40 Myths About the Catholic Church–The Pope is Running Away from Something

Myths about the Church can spread quickly.  Where most of them have been around for quite a while, this one is relatively new.  Since no Pope has retired in 600 years, Benedict must be running away from something.  He must have something to hide.

Here’s what Peter Stanford of the London Telegraph wrote on February 17:


Dan Brown couldn’t have made it up. The ecclesiastical earthquake of a pope resigning has been attributed, variously, to Benedict nursing a fatal illness; to a head injury during his trip to Mexico last March that convinced him to abdicate; to being forced out after an acrimonious meeting with a group of senior cardinals two days before he announced his resignation; to his looming disgrace over either dodgy deals done by the Vatican Bank, past cover-ups of paedophile priests, or an “explosive” forthcoming report by a team of cardinals on a tendering scandal; and to a strategy to secure the succession for his favourite.

This is from a website called Removing the Shackles:

(Reuters) – Pope Benedict’s decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.



Let’s start with a few simple facts.  First, Benedict is 85 years old.  He is the oldest man (at age 78) to become Pope since Clement XII in 1730.  Second, he is the CEO of the largest organization in the world.  Third, it’s painfully obvious that his health is deteriorating.  If I were him, I would have retired a long time ago.  

Being the Pope is a demanding job.  The politics within the Vatican must be incredible.  There are a lot of Catholic clergy, from deacons all the way up to Cardinals who think they would be a better Pope than Benedict.  With over 1 billion Catholics around the world, there is no shortage of criticism of every little thing he does.

Much of the criticism from outside the Church is directed at Benedict, no matter where the perceived shortcomings are located.   He may be ultimately responsible, but there’s just too much going on in the Church to lay everything in his lap.  That’s what Bishops are for.

The fact is that most people, even some Catholics, don’t understand the role of the Holy Father or how he is chosen.  When the Cardinals meet to select a new pope, they are sequestered (no, not that kind of sequester), isolated from the outside world.  They meet, and pray, and eventually the Holy Spirit leads them to make the correct choice.  Obviously, the Spirit has moved in Benedict XVI, convincing him that it’s time to go.  His work as Pope is done.  These ARE NOT manmade decisions.  If you believe otherwise, you don’t understand how the Church works.

As quoted above, some geniuses are suggesting that since there is a lawsuit pending in the United States against the Pope and the Church, he’s going into hiding in Vatican City which has no extradition treaty with the US.  Regardless of the merits of the legal proceeding, does anyone really think the US government is stupid enough to demand that the 85 year old Pope come to America to possibly be arrested?  Even this administration isn’t that ignorant.  By the way, the comments I quoted were two of the few that I could post on a family blog.

Does the abuse scandal weigh on the Pontiff?  Of course it does.  It weighs on every member of the Catholic clergy including yours truly.  As the man at the top (2nd only to Jesus himself) Benedict must feel more remorse than you and I can imagine.  That kind of pressure tends to wear a man out.  He has apologized publicly for the scandal.   He has met with victims and their families.  And the Catholic Church in 2013 may be the safest place on earth for children following the changes that have been put in place on Benedict’s watch.

I think it’s absurd to suggest that the Pope isn’t simply retiring because he’s tired.  It is possible that he has a serious illness that the Vatican isn’t telling us about.  Some things are best kept secret.  Benedict knows that the process of selecting a new Pope will be speeded up because there won’t be the usual waiting period that must be observed after a Pope’s death.  Maybe he doesn’t want the Church he loves to be without a leader any longer than necessary.

Personally I think that our Holy Father is setting a precedent and that it won’t be another 600 years before we see a Pope retire again.  After more than 1/2 a century as a priest, Bishop, Cardinal, and Pope, it’s time to give the man his gold watch and let him rest.

This just in:  Today, in his final public appearance Pope Benedict XVI gave a hint of the reason for his retirement.  As I mentioned above, Vatican politics can be brutal and it’s up to the Pope to keep things in line.  Apparently Benedict feels that a younger man would be better able to keep a lid on things.  Check out either of the links below for highlights of the address.




40 Myths About the Catholic Church

Last year during Lent I published a series of posts on 40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic.  It was part of my Lenten penance and if you read all 40 of them, then I suppose it was part of your penance too.  I’m continually surprised when WordPress tells me that people are still reading those posts nearly a year later.  I remember from my secular blogging days that people love lists, so I guess the one-post-per-day format for Lent must have been a success.

“Here’s the thing.  Today is Ash Wednesday and I have a decision to make.  Should I try it again?  If so, what forty things can I write about that people will find interesting, keeping in mind that I’m going to have to keep it up for six weeks?
This Monday, when our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to retire at the end of this month, I noticed that the Catholic-bashers came out in full force.  I also noticed that the justification for their hatred of all things Catholic has little or no basis in fact.  As our beloved Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, “No one hates the Catholic Church,  But millions of people hate what they think the Catholic Church is.”  (This is a paraphrase because I don’t have the exact quote in front of me, but it’s basically what he said.)

There is so much misinformation out there about Catholics, even among Catholics themselves, that I think this will be a timely and useful series.  I hope you agree.  If you don’t, feel free to comment.  After constructive criticism is why God gave us the “delete” button.  (Just kidding.)  I enjoy the conversation and appreciate the opportunity to learn something.

Stay tuned.

A Pope Retires

benedict eucharistI’ve been watching today as the “experts” come out of the woodwork with their commentaries on Benedict XVI‘s retirement.  It’s amazing how many Kresgin wannabe’s think they can read the man’s mind.  “He’s retiring because the job’s too hard.”  “He’s retiring because of the child abuse scandal.” How about this:  The man is 85 years old!  He’s suffering from the effects of old age.  He wants to spend his remaining time on earth getting ready for the life to come.  I’d like to suggest that the so-called experts get back to us when they’re 85 and let us know if they still want to hold a 24-hour a day job.

The logical next step is for the pundits to make their predictions about who the Cardinals will select to replace Benedict.  It’s amazing how many people think they have some insight on how 120 or so men from all over the world are going to vote.  The common denominator of almost all popes has been that everyone was surprised that they were chosen.  Stop wasting your time trying to predict what the Holy Spirit is going to do!  You’ll just look foolish.

The next big issue is whether the new Pontiff will be “liberal” or “conservative”.  This drives me crazy!  This isn’t politics.  This is the Church created by Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago.  When it comes to the teachings of the Church there is no such thing as liberal or conservative.  As  Catholics we have two choices.  We either accept everything the Church teaches or we don’t.  If we choose not to accept 100% of what She teaches, we’re not “liberals”, we’re heretics.  If we choose to override Jesus’ teachings, Jesus’ Church, then we’re trying to make ourselves gods and what that leads to isn’t going to be pretty.

One of those things that we must accept as Catholics is that the Holy Spirit will guide our Cardinals in making the correct choice.  As my son pointed out on facebook today, the Catholic-bashers are already making their presence known.  This (the Pope’s resignation) is just one more excuse for them to hurl their anti-Catholic venom in our direction.  These people are so blinded by hate for what they think the Catholic Church teaches, that they’ll completely miss the  beauty and dignity of the replacement process.  I feel sorry for them.

This is a time of great challenges and great opportunities for the Church.  In the weeks ahead the Cardinals are going to get together and decide who our next Holy Father will be.  Instead of wasting our time reading and listening to people who haven’t the faintest idea what they’re talking about, how about you and I spend some  time on our knees asking the Holy Spirit to guide our Cardinals in making the best choice.  Pray, too, that Benedict XVI will live the remainder of his earthly life in peace, tranquility, and good health.  And pray that whoever the new Pope may be, that we will have the grace and wisdom to listen to what he has to say and give him the respect that his holy office deserves.

Blessed John Paul II, pray for us.

Thursday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Yesterday I posted that the Holy Father had joined Twitter, an excellent example of how we can all use social media to evangelize.  One tweet in particular caught my attention.


Screen shot 2012-12-12 at 11.21.22 AM


How do you interpret this?  I think this quote shows how poorly written English can express a point of view.  Is he saying that since we live in a world without hope we can’t live our faith in Jesus?  If so, it’s a very disturbing thing to say.

Or, is he saying that, since we do live our faith in Jesus, this is most definitely not a world without hope?  I think it’s clearly the latter.

Those of us who write and speak about our faith must be careful with our choice of words.  Since Benedict tweets in several different languages, I’m sure someone in his office translated this thought into English.  Even though he is the Pope, he still has to work within Twitter’s 140 character limit.  That’s why I seldom use Twitter myself.

We can all be thankful that the Holy Father is taking the time to communicate with us via this new medium.  I’m pretty sure that Jesus would have a Twitter account, a facebook page, and a web site.

Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Advent

12/12/12 and the Holy Father Tweets

Today is the twelfth day of the twelfth month or the year 2012 or 12/12/12.  There’s no particular significance to the day except as a curiosity of the calendar.  It is worth mentioning though that this won’t happen again in most of our lifetimes.  The next triple number day will be January 1, 2101 or 1/1/01.  So if you enjoy this sort of thing, today is your day.

Maybe the most significant thing about 12/12/12 is that it’s the day that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI joined Twitter.  As I write this, he has posted five times in six hours and has 840,750 followers.  I don’t know if that’s any kind of record, but it’s very impressive.  Sadly, many of the comments to the Holy Father’s tweets so far have been negative and hateful.  That should be a lesson for all of us.  When we put ourselves out there, proclaiming the Good News, we’re going to attract haters.  I say this from personal experience.

Like the Benedict, we’re called to ignore the negative, hang on to the positive, and continue to fight the good fight.  If you’re into Twitter, I hope you’ll follow the Holy Father and show your love and support.

Stop the presses!  In the time it took me to write this, the Pope has tweeted two more times and now has 845,766 followers or about 15,000 more in about ten minutes.  Considering that it’s still early morning in a big part of the world, I suspect he’ll have 1,000,000 followers before the day is over.

Follow the Holy Father on Twitter.

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic-#39 Timothy Cardinal Dolan

When I set out to list 40 reasons why it’s cool to be Catholic I reverted to the ancient, low-tech method of using index cards.  I listed each reason on its own card with the intention of sorting them in order of importance.  I ran into two problems.  First, over a period of a few weeks I ended up with more than 40 cards.  So, if you watch carefully you’ll see that I’ve combined some of them into a single post.

My second problem was, how to present these 40 or so reasons.  Do I do a “David Letterman” and list them in the order of importance, building up from number 40 to number 1?  That’s worked for Letterman, and for Casey Kasem for many years.  But how do you rank, for instance, Catholic Schools vs. Catholic hospitals?  And, what about timely issues?  I certainly don’t rank today’s reason as 39th out of 40 in importance.  The Cardinal is very much in the news right now, so I put him in the 39 slot.  If you know me, you can probably guess what (or who) will be number 20 on my list.  That post falls on March 17.  It (or he) wouldn’t seem right on any other day.

So, be aware that this list is arbitrary at best.  When we get to the top 10, beginning on March 27, those will be what I consider to be the “biggies”, though you may disagree.  Also, if you would like to contribute your ideas, please don’t hesitate to post a comment.  Now, let’s get down to today’s business.

Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York was recently elevated to Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI.  You probably know that.  It’s been all over the news.  Even one of our local anti-Catholic television stations has been running a promo piece bragging that they had a reporter in Rome for the occasion.  Cardinal Dolan is a character.  And I mean that in the best possible way.  From the time he was Auxiliary Bishop here in Saint Louis, it was clear that God had big things in store for him.

There’s an old Irish expression, “He can tell you to go to hell and have you looking forward to the trip.”  That’s a pretty accurate description of the new Cardinal.  One minute he can be walking down the streets of New York cracking jokes with the people and the next minute he can be on the phone with the President of the United States demanding that he back down from his unconstitutional mandate that Catholics pay for artificial birth control and other immoral procedures that violate our religious rights.

Right now, the Cardinal is the very visible face and voice of Roman Catholicism in the United States.  And, he’s cool.  He loves baseball.  At the consistory he joked about the red hat of the Cardinal and the fact that he grew up as a fan of the Cardinals, the Saint Louis variety, who also wear red hats.  In his homily this past Sunday he told his mother that, no, she couldn’t wear his new red hat on Easter Sunday.

I’ll admit I may be slightly prejudiced in the Cardinal’s favor since he grew up about 20 miles from where I’m sitting right now, and that he graduated from the same high school as my son.  (In Saint Louis that’s a big deal.  The appropriate greeting when two strangers meet in our fair city is “Where did you go to high school?”  But this is a man who is unabashedly Catholic.  He loves the Church and is proud to be a part of it.  We could all learn from his example.  And, growing up in the midwest, he has a kind of down-home personality that you don’t often see in men of his stature.

This is a guy who believes in ecumenism yet makes no apologies for his Catholic faith.  At his official “welcome home” service this past weekend there were representatives of all major faith traditions.  Clearly he respects them and they respect him.  But, make no mistake, Timothy Cardinal Dolan is a proud Roman Catholic and we’re blessed to have him.

There have been other prominent Catholic “characters” in the history of the Church.  Bishop Fulton Sheen is another one who comes to mind.  Like Cardinal Dolan, the late Bishop was a very public spokesman for the Church, dominating network TV in its early years.  Videos of his programs are still available both on-line and for purchase.

Our Church has a definite PR problem.  Anti-Catholic bigotry is alive and well, especially in the United States.  We desperately need men (and women) who have a big megaphone to sing the praises of the Church that Jesus founded.  We need those voices to offset prominent nominal Catholics like Joe Biden, Nancy Pollosi, Claire McCaskill, and so many others who proclaim their loyalty to the Church while publicly trashing the basic principles of our faith.

Personally, I’m proud and very grateful to have someone as cool as Timothy Cardinal Dolan speaking for my faith.