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Should Children be in Church or in Cry Rooms?

Jesus Blessing the Children

Then there were little children presented to him, that he should impose hands upon them and pray.  And the disciples rebuked them.  But Jesus said to them: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such.  And when he had imposed hands upon them, he departed from thence.

— Matthew 19:13-15

As a father with a newborn, I have become more acutely aware of the presence of “cry rooms” at parishes, and the preferences some priests and members of the community have that children be placed in cry rooms during normal gooing and gaaing.  The use of cry rooms should be sparing, at most, and should never inhibit the ability of children to be in the presence of our Lord.  It should not be understood from this post that there are not legitimate times and reasons to remove children temporarily from Church, but rather that encouraging parents to use a cry room to stifle normal gooing and gaaing is contrary to the practice of most parishes across a vast majority of the Church’s history.

Cry rooms came into  mainstream existence after the Second Vatican Council.  The idea behind their creation is that more difficult or distracting children may be easily removed and calmed while still within the line of sight of Mass.  In this manner, such children and their parents can still view, or participate in, the Mass without distracting other parishoners or without feeling conscious about distracting fellow parishoners.

There are two essential problems with cry rooms.

First, cry rooms perpetuate the fallacy that the Mass is a performance to be observed.  The implicit assumption of those who advocate for the use of the cry room is that distracting children can detract from the ability of other parishoners to observe the Mass and prevent the same from experiencing Christ on a personal level — the idea being that the spiritual gain one receives through Mass attendance is connected to the ability of one to observe the events that occur.

It is easy to see how this line of reasoning is mistaken.  The man who attends Mass blind, deaf, and dumb receives no less spiritual benefit from the exercise in virtue than the fully able man.  Likewise, the parishoner who sits close to a distracting child, and who therefore is less able to hear the homily or Eucharistic prayer, receives no less spiritual benefit from the Mass than a family sitting in the front row. Furthermore, even if one’s ability to “feel” close to Christ is inhibited by a crying baby, the proper reception of the Sacraments and the desire to fulfill the four cardinal objectives of the prayer — adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and asking for what we need — far outstrip any diminishment in the “personal experience.”

Additionally, the desire to control the laity during the Mass is a distinctly modern trend.  Those in medieval times had significantly more children than current Catholic families, and certainly no cry rooms.  I rather suspect that the medieval Mass was a rather raucous place — children crying, no ushers directing people when and where to receive our Lord, and extremely limited ability to understand the priest’s mediation on behalf of the community.  When compared to the modern day, where Church has a tendency to become a low-end Sunday talk show, complete with a quiet set, fancy choir, and cued audience applause, I far prefer the former.

Second, cry rooms perpetuate the fallacy that the Mass is an exclusively individual, rather than communal event.  As a communal event, children are equally justified in partaking of the Mass as those in retirement homes.  We do not celebrate the Mass at a parish to bond together over post-communion doughnuts and coffee.  We celebrate together so that the priest may mediate to the Father on our behalf, and to give Him the glory He deserves.

As a final note, a loud Mass, one which includes plenty of gooing and gaaing, is a sign of a healthy parish. Young people are getting married and having babies, lots of them, and providing more souls for the kingdom of heaven.  It would be a pity to shove these little victories aside for our own selfish feelings.

Will an End to Clerical Celibacy Save the Church?

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In the modern day, where seemingly everything is possible, some quarters of the catholic population are suggesting that an end to priestly celibacy is the cure to what ails the Church.  The delusional remnant of the dark ages of the Church envisions the end of clerical celibacy as leading to a bounty of vocations, a revolution in pastoral care, and the key to unlocking the “gifts” modern times have to offer.  Like many suggestions from fifty years ago, if implemented, and end to priestly celibacy will almost certain have the opposite effect, weakening the Church rather than strengthening Her, and leaving Her sons and daughters without the strong leaders Christ intended intended them to have.

A few points for consideration:

1.  The current number of priests is more than able to sustain the Catholic population. 

Using statistics from the United States for demonstrative purposes, in 1965 there were 58,632 total priests for a Catholic population of 46.3 million.  Regular Mass attendance was 55%.  If Mass attendance is proportionate to Catholics in good standing (i.e. Catholics who practice the Faith and do not identify as part of the religion for mere cultural reasons), then there was one priest for every 434 Catholics in good standing.

In comparison, in 2014, there were 38,275 priests for a Catholic population of 66.6 million.  Regular Mass attendance is 24%.  Again using regular Mass attendance as a proxy for Catholics in good standing, we find that there is one priest for every 418 Catholics.  In other words, the Catholic today should have greater — not less — access to the Sacraments and pastoral care than his father or grandfather had.

2.  Married priests will almost certainly decrease the quality of pastoral care in parishes. 

A married man cannot study, pray, and provide pastoral care to parishioners in the same manner a celibate cleric can.  Families are extremely time intensive ventures.  So are parishes and preparation for the priesthood.

Married men will not obtain the same formation at seminary that unmarried men currently enjoy.  A man with a family cannot immerse himself in his studies, formation, and prayer life to the same extent that a celibate man can.  It is simply a matter of the number of hours in a day.  Men who enter seminary in the married state will also likely require careers to provide for the members of the family, potentially opening the door to a “night-seminary” scenario.  On the whole, married priests will almost certainly be less prepared for the priesthood and less able to provide pastoral care to parishioners than their celibate counterparts.

3.  If the practice of clerical celibacy would prevent a man from becoming a priest, then he is unfit for the priesthood under any circumstances. 

Men with deep character flaws are unfit for the priesthood.  It is not a flaw for a priest to have natural inclinations for a woman; but a man who cannot accept and fulfill his vocation (enter seminary and become a priest) because of an unnatural attachment to the hope of someday having relations with a woman has a deep character flaw and is therefore unfit for the priesthood.

Almost by definition, therefore, those who say that a married priesthood will produce more vocations (i.e. men who would not otherwise become priests) are seeking to convince the Church to ordain to the priesthood men with deep character flaws.

4.  A married priesthood will not prevent pedophilia. 

The argument that a celibate priesthood leads to pedophilia is an argument attractive only to those who the Creator did not grace with intelligence.  There is no evidence that celibacy leads to pedophilia.  The Catholic Church embraces celibacy for millions of young men who live outside the married state — millions of young men who shockingly lead rational, sane, existences even without relations.

Catholicism and Rights: A Ship on Dry Land

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Editor’s Note: We do not typically respond to current events, except when we think that we have a position that differs from the wide spectrum of available Catholic publications.  We typically take our time to make sure that each sentence and word is carefully thought out and an accurate representation of what we believe.  Therefore, we apologize for the delay between the events giving rise to this article and the article itself.

Much has been asked recently about the relationship between “rights” understood by secular culture and the Catholic Faith.  Where, for example does the “Right to Free Speech” or the “Right to Religious Freedom” find a home in traditional Catholic thought?  Should Catholics support the notion that a secular government should never impose restrictions on the words or writings of citizens?

The reason such questions appear difficult to answer, or even unanswerable, is because the notion of rights has arisen quite apart from traditional Catholic theology.  Several Enlightenment scholars pioneered the concept of natural rights, although the different schools of thought each conceived of rights in a slightly different manner.  In the American system, our idea of rights has traditionally come from the English philosopher John Locke, whose ideas were heavily borrowed by Thomas Jefferson in the writing of the Declaration of Independence.  In short, it would be fair to say that Locke believed that natural rights were inalienable — that is to say — they were absolute regardless of cultural custom and could not be transferred or given to the government.

Other Enlightenment thinkers, perhaps even Jefferson himself, might have argued that citizens could also have rights in the sense that there are aspects of society in which “the people” have never — through the social contract — given the government authority to regulate .  It seems fair to say, therefore, that rights limit the power of the government because they fall into one of two categories.  First, some rights are unalienable and therefore the people cannot give the government authority over these aspects of society.  Second, some rights are reserved in that the people could, but did not, give the government authority over these aspects of society.

As to the first category, it seems impossible to conclude that inalienable rights are congruent with Catholic teachings.  Traditional Catholic teaching supposes that whether an action is just is equivalent to whether an action is sinful.  If it is not sinful to take an action, the same action cannot be said to violate one’s God-given, inalienable rights.  Here it seems helpful to apply the analysis to an example, the right to free speech.  The right to free speech is far from absolute.  Both the American legal system and Catholic teaching would agree that one does not have the right to wrongfully yell “fire” in a crowded theater — the former because such speech is not protected by the Constitution, and the later because it would be sinful to start a stampede that could result in serious injury or death.

