September 17, 2022 Column Father De Celles

Archbishop Cordileone. What an evening last Monday was! The Archbishop gave a very erudite but plainspoken talk on how the Catholic Church has, over 2 millennia, brought the Good, the True and the Beautiful to our Western Culture, and how today’s cultural movements are corrupting this. But all this remains and is proclaimed in the Mass, so that the Mass must be protected as the source and summit and example of the Good, the True and the Beautiful to the world today.

What a great turnout too. I’m guessing 600, including visitors from around the diocese. And the crowd was enthusiastically supportive and grateful, giving His Excellency two standing ovations. The Archbishop was equally grateful, as he told me afterwards how the warm welcome was like a reinvigorating shot in the arm for him.

Thanks to His Excellency for visiting us, despite his very busy and whirlwind schedule this week. And thanks to all of you who made it such a success, including our security folks and Bob and Geri Laird, Gretta and Court Wheeler, Beth Berger, Ann Marie Riordon and the parish staff.

Summer’s Over. I spent most of last week (9/6 – 9/11) playing golf down in Williamsburg, “officially” ending my summer. I had a very relaxing time with my priest-golfing-buddies: great weather, nice courses, decent scores and good fellowship. I should be homebound now until after Christmas, except that I will probably make a quick trip out to the Midwest for a family funeral in the next week or so. Thanks for your patience and support.

German Synod. Wow. Wow. Last week the German gathering of Bishops and lay people called the “The Synodal Way” approved documents embracing proposals for some very troublesome changes in the Church. To me, they seem to be “heresies.” According to various press accounts (e.g. The Pillar), delegates approved documents that:

— Propose a new “Synodal Council” which will include laity to oversee the governance of Bishops in Germany. 88% of bishops voted in favor. German theologian Cardinal Walter Kasper, strongly criticized the document as threatening to destroy the structure “that Christ wanted for his Church.”

          — Criticize “the precarious situation of non-heterosexual priests” and called for “a removal of taboos and normalization of their situation.”

— Challenge “the exclusion of women from the sacramental ministry.” While not specifically calling for the ordination of women as deacons and priests, they did assert that, “for generations, many women have known that they were called by God to be deaconesses or priestesses.” It goes on to propose: “in future, it should no longer be gender that decides on the allocation of ministries, but the vocation, abilities, and skills that serve the proclamation of the Gospel in our time.”

— Demand that, “Catholic institutions and Church leaders…must not continue to disparage our trans and intersex … brothers and sisters in faith, especially under the blanket accusation of ‘gender ideology’ or the ‘LGBTIQ agenda.”

— Call for “a re-evaluation of homosexuality in the Magisterium.” It proposed that, “Paragraphs 2357-2359 as well as 2396 (homosexuality and chastity), amongst others, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church should be revised as part of this re-evaluation of homosexuality.”

          I’m a still a little unclear as to whether these are the final results of the Synod, or still subject to revision. But in either case, it seems to me the German Synod, including a large majority of the Bishops may now be material and perhaps formal heretics. Material heresy means they do not understand/know they are denying some defined truth of the faith, while formal heresy means they are knowingly and obstinately denying such truth. Formal heresy is punished under Canon Law by automatic excommunication, which in turn means automatic loss of office. Does this mean then, that all those German Bishops who voted in favor of the above heresies have been, de facto, excommunicated and removed from their offices, losing their episcopal authority? I just don’t know. Once again, I am confused. In any case, this is, as I write above, “very troublesome.”

Msgr. Dempsey. For the last year or so Msgr. Patrick Dempsey has been helping out with Masses and confessions, especially during the week, when Fr. Horkan or I have been away. I have introduced him at Masses in the past, but never in this column. So let me do that now.

          Msgr. Dempsey is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, who now lives here in Springfield. He was born in Sioux City, Iowa in 1949. As a young man he attended college at Benedictine College (Atchison, KS), receiving his Bachelor’s in History, and then the University of Wisconsin (Madison), receiving his Master’s in Library Science. He went on to earn a Master’s in Church History from the Catholic University of America, and worked for almost 15 years at the Library of Congress.

He and I have been friends since we entered the seminary (Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary) together in 1996. He spent 3 years at the Mount, earning his Master’s in Church History, and then went on to finish his seminary studies in Rome, living at the North American College. There he received his Bachelor’s in Sacred Theology and Licentiate in Sacred Theology (Spirituality) (a “licentiate” post-master’s/pre-doctorate 2-year academic degree) from the “Angelicum” In 1997 he was ordained a priest by Cardinal James Hickey.

Monsignor served as parochial vicar in several parishes in Washington before being appointed Priest-Secretary to Cardinal William Baum. Card. Baum had retired in 2001, due to failing health and deteriorating sight, as the Prefect (head) of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary, but he remained an active member of several Vatican congregations, including the very important Congregation for Bishops, which is in charge of appointing Bishops. As his Secretary, Msgr. Dempsey was his right-hand man and worked and lived with the Cardinal, half the year in Rome and half the year in Washington.

          The Cardinal retired from all his official duties in 2010, but remained active in the Church. Monsignor remained his secretary until the Cardinal’s death in 2015, when he was appointed, I believe, Assistant Archivist of the Archdiocese of Washington.

          You can see that Monsignor is extremely intelligent and well-educated, holding two Bachelor’s degrees, three Master’s and a Licentiate. For fun, he also completed most of the work for a second Licentiate, in Canon Law. He retired from active ministry in 2020.

Clarification. Last week in the article “Making of a Saint” which I quoted at length, Msgr. Robert Sarno wrote that canonization “is an act of the infallible teaching authority of the Pope.” However, to my knowledge, this infallibility has never been officially defined, and many theologians and Cardinals would disagree, primarily because the Pope is only infallible in “matters of faith and morals,” and it is questionable whether the sanctity of a particular person falls under either of these categories.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles