September 2, 2023 Column Father De Celles

Parish Picnic. It was great to see so many of you come out to the parish picnic last Sunday. It was wonderful being able to socialize and mix with each other, and especially to see all the kids having fun together. Thanks to all who made it come together, especially the parish staff, headed by Virginia Osella, and the volunteers, headed by Phil Betwy, who worked so hard to make it a fun time for all of us. God bless you for your good work.

Happy Labor Day. This weekend our nation celebrates “Labor Day.” For some, this weekend is merely the end of Summer. But for many it’s a celebration of the hard work of so many Americans that has made our nation so successful in so many ways. We should rightly celebrate this, as “work” is one of the original gifts given to Man by God, as He gave Adam and Eve dominion (“lordship”) over all the earth and commanded them: “fill the earth and subdue it.” That “subduing” of the earth is the work/labor of Man, who was created in the image of the Creator. Man shares in God’s creative work by his labor, and when he works in ways consistent with God’s will, he grows in holiness.

My Working Vacation. The week before the picnic I was out in St. Meinrad, Indiana, taking time off from my parish work to attend the annual working retreat for Catholic Vote, the Catholic advocacy organization and publishers of the online newsletter “The Loop.” I am their Chaplain.

It was a great meeting, as the folks at CV all seem to be devout Catholics and glad to have their chaplain provide confessions, Mass, adoration, an evening reflection and lead them in prayers. I enjoyed seeing the inner workings of this very dynamic and hope-filled lay group working hard on advocacy for and formation of American Catholics.

 If you are not familiar with Catholic Vote or “The Loop” I recommend you consider checking them out at And to be clear, although I am very supportive of their work and provide spiritual support, I have no direct influence on their content, strategies or decision-making.

God Bless Pope Francis. Did you see this news story, discussed all across the media last week? Here is the article from the National Catholic Reporter:

“‘The situation in the United States is not easy: There is a very strong, reactionary attitude. It is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally,’ said the pope. ‘I want to remind these people that backwardism is useless, and it is necessary to understand that there is a correct evolution in the understanding of questions of faith and morals.’

“The pope’s comments came during an Aug. 5 meeting with the Jesuits in Portugal…published by the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica on Aug. 28.

“[T]he pope pointed to what he described as ‘concrete’ examples of church teaching evolving over time.

“‘Today it is a sin to possess atomic bombs; the death penalty is a sin, it cannot be practiced, and it was not so before,’ he said. ‘As for slavery, some pontiffs before me have tolerated it, but things are different today.’

“…While Francis did not name particular individuals or groups …he offered a broadside against what he has frequently referred to as ….‘backwardists’… ‘If you don’t change upward, you go backward, and then you take on criteria for change different from those that the faith itself gives you to grow and change. And the effects on morality are devastating,’ said Francis.

“‘Those American groups…, so closed, are isolating themselves. And instead of living by doctrine, by the true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live by ideologies…But when you abandon doctrine in life to replace it with an ideology, you have lost, you have lost as in war.’

“…When asked …how this applies to gay students who are not living celibately…the pope did not demur. “‘The door is open to everyone, everyone has their own space in the church,’ said Francis. ‘How will each person live it? We help people live so that they can occupy that place with maturity, and this applies to all kinds of people.’

Some observations: In general, this is very confusing.

1) Who is His Holiness talking about?  The folks with a “radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology” that the FBI want to investigate? The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter? Or just conservatives in general?

2) What about the radical progressive ideologues who are far more organized in the United States, controlling most of the Catholic Universities, Seminaries, and Publishers (e.g., National Catholic Reporter), and religious orders (e.g., The Jesuits) in the U.S.

3) If “everyone has their own space in the church,” does that apply the Catholics who are “backward” or “reactionary”?

4) The Church has never definitely taught that “it is a sin to possess atomic bombs; the death penalty is a sin.”

Then There’s This: Two weeks ago Pope Francis preached about the encounter of Jesus with a Canaanite woman, to whom He says, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” The woman persists in her prayer and Jesus grants her request. The Pope observes:

“We see that Jesus changed his attitude. What made him change was the strength of the woman’s faith. Let us pause briefly over these two aspects: the change in Jesus and the woman’s faith….He was directing his preaching to the chosen people. ….But …On hearing the woman’s prayer, … he becomes even more sympathetic and compassionate. God is like this: he is love, and the one who loves does not remain rigid…And we Christians who want to imitate Christ, we are invited to be open to change. ….like Jesus did with the Canaanite woman.”

Again, this is confusing. Do Catholics believe that the woman knew Jesus’ mission better than He did? Does God really change? (“When we say ‘God’ we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same…” Catechism 2086). Did Jesus really intend to exclude this woman and all non-Jews from salvation?

The greatest of the Early Fathers of the Church had a very different understanding of this text. St. John Chrysostom (d.407) says that Jesus, “withheld the gift not to drive her away, but to make that woman’s patience an example for all of us.” St. Augustine (d.430) wrote, “She was ignored, not that mercy might be denied but that desire might be enkindled; not only that desire might be enkindled but… that humility might be praised” and, “[Christ] was giving the impression of ignoring her, so that her faith might show all the better… He concealed from her the gift, which he certainly intended to give, in order to wring from her heart the saying which would make her worthy to receive it.” and St. Ambrose (d. 397) writes, “If God invariably listened to every supplicant equally, he might appear to us to act from some necessity rather than from his own free will.”

May God bless the Pope, and relieve my confusion.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles