Twenty eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Justice Kavanaugh. Well, thanks be to God the hearings are over. The country moves forward with a great new Supreme Court Justice, one who I’m confident will, to the best of his abilities and in keeping with the Constitution, uphold the traditional values dear to America for centuries, including the right to life, the meaning of family and marriage, religious freedom and the dignity of women.

Thank you for all your prayers during the hearings. I have been hearing, however, that the Kavanaugh family is still receiving unpleasant feedback from opponents. I am particularly worried for his 13 and 10-year-old daughters—imagine what suffering they’ve endured. So I encourage you to pray for the family, especially invoking St. Raymond and St. Thomas More (patrons of lawyers), St. Michael, St. Mary Magdalene, and Our Blessed Mother. Also, St. Agnes and St. Maria Goretti, patron saints of young girls.

 

Going Forward. The Kavanaugh hearings dramatically revealed a deep fissure in American society. I’m not sure exactly where the boundary of one side and the other begin or end, and I’m not sure what to call the various factions. In any case, there is a growing acrimony and bitterness in our country, and it is making itself manifest in more and more public violence, either in rhetoric or action. I am afraid it will only get worse.

I do not know the answer, except the grace of Jesus and a return to the Christian values that have made us great. Beginning with loving God above all things, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, and even loving our enemy. We must learn, as our founders did, to patiently tolerate—not “accept” or “embrace” or “acquiesce to” —the differences in ideas and opinions, and work within the system of debate, persuasive dialogue, elections and laws that has helped make our nation a peaceful and great nation.

Last week one politician said, “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. That’s why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.” God bless them, but no, that won’t work. We can’t be civil with each other just when we are in power. There is a sense in which we can be “too civil,” too accommodating to opponents. But basic civility, basic respect for your opponents has to return to public life. If not, I’m afraid that civility will give way to uncivility, which will give way to something like a civil war. And this civility must begin with Christians, especially us Catholics. Again, this doesn’t mean rolling over, or not fighting for what we believe in. But fighting fairly, governed always by reason and charity.

Let us pray for our nation, for our friends and for our foes.

 

Children at Mass. Being a parent is incredibly challenging, especially these days, and especially at Mass. For example, sometimes you just can’t stop a newborn or a two-year-old from doing what they so often naturally do—make noise. This problem is often compounded in larger families: parents try to deal with the crying newborn, while the 4 and 6-year-old talk to each other. I don’t know how they manage, God bless them.

Many of these parents are torn between not wanting to disturb others and wanting to come to Mass as a family. And many understandably think: “well the Church and the priests encourage us to be pro-life and open to life—and we were!” Some warn that if we’re not careful we’ll chase these families away from the parish or from Catholicism altogether.

But there are others we have to be very careful not to “chase away.” Years ago a young man told me a story I’ve heard innumerable times since, from scores of young people: as a teenager he stopped going to Mass because week after week he found himself completely distracted by the little children around him. So he thought, “why bother?” and stopped going. Not a good excuse, but that’s the way a lot of teenage boys’ minds work.

On the other hand there’s the story one mother told me of how her young family had been away from Mass for a few years and decided to come back, but after just few weeks they stopped, embarrassed by their little two-year-old’s behavior at Mass. Or the story of the mother who was up all night with a colicky baby, and didn’t notice her 3-year-old run up into the sanctuary. Or the father of an autistic little boy who suddenly laughed out loud at Mass, only to be scolded by the people in front of him, and he broke into tears.

Back and forth. What do we do? The only answer seems again to be a combination of Christ’s grace, and practicing the virtues of patience and charity—by all parties. All of us who might be distracted should try our very best to charitably empathize and be patient, “offer up” the distraction, and/or if necessary (and possible) move to another seat. But in the same way, those with disruptive children should be charitable to those around them, and patient with their frustration—and try to take steps to ease the situation when possible.

One solution is to have Mom (or Dad) stay home with the fussy baby while Dad takes the other children to Mass, and then vice versa. It worked for my Mom and Dad. But, for many families today family dynamics are very different than they used to be. We have to understand this, and I leave it to the parents’ good judgment.

And there is another simple solution: at St. Raymond’s we have lots of places parents with fussy children can go to avoid distracting others during Mass: we have the “Family Room,” and we have a huge narthex—the vestibule at the main entrance.

Now, let’s be clear. Babies and small children just sometimes make noise—that’s just part of what they do. A baby will start to fuss, and Mom whips out a bottle and the baby is happy again. Or a 5-year-old suddenly starts to talk out loud, and Dad gives him “the look,” and it’s under control. Or a special needs child may blurt out a loud noise all of a sudden, and then stop. All of us need to accept those largely uncontrollable situations—with patience and charity.

But where a child continues to make a prolonged disturbance that is genuinely distracting to others (crying, talking, noise-making, etc.), out of charity, parents must consider what action they can take.

With the grace of Jesus, let us all truly strive to love one another as He has loved us, especially by practicing the virtues of patience and charity. And thanks again for your patience and charity with me.

 

Oktoberfest. Thanks to all who made our Oktoberfest dinner last week a great success. Especially Pat Franco and the Knights of Columbus, and particularly Cindy Leaf and Michael Welch who worked so hard in supervising the food preparation.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Twenty seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Respect Life Month.” Today is “Respect Life Sunday” and October is “Respect Life Month.” During this month the American Bishops call us to remember that almost 2500 innocent Americans are killed every day by abortions, over 900,000 a year, for a total of over 55 million dead since 1973.

But even as horrible as that death toll is, we can’t forget that abortion has other consequences as well—consequences that have been eating away at the moral and legal fiber of our nation and culture.

Of course, we cannot forget the consequence of abortion’s devastating effect on women. Especially the women who have been lied to and told, “it’s okay, it’s just a formless clump of cells.” But deep inside they know, or come to know, the truth of what they’ve done. These are the 2nd victims of abortion, but they are ignored and ridiculed for expressing their pain and feelings of guilt. We must not forget them, we must love them and do everything we can to help them heal, and to make sure that the evil of abortion will not continue to plague future generations of women.

But the consequences of abortion go beyond even that, as the establishment of a constitutional right to abortion is like a virus injected into the body politic slowly corrupting every other right, and the freedom that is the life’s blood of our great nation. Because there cannot be any human rights if human beings don’t have a right to life. If you’re not alive, you have no rights at all. This is why when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence the only rights he felt it necessary to list were the most fundamental: “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”—with the right to life being first.

This is a key reason why we work so hard to defend life, but it also seems to be a key reason some people work so hard to defend the “right” to take life from babies. If you can take that right away, you can do just about anything you want in society.

So, what does this say about politicians who fight so desperately to defend the right to abortion? And what does it say about us, if we support those politicians, with our money, free speech or votes?

 

Supreme Court. The last few months of debate over the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh seems to come down to this: will America continue to defend the right to kill innocent babies, or will it finally protect the right to life? That is the main reason millions of Christian voters voted for the very imperfect Donald Trump in 2016: he promised to name justices to the Supreme Court who would defend life.

And now President Trump has done that, twice. But this second/current appointment of Kavanaugh will create a pro-life majority on the Court. And that is why so many have opposed his nomination with such unprecedented viciousness from the beginning, well before the last-minute accusations of Dr. Ford, et al, surfaced. As Sen. Chuck Schumer, leader of the opposition, said when the Judge was first nominated, “I will oppose him with everything I’ve got.” And he and his allies have done just that. Primarily to protect abortion.

 

“I Saw Satan Laughing With Delight…” Excuse my lapse into secular music, but as a child of the 70’s I can’t help but think of these words from the 70’s hit song, “American Pie,” that lamented the problems of America 4 decades ago. Satan loves abortion: not only does it kill human life (which he hates) and destroy families, but it also undermines all the principles of justice that undergird Western Society. So surely today he is delighted with the success of the pro-abortion senators the last 2 weeks, including their thoughtless abuse and political manipulation of Dr. Ford and her personal tragedy, to the incomprehensible and irrational rage directed at Judge Kavanaugh. All because of abortion.

What If It Was Your Daughter? What If It Was Your Son? Some say, but what about the accusations of sexual abuse? Are you dismissing that? Of course not. As I’ve said several times, I assume that Dr. Ford is telling the truth as she best remembers it, and my heart goes out to her. I have tried to keep in mind “what if it were my daughter who was saying this?”

But at the same time, we have to also consider, “what if it was my son, or father, or brother, (or husband), being accused?” We have to love and protect the rights and dignity of both the accuser and the accused. And pray for them.

 

Life Chain. To kick off this “Respect Life Month” today, October 7, our parishioners will join thousands of Americans in the “Life Chain.” This year, as in the past, over 100 St. Raymond parishioners will join other local pro-lifers lining up on the sidewalk of Franconia Road in front of Key Middle School from 2:30 to 3:30 PM to simply stand peacefully and quietly praying, maybe holding a sign, as a public witness to our respect for the dignity of human life. It is always a very spiritually rewarding event. Please join in. Parking is available at the school, and Pro-Life signs will be available.

 

40 Days for Life. The Fall “40 Days for Life” Campaign, a similar but more prolonged public witness to the right to life, has already begun, and St. Raymond’s will be taking responsibility for this peaceful vigil on the weekend of October 20 and 21. Please visit the display and sign-up sheets in the narthex this weekend and sign up.

 

Parish Holy Hour. This Tuesday, October 9, at 6:45pm, CCD/Religious Education is sponsoring a Holy Hour of Adoration for the whole parish. Join our CCD families in adoring Our Eucharistic Lord and praying the Holy Rosary for various intentions, including and especially for the “success” of our CCD program this year.

 

Synod of Bishops. Last week Bishops from all over the world gathered in Rome for the Synod on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment, which will continue throughout most of October. Many bishops had called for a cancellation of the Synod, suggesting that, 1) we need to address the current abuse scandal first, and 2) until we do address that scandal the bishops lack credibility in talking about youth. But the Pope apparently didn’t agree. Please pray that all goes well at the Synod.

 

Prayer to St. Michael. The last 2 weeks I have encouraged you to pray the Prayer to St. Michael frequently. Interestingly, this last week Pope Francis also called for the same thing. The powers of darkness surround us, and the devil IS laughing with delight at his many apparent successes. But St. Michael has the “power of God,” and Satan’s power is like that of an ant’s compared to God’s.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Twenty sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Praying for our Country. We really need to pray for our country. No surprise I’m sure. But the depths to which political acrimony has sunk, especially on the Left, is sickening. (I write this on Wednesday, the day before Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford are scheduled to testify before the Judiciary Committee). Of course right now we see the way the Left is ready to crucify Judge Kavanaugh for an unproven and uncorroborated allegation from 36 years ago, an allegation that runs completely contrary to everything everyone who’s ever known him has to say about him and his character. We see senators actually saying that we can’t believe what he says and must presume him guilty of the charges simply because of his judicial philosophy, even though his legal peers (on the left and right) say he is an excellent judge and brilliant lawyer. And we see the Media and Hollywood Left finding him guilty, without even hearing either him or the accuser—only reading a few snippets of accusations in the media.

What about innocent until proven guilty? What about due process, and fairness? What about assuming the best about people? What about 30 years of exemplary government service? What about the hundreds of friends and ex-girlfriends who praise his outstanding character and kindness, especially toward women, going back to grade school?

What about Jesus’s saying: “If your brother sins against you…take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” [Matthew 18: 15-16].

“No, he’s guilty. Period.” They say.

Personally, I presume Judge Kavanaugh is innocent, because that’s what we should all presume, until someone proves him guilty—not in a court of law, but after bringing convincing evidence. From what I gather, not much evidence is available to support the accusations, and evidence to the contrary is abundant. The only real evidence that seems available is Dr. Ford’s sketchy memories of something that happened 36 years ago at a drunken party she says she attended. I will presume goodwill on her part, and we have a duty to respectfully listen to all possible abuse victims, but I have trouble placing a lot of weight on partial memories effected by psychological trauma, possible alcohol use, and the passing of almost 4 decades.

But the truly nauseating thing is the Left’s political manipulation of the accusations. From Senator Feinstein’s rotten tactic of hiding Dr. Ford’s accusations until after the hearings were done and then not releasing her letter to the Committee (this is evidence), to Senator Hirono saying, “Guess who’s perpetuating all these kinds of actions? It’s the men in this country. And I just want to say to the men in this country, just shut up and step up.”

The question comes up, but what if they can’t figure out who’s telling the truth—should we let a possible abuser sit on the Supreme Court? Think of this: If someone were guilty of things the Judge is accused of when he was a 17-year-old kid, but had lived an absolutely exemplary and outstanding life since then, would he still be unworthy of a place on the Court? I don’t know. But I do know that when Bill Clinton was credibly accused by multiple sexual assaults on women when he was the grown-up governor of Arkansas, the Left defended him and thought it was okay for him to be our President. By that standard, if there is doubt, the accused can serve on the Court.

