various agencies for the rich and poor alike since the early days of this great nation, and has consistently advocated for access to health care for all citizens and immigrants. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), however, opposed the federal healthcare reform bill in the form passed by Congress, because of its failure to honor existing restrictions on federal funding of abortion and failure to assure protection of the conscience rights of healthcare providers and individuals.

We believe Catholics can differ on whether a federal healthcare insurance mandate is an appropriate means to ensure access to health care for all. We think that the insurance mandate in the new law is flawed, because it fails to respect the right of conscience of individuals to refuse to purchase insurance, if that insurance covers abortion or other unethical medical practices. From that standpoint, we oppose the federal insurance mandate in its current form.

We recognize, however, that Proposition C will not bar federal funding of abortions or address the shortcomings in President Obama’s Executive Order. If the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate is upheld in court, Proposition C will have no lasting legal effect, and Missouri citizens will be required to purchase healthcare insurance. For this reason, we are taking a position of neutrality on Proposition C.

In order to address the pro-life and conscience flaws in the federal healthcare law, additional Congressional action is needed. New federal legislation, H.R. 5111, has recently been filed in Washington to prohibit federal support or funding of abortion. We call on all Missouri Catholics to contact their Congressperson and U.S. Senators and urge support for H.R. 5111.

Some Catholics may view Proposition C as the best means to address the pro-life and conscience concerns in the federal healthcare reform law while other Catholics may conclude the only effective remedy is Congressional action to amend the federal law. We encourage Missouri Catholics to prayerfully consider Proposition C, follow a properly formed conscience, and exercise their best prudential judgment as they vote on this issue in August.


[1] The official ballot language, as prepared by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, reads as follows:

Shall the Missouri Statutes be amended to:

· Deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe upon the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful healthcare services?

· Modify laws regarding the liquidation of certain domestic insurance companies?

CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF MISSOURI

Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson
Executive Chairman
Archbishop of St. Louis

Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Vice Chairman
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Most Reverend John R. Gaydos
General Chairman
Bishop of Jefferson City

Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr.
Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau

Most Reverend Robert J. Hermann
Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Behind Kansas City's Caravaggio

A lot of coasters are unaware of the cultural treasures which exist in flyover country. A coaster myself, I was quite surprised when I moved here three years ago to find Caravaggio’s “St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness” hanging in Kansas City’s free and excellent Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Our Bishop Emeritus Raymond Boland is quite a scholar of history and recently made an address to the Knights and Dames of Malta on the subject of Caravaggio. “St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness” has surprising significance for the Order of Malta. The Baptist is their patron, Caravaggio was for a short time a member of the Order, and as Bishop Boland explains, the order used to own the painting. I’ve uploaded his full talk and footnotes as a GoogleDoc. Below are excerpts pertaining to the provenance of Kansas City’s Caravaggio:

One of his masterworks currently in Rome is Caravaggio’s “St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness,” now one of the prized pieces of our own Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I have brought along a poster of the painting for you to look at but, of course, no print or poster does justice to the original. And because of who you are, Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta, I want to give you one more good reason why you should be fully acquainted with this significant work of art which depicts the patron of the Order, St. John the Baptist.

Let me explain. I am going to tell you the story, the word most commonly used is “the provenance,” of this painting which, I believe, most of you will find surprising. Accordingly, much as I would like to, I do not have the time to regale you with descriptions of his colorful life and his magnificent body of work all accomplished during his short life of 39 years. If you are interested in knowing more about this artist and his work, then I must refer you to the many books, including biographies, which have been written about him in recent times and, in addition, the anniversary of his death this year has occasioned a whole plethora of fascinating articles.…

Let me return to our “John the Baptist.” After the Reformation and rallied by the Council of Trent, a deeply-wounded Catholic Church struggled to regain its stature in Europe. There were many changes and one of them was in the field of artistic expression and this trend was quite noticeable in the realm of religious art. The conventions of Mannerism were out and Caravaggo, more so than many others of his time, developed a naturalistic style which placed religious events in the contemporary world along with a hitherto unknown interplay of light and shadows. Religious paintings would never be the same again and Caravaggio, after being ignored for decades, is now credited with being one of the most creative and successful proponents of this revolutionary change.

In 1604 Ottavio Costa, the richest banker in Rome, commissioned Caravaggio to do a “John the Baptist” as an altarpiece for the tiny parish church in his home town of Coscente in northern Italy not far from the large port city of Genoa. The family was in the process of building a new and larger parish church and the older building was being relegated to the status of an oratory or chapel. The subject was chosen because the tiny chapel was the home of and was supported by a lay confraternity dedicated to St. John the Baptist. One of their charities was the provision of Christian funerals for the deceased poor whose families could not afford them, an apostolate which gave practical meaning to one of the corporal works of mercy. Some have maintained that the somber appearance of the painting was appropriate for funeral rites which, especially at that time when cholera was so prevalent, were far more somber in nature than may be the case today in our personal experience.

When Costa saw the painting, he decided to keep it himself.† To fulfill his promise, however, he commissioned some unknown artist to make a copy and the latter went to Coscente. The original by Caravaggio was now family property and when Costa died in 1639 his will stipulated that the painting should remain in the family in perpetuity. This provision lasted for a number of generations until it came into the possession of a descendant who happened to be a member of the Order of Malta. At that time membership demanded that, upon death, all possessions became the property of the Order. Some family members sued and the court case dragged on for many years until finally in 1705, the Church’s highest court, the Rota, ruled in favor of the Knights. The painting was shipped to the headquarters of the Order, then on the island of Malta.

Strangely enough, this was almost 100 years after Caravaggio himself spent some time in Malta. I would like to say that he was on vacation but that was not the case! Shortly after finishing his “John the Baptist,” true to form and ever the rabble-rouser, Caravaggio got involved in a street brawl in which a participant was killed. Fingers were pointed at Caravaggio and, whether guilty or not, he fled to Naples, a jurisdiction beyond the laws of the Papal States. He spent the last four years of his life “on the run” but not unemployed. After Naples he arrived in Malta in July, 1607 where he did two portraits of the Order’s Grand Master, Alof de Wignacourt, and, in recompense, he was received into the Order in 1608. He also completed his largest and only signed painting, the “Beheading of John the Baptist,” still to be admired today in the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Valetta, the island’s capital. Caravaggio couldn’t keep out of trouble; another street brawl, jail time, an escape from custody, an alleged physical attack on a fellow knight all resulted in his expulsion from the Order and he upped and fled to Sicily, staying on the move from Syracuse to Messina and then Palermo. You may recall that some years ago it was reported in the press that his famous altarpiece entitled, “The Adoration of the Shepherds with St. Lawrence and St. Francis” was stolen from the Oratory of St. Lawrence in Palermo and, to the best of my knowledge, has never been recovered. After Sicily he returned to Naples, reportedly received a pardon from the Pope for his role in the alleged murder in Rome but he died in mysterious circumstances on his way back to the Eternal City. He died not knowing that his work, “St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness” would one day end up in Malta 95 years after his untimely death.

In the 1740s a young English Lord with a Scottish title, Baron Aston of Forfar, was on the Grand Tour and somehow he acquired the painting from the Order of Malta. He shipped it back to England where it remained in obscurity for about 200 years probably on the Constable estate in Yorkshire to which the Aston descendants had moved.‡ In 1951 an Art Dealer in London purchased the painting. It was placed on the international market and both the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery in Washington had the opportunity to acquire it. Director Walker of the National Gallery later confessed, “I made a mistake which still haunts me.”

These missed opportunities constituted a stroke of fortune for Kansas City and specifically the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

In the spring of 1952 one of the Museum’s trustees was vacationing in London. Milton McGreevy, his wife Barbara and his daughter Jeanne visited the art dealers’ showroom and there was the “St. John in the Wilderness.” Mr. McGreevy immediately put a reserve on it and that’s how it came to Kansas City and that’s why Kansas City is one of the few cities in the United States which can boast that is provides the home for a Caravaggio. Earlier this year I started preparing this talk with the conviction that the local Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta should be aware that Caravaggio was very briefly a member of the Order and that his “St. John in the Wilderness” was once in the possession of the Order at a time when it owned and governed what is now the independent island nation of Malta.

Image Credit: ArtRenewal.Org

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Updated - Helen Osman's Curious Correction Demands Clarification

The by now well-known blog post by USCCB Secretary of Communications Helen Osman accusing Catholic News Agency of fabricating quotes by Cardinal George in their report on the bishops’ Spring meeting raises more questions than it answers.

First it is curious in the extreme. CNA posted their story on Jun. 16. CNA itself gets much traffic, but the story and Cardinal George’s reported remarks additionally spread like wildfire in the Catholic web and to reports by EWTN and CNN. If a news agency fabricates quotes by the president of any major organization and the false quotes spread wide and far, I cannot imagine the reasoning of a communications director who would take five days to respond – and then only in a staff blog post.

Second, while giving the impression that CNA’s entire piece was grossly incorrect, Osman corrects only two minor quotes which don’t remotely change the substance of what was reported and incorrectly corrects a third point which was not in fact a quote from the original story. Let’s look at the accusations:

While the cardinal did present a sequence of events to the bishops, he never used the phrase “so-called Catholic,” accused the Catholic Health Association of creating a “parallel magisterium” or said the meeting of the three bishops with Sr. Keehan had “frustrating results.”

“Parallel magisterium” was not a quote put into Cardinal George’s mouth in the CNA story, but rather a reporter’s characterization. It is an accurate description of how Catholic Health Association acted in the health care debate and it would be a fair characterization of how Cardinal George has described their behavior in other public, published remarks.

For the sake of argument, let’s grant that the Cardinal did not use the words “so-called” and “frustrating results”. What other direct quotes are attributed to him by CNA (excise the red):

“the Catholic Health Association and other so-called Catholic groups provided cover for those on the fence to support Obama and the administration.”

“Sr. Carol and her colleagues are to blame”

“I personally met with her in March to no avail,”

“The bill which was passed is fundamentally flawed. The Executive Order is meaningless. Sr. Carol is mistaken in thinking that this is pro-life legislation,”

“in the end, they have weakened the moral voice of the bishops in the U.S.”

Are these accurate? Osman goes on to criticize CNN for using the CNA report as a source:

For CNN to elaborate even more on what CNA said in error is even more disturbing. If CNN had tried to verify the citations, it would have learned that CNA fabricated quotes. It also would not have made its huge and erroneous assumption that the issue in question was an example of the bishops at odds with the sisters.

But CNN did not, in fact, use any of the quotes that Osman sought to correct. Are the quotes CNN used also false? Osman doesn’t say. What she does say is disturbing and evasive (my emphases):

To honor the bishops’ privacy and confidentiality, we will not be releasing the transcript. It’s unfortunate if someone breached that confidentiality; also unfortunate if CNA tried to take an educated guess at what the cardinal might have said and cobbled together its own fabrication of the session.

The last suggestion is coy and demands a clarification. Osman, who was present and reviewed the tape of the session, knows full well whether CNA “tried to take an educated guess at what the cardinal might have said and cobbled together its own fabrication of the session.” Either it is a substantially accurate transcript (again, granting the exception of four words) or it is not. It is grossly unfair to make such a suggestion when you know the actual facts. Osman can remedy that, as the director of CNA has asked, by releasing the tape, or failing that possibility, by retracting the suggestion.

UPDATE: Michael Sean Winters over at America thinks he knows who the bishops are who "leaked" Cardinal George's comments to CNA are:

It is not difficult to think of who these “several bishops” might be. Go ahead – you can list them. I will only call attention to one telling indication. Yesterday, the blog at the official newspaper of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, the Catholic Key, ran an item that questioned the veracity of Helen Osman and defended the substance of the CNA report. The editor of the Catholic Key, Mr. Jack Smith, is a man who has made it a habit of attacking Sr. Carol Keehan in the most scurrilous and unchristian manner; he is on my short list of the very few people who warrant an ad hominem attack. Perhaps Mr. Smith is on such a long leash that his master lets him publish whatever he wants, including this blog post which would seem to question the integrity not only of a staffer at the USCCB but of Cardinal George. Perhaps.

There is much wrong in that paragraph, but I'll correct one thing. The Bishop of Kansas City - St. Joseph did not attend the June bishops' meeting and so any suggestion that he leaked the comments is false.

I'm very pleased to be on Mr. Winter's "short list", but any regular reader of his knows he's exaggerating the exclusivity the club.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cardinal DiNardo Writes FDA on Abortion Drug Approval

The FDA is considering approving Ulipristal (trade name, Ella) as an “emergency contraceptive”. Today, the USCCB’s pro-life chair, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, wrote FDA chair Dr. Margaret Hamburg objecting to the proposed designation. The Cardinal is concerned that the drug may in fact be an abortifacient and labeling it “emergency contraceptive” would deceive many women who “would personally never choose to have an abortion.”

You can read his full text below, but something in his letter really stood out for me:

In fact, FDA approval for that purpose would likely make the drug available for “off-label” use simply as an abortion drug – including its use by unscrupulous men with the intent of causing an early abortion without a woman's knowledge or consent.  Such abuses have already occurred in the case of RU-486, despite its warning labels and limited distribution.

That seems to me a real and frightening possibility. Full text:

Dear Dr. Hamburg:

I am writing because of grave concern over the FDA’s current process for approving the drug Ulipristal (with the proposed trade name of Ella) for use as an “emergency contraceptive.”  The decision to hold an advisory committee hearing on the drug today, without broad public input or a full record on the drug’s safety for women or their unborn children, does not demonstrate an understanding of the new medical and moral issues it presents.

Concerns have been raised over other drugs considered for “emergency contraception,” such as the “Plan B” regimen, because they might act not only to prevent ovulation but also to prevent implantation of the developing embryo in his or her mother’s womb.  However, such drugs were thought to have no post-implantation effects.  Ulipristal is a close analogue to the abortion drug RU-486, with the same biological effect – that is, it can disrupt an established pregnancy weeks after conception has taken place.[i]

This drug is contraindicated for women who are or may be pregnant.  Yet its proposed use here is targeted precisely at women who may already have conceived, as it would be administered within five days after “unprotected” sex or contraceptive failure.  No existing pregnancy test can exclude the possibility that a new life has been conceived in this time frame.  Indeed, advocates praise this drug as an advance precisely because it seems to retain its full efficacy five days after intercourse – that is, after the opportunity to prevent fertilization has passed. 

Millions of American women, even those willing to use a contraceptive to prevent fertilization in various circumstances, would personally never choose to have an abortion.  They would be ill served by a misleading campaign to present Ulipristal simply as a “contraceptive.”  In fact, FDA approval for that purpose would likely make the drug available for “off-label” use simply as an abortion drug – including its use by unscrupulous men with the intent of causing an early abortion without a woman's knowledge or consent.  Such abuses have already occurred in the case of RU-486, despite its warning labels and limited distribution.

For many years, Congress has acted to ensure that the federal government does not fund abortion, and does not endanger or destroy the early human embryo even in the name of important medical research.  This Administration, like many before it, has voiced support for federal laws to ensure that no one is involved in abortion without his or her knowledge or consent.  And the Administration’s support for broad access to contraception has been defended as serving the goal of reducing abortions.  Plans for approving a known abortion-causing drug as a “contraceptive” for American women is not consistent with the stated policy of the Administration on these matters.

Please know that I appreciate any attention the FDA can give to these serious concerns, and I will follow the Administration’s further discussion and actions on this issue with great interest.

Sincerely,

                                                Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo

                                                Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities

                                                United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


[i] Documentation on this and other medical aspects of the issue is cited in FDA testimony submitted to the FDA by the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, available at www.aaplog.org/?page_id=808.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Homily from the World’s First Feast Mass of St. John Francis Regis

Jesuit Saint John Francis Regis is a secondary patron of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph. But we’ve never been able to honor him here with a proper Mass because he’s omitted from the Roman Missal. The Vatican has made possible now a process that allows diocesan bishops to request Liturgical Propers for locally observed feasts. Bishop Robert Finn commissioned some priests to submit English and Latin texts to the Congregation for Divine Worship for a Mass honoring St. John Francis Regis. The Propers were approved earlier this year and yesterday Bishop Finn celebrated the first Mass using the Propers. Following is Bishop Finn’s homily from the Mass:

Homily for Feast of St. John Francis Regis
On the Occasion of the First Use of Liturgical Propers for the Saint
June 16, 2010 – Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

“I am possessed with such a desire for the missions of the Kingdom of Canada, that I fear I would be … neglecting my vocation if I concealed from you, Most Reverend Father, the feelings I have in this regard. Therefore I … beg you with [all] the prayers of which I am capable to assent to [this] wish.” (St. John Francis Regis, from the Office of Readings)

Dear Bishop Boland,
Dear Father Marcoullier, Provincial Superior of the Missouri Province
Father Vowells, Rector of the Rockhurst Jesuit Community, and pastor-designate of St. Francis Xavier Parish, and all our Jesuit brothers,
Dear Fr. Holder, Pastor of St. John Regis Parish
Dear brother priests and deacons,
Dear Religious, and lay Faithful of the Diocese
Friends in Christ all,

The letters of the young priest, John Francis Regis, inspire us today as we see his persistent desire to carry the saving message of Jesus Christ to the new world. His example and intercessions were active here nearly 200 years ago, when Jesuit Father Hermann Aelen, received permission to name the log cabin church that first occupied this very site after St. John Francis. Since 1839, if not before, the saint’s name and prayers have assisted and inspired a good work of evangelization in Western Missouri.

While the Cathedral of the Diocese of Kansas City would be given the title of the Immaculate Conception, Regis would be held as a valued spiritual friend and patron. His sponsorship continued after the 1956 joining of Kansas City and St. Joseph. Not long afterward, Bishop Cody erected the parish in southern Jackson County that still bears his name.

It is an honor for me to enter into the history of our commemoration of the zealous missionary. Nearly two years ago, two of our priests, Fr. Paul Turner and Msgr. Bill Caldwell, together with Fr. Dennis McManus, who had recently taught at Conception Seminary, requested my permission to undertake a project to construct a set of liturgical texts proper to our patron. It seems that though St. John had been long venerated in the Jesuit Missale, there remained no prayers unique to the June 16 feast. With my encouragement the three gifted priests researched the writings of and about our Saint, and crafted orations, antiphons, hagiography, and a preface in Latin and English. Just about one year ago, we received the approval from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, that these prayers could be used in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Throughout the Diocese today those prayers have been lifted to heaven. Now it is my turn to offer them for the first time on this spot, on which was built Kansas City’s first St. Regis church.

We are honored by the participation of so many of our Jesuit brothers, whose ministry and apostolic work remains important to Catholicism in our diocese. Particularly I welcome the Very Reverend Douglas Marcoullier, Superior of the Jesuits of the Missouri Province. His presence and this feast give me an opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and esteem for the generations of the Jesuits’ pastoral ministry and, of course, a strong legacy of Catholic education. Rockhurst University, reaching the completion of its first 100 years, is synonymous with Kansas City, Missouri, and contributes inestimably to our community, to the Midwest and beyond.

Father John Vowells, recently nominated by Fr. Marcoullier to serve as Pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish, has ably led the Rockhurst Jesuit Community here. He serves as an active member of our Presbyteral Council, and I continue to count on him as a trusted advisor on my own College of Consultors. Fr. Marcoullier and Fr. Vowells, and all our Jesuit friends, thank you for your ministry and thank you for being with us on this joyous occasion.

St. John Francis was on fire with God’s love. He was alive in love for God’s people, particularly the poor, the sick, and those who had not yet received the Gospel. His asceticism and constant preaching took him all over France. He preached interior renewal, true conversion, and moral integrity. While he unsuccessfully besought his superiors for an assignment to the foreign missions he did not withdraw in any manner from his mission at home. Perhaps he is for us a model of the New Evangelization. His work was among the Catholic faithful of his own place, and he succeeded in re-awakening in them the grace of their baptism. Restrained from the mission “ad gentes,” to the nations abroad, he never tired in his determination to enkindle the faith that might lie dormant and inactive in believers.

I was interested to read about an account of a miracle of Saint Regis whereby he multiplied a store of grain to feed the poor. It is very similar to one I read of another French saint, St. John Vianney, whose biography has become better known in the recent Year for Priests. In the account of the Abbe’ Trochu, it is told of the Cure’ of Ars:

“It was in the course of 1829 that the supply of corn, [necessary to feed the orphans of the Providence] … stored in the attic of the presbytery, was reduced to a few handfuls of grain lying scattered about the floor. .. Sweeping together in one heap all the grains that littered the floor, … [Vianney] hid in it a small relic of St. Francis Regis, the wonder worker of LaLouvesc. After asking the orphans to pray for their daily bread, he, too, set himself to pray. … Presently Jeanne-Marie Chanay appeared on the scene. ‘Go and gather what corn there may be in the attic,’ he told her. … She experienced the greatest difficulty in opening the door of the attic, and as soon as she forced it ajar, a stream of [grain] escaped through the narrow opening. She ran downstairs in all haste: ‘You wanted to test my faith,’ she exclaimed, ‘your attic is full… It is overflowing.’ (Chapter 9)

St. John Francis was a saint’s saint! John Vianney knew of his powerful intercession. Our predecessors here in this spot likewise entrusted their fledgling log cabin church, and their mission, to his care. Indeed, in the few grains of their efforts, they would see today a Church that has grown in depth and breadth: many generations of Catholics who have allowed the good seed of God’s truth and love to take root and grow into something very important, living, and life-giving, in our community and beyond.

We also know, as did our patron, that the preaching of the Gospel has to be renewed again and again. We ask his favor on all our apostolic endeavors: that moral righteousness will be the ground of our decisions and the motivation for our daily work; that humility, prayer, and a thirst for holiness will make us docile to the Holy Spirit; that the Holy Spirit will grant us a renewed trust in God’s providence and strengthen us for a zealous care for the vulnerable: the sick, the poor, the migrant, and the unborn.

Dear friends, You and I must be missionaries after the example of St. Regis. Some may go far away. Others will announce the Gospel here at home. Everywhere we must bring the truth of the love of Jesus Christ to those who long for their Savior. I am happy for this occasion to discover more completely a blessed heavenly friend for our Diocese. I am very thankful to Father Turner, Fr. McManus, and Msgr. Caldwell, for carrying out this meaningful project that gives a new fuller voice to our worship. Because of their good work, each year on this Feast Day, June 16, in your parishes and oratories, we will recall the life of the young Jesuit missionary who wanted to come to us. Do not doubt for a moment that he will join his prayers to ours at any day we seek his help.

Thank all of you for coming to the Cathedral to celebrate the life of St. John Francis Regis, our patron. May the intercessions of Mary the Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer, and St. John Francis Regis, help us all reach our full stature as witnesses to Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The World Cup Preserves Something that America is Losing

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

A World Cup Meditation

By Santiago Ramos

After the game is over, it passes into the realm of theater. After the game is over, we run through great sporting events in our heads a second time like a play, and through recollection, relive the tragedy of a loss or the glory of a championship. This is the reason why one is able to make documentaries about football or basketball teams. All of the elements of tragedy and comedy—the tragic flaw, reversal of fortune, recognition of truth—arise as we mentally scan through the last season, the last tournament, the last match. Some teams or seasons or plays are so dramatic that they become canonical: Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass, the 1980 Miracle on Ice, Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup. Some events are insignificant to history but we hold on to them for our own reasons—for me, the Second Round struggle between my native Paraguay and hosts France in the 1998 World Cup.

We experience sport as a game, and remember it as art. What sport has that Shakespeare lacks are freedom and contingency. There are no actors and the drama is not scripted; the players write the script through a million acts of skill, forged in freedom but under a specific environment. So perhaps sport more than art demonstrates for us more convincingly certain truths about life: that discipline leads to virtue; that it is heroic and sometimes necessary to play with pain; that the most beautiful plays sometimes come out of nowhere, unforeseeably, impossibly.

Unfortunately, American professional sporting culture is destroying all of this. The World Cup, on the other hand, preserves it. The perennial American magazine story “Has Soccer Finally Arrived?” is a clichĂ© but it also hides the real truth: that America needs soccer more than soccer needs America.

The drama of sport is being systematically attacked by the bloated American Pro-Sports-Statistical-Media Complex. I can name you three specific ways that this is happening, but there are doubtless more. First, a universal obsession with statistics. A common criticism of American culture is that it is so technological and empirical that you can’t say anything without backing it with numbers. But I have come to the darker conclusion that most sports broadcasters talk about numbers only because they have nothing else to say. I really don’t care, I really think it is meaningless, that the Chiefs have not succeeded in making a two-point conversion during the third quarter of a post-season game in the last five years. The quintessence of this obsession was illustrated this week by Bob Ley of ESPN, in the halftime analysis during the Argentina-Nigeria World Cup match. “The last time Argentina gave up a halftime lead was in the 1930 World Cup,” he said. “It just doesn’t happen.” This baffled the Spaniard Roberto Martinez, an ESPN commentator and former professional soccer player, who responded: “That was a different team, Bob.” Sports teach us that the possible is greater than the probable; statistics applied to sports is probability’s revenge on possibility.

The second destructive force is the delusion of the Instant Replay. We appeal to the camera when we become afraid of the human element in sport. We think that the precision and justice that the replay can provide for us will defuse the pain that is intrinsic to any competitive sport. In games we see that the best-trained can’t always play their best, and that those with the best eyes don’t always make the right call; the imprecision and the deficiency are also elements in the drama. The Instant Replay is an attempt to quell the drama, as if sports would be better without it. All it actually does is stir confusion about what a game really is, and every time we interrupt a game to watch a video, we strike a blow at the soul that keeps the game moving.

Interruptions, also, is what television commercials are. The fact that basketball and football is structured in such a way as to accommodate for television commercials is a scandal. Who enjoys watching The Godfather Part II when it is sliced and diced by ads for sitcoms and acne medication? The interruptions wake us up from the dream of the drama; basketball and football lose something in this constant interruption.

All of this may sound bleak, but the answer to it is flickering in a billion television screens worldwide this month. As we watch the World Cup this summer, we should be conscious that we are witnessing a sport that is resisting. It resists, if nothing else, the tyranny of television commercials. No commercials interrupt the 45 minute flow of a half of soccer—there are no “TV time outs.” The narrative builds and is resolved within continuous time, and it demands that we reclaim the patience and the attention spans most of my generation lost sometime in the late 1990s.

Moreover, even though every now and then somebody within FIFA—the World soccer organizing body—complains that Instant Replay should be introduced into the game, most fans accept that the game includes injustices. We suffer through them, and we play again the next day. Geoff Hurst scored a “goal” for England in the 1966 Final which actually did not cross the line. Maradona scored a “goal” with his hand against England in the quarterfinals of 1986 (he attributed it to God; five minutes later, he scored the greatest goal in World Cup history). France would not be in the World Cup this year, and Ireland would be, had Thierry Henry not handled the ball during a qualifying match. What can you do? Better to make a sacrifice than to kill the sport.

As for statistics—American soccer broadcasters, too, are beholden to them. But one could always learn Spanish and switch to Univision.

The World Cup this year has its own set of stories which will congeal into the dramatic. The Brazilian squad has betrayed its principles of jogo bonito (beautiful play) and has adopted a pragmatic approach which yields victories without flair. Ironically, the German side looks more playful and creative in attack than Brazil does. Lionel Messi of Argentina will be trying to live up to his reputation of being the greatest Argentine player since Maradona. And there is a tough Paraguayan side you will not want to miss.

Most importantly, there is a drama that you will not want to miss—one that retains certain human elements which are besieged in our hyperactive media age.

Photo is from The 100 greatest World Cup moments at The Independent (UK).

Santiago Ramos is a graduate of Rockhurst University in Kansas City and has written for First Things (online), Commonweal, The Pitch, Traces, Image Journal and various blogs. He is currently studying toward a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Boston College.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pics and Homily from Kansas City Corpus Christi Procession

A huge crowd of faithful from the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas showed their devotion to the Blessed Sacrament during a Corpus Christi Procession through downtown Kansas City on Sunday. KCK Archbishop Joseph Naumann and KC-SJ Bishop Robert Finn took turns carrying the monstrance through the streets.

