From Across the Pond...
Lots of news from schools…
Last year, the Diocese of Charleston (South Carolina) brought suit against a provision of state law barring any financial assistance to faith-based schools. The current ban has its origins in an 1895 law, mimicking the so-called Blaine Amendment of New York, which was enacted to burden Catholic schools. In the nineteenth-century atmosphere of virulent anti-Catholicism (including the burning down of our schools, convents and churches), that law was replicated in numerous other states. A federal appeals court decided against the diocese, claiming that the state’s ban is not rooted in religious prejudice. Undoubtedly, the diocese will appeal that decision, especially since the Supreme Court of the nation has already signaled its antipathy toward Blaine Amendments.
Regis Jesuit High School in Colorado dismissed two teachers, responsible for a student newspaper, in which an article was printed in contradiction of Catholic teaching on the inviolability of human life in the womb. The top administrators issued an excellent statement:
“An opinion piece that presented a stance on abortion clearly in opposition to Church teaching was included that we found both deeply troubling and unacceptable. We believe that protection of life at [conception] represents the foundational requirement of respecting the dignity of human life at every stage. We are committed to ensuring that this does not happen again. The issue has been retracted in its entirety. While we believe in providing an avenue for student expression, we are taking steps now to consider the magazine’s editorial process to ensure its compatibility with and responsibility in representing the mission of Regis Jesuit.”
A very heart-warming story comes from St. Isaac Jogues School in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Like many Catholic schools around the country, St. Isaac Jogues experienced an enrollment boom as a result of our schools having very reasonable approaches to the pandemic. The vast majority of parents – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – who may have used our system as an “escape hatch,” were so impressed that they have decided to stay with us. Due to the pervasive religious environment, in addition to the required participation in formal religion classes and in school liturgical events, significant numbers of conversions or “reversions” have come about. St. Isaac Jogues is a good example of this. Of the eighteen people being received into the Church at the Easter Vigil this year, twelve of them have a connection to the parish school. The principal, Sister Maria Guadalupe, says she was brought to tears watching little ones who had asked their parents to become Catholic make their first confessions and First Holy Communions (a goodly number of parents likewise are coming into the Church). One such boy, Owen Wilson in second grade, said: “I’ve been learning about the Church and how it’s a great place to have confession and learn about God. I had my first confession, and it was really good. I had to tell all my sins to the priest so I could get ready for Communion. It felt good to come out of the confessional.”
As I indicated, the evangelizing power of the school is significant. A friend of mine, pastor of another large parish, was able to accept sixteen new families into his school during the pandemic. Fourteen of those families had children needing to play sacramental “catch-up,” and four sets of parents had their marriages convalidated.
An aside: The school is blessed to have several Dominican Sisters of Nashville on the staff; as you might know, that community has a serious vocation problem: They have so many applicants that they have to keep building new wings to the motherhouse! Needless to say, the Sisters have a robust prayer and liturgical life, live a common life, wear the traditional habit, and have a
No matter where we are, I firmly believe that the health of a Catholic school rises and falls with the involvement and commitment of priests. To that end: our eighth annual seminar on the role of the priest in today’s Catholic school: July 11-14, Palm Beach, Florida. Priests from the UK have attended in the past and found the event very useful, despite governance differences. For further information: https://catholiceducation.foundation/
Louisiana Senator John Kennedy wrote a letter to the Department of Justice in 2020, expressing concern about incidents of anti-Catholic vandalism and harassment. In part, he wrote: “For example, rioters attacked a bookstore run by nuns, vandals demolished reverent statues, and arsonists set churches on fire. In one case, criminals targeted a church while worshipers were still inside. I concluded by asking that the department, which you now head, act swiftly and carefully to bring an end to these heinous crimes.” This March, he has written again; so far, no response from the Attorney General. Senator Kennedy, by the way, is a Methodist.
Bishop James Conley of Lincoln (Nebraska) spoke out against a city ordinance, which added “sexual orientation and gender identity” to its list of protected classes. In addition to causing confusion for citizens in general and children in particular, this local ordinance could have had serious consequences for Catholic institutions. He wrote: “…laws that seek to elevate sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes undermine [a] basic fact of our human biology. Rather than protect against unjust discrimination, these policies enshrine a false understanding of the human person into our legal structures.” He called for Catholics and others to sign a referendum petition to block enactment of the ordinance. The referendum petition needed 4,137 signatures by February 28. Within a day, it had garnered 18,501 signatories.
One of the most contentious issues during the Covid time in the U.S. was the closing down of churches. Many Catholics believed that the bishops were way too compliant, even supine. I was willing to give them some slack because I think two issues were in play. First, I suspect the bishops wanted to be “proactive” in closing down our institutions, in advance of government officials doing so, lest the bishops appear to be caving into governmental pressure. Even more pressing, I believe, was a fear of lawsuits; for example, a grandson who hadn’t visited his grandmother in decades but, when Granny contracted the virus and died, he would come out of the woodwork to sue the diocese for causing her death.
At any rate, enough dust was raised during and after Covid era, that many players are now trying to ensure that this never happens again. Hence, legislation is surfacing in many venues declaring that religious institutions and what they offer their congregants must be considered “essential services,” thus guaranteeing their maintenance in crisis situations. The State of Arizona has passed such legislation, as has South Carolina.
The Media Report, produced by David Pierre, has been a constant voice of reason in the entire debacle of clergy sex abuse. He has unmasked all the dishonest dealers out to “make a buck” on the Church, throwing priests indiscriminately to the wolves.
Recently, he has been urging bishops to drop the topic because the problem has been solved and that the safest place for any
child in America is in any institution run by the Catholic Church. All too many bishops, however, keep beating their breasts – even though only seven cases surfaced last year, with over 40,000 priests in the nation.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has filed an amicus curiae brief (drafted by the most impressive Becket Fund) before the Supreme Court in support of a government school football (that’s not soccer here!) coach in the State of Washington, who led his team in prayers after their games, and was subsequently terminated for violating the sacrosanct “separation of Church and State.” The USCCB brief argues: “We hope that the Supreme Court confirms what everyone with common sense knows: When a Christian coach kneels in prayer, or a Sikh schoolteacher wears a kirpan, or a Muslim principal fasts for Ramadan, they are expressing their faith, not establishing a religion.”
An elementary school in Moline, Illinois, has approved the establishment of an after-school Satanic Club. The rationale? To “help children learn benevolence and empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, creative expression and personal sovereignty. Proselytization is not our goal, and we’re not interested in converting children to Satanism. After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us. We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.” And public school administrators can’t imagine why parents are abandoning their institutions in droves.
Thirteen Catholic lawmakers (all Democrats) in the U.S. Senate voted in favor of a failed attempt to pass a sweeping new abortion law that threatened to override states’ pro-life laws and remove restrictions on abortion up to the point of birth, in some cases. Reacting to the two senators from Rhode Island, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence had this remark: “Shameful. The judgement will be God’s.”
Bishop George Thomas of Las Vegas, responding to one of his canonical subjects in public office advancing the abortion agenda, issued this statement: “If a politician from the Diocese of Las Vegas finds himself or herself at odds with the Church’s teaching on the sacredness of human life, I ask him or her voluntarily to refrain from the reception of Holy Communion while holding public office.” His stance has been praised by many, including Bishop James Conley of Lincoln.
The Alexandria City Council scrapped plans to designate March 10 as Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, following protests from Catholics in the Arlington diocese. Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington declared: “Proposing a celebration of abortion and an ‘appreciation day’ for those who destroy lives defies comprehension. The City of Alexandria should instead do the opposite. It should celebrate all those who save, protect and care for human life. It should re-direct its focus toward recognizing and supporting both mothers and their children, as so manydedicated and compassionate people in Alexandria do each day.”
Ahead of a Senate vote, two U.S. bishops conference chairmen labeled a bill that would codify abortion rights into federal law as “built on a false and despairing narrative” that abortion is the “only, or best, solution to a crisis pregnancy.
” “In treating abortion as the moral equivalent to the removal of an appendix, this proposal is radically out of step with the American public,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said in a joint letter to the Senate. “We strongly urge you to reject this bill and to put the energy and resources of our federal government behind policies that fully recognize and support both mothers and their children.”
Lori and Dolan chair the bishops’ conference’s pro-life and religious liberty committees,respectively.
The bill failed – although it was strongly supported by devout Catholics Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. At a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon hosted by Pelosi, she lauded her partner in crime, Holy Joe, thus: “…he understands the dignity and worth of all people, because his Irish heritage in his case was accompanied by deep Catholic faith.” God help us!
The Catholic Bishops of New Jersey (boasting the highest percentage of Catholics in the country) expressed their “profound disappointment and deep concern about the passage of the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, which codifies into state law an individual’s right to an abortion, including late-term abortions. This law departs from the fundamental Catholic teaching that all life is sacred from conception to natural death. Even more distressing is that the legal and ethical calculus that underlies this new legislation absolutely and forthrightly extinguishes the human and moral identity of the unborn child. Perhaps the legislators who rushed through this Act in the waning moments of their terms did not want citizens to understand fully its inhuman and lethal consequences.” The bill was enthusiastically promoted and signed into law by another “faux Catholic,” Governor Phil Murphy.
The annual March for Life in January in Washington, D.C., was another rousing success, largely populated by young people, a sizable percentage of whom are Catholic school students.
A few days after the 2010 March for Life in Washington, D. C., a journalist in favor of “abortion rights” wrote an article in the Washington Post (also strongly pro-abortion) noting that he was “expecting to write about [the March’s] irrelevance,” however, he indicated: “I was especially struck by the large number of young people among the tens of thousands at the march.” He highlighted the fact that the vast majority came from Catholic schools who “were taught from an early age to oppose abortion.” The piece ended up being remarkably fair and even positive.
This year:“As usual, the crowd at the March for Life skewed young, with many students from Catholic high schools and colleges wearing their school gear and carrying signs and banners with anti-abortion slogans.”
Sometimes Europeans express surprise and even befuddlement about the tenacious opposition of American Catholics to “the culture of death,” as St. John Paul II put it. I firmly believe we have our Catholic schools – over a half decade of consistently strong catechesis on this topic – for this tenacity. And it is paying off, as pro-life pieces of legislation are enacted year after year and, most especially, with the very real possibility of the Supreme Court’s overturning of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. All of this goes to explain the rabid and nearly irrational push of the pro-abortionists these days.
On a personal note:
The following personal anecdote might be of interest:
Honesty compels me to admit that I am an Eastern European mutt: Lithuanian on my father’s side, Ukrainian on my mother’s, and Polish on both – thanks to shifting political borders. My four grandparents arrived in America between 1910 and 1915.
My maternal grandmother came to live with us in Newark when I was eight. Since kindergarten, I had declared my intention to be a priest. While my parents never discouraged this intention, Grandma Makara (her surname bowdlerized at Ellis Island!) took me very seriously. She shared with me that her baby brother (Michael), ordained in Ukraine in 1917, went home to his village to celebrate his first Divine Liturgy. On his way back to Lviv to assume his first priestly assignment, his train was stopped by the Bolsheviks for a “security check.” Espying my grand-uncle in his cassock, they escorted him off the train and put a bullet into his head (three weeks a priest). Not content with that damage, they then went back to his family home and confiscated
the farm, since having a religious in the family made one an “enemy of the state.”