 

Of course, all this manipulation and acrimony seems to be the new reality in leftist politics, fueled by Marxist principles that include, “the ends justify the means,” that you can do, literally, “whatever it takes” to win, including demonizing, terrorizing and destroying the lives of your opponents and their families. Consider also the Left’s vicious mob harassment of Republican officials and their families at their homes and in restaurants, or shouting down conservative speakers at universities or rallies. This has just got to stop.

Let us pray for our country, Judge Kavanaugh, and Dr. Ford. And let us pray that God may grant us the Supreme Court Justice we need.

 

God Bless Fr. Scalia! From The Beacon, Portland, OR, September 19: “Hundreds of students lined the sidewalks outside the Chapel of Christ the Teacher Wednesday night for a silent demonstration protesting the appearance of Fr. Paul Scalia, who was the keynote speaker at a dinner following [University of Portland’s] annual Red Mass [for lawyers]. Scalia, who is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has triggered controversy for some things he has said and written about homosexuality, as well as his leadership in an organization called Courage. The organization encourages people with same-sex attraction to be chaste.”

 

Pictorial Directory. I hope you all picked up your directories last week and are happy with them. I think it came out very well, and I hope you do to. Everyone who stood for picture has a copy reserved for them, and anyone can buy one for $8.60 (our cost). Please contact the office for your copy.

 

Molita Burrows. After years of service as sacristan at 8/9am daily Mass, Molita Burrows has decided to step down from her duties. I guess when you reach the age of 95 years you’re entitled to relax a bit. I hope all of you will join me in praying for her continued good health, and thanking her and God for her service to our parish. God bless you, Molita!

 

Altar/Communion Rail. Well, it looks like the Communion rail has been a success, as I would estimate that 90% of you are choosing to kneel to receive. I had no idea it would be that popular, but I am very happy it is. And for those of you who don’t choose to kneel, I hope you feel comfortable standing at the rail—that seems to be working okay too.

When Bishop Burbidge was here on the 16th he commented to me how well it went at the Communion rail: he complimented your piety, and noted that the distribution actually moved faster than when you come up and just stand in line.

A few things to remember: 1) There’s no need to wait for the rail to be empty for you to go forward to kneel; just take the next empty spot that’s convenient. 2) When you receive in the hand at the rail you should consume the host there at the rail before walking away (please do not walk away with the host). 3) When you receive in the hand while kneeling please lift your hands up so that the priest doesn’t have to bend down to reach your hands.

 

Oktoberfest. Next Saturday evening, October 6, our Knights of Columbus are sponsoring an evening of delicious German food and live music. Besides being a very fun event, this is a great way to meet new friends and become more involved in the parish. Please join us!

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Twenty fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Picnic. Last Sunday’s picnic was a huge success, by any measure. We had a record turnout—at least twice as many as any had ever seen before. As I made the rounds, visiting with everyone, I was so pleased to find everyone having a great time, enjoying the good food and music, the games and rides, and the company. What a great day.

I was especially happy to see my predecessor Fr. Gould grace us with his presence, and to see so many of you enjoy visiting with him. What a great man and priest! I don’t know how he built this church—just amazing to me. I struggled getting the lights replaced, and worried over paying off the $7million debt I inherited. But he built this whole plant, with all the crazy ups and downs involved in that (including dealing with 2 different general contractors), and raising $7.5million in cash, plus paying off $3.5million on the loans. Just amazing. But more than that, he built the wonderful parish, the “community,” of St. Raymond’s. From a few hundred people to 6,000 in just 10 years. And a parish with solid foundation in Catholic teaching and Christian fellowship. I have so much to thank him for: and not just handing me this wonder parish with its beautiful church and comfortable rectory, but also being my vocation director for 5 years—I would not be a priest today without his help.

I was also very pleased to have Bishop Burbidge join us for Mass and stay with us at the picnic for 2 hours, just walking around and mingling with people. I think we overwhelmed him with our welcoming, and our joy. He really seemed to enjoy himself, as was evident as he sang our praises as I helped him carry his Mass vestments to his car as he was leaving. Thank you Bishop, for joining us!

And most of all I was overwhelmed by God’s generosity. I fretted all week about whether I should cancel the picnic due to the weather, after reading all the gloom and doom forecasts of rain and flooding (it wasn’t just a matter of rain on Sunday, but would the grass be too saturated to work with). In the end, it was hard to tell what to do, so I just had to trust in Jesus. And as always, He came through, and in magnificent fashion. I had to laugh when the sun burst out right near the beginning of the picnic, and then again when it started to rain just minutes after the picnic ended—God and his unfathomable sense of humor! As I told the Bishop: “Jesus really loves St. Raymond’s.” He does indeed. Praised be Jesus Christ!

Thanks be to Him. And thanks to all who worked so hard to make it a success, especially volunteers like Phil and Alice Bettwy, Pat O’Brien, Pat Franco, the Knights of Columbus, American Heritage Girls, and Trail Life. And thanks to the parish staff for all their hard work—especially Tom Browne, Kirsti Tyson, Mary Salmon and Vince Drouillard, and most especially Eva Radel, who worked like a field general in the planning and the set up.

 

Novena to St. Michael. Next Saturday is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. As you know, St. Michael is the great warrior-archangel, who Scripture tells us leads the hosts of heavenly angels to defeat, with the power of God, the fallen angels, led by Lucifer, Satan, the devil. With the current scandal in the Church it seems a very good time to invoke the aid of St. Michael. The Church, especially the bishops and priests, are clearly under assault by Satan.

Now, some folks seem to think that the devil is merely wickedly exposing the bad acts of otherwise good bishops and priests, in order to cause “scandal” (discouragement, doubt, despair, etc.) among the faithful. While it is true, that the devil is doing that, that is not his principal attack. His principle attack on the Church (at least regarding the current situation) is preying on the weaknesses or moral laxity of priests and bishops who then willingly accede to the devil’s temptations and commit sins and even atrocious crimes—whether of lust, lying or abuse of power. Then, and only then, is Satan using those willful sinful acts to further tempt the faithful to doubt their faith and mistrust all bishops and priests.

Clearly, we need to invoke the Divine Power that God has committed to St. Michael to defend the Church. So, I ask you all to join me from today until next Sunday, to pray the “Prayer to St. Michael” every day, for a purification of the Church, especially her seminarians, priests and bishops. And to defend each of us from discouragement, doubt, or despair.

“Saint Michael Archangel, // defend us in battle, // be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; // may God rebuke him, we humbly pray; // and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, // by the power of God, cast into hell // Satan and all the evil spirits // who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. // Amen.”

 

Kavanaugh. A lot of you have been asking me about the accusations made by Dr. Ford against Judge Kavanaugh last week. At this time of heightened awareness and shame within the Church with regard to covering up sexual abuse, I am keenly aware of the need to give a just hearing to alleged victims, and of the reality that even apparently saintly men can sin gravely. On the other hand, being a priest at a time when some people accuse all priests of being bigots and haters, and even pedophiles and predators, I am also aware of that people often make cruel and false accusations, and of the need to give a just hearing to the accused.

I also know that politics has become a grotesque blood sport, especially as it’s being played by the radical Marxist left, that as a principle holds that “the ends always justify the means.”

Let us act with and pray for charity and justice for all, accuser and accused. And, trusting in God, we ask Him to give us the Supreme Court Justice He wants us to have.

 

Election Day is November 6th. The deadline to register to vote or change your address for voting is October 15th. The deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is Tuesday, October 30, 2018. The deadline to vote an absentee ballot in-person is Saturday, November 3, 2018.

There is a voter information table in the narthex this weekend, September 22/23, with the necessary forms for registration, or voting absentee. Please stop by for forms or with any questions you may have.

Remember, generally speaking, we have a moral duty to vote, and to vote with a conscience formed by our faith in Christ and His Church. If we do not vote, we have no right to complain about how our government functions, or doesn’t function.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Twenty fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Parish Picnic Celebration. As I write this on Wednesday, Hurricane Florence looms in the Atlantic, and I’m not sure what we’re going to do about the Celebration scheduled for today. I hope we can still have it, in some form at least, but if we can’t… In any case, fiat voluntas Dei—God’s will be done.

 September 11, 2001. Let us pray for all those who died, on 9/11 and in the “War on Terror…” … Eternal rest grant unto them Oh Lord. And send Your holy angels to defend us and to protect all who risk their lives for our safety.

And let us pray also for the brave souls who continue to fight to protect us, and for the conversion of our enemies. And let us pray for our nation’s safety, and that, with the strength of Christ and tempered by His wisdom and mercy, we may defeat those who seek to harm us.

Humanae Vitae Conference. Last weekend’s conference on Humanae Vitae and its ramifications for the world, was a huge success, with over 150 attendees. Our speakers, Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, Dr. Robert Royal and Bob and Gerri Laird did an excellent job in helping us understand the importance of the encyclical and the devasting effects contraception has had on our Church and our culture. Thanks to them, and to our staff and volunteers, especially Eva Radel, Tom Browne, and Liz Hildebrand, who made it all go so smoothly. And thanks be to God!

 

Some Happy News. I’m delighted to write that Brigitta Sanchez-O’Brien, daughter of parishioners, Patrick and Maria (and my goddaughter!), graduated as valedictorian of her class at John Paul the Great University last month. I’m sure you all join me in congratulating her and her family. Please keep her in your prayers as she begins graduate studies this month at Pepperdine University.

 

St. Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church. One of my favorite saints, is St. Peter Damian, a great and fiery advocate of clerical reform in the 11th century. I commend him to all of you as a heavenly patron in this time when reform of priests and bishops is so important.

Born in 1007, Peter was the youngest of a large noble, but poor, family. Left an orphan at an early age, he was adopted by an elder brother, who ill-treated and under-fed him while employing him as a swineherd. The child showed signs of great piety and of remarkable intellectual gifts, and eventually another brother, took him away to be educated. He made rapid progress in his studies, first at Ravenna, then at Faenza, finally at the University of Parma, and when about twenty-five years old he was already a famous teacher at Parma and Ravenna. But, he could not endure the scandals and distractions of university life and decided (about 1035) to retire from the world, entering the hermitage of Fonte-Avellana.

Both as novice and as professed religious his fervor in prayer and penance was remarkable. He continued his thorough study of Holy Scripture and was appointed to lecture to his fellow-monks. In 1043 he became prior of Fonte-Avellana, which he remained till his death.

Although living in the seclusion of the cloister, Peter Damian watched closely the fortunes of the Church, and like his friend Hildebrand (a key assistant to several Popes, who would become the future Pope Gregory VII), he strove for her purification in those deplorable times.

In 1045 when the reforming pope Gregory VI (John Gratian) was elected, Peter hailed the change with joy and wrote to the pope, urging him to deal with the scandals of the church in Italy. In 1047 and 1055 Peter attended and addressed synods at the Lateran and Florence at which decrees were passed condemning clerical unchastity and simony (the buying or selling of holy or spiritual things or church offices).

In 1051 Peter published his venerable and famous treatise on the vice of sodomy among the clergy of his time, the “Book of Gomorrah.” (Sodomy refers to homosexual acts and what we would call “homosexual lifestyles”). It begins: “Alas, it is shameful to speak of it! It is shameful to relate such a disgusting scandal to sacred ears! But if the doctor fears the virus of the plague, who will apply the cauterization? If he is nauseated by those whom he is to cure, who will lead sick souls back to the state of health?”

The book caused a great stir and aroused widespread enmity against Peter, and still does today. Although sometimes excessively harsh in rhetoric, it is also compassionate, especially to innocent victims and truly repentant sinners. It is filled with penetrating insights and lessons that would seem to apply aptly to the Church today.

In 1057 the abbot of Monte Cassino, was elected as Pope Stephen X, and was determined to create Peter a cardinal, so he could better assist the Pope in reforming the clergy. Peter resisted the offer, but was finally forced, under threat of excommunication, to accept, and was consecrated Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia. The new cardinal was impressed with the great responsibilities of his office and wrote a stirring letter to his brother-cardinals, exhorting them to shine by their example before all.

In late 1059 Peter was sent as papal legate to Milan by Pope Nicholas II, where the clergy had been corrupted by widescale simony and unchastity. Things had gotten so bad, that benefices (church offices) were openly bought and sold and the clergy publicly “married” the women they lived with. But the faithful of Milan strove hard to remedy these evils. When Peter arrived, the irregular clerics raised the cry that Rome had no authority over Milan. At once Peter acted, boldly confronting the rioters in the cathedral, and proving to them the authority of the Holy See with such effect that all parties submitted to his decision. He exacted first a solemn oath from the archbishop and all his clergy that for the future no preferment should be paid for; then, imposing a penance on all who had been guilty, he re-instated in their benefices to all who under took to live chastely.

In July 1061, Pope Nicholas II died, and a schism ensued. Damian used all his powers to persuade the antipope Cadalous to withdraw his false claim to the papacy, but to no purpose. Finally a council at Augsburg, at which a long letter by St. Peter Damian was read, formally acknowledged Pope Alexander II as the true pope.

Over the next few years Peter was sent as papal legate to settle various disputes and establish reforms in Florence, Ravenna, France, and Germany.

Early in 1072 he was seized with fever near Faenza, and after a week’s illness he died. He was never formally canonized, but he was venerated as a saint from his death at Faenza, Fonte-Avellana, Monte Cassino, and Cluny. In 1823 Leo XII extended his feast (February 23) to the whole Church and pronounced him a Doctor of the Church, thus officially recognizing Peter’s status as a Saint of the Church. (Condensed largely from The Catholic Encyclopedia).

St. Peter Damian, pray for us.

 

Oremus pro Invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Twenty third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lighting and Murals. I’m getting lots of positive feedback about the new lights. I hope the settings we’ve come up with are okay with everyone: we dimmed some of the lights and turned off others so that the Church won’t be too bright all the time. So no more wisecracks about “sunglasses.”
As far as the Murals… Recall that there will eventually be two murals in the new arches we built above the statues/shrines of St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother. In accord with our agreement, the artist is still working on a project for another parish in Washington, so the first of our two paintings will not be completed until sometime between March and May of 2019, and the second painting should then be completed sometime between August and October of 2019. I have not decided if we will install the first one when it is finished, or if we will wait to install it when the second is also finished.
Our artist is Henry Wingate, who has done various pieces for several churches. You can see examples of his work on his website: http://henrywingate.com.
Recall, the painting over St. Joseph (the “first painting”) will be the depiction of St. Raymond miraculously sailing away from Majorca. The charcoal drawing of that painting was hung in the space a couple of weeks ago, but was taken down by the artist to use as he paints. The painting over the Blessed Mother (the “second painting”) will depict Mary appearing to St. Raymond to ask him to help found the Mercedarian Order of priests (Our Lady of Ransom, or Mercy).
The term “mural” means a painting that becomes part of the surface of a wall. However, our artist will not paint directly on the wall. Rather, he will paint on two large 20-foot canvases in his studio in the Shenandoah Valley, and bring the completed paintings to the church, fix them to 20-foot sheets of wood, lift them up to the spaces provided and mount them on the wall, framed by the arches we have added over this last summer.

Parish Tax to “the Diocese.” As many of you are aware, 8% of our Sunday (and Holy Day) Offertory Collections goes to the Bishop to pay for the Diocesan offices and Diocesan-wide programs. This “cathedraticum” is standard procedure in most dioceses.
Some have asked me if it is possible to give to the parish without the parish having to pay that “tax” on their donation—they want to make separate donations to the “Diocese,” e.g., through the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal.
So to be clear, if you put a donation in the special “Maintenance Fund” envelope (or otherwise indicate that on your check) or use the similar designation with Faith Direct, that donation will not be subject to the 8%. Also, if you make a donation separately from the offertory collection, e.g., if you donate to a capital campaign (like the Lighting and Murals), or if you mail in a check directly to the office, that amount is also not subject to the 8% tax.

CCD/Religious Education Starts Tonight! Don’t forget that CCD/Religious Education begins tonight, tomorrow, and Tuesday. Catholic parents have no greater obligation than to teach their children their faith—if you don’t do it now, you can count on them leaving the Church when they finish high school. And then what will happen to their lives, and to their souls after death? SO IF YOU LOVE THEM (and I know you do) BRING THEM TO CLASS, and support our efforts to support your efforts to pass on the faith to your kids.
As always, I’m especially excited about our High School program. Do you want your kids going to college with an 8th grader’s understanding of their Catholic faith and morals? Of course not. So we offer them these challenging and interesting classes to help:
9th Grade: “Basic Catholicism.” Delores Nelson returns for her third year and will be assisted again by Claudia Lopez. “Mrs. Nelson” is one of the most gifted, loving and inspiring Catechists in the Diocese—all her students love her and learn from her. With a Masters in Theology, for 16 years she was DRE at St. Andrew’s, is a frequent speaker at conferences, and conducts catechist training sessions. Using Basic Catholicism as a springboard, Mrs. Nelson tackles the tough moral subjects with her students, so they are better prepared to deal with the immorality of the culture in which they live.
11-12th Grade: “Catholicism and Ethics.” Our excellent experienced and certified team of Catechists, Mike Connolly and Don Jarvis, return this year with a renewed and enhanced curriculum to help our young people to explain and defend their faith to others.
10th Grade, First Semester: “Sacred Scripture” and Second Semester: “Church History.” Brittany Doucette and Doug Maines team up again this year. Brittany has extensive experience as youth minister, editor, school teacher, catechist, and conference speaker. She holds a Masters in Theology, Advanced Catechist certification and is currently teaching Middle School Religion at the Basilica School of St. Mary in Alexandria.

Sunday Confessions. One thing I really like about our parish is the Sunday morning Confessions. But, please remember that we have only 2 priests assigned to the parish, and usually one of them is offering Mass, and sometimes the other is unavailable due to illness, vacation, etc.. Also, sometimes a priest will start confessions late (less than 30 minutes before Mass) because his other obligations have detained him (including greeting parishioners after Mass, which I consider very important). In any case, even when confessions start late, confessions should normally end once Mass has begun (the priest may extend this, but that should not be taken for granted, and they should never go later than the start of the Gospel).
Also, while all are welcome, these confession times are provided specifically to meet the genuine needs of those who truly cannot attend on other days, especially for those who have a specific need to go to confession before Sunday Mass. This means you should not plan to go to confession on Sunday merely because it is more convenient than some other day/time, or to make a merely devotional confession. Parents, in particular, if you follow the admirable practice of monthly family confessions, please do this on Saturdays or Wednesdays, but not on Sunday mornings. (Of course, if the line is short on Sunday, then feel free to take advantage, but be considerate of other’s needs).
Thank you for your patience, and for going to confession!

Parish Celebration Picnic. Next Sunday, September 16, is the big day for our annual picnic with a celebration of paying off the parish debt. Bishop Burbidge will celebrate the 12:15 Mass, and then stay for the picnic afterwards. Unfortunately, Fr. Gould will not be able to join us after all, having another commitment to tend to (argh!!!). But Fr. Daly will join us as will Fr. Joseph Okech Adhunga, AJ, who was in residence here for many years. I look forward to seeing all of you there!

