Tuesday, June 21, 2011

(Hopefully) My Final Words on the Corapi Affair

What follows here are just some random thoughts.

There are those comparing Fr. Corapi to a Judas, a man who betrayed his vocation and calling.  That's a little too outlandish.  A better description can be found in the Old Testament in the figure of God's anointed, King Saul.

1 Samuel 15 gives us the relevant story.  As they prepared for battle, God instructed King Saul that he was to completely raze everything his opponents had, to leave nothing alive or take nothing as loot.  His victims the Amalekites were rich.  Saul carried out the first part of God's command (route the Amalekites) but not the second.  Instead of slaying the King, he made the King his vassal, and they made away with all the choice animals and loot.  That of lesser quality they destroyed.

While God is furious with Saul for this, we have to realize one thing:  what Saul did was entirely rational.  Israel needed to survive, and she would survive with compliant subjects in other nations.  He even rationalizes to Samuel that the choice animals wouldn't be used for personal gain, but sacrificed to God.  As sacrifice is a good thing, certainly many sacrifices is great thing for him to do!

God's response through Samuel was unequivocal:

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being King.
Saul's sin was that he believed he knew what was best to please God.  Instead, he should have simply been obedient to God, even if it didn't make much sense to him.  It was this action that set him upon the path of becoming a tyrant who stood against God.  Yet even then, David still called him "God's anointed" and wept bitterly at his death.

That is how I feel about Fr. Corapi.  He may think he is doing good by what he is doing.  He may feel that his actions and his ministry are vital to the flock today.  Yet as the Bible shows, disobedience is not the way to go about this.  It was blatantly clear his religious superior and his Bishop has authority over him.  He has chosen to reject that authority, albeit it in a round-about way, and with the best of intentions.  Hopefully he repents.  He will always be a priest, even if he is made a layman again (the character of his soul cannot change in this regard), so one can hope and pray he returns to being a priest.

The story of Fr. Corapi further gives us instruction on how a priest remains faithful.  In his podcast of June 20th, he says the following:

I'm still a priest.  You can't take that away.  No act of the Church can take that away.  What they can remove is facultires;  that is the public ability to administer the sacraments.  I didn't do much of that quite honestly in the 20 years that I did minister.  About 90% of what I did in the past did not require ordination.
He also describes his minsitry as not "within the sacraments" but "outside of them, that is, in conjunction with them."  I submit here this is one of the key problems.  His priesthood was not centered around the sacraments.  He may have celebrated the sacraments on occasion, but they weren't by his own admission the most important parts of his ministry.  Yet for faithful laymen and faithful priests, they hear these words and cringe.  Anybody can preach on the Word.  Quite frankly, many laymen do it better than priests.  Yet only a priest can bring about the Eucharist.  Only the priest can ascend the altar of God to offer the perfect sacrifice.  Only a priest can give the assurance of God's forgivness and absolution in the sacrament of Penance.  This is a staple of the modernists.  They view social work more important than offering the Mass.  Yet without the Mass, there can be no true social work.

Daily Mass, frequent offering of the sacraments, frequent benedictions and daily adoration is not something that is accidental to a priest's ministry, so the Servant of God John Hardon tells us.  In his view, they are absolutely essential, and the primary reason a man is a priest.  It is why in charity I do not think Fr. Corapi was being honest with himself when he made those remarks.  In my view, he was trying to rationalize to himself the decision to become "the Blacksheepdog" and leave the priesthood.  A priest who cannot offer the Mass and Sacraments is cut off from his very calling in life.  The only other option is that Fr. Corapi was a liar all these years, and never really cared about the priesthood, it was simply a means to an end to make him famous.  Yet anyone who has listened to the Fr. Corapi of the past would know that cannot be true.

That is all I really have to say on the matter.  In the end, Fr. Corapi needs our prayers, as does everyone involved in this mess.  I do not think he perceived just how hard the job of being an orthodox, obedient priest was.  Fr. John Hardon gives us some absolutely excellent insight. 

Every facet of the ministry is the exercise of such influence in the lives of others that no one under Heaven is more exposed to the temptation of pride than a priest. Perhaps some people, especially in academic circles, still wonder why the Church is suffering so gravely at the hands and lips of her priests. We need not wonder. Most of the chaos in the Catholic Church today is due to the pride of priests.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

In The World, Not Of It

Like many others, I'll be wrapping up any further commentary on the Fr. Corapi matter.  There really isn't that much more to say.  His "fans" will believe what they want to believe, and his critics will only be convinced Fr. Corapi is doing the right thing when he submits to his superiors like a good Catholic priest is supposed to.  In light of his recent posting (which I'm not going to link to again), it is obvious Fr. Corapi is very troubled right now, and in deep need of prayer.  So with that in mind, I will touch upon one issue, and then a wrap-up post later concluding the whole affair, barring any major developments, and a new podcast is not a major development!

It is my hope (and hope springs eternal) that there is a silver lining in this entire fiasco.  In the end, it is how important it is to pray for priests.  It is also about how important a priestly character is to the life of priests.  Fr. Jay Toborowsky offers a rather original analysis of the issue, and one I think that is compelling.  A big problem in this entire affair had to do with property.

For those not aware, Fr. Corapi is very wealthy.  A lot of the money came through winning a lawsuit (unrelated to his priestly functions), and a lot also came from his media empire Santa Cruz Media.  One cannot fault a priest for reaping the fruit of their labor.  Yet one can question the way that fruit is spent.  I indicate here how Fr. Corapi spends his wealth:

During the course of the day, we learned that Fr. Corapi owns a home in northwest Montana which he paid for with a million-dollar lawsuit settlement. He drives a fast car with lots of horsepower and keeps a loaded .45 in the glove compartment. He also rides a fat boy Harley Davidson motorcycle, owns a boat of unspecified size, and vacations in Key West. He works out six times a week, twice with a female physical trainer, and has lost seventy pounds and increased his strength by a hundred percent in the past year. The weight loss prompted him, at his charitable best, to donate two large bags of “fat clothes” to the local Salvation Army. I can only assume that the donated clothes did not consist of old habits and clericals.
Some things need to be kept clear.  Fr. Corapi did not take a vow of poverty.  So he isn't violating any laws of his religious order by having such possessions.  Yet one should question:  of what need does a priest have for a sports car or a Fat Boy?  Throughout the history of the Church, she has suffered the greatest when her priests and religious live like the world.  The Church at the time of the Reformation is acknowledged even by Catholics to have been stupendously and scandalously corrupt.  The Pope who condemned Luther (rightly in the doctrinal sphere) rode around Rome on a giant elephant and was one of the most extravagant spenders in world history, to say nothing of Church history!

Likewise, whenever a great reform movement of the Church happened, an emphasis was given on poverty.  Even if one didn't take a vow of poverty, there was a basic understanding of simplicity.  Priests dressed in simple black clerical garb with their Roman collars.  They drove simple transportation.  They weren't jet-setting to Vegas several times a year on "vacation."

When you raise these issues, you are called a socialist and envious.  Anyone who knows my political views knows I am a proponent of capitalism in the private market economy.  The priesthood of Jesus Christ is not the private market economy.  The job of a priest is not to make money.  It isn't even to go off on this or that conference marketing products.  The job of a priest is to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments.  Fr. Corapi mentioned that the Mass and Sacraments were barely part of his actual ministry, so the suspension does not effect him.  Whether or not he realizes it, he has just touched on the problem.  He, like far too many priests, are too busy with the things of this world, rather than sticking to the important points of their priesthood.

According to his superior Fr. Sheehan, Fr. Corapi was offered to return to living amongst his brother priests, to where all his needs would be taken care of during the investigation.  The only catch was, he would have to give up the sports cars, the boats, the hogs, and live in accordance with a stricter standard of discipline than he was originally living under (due to a previous agreement with his previous superior).  He turned down that invitation and chose to leave the religious life and (wanting to) leave the priesthood.  His "fans" constantly worry about "corrupt bishops" getting their greedy hands on all that money Fr. Corapi has.  Here's my question:  How much of an issue is all of this is Fr. Corapi instead lived a life not neccessarily of poverty, but simplicity?  If instead of a sports car, he had a Focus?  If he lived in a humble one bedroom apartment or two room flat?  If instead of a Harley, he had a Schwinn?  If the profits from his ministry (outside of administrative costs for himself, his staff and upkeep) went to the charity of his choice, even a private one?  I suspect things would be a lot different.

We are currently in an era of reform-minded Popes.  The great project of Blessed John Paul was on stressing greater fidelity to Catholic doctrine, especially in the seminaries.  The great project of Benedict XVI has been to awaken the proper understanding of the liturgical life, especially amongst priests.  Perhaps Benedict (or his successor) will next choose to focus on the quality of priestly life, secular and religious.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Fr. Corapi Affair Takes a Turn for the Worse UPDATED

h/t Christopher Blosser

Fr. Gerard Sheehan, the religious superior of Fr. John Corapi has spoken with National Catholic Register.  In the report (and in a promised forthcoming statement from the Society of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, henceforth SOLT), Fr. Sheehan offers some evidence that is, to say the least, very disturbing.

1.)  Fr. Corapi knew who his accusers are, in direct contradiction to his "BlackSheepDog" statement.  He knew because he had originally paid them to sign a non-disclousre agreement, expressely prohibiting them from speaking about any activities during their employment with his company Santa Cruz Media.

2.)  This action seriously compromised the ongoing investigation SOLT was conducting into the allegations of sexual misconduct and drug abuse raised against Fr. Corapi.  As a result of it, many witnesses they wanted to speak to they could not.  This very well could have created the uncertain proceedings Fr. Corapi complained about.

3.)  In light of the allegations made, Fr. Corapi is now suing the accuser (who he claimed to not know of) for an alleged breach of contract, not for character defamation or anything else.  This civil suit further complicated SOLT's investigation.

4.)  Due to 1-3, SOLT attempted to conduct their investigation without speaking to any of the principal witnesses, which was almost impossible.

5.)  Fr. Corapi was given an offer to return to his religious community and live with them in prayer, but declined.  Fr. Sheehan states that such a move would have neccessarily involved Fr. Corapi giving up his lifestyle and not having access to a good portion of his wealth.  One can also speculate it also meant no public ministry (speaking engagements or the like) for a long period of time.

6.)  After this refusal, Fr. Sheehan attempted to meet with Fr. Corapi without success.  Fr. Corapi's decision was made in a private letter "resigning" from the religious life and public ministry.  SOLT has confirmed that if this is what Fr. Corapi wants, they will help facilitate that process.

7.)  One can only guess that this also means he wishes to leave the priesthood and would be laicized shortly after.

I said in a previous post on the matter, I said it was very hard to presume Fr. Corapi's innocence in light of his statement.  In light of these facts, the hill becomes Mount Everest.  Could he be innocent?  Perhaps.  Yet paying off witnesses to enter into an NDA doesn't look like the behavior of an innocent man.

I also raised questions about the propriety of how funds were managed.  In light of his celebration of 20 years as a priest, a substantial discount was offered on all merchandise.  No doubt some money was also donated to Santa Cruz Media.  If the individuals who contributed/purchased were doing so with the intent of supporting a good priest, that money should be immediately returned.  Such questions are now intensified.  One has to wonder, how much of the money used to silence these witnesses came from those donations?  This isn't a matter of civil law, or maybe even canon law.  It is a matter of moral law if such funds were used.

We have to continue to pray for all involved.  Yet the revelation of these facts makes a happy ending near impossible.



Posted without comment.  There's really nothing that can possibly be said in reaction to this.


We now have the statement from his religious superior.


1.)  The suspension was standard procedure, and they foresaw it would be lifted after the investigation

2.)  The decision was made on June 3rd, by Fr. Corapi and Fr. Corapi alone, to leave the priesthood.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On Fr. Corapi: No Good Way to Look at it

For reasons known only to himself and God, Fr. John Corapi seeks to leave the priesthood to which he was ordained.  I say "only to himself and God" because I do not think his publicly released message really sheds much light on what he is doing.  I'll hope to make that clear as I continue.

First, we must remember one thing:  we cannot know if Fr. Corapi is innocent or guilty.  We do not have all the facts.  Second, he is obviously very bitter and frustrated.  One gets a sense of weariness in his voice and words.

This does not make him innocent though.  Speaking bluntly, he places his innocence on very questionable footing with the release of his statement.  I'll be honest, the statement read to me like a politician.  He gives the impression that this decision was forced on him by two factors.  The first was an institutional Church that offers no protection for accused priests.  There is some truth to that.  The second is that it is because of the false accusations of a "deeply troubled" woman, or so he thinks.

That is the rub with this entire issue.  As Fr. Corapi himself concedes:

The identity of the accuser is not revealed. You can guess, but you don’t actually know. Nor are the exact allegations made known to you. Hence, you have an interesting situation of having to respond to an unknown accuser making unknown accusations (unknown to the accused and his counsel).

He doesn't know who the accuser is.  Yet he goes to great length to speculate to his listeners that it is a woman he has done more to "help and support her" than anyone he ever has.  In turn, because she is a "demonstrably troubled person" she made "totally unsubstantiated, undocumented" allegations.  Some will say he isn't looking to slime the accuser because he doesn't mention them by name.  Whatever his motives, he has outlined a classic case of manipulating his audience.  He wants his audience to view him as a White Knight, and his accusers as deeply troubled people.  He wants himself to be portrayed as rational, whereas he wants the bishops arrayed against him to lack the characteristics of civilized societies.  (Without of course knowing who those Bishops even are!)  His fundamental civil and human rights are being violated by a nameless, faceless "they", being the Bishops.

If Fr. Corapi is innocent, this was the worst way to go about it.

There are those who are comparing him to St. "Padre" Pio.  St. Pio suffered real injustice from false allegations, and lost several years of his public ministry because of it.  The only difference is that St. Pio did not abandon his priesthood.  Fr. Corapi said the only options available were to "quietly lay down and die" or "go on" as he sees fit.  St. Pio gave an answer of defiance.  That defiance was directed at the devil.  He chose to soldier on, humbly subjecting himself to the injustice, fully confident in the end he would be vindicated.  As a result, we call him "Saint" Pio.  Fr. Corapi could indeed be innocent, but he is not taking the path of the saints that our Catholic tradition provides us.

He also gives every indication of continuing his public ministry in spite of the events that have transpired.  I am not optimistic he will be able to do so.  Many Churches will not host him.  His EWTN ministry is obviously permanently shelved.  The first thing that needs to be answered is a harsh question, but a valid one:

Did Fr. Corapi solicit support under questionable pretenses?
How long has Fr. Corapi known of his decision to leave the priesthood?  On his website, he was offering things at reduced prices to celebrate his 20th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood.  People were buying things many times as a way of giving a "thank you" for his priestly ministry.  A ministry he is now leaving.  To avoid any sense of impropriety, Fr. Corapi should offer refunds if charitable contributions were given to his organization before this, or if merchandise was purchased by those looking to support a priest.  I'm of the impression that this wasn't a long-standing idea.  The video and speech were far too hasty to suggest that.  I think this would be a beneficial act for him to take.

If his ministry does continue, he will be in need of some special graces and prayer.  As a laymen, he may indeed be able to contribute in some form or another.  Yet he is operating outside the "usual channels."  There was a time when Catholic Answers and EWTN were outside those "usual channels."  Yet a cult of personality didn't surround these individuals at the time either.  One does surround Fr. Corapi.  He may wish it not to be so, he may relish in it, we cannot know that.  Yet we cannot deny it exists.  His devoted fans will still see him as an authority figure.  What if that authority conflicts with the Bishops?  How can he put into practice the virtue of humble obedience given the circumstances?  Fr. Corapi has exceptional gifts.  I fear in public those gifts are compromised.

That is why in the end, for the good of all, Fr. Corapi should take a very extended leave of absence from any public ministry, be it as a priest (due to his suspension) or as a layman, or whatever is in between.  Spend that time in deep prayer and with a spiritual director who will be fully honest with him.  It is going to be very tough to continue to have a public life under these circumstances.  He claims he does not want to be in an adversarial position with the Church and the Bishops.  Yet if he continues under his new "persona" as "The Black Sheep Dog" communicating in public about matters of the faith or his own perceived injustice, such an adversarial position is inevitable.  These matters would cause more harm than good.

Finally, this is a firm reminder about the dangers of the cult of personality.  Many people are having their faith shaken by this event.  It is a reminder for us all that we cannot place our faith and hopes in men.  Even good men, whether they be laymen, priests, bishops, even Popes.  We can only place our faith in the Lord.  If it be His will, an innocent Fr. Corapi would have been vindicated.  If it be His will, a new voice in the Church will fill the void left by him.  In the end, even in spite of our attempts to obstruct it, the Church continues to nurture souls and Christ continues to save them.  Inspired by that confidence, let us pray for Fr. Corapi, and for all priests.  If this situation shows nothing else, it shows how much grace is required to be a faithful priest in today's world.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

On Homeschooling and Our Sunday Visitor

In the current issue of Our Sunday Visitor (OSV), Michelle Martin wrote what she no doubt felt was a balanced look at homeschooling and its relation to the Catholic Church.  The article has touched off a firestorm on the site and in the blogosphere as a whole.  I believe an objective reading of the article will show that it is not balanced, and that bias harms the work greatly.

1.)  On Balance

When faced with criticism, Greg Erlandson of OSV responded to the criticism on Steve Kellmeyer's blog by stating:

No publisher likes to see calls to boycott his publication, but I appreciate the strong feelings engendered by our news story on the occasional gulf that appears between home school advocates and some in the institutional Church.

I think the issue is a bit more complicated than Mr. Erlandson makes it out to be.  The article was clearly written by someone who looks down on homeschooling, or at least following an editorial position hostile to homeschooling, which has been the OSV viewpoint in the past. 

While there is an "occasional gulf" such a gulf is hardly one-sided.  The response towards homeschooling varies from diocese to diocese, even parish to parish.  Some have widely developed homeschooling networks, and these people are an integral part of the parish.  Some dioceses offer several "homeschooling Masses" a year.  Finally some do indeed act like Bishop Vasquez, to their shame.  The article quotes not one Church authority in favor of homeschooling.  If one goes off the article alone, homeschooling is not "sometimes" opposed by Church authorities.  It is always opposed.  The dioceses where it is allowed, nothing is said about why they allow it, only that they "recognize" it as an option.  As I intend to show, that position is the default Catholic position.

2.)  Insufficient Evidence

In order to defend the idea that homeschooling is contrary to the Catholic faith, proponents of such a view have to give some pretty creative exegsis.  So creative, it would get most students flunked out of a classroom.  We will only deal with one of the "proofs" cited.  Ms. Martin states:

But not all priests and bishops agree. At the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, the bishops wrote that parents have an obligation to send their children to parochial schools, and some clergy members today say Catholic home-schoolers abrogate that responsibility.
Sadly, she left something out.  Here is the exact text, emhaspsis mine:

Title vi, Of the Education of Catholic Youth, treats of (i) Catholic schools, especially parochial, viz., of their absolute necessity and the obligation of pastors to establish them. Parents must send their children to such schools unless the bishop should judge the reason for sending them elsewhere to be sufficient. Ways and means are also considered for making the parochial schools more efficient. It is desirable that these schools be free. (ii) Every effort must be made to have suitable schools of higher education for Catholic youth.

When one includes the entirety of the statement, one finds it is a lot less sweeping than was originally portrayed.  Even judging solely on this text alone, the "obligation" is not an absolute one.  First and foremost, the Bishop can judge it not neccessary.  The price of the schools and the quality of them also must be taken into consideration.

Yet we cannot judge solely on this one piece of evidence.  The Third Plenary Synod is but a local synod of American Bishops.  Our Catholic faith teaches that such synods are not binding on Bishops, or even the faithful outright.  In the end, the documents of Popes and Councils are far more important than that of a mere regional synod of a (at the time) small Catholic population.

As far as the Popes, not much is said about the nature of Christian education until Pope Pius XI.  (Leo XIII touches on certain facets of education, but not the root itself.)   According to Pius XI, there are three spheres of society, and all three have an importance in education:  the family, civil society, and the Church.  As Divni Illus Magistri makes clear, the first of these is the family.  They possess the right of education from nature itself.  The individual family unit existed before the State, and without the family, there can be no Church.  Yet as families have obligations beyond themselves (to the common good and the Church), there are certain instances where they have a pre-eminence (but never trumping) of the family.

On matters of faith and morals, the family must be in union with the Church.  Whereas the family has the right to educate their own children by nature, the Church has the right to educate souls by Divine Commission.  Yet in keeping with the notion of subsidarity, the Church does not seek to usurp the authority of the parents.  As the Pontiff states:

The fundamental reason for this harmony is that the supernatural order, to which the Church owes her rights, not only does not in the least destroy the natural order, to which pertain the other rights mentioned, but elevates the natural and perfects it, each affording mutual aid to the other, and completing it in a manner proportioned to its respective nature and dignity. The reason is because both come from God, who cannot contradict Himself

To emphasize that he is not kidding, the Pope states:

The family therefore holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring, a right inalienable because inseparably joined to the strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of civil society and of the State, and therefore inviolable on the part of any power on earth.

 That this right is inviolable St. Thomas proves as follows:The child is naturally something of the father . . . so by natural right the child, before reaching the use of reason, is under the father's care. Hence it would be contrary to natural justice if the child, before the use of reason, were removed from the care of its parents, or if any disposition were made concerning him against the will of the parents.
And as this duty on the part of the parents continues up to the time when the child is in a position to provide for itself, this same inviolable parental right of education also endures. "Nature intends not merely the generation of the offspring, but also its development and advance to the perfection of man considered as man, that is, to the state of virtue
To end our lengthy quoting of Pope Pius, he discusses the relationship between the Church and the family when talking about education:

We have therefore two facts of supreme importance. As We said in Our discourse cited above: The Church placing at the disposal of families her office of mistress and educator, and the families eager to profit by the offer, and entrusting their children to the Church in hundreds and thousands. These two facts recall and proclaim a striking truth of the greatest significance in the moral and social order. They declare that the mission of education regards before all, above all, primarily the Church and the family, and this by natural and divine law, and that therefore it cannot be slighted, cannot be evaded, cannot be supplanted.
The Second Vatican Council confirms and even elevates this teaching when the Fathers state:

Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators
And lest anyone say that the parent does not have a choice in where to educate their children (a la Father Peter Stravinskas), the Council states:

Parents who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools.
This is but a sample of Church teaching on the manner.  It really matters little whether or not "all priests or Bishops agree."  What matters is what the Catholic church says.

3.)  Just Flat out Wrong!

Up until now, there have been certain statements which could at least be defendable from an evidentiary standpoint, and a standpoint of Christian charity.  When we pass to the statements of Fr. Stravinskas, we cannot allow them to stand.  For some reason, and we will not speculate, Fr. Stravinskas has a certain loathing of the concept of homeschooling, and this colors anything he writes about the topic of education.

First and foremost, he tells Ms. Martin:

There are several reasons to prefer Catholic schools, Father Stravinskas told Our Sunday Visitor, including that the Church Fathers made clear that catechesis is the job of the whole Church, with the main responsibility resting on the shoulders of the pastor, not the parents.

As we have seen from the evidence, this is wrong.  The Church has a special responsibility beyond that of the family or civil society.  As a "perfect society" she has a strength in her claims the family lacks.  But the right of the Church to educate does not supersede the family.  On the contrary, it strengthens it.  As Pius XI noted, the family chooses to entrust their children to the Church.  The Church cannot and does not seek to act contrary to the rights of the family.

Logically speaking this is flawed as well.  Let us say there is a child in a parish Father Stravinskas is at.  Said child ends up not being educated in the faith.  He never comes to the Catechism classes, never seeks out Father privately, etc.  This child grows up and remains in that parish, but still doesn't seek the education out.  The individual dies in a state of mortal sin, and as a result is in hell.  Father Stravinskas won't be faulted.  Yet if the parents tried to say "well we offered him the chance to go to catechism classes" they will still be held accountable.  They were the child's primary educators.  They can't pass the buck off to someone else.  That this child failed to receive an education would not be a failure of Father's priesthood.  It would however be a failure of the parents in excercising their authority properly.

And Catholic parents who choose to home-school when there is a Catholic school available at least implicitly send the message that they do not trust the Church to educate their children properly, and the children get that message.

When I hear this statement, I am reminded of the rather blunt assesment Archbishop Fulton Sheen gave towards Catholic schools during his time.  He stated that if a child wished to learn the faith, they were better off in a public school.  At least they could fight to get faith, rather than be given modernism under the appearance of faith.  Does Father Stravinskas think Archbishop Sheen was disobeying what the Church said?  It is a simple fact that in many Catholic schools today in America, Catholicism is the last thing you will find.  Nowadays, many of the teachers are laymen, not priests/religious.  This is not neccessarily a bad thing, but it must also be kept in mind.  Sometimes, they aren't even Catholic.  They act in contravention of Church teaching in the classroom. 

What Father Stravinskas sees is a reaction to a situation.  Fix the situation, do not shoot the messenger.  If you want Catholic schools to flourish, work towards re-affirming their Catholic identity, and ensure they teach the Catholic and Apostolic Faith without regret.  One could also do well towards addressing some practical concerns.

If we remember the Baltimore Synod, they wanted Catholic education to be free.  Today, education can cost even in "average" Catholic schools at $6,500 a student, per year.  Let us say you are a family with four children, paying a mortage on a house.  Between those four children, you will be spending at least $26,000 a year on Catholic schools.  Good luck trying to accomplish that if you are middle class, or if the wife is a stay at home mother.  If you have more children, this only becomes more prohibitive.  In a rather perverse incentive, smaller family sizes are encouraged if Father Stravinskas' dictums are to be held.  What about those families blessed to have 8 or 9 children?  The days where most of the instructors were religious members (which helped mitigate cost somewhat) are gone.  Combine that with a weakened economy, and Catholic schooling nowadays becomes unaffordable for those with large families.  How much tuition assistance is Father Stravinskas urging Catholic schools to provide to these kind of people?

While these previous statements were bad enough, they pale in comparison to what he says next:

That leads to a subtle anti-clericalism, he said, because the children learn that priests cannot be counted on to hand on the faith. It shows in what he sees as a dearth of vocations from home-school families. “Why would you want to join the club if its members can’t be trusted to their jobs?” he said.

The "anti-clericalism" is so subtle, it only exists in the mind of Father Stravinskas.  He "sees" a dearth of vocations in his own mind, not reality.  He cites no evidence for this, because there is none.  OSV tried to carry the water for him when one of their members posted the following in the comments section:

For those who wondered about the connection between home schooling and vocations to the priesthood -- interesting question!

I did some digging on the U.S. bishops' website, and found this statistic for all priests being ordained in 2011:
Only 4 percent of ordinands (5 percent of diocesan and no religious ordinands) report being home schooled at some time in their educational background. Among those who were home schooled, the average length of time they were home-schooled was six years

For the full report, go here: http://www.usccb.org/vocations...
When one goes to the report, it doesn't say what they want it to say.  Nowhere does it say that homeschooling leads to less vocations.  It simply says that out of those in the seminaries, 4% are homeschooled.  What is the percentage of Catholics homeschooled at large?  What is the percentage of those who go towards Catholic schooling (out of all those educated) who go onto the seminary?  The report doesn't say, because it isn't interested in that.  The report simply analyzed the backgrounds of those priestly candidates.

One also needs to keep something of context in mind.  The home-schooling boom is rather recent; only within the last 10-15 years has it really taken off.  To see such a small number would not be surprising.  As homeschooling continues to grow, it is only natural you will see ordinations continue to grow.

There may indeed be evidence that homeschooling leads to a lack of vocations.  OSV doesn't even try to provide it.  They simply state it, and expect their audience to believe it, based on the authority of Father Stravinskas.

In the end, that's the problem.  Father Stravinskas is setting himself up as the Magesterium.  His personal opinions are ultimately irrelevant, as are mine.  We have a Church who decides.  What Father Stravinaskas says and the Magsterium says are two different things.  Catholic parochial schools can be a very good thing.  Yet they are one option amongst many a parent can use in educating their child.

If one would want to report on a real problem, I have one for OSV.  Why is Father Stravinskas not being pastoral in trying to outline a variety of resources to help Catholic families fulfill their obligations under Divine and Church law?  Why is he instead trying to force everyone to adopt his personal opinions?  Perhaps Ms. Martin can get on that for us.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The God who does Big Things

While Ezekiel was preaching his message amongst the exiles in Babylon, his contemporary Jeremiah was giving a similar message in Jerusalem itself.  He condemned their idolatry, prophesied the coming destruction of Jerusalem, but also prophesied about Israel's future restoration.  During that prophesy he says something that, thousands of years later, still says much about our relationship with God.

Therefore behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, 'As the LORD lives who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt', but 'As the LORD lives who brought up the sons of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.'
We can all recount the great things God did throughout salvation history.  Do we spend much time reflecting on what he is currently doing and will do?  Do we ask Him for something beyond fame and good looks?  Jeremiah sees the time when that statement will be something done in the present.  The Jews of that time would no longer have to look back to Egypt to see God's deliverance.

Furthermore, the action God undertakes is not something small.  This isn't the God who helps me find a temporary job.  It is the God who cleanses me of sin to allow me to live out my lifelong job.  Do we view God as the God who delivers from promiscuity?  Do we speak of "As the Lord lives who delivers America from Roe vs. Wade?"  Does the traditionalist say "As the Lord lives who protected His integrity in the liturgy?"

All of these things seem far-fetched, but we are supposed to pray for precisely these kind of things.  God is not limited towards acting in the trivial and mundane.  It was precisely this attitude that led the sons of Israel to the other countries to begin with.  If God provided anything, it wasn't something that important.  The gods of the world provided far more immediate benefits.  He may have acted in the past, but times are different nowadays.

This isn't blind optimism.  It is central to our identity as Christians.  Through the Incarnation, Jesus Christ became man and accomplished the biggest deal of all.  He did not just save His people.  He did not just restore His people to what they were originally meant to be.  Such would make him no different than the great secular leaders of history, and perhaps even lesser.  No, the biggest deal of all was through His sacrifice (the entire purpose of the Incarnation), man is given all these things, and an eternal reigning in heaven with Christ.  No religion promises that.  No secular ideology promises that.  Indeed, the very notion of it can sound absurd. 

Yet the notion is no more absurd than a few thousand exiles being freed from the strongest power in the world, sent back to their homeland under their own governance, and free to rebuild their destroyed temple.  Yet we know that happened.  No more absurd than the idea that Christ, who lived and walked physically on earth, ascended into heaven, and now rules all creation, inviting us to share in His rule.  Yet we know that happened, and still happens today.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why the Incarnation Matters: The Restoration Begins

With the Book of Ezekiel, this commentary enters into a new stage, juast as salvation history entered a new stage with Ezekiel.  He begins what could be called the literature of the Exile.  He was amongst the first wave of the Kingdom of Judah exiled to Babylon.  To understand why this is important, we need to reflect on who Ezekiel is.

We know that the prophet Ezekiel was a priest, from an upper class family of priests.  His job was to offer sacrifice.  For sacrifice to occur, it was to be connected with the temple worship.  Yet being in exile, he is deprived of that temple worship.  Indeed, the temple (along with the entire city) is sacked, fulfilling Ezekiel's prophesy.

In addition to this, he is in a foreign land.  He is essentially cut off from his vocation, his people, and his culture.  During his prophetic ministry, he would suffer constant ailments and sicknesses, as well as the loss of his wife.  Yet it was through these deprivations that Ezekiel came to understand the coming restoration, of which the heavenly temple symbolizes.  He experiences the first signs of that restoration in a rather curious incident.

He describes four figures who appeared as beasts yet also men.  These creatures are shown worshipping Yahweh.  To the prophet, this vision would have been unmistakable.  The four creatures represented the Assyrian karibu, the figures in statues portrayed guarding the royal palace.  By showing them worshipping Yahweh, God is trying to communicate to His people that He is not limited to Jerusalem, an error the people frequently made throughout history.  (One need only remember David's anguish over God not having a house of brick and mortar to dwell in.)

Yet there is something far more important towards this image.  Being the karibu, these things would be pagan.  They would be viewed as something to seperate from.  Yet by this act, they are losing their "profane" character.   The Incarnation is seen through this passage, where that which once rebelled against God now enters into God's service.  Foremost amongst this is human flesh.  Ever since the days of Eden, mankind had been in a state of rebellion against God.  In the Incarnation, Jesus takes on human flesh and serves the Father instead of rebelling against Him.

This imagery is also a recognition of God's supremacy.  If even the things of this world can be pressed into His service, what can thrwart his plans?  This is key to the understanding of the entire book.  In this book, Ezekiel makes some very bold predicitons in his claiming to speak for God.  Certainly this image helped cement in Ezekiel's mind what was to be.  These statues represented the regal authority of the King, and the strongest power in their known earth.  And yet even they act according to His divine plan.  Keep this in mind for later installments.