Aug 26, 2006

Beyond Vatican II

Photo: Aftermath of Dresden Firebombing

Homiletic & Pastoral Review typically has an editorial on the back page written by the long-time conservative editor, Kenneth Baker, S.J. The August/September 2006 issue just arrived with an editorial entitled "A Church in Transition." Fr. Baker summarizes Fr. Claude Barthe's book, Beyond Vatican II: The Church at a New Crossroads:
  1. The Church is seriously wounded (a long list of indicators)
  2. The Church is self-paralyzed and does nothing to heal herself
  3. The Church has replaced a hierarchical government with a democracy--thus becoming a federation of sovereign states, with a weak central government
  4. The Church is now ungovernable and everyone does what he pleases.
Fr. Baker seems to concur with Fr. Barthe's evaluation that the basic problem is the Vatican II document on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, which led Catholics to believe that sects with their heretical views can be treated as equals. [Incidentally, I find it hard to believe that traditional Catholics haven't added to Wikipedia's description of this Vatican II document.]

Is Barthe correct to claim that there are encouraging signs on the horizon? Yes, I believe the Church under Benedict XVI will:
  • 'disengage' from Vatican II (but it will take a few more years);
  • generate new priests who will attempt to restore the Church;
  • begin the restoration and renewal of the Church with a small set of reforms.
Will the Church recover anytime soon from her wounds? No.

The damage that has been done to the Church and her people is so bad that no man, even a Saint, can restore the Church to health within my remaining lifetime--a maximum of 30 years. Why do I believe this? Because Jesus' parables use nature to teach us truths, and nature is a good illustrator of spiritual dimensions. For example, read Luke 13:6-7 with the parable of the fig tree that did not bear. Also see Kipling's poem, God of the Copybook Headings, about the unforgiveness of nature. God can forgive sins, but nature does not.

Aug 25, 2006

The Wanderer and Church Closings

I've subscribed to The Wanderer newspaper for almost 40 years, even before highly respected Walter Matt (1915-2002) resigned as Editor and formed The Remnant newspaper. At times, I've thought The Wanderer did a great deal of good, especially informing Catholics of their faith; at other times, I wondered if I shouldn't do without them. An example of what I'm talking about can be see in the example May 26, 2006 front page with two articles that seem to be goo-goo-eyed over the appointment of Archbishop Levada of San Francisco as the prefect of the Congregation of the Faith.

The Wanderer's policy is governed by two rules: (1) never criticize the Bishop of Rome, no matter what administrative decision he makes; and (2) criticize the other Bishops all you want (but not quite all of them). The problem with the first rule is that the Pope is not impeccable--he can and will make some mistakes, and recent Popes have made some doozies. The problem with the second rule is that The Wanderer assumes that if they expose a problem, then faithful Catholics will be able to fix it. Wrong, again!

In addition to prayer (always effective), faithful Catholics have three tools to deal with bad Bishops and their bad decisions--only two of which are somewhat effective. Lay Catholics have their voice, their feet, and their pocketbook. After 40 years of using voice and pen, I can vouch for their almost complete INeffectiveness in stopping the bludgeoning of orthodoxy and traditional Catholic practices. First of all, very few Bishops will respond to a problem identified by a layman. Second, try as you may (and in concert with many others) the Pope won't respond--except in a very few instances. Oh, yes, the local Bishop may send back a nice letter--but you'll have a hard time getting most Bishops to effectively respond to serious problems. [Fortunately there are a handful of exceptions in the U.S. and these good Bishops are increasing]

So where does that leave a Catholic who wants to attend a local church not infected by Modernism? He can vote with his feet and attend a Novus Ordo (NO) church that retains a semi-traditional priest who has made compromises to stay an active pastor, but yet promotes a few traditional practices and gives acceptable homilies. Or a Catholic can transfer his membership to a church affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). Some of my friends over the past 40 years went one way and some went the other.

Those who stayed in a NO church came to realize that this solution usually was temporary, so off to another church they went--in some cases, even to a church in another diocese. It wasn't until the indult Latin Mass was allowed in a very few places that a third choice was available. Even then, Catholics who attended the indult Mass were often viewed as temporarily on the fringe of the Church until they could be fully reintegrated into the NO community.

Back to The Wanderer. The new issue of August 24, 2006 has several good articles that make me happy that I've not yet canceled my subscription. First of all is an article (second of three parts) with a lot of irony about "How Anne Burke Surprised the U.S. Bishops." Mrs. Burke is the Illinois Supreme Court Justice who was second-in-command of the Board appointed by the U.S. Bishops to study priestly pedophilia. She assumed leadership when Gov. Keating resigned in disgust. There's a fair amount to disagree with in the article of her interviews by Thomas F. Roeser, but it is an interesting read of why some liberal Bishops seem to wish they had never heard her name.

The second article is on a local subject, "Cloning Measure Would Ax Laws Regulating Abortion." Jennifer Brinker outlines the November 7 ballot initiative on the "Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative." She points out that Missouri has several laws dealing with aborted human beings that would be overturned if the Initiative passes.

The third article of interest is about a New Hampshire parish merger and likely church closings. A woman (state legislator) is appealing to the Vatican, asking the Holy See to reverse the merger of three parishes in the Lakes Region and to prevent the closure of a parish. [The lady admits this effort is not likely to succeed.]

Church mergers/closings in New Hampshire are occuring as a result of recommendations from Cluster Task Forces (example here) assembled for long-ranging planning--a process that sounds very similar to the Task Forces being set up in the Kansas archdiocese. Some of the comments of the appellant woman include:
The real reason for the consolidation is to retire the debt.... Once you merge, the money all goes into one pot. There's no reason for this merger other than the money....

...input from the parishioners was given short shrift in the [Task Force] process. They allowed people to come and talk, but they didn't act on any of those suggestions. They didn't listen. Their minds were made up. The whole thing was a farce.

You mean to tell me the mighty Catholic Church can't get a priest to come to St. Agnes (the parish to be closed) for one hour a week?
Finally, another woman supporter noted:
In this town we have an Episcopal church, a Methodist church, and a Baptist church, and none of them have the amount of people going to their churches that we have. But they're not giving up their churches.

Aug 24, 2006

Serious Gardening for Kids

In the summer when I was ten, Mother raised almost two acres of grapes, long rows of black raspberries and strawberries, and other plots of green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and other vegetables. My younger siblings and I assisted Mother with gardening, and I was usually allowed a 15-min break after every 15 to 30 minutes of work.

Dad grew up a city boy and worked at construction jobs. He bought a small Farmall tractor from the government after WWII to plow, cultivate, and cut grass and hay. Big jobs were his, such as some barnyard work, building and maintaining fence, using the tractor to plow and cultivate, and installing the posts and wires in the grapes. Mother was responsible for the gardening work which brought income for the family when Dad did not have a job.

My first gardening job in the early spring was to tie the grapes when I came home from Catholic grade school. Mother would have already trimmed the grapes to leave only strong vines for new bunches of grapes to grow, or new lower vines to initiate strong vines for the following year. I occasionally helped her cut old clothes and other waste fabric from feed sacks used to sew new clothes. The waste material was used to make 3/4 to 1" wide by 6 to 10' strips that were used to tie grape vines to three wires strung on posts in each row. It was a matter of intertwining a grape vine through the wires, being very careful not to knock off any buds, and using a strip of material to tie each loose vine as upright as possible to the wires.
1912 Photo of Boys Hoeing
Hoeing was the most frequent gardening work and it started quite early in the spring. Mother was insistent that weeds were much easier to control if you hoed them when they were small. We learned to use a heavy hoe only when weeds infrequently grew large, such as during a period of constantly rainy weather when hoeing was impossible. Otherwise, an old hoe with a well-worn thin blade was much more productive at cutting the tops of small weeds from the roots. Mother explained that shallow hoeing was preferable to control weeds, with deep hoeing used only when absolutely necessary.

Mother always took a steel file with her to the field to keep our hoes sharpened. Before she used a new hoe and several times afterward, the old hired man of my Grandma would use a hammer and an anvil to pound out the leading edge of the hoe. I remember the loud ring of the hammer on the hoe's cold steel, and I think there is still an anvil in Mother's basement made of an old railroad rail. Only after the hoe's edge was hammered thin would the valuable steel file be used to put a sharp edge on the hoe.

Sharpening a sickle was quite different than sharpening a hoe. The cutting edge of a sickle was used to cut weeds near an obstruction, such as a wall or post. Because a sickle never was supposed to hit anything hard and only cut weeds, its edge was much more important to get absolutely sharp. So a wet stone was used for honing the sharp inside edge of a sickle, rather than the steel file used to sharpen a hoe.

A frost or freeze easily damages strawberry blossoms which was the first crop harvested in the spring (except for rhubarb and asparagus). If frozen, a strawberry blossom develops a black center and no strawberry grows. If Mother said it was going to freeze (and absolute quiet was insisted during the radiio weather forecast), everyone helped cover the strawberries before it got dark. Old quilts, blankets, sofa covers, etc. were used, but newspapers and straw or hay were the primary material used for cover. To keep newspapers from blowing away, a hoe was used to pull dirt around the edges of the newspapers.

Small fragile tomato plants were also protected by newspapers, by making a small hat to cover each plant with a couple of thicknesses of newspaper. In the mid 20th century, the Kansas City Star and Times came twice a day, and they were large, well-read newspapers. If the freeze/frost was not forecast to continue, the cover material was quickly removed the next morning so that the plants could receive warm sunshine.

One year the spring was wet and warm and the strawberries began to easily rot, so Mother recruited all of the family, including Grandma, to help with the picking on an every day basis. Normally, we picked berries every second day--including Sunday. The Church and priests knew that crops were less desirable or could be lost if harvesting was delayed even by a day, so it was considered necessary servile work.

My Dad was home that morning after it had rained the night before and there were a lot of wet strawberries to pick before it became hot. Dad failed to show up in the field and Mother was obviously not happy because the heat combined with the rain would make the strawberries unsuitable for sale. Dad explained that he couldn't stoop to pick berries as easily as his small wife, and he needed to make knee covers so he wouldn't get wet. Mother was clearly frustrated because she was working as fast as she could and it took Dad a long, long time to make those knee covers. He finally showed up in the field with his rubber tire knee covers when Mother and the rest of us were picking the last row. Mother looked at the size of the knee covers and said he would damage the plants with those huge things. I don't remember if Dad picked more than a box of strawberries that day.

I learned that when strawberries and raspberries are picked for sale, the picker carries a 4-legged wooden stand that holds four to six boxes in which to put the berries. The biggest and best berries are saved in one box as another box is filled with the regular run of berries. When the box of smaller berries is almost filled, the saved larger berries are placed on top to make them easier to sell in competition with other growers.

With the berries tat were too small or too ripe, Mother would can as many as 80+ jars of strawberry preserves which she used for breakfast toast, school lunches (strawberry and butter sandwiches were my favorite), and homemade strawberry ice cream. My job was to stem the strawberries so that Mother could cook and can them. I learned to avoid cutting into the strawberry to remove the stem. One time I had to go back to the discarded stems and recut them to remove small pieces of strawberry.

Strawberries are not thorny as are black raspberries, but you can stand while picking raspberries. Standing to pick raspberries is much better than bending over or kneeling in strawberries--take my word for it. When I was ten, we had a very good crop and Mother picked over eight crates of black raspberries in one day. [Each crate held 24 pint boxes.] She was very tired and told me that evening she was so proud of me because I stayed picking to help her. That day, I picked 26 pint boxes of the small berries.

How fast and good a berry picker was my Mother? After I married, I planted a strawberry patch on very good soil where a pig lot had formerly been located. The first crop was of many large berries and Mother came to help me pick. Without telling her, I decided to pick as fast as I could (remember, she was in her mid 50s and I was in my mid 20s) and determine whether I could beat her.

The result was that after I worked as fast as I could to pick two boxes of strawberries, Mother had already picked four boxes and hers were arranged nicer than mine. She explained that when she was quite young, her older siblings made fun of her for picking so slow and called her "slowpoke." Mother told me she was very mad at being called a name and said she practiced picking fast and faster so she could keep up.

Aug 23, 2006

Evangelism in Latin America

The Australian news site MercatorNet is the best Catholic news site I've seen with its excellent commentaries that have previously been recommended by other Catholic bloggers, including Fumare, Amy Welborn, and Curt Jester. One recent news item you don't want to miss is entitled Latin Rapture.

In the MercatorNet article, two Catholic priests in Latin America comment on the huge growth of Protestant Pentecostals in the last 30 years. Some of their very interesting observations:
  • “I believe that if Latin America is still following a Christian path, it is thanks to the evangelicals”
  • n 1900 there were only 25,000 evangelicals in all of Latin America. Now, in Argentina, there are said to be four million Pentecostals and in Brazil 25 million. In Brazil it is claimed that they represent 18 per cent of the population; in Chile 25 per cent; in Colombia 35 per cent; and in Guatemala 45 per cent. (Exact figures are hard to come by.)
  • “Those 16th century Protestants have turned liberal; they accept, for example, abortion and gay marriage,” says Father Julio Elizaga, a Catholic priest who has been working in ecumenism in Uruguay and Latin America for 56 years. “That’s why their churches are empty. The Methodists used to have around 3,500 to 4,000 members in Uruguay. Now there are just 500”
  • “official figures show that in Latin America 11 per cent of the population is evangelical, most of them practising. Pentecostals don’t have two groups of mere believers and practising believers... Some people say that they are Catholic but never go to Mass. This doesn’t happen among the Pentecostals.”
  • How did the Pentecostals seize the initiative? Pastorino argues that Catholics took their eyes off the ball. “In the 1960s part of the Catholic Church followed the ‘progressive’ ideas of the day. Even its language become more sociological; it sidelined mysticism and eschatology,” Pastorino said. It was also a time when, says Father Elizaga, more than 100 priests walked off the job in Uruguay. The door was open for the Pentecostals.
  • However, like most Protestant denominations, Pentecostals are a fractious lot and this hampers their growth in Latin America. “Pentecostal churches are divided; they have neither an authority nor an episcopate. This is their worst problem,” says Father Elizaga. “If they maintained a united front, they would be a devastating force”

Aug 22, 2006

Boston, Creating the Vacuum

Since the late July simulation of priestly ordination of a woman department head in the Boston Archdiocese, I've been perusing the latest news about Boston under Cardinal O'Malley. According to Carol McKinley, a four-year blogger who posts daily items about the devilment going on in Boston, there is little good happening in Boston. Catholic Charities has defended adoptions by homosexuals, priests are leaving for sabbaticals and women, parish collections are falling, people are leaving the active practice of Catholicism, etc.

Financially, the Boston newspaper says the Archdiocese of Boston 'claims' [notice the paper doesn't use the word 'has'] nearly 2 million Catholics in 144 communities. In some ways, the Archdiocese still appears to be rich in a materialistic sense, with over 1,500 buildings in Eastern Massachusetts--estimated replacement value of $2.8 billion. It employs 3,000 people and oversees hundreds of parishes, schools, cemeteries, hospitals, and social service organizations.

While the archdiocese and its parishes have $330 million in assets, officials say financial restrictions and debt total $376 million, resulting in a $46 million gap--a big chunk of change. Despite having laid off dozens of employees, the archdiocese is also running an annual operating deficit, and it faces serious ongoing problems from diminished attendance at Masses, decreased school enrollment, a shortage of priests and nuns, massive maintenance costs for old buildings, etc.

The financial statement from the Archdiocese of Boston shows depletion of assets by selling old church properties. Even though fundraising costs increased 16% from $1.9M to $2.2M in 2005, revenues decreased 6% from $31.6 to $29.6.

Is Boston a bellweather of future diocesan problems through the U.S.? Like California is the bellwether of social problems carried by westerly winds across the rest of the country? Or will prevailing westerlies mostly carry the religious problems of Boston out to sea to drown in the abyss (or maybe carried to Ireland).

Regardless, a vacuum is being created in Boston--of priests, money, Catholicism, etc.--a vacuum that will subsequently be filled one way or another, either with bad or with good.

Aug 21, 2006

Dignitas Connubi (DC) and Annulments

The purpose of the Vatican document, Dignitas Connubii (DC) is designed “to offer the ministers of justice who work in ecclesiastical tribunals a practical Document, a sort of vademecum that will serve as an easy guide to enable them to handle their work better in canonical processes of matrimonial nullity.” When DC was issued in February 2005, it was compared to a similar Instruction, Provida Mater, issued in 1936. The old instruction, Provida Mater, consisted of 240 articles, while the new DC is a somewhat weightier document with 308 articles.

The Code of Canon Law recognizes the following grounds as invalidating a marriage: force or fear; ignorance, error; fraud; intention against fidelity; intention against children; intention against permanence; intention against partnership of life; lack of reason; grave lack of discretion of judgment; and inability to assume the essential rights and duties of matrimony.

So how goes the implementation of DC? Is the new Vatican instruction issued in early 2005 having an effect on annulments in the U.S.? Or is DC like a lot of post-Vatican instructions that have been ignored?

The Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) is a good place to start to see whether DC is being implemented. The annual convention of the CLSA is scheduled for October 9–12, 2006 in Fort Worth (at a $160/night hotel, plus taxes). A pre-convention workshop will be given on Rota Jurisprudence and Formal Marriage Cases. The workshop will explain recent Rotal decisions that impact marriage. Attendees will likely see an expanded list of reasons for nullity of marriages, because the announcement for the workshop says “Other grounds of nullity that have seen development will be presented…”

The 4-day conference program identifies two presentations on marriage. The first one deals with “Negligence, Dolus, and Personal Canonical Liability in Tribunals.” Apparently DC explicitly allows for legal actions for personal damages against tribunal personnel in case of their negligence. The CLSA is clearly concerned about being sued for damages that could be considerable, particularly if they involve reimbursing wedding expenses.

The second presentation considers the bonum coniugum as an essential element of marriage and as a possible exclusion in the processing of a marriage nullity case.

A new book on DC, , Dignitas Connubii: Norms And Commentary, is expected to be released right before the CLSA conference. It sounds like this book will ‘interpret’ DC. After all, how can you apply Canon Law and the 308 articles in DC without a book that explains what DC means? I think this really means that tribunals are struggling with, delaying, or interpretating DC in the most liberal way they can. Don't look for a solution soon to the problem of annulments that sometimes serve as "Catholic divorces."

Aug 20, 2006

Unsettling Statistics on European Religious

My husband believes the annulment flood over the past 40 years should be made a critical topic among Catholic bloggers. Looking around, I found the Feb 8 2005 announcement of a press conference describing Dignitas Connubii that was issued to tighten up 'loose' proceedings in granting annulments, especially in North America. The press conference referenced world-wide annulment statistics from 2002:
It is first of all necessary to provide some statistics concerning causes of matrimonial nullity. The source is the Annuario Statistico della Chiesa for 2002.
The year 2002 seemed a little old so I tried to find a later statistical report.

A search revealed a very interesting Word document simply titled "1" found in the files of Dated June 1, 2006, the document was edited by Mons. Antonio Ladisa and presents data on religious vocations, especially from Italy as compared to the rest of the world (but none on annulments). Ladisa is studying the vocations crisis in Europe and trying to determine whether the crisis is happening everywhere or only in some locations.

The first table in Ladisa's report presents 1977-1997 figures on the numbers of priests in five regions of the world. Religious vocations in Europe are compared to worldwide numbers. The key statistic is that Europe constitutes 30% of the world-wide Catholic population, but produced (in 1990):
  • approximately 60% of the total of diocesan priests (153,000 of a world-wide total of 261,000);
  • 46% of religious order priests (66,400 of 142,900);
  • 52% of religious (442,000 of 848,000);
  • 43% of the religious brothers;
  • approximately 80% of the members of Secular Institutes
The above data appear disastrous for the future of the church. A very high percentage of world-wide religious vocations in 1990 came from Europe, but Europe now is producing significantly fewer numbers because of a scarcity of children and decreasing Catholic religious practices.

The table below easily shows this very unsettling problem. The number of secular institute priests and nuns from 1990 to 2004 are shown. A world-wide decrease of almost 8% is noted, and almost all of the loss is caused by an 18% drop in European priests and nuns that in 2004 still constituted 72% of the total world-wide members of secular institutes. In other words, large percentage increases in Africa, America, and Asia did not make up for the large loss in European members of secular institutes.

Membri istituti secolari


anno 1990

anno 2004


























The document identifies the numbers of 1998 ordinations in each Italian region, notes that foreign priests are needed, and goes into some detail about their characteristics. Almost 1,700 foreign priests serve Catholics in Italy.

One hopeful statistic in the report deals with cloistered nuns in Italy that increased from 5,000 in 1978, to 7,651 in 1998.

Writing the Story for the Boston Vacuum

Carrie Tomko has identified the coming vacuum in the Church as liberal Catholicism ages and dies. Who and what will be poised to enter the vacuum? How can the vacuum be filled with a renewed Catholicism?

The story of filling the vacuum must be written now, as a historian would write from at least 100 years perspective. Some call 'writing the story' a vision or a long-range plan. Whatever it is, you pretend to be a historian, decide what year you want to start, choose the environment, and decide what should happen to achieve a future goal--in this case, restoring the Catholic Church.

Let's start with the Boston Archdiocese, arguably the most notorious un-Catholic environment in the world. With God's help, how could Boston be revived from its dissolution and desolation? Yes, this may be the most difficult environment in which to develop a vision of the future!

What does the Boston Archdiocese have in 2006?
  • Total lack of confidence in the Archdiocese by Catholics who still want to remain faithful to the Church founded by Jesus Christ
  • Bitter memories of the homosexual sex scandals affecting the priesthood
  • Loss of property similar to church confiscations by Communists in foreign countries
  • Terrible demoralization of the priesthood, leading to further losses of existing priests and few candidates for future priests
The only successful story that a historian of 2100 could write for Boston would have to start with a few great saint(s)--preferably the Archbishop himself and a small group of very saintly priest(s) given special responsibility to restore the Catholicity of Boston. Only saints can identify the path Boston really needs to follow and could motivate other priests and laymen to become saints and rebuild the Archdiocese.

Assume the remaining faithful Catholics of the Archdiocese pray fervently to God who answers their prayers by giving them a very few saintly priests and at least 10 saintly laymen--not just good men, but SAINTS. In order to succeed, the Archbishop would have to publicly state that these priests have been given a special charge to rebuild the church in Boston. [An alternative would be to bring in a great traditional order of priests (e.g., FSSP) and give them the responsibility.]

For the first two months, small groups of rotating pastors would be required to attend a special 4-day retreat given by the saintly priests to prepare the pastors and their people for a special Lent of mortification, fasting, and penance. The pastors would be told by the Archbishop that the saintly priests would be given special responsibility for restoring the Catholic Church in Boston.

After the retreats, the saintly priests would travel to key churches in the Archdiocese to say Mass and give sermons--at the prime Sunday Mass times and as the special representative of the Archbishop. On four days every two weeks, each saintly priest would choose a parish in which to give a retreat or mission. And it would be a hard mission that required confession, significant meditation, and sacrifices (not an eat, meet, and retreat conference). The mission would clearly identify the problem with the Boston Archdiocese are SINS of God's chosen people, their own sins and omissions and those of others that allowed the Boston Archdiocese to descend into chaos. The priest would promise the people that if they did sufficient penance their local church would be restored. During a 6-day rest period each month, the saintly priests would be recharged with their own retreat and days of recollection. The Archbishop would listen to their stories and encourage them to continue their important work.

At first there would be a lot of complaints and even further, possibly major losses of priests and money, if I read Boston correctly. The Archbishop, even in the face of initially adverse results, would continue to actively and publically support the saintly priests that he had given his special charge. At the end of a year, the Archbishop would receive a status report from pastors of parishes where the saintly priests had given retreats--to determine the trend in the number of daily communions and weekly confessions--which should definitely increase! However, money receipts during this period might have fallen.

[to be continued in "Boston, Filling the Vacuum"]