Communion Rail. I think it went great last week! Seems like folks really appreciated it. Thanks for everyone’s cooperation.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Archbishop Vigano. By now most of you have heard about the astonishing accusations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. In his 11 page “testimony,” he lays out many damning accusations surrounding ex-cardinal McCarrick, including naming high ranking Cardinals he says are involved in the “homosexual current” in the Church. Most devastating, though, is his testimony about Pope Francis. He maintains: 1) Pope Benedict XVI had put a non-publicized censure on then-cardinal McCarrick in 2009 or 2010, that forbad McCarrick from publicly exercising his priestly ministry and required him to live a life of penance; 2) Pope Francis effectively revoked that censure when he took office in 2013, and made McCarrick his “go-to” advisor for the United States; 3) Vigano personally told Pope Francis about McCarrick’s perversions in a private meeting on June 23, 2013, “Holy Father, I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation for Bishops there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.”
Vigano’s testimony is particularly important because he has been a high ranking official in the Church for decades, including oversight of all the papal nuncios (ambassadors) around the world, then as the Governor of the Vatican City State, and finally as the Papal Nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016. Moreover, he has always been known as a man of great integrity and personal holiness. Finally, in giving this written testimony he has broken his pledge not to reveal diplomatic and papal secrets, doing so only because his “conscience dictates.” As he writes:
“To restore the beauty of holiness to the face of the Bride of Christ, which is terribly disfigured by so many abominable crimes, and if we truly want to free the Church from the fetid swamp into which she has fallen, we must have the courage to tear down the culture of secrecy and publicly confess the truths we have kept hidden. We must tear down the conspiracy of silence with which bishops and priests have protected themselves at the expense of their faithful, a conspiracy of silence that in the eyes of the world risks making the Church look like a sect, a conspiracy of silence not so dissimilar from the one that prevails in the mafia. “Whatever you have said in the dark … shall be proclaimed from the housetops” (Lk. 12:3).”
Vigano’s testimony has met with mixed reaction. On the one hand, several highly regarded prelates have spoken up in support of Vigano’s personal integrity and the need to pursue investigation of his accusations. Among these are Cardinal DiNardo (president of the USCCB, and Archbishop of Houston), Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Chaput (Philadelphia), Archbishop Olmstead (Phoenix), Archbishop Vigneron (Detroit) and Bishop Morlino (Madison).
On the other side, many are trying to dismiss the charges as part of a wider “cabal” on the part of conservative prelates to undermine or even depose Pope Francis. They are painting Vigano as a bitter, “anti-gay,” disgruntled bureaucrat. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago responded (he was named in the testimony), “The Pope has a bigger agenda. He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”
WHAT THE…? What crud. What happened to leaving no stone unturned to root out the abuse, unchastity and lying in the hierarchy?

The ONLY question is, are these CHARGES TRUE OR NOT?
If they are true, they demand immediate, vehement, dramatic and definitive action. And with all filial respect to His Holiness, as several bishops have pointed out, if the charges against him are true, and I pray devoutly they are not, the Pope has met his own criteria for removing other bishops/cardinals from office.
For myself, I have long prayed for a high-ranking bishop to come forward to tell the whole truth about the filth in the Church. Haven’t we all? And now one might be doing just that. Are we now to ignore him, or simply dismiss him as a kook? If so, we might as well stop asking God for help, if we reject the help He may be sending us.

Kavanaugh Hearings. This week the Senate will hold hearings on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The radical left in our country has tried to find some reason to stop his confirmation, but so far they have come up with nothing, except that he’s probably going to overturn abortion on demand. And that is enough to convince almost all the democrat senators to oppose his nomination.
So, let’s pray that Brett, our fellow practicing Catholic, our brother in Christ, is filled with Christ’s peace and courage, receives a fair hearing, free of rancorous personal attacks, and that he be swiftly confirmed by the Senate. To this end, you will find in your pews today new Holy Cards of St. Raymond, the patron saint of lawyers. On one side is his picture, on the other our prayer to him. I ask that all of us, as a parish, pray this prayer every day this week for the above intentions. May God generously answer our prayers.

Lighting Project. Well, we’re done. And thanks be to God, it seems to have been a huge success. I hope you all agree. Thank you all for your patience, and thanks to those who made special donations to pay for the fix. And last but not least thanks to parish plant manager, Tom Browne, for supervising the whole project. Tom spent countless hours, including some all-nighters, to make sure everything went as perfectly as possible. Kudos and blessings on Tom.

Reparations. Many bishops, including our own Bishop Burbidge, have asked us to pray and do acts of penance in reparation for the terrible sins of abuse, lying and unchastity among priests and bishops. In response to that a catholic friend of mine, a doctor and mother of a large family, wrote me: “I can’t tolerate being asked to participate in reparations for the sins of priests and bishops. I won’t fast for them. I’ve already been paying for their diabolical behavior…What an insult…”
Actually, part of me had that exact same initial reaction. But another part of me recognizes that if something is going to be done, you and I have to do what we can help get it done, “if not you and I, who?” So we pray for God’s intervention, and we do penance, offering sacrifices in reparation for the sins of others, showing God that we are sorry for their sins and our love for and dedication to Him. In essence, we follow Jesus instruction about driving out the most pernicious demons, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”

Humanae Vitae & Fifty Years. Next Saturday, September 8, is our conference on the historic encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae. Contact the parish office for more information. I hope to see you all there.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scandals. What follows is a very condensed version of my homily last Sunday addressing the news of abuse and cover-ups in the dioceses of Pennsylvania. (You may read or listen to the full homily on the parish website):
I am sure most of you are devasted and angry. And I am too. Angry, no, infuriated, at the priests, bishops and cardinals who either committed unspeakable crimes with children or abused their positions of trust with vulnerable adults, or used their clerical celibacy to cover their revolting homosexual lifestyle, or lied and schemed and organized to cover it all up.
But there’s something we all need to be careful of: the tendency to suspect all priests and bishops, and so not only distance ourselves from them, but from the Church itself.
My friends, this is the master plan of the devil unfolding: first, corrupt a few priests and bishops, directly or indirectly, then devastate the lives of victims, then destroy all trust in all the clergy, and finally drive good people from the Church.
We cannot let the devil, and his evil cooperators, win.
27 years ago I was living in San Antonio, my hometown, and was looking carefully into studying for the priesthood there. But the more I knew about that archdiocese, it became clear I couldn’t be a priest there: things were too corrupted by false teachings and the sin of lust, in particular homosexual lust.
So after looking at different dioceses around the country, I decided to study for the priesthood for the Diocese of Arlington. The Arlington Diocese is not at all perfect, but I thank God every day that I am a priest of Arlington, where there are so many fine priests, and where the incidents of this kind of wrong doing have been very rare.
Now, even one act of evil in the priesthood, especially against a child (or covering up) is an abomination and deserves the most violent retribution.
And clearly, parents must be careful: trust but verify. And make sure your children know that they should tell you if anyone, including a priest, touches or speaks to them inappropriately.
Even so, do not let the devil keep you or your children away from good priests or from the Church, and do not discourage the call to priesthood.
Back in Texas, looking at all the crud I found, I realized that it didn’t have to be that way. That there were many good priests struggling to do Christ’s work. And that without new men joining the good priests in the struggle, they and the whole Church would be left to suffer at the hands of all the bad priests and bishops.
So, it came down to this: if not me, who?
Sometimes people make the priesthood sound kind of like the Peace Corps. But the priesthood has got to be more like the Marine Corps. With brave, strong, intelligent, and dedicated men. Men who will sacrifice everything for Christ and His Church. Men who will go into spiritual battle every day, and never be discouraged by the wickedness or strength of their opponents, to clean up the spiritual mess that the Church is becoming.
Now, clearly, not even all the good priests are heroes and saints, and I am definitely not. But so many priests I know are striving to be just that. What more can you ask of them? And what more can you want for you son or brother, or yourself, if there is a call to priesthood?
Today is kind of like the Church’s 9/11—we are under attack by evil doers. But remember how after September 11, 2001, the whole nation seemed to rally together against the evil? Today, in the face of the evil we have seen trying to destroy our church, will we rally, or will we run? Again, if not me, who?
That is the question all Catholics should answer today. Who will resist and fight the good fight, if not you? Who will stand up to the corrupt bishops and priests? If not me and you, who? And who will replace them in the pulpit and at the altar, not as wolves, but as true shepherds and fathers? If not me and your sons, who?

Altar Rail Next Week. As I announced last month, beginning next Saturday, September 1, at the Vigil Mass, the portable altar rails/kneelers will remain in front of the sanctuary all the time for all the Masses. So that at every Mass the people will come up the main aisle for Communion as usual, but then spread out to the left and right at the altar rail, either kneeling or standing (their choice), to receive Communion. Communion will continue to be distributed in the transepts as usual, i.e., no altar rail.
Why? My primary reason for this change is very simple: to allow people to exercise their right to kneel to receive Holy Communion. Kneeling without a kneeler is difficult and time-consuming, and therefore discourages most people who would like to kneel to receive. This is unjust. Moreover, with up to 8 people at-a-time standing/kneeling at the long rail, there is no need to rush to get out of the next person’s way. So by adding the Communion Rail, everyone can receive comfortably the way they want, kneeling or standing.
But let me be frank: I believe there are also great spiritual reasons for kneeling to receive Our Lord. As Cardinal Sarah has written: “For if, as St. Paul teaches, ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth’ (Phil. 2:10), how much more should we bend our knees when we come to receive the Lord Himself in the most sublime and intimate act of Holy Communion!”
Again, I reiterate, kneeling or standing is your option. For those who have never knelt for Communion, I recommend that you try it once or twice—I think you will like it.

Back to School. Most of our kids are going back to school this week, so we need to keep them in prayer. Pray especially for the kids in public schools, which do not share many of our values and so often teach that our values are wrong, or even hateful.
Parents, remember to keep a watchful eye on what your kids are learning: do not abandon your precious children to strangers. Ask them what they’re learning, look at their assignments, participate in parent-teacher meetings. Remember to constantly reinforce Catholic values and teachings, be especially aware of the subtle ways some teachers can try to undermine them: e.g. the English paper about the injustices against transgenderism. But also, be supportive of good teachers and administrators who are trying to live their Christian faith in the schools.
For those of you in Fairfax schools, remember to “OPT OUT” of Family Life Education (FLE).
And remember to sign your kids up for CCD/Religious Education, and make sure you and they take this seriously. This is the most important school they will attend—learning about God, and how to live just lives, and how to get to heaven!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Summer. The Summer is quickly slipping away from us, and, as much as I hate to admit it, school is about to start up again. I hope you all have had as a good a summer as I have. I have been busy all summer, but it has been largely, a low-stress few weeks, for some reason. I thought it would be a little more difficult, with the lighting project, but that’s been running very well (thanks be to God!).
One of the great things about summer is having so many of our college “kids” home. After being here for 8 years it’s really good to see so many of our young men and women growing up in so many ways, but it’s also good to have them back with us for a while. But as the summer wanes, I am aware that many of them are heading back to their colleges. I hope they know that we do pray for them, and we will miss them. And again, I encourage them to stay close to Jesus, His Mother and His Church. Remember: Sunday Mass, daily prayers, monthly confession. Keep your Rosary with you, and pray it often. Take part in the campus ministry events and get to know the Catholic Chaplain. Make good friends, and by that I mean friends that are truly good in the eyes of God, and can help you to be good in His eyes. Have fun, but remember you or your parents are spending all that money not for you to party, but to learn and grow in knowledge and wisdom before God and man. Enjoy yourself, but keep focused. Take time to relax, but stay away from stupid things, which include sinful things.
Listen to what your profs have to say, but always keep a critical ear open for the difference between fact and opinion, between ideology and truth, between bright ideas and nonsensical c–p.
Above all know that Jesus is your Savior, and loves you and is always with you. Cling to Him, and love Him in return, every day, at every moment. And know that we are praying for you, and look forward to seeing you at Christmas.

Religious Education, CCD. Every August, I panic a bit as the Religious Education Office tells me that registrations for the coming year are a little low… And every September they shoot up to more or less “normal” levels. But please, don’t wait to sign up for CCD—do it today, online—so you don’t forget and so you can get the times you want. Mary Salmon and Vince Drouillard in our RE/CCD Office have been working all summer to make our program even better than it was last year, and they’ve lined up some excellent folks to teach. But all that is useless, even the best teachers are powerless, if parents don’t sign their children up for classes. What can be more important than educating our children in the faith? Especially as FCPS continues its mad dash to brainwash our kids with their foolish notions of morality and even common sense.
So, enjoy the rest of your summer. But don’t forget to enroll in CCD. Contact our RE Office for more information—and do so this week, please.
And also—we are in urgent need of several catechists and aides. With all the problems in the world, I hear people ask, “What can we do?” Simple answer: “Teach CCD.”

Humanae Vitae & Fifty Years. Save the date for our conference on this historic encyclical of Pope Paul VI. Featured Speakers include: Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, Dr. Robert Royal, and Bob & Gerri Laird. Babysitting will be available. Contact the parish office for more information.

Parish Celebration Picnic. Make sure you’re saving the date for Sunday, September 16, when we will combine our annual picnic with a celebration of paying off the parish debt. Both Bishop Burbidge and Fr. James Gould (my predecessor, and the builder of our church) have confirmed that they will be here for the 12:15 Mass, and then for the picnic afterwards. We’ve also invited “pioneering” parishioners who helped build the church but have since moved away, and I’m hoping many of them will join us. We’ve been pulling out all stops to make this especially fun for all, with more games, more food and… live entertainment. So plan on being there.

Sign of Peace. Thank you all for your cooperation with my request for a new way of exchanging the sign of peace. Remember, when you turn to the person next to you, wait for them to turn to you, and then bow to each other. It will take a little getting used to, but I think we’ll get the hang of it.

St. John Eudes. Today is the feast day of my “name saint,” or patron saint, St. John Eudes (pronounced, “ūd,” rhyming with “rood”—the French “es” is silent at the end of words, as it is in “De Celles”). Born in Normandy in 1601, St. John grew up in a pious Catholic home, and at the age of fourteen he took a vow of chastity. After a stellar scholastic career he entered the Congregation of the Oratory of Jesus and Mary Immaculate (“The French Oratorians”), in 1623, and was ordained a priest in 1625. He became a missionary of sort, and soon became famous for preaching parish missions. In 1641 he founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, for “fallen women” who wished to do penance. In 1643 he established the Society of Jesus and Mary (“The Eudists”), an order of priests, founded for the formation of priests (in seminaries) and for missionary work.
St. John is also famous as one of the primary promoters of the formal devotions to the Sacred Heart (before the apparitions to St. Margaret Mary) and the Immaculate (Admirable) Heart of Mary. He is credited with the establishment of the first feast days for the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart, and composing the prayers for those Masses (all with papal approval).
Known for his personal holiness and learning, St. John wrote several books that are considered Catholic classics, rich in doctrine and but simple in style. Many consider him a possible future Doctor of the Church. His principal works are: The Sacred Heart of Jesus, The Admirable Heart of Mary, The Life and Kingdom of Jesus, and The Priest: His Dignity and Obligations. St. John died on this date in 1680, at the age of 78. He was canonized in 1925.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Death Penalty Change? On August 2, Pope Francis announced that he was changing the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s presentation on the death penalty. Prior to the change, the CCC, 2267, read:
“Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
“If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
“Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.””

Pope Francis’s amended text reads:
“Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.
“Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.
“Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.
“Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

What to make of this? It seems that the Pope has changed the Church’s ancient doctrine that the state has the right, and sometimes the duty, to execute certain criminals, so that now, it seems, such execution is a sin. In fact, the letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states that the change represents an, “authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium.”
Since the announcement however, many learned Catholics have pointed out several important problems. The greatest of these is that the right and duty of the state to execute criminals may not be something that any Pope or Council has the authority to change. They argue that it is based on the specific teaching of the Scriptures, including the very words spoken by God Himself, and it has been consistently taught since the earliest days of the Church, and upheld by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, including St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Alphonsus Liguori. Moreover, rejection of this teaching has been condemned by Popes for centuries, at least one Pope specifically calling such rejection “heresy.” Also, even Pope St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who opposed the implementation of this right/duty of the state, clearly and upheld the teaching.
This unanimity of the Church normally leads us to conclude that a doctrine is unchangeable and irreformable, i.e., infallibly taught in the ordinary magisterium. But now it seems Pope Francis has attempted to change and reform it.
It is true that Catholic teaching can “develop”, but I didn’t think it could develop based on changing circumstances or “new awareness” of things. And it was my understanding that development came only in a way that is consistent with the prior teachings, not contrary to them. And finally, I was under the impression that “development” had to be well documented and explained in a logical way so as to clearly state the new presentation; but this is not the case here.
So, what does this mean? Frankly, I don’t know. Some argue that this change must represent a prudential judgment, and so no change in doctrine at all. But the CDF seems to take exactly the opposite position.
To me, this is another example of the confusion that so often seems to come from the Vatican these days. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but if there is confusion, there is confusion. And people are confused. I know I am. With all respect and deference to His Holiness.
So, I suggest we all pray for a quick clarification, both from His Holiness and learned prelates and theologians, and not jump too quickly to any conclusions, especially in dealing in charity with His Holiness and with our fellow Catholics.

Bishop McCarrick Homily. Last week this column included a condensed version of my homily from July 29 about former-cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Since then copies or links to the full homily have been posted to 2 well known Catholic websites, and I have received dozens of emails from Catholics around the country who found the homily very helpful in coming to terms with this issue. I am humbled by the response, and I bring this up now not to brag, but only because it seems that Our Lord may use this homily to help some others as well. So, feel free to share it—both the text and audio are on the parish website.

My Homilies on the Website. Some of you may not be aware that I post almost all my homilies and talks to the parish website. For years I refused to do this, since I feel it can easily lead a foolish priest to the sin of pride. Eventually I relented at the request of several parishioners and ex-parishioners, based on the argument that if I give them to folks who attend my Mass on Sunday I should be open to giving them to other folks as well.
In any case they’re on the website if you want them. Go to straymond.org, click on the tab that says, “Priests,” then “Father De Celles,” then, “Father De Celles’ Homilies.”

Liturgical Changes. Please remember the upcoming liturgical changes in the parish. First, effective TODAY, August 11-12, the norm at St. Raymond’s for exchanging of the sign of peace will be to turn to only two people, one on your left and right, and give a slight bow of the head or shoulders (with folded hands, if you choose). Second, effective Sunday, September 2, folks coming down the main aisle will receive Communion at the altar rail, either kneeling or standing, at all Masses. Finally, effective Sunday, September 16, on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of every month we will celebrate the 10:30 Mass using the “Ad Orientem” form.

Pictorial Directory. The new parish pictorial directory is being printed as I write this, and it should be in our hands in the next few weeks. Very sorry for the delay!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles