Posts Tagged ‘Catholic’

A Reflection on the Synod of Bishops on the Family

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

It’s good to be back home!  I returned last night from the Synod of Bishops in Rome, where, for the last two weeks, bishops from all the world, with the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, listened to God’s Holy Word, one another, and married couples in an inspired conversation on Marriage and the Family.

It was clear to me, once again, that the Church is our spiritual family.  So, I’m happy to be back with you, my family, my home, the Church in the archdiocese of New York.

We’ve got a lot of work to do:  I’m still busy raising money for the much-needed repair and restoration of our beloved St. Patrick’s Cathedral; we’re near announcing decisions on the merging of about 12% of our 380 parishes, accepting the recommendations of our priests and people involved in the long Making All Things New process; soon Thanksgiving, and the preparation of soul for Christmas we call Advent will be upon us; and, we better start preparing for a visit by the Holy Father the end of next September.  No, it’s not official yet, but I’m rather confident he’ll spend a day with us in eleven months.

The Synod was fruitful.  Pope Francis set a helpful tone.  When we opened, he encouraged us to be open and honest, and not to look at our conversations as debates or lobbying, where there would be winners or losers.

Then, on Saturday, he closed by observing that we were first and foremost pastors, not advocates for causes, not captives of ideologies, whether of heartless rules, or diluted ideas of mercy and a fixation on change.

In general, those reporting on the Synod did not heed the Holy Father’s counsel.  They prefer the language of tension, victory, loss, conservative vs. liberal, “Pope Francis’ bishops” versus stodgy traditionalists.

I suggested journalists read a good book that’s been around a long time, which they could find on the nightstand in their hotel.  It’s a short book, I observed, written by a man named Luke, whose only previous work was a blockbuster, simply called Gospel.  Luke’s second book’s title is Acts of the Apostles.

There you find a chronicle of the first years of the Church, right after Jesus had returned to heaven.  The pastors of the Church tried their best to commence the mandate given them by the Lord, “to teach all the nations.”  Characterizing their mission was controversy, persecution, sin, setbacks, opposition, debates over tough issues.  But, most of all what marked those first years was deep trust in the assurances given them by Jesus, utter faith in the power of His grace and mercy, a foundation of love for Him and one another, and an inspired growth of those who accepted Jesus and His Church.

Sounds just like the Synod to me . . .  I found a ringing, unanimous affirmation of marriage as the divinely approved way of life for a man and woman united in loving, lifelong, lifegiving marriage, a real “light to the world” in a world that has grown cynical about sacrifice, commitment, babies, and the ability to say “forever.”

And I heard a sensitive invitation, to those whose own marriages and families have been short of what God intends, never to feel alone, always to know that they’re at home in God’s family, the Church – – which at times has its own share of brokenness.

synod  by its nature can hardly change the Church’s teaching.  We Catholics pledge allegiance to what is called a “revealed religion” (so do Jews, other Christians, and Moslems).  That simply means that we believe that God has told us (“revealed”) certain things about Himself and ourselves through the Bible, through our own nature, especially through His Son, all celebrated and taught by His Church.

One such revelation is that He intends the gift and beauty of sexual love only for the loving relationship of a man and woman in lifelong, lifegiving (children!), faithful, marriage.

Such a bond is so radiant, He has revealed to us, that it actually hints at the infinite love enjoyed among Father, Son, and Spirit in the Blessed Trinity, and reflects the personal, passionate love God has for each of us.

Anyone who thought this synod could change that has not read Catholicism for Dummies.  The Church does not change God’s revelation, but attempts tochange us so we can live it.

What was refreshing, though, was a warm, gracious tone, so marvelously personified in Pope Francis, (who would tell us it’s hardly his style, but that of Jesus!), that the Church is at her best when she invites, embraces, understands, welcomes, and affirms, instead of excluding, judging, or condemning.

How to present the timeless teaching of the Church, in all its clarity, as an ennobling, liberating force, while always ready to show mercy to those not yet at the point of full acceptance . . . that’s a challenge as old as, well, the Acts of the Apostles, and as new as last week’s Synod!  

“Just keep getting the truth out! Please don’t let us down!”

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Last week I called my friend Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Major Archbishop for the Greek Catholics of Ukraine.

I have grown to admire this young, brave brother bishop over the last years, as we have often spent time in Rome together, and especially when I was with him last year for the dedication of the daring new Cathedral of the Resurrection in Kiev.

The Catholic Church in Ukraine is young, alive, growing, and prophetic.  This, from a worldly point of view, is illogical, near miraculous, as Greek Catholics were viciously persecuted by Stalin in the years of Soviet oppression.  Even after the breakup of the communist empire, and the restoration of freedom in Ukraine, Catholics were not given back their former churches that had been given to the Russian Orthodox, and the courageous yet decimated community almost had to start afresh.

Through the optic of the Gospel, we know that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the faith,” so believers are hardly surprised by the vitality and growth of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine.

Archbishop Shevchuk, like his predecessor, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, now retired, is a true “confessor of the faith,” a pastor revered by his people, a leader in bringing unity, peace, and hope to a country threatened by thugs and thieves within, and an aggressor on the border.

I check in with him, because I worry about him, want to encourage him, and am inspired by him.  My call last week found him uncharacteristically grim and apprehensive.

“Timothy, we are under attack!  Our country is under siege from Russia!  Our people are being murdered, their homes destroyed, not by alleged separatists in Ukraine wanting to return to Russia, but by Russian troops and mercenaries.  Please see that the truth gets out. There is an invasion here.”

Last week, the Catholic bishops of Ukraine issued a chilling statement that their beloved country is “flowing in blood,” and urged Western governments – – like ours – – not to become “accomplices in the sin of murder.”

Just so we would understand, the Ukrainian bishops were blunt: “This peaceful, sovereign nation has been subjected to a direct military intervention by a Northern neighbor – – hundreds of units of heavy weaponry and technology, thousands of armed mercenaries and soldiers of Russia’s standing army are crossing our borders of Ukraine, sowing death and destruction.”

After the Second World War, when the Iron Curtain separated Central and Eastern Europe from the free democracies of the West, Catholics in the United States were in solidarity with persecuted Christians in Poland, Ukraine, Croatia, Lithuania, Hungary, and the other countries under Russia’s jackboot.  We spoke up for them; our government listened.

We had hoped it would now be different.  Things looked so bright in Ukraine for awhile.  It appeared that religion was free, the Church encouraging a just, open, civil society.

Apparently, a prosperous, free, independent Ukraine, with freedom of religion leading to a revived faith, is a threat to a neighbor with a history of interference.  The jackboots have apparently come out of storage.

I asked my brave brother bishop how I could help.  “Just keep getting the truth out!  Please don’t let us down!”

I’m trying…

On this Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, I commend to you a Church and a Nation, Ukraine, with her at the foot of the Cross.



Marriage and Practicing the Faith

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Here is a great blog post I came across from The Federalist called A Bit Of Religion Can Be Bad For Marriage which shows how practicing your faith and attending Church weekly has a very good effect on your marriage:


Here’s the key nuance: while religious affiliation makes no difference when it comes to divorce, religious attendance does. …

In multivariate analyses, high-attending conservative Protestant young adults have 34 percent lower odds of divorcing than do the non-religious, and high-attending Catholic young adults have 76 percent lower odds of divorcing than do the nonreligious. (Other religiously conservative groups, such as Latter Day Saints or Muslims, may exhibit similar “divorce-proofing” patterns, but the sample size is too small to distinguish these groups.)


Read the rest of it here.

The Gift of Catholic Schools

Monday, May 19th, 2014

In Sunday’s New York Post, Naomi Schaefer Riley had an excellent article on the value of Catholic schools, and why we must work to save them!  She shares a wonderful story of a student, Jason Tejada, who attended Incarnation School  in Washington Heights and All Hallows High School in the Bronx, and went on to Columbia University, and is now working at JPMorgan.

The details of Jason’s story may be particularly poignant, but the success that Catholic schools can bring underprivileged students is widely understood.

The achievement, graduation rates and college completion rates are much higher for students who attend Catholic school than public school, even controlling for family income. A recent Brookings/Harvard study found that African American students in New York who won and used a scholarship to attend private school starting in kindergarten were 24% more likely to attend college than those who applied but didn’t win a scholarship.

You can read the entire article here.

Finding God Amid the Scaffolding and Noise

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Thought you would enjoy this wonderful piece on the Cathedral from Mary DeTurris Poust:

At first, as we walked along the outer edges of the cathedral, trying to avoid wires and boards and construction workers, I wondered aloud why they would even bother to keep the cathedral open under such conditions. But eventually we made our way to the Lady Chapel at the back of the cathedral, which remains untouched (at least as of now) by the restoration project. We knelt down in prayer, as other visitors did the same — the old lady with the scarf tied tightly around her head, a shopping bag on her arm; the young business man in the fashionably cut suit; the tourist with backpack and camera marking his outsider status. One by one, they drifted in and out, genuflecting, kneeling, praying, making the Sign of the Cross…

Read the rest here.

Bigotry and Catholic Education

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

My thanks to Seth Lipsky at the New York Post for his insightful article, Time to end NY’s anti-Catholic bigotry:

The proposed credit is tiny compared to the estimated $22 billion for pre-k through grade 12 in the state’s education budget. It would start at $180 million in the first year and then $225 million and $300 million. However modest in comparative cost, it would be a help, particularly to families of limited means with pupils in religious day schools…

Our credit is shaken, but not by the priests, rabbis and imams. The poor laborer is strangled by public employees who have a better deal than he could ever get — and a quarter of a trillion dollars in unfunded state pension obligations. Isn’t it time to make it easier for religious schools to help educate our children?

Read the rest here.

A February Consistory & Other Updates

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Just a few items to share with you.

For one, late tonight I leave for Rome, summoned there, along with my brother Cardinals from around the world, by Pope Francis.  Your intentions accompany me, and I already look forward to returning back here in a week.

What brings us over is the consistory for new cardinals, to occur this Saturday, February 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.  We “upper-classmen” are always there to welcome “freshmen”!

People wonder about the significance of even having cardinals anymore, and, occasionally, I do myself.

But, shortly after this new group of cardinals was announced last month, I met two Haitians working in the parking garage.  These men are grateful immigrants from beleaguered Haiti.  They ran up to me, ecstatic, with tears in their eyes, sharing with me their joy and pride that Pope Francis had named a Haitian bishop to the College of Cardinals!  To see their happiness convinced me that this ancient title still has relevance.

The Holy Father is a wise shepherd.  He realizes that naming a cardinal can be an act of encouragement and affirmation to a struggling people, a sign of solidarity with the Church Universal.  It sure worked for those two Haitians I met.

Prior to Saturday’s ceremony and Sunday’s Mass, Pope Francis has asked all the world’s cardinals- – including the new ones- -to come together Thursday and Friday to discuss “Marriage and Family”, a topic close to his heart, already chosen as the theme for the upcoming Synod of Bishops to take place in Rome October 2014 and 2015.

Since I was elected to the Permanent Council for the Synod of Bishops, I must remain in Rome Monday and Tuesday for all day meetings of that council.

Two, you know how I always try to alert you to any potentially negative publicity about the Church, or about me.  Well, there could be some.  My home archdiocese of St. Louis just complied with a court order to release the documents regarding cases there of sexual abuse of minors.  (Cardinal Egan already did that here a decade ago, sharing all of the information we had on abusive priests with proper district attorneys, something we continue to do today.)

Anyway, since I was an auxiliary bishop in St. Louis for a year (2001-02), and vicar for priests for nine of those twelve months, I would anticipate that my name will again be highlighted in the press.  I sure have nothing to hide, and am very much at peace with law enforcements officials reviewing the files.  In fact, we already released all the documentation to them a dozen years ago!

This will be, I suspect, a repeat of last year’s attempt by the same tort lawyers to muddy my name.  A year ago, they contended- – remember?- -that while Archbishop of Milwaukee I had “hidden funds”, and they had even deposed me.  Nothing of course ever came of it, although the ever-compliant press here gave me headlines about being deposed.  (The headlines were much smaller when the Judge eventually ruled that I had acted properly.)  However, knowing how their attorneys operate, and some reporters here cooperate with them, I would anticipate some attempt at bad publicity again.  I’ll keep you posted…

Finally, there was good news recently in our pro-life movement: the city health department reported a drop in the city’s abortion rate.  That’s good news!  The somber news is that New York City still has twice the national average of abortions.

What I also find troubling is the conclusion of the health department that this is due to increased use of IUDs and other chemical and implanted contraceptives.  Really? No proof is offered.  I guess some of the welcome decline could be due to that.  But is it too much to conclude that another reason for the decline is that more and more mothers and fathers see abortion for the tragedy that it is, the unjust taking of an innocent, fragile, human life?  Perhaps, too, its became more and more people see that casual, promiscuous sex hardly leads to health or happiness, and are now acting virtuously?  I know it’s hard for some to accept- -unless you believe in human freedom, its beauty, genuine choice to wait for marriage, and that the human person is not a slave to passion and cultural pressure.

Thanks for listening!

NY Post: “Catholic schools’ secret: love”

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Here is a wonderful piece on our Catholic schools–during Catholic Schools Week–in the New York Post by Bill McGurn:

We don’t speak much about love in education, not even during Catholic Schools Week. Instead, we focus on more tangible measures of success: how 99 percent of Catholic school students get their high-school diplomas; how a black or Latino child is 2.5 times more likely to graduate from college if he or she has attended a Catholic high school; how Catholic schools manage to do all this at a fraction of the cost of public schools…

Back when he was playing for the New York Jets, Damien Woody sent his children to St. Vincent’s even though his family wasn’t Catholic. At a Christmas concert, a fellow parent asked him why. He answered, “My wife and I believe that a school where they love God will love my children.”

Read the rest here.

Insight from the New York Post

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Today the New York Post published an editorial on Judge Brian Cogan’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act. I would like to share it with you.

Here is an excerpt:

For a while it looked as though the president had got the best of the cardinal.

Two years ago, Timothy Cardinal Dolan left an Oval Office meeting believing he had President Obama’s word that his health-care regulations would respect the conscience rights of religious organizations. A few weeks later, the president phoned to say the Department of Health and Human Services was going ahead with a mandate requiring even church groups to underwrite insurance that paid for birth control, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs.

Now a court has just handed the cardinal a big victory — and the president a huge defeat. In a landmark ruling, Judge Brian Cogan of the Eastern District of New York not only found that the president’s mandate violates religious freedom, he issued the first permanent injunction against it.

You can read the whole editorial here.

In an Empire State of Mind

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

It has been awesome taking part in the events in Rome these past three weeks, saying goodbye to Benedict, and then taking part in the conclave last week to elect Pope Francis.  Today I will be joining our new Holy Father for his Mass of Installation, in Saint Peter’s Square.  At the same time, I am sorry that I will not be able to join my brother bishops of New York State as they undertake two days of advocacy on important public policy issues in Albany, as well with as the nearly 1,000 Catholics from every part of our state who will join them Wednesday for Catholics at the Capitol. I do love Rome, but, boy, do I wish I could be with all of you in Albany.

Pope Francis has a reputation for intense devotion to the poor, of humility, of promoting the Culture of Life.  That’s what we, as the Church, must be all about as well, and that is what we must bring in our meetings with our elected representatives in Albany.

I will certainly be with my brother bishops in spirit as they meet with Governor Cuomo, Senators Skelos and Klein, and Speaker Silver Tuesday afternoon to lay the ground work for Catholics at the Capitol by affirming the Church’s beautiful teaching on the dignity of every human person made in the image and likeness of Almighty God from the moment of conception until natural death.

And I will be praying for those committed advocates traveling to Albany to join with your bishops in proclaiming a great big Yes! to life, by working together to build a Culture of Life in New York by providing real choices for pregnant women and girls who may find themselves pressured to abort, and who so often suffer quietly for years afterward as a result. Surely, we can find some area of agreement among our elected leaders to help those who make the heroic choice to keep their babies, as well as those who have already aborted and need love, compassion and healing to move forward with their lives.

You will also uphold the Culture of Life  and proclaim the dignity of every human person by fighting for the safety of all children, wherever their parents send them to school. We bishops stood in support of Gov. Cuomo in his stand for sensible gun control, but while the NY SAFE Act rightfully included money for public school safety, no such funding was included for religious or independent schools in that legislation. We worry about the message that this sends. We’re also grateful for those who supported our efforts to get full reimbursement for all of the state mandates on our schools.

And, of course, you will passionately advocate for more state funding for affordable housing and for health care for the poor and vulnerable, because these are basic human rights that preserve human dignity. And you will speak out as well for the dignity of those in our state’s prison system, because our Lord taught us very clearly that whatever we do for any of the least of our brothers and sisters, we truly do for Him.

Know that my brother bishops and all of our laity, religious and clergy doing this important work in Albany will hold a special place in my prayers these next few days, even if I cannot be there with you in person.

A blessed St. Joseph Day, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter!