Sunday, February 12, 2012

Homilies and the Real World

It's been an interesting week for the Catholic Church in re politics in the United States, so I was wondering if our priest would touch on the political developments in his homily today.

Today was designated at World Marriage Day in the church. Writing for the local archdiocesan publication The Catholic Spirit, Archbishop Nienstedt laid out his agenda:

It would be my hope that all priests and deacons will use the Sunday liturgies of World Marriage Day to speak to their congregation about the natural and supernatural realities of marriage and encourage couples of all ages to remain open to the graces of this sacrament.

At the same time, I encourage clergy and laity alike to review the church’s teaching on marriage, which is set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, part two, article 7, paragraphs 1601 to 1666.
The pastor at my parish was equal to the task, and then some. He spent a significant amount of time in his homily talking about Church teachings on the matter. We then prayed the prayer for marriage, and following Communion, a married couple who will be leading my parish's efforts to pass the Marriage Amendment in Minnesota gave a short presentation on their plans.

What was interesting was to watch the reaction of at least one parishioner I know, who was seated in a pew not far from me. He is a prominent figure in our parish, a fellow who has given much of his time to the parish as a catechism teacher, an usher and as a communion minister. He is also one of the most hard-core Democratic Party supporters in the north metro and has shared a great deal of his time, talent and treasure to elect politicians who actively oppose Church teachings.

In the last cycle, this parishioner was a key supporter of Barb Goodwin, who is now our state senator and who has an interesting view concerning the value of life. I transcribed Goodwin's appearance on a local show with the Atheists for Human Rights, in which Goodwin sneered at Catholic hospitals with the host of the show, Marie Castle:

Castle: We could go in for, uh Catholic hospitals too, where they deny uh, certain services to people because it has to conform to uh, Catholic doctrine, and that includes the end of life care, and uh, there’s a lot of that where they just think uh, they have this theological position where they just think that suffering is good for your soul. Well, if you don’t believe you’ve got a soul, or if you don’t believe it’s supposed to suffer, why should you suffer because of somebody else’s religious beliefs?

But they have this thing about, uh the meritorious nature of suffering, and that only God can decide when you’re going to die. And uh, well, then, medical care just keeps you alive – you shouldn’t have medical care? So uh, there’s all that and uh, it really conflicts with reality, that the reality is that people suffer and we have to stop people from suffering and that we have to relieve it and we don’t make it worse.

Goodwin: Right, exactly —

Castle: And they’re making it worse.

Goodwin: They’re making it worse.

I've made this point before, but it's worth repeating. The thing that non-Catholics often don't understand about the Church, and Catholicism generally, is that while there is a hierarchical structure, there's a lot of autonomy at the local level. John Nienstedt, as the archbishop of this diocese, can call on the priests to speak about the intersection between faith and politics, but he really can't compel it. As it happens, the pastor at our parish chose today to speak on the issue of marriage. I don't know if they delivered the same message at St. Joan of Arc, but I rather doubt it.

At the same time, the pastor well knows that this parishioner supports politicians like Barb Goodwin, who sneer at Catholic values. As a pastor, he cannot compel the parishioner to comport his behavior to Church teachings. And as a pastor who must rely on parishioners who are willing to help the parish, he needs the help of the parishioner. This is the dance that Catholics often undertake, at both the clerical and lay level.

Every time I see this parishioner campaigning for someone like Barb Goodwin, I cringe, because he has to know there's a disconnect between what his faith teaches and what he supports. But I do not know the condition of the parishioner's soul, nor do I know what sorts of discussions he has had with our pastor about his political activities, either in the rectory or in the confessional booth. Presumably his conscience is his guide.


Gino said...

several years back, our bishop (in the OC) advised those who support pro-abortion candidates, and those candidates, to abstain from the Eucharist til they've reconciled their thoughts/voting records with their faith... but his letter left a big glaring hole one could drive a semi through...

of course... you can support a probort for office for other reasons... but cautioned rather sternly about the requirment to take a stand for the sanctity of life.

but its bad enough when an auxilary bishop is out there making excuses for his favorite proabortion democrat.

in the same letter he declared that anybody who works for PP and its similar minded organisations MUST NOT present themselves.... at all... not even reconciliation... until after they have severed any and all ties to said organisation.

Anonymous said...

"It's been an interesting week for the Catholic Church.." What an understatement. It's been a volumetric explosion of last-gasp vitriolic foment against state control of reproductive freedom in these g-dless United States of... I don't know anymore. It's time to overturn Griswold v. WGAF and let THRC open up women's neither parts to off-shore deep unprotected drilling... pronto. Cause, you know, Catholic bishops are the best kinda people to lecture human folk about any-bloody-thing.

Mr. D said...

I don't know anymore. It's time to overturn Griswold v. WGAF and let THRC open up women's neither parts to off-shore deep unprotected drilling... pronto. Cause, you know, Catholic bishops are the best kinda people to lecture human folk about any-bloody-thing.

1) Catholic bishops certainly have a right to offer teaching. You have a right to reject it.

2) As do Catholic women. And some do.

3) That doesn't mean the bishops should shut up, though.

4) And the issue isn't the substance of the "lecture." It's whether or not (a) the bishops still have the right to offer the lecture; and (b) whether a conscience objection still exists. Because if it doesn't, dear brave anonymous poster, we're all screwed in ways far beyond whether or not some gal can get financing for her prescription.

5) The "off shore drilling" joke was very amusing. I remember when the Onion used it back in about 1998 or thereabouts.

Gerry said...

I was at St. Bernard's in Appleton, WI on Sunday with my son, who is in the final stages of confirmation. Our priest didn't preach the homily, one of our deacons, who was a Laotian refugee, and now a U.S. Citizen, spoke about how lepers were dealt with in Laos during the Vietnam war.

A city was created, which was called Happy City, where all lepers were banished to. Basic needs of food, water and medicine were provided, and missionaries were the doctors as well as spiritual leaders.

Happy City still exists today. Our Deacon Joe visited this city in the past year. He said it is much like a regular city, streets, buildings, cars, shops, etc. The only difference being it has the burden of a stigma that normal cities don't. It is a place that no politician or military man will touch, due to this stigma. Deacon Joe made the point that while lepers still live there, many others do as well. Many of those who live there are objectors to the current communist government, and they "hide" there to avoid things like mandatory military service. In a way, this city has become a oasis for those politically oppressed. Interesting.

The Sunday readings had leprosy throughout. While marriage was not a topic, the homily was interesting.

None of this has been on topic. I would expect my priest to take up what's happening with HHS and President Obama on another Sunday.



Mr. D said...


That sounds good. Leprosy was the topic of the readings yesterday and our pastor did use it as a way into his main subject. The way he did it was interesting -- he pointed out that Jesus cured the leper but did not reject the law of Moses, which was what we heard in the first reading (from Leviticus).

The pastor's point is that the Church finds other ways to deal with gays, on a pastoral basis, that does not require changing existing laws. I can easily imagine a different minister coming up with a differing interpretation. This is why we still have theologians some 2000 years after the time of Jesus on Earth.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

For example, I used the reading about Namaan to talk about how God works via baptism. That is to say, God acts as he chooses even if it confounds our expectations and undermines our supposed dignity.

As interesting and important as politics is, it's good to keep in mind that God is at work there. We all know that knaves, do-gooders, and fools have attacked the church before, from within and without, but though they cause damage, they will do good they know not of just as Joseph's brothers did. So it's worth considering, what good is Obama doing right now that is beyond his understanding (and ours.) Let us give thanks for that and to the God who works good for all who love him and are called according to his purposes.

Anonymous said...

The Roman Church already played their Get Out of Jail Free card by smuggling that pederast enabler Bernard Law back to the fascist created non-state homeland inside the Eternal City. By my humble consideration, this fact relegates the "teachings" of this criminal enterprise to the moral equivalency of Charlie Manson's "family." Both Bernie and Chuck didn't partake in the sadistic pleasures of their disciples (as far as we know), but did their damnable best to cover up the whole messy affairs. So yes, I reject these beasts "teachings" like I would an invitation to surf the beaches of Somalia. What really chaps my hide like a frozen hairshirt is why the lazy retrograde media phonies repeat the bishop's protestations as though they speak for the majority of people who by no fault of their own got stuck in such a loony cannibalistic death cult. People like Chris Matthews and Sean Hannity parroting a bunch of sexless white men who are hopelessly fearful of what lies between a woman's knees makes most people wanna puke. And the polls bear this out, BTW. So, yes, of course, THRC has every right to say anything they want about ensoulment and transubstantiation and how many angels can fit through the eye of a camel and any other bit of hooey that it's gullible believers hang onto to forestall an indifferent Universe, but their bleatings should find no purchase in a descent society. Don't fear, Mr. D., your "conscience objection" and your free will are an illusion inside a mechanistic universe. Scream and holler like hungry infant, it doesn't change the facts. I know it hurts a little to hear the truth, but the Catholic Church in America is a mortally wounded animal flailing in its last gasps of relevancy. You want to know its future? Look to the land that created this unholy church: Europe. Go try and convert the apostates in Paris or Helsinki or Madrid or Amsterdam or Munich. Good luck.

Mr. D said...


You're entitled to your opinion. But I'd remind you that no Church, anywhere, puts its teachings up to a plebiscite.

And, by the by, it's evident that there's nothing humble about your consideration.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

Wait a second, that made absolutely no sense. The universe is mechanistic and without free-will... And at the same time the church is dying in Europe because the church has been sinful? Huh?

I marvel at how some people just hate the Catholic Church. People don't seem to hate Lutherans all that much. They just shake their heads when we do stupid stuff (often enough these days) or ignore us when we're right.

Gino said...

when you're the Big Dog everybody want to take you down, thats why.
and tearing down is a lot easier than building up... ask any toddler he gets joy out of knocking down his older sibling's lego blocks, blocks the toddler hasnt the knowledge to stack.

too bad anon hasnt the bravery to identify himself.

Mr. D said...

too bad anon hasnt the bravery to identify himself.

Oh, I think he has, Gino.

Night Writer said...

Oh, I think he has, Gino.

Let me his name Legion?

Such a fascinating screed,though, full of flowery words and gilded imagery that proves that one can, indeed, polish a turd. Especially when supported by polls that are - like 66% of all statistics - made up on the spot.

As for the Spanish apostates, I have walked among them and witnessed their liberty now that they've thrown off the repression of the church: undisciplined toddlers and children rampaging through restaurants, becoming undisciplined young adults all but fornicating in the streets and on public transportation, and a majority voting for anything that allows them to appropriate their neighbors property for themselves. It's interesting to me to notice how the lofty ideals of enlightenment always seem to devolve to the basest of human impulses once "freed" from the aspirational standards of morality espoused by religion.

Is religion blameless? Of course not. I have also stood beside Franco's artillery on Montjuïc, pointed not out to sea but at the heart of Barcelona. The Church in Spain, historically intertwined for centuries in both the successes and excesses of the rulers in the country, had nowhere to turn in the tumult of the Spanish Civil War. While its objectives were similar in many ways to the Socialists, no self-respecting Socialist would respect the Church and instead formed common cause with the cold-blooded Communists and un-thinking Anarchists who slaughtered the priests, nuns and seminiarans as nearly the first order of business. The Church could only turn to the Nationalists and their supposed embrace of traditional values; values that somehow also included mass slaughter.

The homily for believers that I take from history and from our media today is that people of faith (of any denomination) must turn to and live for God, putting our trust in Him and trying to live, aspirationally, by His tenets and trying to overcome our weaknesses and faults through the mercy and grace he has provided. If you put your trust in political parties - even if they seem to align with your beliefs - you will end either getting your head pat by one or your face slapped by the other. I vote now for whoever is willing to allow me the greatest liberty to provide for my family and live honorably with my neighbors.