Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Vaginas, Catholic universities and the fake Magisterium

There have been some occasions that I have read about, over the last few years, where Catholic universities have been disparaged because they have hosted performances of a play called The Vagina Monologues. The very title of the play, of course, says that it’s about sex and probably pushes the limits of good taste. I have never seen it, nor read the book on which it is based so I don’t know the graphic specifics of the content.

The most recent example is that Gonzaga University is hosting a performance of the play. The charge of outrage on Catholic blogs seems to be lead by a faculty member at Gonzaga named Dr. Eric Cunningham who, like Notre Dame’s own Dr. Charles Rice, has a lot of problems with the supposed “Catholicity” of his employer yet has no problem continuing to accept a paycheck.

There are two concepts that are peculiar to the Catholic Church that are involved with the current uproar. One is the Magisterium, the official teaching body of the Church, led by the Pope and comprised of the world’s Catholic Bishops. The Magisterium, either extraordinary (acting as a group as in an Ecumenical Council) or ordinary (acting as individual Bishops) is the only means by which Church teaching can be officially promulgated. The rest is just opinion. No Catholic layperson, or even a member of the vocations who is not a Bishop, can claim to authoritatively put forth Church teaching or claim to authoritatively speak on Church teaching or belief.

The other concept is that of the Catholic university. There have been numerous writings about what constitutes a true Catholic school, as universities are not, generally, connected to and operated by a diocese or parish as high schools and elementary schools are.  My school is, for example, operated by an independent Board of Directors and has always been run by the Congregation of Holy Cross (priests with a C.S.C. after their names); the archbishop of Ft. Wayne has some influence but no official capacity to tell the school what to do. What he can do, hypothetically, is say the school can no longer call itself Catholic. But, in that the word Catholic is not copyrighted, there is no real meaning to that power.

So how do these two things connect? The hysteria of the fake Magisterium, those who have appointed themselves as arbiters of who and what is really Catholic, over The Vagina Monologues is just the most recent example of how Catholic laypersons use universities not to further the goals of the Church, but to further their own personal agendas, be they economic or political. Catholic universities, like any other, exist to educate. A large portion of education is a free discussion of ideas, even many that we may find offensive. The common reason the fake Magisterium uses to decree Catholic schools as no longer Catholic is that a play such as The Vagina Monologues is harmful to the faith and conscience formation of college students like me. Of course if they were truly concerned, they would say Catholic schools aren’t Catholic if they don’t demand their students refrain from watching graphic sexual movies, or TV shows, or listen to music with sexual themes. But the reason the fake Magisterium gets so (fake) upset about this play is that the name catches attention. We don’t often hear the word vagina, a clinical term, in polite conversation. Rename the play The Girl Monologues and no one notices that it even exists. Make Barack Obama a pro-choice Republican and no one cares that he speaks at Notre Dame’s graduation.

If Dr. Cunningham truly thought that Gonzaga was no longer Catholic, he–apparently being a pillar of the faith–would no longer be materially complicit in Gonzaga’s failings by accepting financial gain. Think of it like an observant Catholic working at Planned Parenthood. The Ignatius Press blog publishes him to make money: selling books and getting ad revenue from the blog. The Magisterium, on the other hand, has no economic nor political interest in anything they teach. They don’t make money off blogs or get paid based on who stays in the Church or who doesn’t. Mostly, they just don’t get paid. The chances of any one of them moving to a position more authoritative than the one they are in is about one in a million since the only chance at promotion for any Bishop is to get fitted for the Ring of the Fisherman.

There is a reason that Jesus put Church authority in the hands of a few and made them leave their possessions and families behind. There’s probably also a reason He didn’t give them the internet and blogs (he could have!).

Is Gonzaga Still a Jesuit University

Surreal: Gonzaga VP invokes “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” to justify production of “The Vagina Monologues”

Apostolic Constitution Of The Supreme Pontiff John Paul II On Catholic Universities


God spelled backwards is Dog

My friend, Paul, sent me these pictures; these two churches, a Catholic Parish and a Presbyterian church, sit across the road from each other. I think it’s funny how the Presbyterians didn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor about the whole thing 😀

Catholic Church sign says "All dogs go to Heaven"

Presbyterian church sign says "Only humans go to Heaven, read the Bible"

Catholic Church sign says "God loves all His creations, dogs included"

Presbyterian church sign says "Dogs don't have souls, this is not open to debate"

Catholic Church sign says "Catholic dogs go to Heaven, Presbyterian dogs can talk to their Pastor"

Presbyterian church sign that says "Converting to Catholocism does not magically grant your dog a soul"

Catholic Church sign that says "Free dog souls with conversion"

Presbyterian church sign says "Dogs are animals. There aren't any rocks in Heaven either"

Catholic Church sign says "All rocks go to Heaven"

Glenn Beck: Catholic Hater

Much of the news and political discussion now is centered around yesterday’s “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington D.C. hosted by radio talk show host Glenn Beck. In addition to the normal partisan reports about the rally, there are the wildly fluctuating estimates as to how many people were actually there.

Peter and Paul claim 750,000 people show up in the hills of Galilee to hear Jewish preacher; CNN estimates the crowd to be closer to 86,000.

Much of the news also seems to be centered on Beck’s calling America back to Christian values. I don’t have all that much interest in the politics of a radio host anymore. They all remind me of Lewis Prothero

That’s quite enough of that, thank you very much.

But Beck’s focus on Christianity this weekend causes me to revisit something from earlier this year that he said on his show.

“I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!” (audio)

The term “social justice”, as applied to the teachings of the Church, is rooted inGlenn Beck the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum; believe it or not, the first time the Holy Father deemed it necessary to address the issues of labor, corporations, economics, the poor, and property rights in an official Church document. As an encyclical, the contents of Rerum Novarum–literally “Of New Things”…in 1891, industrialization and the rights of workers were new things–are binding upon Catholics as teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium. This is not to be confused with an ex cathedra or infallible teaching, but still binding on Catholics who follow Church teachings yet absent the threat of excommunication for heresy for standing in opposition. The fact that the term did not come into widespread use until it became part of the teaching of the Church, and the fact that no other church or faith uses the term to describe social teaching makes it clear that Beck was referring directly to the Catholic Church in his screed. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states “a large part of the Church’s social teaching is solicited and determined by important social questions, to which social justice is the proper answer.” (ibid 81) The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official reference of the teachings of the Church (aside from Holy Scripture, of course) dedicates a section to social justice.

There is no doubt that Beck is referring to the Catholic Church as he later tells people that if they have a “priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish, go to the Bishop“. It isn’t even so much that Beck later equated the teaching of social justice to communism and Nazis, he tells Catholics to leave the Church if they hear this teaching. Let me repeat that: if Catholics hear their parish priest refer to what is an official teaching of the Church, they should leave the Church. Make no mistake, Glenn Beck is, in his clumsy code, telling all Catholics to leave the Catholic Church for political reasons. He is telling me, he is telling my friends, he is telling those going up for first communion today to leave the Church that was designated by Christ Himself as His one and only Church. That is Matthew 18:6 type stuff.

Such a statement can only come from a deep-seated hatred for the Catholic Church. Beck is a former Catholic. He left the Church for a reason, and my experience has been that those who leave the Church are often the most bigoted toward the Church. All this talk about Glenn Beck as this wonderful Christian man is making me sick to my stomach. The fact that fellow Christians will not refute this man’s bigotry because they like his politics speaks volumes about the state of Christianity in America today. And I don’t ignore the fact that many, many Catholics fall into this same group and I would tell them to seriously reflect on if they believe authority lies in Christ, as given by Him, to the Holy Father or if it lies in your own personal political leanings. If you truly believe that authority lies in your political beliefs, then you need to think about taking Beck’s advice. I would prefer a smaller, stronger Church over a large Church watered down by those who use Christ as a political tool on either end of the political-philosophical spectrum.

Gang symbols

I have never belonged to a gang, unless you count the Powerpuff Girls-inspired enterprise that I was briefly associated with in 2nd grade. I have never popped a cap in anyone’s a** and no one I know has been shot on the street in a drive-by. None of this apparently would matter to school administrators in Texas. It turns out that rosary beads are a gang-related symbol.

People wearing rosariesRosary beads are used by Catholics in the devotion simply referred to as the “Rosary”, an 800-year-old devotion recited millions of times a day around the globe. The devotion consists of praying the joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and luminous mysteries, which are groups of five mysteries each. To a non-Catholic, the rosary may seem complex and the link between the prayer and the beads may be unclear. The beads simply act as a sort of counting tool during the prayer. The rosary starts with one Our Father, three Hail Marys, and one Glory Be. These five prayers of preparation are represented by the five beads connected to the end of the rosary nearest the cross. From there, you encounter five sets of ten beads called “decades.” The prayer consists of praying to the five mysteries of each group. For example, the joyful mysteries consist of The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Nativity, The Presentation, and The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Traditionally groups of mysteries are assigned to a day of the week, so the joyful mysteries are recited on Mondays and Thursdays. When praying the mysteries, we start with an Our Father, which is said on the large bead (sometimes this is also a small sort of medallion) at the start of each decade. Then 10 Hail Marys are said for each decade, or mystery. At the end of each decade, a Glory Be is said, before saying the Our Father on the next large bead or medallion. At the end of all the mysteries, the Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen) is usually sung (I sing it, quietly, in Latin) or the Rosary Prayer is recited. If you look at the rosary, you will see five large beads (or small medallions), and 55 small beads representing the total of all the prayers I described.

So why do Catholics do this? For practical purposes, if the rosary is prayed before the Sacrament of the Eucharist, it gains a plenary indulgence which is a remission of the punishment in Purgatory for sins that have been confessed and absolved but for which penance has not been completely exercised. More importantly, the rosary is participation in the life of Mary, a way of venerating the one who lived closest to Christ and who hears and assists us in heaven due to her special relationship with our Lord.

Rosary beads are not intended to be worn as jewelry, however there is no Church prohibition of doing so. I don’t agree with these students wearing them as a devotion to anyone except Mary, but I can’t judge their entire intentions nor can school administrators. What is important is that rosary beads represent an extremely important part of our prayer life and prohibiting them is a clear violation of the separation of Church and State, especially if non-Catholic Christian students are not also prohibited from wearing a cross or Jewish students from wearing a yarmulke, or Muslim students from wearing a hijab. What is even more concerning is the stunning ignorance and bigotry demonstrated by these school administrators in thinking that a rosary is a symbol of a criminal gang. I generally expect stupidity from public schools, but this surprised me. If I ever go to Texas, I will be sure not to let anyone see my Catholic version of the Bible. We are apparently as unwelcome there as anyone else who doesn’t fit into their ignorant view of what everyone should look like and wear.

Cardinal Bertone is right. Gays are responsible

Apparently gay activists are outraged over comments from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone regarding homosexuality and the Church sexual abuse scandals. It doesn’t take much at all to get activists outraged about anything, given that manufacturing outrage is the raison d’être of anyone calling themselves an activist. But in this case, the outrage (as it usually is) is misplaced. There is nothing incorrect about what the Cardinal said:

“Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia but many others have demonstrated, I was told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia.”

The vast majority of boys, approximately 86%, who are sexually abused are abused by men. That, by definition, makes the act not only an act of pedophilia, but an act of homosexuality. Given that the vast majority of victims of abuse in the Church are boys, and the perpetrators are all men, simple logic tells us that homosexuality is a driver behind the acts committed by the priests. The Cardinal stated there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia. The facts back him up. In my opinion, there is no reason to think that people who choose that lifestyle are not more more likely to engage in other “deviant” behaviors. Perhaps gay activists should worry less about being outraged by people telling the truth and focus on helping address the problem?

But that will not get them any headlines on CNN.


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Sexual abuse in the Church – A Catholic’s response

This Lenten and Easter season has been a tough time to be a Catholic. While American dioceses seem to have mostly put the scandal of sexual abuse of children by priests behind them, the recent explosion of reports of abuse, particularly in Ireland and Germany — where the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI was formerly a Bishop — has brought to matter back to the headlines of the American media.

In particular, an article in the New York Times claimed that the Holy Father knew of abuse in a Wisconsin school for deaf children and allowed the offending priest to continue his work. The article was an implication that the Pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger and in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — “CDF’, which is the Vatican office responsible for not only orthodoxy but ecclesiastic discipline — contributed to abuse by not acting and is morally culpable.

The media coverage has been relentless, and the commentary has often been vicious. Even the occasion of the Holy Father’s Easter homily and Urbi et Orbi (“To the City and to the World”) address have been used as an occasion to blast Benedict XVI for not addressing the scandal in his remarks.

I could dedicate a lengthy post to where the media, the New York Times and others have gotten even the simplest facts wrong in their coverage. Many have done so already, far better than I can ever do. Unfortunately, any criticism of the reporting has been interpreted as a defense of the priests that perpetrated these abuses and of the Church leaders who often showed poor judgment in not acting quickly nor forcefully enough to remove the offenders from their positions and bring in civil authorities to enforce the law. Well-meaning Catholics do not seem able to attempt to point out the truth without being labeled as supporters of child rape.

So how do we respond? I have struggled with this, myself. Too often, in the last few weeks, I have resembled Peter wildly swinging a sword, hoping to take an ear of MSNBC or CNN along the way.

I need to sheath my sword. Catholics need to sheath our swords. Hostility will only worsen the problem. The world does not want to hear us even try to defend ourselves, or our Church, as defense implies justification. We don’t need a public relations firm, we need only rely on the greatest communicator and truth teller the world has ever known. We need to do what He tells us to do: tell our Church to come clean (it has been), not make excuses, and leave the hostility to those who have no stake in the matter.

The Church has encountered uproar and tumult in the past and always emerged better and stronger. To Catholics who question the Church today, I remind you of a great question from the Catholic apologist Tim Staples: “Why would you leave Peter because of Judas?” Why even would you leave Peter because of…Peter? The man who denied Jesus three times and was justly castigated by Paul for ignoring a basic teaching of the Lord is the same man entrusted with our Church.

The Church is, indeed, comprised of sinners. Every one of us. Instead of fighting against those who attack us for our sins, we need to refocus on the sins themselves. Non-Catholics generally disagree with how we read Matthew 16:18, but, to Catholics, do not forget what Jesus promised. Whatever we may think of the media coverage of today, it pales in comparison to the gates of Hell.


Preparing for death so we can live

When I was seven-years-old, I swore off green beans for 40 days. At eight, I learned that the true reason that I was supposed to give up something for Lent was to show that I loved Jesus more than what I was giving up. I loved Jesus so much more than doing my chores. My mom didn’t agree that chores presented a reasonable Lenten sacrifice, and she had powerful allies. Our Parish Priest and assorted nuns at school confirmed that allowing over six weeks of filth to accumulate in my bedroom was not in keeping with the spirit of Lent. Even today, I would much rather give up homework than chocolate or Xanga but I know better. I know today that Lent is not the opportunity for a New Year’s resolution do-over.

When millions of us take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”), and receive our traditional ashes on our foreheads the next day, we will be starting a period that is not just about giving something up, but about bringing ourselves closer to Jesus Christ. While the most well-known practice of Lent is doing without luxuries, as well as fasting and avoiding meat, it is this practice that is least related to what Lent truly means. We often speak very publicly of what we are setting aside, be it alcohol, caffeine, television, sugar or sex (many try). In fact we speak so publicly and loudly of it, that we seem to need the reminders of our Ash Wednesday Gospel readings from Matthew 6 so much more as our pride, hypocrisy and gloominess often appear to know no bounds. It is these three things that Jesus speaks of–almsgiving, prayer, and fasting–that make up the Christian unification with Christ in the desert. For Catholics, Wednesday begins one of the two seasons of preparation for the cores of the Christian calendar; Lent being our preparation for Easter and Advent for Christmas. We should ask ourselves, though, is giving up candy or American Idol  actually bringing us closer to our Lord, or is it just a way to go through the motions and make ourselves feel better? There is nothing wrong with giving something up, in fact we should, except that we should focus on testing ourselves while simultaneously doing those things that make us more like Christ. Do without something that truly requires discipline to avoid, while adding something that equally requires commitment. For example, make peace with your sworn enemy, or right a long-past wrong. All the while pray without ceasing and perhaps literally leave yourself with just one coat.

Lent is our preparation for death. The death of Good Friday. It is a call to kill all the personal needs that scream for our attention so that we hear only Jesus Christ. It is when we kill our selfishness, our desire, our greed, our worldly tastes that we become ready to have life, resurrected, on Easter Sunday.