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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Are you on fire for the Lord? Are you ready to put the smackdown on the devil? Then you need to check out this website - ULTIMATE CHRISTIAN WRESTLING!!!!

Catholic Schools and MySpace

I have blogged on the problems of MySpace in the past - mainly that some of the blogs which teenagers set up can be very dangerous.

For example:

A 16-year-old Pompano Beach girl who says she attends Cardinal Gibbons in Fort Lauderdale lists 100 Myspace friends on her Web page. Among several photos of her and friends is a prominent picture of one holding up a poster board that reads "I realy [sic] love Older Men!"

Because of these dangers, Catholic schools in Florida is seeking to take action.

As a step toward encouraging morality, combating school bullying and promoting Internet safety, South Florida Catholic schools are crafting policies to make culprits pay for their actions at home.

"There are borderline pornographic references about kids and statements that would not make someone feel comfortable coming to school," said Archdiocese of Miami Superintendent of Elementary Schools Kristen Hughes. "What's part of what used to be parent work has become principal work."

The Archdiocese of Miami, which includes Broward County, has fielded so many calls from Catholic schools during the past month, they're considering creating a penalty for degrading classmates online.

And the Diocese of Palm Beach County is working with attorneys to draft a policy against abusive postings on Web sites like Myspace. Neither organization has disclosed how it would penalize students for online misbehavior. [source]

I commend the schools for taking action, but I think that it has to be more than prohibitive - these students need to learn the right ways to use the Internet and parents need help in supervising their children's web behavior. This means learning what sites are popular with children, being able to read their children's blog, and being in a position to shut down that blog if their child posts something inappropriate.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Missed opportunity at the Holocaust Museum

On January 12th, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum held a conference entitled "The Catholic Church After the Holocaust: A Reexamination." Given the opportunity to conduct a real scholarly examination of the historiography of Catholic Church actions leading up to and during WWII, the Museum demonstrated that it was more interested in agendas than in history.

The panel was headed by New York Times columnist E.J. Dionne and composed of Father John Pawlikowski and John Carroll [sic - It was in fact James Carroll] - none of whom is sympathetic to the Vatican's WWII history. There are lots of others who could have participated in this panel to give other perspectives, but that would have kept the Holocaust Memorial from being able to fulfill it's agenda of blaming Catholics.

As a historian, perhaps the most glaring offense of this panel is that none of the members of this panel is a professional historian. This is not to say that non-historians cannot voice an opinion on this issue, but it does mean that if you want to look at the history of the Vatican's relationship to the Holocaust - you need to eventually show that your conclusions survive historical examination. Carroll has no doctoral degree. Pawlikowski has a PhD in Ethics.

Yes, the Holocaust Museum had an opportunity to really add to our understanding of this time period, instead it cast doubt on its ability to objectively present the history of that most shameful history.

In case the Holocaust Museum ever seeks to truly have a historical discussion on this issue, might I suggest they contact the following -

Father Pierre Blet, SJ
Guenter Lewy - [who lives in Washington, DC]
Jose M. Sanchez
Rabbi David Dalin

These are all scholars and each has a different opinion as to the Catholic Church and the Holocaust - some are sympathetic, some are not. But each would be far better qualified to answer the question the Holocaust Museum puts forward.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

New Catholic Under The Hood

This week's episode of Catholic:Under The Hood is up with a look at missions, weird news and my comments about Pope Benedict's Deus Caritas Est. Take a listen to find out how to eat cucumbers in Bangladesh and what the Franciscans are up to.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

New podcast is coming!

The preliminary information and data for the next podcast are up! The podcast will be called THEOSIS and will be a podcast journey through the Lenten and Easter season with the Eastern Church.

I expect the first podcast will be going up on the 29th of January but I will be putting up other information before that. What this means is that you can already check much of the site out, but podcast subscriptions won't begin until the first episode goes up. In fact, I might put up a prelimary podcast before that - so stay tuned.

For the Roman Catholics out there, the Eastern Church has five pre-Lenten Sundays in preparation for Lent which is why things are beginning so early with the podcast. Again, I will be podcasting for THEOSIS pretty much every Sunday during the pre-Lenten time and then switching to daily on February 26th and then going all the way to June 11th. So, it's going to have lots of episodes.

More information about the podcast can be found at the website of THEOSIS.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

New Podcast Is Up!

The newest Catholic:Under The Hood is up with an interview with Fr. Thomas Loya about the Theology of the Body, a brief talk about the Franciscan Tau, and a look at the importance of the Diaconate. Take a listen!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Don't be offended, be appreciative

The artists Gilbert & George are showing an exhibit of stained glass windows - with a bit of a difference as:

The panels are a bold attack on the evils of organised religion from Christianity to Islam and Judaism, with superstitious pixies and Freemasonry thrown in for good measure. [source]

Now, artists seeking to use religious images to attack Christianity is certainly nothing new - what is interesting is the artists' justification for their work. Indeed the artists insist that despite the fact that their art is intended as an attack on religion, no Christian should be offended because:

"I think Christians should think themselves lucky that artists are dealing so closely with their subject. Picasso never did a crucifixion."

Oh, now I get it. From now on, when someone spits [or worse] on a picture of Jesus or Mary, I won't get mad - I'll rejoice about how lucky I am that artists cared enough about desecrating images of importance to me. It's all so clear now.

[In case you are curious about the artwork included in this blog entry - it's Picasso's "Crucifixion"]

What did Italy know and when did they know it?

A Turkish newspaper is claiming that the Italy was warned of Mehmet Ali Agca's plans to assassinate Pope John Paul II a year before the incident took place. In looking over the article, it's unclear how seriously Italy should have taken the threat - especially as over one hundred countries were warned.

He explains how they foresaw that he would attempt to assassinate the Pope and warned the countries by issuing a red bulletin as follows. "After murdering Abdi Ipekci, he escaped from the prison where he was sentenced life. We informed all the countries about his arrestment and extradition to Turkey. We printed his photo, provided them with his description and fingerprints. We explained the modus operandi of the incident as well. We noted in the red bulletin that 'he said he would kill the Pope". We reported this not only with a red bulletin but also with a general wireless circulation."

It's also not noted in the article what actions the Italian goverment took or whether Turkey informed the Vatican directly about the threat.

Little known facts about the pope

The Atlantic Monthly has published a large article about the papal election. I haven't read the piece, but one of the tibits that the article mentions is:

Benedict's personal library of several thousand theology books was photographed after his election so it could be reshelved in the same order in the papal apartments. [source]

The sign of a real academic!

Only in Russia

The coldest spell in Moscow in 26 years has brought out the quirkiest in the Russian character with one animal trainer feeding an elephant a bucket of vodka to warm it up only to watch the drunken beast set about wrecking the central heating system. [source]

Fifty most influential Christians in America

The Church Report has published it's list of the fifty most influential Christians in the U.S. I'll leave it to you to decide how accurate you think the list is.

A couple of interesting parts, though.

Pope Benedict XVI only made it in at 44.
Fr. Theodore McCarrick made it in at 47, right behind Sen. Rick Santorum.

In case you are curious,
T.D Jakes was #1.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Arson at Franciscan

Someone set the Franciscan University sign on fire with several incendiary devices. No one has claimed responsibility so we don't know if it was simply an act of vandalism or if it was directed against the University deliberately. Fortunately, the sign is pretty resistant to fire due to the wet weather and the varnish protection. Still, it's upsetting.

Update on Haleigh

I blogged about Haleigh awhile back who had been beaten by her stepmother and her stepmother's husband and put into a coma. Her fate had found its way into a court where the state was seeking permission to remove the ventilator and feeding tube on the grounds that she was in a persistant vegetative state. The stepmother's husband was arguing against that on the grounds that it was important to keep Haleigh alive - likely because he didn't want to be charged with her murder. Many questioned the state's position though, because they did not allow outside experts to look at her medical reports.

The day after the court sided with the state on the removal of the ventilator, doctors are now saying that Haleigh is breathing on her own and responding to various stimuli.

