Friday, April 04, 2014

Priests Battle the Pouring Dark of Loneliness

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As a diocesan priest working in parish ministry for over 25 years, I have experienced rectory life with other priests for the first half and alone for the second.  Unlike priests of a religious community who live together, we diocesan priests live alone more quickly than ever.  I was ordained 14 years before becoming a pastor. Today, most priests are ordained 3 to 5 years then are appointed pastor, usually in a parish where they live alone.

Living alone is part of the diocesan priesthood but it also warrants an even more aggressive effort by every priest to seek, foster and promote sacerdotal fraternity.  When priests are alone too much, i.e., when they have no priest friends with whom they get together on a regular (monthly at least) basis,  they can succumb to unhealthy responses. Alcoholism, gambling and other addictive behavior can often tempt a priest who lives alone.  Even a strong daily prayer life is not enough. There are four pillars of priestly formation, both in the seminary and post-ordination. Spiritual, theological, pastoral and human formation and their corresponding ongoing formation are ESSENTIAL to healthy, well balanced clergy.  The Lone Ranger syndrome can creep in when priests feel alone and abandoned by their bishop and presbyterate.  Idiosyncrasies can get magnified and multiplied when a priest has no one to challenge and to support him as a peer.  I would often tell seminarians and younger clergy to make it a PRIORITY to engage in and participate in priestly FRATERNITY.  One of the goals of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (a national association of priests and deacons) is to promote such fraternity but in connection with the other pillars of ongoing formation as well.

Keeping up to date with latest Vatican and Papal documents and statements is as vital to a parish priest as a lawyer or physician who attends conferences and seminars.  Intellectual (theological) knowledge needs to be stimulated with discussion and information since we have a very sophisticated laity who read and hear about church pronouncements as soon as they are promulgated. Albeit they use the internet for their primary source, nevertheless, we live in a time where many souls get misinformed or they misinterpret current statements from popes and bishops.  Only a priest who is up to date on the latest magisterial decrees can address these issues coherently.

It is well known that priests who stop or who diminish their prayer life often have a vocation crisis and sometimes leave the active ministry. Daily and regular prayer are indispensable and yet most newly ordained spend four to six years in the seminary where daily prayer is in common and at specific times. When they get ordained and are assigned to a parish, some have difficulty making the transition to being totally responsible for their spiritual life. No more spiritual or formation directors.  Some clergy find being faithful to the Liturgy of the Hours and other devotions (rosary, etc.) as problematic due to their full schedule of parish ministry.

The "virgin martyr" syndrome is what I call it when a good and devout priest fools himself into thinking that DOING priestly work is the final end. BEING a priest is as important as DOING priestly work. This means that overextending yourself to the detriment of your health is not a prudent course for any ordained man.  If Father Joe works so hard he has no time for daily prayer, for monthly fraternity, for annual retreat, then he is cheating himself and his people.  Just as a general practitioner needs to be in good form to take care of his patients, priests need to be conscientious of their physical, mental and spiritual health and well being.  The romantic dream of a priest who works so hard that he collapses at Mass with a fatal heart attack just never happens. What does happen is that a priest can become odd, eccentric, or just weird because he no longer has healthy interaction with brother priests and with well rounded members of the laity.  He needs someone to encourage and someone to challenge him to take care of himself 100%.  Dying on the job prematurely does not provide for the spiritual needs of the parish.  Father needs his day off, his vacation as well as his retreat and monthly day of recollection (priestly fraternity) in addition to his daily routine of Mass, confessions, counseling, visiting the sick, teaching the faith, preparing homilies, et al.  Today, many pastors who live in solitary assignments spend a large amount of time in meetings and with mundane business like fixing the roof, getting a new boiler, making diocesan assessments, balancing the budget, etc.  The managerial responsibilities are legion but he can have the wise counsel of a good deacon and some competent laity to advise him as he shepherds the parish.

Burn out is one possibility. Other dangers include getting into inappropriate behavior, if not scandalous.  Other fellows can become angry and bitter as they see political shenanigans as sycophants get influential chancery positions while hard working pastors barely get a hello from the bishop at any diocesan function.  Discouragement encourages disdain and then guys become recluses, never attending any Chrism Mass, ordination or even priest funerals. The ostracization can be self imposed but it is detrimental to healthy priesthood.

Jesus sent His disciples out, "two by two" not one by one.  When priests live alone, they need to pursue some fraternity to maintain their balance. Spiritual needs are obvious and even a workaholic pastor knows he needs his annual retreat which is why it is mandated by canon law.  He also needs some regular contact and interaction with brother clergy, to pray, study and support one another.  Some dioceses have realized the importance of priestly fraternity so that three to five priests live in one rectory yet each has his own unique and separate assignment even at other parishes. During the day, Father works at the parish office but in the evening, he has dinner with other priests and lives in a common house.  This also assures that the priest has a decent and healthy diet where hot meals are provided at normal times.  Too often, priests have bad dietary habits eating fast food in a hurry or something quick at the end of a long day.  Good eating habits often are the first casualties for busy pastors and that can reduce Father's overall quality of ministry especially if he develops serious health problems.  Other places have kept the pastors in their respective rectories and parishes but have a few priests get together 3 or more days a week at a common and nearby rectory where hot meals are provided in common.  As some parishes cannot afford a full time cook with benefits, if three or more parishes split the bill, one full time cook can be hired and healthy suppers provided during the week.  This also affords time for fraternity among the brethren.

The CCC and other priestly associations provide monthly afternoons of recollection and annual seminars or conferences where priests and deacons can get together and spend some quality time in prayer, study and fraternity.  Because it is not mandatory, some priests may feel they do not need to make an effort to take precious time away from the parish for something like sacerdotal fraternity.  I think that is very, very wrong and dangerous.  Priests who live alone still NEED their brother priests.  They may not live with others in the same home but they need the fraternal support only provided by one's peers and colleagues.  Even if it is one phone call a week and one afternoon a month, priests need to make time to be with other priests.  When a priest becomes too solitary, he can be tempted with bad habits or he can get strange and somewhat unsociable.

Yes, there are some fellows who are more introverted and enjoy being by themselves.  Still, they NEED regular fraternal support and their brother clergy need THEM.  It is not just what I get out of it, rather, what I can offer and bring to the table. Many a discouraged priest can be spared the shame of leaving if just one or two peers give needed counsel and advice.  Everyone gets sick of ecclesiastical bureaucracy and politics but isolation is not an answer.  Unless one is a hermit, even diocesan parish priests need some communal dimension from time to time. Whether it is the Fraternity of Priests, Emmaus,  or the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, membership and participation in fraternal associations make a priest more balanced and even keeled.

When left alone too much and too long, Father's spiritual life may be exemplary but his emotional and social needs can be ignored and overlooked.  He may resort to some obsessive compulsive response or turn to something more nefarious.  Old, young, middle-aged, sick, retired, newly ordained and veterans; they all share in the same sacrament of Holy Orders.  Just as there is a real college of bishops, there is a solidarity in the community of priests which transcends generations and geographical borders.  In addition to the monthly chapter meetings and annual conferences, the CCC meets every five years with our Australian, British and Irish counterparts.  This international quinquennial gathering in Rome promotes ongoing priestly formation in a wonderful way.  The catholicity and universality of Holy Orders reminds us clergy that we are not lone rangers nor are we independent contractors. We are BROTHER priests who support each other in prayer and fraternally as well.

Friday, February 07, 2014


UN shows ignorance and attempts interference

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Children issued a sixteen page, 67-paragraph report on the Holy See on January 31, 2014. It exposes the utter obliviousness of the UN to the distinction between the Catholic religion and the sovereign independent nation of Vatican City. Likewise, it exposes the real agenda at the UN to deify political correctness and to usurp authority to make itself the supreme arbiter of human activity.

First of all, Vatican City is country.  Catholicism is a religion. Yes, the sovereign ruler of the smallest nation in the world is also, simultaneously, the supreme head of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the United Nations is a political entity that concerns itself with the interaction and interplay between autonomous states. It has no jurisdiction, no competence and no business interfering with any religion.  Has this august body made any criticisms or critiques to the religious and spiritual leaders of Islam, Judaism, Protestant Christianity or Eastern Orthodoxy? No and nor should it.

Vatican City is a political entity, which comprises 110 acres and has a population of approximately 840 persons. It is literally the smallest autonomous sovereign nation in the world, in both geographical and demographical size.

The Holy See, on the other hand, is the official ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church.  The Pope (Bishop of Rome) is both the supreme head of the Catholic religion and sovereign of Vatican City. Nations around the world have diplomatic relations with Vatican City and exchange ambassadors just as the United States does with Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, et al.  The papal ambassador or apostolic nuncio represents the Pope as head of Vatican City when he presents his credentials to the White House, 10 Downing Street, etc.

The UN knows this but insists on issuing a report as if Catholicism itself were a political and not just religious entity. Catholics around the world, be they clergy or laity, retain their respective autonomous citizenship in their respective nation. It was presumed that the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy in 1960 dispelled once and for all the prejudiced notion that Catholics cannot be patriotic citizens. We have no dual allegiance or loyalty. The Pope is our spiritual head.  He leads in matters of faith and morals while our individual civil leaders (whether Presidents or Prime Ministers, Kings or Queens) retain their legitimate secular authority over their citizenry.

What is most irksome is that the report ignores the progress made by the late Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in response to the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy. Any act of child abuse is reprehensible and inexcusable.  All crimes against innocent children should be vigorously prosecuted and justly punished. That applies to ALL perpetrators, however. While the press give front page coverage to every priest who sexually abuses a child, they do not give equal publicity to ministers of other religions, to scoutmasters, coaches, teachers, and family members, especially parents and siblings, who commit the same disgusting acts. Pedophilia is not limited to celibate Catholic clergy. In fact, more 75% (78.5%) of child abuse in America is identified as neglect. More than 15% (17.6%) is physical abuse and less than 10% (9.1%) is sexual abuse. Even one act of abuse, physical or sexual, is repugnant and intolerable.

Government (US Dept. of Health and Human Services) reports show that 81.5% of child abuse is perpetrated by one or both parents.  12% is done by persons not biologically or legally related to the victims.  Jerry Sandusky was not a celibate Catholic priest. He was a married man, a football coach, who was indicted on 52 counts of molestation. Is the UN going to investigate and dictate to colleges and sports programs what should be done to prevent abuse?  Billy Graham’s grandson, Boz Tchividjian, recently (Sep. 2013) said that the Evangelical Sex Abuse Record is much worse than Catholic.  Clergy of all denominations have committed abuse against minors, as have other public figures, like teachers, coaches, scoutmasters, etc. It is not a Catholic phenomenon nor is it even primarily limited to one religion, career or vocation. Protestant Ministers and Jewish Rabbis as well as Catholic Priests have been found among those who abused children. Every religion, sadly, has had some bad pastors. Yet, the UN acts as if this were a primarily Catholic issue. Statistically, a much more overwhelming number of schoolteachers have abused children in comparison to members of the clergy. Will the UN now speak to our neighborhood schools and educational facilities? What about sexual misconduct in the military?  Among politicians? 

The second egregious part of this report next to the unjust presumption that sexual abuse of children is mostly a Catholic crime, is that the report seeks to redefine and remake the Catholic religion in its own politically correct image and likeness. Suggestions (exhortations at times) proliferate the document like changing Catholic doctrine and canon law to allow abortion, contraception and same sex marriage. Yes, as incredulous as it sounds, this UN Committee recommends that children be taught and be given access to the opportunity to use reproductive health measures like abortion and birth control with the insinuation that to deny access is a form of abuse.

Unbelievable. Preposterous. Marriage should no longer be limited to just one man and one woman in a sacred, permanent and faithful covenant, according to the UN. Having children out of wedlock should be completely acceptable, according to this report. Sexual orientation and inclination of parents and children is inconsequential. The report betrays a modern myth that sexual activity is a civil right that anyone and everyone has rather than being a sacred gift from God entrusted to those united in Matrimony for the exclusive purpose of unity (love) and procreation (life). If sex is a right, then any and all forms of sex are also guaranteed, if you follow this logic. The sixth commandment applies equally to those of a homosexual orientation as to those with a heterosexual orientation. There is just one set of Commandments, one Natural Moral Law and one share human nature. There is not a separate ‘straight’ morality and a separate ‘gay or lesbian’ morality. The UN report, however, sees things differently.

Gender equality seems to eclipse person equality.  Catholic morality teaches that all human persons have equal dignity and worth. Gender equality, however, attempts to convince people, mostly children, that there are no significant differences between men and women.  The church never said one gender was better than the other. She does say that men and women are different and that difference COMPLEMENTS the human species. That is why marriage is restricted to a man and woman because the complementariness is signified with the two becoming one flesh. The UN report, however, wants the Catholic church to instruct our children that gender means nothing, especially since one can change or redefine your sex at will. You can also smell the odor and aroma of bias against church doctrine restricting ordination to males alone. Ironically, the UN does not go after the Eastern Orthodox Church or Islam, both of which have an exclusively male clergy.

The document scorns the practice of rescuing abandoned babies as adopted children may never know their biological parents. In an obscene inference, the report seems to prefer to offer unwanted or unplanned pregnant mothers the option of abortion to save their unborn child the possible inconvenience of not knowing their blood relatives. How diabolical.

Finally, the document condemns any all forms of corporal punishment, be it parents or teachers. Physical discipline is forbidden and considered a form of child abuse. While common sense and reason should discern the distinction and difference between legitimate corporal punishment and authentic physical abuse, it is the parent who decides what kind of legitimate discipline, not the state and not the United Nations. We’ve already seen a few places in the US where hospitals discriminated against Jewish parents who sought to have their infant sons circumcised according to the Hebrew religion. Political Correctness sees religion as superstition and as having no rights whatsoever.  Church and State are both natural institutions which depend and rely on the first institution, the Family (which is built on Marriage), which is the cornerstone of the other two.

The UN wants canon law amended to give women, even girls, to abortion, as a reproductive health right. The right to life of the unborn totally escapes the minds of those who wrote this idiotic document. Does the UN condemn the state enforced abortions of female babies in Communist China? What about the denial of school education to girls in countries run by radical Islamic fundamentalists? No, the UN prefers to attack the Catholic Church.

Adolescents should be given contraceptives rather than be taught the value of abstinence and chastity. That is the thinking of the UN Committee on the Rights of Children (#57).  Sexual promiscuity is perceived as a right and avoidance of STD’s and HIV/AIDS requires ‘protected sex’ instead of ‘no sex’ before marriage. Take the same logic and distribute cigarettes, alcohol and drugs to teenagers to prevent them from getting them from notorious and seedy sources. Let them experiment. Let’s go back to the hippie era. One must ask if the writers of this document have children of their own and if so, how did they raise them.

It would be laughable were it not so pathetic when the document requires that accusations and allegations be treated the same as convictions and confessed crimes. Our American jurisprudence prides itself on the primary principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That applies to every man or woman who has ever been charged with a crime. We use the term ‘accused’ and ‘alleged’ on purpose. If someone is proven guilty, then justice demands just punishment. Justice also demands that everyone be treated equally under the law.  If the state wants to dissolve the statute of limitations on sexual abuse of children, it should apply to all cases, be the accused a member of the clergy or a teacher, coach, scoutmaster, parent, neighbor, etc.  Bishops were not the only ones guilty of cover-ups. Principals, administrators, and others in all lines of business and enterprise have had their share of criminal silence.

Sad reality is that the initial intention is good, i.e., child welfare.  Protecting youth is not an option but an obligation society and culture shares with the family as the youth are our future. Prosecuting all perpetrators is a necessary component, but persecuting a religion is just another injustice. Pope Benedict XVI was accused of being lax on the issue yet just recently it was disclosed that he defrocked (technically, laicized) nearly 400 priests convicted or confessed to have abused minors. As the majority of abuse took place during the late 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s, you see the parallel with the so-called sexual revolution when Humanae Vitae was being trashed by dissenters and when the sex and drugs of the counter-culture reached an all time high. It is no excuse for this heinous and reprehensible behavior but it does give it context. Bad people (clergy and laity alike) used bad theology to justify their bad behavior.

What the UN could and ought to do is work for the end of the abuse and persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Many of these communities lived in those places three hundred years of more before Mohammed ever established Islam. The Gospels of Jesus Christ were read and proclaimed long before the Koran, yet instead of peaceful coexistence, we see bombings, murders, and terrorism against men, women and children whose only crime is their faith and religion. There’s a job this Committee could spend their time and effort on.

Friday, January 24, 2014

EXTREMIST Governor of NY and his paranoia of those who oppose his positions. Last time I looked, this was a FREE nation with freedom of speech and religious liberty.

 Governor Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY) recently told 'extreme conservatives' to "get out" of New York state. Was he talking about neo-Nazis, fascists, or Jihadist terrorists? No, he clarifies that his concept of extreme conservatism is focused on "right-to-life", "pro-assualt weapon" and "anti-gay." He says these people have no right to live in the Empire state.  First of all, where does the US Constitution state that your beliefs, opinions and ideologies make you ineligible for residence? Do we not have a Bill of Rights that GUARANTEES and DEFENDS the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, religious liberty (freedom of religion) and freedom to bear arms? Where does the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence say we must compromise our views just to live here? Secondly, it is not without irony that this report is made on the civil observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.  One has to consider, would Governor Cuomo listed MLK and civil rights movement as extreme conservatism or extreme liberalism?  Defending the right to life is a civil rights issue as the unborn is a human being. Ending slavery and segregation; recognizing the right to vote and equal rights to people regardless of color, these, too, could be labeled 'extreme' since their adherents peacefully refused to compromise.  Did not the British consider the colonists to be extremists when we demanded our independence?

Another question that arises is about those who defend traditional marriage as being between one man and one woman. Holding that belief does not make you 'anti-gay', it makes you 'pro-traditional family.'  The family is built on marriage, hence married couples need and deserve some recognition and support even when not extended to those who are single. Marriage is rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition and natural moral law as a permanent and faithful commitment of one man and one woman to live as husband and wife.  Two men or two women, three ladies and one man, and any other combination may be a voluntary association but is not marriage. Is that extreme? Does defending the right of a human being from being unjustly killed in the womb extreme?  Is putting an end to racial discrimination and racial segregation extreme?  If yes, then these 'extremists' must be tolerated nevertheless because they are CONSTITUTIONAL and they are MORALLY RIGHT.

Finally, rather than expelling and deporting your political opponents, the governor would better serve the people of New York state if he worked for the COMMON GOOD of all citizens.  His 'extreme' behavior in that he supports abortion conflicts with his Catholic faith. He NEEDS to sit down and have a serious talk with his pastor or with his bishop and amend his radical positions. Bad enough when Catholic politicians proclaim their 'pro-choice' stand, worse is when they boldly repudiate and excoriate those who are 'pro-life.'  Governor Cuomo cannot wash his hands as did Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judaea . One is either pro-life or pro-abortion just as you must choose to be either a racist or to be anti-racist; to be anti-Semitic or not to be.  Prejudice and injustice have no middle ground. 

This is not a political debate between republicans, democrats, independents, libertarians or tea party folk.  It is a MORAL issue and a battle between RIGHT AND WRONG.  Just as Dr. King had to peacefully oppose unjust laws that promoted racism, so, too, people of good faith and loyal Americans need to work to undo the injustice of Roe v. Wade. Human beings have rights regardless of the color of their skin and regardless of their geographical location (inside or outside the womb). 

If anyone needs to leave the state it is those who espouse these extremist views on who they deem to be extremist. The Nazis and Soviets did the same trick and labeled their opponents as being enemies of the state, traitors, promoters of treason, etc., merely for speaking out against injustice and speaking for those being victimized by the government.  They got rid of their 'problem' by getting rid of those who disagreed with their extreme positions. Let's get rid of the nonsense and rhetoric and get serious about demanding that our politicians defend, protect and work for ALL citizens, especially human rights, like the most foundational and fundamental, the RIGHT TO LIFE. 

Fr. John Trigilio, Jr.
President, CCC

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mater Sacerdotis


Fifteen years ago, my bishop (Nicholas Dattilo) told me shortly after his mother passed away that the death of the mother of a priest is something very unique. While we had both experienced the deaths of our respective fathers, I only now realized how true his insight was.  I loved my dad profoundly and mourned his death (just six months after my younger brother was killed by an underage drunk driver). I was named after my father and proudly use the JR. suffix to honor his memory. He was Sicilian and mom was Polish, but I had a strong affinity for the Italian half, partly because my surname was Italian and because my Italian relatives were so colorful and memorable.

I loved my mom as intensely as I loved my dad but growing up, she was the stern Polish disciplinarian and dad was the affable Italian head of the family who adored his four boys. I inherited my dad's sense of humor but from mother I got my resolve and perseverance to never give in and never give up. What some might call being stubborn, I would see as being fully committed and resolute to see things through to the very end.

When my dad died on February 11, 1998, it was after a four year battle with leukemia.  My brother Michael died from Muscular Dystrophy in December, 1992, at the age of 26.  Dad had taken early retirement so he could stay home and care for Mike as mom was working full time as head nurse of the Emergency Room and Trauma Center at the local Catholic Hospital. Michael was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy when he was 10 and had some very painful surgeries on his legs. Despite these, he still was confined to a wheelchair the rest of his short life.  I remember mom and dad taking turns to be with Michael at the children's wing of the hospital. I was in high school seminary at the time and Fr. Leo Duscheck, SVD, would often give me a ride to the hospital after class so I could visit my brother. You could see the blood seeping through his plaster casts. 

Michael had to transfer from parochial to public school only because the Catholic schools were not equipped for wheelchairs. This was before the ADA made it mandatory. He attended three years of college at Edinboro in a dorm designed exclusively for disabled students. He would never graduate as his disease only weakened him more and more but those were his happiest days having a modicum of independence.

Mom and dad sacrificed a LOT for me and my three brothers to attend Catholic grade school. They went without so we could have what we needed. Three of us went to college and two graduated. While we had student loans, mom and dad paid for all the other costs and incidentals. They lived modestly and sometimes frugally just to make ends meet but there was always plenty of food and lots of love and faith in our house. When I entered minor seminary after 8th grade, I would often bring over seminarian friends from out of town.  Mom and Dad made homemade pasta and meatballs and said their door was always open.

During minor seminary I met Father Levis who became a friend of the family.  He would often come over to anoint my brother Michael and bring him Holy Communion.

I was ordained only four years when my first family funeral was my brother Michael.  I still cannot remember how I got through it let alone how I preached at it as well.  Five years later, my brother Joe was killed by a drunk driver. Six months after that, my dad died from leukemia.  In less than ten years of ordination, I buried half my immediate family.

When pops died, I became patriarch of the clan but mother was still very much in charge. She worked until they forced her to retire and then she became a lay volunteer and unofficial sacristan for the discalced Carmelite nuns in Erie. That gave her purpose.

Since mom and dad were unable to take vacations while they cared for Michael and then dad got leukemia, I decided once she was widowed to take mom on as many trips and excursions as possible while her health allowed. Our first trip together was to Italy in 1998 to celebrate my tenth anniversary.  Dad had died in Feb. and we were leaving that summer. She felt awkward but I assured her that my father ands her husband would have wanted her to go after so many years of being caregiver for Michael then for dad.  So she went and we joined a pilgrimage of 40 people to Rome.

A few years later, we went to Sicily and after that a trip to Eastern Europe that ended in Poland.  We visited the shrine of Padre Pio and got to Rome for the Millennium.  Cardinal Arinze arranged for my mom to get an audience with Pope John Paul the Great after the general audience (see picture above). She was sick when Pope Benedict XVI visited the USA in 2008. As it was also my 10th anniversary that same year, I asked the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, if he could give my mom a blessing as she was unable to see the Pope during his visit. The Nuncio gave her a private tour of the Vatican Embassy in Washington, DC, and gave us Italian cookies and coffee before giving my mom a rosary blessed by Pope Benedict XVI.

One Thanksgiving I was ready to take her to Italy and she said she wanted to go to Ireland instead.  I said why Ireland? Dad was Italian and you are Polish.  I have a cousin in Ireland.  Well, I made plans and because she wanted to stay in a castle, we got rooms at Ballynahinch Castle in Connemara, Galway, Ireland.  It was only 90 miles from Shannon airport but I discovered only after landing that 90 miles in Ireland are not like 90 miles in America.  An hour and half drive became a four hour journey PLUS I had to learn quick how to drive on the left side of the road and steer a car with the wheel on the passenger side all the while my mother is sitting in the front seat yelling and screaming that I am not staying on the road (which were made for one Fiat, not for two medium sized cars)

Nevertheless, she enjoyed the castle and loved Ireland.  Most of all, my mother loved joining me and Father Levis whenever we went to EWTN to tape our Web of Faith television series. Deacon Bill Steltemeier loved her many different hats she wore each day to the chapel. She got to meet and become friends with Mother Angelica and the Poor Clare nuns. When Reverend Mother built the Temple in Hanceville, my mother was included in the invitation sent to me and Father Bob. All three of us attended the dedication and consecration of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. We were there the night before and saw the cloister area before it was sealed. We ate at the formal supper and met all the EWNT celebrities like Fr. Groeschel, Fr. Rutler, Fr. Shaughnessy, Bishop Foley, Bob & Penney Lord, Fr. Charles Conner, et al.)  We all cried during the Mass the next day as that was the first time many of us had seen a Communion Rail USED during Mass. The shrine was gorgeous, the music was superb and the Mass was as reverent as being in Heaven itself.

Several years before it was finished, Mother Angelica often took me, mom and Fr. Bob to see the progress of the 'chapel on the farm' as she called it.  We saw the dirt road, the gravel road and then the paved road.  We stood on plywood and peeked out the Rose window soon after it was installed.  

My mom loved Mother Angelica.  When my brother Joe died on July 5, 1997, Reverend Mother telephoned my mom and gave her words of comfort.  She never forgot that. So, as long as she was able to travel, I took her to as many places as I could and brought her along to almost everything I was invited.  We even got invited to a few Family gatherings for EWTN.

One summer I drove mom to Canada to see Andrea Bocelli and just this past November, a week before Thanksgiving, I got her to see the three Irish Priest tenors sing in Harrisburg.

2011 is when mom began to slow down and her health started to deteriorate. She had spinal stenosis which required major surgery on her back in Feb. of 2012 followed by four months of rehab in a nursing home.  I was driving back and forth between Harrisburg, Erie and Pittsburgh (where she had the surgery at UPMC) when I got into an automobile crash that landed me in ICU.  After that I decided I had to do something and moving mom closer to me was the answer.  She lived alone for several months after the nursing home rehab but her diabetes and heart condition worsened and she ended up on the floor for two days, unable to get up.  That got her hospitalized just before Christmas. She was diagnosed with aortic stenosis and three blocked arteries and a bad valve. The cardiologist said she could not survive open heart operation.  Another four months in nursing home rehab. Thanks be to God I had some help from my cousins, especially Jackie Mehler and her husband Tom who took mom to the doctors, shopping and an occasional meal.

I moved her in June to assisted living in Harrisburg, just ten miles from my rectory. She hated it at first and told people I kidnapped her.  After three months she got used to the place which we made as comfortable as possible. Then she had a TIA (mini-stroke) in July and an internal Gastrointestinal bleed a month later. Both hospital visits were ten or more days each.  The last one required she go to sub acute nursing care rehab before going back to assisted living. The goal always had been to beef her up physically so she could get a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (as she was no candidate for traditional open heart surgery).  Problem was that she would get better and then a monkey wrench was thrown at her.  Shingles hit her hard at the nursing home then she had numerous urinary infections.  Fluid was building up in her legs, ankles, and in her lungs.

When she died on Saturday, December 28, both me and my only surviving brother, Mark, were there with a few good friends of mine and hers.  I visited her almost if not actually every day at the nursing home or assisted living facility.  I did what I could. While not easy, I had the enormous help of several parishioners who visited her on a weekly basis. My classmate and co-author friend, Fr. Brighenti, helped with his presence, priestly fraternity and kindness.

We had a Funeral Mass for mom in my parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Marysville, on January 2nd and a Mass of Christian Burial on Monday, January 6th, in Erie where she was buried next to my dad and my two brothers and sister.

As painful as it was to bury dad, yes, burying mom was more difficult. I was exhausted as caregiver but I was also devastated as the eldest son. Bishop Dattilo was right. When a priest's mother dies, the bond between mother and son is torn just as it was on Calvary on Good Friday when Jesus had to see His sorrowful mother at the foot of the Cross as He was about to die for our sins.  Jesus, the High Priest, had a human mother whom he loved dearly.  Losing your second parent is indeed hard enough but that special bond that connects a mother and her child makes her loss even more intense. 

I was so wiped out from the many weeks and months of mom's illness and frequent hospitalizations and complications, etc., that the tears I expected at her funeral were not there. The day after they came in abundance.

I know she is at peace, that her suffering is over and that she is reunited (or will be) with my dad, my sister and my two brothers as well as her own mom & dad and her siblings who went before her. That gives comfort but the pain of loss, which even Our Divine Lord Himself experienced at the tomb of His dear friend Lazarus, remains and for good reason. For if we do not miss the ones we love, how can we long to see them again?  If there is pain is separation, is there not more joy in reunion? I know my mom sorely missed my dad with whom she had been married for 39 years before he died. She missed my brothers Michael and Joe. I hope and pray they are all together now with the Lord and with His Blessed Mother. Meanwhile, I mourn the loss of my mother who gave me life, gave me love and gave me faith. My vocation to the priesthood would never have come to fruition were it not sewn by the love, faith and example of my mom and dad as they raised us at home.

Love you, Mom.  Pray for me.  Your son,  John.

Monday, January 13, 2014

It is not what a man wears but how he acts and treats others that tells who he really is

de gustibus non disputandum est

True clericalism is an anomoly and abberation in that it engenders disdain and disrespect for others, especially those who are not clerics (ordained). Hence, real clericalism is when a deacon, priest or bishop has an attitude of superiority over his flock in that he believes he is 'better' than they are, whether spiritually, intellectually or otherwise. Clericalism patronizes and denigrates the unordained (laity). It seeks to be treated with privilege rather than seeking to be of service.

Clericalism is an ATTITUDE but is not a costume, clothing, preference or option. It has nothing to do with LANGUAGE (Latin or vernacular) and nothing to do with ATTIRE. Clericalism is how one behaves and treats others, not how one dresses.

Here is a poignant example. While my father was still alive (before 1998) he was often in the hospital being treated for leukemia. On one occasion that I was there after driving 300 miles from my rectory, Bishop Donald Trautman popped in to say hello and give my dad his blessing. Although I was not a priest of the Erie Diocese (I was ordained and am incarnated in the Harrisburg Diocese) my parents lived in Erie where they were born and raised. Bishop Trautman visited my dad because he was the parent of a priest. Without being asked, His Excellency was good enough and kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule and visit my dad. He went so far as to offer to stay with him for 20-30 minutes if I needed to take my mom to the cafeteria and get something to eat (she was a diabetic and needed to eat at regular intervals). Despite any difference of opinion on other matters, I always appreciated, respected and admired Bishop Trautman for that act of charity and kindness.  He was ACTING and  BEING very pastoral as a bishop. Sadly, that does not occur everywhere. A priest I know was hospitalized and admitted to ICU for three days and his own bishop never called him even once. After being discharged, he went back to his rectory and not one call or visit from his bishop. THAT is clericalism. When a bishop is too busy to make a brief phone call to one of his own priests when he is in the hospital for a serious condition; when a bishop sends his 'representative' to a priest's funeral rather than going himself; that is clericalism. Yes, bishops are very busy but they are not bank managers or bureaucrats. They are pastors and must act like a FATHER rather than a corporate executive. I would never call my dad by his first name. I had too much respect for him but I also loved him enormously. He was always there when I needed him. He never sent one of my brothers as his envoy. He himself called me or visited me. Likewise, a real pastoral bishop CALLS his own priests and deacons. He visits them when possible if they are seriously injured or ill. He goes to their funerals because they are his FAMILY. It is not clericalism to call the Bishop Your Excellency, Your Grace, or Bishop since he is the hierarchical superior to his priests and deacons. It is clericalism, however, when he treats his clergy as mere employees or when he treats the lay faithful of his diocese as customers or clients rather than as his spiritual children. Bishop Trautman visited my dad and on several occasions telephone my mother when she was in the hospital or nursing home before her untimely death. He did not have to do that as I am a priest from another diocese. He did so because he has class and he knows a bishop must be a good father and pastor even to those not of his fold. When clergy act like they work at a company instead of Holy Mother Church; when they behave as if their priesthood, diaconate or episcopate is just a career and not a vocation; then that is the ugly head of clericalism.

I entered the seminary after graduating from Catholic grade school. I attended high school seminary, college seminary and major seminary (total of 12 years) from 1976-1988.  During those days, the buzz word was 'clericalism' but it had a latent meaning and hidden agenda. It went from the ridiculous to the sublime. If you wore black socks to match your black trousers, you could be accused of being clerical. If you wore a rabbat or full collar rather than the 6" tab insert, you could be considered clerical. If your Liturgy of the Hours had a black leather cover, you were clerical, however, if you had a colored or a knitted breviary cover, you were OK.  Wearing a cassock was over the top and tantamount to waving an American flag in downtown Tehran during the 444 day hostage crisis.

Real perpetrators of clericalism are obsessed with externals such as attire, vestments, language, art, music, etc. in that certain types are considered dangerous if not disruptive. Roman style vestments are an option as are Gothic, yet for the clerical person, it is not his personal taste, preference or opinion, it is his unjust imposition on another. In other words, it is not clerical to wear a cassock or use an amice or chalice veil and pall, rather, it is clericalism to treat and speak about those who licitly choose those options as if they were snobs.

Clericalism is MISTREATMENT of fellow clergy and of the laity. It is when a deacon, priest or bishop insults the intelligence of someone who disagrees with their prudential judgment. It is when a pastor embarrasses or humiliates an elderly woman for praying her rosary during Mass. It is when a layperson is DENIED their licit option to receive Holy Communion on the tongue or to confess their sins anonymously behind a screen. It is when certain members of the clergy act as if any and all requests for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite are potential schismatics or sede vacantists. It is refusing to expose a parish congregation to Gregorian chant and traditional hymns as part of a diverse repertoire. True clericalism is the assumption and attitude that the common lay Catholic is not sophisticated enough to read and comprehend the Catechism of the Catholic Church or any magisterial document, from  Vatican II to papal encyclicals. Real clericalism insults the laity by treating them as ignorant intellectual slackers when they refuse to embrace a heterodox or heretical idea espoused in a homily.

Some seminaries in the old days and some dioceses for that matter, had unofficial witch hunts to identify, isolate and eliminate those deemed rigid, conservative or traditional. The term used, however, was that these fellows were proponents and adherents of clericalism. 

DEFINE TERMS. Clericalism is not about attire, it is about attitude. Whether the ordained man wears a tab shirt, rabbat or cassock is NO proof or evidence of his ecclesiology. It is a matter of taste and personal preference. Many a layperson have been mistreated, insulted and demeaned by clergy wearing all sorts of attire.  THAT is what Pope Francis has been denouncing and repudiating, the attitude and mistreatment of the faithful by members of the clergy (deacons, priests AND bishops) who abuse their authority and position. It is not an issue of liberal vs. conservative, progressive vs. traditional, Ordinary Form vs. Extraordinary Form (previous known as Novus Ordo vs. Traditional Latin Mass)

Clericalism is a cancer to the clergy and when clergy seek to 'clericalize' laity and 'laicize' the clergy, they are committing clericalism. The common priesthood of the baptized and the ministerial priesthood of the ordained are different but they need each other. Clergy are there to serve the spiritual needs of the laity and not serve themselves. What Father, Deacon or Bishop WEARS is irrelevant. It is HOW he treats his people, his peers and his subordinates. Don't get me wrong, I wear my collar whenever on duty and whenever traveling as a witness to who and what I am. I like seeing religious men and women in their habits. People need to see priests in public doing ordinary things (shopping, dining, etc.) to see that we are normal human beings. Wearing the collar also keeps me on my best behavior lest I am tempted to say or do something imprudent were I in civilian clothes. Wearing the collar is not meant to elicit any privileges or favors (those days are long gone, anyway). Just like our military men and women are proud to be in the service of defending our nation, clergy should likewise be proud to be in service to the Lord and His Church. My point is that the STYLE of clerical attire is purely preferential and a matter of taste, nothing else. No agenda need be read into it. Unfortunately, some accuse anyone who wears the collar all day of clericalism OR they accuse those who wear more formal or traditional clerical attire of clericalism. Wearing a biretta or fedora is an option just as much as wearing a baseball cap. Some folks are OBSESSED however with externals and peripheral incidentals. Better to focus on the person's ACTIONS.

Once and for all, let's end this ridiculous paranoia about anything prior to Vatican II as well as the paranoia about anything after Vatican II. Rad-trads are having a field day concocting all kinds of conspiracy theories about Pope Francis' papacy while geriatric liturgical hippies from the 60's lament anything and everything Pope Emeritus Benedict said and did. 

Wearing french cuff shirts is a matter of taste as is your preference in music, art, literature, etc. What matters is not whether Father wears a short sleeved tab shirt or is wearing a cassock, what counts is how he treats his flock.  Is he present? Is he approachable?  Is he orthodox?  Does he celebrate valid, licit and REVERENT Masses?  Does he have a priestly heart to his people and to his colleagues?

Imagine if we acted as if it mattered which sports team you supported?  Does being a Cleveland Indian fan make me a bad pastor to those who are Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles or Philadelphia Phillies fans? Of course not. Likewise, would making me an aficionado of Italian opera or Baroque Music interfere with my sacred ministry to those who like Rock, Country Western, Hip-Hop, or Celtic? Absolutely not. Then WHY in heaven's name are some members of the clergy beating the drums of war and whipping up a witch hunt frenzy to discredit any of their ordained colleagues who have a difference of taste or who choose a different valid option?

Our American culture has been addicted to the mentality and ideology of SYMBOLISM OVER SUBSTANCE.  Poor people can love classical music as much as the rich and the wealthy can prefer Jazz while the indigent listen to rap. YET, for some in the church, liking Gregorian Chant or Polyphony is borderline reactionary traditionalism leaning toward schismatic sede vacantism. On the other hand, contemporary liturgical music may not be everyone's cup of tea but it is in no way indicative of iconoclastic mentality.

It is not the amount of Monsignors which instigates clericalism, it is the sycophant who is nothing more than a mere 'yes' man who seeks a diocesan position or the bureaucrat who filters who has access to the bishop and what he hears. It is the career clericalist who is voraciously hungry for power and prestige, regardless of his title or lack thereof. Most of all, it is ecclesiastic (high or low) who espouse a corporate model paradigm on how to run a diocese or parish instead of the pastoral model of seeing the church as a family of faith and not a business to be run.

Just my thoughts on the matter 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Only Fools RUSH in Where Angels Fear to Tread: Limbaugh Excoriates Pope Francis Unfairly

Matt Abbott asked me to comment on Rush Limbaugh's recent lambasting of Pope Francis recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium

I often listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio and find him to be an intelligent man and an erudite conservative journalist. He uses common sense and logic to expose the fallacious arguments of liberal progressives. UNFORTUNATELY he himself has fallen into a trap by which he erroneously extrapolates a false premise from the recent papal document from Pope Francis. Evangelium Gaudii is an Apostolic Exhortation issued on November 24, 2013. It is not a Papal Encyclical (like Humanae Vitae) nor is it an Apostolic Letter (like Ordinatio Sacerdotalis) While not an ex cathedra infallible document, it nevertheless contains ordinary papal magisterial teaching which demands submission of mind and will by faithful Catholics.

Rush is uncharacteristically inaccurate in his quotations. Pope Francis did NOT criticize unfettered capitalism, he used the phrase unfettered consumerism. The late and great Father Richard Joh  Neuhaus defined consumerism as: "precisely, the consuming of life by the things consumed. It is living in a manner that is measured by having rather than being. As Pope John Paul II makes clear, consumerism is hardly the sin of the rich. The poor, driven by discontent and envy, may be as consumed by what they do not have as the rich are consumed by what they do have. The question is not, certainly not most importantly, a question about economics. It is first and foremost a cultural and moral problem requiring a cultural and moral remedy."

Capitalism is an economic and political ideology whereas consumerism is a personal and individual ideology. The former is focused on a free market whereas the latter is obsessed with the acquisition of goods in and of themselves.  Blessed JP2 made the distinction that communism and consumerism are far extremes and both threaten human freedom. One denies the right to access of necessary goods, the other deifies materialism and promotes avarice, greed and envy. A free market system, on the other hand, treats human beings equally, not giving undo advantage to card carrying members of the communist party while penalizing those who express some political dissent.

What Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, Pope John Paul and Pope Leo and others have consistently been saying and teaching, however, is that the individual PERSON is a moral agent and he or she must answer to God for what they did or did not do to help their neighbor in need. The Gospel of Matthew ends by separating the sheep from goats based on what each individual DID or DID NOT do to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, etc. It is not a judgment of government policies or agencies but a personal judgment on each one of us. That being said, besides personal acts of Christian charity, it is logical and reasonable, prudent and necessary to pool resources and even for the state to help in cases where the most needy and most urgent cases are helped.  Yet, no Pope ever promoted nor called for a welfare state that perpetually cares for the poor.  The ultimate goal is to enable the poor to rise above poverty and reach a level of dignity commensurate with their human dignity. Access to necessary goods is a natural right. That does not mean, however, that the Natural Moral Law requires the poor to become enslaved to the state by permanently keeping them dependent. Rush calls Pope Francis a Socialist at best and a Communist at worst. Does this sound like a commie comment? "Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses." (#202)

Contrary to what many modern public school textbooks currently tell our children, capitalism was actually created during the high Middle Ages and as Michael Novak wrote in 2003, Catholicism is what created it. While feudalism sustained Christendom from the fall of the Roman Empire (476 AD) through the so-called Dark Ages, during the 12th to 14th centuries the middle class arose thanks to capitalism which eventually replaced feudalism. Mediaeval guilds and religious orders, such as the Cistercians, became contemporary entrepreneurs of their time. "They mastered rational cost accounting, plowed all profits back into new ventures, and moved capital around from one venue to another, cutting losses where necessary, and pursuing new opportunities when feasible. They dominated iron production in central France and wool production (for export) in England. They were cheerful and energetic. Being few in number, the Cistercians needed labor-saving devices. They were a great spur to technological development. Their monasteries 'were the most economically effective units that had ever existed in Europe, and perhaps in the world, before that time.'" (Novak)

Thomas Woods "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" (2005) has an entire chapter (8) entitled "the Church and Economics" where he, too, proposes that money was not an artificial product of government (crown or parliament) but a result of a voluntary process between merchants. Barter became more and more impractical when dealing with perishable items and dealing with transporting goods over long distances. Religious orders like the Cistercians devised accounting systems by which goods could be bought and sold between fellow monks and this was duplicated by lay merchants who participated in the process. While the secular states were governed by aristocracies and monarchies and while the Church herself is hierarchical, it is still Catholic doctrine that all men and women are created in the image of God and by baptism are considered children of God. That spiritual equality was translated into an economic equality which transcended the political. The emerging middle class came from the peasant class and they did so because their faith taught them they were equal in the eyes of God and therefore had equal opportunities to improve their material situation.  Those who could not, like the destitute poor, the lame, widowed and orphaned, relied on the Christian charity of the nobility and the emerging middle class. It was the Church who literally created the colleges and universities, hospitals and orphanages and who ran the poor houses, soup kitchens, etc.  The secular state (government) did not create these institutions, religious orders and dioceses did. Christian charity motivated those who had more to help those who has less.

When you read Evangelium Gaudii in its entirety, it continues the papal magisterium found in Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno, Mater et Magistra, Gaudium et Spes, Centesimus Annus and of course, the Catechism of Catholic Church. The very reason any nation has banking and finance laws is that human beings are not perfect. Original Sin affects everyone and some people, be they CEO's, CFO's, bankers, brokers, et al., sometimes make bad choices that produce bad effects and which cause great harm to many innocent people. I know of no conservative or liberal, republican, democrat, or libertarian who would advocate the repeal of laws barring insider trading. We needs laws to maintain some parameters on banks and stock brokers to protect people from abuse and exploitation. Republicans and democrats dispute the length, breadth and depth of such legal regulations but even a free market has some borders which cannot be ignored. Limited government is still very different from no government.  Some, even if minimal, legislation is needed since not everyone acts prudently or fairly nor for pristine motives. That being said, it was totally unfair and inaccurate of Mr. Limbaugh to attack Pope Francis for addressing a letter as head of the Roman Catholic Church to his more than one billion members. The pontiff was merely reiterating consistent church teaching that supports a free market but which also reminds the moral obligation to act responsibly, honestly, and prudently. No one can command generosity but it is something which should be encouraged and promoted. Welfare dependency does not help the individual nor the nation. Some welfare is necessary for those who cannot be helped by private or non-profit charitable organizations. The goal always, though, is to help move those into economic independence and become self-sufficient. Laborem Exercens teaches us the sanctity of human work. The Catechism tells us that the Catholic Church always believes justice and solidarity are essential and necessary to human freedom. Justice is distributive, commutative and social. 

Unfettered consumerism is not synonymous with capitalism. A free market system respects human freedom and autonomy. Consumerism is an abuse and an extreme. Communism wrongly treated human labor as a means of production for the state. Consumerism wrongly treats the product of human labor and of the free market as the final source of happiness and fulfillment. Things are helpful but in and of themselves do not produce enduring and lasting and true happiness. Material things make life easier and more comfortable and more convenient. Technology helps cure sickness and disease and help makes life less a burden. All Pope Francis was warning, however,  is that the possession and acquisition of goods is not salvific nor do they bring lasting joy. Pleasure is temporary whereas joy can be eternal.  The Pontiff was not forcing any nation or government to abandon capitalism nor was he advocating socialism let alone communism.  He was, however, reminding Catholics all over the globe that we must buy and sell prudently and using our conscience. In that light, I see no reason for Mr. Limbaugh to take offense or issue with Pope Francis. I highly urge Rush to read Fr. Robert Sirico's "Defending the Free Market" and John Horvath's "Return to Order".  Horvath does a splendid job explaining the notion of frenetic intemperance which is a cousin of unfettered consumerism and Sirico precisely shows that freedom requires a free market while greed is no friend of capitalism, rather it flourishes under socialism.

Monday, October 14, 2013

response to America article: CLERICALISM ???

Father Horan, OFM, is correct that clericalism is a vice, which ought to be repudiated by every pope, bishop, priest, deacon and consecrated religious. Problem is that it is unfair, unjust and inaccurate to portray clericalism as merely an indulgence of conservatives or traditionalists. I have been ordained twenty-five years and spent twelve years in seminary beforehand. Even went to high school seminary (hence, I am called a 'lifer').  As a pastor of two parishes for more than eleven years and a parochial vicar for fourteen years in several assignments as a diocesan priest (secular clergy) and as president of a national association of 500+ priests and deacons (Confraternity of Catholic Clergy), my experience has been that all too often it is the so-called liberal and progressive priests who behave and act in such a way as to personify clericalism.

Clericalism is a mindset, an attitude, a perspective. It patronizes and denigrates those who disagree and uses ad hominem attacks to belittle. When a priest speaks disrespectfully to an elderly woman and embarrasses her publicly at Mass merely because she exercises her legitimate option (as defined by Rome) to kneel or genuflect at Communion time rather than just stand, that is clericalism. When the faithful are denied their legitimate option to receive Holy Communion on the tongue or confession behind a screen, that is clericalism. When women are ridiculed and scoffed at by priests for wearing chapel veils, which is their option, that is clericalism. When some of the faithful ask the pastor if the Extraordinary Form could be celebrated in their parish and the priest goes ballistic and insults them and calls them fanatical, schismatic rad-trads, that is clericalism. When priests who wear roman vestments and lace albs instead of burlap potato sacks and moo-moo albs are laughed at and slandered by gossip among their brother diocesan clergy, that is clericalism.

Clericalism is also nepotism. Not the kind where relatives are promoted but where ideologues and those who are philosophically and theologically 'brothers' take care of one another. When sycophants are rewarded with papal knighthood and are made monsignors for being blindly loyal to their Ordinary, that is clericalism. It is a cheap shot to attack a priest for his personal taste in vestments. What really counts is whether or nor Father preaches and teaches orthodox Catholic doctrine; does he celebrate a reverent Mass; is he living a chaste, honest, and virtuous life on the altar and off? Wearing lace is NON-SEQUITUR. BEHAVING properly is what matters.

During my seminary career, I saw the effects of BAD THEOLOGY combined with BAD LITURGY. Both supported one another like two deadly poisons. The two then produced an even more diabolical by product, BAD MORALITY. Whether a priest likes the Latin Mass or the Vernacular, Ordinary or Extraordinary, lace or plain albs, roman or contemporary chasubles, et al., the crucial question is not does he wear a cassock or does he allow others to call him by his first name (with no title)? DE GUSTIBUS NON DISPUTANDUM EST, St. Thomas Aquinas said so well long ago. Real clericalism is not about attire or language, birettas or baseball caps. It is about sound doctrine, reverent worship and holy, virtuous living. I have seen priests on both sides of the fence (conservative/liberal or traditional/progressive) treat laity with disdain and contempt.  It is not an issue rooted in liturgical garb.

I have seen or heard of priests and deacons ignored, ostracized, marginalized, passed over for promotion, humiliated and publicly vilified merely because they were considered 'too conservative' or 'too traditional'  Sometimes they call us "JP2 groupies" or "Benny worshippers" just because we do not disobey papal authority or because we do not fit the mold of Charlie Curran, Hans Kung or Richard McBrien. The faithful want clergy to treat them as adults, not as ignorant children. Yet, often I get emails about pastors who deny infallible doctrines in their homilies but when asked by a parishioner act as if the layperson were in kindergarden. It is clericalism to disguise heterodoxy and irreverence as valid options while simultaneously insulting and disparaging a layperson's fondness for devotions or forcing parishioners to get GPS in order to find the Tabernacle since they removed them from sanctuaries and now hide them out of view lest any spontaneous latria might occur.

What a priest wears and how he is called is his personal preference, taste and opinion. Options are just that, not meant to be mandatory nor prohibited. Yet, wear purple or worse, black, vestments at a funeral, and some of the CLERGY (not the laity) label you rad-trad, Lefebvre-ite, arch-conservative, et al.  What the people want are holy priests, virtuous and moral priests, obedient and loyal priests. They also want priests who respect them and who do not insult their intelligence. If a parishioner is Charismatic, in Cursillo or a member of Opus Dei, my job as parish priest and pastor is to provide them with valid sacraments, reverent worship, orthodox teaching with compassion and mercy. Making fun of someone's Marian devotion is not catechesis, it is modern clericalism. Chancery workers, ecclesiastical bureaucrats and other middle management types who happen to also be ordained ministers, just treat your brother clergy and the lay faithful with RESPECT. Keep an eye and ear on those clergy who might be breaking their vows and possibly causing further scandal instead of persecuting and demonizing your colleagues who have a legitimate difference of opinion and who demonstrate a different style or taste. Remember, Pope Benedict XVI said it best when he said Catholicism is the religion of BOTH/AND not EITHER/OR.  There is room for both Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form, Latin and Vernacular, ad orientem & versus populum, Roman vestments and modern ones, lace albs and plain albs, etc.  Don't be hung up on externals, the People of God are NOT.  No one is bothered by my biretta but if I am not behaving or acting as a priest should and ought to do, then the folks have every right to complain and seek a remedy. Meanwhile, please do not impute motives or agendas onto Pope Francis. His style and preference may not be identical to his immediate predecessor but both B16 and F1 are true shepherds and brothers in more ways than one. Basta cosi.

N.B.  I have been reminded by some of my deacon brothers that another form of clericalism is the insistence by some clergy, namely priests and bishops, that permanent deacons are somehow not clergy. Holy Orders confers one as a cleric (Canon 266). There is no such thing as a 'lay' deacon. That is an oxymoron. All deacons, priests and bishops are clergy. Some deacons are transitional, some permanent.  Permanent deacons may be married but only prior to being ordained. That being said, it makes sense to have clergy wear clerical attire of some sort when doing ecclesiastical work or when engaged in the apostolate. Some deacons are accused of being clerical, however, simply because they want to witness to their vocation as ordained ministers. When working in their secular occupations or when off duty with their family and friends, it makes sense that these men dress appropriately but all the more so when they are doing the work of Church.  The rare case of some permanent deacon mowing his lawn wearing a Roman Collar has been used ad nauseam to poo-pooh permanent deacons from wearing any sort of clerical attire for any reason. The abuse does not negate the proper use, however. When a prisoner or a hospital patient ask to see the chaplain, if they see a man in shirt and tie, they do not recognize an ordained cleric. Seeing a deacon in some form of collar, be it black or gray, assures them this man is a CATHOLIC CLERIC. And if the person requests confession or anointing, guess what? The deacon then calls for the priest. My priesthood is not threatened nor encroached by the diaconate. I have two wonderful permanent deacons in my parish and our Confraternity has many deacons as members, not to mention two Board Members.  Clericalism tries to clericalize the laity and laicize the clergy. It is a caricature and a distortion of what should and ought to be.

Fr. John Trigilio, Jr.
Confraternity of Catholic Clergy

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