LAVABO: PURIFICATION AND PURITY
The Catholic Church on the Other Side of Judgment
By: Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
"For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God..." 1 Peter 4:17
52. The priest then washes his hands as an expression of his desire to be cleansed within.
General Instructions of the Roman Missal
I recently awakened to the news of the Pope's acceptance of the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. Though expected and overdue, it was deeply saddening.
I grew up in Boston, in an era past, when the "culture" of the Catholic Church was so interwoven into our own blue collar culture, that even such a thought would have been inconceivable.
Like every person who has heard or been in any way affected by the current scandal and crisis facing the Catholic Church, I am outraged, deeply hurt, concerned and moved to both prayer and action.
I have prayed my heart out, attempted to explain this horror to my children, tried in any way I can to support the victims, promote proper prosecution for the offenders and help provide insight to other Christians and people of good will who have been shocked by this grievous scandal.
Because I love the Catholic Church, I have proposed, along with many others, that this is a time of purification that sets a course, a way of response, paved by justice, truth, penance and authentic conversion, if she responds in a manner that is faithful to the gospel she proclaims.
This Cardinals resignation, accompanied by his sincere request for forgiveness, was one of many steps in that process. The entire Church must now walk the way of purification for her sins of omission and commission, she must be made holy.
This way has been forged by the Lord who "hears the cry of the poor" - the abused and the faithful who deserve a Church that can be trusted. He is the One who will guide us all through this time of testing, travail and eventual triumph. He is the "Holy One", the One "set aside" for the Father and for us.
I believe that we have only begun to walk down that road. It is a difficult and painful road that will demand heroic honesty and sincere humility from a Church that finds itself in a time of purification and judgment.
Just prior to the beginning of the consecration in the Sacred Liturgy, is a "rubric" more pronounced in "Old Mass", but still present in the "New" -that is unless it is not being done in a misguided attempt at "novelty" parading under the cover of "liturgical reform." Unfortunately, this happens all too often but must remain the subject of an entirely other article for the future.
This "washing" , called in the latin "Lavabo" is present in almost every Liturgy of the East and West.
In the West, the priest moves to the "epistle side" of the altar and washes his fingers as he recites the words of Psalm 25 verses 6-12. In the Latin that is: "Lavabo inter innocents manus manus meas...". In the vernacular, or "Novus ordo" liturgy, we can faintly hear him pray "Lord wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin"
The emphasis is penitential. It is not a washing in the sense of Pontius Pilate, but rather an acknowledgment of both the horrible stain of personal sin along with its "social" structure and implications.
It is a symbolic act, intended to speak to a life of penitence, a life to be embraced by all the faithful. It expresses a call, to both personal and corporate cleansing and purification, for all who are invited to take part in the great sacrifice of praise and surrendered love, being made present on the altar. Our entire service is called the "Mass" or Divine Liturgy.
The first term, "Mass" used as a popular name for the liturgy in the West, is taken from the dismissal, (from the Latin "Ite, Missa Est" ), and is meant to emphasize that what occurred on the altar and was proclaimed from the ambo must, after the dismissal, proceed through the lives of the faithful into a world awaiting the fullness of redemption.
I propose that in a similar way, the "Lavabo" is the path that the Church must now proceed along as she continues through this time of purification.
After all, how can she, through her sons and daughters, present the "Spotless One" unless she is herself purified?
THE PATH TO RECOVERY
Archbishop John Myers, of the Diocese of Newark, New Jersey, released an extraordinary pastoral letter on December 8, 2002, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This feast is the day when the Western Catholic Church remembers God's choice in preparing a person and a place for purity Himself to be born, that Holy Virgin whose "Fiat" would change all of human history.
The letter is entitled "And the Word became Flesh (Jn 1:14)": A Theological Reflection on the Human Body.
The letter is an insightful summary of a series of catechetical pronouncements given by Pope John Paul II as a part of his Wednesday Catechesis over the course of an entire year. This entire body of theology is now compiled in what is referred to as the "Theology of the Body".
Many within the Church (and in other Christian communions) are beginning to finally acknowledge that this theology applied is the path to recovery from this horrible darkness that has consumed our Church and left so many victims by re-stating the entire trajectory of Christian teaching on the dignity of the human bady and human sexuality. This letter therefore strikes at the heart of cause of the current crisis and presents a path of recovery through purification to purity.
Ironically, one commentator I read opined that this letter was inadequate because it "failed to mention the crisis." Such a comment is indicative of the shallow analysis of the events through which we walk and the current call to holiness. This kind of analysis is rampant in Church circles.
Let me explain why I believe that this pastoral letter not only speaks to the heart of the crisis but offers the path to recovery, renewal and healing.
The Culture of Death
From the beginning of his pontificate (and even in the many years during which he was both being prepared for this service) Pope John Paul II, lamented the growing "Culture of death" and proposed the building of a new "Culture of Life" and "Civilization of Love" as its only antidote.
The latter phrase, "civilization of love" he borrowed -and elaborated upon - from his predecessor of blessed memory, Pope Paul VI. In his extraordinarily prophetic encyclical entitled "On Human Life" (Humanae Vitae) he warned of the inevitable bad fruit of the efforts to separate the "unitive" and "procreative" aspects of the conjugal act and conjugal love.
In fact, he foresaw the growing immorality of our age as the bad fruit of the very loss of an understanding of the dignity, beauty and grandeur of married conjugal love as a participation in the nuptial mystery. He predicted the evils of a trajectory of growing horrors if the acceptance of abortion, contraception and the denigration of human sexuality continued. A Pope who has been pilloried -both outside of the Catholic Church and from a "fifth column" within - history has proven him right.
The Catholic Church is not "against" sex. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, it is the Catholic Church that continues to safeguard (at least in its teaching) the dignity and beauty of sexual love, as an expression, within the sacramental bonds of marriage, of the complete and mutual gift of the spouses. It expresses bodily, a surrender that is always both "unitive" (bringing unity in love to the spouses) and "procreative" (bring fruitfulness, new life and, in some instances, the very gift of children), when unimpeded and fully embraced vocationally within the depths of the nuptial mystery.
"Humanae Vitae" was about more than prohibiting artificial efforts to impede pregnancy; it was about the very essence of the sexual act, human sexuality and human dignity. Human sexual expression is not merely mechanistic; it is a part of the very ontological purpose of human existence and reveals symbolically the constitution of love as a complete gift of self to the beloved.
We are made to give ourselves away to another and to enter into a lifelong relationship of fruitful committed love that would become our path to holiness and human fulfillment, preparing us for the fullness of life with the God who fully gives Himself away through the great act of love expressed in His Son who "emptied Himself" (Philippians 2) for the entire human race.
Similarly, it is here that the heart of the beauty of the celibate vocation is also best understood. Consecrated, voluntary celibacy "for the Kingdom" (see, e.g. Matthew 19:12) is not first a denial, but rather a voluntary gift, of the man or woman (both called to and responding to the invitation) to give up something "good" for something better. The truly called celibate man or woman forsakes a "good", marriage on this earth, in order to stand as a prophetic sign of the only marriage that will last for all eternity and into which we were all invited through our baptism.
Recovering an authentically Christian understanding of the beauty and dignity of the human body, understanding the fact that we "speak" through our bodies, recovering the full meaning of the dignity of sexual love in the marriage bond and the very purpose of human sexuality is the path out of this current crisis.
When rightly understood, we can then begin to grasp why all sexual expression, outside of the marriage bond, is sin (the Greek word for which can be popularly rendered "the wrong choice") because it is not a participation in the full and complete gift of self meant to be lived out in the nuptial mystery of marriage and bear fruit in the domestic church of the Christian family.
Deep "stuff" I know, but I believe it is a key to understanding the egregious sins that have been committed by the errant clergy in the Church, the roots of the abuse, and the path to purity through purification.
In this "post - Humanae Vitae" age, notions of "sexuality" that are at their root both heresy and a horrible distortion of the human dignity which lies at the root of sexuality, have crept into the Church, her seminaries, her theological instruction, and her culture.
Sexual activity is all too often presented as an inevitable -almost hydraulic and mechanistic -fulfillment of an uncontrollable impulse and thereby separated from its very purpose as a "good" intended for human fulfillment. Having been misrepresented, the path to using other human beings to "satisfy" that impulse opens up as an inevitable next step on the path of sin. In fact, to deny this perversely presented notion of human sexuality is considered insensitive and intolerant.
That is why, at their root, such "sexual" activities outside of marriage and the full context that is human sexuality and dignity become a participation in the "Culture of death" and not the "Culture of Life." They are not "love" but use. The other person is not the beloved to whom the gift of self is pledged but becomes the object of use in a "mutual" self centered manipulation of the body.
The dignity of the human person, the very polestar of any authentic understanding of both Christian faith and any true humanism, is replaced by a utilitarian approach where the other can be used and abused. Is it any wonder that the same culture that heralds this false claim of "liberation" calls the killing of children in the womb a "right"?
It is this aspect of the "Culture of death" that has crept into the Church. How horrid when she is called to be the "Culture of Life."
This crisis is a frightening example of what the Apostle Paul warned the early Christians in Rome what could occur in their midst, when he wrote:
"I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom 12:1-2)."
This warning from the Apostle is used by Archbishop Ryan in this pastoral letter to the citizens of what has all too often become a "new Rome" - in the worst sense of that phrase. The Rome to which the Apostle Paul wrote had lost the sense of human dignity and human sexuality. Not only were "primitive" abortions practiced, but sexual promiscuity, homosexual practices, pedophilia and "exposure" (the leaving of infants outside to be killed by the elements) were practiced in the prevailing "culture of death" of that day.
In our "new Rome" the same bad fruit is present. Only now its barbarism is hidden by advances in "science" and its hedonism hidden behind feigned claims of a "freedom" that is a counterfeit of any authentic freedom.
Because I believe that the Church is a gift, a communion that has been given from above, I know that it is intended to be a home for the whole human race. It is not the possession of anyone but it's Divine Founder. The Church is also, as her servant/leaders said so well at the Second Vatican Council, "an expert in humanity." I believe in faith that the Church will rise to the occasion and do what is right because the promise of her Leader and Savior that "the gates of hell will not prevail" can be trusted.
However, this is also a time when ideas on how to "fix" the perceived "problem" abound -some sincere and some not.
Instant "experts" tell a troubled and angry public how to "remedy" the problem. This has become a "moment" for everyone who has an agenda with the Catholic Church to "jump in" and "pile on" From editorial writers, cartoonists to talking heads, they continue to do so.
Perhaps the ones I find most distressing are the disingenuous, those who have spent entire careers from within the Catholic Church seeking to conform it to their own designs. Ironically, many of these new "experts" have long supported a counterfeit notion of "freedom" that actually promotes some of the very deviant sexual behaviors that lie at the root of some of the criminal acts involved.
For example, I have been amazed to see one such priest /"theologian" who has systematically sought to serve as a fifth column from a tenured faculty position in a prestigious catholic School in the Midwest, don a collar (for the first time to my knowledge in many years) and become an "expert" during this scandal.
First, there already are married clergy in the Catholic Church. I am one. I have been happily married for twenty six years with five children! Even that would surprise many readers. There are many of us however!
I am a Deacon, the first Order of Clergy in the Catholic Church. It is followed by Priest, and Bishop. The sacrament of "Holy Orders" unfolds itself through three stages as deacon, priest and Bishop. Each order of Clergy serves in a different way.
Deacons are an increasingly vibrant and growing body of married clergyman, ministering in the areas of social justice, charity, and care for the sick. In addition to our ministries outside the local parishes, we are also baptizing, assisting at the altar, at marriages and at funerals. We are not priests. We are deacons. Because this order of clergy is often not yet within the common experience of many Roman Catholics, we were sometimes referred to as "lay" deacons. That is a misnomer. We are clergy.
The decision for marriage in our lives was made before our ordination to the clerical state. It was a separate calling and invitation. Some deacons embraced the invitation to celibacy out of love for Christ, in sacrificial service and in prophetic witness to His bride the Church. All of us who are married deacons promised to remain celibate should the Lord call our wives home before us!
In the Eastern Catholic Church, we have served as clergy in an uninterrupted line back to the first ordination of the "seven" recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. (See e.g. Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 6) Similarly, our brothers, called to priesthood in the Eastern Catholic Church, are both celibate and married.
That's right. There have always been married Catholic priests!
In the East, following the ancient tradition of the unified Catholic Church, the decision for state in life (married or celibate) was made prior to ordination to the first order, the Deaconate. Even though there were married priests, it became the custom (and is still the practice) to choose Bishops from among the celibate clergy.
Finally, in addition to these married priests, a growing number of ministers from other Christian communions, embracing full communion with the Catholic Church, are being ordained to both the Deaconate and the Priesthood as married men.
One would not know any of this if your only sources of information were the editorials and articles in newspapers, the discussions (good and bad) on talk shows, or the simplistic recounting of the history (as well as the canonical status) of the discipline and witness of consecrated celibacy in the Catholic Church. In fact, misinformation in all of these channels of communication has all too often informed the trough of public opinion.
All of the discredited claims concerning the discipline of celibacy in the Catholic Church are once again being presented as 'facts". You have heard the most prevalent- that celibacy wasn't imposed in the Church until the 6th (or 9th, or 10th) century and that the motive for imposing celibacy was to prevent Church property from being inherited by the children of the clergy. Both fall short of the truth.
The truth is that the witness of consecrated celibacy (for the sake of the kingdom) goes back to the invitation of Jesus (Matthew 19:12). It is bolstered by the witness of some of the Apostles and encouraged by the pastoral experience (see, e.g. 1 Corinthians 7) of the early Church for those who would serve as clergy. It forms an unbroken witness and a treasure, both for those who embrace it and for the whole Church that has been enriched by those who have.
The true original motivation for celibacy was the response to Jesus who invited his apostles to forsake marriage to become "eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom". (Matt. 19:12) This was even more "counter cultural" in the Semitic world as it is today in the west. The prophetic witness of celibacy has endured beyond the ranks of celibate clergy. It is both preserved and flourishing in the inspired vowed life of monastic orders, the sacrificial witness of religious men and women, and the increasing new associations of lay men and woman, who have chosen it not to avoid marriage but to enter more fully into the very nuptial mystery that marriage reveals.
At the heart of both marriage and consecrated celibacy as a response to the invitation of the Gospel is the Christian claim that all of those who are joined to Jesus Christ are, in a real and substantive way, invited into the great "marriage", the nuptial mystery of eternal communion with God.
Secondly, celibacy is not the "culprit" or the problem behind these reprehensible criminal acts. Rather than a problem celibacy is a gift. Yet, there is a shallow claim frequently offered as a "solution" or "fix" for the present scandals. It is expressed in the in the oft quoted question of the six O'clock news "Should priests be allowed to marry?"
The very phrase reveals a true lack of understanding of both the theology and history of the celibate life as discussed above. A priest (or deacon) who has vowed celibacy before ordination is, in a sacramental and theological sense, already married to Christ and His Church. He has made a vow. His marriage would be a breaking of that sacred vow and would not only be invalid under canon law; it would be akin to me, as a married clergyman, divorcing my wife!
If the mandatory discipline of celibacy were to be relaxed in the western Church, the actual question should be "should married men be admitted to candidacy to the priesthood" There is more than semantics involved in this rephrasing.
To properly and truthfully use an old cliché "some of my best friends" are priests, both celibate and married. They are all wonderful priests, living their vocation with dignity and holiness. Yet, even within that community of celibate and married priests, there are different kinds of ministry within the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. The Eastern Church understands this and assigns married priests to different types of ministry.
Celibacy has nothing to do with this horrible scandal. This crisis is all about infidelity, criminal behavior and sin.
Other Christian communions demonstrate, through their history and experience, that lifting the mandatory discipline of celibacy in the Western Catholic Church is not some "fix". Unfortunately, one has unfortunately only to look at the Anglican church of Canada, where their ordained ministers may marry. It may soon be bankrupt in western Canada because of sex abuse lawsuits.
Additionally there is still another dark cloud on the horizon, about to burst forth as this sad dark night of our contemporary crisis unfolds. The undeniable facts will reveal that the majority of these incidents of sexual abuse involve homosexual relations with young boys, not technically pedophilia. Some would say that this is simply a "technicality". I do not think so.
There is a biblical principle here. Only the truth, the full truth can set us free. What has been "hidden in secret" will be shouted from the housetop. We must uncover the whole awful truth if we ever expect to make amends and to heal the wounds. These actively homosexual priest perpetrators would not be marrying women if they were "allowed" to marry.
Agendas and Ecclesiology
Unfortunately, there are those who are using this tragedy to promote their pet agendas in the Church. Sometimes, the ones calling for a "married clergy" are often the same ones who, if they would be truthful, are also calling for the "ordination" of women and actively practicing homosexual men to the ranks of deaconate, priesthood and the episcopacy. They present "Holy Orders" not as a vocational call but as some kind of job or ecclesial political power position that people have a "right" to!
Behind their efforts are sometimes other agendas. They reveal a bigger motivation for being so involved in this crisis and a flawed ecclesiology (theology of the Church) wherein they view the Church not from above but only from below.
In this view, the Church is only a "convocation", a human organization and the orders of clergy are some form of power position that everyone has a "right" to occupy! Sometimes within the world view behind their claims is a belief in a power matrix view of human freedom, the very sickness that lies at the root of the rape and abuse of the predators they now rightly oppose!
Ordered service in the Church that belongs to Jesus Christ and to the community who have been baptized into Him, is an invitation to the Cross, a vocation, not a right or a job. It is also not some position of power but a call to serve---even when it is abused by some who have occupied these positions.
The clerical state is a call to a particular way of serving. I served with great fervor of soul for decades as a layman in both the Church and the world! When I was invited to Holy Orders, I knew that it was just that, a call. I also came to understand the theology that I had studied, that there is an "ontological" change that occurs at ordination. In fact, my life was turned upside down!
Sometimes there is a lurking assumption behind much of the agendas that have seized the day, something I call "modern-olatry", the worship of the modern. This is the idolatrous notion that because something is "modern" it is better. That is not always the case. One has only to look at some of the bad fruit of enlightened modernists to quickly see that in some instances the opposite may be true.
Eight Suggestions for Consideration
Philosophers and Theologians often speak of "asymmetry" when trying to explain the great "mysteries" that are integral to the Christian faith. Very often the "answer" is not "either/or" but "both/and". At the foundation of all asymmetrical insights is the Christian claim of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. He is BOTH God and Man. Proceeding from this central claim are many other important understandings about God, the human person, our relationships with one another, life, death and the meaning of our lives.
There is an asymmetry that must be grasped if this entire discussion concerning whether married men should be admitted to the candidacy leading to priesthood once again in the Western Church is ever to bear good fruit. I personally believe that in the beautiful unbroken witness of the Church, the "two lungs" of East and West (as Pope John Paul II refers to them) is revealed the answer.
It is not "either or" but "both and."
Let me share some of my conclusions as I have reflected on this current crisis and as I seek to join the "Lavabo" of which I write:
1) I believe that there is room in the Church and the priesthood for both a celibate and a married clergy, deacons and priests. I know that some of my friends will disagree with me. However, as the unbroken tradition of the East has shown, both celibacy and marriage are a response to the invitation to holiness that is the Christian life. They are both a participation in the one nuptial mystery of following Jesus Christ in the universal call to holiness, the baptismal vocation of sacrificial love.
Both celibate and married men have responded to the invitation to the first order of Clergy in the West, the order of Deacon, since it's reinstitution by the Second Vatican Council. In that experience the Roman Catholic Church has a history and lived pastoral witness of how mature married men can fruitfully serve as clergy.
In the East, the admission of married men to the priesthood has not diminished or done away with the witness of the celibate clergy. The wonderful prophetic sign of celibacy flourishes. I believe that this would also be the case in the West. For that reason I would support the reinstitution of allowing married men to enter the candidacy to the order of priests.
However, such a consideration must be measured with pastoral prudence. I will support my Church if it is her decision to NOT open this issue for consideration at this time. Why? Partly because some of the shrill voices trying to force some of the issues are not following the Holy Spirit but "another spirit."
2) What is truly needed most in the midst of this crisis is a massive movement of penitential prayer and acts, a "Lavabo", offered on behalf of the entire Church for the sins of both omission and commission. That would be the strongest resource to lead the Church through this dark night of the soul. The Holy Spirit is exposing sin so that it can be repented of and so that its' roots can be excised.
3) What is also needed is a proper prosecution of all involved. As a former prosecutor, I represented a State Children's Service Agency. I saw first hand the horror of abuse. Prosecuting the perpetrators protects the children. It is also not at odds with the extraordinary hope of forgiveness and conversion. Conversion and forgiveness does not give rise to a "right" to ministry. Men who have committed sexual abuse simply should NOT be involved in ministry and MUST be removed from ministry.
Those with "disordered" sexual appetites such as what has been euphemistically referred to as "homosexual orientation" should not be ordained. The Church has recently reaffirmed that fact. Though every person must be treated with human dignity, ordination is not a "right".
4) Then, we need a renewal of good teaching to all the faithful, lay and clergy, concerning the dignity of the human person and the beauty of human sexuality.
Perhaps more than any Pope in history, John Paul II has laid the groundwork for this kind of prophetic and profound renewal. Archbishop Ryan's apostolic letter is a good example of a local ordinary taking the treasury set forth by this Pope and using it as a framework for his own Episcopal ministry.
The content of these teachings (compiled among other places in a volume entitled, "The Theology of the Body") on human sexuality should become the framework for this catechesis and the foundation for all catechetical instruction within the Church including in our Seminaries.
This would result in healthy marriages, happy families and holy celibate vocations and communities. It would lay the groundwork for a genuine flourishing of holiness throughout the Church that could change the culture.
The call to consecrated celibacy must be presented as the sacrificial giving up of the good for the better! Marriage in Christ must also be presented as a vocational call to gospel life! Chastity must be presented as binding on all the faithful and practiced in accordance with one's state in life. Additionally, the classical "evangelical counsels" of poverty, chastity and obedience, too long considered only possible for "religious" should be re-presented as the building blocks of the universal call to holiness.
5) The nature of the Church as both from above and below must be re-presented and work its way into models of governance that recognize that the Church belongs to Jesus Christ. The Church is first is a communion, and we have all been invited into its governance through differing kinds of participation.
We must reaffirm with crystal clarity that both the hierarchy and the lay faithful are called to serve. Without sacrificing the great gift of the hierarchy and the irreplaceable role and gift of the Magisterium (the teaching office) with some newly concocted "democratic" model that loses the very prophetic nature of the Church, the lay faithful should be invited into the leadership of those areas where they can most fruitfully serve the one work of the Church.
The role of lay faithful, from important fields of expertise, serving on the committees that deal with the priests who have sinned, committed criminal acts and are facing prosecution is a good idea. There are other areas where the lay faithful can and already are assisting. Priests and other clergy will be more available to do what they alone can do by this participation.
However, what we do not need is a new "clericalism" of sorts, wherein a "professional caste" of the laity starts acting in the manner of the old "clericalism" that all too often atrophied the Church in the past. Unfortunately, this approach has already caused serious difficulties in some Dioceses that misunderstood and misapplied the Second Vatican Council.
The principles of dynamic orthodoxy, a vibrant faithfulness to the Tradition and a freshness and openness to the Holy Spirit are not at odds with one another. They also form an asymmetry that should guide us in all these areas. For example, it may surprise some to know that laymen served as Cardinals at one time in the Church's history! The office of "Cardinal" has nothing to do with Holy Orders. It is a rank of honor in the Church. Cardinals are personal advisors to the Pope and serve as a sort of "cabinet officer."
Though only priests and Bishops are now appointed to this office today, there was a time when laymen and deacons were also numbered among their ranks. There has been talk of restoring this ancient approach. However, it may cause more confusion.
Some traditionalists might see it as a modern aberration while those practicing "modern-olatry" might think they "won" in their struggle to make the Church "contemporary". All it would be is a return to a past approach in a new context.
6) The renewal of a vision of the concept of "vocations" should be fostered in the entire Church wherein all baptized Christians are encouraged to be missionaries and the universal call to holiness is presented as normative of the Christian life and binding on all men and women in accordance with their state in life.
Without lessening the precious role of the call to perfection that is the priesthood -and the great witness and gift of consecrated celibacy - marriage and family life in Christ should also be presented as a vocation. Deaconate in Christ should be fostered, matured and presented as one of the "signs of spring" that John Paul II wrote about. Deacons can and should play an increasing role in active ministry within the Church and from the Church in the world.
7) The Church needs to clearly teach - and implement pastoral strategies that support its teaching- about homosexuality.
Though she must clearly insist on the dignity of every human person, including the "homosexual" person, she also clearly teaches that homosexuality is "disordered"; and that homosexual acts are intrinsically immoral and grave sin. There is a vital need for revisiting this entire issue in the Church. The application of the teaching has led to vastly different approaches from Diocese to Diocese.
In her empathy for all men and women, the Church must be careful not to indirectly allow the continued proliferation of structures and approaches that undermine this teaching. They are apparently rooted in the seminary system and even in Chancery offices in Dioceses. She must safeguard the faithful with strict entrance procedures to seminaries and bring into the full light the full truth about this politically volatile situation -no matter what the consequence.
8) Finally, the Church needs, in imitation of her Pope, to highlight the "Signs of Spring" within the Church for the world. There are new associations of the faithful growing, new religious communities forming and the fact is that there seminaries that are so full they have no more room!
It is also time to acknowledge that there really is no "vocations crisis" in the sense of a lack of priests but rather a distribution problem! Perhaps, as in other missionary ages, it may be time to send priests from those dioceses and communities where they are flourishing into the dioceses where the faithful deserve priests to minister their families.
Unfortunately it is sometimes in those places, where the seminaries are empty, that the novelties so often associated with "modern-olatry" are allowed to continue with the faithful being injured in their wake!
Now is the time for all Catholics, all other Christians, indeed all good men and women to pray that this dark night will become the backdrop for a new dawn. This current crisis we face may in fact become the birth-pangs for a renewed Church that rises out of the purification, made holy and ready - just in time for the new missionary age.
That is if we seize this moment and cry out with our words and lives...together...."Lavabo"
Only then will we see the Catholic Church enter into the "Springtime" on the other side of Judgment.
Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier, the founder and president of "Common Good", is a constitutional lawyer. He is a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist. He was the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice). He also served as an advisor to the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes. Fournier holds a Bachelors degree (B.A.) from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Philosophy and Theology, a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh and an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from St. Thomas University. Fournier is the author of seven books on issues concerning life, faith, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues. He is a features editor for Catholic Online and the Co-Director of "Your Catholic Voice"
http://www.commongoodonline.com VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Founder, President, 757 546-9580
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