Thursday, January 08, 2009

Father Richard John Neuhaus is Called Home to the Lord

In paradisum deducant angeli;
in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyrus
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
Chorus angelorum te suscipatet
cum Lazaro, quondam paupere,
aeternam habeas requiem.

Reverend Father Richard John Neuhaus +

Father John Neuhaus died today at 10am this morning (Jan. 8th, 2009) and his funeral Mass will be on Tuesday, Jan. 13th at 10am at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, NYC. My last encounter with this brilliant man was on Memorial Day 2007 when he preached the Mass and Archbishop O'Brien, then Military Ordinary, was the celebrant. He preached like he wrote; succinct, erudite and witty. He spoke a several years earlier to the presbyterate of my diocese for our annual diocesan workshop. Some of the fellows did not like his unrepentent and unequivocal orthodoxy. When asked about ecumenism, he said AS A FORMER PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN, that there is no reasonable hope for formal reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants since the latter does not have what the former has always possessed, i.e., an authoratative teaching and governing authority. Without a Magisterium and Papacy, there is no mechanism to implement any theological agreements. Were Catholicism to yield, then Catholics, clergy and laity alike, would obey. But Protestantism is consecrated individualism, hence, there is no solid hierarchy, certainly no Magisterium and no obvious chain of command. Therefore, Protestants are not obligated to obey or to yield no matter how many of their theologians and churchmen do so themselves. The essence of the Reformation was independence at all cost. This is why Neuhaus converted to Catholicism. He saw that there had to be a true church where the FULLNESS of Truth and the FULLNESS of Grace would be found. He acknowledged that his Lutheran background showed him that non-Catholic Christian churches have SOME truth but not the fullness as they only recognize 1/2 of Revelation (Sacred Scripture) while ignoring the other valid half (Sacred Tradition). Half an alphabet is correct but it is not complete. It is not that the Catholic Church is right and the Protestant Churches are wrong, rather, it is that the Catholic Church has the FULLNESS of truth and the reform churches have partial or only some of it by limiting themselves to sola Scriptura. Likewise, Catholicism has the FULLNESS of grace in having all Seven valid Sacraments, while Protestantism has one (baptism) and denotes the other six as 'orinances.'

This is not to say that Neuhaus was ant-ecumenical. He vigorously fought and argued for more dialog and cooperation on many issues, like defending the unborn. He contention, however, was that it is naive at best to dream the impossible dream of full and formal reunion of the Christian churches. The East split from Rome in the 11th century and the Protestanst left Rome in the 16th century. Both moved away from Rome and the Bishop of Rome. What was true then is true now. Seven Sacraments were instituted by Christ, not one and not three but SEVEN. Divine Revelation comes through BOTH Sacred Scripture AND Sacred Tradition. The authority of Christ is manifested in the Vicar of Christ and in the Successors of the Apostles in union with him. It does not reside theologians nor with the assembly of believers. Rank and file have no higher authority to move them back into unity since each individual conscience is autonomous in their system. Like the Old Soviet Union, you could have individual defectors cross the line and join the West but the only way whole countries and nations could do it (like Poland and East Germany) was to dissolve the the Wall and the Empire. The USSR had to disappear in order for the satellite countries to flee en masse and embrace democracy. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Cramner, Knox, etc., made themselves 'popes' when they severed their ties to the real Pope in Rome.

Neuhaus espoused a realistic detente and perestroika with Protestantism and worked to cooperate on urgent moral issues, like abolishing abortion and defending marriage and the family. He loved his Protestant heritage but loved more his return home to Rome. He loved his separated brothers and sisters in their Protestant churches and treated them with dignity and respect. Unlike some in the ecumenical movement who patronize and condescend by pretending there are no substantive divisions among us, he spoke like a realistic diplomat from the Middle East who must contend with realities between Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Arabs. He affirmed that Protestantism enriched reverence and respect for the Written Word of God but he also defended the dogma that God speaks through both the Written and the Unwritten Word (Sacred Scripture AND Sacred Tradition). The absolute fullness of Revelation is therefore not the Written or even the Unwritten Word, but the WORD MADE FLESH. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God is the Word become Flesh and in the Holy Eucharist, the WORDS of Christ allow bread and wine to become His real, true and substantial Flesh and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Dissident theologians in Catholic circles could learn volumes from Neuhaus. Loyalty and obedience to the Magisterium and the Roman Pontiff do not violate one's conscience or academic freedom anymore than obeying the Will of God can destroy the freedom of the human will. He had the honesty and decency to leave the church he could no longer follow totally and completely to come into full communion with the one he knew was telling and teaching the whole truth and not just parts of it. Dissident Catholic theologians today don't have the courage, guts or integrity to leave if they cannot obey and respect the Magisterium and/or the Pope. They remain to antogonize and confuse the faithful while cashing their paychecks on this side of the Tiber. If a theologian has problems with the Catechism, he has problems with the Church, with the Magisterium, with the Pope and ultimately with Jesus Christ Who started them all. Imagine mathmaticians disagreeing that 2+2=4 and still having a professor's job teaching math. Were someone to hold that 2+2=5, he or she would not have a job as a math teacher, in college, high school or grade school. Teach that Jesus was not the Son of God, that He was not a Divine Person, that He was unaware of His Divine nature, that He never intended to found a Church, etc., and you can still have tenure as a Catholic theologian in some colleges and seminaries, sad to say.

Please Pray for Father John Neuhaus


Father John Neuhaus, Lutheran theologian convert to Catholicism and founder/publisher of First Things, is gravely ill.  Father George Rutler, another convert (from the Anglican Church), anointed him and asked that the faithful pray to Saint Joseph for a happy death for this staunch defender of orthodoxy and frequent commentator on EWTN.

The proper work of Catholic intellectuals, Neuhaus believes, is to reformulate
the unchanging doctrines (the "deposit of faith") and the church's non-doctrinal
teachings in the light of new experiences and insights. If they encounter
difficulties, the problem lies not with the church but with themselves. "I think
for myself not to come up with my own teaching," he writes, "but to make the
Church's teaching my own." Accepting church authority on faith is necessary, he
admits, but all thinking rests on some kind of prior faith: "The allegedly
autonomous self who acknowledges no authority but himself is abjectly captive to
the authority of a tradition of Enlightenment rationality that finally collapses
into incoherence."

from a book review at the NY Times

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas Season Ends This Sunday with Baptism of the Lord

Our Lady of Good Counsel

Marysville, PA

Diocese of Harrisburg

Christmas MMVIII

While not as equisite as Father Brighenti's parish in NJ, my little church was nicely decorated this year and many parishioners have expressed their appreciation for the Papa Benedetto style of the sanctuary. I moved the tabernacle to the center when I was first installed as pastor in June, 2002. We added the icons of the archangels for the 50th anniversary of the church in 2006. The crucifix on the right wall was redone with royal blue felt and gold framing back in 2003 (Opus Dei style).

Bishop Martin Lohmuller (retired auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia) and William Cardinal Keeler (archbishop emeritus of Baltimore) were the founding pastors of my two parishes, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Marysville (1956) and Saint Bernadette, Duncannon (1954).

Sunday, January 04, 2009

We Three Kings of Orient Are

Epiphany Proclamation:

Dear brothers and sisters,
the glory of the Lord has shone upon us,
and shall ever be manifest among us,
until the day of his return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons
let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year's culmination,
Easter Triduum of the Lord:
his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial,
and his rising celebrated
between the evening of the ninth day of April
and the evening of the eleventh day of April,
Easter Sunday being on the twelfth day of April.

Each Easter -- as on each Sunday --
the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed
by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death.
From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent,
will occur on the twenty-fifth day of February.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the twenty-first day of May.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter,
will be celebrated on the thirty-first day of May

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be
on the twenty-ninth day of November.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ
in the feasts of the holy Mother of God,
in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints,
and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come,
Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, forever and ever.


20 + C + M + B + 09

Christus Mansionem Benedicat

(May Christ bless this dwelling place)

Polish, Slovak, Russian and German tradition is to use blessed chalk on the doorposts of the home at Epiphany. People are invited to inscribe the lintel of the home (the horizontal frame above the door) with the inscription shown on the reverse. The letters C M B come from the traditional (9th century) names for the "three kings" - Caspar, Melchior & Balthazar.

O God,
by your heavenly star,
you guided the Wise Men
to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

May your blessing come to rest on our home and all of us.
Make our lives wise with your wisdom,
true to your teaching,
and enlivened by your love.
May your Word made flesh
make his home among us. Amen.

print your own Three Kings House Blessing Card for Epiphany by copying above

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