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PASTOR'S COMMENTS from weekly parish bulletin - 2013 (2012) (2011):
December 1, 2013
MR SCROOGE'S THANKSGIVING Henry Ford could teach the executives at Walmart and many other companies today about the wisdom of paying their employees enough to buy the consumer products they sell. Ford was criticized by the plutocrats of his day because he was paying them too much. Of course, history proved him right and his workers helped to expand the economy for all.
Walmart refuses to pay anything close to a living wage as Barbara Ehrenreich's book, "Nickel and Dimed" proved by using the example of the Walmart in Bloomington. Walmart here as elsewhere relied on the state to pay the healthcare and food stamps of their employees. The latest sign of this (literally a sign) is the Walmart in Canton, Ohio, where the store managers placed at the store entrance plastic bins with the sign, "Please donate food items so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner." I always thought that was what wages were supposed to accomplish.
A POPE WITH HOPE Pope Francis issued his "mission statement," with his new apostolic exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel." Francis wants Catholicism to be: more missionary, more merciful, and with the courage to change. John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter has a good summary of some of his main points:
· He calls for a "conversion of the papacy," saying he wants to promote "a sound decentralization" and candidly admitting that in recent years "we have made little progress" on that front.
· He suggests that bishops' conferences ought to be given "a juridical status ... including genuine doctrinal authority." In effect, that would amount to a reversal of a 1998 Vatican ruling under John Paul II that only individual bishops in concert with the pope, and not episcopal conferences, have such authority.
· Francis says the Eucharist "is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak," insisting that "the doors of the sacraments" must not "be closed for simply any reason." His language could have implications not only for divorced and remarried Catholics, but also calls for refusing the Eucharist to politicians or others who do not uphold church teaching on some matters.
· He calls for collaborative leadership, saying bishops and pastors must use "the means of participation proposed in the Code of Canon Law and other forms of pastoral dialogue, out of a desire to listen to everyone and not simply to those who would tell him what he would like to hear."
· Francis criticizes forces within the church who seem to lust for "veritable witch hunts," asking rhetorically, "Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?"
· He cautions against "ostentatious preoccupation" for liturgy and doctrine as opposed to ensuring that the Gospel has "a real impact" on people and engages "the concrete needs of the present time."
Francis denounces what he calls a "crude and naive trust" in the free market, saying that left to its own devices, the market too often fosters a "throw-away culture" in which certain categories of people are seen as disposable. He rejects what he describes as an "invisible and almost virtual" economic "tyranny."
November 24, 2013
GRAZIE Thanks to all who made Cabrini night last Saturday so enjoyable. Mother Cabrini thanks you.
JUST DON’T DO IT Last week the Catholic bishops (USCCB) met in Baltimore for their semiannual meeting. In the wake of Pope Francis putting a new focus on social justice issues – especially youth unemployment and the isolation of the elderly – in place of the hot-button social issues, there was interest in whether the usually tone-deaf USCCB conference would have a do-over. Apparently they just could not let go. Rather than focusing on the economic pressures affecting families today, they decided to show their support for families by taking a vote on the proper translation of the Latin word “matrimonium.” The new title for the liturgical text for weddings now is to use the word matrimony and not marriage. The bishop who sponsored the change explained that, “The word marriage has been co-opted.”
And the bishops again voiced their opposition to Obamacare and what is considered normal medical care with the “contraceptive mandate” which requires all employers, including Catholic hospitals and schools, to provide coverage of contraceptives and sterilization for their employees.
The irony is that all other developed countries, including traditionally Catholic countries, all provide such total health care without any ecclesial opposition. These countries of course have universal health care, and health care is not dependent on one's employer and their particular ethical interpretations.
It would be so much better if the bishops would express their views and make a case for them but not impose them on people, including many who are not Catholic. Then again, if the bishops just cannot let go of such control, maybe they should refocus their participation in certain activities.
My father, when he became a lawyer in the 1950's, joined the Guild of Catholic Lawyers. Among other things, Catholic lawyers at that time commonly made a pledge not to engage in certain legal practices that went against Catholic teaching. One of the main examples of this was not taking divorce cases. My father simply referred people seeking to divorce to other lawyers who could handle such cases. This of course limited his practice and the firms that he could work for but he felt that was required.
A BENEDICTION The Archdiocese continues to struggle with a compromised leader who hangs on protesting that, "I am not a quitter." The unprecedented example of Pope Benedict gracefully stepping down from the papacy should guide him. At times, leaders – think of Moses – can only go so far. Benedict realized his limitations and that someone else was needed to move forward.
November 17, 2013
AND IT DOESN'T TAKE EINSTEIN A friend and former parishioner from St. Edwards, Dave Putrich, sent me a favorite quote from Albert Einstein regarding the current problems in the Archdiocese and the inadequate response from our leadership: "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
THE LAST WORD Last Monday I was on the Jack Kolars radio show broadcast from KTOE in Mankato. He asked me about the turmoil being reported about in the Archdiocese. I responded that actually the turmoil is with our diocesan leadership. Our parishes and ministries for the most part are quite healthy and are doing what they are called to do in sharing the love and vision of Jesus Christ.
But our leadership has failed us. We are dealing with issues of clergy sexual abuse that should have been dealt with long ago. Back in 2002 after the eruption of the clergy abuse scandal in Boston the bishops were forced to deal with the issue due to publicity and public pressure. They met in Dallas and issued a Charter insuring that the protection of children and vulnerable adults came before all other considerations. Clergy sexual abuse was to be immediately reported to the legal authorities.
Parish staff and volunteers have gone through much training and have instituted safe environment practices. They have added this in addition to all their other responsibilities and they are glad to do this. But sadly, as we have seen here in the Archdiocese, it is our top officials, beginning with our archbishops, who have not been transparent in assigning problem priests. This has called into question all the good work that has been accomplished. Parishioners and the general public again wonder what is being hidden.
I cannot understand the decisions that Archbishop Nienstedt has made in assigning Dan Conlin, Christopher Wenthe, Michael Keating and Curtis Wehmeyer to positions where their previous misconduct with vulnerable people was not disclosed to their new parishes or institutions. And that is not even asking the question whether they should have been reassigned at all.
Apparently to take the focus away from his own malfeasance, Nienstedt has now been condemning the "crimes" of a priest who has never been legally adjudicated in a court to prove his guilt or innocence. No, Archbishop, take responsibility for your own actions.
Today (Wednesday) the Priest Council met. What was on the agenda? I got a copy of the minutes and they highlighted a new policy to limit eulogies at funerals in the Archdiocese. To be so focused in the face of the real issues of credibility facing us; our leadership is writing its own eulogy.
November 10, 2013
FREELY GIVEN The Star Tribune now (Thursday) has a story on "some rich donors turn from the archbishop." One of these, hotelier Jim Graves. is quoted: "His (Nienstedt's) leadership has lost a lot of effectiveness. I have nothing personally against the archbishop but I think a change is appropriate." The only thing that I would quibble with about his statement is that the archbishop never had credible leadership to begin with. As I note below, loyalty not leadership, has been the prime episcopal qualification. For me too this is not personal. As I said publicly at our meeting of the priests and Nienstedt last week, I do have a concern for him and ask him to step down out of love for him and our Archdiocese.
WE ARE THE CHANGE? Back on March 11, 2009, I published the following in the Progressive Catholic Voice blog:
I Like McDonald's, Too; But Dioceses Are Not Franchises
(Fr. Michael Tegeder examines the traditional understanding of the local church as an autonomous entity, and the related ancient tradition of “reception.”)
From the earliest years of the church, there has been a profound appreciation of the local church. Each diocese is seen as representing the fullness of the church in its locality. There was no other church structure over and above it. Rather, dioceses were said to be in communion with one another.
Due to the presence of the early church leaders, Peter and Paul, the local church of Rome was given the special status of “first among equals.” The bishop of Rome was seen to have a special ministry of maintaining communion among the other local churches. This primacy was seen to be a primacy of service and not juridical.
One of the real abuses that has occurred since the Reformation has been a creeping centralization of the church with the loss of the local churches’ autonomy. A sign of this is the way that bishops or local church leaders are selected. Traditionally, bishops were chosen by the local church.
As a bishop in the year 200, St Cyprian spoke of the need for the consent of the people in choosing their bishop. One hundred years later, St. Celestine, the bishop of Rome, stated that bishops should not be given to those who do not accept them. Another pope, St Gregory, in the 5th century, said that the one who is to govern over all (as bishop), should be chosen by all. Indeed, the first bishop of the United States, John Carroll, was elected by his fellow priests.
Although the Church still retains the “election” of the bishop of Rome, the pope, we now tend to take for granted that the pope appoints other bishops. In reality this is a fairly recent innovation in church practice. Sadly, this alteration from tradition distorts the reality of being a communion of churches. All dioceses are now seemingly franchises of Rome. Nevertheless, the tradition still has echoes. At every installation of a bishop, the people, as required by the ritual, are to show some sign of acceptance or “reception.” This refers to the local church community approving those who are to lead them.
In extreme cases, this reception by the people is withheld. Earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Rev. Gerhard Maria Wagner as auxiliary bishop of Linz, Austria. Rev. Wagner had stirred controversy by saying that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for the sins of New Orleanians and that homosexuality was curable. Austrian Catholics strongly protested his selection. In the face of mounting opposition, i.e., non-reception, the Pope formally withdrew the appointment of this priest on March 2.
Nevertheless, Roman control reigns. And to aid this there are “king maker” bishops and cardinals who have special connections with Rome (including raising contributions for the Vatican) and therefore have special influence in the selection of local bishops. For instance, the former Archbishop of Detroit, Cardinal Maida, has quite a track record. A conservative church commentator calls him the American Church’s primary “bishop scout and trainer.”
The following Detroit priests/bishops have taken control in other dioceses around the country since Cardinal Maida became Archbishop of Detroit in 1990:
Brunette of Helena and then Seattle; Melczek, of Gary, IN; Harrington, of Winona; Nienstedt, of New Ulm and then Mpls-St Paul; Vigneron, of Oakland and then Detroit; Blair, of Toledo: Hurley, of Grand Rapids; Boyea, of Lansing; Quinn, of Winona.
In raising these questions, I am not without some sympathy for the bishops. They are sent to dioceses of which they often have no knowledge especially of the local culture. The local church has had no say in their appointments. Once appointed, Rome expects unquestioning acceptance of all Vatican pronouncements and regular reports back to the home office. We are far removed from the “collegiality” promised by Vatican II.
Update: Blair is now "raised" to head the Archdiocese of Hartford in Connecticut. And so I was interested in a recent posting in USCatholic.org by Bryan Cones, titled, "Can Francis really change the 'old boys club' that controls bishop appointments?" Here it is:
The promotion of the current bishop of Toledo, Leonard Blair, to archbishop of Hartford, Connecticut is being treated as a sign that Pope Francis is not as serious as he seems to be about putting an end to careerism among bishops. Protests have come especially from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, though notably Tablet journalist and Toledo native Robert Mickens has also described Blair's appointment as "more of the same." Blair is known most recently for his position as one of the episcopal visitors of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
While I think the "promotion" of any bishop from one diocese to another is a sign of the careerism embedded in the current process of episcopal appointments, I'm not sure that some of the critics really understand how this works (not counting Mickens, who surely does). Take SNAP's Claudia Vercellotti: “There is no congruency between the vision that Pope Francis puts forward and his actions here in Toledo, Ohio...Either Pope Francis is asleep at the wheel and has no idea who he’s promoted, or he is ambivalent. Either way, it’s dangerous.
The fact is, Pope Francis probably indeed has no idea who he has promoted because he likely doesn't know Blair at all. These kinds of appointments begin at the national level, go through the papal nuncio, and on to the Congregation of Bishops, which makes the final decision for all practical purposes, and then forwards its decision to the pope. He could, of course, make a change, but he'd have no data on which to make that kind of decision. There are just too many dioceses in the world for him to be that hands on. Mickens is right: It's an old boys' network, and as long as the current crop of old boys in the U.S. are still bishop, they will still heavily influence who gets appointed.
The problem is not with the pope, it's with the appointment process, which could use a major dose of transparency and input from the local church. And we're a long, long way still from that.
And who is on the congregation? It includes the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law, and Giovanni Battista Re who calls himself a good friend of our own Ordinary, J. C.Nienstedt.
November 3, 2013
GOOD NEWS Last Monday the Presbyteral (priest) Council met with Archbishop Nienstedt and his "senior team" who have an average tenure of less than a year which does not inspire confidence. I got there a bit late as the team members were introducing themselves. The new director of the Archdiocesan Office of Communication, Sarah Mealey, said that we are in "communications crisis" mode, and that in this "unprecedented crisis," that we are facing, "I do not have a deep bench." That is why we need to hire additional help from the outside. Indeed, a news story last week mentioned that the Boston public relations firm that assisted with the sexual abuse crisis in the Boston Archdiocese was in town to meet with our Chancery officials.
Mealey comes out of the world of corporate communications where she had executive positions. No doubt she finds her present position quite a bit reduced in the staffing she is comfortable with. Actually she was added as a second executive to the Communications office and other administrative staff has also been hired.
When the former director, Dennis McGrath stepped down 2 years ago, his replacement was Jim Accurso who previously was in public relations work in Chicago. Jim added some additional support staff immediately. Even before Mealey was hired McGrath lamented to me that he never had such staffing.
But when you are in crisis mode, which has pretty much been the case since Archbishop Nienstedt has arrived, a temptation is to focus on the packaging if not the content. As in the political world, bishops now appear to need "handlers," who keep the pol or prelate "on message."
We might go back to the beginnings. The Gospel, the Good News, begins with the Word which becomes flesh. And people like our Archdiocese's patron, St. Paul, have shared that message to this present day by personal witness. Such enfleshed communication is at the heart of the Gospel. Lately the news has not been so good in our Archdiocese. The message does not have to be repackaged. It needs to be enfleshed starting with the person who leads the Archdiocese.
By the way, although I am not a member of the Presbyteral Council at this time, in the past when I did serve on it priest guests were welcome to attend. Once the members of the Senior Team introduced themselves and the council members began to ask the Archbishop questions I was asked to leave. I of course left but mentioned that lack of openness and transparency has brought us to this crisis.
Over the last 20 years the Archdiocese has made progress in insuring safe environments for our children and vulnerable adults. Our staff and volunteers have made great efforts with no additional compensation to bring this about. The Archbishop has undermined this good work with his terrible decisions while at the same time freezing diocesan employees' pensions.
We do not need another task force to look at policies, etc., or a deeper communications bench. We need Nienstedt to communicate with us why he made these terrible decisions involving Conlin, Wenthe, Wehmeyer and Keating. As I told the Presbyteral Council, at this time I believe that the most healing decision would be for the Archbishop to step down.
BUT NO WHITE HAT Kim Ode in the Star Tribune last Tuesday reported on research by color analyst, Leatrice Eiseman, for Dupont about car colors. I drive a white car and was happy to learn that new car buyers who chose white rose by 3% this year to 21% breaking its tie with silver/gray colored cars as the most popular car color. Owners of white cars "are people who generally like things to be very pure and pristine and clear and direct." Yes, "there's a degree of fastidiousness." But still no white hat.
MIIGWECH, THANK YOU Thank you to Robert Haarman, Kathie Wright, Rick Ziton, Dave Schultz and David Gibson for helping to make the Elder Picnic at the Minneapolis American Indian Center a success! I want to let you know you are appreciated. Your leadership and ability to get things done are an inspiration to us all. We could not have done it without you. Thank you for all that you do.
Blessings, Christine Roy, Program Coordinator at Gichitwaa Kateri Church.
October 27, 2013
TROUBLESOME PRIESTS I get much support at Cabrini and am very thankful for this. But to be honest, not everyone is happy with me. Here is an email,misspellings, grammatical errors and all, from a person outside our parish:
I am in shock that you a priest is anti the archbishop. He is your boss and you have taken a vow and you protect our shephard (sic) of the church. You are an outspoken priest and that is so wrong. Archbishop Nienstedt should NOT resign. He is a holy man and God has placed him in this archdiocese. I have met him he came to our church and held a beautiful mass with our school children. He came to a reception and he stood and shook everyones hands before he sat down. I hear he does this at all the parishes he visits. Shame on you Father for having a few minutes of fame on a tv show who do not want to drop this news my prayers are that this investigation clears all...people are money hungry out there and they will say and do anything for money. Margaret______
I could only respond:
Dear Margaret, Jesus Christ is my "boss" and I answer to him. Yes, I have indeed made a promise of obedience to the bishop who ordained me, John Roach, blessed be his name, and his successors. So what about my duty to the present archbishop, my promise (not a vow) of obedience to him? In the book, "A View from the Trenches," Msgr Dennis Murphy, the former General Secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, has a chapter on this topic but two sentences suffice: "One dimension of this obedience that has become clearer in recent years is that there is more to this promise than a pledge or a commitment made only to the bishop. It encompasses obedience and commitment to the Church, and especially to the Church understood as the people of the diocese within which the priest serves." The tension increases when a bishop is sent in without any empathy for the local church and its unique charisms. Archbishop Nienstedt, from Detroit, has little knowledge or appreciation of our local church.
I was very much touched by the words of Pope Francis in a recent interview where he said the Vatican Curia was his leprosy. It has to be stressed that Archbishop Nienstedt is a product of the Curia where he spent many years cultivating his patrons. He would not be a bishop and he would not be here in our Archdiocese without these curial patrons. His selection has little to do with the Holy Spirit. It is scandalous that he was sent to this diocese not for our diocesan needs but for his career needs.
I have no doubt that Nienstedt believes that God has sent him here but he has failed and embarrassed us in many ways. I confess that to some such as yourself I am an outspoken priest. I take comfort in this label recalling the words of King Henry II about St. Thomas Becket, "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" God bless you, from a troublesome priest, Fr. Mike
It is very ironic that the more you screw up as a priest the more you are rewarded with reduced assignments, 'sabbaticals" on the diocesan dollar, and early and enhanced priest pension benefits. But then again, I am the troublesome priest and I got my few minutes of TV fame.
Dear Father Tegeder, I am a faithful Catholic in St. Paul and not a member of your community, but I appreciate your courage and wanted to share an online petition with you in hopes that you might share it with interested parties. If you go to change.org and search "nienstedt resignation" you will find a petition by "Concerned Catholics of MSP" - or you can simply go to (https://www.change.org/petitions/call-for-the-resignation-of-rev-john-c-nienstedt-archbishop-of-st-paul-and-minneapolis#share) as a direct link. This petition will be sent to the Nuncio and it is my great hope that those feeling the same concern as me will publicly state their support. God has truly blessed us with members of the faithful with the courage and wisdom to stand for what is right. Thank you for helping maintain my faith in the possibility of integrity within the Church. Kind regards, Joe_______
MORE OF THE SAME The bishop elect, 45 year old Andrew Cozzens, was interviewed by the local diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Spirit. His appointment goes back to a request made 18 months ago for a new auxiliary bishop by Archbishop Nienstedt. He is not a Pope Francis selection and indeed he seems to be in the mold of the John Paul II- Benedict bishops so well described in a book by Father Tom Reese, S.J. His book's title, "A Flock of Shepherds," says it all. They tend to do what they are told, no questions asked, and they expect the same from their own "flocks."
I wish I could have asked a few follow-up questions. For instance, Cozzens was asked about the challenges of priesthood today. He responded: "What I often tell the seminarians is, ‘Priesthood today is a pressure cooker. So your weaknesses, in that pressure cooker, are going to come out.’ The pressure cooker is stronger today for many reasons. First, there are fewer priests, and so we’re busier. Second, the culture is so much more against the things that Jesus stands for."
It is good that he admits that there are fewer priests. But why is this and what does he think we need to do to change that? He has been chosen as a bishop for not raising the need to expand who we choose to ordain. In recent years any expressed openness to married or women priests makes one unacceptable for appointment as a bishop. An effective leader is able to see new possibilities and opportunities. Doing the same old, same old is not working.
And regarding his blaming the culture. Thank God, Pope Francis says the culture wars are over. We have to stop blaming the culture and look at our own church culture and the too obvious failures of our sheepish leadership.
October 20, 2013
WIIDOOKODAADIWAG: HELP NEEDED "Wiidookaw" is Ojibwe for "help" and the above word means "they help each other." In that spirit I am seeking 4 or 5 parishioners to help with the Annual Elders Picnic at the American Indian Center (1530 East Franklin Ave at the corner with Bloomington Ave) on this coming Friday, October 25, from 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM. Servers are needed to make up plates and serve them to the elders present. Call me if you can help: 651-955-7286. Miigwech. Thank you.
NATIONAL PRIESTHOOD APPRECIATION SUNDAY? If the National Pork Producers have an annual day of recognition I guess it is kosher for priests to have their special day which this year is next Sunday, October 27. Actually I feel pretty appreciated most days although recent news has lessened my appreciation for a growing number of priests and bishops.
And it is hard to appreciate some of the odd views coming from some Archdiocesan pulpits recently. Just a week ago the pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Goodhue, ordained in 2010, let loose with a "note" on Obamacare (yes, Obama cares) that is filled with grammatical, factual and logical errors, but who is infallible?
Among his insights, "It is quite disturbing how much power is given to our government, the Secretary. We have already seen this power wielded in the Contraceptive Mandate which basically was a direct attack on religious liberties...Contraception by its nature is anti-life and disrupts a working human body system." My advice, you remain free not to use contraceptives. He does end on an upbeat note, "I guess if everything else is taking (sic) away, at least we will have guns." He should put that in a beatitude.
PROVIDENTIAL LOSS Providence Academy in Plymouth, an independent Roman Catholic school, with its facility "that is beautifully designed for state-of-the-art functioning and student comfort," providentially "remains true to a Georgian colonial motif... As Providence Academy passes its first decade in operation, the dream continues. Providence Academy's uniqueness stems from fidelity to Catholic teachings and heritage."
Therefore it came as no surprise when fans at the Academy's homecoming game on September 27 were directed to look heavenward. But the vision they witnessed was of 3 Navy Seals parachuting into their state-of-the-art stadium carrying an American flag and the game ball. The rightfully proud AD (athletic director) gushed,..."The precision they had was amazing, landing right on the 50-yard line. It was a pretty spectacular homecoming." Of course, it helped that no one was shooting at them.
Unfortunately, the Protestants from Minnehaha Academy had the last laugh, winning 29 to 14.
By the way, if you are interested, tuition for the high school is $16,555 and a few hundred dollars less for the grade school. The school was founded by a former head of the state Republican party and its board is filled with acolytes of the free market who scold those promoting more generous funding for public education that school outcomes have nothing to do with what is spent on education. You do not want to be improvident with other peoples' children.
October 13, 2013
DO UNTO OTHERS...Minnesota Public Radio recently revealed the use/abuse of Archdiocesan priest pension plans and other funds intended for priests. Because of such misuse and other poor decisions the priest pension fund is currently about 50% funded and that with $17,500 contributed annually for each employed priest. Just this past month at a finance day to update priests of the Archdiocese one of the consultants stated that the plan can only continue for another 10-15 years. It is clear that the pension is untenable and some hard decisions need to be made.
When I first delved into the pension mess 15 years ago I discovered that retired bishops received $3,000 per month along with all living and housing expenses. Their travel and office expenses were also to be covered. Fifteen years later I do not know what the present amount is but I imagine that it has only increased.
I think that retired Archbishop Harry Flynn who is responsible for many of the terrible decisions regarding Archdiocesan finances and the mishandling of priests connected with sexual abuse should be means tested for any further benefits beyond what other priests in good standing receive in retirement.
THE CULTURE WARS HAVE ENDED, TELL THE BISHOPS The Italian journal La Repubblica a week ago had an interview with the Pope Francis where he said: "The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don't even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing." Not abortion, not same sex marriage, not contraception, not women priests.
THE CONTAGION In the same interview Pope Francis said something amazing, "The court (the Vatican Curia) is the leprosy of the papacy." While not an infallible statement it does have the ring of truth. What most struck me about this papal insight was that our own local Ordinary is a creature of the Curia. Early in his ministry Archbishop Nienstedt worked in the Curial Secretary of State's Office where he served under the then Bishop Re who went on to head the Curia's Congregation of Bishops as a cardinal. With such a patron Nienstedt was on the fast track to a bishopric.
I think that Pope Francis is on to something. Nienstedt is only a bishop and is only here in Minnesota because of his Curial connections. As a diocesan leader told me some years ago, Nienstedt is not here because of the needs of our diocese but for his own career needs. After being plunked into New Ulm he needed to move up the ladder and our Archdiocese had an opening. This is a scandalous way to choose a local church leader and we have experienced the results of having a leader with so little empathy for the local community.
October 6, 2013
MESSING AROUND Pope Frances memorably called for having a mess in our dioceses when he was in Brazil this summer. Not quite the type of creative mess the pope hopes for, we have had our own messes in the Archdiocese going back some years. The most recent mess surfaced last week with the accusations made to Minnesota Public Radio by the attorney for Scott Domeier, the former head of accounting for the Archdiocese who this year plead guilty to embezzling $600,000
Heading to prison, Domeier now accuses the Archdiocese of wrongdoing in making payments to nine priests involved in sexual misconduct with children or vulnerable adults. "For all of the talk about accountability out there, this stuff is still going on where they're still paying these guys. Some of them might not have been adjudicated, but they had credible evidence that this went on, and they're still paying them."
His claims about extra payments were supported by another former top official in the archdiocese, Jennifer Haselberger, the church's former top canon lawyer who advised Archbishop Nienstedt. She recently resigned her position. Haselberger told MPR that she had deep concerns about the payments going to priests alleged to be involved in misconduct, claiming not quite accurately that, "There were a number of payments to priests that I had uncovered." (Indeed, I have said this for some years, see bulletin articles cited below.)
Haselberger said Catholics who give to the archdiocese would be concerned about such spending, "I think the average donation that comes in to the [Catholic Church's annual] appeal is, like, $200 — and then to use that money for something like this is so atrocious to me." Earlier in the week MPR in a separate story had her allegations about how for years Archdiocesan funds were used to pay off clergy accused of sexual abuse.
Actually, the picture is more messy. I am certain that most of the money did not come from the Catholic Service Appeal. Most of the funds used to pay the priests taken out of ministry came primarily from the priest pension fund. The priest pension is quite unlike a typical pension plan. Among other things it is also a disability fund. If a priest needs to be removed from active ministry before the retirement age of 65 for health reasons including alcoholism and other mental illnesses they can be placed on the pension all at the total discretion of the Archbishop.
Now it has been extremely difficult to get information about these concerns. Some years ago the Presbyteral (priest) Council supported my serving on the Pension Board but then Archbishop Flynn removed me from it for asking these questions. By the way, going back to the 1990's Domeier was totally resistant to answering any of my concerns over how the pension funds were being used/misused. His charges are quite ironic knowing how involved he was in the issues that he has now come clean on for his own purposes.
There is obviously a need to give modest financial support to priests taken out of ministry both under canon law and just to keep them off the streets. Legally they have earned some of these benefits. Hopefully, with payments come some oversight. Obviously you hold your nose when you do this and the Archdiocese should have been open and transparent about it from the start.
But part of the scandal is that most of these funds came out of the priest pension fund. The MPR story had this wrong. These are not funds donated by parishioners of the Archdiocese but funds earned by the fund's vested participants. The Archbishop has a fiduciary responsibility under Minnesota trust law, let alone under basic morality, to use these funds for the good of the participants and not for what he sees as the needs of the Archdiocese.
In addition, when I published an article about some of my concerns over the pensions in the Progressive Catholic Voice blog, I was threatened by the then Archdiocesan attorney with possible legal charges. I replied to him that I stood by what I wrote and never heard back from him.
I have previously written about these issues in the St Frances Cabrini bulletin. They are easily accessed on our website under "Pastor Comments." Specifically check:September 2, 2012 THE LABORER IS WORTH HIS/HER RETIRE; March 18, 2012 BUT WHO IS COUNTING? December 11, 2011 POST OFFICE DELIVERS THE GOODS; and July 31, 2011.
I try to keep you informed but too often am only a voice crying out in the wilderness. Thankfully I like wilderness
THE WILDERNESS IS GETTING CROWDED "The court (Vatican curia) is the leprosy of the papacy." Pope Francis
TAKING CARE OF ANOTHER MESS This past week implementation began for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, affectionately known as Obamacare (he does care). And in Minnesota MNSure began enrolling people in coverage, with the lowest average premiums anywhere in the country. Tens of thousands of individual Minnesotans and their families will now be able to afford health insurance with group rates and significant subsidies. And the two public programs for low-income Minnesotans, Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare, will expand to cover more than 200,000 new people. This is one of the most significant pro life achievements in recent history. I want to join the Minnesota Catholic bishops in thanking our president and governor.
September 29, 2013
"TRUST YOUR SHEPHERDS" The above words were spoken a few years ago by Archbishop John Nienstedt to a woman who was the victim of one of our recently ordained priests. After hearing that the priest was appointed as pastor of a parish some 40 miles from the Chancery offices she raised her reasonable concerns only to be dismissed with the above words.
Since then we have had the recent case of the priest who impregnated his subordinate staff member, helping to break up her marriage, and then the Archbishop appoints him to the marriage tribunal where he judged others' marriages, potentially judging the very marriage he affected.
On another front the Archbishop apparently against the judgment of his main financial adviser ended the Archdiocesan lay pension plan breaking the promise made to these long term employees many of whom are single women who have received very modest compensation for their dedicated ministries. And under his watch we hear that the head of the Archdiocese's accounting department embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Then there was the Archbishop's crusade against gay and lesbian people's committed relationships spending a million dollars to attempt to change our state constitution to limit the rights of people many who are not Catholic. And he continues to insist on the termination of employees whose only failing is to love another person. (Thank God that our new pope, Francis, rejects this culture war mentality.)
