Thursday, January 31, 2019

On Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report by George Weigel

Peter Steinfels’s long career in journalism included years of service as editor of Commonweal (from which perch he took me to the woodshed more than once), followed by a decade as senior religion correspondent of the New York Times. Steinfels has now done the Catholic Church in the United States—and American society as a whole—a tremendous service by telling some disturbing truths about the August 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse in six Keystone State dioceses. His lengthy article, “The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report: Not What It Seems,” was published on Commonweal’s website on January 9; it is required reading for those determined to grapple with the linked problems of sexual abuse and episcopal failure in the Church.  
Like anyone with a grain of moral sensibility or human feeling, Steinfels, long a leader of U.S. Catholicism’s liberal wing, was revolted by the graphic stories of sexual predation contained in the grand jury report, which Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro presented with great fanfare last August 14. Yet unlike other journalists who bought Mr. Shapiro’s lurid presentation hook, line, and sinker, Steinfels actually read the entire report—and then took the trouble to sift through its hundreds of pages to see if the data supported the charge that “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all.”
After what must have been weeks of painstaking research, Dr. Steinfels reached a harsh but, to my mind, persuasive conclusion: Attorney General Shapiro’s office had produced an “inaccurate, unfair, and fundamentally misleading report” whose “shortcomings should not be masked by its vehement style, its befuddling structure, or its sheer bulk.”
Steinfels rightly does not spare the Church. The Pennsylvania report documents decades of stomach-churning violations of the physical, psychological, and spiritual integrity of children and young people. It documents that many of these atrocities could have been prevented by promptly removing the credibly suspected perpetrators from all priestly roles and ministry. It documents that some, although far from all, of those failures were due to an overriding concern for protecting the reputation of the Church….
But then he calls Attorney General Shapiro to account:
What does the report not document? It does not document the sensational charges contained in its introduction (i.e., the only part most reporters and editorialists read)—namely, that over seven decades, Catholic authorities, in virtual lockstep, supposedly brushed aside all victims and did absolutely nothing in the face of terrible crimes against boys and girls—except to conceal them. This ugly, indiscriminate, and inflammatory charge, unsubstantiated by the report’s own evidence, to say nothing of the evidence the report ignores, is truly unworthy of a judicial body responsible for impartial justice. 
Might other states do better? Only, Steinfels suggests, if future grand jury or state-investigative reports “are written in a way that expresses necessary, justifiable repulsion toward crimes against children and young people without burying all efforts at analysis in a mudslide of outrage,” as the Pennsylvania grand jury report did.
The sexual abuse of the young is a plague throughout society. Since Abuse Crisis 1.0 in 2002, no institution in the United States has done more to acknowledge the plague, reach out to its victims, and devise means to prevent its further occurrence than the Catholic Church. There is deeper reform needed in the Church, and there are more churchmen to be held accountable for gross irresponsibility. But in the course of confronting this evil within our Church, U.S. Catholicism has learned some things that could benefit those willing to get to grips with the revolting reality of sexual abuse. If, however, other state attorneys general follow the path pioneered by Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro and reinforce the false impression that a culture of child rape and institutional cover-up is festering in the Catholic Church right now, no one is going to look to American Catholicism for models of how to address the plague.
That is not only bad for the Church; it’s bad for all of American society. So let the Church, while cooperating fully with state investigative agencies, create and support a panel of distinguished, retired judges (preferably non-Catholics) to review the reports that issue from those investigations—and then publish an analysis of each report’s probity, fairness, and reliability, absent any editing of the panel’s conclusions by Church authorities.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Funeral Mass - Emma Schneider

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of Emma Schneider on Monday, February 4 at 10:00 a.m. Please pray for her and for her family.

Funeral Mass - Frederick Robinson

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of Frederick Robinson on Saturday, February 2 at 10:00 a.m. Please pray for him and for his family.

Post Op Ed by Cardinal Dolan

It’s been a rough time for faithful Catholics recently in our state government’s frantic rush for “progressive” ideas.
I’m thinking first of the ghoulish radical abortion-expansion law, which allows for an abortion right up to the moment of birth; drops all charges against an abortionist who allows an aborted baby, who somehow survives the scissors, scalpel, saline and dismemberment, to die before his eyes; mandates that, to make an abortion more convenient and easy, a physician need not perform it; and might even be used to suppress the conscience rights of health care professionals not to assist in the grisly procedures. All this in a state that already had the most permissive abortion laws in the country.
As if that’s not enough, instead of admitting that abortion is always a tragic choice, and that life-giving alternatives should be more vigorously promoted, the governor and his “progressive” supporters celebrated signing the bill. At the governor’s command, even the lights of the Freedom Tower sparkled with delight.
Those who once told us that abortion had to remain safe, legal and rare now have made it dangerous, imposed and frequent.
Then our governor insults and caricatures the church in what’s supposed to be an uplifting and unifying occasion, his “State of the State” address.
The bishops of this state have long supported a reform of the inadequate laws around the sexual abuse of minors. Yes, we and many others expressed reservations about one element, the retroactive elimination of the civil statute of limitations, but urged dramatic reform that, in many ways, was tougher than what was being proposed by legislators. A month ago we renewed that stance, and even dropped our objections to the “look-back” section if all victims would benefit. The governor was aware of all this.
Why, then, would he use his address to blame the church, and only the church, for blocking this bill? Why would he publicly brag in a political address about his dissent from timeless and substantive church belief? Why would he quote Pope Francis out of context as an applause line to misrepresent us bishops here as being opposed to our Holy Father? Why did he reduce the sexual abuse of minors, a broad societal and cultural curse that afflicts every family, public school, religion and government program, to a “Catholic problem?”
I’m a pastor, not a politician, but I feel obliged to ask these questions, as daily do I hear them from my people, as well as colleagues from other creeds. I’ve been attacked in the past when I asked — sadly and reluctantly — if the party that my folks proudly claimed as their own, the Democrats, had chosen to alienate faithful Catholic voters. Now you know why I asked.
As an American historian, I am very aware of our state’s past record of scorn and sneers at Catholics. It used to be called “know-nothings.” Now it’s touted as “progressivism.”
Genuine progressives work to pass a “DREAM act,” a “voters rights act,” a “prison reform act,” and we pastors of the church pitch in to support them. That’s government at its best. I pray that spirit returns.

Monday, January 28, 2019

"The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me"

They were finally going home! In 583 BC, the southern kingdom, Judah, was conquered by Babylon (Iraq) and sent into exile. Years later, King Cyrus of Persia (Iran) conquered Babylon (some things never change) and then decided the Jewish exiles could go home.
When they returned to Jerusalem, Nehemiah their leader found 2 major problems:
1)       The walls of Jerusalem were torn down. It had to be rebuilt or they would be captured again. Must reestablish the life of Jerusalem. Amazing 52 days!
2)      And, they needed to be reconnected to their faith.  Most didn’t even speak Hebrew anymore. They found a copy of the Torah – what we call the Pentateuch or first 5 books of the Bible.  He had Ezra the high priest read it for 6 hours.  (you think this is long?)   The people were so moved that they wept.  They had forgotten who they were – what they were called to be.
After Nehemiah and Ezra, the Jewish people developed 2 places of worship
1)   The Rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem where prayers and sacrifices would be offered  
2)   Synagogues: wherever there were at least 10 families, a place was built for prayers and the reading of the Law & Prophets. There the community would gather every Friday night – to pray, to hear the stories and remember who they were.
Imagine the young Rabbi standing before them.  He goes to the Tabernacle holding the Sacred Scrolls, he picks out the prophet Isaiah and begins to read;     The spirit of the Lord is upon me.   He has anointed me to bring: Glad tidings to the poor – liberty to captives – recovery of sight to the blind – let the oppressed go free      
2 meanings
- The time of the Messiah has come!!!
- and a challenge for his followers! For the Spirit of the Lord is upon us – we have been anointed in the Sacrament of Confirmation to:
Bring glad tidings to the poor - not just materially poor but spiritually poor – who have lost God
Bring liberty to captives – all held captive by sin
Recovery of sight to the blind – make aware once again of God’s presence
A year of favor - a time of blessing & forgiveness
But, like Jesus – we will be opposed:

-          2 senators questioned the suitability of a judge, because he is a member of the K of C.
-          Another senator questioned another Catholic candidate: ‘Catholic Dogma lives loudly with you-that’s a concern.
-          Wife of VP is criticized for teaching in a Christian school.
-          Catholic high school students and their families threatened due to a misleading video clip. It was not an accident that this took place at the March for Life.
-          Pro-lifers are told they have no place in the state of New York, because “that’s not who New Yorkers are.” Now life can be ended up to the moment of birth.
Let me simply say this: Don’t be afraid – the Messiah has come – the Lord is with us – the Spirit of the Lord is upon us - we know who we are as children of God - be proud of your Catholic faith – don’t apologize for what you believe and know to be true - be glad and rejoice – for your reward in heaven will be great!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Do Not Build This Death Star

letter from Bishop Edward Scharfenberger to the governor of New York:
Dear Governor Cuomo,
Although in your recent State of the State address you cited your Catholic faith and said we should “stand with Pope Francis,” your advocacy of extreme abortion legislation is completely contrary to the teachings of our pope and our Church. Once truth is separated from fiction and people come to realize the impact of the bill, they will be shocked to their core. By that time, however, it may be too late to save the countless lives that will be lost or spare countless women lifelong regret.
The so-called Reproductive Health Act (RHA) will expand abortion under the pretenses of choice and progress, which, in fact, it will do little to enhance. At the same time, this legislation threatens to rupture the communion between the Catholic faith and those who support the RHA even while professing to follow the Church, something that troubles me greatly as a pastor.
Contrary to what its proponents say, the RHA goes far beyond Roe vs. Wade in its aggressive extremism. Granting non-doctors permission to perform abortions does nothing to advance the security and health of women. Condoning coerced or involuntary abortions by repealing criminal sanctions even in cases where a perpetrator seeks to make his partner “un-pregnant” through an act of physical violence does not represent any kind of progress in the choice, safety or health of women. Removing protection for an infant accidentally born alive during an abortion is abject cruelty, something most people of conscience would deem inhumane for even a dog or cat. Finally, allowing late-term abortions is nothing less than a license to kill a pre-born child at will.
It is very difficult to understand how you can align yourself with Pope Francis and so vehemently advocate such profoundly destructive legislation.
I find myself wondering how it can be viewed as “progress” to have gone from a society working to make abortion “rare” to one that urges women to “shout your abortion” as some advocates of this bill boldly announce.
How is it progress to ignore the harm that this will do, not only to innocent infants, born and unborn, but to their mothers? Does the heartache of so many New York women who have been pained by their abortion decisions matter? Is anyone listening to them? How is it really “pro-choice” when a law, which claims to guarantee choice, moves to expand only one option for women?
If abortion is deemed a fundamental right in New York State, will the State then still be able to issue licenses to pro-life nurses or physicians? Will health facilities which do not provide abortions be certified? Will the law allow that even one dollar be given to maternity services without offering women the “choice” of abortion? These are unanswered questions, but I shudder to think of the consequences this law will wreak. You have already uttered harsh threats about the welcome you think pro-lifers are not entitled to in our state. Now you are demonstrating that you mean to write your warning into law. Will being pro-life one day be a hate crime in the State of New York?
Our young people especially, who have seen their sonograms and who follow the discoveries the sciences have made, know the lies and the despair that proponents of such dangerous and death-dealing legislation are promulgating, even if blindly or unwittingly.
Giving up on life is no excuse for us as a responsible and compassionate people. In so doing, we evade the challenge of accompanying women and the families they are trying to nurture on the long journey. They deserve our courageous and ongoing support in creating conditions under which they will be free to bear and provide for their children.
As a society, we can and must do better. The teaching and intuition of our common faith readies us to help. It is an essential part of our mission to support the lives of all, especially the voiceless, the most vulnerable and marginalized, as Pope Francis always reminds us to do.
Let’s not bequeath to our children a culture of death, but together build a more humane society for the lives of all of our fellow citizens.
Mr. Cuomo, do not build this Death Star.
Sincerely yours,
Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger
Bishop of Albany

Dr. King Holiday

Monday, January 21 is the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday. Morning Mass is at 8:00 a.m. All Parish Offices are closed. The Adoration Chapel is closed.

There was a Wedding at Cana

During the Advent & Christmas Seasons we worked our way through the Joyful Mysteries. Annunciation – Visitation – Birth of Jesus – Presentation of Jesus – Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  In 2002, Pope John Paul II created the Luminous Mysteries – the Mysteries of Light – to help us reflect upon the mysteries of Jesus life and ministry – usually on Thursdays.
Baptism in the Jordan – Wedding Feast of Cana – Proclamation of the Kingdom – Transfiguration – Last Supper.  
Last week Baptism – now The Wedding Feast -  Had the joy of visiting the church in Cana built on the spot – I led couples in renewing their wedding vows – people outside the church were selling Cana wine – we brought a bottle – lets just say they needed another miracle!
3        Thoughts
1 - Years ago Johnny Carson interviewed an 8 year old boy on TV.  The boy had rescued two friends in a coalmine in West Virginia. As Johnny questioned the boy, it became apparent to him and the audience that the young man was a Christian. Johnny asked him if he attended Sunday school. Yes.  Johnny inquired, "What are you learning in Sunday school?" "Last week, our lesson was about when Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine." The audience roared, but Johnny said, "And what did you learn from that story?"  "If you're going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus!"
A couple came in the other day to talk about their wedding. I thanked them. They told me – we want God to be part of our marriage. Fantastic! Father Connolly & I are here to help! Also to help couples that did not get married in church.
2 - Mary said to Jesus: they have no more wine.  A bit of a disaster – guests will simply leave. Mary intercedes on their behalf. We are reminded of her role as Intercessor. We do not pray to her as God, but rather “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.”
Jesus said “Why does this concern of yours involve me? My hour has not yet come.”   Understandable - Not time yet – so much to do – gather the apostles, proclaim the Good New – before the hour of his Death & Resurrection.
3) Then we hear the last words of Mary recorded in St. John’s Gospel:  Do whatever he tells you!!!  She knew her Son. He would not stand by. He would act. They fill the water jars – 6 of them = to the brim – 20 or 30 gallons.  And now the water has become wine.   Perhaps to prepare us for the great miracle of the Eucharist?  A great way to live our lives.  Do what he tells you… Honor your marriage vows.   Pray together. Pray for one another.  Forgive one another.  Walk together in holiness and love.   Offer up the irritations.   Pray for consolations.  Listen to God.  He will always show us the right path!!
This event begins the Book of Signs – 7 Signs – 7 Miracles to show he is the Son of God. Then the Hour comes – the Book of Glory – his Death and Resurrection.
And think – it all begins when they invited Jesus to their wedding – invite Him into your life, and it will never be the same!

Funeral Mass - George Geary

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of George Geary on Friday, January 25 at 10:00 a.m. Please pray for him and for his family.

Funeral Mass - Steven Page

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of Steven Page on Wednesday, January 23 at 11:30 a.m. Please pray for him and for his family.

Funeral Mass - Eleanor Rokes

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of Eleanor Rokes on Wednesday, January 23 at 10:00 a.m. Please pray for her and for her family.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Funeral Mass - Dominic Luango

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of Dominic Luongo on Monday, January 14 at 10:00 a.m. Please pray for him and for his family. 

Baptism Of The Lord

Intro to Mass – Bless self?  Jordan River!
Walk into a Catholic Church – expect to see certain things:
Altar – Pulpit – Tabernacle – Statues – Stations – Holy Water Fonts
Holy Water Fonts – Baptismal Water – bless ourselves: reminding ourselves we are entering Sacred Space & to remember our Baptism.
We are all so different – yet one thing almost all of us have in common is our Baptism!
Feast of Baptism of the Lord – Great opportunity to recall what happened to us at our Baptism:
1)     What Name Have You Given This Child – unique identity “this is my beloved son/daughter” Pope Benedict: “Every baby, every child carries the face of God.”
2)     Signed with the Cross – In the Name of . . . Holy Trinity & Cross – death & Resurrection of Jesus. Mark of a Christian – part of God’s family, the Mystical Body of Christ. I am not alone.  1 Billion Catholics
3)     Oil of Catechumens – prayer is to be set free from Original Sin. Sometimes a baby is born addicted to drugs/because mother used drugs. Baby is innocent but needs to be saved. We all need a Savior!
4)     I Baptize You – a washing, a cleansing from sin – into the death and resurrection of Jesus – children of God.
5)     Anointing with Chrism – Dwelling place, temple of the Holy Spirit.  Will be strengthened in Confirmation.
6)     Clothed with White Garment – clothed in Christ – outward sign of our Christian dignity. – we belong to God.
7)     Lighted Candle – Mission – let your light shine – bring light to a darkened world.
Do you know the date of your baptism? January 20, 1955.  Find out – because that day changed everything!!!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Msgr. Thompson New Address

Msgr. George Thompson
St. John Vianney Clergy Center
Cardinal Egan Pavilion
5655 Arlington Avenue
Bronx, NY 10471

Msgr. George Thompson

I spoke about Msgr. George Thompson at all Masses this weekend. Here is an outline of my talk:

I wish to speak to you about Msgr. George Thompson.
Msgr. Thompson was away this summer for most of July-August and September.
When he returned, we knew something was wrong.  He was exhibiting memory issues. He was confused. He could no longer even say Mass. It happened so quickly! We decided to:
-         Ask him for his car keys
-         Take him for medical testing
-         Ask the assistance of our Vicar for Clergy, Bishop Walsh, and our Priest Wellness Coordinator, Deacon DiMartino.

Msgr. received a very difficult diagnosis – he did ask us not to share it – but it has to do with short term memory. Bishop Walsh and Deacon DiMartino met with Msgr. and recommended that he move to our St. John Vianney Clergy Center in Riverdale – where a section is devoted to priests with memory issues. Msgr. asked if he could stay at St. Columba until after Christmas, and his wish was respected.

Yesterday (Friday), he made the move to Riverdale where he will receive excellent care. His new address will be available in next week’s bulletin if you would like to send him a card.

I would like to thank our entire parish staff – most especially Gary Bartilucci, Laura Brady and Father Connolly for helping to give him excellent care, and our own Ministry of Care that helped us with doctor visits.

Msgr. Thompson is one of our finest priests, and we are going to miss him very much. Personally, he is a dear friend and a mentor. Please continue to pray for him.


They are known today as Caspar – Balthasar – Melchior:   the Magi from the East.
Asia – Africa - Europe       Young – middle age - old
Scripture tells us  -  they followed a star.
At the end of their journey, they found Christ!

1)    If we could interview the magi and ask them – why did you do this, why journey and follow a star?  -  perhaps they would say -  we were called
Carl Sagan once said that we are all made of star stuff – all matter comes from the furnace of stars.
But – that is ALL he would say.

The Christian would say more – Augustine – God became man that man might become God. We are infused with the gift of a soul. Made in image & likeness of God.  There is a purpose to our existence

Each person here has a purpose – a call  -  Know, love & serve God.
Stay true to your call!!!   Even when your husband or wife gives you a hard time!  Even when your college roommate thinks you are crazy!  Even when your friends make fun of you!  Even when your co-workers ask why do you bother???

2)    They came bearing gifts:
Melchior - Gold – for a king   a kingly gift!

Balthasar – Frankincense – from the Boswellia Tree -  worth the same as gold - Incense – prayers up to heaven – for divinity

Caspar – Myrrh – Mysterious - From Cammiphora tree. Can be used as incense – also used in anointing a dead body. Worth 7X more than gold.   For the sacrifice
They gave their absolute best!

My parents were very good in this – not so much the grade – did you do your best?
Give our best – to our marriages – our parents – our children - our families – work – school???
The question is – not the grade, but did you give your best?

3)    The Magi went back another way.
Did not trust Herod and rightly so -  but also
It is hard to encounter the baby and not want to go a different way
Could not go back to the old ways!

The hobbit Bilbo Baggins was about to depart on his Great Adventure– he asked Gandalf:  will I return? Gandalf said: I cannot guarantee it, but if you do return, you will be changed.

When we meet Christ – it changes everything -   how we look at ourselves – how we look at others - how we look at life – how we act toward one another – what we say – what we do.

Today we remember the story of the Magi  – they followed a star – they gave their best – and they went away, changed forever.  Sounds like it could be our story, too!