Lowering the Flag: Confessions of an Ex-Confederate

Posted August 28th, 2015 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

I am an ex-Confederate raised in the Southern Confederacy.  True, the South did lose the war against “Northern Aggression” in 1865, but that just ended the political states that formed the Confederate States of America.  Confederate culture continued throughout the South, reinforced by Jim Crow laws and segregation until, in my judgment, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (though it continues culturally in many areas).  That’s 100 years of Confederate culture thriving in the 11 states that seceded from the Union including my own home state, Louisiana.

I say am an “Ex-Confederate” because I fully identified with this Confederate culture without any awareness of how it was held together by institutionalized racism and terror against Blacks.  I grew up, like many White Southerners, lamenting the “Lost Cause,” the Confederate defeat by those “no good, lying Yankees,” yet grateful to live in the United States, and very glad that slavery was ended.  It was not until about 15 years ago that I retired my confederate flag, folded it up, and stored it away.  I did this after years of spiritual direction and soul searching that helped me unravel an ugly truth about my upbringing that became undeniable: I was bred by my Southern culture to believe in White superiority.  My parents did not intend this, my church and the Catholic schools I attended did not intend this, but the culture in which I was raised did.

How did White supremacy make its way into my consciousness?  Here’s how:  I never heard my father tell a racial joke, but I did hear both his friends and mine tell them.  I have no memory of my parents ever using the word, “Nigger;” instead they said, “the Colored woman” or “the Colored man,” but my neighbors and friends used the “N” word.  If I was doing a job and was not doing it right, it would be common for my boss to say, “That’s a nigger-rig job; do it again.”  If there was a “Colored” who did things right, it was not uncommon for someone to say, “He’s Black on the outside, but White on the inside.”  If I called a White person who was an adult by his first name, my mother would have smacked me.  It was Mr. Mike or Miss Kay.  But I could call a Colored person who was an adult by his first name.  I later learned the reason for this was because as a White boy, I was thought to be the equal of a Colored adult, but not a White adult.

The annual fall festival weekend in our small town had two parades, the Colored parade on Friday night and the White parade on Saturday.  My dad was a band director, and his band always marched in the Saturday parade.  I remember going to the Colored parade as a child.  Even then I could see that their uniforms were poor, worn, and wrinkled, very different from what my father’s band members were wearing.  We had one movie theater in our town.  Colored people had to enter through the alley; Whites went through the front door.  There was a Black Catholic grade school in my hometown that was just 2-3 miles from my home.  I never saw it.  Our Catholic school had nothing to do with the Catholic school for Colored children.

As a child, I read stories about Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in the same way that I read stories about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  They were American heroes, not simply Southern heroes.  Our family visited the Vicksburg battlefield when I was a boy.  I have a vivid memory of being in awe of a Confederate soldier who came up to speak with us.  I thought he was real.  We brought home Confederate hats, money, and swords, and came home ready to fight the war again.  Mom and Dad gave us “the Blue and the Gray” toy set for Christmas, and the Civil War was fought from after midnight Mass until four in the morning.

While on a school trip to Washington D.C. and New York City, we passed through Tennessee. There, I bought my first Confederate battle flag, one similar to the flag removed from the South Carolina statehouse.  It was…well…big, about the size of a large picture window.  I “flew” it in my room at home, and later in my dorm room in the seminary.  I had no idea that for many people it meant racism, the KKK, and White supremacy.  I flew it with the same sort of pride that I did when waving an American flag on the 4th of July.  When I was a freshman in the seminary, a Black student from Alabama came walking into my room.  There was old Dixie hanging in all its glory.  He said, “What’s that?”  I said, “Cool, huh?”  I was clueless as to what it might mean for him.

Thankfully, he and another Black student could see that I was a benign racist.  They befriended me and began to teach me about their experience of being Black in our American society and in our Catholic Church.  I went to Catholic and Baptist churches serving the Black community.  I listened to stories of prejudice and abuse.  I read books such as Black Like Me by J.H. Griffin and Why We Can’t Wait by Dr. M.L. King, Jr.  And I sought help in spiritual direction.

It took me a long time to come to see that the problem was not about racism and White supremacy in the culture; the problem was about racism and White supremacy in me.  I was bred by Southern culture to believe that Whites were superior to all people of color but especially Blacks, and I carried some of that thinking in me.  I had to admit, though I did not want to, that the Confederate flag carried that meaning as well.  The flag did not simply mean pride in the “Lost Cause” to create a new nation 150 years ago, but also prejudice and mistreatment of Blacks today.

This was driven home to me one day when I bumped into an old friend of my parents while visiting family in south Louisiana.  My brother and I had just returned from touring the Civil War battlefield at Port Hudson, Louisiana.  A significant aspect of this battle was that it was the first time that Colored soldiers were sent into combat for the Union Army.  The battle was a disastrous baptism of fire for these ill-trained soldiers, and hundreds were slaughtered by Rebel gunners.  My brother mentioned to me that this older family friend was a “Confederate general” as part of a group of Civil War re-enactors.  When I saw him, I asked him about his re-enactor’s role and then told him about our trip to Port Hudson.  This was his startling response: “We kicked the niggers then, and we will kick them again.”

I was stunned.  I saw hate in this man’s eyes and heard it in his voice.  He was not re-enacting the past, but living in the now.  I took my flag down.  That was over 15 years ago.  I am still very interested in Civil War history and still enjoy reading about Stonewall Jackson and his Valley Campaign, General Taylor and his Louisiana Tigers.  I also admit, if anyone asks, that I am a “recovering racist.”  I am very well aware of how I was raised. This awareness helps me pay attention to treating all people who are different from me with dignity and respect.   But this is not enough. I must confront the institutions and customs that are carriers of bigotry and hate, and flying the Confederate flag is such a custom.  It is past time to take it down.

__________________________________

Please join us for our fall retreat day – “For Freedom Christ Set us Free”  Galatians 5:1

Sunday, October 11, St. Mary-on-the-Lake Bellevue, WA,

9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Christian faith is about more than just getting to heaven.  It is about knowing an interior liberation now, a freedom from not merely sin but excessive anxiety, stress, fear, and loneliness.  At this day of prayer and study we will look at the relationship between “sanctity” and “sanity.”  Through grace, Jesus works in us to lead us to“sanctity” or holiness. Our response to Jesus through grace leads us to “sanity” or mental health. Both are fruits of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22)

 Cost:  $30 (single); $50 (couple)  Presenter:  Dr. Robert Fontana and TBA

To Register:  Send the registration fee plus your name, address, phone, and email to CLM, 7317 Bainbridge Pl SW, Apt 1, Seattle, WA 98136. You can also register on-line by going to Catholiclifeministries.org.  Look to the column on the right, scroll down to “register for an event.”

 

Another homily: “On no, I can never retire!”

Posted November 21st, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

BoudreauxSunday homily, Nov 19

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.  To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.'”

Well done, my good and faithful servant!   When I raise my hand would you repeat those words?

Good morning, Church.  In today’s Gospel parable Jesus is telling us to go out and invest in the stock market.  Right?  Everybody say wrong.  No, Jesus is reminding us through this story that he has a purpose for our lives. And, OH NO, IT IS A PURPOSE FROM WHICH WE CAN NEVER RETIRE. Most importantly, Jesus has given us the gifts we need to fulfill that purpose.  Jesus has called us together. He is with us right now, and he is telling us today what the master told his servant in the parable:

Well done, my good and faithful servant! 

The key to a proper interpretation of Jesus’ parables, and, indeed his whole life, is the concept of the “Kingdom of God.”  What is the Kingdom of God?  The answer is really very simple, and we say it every time we pray the Our Father.  We pray “hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”

There it is…so simple and clear…the kingdom of God is about God’s will being done on earth—within our marriages, families, work commitments, neighborhoods, jobs, businesses, and political structures.  Jesus’ mission was to make the kingdom happen by doing God’s will on earth two thousand years ago.

Our mission as Jesus’ followers is to make the kingdom happen by doing God’s will today.  Yes, God wants us to be successful at work, at home, in civic life, and here at the parish, not to build up our own little kingdoms, but together to build up God’s kingdom.

This is so important that we have even have patron saints upon whom we can call for help for every job imaginable.  We have patrons saints for butchers, bakers, bell-makers, beggars, candle makers, grave diggers, woman or man seeking a spouse, dentists, doctors, lawyers, politicians, beer makers, students, Italian prison officers, and, of course, anyone seeking a lost golf ball or car keys, to name a few.

Well done, my good and faithful servant!

Ultimately, to be gifted by God for the kingdom means to be gifted by God for love. Yes, we need to be competent at what we do, but more importantly, we are to infuse what we do with love, the self-giving love of Jesus, of the saints, and of our grandparents and parents.  As the popes have taught, ours is a vocation of love.

This vocation begins in Baptism.  Today at this liturgy, these beautiful babies, new disciples of Jesus, receive their call to a vocation of love.  As they grow they will discover certain qualities and talents given to them by God that will enable them to succeed at a career or job.  But their deepest calling as disciples of Jesus is to do all that they do with love.

Well done, my good and faithful servant!

teacher 1For example, if you are a teacher, you know that being a Catholic follower of Jesus means more than just imparting knowledge to students; it’s especially about loving and caring for each student in his or her uniqueness.  As a long-time school teacher told me, “Students don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.”

The same is true with parishioners.  Parishioners don’t care how much Father knows, until they know how much Father cares.  Fr. Jack isn’t successful here because he is an excellent homilist, though that is true, or a capable administrator, though that is also true.  He is successful here because you (and I) know that he loves us.

The same is true for all of us whatever we do within the daily commitments and relationship of life.  What is important is not simply doing a competent job with the task at hand, but being a witness for the Kingdom by doing each task with love.  As we get older and enter the so-called “golden years,” we may retire from our jobs, but we never retire from the kingdom.  The clearest example of that for me is my 87-year-old mother-in-law who lives at the Mount.  Paula wakes up every day with purpose, to get out into the Mount community, alert to anyone who needs a friend.

You and I have been gifted by God to succeed in the world for the sake of the Kingdom, a Kingdom of love. We will not love perfectly; we will not love all the time; we will make mistakes and fail at love.  But we don’t give up; we keep trying to find a way to love.  That’s why we come to Mass, to find strength from Jesus and one another, to continue living out our Baptismal vocation – to love!

Well done, my good and faithful servant!

Please post your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLEASE GOD, CAN’T MY SPOUSE AND I BE NICER TO EACH OTHER!!

Posted November 2nd, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in Uncategorized

By Robert Fontana

Juanita and Juan are frustrated.  They are both very devout Christians, with lovely children, have jobs that they really enjoy and, by their own admission, “WE ARE SO UNHAPPY!”  And then their prayer, “PLEASE GOD, HELP US TO BE NICER TO ONE ANOTHER!”

Juan said that because he and Juanita love Jesus and attend church he was sure that his marriage would never reach the point of being a primary source of frustration for him.  Juanita agreed.  Each prayed asking God to change his/her spouse’s heart and behavior.  And when that didn’t work, each prayer to ask God to change “my heart and my behavior to my spouse.”  And when that didn’t work and the distance between each other got to great they called me.  “Wow,” said, “So I am the answer to your prayer.”

John and Jane Doe, a Christian couple called for counseling:  Jane – “I really want my marriage to succeed but we are so busy with our jobs and the babies after work we have no time for each other.  And when we do talk we get into these explosive arguments.  I want that to stop.”  John – “I know we can do better.  I don’t like the arguments.  I love Jane and want to have the kind of marriage I see other people have.

William Doe, professional man and husband:  William – “My wife and I did counseling, but it wasn’t that helpful.  I think I’m the problem.  I want to be a better person and a better husband but I have some hang-ups that I just can’t seem to let go of. I over react to little things.  I don’t want to yell at her so I just get quiet.  Maybe we’ll come in together later but I need help right now. 

Bien, professional woman from an Asian culture:  Bien – “I am struggling with my family that     expects so much of me.  My mother wants me to mediate between her and my brother, my father wants me to marry and give him a son.  My parents were always embarrassed that their first born was a girl. I want help in finding myself while still  being responsible to my family.  I do believe in God and pray but, I don’t know, God’s not much help.

 

OH BOY, ALL SAINTS DAY!

Posted October 30th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew
Illustration used with permission from Monica at www.equippingCatholicfamilies.com

Illustration used with permission from Monica at www.equippingCatholicfamilies.com

by Robert Fontana

I know, most people are getting excited about “All Hallow’s Eve” or Halloween. I do too, but I see it as part of a three-day celebration to honor the saints and pray for our beloved dead.

I have to admit that, in my Catholic fundamentalist days, I did not have a very favorable view of Halloween.  I   accepted the judgment of the evangelical Christians who see Halloween as a celebration of “evil,” with dressing up as scary creatures that represent the world of darkness who oppose God.  It is also a high holy day for practitioners of   Wicca, a modern natural religion that rejects Judeo/Christian monotheism.

I have a different view of Halloween today.  If it is any threat to Christianity, it is because the day has been totally secularized and commercialized, separated from its Christian roots.  Just as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) helps us step into Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season, Halloween comes before the Feast of All Saints and the Solemnity of All Souls to help us step into the season of “remembering.”  As the earth in the Northern Hemisphere moves into a period of dormancy and cold, this is a transitional time, a “thin place” so say the Celts, for us to remember our beloved friends and family members who have moved from this life to the next.  But we Christians do not remember our dead like people who believe earthly existence is all there is:

“We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

1 Thess 4:13-14

The fall trilogy of Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls helps us enter into this season of remembering our beloved with hope that they are now fully alive in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in communion with all the angels and saints.

Consider this: On the days leading up to   Halloween, you and your children/grandchildren are preparing31928409 - children curve faces in fairy costume on holiday halloween costumes for “trick or treating,” and decorating the house to welcome “trick or treaters.”  How beautiful, the giving and receiving of hospitality and kindness, one neighbor to another.  In the letter to the Hebrews the author encourages all:

Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” Hebrews 13:2

You are having a fun event with neighbors and friends and anticipating the next day’s celebration, the Feast of All Saints, which focuses on the great women and men of the church who made hospitality a way of life in imitation of Jesus.

On the Feast of All Saints, you want to keep the celebration alive especially for the children.  Remember, if an event at church is not also celebrated in the home, then its significance to everyone, especially the children, is greatly minimized.  Serve a family breakfast that continues the fun from the night before, e.g. put some vanilla ice cream on pancakes or waffles.  This can be done before or after Mass, but the key celebration, of course, is when you gather with the rest of the faith community around the Eucharistic table to hear the story of the Beatitudes and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Now you have really transformed secular Halloween from a commercial distraction to get parents to spend money on candy and costumes to an event of faith connected to being a disciple of Jesus.  You are taking your children/grandchildren/selves on an otherwise ordinary work day to join with other disciples to be with Jesus present in the community, the Scriptures, and the Eucharist.

joseph maryOn this Feast of All Saints, you will continue the unique remembering that we Christians do every time we gather at this banquet table: we remember the love of God poured out for us in Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  This is the day we also especially remember that thousands upon thousands of unnamed followers of Jesus, including our parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, who are not on the calendar of saints, are, nonetheless, saints.  At some churches parishioners are invited to write the names of loved ones who have died in a book of memory on display in a place of honor.  We gather in prayer to commend them to God, and our prayer continues to the next day, the Solemnity of all Souls, and throughout November.

Lori and I take out photos of our parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends who have died and display them prominently near our dinner table so that we pray for them every time we gather for a meal and say grace.

November is the season of remembering.  Halloween, the Feast of All Saints, and the Solemnity of All Souls form a wonderful trilogy of days that helps us enter into the season of remembering with great hope.  Oh boy!

Post your comments!

 

 

An open letter to my Catholic family – “Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”

Posted October 19th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

Joy and peace, dear Catholic family, clergy and laity,

midnight massHow much do you love the Catholic Church?  That question comes up again as I grieve the death of a great woman, Barbara Blaine, the founder and president of SNAP (Survivors of People Abused by Priests).  Barbara never knew that she was the reason that  Lori and I asked ourselves the above question as the sex abuse crisis unfolded before our eyes in 2002.  She, unknowingly, helped us reaffirm our love for this Church of saints and sinners and get involved with finding positive solutions to the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Yes, the Church is comprised of saints and sinners which does not describe two separate categories of people but every one us who  gathers for worship at the Sunday Eucharist.  And as a church of sinners becoming saints there have been times when we Catholics were less of a light of God’s love and mercy and more of a force for darkness, as in the Church’s treatment of Jews throughout its history, the Spanish Inquisition, and the current crisis of clergy sex abuse.

guardiniA great 20th-century Catholic intellectual, Romano Guardini. who refused a cardinal’s hat offered by Pope Paul VI, wrote:

 “ The Church is the Cross on which Christ is always  crucified. One cannot separate Christ from his bloody, painful Church.” 

What Guardini apparently meant by this is that, because the Church is immersed in the affairs of human society and led by fallible humans,  she has betrayed her fidelity to Jesus and the Gospels.  Therefore, the Church will always need some church members to love her enough to bear the suffering required to guide her back to faithfulness.

I thought I was such a person, I thought that I loved the Catholic Church enough to help her become a more authentic follower of Jesus.  Thus, I, with Lori, worked to end abortion, marched against nuclear weapons, lived low-income to befriend the poor, practiced    Natural Family Planning, and raised our many children Catholic.  Early in our marriage we were honored by the Knights of Columbus in our Maryland parish as “Catholic Family of the Year.”  

But there was one issue which I avoided, one issue in which I did not want to participate: the clergy sex abuse crisis. The crisis exploded onto the national scene in 1984 in my hometown when the egregious and criminal behavior of Fr. Gilbert Gauthe was uncovered.  Lori and I had worked with Gauthe on a confirmation retreat.  He    allegedly molested over 130 boys.  I knew the bishop and his associates who protected Gauthe and failed to reach out to the victims and their families.  As new incidents of other priests abusing came out in the late 80’s and 90’s, I kept it all at distance.  I did not want to get involved.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

When Boston’s Catholic community imploded and diocesan leaders across the country were exposed for protecting clergy sexual predators, I had a “come to Jesus” moment.  I was deeply, deeply convicted that I was part of the problem because I refused to get involved.  I knew what getting “involved” would mean: demanding the truth from my friend, employer, and bishop at the risk of losing his friendship, my job, and institutional support for my work in ministry. 

mary magdalenI remember in prayer hearing Jesus asking me, “How much do you love the Church?”  I understood what He meant: someone who loves the Church must bear the suffering for helping her do the right thing.  I  realized that, so far, change in the Church had only come because of the victims who demanded change through media pressure and lawsuits.  We faithful Catholics sat in the pews and dismissed the victims / survivors as, at best, agitators who would never be satisfied and, at worst, liars. 

Lori and I discussed and prayed and agonized.  We came to this crossroads: we can walk away from the crisis, but then we must leave the Church because we as Christians could not in good faith stay in the Church and remain silent and uninvolved. 

How much do you love the Church? 

If you have not done so already, please read the article on Barbara Blaine (http://www.catholiclifeministries.org/2017/10/03/barbara-blaine-21st-century-st-joan-of-arc/ ) and get involved.  Let’s not leave it to the victims / survivors of sex abuse in the Church and their families to do our job in demanding that church leaders act in just, honest, and compassionate ways.

In the Lord,

Robert

 

 

 

Barbara Blaine, 21st Century St. Joan of Arc

Posted October 3rd, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

blaine 2No, Barbara Blaine did not hear voices of angels and saints telling her to organize an army to throw the English out of France or unfriend anyone who posted bad jokes on Facebook (I admit to having a bad habit of doing that).  What she did do was listen to the voice of God speak to the depths of her heart (conscience) telling her to expose the lies, duplicity, deception and cover-up of clergy sex abuse by Catholic bishops and associates.  They should have been leading the way to expose sexual predators in the clergy and those who protect them, reaching out to their victims and the families of victims, and working with legislatures to create policies and procedures that safeguard children from pedophiles.   But they have not done that.  Barbara Blaine and the organization that she created, the Survivors Network of People Abused by Priests (SNAP), get the lion’s share of the credit for forcing some change within the Catholic Church in its handling of issues related to sex abuse by bishops and associates.

Barbara Blaine died Sunday, Sept 24th, from a tear in a blood vessel in her heart which she suffered while on vacation, hiking with her husband in Utah.  I had the privilege of meeting Barbara on two different occasions.  She said that she was an adult when she first began to confront the reality of her being sexually abused as a teenager by a Catholic priest.  At the time of this realization, Barbara was a RADICALLY DEVOUT CATHOLIC, working and living at a Catholic Worker House, serving the poor and homeless.  She was very inspired by the life of Catholic social activist Dorothy Day.  At first, Barbara did not go to the media or the courts with her story; she went to see her bishop.  He assured her that this was the only allegation against this priest, and that he would be dealt with.  He thanked her for reporting this abuse to him and helping him protect children; and he asked her to keep their conversation confidential.

Barbara trusted the bishop and felt confident that he wanted to do the right thing.  A short while later, to her shock, she learned from the media of other accusations against this priest which the bishop knew about.   The bishop had lied to her, manipulated her good will, and tried to silence her with a commitment of “confidentiality.”   Barbara got her first direct lesson in clergy cover-up.  It was such a betrayal of trust, a spiritual and mental version of sexual abuse.  She was devastated…again.

blaine 1It was around this time that Barbara confronted a most disconcerting truth: the bishops and other Catholic leaders, lay and clergy, were not going to reach out to survivors and make the necessary changes to protect children.  Changes would have to come through the efforts of someone other than church leaders.  A voice deep in her soul kept telling her that she needed to do something, that she could at least reach out to survivors of sexual abuse, listen to their stories, and organize them into communities of support.  She did.  In 1988, Barbara organized the Survivors Network of People Abused by Priests (SNAP).  However, she quickly realized that merely focusing on supporting survivors of abuse was not enough.  The institutional system that enabled the abuse to continue was still firmly in place within the Catholic Church; and there was no evidence that church leaders were addressing the sexual abuse crisis in any serious way.

That inner voice kept urging Barbara to do more, to hold the bishops’ proverbial “feet to the fire” to tell the truth and stop the cover-up.  Under her leadership SNAP became more aggressive in using the media to get the support of public opinion to pressure bishops for change.  (Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Baltimore, admitted that the media “helped make our Church safer for children by raising up the issue of clergy sexual abuse and forcing us to deal with it.” https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/the-other-side-of-spotlight-how-the-church-changed-to-fight-sex-abuse-12508)

Additionally, Barbara and SNAP leaders encouraged and supported survivors as they sued dioceses to gain access to files that could reveal the extent of the cover up of sex abuse.  They also worked for financial compensation for the victims.

It was media coverage and lawsuits, and not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the examples of the saints, nor the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that led the bishops to finally make sweeping changes to protect children, remove sexual predators, and start a nationwide campaign of safe environment education.  In its 2002 meeting in Dallas, the US Catholic Conference of Bishops passed the now well-known Charter to Protect Children, Youth, and Vulnerable Adults.

joan of arcBarbara Blaine was a modern day St. Joan of Arc, the saint who, by the way, was burned at the stake by Catholic bishops from England, who accused Joan of being a witch.  Barbara has been vilified by church leaders and organizations, somewhat a modern version of being burned at the stake.  I think Barbara ought to be canonized.  St. Joan was not canonized until 1920 some 500 years after her death.  I hope Barbara’s canonization happens more quickly.  We Catholics need her prayers as we ask God for mercy and forgiveness for leaving to the victims / survivors of sex abuse the reforms that we, clergy and laity, should have taken on: protect children, expose sexual predators and those who protect them, and work for changes in our laws to keep children and vulnerable adults safe.  We also need “St. Barbara’s” courageous example as a role model when we too need to make a stand and do what is right against institutions and people who have great power and wealth.  This is especially vital when that institution is one in which we worship, learn our faith, seek comfort and healing, and rely on for moral leadership in a broken world.

St. Barbara Blaine, pray for us.

ACTION STEPS______________________________________________

Do you want to continue to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse in the Catholic Church?  Keep in mind that every organization, from the military to the public schools to, yes, the Catholic Church, has sexual predators in their ranks.  They are not going to look like some evil caricature of a sexual predator in the movies.  In our church, they are going to look like your parish priest and/or parish minister.  We certainly have to be vigilant in keeping environments safe, but that was not the main problem in the Catholic Church.  The main problem in the Catholic Church was the coverup of sexual abuse by church leaders for a variety of reasons – protecting the image and finances of the church, protecting a friend, keeping that “friend” quiet because he (or she) had “dirt” on the church leader, and even protecting the gay subculture that exists in many dioceses.

What to do?  Insist that every diocesan and seminarian leadership program include a course on sexual abuse and its coverup.  Future leaders in the church need to be prepared not only to create safe environments for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, but also to address coverup if it is suspected.

I once asked two seminarians if they have had any courses on the clergy sex abuse crisis so as to cope with its aftermath and prevent it from ever happening again.  Each said, “No.”  One said, “I only know from what I read in the papers.”  WE ARE NOT EQUIPPING OUR FUTURE LEADERS TO ADDRESS THIS CRISIS.  

What an educational program should include:

  1.  Meet victims of sexual abuse and their families and listen to their stories of abuse and of being lied to by church leaders when they reported their abuse.
  2. Study what coverup looks like by reading investigative works on the crisis by the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Grand Jury, and Jason Berry’s books “Lead Us Not Into Temptation” and “Vows of Silence: the Abuse of Power in the Papacy of Pope John Paul II.”
  3. Meet with SNAP leaders and other activists who have worked to challenge Catholic leaders to be fully transparent on issues related to sex abuse in the church.  They can help us learn how to challenge suspected abuse in their parish/school/diocese/Catholic camp work situation.

I once asked a seminarian what he would do if he suspected that his pastor was having inappropriate contact with minors.  He said that he would report it to the bishop.  And, I asked, “What would you do if the bishop told you, ‘I know about it, and I’m taking care of it, trust me on this.'”  The seminarian said, “I would trust the bishop. I owe him obedience.”

What do you readers think this seminarian should do?  Post your comments.

 

AGH! THE HOMILY NEVER GIVEN – “OFFER IT UP”

Posted September 19th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

By Robert Fontana

Robert loveIt’s true.  I thought I was preaching at a local parish on Sept 3.  The Gospel reading was on “take up your cross and follow me” from Matthew 16:24-26.  However, I had decided to focus primarily on the 2nd reading from Romans 12:1-2.

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 yourselves 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.  Romans 12:1-2

I prepared all month to give a homily that would engage the congregation; “work the text,” as the Protestant preachers say, and be within a 10 minute time frame.  I practiced with Lori over and over again and was SO READY! Alas, I got the date wrong and showed up to preach only to find out I was not on the schedule.  AGH!  I’m giving you the homily below.  Picture yourself at Mass (or Sunday worship). Notice the congregation’s response; post your comments!

Good evening, Church.  Wow, these are some tough readings. “Take up your cross…lose your life for my sake…offer your bodies as living sacrifices…”  But…wait a minute.  We know the meaning of these readings.  Our parents and grandparents and the good nuns taught us the meaning of these readings in this one succinct phrase:  “offer it up.”

When I say, “Rob,” you say, “Offer it up.”  Let’s practice. 

When I was a kid, and I complained when Mom would not let me go out to play baseball because I had to do homework, Mom would say, “Rob…”

All:  “Offer it up.”

When I was a teenager in religion class, and my friends and I asked Sr. Holy Agony what to do with all that hormonal energy as we saved sex for marriage, she said, “Rob…”

All: “Offer it up.”

And when I got married and was complaining to my wife about changing plans for grad school and getting a job because we were going to have a baby, she said, “Rob…”

All: “Offer it up.”

And when Lori was in labor and the pain was almost unbearable, she looked at me with fierceness in her eyes, grabbed my shoulders, and said, “If you tell me to offer it up, I will kill you!”  I had to let it go. I couldn’t use those words on her, so I just told myself, “Rob…”

All: “Offer it up.”

The Church today is reminding us to do what we have been taught since childhood: to bear the suffering that comes from being a disciple of Jesus in a crazy, mixed-up, and confused world.  And not only to bear it, but to give that suffering back to God as a gift. 

Let’s review what Paul wrote:  I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. 

When Paul writes, “offer your bodies,” he’s talking about the “whole self.”  Paul is writing about something Fr. Jack invites us to do week after week during the offertory of the Mass: along with the bread and wine, to place our lives, our hopes and dreams, our struggles and sufferings on the Lord’s table, and to surrender them to God.

So, we might ask, on a practical, day-to-day basis, how do we do this, how do we offer to God our very selves as a living sacrifice?  The key is found in Paul’s next line.  “Do not conform yourselves to this age…” Please repeat that phrase: “Do not conform yourselves to this age.” 

partyingWhat does Paul mean by “this age?”  “This age” refers to the dominant culture of human self-centeredness, selfishness, greed, and sin that has existed from the time of Adam & Eve.  Paul writes, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator.”   Worshiping the creature rather than the Creator, or “self-worship,” is what Paul means by “this age.”  Paul is telling us that if we want to offer our lives to God as a living sacrifice, our spiritual worship, we cannot conform to this age of collective “self-worship.” 

Franciscan priest Richard Rohr describes “this age” as the age of the Poison P’s: position, possessions, power, and privilege, all made possible by money.  He writes that all of us are immersed in the world of position, possessions, power, and privilege.  They are called the Poison P’s because, without even realizing it, we get sucked into seeking them for life’s meaning, rather than seeking God.  However, when we make the “Poison P’s” the goal of life, they suck the life out of us; we become “self-worshipers” rather than God-worshipers.  There is a religious version of the Poison P’s popularly known as the “Prosperity Gospel.”  To paraphrase Jesus, what good is it to gain the Poison P’s – position, possessions, power, and privilege – and to lose our life with God?

But wait a minute, Paul; we have to live in this world.  How do we keep from conforming to it?  Paul gives us direction in the next line; “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”  Repeat those words.  “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” 

Paul is teaching sound mental health principles: that if we change the way we think, we will change the way we feel and behave.  Paul is saying “Live in the world of self-centeredness but don’t identify with it.”  Ultimately, we are not to define ourselves by our jobs, our looks, our favorite sports team, historical heritage, ethnicity, nationality, and/or children or grandchildren, however awesome they may be.  We identify as daughters and sons of God, disciples of Jesus, and servants of the Holy Spirit.  We do not identify with this age of “self-worship, but to the age of the Trinity.

  • This age seeks power to rule over others; the age of the Trinity uses power to serve others.
  • This age seeks the accumulation of possessions; the age of the Trinity possesses only what it needs.
  • This age uses privilege to exclude and separate; the age of the Trinity uses privilege to include and unite.
  • This age seeks to win at all costs; the age of the Trinity follows Jesus who gave his life that others may live.
  • This age chooses to self-medicate with alcohol, porn, drugs, shopping, gambling, television, and video-gaming; the age of the Trinity copes through prayer, liturgy, and community fellowship.
  • This age abandons the unborn, the poor and elderly, ignores social justice, and cares little for the environment; the age of the Trinity carries the cross for life, justice, peace, and a greener world.

brown-1851-christ-washing-pThe law of this age is “survival of the fittest.”  The law of the age of the Trinity is LOVE.  Not the hippie-dippie love of 1968 but the self-giving, sacrificial love of Jesus. 

Let’s get to the last point Paul made: he wants us to conform ourselves to the age of the Trinity so that we “may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Paul understands that life is complicated.  We have to make difficult moral decisions that are shaped by our unique circumstances, personalities, and histories.  Pope Francis, Fr. Jack, and Helen aren’t sitting at our kitchen tables helping us to decide what to do in this situation and that.  If we confront our challenges with a transformed mind – as sons and daughters of God, disciples of Jesus, and servants of the Holy Spirit – we will be able to discern how we are to act in our own situations, in a way that is pleasing to God.

Let me give you an example from my own life.  My mother suffered from mental illness, bi-polar disorder.  Once or twice a year Mom would sink into a world of depression, darkness, and despair that could last a month or two months.  If my father were a man of this age, how would he have coped?  Have an affair?  Drink or turn to porn?  Divorce her? 

Probably.  But Dad was a man of the age of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Spirit.  He had a cross to bear as a man of the Trinity, and he bore it by serving Mom.  He found strength from personal prayer, from his neighbors and prayer group, and from going to Mass.  Though many doctors and treatments were tried, there was no curing the mental illness that gripped my mother; there was only managing it.  As a man of the Trinity, Dad was guided by sacrificial love.  During the dark days of depression there was no romance; he “offered it up.”  There was no friendship; he “offered it up.”  There was no joy; he “offered it up.”  Eventually there was a “payoff” for all that “offering it up.”  When Mom came out of her depression, she knew what Dad had done for her.  Romance, friendship, and joy returned.

Church, the word of God for us today is a demanding one, but it is not a new one.  We have learned since childhood that there is a suffering we must bear in following Jesus.  Sometimes we get tired of it, sometimes we don’t like it, and sometimes we want relief; we want to zone out.  At these times we don’t have to be able to quote Jesus or St. Paul.  We just have to recall that age-old wisdom from the nuns and, say it with me, “offer it up.”

Marriage Musings: Opposites Attract…and Then They Fight

Posted September 7th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in Marriage Jackpot
Comments Off on Marriage Musings: Opposites Attract…and Then They Fight

By Robert Fontana

relational 1relational 2Jane Venus and John Mars are have been married about seven years, have a couple of kids, and are beginning to wonder how they ever married in the first place.  THEY ARE SO DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER.  He’s shy; she’s outgoing.  He loves to read, play board games, do the daily crossword puzzle; she loves to bike, swim, and eat out.  They argue over how “she drives,” and he is such a “neat-nick,” and she “overcommits,” and he is such an “Eeyore,” and she is “too busy for sex,” and he “is never satisfied with the sex they do have,” and…  I get all this information from their intake forms.  The last question on the form asks, “When counseling has ended, what do you hope will have happened?”

Jane wrote: I want us to communicate better, and John to have a better attitude about life, and be more fun.

John wrote: I want Jane to pay attention to the details of our life, be less critical and more responsive sexually.

 In other words, they came to see me, each hoping that I could get the other to change, and, in fact, to be more like themselves!  The first thing I do with Jane Venus and John Mars is to ask them how they met, what attracted each to the other, and why they decided to marry.

Jane: We met at a bar.  I noticed him right away, shy, standing off in the corner, very nice-looking.  He would look at me and then turn away.  I knew there was no getting him to talk to me unless I acted first.  So when he walked by me to go to the bathroom I tripped him.  (John laughs and affirms that was true.)  I helped him up,    apologized, bought him a beer, and we talked into the night.  He was so interesting, so different from me: thoughtful, scholarly, and kind.

John: Never in my life did I think such a competent, outgoing, and beautiful woman would be interested in me.  We did things together that I would never have done on my own, like stay up all night on the Summer Solstice to watch the sunrise.

Jane: I married John because he grounded me.  I felt so safe and secure with him.  I loved him and wanted him to be the father of my kids.

John: I married Jane because she took me out of myself and into the world.  She is so alive and free.  I loved her companionship and could not see myself going through life without her.

Opposites attract… and then they fight.  All the traits that attracted Jane and John to one another when they first met and then led to their marriage – how different each was from the other – have now, seven years later, become the very reasons they are fighting – how different each is from the other.  This is common among couples; and it explains why many couples divorce after five to seven years of marriage. The gift of being “different from me” that each spouse brings to the relationship begins to wear thin.  In Jane’s case, John used to “ground” Jane; now Jane feels constrained by John.  In John’s case, Jane used to make John feel alive; now Jane’s free spirit causes John anxiety.

WHAT TO DO? According to the marriage researcher, John Gottman, about 70% of all conflicts in marriages have to do with personality and temperament differences between spouses.  In other words, they are unsolvable.  The issue is not the specific issue at hand, but how each spouse is simply very different from the other.  If couples do not recognize this, they will misinterpret the other’s behavior as being mean and hurtful.  They begin to think that love has left the marriage.  Not so.  Because there is no “right or wrong” solution to these conflicts, what is needed is “communication” and “accommodation.”

Jane still needs John to ground her, but lately it’s been too much.  She needs him to “lighten up a bit” and have fun with her (and the kids).  John still needs Jane to pull him out of himself, but he also needs Jane to be sensitive to his anxieties and his need for “down-time.”

running on beachSpouses who are very different from one another and who learn to communicate about and accommodate to each other’s differences come to an amazing insight: “I would rather be happy than right.”  They stop trying to change one another because they know that it is a useless effort.  The other will not, cannot change.  But in the successful marriage, each spouse can lovingly communicate hopes and needs, and willingly accommodate the other, giving her / his spouse the space to be himself / herself.

I WOULD RATHER BE HAPPY THAN RIGHT!

_______________________________________

Counseling for Mental and Spiritual Health

Sometimes individuals and couples need help with a trained professional to succeed in love and family. Robert is a  licensed marriage and family therapist (associate) and is available for individual, couple, and family counseling.  The best time to call for help is  before it is a crisis.

Contact Information – Cell: 206-651-5058

Address: 4505 – 44th Ave SW, Seattle WA 98116

Email: workonyourmarriage@gmail.com

Web: workonyourmarriage.org

 

 

 

THE MIRACLE OF ADOPTION  

Posted September 5th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in Uncategorized

by Renee Garrot (Lori and Robert’s niece)

reneee ccIt is easy to look back on certain events in my life years later and now see the meaning or purpose they each played in shaping not only the path my life would take, but the person I would become. Yet the events that come to the forefront of my memory are not always the happiest, brightest, or easiest, but they are the ones that have allowed me the grace to experience miracles. My living miracle has been the miracle of adoption.

I was fifteen years old sitting in Spanish class when an unthinkable pain developed in my lower right abdomen. That event will stick with me forever because it changed the course of the life I thought I would live. From that moment, and through the next five years, I lived with pain as if it was an un-welcomed friend. I was diagnosed with a severe case of endometriosis, which is very common in women.

My parents and I traveled all over the South, from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist, attempting one surgery after the other, praying for relief of this nightmare. After each new treatment, and each new medication and surgery, the endometriosis would grow back like wildfire. Even though I experienced many days where the pain was so horrendous that getting out of bed to walk was exhausting, I had three rays of hope that kept me looking beyond the pain: my family, my school, and my faith.                                    

During this time my doctors were very honest with me, and I knew that my odds of ever becoming pregnant later in life were very slim. Throughout these five years I often asked God why I was suffering so much. He would respond with helping me to understand that I do not need to worry about “why” I am suffering. He helped me understand that my cross would be heavy and my sacrifice would be great to get through this period in my life. In response to my many prayers, He would tell me that at the end of this journey what I will receive will be much greater than the suffering I was experiencing.

These conversations with the Lord gave me courage to make the decision of having a complete hysterectomy at age 20. Yes, it was a huge choice to make at such a young age and it was not one that was made easily. Life for me, from then on, was only about adopting a child whenever it came time. My heart and my mind were for once in agreement and not battling each other. I knew that God’s purpose for me was to adopt.

Fast forward fifteen years, and finally the right man comes into my life who never gave the idea of adopting a child a second thought. It was as natural to him as if he and I were discussing having biological children. My husband and I began discussing the many ways we could go about adopting soon after we were married, but never put anything into action.    After seven months of being married our miracle came from a phone call.

Five days prior to that phone call I left a very lucrative job to go back to teaching. In my former  position I was traveling a great deal and was away from home four out of five nights a week. While away from home one morning, preparing for a training in my former job, the Lord stopped me in my tracks. He called me to forsake everything else and place my family first. The moment I accepted this calling, a huge sense of a “something great is approaching” came upon me. I quit my job that day and went back to the classroom.

The phone call I received five days later was from my father, the man who stood by me as I suffered all those years before, who helped me decide to have the hysterectomy, who allowed me to cry upon his shoulder when struggling with why this was all happening. He called to tell me he knew of a baby who was a day old and was in need of being adopted. How beautiful of a miracle it was that God allowed my father to introduce this child into my life. Two hours later my husband and I were meeting our  daughter and her birth mother in the hospital. A couple hours later we were buying a car seat! We took her home from the hospital the next day and from that day forth the miracles are countless.

renee jasonIt is a miracle that she can call me mommy because there were so many days I doubted I would ever hear those words. It is a miracle she is given the opportunity to have a mother and father and a wonderful extended family through the grace of her birth mother, who so thankfully did not choose to abort her. It is a miracle that she is healthy, happy, funny, full of life (sometimes too much life), so smart, and has been given the opportunity to be curious about the world she is blessed to live in. I see everyday the miracle of my daughter’s relationship with my    mother, which mirrors the relationship I had with my grandmother, for whom my daughter is named.

Why was she chosen to live and not be aborted? I cannot answer that. To me it is a miracle. Looking back on  my life, I know the path I was on led me to my miracle baby, and I know she has a purpose on Earth. It is with God’s love and the miracle of adoption that my purpose is to guide her to find her own.

Renee Garrot is the mother of a vivacious four-year-old, and proud wife to her husband Jason. She is the author of  “The Angel Pillow,” a children’s book for families blessed by adoption.  It is currently available on Amazon and at  https://www.createspace.com/7164006

 

Lowering the flag; confessions of an ex-confederate

Posted August 17th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in Year of Faith
Comments Off on Lowering the flag; confessions of an ex-confederate

By Robert Fontana

I am an ex-Confederate raised in the Southern Confederacy.  True, the South did lose the war against “Northern Aggression” in 1865, but that just ended the political states that formed the Confederate States of America.  Confederate culture continued throughout the South, reinforced by Jim Crow laws and segregation until, in my judgment, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (though it continues culturally in many areas).  That’s 100 years of Confederate culture thriving in the 11 states that seceded from the Union including my own home state, Louisiana.

I say am an “Ex-Confederate” because I fully identified with this Confederate culture without any awareness of how it was held together by institutionalized racism and terror against Blacks.  I grew up, like many White Southerners, lamenting the “Lost Cause,” the Confederate defeat by those “no good, lying Yankees,” yet grateful to live in the United States, and very glad that slavery was ended.  It was not until about 15 years ago that I retired my confederate flag, folded it up, and stored it away.  I did this after years of spiritual direction and soul searching that helped me unravel an ugly truth about my upbringing that became undeniable: I was bred by my Southern culture to believe in White superiority.  My parents did not intend this, my church and the Catholic schools I attended did not intend this, but the culture in which I was raised did.

How did White supremacy make its way into my consciousness?  Here’s how:  I never heard my father tell a racial joke, but I did hear both his friends and mine tell them.  I have no memory of my parents ever using the word, “Nigger;” instead they said, “the Colored woman” or “the Colored man,” but my neighbors and friends used the “N” word.  If I was doing a job and was not doing it right, it would be common for my boss to say, “That’s a nigger-rig job; do it again.”  If there was a “Colored” who did things right, it was not uncommon for someone to say, “He’s Black on the outside, but White on the inside.”  If I called a White person who was an adult by his first name, my mother would have smacked me.  It was Mr. Mike or Miss Kay.  But I could call a Colored person who was an adult by his first name.  I later learned the reason for this was because as a White boy, I was thought to be the equal of a Colored adult, but not a White adult.

The annual fall festival weekend in our small town had two parades, the Colored parade on Friday night and the White parade on Saturday.  My dad was a band director, and his band always marched in the Saturday parade.  I remember going to the Colored parade as a child.  Even then I could see that their uniforms were poor, worn, and wrinkled, very different from what my father’s band members were wearing.  We had one movie theater in our town.  Colored people had to enter through the alley; Whites went through the front door.  There was a Black Catholic grade school in my hometown that was just 2-3 miles from my home.  I never saw it.  Our Catholic school had nothing to do with the Catholic school for Colored children.

As a child, I read stories about Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in the same way that I read stories about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  They were American heroes, not simply Southern heroes.  Our family visited the Vicksburg battlefield when I was a boy.  I have a vivid memory of being in awe of a Confederate soldier who came up to speak with us.  I thought he was real.  We brought home Confederate hats, money, and swords, and came home ready to fight the war again.  Mom and Dad gave us “the Blue and the Gray” toy set for Christmas, and the Civil War was fought from after midnight Mass until four in the morning.

While on a school trip to Washington D.C. and New York City, we passed through Tennessee. There, I bought my first Confederate battle flag, one similar to the flag removed from the South Carolina statehouse.  It was…well…big, about the size of a large picture window.  I “flew” it in my room at home, and later in my dorm room in the seminary.  I had no idea that for many people it meant racism, the KKK, and White supremacy.  I flew it with the same sort of pride that I did when waving an American flag on the 4th of July.  When I was a freshman in the seminary, a Black student from Alabama came walking into my room.  There was old Dixie hanging in all its glory.  He said, “What’s that?”  I said, “Cool, huh?”  I was clueless as to what it might mean for him.

Thankfully, he and another Black student could see that I was a benign racist.  They befriended me and began to teach me about their experience of being Black in our American society and in our Catholic Church.  I went to Catholic and Baptist churches serving the Black community.  I listened to stories of prejudice and abuse.  I read books such as Black Like Me by J.H. Griffin and Why We Can’t Wait by Dr. M.L. King, Jr.  And I sought help in spiritual direction.

It took me a long time to come to see that the problem was not about racism and White supremacy in the culture; the problem was about racism and White supremacy in me.  I was bred by Southern culture to believe that Whites were superior to all people of color but especially Blacks, and I carried some of that thinking in me.  I had to admit, though I did not want to, that the Confederate flag carried that meaning as well.  The flag did not simply mean pride in the “Lost Cause” to create a new nation 150 years ago, but also prejudice and mistreatment of Blacks today.

This was driven home to me one day when I bumped into an old friend of my parents while visiting family in south Louisiana.  My brother and I had just returned from touring the Civil War battlefield at Port Hudson, Louisiana.  A significant aspect of this battle was that it was the first time that Colored soldiers were sent into combat for the Union Army.  The battle was a disastrous baptism of fire for these ill-trained soldiers, and hundreds were slaughtered by Rebel gunners.  My brother mentioned to me that this older family friend was a “Confederate general” as part of a group of Civil War re-enactors.  When I saw him, I asked him about his re-enactor’s role and then told him about our trip to Port Hudson.  This was his startling response: “We kicked the niggers then, and we will kick them again.”

I was stunned.  I saw hate in this man’s eyes and heard it in his voice.  He was not re-enacting the past, but living in the now.  I took my flag down.  That was over 15 years ago.  I am still very interested in Civil War history and still enjoy reading about Stonewall Jackson and his Valley Campaign, General Taylor and his Louisiana Tigers.  I also admit, if anyone asks, that I am a “recovering racist.”  I am very well aware of how I was raised. This awareness helps me pay attention to treating all people who are different from me with dignity and respect.   But this is not enough. I must confront the institutions and customs that are carriers of bigotry and hate, and flying the Confederate flag is such a custom.  It is past time to take it down.

__________________________________

Please join us for our fall retreat day – “For Freedom Christ Set us Free”  Galatians 5:1

Sunday, October 11, St. Mary-on-the-Lake Bellevue, WA,

9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Christian faith is about more than just getting to heaven.  It is about knowing an interior liberation now, a freedom from not merely sin but excessive anxiety, stress, fear, and loneliness.  At this day of prayer and study we will look at the relationship between “sanctity” and “sanity.”  Through grace, Jesus works in us to lead us to“sanctity” or holiness. Our response to Jesus through grace leads us to “sanity” or mental health. Both are fruits of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22)

 Cost:  $30 (single); $50 (couple)  Presenter:  Dr. Robert Fontana and TBA

To Register:  Send the registration fee plus your name, address, phone, and email to CLM, 7317 Bainbridge Pl SW, Apt 1, Seattle, WA 98136. You can also register on-line by going to Catholiclifeministries.org.  Look to the column on the right, scroll down to “register for an event.”

How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb?  Change?

Posted August 14th, 2017 by CLMrf and filed in View From the Pew

youth group 051By Robert Fontana

Of course, change certainly does happen in the Catholic Church.  However, it is usually excruciatingly slow.  There is a fight for change going on these days, and two dominant forces in this fight are Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, and U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke.

Burke wants the church to return to the glory days of Catholicism in the 1950’s.  For him the Church is a monarchy established by God through Jesus to the Pope/Bishop.  Authority flows from the top down, and obedience to truth through the Church is the clearest sign of holiness.  Burke has history on his side, but not Scripture.  The biblical model of Church is a community of disciples with leaders who work together to preserve the unity of the Church (see Galatians 1).  The Church as “Monarchy” has been the dominant model at least since the time of Charlemagne (747-814 AD) and the Holy Roman Empire.  The councils of Trent (1600’s) and Vatican I (1870), which Burke embraces, reaffirmed the structure of the Church as a monarchy.

Pope Francis advocates for changes which are inspired by the example of Jesus, as interpreted by the Second Vatican Council, and by his own experience of living and working among the poor in Buenos Aires.  Pope Francis rejects the notion that the Church is a monarchy.  He sees the Church as a missionary community of Disciples of Jesus, with ordained ministers who are servants within the Church rather than an aristocracy.  He wants love and mercy, not rigid adherence to rules and regulations, to be the defining characteristics of the Catholic people.

Historian Garry Wills argues in his book, The Future of the Church with Pope Francis, that change is the great story of Catholicism.  It is change, states Wills, which has permitted the Church to survive for two thousand years when empires of one kind or another have come and gone.  Change, however, has not necessarily made Catholics closer followers of Jesus.  Here are two significant changes that have happened in the Church.

jesus and childrenJesus practiced and taught non-violence:  Jesus was a pacifist, and, for at least the first three centuries of Christianity, so were his followers.  Yet, for the past 1,700 years, the Church has taught that war waged for a just cause is moral and consistent with Christian faith under certain conditions.  Eventually this led to popes having armies which they used to wage war against heretics, the Christian kings in Europe, and the Muslim nations.  Was this change from pacifism to a just war theory good or bad for the Church?

Catholic/Christian oppression of Jews:   Anti-Jewish sentiments fill the pages of early Christian writings, beginning with the Scriptures – the Gospel of John, and including church councils, and writings of great saints and popes.  Here’s one example from Pope Eugenius IV in 1442:

“We decree and order that from now on, and for all time, Christians shall not eat or drink with Jews…shall not allow Jews to hold civil honors over Christians, or to exercise public offices in the State… All and every single Jew, of whatever sex and age, must everywhere wear the distinct dress and known marks by which they can be evidently distinguished from Christians. They cannot live among Christians, but in a certain street, separated and segregated from Christians…”    (see www.talmudunmasked.com/appendix  )

This vicious anti-Semitism did not formally end until the Second Vatican Council in 1965 when the Bishops declared Jews to be our elder brothers and affirmed the teachings of St. Paul, that the covenant between God and the Jews still holds true today (see Documents of Vatican II, Nostra Aetate).  Was reaffirming God’s covenant to the Jews after almost 2,000 years of denying it, good or bad for the Church?

 

  1. mary magdalenLay people fund the church but have no effective voice. The laity pay for clergy recruitment, training, salaries, housing, vacations, retirement, the purchase of all properties, construction of buildings, materials for ministry, and salaries/benefits for lay employees. Yet, every board of lay people, from the parish pastoral and finance councils, to diocesan councils, to the pope’s council on clergy sex abuse, the laity role is advisory.  The laity have no legal rights in canon law and exercise no power over how money is spent, though we provide all the funding.  This needs to end.  Lay members of boards and committees ought to have decision-making authority regarding how money is spent in the Church.  What do you think?
  2. The Mass reinforces the notion that the priest is “king.” Pope Francis has complained that too many bishops and priests act like aristocrats.  I think the structure of the Mass supports this clericalism.  When Mass begins, the priest processes into the church with ministers of different ranks, much like royalty at court in a 17th-century European monarchy.  Only the ordained are permitted to preach.  This needs to end.  Let the priest presider welcome all to Sunday worship at the beginning of Mass from the pulpit and then invite the community to stand to welcome the Scriptures, the Word of God, as it is brought into the assembly for the proclamation of the Gospel.  And let the priest presider welcome gifted lay people, men and women as preachers of the Gospel.  What do you think?

pope francisChange today.   Just because Catholics have taught something and acted in a certain way for 1,800 years is not enough reason to continue doing so.  Pope Francis is trying to inspire Catholics, clergy and laity, to change how we see ourselves – Missionary Disciples of Jesus– which will effect a change in our behavior.  He urges us to become a field hospital for a suffering world.  This will eventually effect change in Church structure and worship.  My guess is that Cardinal Raymond Burke thinks this is a mistake; I don’t.