And now we have the investigative report on Father Curtis Wehmeyer by Minnesota Public Radio. This is no longer the case of what did he know and when did he know it. MPR provides a helpful timeline which sadly documents major malfeasance in assigning this convicted sexual predator..
So far the Archbishop has hid behind the inadequate press releases sent out by his two recently hired, high priced public relations consultants. Last Sunday Catholics heard the gospel passage, that if you cannot trust a person in small things, how can you trust them in something of major consequence. None of these failures are small things.
Archbishop Nienstedt needs to personally and publicly address this latest breach of trust. A new direction is needed, starting at the top of our Archdiocese.
September 15 & 22, 2013 (two week bulletin)
MIIGWECH Miigwech, thank you, all who made the annual outdoor mass and feast such a great day. What a wonderful gathering with the Gichitwaa Kateri community. I was very glad that so many members of the Kateri community could join us. They appreciated the Cabrini hospitality. Also hundreds of pounds of food and produce were collected for the Glendale residents and Food Shelf. Miigwech indeed!
GETTING REAL ESTATE Disused church buildings should be used to house refugees, who must be embraced rather than feared, Pope Francis told asylum seekers in Rome last week. Turning emptied convents and monasteries into upscale hotels has raised money for the church. “Empty convents and monasteries should not be turned into hotels by the church to earn money,” Francis said in his speech. The church’s buildings, he said, “are not ours, they are for the flesh of Christ, which is what the refugees are.”
WHAT IS THE LESSON? I have no direct connection with Totino-Grace High School in Fridley but I was very affected by the Catholic high school firing a teacher after she told coworkers that she was gay and in a committed relationship. The teacher, Kristen Ostendorf, also served as a campus minister, English teacher and coach. She has responded: "I am profoundly sad to have to leave a job I have loved for more than eighteen years in a community that was like family to me." She also stressed that the story was not about her former school but about the larger institution. Indeed the firing was done according to our Archbishop's policy. This is what affects me as a priest and member of our Archdiocese.
We live in a changing society. Totino-Grace’s own diversity and inclusion policy states that the “entire community of students and staff (strives) to become more welcoming of diversity and more inclusive of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, academic ability, sexual orientation, or economics.” This is an admirable policy but practice has yet to catch up with it in our Archdiocese. What a great learning opportunity was lost. And what lessons are being taught to the students who find a beloved mentor yanked out of their lives?
While it might seem a double standard, this policy is thankfully not being enforced at other Archdiocesan Institutions such as the University of St. Thomas and Catholic Charities. And some parishes are under the radar screen for now. Happily we now have a pope who is asking us to reassess our judgments in the area of sexuality. We need to talk and to listen.
September 8, 2013
BOOZHOO Boozhoo, welcome, greetings!, hello!, hi! Today is a special time of blessing as the communities of Gichitwaa Kateri and St. Frances Cabrini come together to feast. This is our third annual gathering. Can you believe it? I deeply appreciate that the Kateri parishioners are willing to leave our community chapel and join the parishioners of Cabrini for their annual outdoor mass. It is an honor to share some of our liturgical riches and spiritual traditions. And miigwech, thank you, to the Cabrini members who welcome us and provide such a fine feast.
This past year, a book was published with the title, "Mni Sota Makoce" which recounts how Minnesota is an Indian place. As we gather today it is a powerful reminder that most of us are newcomers and we share this special land with people whose ancestors have called this home for countless generations. It is so good to come together and share. We have much to learn and appreciate.
September 1, 2013
EDUCATION'S FIRST TRADITION As a new school year begins it is good to reflect on the long tradition of "faith seeking understanding" at the core of Catholic education. Although this formulation is from St. Anselm, it goes back to St. Paul who said that in this world we see "as if through a glass darkly." Faith may be blind at times, but questions are always appropriate. "The Chronicle of Higher Education" recently had a story on the growing number of lay people leading Roman Catholic colleges and universities. One of those featured was Julie Sullivan, who earlier this year was named to lead the University of St Thomas. The article included her comments on tradition:
She said this spring that she was keen to preserve the university’s traditions. “I hope they’re not changed,” she explained, “because I want to go there because of what it is.” Catholic universities occupy “a unique position on the world stage today” to encourage interfaith understanding and dialogue, she says. “We’re not here to proselytize to anyone. We’re here to let people challenge their beliefs” and debate them. Go Tommies.
LABOR DAY TARGET Back in 2001 Barbara Ehrenreich published "Nickel and Dimed," about the plight of the working poor. She took a number of low paying jobs including working as a hotel maid, nursing assistant, house cleaner and Walmart clerk. She was generally treated in a shabby way by her employers and none of the jobs provided a living wage even for a single person. I was most interested in the Walmart section as this took place at the store in Bloomington. That is where I was then serving as pastor of St. Edwards. Since the Great Recession at the end of the Bush presidency things have only gotten worse.
Yes, jobs are coming back, but the pay is poor and benefits are low at best. A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute documents that the bottom 60 percent of working Americans are earning less now than thirteen years ago. The percentage of those living below the poverty line has only been increasing. More than 35 million Americans now live below the poverty line and many of them actually have jobs. Meanwhile productivity has grown by nearly 25 percent. These gains have gone to our corporations and the most wealthy in our society.
Today the average Walmart "associate" earns $8.81 an hour. A third of these employees work less than 28 hours per week and do not qualify for benefits. Most of these people have to support their families. Meanwhile the wealth of the Walton family, which owns a large portion of Walmart's stock, now exceeds the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of all American families. And the total compensation last reported for the Walmart CEO was over $20 million, 1000 plus times what his average associate earns. Some associate!
Walmart makes a good target but it is just representative of what is going on. The true discounting going on is for labor. President Obama wants to increase the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour. The federal minimum wage currently $7.25 an hour would now be well over $10 if it had kept up with inflation.
Jesus this Labor Day weekend has some questions for us: is not the laborer worth their hire and what will you do with all this piled up wealth you have accumulated for yourself?
August 25, 2013
PRO LIFE VICTORIES Up until recent years, the Catholic bishops of the United States were strong supporters of the right to health care. This was seen as a basic prolife concern. On Jan. 1, 2014, President Obama's Affordable Care Act will greatly expand the health care benefits being offered to the 55 million Americans with no health coverage, as well as millions more who are under-insured. The bishops should be dancing in the streets.
And the President had a special concern for the unborn and their mothers. The law classifies prenatal care as a preventive service that must be provided at no extra cost. And it requires insurers to cover childbirth as well as the newborn infant's care. These maternity benefits are a welcome breakthrough for young people, as two-thirds of individual plans have traditionally excluded this type of coverage. Finally, a president who actually does something beyond merely mouthing prolife rhetoric.
And the President does not stop with birth. Under the law, children under age 19 in addition to medical care will be able to get their teeth cleaned twice a year, as well as receive X-rays, fillings and medically necessary orthodontia. In addition, children under age 19 will be entitled to an eye exam and one pair of glasses or set of contact lenses a year. Relatively few health plans in the past have covered children's dental or vision services and these greatly impact general health and school success.
I want to join with our bishops in saluting the President and his truly prolife leadership.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY CALL A PRIEST, ANY PRIEST The most basic responsibility of a bishop is to insure that the sacraments are celebrated in the local church. This is becoming more and more problematic with the shortage of priests. This is not to say that there is a shortage of such vocations. But most bishops are unable to admit that we need to open up those who can be considered candidates for ordination.
Nevertheless, reality keeps breaking through. The National Federation of Priests Councils weekly newsletter usually has a section recording the minutes of different diocesan priest councils. The current issue reports from the Jefferson, Missouri, Diocese: "Bishop Gaydos announced a proposal to have an informal list of laicized priests available for sacraments in case of necessity or in danger of death in the absence of a priest. Minutes note canon law provides for these types of situations."
August 18, 2013
THE LAST JUDGMENT Recently there was the news story in the Pioneer Press about Archbishop Nienstedt bizarrely appointing a priest to the Marriage Tribunal who fathered a child with a member of his staff. This priest who helped to break up his employee's marriage was made a judge of others' marriages. There have been other staff issues at the Tribunal. And last week, our vicar general reported that the cost of the Tribunal was over one million dollars a year if I heard right. But most importantly there is the actual theory (theology?) of annulling marriages. It is hard for people including myself to say that a marriage that apparently was properly entered into never really existed. Yes, there are reasons to question this process that only dates back to feudal times.
Even Pope Francis has raised the issue. The following is from the Catholic News Service:
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope Francis spoke to journalists about the need for a stronger Catholic pastoral approach to marriage and to divorced people, he made a parenthetical reference to how the Orthodox churches handle the breakup of marriages differently.
"The Orthodox have a different practice," he told reporters July 28 during his flight back to Rome from Rio de Janeiro. The Orthodox "follow the theology of 'oikonomia' (economy or stewardship), as they call it, and give a second possibility; they permit" a second marriage.
While the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain both use the English term "ecclesiastical divorce" when referring to the use of "oikonomia" to permit a second marriage, Orthodox scholars and the websites of both archdiocese make clear that the Orthodox practice differs from both a Catholic annulment and a civil divorce.
Unlike an annulment, which declares that a union was invalid from the beginning, the Orthodox decree does not question the initial validity of a sacramental marriage and unlike a civil divorce it does not dissolve a marriage. Rather, the Orthodox describe it as a recognition that a marriage has ended because of the failure or sin of one or both spouses.
As quoted on the British church's website, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, an Orthodox scholar and retired professor at Britain's Oxford University, wrote in his book, "The Orthodox Church," that the Orthodox permit divorce and remarriage under certain circumstances because Jesus himself, in upholding the indissolubility of marriage in Matthew 19:9, makes room for an exception. In the translation he quoted, Jesus says: "If a man divorces his wife, for any cause other than unchastity, and marries another, he commits adultery."
The revised New American Bible, used at Mass by U.S. Catholics, translates the sentence as: "Whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery." However, most translations use "unfaithfulness," "fornication" or something similar to "unchastity" for the exception.
Still, Metropolitan Kallistos wrote, "Orthodoxy regards the marriage bond as, in principle, lifelong and indissoluble, and it condemns the breakdown of marriage as a sin and an evil. But while condemning the sin, the church still desires to help the sinners and to allow them a second chance. When, therefore, a marriage has entirely ceased to be a reality, the Orthodox Church does not insist on the preservation of a legal fiction."
"Divorce is seen as an exceptional but necessary concession to human sin," he wrote. "It is an act of 'oikonomia' ('economy' or dispensation) and of 'philanthropia' (loving kindness). Yet although assisting men and women to rise again after a fall, the Orthodox Church knows that a second alliance can never be the same as the first; and so in the service for a second marriage several of the joyful ceremonies are omitted, and replaced by penitential prayers."
Actually, from my own experience, not all Orthodox clergy put such a penitential tone to these celebrations. But mercy is present.
August 11, 2013
CATHOLIC U TURN The Catholic University of America (affectionately known as Catholic U) has had a proud history. Its founders, including our own Archbishop John Ireland, wished to emphasize the Church’s special role in United States. Their conviction was that scientific and humanistic research, informed by faith, could only strengthen the Church. They hoped that the University would be a national institution that would promote the faith in a context of religious freedom, spiritual pluralism, and intellectual rigor. Its first rector, John Joseph Keane was appointed in 1885 but his democratic and liberal policies made him enemies with more conservative members of the U.S. Hierarchy and those at the Holy See, and so in 1896 he was forced to resign as rector. This was all part of the so called Americanist heresy that Ireland also was labeled with. (Keane ended up as the Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, where he was known as "Sugar" Keane due to his kind and generous personality.)
Now Catholic U is headed by a lay president, one John Garvey, who also writes for the Reverend Moon's right wing newspaper, The Washington Times. Sadly his columns are reprinted in the Catholic Spirit. Last week he continued his nasty campaign against President Obama by stating that the President has greatly increased government. This is a flat out falsehood. Under Bush II with his unfunded, unjust and foolish wars the federal government's spending greatly increased. Obama has reduced the federal government.
But I was most concerned by Garvey's ignorant if not bigoted statement that, "We excuse Native Americans from obeying the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act." He seems to be unaware that American Indians were here before the American government. As sovereign nations Indian tribes entered into solemn treaties with the American government. Excuse me, they were not "excused" to continue their sacred traditions and religious practices. Although the government often broke their treaty promises, their rights continue and are protected under law.
It is very sad that Garvey is a representative for our church and the head of a University once headed by Sugar Keane.
A PONTIFICAL MASS TOO FAR Last week I reported on the Napa Institute, a group for serious Catholics with serious money and serious pectorals ( as in pectoral crosses). Their website has since added the schedule for their annual convention held last week at the Meritage Resort and Spa. The same week Pope Francis counseled the bishops in Brazil to exhibit "a grammar of simplicity" those in the Napa Valley heard talks such as, "How to Suffer Well," happily followed by a Lunch Buffet, closed each day with a Cigar Reception, and ended the convention with a Solemn Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form, that is the old Latin (Tridentine) rite.
The irony, or should I say, solemn truth, is that this is a mass that the present Pontiff would not himself recommend let alone attend. Much to the consternation of traditionalists, Francis recently rescinded his predecessor, Benedict XVI's, carte blanche use of the Tridentine mass. As Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister, expressed it, "for the first time, Francis contradicts Benedict”. And I suspect, not for the last time.
Francis is living up to his title of pontiff, that is, bridge builder, but there are some bridges too far.
August 4, 2013
MUCHAS GRACIAS, SERIOUSLY Thanks to all who helped with and attended my non-retirement party as I turned 65 last month. Special thanks to Marita Bujold who really helped to make it happen. The final results are in and $4,110 was raised if my math is right for our Nicaraguan friends: Blue Fields $2,335, Project Leon $285 and St. Edward's Sister Parish $1,490.
ARE YOU SERIOUS? By its name, the Napa Institute could be anything but according to its website it is a society for Catholics who "take their faith seriously," and "emboldens Catholics to live and defend their faith" in the face of a growing secularization of society. Among their goals is to "better form Catholics in a life shaped by liturgy, prayer, fasting, sacred art and music, and habits of holiness."
The Institute’s "cornerstone" is the annual conference which will occur from August 1 until August 4 (I write right before their rites.) Among the serious Catholics prominently displayed as being in attendance is our own self proclaimed Chief Catechist, Archbishop J. C. Nienstedt (along with Archbishops Gomez, Chaput, Aquila, Cordileone, and Brunett; Bishops Vasa, Vann, and Morlino, the usual suspects). And the setting for these serious Catholics for their 4 days of intense liturgy, prayer, fasting and habits of holiness is the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, California.
For the unknowing allow me to cite the company's website: Just like the wine that inspired its name, The Meritage Resort and Spa is the perfect blend of wine tasting, dining, spa, beautiful event spaces, romance and indulgence—all in one California Wine Country hotel. Unwind among the sun-drenched vineyards of our award-winning resort, offering world-class luxury in the heart of Napa Valley, California.
Sounds like secularization to me. And what better place for serious Catholics to boldly confront it right in the belly of the beast.
But I digress, the Conference invitation asks the difficult questions: Why should you attend? Part of being a Catholic leader is knowing your faith, and who better to teach you than the best of the best? The conference also inspires attendees to shape their lives by habits of holiness, including liturgy, prayer, fasting...This is a conference that explores the best in Catholic thought, never forgetting that the source and summit of Catholicism is the Eucharist. There are multiple Masses offered each day in the Meritage's Estate Cave or in the resort's Our Lady of Grapes Chapel. (I am not making this up.)
I can picture the worthies offering their intense propitiations in the Chapel of Our Lady's Grapes. It is comforting to know that our own Local Ordinary is among the best of the best and what better place for him to join with the rest of the best to properly celebrate the Eucharist in memory of the lowly carpenter who had not a place to lay his head and who shared his table with the outcast. And although Jesus seemingly ignored appellations, his own vintage had good ratings ergo enjoy.
Placing a call to the most hospitable staff I was informed that they especially welcome wedding "events" at these same chapels and yes they do accommodate same sex celebrations. Hopefully enhanced scheduling will prevent any unpleasant "communicatio in sacris." The crosses serious Catholics must bear.
HE IS SERIOUS In a Huffington Post article Pope Francis is quoted telling a group of Argentine pilgrims to World Youth Day:
"I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!" he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. "I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!"
"This closing ourselves off within ourselves." Francis could start at the Napa Institute conference with its better than the rest.
And for the rest of us, let us continue to agitate the mystery, messy as it might be in our dioceses.
WISE BUT NOT SUPER SERIOUS The New York Times published last week the obituary for Lindy Boggs, who succeeded her husband in the House of Representatives after his plane crashed in Alaska and who went on to serve nine terms on Capitol Hill, notably as a champion of racial justice and women’s rights. She was 97, and what a life. She credited much of her success to going to a convent school where the nuns taught that women could do anything.
Representative Boggs who was from Louisiana championed civil rights at a time when doing so was resented in the South. In 1984 she was often mentioned as a possible vice-presidential candidate. Her opposition to abortion possibly hurt her chances.
President Clinton appointed her as ambassador to the Vatican in 1997. She added a certain flair that was lacking. The morning after she arrived to take up the job, she was informed that she was to be seated that night at a table filled with nothing but cardinals. She mulled that over and said, “I think I’ll wear red.”
One day she exchanged 3 phone calls with an Italian archbishop over some issue. Answering the phone on the third time she replied, “Dahlin’, does this mean we’re going steady?”
She was not connected with the Napa Institute. She might have added a missing truly catholic perspective.
July 28, 2013
RESIGNED? Last weekend when I was in El Paso, Texas, for the National Tekakwitha Conference for Indian Ministry, the Pioneer Press published an article about an Archdiocesan priest who fathered a child, was taken out of his parish abruptly and then bizarrely assigned to the marriage tribunal to judge the marriages of faithful Catholics seeking to remain in good standing in the church. A number of people including some priests of the Archdiocese have known parts of this sorry story.
This very upsetting situation was difficult to confirm and an innocent family including their children was involved who did not need this story to go public.
It was most upsetting that this took place as the Archbishop was holding himself up to be a defender of marriage in his crusade for the Marriage amendment that he so intemperately supported. This included attacking the committed relationships of many gay couples and their families, including their children; sending a DVD into their homes saying that their committed relationships were a threat to children.
I have sadness for those involved in the Pioneer Press article, especially the family. This is another fruit of celibacy. When will the church leadership open their minds and hearts to the realities of real people.
At the Tekakwitha conference I met many Indian Catholics who have had their parish priests removed without any replacement and no explanation. The bishops simply cannot fulfill their most basic responsibility to staff parishes. Apparently they are simply resigned to closing these communities, some of which have existed over 400 years in the Southwest.
But the real issue for us are the terrible decisions made by Archbishop Nienstedt. The Marriage Tribunal? What was he thinking? The priest could have been judging the very marriage he broke up. The Archbishop has again failed and embarrassed us. I hope that we are not resigned to this.
ANY PRO-ACTIVE CONCERNS The Priests of the Archdiocese received this last Monday from the Peter Laird, our Vicar General:
As many of you are no doubt aware of by now, the St. Paul Pioneer Press published a lengthy article regarding Fr. Dan Conlin on Sunday (7.21.13). Due to the sensitive and personal nature of this situation we have not commented pro-actively. In addition, since the publication no other media outlets have contacted us and we have received only one email from the public as of 3:00 pm.
We have tried for some time now to honor the privacy and respect the dignity of those involved, especially the mother and child. The situation is clearly regrettable and has never been condoned or excused. However, as has been the case for nearly a decade, we must also continue to deal with everyone involved with compassion and mercy.
If you have any further concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Again, my concern is with the Archbishop and his judgment which is totally evaded. And the Vicar General is taking solace in the number of follow up stories?
Not condoned? What have been the costs? A complete accounting needs to be released of the monies which have been spent and continue to be spent to rehabilitate Conlin and to attempt to keep this matter under wraps.
THIS MESSAGE SENT WITH HIGH IMPORTANCE The above heading was on an email I received about having a webcast last Wednesday at Cabrini of Father Helmut Schuller, an Austrian priest of some accomplishment who is calling for church reform. The message followed:
Dear Fr. Tegeder,
Fr. Laird has asked me to email you on his behalf to follow up on his voicemail regarding the event tonight at St. Frances Cabrini. Because no permission was sought from the Archdiocese to host the event, it only came to his attention late this afternoon.
The directive from Fr. Laird is that this event featuring Fr. Schuller's presentation is not to be hosted at St. Frances Cabrini. Please respond indicating that you received this message and that the event has been cancelled. If you have any questions, please contact me or Fr. Laird.
Thank you, Susan Mulheron, JCL | Interim Chancellor for Canonical Affairs (this seems to be a most fitting title)
After a rather exhausting day of travel from the convention I responded:
As it turns out I just got back from the National Tekakwitha Conference for Indian Ministry and actually was in the air when the Vicar General's call was made to me. I was not able to comply with any dictates from the Chancery due to the Homeland Security regulations about cell phones during air flight. There are sacrifices we all must make for purposes of national security.
The conference was in El Paso, Texas, and believe it or not even there I became aware of the newspaper article about the scandalous situation regarding the Archbishop's incredible dealings with Father Conlin.
You have bigger fish to fry than a concern with Catholics seeking a voice in church reform as Canon Law requires. In fact, I would like to ask you and the VG a few questions. Conlin on the Marriage Tribunal? He could have been judging the very marriage he broke up!
Lets have a public forum where we can continue this needed conversation. We can even invite Father Helmut Schuller who seems to be rather prophetic.
"Because no permission was sought..." Why do a group of committed Catholics need permission to meet to share their concerns about the direction of the church we love. The very week that the Chancery's grave failings finally come out, they go after us for having an informed discussion? What next? Will the Archbishop be confiscating books by Fr. Schuller? Yes, there is a message of high importance here.
July 21, 2013
THANK YOU I want to thank all who helped and came to the special mass and celebration for my "non-retirement" party. I can still remember back in the 1950's when my grandfather retired after 40 years at Northwestern Bell. He did get a gold watch. As a young person my overwhelming impression then was that grandpa was really old, his life basically over. Thankfully, he lived another 25 years and remained quite active in the American Legion and the local DFL party in north Minneapolis.
65 does not seem so old now from my present perch. And your support last weekend knocked off a few years.
BIKER POPE In speaking extemporaneously to a group of 6,000 seminarians, novices and young people discerning a call to religious life on July 7, Pope Francis said that real joy doesn’t come from having the latest Smartphone, “living on the edge,” or having a fancy moped or car. A summary of the gathering was reported on the Catholic News Service web site (July 8, 2013). He also said that it pains him when he sees a nun or priest driving an expensive car, and he praised the beauty of the bicycle, noting his 54-year-old personal secretary, Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, gets around on a bike. However, with all the work to be done and distances to be covered, cars are a necessity, he said. Just “get a humbler one,” and if the flashier model still looks tempting, “think about how many children are dying of hunger.” So much for the popemobile.
PICNIC PALOOZA I serve with the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota which supports our great parks and trails. Next Saturday, July 27, from noon to 3 pm we are sponsoring a free afternoon of picnic fun at Fort Snelling State Park as we celebrate PTC's 59 years (yes, I am older than it) of saving special places. The event is open to all (you do need a State Park pass if you drive) and includes live bluegrass music by Derek Johnson and Hard Grass; an orienteering course; making arty fish prints; lawn games; food trucks with a variety of foods to purchase; and free root beer floats with Vine Park root beer and your pastor as the (soda) jerk.
July 14, 2013
I AM A VERY TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC As a Catholic for 65 years I am still very attached to Catholic traditions including some that are often overlooked. It reminds me of the Jewish congregation that was terribly divided over whether to sit or stand during a certain prayer. It got so bad that a new rabbi was called. Getting no where with the congregants, he heard that the oldest member of the community was living at a distant nursing home. The rabbi made a trip to visit him.
The rabbi explained that some members said that the congregation used to stand during the prayer. The old man replied, "No , that was not the tradition. The rabbi then said that others held that the people sat. "No, that was not the tradition either," replied the old man. Exasperated, the rabbi threw up his hands and lamented, "Well, all that is going on is that the community is divided and is always arguing."
The old man's eyes lit up and he exclaimed, "Yes, that is the tradition."
As soon to be canonized Pope John XXIII wrote, "In essentials unity, in doubtful things liberty and in all things charity." This weekend's gospel story of the Good Samaritan is a beautiful illustration of this dictum. By definition, to be catholic is to be all encompassing. We need to appreciate diversity, even those pesky Samaritans. James Joyce's definition of the church was, "here comes everybody." And we are richer for hearing the various voices.
I have saved 3 sayings from Chinese fortune cookies. One says that I will see the pyramids. That looks not too likely for now. But the other two are very wise words: "You don't get harmony when everyone sings the same note," and "When two men in a business [or church] always agree, one of them is unnecessary."
Baptized 65 years ago I am more and more aware of my human frailty. Yet I still rejoice with St. Paul in sharing the freedom of the children of God: "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God." (Romans 8)
With one of my heroes, a traditional Catholic who actually knew the tradition, John Henry Newman, I have found it true, "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often. And like the church, I am far from perfect. We are on a journey and what a long, strange [and wonderful] trip it’s been."
July 7, 2013
BELIEVE IT OR NOT The following was sent by the Vicar General:
After consulting with the Presbyteral Council, and with the support of the All Saints parish trustees and parish pastoral council, Archbishop Nienstedt has accepted the offer of The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter ( www.fssp.org) to send two of its members to care for the parish of All Saints, Minneapolis. Father Peter Bauknecht, who will serve as pastor, and Father Simon Harkins will begin their service at All Saints on July 3, 2012 [sic].
As you may know, The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter is a Catholic Clerical Society of Apostolic Life dedicated to providing Catholics access to the Extraordinary form of the liturgy according to the liturgical books of 1962. In addition to All Saints, priests of the Archdiocese have been offering the Extraordinary form liturgy every Sunday at St. Augustine in South St. Paul since permission was granted by the late Archbishop Roach.
In addition to the celebration of the liturgy in the Extraordinary form, All Saint's will continue Mass in the Novus Ordo. In the near future a Mass schedule will be established in consultation with All Saints parish leadership.
Actually there was no consultation. According to a number of deans present at the priest council meeting this was just reported as a fait accompli. This is now the standard operating procedure within the Archdiocese. Very far removed from the days of John Roach, blessed be his name.
By the way I am in some good company on this issue. In the June 22nd issue of the "Tablet" Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz, Germany, is reported to have "said that he did not think the co-existence of the old-rite liturgy alongside the new was a good idea...He said enthusiasm for the Tridentine Mass...seemed to have 'a lot to do with prestige and the false pretences of a perceived cultural elite.'"
Nevertheless, I do agree with a statement attributed to Mao Tse Tung, "let a thousand flowers bloom."
MARITAL RECOGNITION FINALLY As the State of Minnesota expands the recognition of marriage so does the Church. I received the following missive from Father Erickson who heads the Archdiocese's Office of Worship:
"As many of you know [I did not know], the Holy See recently declared that the name of Saint Joseph is to be added to all of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite. Please find attached to this notice the official statement of the USCCB regarding this historic development, which also includes the wording now to be used when referring to Saint Joseph in the various Eucharistic Prayers."
While I would not use the term, "historic development," I do find it interesting that the wording is "with blessed Joseph, her Spouse," and not "husband." More inclusive whether intended or not.
AUSCP The Association of United States Catholic priests is a recently formed organization. According to their website they are a group of priests across the United States who "seek to foster dialogue with clergy, bishops, religious, laity, and with their organizations. They seek to celebrate and implement the visionary concepts of the Second Vatican Council; to be servant leaders in a servant Church; to minister with humility, mercy, and faithfulness; to revitalize the Body of Christ through contemplation and witness to the goodness among our fellow pilgrims; to be a voice of hope; and to preach and act prophetically." Slightly under 1,000 US priests belong to AUSCP and I am one.
The group last month passed six resolutions at the their second annual Assembly in Seattle:
- favoring exercise of authority in a collegial manner through consensus decision-making processes with councils and boards;
- supporting Pope Francis in the reform of the Church to restore credibility, with participation of laity and clergy in the selection of bishop;
- endorsing Cardinal Bernadin’s Common Ground Initiative to promote inclusive dialogue and collaboration;
- supporting the ordination of women to the permanent diaconate;
- encouraging the reintroduction of general absolution;
- supporting the Labor Priests Project of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils and establishing its own Priest-Labor-Union-Friendly Caucus.
June 30, 2013
No Pastor's Comments in bulletin this week.
June 23, 2013
CAT PEOPLE AND SHEEP PEOPLE The priests of the Archdiocese had their biennial 4 day assembly last week in Rochester. I attended and enjoyed visiting with those present including the Archbishop. That was the best part. By the way, Mike Slusser and John Forliti send their greetings. The paid speakers were another story. They were disappointing. One was Curtis Martin who heads an outreach program to evangelize college students. There his focus is on 22 year olds and that is how he addressed us. In a rather shouting tone he proclaimed that priests have an impossible job, herding cats (Catholics). It was an unusual image but he built on it to say a priest's "task is to transform cats into sheep" and, "you can herd sheep." I am too sheepish to apply this wisdom at Cabrini. Then again I am more of a cat person.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS Although as I noted last week, some Catholic bishops consider President Obama and his administration to be promoting a godless agenda, I would hope that our bishops would see his efforts in a more tolerant even appreciative light. Immigration reform is one of those areas. An article in the June 13 New York Times by Kirk Semple reported how more than 291,000 young immigrants have been granted temporary reprieves from deportation under a program Obama announced last June.
It is sad to see the concerted Republican effort to end this program, which is open to young people who were brought to the United States as children and are here illegally, allowing them to obtain a Social Security number, apply for driver’s licenses and work. It would be great to see our Archbishop speaking up for this godly program.
Semple interviewed a number of those who now can come out of the shadow economy. The young immigrants "said it changed things in numerous ways, from the practical to the emotional, the mundane to the profound. Many talked about being able to walk out their front door for the first time without fear that a wrong turn could lead to deportation proceedings."
“I’m a human here in this country now; I didn’t feel like I was before,” said Luis Rey Ramirez, 26, a Mexican graphic designer who grew up in the Bronx and was granted the deferral in April. “I feel like I can just navigate this country easier in a legal way, in a way that I can contribute.”
Locally, do you know about the regular gathering at the Ramsey County detention center? On the 2nd Sunday of each month from 2:30-3:00 pm, people gather to show support for immigrants who are held there. People of faith are well-represented, including members of Cabrini.
June 16, 2013
FREEDOM TO BE FOOLISH As Americans we cherish our freedoms. This includes the freedom to say the most foolish things. If you have money you can propagate your delusions without limit and receive a blessing from our Supreme Court. With our freedom of religion we can believe almost anything. Religious leaders, especially those who control a means of communication can rant world without end.
I suspect not many at Cabrini read the Catholic Spirit let alone the musings of our Chief Catechist. Last week in honor of the U S Catholic bishops' so called Fortnight for Freedom, our local Ordinary let loose: "Having settled into its second term, the present administration appears to be determined to impose its secular, godless ideology on the nation. From Tea Party organizations to conservative journalists to the Catholic Church, no opponent is to be spared." (And apparently the Office of the President is not to be spared either.) Breathtaking. You wonder what he would have had left to say under Hitler.
Anyway, to return to the real world, and to descend from the "we make our own reality" world of Dick Cheney, it should be noted that our godless President is still a tool of God. Our parish, with the Archbishop's blessings, applied for the second year for our employee health insurance refund of some thousands of dollars thanks to Obamacare. And I just saw from the recent notes of the Green Bay Diocese priest council that their director of Administration gladly informed members that there would be a 9 percent decrease in Health Care Insurance in 2013. Such reports are more and more the case in dioceses thanks to secular ideology.
GREEN BAY'S TRUE RELIGION The Packers continue to fill Lambeau Field on Sundays but not so much the Church its pews. Also from the GB priest council minutes: "Members had an extensive discussion on decline in Mass attendance - 3 percent per year over the past 20 years. [An odd way to state a 60% decline but maybe more palatable.] Reasons cited: Older generation dying off, secularization is rising and culture is changing. The directors of the Departments of Stewardship and Pastoral Services and New Evangelization noted that millennials (under 30) have issues with the church’s stance on homosexuality, divorce, remarriage, and the role of women. Several members noted the media’s portrayal of the church has moved from neutral to negative and that impacts how young people view the church. Bishop Ricken said we need to be more proactive and positive in communication." Google this local Ordinary and see how positively he communicates on gays, women. etc. Rather reactive.
A GOOD JOE I suspect many consider me to be anti-episcopal (as in Catholic bishops) but I have enjoyed many bishops. Archbishop Jack Roach called me "buddy" as he did with all the other priests whose names he could not remember, but he was a good guy who actually listened. Lucker, Anderson, Kinney,...to name a few.
I just saw in the NYT the obit for Bishop Joe Sullivan, auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, NY. The headline said it all, "Advocate for the Poor." He was a long time national leader for Catholic Charities. The fact he never was chosen to lead a diocese says it all regarding the state of the Church today. That was a badge of honor he shares with such great souls as Tom Gumbleton.
In retirement he became a courageous advocate for LGBT people. I met the good bishop at the New Ways Ministry Convention in Minneapolis in 2007. He was one of 2 bishops who attended (both retired!). His fellow New Yorker and "friend," Harry Flynn, our local Ordinary at the time, forbade the celebration of mass at the convention. Joe lived up to St Paul's requirements for a bishop to be wise and hospitable as he pastorally handled this hurtful action.
I had the privilege to drive him to the airport as the convention ended. The angels have now carried him home. Requiescat in Pace.
June 2 & 9, 2013
BENE'S DICTION Benedict XVI might have abdicated his throne but sadly his missal translation will continue to rule in English speaking countries. The missal went into effect during Advent of 2011 and the first formal evaluations are coming in negative. A survey conducted by the Godfrey Diekmann, OSB Center for Patristics and Liturgical Studies at St. John ’s University School of Theology-Seminary in Collegeville, MN found that a majority of US priests dislike the new Missal and call for its revision. A press release dated May 21 stated, “A majority of priests do not like the more formal style of language, do not think the Missal is an improvement upon the previous translation and do not think work should go forward translating other rites besides Mass in the same style as the Missal.” The release went on to note, “Over 80 percent of survey participants think that some of the language of the Missal is ‘awkward and distracting.’” The Tablet in the United Kingdom reported similar results there.
The Missal's language is Latinate in structure reflecting a very literal translation. Benedict was very fixated on imposing this type of language reflecting his aesthetics. It comes from someone rather isolated from normal parish life as was Benedict. I have therefore been very happy to see the way Pope Francis has been contrasted to his predecessor with a style more akin to a parish priest, someone able to communicate in a simple and direct manner.
Even the Vatican spokesperson, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, noted that they are all on a learning curve dealing with Francis's improvisations. While Benedict generally delivered only carefully prepared speeches and rarely used the first person, Francis has a more conversational tone, with frequent mentions of his own personal and family history. In his Pentecost remarks last weekend, he cited biblical verses, but he also said with a smile that he sometimes dozed off while praying and recalled how he had been inspired to enter the priesthood by the simple faith of his mother and grandmother.
Lets hope that Francis' pastoral good sense will be coming to our liturgical texts.
May 26, 2013
UNGODLY On this Trinity Sunday we acknowledge the mystery of God. Some of the great mystics speak of the way of negation. It is easier to say what God is not rather than suggest we can define what God is. And often our common understandings of God are terribly misguided. This past week CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked a young mother, a survivor of the devastating Moore, Oklahoma tornado, 'You gotta thank the Lord, right?' The mom, holding her infant, had the grace to laugh and respond, "Actually, I am an atheist," but added that she doesn't 'blame anybody' for doing so.
She actually offered a very profound lesson about any real God. As Jesus said, God's sun shines on the good and the bad, and likewise God does not use tornadoes to pick winners and losers.
THE CHURCH HAS LOST CONTROL OF MARRIAGE (The following was written by Father Peter Daly and was in the National Catholic Reporter on May. 20, 2013.)
Our county courthouse is across the street from our parish church. Weddings are performed on both sides of the street. We both use the "vocabulary" of marriage, but the words don't have precisely the same meaning.
Let's face it -- the church has lost control of the cultural conversation on marriage. Just about any parish priest can tell you that. Even devout Catholics often ignore the church's teaching and views on marriage. They live together before they are married. They have babies outside of wedlock. They get married outside the church, often in entirely secular settings. They don't stay married very long. They divorce with the same frequency as the general population. They remarry without benefit of annulments from the church. They often don't consult with us on whether they can go to Communion. And lately, in a dozen states and 14 countries, some very Catholic, they are marrying people of the same sex and bringing their babies to church for baptism.
The church was the dominant voice on marriage for a long time. For about 1,000 years, it defined marriage in Western Europe. From the time of Gregory the Great (pope from 590 to 604) until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the law of the Catholic church was basically the law of Western Europe on marriage and family life. Admittedly, the enforcement was spotty. Different social classes and different cultures obeyed in different ways. But if you wanted to get married, you had to come to church. If you wanted an annulment (no divorce) you had to ask the church.
It took us a few hundred years to develop a jurisprudence of marriage. The church combined Germanic tribal law and Roman civil law into the ecclesiastical law of marriage, still reflected in our modern canon law. From the Romans, we got the idea that marriages had to be ratified by a ceremony (ratum). From the Germans, we got the idea that marriages had to be consummated by sex (consumatum).
The church dominance of the marriage conversation began to ebb with the Protestant Reformation. Witness the six wives of Henry VIII. With more religious voices, there was less religious consensus, but when the church extended its reach to the New World and Asia and Africa, we still could dominate the conversation for Catholics. But that ebbed more and more with the Industrial Revolution. Women began working outside the home. They had their own money. Many did not marry at all.
Since World War II, we have increasingly had less to say about marriage. No-fault divorce in the U.S. made it easy to end marriage. New sexual ethics and contraception detached sex from marriage. Financial independence of women reduced the need women had for marriage. And a globalized world means there are more and more interreligious and cross-cultural marriages.
One other thing in the American context -- the poor don't get married. The middle class and the rich are postponing marriage until they are older. And babies are born outside of marriage. In 2012, the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project released a report called "The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America." It said people are waiting to get married. First marriages now take place on average at age 27 for women and 29 for men, the oldest ever in the United States. They also report that by age 30, two-thirds of American women have had a baby, most out of wedlock. Overall, 48 percent of first births today are to unmarried women. They also report that college-educated people get married before they have children and tend to stay married, while less-educated people tend not to get married. Marriage is a good thing for children and for their parents. It contributes to human happiness. The National Marriage Project's report says men and women who are married are much more likely to be "highly satisfied" with their lives than unmarried men and women.
And now there is gay marriage. One thing the gay marriage debate has made clear -- the church no longer controls the conversation on marriage. Look at Rhode Island, the most Catholic state in the U.S., where the bill passed its House 56 to 15. Catholic legal scholar Jesuit Fr. John Courtney Murray said back in the 1940s, "The church has a right and duty to speak, but we do not have the right to expect that our viewpoint will always be reflected in the civil law." We can have a respectful dialogue without one party or the other dominating the conversation. I hope the church both listens and speaks.
Increasingly, people are making their own arrangements on marriage. That's what Fr. Raymond O'Brien calls "private ordering" in an article in the Arkansas Law Review. Private ordering means people do what they want, how they want. They don't expect the Catholic church or the law to have much to say about it. I see "private ordering" every year, when people request weddings in farm fields, on piers or on boats, at the top of mountains or poolside at hotels. They think of the wedding as purely personal and secular. Often, couples fly off to Las Vegas or some other destination for a wedding and later come to us for a blessing (validation). Personally, I prefer validations. They are sacramental, spiritual.
Our parish does only about 12 to 15 weddings each year, the same number we did 20 years ago when we had half as many parishioners. Even the children of the most devout parishioners are not getting married or getting married outside of the church. Maybe all these competing voices on marriage will clarify at least one thing: When you come to the Catholic church for marriage, you are not just looking for a legal union or a bundle of rights; you are looking for a sacrament. They don't offer sacraments across the street at the courthouse.
[Fr. Peter Daly is a priest at the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and has been pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Prince Frederick, Md., since 1994.]
May 19, 2013
JOHN NIENSTEDT CHANGE AGENT One of the strongest themes in the bible is how God uses crooked lines to write straight and finds the most unexpected ways to accomplish God's purposes. Think Jonah. He did every thing possible to evade a call to help reform the hated Ninevites but God used him nonetheless. And the pagan tyrant, Cyrus, freed the exiled Jews and is even referred to as the messiah. So many people, on both sides of the same sex marriage issue, have told me that they thought the dramatic change this past year was in large part due to Nienstedt's efforts. He used all his powers and position to change our state constitution on the right to marry. This heavy handed intrusion caused many to take a real look at what was being imposed and what was possible.
LAY CATHOLIC CHANGE AGENTS Francis DeBernardo, cofounder of New Ways Ministries, recently wrote in the Huffington Post:
In 2003, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was then prefect of the Roman Catholic Church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote that "respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions."
Ten years later, the Catholic hierarchy may be in the process of repudiating the teaching of its former pope. In an interview with a Costa Rican newspaper recently, Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, told a reporter that society should "recognize the union of persons of the same sex, because there are many couples that suffer because their civil rights aren't recognized."
His comments came on the heels of an interview in which Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna and editor of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, said: "There can be same-sex partnerships and they need respect, and even civil law protection."
Members of the Catholic hierarchy are seldom so straightforward in contradicting the Vatican. Yet in the decade since Ratzinger issued "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons" countries in which Catholicism is the dominant religion -- Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay and now France -- have legalized same-sex marriage. Ireland and the United Kingdom seem likely to do the same. In the United States, Catholic politicians such as Andrew Cuomo of New York, Christine Gregoire of Washington and Martin O'Malley of Maryland, have led successful campaigns to establish marriage equality in their states.
Faced with mounting evidence that the hierarchy is rapidly losing influence in Europe and the Americas, and alienating the faithful in the process, some leading bishops are seeking to soften the hard line that Benedict XVI drew when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. Their argument --articulated by prelates from Columbia, France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and within the Vatican itself -- is that marriage, even civil marriage, must be defined as a relationship between one man and one woman, but that legal recognition of same-sex relationships is permissible or even desirable.
This new position is not one that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their friends and families will endorse because it falls short of full marriage equality. Nor is it clear that members of the hierarchy will maintain this stance if they determine that it is no longer useful to appear moderate on this issue. But this moment is worth studying and celebrating nonetheless.
Reform-minded Catholics are often told that the church is not a democracy. In the conventional political sense, that may be true. But the church ministers in democracies. And in country after country, Catholic voters have gone to the polls, ignored the often heavy-handed lobbying of their bishops, and voted in favor of marriage equality, or legislators who support marriage equality. They are changing the teachings of the church by changing the culture in which the church functions.
Pope Francis himself has participated in this trend. In 2010, with the Argentine government poised to write marriage equality into law, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio urged his fellow bishops to support civil unions as a compromise. His colleagues rejected this strategy, and the future pope led a futile campaign to persuade voters in that heavily Catholic country to discriminate against same-sex couples.
No one knows how Francis will behave now that he is pope. Progressive Catholics have learned through decades of bitter experience to live with high hopes but low expectations. We understand that a hierarchy that opposed marriage equality but tolerated civil unions would be a mixed blessing, but a blessing nonetheless.
If the pope adopted the position espoused by Schönborn and others, the Catholic hierarchy would have no reason to oppose including the same-sex partners of U. S. citizens among those who could be granted citizenship under the immigration bill about to come before the U. S. Senate. The hierarchy could support or remain neutral on legislation that extends to gay and lesbian couples legal protections and benefits that they are now denied in most states in this country. It could speak in less vitriolic terms about same-sex couples and their families, as the bishops of England and Wales did recently in acknowledging "that many same-sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes."
The Catholic hierarchy is by no means committed to this sort of conciliatory course, and bishops in the United States are among the most zealous in working against the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families. But the demographic forces that inspired a future pope and several high profile European bishops to seek a compromise are clearly present in the United States.
Although the U.S. bishops and their allies, including the Knights of Columbus, have poured millions of dollars into opposing legal recognition of same-sex relationships, Catholic support for marriage equality has leapt from 40 percent to 59 percent in the last decade, according to a recent survey by ABC News and the Washington Post. Those numbers are even higher among younger Catholics, so the course of lay opinion on this issue seems well established.
The choice before our bishops now is whether to continue a divisive battle that will only diminish their own authority, or to follow where the laity has led.
May 12, 2013
PASTOR ON A JOY RIDE MS, Multiple Sclerosis, affects over 2 million people. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. I will never forget Pam, a young mom with 2 grade school daughters, who came down with this disease when I was a young pastor about her age, 30 years ago. She was soon living out the last years of her life in a nursing home. My heart went out to her, her husband, daughters and mother.
Thankfully there are people dedicated to overcoming this disease such as the MS Society. On the weekend of June 8-9 the MS Society is holding the MS 150 bike ride to raise funds for the MS Society. I will be participating but as usual I will be doing things differently. I will be doing the second half of the Duluth to Minneapolis on Friday the 7th and then join the other bikers on Saturday for the first half starting in Duluth. That way I can be with you on Sunday although I will probably not be sitting down much during the service. I would appreciate your support if you are so inclined. Checks can be made out to the "MS Society" and left at the church office or put in the collection basket marked for Mike's ride. You can also donate online. Here is the link to my MS ride page: http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/mtegeder2013
WILL THEY EVER LEARN Rhode Island, the most Catholic state in the nation, recently became the 10th state to approve marriage equality. The bishop of Providence, Thomas Tobin, responded with a pastoral letter stating that "Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others.”
Catholic bishops these days should be careful when talking of significant scandals. But even more, do they not recall those pre-Vatican II days when such bishops also forbade their flock from attending weddings of Catholics at non Catholic ceremonies using the same words and rationale. Families were split over such strictures. Somehow we moved beyond that prohibition.
TO THE MAX Last week I mentioned the 35,000,000 (yes, million) dollar income of a local CEO and how this was actually a decrease of 27% from his previous year's take. I found it ironic that this week members of the Minnesota House of Representatives were arguing over raising the state's minimum wage from its current $6.15 an hour. By the way such a person would earn $13,520 annually for a 40 hour a week job. The underpaid CEO in comparison would be getting $16,827 an hour presuming a 40 hour work week. Some contrast. But lets assume this gung ho CEO is working 16 hour days, 7 days a week. Then his pay amounts to $6,731 an hour. He would have to work a couple of hours to match the minimum wage earner's annual salary. After many objections, the Democrats passed a bill raising the minimum wage by 2015 to $9.50 an hour ($8.50 for smaller employers). I find it hard to believe that those fighting so hard against this minimum wage increase (the first in 8 years) have no problems with those receiving the maximum wage. In fact, they want to cut their taxes even more.
May 5, 2013
NO LAUGHING MATTER When I read the Star Tribune and want a laugh I no longer turn to the comics (too saccharine) or even the editorial cartoons (too predictable), but to the business section and its weekly column, CEO Pay Watch. Just last week it published the total compensation of United Health Group CEO, Stephen Hemsley, for 2012 as just under 35 million dollars. The article notes that what he "took home" was actually 27% less than what he "earned" in 2011. Poor man, he was shorted about 9.5 million. The company's proxy statement actually with a straight face stated that his 2012 compensation was below the median for the company's peer group. (3M's big guy raked in 39 million.) That is some peer group! Thankfully, "the Compensation Committee and Mr. Hemsley agree that the total compensation awarded is sufficient to retain and motivate him." These guys have a sense of humor. They are laughing all the way to the Cayman Islands.
By the way, his compensation would cover over 800 employees making $40,000 a year. These employees would likely be in the 25% tax rate while most of this underpaid CEO's income is taxed at the 15% rate. It should also be noted that this man's company is based on the foundation of a health care system that was built up over the generations by the generous labors of people such as the Sisters of St Joseph of Carondolet and the Franciscan Sisters of Rochester. They were motivated by humanistic values with no regard to what they could suck out of sick people for financial gain. Indeed, they put in much more than they took out and left a legacy that is now being pirated.
And I had to laugh at another CEO's compensation package that included $25,000 "for financial planning, tax preparation or accounting needs." Poor fellow, his takings are so great that he is desperate for help in finding enough tax loopholes. He has employees who do not earn $25,000. The company he heads up is ironically named Fair Issac. I would say more than fair.
For a more sober assessment I refer to the new head of the Church of England, Archbishop Justin Welby, a former business executive himself, who in a BBC radio interview criticized the "culture of entitlement" among the London banking elite which "seemed to disconnect from what people saw as reasonable in the rest of the world."
THE FRUIT OF THEIR LABORS I write this on May 1st, Worker's Day and appropriately the feast of St. Joseph the Worker Day. Pope Francis in his General Audience message today said: "Work, to use an image, ‘anoints’ us with dignity, it fills us with dignity; it makes us similar to God, who has worked and works still, He is always acting; it gives the ability to maintain oneself, one's family, to contribute to the growth of one's nation. And here I am thinking of the difficulties which, in different countries, today's world of work and enterprise are facing; I think about how many people, and not just young people, are unemployed, often because of an economic conception of society, which seeks selfish gain, outside of the parameters of social justice." Francis went on to comment on the garment workers earning about $40 a month in Bangladesh, "This is called slave labor."
ANOTHER FRANCES With the horrible news of the 500 plus Bangladeshi garment workers who worked and died in inhumane and unsafe conditions it brings to mind the 1911 Triangle shirtwaist fire in NYC where 146 mainly young immigrant women died working in another unsafe building. One of the eyewitnesses to this was a recent college graduate, Frances Perkins. She went on to serve on a committee investigating the fire and became a determined champion for workers' rights. Franklin Roosevelt appointed her the Secretary of Labor, the first woman to serve in a president's cabinet. She was Episcopalian with many Catholic friends including Msgr. John A. Ryan, a priest from our Archdiocese, who headed the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference. He was an early proponent of a social security program and Perkins brought this about. Like our own Frances Cabrini, she was powerful in her witness to Christ's concern for those in need. The Episcopal Church honors her on May 13. I gladly join them.
April 28, 2013
HOME COMING This weekend I will not be at Cabrini as we have a special conference at Gichitwaa Kateri Parish for the regional group of the national American Indian Catholics, the Tekakwitha Conference. There will be people coming from as far as Chicago and the western Dakotas. Many of the Indians are Dakota and their roots are in this area especially at Mendota or Bdote which is considered the center and birth place of their people. They are descendents of the exile of the Dakota people from Minnesota following the 1862 Dakota War.
Here are some demographics on American Indian Catholics. More than 340 parishes in the US serve predominantly Indian congregations. These people compose about 3.5% of all Catholics in the US. Only 40% of them live in reservations or trust lands. Next to Los Angeles, the Twin Cities has the highest number of urban Indians. Approximately 20% of Indians in the US consider themselves Catholic, 580,000 of a total of 2.9 million people whose primary race is given as American Indian. About 30% of US dioceses have an office focused on Indian Catholics.
A number of Cabrini parishioners are helping with the conference for which I am very grateful, Miigwech, Thank you.
FEASIBILITY STUDY Archbishop Nienstedt is contemplating a $165 million dollar capital campaign to raise funds for parishes, schools and other ministries in the Archdiocese. Before he moves forward, he would like to hear your thoughts on the proposed campaign goals and structure. Please share your thoughts by attending one of the scheduled town hall meetings. The evening will include a brief presentation on the proposed campaign goals followed by time to ask questions. At the conclusion of the gathering, you will be asked to complete a brief survey. To find the upcoming dates contact Colleen Thuente at email@example.com or 651-291-4531.
I have a question already. Two years ago the Archbishop without public consultation and against the advice of some of his top financial advisers froze the lay pension plan. This broke the promise made to these employees that they would have a secure if modest pension upon retirement. The plan remains unfunded and so all full time employees have 5% of their salaries matched by their employing parishes to pay off the unfunded liability "for the foreseeable future." The employees will get no added benefit for these expenditures and new employees not vested in the plan get no benefit at all.
If the Archbishop wants to raise money for various projects he should first pay off the unfunded
lay pension liability so employees are not burdened with the expense. Would that not be feasible and fair?
April 21, 2013
HOUSE CALL I received the following request:
I am second year medical student at the Mayo Clinic and as part of my studies I was accepted into a summer internship program at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. I will be in Minneapolis from June 10th – August 2nd. I am originally from Montana, so I do not know anyone in the cities and was hoping to reach out to the local Catholic community for assistance in this short relocation. I was wondering if you knew anywhere that I could sublet a room or if it would be possible to place a notice in the bulletin asking the parishioners if they had a room they would be willing to rent. I am a very neat person and would be spending most of my time working at the hospital. I am also recently married, but unfortunately, due to my wife’s job, she will be unable to join me.
If you are able to help this future physician please let me know.
THE BULLY PULPIT This phrase is associated with Teddy Roosevelt but he used it to refer to the White House as an advantageous place to speak from. "Bully" in his usage, this earlier definition, is an adjective meaning splendid or terrific. We use it today, bully for you, good for you. Hopefully the church pulpit is such a positive platform. But too often it can be seen as a place for bullying in the sense of hurting someone weaker or with less power.
I was therefore concerned to hear that the Minnesota Catholic Conference is strongly opposing the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act (HF826/SF783). This anti-bullying legislation will ensure that all schools have clear, strong policies against bullying, as well as the training and resources needed to keep kids safe. In a 2010 Minnesota Student Survey, conducted jointly by the state Departments of Health & Education, 13% of students reported being bullied once a week or more.
Jason Adkins, the MCC executive director on its web site has some very odd logic about the law. He links it with the same sex marriage debate, "where intimidation and name calling are used in the social sphere to silence people (or churches)." I fail to see how the Archbishop was intimidated in waging his million dollar marriage amendment campaign. He then states that, "schools are the ideal place to foster this new regime of ‘tolerance,’ and forcefully suppress any bad thoughts or ‘hate’ speech that may emerge." Does he pay attention to the news and the recent suicides of teens connected with bullying?
And he continues picking on same sex people. "The truths found in the natural order continue to be suppressed… Speaking of nature, one more bill merits your close attention. Those who choose not to live in accordance with the natural law soon discover that it is difficult (impossible) for two people of the same sex to create a child." And so Adkins condemns HF 291/SF 370 which has been introduced to allow surrogacy agreements to be used as admissible evidence in custody proceedings between surrogate mothers and (his quotes) “intended parents.” Now these parents-to-be need not be a same sex couple so why only single them out in raising concerns about the bill? Indeed, the reason heterosexual couples seek such medical procedures is that the natural law is not without its limitations.
April 14, 2013
THE EPISCOPAL CHARISM When I was in the seminary our New Testament professor was Father Jerome Quinn, a rather conservative man with wit. I had him for a class on the Pastoral Epistles where Paul tells his mentee, Timothy, that among other things a bishop should be married only once. Father Jerome was rather skeptical about the crop of bishops at the time, and once (probably more than once) quipped that the charism given to bishops was "a certain strengthening of the will and darkening of the intellect." This is one of the rare teachings I received in my seminary days that has some verifiability.
The latest such sighting comes from Detroit. The current Ordinary is Archbishop Allen Vigneron, a seminary classmate of our own Ordinary. Vigneron made a pronouncement to the Detroit Free Press that Catholics who receive communion while advocating gay marriage would "logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury." How about those advocating episcopal marriage?
April 7, 2013
TRUSTING THOMAS One of the saddest lines in the Scriptures is found several times in the gospels, "And they had nothing more to ask him." Often people including his disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying but they were afraid to ask him any questions. But Jesus never refused to answer a question made in good faith. Indeed, he encouraged questions. And Jesus himself asks over 200 questions in the gospels. Along with parables, Jesus used questions as a teaching devise.
Commonly this weekend's gospel passage about Thomas questioning the appearance of the risen Jesus to the other disciples is labeled the story of doubting Thomas. I prefer to see Thomas ultimately as a trusting person. He had enough inner strength to be able to express his doubts. And in doing so he was able to make a profound statement of faith, "My Lord and my God."
I love the statement of the former Archbishop of Milan and bible scholar, Cardinal Carlo Martini, "The line between belief and unbelief runs through the middle of each of us - including myself, a bishop of the church." Too often certitude has gotten church leaders in trouble. True faith can ask questions and raise doubts.
A SPOILED SYSTEM There are many hopes with Francis, the new Bishop of Rome. In choosing Francis, the cardinals are sending a powerful message about the need for change in the church. Francis so far is only disappointing the traditionalists who are going apoplectic over his dropping many regal trappings that Benedict insisted upon and washing the feet of 2 incarcerated women (including a Muslim) on Holy Thursday.
An article in the N Y Times on March 13 reported on the crisis of management under John Paul and Benedict. Francis inherits power struggles over the Vatican Bank and the Roman Curia, which is "often seen as a hornet's nest of infighting..." Decentralization is needed and a more collegial church is required.
I was struck by a statement made by from Alberto Melloni, an author of many books on the Vatican, who is quoted saying that the reform of the Roman Curia, which runs the Vatican, "is not conceptually hard, it's hard on a political front, but it will take five minutes for someone who has the strength. You get rid of the spoil system, and that's it."
A spoils system. I am not so sanguine about such necessary changes. The spoil system doesn't end in Rome, it extends all the way to St. Paul. I am still troubled by the explanation given by our then Vicar General when I asked 5 years ago how our present Archbishop ended up here. "It has nothing to do with us or the needs of our diocese, it is all about his career needs and our diocese was open." The bishop who was his mentor in the Vatican Secretariat of State was at the time of his appointment the head of the Congregation of Bishops in charge of episcopal appointments.
I am a more traditional Catholic who takes guidance from the fifth century pope, St.Leo the Great, "He that is to preside over all ought to be chosen by all."
March 31, 2013
With the rest of the staff, I hope that this Easter will be an occasion of great joy and happiness for all the members of our parish community and those who join us this weekend. We pray that the tremendous meaning of the Easter celebration will give new meaning and purpose to our lives.
We extend a very special welcome to those who have been baptized, confirmed and welcomed to the eucharistic table this Easter!
Having celebrated Lent and Holy week as well, a special word of thanks must go out to all who have made this a special time. This includes all who generously give their time and talent to make our liturgies especially graceful and grace-filled. Many help to prepare the church and assist in ministry. Thanks to those who help with environments, our worship committee, the musicians, and so many others.
This weekend, we gather to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We sing wonderful music that speaks of our praise, adoration and joy! But in reality, every Sunday in the Christian Church is an Easter Sunday, because we remember Christ’s resurrection each week. I thank you for your generous stewardship. You make it possible to share the Easter message every day. And thank you for all the outreach you do. These are also signs of new life.
AND INDIAN TACOS TOO Here at Cabrini we are celebrating the Easter octave with Indian tacos
on Saturday, April 6, following the 5 PM mass. Kateri parishioners will be serving. The funds raised go to attending the national Tekakwitha Conference for American Indian Catholics. This year's conference is in El Paso, Texas, and we hope to send a number of people.
MS 150 BIKE RIDE SPONSORS NEEDED On the weekend of June 8-9 the MS Society is
holding the MS 150 bike ride to raise funds for the MS Society. I will be participating but as usual I will
be doing things differently. I will be doing the second half of the Duluth to Minneapolis on Friday the 7th and then join the other bikers on Saturday for the first half starting in Duluth. That way I can be with you on Sunday although I will probably not be sitting down much during the service. I would appreciate your support if you are so inclined. Checks can be made out to the "MS Society" and left at the church office or put in the collection basket marked for Mike's ride. You can also donate online. Here is the link to my MS ride page: http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/mtegeder2013
MARRIAGE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING I have been listening to the Supreme Court proceedings over the status of same sex marriage. It has been very thought provoking. One thing that came out in all the arguments is the reality that there are many understandings of marriage. I hope our bishops are paying attention. I was very struck by Ted Olson, G. W. Bush's lawyer in Bush v Gore, who quoted the Supreme Court's holding marriage to be the most important relationship in life. It certainly underlined my concerns that such a relationship has also been denied by our church to those serving as ordained ministers.
March 24, 2013
WELCOME POPE FRANCIS The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates of the St. Paul Province had the following ad in the Catholic Spirit: "We celebrated with you on St. Joseph’s Day,
March 19, the day of your installation. It is a day so very special to us as we remember St. Joseph, our patron. He was a man of dreams, who in his own quiet way, modeled humility, tolerance, and compassion. We look to him for guidance as we continue our work on behalf of those who are poor and marginalized. As we come to know you, we appreciate the way you model the values we find in St. Joseph. With hearts full of hope and gratitude we hold you in our hearts and in our prayers."
ADEQUATE FOR MINISTRY When I was at the St Paul Seminary at the end of each academic year, there was an evaluation on various aspects of "formation." There were levels of passing grades, the lowest being, "adequate for ministry." Some of us took some delight in this category, one season we even so named our softball team.
A number of people have asked me about Pope Francis. He certainly is very commendable in much of his personal lifestyle and temperament. In this he is a big improvement over Benedict. But I am troubled about what he failed to do during the "dirty war" in Argentina. The military junta murdered many people including priests and nuns who were identified with leftist political views. Francis was the Jesuit provincial at the time and a number of fellow Jesuits were arrested and tortured. Rather like Pius XII he apparently preferred not to go public with his opposition to injustice. This is very understandable but sometimes leaders are called to take a stand.
While very much concerned with social justice and poverty, Francis is quite conservative on sexual issues but he seems to be a pragmatist. A New York Times article reports how he favored civil unions for same sex couples when Argentina's congress was debating the passage of a law allowing for gay marriage. The then Cardinal Bergoglio who led the public opposition to the measure, spoke out in a heated meeting of bishops in 2010 and advocated the highly unorthodox solution: that the church in Argentina support civil unions.
The article states, "The approach stands in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who spent 25 years as the church’s chief doctrinal enforcer before becoming pope, known for an unbending adherence to doctrinal purity. Francis, by comparison, spent decades in the field, responsible for translating such ideals into practice in the real world, sometimes leading to a different approach.... 'The melody may be the same, but the sound is completely different,' Alberto Melloni, the director of the liberal Catholic John XXIII Foundation for Religious Science in Bologna, Italy, said of the two...Faced with the near certain passage of the gay marriage bill, Cardinal Bergoglio offered the civil union compromise as the 'lesser of two evils,' said Sergio Rubin, his authorized biographer. 'He wagered on a position of greater dialogue with society.'"
Francis lost the vote with the bishops but he acted like a bridge builder which is what "pontifex" actually means. But here too he did not publicly express his views.
March 17, 2013
REBUILD MY CHURCH INDEED Our new pope has chosen the name Francis, the first Pope Francis. He has a reputation for simplicity so hopefully he will live up to his name and not be so consumed with anachronistic liturgical garb and practices. And St. Francis famously began his ministry after receiving the mysterious message, "rebuild My church." There is much building to do, much reaching out needed, as Francis I begins his new ministry.
I looked up the bulletin entry for April 19, 2005 when I was at St. Edwards Church. This was the Sunday after Ratzinger was chosen at the last conclave. Here is what I wrote:
As it happened, I was with my dentist last Tuesday as the announcement of the new pope was made. Disappointed, his immediate response was, "The world will go on and the church will go on too." I too was disappointed, it could have been much better...This papacy is going to have a different tone, more severe and restrictive...For those who may feel that the Holy Spirit somehow let us down in the conclave perhaps the words of the former Cardinal Ratzinger may lend perspective, "It is wrong to say that the Holy Spirit elects the pope because there have been popes the Holy Spirit would never elect." Source? Joseph Ratzinger.
Sadly, Ratzinger did not prove me wrong. The actual definition of the pope‘s title of "pontiff" is to be a bridge builder. Ratzinger who headed what used to be the Office of the Inquisition, saw his role as being a guardian of boundaries and a builder of walls "to protect the deposit of faith." He was constitutionally unable to reach out and build some bridges for a more collegial and decentralized church.
Today, I can only pray for Francis I to help us all to rebuild the church as he takes on this extraordinary burden of spiritual, moral and political leadership. But then again, the world and church will go on.
TO THOSE WHO HAVE MORE WILL BE GIVEN When Paul Ryan first proposed a budget plan 2 years ago, fellow conservative and Catholic, Newt Gingrich, called it right wing social engineering which "we don't need." Now Ryan has doubled down with his new proposal, "Path to Prosperity," slashing social programs for the vulnerable to supposedly cut the budget deficit. Nobel prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, notes, “Nothing has changed, except that the plan has gotten even crueler."
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Ryan's most recent budget proposal would save those making between $20,000 and $30,000 just $246 in taxes and actually increase taxes for most middle income families while giving those making over $1 million average savings of $265,011. He would cut $2.4 trillion from Medicaid and other health care programs for people with low or moderate incomes. As many as 44 million fewer people would be covered under Medicaid, according to CBS News, while raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67. Ryan also intends to repeal the Affordable Care Act which means many 65- and 66-year-olds would be left uninsured. Under Ryan's "Path to Prosperity," senior citizens would have to pay as much as 68 percent of their health care coverage, up from 25 percent today.
Ryan makes big cuts in many programs from food stamps to the environment. A single mother of two working full time at the minimum wage would have her Child Tax Credit cut by more than $1,500, assuming she made $14,500 a year. Compared to the most recent White House budget proposal, Ryan's budget spends 33 percent less on education, training, employment and social services, the Washington Post reports.
Every day at Cabrini and many other churches, people come to the door who are in need for assistance just to get through the day. We take guidance from Jesus saying, "I was hungry and you fed me..." Ryan instead takes out of context, "to those who have more will be given..."
March 10, 2013
INDIGENOUS WOMEN TO WALK 1200 MILES FOR THE WATER At the parish of Gichitwaa Kateri each mass includes a water blessing done by one of the women elders. The women are the keepers of the water. I am not able to do this ritual. I find if very profound. Women are protectors of the waters.
A group of Indigenous women including some from Gichitwaa Kateri are carrying a copper pail of water from the headwaters of the Mississippi in Minnesota to the place where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. The women walkers and supporters left Lake Itasca State Park on March 1st following a traditional Ojibwe water ceremony. They are walking each and every day until they reach the Gulf near New Orleans around the end of April.
The Water Walkers are drawing attention to the peril the river faces due to pollution. The Mississippi River is the second most polluted river in the United States. Toxic chemicals from municipalities, farms and corporations are taking their toll on the river. By the time a drop of water reaches the “dead zones” near the mouth of the river, the water is nearly depleted of oxygen. The walkers intend to educate people along the way as to what they can do to stop the pollution.
“We want the walk to be a prayer,” walker Sharon Day says. “Every step we take we will be praying for and thinking of the water. The water has given us life and now, we will support the water.”
Donations to support the walk can be sent to Indigenous Peoples Task Force: Water Walk. 1335 E. 23rd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55404. To learn more or participate: Join the Mississippi River Water Walk 2013 Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/events/232477210218692/
DOING WHAT YOU ARE TOLD A recent news story about the cardinals flocking to the conclave brought to mind Lawrence Kohlberg's levels of moral reasoning, specifically stage 1 of obedience and punishment. This earliest stage of moral development is especially common in young children who see rules as fixed and absolute. Obeying the rules is important because it is a means to avoid punishment. At this earliest level of mere obedience, doing what you are told, without the assistance of one's informed conscience, life is simple, one follows a parental authority.
It was rather sad if not unexpected to see Cardinal Roger Mahoney, responding to protests over his attendance at the conclave, telling Catholic News Service that the Vatican told him to come to Rome and participate. "Without my even having to inquire, the nuncio in Washington phoned me a week or so ago and said, ‘I have had word from the highest folks in the Vatican: You are to come to Rome and you are to participate in the conclave.'" The retired cardinal has been much criticized for his handling of sexual abuse cases.
Life is so much simpler when you do not even have to inquire. Papa may be gone, but there is always someone able to tell you what to do in a properly run hierarchy.
March 3, 2013
FOOD FOR THOUGHT We had a great turnout on February 19 for the St. John's Theology Day presentation held at Cabrini by Dr. Bill Cahoy, Dean of the School of Theology. His talk, "Responsibility, Leadership and Change: The Challenges of an Adult Church" was well received. For more information about the SJU Theology programs go to: http://www.csbsju.edu/SOT/News-and-Events/Events/Theology-Day.htm
THOUGHTFUL FOOD Joe Pipp reported to the parish Council that Cabrini concluded another successful season of Candlelight Dinners. Over 250 individuals gathered to share a meal in 30 different homes. As Joe stated, "what a terrific opportunity to build community!" Thanks to all who participated especially the meal hosts and to Joe and Joan Pipp for coordinating the program
FAST FOOD In addition to lobster, jumbo shrimp and scallops, Catholics may also add alligator to their Lenten observance of abstaining from meat. “Concerning the question if alligator is acceptable to eat during the Lenten season...yes, the alligator is considered in the fish family,” Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond wrote in a letter to a concerned parishioner in the New Orleans Archdiocese.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website on “Lent and Lenten Practices” shows the rationale behind Archbishop Aymond's declaration. “Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs – all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat...Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.” Such cold blooded reasoning.
Other reptiles that could presumably be consumed on Lenten Fridays include turtles, snakes, and tortoises. The bishops indicate that foods such as chicken broth, meat gravies or sauces, “as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden.” (I never knew that which probably explains as well as anything why I am an unlikely candidate for the episcopacy.)
The possibility of extending Friday abstinence throughout the year has been recently raised during the U.S. bishops' 2012 General Assembly by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. “The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent.”
Cardinal Dolan commended the English bishops for recently reinstating the year round Friday abstinence, writing that “many welcomed the initiative of the bishops of England as a step in the right direction: restoring a sense of belonging, an exterior sign of membership, to a Church at times adrift.” Yes, adrift and really out to sea.
February 24, 2013
ITS ALL RELATIVE Relativism is the new boogeyman in the Church. When members of the hierarchy want to really denigrate someone, they label them a relativist. That is why the recent papal abdication is quite interesting. Eight years ago, when Pope John Paul II died, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops praised him for staying on the job to the bitter end. “The elderly and infirm have been inspired by his indefatigable perseverance as his own physical limitations mounted,” said the bishops’ president. Now the bishops are praising John Paul’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI, for quitting. “His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church,” said the bishops’ new president. But what are the elderly and infirm to think?
Apparently the pope can never make a wrong decision. George Weigel, JP II's hagiographer, praised him for not stepping down. By continuing in office even when seriously incapacitated, he fulfilled the papal pledge. Now Weigel has made an about face. “It’s a great statement about the humility of Joseph Ratzinger,” he said of Benedict. “In a strange way, this is his last great service to the Church. He wants the Church to have the kind of strong leadership that it needs.” Strange indeed, is Weigel's flexibility.
And then there is the former Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, who lauded JP II's decision “to work to the very end...He held on to life as if to show us what he had for so long told us—life is precious, love it, use it, pour yourself out. Spend yourself...Repeatedly pressed to retire, to give himself some rest after his mighty labors, he refused. ‘Christ didn’t come down from the cross,’ he said.” Now that Benedict is retiring, Noonan sees things quite differently. In Noonan’s rapturous retelling, Benedict’s exit is almost salvific, bearing the sins of others: “The scandals that grew under John Paul … had to be faced and addressed by Benedict. Maybe he hopes he took the burden on his back and, as he leaves, can bear it away.”
Slate contributor, William Saletan, comments, "Across the Catholic blogosphere, writers are struggling to rationalize Benedict’s decision...it’s obvious what’s going on here. These are people of faith. They’ve put their faith in a church and the men who lead it. They’re determined to find virtue and wisdom in these men, even when two consecutive popes choose completely different courses."
Sounds like relativism to me. Not that that is wrong.
BARELY BEARABLE I did not find disarming a recent NPR radio story about the "open carry" movement. No, this is not some drinkers' rights group. Its spokesperson says that they "want to normalize the presence of firearms in daily life." An adherent was observed with a rifle slung across his back as he shopped the aisles at Walmart (the largest retail seller of guns in the world.) A few weeks earlier NPR reported from Portland, Oregon, on a movement there where its "members" went about publicly naked as they conducted their daily tasks. Watch out if these two groups hook up.
February 17, 2013
BYE BYE BENEDICT Papa Benedict's eight years as pope were marked by a series of scandals in the Vatican and a pronounced conservative turn. His most tangible legacy will be the ridiculous translation of the Roman Missal that he imposed on English speaking Catholics to conform to his latinate leanings. I found it sadly typical that Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, had no inkling of Benedict's resignation. He begged the reporters for a few days to "unscramble" things. Such a fetish for secrecy. Thankfully the Vatican spokesperson did dismiss the idea that he is resigning over "depression," "uncertainty" or "difficulties in papacy." Apparently he may have quit "to avoid (the) exhausting rush of Easter engagements." With two parishes and two separate triduum services I have some sympathy for him.
HERE COMES THE ARCHBISHOP Recently Archbishop Nienstedt issued two statements cracking down on the rights of Catholics in the Archdiocese. First he issued a warning to all priests about the Council of the Baptized. This group is made up of many people who have long histories of service as members of our local church. Many have had leadership positions under previous archbishops. To my awareness all are in good standing in the church. Under Canon law they have the rights to organize and express their concerns but nevertheless Nienstedt sees these faithful Catholics as a threat to his authority as (in his words) "Chief Catechist" and "Defender of the Faith" (same title as the Queen of England, a coincidence). Second, he reissued a policy on the need for his approval for outside speakers and honorees "to ensure that when a forum is provided for a discussion of matters of faith, those invited to present do so in a manner that is consistent with the teachings of the Church and in harmony with the pastoral direction that I have established for this Archdiocese." Talk about a strong self image.
We are all too aware of the failed campaign Nienstedt waged against the committed, loving relationships of gays and lesbians. (Indeed, some credit him for the failure of the Constitutional amendment to limit marriage to be passed.) Possibly a bit humbled, he is now focused to limiting the rights of Catholics in the Archdiocese. This is his right according to some interpretations of church governance much in favor before the Vatican II Council.
The Pope may step down, but our Archbishop won't step back.
KTOE RADIO INTERVIEW Last Monday, February 11, I was interviewed on the Jack Kolars radio show. It can be found at Jack's site at www.ktoe.com.
Feb. 11, 2013 - Conversation with Rev. Mike Tegeder
February 10, 2013
EVOLUTION WEEKEND This weekend we celebrate Evolution Weekend which encourages clergy and congregations to learn about and discuss evolution. The weekend chosen is the closest Sunday to Charles Darwin's birthday, February 12. Evolution Sunday events first took place in 2006 and was renamed in 2008 to be more inclusive. According to its founders, this is "an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science" and an effort "to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic, and to show that religion and science are not adversaries...Religious people from many diverse faith traditions and locations around the world understand that evolution is quite simply sound science; and for them, it does not in any way threaten, demean, or diminish their faith in God. In fact, for many, the wonders of science often enhance and deepen their awe and gratitude towards God."
Being at Gichitwaa Kateri has also enriched my understanding of creation. Last summer I was able to attend the National Tekakwitha Conference for Indian Catholics. One of the speakers was Father Jim Nesbitt who is a member of a First Nation community in Manitoba. He said that in college he took a 2 semester course on paleontology. At the end of the class the professor proudly concluded, "And so, we are all related to the animals." This brought back the memory of his grandmother taking the 7 year old Jim to the Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg to see the buffalo. She simply said, "These are your relatives."
THE DESCENT OF (A) MAN On February 2, the Associated Press reported on an interview with Archbishop Gerhard Mueller in the German news magazine, Die Welt. Mueller is a German who heads the Congregation for the Doctine of the Faith formerly known as the Office of the Inquisition. Mueller, the Vatican's head of doctrine, says critics in North America and Europe are conducting a "concerted campaign" to discredit the Catholic Church that is resulting in open attacks against priests. He went so far as to liken this to the pogroms against Jews in Europe. This is a bizarre and contemptible comparison. In recent years, Catholic Church leaders have faced deserved criticism for their scandalous handling of sexual abuse cases and for their strident opposition to contraception, same-sex marriage and the ordination of women. Apparently men like this can give it but they can't take it.
MAN OH MAN In the "Vatican Letter" of January 31, reporter Francis X Rocca quotes the theologian of the papal household, Dominican Father Wojceich Giertych on why women cannot be ordained. He serves as the Pope's personal theologian and has daily contact with Benedict, a pope who is often bedecked in ermine trimmed and jeweled encrusted finery aping a Renaissance princeling in his city state. With a straight face he is quoted, "We are not free to invent the priesthood according to our own customs, according to our own expectations." Right.
Reflecting on differences between the sexes, Giertych suggested reasons that men are especially suited to the priesthood.
Men are more likely to think of God in terms of philosophical definitions and logical syllogisms, he said, a quality valuable for fulfilling a priest's duty to transmit church teaching. Although he concedes that the social and administrative aspects of church life are hardly off-limits to women, Giertych said priests love the church in a characteristically "male way" when they show concern "about structures, about the buildings of the church, about the roof of the church which is leaking, about the bishops' conference, about the concordat between the church and the state."
"Women have a special access to the heart of Jesus," he said, "in a very vivid way of approaching him, of touching him, of praying with him, of pouring ointment on his head, of kissing his feet...So women don't need the priesthood because their mission is so beautiful in the church anyway."
If this is the kind of philosophy and logic at work in the Vatican, well "Houston we have a problem." Such thinking might not be contemptible, but it is bizarre and unconvincing.
February 3, 2013
THOSE WHO LIVE BY THE SWORD...William James wrote the book, "The Varieties of Religious Experience," but I wonder if he could have imagined the varieties of Christianity in the United States. A Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association said the following: “If they decide that mental health are reasons to deny people their constitutional rights, it’s a short step from there to identifying us, Christians, genuine followers of Jesus Christ who believe the Bible and what it teaches … as mentally ill. Guns are going to be taken away from us.” Just what American family does he represent, the Manson family?
Thankfully he does not represent Catholic families. According to the revealing results of a survey released last week by the Public Religion Research Institute, 57 percent of white evangelicals live in homes where someone owns a gun compared, for example, with 31 percent of Catholics.
In fact, this is one area we can be proud of our bishops. Stephen Blaire, bishop of Stockton, California, who chairs U.S. Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, reacted to President Obama's January 16 proposal: "The bishops hope that the steps taken by the administration will help to build a culture of life. The frequent mass shootings over the course of 2012 reflected a tragic devaluing of human life, but also pointed to the moral duty of all people to take steps to defend it."
Bishop Blaire also recounted the five priorities made by the bishops in their 2000 statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice. These were: 1. Support measures that control the sale and use of firearms, 2. Support measures that make guns safer, 3. Call for sensible regulations of handguns, 4. Support legislative efforts that seek to protect society from violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons including assault rifles, and 5. Make a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.
BISHOPS REDUX Last week in the bulletin I mentioned the traditional Catholic teaching that the local community should have a voice in the decision of who is to lead them. This week I received the following from Catholics Concerned for Church Reform (CCCR):
Dear Community of Catholics moving forward in the spirit of Vatican II,
The Council of the Baptized, in a position paper entitled People’s Participation in Selection of Bishops published yesterday, January 24, 2013, calls for active engagement by the laity in choosing their leaders. The role of bishop in the Catholic Church carries a lot of power and has an enormous effect on the spiritual life of the people. Actively engaged Catholics can have a voice in the leadership appointed for them by the Vatican if they communicate with the U.S. papal nuncio. That is the program CCCR is sponsoring. Given that the appointment of bishops is a secret process, we do not know when leadership will change. We need an on-going process to prepare for the future. Join us!
Read about the publication on The Progressive Catholic Voice website
(http://theprogressivecatholicvoice.blogspot.com/ ) You can also see profiles of some possible candidates for the role of bishop.
You can order a copy of the position paper, read it, or print it out for yourself at www.councilofthebaptized.org. Click on Publications and you will see the list in the left hand column.
January 27, 2013
MORE THAN CUCKOO CLOCKS There is a well known line from the classic film, "The Third Man," for which Graham Greene wrote the screenplay. Harry Lime, played by Orson Welles, compares the cultural achievements of Italy and Switzerland. He says that under the Borgias, Italy had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and all they produced was the cuckoo clock. In fact, Greene loved Switzerland, living there much of his life and was even buried there. It turns out that Welles added the line. And cuckoo clocks don't come from Switzerland.anyway, they come from the German Black Forest. The Swiss did produce Hans Kung and many others with a passion for reform.
Actually my great grandmother emigrated from there and I too love the Swiss although unlike Michelle Bachmann I have not considered seeking dual citizenship. But I have another reason to love the Swiss. The London Tablet recently reported on a Swiss Benedictine abbot. Fifty-year-old Abbot Martin Werlen, leader of the Abbey of Einsiedeln gave a sermon on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council in October. Titled “Discovering the Embers Under the Ashes,” it echoes remarks by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in his last interview before his death Aug. 31. Referring to the state of the church today, Martini spoke of his sense of powerlessness and how Catholicism’s “embers” were “hidden under the ashes.”
Werlen said he is alarmed by the present state of the church. “The situation of the church is dramatic, not only in the German-speaking countries,” he said. “It is dramatic not only because of the rapidly decreasing number of priests and religious or because of plummeting church attendance. The real problem is not a problem of numbers. What is missing is the fire! We must face the situation and find out what is behind it.” He stressed the need for reform beginning with local churches having more say in the appointment of bishops, recalling that religious orders have always elected their superiors democratically over the centuries.
Although this is a needed and long over due reform, it is also very traditional, going back to the Acts of the Apostles and the choosing of Matthias by the community. As a bishop in the year 200, St Cyprian spoke of the need for the consent of the people in choosing their bishop. One hundred years later, St. Celestine, the bishop of Rome, stated that bishops should not be given to those who do not accept them. Another pope, St Gregory, in the 5th century, said that the one who is to govern over all (as bishop), should be chosen by all. Indeed, the first bishop of the United States, John Carroll, was elected by his fellow priests. And dioceses in Switzerland retained the right to choose their own bishops until the last century.
Swiss cheese is known for its holes, but I find none in the Abbot's thinking.
A WARM WELCOME NEVERTHELESS Last Wednesday as the frigid temperatures continued our ever resourceful receptionist, Peggy Doerrie, was confronted with a frozen door chime. The sign she attached to the outside main door read: "The doorbell is NOT working due to extreme cold. Please knock loudly on glass."
January 20, 2013
THE GOOD BOOKS Although there is no constitutional requirement for the use of a Bible during the swearing-in, Presidents have traditionally used Bibles for the inauguration ceremony, choosing a volume with personal or historical significance. (Teddy Roosevelt had a Bible-free inauguration in 1901.) On January 21st, President Barack Obama will take the oath of office using three bibles. One is the Robinson family Bible which comes from Michelle Obama's family. The second is a personal Bible of Martin Luther King, Jr., which is usually on display at the Martin Luther King Museum in Atlanta. The third is the same Bible that Obama used at his first inauguration and which President Lincoln had used for his first inauguration. This Bible belongs to the Library of Congress. President Obama was the first President sworn in using the Lincoln Bible since its initial use in 1861.
The Lincoln Bible was originally purchased by William Thomas Carroll, Clerk of the Supreme Court, for use during Lincoln's swearing-in ceremony on March 4, 1861. (Lincoln's own family Bible, which is now also in the Library of Congress's collection, was unavailable for the Lincoln's inauguration because it was packed away with the family's belongings, still en route from Springfield, IL, to their new home at the White House.)
Annotated in the back of the volume, along with the Seal of the Supreme Court, is the following:
"I, William Thomas Carroll, clerk of the said court do hereby certify that the preceding copy of the Holy Bible is that upon which the Honble. R. B. Taney, Chief Justice of the said Court, administered to His Excellency, Abraham Lincoln, the oath of office as President of the United States..." Taney was the first Catholic Chief Justice. Although Taney himself freed his slaves well before the Emancipation Proclamation, he wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision which held that no person of African ancestry (whether slave or free) was protected by the Constitution and that they could not claim citizenship in the United States. And now for the second time, a person of African ancestry will use this same Bible to again promise to uphold that same Constitution.
For me this connects with another book that President Obama has said was influential in his development, "The Irony of American History," by Reinhold Niebuhr.
MINNESOTA'S INAUGURAL PRAYER CONNECTION Prior to President Franklin Roosevelt's second inauguration in 1937, there were no inaugural prayers. The only manifestation of religion in the ceremony was the use of a Bible for the swearing in-accompanied by the traditional (but not constitutionally mandated) phrase, "so help me God." Often the new president would kiss the Bible which Hoover did in 1929, but in 1933, Roosevelt did not. In 1937, Roosevelt did add the invocation
and benediction prayers. He chose Msgr. John A. Ryan to give the closing benediction.
Ryan was a priest of our Archdiocese and was the foremost proponent of social welfare policies in the American Catholic Church. He was such a national supporter of Roosevelt's policies that he became known as "The Right Reverend New Dealer." Ryan battled Father Charles Coughlin, the notorious Detroit priest whose increasingly anti-Roosevelt, anti-New Deal, and anti-Semitic rants were broadcast coast-to-coast on the radio. Another irony, Archbishop Nienstedt, also a priest of the Detroit Archdiocese, served for a short time as pastor of the Shrine of the Little Flower Parish where Coughlin recorded his radio broadcasts.
January 13, 2013
A MULIER FORTIS Tributes flowed in this past week for Sister of St Joseph, Marie de Paul Rochester, administrator for nearly 20 years at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul, included her deep connections to the city’s business community at a time when women CEOs were a rarity. Sr. Marie de Paul, who led the hospital from 1956 to 1965 and again from 1968 to 1978, died Dec. 26 at age 99.
Former state legislator, Joe O'Neill commented, “Just think of this woman running one of the largest business in St. Paul.” Among many accomplishments she was one of the first women to serve on a national bank board when she was named in the early 1970s to the board of the First National Bank of St. Paul. She was a “wonderful, considerate, compassionate leader,” O’Neill said, reflecting on “all the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet have done since they came to St. Paul” in the 1850s.
The church of course has some real issues with the status of women in its leadership. But this should not detract from the many Catholic women who have given much leadership especially in the areas of health care and education. Women religious have made tremendous contributions in these areas. Along the hallways of the University of Minnesota Medical School are class photos of graduates of their Health Care Administration graduate program. The program began in the 1940's and until the 1960 classes the only women in the photos were Catholic sisters. Sr. Marie de Paul Rochester was one of those trail blazers. A mulier fortis, a woman of strength.
SPEAKING OF HEALTH CARE The January 3rd issue of the New York Times had an interesting article by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel on health care costs: “It is conventional wisdom that end-of-life care is an increasingly huge proportion of health care spending. I've often heard it said that people spend more on health care in the year before they die than they do in the entire rest of their lives. If we don't address these costs, the story goes, we can never control health care inflation. Wrong. Here are the real numbers. The roughly 6 percent of Medicare patients who die each year do make up a large proportion of Medicare costs: 27 to 30 percent. But this figure has not changed significantly in decades. And the total number of Americans, not just older people, who die every year — less than 1 percent of the population — account for much less of total health care spending, just 10 to 12 percent.”
Nevertheless, the growing use of hospice does offer real promise in reducing unnecessary spending and suffering in the face of all the remarkable interventions that modern medicine offers to prolong the dying process. As the Affordable Care Act attempted to offer, we do need to discuss with our physicians our wishes for end of life care. And in speaking about our health care, talk is cheap.
January 6, 2013
STUDY: HAPPINESS IS HAVING FRIENDS AT CHURCH Archbishop Nienstedt graciously sent me a Christmas gift, a book titled "Why Priests are Happy." After reading it I am still unable to determine whether priests are indeed among the most happy people in the country as the author states. However, I did find myself laughing quite a bit.
More seriously, there is good research that attending religious services regularly and having close friends in the congregation are key to having a happier, more satisfying life. That's the key finding of a study released in the December 2010 issue of the American Sociological Review.
Numerous studies have shown that religious people report a higher level of well-being compared with the non-religious, says Chaeyoon Lim, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin and lead author of the study. But what aspect of religiousness — church attendance, prayer, theology or spirituality — accounts for this level of life satisfaction has been unclear.
Lim's study finds that when people with similar levels of church attendance are compared, the key factors determining happiness are the social aspect of religion and a shared religious connection built around identity and belonging.
Lim says that "90% of the correlation between church attendance and life satisfaction can be explained if you have these close interactions."
For the study, Lim and co-author Robert Putnam analyzed data collected during 2006 and 2007 as part of the Faith Matters Study, a nationwide survey of a representative sample of adults. The survey, examining the various ways that religion affects American society, is the focus of the recently released book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Putnam and David Campbell.
According to the findings on religion and life satisfaction, 33% of people who attend religious services every week and have three to five close friends in their congregation report being "extremely satisfied" with their lives. The study also finds that 15% of weekly church attendees said they had no close friends at church, and people who say they participate in private religious practices, such as services held at home, were no happier than those who never attend congregational services.
The importance of congregational connectedness to life satisfaction is in line with research conducted by Nancy Ammerman, Professor of Sociology of Religion at Boston University.
"There's a high trust level in congregations," Ammerman says. "The ability to call on people for social support is very high, even if the people are not necessarily the people you'd call your best friends."
I find these findings very much inline with my own personal experience. It is in giving that we receive.