Tag Archives: First Things

CORONAVIRUS DIARY: NEW YORK, MAY 12

GEORGE DUNLAP, MAY 13, 2020. Yesterday I heard that the Bishop’s in Ohio are preparing to Re-Open our Catholic Churches for Mass. Below is an account of one mans diary writings about his May 12th dealings with life and going to Mass in the Underground.

Tuesday: Bright morning sunshine, but cool temperatures. It’s been a chilly spring. I’m still running the space heater in my office; the landlord turned down the heat at the outset of the lockdown. The vibrant blue sky and the sunlight on the buildings make it impossible not to be cheerful.

The last two or three weeks have clanked along like a slow-moving excavator, patiently gobbling up the hours day after day as New York City continues in its semi-comatose condition. I walk the dog, head into the First Things office—where I’m almost always alone—and grind away at my editorial tasks.

There are distractions and adventures.

On Monday, April 27, I visited an emergency room at a hospital in one of the hard-hit neighborhoods in the outer boroughs. (I can’t reveal details, because my visit was not “authorized,” and in the present conditions of  public health hysteria, my host might lose his job if higher-ups found out I penetrated the “no visitors” cordon sanitaire.)

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RE-OPENING, during COVID19, OUR CHURCHES – AND OUR PLAN IS?

George Dunlap, May 9, 2020. As the good news bubbles to the top of several daily conversations, regarding possible and limited re-opening with COVID19, that I have had, with many of my customers in the United States, the topic we all discuss is, so…what is the plan to re-open our businesses? What are the suggested guidelines and how can we all be part of the solution, “To Re-Open Intelligently and with Cautious Optimism” ? That is the same question I pray to God, how can we as faithful Catholics be part of the Overall Re-Open Our Churches Solution? WE CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT THE LORD’S DAY…….. JOHN SAFRANEK, M.D. wrote a very good article at First Things several days back.

WE CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT THE LORD’S DAY

, by John Safranek, M.D., May 7, 2020

My hospital, like all hospitals throughout the country, has adopted new procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Emergency Room, where I work, patients cannot even enter the building until someone has determined whether they are harboring the coronavirus. There are elaborate gowning, masking, and gloving routines, as well as a host of other procedural changes. 

Nearly every other department has taken similar measures. When taking X-rays, radiology technicians stand outside the patient’s room, shooting rays through the windows to avoid contaminating the machine. Respiratory therapists no longer use the standard nebulizer machines for fear of propagating the virus. Each department, even the cafeteria, has creatively altered its practices. We have to continue working during this plague, because what we do is essential for individual and social well-being.

I have been thinking about the bishops’ cancellation of public Masses in light of these hospital changes. When many states declared the celebration of the Eucharist non-essential, few bishops resisted. My state banned public gatherings of more than 8-10 people except for “essential” services, which included courts of law (apparently Shakespeare was right: justice delayed is justice denied), business operations, airport travel, and even daycares. My spiritual life is the most important aspect of my being, and the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of my faith—yet it was deemed less essential than daycare, and few bishops demurred.

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A QUARANTINE SYLLABUS FOR TEENAGE BOYS

George Dunlap, March 31, 2020. So what are you doing with your time, during the pandemic, with your children? Video games, all day Netflix shows; how about reading or better yet…see below. This is a classic approach to what is needed in our Catholic homes during this most interesting crisis. This pandemic will pass but will we has adults use it to develop better citizens and more… faithful Catholics?

by Mark Bauerlein, March 31, 2020 from First Things

Okay, First Things parents. Those of you with adolescent boys at home—you need help. So do I.

No matter how energetic and vigilant the teachers are in this time of seclusion, hours at home can’t replicate the classroom. As soon as the online assignment is finished, once the streaming lecture is over, the boys drift back to the iPhone for games and peer banter and pictures. The atmosphere of the school disappears. Instead, boys are back in their private spaces (and virtual social spaces), wherein books and knowledge are negligible matters.

You have been thrust into the role of part-time homeschooler with little warning, and you need better tactics than the bare confiscation of that demonic device. By all means, take the tool away, but give it back after the boys have done their daily work for school and spent some time with the syllabus you have fashioned as a supplement to it.

In the area of history, have them watch episodes of Appointment with Destiny, a short-lived series from 50 years ago that 14-year-old boys will love. There are only a half-dozen entries in the series, each one a documentary-style recreation of a fateful moment in time. One episode dramatizes Cortes and Montezuma, another one the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. There are reconstructions of Appomattox, the hunt for John Dillinger, the attempted assassination of Hitler. Lorne Greene narrates some, Rod Serling others. Historical figures speak to the camera as if they are on 60 Minutes. Historical settings, clothing, speech, and actions are reproduced with vivid fidelity. Check out one episode here.

In the area of music, let’s introduce them to the classical tradition with an engaging battery of lectures by Leonard Bernstein. The site is Harvard University, the time 1973. Bernstein was in residence at Harvard for a year, savoring the academic climate and ending up idolized by the students. He had to give six public lectures, which he devoted to music theory from Mozart to Stravinsky, using Noam Chomsky’s linguistics as a conceptual frame. He sits at the piano explaining what happened with Beethoven et al., then turns to the piano to illustrate the point. Occasionally, the lecture breaks away to a film of Bernstein conducting the Boston Orchestra in the symphonic pieces he is discussing—such as Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet. Some of the theory will go over the heads of younger teens, but Bernstein’s winning manner and the brilliance of the examples he plays on the piano make everything clear. Here is the lecture on the Romantics.

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Truth-Telling and Big Abortion

By: George Dunlap, May 2, 2019 Reading this article by George Weigel I begin to understand how all those Germans must have accepted the death camps in their towns, as the Nazis, during WW II, killed millions of Jews, and others. They accepted then, as we accept today, that if I close my eyes…..it’s not real. By the Grace of God, forgive us Dear Lord. George Weigel’s article below is something…..we all need to fully understand, Unplanned is a battle cry to millions of fellow Catholics that we must stop this KILLING with the TRUTH. Please join me in prayer….

By George Weigel, May 1, 2019, TRUTH-TELLING AND BIG ABORTION

For over a half-century, what styles itself the “pro-choice” movement has thrived because of its extraordinary ability to mask what it’s really about—the willful taking of innocent human lives in abortion—through various rhetorical deceptions. 

Planned Parenthood clinicians ask frightened and often ignorant young women, “Would you like us to restore your period?” Legislators in thrall to Big Abortion dollars vie to keep sidewalk counselors away from abortuaries, in order to maintain the pretense that what goes on inside those chop-shops involves no more than unwanted “tissue.” The governor of New York celebrates the passage of a bill that would legally permit abortions up to the moment of birth because this is all a matter of “women’s reproductive health.” The governor of Virginia babbles about letting children who survive abortions die, thinking himself humane because he insists that the victims will be kept comfortable. Last month, a Georgia state senator decried legal protection for unborn children who display “what some call a heartbeat.”

George Orwell, call your office.

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John Paul II, Youth Minister – George Weigel

John Paul II, Youth Minister

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Pole that he was, Karol Wojtyła had a well developed sense of historical irony. So from his present position in the Communion of Saints, he might be struck by the ironic fact that the Synod on “Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” currently underway in Rome, coincides with the fortieth anniversary of his election as Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1978. What’s the irony? The irony is that the most successful papal youth minister in modern history, and perhaps all history, was largely ignored in Synod-2018’s working document. And the Synod leadership under Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri seems strangely reluctant to invoke either his teaching or his example.

But let’s get beyond irony. What are some lessons the Synod might draw from John Paul II on this ruby anniversary of his election?

1. The big questions remain the same.

Several bishops at Synod-2018 have remarked that today’s young people are living in a completely different world than when the bishops in question grew up. There’s obviously an element of truth here, but there’s also a confusion between ephemera and the permanent things.

When Cardinal Adam Sapieha assigned young Fr. Wojtyła to St. Florian’s parish in 1948, in order to start a ministry to the university students who lived nearby, things in Cracow were certainly different than they were when Wojtyła was a student at the Jagiellonian University in 1938-39. In 1948, Poland was in the deep freeze of Stalinism, and organized Catholic youth work was banned. The freewheeling social and cultural life in which Wojtyła had reveled before the Nazis shut down the Jagiellonian was no more, and atheistic propaganda was on tap in many classrooms. But Wojtyła knew that the Big Questions that engage young adults—What’s my purpose in life? How do I form lasting friendships? What is noble and what is base? How do I navigate the rocks and shoals of life without making fatal compromises? What makes for true happiness?—are always the same. They always have been, and they always will be.

To tell today’s young adults that they’re completely different is pandering, and it’s a form of disrespect. To help maturing adults ask the big questions and wrestle with the permanent things is to pay them the compliment of taking them seriously. Wojtyła knew that, and so should the bishops of Synod-2018.

2. Walking with young adults should lead somewhere.

Some of the Wojtyła kids from that university ministry at St. Florian’s have become friends of mine, and when I ask them what he was like as a companion, spiritual director, and confessor, they always stress two points: masterful listening that led to penetrating conversations, and an insistence on personal responsibility. As one of them once put it to me, “We’d talk for hours and he’d shed light on a question, but I never heard him say, ‘You should do this.’ What he’d always say was, ‘You must choose.’” For Karol Wojtyła, youth minister, gently but persistently compelling serious moral decisions was the real meaning of “accompaniment” (a Synod-2018 buzzword).

3. Heroism is never out of fashion.

When, as pope, John Paul II proposed launching what became World Youth Day, most of the Roman Curia thought he had taken leave of his senses: young adults in the late-twentieth century just weren’t interested in an international festival involving catechesis, the Way of the Cross, confession, and the Eucharist. John Paul, by contrast, understood that the adventure of leading a life of heroic virtue was just as compelling in late modernity as it had been in his day, and he had confidence that future leaders of the third millennium of Christian history would answer that call to adventure.

That didn’t mean they’d be perfect. But as he said to young people on so many occasions, “Never, ever settle for anything less than the spiritual and moral grandeur that God’s grace makes possible in your life. You’ll fail; we all do. But don’t lower the bar of expectation. Get up, dust yourself off, seek reconciliation. But never, ever settle for anything less than the heroism for which you were born.”

That challenge—that confidence that young adults really yearn to live with an undivided heart—began a renaissance in young adult and campus ministry in the living parts of the world Church. Synod-2018 should ponder this experience and take it very, very seriously.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

Photo by Sporki via Creative Commons. Image cropped. 

Cleansing the Church of Clerical Sacrilege

It is time for clergy and laity to begin a movement for the purification of the Church. The shameful sexual sins and crimes of clergy—including cardinals, bishops, and priests—can no longer be tolerated. Tolerance is precisely what has allowed these problems to multiply for decades and persist up to today.

As Fr. Thomas Berg recently explained, the issue is sexually active priests and bishops. In the main, the persistent problem is with homosexually active priests.  Fr. Roger Landry argues—rightly, I think—that most priests who persist in infidelity with women eventually leave the priesthood, but priests who cheat on their vocation with men often continue to live a double life. Most of the issues stem from this kind of duplicity. Networks of active homosexual priests have developed: They protect and promote their own and others who will tolerate them. They become a major problem when they insinuate themselves into positions of power (in a seminary, in a chancery or diocese, in a religious order, in the Roman curia)—as occurred in the case of Theodore McCarrick.

The sins here are more grave than adultery or homosexual acts because they besmirch what is holy. Properly speaking, this is sacrilege, the perversion of Holy Orders, and the defilement of a person solemnly and publicly consecrated to God in chastity. The sin is even more serious when a bishop, a seminary formator, or a priest uses the authority of his office—an office instituted by Christ for the sanctification of the faithful—in a perverse way, in the service of shameful and selfish passions. The higher the abuse of authority in the Church, the more grave is the sacrilege. These are not private sins of individual Christians, and the victims suffer more because they are abused not by “private individuals,” but by priests. These crimes dishonor and offend God, and they wound the Church in a unique way.

Focusing on sacrilege is important because it helps us remember that we are dealing with something holy: the holiness of the priesthood, of the episcopacy, and of the Church. We must not give up on this call to holiness. Bishops and priests should be holy, they must pray for it, and with the help of grace, strive for it.  (And some really do become holy—something we should not overlook.) When priests habitually commit mortal sins, they lose their zeal for the gospel, they become numb to the truth of the Eucharist’s holiness, and they water down the doctrines of the faith. This leads to many other infidelities, and to a kind of pastoral despair.

What, then, can be done to fix this problem? We should begin by articulating clearly what remedies are needed. (Getting the bishops and the Vatican to adopt these reforms is another question, but first we need to know what reforms are needed.) Here are five bullet points.

First, we need to investigate the past and have a transparent accounting of the failures.  How were known networks of active homosexual priests (and bishops) allowed to continue?  What structures of accountability were missing?  This investigation won’t fix the future, but it will begin to identify where the biggest problems are.

Second, every diocese and religious order needs to implement an affirmative program to screen out vocations applicants with a history of deep-seated same-sex attraction—and certainly those who have engaged in homosexual activity. Applicants should not be allowed to apply for the seminary unless they are already able to live as habitually chaste single men, without recurring falls into unchastity. Candidates in seminaries who act out sexually should be dismissed. This policy is not homophobic in any way. It is simply non-hypocritical: The Church has to cultivate vocations of men who live and practice what the Church professes.

Third, American bishops should enact, as “particular law,” the canonical norms from the 1917 Code of Canon Law (they were mostly dropped from the current Code of Canon Law when it was revised in 1983) dealing with the sexual acts of clerics (whether homosexual or heterosexual, and whether with minors or with adults). Those provisions made sexual activity by clerics, even with other adults, a canonical crime. The punishments included “being deprived of office, benefice, dignity, responsibility, if they have such, whatsoever, and in more serious cases, they are to be deposed.”

Fourth, there should be an apostolic visitation of all provinces of religious orders, diocesan chanceries, seminaries, the offices of vocation directors, and of the USCCB, to investigate whether they have networks of active homosexual priests, structures of manipulation, or other such misconduct.

Fifth, there needs to be a system for reporting clerical sexual infidelity—even infidelity with “consenting adults”—akin to the system that currently exists for reporting clerical abuse of minors. The reports should not just go to the bishop or religious superior; they need to involve a review board and other lay outsiders.  Allegations should be investigated, using fair and just procedures, and should be concluded with a report of findings recommending canonical charges where warranted. This process needs to be instituted for both religious orders and dioceses alike.

These prescriptions are actually rather straightforward and simple. The hierarchy needs help from laity and investigators from outside the dioceses, religious orders, and seminaries to expose the corruption and begin the process of dismissing the wrongdoers. Let us cleanse the sacrilege, so that the Church will again be holy.

Hand-wringing and pious platitudes won’t fix things. It is time to confront the real problem with courage and sobriety.

Dominic Legge, O.P., is a Dominican priest and a professor of theology at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.