30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

What I’m going to say today may make some of you mad. If so, I’m sorry. But the word “Gospel” means truth and my job is to tell you the truth, so that’s what I’m going to do.

 

In just over a week and a half, we’ll be asked to vote in an historic election. For several weeks Father and I have been receiving letters and emails from the Church telling us what we can and can’t do or say before we all go to the polls. We recently got a 2-page document called “Is It Legal? What Churches Can and Cannot Do During Elections.”

 

The gist of the thing is that a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization (that’s us) can’t support or oppose a candidate for public office under the threat of losing our tax-exempt status. Some of the things we can’t do are to give a homily urging you to vote for or against a particular candidate or label a candidate in the bulletin as pro or anti-abortion (I’ll come back to that one in a minute) We also can’t distribute materials or allow others to distribute pamphlets on church property. There are some other things, but I think you get the point.

 

Not to be outdone, the US Conference of Bishops, who never use a single word when a paragraph will say the same thing, has issued their own 42 page document called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” which says exactly the same thing, “don’t tell ‘em who to vote for”.

 

But, here’s the thing. There is a way around this, and I quote: “It should be noted that the Internal Revenue Code applies to tax-exempt corporations and not to individuals. Individuals are free to participate in the political process, to endorse and support candidates.   Individuals who are officials of a tax-exempt organization, however, should make it clear when speaking publically that their endorsement and support is being made in their individual capacity, not on behalf of the tax-exempt organization.”

 

So, let me be clear. What you’re hearing today is me, not Saint John Nepomuk Chapel.

 

Normally I wouldn’t wade into such deep water but several things are different about this election cycle and I think they’re worth talking about. One is that a lot of prominent Catholic clergy have spoken out about our choice next month. Among them are Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, RI Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville who is President of the US Conference of Bishops and local boy made good, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

 

As you probably know, Wikileaks has released a batch of emails from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Among them are several from Clinton campaign operatives bashing the Catholic Church. Here’s what Cardinal Dolan had to say: “The remarks attributed to John Podesta, who is Mrs. Clinton’s chief of staff, are just extraordinarily patronizing and insulting to Catholics. What he would say is offensive. And if it had been said about the Jewish community, if it had been said about the Islamic community, within 10 minutes there would have been an apology.” As of today, there has been no apology. In fact, Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, who claims to be a devout Catholic said on FOX News, “I don’t think an apology is necessary because what they were essentially getting at here was just a difference in opinion with the Catholic hierarchy.” 

 

That “difference of opinion” includes calling the Church medieval and sexist. It also calls for a “Catholic spring”, a revolution within the Church to change its views. This is an obvious reference to the Arab Spring.  The Arab Spring was a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations, protests, riots, coups and civil wars.

 

So, speaking for myself, and not as Saint John Nepomuk Chapel, I think that if (1) the Clinton campaign has attacked our Church and (2) if Bishops, Archbishops, and even a Cardinal have spoken out, then the IRS probably isn’t going to come after a lowly deacon. Besides, since this church has been operating in the red for years, there’s nothing for them to tax.

 

Mrs. Clinton, herself, in a speech to a women’s group said that we (Catholics and Evangelical Christians) were just going to have to change our religious views. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.” Seriously, that’s what she said. And here I thought our Constitution guaranteed religious freedom. Silly me.

 

Of course, all this controversy involves abortion. Mrs. Clinton has pledged to uphold and even increase the availability of abortion throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy. She has also promised to overturn the Hyde Amendment which means our tax dollars would be used to pay for all those abortions. Mr. Kaine, her allegedly Catholic running mate has used the tired liberal cliché, “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t feel like I can impose my views on others.” Maybe somebody should send this guy a copy of the Catechism. Here’s what it says, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.” And, “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.”

 

The Church tells us that “formal cooperation” includes passing laws that legalize abortion and voting for so-called “pro-choice” candidates.

 

Granted, neither major party candidate is perfect. Donald Trump’s stand on immigration and keeping certain immigrants out of the country based on their religious beliefs is contrary to Church teaching. But he’s never attacked our Church and, while he’s not said a lot about abortion one way or the other, he’s not promised to make abortion easier to get, or to make you and me pay for it.

 

And, it’s important for all of us to remember that in four or even eight years, our next president will make appointments that will shape the Supreme Court, and all courts, for decades. As Catholic Christians we need to step up and defend our rights or we may wake up one day and find we don’t have any rights.

 

I don’t expect anyone to vote one way or the other because I said so. In fact, your vote is between you and God. All I’m asking you to do is pray about this before you vote. Ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. And do your homework. Go online and Google “Clinton and abortion” or “Clinton and Catholic”. You’ll be amazed at what you find. This election will shape our country for decades. Please take it seriously and don’t sit it out.

 

 

 

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Phil stands his ground

Last night Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame was on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show.  You may recall that Phil got in hot water last January for comments he made in an interview with GQ Magazine.  I’m still trying to figure out how a guy who dresses in camouflage and has a waist-length beard got into GQ, but I digress.  (See Why Phil Robertson is the Most Dangerous Man in America.)

It’s no surprise that Phil hasn’t changed his views, especially after winning his war with A & E Network and Cracker Barrel.   It’s great to see a TV star stand on his Christian values and not be intimidated by big money.

Here’s an excerpt  of his Hannity appearance.

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time—Love

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

I have no official statistics, but based on my own experience I’d say that at least two out of three couples choose our second reading today from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians for their wedding ceremony.  And, why not?  It’s the ultimate definition of the word “love”.  But if you read Paul’s letter in context, he’s not writing about married love, or even male/female love.

 

Our reading today is the third in a series from the 14th Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  Remember, two weeks ago we learned that the community was divided.  The people were arguing with one another about who had the greatest spiritual gifts.  “My gift of healing is greater than your gift of prophesy!”  “No my gift of discernment is better than either of your gifts.”  And on and on.

 

Paul reminded them that each gift came from God and that no gift is more important than any other. That was verse 4-11 of the 12th chapter of Paul’s first letter to them.

 

Then last week we read verses 12-30.  Still trying to get them to stop arguing Paul uses the analogy of the body.  Each part of the body makes its special contribution.  The hand isn’t better than the foot and the eye isn’t greater than the ear.  All of the parts have to work together.  If any part suffers, the whole body suffers.  “If one part is honored, all parts share its joy.”

 

In our reading today, Paul wraps up the series by telling them that there is one thing greater than any of the other spiritual gifts and that’s love.

 

In spite of the fact that this is such a popular wedding reading, the kind of love Paul describes isn’t necessarily married love, though the definition fits the love between a man and wife perfectly.  But, notice that Paul doesn’t say anything about holding hands, or sending flowers, or spending the rest of your life with the same person following the sacrament of marriage.

 

No, he’s talking about the kind of love that we’re all supposed to have for one another.  Remember that Jesus told us in the 15th Chapter of John’s Gospel that the greatest love of all is to lay down one’s life for his friends.  He gives us His two great commandments:  Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  In this passage Paul tells us what Jesus meant.

 

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”   When I was in high school I was in the band.  I was a drummer.  We used gongs and cymbals for marches and big dramatic music.  When we played a ballad or a love song, we put the cymbals away.  Cymbals were loud.  They were noisy.  They only played one single note and that note was always brash and emphatic.  When you play the piano, you tickle the ivories.  You toodle a flute.  You stroke a violin.  But you beat a drum.  Gongs resound and cymbals clash.

 

In other words, no matter how great your gifts, if you don’t have love they’re just so much noise.

 

“If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge, if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”  He’s telling them that none of their gifts are worth a darn without love.  Even if he “gives away everything he owns, and if he hands his body over so that he may boast, but does not have love he gains nothing.”

 

Now comes the good part.  This is the part that the wedding couples really like.  But think of it as not so much about married love but more about this love that Jesus calls us to have for Him and for our neighbor.  It sounds really good but if you think about it, it’s really hard.

 

“Love is patient.”  If you’re married you know this is true.  Jan and I have been married almost 45 years.  She must be the most patient person on earth.

“Love is kind.”  OK, it’s easy to be kind to your wife or your kids.  It may not be so easy to be kind to the homeless person who asks you for money.  Do they really need it or are the running some kind of scam.  Maybe they want the money to buy booze or drugs.  Maybe when you pull out your wallet they’ll pull out a gun and rob you.  No, kindness to strangers isn’t always easy.

“It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude.”  Can any of us really say that we’ve never been jealous, pompous, inflated, or rude?  We may not even mean it.  You may have noticed that I have kind of a dry sense of humor.  Sometimes I say things that I think are funny but that people take the wrong way.  They think I’m being rude.  And frankly, I’ve learned that my being a member of the clergy makes some people think it’s OK to be rude to me.

 

“It does not seek its own interests, Let’s be honest.  Why are we all here today?  We come to mass to praise God and to receive His Body and Blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist.  But why do we do that?  Because we want to go to heaven.  We’re definitely seeking our own interests by coming to mass.  For mass to be really meaningful for us, it has to be in the context of loving God, not in fulfilling an “obligation” so we can get to heaven.

 

[Love] is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.”  Every time I receive the sacrament of reconciliation I have to confess that I have a quick temper;  EVERY TIME!  I confess it and I sincerely mean to be better but then something happens that set me off again.  I think I’ve gotten better, but I’m beginning to wonder, at 64 years old, if I’ll ever master my own temper.

 

“Love never fails.”  Paul goes on to explain how the other gifts will fail. Basically he says that as a grown-up he’s given up childish things.  At present, we can’t see clearly.  We only understand partially.  Someday when we meet God face-to-face we’ll understand it all.  But for the time being “faith, hope and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

 

So, kudos to the young (and not so young) people who choose this reading on their special day.  I hope and pray that they’ll practice what Paul says in their married lives.  But, Paul is really talking to you and me.  You can give your entire fortune to charity but if you’re doing it for the tax deduction and not because you love your fellow man, it’s a hollow gesture.

 

If I have the gift of prophesy but delight in telling people that bad things are coming, I’m a clashing cymbal.  If I have faith to move mountains but don’t have love…….I’m nothing.

 

Paul doesn’t really say anything in this reading about prayer.  But we know that the greatest thing we can do for our neighbors is to pray for them.  Prayer is our best and most important expression of love.  I mentioned in today’s bulletin that our US Bishops have issued a call to prayer for life, marriage, and religious freedom.  Our secular society and even out government are attacking our core beliefs on these issues.  And it’s not just a “Catholic thing”.  It’s a Christian thing.

 

Abortion, same sex “marriage” and the HHS mandate are critical issues in our today.  Every day we kill thousands of babies in this country and no one raises an eyebrow.  Friday the government issued a so-called compromise on the HHS mandate that changed nothing at all.  It seems like every day we see something in the news that undermines the sacrament of marriage.

 

I don’t think most of us are inclined to join marches or protests.  It’s just not our style.  But we can all pray.  At the bishop’s request, we will be having a monthly holy hour, maybe an even longer period of Eucharistic Adoration every month.  But even if you don’t attend, you can still pray for our country.  Pray for an end to abortion.  Pray for the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage.  Pray that common sense and decency will prevail and religious institutions will not be forced to provide services that violate our beliefs.  Most of all, pray for the courage and the conviction to speak out against evil every chance you get.  And most of all, as Saint Paul tells us, do it with love.

 

 

The Supreme Court—Seriously?

Today the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of ObamaCare.  Many of us, Catholics and nonCatholics alike, have been praying that the court would strike down the law which threatens to undermine our religious freedom.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.  But, there is a bright side here.  While it looks like we’re going to be stuck with the legislation, at least for the time being, we can’t give up the fight to remove the provision that mandates the violation of our First Amendment rights.

What can we do?  Well, for one thing, we must continue to pray.  Bombard heaven with prayers that our elected employees in Washington DC will do the right thing.  If they don’t, then come November, vote to fire them and replace them with men and women who will do the will of the people.  In addition to prayers, let your employees know what you think.  Email them.  Call them.  Confront them in person this summer as they campaign in your area.

This isn’t about health insurance.  It isn’t about “women’s rights”.  Cheap and even free birth control is readily available.  If our employees feel the need to play God using chemicals to play havoc with His plan, fine.  We’d rather they didn’t, but we can’t stop them.  However, we are not going to be forced to pay for something that is so radically against what we believe.  If we do, we will be opening the door to all kinds of religious discrimination, not just against Catholics, but against all people of faith.

We’re being discriminated against because of our good works, which are not limited to just our fellow Catholics.  If our hospitals were to fire all their non-Catholic employees and turn away non-Catholic patients, there would be no problem.  There are other medical procedures that are rejected by some other faith traditions .  For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t allow blood transfusions.  No one is suggesting that they pay for transfusions either for members of nonmembers.  Could it be because there are no JW institutions that employ non-members.  I’m pretty sure they don’t have any hospitals.

Today is a dark day, but it’s just one day.  What we do in the days and weeks ahead will pay a big part in our future, and in our children’s and grandchildren’s futures.  Don’t take this lying down.

 

Whatever Happened to the 1st Amendment?

Here in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, our Archbishop, Robert Carlson, has written a pastoral letter which is to be read in every parish.  The topic is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that all employers, including Catholic employers provide insurance coverage for artificial birth control, abortion, and the morning-after abortion pill.  This is in clear violation of the Constitution’s first amendment which assures religious freedom.

Archbishop Carlson writes, “In generations past, the Church has always counted on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties.  I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same.  Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.”

The Archbishop, along with all the U.S. Bishops is calling on Catholic Americans to stand up for our faith.  Imagine if the government would mandate that all Amish must be hooked up to the power grid.  The Amish would be outraged, as would every American citizen who values their religious faith.  Suppose the feds mandated that all religions observe Sunday as their sabbath day.  How would our Jewish brothers and sisters react to that?  Or, imagine this.  What if the government mandated that Muslim hospitals (if there were such a thing) serve pork to their patients.  I shudder to think what their response would be.

We can’t be so complacent as to think that if the government can interfere in one of our basic religious rights, that they will stop there.  A lot of us live in an environment where anti-Catholic bigotry lies beneath the surface.  But it’s alive and well.  What the haters don’t realize is that when the government takes away our rights, their rights are threatened too.

I’d like to share with you some comments from a local newspaper forum on Archbishop Carlson’s letter.  Keep in mind that these are anonymous posts.  The writers are hiding behind pseudonyms.  I’m sharing just a few highlights so you won’t have to waste your time reading this garbage.  Just keep in mind that one of these people may be your next door neighbor.

“No surprise here. Catholic church needs all the children it can get for brainwashing.”

“I’m waiting for the archbishop to pour as much money into ending the death penalty as he does abortion.”

“I’m Catholic, we don’t use birth control, but I think making birth control more available for those who want it is a good thing.”

[Note:  This issue isn’t about providing birth control.  It’s about forcing Catholic institutions to pay for it.  Two very different things.]

“The more kids the parishoners have the more choices priest have to chose from.”

“If Catholics don’t want to use contraception, that is fine. But the rest of us, who live in the real world, and have kids who live in the real world, don’t want this provision canceled from the health care bill because of some arcane and misguided belief that making contraception available is somehow wrong.”

[Note:  I’ll bet you thought you were living in the real world, didn’t you?]

“If the Archbishop do (sic) not like our laws in this country, he can take his church to another country.”

To all the right wing nut jobs who continue to follow the mindless ramblings of a holy roman empire cult that brought you the inquisitions, the crusades, the “irish laundries” the holy wars, the pedophile scandals, and now the tax free status of a MAJOR “PAC”. when are we gonna wake up and realize that we were founded on a “no religion is better than the other,”

“The only reason the church denounces birth control is because they want more asses in the seats on sunday morning, period.”

“Mr. Bishop,  Get a clue.”

“Hey Catholics, don’t like birth control then don’t use it. How is it your ‘religious freedom’ to impose your freedom-stealing views on others?”

“I’m burning. I’m burning. Hell is horrible. I never should have prevented that unwanted pregnancy.”

“Heres an idea, why dont you get off your knees (not from praying, but from servicing bishop carson) and wake up the the bullspit they are shoveling. All they care about is populating their pews and if they cant do that, they shut em down.”

“Catholic “leadership” opposes equal rights for all of thier (sic) employees. Meanwhile child molestation and sexual abuse continues to be denied, ignored and swept under the carpet. Typical of the catholic church to go crazy over the unborn but ignoring the needs of the children entrusted to their clergy. The catholic church has lost the higher moral ground and now they are as corrupt as any politcal party with a politcal agenda that does not include how Jesus Christ would treat others. The non-profit status of the catholic church should be revoked now that they are actively pursuing actions in politics and preaching their case from the pulpit. No more special treatment for the liars with the white collar.”

Excuse me for going off on a rant, but enough is enough!  If we, as Catholics, don’t respond to our Bishop’s request for action then we deserve whatever happens.  What you and I need to do is ( 1) pray.  Pray hard and often.  Pray that our employees in Washington DC will wake up to what they’re doing to our country.  (2) Find out exactly what the government is proposing and let your congress person and senator know how you feel.  Check out the US Bishops’ web site.  They have a convenient link to connect you with Washington.  It takes just a few seconds.

These people like their jobs (who wouldn’t) and they want to keep them.  If enough of us let them know we oppose this violation of our religious freedom, they will react.