Thursday, November 22, 2012

USCCB - "Five Things to Remember..."

Five Things to Remember on Nov. 21

1.      On Thanksgiving, when we think of pilgrims to America, we might recall that 30 percent of new priests ordained in the United States are foreign-born.  Many gifts to the United States come from beyond our borders.

2.      There are more than 40 lawsuits against the federal mandate forcing private health plans to cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. Federal judges have issued initial rulings in four cases brought by people of faith who run a business – and in three out of four, the company has won a preliminary injunction against the mandate. This speaks well for a few judges’ understanding of freedom of conscience, which lies at the heart of Freedom of Religion.

3.      Generous Catholics help U.S. dioceses meet basic needs. The U.S. bishops announced Nov. 19 that thanks to the Catholic Home Missions appeal they awarded $8.4 million in grants to 84 mission dioceses in the U.S. The Fairbanks, Alaska diocese, where many villages see a priest only once a month, got $135,000 for training deacons and Eucharistic ministers. The Cheyenne, Wyoming diocese, that has 45 priests to serve 53,000 Catholics spread over 98,000 miles, got $75,000 to help educate 11 seminarians. The El Paso, Texas diocese, where the ratio of priests to Catholics is 1:6,800, got $105,000 for youth and evangelization programs.
4.      Nov. 22 is the feast of St. Cecilia, patroness of musicians. “Singing belongs to one who loves,” said St. Augustine of Hippo. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (para 39) speaks of the importance of singing as a part of worship and notes an ancient proverb: “One who sings well prays twice.”

5.  God loves you.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

40 Hours Eucharistic Devotions

Today our parish begins her  annual retreat: her annual Eucharistic Devotions - commonly called "40 Hours."  Why is it called "40 Hours?"  To honor the forty hours that the body of Christ rested in the tomb, the Blessed Sacrament is solemnly exposed for this period of time, during which public services, private meditation and prayer take place.  This devotion developed in the 16th Century.  The exact period of forty hours' exposition, in practice, is not strictly adhered to.  The Holy See granted an indulgence to those who take part.

History of the Devotion

A chronicler from Milan describes the custom which began in May, 1537. He gives details as to the church with which it started. Less than two years later, Pope Paul III granted an indulgence to anyone who participated in the devotion.  

The practice without doubt spread rapidly. Already before the year 1550 this, or some analogous exposition, had been established by St. Philip Neri for the Confraternity of the Trinita dei Pellegrini in Rome; while St. Ignatius Loyola, at about the same period, seems to have given much encouragement to the practice. As this devotion also commonly lasted for a period of about forty hours, it seems to have been given the name "Quarant' Ore"; and under this name it is still maintained in many places.

St. Charles Borromeo speaks as if this practice of praying for forty hours was of very ancient date; and he distinctly refers it to the forty hours our Lord's Body remained in the tomb, seeing that this was a period of watching, suspense, and ardent prayer on the part of all His disciples.

St. John Neumann, Bishop of Philadelphia, advocated the devotion here in the United States.  Visiting his parishes in the 1850’s he noted with sorrow that few people took time for a private visit to the Blessed Sacrament.  In 1853 each parish in his Diocese was to hold a Forty Hours Eucharistic Celebration.  Since at that time, we were part of the Philadelphia Diocese, the parishes in our area would also have begun the devotion.  We continue that tradition today with our parish’s annual celebration of Forty Hours.    
You are invited to come, spend some time with the Lord in prayer during these days.  This year the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed all-day and all-night - so come at any time of the day or night to spend some time with the Lord.  Sunday, Monday & Tuesday evenings there will be a Eucharistic Service of Praise - and this year our guest homilist is our very own Deacon Kevin Kayda.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Great way to Celebrate Advent

Finding good Advent music is often difficult to find - but this looks really great!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Prayer

And now, with the Presidency, all 435 House seats and 33 in the Senate, the legislature of 44 states, hundreds of city or county posts – and, not to be forgotten, several key ballot-questions facing voters – all up for grabs today, as ever at moments like this, let us return again to the foundational text of Faithful Citizenship, American Style – the Prayer for the Nation and its Government written and first delivered in August 1791 by John Carroll of Baltimore: adviser to Washington, cousin of the Declaration's lone Catholic signer, the first shepherd of this church in these States....
We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name. 
We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope [Benedict XVI], the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, [Joseph McFadden], all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation. 
We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty. 
We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state , for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. 
We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal. 
Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. 
To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bishop McFadden Issues Letter for Election

                                                                                                            November 3, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This week the citizens of the United States will elect the political leadership for our country, our state and our local communities who will guide our government into the future and will legislate and execute laws that will affect the way of life in our country. As Catholics it is necessary that we understand the importance of our participation in this civic activity and exercise our civic duty to elect office holders who will represent us in the public square. As we choose from the candidates who have presented themselves, I encourage you to look carefully at the positions that they have taken and the platforms upon which they are running and select the individual that you feel in conscience best reflects the values that you believe as a Catholic are necessary for the common good in our society. Please make use of the voter guides and resources that have been provided by the Pennsylvania Catholic Bishops and the United States Conference of Catholic bishops. These are available at   

As you exercise this civic right and duty, I encourage you to be guided by the Catholic principles that reflect our understanding of human life and the intrinsic value and dignity of every human person made in the image and likeness of God. I ask that you keep in mind our Catholic social teaching and its emphasis on providing for the common good of all citizens and our right to religious freedom guaranteed in our constitution.

     I encourage all Catholics to make every effort to fulfill your civic responsibility and vote this Tuesday, November 6th for our civic leaders. I also ask that we pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in electing leaders that will be able to guide our country with wisdom and grace and lead us into a time of deeper peace and tranquility. Pray that those elected will have the strength of character and the integrity of life to face the challenges confronting our country and work to secure its future for all citizens.

May the good Lord continue to shower on our country His blessings and help us to entrust our nation to His protection as did our Founding Fathers at its foundation.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph P. McFadden
                                                                                                            Bishop of Harrisburg

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Souls Day

Often overshadowed by the two days preceding it, Halloween (October 31) and All Saints Day (November 1), All Souls Day is a solemn feast for us which commemorates all of those who have died and now are in Purgatory, being cleansed of their venial sins and the temporal punishments for the mortal sins that they had confessed and atoning before entering fully into Heaven.

The importance of All Souls Day was made clear by Pope Benedict XV (1914-22), when he granted all priests the privilege of celebrating three Masses on All Souls Day: one, for the faithful departed; one for the priest's intentions; and one for the intentions of the Holy Father. Only on a handful of other very important feast days are priests allowed to celebrate more than two Masses.

On All Souls Day, we not only remember the dead, but we apply our efforts, through prayer, almsgiving, and the Mass, to their release from Purgatory.  There are two plenary indulgences attached to All Souls Day, one for visiting a church and another for visiting a cemetery.  (The plenary indulgence for visiting a cemetery can also be obtained every day from November 1-8, and, as a partial indulgence, on any day of the year.)  While the actions are performed by the living, the merits of the indulgences are applicable only to the souls in Purgatory.

Praying for the dead is a Christian obligation.  In the modern world, when many have come to doubt the Church's teaching on Purgatory, the need for such prayers has only increased.  The Church devotes the month of November to prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and participation in the Mass of All Souls Day is a good way to begin the month.

And this we will do here our parish on Sunday at 7pm... remembering all the following members of our parish family who have died since the last All Souls Day:
  • Doris George (November 30, 2011)
  • Betty Jane Topper (December 6, 2011)
  • Dora O'Toole (December 13, 2011)
  • Regina Hockenberry (December 17, 2011)
  • Richard O'Toole (December 19, 2011)
  • Jay Wilkinson (December 20, 2011)
  • James Jarvis (January 1, 2012)
  • Betsy Boland (January 15, 2012)
  • Elizabeth Matapeter (February 4, 2012)
  • Louis LaSorsa (February 7, 2012)
  • Robert Britsch (February 16, 2012)
  • Mary Serbin (February 17, 2012)
  • Max Shearer (March 13, 2012)
  • Helen Pawloski (March 20, 2012)
  • Josefine Huber (March 28, 2012)
  • Robert O'Toole (April 10, 2012)
  • Della Wagaman (April 16, 2012)
  • Claudia Brandes (May 4, 2012)
  • Cindy Caron (June 22, 2012)
  • C. Robert Brezler (September 9, 2012)
  • Ellen Mulcahy (September 24, 2012)
  • Ronald Mackey (October 1, 2012)
Here is a wonderful prayer, coming from the Byzantine Church, we can offer for them and for all the faithful departed:

By Thy resurrection from the dead, O Christ, death no longer hath dominion over those who die in holiness. So, we beseech Thee, give rest to Thy servants in Thy sanctuary and in Abraham's bosom. Grant it to those, who from Adam until now have adored Thee with purity, to our fathers and brothers, to our kinsmen and friends, to all men who have lived by faith and passed on their road to Thee, by a thousand ways, and in all conditions, and make them worthy of the heavenly kingdom.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints Day!

Just about every day in the Church calendar has the celebration of a saint, but today, the Solemnity of All Saints, is when the Church honors all the saints, known and unknown.  This is kind of like the American holidays Veterans Day and Presidents Day, where many people are honored on one day.  While we have information about many saints, and we honor them on specific days, there are MANY unknown or unsung saints, who may have been forgotten, or never been specifically honored.  On All Saints Day, we celebrate these saints of the Lord, and ask for their prayers and intercessions.  The whole concept of All Saints Day is tied in with the concept of the Communion of Saints.  This is the belief that all of God's people, on heaven, earth, and in the state of purification (called Purgatory), are connected in a communion.  In other words, Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that the saints of God are just as alive as you and I, and are constantly interceding on our behalf.  Remember, our connection with the saints in heaven is one grounded in a tight-knit communion.  The saints are not divine, nor omnipresent or omniscient.  However, because of our common communion with and through Jesus Christ, our prayers are joined with the heavenly community of Christians.  St. Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 350) testifies to this belief:

We mention those who have fallen asleep: first the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition... (Catechetical Lecture 23:9).

The Catholic Catechism concisely describes this communion among believers, by which we are connected to Christ, and thus to one another:

"Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness... They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us... So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped."

" Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself: We worship Christ as God's Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord's disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master.  May we also be their companions and fellow disciples (CCC 956, 957)!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sunday's Homily

Several people have asked me for a copy of yesterday's homily - so here you go...

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time
28 October 2012

Allow me to let you in on something about me…  I’m beginning, for the first time in my life, I’m beginning to feel like I’m getting old.  How, you ask?
-      not my HUGE bald spot back here
-      not my loss of strength or athletics (the military makes sure I keep up with those)
-      not even only learning last week what “Gangnam style” was…  (if you don’t know – ask anyone younger than 30 – they’ll tell you) do the dance…
-      know what’s making me feel old… it’s the constant search for my reading glasses!

Summer of last year – and Deacon Kevin can verify this cause it was much the same this summer – I spent lots of time asking Mark Wilke, “Have you seen my glasses?”  And where were they usually?  Right in my pocket!  I couldn’t find them because they were right in front of me! 
We all have that experience, don’t we?  We even have an expression for it – “We couldn’t see the forest for the trees.”   It means that we are not able to see the bigger picture because we’re so focused on one thing - that everything else gets tuned out.

If you have children you see what they do – they become SO focused on one thing – that nothing else matters.  Whether it’s a toddler focused on a piece of candy or a teenager focused on their boyfriend or girlfriend – the rest of the world kind of ceases to exist – because they get focused on that one thing…

I believe there is something similar happening in today’s Gospel: Bartimaeus, he’s so focused on calling out to the Lord that the crowd was not going to stop him or silence him.  It didn’t matter WHAT they told him – he was focused – he was intent – he was going to call on the Lord so that he could see.

But even here, there is a deeper blindness in Bartimaeus – when the Lord asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” – he replies, simply, that he wants to see.  But the Lord gives him MUCH more than sight.  This man’s faith – his belief that Jesus was ABLE to cure him – enabled him, not only to see, but to leave everything and follow Jesus – to become a disciple.

As we’ve entered into this “Year of Faith” – we’ve already talked about this reality in our own lives – how what we believe (as we profess and proclaim in the Creed and what we discvoer in the teachings of the Church – her Magisterium) – how what we believe has (or should have) a PROFOUND impact on how we live our lives.
The faith and belief of Bartimaeus enabled him to follow Jesus.  The faith and belief of the crowd on the shore of Niagara Falls should have given someone the courage to get on the shoulders of the unicyclist.  Our own faith should have a profound impact on our daily lives as well.

But unfortunately, in the world in which we live – we are sometimes blinded to reality – we are unable to see the forest for the trees – though we say we are followers, we are actually blinded because our focus is on that tree – which keeps us from seeing the forest of which the tree is just a small part.

Blindness is all around us!  It is the light of Faith that can cure our blindness and help us to see – not just the tree – but the entire forest.

Alright, as much as this is a “lightning” topic – let’s look at this in terms of our lives today, right now, 2012, in the United States of America.  What’s going on?

Well, in case you haven’t noticed, there is a general election going on – and in just over a week, we will elect a President to set the vision and the direction of our country for – not just the next 4-years – but for a good part of our future.  Every 4-years people say, “this is the most important election of our lifetime.”  Perhaps they are finally right… this IS an election which will have profound implications, not just for the next 4-years – but probably the entire future of our nation.

But our electorate has become as blind as Bartimaeus – focused on only one issue or another – and they are failing to see the bigger picture – which will have a PROFOUND impact on us – most especially as people of faith.

What are the issues? 
-      as most people acknowledge the economy is an important issue
o  probably most disconcerting is the HUGE national debt – how will we address this issue? 
§  Continued borrowing
§  Cuts in services?  If so, to whom?  How?  How deep?  How broad?
§  Will we raise taxes?  On whom?  How many people really pay taxes?  Is the tax system fair – or probably a better question than “fair” is: is the tax system JUST?
-      Not as big an issue this time around is war – yet it still is a serious issue that we must deal with
-      National security is a serious issue – and the news media certainly keeps this in the forefront – especially as events and the sequence of events unfold. 
o  What one candidate will do is evident by what he has done – how he has acted in order to heal wounds, to build peace, and to defend and protect the lives of our citizens.
o  What the other candidate will do we can only assume from his words and pledges.
-      Abortion – and we need to spend some time on this one…
o  MANY issues are important and we must pay attention to them.  But I LOVE what Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia recently said (responding to a question a woman had asked him).  He said, “I call you, as a Catholic, to forget about the labels, be a liberal sometimes, be a conservative sometimes, but [be] a Catholic FIRST.” [emphasis mine]
§  OK – as a Church, what do we teach about this important issue of abortion?
·      The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of [its] existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person -- among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. (2270)
·      “Since the first century, the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law. (2271)
·      “The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation.” (2273)
§  Oh, but Father, some will say, – this is just ONE issue – you’ve become blind, like Bartimaeus – you can’t see the forest for the trees!  You can’t be a one-issue voter. 

YOU ARE RIGHT!  So, let’s look for the forest beyond this one tree (called abortion):
§  Quoting the United States Bishops: “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters.  A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support.  YET, a candidates’ position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.” (Forming Conscience, 2007, # 42) [emphasis mine]
·      To allow – and to PROMOTE – an intrinsic evil is morally reprehensible and unacceptable.  To support a candidate who vihemately supports ANY intrinsic evil (like slavery, theft, racism, murder, abortion) is, the bishops teach, not possible for us as Catholics.
·      Yes, we do and will have differing opinions on how to solve our serious economic problems,
o  how to fund education,
o  how to provide healthcare to the poor (remember, an issue that the bishops FULLY supported),
o  BUT – on the issue of an intrinsic evil – an act that in and of itself, regardless of situation or circumstances, is always and everywhere WRONG – we CANNOT and MAY NOT support. 
·      As the bishops said, “a candidates’ position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.[emphasis mine]
§  THAT is the forest that lies beyond the tree of the one issue.  But wait, there’s more!
§  If we devalue life at its beginning – when it is MOST vulnerable and in need of protection and care and concern – it merely teaches us to devalue life at other points. 
·      If life at the beginning is an “inconvenience,” it is not a big leap to think that the elderly, the terminally ill – are an “inconvenience” – and if I can dispose of an “inconvenience” in my womb – can’t I do the same with that sick, elderly lady next door? 
§  This is what abortion teaches!  And we keep providing the lesson!

But, let’s keep going – why do I (and many people in the Church) believe that this election really IS the most important election of our day?

Because the basic belief on which our nation was founded is being threatened.  What basic belief is that?  The right of Religious Freedom.

If you were forced to choose between our great country and Jesus, which would you choose?  THIS is the issue, really.  Praise God, we have not had to make that decision… yet – but the time is coming – SOON – when we WILL be forced to make that decision – and it will even hit us right here at Saint Andrew’s.

Our Bishops – and the Catholic Church in the United States, will very soon have to decide how to respond to the HHS (Health & Human Services) mandate that requires us to provide health care coverage for abortion causing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives to every employee.  (and do NOT be fooled – there IS NO EXEMPTION!)  (see the bishop’s response to the vice-presidential debate)
-      YOU, the people of Saint Andrew parish – will (in paying the bills of the parish) give part of your weekly collection to provide for the availability of these services to every one of our employees. 
-      Part of your school tuition will be used to pay for contraceptives and drugs that purposefully cause the destruction of human life in the womb. 
-      This is NOT just a big Church issue – this issue hits every one of us sitting here in this church today.

It goes BEYOND our firm belief in the intrinsic evil of these acts (abortion and contraception & sterilization) – and it goes to us – a Church - being FORCED, by the government, to provide something to which we have a moral objection.  Our nation was founded on religious freedom – and that freedom is about to be violated – if we don’t stand up and speak out. 

Who we elect will have a profound impact on whether our religious freedoms are protected or violated; on whether our country will continue to live the constitution – or if it will be thrown aside as a vestige of principles that no longer apply to our lives. 

Archbishop Chaput asked people for a show of hands – I might do the same – but instead, you answer in your own mind…
-      are you “more serious about being a Democrat than being a Catholic?” 
-      Are you “more serious about being a Republican than a Catholic?” 
-      “All of us should be more serious about being Catholic than a Democrat or a Republican.”

We can be!  If we are not blinded by the tree in front of us (of the economy, and taxes, and education funding, care for the poor) – and begin to see the greater forest in front of us: the intrinsic evil of abortion – and the violation of our religious freedom and conscience.

“Lord, I want to see,” Bartimaeus called out to the Lord as He walked by.  LORD, help US to see!  Help us, by the light of Faith – to see the forest, to step back from our single-most important issue – to see the forest – to see how our participation in this wonderful democratic process is an important way of living our Faith – protecting and respecting life and religious freedom. 

Help us, O Lord, never to turn a blind eye – but, with the courage of Bartimaeus, to ask your guidance by the Light of Faith – to allow my Faith to cure my blindness – to see the forest beyond the tree – to put my Catholic faith ahead of political affiliation – to “Glorify God by my life.”

Friday, October 12, 2012

USCCB Responds to Inaccurate Statement at VP Debate

USCCB Responds To Inaccurate Statement Of Fact On HHS Mandate Made During Vice Presidential Debate

October 12, 2012

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement, October 12. Full text follows:

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:
"With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact."
This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain "religious employers." That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to "Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital," or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional "accommodation" for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as "non-exempt." That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation "to pay for contraception" and "to be a vehicle to get contraception." They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.

For more details, please see USCCB's regulatory comments filed on May 15 regarding the proposed "accommodation":
Keywords: vice presidential debate, HHS mandate, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, insurance plans, Catholic hospitals, charities, social services, sterilization, contraception, religious liberty, USCCB
# # # # #
Don Clemmer
O: 202-541-3206

Principle of Subsidiarity

A GREAT explanation of the Catholic principle of "subsidiarity" and how it applies to our national issues and debates and vote.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pope Opens Year of Faith

Benedict XVI entered St. Peter's Square to preside over the opening Mass of the Year of Faith, with this year's official anthem as background music. It was also a very solemn ceremony, which recalled the 50th anniversary of Vatican II and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Values Do Matter

Why do values matter in an election?  This is why...  VERY powerful - a tearjerker - you've been warned...

Aaron- AFA Action from American Family Association on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What an AWESOME idea - give a rose on October 1

Do you know a young lady that you think would make a great Religious Sister?  Let her know - by giving her a single rose on October 1, the feast of St. Therese.  A GREAT idea!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Edith Stein - St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross

A WONDERFUL video which talks about Edith Stein and her life...

And this video describes her spiritual struggle, her discovery of God, and her arrest and transfer to Aushwitz Concentration Camp

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pope Warns Knights of Columbus of Seriousness of Threat to Religious Freedom

Each year the Knights of Columbus, the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization, meet for their annual convention.  This year they are meeting in Anaheim, California.  Being such a strong voice and witness for Catholic issues in our nation, the Holy Father normally sends a note greeting the Knights during their assembly.  This year Pope Benedict XVI has warned of the "unprecedented gravity" of threats to religious freedom of Catholics in the US.
In his message the Pope praises the rich tradition our nation has of freedom--most especially religious freedom--but the Pope notes "the responsibility of each new generation to preserve, defend and advance those great ideals in its own day."
"At a time when concerted efforts are being made to redefine and restrict the exercise of the right to religious freedom," the papal message calls upon the Knights of Columbus to "counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate."
The Pope's message to the Knights of Columbus--conveyed in a telegram to the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, and signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State--praises the organization as "a pioneer in the development of the modern lay apostolate." The message encourages the Knights to continue bearing witness to authentic Catholic principles in public life.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fighting the Fight for Religious Liberty

One part of the HHS mandate sadly went into effect yesterday.

You probably heard a lot about the mandate by now.  It’s the decree from the Secretary of Health and Human Services that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employer health care plans to include contraceptive services for women, including drugs called abortifacients.  Although, in America’s finest tradition, the bill allows an exemption for religious reasons, it presumes to define just what a church’s ministry must be to qualify, a dramatic and unprecedented intrusion into the integrity of all faiths.  The bishops of our country – in welcome collaboration with other religious leaders – think that this mandate is wrong and misguided and continue to work with the Administration to correct it.

What’s most troubling about the HHS mandate is that it carves out a religious exemption that is so narrowly drawn that most Catholic agencies – including Catholic Charities, hospitals, nursing homes, universities, and potentially many others – would not qualify.

How does a Catholic or other religious entity qualify for this exemption?  It must be a non-profit organization under certain IRS guidelines, and must meet all of the following criteria:
  1.  The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization;
  2. The organization primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization;
  3. The organization serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.
Got that?  The federal government is graciously allowing your parish church to consider itself Catholic.  But, not much else would qualify.

A Catholic hospital founded and still sponsored by nuns, striving to carry out our Savior’s command to care for the sick?  Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, its purpose is not the inculcation of religious values, and it hardly asks for a person’s religion before admitting a patient.

A Catholic Charities homeless shelter, providing a bed, a shower, and a nutritious meal?  Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, it serves all seeking help, regardless of their religious beliefs.  (Would the government prefer us to turn away anyone who can’t produce a baptismal certificate and recite the Nicene Creed?)

A Catholic high school founded and still run by a religious order, which has proudly educated young men, preparing them to succeed in college, in the work place, as husbands and fathers?   Sorry, not Catholic enough.   No religious freedom here!  After all, the student populations is more than 50% non-Catholic.

Many dioceses from around the country have joined together  in filing a lawsuit against the administration and HHS, arguing that the mandate is unconstitutional.  And, yes, the administration has granted a one-year reprieve to religious agencies whose conscience would be violated by this mandate.  (That’s right – the government acknowledges that this will be a problem for many religious agencies.  But their response is, essentially, “too bad.”)

What will happen when the year is up?

I suppose one option would be for those agencies to stop offering health insurance to their employees, and pay a $2000 per employee penalty.  While some would argue that the agencies would, in fact, save money by choosing this option, it hardly seems to be the right and just way to treat your co-workers, does it?

Another option is to continue to offer health insurance, but, honoring our conscience, not include these objectionable services.   There would be a $100 fine per day for each person who qualified for the coverage.  Let’s assume that an agency has 50 people for which it would be subject to this penalty.    At $100 per day, per person, over the course of the year it would pay a penalty of $1,825,000.  ($100 x 50 people x 365 days).  That’s a steep penalty from the government in order to try and convince religious agencies to turn their back on their conscience. That’s money that will then not go to serve those in need.  Many of our services could not survive this heavy penalty.

A third option, I suppose, is to capitulate and accept the strangling mandate…I don’t want to go there.  We just finished a Fortnight for Freedom, and the saints we honored – Saint Thomas More, Saint John Fisher, Saint John the Baptist, Saints Peter and Paul – would not want us to go there, either.

It's my little secret dream that all the bishops of the United States end up in jail for disobeying this unjust law and ruling.  That might make quite a statement!  Bring it on!  Let the persecution begin!  We're ready for it!
Over the course of the coming year, the effort to protect religious liberty and the freedom of conscience will continue.  In the end, this is not about bishops, it is not about Catholics, it is not about contraceptives.  It is about the ideals our nation was founded upon - an ideal that I learned a lot about at Air Force Chaplain School - and the reason that I am allowed to serve in the military at all: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  You can’t do much better than the First Amendment to the Constitution.  The founding fathers got it right.  The HHS mandate gets it wrong.  We are fighting to correct that wrong, in order to make sure that religious freedom continues for the generations to come after us.