It is easy to see that in Catholic thought the action (or “right”) must be tied to the situation in which the action takes place, and that no unilateral judgment may be made about the actor’s right to perform the action without that critical link.  Therefore a blanket “right” to perform an action cannot be formulated in Catholic thought because there will always be some context in which the right is unjust or sinful.  One often cannot determine whether an action is sinful without the context in which the action takes place.  Therefore, when commentators question whether or not one has a right to do something, it appears that for the Catholic, the analysis should begin with the situation in which the action takes place, because it is with that context that one can determine whether or not the action is sinful.

The analysis appears similar in the second, or social contract, category — that of the rights reserved by the people.  Even though “the people” may not have given a larger body the legal power to regulate in a specific area of society, it would seem incongruent with Catholic teaching to say that a body of people may not stop an unjust action through a just one simply because the actor has not given them permission to do so in the social contract.  For example, even though the Second Amendment to the Constitution reserves the right of citizens to bear arms — and assuming for the sake of argument here that the Second Amendment is absolute — Catholic teaching would almost certainly support a government action to keep a firearm from a man who used one in the past to commit murder and who vowed to commit murder in the same manner again.  Again, reserved rights do not truly impact the Catholic’s analysis.  What matters is whether or not the action — keeping the firearm away from the man contemplating murder — is just.

In sum, Catholic teaching does not require the concept of rights because its guiding light is achieving our end in God.  Justice and building virtue help us achieve that end.  One cannot have a God-given right to sin just as one cannot have a God-given right to be free from justice.  To us, the Catholic analysis seems much more straight-foward and easier to apply given the realities in which we live.

Of Bishops and Palaces

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Something of a controversy has erupted over the past several months about, of all things, the living accommodations of bishops.  The Archbishop of Atlanta announced last week that he will sell a $2.2 million building which recently finished construction after several complaints from parishioners.

By way of background, I sporadically worked for the Church during my time in college and law school.  During one summer I worked at an Archdiocesan office and during another I worked at a religious order’s general directorate in Rome.  Not only is it typical for ecclesiastical superiors to want to live in the building which serves as the nerve center for their diocese or religious order, but doing so increases their efficiency and likely saves the Church money in the long run.

Many, but not all, bishops like to live in the building which serves as the administrative center of their diocese.  Simply put, we live in an age where the bishop is expected to act as the CEO of the diocese, which places a near-crushing amount of responsibility on one man’s shoulders.  In addition to saying Mass, writing homilies, and frequent prayer, we expect bishops to be doctrinally sound, keep up on current events, participate in corporal works of mercy, raise enough money to keep the diocese running smoothly, and keep a vigilant eye on the priests working under his watch (often to the point where we expect bishops to be personally involved with investigating complaints of abuse).  During my internship it was not uncommon for me to receive e-mails time-stamped 4:00am or earlier because the archbishop was already at work in his office.  Allowing the bishop to live at the diocesan offices eases the burden of commuting, allows him to work longer hours, and increases his immediate availability when a crisis inevitably arises.

A vast portion of the space in a diocesan office is dedicated to the necessary functions of a diocese.  I have not polled the bishops in the United States but I suspect that most of their living quarters consist of a bedroom, living room, modest dining room, and kitchenette.  This is not exactly living fast and loose.  When the press mentions large function rooms and complete kitchens, what they are usually referring to are spaces dedicated to diocesan fundraisers.  I can assure you that bishops have much better things to do than roam around large empty spaces pondering their worldly spoils.  Instead, someone at the diocesan level (someone with a brain and a calculator) figured out how much money the diocese could save by adding function rooms to the bishop’s residence instead of renting out a venue month after month for fundraisers.  What a strange world we live in where the bishops must spend more to show how frugal they are.

Finally, let’s consider the source of the criticism here.  Most Catholics who submit fully to the Church have no problem with the bishop’s prudential judgment concerning where to reside.  Most of the “concern” or complaints come, I suspect, from those who wish to reduce the role of the bishop to “social worker in charge.”  Those who see the bishop as a man who should simply minister to the poor, who do not accept the fullness of his mission — to save souls, lead his flock on social issues, and bring society closer to Christ — wish to weaken him by de-emphasizing certain of his responsibilities.

Among the greatest causes of scandal in the modern Church — widespread use of contraceptives, frequent disregard of Church teachings, and neglect of the sacraments — the residences of the bishops seem minor by comparison.  Radical poverty can be a source of good, but poverty in and of itself is not, and not all men are called to such a lifestyle.

Less complaining and more praying on rosaries!

Queen Visits: Gives Pope Balmoral Whisky

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It has been a pretty busy few days for the Holy Father with visits from the President of the United States and the Queen of England.  I do have a few observations about the gifts to the Holy Father.  You give seeds when you’re a hippy elementary school teacher trying to help kindergartners understand that great things can come from small people.  You give whisky to a man you respect.  Do world leaders see the Pope as a rich man’s Dalai Lama or something more?

There frankly is not much out there from sources I trust on Balmoral Whisky, other than the fact that it is supposedly pretty good.  Balmoral is produced by the Lochnagar Distillery, which resides on the royal lands of Balmoral.  Most of the whisky produced by the distillery is sold to Johnny Walker black and blue labels.  Some of the remaining whisky is then bottled and marketed under the umbrella name “Royal Lochnagar” (in addition to several special releases, Royal Lochnagar issues bottles ranging from 12 to 17 years in age), which generally receives excellent reviews.

Balmoral Whisky, from the limited information I could find, seems to be something of a special release for the Balmoral gift shop, which offers a sampling of the goods produced on royal lands in the area.  The gift shop not only serves as a spot for souveniers, but also as the exclusive way to get many of the goods produced for the royal family, including “postcards, china, crystal, kitchenware, pewter products, [and] clothing.”  Whereas most of the goods sold may only be purchased through the gift shop, Royal Lochnagar has a wider market, which is conveniently solved through the Balmoral special release.  Specifically, Balmoral Whisky is pitched as:

A perfectly balanced medium bodied single malt with a fresh bouquet of fruit and oak. Distilled uniquely for Balmoral Estates at Royal Lochnagar Distillery.

What I suspect happened is that someone in the Queen’s household came up with the idea of offering the Pope a sampling of the goods produced on royal lands, got approval for the idea, and called the various gift shops serving royal lands to order a sampling of products.  No matter how it happened I’d rather have whiskey and eggs laid by royal hens over some stupid seeds.

Communion Rails: An Equal Access Issue

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The relatively new norms promulgated by the USCCB have allowed greater freedom for the faithful to receive the Sacrament kneeling.  Communion rails are necessary to protect the ability of many Catholics — including the elderly, pregnant, and infirm — to exercise and follow the new norms.

Under the prior translation of the Mass used in the United States, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal stated:

The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.

The purpose of this norm was not to disallow kneeling for the reception of the Sacrament because standing either (1) constituted a more pious act or (2) connoted a great sense of continuity with early Christians.  Instead, the norm was issued because the USCCB judged that the benefits gained through uniformity (by encouraging all to stand for communion) outweighed the benefits of allowing personal pious actions such as kneeling.  This judgment was at least arguably at odds with Redemptionis Sacramentum depending on how one parsed the language.

A new General Instruction of the Roman Missal has issued with the new translation.  The new GIRM clears up any confusion and states:

The norm established for the dioceses of the United States of America is that holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling.

There is an extremely complex and detailed back-story here (including statements by Cardinal Arinze and the fact that the USCCB promulgated the first norm through the reception of an indult, or privilege to deviate from the liturgical norm found in the Latin Church, an indult which may have been conditioned on the continued right of the faithful to receive kneeling if they preferred) which I am glossing over in the interest of time and space.

The main point is that the norm for the faithful who wish to receive kneeling is to receive kneeling.  For many of the faithful, the desire to receive kneeling is not a matter of personal taste but rather the result of deeply held beliefs, beliefs which originate from a desire to respect the Eucharist, the center of the Catholic Faith.

One main objection many Catholics have with respect to standing and receiving on the hand is that the gesture does not connote the proper respect due to the Sacrament.  From Archbishop Schneider’s Paper Holy Communion- The Hidden Majesty of Divine Love, given in Hong Kong:

A gesture as one treats common food, that means: to pick up with one’s own fingers the Sacred Host from the palm of the left hand and put It by oneself in the mouth. A habitual practice of such a gesture causes in a not little number of the faithful, and especially of children and adolescents, the perception that under the Sacred Host there isn’t present the Divine Person of Christ, but rather a religious symbol, for they can treat the Sacred Host exteriorly in a way as they treat common food: touching with his own fingers and putting the food with the fingers in one’s own mouth.

The practice of kneeling, therefore arises from (1) a deeply held desire to show respect and devotion to the Sacrament and (2) the desire to fulfill the norm announced by the GIRM.  A most generous interpretation of the GIRM would hold that the language encourages those who wish to receive kneeling to actually do so by making kneeling the norm for those who inwardly desire to kneel.  The addition and use of communion rails would help the elderly and those pregnant fulfill the norm by making it more  accessible to those most likely to have difficulty kneeling and rising on a common floor (not to mention the fact that most churches seem to have tile floors, which only adds to the discomfort and difficulty of those least able to fulfill the norm because of age, infirmity, or pregnancy).

Should the elderly and those pregnant not have the same access to the liturgical norms for receiving communion as other Catholics?  In my view this is one of the most overlooked deficiencies in many parishes, but progress could certainly be made at the parish council level if more of the faithful speak up for the rights of all to fulfill the norms outlined in the GIRM.

Veterans Day 2013

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At Whiskey Catholic we would like to take a brief moment to thank the men and women who are currently serving or who have served in the armed forces.  So many in this country take their sacrifice for granted and far too many veterans did not receive the welcome they deserved after serving our country in combat. There are two current events which give us pause for reflection on this Veterans Day.

First, the hostility that the Archdiocese for the Military Services (“AMS”) is receiving from the administration and fringe leftest Catholics should give us cause to take a moment to pray for Archbishop Broglio and Catholic chaplains serving around the world.  Such secularists would rather have the AMS withdraw from its critical ministerial capacity, leaving our men to die on the battlefield without the graces of the sacraments, than risk the political incorrectness of priests in uniform upholding objective truth.  The fringe leftest Catholic opposition to the AMS fares no better.  Catholics who would have those in the military die on the battlefield without the aid of the sacraments put their own animosity toward the nation’s military above the souls entrusted by Christ to the Church.

If you did not make a donation to the AMS during the national collection (Nov. 9-10), please consider doing so today.

Second, this year marked the last Doolittle Toast, a tribute paid by veterans of the Doolittle raid to their fallen brothers.  Only four survivors of the raid remain, the youngest of which is 92.  We will not have WWII veterans with us much longer, and with their passing the nation will lose an entire generation of men who understood the magnitude of evil a tyranny could accomplish.  Our current generation may not have the memory necessary to be vigilant for encroaching secular tyranny, but the latest news out of New York City, that Catholics studying medicine could be forced to perform abortions as part of their training and that pregnancy crises centers could be closed for refusing to offer abortions, should make Catholics consider where we stand as a nation.

Pray for our veterans.

“May we remember that the freedoms we enjoy in our most gracious home, the United States of America, did not come without a price. May the Lord bless all those who served, all those who continue to serve, and the families that those serving left behind. May we never forget. O God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord.”

#BeADude

Steve Addazio and the BC Eagles walk from Mass to Alumni Stadium.  Courtesy of BC Athletics.

New Boston College head coach Steve Addazio is 2-0 in his first season as head coach, matching the Eagles’ last season win total in just six days.  The secret to his football success seems to be his ultra-high-energy attitude to life, something the coach hopes to pass on to his men through the mantra “Be a Dude,” leading to the semi-viral twitter #BeaDude.  Part of being a dude is discarding the sweatshirts and sweatpants Boston College players were accustomed to wearing to games and donning sport jackets and ties.  Steve Addazio also also begun the tradition of having a team Mass on campus before each game.

The team Mass and jackets have already sparked favorable media coverage for the university.  Some members of ESPN-2 accompanied the players to Mass and then aired a short piece about the new tradition during a time-out at Friday’s win over ACC-opponent Wake Forest.

Major Catholic universities rarely move in the direction of strengthening their Catholic identities so this move is especially encouraging.  If Addazio continues to win games the tradition will probably become a permanent one.

 

Gordon Gee Steps Down

“The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week,” Gee said to laughter at the Dec. 5 meeting attended by Athletic Director Gene Smith and several other athletic department members, along with professors and students.

“You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that,” said Gee, a Mormon.

Ohio State President Gordon Gee has announced his retirement after revelations of anti-Catholic comments made to his inner circle.  Sporting news sites ESPN and SB Nation have covered Gee’s controversial comments extensively, but they remain shocking nonetheless.

I was frankly a little surprised that Gee’s comments received as much attention as they did concerning ESPN’s track record for pushing more liberal social positions.  Although the network’s popular First Take commentators did not think that Gee should resign for his bigoted remarks, it is worth noting that its College Game Day commentators have been known to take shots at the Church from time to time.  In 2008, Lee Corso suggested that the Church take up a third collection to buy out Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Wies’ contract.  Corso went on to suggest that the Church’s first collection goes to priests’ vacations and that the second goes to “charities and such.”

Anti-Catholicism, the last socially acceptable “ism” left.