August 21, 2021 Column Father De Celles

Early Morning Mass. I’m very happy to announce that we’ve restarted our 6:30am Mass, Monday through Friday. The only proviso is that if either Fr. Horkan or I are out of town or sick, the 6:30 Mass will be canceled for that day/week. We will do our best to keep you informed about any cancellations, including through emails and the website.

Our Lady of Ransom Scholarship Fund. As I mentioned at several of the Masses last weekend, I consider our efforts to raise money to assist families in either homeschooling or sending their kids to Catholic schools to be one of the most important endeavors of our parish at this time. I know that many parents do an excellent job of directing their kids through the public schools so as to keep their faith and recognize the many lies they are being taught. Some of these kids become zealous and active defenders of Christian and American values. But it takes a real, active and concerted effort to overcome the government/public school efforts to indoctrinate kids in an anti/un-Christian anti/un-American understanding of the world. So it is imperative that we assist those parents who want to remove their kids from this abuse by providing some financial assistance for alternative education.

            I’m calling this effort the “Our Lady of Ransom Scholarship Fund,” remembering the story depicted in the mural in our sanctuary of Our Lady appearing to St. Raymond, asking him to help found a religious order (The “Mercedarians”) that would organize the ransom of Christians who had been kidnapped (usually onboard ships) by Moorish raiders and either held for ransom or forced into slavery or to renounce their Catholic faith. The Mercedarians were to do this either by raising funds, negotiating or by offering themselves in exchange for their captured Christian brothers and sisters.

            How similar this is to our situation today. We need to do everything we can to free our children from those who seek to enslave and convert them to the strange ideology of the radical left, call it Wokism, Marxism, or Secularism.

            I don’t like to “hard sell” when it comes to raising money, because I always trust in your generosity and kindness. Which means that when I DO “hard sell” it means I really believe in the cause, and see a grave need.

            What better work of charity can we do?

            I’ve thought about starting our own school. I will keep thinking about that, but it really doesn’t seem very feasible, for so many reasons. One being the fact that we don’t have much land on our campus, and buying more land in the area would be extremely expensive. Moreover, the cost of building would be over $5 million. And besides, I don’t think the county would even permit the construction on our property, given our small acreage.

            So it seems to me, at this time, the best we can do is give scholarships. Two weeks ago, when I last ran the numbers, we’d given scholarships to 37 families for 86 kids (9 schools and 3 homeschooling families) for a total of $110,000 for the coming school year. Since then we’ve given several more scholarships—just this morning I approved $8000.

            So far this year (beginning July 1, 2021) we have raised $22,363 from 23 families to support these scholarships (note, a good portion of the scholarships for the coming year were paid in the last months of the last fiscal year, ending June 30, 2021). This is pretty good: we are averaging $1766 a week, plus a $10,000 gift. At that rate we would raise $101,839 in 12 months.

            But consider this: as noted above, if we actually built a school, it would cost $5 million. Assuming we financed 100% of that, it would cost us over $600,000 a year to pay off that loan (over 10 years). And parish schools are usually subsidized by their parishioners anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000. So, it would cost us at least $700,000 a year to operate a school for the first 10 years. That’s a heck of a lot of money.

            So instead, let’s do scholarships. But we can do better than we are doing to fund these scholarships. Maybe we can’t raise $700,000 a year, but we can do better than $101,839.

            And let’s be ambitious, at least with our hopes and dreams. Last year we had about 170 public school kids enrolled in grade school CCD, and 30 in high school CCD (numbers were down because of Covid). Using these as a starting point for parents who might be eligible for assistance (in reality, the numbers are much higher), it would cost about $1.3 million to provide full scholarships to Catholic schools for these kids. What if we could raise $500,000 a year? We could provide scholarships for over 1/3 of the cost of Catholic tuition, and some 100% scholarships, and help support scores of homeschoolers offset the direct costs of their education. Wouldn’t that be great! And frankly, what better use could you put your money to?

            We’re talking about the salvation of souls here. Catholic schooling and homeschooling carry no guarantees, but it seems the best investment we can make to help our kids to stay close to Jesus, and not be corrupted by the abusive ideologies the culture is trying to indoctrinate them in.

