Monday, March 30, 2009


Now right about now one of the biggest issues in American Catholicism is the invitation of the U.S. President, staunch pro-abortion advocate Barack Obama, to speak at the 2009 commencement exercises at the Catholic University of Notre Dame. This subject has caused Catholics of every political persuasion and orthodoxy to come forth with an opinion, from bishops and cardinals to theologians and Catholic bloggers.
Now some, including Fr. Jenkins, UND president, say that we can't just talk to those who agree with us and that the privileged of have a sitting President of the United States overrides any personal problems the incumbent might have in relation to Catholic teaching. The USCCB obviously doesn't agree with that because in their "Catholics in Political Life" document passed in 2004 they say, speaking of pro-abortion politicians, that "They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."
Now some might ask why the bishops took such a position. More over the Church itself has an even stronger stand for those who procure or perform an abortion.

Canon 1398: A person who actually procures an abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.
So a person incurs an abortion is excommunicated by their act. Further a May 23, 1988 ruling of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts ruled as the result of the dubium, that is a request from a bishop for a clarification of a point of canon law, that others who are instrumental in procuring an abortion, like a husband or father of the baby who pressure a woman to get an abortion or pay for it, nurses and doctors who perform an abortion, and those who help them in any way, are also under latae sententiae excommunication.

But it is not so hard nosed as it seems because Canon 1323 says

Can. 1323 No one is liable to a penalty who, when violating a law or precept:

1 has not completed the sixteenth year of age;

2 was, without fault, ignorant of violating the law or precept; inadvertence and error are equivalent to ignorance

3 acted under physical force, or under the impetus of a chance occurrence which the person could not foresee or if foreseen could not avoid;
4 acted under the compulsion of grave fear, even if only relative, or by reason of necessity or grave inconvenience, unless, however, the act is intrinsically evil or tends to be harmful to souls;

5 acted, within the limits of due moderation, in lawful self-defense or defense of another against an unjust aggressor;

6 lacked the use of reason, without prejudice to the provisions of canon. 1324, ß1, n. 2 and 1325;
7 thought, through no personal fault, that some one of the circumstances existed which are mentioned in nn. 4 or 5.
As can be seen below all cases of latae sententiae excommunication are the province of the ordinary. You'll note that while Canon 1356 says only the bishop can remove the excommunication that canon 1357 gives a pastoral loophole that should prevent a penitent from having to undergo a lengthy and demeaning process to have the excommunication lifted. The priest has to ask the bishop but true to the seal of confession doesn't even have to name the penitent.

Can. 1356 ß1 A ferendae or a latae sententiae penalty established in a precept not issued by the Apostolic See, can be remitted by the following:

1ƒ the Ordinary of the place where the offender actually is;

2ƒ if the penalty has been imposed or declared, the Ordinary who initiated the judicial proceedings to impose or declare the penalty, or who by a decree, either personally or through another, imposed or declared it.

ß2 Before the remission is granted, the author of the precept is to be consulted, unless because of extraordinary circumstance this is impossible.

Can. 1357 ß1 Without prejudice to the provisions of canon. 508 and 976, a confessor can in the internal sacramental forum remit a latae sententiae censure of excommunication or interdict which has not been declared, if it is difficult for the penitent to remain in a state of grave sin for the time necessary for the competent Superior to provide.

ß2 In granting the remission, the confessor is to impose upon the penitent, under pain of again incurring the censure, the obligation to have recourse within one month to the competent Superior or to a priest having the requisite faculty, and to abide by his instructions. In the meantime, the confessor is to impose an appropriate penance and, to the extent demanded, to require reparation of scandal and damage. The recourse, however, may be made even through the confessor, without mention of a name.
It all seems pretty hard nose to some. Won't we get farther by being kinder? Wouldn't Jesus want us to have compassion for a young girl who, under the pressure of economic hardship or an abusive relationship seeks abortion as the bad answer to a bad situation? After all rapist and murders and child molesters aren't excommunicated.
To really understand the situation we must analyze it. Abortion itself is a simple issue. As a friend of mine says abortion is nothing more than big people killing little people. Trying to prevent abortion has become much more complicated.
Somehow in the social and theological chaos of the post Vatican II period we, that is orthodox Christianity, lost the ability to set the moral framework against which abortion would be discussed. Somehow a truth which was once acknowledged by the whole world, that human babies have intrinsic worth from the time they are conceived, a Truth which goes back to the very foundations of Christianity in the first century, has been overturned. Perhaps if the Church had spoken out strongly, and consistently from the very time that Roe v. Wade was illegitimately made the law of the land things would have been different. But they did not.
So now we have the situation that exists in our society. Abortion is legal. Catholic politicians, some of who claim to be personally against abortion, but are unwilling to let their public acts be guided by their conscious claim to be Catholics in good standing with the Church. Plus there are other Catholic politicians who do not even acknowledge the teaching of the Church and actually support the killing of the unborn. There are even some who attempt to publicly mis-state the Churches position, out of either ignorance or malice. At least half of those seeking abortion in the United States can be said to be economically disadvantage and very young. A good percentage are likewise single, most of these never married.
So how is the Church to react? In charity the Church has done what it always does. It has created missions to help with pre-natal care, consoling and adoption services. It has even founded post abortion ministries, to help those who have realized the great abomination that they have been involved it and to bring them healing and reconciliation with God.
But there is more to the problem than young, troubled girls. Almost half of the women who abort are not teenage mothers. They are not poor. They are not abused. What they are is women who are inconvenienced by a pregnancy which has resulted by the failure of their favorite method of birth control. They seek to avoid the most probable result of the life style they have chosen. How should the Church see after the souls of these women? Because make no mistake, that is what is at stake here. The deaths of the unborn are a tragedy beyond calculation. The threat to soul of the aborting mother even more so.
Beyond these women are those who have created the situation which has allowed these victims, for so many of them are, give into the temptation for a quick fix to the "problem" of a life created in the image of God. This group includes the abortionists, those who fund and finance them, and often make large amounts of money off of the death of children. And those jurists and politicians who have created the legal frame work that has allowed abortion to be made legal. An immoral act protected by the law.
How should the bishops handle them, especially the ones who claim to be Catholic? Should they dialog with them? Has that not already been done? They reject the 2000 year old teaching of the Church in this matter. What then? After all it is only their soul they put in danger. But the bishop must see to that soul. If dialog doesn't work what should the bishop do then? The pro-abortion Catholic is in a state of mortal sin. This prohibits them from receiving Communion What if their conscious is too malformed to know that? Then the bishop must tell them. First in private and then in public if they refuse to heed. Because it is to the detriment of their soul if they receive when not in a state of grace. More they lead others to sin by their bad example, unadmonished. In the long run the bishop must look to the souls of his other sheep, if he cannot save the one.
So why is it bad for Notre Dame to invite a pro-abortion Protestant to speak? Because it gives him a platform. It makes some Catholics believe that abortion and the support for abortion is no big deal. After all how bad can it be if you support it but the most famous Catholic university in America still invites you to speak and gives you an honorary degree? It must not be that important. It gives cover to Catholics who know the Church's teaching but choose not to support it because it would make it politically difficult for them.
That's why it's important.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

By now I'm sure everyone has heard of the move by certain members of the legislature of Connecticut to take control of Church finances away from the Hierarchy and place it in the hands of lay members of each parish, who would be appointed by the state. The massive response of the Catholic faithful of Connecticut, along with the support of the members of some other faiths (who realized they could be next) has pretty much stopped that effort for now.
Laying aside the unconstitutionality of such a move, and even the intrusion of the state into the affairs of the parish, why shouldn't members of the parish control parish finances. Don't they donate the money? Why shouldn't they control how its spent?
Such a method of parish governance has a name. It's call congregational governance, and is the method used by many of the separated Protestant Christian sects. Such a method is not in accordance with Catholic Tradition. Tradition which has as it's heart Scriptural roots.
Now most Catholics realize that the Connecticut law, which would take control of Church assets away from the bishop, is onerous and a thinly veiled plan to suppress Church teaching. There are other, good Catholics, who come at this, that is congregational governance, from a different angle.
In much of the United States there is a priest crisis. Many diocese are being force to close or cluster parishes. In some of these diocese deacons are stepping in to manage parishes while priests become less involved with each parish because they may be responsible for as many as four. I've heard it said that having a deacon in such a position is a waste. "Why not just hire a business manager to run the parish, and let the priests and deacons do the stuff only they can do?" is sometimes said.
Such a statement shows a real lack of understanding of the traditional role of the deacon in the Church. From the earliest times the deacon was charged with the handling of Church finances. As the member of the clergy most involved with the care of the widows and orphans the deacon was often deeply involved in collection and administration of the Church's money. It is said that St. Lawrence, a deacon of the third century, was martyred for failing to turn the wealth of the Church, collected for the care of widows and orphans, over to the Roman Government during the persecutions of Valerian.
The position of the clergy in managing the wealth of the Church can perhaps best be seen in Acts. Ananias and Sapphira decide to make a donation to the Church. They sell a piece of land and claim to donate the entire amount to the Church, while actually donating only a portion. To whom do they make this donation? Peter. It seems that from the beginning the Apostles were the ones who administered those monies donated to the Church for its work. Further Peter called Ananias on his lie, where upon the man died.
The point here? Ananias was not struck down because he failed to donate all his profits to the Church. He was not required to donate anything. He was attempting to garner public credit for his fraudulent act.
In Connecticut the agenda was to place persons in boards to control the finances of the diocese with an eye to pressuring the bishop and his priests from talking out against gay marriage. If the bishop does not control the finances of the diocese what does he do when those who do refuse to fund his Seminary because they don't like his defense of Church teaching? The parish priest even more so. What does father do when the parish finance board refuses to pay his rent because he won't marry Joe and Bob? Or speaks out against Contraception, or Abortion?
There is a reason that Christ did not found the Church as a democracy. In the secular realm, as Churchill said, democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for all of the others. Still a democracy is no better than its citizens. We already know that spiritually we are very poor indeed. Marked with the stain of Original Sin, even after baptism we seem unable to avoid the falls of actual sin. Christ was not willing to place his Church in the hands of a democratic mob. He instead trusted it to the Holy Spirit, working through Peter and the Apostles, and their successors.
Not that democracy has no place in the Church. Many religious orders elect their leaders. The pope himself, the successor of Peter, is elected by the college of Cardinals. But a process of discernment is injected into these elections, a process likely to be lacking in elections centered primarily around the control of finances.
Certainly transparency has its place in parish finances. One of the excuses for the Connecticut actions was actions of a prominent Darien priest, Michael Jude Fay, who walked off with $1.4 million to bankroll a luxurious lifestyle of New York trips and Florida vacations with a male friend. No doubt there was a lot of bad stuff happening in Darien. The answer to that was fiscal responsibility on the part of the bishop, that is the requirement that parish finances be handled in a transparent way such that no single person, clergy or laity, can withdraw that kind of money without getting caught, caught before the luxury vacation makes the money vanish.