From Across the Pond?
Fr. Peter Stravinskas with reflections from the USA
The Church in the United States continues on a generally positive and strong thrust amid various crises, internal and external.
States have introduced more than 500 pro-life pieces of legislation in the first months of the Biden Administration, in what the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute is calling the “most devastating” legislative session in decades. The organization noted that lawmakers have introduced 536 pro-life pieces of legislation since January. This includes 146 abortion bans, with 61 of them having been enacted in 13 states. The Institute bemoaned this development as “unprecedented.”
In a March 16 article at Public Discourse (www.thepublicdiscourse. com), Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York wrote a detailed critique of the so-called “Equality Act,” promoted by the Biden Administration. The Cardinal opens his reflection thus: “The Equality Act goes far beyond the noble desire to protect vulnerable people. It burdens consciences, severely curtails the rights of people to practice their faith, smuggles in an abortion mandate, and explicit ly exempts itself from respecting religious freedom.” What is the precise problem with the legislation? “It makes ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ protected categories in the Civil Rights Act.”
This law would impose serious burdens on Catholic schools, health care facilities and social services. Cardinal Dolan concludes his observations thus:
“While Catholics must accompany all individuals, we cannot accept an ideology of gender, which, as Pope Francis says, “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family.” In fact, the Holy Father seems to be speaking directly to the problem represented by the Equality Act when he says: “This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.”
On May 6, President Biden issued a proclamation for the National Day of Prayer (observed since 1775). Only this time around, one word was missing from the document: God!
And this, from the Sunday-Mass-goer, rosary-clutching, devout Catholic Joe Biden.
This put me in mind of a story shared with me by Professor Paul Vitz, the esteemed Catholic psychologist. Several years ago, he was visiting a government elementary school (as part of his review of social studies textbooks being used in the state schools) in the week leading up to Thanksgiving Day. The children were engaged in an art project connected to the feast. Dr. Vitz asked the kids what the feast was all about. “The Pilgrims gave thanks for landing safely.” “To whom did they give thanks?” he asked. All he got were quizzical looks from the befuddled pupils, until one piped up: “I know! They gave thanks to the Indians!” Yes, that’s the answer from an educational system poisoned by secularism.
More dissent from Biden
During a press briefing on April 27, EWTN reporter Owen Jensen pointed out that the nation’s Catholic bishops, “the leaders of the President’s own faith,” have condemned Biden’s recent order forcing Americans to fund research with aborted baby parts with their taxpayer dollars. Jen Psaki (White House press secretary) said that “the White House respectfully disagrees” with the Catholic Church on the issue; so much for Biden’s delight in presenting himself as a strong, church-going Catholic.
Critical Race Theory (CRT), LGBTQ, and Black Lives Matter (BLM)
Since the Church does not live in a hermetically sealed bubble, societal issues naturally have an impact on her life and mission, especially for a Church that has such a large institutional footprint.
There have been a few instances when Catholic school administrators have been lulled into supporting CRT on the assumption that this is merely an attempt to combat racism, which it is certainly not. It is racism (making white children feel guilty for being white or for having “white privilege”) masquerading as anti-racism to counter supposed racism. When discovered, pastors or parents have had to demand the reversal of the addition to the curriculum, putting the Church into an embarrassing public position.
Not a few Catholic universities (pretending to be such) have bought into the BLM agenda and now proudly display that logo on their athletic uniforms, either ignorant of the profoundly Marxist program of the movement or – worse – supportive of it. Of the more than 200 colleges/universities which self-identify as Catholic, only a handful could ever be convicted of Catholicism in a court of law.
Communion for pro-abortion politicians
This has been a neuralgic issue within the Catholic community for decades. That big elephant in the living room has been even more conspicuous with the election of a supposedly “devout” Catholic as president.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City and chairman of the pro-life committee of the episcopal conference has been relentless in calling out the hypocrisy of Biden and has repeatedly declared that Biden should not be receiving Holy Communion. Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver wrote an article on the topic of “Eucharistic coherence” for – of all places – America magazine. He was immediately challenged by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, which gave Archbishop Aquila the opportunity to
re-visit the issue in an article in The Catholic World Report (it’s here https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2021/04/18/eucharistic- coherence/), with even greater clarity (his “take’ on all this was seconded by Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy, a member of the International Theological Commission: https://www.thecatholic thing.org/2021/05/01/politicizing-the-eucharist-2/)
The only bishops publicly aligned with Cupich (who, interestingly, has never been elected to any office in the bishops’ conference, so disliked is he by his peers) are Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington.
The Biden-Communion controversy has even more currency because his home diocese of Wilmington (Delaware) has a new bishop. His former Ordinary refused to “politicize” the Eucharist by denying Biden access to the Sacrament, seeming to forget that the one who is “politicizing” the Eucharist is the dissenting politician who presents himself for Holy Communion. The new Ordinary, Monsignor William Koenig of Rockville Centre (New York), was asked about his position on the matter during his first press conference. He replied: “I certainly pray for him (Biden) every day”; “I would certainly be open to having a conversation in the future with him.” When pressed further, he said: “As a bishop, I’m called to teach the fullness and the beauty of the Catholic Faith.” That sounds like a move in the right direction.
“Taking Measure of the ‘Biden Effect’: American Catholics and the President” was a conference sponsored by Villanova University in Philadelphia on April 23. The biggest take away was the headline of an article by Christopher White in the National Catholic Reporter: “Villanova conference elevates calls for Biden to be denied Communion.” Joining the ever growing chorus is a now-monthly call from the indomitable speaker and author Mary Eberstadt to Biden, published as an open letter in Newsweek, for him to abandon his stances which have put him on a collision course with the Church.Our responsibility to the rest of the Catholic community is to assure them that the Church of Jesus Christ does take most seriously her mission to care for “the least of these,” as Our Lord has commanded us, and to correct Catholics who erroneously, and sometimes stubbornly, promote abortion.
The biggest shoe to drop on this topic is the teaching document of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, “Before I Formed You in the Womb I Knew You: A Pastoral Letter on the Human Dignity of the Unborn, Holy Communion, and Catholics in Public Life,” promulgated on 1 May 2021, the memorial of St. Joseph the Worker. Not only do his reflections apply to Biden, but also to another notorious dissenter from Church teaching who masquerades as a “devout” Catholic: Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives and a canonical subject of Archbishop Cordileone.
Section 4 of the letter focuses attention on “Catholics in Public Life,” in which the Archbishop writes with great passion: “. . . we pastors have a responsibility both to them (the politicians) and to the rest of our people. Our responsibility to them (pro-abortion Catholic politicians) is to call them to conversion and to warn them that if they do not amend their lives they must answer before the tribunal of God for the innocent blood that has been shed.”
He goes on:
Our responsibility to the rest of the Catholic community is to assure them that the Church of Jesus Christ does take most seriously her mission to care for “the least of these,” as Our Lord has commanded us, and to correct Catholics who erroneously, and sometimes stubbornly, promote abortion. This
correction takes several forms, and rightly begins with private conversations between the erring Catholic and his or her parish priest or bishop. The experience of some of us in Church leadership over many years demonstrates the sad truth that often such interventions can be fruitless. It can happen that the conversations tend to go nowhere, thus leaving it easy for the individual to continue participating fully in the life of the Church. Such a situation is a cause of scandal to many of the faithful.
Because we are dealing with public figures and public examples of cooperation in moral evil, this correction can also take the public form of exclusion from the reception of Holy Communion.
The document is very long but very carefully reasoned in the clearest of terms and deserves an equally careful reading by all.
Finally, it is believed that the doctrine committee of the bishops’ conference is drafting a document on Eucharistic coherence to be presented for the review of the full body of bishops during their meeting this June. Given the flurry of episcopal statements demanding accountability from those presenting themselves as Catholics in public life, it is hard to imagine a text emerging which would be any less demanding; if it were to be such, it would never garner the needed votes.
Bishop Joseph Coffey, Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Military Services, has pledged to pray daily for the President because of his pro-abortion position. He explained: “What I would like to say to him if I could is that none of us are promised tomorrow. And each day could be the last day on earth, and he has such power as the most important, most powerful man in the world as President.”
Seventh annual seminar on the role of priests in our Catholic schools
For a number of years, the annual Summer Conference of the Catholic Education Foundation, was hosted by Seton Hall University in New Jersey; last year, it was forced to go virtual (which was less than optimal); the same was going to happen this year, so a “free state,” that is, one not laboring under draconian restrictions, had to be found. We found a beautiful home at Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center in Palm Beach! We have had priests from beyond our shores participate in the past; they would be most welcome again, if they can evade any draconian strictures they may be experiencing. Dates: July 13-15. For further information, visit our website: catholiceducation. foundation.
The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
The Ordinariate is opening two schools this coming fall. This is extremely good news as those schools will be authentically Catholic, will adopt a classical curriculum – and will thus attract school families to the parishes. Bishop Steven Lopes is exercising true leadership; he also knows the inestimable value of Catholic education because his own mother was a Catholic school teacher for more than four decades.
On February 16, Al Roker of NBC (Black and former Catholic) interviewed Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington (the highest-ranking Black cleric in the U.S.). Cardinal Gregory bewailed the allegedly pervasive racism in the country; he indicated that this is also a phenomenon in the Church. He observed that when he is dressed in clerical garb, he is treated with respect and even deference; when in lay clothes (which he shouldn’t be!), he has had negative experiences. A few days later, Father Bryan Massingale (a Black priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and professor at Fordham University) weighed in on the race issue (as is his wont).
I would like to apprise the two reverend gentlemen of some interesting data. Please understand that I am not in favor of “affirmative action” (giving special consideration to representational recruitment/promotion), however, if that were a policy to be pursued, I offer the following data for their consideration. There are roughly 3 million Black Catholics in the country, with 250 priests (out of 40,000) and 16 bishops (out of 434). Six percent of Black priests are bishops. For comparison purposes, let me highlight data on the 9 million Polish Catholics, with approximately 2,000 priests and
27 bishops. Simple math reveals that 6% of Black priests are bishops, while fewer than 1% of Polish priests are bishops.
Again, the criterion ought to be suitability for an office, not race, however, using the standard of “representation,” it should be Polish Catholics on the grievance line, not Black Catholics.
Influx of new families into Catholic schools
As reported earlier here, because of Covid lockdowns in state schools, Catholic schools received a record number of new students. The question, however, was whether those children would remain when state schools finally opened up for in-person education. The very good news is that the vast majority of those families are remaining, so pleased are they by what they have found in our schools. Even happier, pastors are reporting that many of these new families are being integrated or reintegrated into Catholic life as a result of their children’s Catholic schooling. One pastor is delighted to tell all that 16 new families received “missing” sacraments, in addition to two marriages being regularized.
The new parents express surprise at what they had been missing by having their children in the godless state schools, but also at how “cheap” our schools really are: tuition at an elementary school
usually hovers around $5,000, while a secondary school generally costs double that figure. That is surely “cheap,” compared to other non-public schools, however, it is common for the second working parent’s entire salary to go for Catholic school tuition – a great tribute to our parents’ commitment to the Faith and to the integral education of their children.
Fr. Peter Stravinskas is the President of the Catholic Education Foundation, Editor of The Catholic Response and publisher of Newman House Press.