            Every month, in the envelope/offertory package you receive from the parish you will find an envelope with the label “Our Lady of Ransom Scholarship Fund,” (for the next 2 months the envelope will read “Catholic Schools Scholarship Fund”). Please be generous.

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate. I have heard that a lot of people are arguing, sometimes with great anger, about whether or not you must or must not take one of the Covid vaccines. Many who are very concerned about the virus, say you have a moral obligation to take the vaccine to prevent the spread etc. Others focus on the use of cells from aborted babies that may have been used in the development or even production of these vaccines and say you may not take the vaccine. Both are wrong.

            There is no absolute moral requirement to take or not to take the vaccine—not according to the teaching of the Catholic Church. One should be aware of the moral importance of the various conflicting and potentially grave factors, i.e., on the one hand helping to stop the spread of a deadly virus, and on the other hand the sin of scandal connected with remotely cooperating in the evil of abortion. But each individual person has to weigh these and all other relevant factors, following Catholic moral principles, in deciding what they will do.

And they must be allowed to decide for themselves what they must do in their particular situation to properly apply and follow the guidance of the Church. It is not a question of “everyone must do the same thing” because we are not talking about an “absolute moral norm”—it is not always and everywhere wrong to take the vaccine or not take the vaccine. But it is wrong—always and everywhere—to coerce a person’s conscience, to force them to act against what their properly formed Catholic conscience tells them.

            Some have pointed to the good and well intentioned work of “Children of God for Life,” and in particular, the work of Pamela Acker. But our old friend and annual guest speaker, Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D., the Director of Education of National Catholic Bioethics Center and nationally recognized bioethics expert, has assured us that most of Ms. Acker’s most shocking claims are unfounded or at best conjecture. (See Fr. Tad’s article on our website). But in any case, given the remoteness of the connection between abortion and taking the vaccine, it is still possible to morally take the vaccine.

Let me remind you of what the Church actually teaches.

“…Of course, within this general picture there exist differing degrees of responsibility. Grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such “biological material”. Thus, for example, danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other

 types of vaccines available. Moreover, in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility of those who make the decision to use them is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision.” (Dignitas Personae, 35, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by Pope Benedict XVI, June 20, 2008).

“However, if the (patients) are exposed to considerable dangers to their health, vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may also be used on a temporary basis. The moral reason is that the duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience. Moreover, we find, in such a case, a proportional reason, in order to accept the use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favoring the spread of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children….” (Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Aborted Human Foetuses, Pontifical Academy for Life (prepared at the request of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and published during his pontificate as Benedict XVI),  June 9, 2005.)

“At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary. In any case, from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good. In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed….” (Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines, 5, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, December 21, 2020).

“It’s not up to me to tell people whether or not to take the vaccine, but to be informed, and to make their own informed conscience decision. That’s really what the Catholic Church teaches.” (Bishop Joseph Strickland, Bishop of Tyler, March 3, 2021)

In sum, Church teaching says:

— Catholics must form their consciences in accord with Church teaching;

— Catholics may cooperate with evil in which they are not directly or materially participating in (e.g., by rendering taxes to Caesar, Jesus indirectly supported the brutal Roman oppression of the Jews);

— Catholics may take a vaccine that is tainted by abortion in its development or production (indirect and remote cooperation with evil), if there are sufficient grave reasons for doing so;

— It is up to the individual’s properly formed conscience to judge for themselves the facts of the situation and apply moral teachings.

— It is immoral to coerce their decision or mandate them to make one choice or the other. This applies to employers, and to friends and family.

My takeaway for you: you can take the vaccine if you believe there is a grave reason to do this (to protect others, to protect yourself, to avoid being fired, perhaps even to go to school, etc.). You may also freely choose to not take the vaccine (although you will have to deal with the consequences). And I will fully support your decision either way—even write a letter to protect your freedom of conscience and religion.

Moreover, PLEASE, families and friends and co-parishioners MUST not argue amongst themselves and demand conformity—either way. There are bigger fish to fry. Trust each other, and trust Jesus. And pick your fights, as long as you are not directly and materially doing evil. The devil is laughing at us, using our good intentions to create divisions and even the sin of scandal we are trying to avoid.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles