Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ed Peters' dogged defense of Bishop Zurek

And he said, "Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear."
 – Luke 11:46
Ed Peters seems to have appointed himself to be the lead prosecutor of Father Frank Pavone in a public trial which he is conducting through his blog. Yes, Ed Peters is a canon lawyer, but his issue with Father Pavone does not seem to be just about canon law; it seems to be much more personal than that.

From the beginning Peters has tried to portray this as a conflict between Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek. As a lawyer, he should know much better than that. This is not some sort of boxing match with the bishop and his priest in opposite corners as Peters likes to portray it.

This is a policy dispute which was made public when a letter by Bishop Zurek was published by CNS (Catholic News Service). The letter addressed to all the United States Catholic bishops made unsubstantiated claims about the character of Father Frank and about Priests for Life. As a public figure that has a responsibility to defend the reputation of Priests for Life, Father Frank was put into a very awkward position by his bishop.

If he said nothing then Priests for Life would be adversely affected. In fact Bishop Zurek asked his fellow bishops to halt all donations to PFL. How was Father Frank supposed to respond to that? Should he just quietly go into prayer as Peters has suggested?

Ed Peters seems to like to put himself in the limelight. Not that long ago he made a public pronouncement that Bishop Hubbard of Albany should deny communion to Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. This led to a flurry of publicity. When Bishop Hubbard did not take any action against Governor Cuomo, Peters let the matter quietly drop.

If only he had followed a similar trajectory in the current situation with Father Frank Pavone then he would have saved the pro-Life community a lot of public embarrassment. Instead Peters got ever more involved in criticizing anyone that showed any kind of support for Father Frank.

Why did Ed Peters let Bishop Hubbard off the hook while publicly scolding Father Pavone in article after article?

In the latest round of fighting initiated by Ed Peters, he took aim at Al Kresta who conducted an interview with Father Frank on his Ave Maria Radio show. Peters' main objection seems to be that Father Frank should simply not be allowed to speak out in public.

It was now Al Kresta's turn to be put into an awkward position. He was forced to defend himself against Ed Peters' charge that he had given Father Frank "what amounted to a 40 minute infomercial". Peters bluntly charged that this was "a bad idea". And added that neither Father Pavone nor Kresta were "competent to explain ... canon law to the public". He said that interviewing Father Frank was especially bad while the "dispute with Zurek was in full swing", which just shows how Peters has attempted to turn this policy dispute into a highly personal confrontation.

So much for tact and diplomacy on the part of Ed Peters; never mind being charitable. This is more the style of a bulldog than a diplomat.

In his response Al Kresta starts out by saying that he and Ed Peters are friends and that Ed Peters has appeared as a guest on his show in the past. Thank goodness that Al is a "friend" of Peters. I'd hate to think how he would have worded his criticisms if they weren't. Kresta tries his best to defuse the situation which Peters has created using very apologetic language. He does however say that Peters' characterization of the interview as an "infomercial" is "silly".

Peters in his reply rather than apologizing just digs in deeper. He describes himself as "one who knows what the rules are". So now Peters is not just the prosecutor, but has also declared himself to be the judge in this case. Aren't Bishop Zurek and the Diocese of Amarillo capable of speaking for themselves?

Meanwhile, where in the world is Bishop Zurek? It's been over two weeks since he disappeared from the face of the earth on September 13 -- the same day that he demanded that Father Frank show up in Amarillo.

As for Ed Peters, I wish he would turn his lawerly attentions to more worthy victims like Nancy Pelosi and the bishops that allow her style of public insubordination to continue unchallenged. Or Catholic "social justice" groups like the 8th Day Center for Justice which insists on showing a film that advocates "women priests". With all the attacks that the Church is under today, why zero in on a priest that has dedicated his life to end abortion?

I hate bringing this up, but I will anyway because it goes to the core of Peters' argument. When we blindly defer to the bishops, bad things can happen. The bishops can and must be held accountable. They should not be above criticism from the laity when they fail to vigorously defend the teachings of the Catholic Church. And they certainly should not be allowed to place themselves above the Pope.

The bishops should conduct their business in public and avoid secrecy as much as possible. Again, we have seen how secrecy has been used to hide abuse in the past. Eventually, secrets are uncovered.

Why shouldn't a bishop go on a radio program to be interviewed? If Archbishop Dolan can go on 60 Minutes, then why can't Bishop Zurek be interviewed by Al Kresta? He should follow the example of Pope Benedict XVI who has been very open and candid in his papacy. At times this has resulted in his being attacked by the press as happened when "Light of the World" was published. But he has helped to dispel the myth that the Vatican and the Catholic Church has something to hide.

When baby Joseph was about to be euthanized by Canadian doctors the whole pro-Life community came out in support. But it was ultimately one priest who was able to make a difference and give Joseph a chance to live out a full life. Shouldn't this priest receive our thanks and support now when he needs it most?

God bless you, Father Frank.

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St. John Chrysostom, pray for us.

Pope Benedict's speech before the Bundestag

For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature;
 and they were unable from the good things that
 are seen to know him who exists,
 nor did they recognize the craftsman while
 paying heed to his works.

  – Wisdom of Solomon 13:1
Pope Benedict XVI spoke in front of Germany's Bundestag about the dangers of a "positivist" philosophy that denies the existence of God:
A positivist conception of nature as purely functional, as the natural sciences consider it to be, is incapable of producing any bridge to ethics and law, but once again yields only functional answers. The same also applies to reason, according to the positivist understanding that is widely held to be the only genuinely scientific one. Anything that is not verifiable or falsifiable, according to this understanding, does not belong to the realm of reason strictly understood. Hence ethics and religion must be assigned to the subjective field...
[...]
The positivist approach to nature and reason, the positivist world view in general, is a most important dimension of human knowledge and capacity that we may in no way dispense with. But in and of itself it is not a sufficient culture corresponding to the full breadth of the human condition. Where positivist reason considers itself the only sufficient culture and banishes all other cultural realities to the status of subcultures, it diminishes man, indeed it threatens his humanity.
I'm not a philosopher, but I think it is fair to assume that for the word "positivist" in Pope Benedict's statement we can substitute "rationalist", "materialist", "secular humanist" or even "atheist". They may not have exactly the same definitions, but there is certainly a large amount of overlap in these philosophies.

This is the same type of thinking that is used to justify "homosexual marriage" and abortion. It is an amoral way of thinking that leaves questions of ethics completely at the whim of fashionable ideas that are often imposed from above by those who control the mass media.

It is interesting that the Holy Father mentions Solomon in his speech. It is in the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon, in chapter 13 that we find a whole section that speaks about this topic. (Wisdom 13:1-9)
For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works; but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.

If through delight in the beauty of these things men assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them.

And if men were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is he who formed them.

For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator. Yet these men are little to be blamed, for perhaps they go astray while seeking God and desiring to find him.

For as they live among his works they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful.

Yet again, not even they are to be excused; for if they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?
If these words were true in the ancient times when the Bible was written, how much more true are they now? For today, with the "power to know so much" that we possess and our ability to "investigate the world" with the use of scientific tools such as telescopes, microscopes, particle accelerators, computers and DNA sequencers, how is it that we "fail to find sooner the Lord of these things"?

Instead we "go astray" and fall into idol worship. But we do not worship the sun or the idols made of clay that our ancestors worshiped. Instead we worship the idol makers; we worship ourselves.

Pope Benedict XVI points out the danger in this form of self-worship:
Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.
It seems to me that the Pope is expressing here his concern over genetic manipulation of humans. If Man denies God and usurps for himself god-like powers, then the door is open to "self-create" a new species of transhumans.

But in so doing the "ecology of man" is upset. And as we have seen when the ecology, the natural balance, is pushed beyond its ability to regulate itself we end up with widespread pollution and even environmental disasters such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

How much greater of a potential for disaster is there in Man's manipulation of his own genetic blueprint?

Teacher bans "bless you" in classroom

And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.
  – Matthew 11:6
Where else? In California of course!



Here's more on this story from ChristianPost.com:
Wood High Principal Cliff McGraw agreed that Cuckovich went overboard in his punishment. “He realizes he there’s better ways to do that,” McGraw said. “We don’t condone that kind of punishment.”

That doesn’t mean that the health teacher will now allow students to speak the words “bless you” in his classroom. He just will find a less Draconian way to punish perpetrators, he said.

The controversy in Vacaville is just the latest example of what many in California’s evangelical community perceive as growing anti-Christian, anti-religion bigotry in the state’s public schools.

Just this month, in fact, a 3-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco sided with school officials in Poway, Calif. who ordered high school math teacher Brad Johnson to remove two patriot banners he has displayed in his classroom for 25 years, which proclaim “In God We Trust,” “God Bless America,” and “God Shed His Grace On Thee.”

Back in March, a 16-year-old high school student in El Cajon, Calif. sued the local school district after being suspended two days last year for bringing his bible to school and sharing his faith with interested classmates.
Vacaville, California is about 45 miles from San Francisco. So this sort of thinking is probably considered normal by some people in the area.

If someone is sick, saying "bless you" is a way of asking God to help heal them. It is a short prayer like saying "God have mercy" or "Lord help me". It's clear that this teacher's real issue is that he is offended by any mention of God or any sign of religious belief by his students.

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UPDATE:

Here is some additional information on this story from KXTV in Sacramento:
When Taylor McGinley sneezed in her health class at Will C. Wood High School a few weeks ago a student replied with "God, bless you," but it's what teacher Steven Cuckovich said after the sneeze that now has students questioning the teacher's agenda.

"(Cuckovich) said, 'Do you think that girl is evil, do you think the evil spirits are coming out of her?' And the guy that said "bless you" was like 'No, I was just doing what I was supposed to do when somebody sneezes, not trying to be rude,'" Taylor said, referring to the incident.

McGinley said Cuckovich never mentioned or referred to the expression again, but in Erica Fagan's class Cuckovich is deducting points from students' grades if someone said "bless you."

"The first time (the student) did it (Cuckovich) took 25 points off of everybody in the class's grade for one person saying it and then somebody did it the next day and he did it again," Fagan said.

According to Fagan, Cuckovich told the students sneezing and saying "bless you" is a distraction and takes time out of learning.
[...]
The health class is a one-semester course that is required for graduation.
Given the severity of the situation, I would have expected the school to impose some sort of disciplinary action on this teacher. Can you imagine if the teacher had declared that the use of the word "gay" was prohibited? I suppose one could say that the word "gay" doesn't really mean homosexual and that this is a form of slang which should be avoided. I wonder what the principal's reaction would be to something like that?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Father Michael Rodriguez and Father Frank Pavone

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.
 – Matthew 23:2-4
Another holy priest has been prevented from doing the work of God by his bishop. In this case it is Bishop Ochoa who has removed Father Michael Rodriguez from his work at the parish of San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist) in San Antonio and re-assigned him to a parish in west Texas. Essentially sending him into exile for his outspoken defense of marriage.

What are we to make of this? Has the Catholic Church in America lost sight of its mission?

Perhaps we need to turn to the Orthodox Church to remind ourselves of our past heritage. Certainly orthodoxy does not seem to be welcomed by the Catholic bishops. Is the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America attempting to separate itself from the Holy See? Will the Roman Catholic Church in the future be a mixture of orthodox Catholics, orthodox Protestants and the Orthodox Church?

Our Holy Father is presently in Germany. His message is clear. The following quote is from the speech of Pope Benedict XVI to Orthodox Churches in Germany:
In the present climate, in which many would like, as it were, to “liberate” public life from God, the Christian Churches in Germany – including Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians – are walking side by side along the path of peaceful witness for understanding and solidarity among peoples, on the basis of their faith in the one God and Father of all.  At the same time they continue to place the miracle of God’s incarnation at the centre of their proclamation. Realizing that on this mystery all human dignity depends, they speak up jointly for the protection of human life from conception to natural death.  Faith in God, the Creator of life, and unconditional adherence to the dignity of every human being strengthen faithful Christians to oppose vigorously every manipulative and selective intervention in the area of human life.  Knowing too the value of marriage and the family, we as Christians attach great importance to defending the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman from any kind of misinterpretation.  Here the common engagement of Christians, including Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, makes a valuable contribution to building up a society equipped for the future, in which the human person is given the respect which is his due.
One shudders to think if a Catholic priest were to make such a public pronouncement in the United States, what the reaction of his bishop might be. One wonders if the American bishops are among those who wish to "'liberate' public life from God".

Let's parse the Pope's statement and see what he believes to be the most essential elements of the Christian faith in these tumultuous times in which we live.
  • "the protection of human life from conception to natural death" - The very first thing he brings up is the pro-Life message. Isn't this the core message of Priests for Life? Isn't this exactly what Father Pavone has committed his life to?
  • "oppose vigorously every manipulative and selective intervention in the area of human life" - Again we hear the Holy Father emphasizing the pro-Life message. Could he possibly be more clear about how high a priority this should be for all of our priests and bishops?
  • "defending the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman from any kind of misinterpretation" - Here we see how strongly the Pope connects the pro-Life message with the struggle to defend marriage. They are essentially one and the same. And wasn't this what got Father Rodriguez in trouble with his bishop? How can any priest possibly defend marriage from the attacks of the homosexual community without also pointing out the sinful nature of homosexual relationships? And how can the Church effectively defend marriage without getting more directly involved in the political process?
Father Frank Pavone and Father Michael Rodriguez are two priests that took the message of the Gospel to heart and acted on it. They both believe in freedom of religion; not just "freedom of worship". They spoke out in the public square; not just from the pulpit. And for this they have both been chastised by their bishops.

The mission of the Church is to save souls. We know that "the wages of sin is death". If the Church can get our society to recognize that abortion and "homosexual marriage" are sins then many souls will find their rewards in heaven. But in order to be heard over the din of secular society we must be "the voice of one crying in the wilderness".

St. John the Baptist was certainly not being "pastoral" in his pronouncements when he called the Pharisees and Sadducees a "brood of vipers". He did not confine his ministry to his home diocese. He went out to where the Lord was calling him and where he was needed. It's time for the Catholic Church to get back to Theology 101 and heed the words of St. John the Baptist:
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
 – Matthew 3:2
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St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

 + + +

Father Michael Rodriguez on "The Real Truth about Homosexuality"



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Related articles:

Neutrinos and God

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
 The LORD is the everlasting God,
 the Creator of the ends of the earth.
 He does not faint or grow weary,
 his understanding is unsearchable.

  – Isaiah 40:28
St. Augustine of Hippo

Earlier this week I wrote two articles, "A strange thought" and "Another strange thought". And then some time around Wednesday or Thursday the world of physics came alive with the buzzing of a rumor that some neutrinos had traveled faster than the speed of light.

First of all let me say that we should never be surprised at the marvelous complexity of God's creation. There is so much that Man does not understand. The knowledge that we have acquired through all our science is like a grain of sand. The universe that God created is infinite and our knowledge will always remain finite.

In my articles earlier this week I suggested that perhaps God is continually creating each moment in space and time. And I also suggested that this would become ever more apparent in the exploration of subatomic particles.

So let me offer a simple and naïve explanation of the faster-than-light neutrino. Suppose the neutrino as it travels through space-time is occasionally destroyed and re-created. And when it is re-created it is sometimes ahead of where it would have been if it had simply continued along its path. Then at the end of its journey it could arrive ahead of schedule. Whether you can say under these circumstances that it is the same neutrino, I don't know. But I don't think that neutrinos have individual personalities so perhaps it doesn't matter.

This gets back to the idea that God is constantly creating the material universe out of nothing. Perhaps we are indirectly witnessing through this experiment an instance of that continual creation. This would be very different from the idea of the deists that say that God created the universe and then just let it go on its course by simply following the laws of physics. This idea began to crumble as soon as Man discovered quantum physics.

Einstein famously said that "God does not play dice" because he could not accept the probabilistic nature of quantum theory. What he really revealed through this comment is that he was a deist. He believed that the universe was like a very complex watch that God created. He wanted to reduce the universe to a mechanism.

One of his scientific colleagues, Neils Bohr, scolded him and told him to "stop telling God what to do". And there is the answer. God is infinitely superior to Man. In fact Einstein's comment reveals that he did not believe in God at all. He was using the name of  God in vain, when what he really meant was something like Nature. So his comment can be reworded as "Nature does not play dice".

Nature is not God. Nature or "Mother Nature" is the god of the pagans. Christians believe in the one true God who created the universe and sent His only Son to save mankind. Our God is a mighty God that can move heaven and earth. For God all things are possible.

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St. Augustine of Hippo, you taught us that the search for truth leads us to God, pray for us.

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NOTE:

I should have mentioned this much earlier, but the thing that got me thinking again about the relationship between modern physics and God is a book by Stephen M. Barr titled "Modern Physics and Ancient Faith". I saw the author on EWTN's Bookmark program. Here is the video of that program.



If you go to Amazon you can "look inside" the book. There's some very interesting material there. Appendix C about Gödel's Theorem is particularly interesting and well written. The whole book gets into the theme of the proof of the existence of God. And also how a materialistic philosophy is insufficient to fully explain the mysteries of the physical universe, let alone the spiritual world.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Flesh of my flesh

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
 – Genesis 2:21-22
This article is about something that came to me as I was in prayerful meditation and trying to be close to God. I was contemplating something which I heard a priest say about the creation of Eve from Adam's rib. And it was as if I could feel that empty space in my own side. For me, alas, I have not found that one that I can call "flesh of my flesh". But, for now at least, that space is filled with my love for God.

The priest brought special attention to the fact that God put Adam into a deep sleep before removing one of his ribs. It was almost as if Adam had died and then been brought back to life. And that made me think of Christ on the Cross; and the soldier piercing his side after he had died. And then I thought about the blood and water. And so I thought there must be some connection with Eve; the blood and water must be the sign of the Church. But in what way? Well, water is the sign of baptism and Christ's blood is the sign of the Eucharist. Two Holy Sacraments.

I decided to search online to see if this was an original thought. I suspected that it couldn't be. It seemed so obviously clear once it was explained. Well I found the exact same description and here it is.
“There flowed from his side water and blood”. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit”, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam. Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.
What is even more amazing for me is that this was written by St. John Chrysostom in the 4th century. We just recently celebrated his feast day on September 13.


St John Chrysostom, pray for us

The bishops on marriage: right message, wrong timing

Go to Media, my son, for I fully believe what Jonah the prophet said about Nineveh, that it will be overthrown. But in Media there will be peace for a time.
 – Tobit 14:4
The US bishops have just released a letter to President Obama signed by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the President of the USCCB, that is strongly critical of the administration's policy towards marriage.

Now, if a similar letter had been released shortly before the vote on "homosexual marriage" in New York State, or while DADT was being debated in Congress, or at some critical time during the Prop 8 hearing, or shortly before the recent special elections ... then I would have applauded it.

But it almost seems as if the release of the letter was timed for when it could make the most minimal impact. So far the only ones to have taken any notice of it at all are the folks at the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). They have posted a story on their blog which is how I became aware of it.

I suppose its possible that I'm just getting to this story a bit early. But wouldn't an organization like USCCB want to have some sort of PR event around such a major statement? Wouldn't they want to get in touch with their contacts in the press to make sure that they filed stories on this letter at the very moment of its release? Even the Catholic News Service (CNS) which is affiliated with the USCCB doesn't have a story at this time.

So, I seem to have managed to out-scoop all major news agencies on this story, which somehow isn't making me happy the way it should. I guess AP and the rest of the media don't pay too much attention to news releases from the USCCB or they would have noticed the official announcement by now. Maybe they have seen it and are still figuring out how they can spin the story to include some reference to the sex abuse scandal.

Let's just hope that this is a sign that the US Catholic bishops intend to become more vocal on the issue of marriage in the future. And let's pray that they use their influence to urge Catholic voters to make this a major issue in the upcoming 2012 elections.

Here are some key excerpts from the letter:
I write with a growing sense of urgency about recent actions taken by your Administration that both escalate the threat to marriage and imperil the religious freedom of those who promote and defend marriage. This past spring the Justice Department announced that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court, a decision strongly opposed by the Catholic Bishops of the United States and many others. Now the Justice Department has shifted from not defending DOMA—which is problem enough, given the duty of the executive branch to enforce even laws it disfavors—to actively attacking DOMA's constitutionality.
[...]
The Administration‟s failure to change course on this matter will, as the attached analysis indicates, precipitate a national conflict between Church and State of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions.
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UPDATE 1 (Sep 21):

For those who are, in my opinion, overly excited about this statement, I would like to point out a very similar statement earlier this year in March from Archbishop Dolan. I wish I could provide a link to the document on the USCCB website, but it seems that they don't have archives of news releases going back that far. But I was able to find the full text at the website of the Diocese of Saginaw.

Here is a key excerpt with a similar tone and content to today's letter:
The Administration’s current position is not only a grave threat to marriage, but to religious liberty and the integrity of our democracy as well. Our nation and government have the duty to recognize and protect marriage, not tamper with and redefine it, nor to caricature the deeply held beliefs of so many citizens as “discrimination.” On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I express my deep disappointment over the Administration’s recent decision. I have written of these concerns to the President in separate correspondence, and I pray that he and the Department of Justice may yet make the right choice to carry out their constitutional responsibility, defending the irreplaceable institution of marriage, and in so doing protect the future generations of our children.
It's not that I'm cynical about the ability to reverse this trend of destroying the institution of marriage. It's just that the approach of the US bishops of writing a letter now and then after the fact is not an effective one. This letter came out some weeks after the President announced that the Dept. of Justice would no longer defend DOMA on February 23. As close as I can tell this statement was released March 6.

And again it feels like the timing of the statement was designed to have a minimal impact. It is almost like the bishops really don't want to defend marriage at all, but they still want to be able to say to the Catholic faithful that they have "tried their best". Well, I just don't buy it.

If you want to take a look at what an effective defense of marriage looks like, then take a look at the work of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Or take a look at the Orthodox Jewish Rabbis that told their fellow Orthodox Jews in the latest special election in New York to vote for the Republican candidate and not vote for the Democratic candidate even though he was an Orthodox Jew. Why? Because he voted for "homosexual marriage", that's why. And what the Rabbis said was that they would not support a candidate that betrayed the basic religious principles of Orthodox Jews.

Or else take a look at the work of Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. He specifically instructs Catholics to look not only at the individual candidate, but also at their political party's platform. And in the case of the Democrat Party, the platform is pro-abortion and in favor of "homosexual marriage". So if you consider yourself a faithful Catholic, then you cannot vote for the Democrats. End of story.

If Catholics stopped supporting the Democrats and giving them a pass on the "social issues" then they would be forced to change those policies or disappear from history.

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Pray for the Church.

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Related articles:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Father Frank on Ave Maria Radio

And as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are mad; your great learning is turning you mad." But Paul said, "I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth."
Acts 26:24-25
Father Frank Pavone was on Ave Maria Radio yesterday, September 19. He was interviewed by Al Kresta on his show "Kresta in the afternoon". What you should know about Al is that he has been the driving force behind Ave Maria Radio since its founding and that he is currently the President and CEO.

Here's some more relevant information. Ave Maria Radio's programs are carried by 160 stations and reaches an estimated 800,000 people a week. The "Kresta in the afternoon" program is Ave Maria's "flagship national production". And Ave Maria Radio claims to be "the largest producer of Catholic radio programming in the United States."

So that tells me two things. One, that Father Frank can't possibly have found a bigger soap box to stand on to defend himself in the Catholic world than this, with the exception of EWTN where he has his own weekly pro-Life show. And two, Al Kresta wants us to know that he fully supports Father Frank in his struggle to maintain his full-time ministry at Priests for Life.

The interview is available online. There is an archive at Ave Maria, but I couldn't get that link to work for me. But I found the same show posted on Al Kresta's blog which is where I found the following YouTube recordings of the show. The interview lasts for 40 minutes and answers many of the questions that people have been asking around the Catholic blogosphere. So if you are really interested in learning the answers, then it's well worth a listen.

Of course this is a one-sided discussion because we don't have the participation of Bishop Zurek. But that is by his own choice. He immediately disappeared after his letter became public. And he left no publicly available information as to his whereabouts. He simply announced that he would be out-of-town for two weeks.

Here is the interview.





Thursday, September 22, at 9:15am ET Father Pavone will be the guest on Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo. This is another show that originates from Ave Maria Radio. It is also carried by EWTN radio. There is more information about Father Frank's upcoming media schedule in his newsletter which is dated September 19.

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Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

Bishop Gries: "Please continue to support Priests for Life"

For, in the first place, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
 – 1 Corinthians 11:18-19
The latest news on Father Frank Pavone is that he has received a letter of public support from Bishop Roger Gries. He is an Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland and is also on the Advisory Board of Priests for Life. In his letter the bishop states:
Please keep Father Pavone in your prayers. He is currently facing some difficult days as he negotiates with his bishop. The work he had done since founding Priests for Life must continue as we face the future. Please continue to support Priests for Life.

I was proud to stand up with Father Pavone when he asked me to serve on the Advisory Board of Bishops. Every opportunity that comes my way to stand up for life will find me speaking out against abortion. Let us pray, pray and pray some more for the mothers carrying infants in their wombs. Also, let us pray for those who perform the abortions and work in those clinics for they need God’s grace to see the evil of their deeds.
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While we are waiting for the dispute between Father Frank and Bishop Zurek to be resolved, please enjoy the video that follows. It is one of the many fruits of Father Frank's pro-Life ministry.



Here is the description provided with this music video:
"This is My Body" was inspired through a conversation that Fr. Pavone [of Priests for Life] had with Dana about the comparison between the words "This is My Body" as used by Jesus to give us eternal life, and as used by abortion supporters to defend the taking of life. Fr. Pavone gave Dana the brochure that he had written about this comparison, and suggested that a song should be written to convey this powerful message. Within a few hours, Dana called him back and said that she had the song basically written! After subsequent meetings and sitting together at the piano, Fr. Frank and Dana were satisfied that the finished product would inspire pro-life people worldwide.

In the song, Dana plays the role of a woman who has had an abortion. Gretchen sings as a woman who believes in the "right to choose." And Mark plays the role of Jesus, who teaches us to sacrifice ourselves for others. They each do this using the same words, "This is My Body."
The video is available on DVD. It was first aired on EWTN. The song is also available as part of Dana's "Little Baby: Songs for Life" pro-Life album.

 + + +
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
 – Luke 22:19
 + + +

Here are the words from the brochure by Father Frank Pavone that inspired Dana to write her song.
This Is My Body
By Fr. Frank A. Pavone

Did you ever realize that the same four words that were used by the Lord Jesus to save the world are also used by some to promote abortion? "This is my body." The same simple words are spoken from opposite ends of the universe, with meanings that are directly contrary to each other.

Scripture tells us that on the night before He died to save all people, the Lord Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, "This is My Body, which is given up for you." He was pointing to what would happen the next day, when He would give that same Body on the cross. He sacrifices Himself so that we may live. He gives up His Body so that He can destroy the power of sin and death. As a result, He welcomes us into His life, into His Kingdom. He makes us members of His Body!

On the other hand, abortion supporters say, "This is my body. So don't interfere with it! It's mine, so I can do what I want, even to the point of killing the life within it. All is secondary to my dominion over my body." In fact one abortion supporter has written, "I say their (pro-lifers') God is worth nothing compared to my body" (Michelle Goldberg, "Rant for Choice," in University of Buffalo student newspaper, 1995).

"This is my body." Same words, different results. Christ gives His body away so others might live; abortion supporters cling to their own bodies so others might die. In giving His Body, Christ teaches the meaning of love: I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person. Abortion teaches the opposite of love: I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself!

"This is my body." If, indeed, our body is ours, then let's ask the next question: Why? The answer is so that we can give our body, our life, ourself, away in love to one another and to God. Christ declares, "Do this in memory of me." He calls us to do what He did, and that is precisely how we reverse the dynamic of abortion. Mom and Dad must say to their child, "This is my body, my life, given for you," rather than, "This is my body, my life, so go away!"

Human happiness and fulfillment are never found by pushing other people out of the way. They are found when we push ourselves out of the way. Pope John Paul II says as much in Evangelium Vitae #51: He who had come "not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk. 10:45), attains on the cross the heights of love: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn. 15:13). And he died for us while we were yet sinners (cf. Rom. 5:8).

In this way Jesus proclaims that life finds its center, its meaning and its fulfillment when it is given up.

At this point our meditation becomes praise and thanksgiving, and at the same time urges us to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps (cf. 1 Pt. 2:21).

We too are called to give our lives for our brothers and sisters, and thus to realize in the fullness of truth the meaning and destiny of our existence.

"This is my body." It is no accident that the same words are used for such different purposes. A spiritual conflict rages here. We win, in our own lives and in the world, by living these words in self-giving, life-giving love.
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Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another strange thought

No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.
 – John 1:18
In the Bible, we learn that no one can see the face of God. If they do, then they perish.

I had a dream or vision in which I imagined that seeking God was like diving underwater. We can hold our breath for only so long, so we can only dive so deep. And God lies at a much deeper level.

I imagine that searching for God, and searching for the ultimate scientific or mathematical truth are essentially the same. Science has come up with a method to search deeper. It is like creating an artificial living space at a certain depth below the water. And then we can use a submarine to get down to this underwater colony.

But at some depth, the pressure becomes so great that there is no way to create a structure that will survive. This will not stop people from trying.

Some scientist will explore these depths of knowledge and gain an insight so profound that he will instantly die or go totally mad. This is the scientific equivalent of staring into the face of God.

Such things actually exist in the world of mathematics. There is something called Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem. And some mathematicians have actually gone insane while trying to fully explain it.

The sciences seem to be lagging in this sort of deep understanding. Although, it seems like physics may be approaching this level. Will we soon see top physicists going insane as they explore at ever increasing depths?

As physicists explore deeper in the world of subatomic particles, will they simply find smaller and smaller particles with more and more bizarre properties? Particles that seem to exist at one moment and cease to exist at another. Particles that change from one into another without any apparent reason.

And if physicists are able to explore down to the deepest depths, will they find a world that is at once an empty void and also a bubbling chaos? And will they then theorize that unlocking the secrets of the smallest unit of matter is the same problem as unlocking the secret of the beginning of time? As if there is an instance of creation that is constantly occurring at the deepest level of subatomic particles.

Is this God, busy at work in sustaining the universe he created? Is the answer to the deepest riddle simply another riddle? This is the conclusion that the non-believer must come to, but for the believer the answer is simply God.

The universe cannot create itself, nor can it sustain itself. The universe has a creator and the universe has a Lord that guides its along its proper destiny and keeps it from falling into utter chaos.

 + + +
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
 The LORD is the everlasting God,
 the Creator of the ends of the earth.
 He does not faint or grow weary,
 his understanding is unsearchable.

  – Isaiah 40:28
 + + +

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A strange thought

Then Abraham drew near, and said, "Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked?"
 – Genesis 18:23
I was reading about St. Thomas' proof of the existence of God and had a strange thought.

What if the act of creation is not a singular event? What if each moment in time and space needs God to create it or at least shall we say to sustain it?

What if this continual act of creation depends on us to believe in God? Then when the last believer dies, the universe will cease to exist. Because God will destroy it.

This is what God did in the case of Sodom. Abraham asked if he would spare the city if there were only a handful of believers. In fact it seems possible that God might have spared it -- even if there were only one righteous person who truly feared God.

There is a tradition which is the Liturgy of the Hours. It consists of prayers that are said throughout the day. It is almost as if the monks believed that if they stopped praying that the world would end.

In fact the ancient Egyptians had such a belief. They had priests that would pray throughout the night to guarantee that the sun would rise in the morning.

I'm not trying to make a gnostic argument here for the need to worship God in order for the universe to continue existing. I am trying to stick to basic biblical fundamentals and Catholic beliefs.

We believe that God created the world. We also believe that the world will end one day. We don't know when that day will come. We know that the ancient Hebrews were punished when they strayed from their faith.

We see how faith in God is being destroyed in our modern world. Some don't believe in God at all. And some believe that God simply created the world and then plays no active part in his creation. This is rejected by Christian beliefs. We believe that God has an active role in his creation

I believe that God is love. It is that love that sustains and nourishes the world. I can't imagine a day where no one believes in God.

Man is God's creation which he created in his own image. How can we deny his existence. But perhaps it is not simply a matter of affirming his existence, but also of realizing his power over us. Is this what the Bible ultimately means by "God fearing"?

We know that we will be judged when we die. And we will be judged again at the end of time.

I heard an interesting explanation for this second judgement recently. At the end of time we will be judged for the consequences that resulted from our actions after we died. I don't know how prevalent that idea is within the Catholic faith, but it has an air of plausibility. And I had been wondering about this.

Some say that we don't go to Heaven (or Hell) when we die but must wait for the Second Coming. The Catholic Church does not agree with this. So I had been wondering, how does this work?

Could we be judged worthy of Heaven at the time of death and then unworthy later on? Would we then have to go through a second Purgatory, or is Purgatory even an option at that time?

Somehow it seems to me that the rule must be: once in Heaven, always in Heaven.

Perhaps there might be souls trapped in Purgatory that might not be so fortunate. So it would behoove those souls in Purgatory to pray mightily for those who they have influenced during their time among the Church Militant. And we in turn should pray just as fervently for our brothers and sisters in Purgatory.

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Mother Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us.

Friday, September 16, 2011

If 100 bishops got thrown in jail ... that would be wonderful

But the high priest rose up and all who were with him, that is, the party of the Sad'ducees, and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the common prison.

But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said, "Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life."

 – Acts 5:17-20



This article titled "Kreeft: It would be wonderful if 100 bishops got thrown in jail for marching with graphic images" appeared on LifeSiteNews the day before we got the shocking news that Father Frank Pavone had been recalled by Bishop Zurek of Amarillo.
In a new video released last month by the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, famed Catholic philosopher and author Peter Kreeft says it would be “wonderful” if one hundred bishops were arrested for marching with graphic images of aborted babies.

His comments are poignant in light of recent decisions by certain bishops to withdraw from pro-life events after the organizers could not guarantee that graphic images would not be present.

“What is wrong with exposing people to the truth?” he asked. “Suppose you were allowed to show the horrors in Auschwitz to the average German citizen. It might have toppled Hitler earlier. If something horrible is happening, covering it up is more horrible.”

Using the images is “probably going to be illegal. You’ll probably be thrown in jail,” he said.

He then recounted a story about a pro-life activist who picketed with a graphic image as President Bill Clinton entered the 1992 Democratic Convention in New York, and was arrested despite being well outside the 10-foot limit.

“None of the TV cameras filmed that incident. Well, if a hundred people did that, the TV cameras would have to film it,” he explained. “If a hundred bishops marched with those pictures and got thrown in jail, the newspapers would have to headline ‘100 bishops thrown in jail’.”

“That would be wonderful,” he continued. “Not because I hate bishops, because I love them.”
For the latest news on Father Frank please visit LifeSiteNews at:
Latest updates on Fr. Pavone situation

You can also get updates at Priests for Life:
http://www.priestsforlife.org/update/

Father Frank released a new video today on the Priests for Life YouTube channel:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The miraculous rescue of 9/11

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just.
 – John 5:28-30
This is the testimony of Genelle Guzman-McMillan who was the last person pulled out alive from the rubble of the World Trade Center on 9/11. She spent 27 hours buried alive before being rescued.



Last World Trade Center Survivor Tells of Meeting God in the Rubble
Trapped under concrete and steel with her right hand pinned under her body and legs crushed beneath a steel beam, Guzman-McMillan extended her left hand into the sliver of open space above her and found the strength to pray ... and pray and pray. Unsure of her eternal fate, Guzman-McMillan pleaded for hours with God to forgive her of her sins and to give her another chance.

"I said to Him, 'please, God, if you save me today ... give me a second chance, I promise I will do Your will," Guzman-McMillan told the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), adding that she was serious about the promises she made that day.

Her hand still extended above her in the pocket of open space, Guzman-McMillan asked God to send her a sign that He had heard her plea.

"Someone grabbed me by my hand and called me by my name, saying, 'Genelle, I've got you. My name is Paul," she recounted for CBN.

"I was asking God for a miracle, for a sign [and Paul] held my hand so tight ... reassuringly," Guzman-McMillan told CP, adding that she was sure she was not hallucinating.

Within minutes of Paul's appearing, Guzman-McMillan could hear rescue workers calling out for survivors.


Sometimes when I spend time in silent prayer, just trying to be in the presence of God and allowing his voice to speak to me I receive some bit of wisdom. The other day I was repeating the prayer of the Rosary in Spanish. The last words are, "... ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte. Amen." Which in English is "... now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

I prefer the Spanish. And as I was repeating it, I was struck by the beauty of the words, "ahora y en la hora" because of the poetic quality of the repetition of the word "ahora" followed by "la hora". "Now" and "at the time". But in Spanish the meaning is slightly different. It is more like "at this time" and "at the time" or "at this hour" and "at the hour".

It has a cadence like the ringing of a bell. It is a memento mori, a constant reminder of the moment of death. A reminder that at the moment of death, all the things that seem so important now will have little importance then. It is in this awareness where we find God waiting for us, reaching out his hand to touch us.

When I first learned to recite the Rosary I was repulsed by these words. They seemed so morbidly Catholic. It reminded me of somber scenes of my Grandmother with a black veil covering her head. It had the feel of a funeral. But now I have learned to embrace these words and see the profound beauty in them. Reciting them changes you inside. It opens your heart and softens it just a little bit with each repetition.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bishop Zurek says Priests for Life has no "ecclesial status"

Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.
James 3:12-14
I think this letter from Bishop Zurek on January 24, 2011 to the US bishops is explosive proof of his fundamental ideological opposition to the mission of Priests for Life. If the things he states in this letter are true than Priest for Life should never have been allowed to come into existence. So how is it that this organization with "no written decree from any competent ecclesiastical authority anywhere" has 21 bishops and cardinals on its Advisory Board?

(You can click on the images to enlarge them.)

Bishop Zurek also brings up Missionaries for the Gospel of Life in his letter. I don't think there is any dispute that this attempt at creating a religious order that would be entirely devoted to pro-Life work had to be abandoned by Father Frank Pavone. That is very unfortunate. If this organization were alive today, we would not be witnessing this current controversy which has already done so much harm to the pro-Life cause.

I wonder... Why wasn't this earlier letter revealed to the press? I happened upon this document buried inside a pdf on the website of the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico in a Google search. I have searched for a copy on the USCCB website, but have not been able to find one. Since the Bishop of Las Cruces received this letter, I assume that the rest of the bishops also received and read it. And that would include the US bishops that are part of the Priests for Life Advisory Board. And that would also include Bishop Baker of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama where EWTN is located.

Notice that there is no mention in this letter about any financial concerns. The letter concludes by saying:
It is my hope that this letter makes clear the official status of these organizations in the event that they attempt to present themselves with simulated officially recognized ecclesial status in order to solicit funds or to seek permission to perform any work related to the respect life movement. Finally, I want to confirm that Father Frank Pavone is a priest incardinated into the Dioceses of Amarillo, and that at the present, he has my permission to be on special assignment outside the dioceses for the time being.
What a strange and perplexing statement. Ambiguous would be way to generous a description of this cryptic paragraph. The bishop says that Father Frank can continue his "special assignment", but that apparently he shouldn't do any "respect life movement" work. When you figure out what Bishop Zurek is saying here, let me know.

Advisory Board of Priests for Life
  • His Eminence Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna
  • His Eminence Renato Cardinal Martino, President Emeritus, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
  • Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia 
  • Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh
  • Most Reverend Robert W. Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph
  • Most Reverend Roger J. Foys, Bishop of Covington
  • Most Reverend Roger W. Gries, Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland
  • Most Reverend Sam G. Jacobs, Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux
  • Most Reverend Peter Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte
  • Most Rev. Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester
  • Most Reverend Ralph Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City
  • Most Reverend Joseph A. Pepe, Bishop of Las Vegas 
  • Most Reverend Michael J. Sheridan, Bishop of Colorado Springs
  • Most Rev. Clarence Silva, Bishop of Honolulu 
  • Most Rev. Richard F. Stika, Bishop of Knoxville
  • Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, Bishop of Sioux Falls 
  • Most Reverend James Wall, Bishop of Gallup
  • Most Reverend John Quinn Weitzel, M.M., Bishop of Samoa-Pago Pago 
  • Most Reverend Martin Holley, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington
  • Most Reverend Dominic M. Luong, Auxiliary Bishop of Orange 
  • Most Reverend Victor B. Galeone, Bishop Emeritus of St Augustine  
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NOTE: This information was posted previously as "UPDATE 7" at the previous article titled, "In full support of Father Frank Pavone". I'm reposting it here to give it the prominence that it deserves.

 + + +


Our Lady of Guadalupe, protector of the unborn, pray for us.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In full support of Father Frank Pavone

John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us."
 – Mark 9:38-40

[See final UPDATE 8 below. When I have something new to say on this situation I'll post a new article. LSN (LifeSiteNews) has setup a page with ongoing updates. I recommend checking there for the latest information. Please keep Priests for Life and Father Pavone in your prayers, along with all the unborn.]

I am going to go out on a limb and offer Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life my full support in light of the recent accusations against him by Bishop Zurek. This story just broke and no one can claim to have all the facts, but the letter released by Bishop Zurek does not pass the basic smell test. Even if he has a legitimate complaint, the way that he chose to publicly denounce Father Frank is highly suspicious.

No matter what the outcome, Father Frank’s reputation will have been tarnished forever. It seems like there are two issues in the Bishop’s letter—one is financial and the other is “obedience to his Bishop”.

The ties of Priests for Life to the diocese of Amarillo are tenuous. It had some offices there in 2005, but has moved to Staten Island. The bishop in Amarillo in 2005 was Bishop Yanta. Bishop Zurek was appointed in 2008.

Father Frank is still a diocesan priest of Amarillo, but he obviously doesn’t function as an ordinary diocesan priest. In Father Frank’s statement he says, the bishop “thinks I am giving too much priority to my pro-life work, and that this makes me disobedient to him”.

I hope that Bishop Zurek will make a strong and public statement in a short period of time regarding the results of his investigation into the finances of Priest for Life. Personally, I have grown to be a strong admirer of Father Frank. I have been watching his homilies this past week on EWTN and find them to be articulate and inspiring.

There was a previous incident which gained some public attention in 2008. This would have been soon after Bishop Zurek was appointed. A religious order founded by Father Frank Pavone named Missionaries of the Gospel of Life was forced to disband by the diocese of Amarillo.

I encourage you to send an email to Bishop Zurek expressing your concern on this matter:
bishopzurek@gmail.com

Here are links that I can offer for those wishing to learn more:

I'll try to provide updates on this story as they become available.

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UPDATE 1 [Sep 13]:

Here is what appears to be the backstory behind this dispute between Bishop Kurek and Father Pavone....

Father Pavone was incardinated in the Amarillo Diocese in 2005. "Incardinated" basically means that he transferred there from another diocese. He was formerly part of the Archdiocese of New York. Under Cardinal O'Connor he was free to do his work as head of Priests for Life. But a year after Cardinal Egan took over in 2000, Father Frank was told that he must abandon Priest for Life and become a regular diocesan priest. Sound familiar?

I don't know the details of how that situation in New York worked out, but I'm just going to pick up the story in 2005. At that time Priests for Life made the following announcement:
Pro-Life Society of Priests Announced by Fr. Pavone and Bishop Yanta

March 23, 2005, Amarillo, Texas. Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, officially announced today that he is founding a pro-life community dedicated to the formation and training of priests, deacons, brothers and seminarians who will devote themselves fully to the proclamation of the Gospel of Life. This initiative will be based in the diocese of Amarillo, Texas, under the authority and stewardship of Bishop John W. Yanta.

"It has been a dream of mine for over a decade to form a community that can accept seminarians who want to devote their entire ministry to the defense of the unborn," said Fr. Pavone. "While there are religious communities that give special emphasis to the right to life, the Church has no 'institutional' society of men whose exclusive focus is to protect innocent human life from the tragedy of abortion and euthanasia. It is time for such a community. I am grateful to Bishop Yanta for allowing me the opportunity to make this dream a reality."

Bishop Yanta, who has served on the Priests for Life Episcopal Board of Advisors since 1998, and who has been particularly devoted to the pro-life cause throughout his priesthood, has already offered several buildings in his diocese that will serve as the center for the new apostolate. "I am excited about supporting Fr. Pavone in venturing forth, with and through the Holy Spirit, in the establishment of a Society of Apostolic Life for priests and seminarians dedicated to pro-life ministry - an immense need at this time in history," said Bishop Yanta today. "The Lord has provided several vacant buildings that once served as a Christian Brothers High School with boarding facilities, a chapel, gym, and spacious grounds. The Diocese of Amarillo is happy to make these available (at no cost) to Priests for Life and the proposed Society of Apostolic Life."
When Bishop Zurek took over the diocese of Amarillo in 2008, the plans were scuttled.

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UPDATE 2 [Sep 13]:

The story as reported by National Catholic Register gets more interesting and more complicated. The latest revelations will place Archbishop Timothy Dolan at the center of the controversy. Let me explain.

Bishop Zurek has said that he has banned Father Pavone from activities outside of the Diocese of Amarillo. Priest for Life's headquarters are in Staten Island which is part of the Archdiocese of New York headed by Archbishop Dolan. So will Dolan support Zurek?

The new information in the NCR report is the following:
Father Pavone’s statement was bolstered by an additional letter issued by Father David Deibel, chief canonist for Priests for Life, who noted that the nonprofit had undergone annual audits for the past decade and that PFL had “submitted over 40 separate financial and management documents to the bishop of Amarillo (Bishop John Yanta as well as Bishop Zurek). These included all annual audits from 2005 through 2010. The documents include quarterly statements, organizational charts, charts of accounts, internal-management documents, and even the actual check register when it was requested by Bishop Zurek. ...These submissions have never been acknowledged.”

Characterizing Bishop Zurek’s letter as “an outright and unjustified attack on the work of Priests for Life as a whole, which is much more grave than his real or imagined difficulty with Father Pavone,” Father Deibel reported that “we have formally petitioned Bishop Zurek to rescind his directive.”

He noted that “Bishop Zurek has threatened in writing to withdraw Father Pavone permanently from pro-life ministry if he were to exercise his canonical rights to hierarchical recourse. As an association that has always sought to be faithful to the Church and its teaching, this is the only forum left to us within the Church.”

“It should be noted that since we have formally petitioned Bishop Zurek to rescind his penal decree of Sept. 6, under the law, as contained in the norm of Canon 1353, the effects of that decree are suspended by the law itself until the matter is resolved by hierarchical recourse,” Father Deibel said. “In other words, under the canon law of the Church, Father Pavone is free to continue his pro-life ministry full time outside the Diocese of Amarillo until this matter is decided by the Vatican.”
There's nothing like airing the Church's dirty laundry in public. Father Pavone is not going to go down without a fight. All of this certainly makes it look like Bishop Zurek's target is not just Father Frank, but the whole Priests for Life organization.

I don't think anyone will argue about the fact that Priests for Life is one of the most effective pro-Life organizations in the American Catholic Church. Why would anyone within the Catholic Church want to publicly undermine that work? I'm sure there would be plenty of people from outside the Church that would like to apply pressure on the hierarchy to muzzle Father Frank, but I would hope that the bishops would do everything possible to defend him against such attacks.

So now I just want to go back to that announcement that I quoted from in the first update. At the bottom there were some interesting endorsements for the work of Father Frank. Among them were Archbishop Charles Chaput and Cardinal Raymond Burke.

How will the Vatican handle this situation? And what will Archbishop Dolan do as the head of the American bishops and the Archbishop of New York? Will Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia get publicly involved? Will Cardinal Burke pull some strings in the Vatican?

Stay tuned...

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UPDATE 3 [Sep 13]:

The story has spread to the secular media. Oh sure they completely ignore World Youth Day. And have completely ignored the positive actions of Priests for Life for years, but whenever there is any negative Church related news they are all over it.

Already Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press has written a piece with the title "Anti-abortion priest-activist suspended by bishop" which is being picked up by news outlets around the country. The title is typical anti-Life editorializing at its worst from the secular press. Zoll is no stranger to attacks on the Catholic Church. She is a "religious writer" for AP who seems to think that it is her job to smear the Catholic Church at every opportunity. Is that what the mainstream press calls "religious" writing? Well, yes it is!

As far as the main part of the article that AP's Rachel Zoll published, it must have been the easiest Catholic smear story that she has ever written. All she had to do was to quote from Bishop Zurek's letter.

I have gone to the website of the Archdiocese of Amarillo and I have looked at some of the statements by the Bishop about abortion and he seems to be firmly pro-Life. Which makes it all the more disturbing that he took this path to publicly denounce Father Frank Pavone. He even requests that people stop donating to Priests for Life. And at the same time he offers nothing in the way of proof to substantiate his suspicions.

It appears that Bishop Zurek is a good pastor of his flock. And I pray for him. I pray for all the bishops. It certainly isn't an easy job. I'm praying for Father Frank Pavone too.

 + + +

UPDATE 4 (Sep 13):

So far I haven't engaged in any speculation. I have been waiting to get all the facts. I don't think anything new is going to come out today, so I'll go ahead and give my impressions based on all the articles that I have read on this subject. And believe me I think I have read everything that has been said on this topic up until now.

The only thing that I can come up with that makes any sense to me is that some people in the Church are concerned that Father Frank is too closely involved in politics. It's no secret that he preaches that Catholics should not vote for pro-abortion politicians. That eliminates 99.9% of the Democrats out there. So that leaves the Catholics with the only alternative of voting Republican -- even though some Republican policies are not in keeping with Catholic teaching. I'm sure there are quite a few people that are not happy with that idea.

And it is even possible that the Church is being threatened with attempts to strip it of its tax exempt status because of perceived political involvement. Father Frank is no stranger to such controversies. He commented on this subject in one of his recent homilies on EWTN.

As I mentioned, I happened to have watched all of Father Frank's homilies over the past week or so on EWTN. He never gave any clue of the pressure that he was under. Even in today's homily. But thinking back over some things he said, there may have been a hint here or there about this controversy.

Well, all I can say that if this is just a misguided case of the Church persecuting one of its more faithful members then Father Frank is certainly in good company. Think of St. Francis or St. Teresa of Avila. Today's saint, St. John Chrysostom, was exiled from Constantinople.

Our main concern at this time should be for the unborn and their protection. Please offer them your prayers. We all know women who have undergone abortions. We need to pray for them also.

It's a sad time, but hopefully some good will come of all this. We need to trust in God's plan and put all of our faith in Him.

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UPDATE 5 (Sep 14):

I have some startling new news. It comes from the article by Susan Brinkmann on the Women of Grace website. There were some quotes in that article from Father Frank Pavone that I had not come across and which are very important. I was very surprised by this since I had read the official statements from Father Frank. It turns out there is a letter which he sent out on September 12 which is apparently addressed to all the US bishops. This would be in response to Bishop Zurek who you remember started this controversy by addressing a letter to all the US bishops informing them that he was limiting Father Frank's activities to his diocese of Amarillo.

I found the full letter in PDF format at LifeNews.com. Here are some excerpts:
I would respectfully make the observation that the reason I excardinated from the Archdiocese of New York in the first place was precisely because the previous Bishop of Amarillo was committed to allowing me to exercise full-time ministry within the pro-life movement, and, in fact, to form a community to allow others to live that same commitment. If it were not for his willingness to allow me to do full-time work in the pro-life movement, I would not have incardinated into the Diocese of Amarillo in the first place. Nor did the process of incardination in any way include a period of preparation for such ministry to the people of Amarillo or a time to get to know the presbyterate. It was done hastily, and only for one reason: so that I could be incardinated into the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, from which position I could do full-time pro-life work permanently.
[...]
The Bishop's letter references my relationship with previous Ordinaries as evidence of my inclination towards "disobedience." In the spirit of total transparency, I would like to acknowledge that any differences with previous Ordinaries had to do with precisely this point-- my desire to work full-time in pro-life ministry. I want to make this point quite strenuously: I was not disobedient to any of my previous Ordinaries. It is true that when I was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, I exercised my rights under canon law to seek to leave that Archdiocese and incardinate in a place where I would be allowed to devote all my energies and gifts to the pro-life cause. But while doing that, I was given a parish assignment and I both accepted it and carried it out. I acted at all times in full obedience to my Ordinary.
[...]
It is my sincere and profound hope that, in dutifully reporting to Amarillo on September 13, despite the suspension of the penalty contained in the Bishop's penal decree, we can resolve this matter through mutual dialogue and that it will not become necessary for me to initiate a hierarchical recourse before the Congregation for the Clergy.
[...]
Moreover, it is impossible for me to believe that there would be no place in the Church for priests to exercise full-time ministry in the service of the unborn. We do it for the sick, the poor, the hungry, and the imprisoned. But where in the Church is the place where a priest can exercise the same kind of full-time ministry for the children in the womb?
I have more startling news coming up in my next update which I will be posting very soon.

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UPDATE 6 (Sep 14):

Bishop Zurek and the Diocese of Amarillo have now changed their story on why Father Frank Pavone has been suspended from his work for Priests for Life. After publicly smearing Father Frank and Priests for Life to the delight of the pro-abortion forces, the bishop now says -- through his spokesman, Msgr. Harold Waldow -- that he "only suspended Father Pavone's ministry outside of the diocese because the well-known pro-life priest is needed for work in Amarillo."

This comes from a story published on CNS (Catholic News Service) which is the official news service of the US bishops. Um, then why did the same CNS journalist, Dennis Sadowski, previously report that Father Frank was"suspended from active ministry outside the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, over financial questions about his operation of Priests for Life"???

In the new article titled "Priests for Life head is needed for work in Texas, Bishop Zurek says" we also learn that Bishop Zurek will be out of town for two weeks and that he has not scheduled a meeting with Father Frank Pavone.

Is this anyway for a bishop to treat a priest under his care? I've been pretty patient and tried not to be too harsh on Bishop Zurek, but my patience is running thin.

MINI-UPDATE: I forgot to mention that in this same CNS article it says that Father Pavone "has already explored the possibility of being incardinated in another diocese so he could resume full-time ministry with Priests for Life as soon as possible." Father Frank has had to face this same challenge before. He was supported in the Archdiocese of New York by Archbishop O'Connor, but his successor Archbishop Egan apparently didn't approve of one of his priests devoting himself full-time to pro-Life work. In my opinion, this makes a sad statement about our Catholic Church and its bishops. Wouldn't it be nice if Archbishop Dolan of New York were to suddenly stand up and say to Priests for Life that they are fully welcome to stay in New York under his care and protection. Sorry, I seemed to have dozed off and had a wonderful dream. And how much more difficult will it be for Father Frank to find another US bishop to support him now that Bishop Zurek and CNS have publicly denounced his work?

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UPDATE 7 (Sep 14):

I think this letter from Bishop Zurek on January 24, 2011 to the US bishops is explosive proof of his fundamental ideological opposition to the mission of Priests for Life. If the things he states in this letter are true than Priest for Life should never have been allowed to come into existence. So how is it that this organization with "no written decree from any competent ecclesiastical authority anywhere" has 21 bishops and cardinals on its Advisory Board?

(You can click on the images to enlarge them.)

Bishop Zurek also brings up Missionaries for the Gospel of Life in his letter. I don't think there is any dispute that this attempt at creating a religious order that would be entirely devoted to pro-Life work had to be abandoned by Father Frank Pavone. That is very unfortunate. If this organization were alive today, we would not be witnessing this current controversy which has already done so much harm to the pro-Life cause.

I wonder... Why wasn't this earlier letter revealed to the press? I happened upon this document buried inside a pdf on the website of the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico in a Google search. I have searched for a copy on the USCCB website, but have not been able to find one. Since the Bishop of Las Cruces received this letter, I assume that the rest of the bishops also received and read it. And that would include the US bishops that are part of the Priests for Life Advisory Board. And that would also include Bishop Baker of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama where EWTN is located.

Notice that there is no mention in this letter about any financial concerns. The letter concludes by saying:
It is my hope that this letter makes clear the official status of these organizations in the event that they attempt to present themselves with simulated officially recognized ecclesial status in order to solicit funds or to seek permission to perform any work related to the respect life movement. Finally, I want to confirm that Father Frank Pavone is a priest incardinated into the Dioceses of Amarillo, and that at the present, he has my permission to be on special assignment outside the dioceses for the time being.
What a strange and perplexing statement. Ambiguous would be way to generous a description of this cryptic paragraph. The bishop says that Father Frank can continue his "special assignment", but that apparently he shouldn't do any "respect life movement" work. When you figure out what Bishop Zurek is saying here, let me know.

Advisory Board of Priests for Life
  • His Eminence Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna
  • His Eminence Renato Cardinal Martino, President Emeritus, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
  • Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia 
  • Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh
  • Most Reverend Robert W. Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph
  • Most Reverend Roger J. Foys, Bishop of Covington
  • Most Reverend Roger W. Gries, Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland
  • Most Reverend Sam G. Jacobs, Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux
  • Most Reverend Peter Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte
  • Most Rev. Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester
  • Most Reverend Ralph Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City
  • Most Reverend Joseph A. Pepe, Bishop of Las Vegas 
  • Most Reverend Michael J. Sheridan, Bishop of Colorado Springs
  • Most Rev. Clarence Silva, Bishop of Honolulu 
  • Most Rev. Richard F. Stika, Bishop of Knoxville
  • Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, Bishop of Sioux Falls 
  • Most Reverend James Wall, Bishop of Gallup
  • Most Reverend John Quinn Weitzel, M.M., Bishop of Samoa-Pago Pago 
  • Most Reverend Martin Holley, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington
  • Most Reverend Dominic M. Luong, Auxiliary Bishop of Orange 
  • Most Reverend Victor B. Galeone, Bishop Emeritus of St Augustine  
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UPDATE 8 (Sep 14):

This is my last update on this page. Any new information will go into a new article. You can subscribe to updates to the Public Vigil blog through email or twitter. Some final thoughts...

The latest information is that LifeSiteNews has set up an update page which is the best place to find new information on this ongoing story. Sadly, I don't see how this can be resolved in a short period of time. And the repercussions will be with us for many years to come. The LSN page has reactions from many in the pro-Life community. They all seem to agree that Father Pavone is totally dedicated to his pro-Life work.

I noticed that LSN even has the link to the January 24, 2011 letter which I included in UPDATE 7. I think this may stimulate some new debate on this subject once more people become aware of it. I'll probably repost that letter in a new article to give it more prominence. Many people won't want to dig through such a long article to get at that information.

It seems that many in the Catholic blogosphere are prudently waiting to chime in on the controversy. I took a risk and jumped right in. If I turn out to be wrong in placing my confidence in Father Frank then I will be the first to admit it.

But it seems to me that Bishop Zurek's accusations amount to a "thought crime". He seems to be saying something like, "what if something goes wrong and I was silent". The real issue seems to be Father Frank's independence from Bishop Zurek.

Well what if St. Peter had required St. Paul to check back with him every time before he visited another city? Or if St. Francis had not followed the Holy Spirit calling him to rebuild the Church?

If the bishops were out there leading on the pro-Life issues by example or by funding lay efforts, then maybe Father Frank's ministry wouldn't be needed. But we have to realize what we are up against. I was searching through the Ford Foundation website the other day and they provide millions of dollars a year worldwide to pro-abortion groups. And, by the way, they also provide money to specifically anti-Catholic groups like Catholics for Choice. And, by the way, they also provide money to the US bishops for immigration work. Yes, I do think there is a problem there.

I'm not some fanatical cheerleader for Priests for Life. If they mess up, I'll be on their case. But so far I haven't seen any evidence of that. What I have seen is evidence of tremendous fruits in the pro-Life battle.

And what about EWTN? It's well known that Mother Angelica had to fight with the bishops to establish this powerful ministry. I'm sure there are some among the bishops that don't care for the message that they propagate. Not because it is anti-Catholic, but because it is faithful to the actual teachings of the Catholic Church.

Let me just say that I have issues with celebrity priests. I've written critical articles about Father Barron and his upcoming "Catholicism" program that will appear on PBS. And you have Father Mitch Pacwa on EWTN who I admire and respect, but I wish would stop referring to Blessed Pope John Paul II as "John Paul the Great". If the Vatican wants to give him that title then fine, but we should show a little more humility and respect for the current Pontiff. (Actually, I think Father Mitch isn't doing that as much since the Pope was beatified.)

Pope Benedict XVI has talked about the new "digital continent" which he calls to be evangelized. Well isn't that what Priests for Life is doing? Community organizer Saul Alinsky knew that you needed to have an issue to organize people around. Folks, that issue for Christians today is abortion. Once you appreciate the evil that lies at the core of the abortion issue then that changes hearts and minds. And it brings them to Christ.

Mother Mary is calling us to be pro-Life. Could it be any more clear? From Our Lady of Guadalupe to Our Lady of Fatima, the message of life is always the same. As Father Frank says, "we are a people of Life."

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Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.