The procession began and ended at Old St. Patrick, the beautifully renovated home of Kansas City’s Latin Mass community, and passed by the Federal courts and City Hall.

In his homily at Benediction following the procession, Bishop Finn urged the faithful to commit to prayer for the purity of priests, that priests will be dedicated to the Eucharist and Confession and for more priests in this final week of the Year for Priests. The full text of his homily is below the pictures.

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“The bread that I will give is My Flesh for the life of the world.”

Dear Archbishop Naumann, My brother priests and deacons,
Dear Consecrated men and women, Dear Seminarians
Faithful of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas
Faithful of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Thank you for joining Archbishop Naumann and me in this profound act of faith and witness, by which we have held up and shown forth within our community the very Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. What we have done today is beautiful and powerful. We pray that these Benedictions which we have traced in the streets of Kansas City will extend to all the members of our dioceses and communities: that they will be a source of conversion and renewal, a gift of peace and unity; a cause of a more active charity; a sign of hope in the Risen Jesus, who lives among His people. He is our life: the life of the world.

In the last encyclical he wrote, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, The Church Draws Her Life from the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II reminds us that “The Eucharist is indelibly marked by the Lord’s passion and death, of which it is not only the reminder, but the sacramental representation.” (no. 11)

Friends, let us not fail to grasp the enormity of this reality. The Mass continues and renews the sacrifice. The Pope goes on to say that this sacrifice is “so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it to the Father only after He had left us a means of sharing it, as if we had been present there.” (no. 11)

Listen to what we are taught: Jesus’ Flesh is given for the life of the world. The sacrifice of the Mass is decisive for the salvation of the human race.

Dear friends, how we need the Eucharist! How we need the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! And therefore, How we need our priests!

This month marks the conclusion of a Year for Priests, announced last June by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. This Friday, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Pope will gather with priests from all over the world to mark the close of the Year for Priests.

My message to you on the Corpus Christi day in 2010, dear friends, is this: Pray intensely – this week especially – for our priests. This has not, in every way been an easy year for our Holy Father. It has not been entirely an easy year for priests; for the Church. We have been tried; perhaps purified in some ways through suffering. The devil still wages war on priests – but the High Priest is infinitely more powerful than the devil. Mary Mother of priests has queenship over men, saints and angels. In these last days of the Year for Priests, let us make a great offering of prayer and love for our priests. Why now? Why today? Today we hold up the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the highest calling of our priests. This is why we are priests: so that we can daily bring to God’s holy people the Bread of Life, necessary to the life of the world. The priest at the altar makes present the very Sacrifice of Calvary.

We need our priests. Pray without ceasing, make sacrifices for our priests, especially this week. I would suggest three particular intentions in this regard, all of which were expressed by Pope Benedict a year ago.

1) Pray for the purity and perseverance of priests: purity, holiness, and life-long fidelity. There are often temptations. We priests need your prayers.

2) Pray that priests will be devoted to the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. In this Year under the patronage of St. John Vianney, may we also be constantly available to our people as wise and merciful confessors. We have to love the Eucharist, which is the font and summit of the whole Christian life, and the source of the priests pastoral love. No priests – no Eucharist. No Eucharist – no Church.

3) Pray for more priests. Pray that your sons, your grandsons, will be called to priesthood. If you young men have been thinking about priesthood, today is a day to ask God to deepen and intensify your desire and the necessary elements that might lead you to seminary. This is a vocation from God and from the Church – both parts are necessary. And we, God’s people must pray and pray and pray, and beg God for more priests. We have had an increase in vocations in both our dioceses. Lord, You know it is not enough. Please give us more priests. Help us take care of them: We ask You this – in the Presence of the Eucharistic Lord, Bread of Life, Eternal Priest, Hope of the World. We beg you hear our prayer that what we do today will be able to be continued until the end of time, in every one of our communities.

For the Purity of our priests; that our priests will be dedicated to the Eucharist and Confession; for more Priests. Let us pray for the granting of these needs at the conclusion of this Year for Priests.

Finally, let us ask Mary, who received our Lord with such purity, humility and devotion, to assist us to do what we do worthily on this Eucharistic day. Amen.