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

Monday, September 23, 2013

rebuttal to National Catholic Reporter

No wonder Fr. Zuhlsdorf calls it the National Catholic FISHWRAP

I consider myself in good company insofar as the NCR DISTORTED my comments just as it did Pope Francis.

First of all, it is not spin to clarify.  The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas often said: Concede parum, nega frequenter, distingue semper (never affirm, seldom deny and always distinguish).

Secondly, I did not say we should use name calling as a tool of evangelization but Jesus Himself said whoever divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mt. 5:32)  "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander." (Mt. 15:19)  He did not mince words, nor did He use politically correct nomenclature. Adultery, fornication, sodomy, etc., are also sins St. Paul repudiates yet he also evangelized and spread the Gospel. Hence, using the proper terminology is more than being accurate, it is essential since sins like abortion are mortal and they kill the life of grace. Is the physician not committing malpractice if she calls a malignant tumor benign so as not to upset the patient? At the same time, I was not advocating using the terms 'fornicator' or 'adulterer' or 'abortionist' when reaching out to those are guilty of these immoral acts of evil. We call them as Pope Francis suggests our 'brothers and sisters' since none of us is without sin. However, the sin they commit is killing their soul. They need to know there is a spiritual cancer threatening their eternal life. Candy-coating the sin is prevaricating and is deceitful. Showing mercy and compassion to a sinner is Christian. Did Our Lord not tell the woman caught in adultery, 'go and sin no more?'  He did not call her an adulteress but He certainly condemned adultery on more than one occasion.

I did not propose a Calvinist theology of grace. What I meant by cheapening grace is that you risk INGRATITUDE. I never said that grace was remote or limited. Grace and mercy are infinite and abundant. That is the message of Divine Mercy. What I am saying is that we cheapen grace when we trivialize it and take it for granted. While abundant, it is a GIFT it is not something we merit, deserve or can demand (that would be Pelagianism). I also wanted to make the point that grace comes to us primarily via the sacraments which are not just mere customs and rituals, but they are vehicles of Divine Mercy. Sacred encounters where heaven and earth unite and where the divine punctuates the human. Grace is God's gift to us and it is His sharing His holiness with us. We risk cheapening it, however, when we act like grace is something you get in a vending machine, ATM or drive-in window. Accessible, yes, but nevertheless still very precious and in need of appreciation.  So, take my words in CONTEXT as you ought to the words of Pope Francis. Text out of context is a pretext. Sound bites may be what modern media feast on but in terms of revealed truths and the natural moral law, better we be accurate and sufficient in our content as well as our explanation.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Pope Francis is not downplaying pro-life and pro-family activism in the Church. His words in the secular media were, again, taken out of context. Father Levis, my mentor and co-host of the original Web of Faith on EWTN, often said "a text taken out of context is a pretext." This is precisely what the New York Times and others in the press have done. 

In the actual interview, the CONTEXT of the Pope's words are: 

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

This is true and Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul the Great and even Pope Pius XII would have agreed. The whole deposit of faith is not limited to particular moral issues. Faith and morals encompass human sexuality and issues of human life, marriage and the family, but they also include the dogma of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Real Presence, Papal Infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, et al.  The Catechism covers all four pillars of faith: CREED (doctrine), SACRAMENTS (worship), COMMANDMENTS (morality), OUR FATHER (prayer)

Pope Francis did not discount the efforts of the pro-life, pro-family and pro-marriage movements and organizations. What he was saying was that the universal church has a three-fold mission or mandate: to TEACH the truth (Magisterium); to SANCTIFY the People of God (Sacred Liturgy); to SHEPHERD the sheep in love (Hierarchy). All three come from the one and same Jesus Christ Who founded Holy Mother Church. As Christ was Priest, Prophet and King, so His bride continues His work of sanctifying, teaching and governing. I did not read anywhere in the entire interview where the Pontiff was denying or diminishing the Church's three-fold munera. He was placing everything in CONTEXT, however.

Saving Souls is the supreme law of the Church. The last canon in the 1983 Code of Canon Law says so. Getting folks to heaven. One essential element is TEACHING and defending the revealed truths of doctrine. That is not enough, however. The rational intellect seeks the true and the free will seeks the good. Original Sin, however, has wounded human nature and that extends to the soul itself. Concupiscence is the darkening of the intellect, weakening of the will and disordering of the lower passions. Only divine grace can remedy that to enlighten the intellect and strengthen the will. Sacrament are necessary for salvation in addition to revealed truth. The formula is not complete, however, without the other component. Sheep need a shepherd. The People of God need leaders. Not overlords and masters, but pastoral leaders who govern with charity and love, compassion and mercy. 

Salvation involves the intellect, the will and both body and soul. It is personal and it is communal. Baptism makes us a child of God and a member of the Church. The Church is necessary for salvation for she has been entrusted with the fullness of grace (all seven sacraments) and the fullness of truth (Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition). Pope Francis did not negate these realities in any way, shape or form.

When Jesus met the woman caught in adultery, He did not condemn her but He did save her, not just her physical life but He saved her immortal soul when He said "go, and sin no more." This is what Pope Francis is doing. Not throwing stones but showing mercy. Mercy is NOT cooperating with evil, formally or materially. Mercy is not being tolerant nor permissive of immorality.  Mercy is being patient and forgiving with sinners who are in need of repentance and forgiveness. Like the father of the Prodigal son, the Holy Father is merely saying the Church, as a good mother, waits for her wayward children to come home.  The father does not pursue the son and drag him home kicking and screaming. He does welcome him back after the son expresses his regret and asks forgiveness.

Pro-life supporters keep defending the innocent lives of the unborn. This must be done. All the Pope was asking is that we lovingly, mercifully and compassionately encourage those who have had abortions to REPENT and be RECONCILED with God. We can and must CONDEMN the sin without condemning the sinner. People are not evil but they can do evil deeds. Those deeds must be judged and evaluated against the natural moral law and the divine law of God as found in revealed truth. The persons who commit evil need prayer. They need love. Their evil actions are not who they are. They are children of God who have gone astray. They are prodigal children who need to come to their senses.

Pope Benedict XVI said so often and so aptly, Catholicism is not a religion of EITHER/OR, she is the religion of BOTH/AND.  We can love the sinner and hate the sin. We can be pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family and still show mercy and compassion to those who disagree and who even work against us. Defending the defenseless is not an option, it is a moral imperative. HOW it is done is just as important as DOING it.

If the late President Ronald Reagan were alive today and was about to address the Republican National Convention, would he spend time saying what is already known and presumed? Would he speak at length about the need for smaller government or lower taxes? Would he not spend more time on energizing the base and inviting more to the party without diluting or watering down core principles? Sometimes the obvious has to just be obvious and does not need the spotlight 24/7.  The Catholic Church is 100% pro-life, pro-family and pro-traditional marriage. Her doctrines on faith and morals will not and cannot change. The entire package, the truth, the grace, and the HOPE that the Church provides is what Pope Francis is accentuating.  He is not throwing the Church under the bus.  He is not denying nor diluting the faith and he is not asking the faithful to stop working for justice, especially for the end of abortion and euthanasia. He is just reminding us of the WHOLE BIG PICTURE of Salvation. Preach the truth, make grace available and lead the people by good example. Unlike some who are trying to make Pope Francis a seamless garment pontiff, he already said not all church teachings are equivalent.  There is a HIERARCHY of truth. The right to life is the most fundamental and foundational issue of our time. It is not the only issue for religious liberty is close behind. CONTEXT is crucial.  Our faith is a tapestry of teachings, devotions, spiritualities, traditions, rituals, rites, etc.  It is not an alphabet soup, however, where everything is chaotically mixed up. Saving souls is the bottom line and the more we save the more we please God. Sharing the truth is one step but there are more that are needed. We just need to follow the lead of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. She was unabashedly and unequivocally PRO-LIFE and PRO-FAMILY.  She defended Humanae Vitae and she taught NFP. She saved babies from abortion but she also helped pregnant women, people suffering AIDS and all other kinds of diseases. She helped the poor wherever they were and she helped the those who were spiritually poor as well as those who were materially poor. All done in love, charity and mercy. What threat is that to the faith?  Pope Francis did not give a carte blanche to commit fornication, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, et al.  He is reaching out to the fornicators and adulterers as did Our Divine Lord and urge them to abandon their sins and follow the path of virtue. He reminds clergy (bishops especially) that ordination is not a career nor a job, it is a vocation and a mission. Teaching and defending the truth is one of our mandates but we are also ordained to offer sacrifice, to console, to counsel, to advise, to solace, to bless, to sanctify, to absolve and to lead. If these are done with mercy and compassion, they can be done without compromising the truth and without cheapening grace.

Friday, September 13, 2013

CORPORAL WORK OF MERCY or Mission Impossible?

My poor mother was diagnosed with shingles last night at the skilled nursing home where she is getting sub acute rehab for several weeks before going back to her apartment in assisted living. The Doctor who works at the nursing home told her last night after she cried hearing the news she has shingles, that she could take a week off from rehab to rest.  She just spent 15 whole days in the hospital (five of which were due to insurance red tape) after having internal bleeding requiring a transfusion of two units of blood.

Today, the nurse said she could NOT rest and that she HAD to go to rehab despite the doctor's orders. That is because her insurance would not cover a brief break in rehab. The poor woman is EXHAUSTED. She can barely stand on her own.  She needs therapy but she also needs rest to recuperate from the shingles. She has aortic stenosis and has a bad heart valve as well as having three blocked arteries. She is not eligible for open heart to have the necessary double by-pass surgery. Hence, she needs to beef up with therapy so as to get a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure in the near future.

MEDICARE refused to pay for her current skilled nursing rehab as she exhausted 100 days this past Spring in Erie (Feb-May).  Medicare does not reset until 60 days passes without any skilled nursing or  hospital stays. Medicare ended on May 20. I got a phone call while on pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina on May 19 telling me my mom would be discharged on May 20. I said I would not be back in the US until May 28. The nursing home kept her for a few extra weeks but charged my mom FULL COST (over $300/day)

After returning to the US, I had to find an Assisted Living facility as my mom was too weak to live alone but Medicare said she had to leave the skilled nursing facility.

June 12 I found and brought her to assisted living in Harrisburg.  Just ten miles from my rectory.

Then, on July 22, mom suffers a mini-stroke (TIA) that lands her in hospital for ten days. A month later, she has internal bleeding and needs 2 pints of blood.

Medicare said that 60 days did not occur between her nursing care in Erie and her hospitalization for mini-stroke in Harrisburg.  I count 62 days from when Medicare STOPPED PAYMENT and when the meter started running on my mom's checkbook to the day she had her TIA. Medicare counts the extra days after she was dropped by them as non eligible counting days. Therefore, they refuse to pay.

My mom is being PUNISHED for getting sick in less time than the government allows. Why penalize the sick and elderly? Why not penalize those who ABUSE the system and use food-stamps to buy cigarettes, booze, lobster and crab legs? If Medicare STOPS on May 20, then I count May 21-June 12 as much as I count June 13-July 21 in ascertaining 60 days before resetting. The government is saying NO. They refused to cover her for those days but they will not allow us to count them either. DOUBLE-JEOPARDY. This is a gross miscarriage of justice. A law abiding taxpayer is suffering legitimate ailments and she must pay out of pocket merely because a bureaucrat has a bizarre calendar.

Now, my mom who has nearly collapsed from exhaustion and almost is over the edge, is told she cannot rest even though the nursing home physician said she could lest her supplemental insurance refuse to pay the portion of the sub acute rehab.  She is being charged $2,000 a month as it is PLUS she is paying $3,000 a month to keep her room at the assisted living center. She only gets $2,000 a month in social security and pension. Hence, my brother and I make up the difference as she has NO MORE ASSETS. Medicaid says she makes $20 more a month than is allowed to be covered by Medicaid. Medicare has draconian regulations that no one can understand. Meanwhile, my 79 year old mother is treated as if she were living in some socialist government where the state counts more than the citizen.

Caring for the poor is a corporal work of mercy but doctors, nurses, aides, and caretakers are restricted by regulations and bureaucracy that defy reason. Helping people get better and stay healthy would help the common good. The elderly and the infirm still have much to contribute to society in terms of their wisdom, experience and presence. They are one of our treasures just as are our youth and children. If we discard them or allow them to be ignored, abused and exploited, guess what? We are next. I am 51. Does not look as if things are getting better. Science and technology advance but medicine is less an art and more a business today. Health insurance companies are buying and owning hospitals. CONFLICT OF INTEREST !!!  Number crunchers and bean counters, bureaucrats and managers reign supreme while doctors and nurses are controlled by arcane regulations.

I realize health care has a cost. It cannot be totally free. But ACCESS to medical treatment is a fundamental RIGHT of every human being.  Access is denied when it is too expensive or when only the rich and only the poor are served while the middle-class SUFFER. Justice demands we do something to FIX things rather than allow the current crisis to worsen. Socializing medicine is not the answer. More bureaucracy and more regulations from state and federal authorities is not good medicine. INSURANCE COMPANIES have too much control. They determine what the doctor can do, what procedures and what equipment. That is not medicine, it is business. People are not a commodity. What we fail to resolve now will haunt us later and become a sheer nightmare.

Thursday, August 22, 2013



Sorry for the lengthy hiatus from the blogosphere. My mother was in a skilled nursing center in Erie for five months getting rehab after a hospitalization shortly before her 79th birthday. While I was in southern Italy on pilgrimage, I was informed that Medicare had reached its magic 100th day and would no longer subsidize her care. When I got back to the States I had to secure a room for her in assisted living which you pay on your own as she was allegedly no longer eligible for skilled nursing.  Driving 300+ miles (one way) from Harrisburg to Erie nearly got me killed last March 16th when I had a collision with a truck on I-80 that landed me in ICU.  Hence, I found an assisted living center in Harrisburg, just ten miles from my rectory.

Unfortunately, my mom did not want to leave Erie where spent her entire life. She never lived anywhere else. She also buried three of her five children and then my dad just before their 40th anniversary. My sister died at the age of three days as an infant; my brother Michael died at the age of 26 from Muscular Dystrophy; my brother Joe was killed at the age of 33 by an underage drunk driver. My dad died six months after the accident after battling himself leukemia for four years.

Now there is only my youngest brother left alive who is in Erie and me who lives in Harrisburg.  My mom had six siblings and only two are left. One lives in Florida and the other no longer drives.

Despite her misgivings, I got her moved in and I visit almost if not every day. My two deacons and their wives and several parishioners and friends visit her often as well.

She had major back surgery in Feb. 2012 to treat her spinal stenosis and then she was diagnosed with aortic stenosis a year later. She has three blocked arteries and needs a new heart valve.

Last month she suffered a mini-stroke that landed her in the hospital for ten days and this past Monday she was admitted to the Emergency Room for anemia and required a transfusion of two pints of blood.

My mom has endured MANY crosses and I ask your prayers that Our Lady of Sorrows strengthen her with God's grace and give her some consolation. Due to her ill health, she was unable to attend my 25th anniversary Mass in Harrisburg, so I had another Mass of Thanksgiving a month later in the chapel at the Catholic nursing home she was residing in at the time.

Once she gets better, we are hoping for a heart procedure to replace her defective valve and give her some improved blood flow from the heart so as to improve her quality of life.

She has done so much for so many, whether it was the nearly half a century work she performed as a registered nurse (most of which were as head nurse of the ER and Trauma Center) or her unofficial work as sacristan and Girl-Friday for the cloistered discalced Carmelite Nuns in Erie. She took care of a disabled son and husband plagued by cancer.

I love her dearly and wish I could do more to help. Just being by her hospital bed gives her some comfort although the pain is often intense from all her ailments and health complications. ANY and ALL prayers are much appreciated.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The former Pope's master of ceremonies opens to the recognition of gay couples

Archbishop Piero Marini

Former papal master of ceremonies (Archbishop Piero Marini, NOT to be confuses with current MC Monsignor Guido Marini) made a bold statement in the press. "It is necessary to recognize the union of persons of the same sex, because there are many couples that suffer because their civil rights aren’t recognized. What can’t be recognized is that this union is equivalent to marriage." 

I respectfully but vigorously DISAGREE with his excellency. It is true that ALL human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation/inclination have by virtue of their HUMAN PERSONHOOD basic human rights. These rights come from their human nature and are not given or bestowed by any state or government. The right to life, the most basic and foundational of all, begins at the moment of conception. From that right comes our other human rights, such as the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom to address wrongs, and the right to access of basic human necessities (food, clothing, shelter, employment, education, medical treatment).

All individual PERSONS have rights but not all ideologies, agendas, platforms, philosophies, policies, etc. have equal rights or equal veracity. Some are based on reality and truth, others are based on false, erroneous assumptions, wrong conclusions and distorted perspectives. A racist has human rights but racism has no rights whatsoever. No individual and no society is obliged to recognize let alone condone or tolerate ideologies which contradict truth, threaten the common good or violate the Natural Moral Law. Hence, an abortionist has human rights but abortion itself and the idea that abortion is a viable option enjoys no protection and has no right to be treated as equal with the position of the right to life of the unborn.

There are no black rights and white rights; men's rights and women's rights; gay rights and straight rights. There are just HUMAN RIGHTS. Marriage is a natural institution which existed BEFORE the church and before the state. It is the foundation and cornerstone of the FAMILY which is in turn the keystone of both church and state. Society and civilization depend on the family and de facto depend on marriage.

Recognizing civil unions is wrong not just for moral reasons but for metaphysical ones as well. If the secular legal authorities can recognize and treat as equal both traditional marriage and gay civil unions, then that same authority can and must by logic and reason recognize polygamous and incestuous unions as well. If the natural estate of marriage can be redefined and reinvented in one aspect (to move from the restriction of only opposite gender unions to include same gender unions), it opens the door and even mandates that the other restrictions be eliminated as well. So, from one man + one woman = marriage moves to include two men or two women, then there is nothing stopping multiple spouses so that it becomes one man + many wives or one woman and many husbands. It also means that the state cannot outlaw a brother from marrying his sister, a parent marrying their child, and so forth.

Then what about couples who live together who are not married?  Why should they be penalized for not having a civil license?  Why not have a license for concubinage and cohabitation? Don't couples who live and sleep together have rights?  YES, as persons, they have rights but cohabitation and concubinage has no rights. Likewise, persons with a homosexual orientation or inclination has the same human rights as all human beings, but they do not have a right to reinvent marriage anymore than a polygamist does. 

Rights are not the same as privileges, however. Married couples have certain privileges, as do parents, since society benefits and depends on marriage and the family. Individuals retain their inalienable rights but these two estates, marriage and family, must be protected and supported with some reasonable privileges and benefits to encourage individual persons to consider both.

No human being should ever be treated disrespectfully nor with hostility, ever. Unjust discrimination is a sin and is a crime because it is evil. At the same time, not all human activity or ideas are of equal value. Not all promote the common good and some, in fact, threaten it. If two unmarried heterosexual or two homosexuals persons live together, there is little the law can do and no one should threaten their lives or safety. They should be treated with respect but living in sin does not. Sex outside of marriage is fornication. It is immoral and sinful. Neither should society reward sinful behavior by granting privileges but treat them like all individuals.  Two individuals living together are as much human as a married man living with his wife but the former is not a protected estate while the latter is. Human rights cannot be denied but not all human relationships or living arrangements have equal protection. We must separate PERSON from IDEOLOGY. That is not being mean, nasty, bigoted or prejudiced. It is being natural and traditional. What if a group of persons living in the same neighborhood just declared to everyone else: 'we are a separate state' or 'we are a separate nation.'  Would the US government, the commonwealth (or state) or the world have to recognize it?  Just saying something is does not make it so. Calling a relationship marriage does not make it a marriage. 

"But they just want to be happy." or "they're good people."  Both can be very true statements, but individual happiness and personal goodness do not define reality. We must conform to reality, reality does not conform to us (solipsism). It is like a man declaring he is now a woman. Biologically you are  either male or female, but some in society want to allow people to redefine themselves, even their gender. I cannot change my human nature so that now I am an animal or a plant. We call some people vegetables but that is an oxymoron.  Human beings are a physical body and an immaterial soul (which is a rational intellect united with a free will). We cannot remake ourselves into angels and angels cannot become men. Marriage cannot be reinvented or redefined, either. Society has a vested interest, not just the Church and religion, but the state and civil government as well, in protecting and promoting traditional marriage. Obviously, there will be people who freely choose to live together without being married. Some freely choose to have children outside of marriage as well. That is their choice but we must reward, defend, protect and promote traditional marriage and traditional family, not just as another option but as the norm and ideal. It will not be 100% but the common good warrants that we honor and cherish it as a goal to aspire and not just a simple choice. Children deserve to born and raised in a loving family where mom and dad are husband and wife so that BOTH genders positively influence and educate and form them. Exceptions should be just that, exceptions and not mere alternatives. 

I think we can and must have a civil, polite, respectful and rational debate and discussion. Not a diatribe and nothing with anger, hostility or animosity. Those who disagree with us are not monsters nor are we. I just fear that compromise is not always the best solution. If we keep to the one basic truth that all human being have basic human rights, we can differentiate rights from privileges. Unfortunately, the pro-abortion supporters content they have reproductive rights. No, there are human rights, period, and the right to life is not subservient to any other right, privilege or alternate lifestyle. Likewise, marriage is a natural institution which is not open for redesign or being cloned.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Acts of Papal Kindness

Reports abound about Pope Francis performing small acts of kindness, whether to a Swiss Guard, a hotel clerk or a newspaper salesman. Saint Therese of the Little Flower said that "small acts of kindness, done well and done often, mean more to God than anything else." BOTH Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis are men who show kindness because they RESPECT others. When Father Brighenti and I presented a special hard-bound copy of John Paul II for Dummies to B16, he treated us with KINDNESS. That is the sign of a true gentleman and a real Christian. He opened the book and actually read a page before spending another five whole minutes conversing with us. He looked you in the eye and spoke to you with respect even though he was light years ahead of us intellectually and spiritually. Two simple diocesan priests having a conversation with the Supreme Roman Pontiff. He even remembered our first book (Catholicism for Dummies) which we sent him when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. Pope Francis is likewise showing DELIBERATE (not random) acts of kindness. He treats people as PERSONS (as did B16 and JP2 before him).  All too often, clergy, especially those who are prelates, ACT as if they are better than others and patronize and denigrate others, particularly their ecclesiastical subordinates. Rudeness is always a sign of insecurity. Graciousness, when genuine, comes from a loving heart. 

All too often people misjudge others by how they dress, whether it is the clothing of a poor man or the traditional vestments of a priest. What matters is what is in the heart. I have seen and heard about too many who say they love the poor or say they love the Church and then treat people as though they were expendable and incidental. I personally met Pope B16 and he is a true gentleman, scholar and a very holy man, yet many attacked him for wearing old fashioned attire. His kindness to others transcended style as it always does in all holy people. True clericalism is when an ordained minister thinks he is better than others and expects preferential treatment. It has nothing to do with ones attire or personal taste. What I find most repugnant about real clericalism is when some clerics act as if they are above the laws of God and His Holy Church. I have seen many good, holy, talented, honest and hard-working priests get overlooked or persecuted for their loyalty to the Magisterium while other bureaucrats, politicians and sycophants get promoted and end up abusing their power. Papal honors, like knighthood and monsignors, are supposed to be given to priests who have gone over and above the normal duties and served selflessly. Often, that is the case, but sadly, there are other instances where old-style cronyism merely rewards buddies, placates the ambitious and promotes the incompetent so as to only have 'yes men' in the court.

One can show loving respect without the recipient allowing it to go to his head. I would never dare call my dad by his first name. Yet, I loved and respected him more than any other man I have ever had the privilege and honor to know. He always sat at the head of our table, whether in the kitchen or the dining room. He also was fair, just, patient, forgiving, merciful, honest and a very devout and staunch Catholic. THAT is what I want to be and what I think all clergy should emulate as spiritual fathers. We clergy are not better than the laity. I know of far more many laypersons who are much closer to sainthood than anyone else I know. The laity want to be treated with respect and so does the clergy. Kindness can be expressed by merely listening even if one disagrees. Kindness is showing civility and good manners at all times to all persons.  Kindness is treating others with respect especially when you have authority over them. I found out very soon as a new pastor (11 years ago) that parishioners respect you respecting them. In other words, when making executive decisions, if done abruptly, with no explanation, they can be misinterpreted as clericalism. When people are treated as intelligent adults and given a rationale, they may not always agree but a majority will always appreciate and respect the authoritative decisions when implemented in such a way. What works in a parish, works in a diocese. Trouble begins when laity and clergy alike are treated like ignorant imbeciles who are not sophisticated enough to understand the wisdom of the shepherd. The church is hierarchical by divine choice and institution. Exercising authority with kindness and respect is the hallmark of a GREAT leader. Strength is not found in being rude or obnoxious. Real strength is being firm with compassion and being consistent with reason.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Discrimination of Homosexuals or Difference of Opinion

April 13, 2013
Discriminating against homosexual persons

By Matt C. Abbott

In light of the recent story (click here) about a Christian florist who faces significant fines for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, I asked Father John Trigilio Jr., author, theologian and president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, to comment on the moral difference between unjust and just discrimination against homosexual persons.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches (no. 2358):
    The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
Father Trigilio's response is as follows (slightly edited):
    Never deny, seldom affirm, always distinguish. This mediaeval axiom was well known and employed by the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. We need to use that same sound reasoning today. The natural moral law, as well as civil law (human positive law), makes a distinction in qualifying unjust discrimination from discrimination in general. Discriminate is defined in the dictionary as a verb from the Latin word discriminare, to differentiate; to make a distinction; to discern differences.

    Unjust discrimination is the denial of fair treatment in a situation where a decision should be based on personal merit or need, or is a denial of a human right. Hence, as a consumer, I can go to any merchant of my choice and either pay the price they request, or I'm free to not buy from them. I discriminate between stores and merchants. It is neither unfair nor unjust to avoid certain stores since it is my right to shop where I want. I may like the prices or the location or the customer service of one store over another. That is making a discriminating choice. It is neither immoral nor unjust, and it is not illegal.

    When I'm in a store and choose to go to one sales clerk over another, it may be based on the number of people in the clerk's line, the clerk's efficiency or even just his or her smile or professional look. If someone avoids a clerk or store owner purely based on his or her race – thatwould be unjust discrimination. It is immoral and sinful. If, however, I refuse to patronize a store or business that supports abortion by contributing to Planned Parenthood, that is considered moral discrimination. I choose not to do business with someone who openly subsidizes or supports something evil or immoral.

    Marriage is a natural institution. It predates the church and the state. Neither one can redefine it. It is therefore not unjust discrimination to boycott or refuse commercial business in a situation that openly defies my moral and religious principles. Marriage is between one man and one woman. The florist, caterer, wedding coordinator and photographer have no moral obligation to participate in a ceremony or occasion that openly and publicly contradicts their religious and moral values.

    If a customer purchases flowers, it is irrelevant if he or she has a homosexual or heterosexual orientation. Providing flowers for a gay wedding, however, is a public statement. Likewise, a merchant would be in his or her right to refuse to be a part of a polygamous or incestuous marriage even if either were allowed by civil law. Morally speaking, the state cannot change the essence or substance of marriage and allow same-sex weddings any more than it can allow multiple spouses or a brother and sister or parent and child to marry. If any government would allow such, merchants would have the moral right to refuse service and thus avoid violating their conscience. Unjust discrimination is when a merchant refuses to do business with a customer because of his or her race, gender or religion.

    The context is as important as the subjects involved. There are neither homosexual nor heterosexual human beings. There are human beings. Human beings are persons and persons have human and civil rights. Some human beings have a homosexual orientation or inclination [due to the effects of original sin], while most human beings have a heterosexual orientation. Any and all sexual activity outside of marriage is immoral and sinful. Hence, fornication is the sin of unmarried people of any orientation having sex with each other. It used to be that hotel and motel owners could and were expected to refuse to rent a single room to an unmarried couple. They could not refuse a couple because they were African-American or Latino, but if the couple were not husband and wife, they were allowed to demand separate accommodations. That was ethical and permissible discrimination.

    The church has no authority to redefine matrimony or holy orders – or any sacrament, for that matter. It does discriminate by divine law that only one man and one woman may marry, and only baptized males can be ordained. In neither case is it unjust discrimination. Laity do not lose their religious liberty or freedom in the market place, either. Anyone opposed to same-sex marriages is not being unjust or immoral, for they are merely following their religious and moral conscience. Is not a dress code in a restaurant and other public places a form of discrimination? Yes, but it is fair and just.

    If the state does as it has in the past with legalizing abortion, there will be those who wish to do what the law allows. Any and all citizens are free to refuse to do what is legal if it simultaneously violates the natural moral law and/or the divine positive law of God. That elderly florist may be obliged to sell a bouquet of flowers to any customer, gay or straight, but she is not obliged to give public approval and support to gay weddings if it violates her moral and religious values/principles.

    What needs to be avoided are the hateful, nasty, and pejorative epithets on either side of the issue. Denial can be done with respect and discretion, and must be done with charity. Obviously, some businesses have no option. Medical treatment, food, clothing and shelter are basic human needs, and every human being, regardless of sexual orientation, must be given access to what is needed.

    We are not discussing pharmacies, hospitals and restaurants, but a purely discretional expense: flowers. Non-essential businesses have a right to abstain from certain transactions that would violate the moral and religious tenets of the owner. This can be done properly, politely and prudently.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Back Off the Benny Bashing

Nothing more cowardly and unmanly than to make fun of an elderly man. Only someone who is insecure in their own masculinity has the audacity to launch verbal attacks on a true gentleman and scholar. It is pathetic when a person is reduced to making petty insults and puerile epithets just to mask their own theological inadequacies. Any moron can resort to ad hominem attacks but an intellectual person seeks and respects the truth. Sadly, a cardinal, a prince of the church, recently made schoolyard-bully insults via twitter the very day Pope Francis was elected:

"So long, Papal ermine and fancy lace! Welcome, simple cassock, and hopefully, ordinary black shoes!"

"Moving from HIGH Church to LOW and humble Church! What a blessing that we are encountering Jesus without trappings!"

You do not have to be an astrophysicist to figure out who was being implied in His Eminence's remarks. Trashing a former pope while he is still alive (albeit abdicated) is not just bad manners, it is like dissing your elderly grandfather after he goes to the retirement home. Disrespectful and DISTASTEFUL. Shameful, not to mention embarrassing that the non-Catholic world has to see a Cardinal show such disdain for a Vicar of Christ and Successor of Saint Peter.

DE GUSTIBUS NON DISPUTANDUM EST.  Pope Francis has a different style than his predecessor. So did Pope Benedict XVI to a smaller degree. It is UNJUST and dare I say, it is SLANDEROUS to accuse, allege or imply that B16 was in any a proud pontiff. It took great humility to resign from the most powerful office on earth. Pope Benedict abdicated for the sake of the common good of Holy Mother Church. She needed a shepherd who was healthier and more vibrant. BOTH popes, however, are HUMBLE. Humility can be expressed in different ways.

Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Francis of Assisi are perfect examples. One was a brilliant theologian and intellectual giant while the other was a pioneering spiritual reformer. While there may be some friendly competition between the Dominicans and the Franciscans, neither Aquinas nor Francis were in any way, shape or form bitter rivals or enemies.

The secular press, however, and some in the Catholic media (and one notorious and infamous Cardinal) make it sound as if only Pope Francis showed humility. They imply and infer that Pope Benedict was a proud aristocratic who veiled himself with trappings of imperialism.

Pope Benedict merely showed the Church and the world that CATHOLIC means UNIVERSAL. Just as we have both an Eastern and Western (Latin) Church in Catholicism, we also have in the Roman Rite the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. We have traditional and contemporary taste in ART, MUSIC and LITURGICAL ATTIRE. If Pope Benedict wore a lace alb it was merely a matter of personal TASTE, not a political statement.  If someone is looking for hidden agendas and latent messages, I would not look at the old fashioned vestments, rather, peek into the moral activity of those who cast the first and largest stones. Before the sex scandals broke in the press, many a seminarian was persecuted for wearing a little lace in his alb or surplice while a classmate who frequented gay bars or who preached dissident theology in his homilies got sterling evaluations. 

It is not the liturgical lace that church bureaucrats need worry about. Instead, they should be concerned about the women's lingerie some deviant clergy were wearing as has been reported in newspaper articles a few months ago. We do not need the Dark Ages of the Witch Hunt for conservative and traditional seminarians and priests as we had in the '60's, '70's and early '80's. Almost like Elizabethan England when finding a rosary got you drawn and quartered, many of us remember the intimidation, ridicule and often offensive persecution for practicing private devotions and personal piety.

Some people like formality not because they consider themselves better than others, rather, they want to HONOR someone or some event by making an extra effort to dress up. Casual has become the icon of our modern age. When I was growing up, everyone, be they poor, rich or middle-class, had 'church clothes' that you wore every Sunday. Jeans were for manual labor, not for office or school, nor dining in restaurants and NEVER in church. Wearing the proper wedding garment had nothing to do with the cost of it. Attention to small details is not always a sign of obsessive compulsive behavior. It can also be a sign of RESPECT. When good china and real silverware are brought out, along with the linen napkins and tablecloth, it is the OCCASION and/or the GUEST who is being honored. Paper plates and plasticware are inexpensive and convenient but they do not bespeak anything SPECIAL. Some people or some events are special. Some places are special (like Church).

Pope Benedict XVI had CLASS. He is a true gentleman and a man of polite manners. He would never make the disparaging remarks like the ones made by an American cardinal calumniously attacking him just for his choice (and it is an option) of liturgical attire. If more attention had been spent on cracking down on BAD THEOLOGY (dissent) and BAD MORALITY (sexual misconduct) as well as BAD LITURGY (rubrical abuses), many scandals could have been avoided and prevented.

I am sick of those who keep trashing and bashing B16 as if he were some snobby Czar or glib monarch who dines on caviar while the poor masses eat stale bread. What Pope Benedict did was to show us that SACRED WORSHIP (Divine Liturgy) is about God and it comes from God. Man did not invent divine worship. God created and ordained HOW and WHERE He was to be adored and worshipped as we see Moses being told by God to tell Pharaoh, 'let my people go so that they may worship me in the wilderness.'

It was JUDAS who reprimanded the woman that anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive aromatic nard. Christ did not stop nor did He chastise her. He instead thanked and blessed her. Cain made a sloppy second, convenient sacrifice whereas his brother Abel offered the best sheep of the flock. Whose offering was accepted and whose was rejected?

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta INSISTED that silver or gold vessels be used at Mass in all her chapels where the Missionaries of Charity worshipped God around the world. She said the worship of God deserved only the best and the poor should not be deprived of offering the best to God merely because they themselves cannot afford it.

I find it is clerical men who are more like girly-men and nancy-boys (i.e., those insecure in their own masculinity) and who launch vicious attacks on their peers and colleagues for wearing more elaborate, formal and more traditional vestments. Real men do not bully the perceived 'nerds' or 'geeks' who dress less casually than the jocks. Real men are secure in manly VIRTUES and have no need for histrionics and melodrama. HUMILITY is not what you wear, but how you ACT and how you TREAT others.  One can be CHEAP and have nothing to do with saving money. Being CHEAP is not about spending less, rather, it is about being too lazy or too conceited to do what might be inconvenient but what is expected by convention to show RESPECT and APPRECIATION to someone else. Cheap Catholicism is like cheap grace; neither is efficacious. REVERENCE is not a matter of price-tag but it is a matter of deliberate effort to show respect.

Pope Francis is entitled to his personal taste, opinion and prudential judgments. We are not in any position to render any comment as he is the supreme shepherd of the universal church. That being said, those of us who APPRECIATE and LIKE the former style of Pope Benedict are FREE to continue his example just as those who wish to imitate and emulate Pope Francis, Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI or even Pope Pius XII. In matters of faith (doctrine) and morals, we must all be on the same page with the Vicar of Christ. In matters of taste (DE GUSTIBUS) there is no argument or debate (NON DISPUTANDUM EST). When will some people finally figure that out?

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