Once again, the diagnosis of "persistant vegitative state" seems to be somewhat premature. Indeed the article notes that some diagnosed as being in a PVS do partially recover. Therefore, if someone is in a PVS they cannot get better, if they do get better they were not in a PVS - get the difference?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

New Podcast Is Up!

This week at Catholic:Under The Hood, we hear from Sr. Anne Delores of the Sisters of Saint John the Baptist about her vocation and the role of religious sisters in the Church and the World today. I also talk a little about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - plus an extra surprise.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Virginia Case revisited

A few weeks ago I blogged about the case of Roger Kieth Coleman who was executed in Virginia in 1992. Coleman died proclaiming his innocence and the Virginia governor had ordered a new DNA test to determine whether or not an innocent man had been executed. The results of this new test have been released and once more confirm Coleman's guilt.

Many wondered whether, if Coleman had been found innocent, this would have been a major attack on the death penalty. Certainly, it would have been a major claim against capital punishment as it is currently implemented. But, the key to contemporary Catholic objections to the death penalty is not that it is unjust in its implementation - though those arguments are made - but that the death penalty is unjust in its very nature. That is, that the sanctity of human life means that capital punishment is a moral wrong in and of itself. Yes, there is the caveat that if capital punishment were the only means to protect society that, in those particular cases, capital punishment might be justified - but it is clear that, in the United States, those cases do not currently exist. In short, it matters not whether Coleman was innocent or guilty - executing him was wrong.

But it also means that the Church needs to once more look at its ministry to the victims of violent crime. In what way are we - especially as priests and ministers - helping to create an environment that promotes healing and forgiveness?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

To See The Pope

Here is a great story about a young boy who dreamed about meeting the pope.

Some boys want guns for Christmas, others want a dog or even a new baby brother, but what Joshua Nona wanted was to meet the pope, and on Christmas Eve his prayer came true.

The Valley Center boy and his family spent the holy night in Mass at the Vatican, by invitation of Pope Benedict XVI. It was a dream come true for the 9-year-old who, after turning 7, said he felt a calling to the priesthood. His father said Joshua would run off to seminary now if he could.

"We told him he has to wait until he finishes high school and he's dated a couple of times," Asher Nona said.

Prior to having Joshua, his father said the family didn't attend church, pray or read the Bible regularly. But the older Joshua got, he said, the more he hungered for Christian knowledge and practice.

Eventually, his father said, Joshua got his family attending church weekly at St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Valley Center. His father was reading the Bible to him twice a day and the family prayed morning, noon and night, even in public restaurants. Now, Nona says, Joshua reads and explains the Bible to him.

"It isn't something we pushed on Joshua," Nona said. "He pushed it on us."

Last year, while watching the new pope take his place at the Vatican, Joshua turned to his father and asked him to take him to the birthplace of Jesus and to visit the pope.[source]

Joshua finally was able to meet the pope and it proved a very meaningful experience both for Joshua and his father.

As Pope Benedict walked by, Joshua said he reached out and touched him yelling, "Papa I love you, Papa I love you!" He said the pope turned to him and blessed him.

Now Joshua says he wants to be a pope.

It was also a big day for Nona, who said he fled his birthplace in Iraq to escape religious persecution.

"I was crying like a little kid ... but I didn't care," he said. "This whole ordeal was incredible. It will be a memorable experience for us as long as we live."

Pretty great story and it goes to show that Pope Benedict is continuing to make the kind of impressions that Pope John Paul II did upon all people - young and old.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

New Podcast Is Up!

The newest podcast of Catholic:Under The Hood is up. This week's episode contains interviews with Carol Gentile, SFO - the National Minister of the US Secular Franciscans and with Sr. Amy Cavender CSC in honor of the upcoming National Vocation Awareness Week. I also spend some time talking about the icon of the Baptism of the Lord.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Who speaks for the Church?

One of the main points that were made in my seminary days was the need to fight against the evils of clericalism, that as a priest it was my job to open the Church to the laity, that increasing lay involvement was the high point of Vatican II.

Well, like many theological ideas this one is full of brightness and sparkle but in the end seems to signify very little and the same clericalism that used to be rife in the parishes has simply moved to the ivory towers. If I talk down to you because I'm a priest and you are a lay person, that's wrong. But if I talk down to you because I am an academic and you are a member of the hoi polloi - that is quite acceptable.

The reason for this post is in response to a piece by Father Richard McBrien in the Tidings.

An excellent presentation of the many faults with this piece can be found on Amy Welborn's blog.

But what is especially eye catching is this section of his piece:

What has changed on the ecclesiastical and political fronts over the past decade is the broad accessibility of the Internet. With it has come a new capacity of individuals, who could never be published by reputable newspapers and magazines, to gain an audience via personal blogs and to attract the attention even of the mainstream media, which are always interested in controversy, especially of the man-bites-dog variety.

The rhetoric of these self-styled defenders of orthodoxy is so recklessly hot that it automatically gets attention. This is the new reality.

If the good Father wants to see "recklessly hot rhetoric" he should look at some of this column. But it is clear that when we hear calls for increased lay participation than what is mean is only increase participation of the laity who agree with the person making the call. In Fr. McBrien's case - Voice of the Faithful represents good laity who need to be heard. Faithful Voice represent bad laity who must be silenced. Those laity who support Fr. McBrien's views are open minded laity encouraging much needed reforms. Those laity who oppose Fr. McBrien's views are "ultra conservatives" seeking to push the Church back into the dark ages.

Indeed, it is easy to demand the Bishops listen to the laity but the laity are not some homogenous entity and they never have been. Each person has a different set of opinions and a different set of views and its a whole lot more complicated. This is why the real understanding of the sensum fideli is never represented in a movement called "We Are Church" or "Voice of the Faithful" or "Faithful Voice" because none of these groups can claim to represent the Church to any significant degree. The Church is composed of all Catholics living and dead and yet to come because the Church is Christ.

And as for Fr. McBrien's clericalism wrapped in the fog of intellectualism, it was wrong for the "Father knows best" attitude in the past and it continues to be wrong today. These blogs and podcasts and videocasts are giving the laity a new found voice to be able to speak their faith to the world and some may not like what they hear but, guess what, that's the complicated voice of the Church today and attempting to slander those you disagree with or put them on some sort of new Index won't stop those voices from being heard.

To paraphrase David Bowie -

And these bloggers that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

Fr. Seraphim Beshoner, TOR, PhD

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Married Clergy

Deacon Leonard Klein is preparing to be the first married transitional deacon ordained to the priesthood in Delaware. He is a convert from Lutheranism and had been a Lutheran minister before his conversion.

There is nothing canonically wrong with ordaining to the priesthood a man who is already married - indeed it happens all the time in Europe in the Eastern Catholic Churches. However, I think it makes it more and more difficult to prevent married men from being ordained especially in the Eastern Catholic Churches here in the United States but also in the Roman Catholic Church. I understand that this case is an exception but it seems to me to be setting up an unnecessary double standard.

I'm also not attacking the notion of clerical celibacy. I have taken that vow and I intend to keep it. All I'm saying is that if you allow a married convert to be ordained to the priesthood, why not someone who has been a member of the Church their entire life?

Got a cell phone? Franciscanize it!

The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity are offering a downloadable ring tone of their song "Peace and All Good".

The Franciscan Sisters wanted to accommodate young women’s rapidly increasing interest in downloading ring tones of songs they liked. “As consecrated women we are encouraged by our Church to make known the beauty and the truth of our lives through the marvels of technology.” says Sr. Julie Ann Sheahan, OSF, of the order's vocation team.

She notes that “Jesus, the Incarnate Word, left us an example of the importance of human communication in daily life. We hope our simple, beautiful “Called to be” ring tone may inspire young women to discover and discern their unique call from God.”

I am certainly all for anything that helps people discern their call. But I might chose a different tune like "Turn me off before Mass starts" or "Tithe, Tithe" or "Father Seraphim likes cookies". Those would be some good ring tones.

Pope Benedict continues to draw large crowds

According to news reports, Pope Benedict XVI continues to attract large amounts of people - perhaps even more than did John Paul II. Nearly 3 million for the general audiences and Sunday addresses, plus another million at World Youth Day and another 200,000 at Bari last year. Pretty incredible, if you ask me.

Going to Israel? Be sure to visit the Galilee World Heritage Park

A group of American Evangelicals led by Pat Robertson is looking to purchase land in Israel to turn into a Biblical theme park. The park is to be located by the Sea of Galilee. While Israeli proponents of the park hope that it will bring in more American tourists, some Israeli Jews are worried that the park will seek to convert them to Christianity.

Perhaps it could be a way for American Christians to get more into touch with the history of Christianity. Plus, think of all the great rides that you could put up - The River Jordan Plunge, The Cappadocian Challenge, Armagedden Alley. You could even sell those "I went to Galilee and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" shirts.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Important Case In Virginia?

Within the next two weeks, Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner is looking to arrange DNA tests which may exonerate Roger Kieth Coleman who was executed for the death of his wife's sister. If the DNA tests do prove Coleman's innocence it will be the first time that the innocence of an executed person has been proven scientifically.

This, of course, would provide a great moral argument to those seeking the abolishment of the death penalty. But would it be enough to persuade those who currently favor capital punishment? I don't know. Certainly it is worth following.

Popemobile redux

If you missed out on the opportunity to buy one of Pope Benedict's old cars awhile back, now is your chance to buy one of Pope John Paul II's old cars.

A 48-year-old car that belonged to the late John Paul II when he was bishop of Krakow in his native Poland is to go to auction in Paris next month.

The Polish-made sedan, a 1958 FSO Warszawa, was specially ordered by John Paul when he was known as Bishop Karol Jozef Wojtyla, and the registration papers are still in his name, the Christie's auction house said.

It added that the vehicle was being sold by a private collector and was expected to fetch between 5000 and 15,000 euros ($8079 and $24,238) when it goes under the hammer on February 11.

Who knows perhaps you could be driving a relic of your very own!

Blessed are those who have not seen, but believe

An Italian Judge has ordered a priest to prove that Jesus existed. The difficulty with this argument as a historian is attempting to prove that anyone existed in an age dominated by oral history. Certainly there are lots of early references to to Jesus in the Scriptures but those who don't want to believe that Jesus existed argue that those references can be ruled out because they can't be judged as unbiased. Josephus and Tacitus each mentioned Jesus - but those are later sources and those who don't want to believe argue that these sources are not eyewitnesses. You make the point that even the hostile references to Jesus in early Jewish history do not deny Jesus' existence but those who don't want to believe argue that these sources are also not eyewitness reports. If someone doesn't want to believe, no evidence will prove to be convincing especially in an age that believes a conspiracy is always behind every corner.

It reminds me of my undergraduate philosophy courses when studying the skeptics. Our instructor, playing devil's advocate, tried to get us to prove that anything existed and wasn't just a figment of his imagination. Fortunately, American pragmatism won out when one student said, "Look, I'm sitting in this chair. It's holding me up. It works for me." So, in the same way the evidence for Jesus' existence "works for me".

It's a new year and the need for intense prayer continues

Story 1 - In New Jersey, four teenagers are arrested for stealing 27 statues of the Child Jesus and planning to set them on fire.

"They were looking for things to do," Detective Ken Kelly said. "They told us, 'We were going to have a baby Jesus burning party.' "The reason they picked (the Jesus figures) was because they looked real."

Kelly said one of the suspects told detectives, "We just wanted to see their heads burning."

Story 2 - In Chicago, vandals sprayed "KKK", "666", and "Leave" on statues of the Blessed Mother and Jesus at the Fraternite Notre Dame Monastery.

"We was crying, believe me. When you see that, you cannot ... we love so much the blessed mother. We cannot leave her like this," said Sister Mary of the Cross, one of the nuns at the monastery.

May God have mercy on us and on the whole world.