Monday, September 22, 2014

Are we looking at the American Pope Francis in Chicago? | John L. Allen Jr. | CRUX

In American Catholic terms, Chicago always has been a land of giants. There have been nine Catholic archbishops in the Windy City, and for better or worse, they’ve all been larger-than-life figures.
In the early 20th century, Cardinal George Mundelein was an FDR enthusiast who mobilized the resources of the Catholic Church to respond to the Great Depression, and frequently sparred with the infamous “radio priest,” that Rev. Charles Coughlin, over his anti-Semitic and quasi-fascist demagoguery. The archdiocesan seminary in Chicago today bears Mundelein’s name.
To take another example, Cardinal John Cody, who ruled Chicago with an iron first during the 1960s and ’70s, was a lightning rod described by the priest-novelist Andrew Greeley as a “madcap tyrant.” Cody’s notoriety was also flavored with scandal He is alleged to have funneled large sums of church money to support a woman believed by many to have been his mistress.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the prelates who have ruled Chicago have been impossible to ignore.
More recently, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin embodied the progressive reform energies unleashed by the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s. During the 1970s and ’80s, Bernardin played a key behind-the-scenes role from Chicago as a power-broker in the national bishops’ conference, leading it to oppose the Reagan administration over military policy and to embrace the cause of the poor.
In many ways, Bernardin was the American John XXIII, the “Good Pope” who called Vatican II.
By contrast, Cardinal Francis George is more the American Benedict XVI, a brilliant intellectual committed to a robust defense of Catholic identity and tradition. During his own run as president of the national conference, George led the bishops in their fight with the Obama administration over the contraception mandates imposed as part of health care reform, framing the issue in terms of religious freedom.
All of which brings us to 65-year-old Blase Cupich, appointed by Pope Francis on Saturday to succeed George as the ninth Archbishop of Chicago.
The question is, are we looking at the American Francis?
There’s nothing a pope does as fundamental to shaping culture in the Catholic Church as appointing bishops, and that’s especially true for major pace-setting venues around the world. Chicago is on a short list with Milan, Paris, and Westminster as spots where popes have a chance to put their stamp firmly on the church in a wide chunk of the world.
To date, Francis has made a handful of those tone-setting choices, in Cologne, Germany; Madrid, Spain, and Sydney, Australia. His pick for Chicago brings the total to four, and by now we have a fairly clear picture of what Francis wants.
  • First, he wants moderates rather than ideologues, men who will defend church teaching but whose first instinct isn’t political confrontation, and who keep lines of communication open with all camps.
  • Second, he wants bishops of the “Social Gospel,” meaning leaders with a special concern for the poor, for immigrants, and for those at what he’s called the “existential peripheries” of the world.
  • Third, he wants men who see themselves as pastors rather than bureaucrats or diplomats, shepherds who, in his memorable image, “carry the smell of their sheep” because they’re close to the ordinary people they’re called to serve.
By all accounts, that’s what Francis has got in Cupich, an Omaha native whose previous job was as the bishop of Spokane in Washington.
Cupich is identified with the moderate wing of the American bishops, which has always been uncomfortable with the perception that Catholicism had become the new leader of the religious right. He irked some pro-life activists, for instance, by asking his priests and seminarians not to pray in front of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics, seeing it as an unnecessarily provocative gesture.
The new archbishop is also a man of the church’s social mission, with a clear commitment to reaching out to the suffering. Among other things, he’s led a committee within the bishops’ conference dedicated to reform on the child sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the church, saying a few years ago that he’s come to see the encounter with victims as a “template” for everything he does as a priest and a bishop.
On a personal level, Cupich is known as gracious and accessible. Actually, one of the few reservations people had about him when his name was mentioned for Chicago was whether he has a big enough personality to play on that stage.
Of course, people had the same question about Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires prior to his election as pope, and we know how that turned out.
By virtue of Chicago’s history, and because from here on in Cupich will be known as Francis’ man — his first major appointment in America — the success or failure of the Francis revolution on these shores will rest to some extent on Cupich’s shoulders.
Seeing if he grows into the role will, therefore, be the primary Catholic drama in the Windy City for a long time to come.
BlaseCupich4C-717x450.jpg

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"You mean he gets away with it?"

My Mom & Dad
HOMILY FOR THE 25th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, September 21, 2014:

Six years ago, I received the most spectacular phone call of my life. My Dad, who was 68 years-old at the time, called me and said exactly two words to me: “I’m ready.” I knew just what those words meant. My Dad, who many of us had prayed would become a Catholic for many years was finally ready to accept the grace of Baptism in his life. To this day, the absolute honor of my priesthood was the opportunity to Baptize, Confirm and give First Communion to my own Dad. My Mom served as his sponsor, or godmother, and leading up to the day of his Baptism the three of us would gather and talk about issues of faith as part of his catechesis to prepare him to enter the Church. During one of these sessions, my Mom said, with some satisfaction, “You know what Scott? Now, you have to go to confession!” However, her satisfaction was quickly deflated when I explained that actually he didn’t – that baptism forgives all of his sins. I would, of course, invite my Dad to make a good examination of his conscience, to call to mind specifically all of the things that he would like God to forgive, but for him, Baptism would be his sacrament of reconciliation for everything up to that point. Mom’s response? “You mean he gets away with it?”

Of course, this made me think of today’s parable of the workers in the vineyard who all received the same reward no matter when it was that they came to work in the field. We know how the story goes, some are there all day “bearing the burden of the day and the heat”, some are there about half the day, some come at the very end – but all receive the same reward. And, those that got there early are not very happy about it. “You mean they get away with it?”

The answer – indeed, they do. Indeed, we do. Whether we came to the Lord early or late or over and over again, there really isn’t anything we can do to earn what Jesus gives us in offering us salvation. Jesus isn’t rewarding us for a job well done. Instead, Jesus gives us this parable today so that we might be more profoundly aware of the great generosity of God, who despite our unworthiness still desires to bring us to Himself anytime we come, early or late or over and over again. Jesus asks us to ponder a simple question today: Do we see ourselves as family with a common purpose or do we see ourselves as a competitive individuals, each with their own agenda? We call ourselves brothers and sisters. Why then do we often see and treat one another as rivals and competitors?

Family, I think, is the key to understanding today’s parable of the workers. For the early-bird workers who ended up being reprimanded by the landowner it was all a business affair. Their working in the vineyard was preceded by a detailed contract regarding their wages: a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. The latecomers were less legalistic in their approach. They took the job trusting in the landowner’s word of honor. “He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’” And, the ones employed in the sixth, ninth and eleventh hours were told nothing whatsoever about payment. “He said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’“ There is no employer-employee contract here. Everything is based on trust. These later workers approached the work with a family spirit.

This parable reminds us that the Kingdom is really a family much more than a society. A society is characterized by us-and-them, by rivalry, competition and the survival of the fittest. A family, on the other hand, is all “US” and no “them.” It is characterized by love and compassion, not competition. If the latecomers were family members of the early birds, the early birds would have rejoiced with them at their good fortune rather than grumbling.

Today we are invited to think about our own notions of the Kingdom of Heaven and God’s generosity and challenged to see God’s promised Kingdom truly as a family where our joy and our greatest desire is to see everyone with us in Heaven – no matter when they finally turn to the Lord; just like God does.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a family drawn together by the love of their Father, lead and guided through the example of Jesus their Brother, motivated out of their love for each other, driven by their desire to help one another, called to be holy, working towards eternal life, saved and transfigured and united as one.

May the Lord give you peace.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

God always restores hope | Pope Francis

“Closeness and compassion: this is how the Lord visits His people. And when we want to proclaim the Gospel, to bring forth the word of Jesus, this is the path. The other path is that of the teachers, the preachers of the time: the doctors of the law, the scribes, the Pharisees … who distanced themselves from the people, with their words: they spoke well. They taught the law well. But they were distant. And this was not a visit of the Lord: It was something else. The people did not feel this to be a grace, because it lacked that closeness, it lacked compassion, it lacked that essence of suffering with the people. 

When God visits His people he restores hope to them. Always. You can preach the Word of God brilliantly: there have been many excellent preachers throughout history. But if these preachers have failed to sow hope, that sermon is useless. It is mere vanity. And so we ask for the grace that our Christian witness be a witness that brings the closeness of God to His people, that closeness that sows hope."


- Pope Francis, daily homily, September 16, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

"Jim lived it!" | Bishop Peter Labasci

NOTE: I have been so touched, moved and saddened by the tragic death of journalist James Foley.  At the same time, I have been so inspired by what an incredible witness of faith his life was, his reliance on prayer in the midst of the most difficult moments, and his commitment to sharing the truth of the plight of those affected by war.  What keeps coming to mind for me is the reality that Jim Foley was truly a saint in the truest sense of the word. A Mass of Remembrance was held yesterday to honor him in his hometown in New Hampshire and Bishop Peter Labasci delivered a powerful and poignant homily. I didn't get through it with dry eyes and I share it with you today. Let his faith inspire each of us to embrace the commitment of our own baptism more profoudly. - FT

In the name of all in our Diocese and in union with our Holy Father Pope Francis, who, with great sensitivity and pastoral tenderness, personally conveyed his condolences, and by way of his Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, who sent written confirmation of those greetings, and indeed, since this moment in our lives is international in scope, crossing all boundaries, yet bound together by a deep sense of human compassion and heartfelt remorse, I wish to extend to you in the name of all people of good will our deepest sympathy, our continued prayer and our pledge to keep the witness of James’ life as a personal call to faith, courage and love.

When parents bring their child to the Church to be Baptized, they are asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church for your child?” Some will respond, “Baptism”; some: “To share God’s life”; some: “To have the gift of Faith”. The answers may differ slightly, but in each case, the parents always seem to look at the child as they make their response, as if to say – “I want God to love you as much as I do – always, always! No matter what, I want you to know how much God loves you, always, always, no matter what.”

That is the child’s introduction to the Sacrament of Baptism: the parents formally introducing their child to God who created this little life. It is a tender moment, a beautiful moment – a child’s innocence and the parents’ tender and loving pride.

Yet, as in all of life in this world, sin and evil and their effects are very real. And so, before the waters of baptism are poured, another set of questions is posed:

“Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?” - “I do!”

“Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you?” - “I do!”

“Do you renounce Satan the author and prince of sin?” - “I do!”

These questions are not mere formularies, they probe the very heart, they ask us if we are willing to stand for something better, something beyond self-interest, beyond devious manipulation, beyond bitterness, beyond despair. These questions ask us if we have the courage to stand up bravely as that child of God over whom our parents looked proudly when they said, “I want this child to have the gift of Faith. I want this little life to share God’s life.”

Our Baptismal Promises call us to respond: “I do will it.” And surely, our Baptismal promises are renewed several times during the year, it is true, but as we gather here today we remember James Foley, whose adult life exemplified that passion for life as a child of God to which we are all called.

In a special way today, we are challenged to be mindful of the needs of others. We are challenged to be true to our Faith, especially when most challenged to doubt. We are challenged to see the world through a different lens and to hear the world’s voice as the voices of individuals – people – children, mothers, fathers, the elderly who were once strong and sleek but now rely on loving hearts to steady them. We are challenged to hear the cries a world away and those cries right in our own homes. We are challenged to be our best selves and, in a very personal way, we are challenged to renew our Baptismal promises daily – each day – daily renouncing sin and refusing to be mastered by evil; renewing our desire to live bravely and with passion the life of a true child of God.

To help us to remember how to do this in a practical way, we might well pray The prayer of Saint Francis:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much
Seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

To this, I think we can say “Yes, I wish I could do that”. But it is not beyond our capability; it’s not impossible. Our Lord lived it. Our Most Blessed Mother lived it. Many Saints have lived it. Jim lived it!

Mr. & Mrs. Foley, I began my remarks by remembering the beginnings of the Baptismal rite, but now I want to remind you of what was said at its conclusion, for I think, today it is most apt. As you held your newly baptized son in your arms and were about to go forth with him into the world, Mrs. Foley, this blessing was prayed over you: “God the Son, the Virgin Mary’s child, has brought joy to all Christian mothers as they see the hope of eternal life shine on their child. May He bless the Mother of this child; she now thanks God for the gift of her son. May she be one with him in thanking God forever in Heaven in Christ Jesus Our Lord.”

And Mr. Foley, this was the blessing prayed over you on that very same occasion: “God is the Father of all life, human and divine. May he bless the father of this child. He with his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of Faith. May they be the best of teachers, bearing witness to the Faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus Our Lord.” Rarely do we recall these words, but I bring them to mind for you and for all of us as they are most poignant, most prophetic and most precious, especially today.

The gift of family life, the depth and richness of Faith that a family is graced to hand on to its children and the gifts that each person can bring to the world, encourage us to live the new life of Grace with an eye toward the beauty of the Kingdom of God. This is what the heart seeks; this is what God wants for all His children.

As we turn now to Almighty God and offer the gift of His Son, let us receive the gift of His Grace and the promise of life everlasting. And may Almighty God grant peace to James and to all our fragile world.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Heaven on Earth

HOMILY FOR THE 17th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 26, 2014:

A teacher, a tax collector, and a politician wound up together at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter informed them that in order to get into Heaven, they would each have to answer one question. St. Peter addressed the teacher wanting to make it easy and asked, “What was the name of that ship that crashed into the iceberg? They made a big movie about it.” The teacher answered quickly, “That would be the Titanic.” St. Peter let her through the gate. St. Peter then looked at the tax collector, and decided to make the question a little harder: “How many people died on the ship?” As fortune would have it, he was a big fan of the History Channel and answered, “1,228.” “That's right! You may enter,” St. Peter said. And then, turning his gaze to the politician, St. Peter said, “Name them.” 



Have you ever thought about what Heaven is like? Maybe you, like me, had the chance to see the movie Heaven is For Real recently, or perhaps you read the book. It is a purportedly true story that answers just that very question and in the affirmative. Most of us, at one point or another, think about this eternal question. Is there a Heaven and what is it like? And this is the question that Jesus explores in our Gospel today. Jesus also gives us an affirmative answer about Heaven and even some insight about what it is like giving us several images to help explain the Kingdom of Heaven.

Praying with this Gospel reminded me of a very special experience a little more than 10 years ago when I had the opportunity to be at a Wednesday Audience with Saint Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square. At that audience, the Holy Father reflected on the same passage we have before us today. He said to us that the Kingdom of Heaven is not a destination always awaiting us, but an intimate relationship with God that can be experienced – at least partially – here on earth. He said, Heaven “is not an abstraction, nor a physical place amid the clouds, but a living and personal relationship with God.”

The Saint’s comments mirror those that we hear from Jesus today. Heaven is clearly one of Jesus’ favorite topics, particularly in Matthew’s Gospel. In His very first sermon recorded in Matthew, Jesus said simply, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” In the Sermon on the Mount, He declared, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” and “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Over and over again – a total of 51 times in Matthew – Jesus uses this favorite phrase of His: the Kingdom of Heaven. It should also be a favorite of ours as well.

So, what can we know about this Kingdom? Well, Saint John Paul reminded us that it is not “a physical place among the clouds.” And, don’t we all often imagine Heaven in some pretty extraordinary and supernatural ways – streets lined with gold, great and glorious mansions, all the food you can eat and not gain an ounce! We imagine some sort of celestial castle nestled in the clouds, twinkling stars and bright rainbows. Angels everywhere, zooming around God’s throne; the air alive with the sound of magnificent music.

But, Jesus simply compares the Kingdom to very down-to-earth things. No castle, no clouds, no angels, stars or rainbows or music. Rather, Jesus presents us with a farmer sowing seeds, weeds growing in a wheat field, a tiny mustard seed, a piece of yeast and today – a buried treasure, a merchant’s find of a precious pearl and a fishnet thrown into the lake. Now that’s not meant to burst our bubble or lower our expectations, but to remind us that the Kingdom is both heavenly and earthly. Jesus also makes this point when He gave us the Our Father, “Your Kingdom come…on earth as in heaven.”

So, our Gospel begs the question of us today - where is our treasure? And what might our treasure be? Is it in gold or riches, in power or fame? What is Jesus talking about, this buried treasure, this pearl of great price which we are supposed to have found? Where do we find this unique mix of heavenly and earthly reality?

And the answer is right here in this Church. The closest we can ever come to this dual dimension of heaven and earth is the Church and the Sacraments. The Church itself is the sign of our intimate union with God in heaven and with all humanity on earth. The mission of the Church is to proclaim and establish the Kingdom of God among all people. The Second Vatican Council said that the Church “becomes on earth the initial budding forth of that Kingdom of God.”

So, where is your treasure? Do we really consider the Church, and our parish community, to be our buried treasure and our pearl of great price? We are far luckier than the individuals in the Gospel today. They had to first sell all they had and buy the field where the treasure was buried and to buy the pearl. But for us, the Kingdom of Heaven is a free gift from God. Jesus is the one who found and bought the precious pearl and the buried treasure – and He paid for them with the price of His own life on the cross – all FOR US. But far from hiding and hoarding His treasures, He now and forever shares them with us freely. And, every time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we enjoy a taste of Heaven right here. The dividing lines between Heaven and Earth are erased; God comes downs and makes our gifts holy; we sing with angels and saints, “Holy, holy, holy.”

Our treasure, our precious pearl of membership in the Church as the chosen and beloved People of God is the gift that all the money in the world cannot even begin to buy. Our prize of the Sacraments is nothing less than God’s immense and intense love leading us to our ultimate prize - eternal life.

Saint John Paul said, “When this world has passed away, those who accepted God in their lives and were sincerely open to His love…will enjoy that fullness of communion with God which is the goal of human existence.” And it is possible to get a taste of Heaven on earth through the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist which is such a profound meeting place of Heaven on Earth, such a great foretaste of the happiness and peace and communion which we will one day know perfectly with God in Heaven.

Where is your treasure? “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven.”

May the Lord give you peace!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Letting weeds become wheat

HOMILY FOR THE 16th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 20, 2014:

Growing up, as a young boy, Sunday nights always had a ritual. You quickly took your Sunday night bath so that you could be in front of the TV in time for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, followed by The Wonderful World of Disney and Little House on the Prairie. Now, Wild Kingdom in particular was always exciting because inevitably Marlin Perkins would come face-to-face with something ferocious – a lion, a tiger, a bear (oh my?). And it would be exciting.

I was thinking of this recently because I never expected to experience such a ferocious encounter of the wild living here in the concrete jungle, but when grilling some chicken in the small alleyway between the friary and church a week and a half ago, I suddenly found myself dodging a very angry pigeon that was dive-bombing in my direction in a great flurry. Why? Well, I quickly discovered the answer. This was a mother pigeon protecting two eggs next to the air conditioner unit for the Church and I apparently was a threat. So, I gave Mama her space.

I was then away for a week and came back home on Friday and was eager to see if I had any new pigeon chicks in the alleyway. What I saw was the Mom protecting one cute little chick, and the second egg cast outside of the nest. And, that was a really sad sight – to see the Mom protecting one, but having completely cast off another of her children. But, of course, I reminded myself that that was simply the way of nature. That’s the way it sometimes goes. Some make it, some don’t.

We heard in our Gospel today, “His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull the weeds up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest.”

Now, unlike the chicks in my alley, Jesus gives us a different image from nature today – that of wheat and weeds. So, what is He trying to tell us today through this image? To put this image into context, I think our human nature can sometimes be like the pigeon or other animals in the wild – we want to create categories. Often enough the categories are things like us and them; who’s in and who’s out; good and bad; sinner and saint – here in the North End we have our own special categories like Mike’s or Modern’s. We tend towards being exclusionary; to judge who is better and who is worse.

Too often, even after we have come to know God in our hearts, when we have given ourselves totally to Him – we still want to create these categories. We cast aside our own sins, we seek forgiveness and reconciliation, we walk in the light of the Lord. But, something else happens – we now become acutely aware of everyone else’s sin. When we become wheat – to use Jesus’ imagery today – we see all the weeds around us. And that is the problem that Jesus is trying to get at today with this image of wheat and weeds – what we might call the old Holier-Than-Thou Syndrome. We transfer our natural human tendency towards being judgmental and exclusionary into the spiritual realm.

But, Jesus calls us to something different. He calls us not to something merely natural, but through Him, the Son of God, through His gift of the Sacraments – He invites us into the supernatural where we are no longer bound by the flawed constraints of our weak human nature. He tell us today, “Let the weeds and wheat grow together until the harvest.”

Jesus recognized – especially in the Pharisees (a name which means literally “the separated ones” by the way) – that even our holiness can become a temptation to judge others. We all know the type – we’ve all probably been like this at one point or another in our lives – we decide that we can judge spiritually who is in and who is out. Take any of today’s hot-button issues. We might decide it is someone who is divorced or who committed adultery; or someone who had an abortion. It could be someone who is just mean and hateful, someone who is gay or lesbian, someone who has stolen or even committed some other horrible crime. We look at them and we become a self-appointed judge and jury deciding their spiritual fate. But, where is God’s love and mercy in that? Where is God’s opportunity for encounter, relationship, reconciliation and forgiveness and healing in that?

The problem, of course, is that God never asked us to do any of this. Pope Francis said it much more succinctly last year when he said simply, “Who am I to judge?” It was a powerful statement coming from the Holy Father, but it is one that should come from each one of us too. Who are we to judge? There is only one judge; and it is not us – it is God, the true and only judge we will face.

But, who are we to love? Who are we to forgive? Who are we to show compassion? Who are we to reach out to the needy, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned, the refugee, the immigrant? We are. Jesus is very explicit about those things. These are our commands. This is what He asks us to do – to love, to be His loving, kind, compassionate and forgiving presence in our world. How are we doing with that?

“Let them grow together,” weeds and wheat together, Jesus tells us. Why? Well, in the Kingdom of God, something amazing can happen. Weeds can become wheat. If Jesus, through His grace and mercy, can transform mere bread and wine into His Body and Blood – as He will do again in front of our very eyes on this altar today – then surely He can also turn weeds into wheat. Perhaps some of us here – maybe many of us here, maybe all of us here – were once weeds ourselves, but through God’s amazing grace, have been transformed into wheat. “Let them grow together,” He says because He is giving us all the time we need to do the same. He wants all the weeds to become the beautiful wheat of His harvest.It might be nature’s way to cast off the ones who don’t look like they are going to make it. But, that is not God’s way and it most certainly should not be our way. Pope Francis said, “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven." Let’s make his words our words too.

May the Lord give you peace.

Friday, July 4, 2014

We hold these truths to be self-evident...


Happy Independence Day! Sort of. You may know that the Second Continental Congress actually voted to separate from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but it took a few days to do the paperwork. John Adams was certain that July 2nd would be commemorated as our nation's Day of Independence (since it was the actual day). So certain, he wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3, "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more." But, the Declaration itself had that "July 4th" date so prominently displayed at the top, that ended up winning the day. Some had also suggested August 2 as our national celebration since that was the day that most of the colonial representatives actually signed the document. Interesting history, but I think we can agree 238 years later, the issue is settled - HAPPY 4th!! Personally, a tradition I follow each year is to read the Declaration of Independence out loud. It is a wonderful experience. The words are powerful and often inspiring. I hope you try it:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock
New Hampshire:Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts:John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut:Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey:Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham ClarkPennsylvania:Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware:Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland:Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina:William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina:Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia:Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Welcome all into the fold of God's people | Bishop Edgar da Cunha

NOTE: It was announced today that Pope Francis has chosen Bishop Edgar da Cunha, SDV, currently Auxiliary Bishop of the Newark Diocese, to become the new Bishop of Fall River (my home Diocese).  I didn't know much about him, so I've been doing some online research this morning and so far am VERY impressed with our new shepherd.  Of course, I love that he is a fellow religious. And he certainly seems to be a man who shares the same love of the poor and immigrant that is such a hallmark of Pope Francis' pontificate. Here is an example. I found this homily on the USCCB website by Bishop da Cunha. It reminds me of a favorite quote of Pope Francis, "Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven." This homily by Bishop da Cunha was delivered on May 8, 2010:

Bishop Edgar da Cunha, SDV
In our first reading from Acts 16:1-10 Luke tells us that the apostles decided that gentiles need not be circumcised or follow Jewish law and that , as a result, “the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number.” What better result could we hope for, what else could we want? But what can we do today to make our “Church grow in faith and increase in number”? We need to imitate the action of the apostles and welcome all into the fold of God’s people. 

In contrast to the attitude of the apostles was the way African slaves were treated. Tens of thousands of them were captured and sold for labor in the New World from the 16th to the 19th Century. Before they were hauled into the ships, they were required to go through a ritual where they were stripped naked and had to go around the “Tree of Forgetfulness.” Men went around it nine times and women and children seven times. After that they went through the “Gate of No Return”. This ritual was meant to have them forget who they were, their background, their traditions, customs, religion, and all they were. It was like reformatting your hard drive. Huge efforts were made to cut them off from their past, but they failed. The “Tree of Forgetfulness” did not work. They could take the slaves out of Africa but they could never take Africa out of the slaves.

We can take people out of their land, their home, their country, but we cannot take these vital memories and roots out of them. So, we might as well embrace them with their uniqueness, their differences, their language, their culture, and tradition. That is the way the Church is going to “grow stronger in faith and increase in number.” 

We know that uniformity is not possible and it shouldn’t even be desired. So, our effort is not for uniformity but for unity. We all remember the song from Carry Landry: “There is a time for building bridges and that time is NOW. Take our hearts, Lord, take our minds, take our hands and make them ONE.” We know how difficult this task is, but we must never stop praying for it and working on it.

We know we can catch more flies with one drop of honey than with a barrel of vinegar. Unfortunately when some of the people knock on the doors of our churches they are given vinegar. We want to serve them honey.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

"The love of Jesus must suffice!" | Pope Francis | Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

SOLEMNITY OF STS. PETER AND PAUL, June 29, 2014 | Homily of Pope Francis:

On this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal patrons of Rome, we welcome with joy and gratitude the Delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch, our venerable and beloved brother Bartholomaios, and led by Metropolitan Ioannis. Let us ask the Lord that this visit too may strengthen our fraternal bonds as we journey toward that full communion between the two sister Churches which we so greatly desire.

“Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod” (Acts 12:11). When Peter began his ministry to the Christian community of Jerusalem, great fear was still in the air because of Herod’s persecution of members of the Church. There had been the killing of James, and then the imprisonment of Peter himself, in order to placate the people. While Peter was imprisoned and in chains, he heard the voice of the angel telling him, “Get up quickly… dress yourself and put on your sandals… Put on your mantle and follow me!” (Acts 12:7-8). The chains fell from him and the door of the prison opened before him. Peter realized that the Lord had “rescued him from the hand of Herod”; he realized that the Lord had freed him from fear and from chains. Yes, the Lord liberates us from every fear and from all that enslaves us, so that we can be truly free. Today’s liturgical celebration expresses this truth well in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord has freed me from all my fears”.

The problem for us, then, is fear and looking for refuge in our pastoral responsibilities.

I wonder, dear brother bishops, are we afraid? What are we afraid of? And if we are afraid, what forms of refuge do we seek, in our pastoral life, to find security? Do we look for support from those who wield worldly power? Or do we let ourselves be deceived by the pride which seeks gratification and recognition, thinking that these will offer us security? Dear brother Bishops, where do we find our security?

The witness of the Apostle Peter reminds us that our true refuge is trust in God. Trust in God banishes all fear and sets us free from every form of slavery and all worldly temptation. Today the Bishop of Rome and other bishops, particularly the metropolitans who have received the pallium, feel challenged by the example of Saint Peter to assess to what extent each of us puts his trust in the Lord.

Peter recovered this trust when Jesus said to him three times: “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21: 15,16,17). Peter thrice confessed his love for Jesus, thus making up for his threefold denial of Christ during the passion. Peter still regrets the disappointment which he caused the Lord on the night of his betrayal. Now that the Lord asks him: “Do you love me?”, Peter does not trust himself and his own strength, but instead entrusts himself to Jesus and his mercy: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). Precisely at this moment fear, insecurity and cowardice dissipate.

Peter experienced how God’s fidelity is always greater than our acts of infidelity, stronger than our denials. He realizes that the God’s fidelity dispels our fears and exceeds every human reckoning. Today Jesus also asks us: “Do you love me?”. He does so because he knows our fears and our struggles. Peter shows us the way: we need to trust in the Lord, who “knows everything” that is in us, not counting on our capacity to be faithful, but on his unshakable fidelity. Jesus never abandons us, for he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). He is faithful. The fidelity which God constantly shows to us pastors, far in excess of our merits, is the source of our confidence and our peace. The Lord’s fidelity to us keeps kindled within us the desire to serve him and to serve our sisters and brothers in charity.

The love of Jesus must suffice for Peter. He must no longer yield to the temptation to curiosity, jealousy, as when, seeing John nearby, he asks Jesus: “Lord, what about this man?” (Jn 21:21). But Jesus, in the face of these temptations, says to him in reply: “What is it to you? Follow me” (Jn 21:22). This experience of Peter is a message for us too, dear brother archbishops. Today the Lord repeats to me, to you, and to all pastors: Follow me! Waste no time in questioning or in useless chattering; do not dwell on secondary things, but look to what is essential and follow me. Follow me without regard for the difficulties. Follow me in preaching the Gospel. Follow me by the witness of a life shaped by the grace you received in baptism and holy orders. Follow me by speaking of me to those with whom you live, day after day, in your work, your conversations and among your friends. Follow me by proclaiming the Gospel to all, especially to the least among us, so that no one will fail to hear the word of life which sets us free from every fear and enables us to trust in the faithfulness of God. Follow me!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Living the Trinity

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, June 15, 2014:

(This is a homily that I have delivered in the past on Trinity Sunday)

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – the mystery of God as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in one God. It is perhaps one of the most challenging mysteries of the faith to understand from an intellectual perspective. How can three things be one? St. Patrick famously tried to explain this using the image of the shamrock – three leaves, yet one shamrock. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about the Trinity, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the mystery of God in Himself…The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to people.” Does that clear things up for you? Probably not. And yet, I think we can come to a better understanding of the Trinity in our lives.

We all remember what we did at the beginning of Mass today. It is the same thing we do at the beginning of every Mass. We did this and please join me. + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. It is a familiar gesture that we do often more as a reflex than a conscious movement. But it is a gesture that points to today’s feast. When we are conscious of what we are doing in that act, it is a simple act of faith in the complexity of God who is revealed to us in the mystery of the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit.

I say “revealed to us” because we wouldn’t have a clue about the Trinity if Jesus didn’t tell us about it. Jesus talked about His Father in Heaven, He talked about Himself as the Son of God, He talked about going back to Heaven and sending to us the Holy Spirit. This is what the Catechism means when it says, “The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way by which the one true God…reveals himself to people.” This is how God reveals Himself - precisely as Trinity; as three Persons in one God. Although the Trinity is a mystery revealed by God, it doesn’t mean it is mystifying; rather it is a mystery that God wants us to be drawn deeply into.

So, let’s think about the sign of the cross and how it can draw us deeply into this mystery. First we touch our forehead and say, “In the Name of the Father…” When I hear those words, I think of the beauty of the trees, and flowers and plant life coming into bloom this time of year; I recall beautiful red sunsets at the beach as the setting sun shimmers on the water; the grandeur of the mountains; the feel of the warm breeze in Spring; I think of all the beautiful children who received First Communion last month; the giggling and crying babies baptized; and the pride and happiness on the faces of their parents. I think of all these things because God the Father is the Creator of a beautiful world – something we should always be aware of and should always cause us to marvel at His nature! That finger on my forehead is a reminder not only of a Creator but of God so totally in love with us that He sent His only Son to draw us back into His embrace. This same Father we speak of as “Our Father who art in Heaven.”

Next we move to our chest, to the place where our heart resides and say, “and of the Son.” Here I think of the love the Son of God showed us when He multiplied the loaves for the hungry, when He reached across the social and racial barriers of His time to the Samaritans, when He made room at His table for outcasts and sinners, when He chased the scavengers away from woman caught in adultery hungry for her blood, when He gave the ultimate and agonizing proof of His love for us on the cross. “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”

And then we move to our shoulders and say, “and of the Holy Spirit.” We recall the Holy Spirit who gives so widely of Himself that it takes the full span of our shoulders to remind us of that – left to right, from one side of the world to the other. And I think of God’s desire to be close to all of us; to be your friend and my friend, to be in your heart and my heart; to be in Boston, in Los Angeles, in Afghanistan, in Jerusalem, Rome, Tokyo and every corner of this world – all at the same time. I think of the Holy Spirit as a power in my life – the power in my life – as a great force for goodness and holiness, as one to turn to when decisions are to be made, as one who consoles me through difficult moments in my life. With the Holy Spirit around, no one is ever alone. God in His Holy Spirit is always with us. What we span in blessing, the Holy Spirit strengthens in life so that we may better shoulder our burdens and responsibilities.

And so, we come to the end of the blessing – the joining of hands and the concluding, “Amen.” And we remind ourselves that the word “amen” means “so be it;” it is itself an expression of assent, in itself an act of faith in all that has gone before. And so with my “amen” I renew my faith. I believe in you Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

My brothers and sisters, may all the signs of the cross we ever make be nothing less than a proclamation of our belief in a God who has revealed Himself to us as Trinity; as Father, Son and Spirit. May it signal our grateful acceptance of God’s love and our willingness to share that love with others. May the hands we join in faith be generous in giving and eager in helping others. May the shared life and love of the Trinity be reflected in our lives too. This is the lived, real meaning of the Most Holy Trinity in our lives.

And may God bless us all in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pope to Priests: How is your love today, the love of Jesus? Is it like first love?

(Vatican Radio) Priests must be pastors first, scholars second, and they should never forget Christ, their "first love".  This was Pope Francis’ message to all men consecrated to God in the priesthood, at Friday morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta.
"How is your first love?". That is, are they still as in love with you as the first day? Are they happy with you or so they ignore you?These are universal questions which we should all ask ourselves regularly, says Pope Francis.And not just couples, but priests, bishops too, in front of Jesus.  Because He asks us just as he one day asked Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me?".
The Pope began his homily reflecting on the this dialogue in the Gospel where Christ asks the first of the Apostles three times if he loves Him more than others: "This is the question I ask myself, my brother bishops and priests: how is your love today, the love of Jesus? Is it like first love? Am I as in love today as on the first day? Or does work and worries lead me to look at other things, and forget love a little? There are arguments in marriage. That's normal. When there is no love, there are no arguments: it breaks. Do I argue, with the Lord? This is a sign of love. This question that Jesus asks of Peter brings him to first love. Never forget your first love.Never".
In addition to this first aspect, says Pope Francis, there are three others to be considered in relation to a priest’s dialogue with Jesus. First of all – before study, before wanting to become "a scholar of of philosophy or theology or patrology – [a priest must be ] a "shepherd", as Jesus urged Peter: "Feed my sheep". The rest, says the Pope, comes "after":
"Feed. With theology, philosophy, with patrology, with what you study, but feed. Be the shepherd. For the Lord has called us to this. And the bishop's hands on our head is to be shepherds. This is a second question, is not it? The first is: 'How is your first love?'. This, the second: 'Am I a shepherd, or an employee of this NGO that is called the Church?'. There is a difference. Am I a shepherd? A  question that I have to ask myself, that bishops need to ask, even priests: all of us. Feed. Lead. Go forward".
Pope Francis continued,  there is no "glory" or "majesty” for the pastor consecrated to Jesus: "No, brother. You will end up in the most common, even humiliating circumstances: in bed, having to be fed, dressed ... useless, sick ... ". It is our destiny is "to end up like Him": Love that dies "as the seed of wheat, that will bear fruit. But I will not see it".
Finally, the fourth aspect, the "strongest word", with which Jesus concludes his conversation with Peter, "Follow me!".
"If we have lost the way or do not know how to respond to love, we do not know how to respond to being pastors, we do not know how to respond or we do not have the certainty that the Lord will not abandon us even in the worst moments of life, in sickness. He says, 'Follow me'. This is our certainty. In the footsteps of Jesus. On that path. 'Follow me”.
Pope Francis concludes, may the Lord give all of us priests and bishops "the grace to always find or remember our first love, to be pastors, not to be ashamed of ending up humiliated on a bed or even losing our faculties. And that He always give us the grace to follow Jesus, in the footsteps of Jesus: the grace to follow Him".

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Why Tea Party Catholicism Is a No Go | TIME Magazine

Pope Francis and the Catholic Church increasingly have little patience with libertarian economic thought: this will clearly pose a problem to some lawmakers in Washington.

Is Tea Party Catholicism dead as a legitimate political stance within the Catholic Church? That’s what Pope Francis’s close Honduran cardinal-advisor Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga is arguing.
During his keynote address at a June 3rd forum hosted by The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, Rodriguez—defending Pope Francis’s economic teachings—derided the current economic system for being built on what he called the “new idol of libertarianism.” “The libertarianism de-regulation of the markets and financial market is much to the disadvantage of the poor,” he said. “This economy kills.”
Rodriguez and Cupich’s words are especially provocative within the United States, where the marriage between economic libertarianism and religious values have been hotly debated in recent times. Just last year, the Acton Institute’s Samuel Gregg published Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing. Drawing heavily on the writings of the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll, the controversial book argued that the faith’s social tradition has a deep respect for libertarian governing values. It was roundly rejected by Catholic progressives in the United States, most notably the National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters.Rodriguez’s blunt assessment of today’s economic system was echoed by American Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Washington. Speaking directly to “Catholics and believers in our country who are challenged by the pope’s words about income distribution, protection of worker’s rights, and the role of governments in regulating the economy both nationally and internationally,” Cupich reminded them that Francis’s teaching was not his alone, but was “tethered to a rich tradition.” In particular, Cupich referenced Benedict XVI’s 2009 groundbreaking social justice encyclical Caritas in Veritate.
At time goes on, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Francis and the Church have little patience with libertarian economic thought. This will clearly pose a problem to lawmakers in Washington.
Catholic politician Paul Ryan first comes to mind. The Wisconsin Congressman had at one time been an ardent follower of Ayn Rand, the stalwart Libertarian author and activist. Ryan claimed to disavow her in 2012 because her philosophy was rooted in atheism. That didn’t seem to affect his politics though.
For four consecutive years the chairman of the House Budget Committee has proposed budgets that have been criticized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as morally deficient. Ryan’s budget cuts crucial programs that serve the poorest and most marginalized people in our nation, while providing unnecessary tax breaks for the wealthiest of Americans.
Paul Ryan pushed back in April 2012, arguing in a speech at Georgetown University that his budget and governing philosophy was rooted in Catholic teaching. Ryan came under criticism from a large number of Catholic academics for misrepresenting Catholic teaching in explaining his budgetary policies. The criticism peaked that summer, when Catholic women religious from across the nation under the leadership of Sister Simone Campbell toured the country to protest the Ryan budget. Since the “Nuns on the Bus” tour in 2012 and the election of Pope Francis in 2013, Ryan has increasingly struggled to argue that his budget is acceptable under Catholic social teaching.
Now is a great opportunity for the potential 2016 presidential candidate to pivot. In an essay last December, BuzzFeed’s McKay Robbins argued that Paul Ryan experienced a political conversionafter the election of Pope Francis. The first half of 2014 suggests that such claims are either exaggerated or premature.
Fortunately it isn’t too late for the 44-year-old lawmaker to change course. But there is only one tenable way forward. It’s time for Paul Ryan to follow the Catholic Church and reject the carnival dance of the Tea Party. When the mask falls and the truth appears, we will see that this is a movement that twists reality and hurts the poor and suffering.
Let’s hope the words of Pope Francis will ring in his ears: “I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity.”
Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He helped lead national Catholic outreach for President Obama’s re-election campaign. You can follow him on Twitter @chrisjollyhale.