Another Promise Kept. President Trump’s personal behavior continues to cause me angst: his caustic insults, his petty attacks (even against his allies), his egotistical sense of humor, etc. But, love him or hate him, he keeps coming through on campaign promises that caused many good Catholics to vote for him. Last week he kept another, officially creating a valid and workable conscience-clause exception to his predecessor’s despicable “Contraceptive mandate,” an exception that would apply to every business and organization. As the Washington Times reported:
“The Health and Human Services Department said colleges, faith-based nonprofits and for-profit companies can now avoid the mandate by claiming a religious or moral objection and without submitting a form. Publicly traded companies must pinpoint a religious objection to claim an exemption. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” said Roger Severino, director of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights.”
The Little Sisters of the Poor and all Catholic employers are no longer required to compromise their moral beliefs to satisfy the secular god of contraception/abortion/sexual-promiscuity. Praised be Jesus Christ! And God bless the President for keeping his word.
Some thoughts about Columbus Day. In the last few decades some have called for the end of the celebration of Columbus Day, as they have either accused Christopher Columbus of personal atrocities and racism against the indigenous people he encountered, or simply cast him essentially as a symbol of the European “invasion” of the Americas and the subsequent “oppression” of the indigenous peoples.
There is no doubt that Columbus was no saint: although a man of great faith, he was a deeply flawed sinner. Which is why the Church has never canonized him. And the colonization of the Americas was not without flaws and atrocities.
But Columbus was also a great man in many ways: he was amazingly courageous, with an indefatigable zeal for exploration and an indomitable resolve. He truly discovered a whole “New World,” both for the Europeans, in an obvious sense, but also for the indigenous peoples of North and South America who also had a whole “new world” open to them. And the exploration of the New Word that he initiated brought about great things, not the least of which was ending the indigenous atrocities like human sacrifice. In any case, it dramatically changed the world forever.
So, Columbus is not honored for his despicable sins, either personal or symbolic, but for his noble achievements, and the world-changing effect they had on history.
Consider this: In the course of my dozen or so trips to Rome, as I’ve explored that ancient city I’ve seen statues of dozens of Roman Emperors—even statues of some of the most vicious anti-Christian Emperors. Now, these statues stand in Catholic Rome not because the Romans admire the ancient emperors for cruelly conquering and oppressing most of the known world at the time, or for persecuting Jews and Christians for three centuries. And they honor them not because it was Cesar’s representative in Jerusalem who condemned Jesus to death, or because Cesar’s soldiers nailed Him to the cross.
No, the Romans honor the noble accomplishments of their ancient emperors, e.g., ultimately bringing peace to a savage and violent world, building a system of safe transportation, establishing commerce and amicable relations between various peoples, establishing a logical system of just laws, etc. They celebrate and are inspired by these accomplishments, while also recognizing and abhorring their atrocities. These are the flawed but “great” figures of their storied and amazing history— “great” not simply in the sense of “good” or “noble,” but in the sense of momentous and history-making/defining.
If each of us could remember only the evil we had done in our past, our lives would be devoid of hope, and we’d be stuck wallowing in despair. But we don’t do that. Rather, each of us looks to the times when we were good and when we accomplished what we set out to, and while we remember and repent our sins and failures, these successes encourage us to try again, to strive to be as good as we know we can be.
The same is true with history and historical characters. Imagine if history remembered only the bad things historical characters had done in their lives. We would have no heroes, no one to look to for inspiration or emulation (except, of course, Jesus, and Mary). But we need heroes, and we need to remember the great feats they did so that we can be encouraged to imitate them and strive for great feats ourselves.
All of our historic heroes are flawed, some deeply. But while recognizing their flaws, we do not let those stop us from holding up their great accomplishments for admiration and inspiration. Whether it’s Christopher Columbus or George Washington or Franklin Roosevelt—or our parents or grandparents. Or even, our better selves.
Feast of St. John XXIII. Last Wednesday, October 11, was the feast day of Pope St. John XXIII (“the 23rd”). Pope for less than 5 years, from 1958-1963, he is probably most famous for his amiable disposition (they called him “good Pope John”), and for convening the Second Vatican Council. On a personal note, born in the middle of his papacy, I was named after him.
It always amuses me to note how Pope St. John is considered to be sort of the patron saint of all those who think the Church has to change its dogmas and doctrines, and has to discard everything that came before Vatican II. Clearly, they really don’t know St. John, or the Council, as both loved and embraced Catholic tradition, and merely wanted to proclaim that tradition in new ways that modern man could better understand.
When I receive the occasional letter/email complaining about something I say or do, it seems inevitably to include something like, “Vatican II changed all that.” I have to smile, because they are usually espousing the exact opposite of the Council. This is often the case when someone is upset about our liturgies, especially our use of Latin at Mass. Again, I smile, remembering that the Council wrote: “The use of the Latin language…is to be preserved in the Latin rites… [C]are must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin … [the prayers] of the Mass” [Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36, 1963]. And I am inspired by my namesake, “good Pope John,” who wrote: “[Bishops] shall be on their guard lest anyone under their jurisdiction…writes against the use of Latin …in the liturgy….” [Veterum Sapientia, 2, 1962].
Oktoberfest. Next Saturday evening, October 21, 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