First Article at Crisis Magazine: Flight of the Lady-Bishops

**I know I haven’t been keeping up with the blog lately. I have multiple writing projects going at present, so I’ve been giving my attention to those over regular blogging. Below is the first piece I’ve published at Crisis Magazine.

***It should be noted, that while I published an article today respectfully disagreeing with my bishop, I will be making a holy hour for him before daily Mass today. I tell everyone who is frustrated with priests and bishops that the starting place for renewal is in prayer, fasting, and penance.

In mid-January, it was made public that His Excellency Bishop Barry Knestout (my local ordinary) had made arrangements with the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia to allow an invalid consecration of a female “bishop” at St. Bede’s Catholic Church in Williamsburg. The public outcry was so intense that the Episcopalians chose to move the event to a nearby Protestant church in order to avoid further division within the Catholic faithful of the diocese.

It should be noted that Bishop Knestout does have the authority under canon law to make prudential judgments concerning the use of diocesan property for ecumenical events. The issue many Catholics had with the decision did not have much to do with the bishop’s authority, but rather the possible impact on the ministerial priesthood and further erosion of the faithful’s understanding of the priesthood in an age marred by scandal and corruption.

For the last two years, the Church has been shaken by reports of clerical sex abuse, corruption, greed, and systematic cover-ups. All of these sins of the clergy have undermined the sacred office of the priesthood—especially the office of bishop. It is the bishop who is entrusted by Christ with the fullness of Holy Orders in order to teach, govern, and sanctify the people of God. Yet the faithful’s understanding of who it is that the priest represents—what his sacred role is within the Church—has been greatly damaged as a result.

These scandals are symptomatic of a much deeper problem. The Church is facing a crisis of faith, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI pointed out in his recent letter on the scandals. This crisis is most evident in the number of Catholics who deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Last year, the Pew Research Center reported that nearly 70 percent deny the Real Presence. The state of the priesthood today and the lack of belief in the Real Presence are inextricably linked since Holy Orders and the Holy Eucharist are bound together in the same reality. One would not exist without the other.

In response to the scandals and decades of poor catechesis, many Catholics have begun to take a rather distanced or indifferent approach to the priesthood. When potential solutions are proposed, many Catholics argue in favor of women’s ordination—which, as the Church has taught clearly and consistently for centuries, is ontologically impossible—or lifting the celibacy requirement on Latin Rite priests.

Read the rest over at Crisis Magazine.

Catholic Exchange: Why So Many Are Leaving the Church: The Faith and Reason Problem

Yet another study confirms the hemorrhaging taking place inside the Church in the West. People are leaving the Faith in droves. A good many are leaving for agnosticism, atheism, or the often used, nones category. Much of what drives these individuals to leave en masse is our failure to explain coherently and concisely the relationship between faith and reason in the face of widespread criticism in the culture.

The Western world is dominated by secular education where children are taught principles, ideas, and a worldview that is often hostile to the Catholic Faith. The West has been engaged in a battle between faith and reason for the last 500 years. First, far too many splitting from the Catholic Church abandoned reason altogether believing it to be a broken ability in Fallen men. Second, this led to the inevitable split on the side of reason as philosophy and science embarked on the path of proving that a rationalist-materialist worldview is the only one worth having. Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI devoted great volumes of work to bridging the chasm created between faith and reason. The problem now: We are ignoring the Church’s resources at our own peril.

It is very difficult for a child to parse the nuances of their faith from what they are taught in the classroom, especially at times of tremendous peer pressure and intellectual confusion. Since public education is the primary source of education for those families who cannot afford Catholic education or who cannot, or choose not, to homeschool, there must be a way to reach children from an early age in order to teach them that faith and reason work harmoniously together. They are not in opposition, they are complementary. Each works for the other, but since faith is supernatural, it elevates and heightens reason to unachievable heights it could never reach without grace.

Parents, teens, college students, and all members of the laity really need to examine the relationship between faith and reason closely in order to understand the battles being waged in our culture. We are often marginalized and dismissed precisely because the culture does not understand the authentic natures of faith and reason, either individually or as they work together, and we do not provide clear responses.

Saint John Paul II sought to clarify and elucidate on the Church’s brilliant teaching on faith and reason in his incredible encyclical Fides et Ratio. It is truly a gift for our times. The understanding of faith was furthered in Pope Emeritus Benedict’s undertaking of his last encyclical, which was finished by Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei. We have resources. We have answers to the questions or attacks made against our Faith, we only have to use them and share them with our children. If we do not, then they will fall for the errors of our times and leave the Faith all together. Children are not coming back in later years as was the case in previous times. Secular college campuses seem to be a place where the faith of many goes to die. Much of this is because that faith was not nurtured or aided by the gift of reason, properly ordered.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Leaving Bland Catholicism Behind

Anyone who has spent serious time in their parish in ministry, catechesis, other activities knows the state of catechesis within the Church. It is abysmal. The same is true for anyone who is brave, or crazy enough, to read comboxes on orthodox articles and blogs. This state of affairs is sad and frustrating at the same time. The currents of relativism and subjectivism have overtaken most of us. We all battle it, whether we realize it or not. These predominant philosophies of Western culture, connected with nihilism, are responsible for great confusion, ignorance, heresy, and disobedience so prevalent within the Mystical Body and without. We can largely thank the Enlightenment for not being so enlightening in many areas.

Yes, the issue produces anger and frustration for those who desire to share the authentic Christian life. Some of that anger is properly channeled towards the good and at other times it erupts into sinful tirades towards one another, especially in social media. I have participated in both types of anger, which is why I crawl back to the Confessional bi-weekly. In reality the worst part about the situation is that the Church herself has hidden her Light from her members. Through the darkness of certain corners of the hierarchical priesthood all the way down to the laity, relativism has distorted, twisted, and made the Faith largely meaningless for so many souls.

Conscience, which is relativism’s rallying cry, is the argument given by leaders and laity alike. This betrays a complete lack of understanding as to what conscience is on an ontological level and subjective level. It also demonstrates far too many people’s attachment to the world over Christ. I wrote an article for Catholic Exchange a little while ago on topic of conscience. We are still doing what we have done since the Fall, making ourselves into gods. This, of course, is untenable. We are creatures, not the Absolute. When we make ourselves gods we destroy ourselves, the people around us, and cut ourselves off from the Author of our very lives.

I sat at a Confirmation Mass for the high school students in my area last night. A good many of the kids very seldom, if ever, come to Mass. They are strangers to most of the parish community. They never came to Religious Education class, not that these are required if parents are properly forming their children in the Faith. Weekly Mass attendance is a basic tenant of the Catholic Faith, however. And, yet, they were presented for this Sacrament. The exact same thing happens with Baptism and Holy Communion. The Sacraments have been turned into a conveyor belt type system, with no real attachment to the vows made. At least in the Latin Church, will is a part of receiving Confirmation. If we do not open our wills to God’s grace, He will not force it into us. We are like a faucet, we have to open it so that God’s grace can pour into our souls. How many people know this? How about those in mortal sin who are dead to grace, but approach Sacraments anyway, every Sacrament except Confession?

As I sat there contemplating and watching these kids and families, I was saddened. Many actually strutted up to Monsignor for reception of the Sacrament. This is our stance now before God. We no longer understand the awesome power of Heaven and earth meeting in the Mass. Rather, we strut and swagger our way before God. How many of us, including myself, do this daily? How many of us live the danger of presumption that everyone goes to Heaven? That is not what the Church teaches. We must die in a state of grace.

The saddest part of it all, and I know because I have been there, is that far too many Catholics know little if anything about the depth, beauty, transcendence, glory, peace, power, and call of the Faith. We have domesticated our faith. We sit in bland buildings, singing bland songs, speaking platitudes that hardly resemble the real Lord Jesus Christ. The majority of Catholics, up to 70% of Catholics deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Words actually spoken by Our Lord in John 6 are completely ignored because heresy and materialism have become a norm in this area. The majority of Catholics have no idea what actually goes on during Mass. Heaven and earth meet. We participate in the Heavenly Liturgy through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

I was discussing this topic with some friends of mine recently. One of them looked at me and said: “Most of us don’t know any better.” I was talking about the transcendent, Heaven on earth experience of Mass. He had never experienced the lifting of the veil to see the glory of the Liturgy with the eyes of Faith. He had never heard the soul lifting, heart-breaking, beauty of chant or truly sacred music. I realized in that moment, even with my moments of wandering from the path, I had been given the gift of seeing the Liturgy as it is meant to be seen. From wandering the great cathedrals of Europe, to my first Sacred Triduum in England, to the Sacred Triduum that brought me completely back to the Church for good at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, I had experienced transcendent Catholicism as so many through the ages had done. My childhood of bland had been peeled away and there before me was real beauty. A beauty that draws you in and takes you into ever deeper waters of the Faith. It was the Liturgy that taught me how to accept the rest of Church teaching. It was Christ’s Real Presence who helped me abandon my own desire to be god, a desire which I still struggle with daily, as a we all do.

So it saddens me to see the bland continue, the ignorance continue, and the apathy of many involved. It’s the same thing I grew up with in the 80s and 90s. In fact, we wage nasty fights with one another as we try to cling to what is comfortable, what we know. How dare we upset the apple cart? Why would we use those things from ages prior to ours, we are superior? Are we? Really? In this age of subjectivism it never occurs to people that there is actually an objective type of beauty, which the Church has preserved since her beginning. It’s harder to find these days, but it it’s there if you look. We are content to stay the same. Something very foreign to the Christian journey to holiness, which is one of development and peeling away.

All of this will still take decades to sort out. It is working itself out as new priests are ordained in my generation and the generation behind me. They see the bland and distortions just as I do. We crave more than just status quo and comfort. We desire the dangerous beauty of our Faith and the heart-ache of Home. We desire the authentic and true Faith as it has been lived and proclaimed before us. In the case of Confirmation, parents must learn that they teach the Faith to their children by their example, words, and formal teaching. If we do not teach the Faith and live the Faith our children will leave the Church in adulthood. Based on statistics over the last few decades, the number of kids Confirmed last night who will leave the Faith is stifling. We must pray for Christ to send shepherds to tend to His flock. Shepherds who can reawaken the beauty, depth, mystery, and gift of Catholicism. We too must have the courage to cast out into the deep in our own lives and to live the Faith and witness to our children and those around us.

7 Quick Takes-Early October Edition

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This week we started Fr. Barron and Word on Fire’s, http://www.wordonfire.org, new Catholicism series that focuses on the New Evangelization.  Just like the first Catholicism series, it is rich and beautiful.  This particular study is much shorter and has a discussion and homework element.  The aim is to get Catholics sitting in the pews involved in evangelizing the world.  That word can have a negative connotation, but it is not the same thing as proselytizing.  We have been given the Good News and the key to Eternal Life.  We should joyfully want to share this gift by the way we live and in the relationships we foster with the people who cross our path.  Most importantly, we must learn to listen.  We must open our hearts to where people are on the journey.  That does not mean sacrificing our beliefs (think “the Spirit of Vatican II”), it just means working through the path with someone without expecting them to be where we are in our path to holiness. The Church must go out into the world and meet the world.  We are not to be formed by the world, but to bring the world to Christ.  This is a wonderful series and I recommend getting it for your parish.

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 Nothing makes my blood boil like injustice, and yes, I struggle with sinful anger.  It can be large or small.  When I was in the Navy and I heard they were building a World War II memorial in Washington DC, I sent them a donation and had my two deceased grandfathers added to the registry.  My dad’s dad was in the USMC and was on the initial assault at Iwo Jima and my mom’s dad was in the Army Air Corps and fought in the European Theater.  These men remain large in my memory.  Men of courage, devotion, and great love for their families.  That is why when I heard that this Admin maliciously closed the WWII memorial, especially in the face of Veterans, I was livid.  I lived in DC for 4 years.  The memorials are wide open and have no security.  This move was purely out of small minded and spiteful motives.  To make 80 and 90 year old men who gave everything to this nation come to tears because they had traveled so far only to be turned away, was unconscionable to me.  This may seem small to some people, but it is indicative of a government that cares for no one and that has become so entrenched in the Culture of Death and the principle of “me” that they cannot even grasp small injustices.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not happy with either Party.  I just think the Left is further along in the Culture of Death than the Right.  I don’t know how long that gap will exist, though.  If you have not heard about this story, look it up.  Of course the mainstream media, which is really a propaganda arm, did not show this story and the pettiness of the people in charge in this country.  In the face of my frustration, all I can do is pray for these people.  And as time goes on, it is becoming clearer to me just how much prayer they need and how much our country needs.
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On the same day that I was fuming about Washington, my daughter reminded me that I need to focus on the small blessings in my life, because they give me great joy.  Michaela was sitting on the porch with our small Mary and Baby Jesus statue with it on her lap and carrying on a conversation with them.  I told her they can hear her in Heaven.  I had gone to do something in the kitchen, when I discovered that she had snuck the statue in and was snuggling with it on the couch.  It melted my heart.  It was so sweet.
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This week I had to start giving myself my HCG shots to see if we can get my hormones to rise.  The goal is to make it possible to carry another baby and to help with my anxiety and depression.  I had a nurse friend show me how to do it the other night.  The needle is quite small, but I chickened out.  I have had countless shots and blood draws and the needles never bother me.  It is another matter, when you have to stab yourself and watch yourself do it.  I had her do the first shot.
Last night I had to do my second shot.  I was determined, but contemplated taking a shot of vodka beforehand.   I said a Hail Mary and stabbed myself in the stomach.  I was so proud of myself.  One down, and who knows how many, but a lot to go.   The shots don’t hurt.  It is just a mental block.
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My daughter is awesome.  Earlier this week, she put on her superhero cape and then proceeded to tell me that she was going to cook Baby Jesus dinner.  After all, He is hungry, she told me.  If she is going to desire to cook a meal for anyone, I would say Jesus is the best choice.
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As I suspected would happen, we had a cool September and now we are having a hot October in Southwest Virginia.  That means the stinkbugs have decided that our house is some form of retirement home.  The problem is, they don’t pay rent and my daughter yells at me to get rid of one every time she sees one, which is about once every 10 minutes.
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We grew sunflower this past summer with the idea that we would roast the seeds.  We discovered that it is a lot of work for something that we do not eat very often.  The birds got to some of the flowers first and then when we washed and tried to dry the seeds in the sun, the squirrels got into them.  As I went to roast them last night, my husband and I looked at each other and agreed that we could grow the flowers to feed the wildlife and enjoy their happy countenance in the garden in August.  As for roasting them, nah.  The squirrels are happy and so are we.
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